23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in similar terms were presented as follows: -
Mr. TURNBULL from certain citizens of Australia.
Mr. BRYANT from certain citizens of Australia.
Mr. COSTA from certain citizens of Australia.
Mr. JONES from certain citizens of Australia.
Mr. REYNOLDS presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will -
Petition received and read.
– Having regard to the number of very important comments that the Prime Minister has made on international affairs recently, both here and abroad, does he propose to make a general statement to the House on this subject at an early date?
– I do propose to make a statement to the House. I am still working on it and I hope confidently that I will be able to deliver it on Thursday.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he can give the House some information about the present situation in Laos. Will the Minister say whether the situation in Laos has been referred to the United Nations? Has there been any approach by the Government of the Kingdom of Laos to Seato? Has the Secretary-General of Seato yet approached the Government of the Kingdom of Laos with a view to offering assistance to repel the infiltration of hostile troops from North Viet Nam?
– The situation in Laos is not entirely clear. The present situation arises from the 1954 conference at Geneva for the settlement of the affairs of the IndoChina countries in which the Government of Laos of the day undertook not to allow the establishment of foreign bases on its territory nor to make foreign alliances in respect of defence. Thirdly, it undertook to negotiate towards the unification of Laos by the attempted incorporation of the two dissident provinces of the north. All these three things have been done. The present Prime Minister of Laos announced some little time ago that he felt no longer bound by the provisions of the Geneva agreements in respect of Laos.
The present trouble arises from one of the two battalions that were located in the northern and Communist-dominated provinces of Laos having defected and taken to the jungle. This is now in the vicinity of the border with Communist North Viet Nam. As I have said, the situation is not entirely clear by any means. It has not been referred to the United Nations, but the United Nations has been made aware by the Government of Laos of the present situation as that Government sees it. The aid of the United Nations has not been invoked to inject itself into the situation with a view to its attempted solution. There has been no suggestion that the South-East Asia Treaty Organization should be involved; in fact, I think the less people discuss the possible use of force in connexion with the Laos situation and concentrate on political means of quietening down the situation, the better.
It is not impossible, of course, that the United Nations may be invoked to enter, in a more positive way, into the Laos position, but that has not happened yet. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Hammarskjoeld, has been made aware of what is happening and - this is entirely speculation on my part - it is not impossible that he will send one of his senior officers to Laos to investigate personally on his behalf the situation in Laos with a view to its amelioration.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories arising from the honorable gentleman’s statement of a couple of months ago on the question of appealing from the decision of the Supreme Court of New Guinea in the case of the Queen against Sear. The honorable gentleman said that the Government had decided not to appeal, not only because it did not think an appeal should be made, but also because it was extremely doubtful whether an appeal could be made. I assure the honorable gentleman, Sir, that I do not on this occasion canvass the first reason, but I do ask him whether he will introduce amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act and the Supreme Court ordinance which will put beyond doubt the Crown’s right to appeal against the extent or nature of the sentence imposed by a single Supreme Court judge when the Crown’s advisors believe that the judge has erred.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has correctly stated that the main reason - I would say the sole reason - why the Government decided not to appeal was that, on an examination of the facts disclosed, there seemed to be no warrant for appealing. The question of whether or not there is an opportunity to appeal is a matter of doubt rather than of certainty. The question whether the doubt is sufficiently strong that we should try to introduce legislation is at present being examined.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to an appeal by the South African War Veterans’ Association of New South Wales for financial assistance to send delegates to represent New South Wales at a reunion in London, to be held in October of this year, on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Boer War. In view of the contribution made by Australia in the Boer War, will the right honorable gentleman consider making a Commonwealth grant to help meet the expenses of delegates attending this reunion, and will he also consider similar grants in respect of reunions being held in New South Wales this year?
– This matter was mentioned to me just before I came into the House. I am under the impression that the function which was to have been held in London will not now be held this year. However, I will check up on the matter and advise the honorable member of the result of my inquiries.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the 37th Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, in which approximately 900 persons in New South Wales alone are listed, and shown as having been penalized, under the heading of Questionable Returns Etc “? Is the Minister aware that all but about 60 of the returns in question were made by farmers and graziers? Does this signify that only farmers and graziers have evaded taxation on a large scale, or has the department failed to investigate other sections of the community? In view of the number of farmers and graziers listed in the report, and shown as having been penalized, will the Treasurer name the electorates in which these taxpayers reside, in order that the people will know which member of the Australian Country Party represents the greatest number of tax dodgers?
– I cannot claim to have given the report the careful and detailed study that has apparently been devoted to it in the leisure hours of recess by the honorable member for Grayndler. In my acquaintance with members of the Australian Country Party who come from country districts 1 have found them to be men of upright character and consistent good conduct. I can only assume that the high proportion of rural income earners in the report mentioned can be attributed to the highly complex circumstances with which men on the land have to deal. However, I shall explore the possibilities of the suggestions made by the honorable gentleman.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As the use of a large sum of money to finance research in the wheat industry has been held up by a dispute regarding the personnel of the Victorian Wheat Research Committee, I ask the Minister: Has this dispute been settled? If not, what steps are currently being taken to expedite the establishment of this committee, so that it may perform its important function?
– There is still no Wheat Research Committee established in Victoria. This matter was mentioned at the recent Australian Agricultural Council meeting, and the question was canvassed whether the Victorian Government had exceeded the stipulations in the act passed by this Parliament. The council agreed that the actions of the Victorian Government were in order. But there the matter stands. It is still a matter for the Victorian Government to arrange with the organization mentioned in the act to make its necessary nominations. It is not a matter for direct action by me at this stage.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Senator R. C. Wright, speaking in June last at the opening of the Young Liberals’ Winter School of Political Science at Mr Tamborine, Queensland, said, first, that the Federal Parliament was becoming all too indifferent to the rights of the individual, and, secondly, “ I make it an annual penance to read the High Court judgment in the Communist Party outlaw case. Eighty-one supported this bill, and I look on it with profound regret “? Does the Prime Minister share the view of his colleague, and if so, does he intend to join him in his annual act of penance?
– I confess to the honorable member that I was not present at Mr Tamborine. Therefore, I did not hear what was said there and, accordingly. I have no comment to make.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, relates to the re-opening of the Soviet Legation in Canberra and the Australian Legation in Moscow. Have any arrangements been made between the two Governments as to the numbers of diplomatic and non-diplomatic staffs at each of those posts, the freedom of movement of people appointed to those posts, and other related matters? If so, will the Minister have a full statement prepared for the information of honorable members and made available tomorrow?
– Mr. Speaker, in respect of the relative sizes of the staffs of the Soviet Russian post in Canberra and the Australian post in Moscow, an agreement has been arrived at between the two Governments which imposes reasonable limitations and fully protects Australia’s interests. The movements of members of diplomatic and other staffs in the two capitals, and all other matters that affect those staffs, are being arranged on a strict basis of reciprocity between the two countries.
– Will the Treasurer consider making any prospective pension increases retrospective to the first sitting day of the present sessional period of Parliament?
– The details of the Government’s decisions on social services matters, taken in its recent series of Cabinet meetings, will be announced to -the committee of the House to-night. No changes will be made in those details between now and to-night. The honorable gentleman perhaps could possess himself in patience until that time.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question concerning export pros pects. I have seen a report attributed to the Chairman of the Export Development Council to the effect that Australia’s prospects for the expansion of exports lie in the recently established nations of Asia and Africa. Can the Minister say what action is being taken by his department to take advantage of those opportunities? In particular, can the Minister announce any results from the trade mission to Africa, which has recently returned to this country?
– The Government, and the Department of Trade, will take cognizance of the advice given by the Export Development Council. The Government vigorously explores all trade opportunities in Asia and Africa and as the honorable member is aware, a mission of commercial, industrial and financial people has recently returned from East and Central Africa. I have not yet studied the detailed report, but I am aware that the members of that mission have returned to Australia enthusiastic about what they consider to be opportunities for additional trade with East and Central Africa. They have already expressed surprise at the rate of development in that area, and they believe that Australia, by vigorously pursuing trade opportunities there, can find substantial additional markets for her exports.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health a question. First, I should like to state that undue delay in the settlement of claims for hospital benefits is being experienced by claimants. For example, one of my constituents, who lodged a claim on 7th May, was not paid until 4th August - a delay of thirteen weeks. As the Minister knows, many claimants need the money urgently in order to settle outstanding debts incurred during their stay in hospital. Will the honorable gentleman direct that this matter be inquired into with a view to expediting the settlement of these claims?
– I think that, on the whole, there are very few delays in the settlement of these claims, but if there are any specific instances known to the honorable gentleman, I shall have them investigated if he brings them to my attention.
– Can the Minister for Trade indicate when the annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30th June, 1959, will be tabled in the Parliament? If there is likely to be any delay, will the Minister give a brief outline of the activities of the corporation last financial year?
– I am confident that the report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation will be available to be tabled in the House during the present session. I am able at this moment to tell the honorable member that the corporation has had what must be regarded as another very successful year. The amount covered by policies current at 30th June last was £21,000,000- about double the amount covered a year earlier. I understand that substantial additional business is at present under negotiation, and I am sure that the corporation is making an important contribution to the expansion of Australia’s export trade.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I invite the Minister’s attention to the need for great improvement in safety measures on the Australian waterfront in general, and at Port Kembla in particular, and I ask whether it is a fact that, on 7th July, there was held at Port Kembla a conference between representatives of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, stevedoring companies, and seven unions concerned with operations on the Port Kembla waterfront. Furthermore, is it a fact that the unions suggested that a port safety committee be set up to investigate the establishment of a safety code for Port Kembla, and that the employers are resisting the suggestion that they join in the formation of this committee? Will the Minister take urgent action to probe these matters with a view to ensuring consideration of the suggestions made by members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia for the purpose of eliminating the disastrous results of accidents occurring on the waterfront?
– It is true that there have been too many accidents on the Australian waterfront, and the Department of Labour and National Service has been anxious to get the various interests together to see whether a safety code can be prepared for each port in order to minimize the number of accidents. A conference was held, as the honorable gentleman has said, although 1 am not certain of the date. I think, also, that the participating parties were those mentioned by him. I have not heard what were the results of the conference, but the shipowners themselves have told me that they are anxious to participate in any reasonable scheme that may be evolved to minimize accidents on the waterfront. I shall obtain full details for the honorable gentleman, and I shall let him have them as soon as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the opinion expressed by the Premier of Victoria, who has recently returned from overseas, that an international airport is an urgent necessity for Melbourne, can the Minister give any definite information concerning the selection of a site for a jet airport, and can he also inform me whether consideration is still being given to Avalon, which already has training facilities for Boeing 707 aircraft, is splendidly situated for present requirements and future developments, and, incidentally, happens to be in the Corio electorate?
– I can understand the honorable member’s interest in having the proposed Melbourne airport established at Avalon, in the Corio electorate, which he serves so ably and so well in this House. However, the matter is rather complex, and I think it would be a good idea for him to put his question on the notice-paper. I shall see that it is brought to the attention of my colleague in another place and that a full reply is given.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by reminding him that during the last sessional period the honorable member for Banks asked him whether he was preparing to take any action on the recommendation of His Honour Mr. Justice Kirby that another presidential member should be appointed to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with the work that had accumulated and that could not be dealt with as promptly as the commission would wish. In reply to the honorable member’s question the Minister said that he was considering the matter. I now ask him whether he is in a position to state whether some action will be taken and, if so, the nature of such action.
– This matter has been considered by the Government. It has been agreed that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and I will make a decision shortly as to an appointment.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral tell me when the Maroubra Junction Post Office will be completed? When will the official opening take place? Does the Postmaster-General intend to visit Maroubra Junction to take part in the opening ceremony?
– I am not in a position to give the honorable member the information he seeks because at present we are determining the whole of the capital works programme for the ensuing year. However, I shall obtain the information for him as soon as possible. I have not forgotten that I have informed the honorable member on at least two occasions that I shall visit his electorate, but I regret that to date I have not been able to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that the establishment of a beef research organization has been delayed for some years because of the lack of agreement between the different producer bodies on the matter of representation. What action has been taken to bring these bodies together to decide upon a fair representation so that the organization may be established?
– The Australian Graziers Association has requested the Government to establish a beef research organization, but there has been some difference of opinion between the various bodies representing cattle producers as to representation on any such organization. The matter was considered during the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council at Perth, consequent upon which a special sub-committee appointed by the council had some discussion with the association. The matter was further discussed in Brisbane. Some progress has been made towards inducing the bodies concerned to make a sane approach to the matter of representation. It may be that each body believes that its attitude is the sane one, and I am not suggesting that these bodies are in any way unfair. I shall look at the matter again. The Government’s decision will depend upon the interests concerned indicating that they agree on this scheme in substance and on their reaching an understanding about suitable representation of the beef industry on the organization.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy whether he will ascertain from his colleague why I have not yet received a reply to question No. 2 on the notice-paper which has stood in my name since 6th May. As the question is brief, and as the preparation of an answer would not require research, will the Minister endeavour to have an answer provided?
– I will endeavour to obtain an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry received reports of the success or otherwise of the “ Delfino “ experiment of transporting live lambs to the United States of America? If so, will he say what are the prospects for an expansion of this method of disposing of the products of the Australian meat industry?
– The reports that have been received from America indicate that the lambs travelled reasonably well. There were a few losses, but they are regarded by those concerned in the United States as not abnormally high. In fact, the sheep generally travelled so well that many of them could be killed almost immediately. The reports of the United States officials are that veterinarians are all satisfied that the sheep were treated quite well. Generally the reports are satisfactory. Comments in America have not been very significant. In fact, there was really no adverse comment except from some organizations concerned with sheep. The shipment has been well received in the main, and interested organizations here are favorably disposed to continuing shipments in the future. However, this depends in the first place on whether the American importers are willing to continue the trade consequent upon the results of the shipment.
– I ask the Prime Minister to take action to co-ordinate effectively civil defence organizations throughout Australia. I bring to his attention statements made by the Director of Civil Defence in New South Wales, MajorGeneral Dougherty, who has complained of the lack of co-operation by the Commonwealth Government and of the policy of obstruction followed by it in regard to civil defence. In view of the importance of civil defence to the general pattern of defence and to the security of the people, I ask the Prime Minister to make a statement which will encourage those engaged in these operations.
– I acknowledge the honorable member’s interest in this matter. Some remarks have been made about the subject in various ways of late. We have had a committee working at the official level, and I have reason to believe that it has practically concluded its examination. As soon as it has done so, the Government will have another look at the matter and then whatever needs to be stated will be stated.
– Will the Minister for Defence say whether his advisers have given attention to the possibilities, for the defence of Australia, of the hovercraft, which was recently invented and tested in the United Kingdom? Reports seem to suggest that this craft would be ideal for travelling in the north of Australia in the wet season, carrying heavy loads at high speed, and also for traversing reef-studded waters to the north of Australia.
– I could not say definitely that officials of the Department of Defence have investigated the possibilities of this craft, but I would think that they have done so. Members of the Department of Defence and of the various service departments are in the United States of America and in England, and it is their job to keep up to date on details of inventions, new aircraft, ships, or whatever else may have some bearing on, or be of assistance in, the defence of Australia. The aircraft mentioned by the honorable member is in the very early experimental stages. If our officials have had a look at it, I would not think that they have gone quite so far as to suggest that it could be useful in this circumstance or the other. However, I will follow up the honorable member’s question and see that it has attracted their attention.
– Does the Treasurer agree with me that the Australian Retail Traders Association would consist, generally, of conservative businessmen who are valiant supporters of free enterprise? Has the right honorable gentlemen received from that organization a communication pointing out that the economy of Australia demands an increase of at least £1 in age and invalid pensions and proportionate increases in all social service payments? If he did receive such a communication did he give full consideration to it before completing his Budget statement?
– The honorable member opened his question by asking whether I agreed with him. That is a circumstance which I have rarely found to occur in this place, and I am afraid that on this occasion again I cannot go the full distance with him. From what I know of the retailers, they are, as much as are members of this Parliament, made up of all sorts of ingredients. They consist of a mixed section of the Australian community. I did receive from them the recommendations which they had made with regard to very substantial increases in social service payments. The document arrived with the same group of resolutions which included their recommendations for abolition of the payroll tax and sundry other substantial revenue items. Of course, the retailer has a job to promote sales and he has his own methods of achieving results; but if anybody can demonstrate to me how it is possible, in the one year, substantially to increase expenditure on social services and also substantially decrease the revenues of the Commonwealth, I should be a much happier man than I am at this moment.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House what steps have been taken to prevent any repetition of the recent Spanbroek ccase which concerned the readmission to Australia of a deported migrant who appears to have misled the public in respect of a £1,000,000 hotel building project? Are immigration officials being alerted regarding the use of forged documents? Will admission regulations be reviewed for the purpose of giving protection to the public?
– This matter is being kept under close investigation by the officials of the Department of Immigration. The entry of the Dutchman, Spanbroek, iinto Australia was certainly achieved by illegal means. As I said in my statement which I issued last week when I deported him, he was a man with a bad record abroad. He had a conviction in another country for forgery. It might interest the honorable member to know that Mr. Spanbroek alleged that he had been given a vise to enter Australia by the British Consul at Basra. When departmental officials investigated this statement, it ‘vas found to be false. Of course, for a man with his reputation and his craft for forgery, it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility that he would forge a vis6 to enter Australia. That surmise is rather substantiated by the circumstance that when in Western Australia he was asked to produce his passport, he declared that it was lost, and it was not forthcoming. I assure the honorable member and the House generally that no qualms need be entertained about cases of this type. Very strenuous efforts are being made to prevent their repetition. I would say to my honorable friend that merely because, very, very rarely, one bird escapes through the net, that does not mean that the net itself is torn. Our net. Sir, is a pretty good one in fact.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration arises from the honorable gentleman’s visit overseas, particularly to European countries, where he was endeavouring to obtain more migrants for this country. I should like to ask whether the Department of Immigration is accepting as immigrants persons over 45 years of age. If this is the position have they been informed that they must be residents of Australia for twenty years before they become eligible for the age pension? Are they told that if they come here they may be stranded because they will not be able to receive any pension, in the case of a woman because she was over 40 years of age when she was accepted as an immigrant, and in the case of a man because he was over 45 years of age? I should like to say, Mr. Speaker, that this matter has given a lot of concern to many people. Will the Government ensure that those persons whom it asks to migrate to Australia, and who subsequently become naturalized Australians, will be looked after when they reach pensionable age?
– 1 might attempt to assuage the honorable gentleman’s fears by telling him that this whole matter of pensions for immigrants is being investigated by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, and that the report of that body will be considered most carefully by me. On my recent tour of our posts in Europe and the United Kingdom I was most impressed by the quality of Australian immigration officials in all of those places, and as the result of my own personal investigations I am convinced that intending migrants are essentially being told the truth about this country - about its great opportunities as well as the inevitable detects which are found among us. They are also told something of the difficulties encountered by those who uproot themselves on one side of the world to go to the other. Sir, a fair picture is being given by Australian immigration officials to intending migrants, anc’ I do not think that my friend from Port Adelaide need have any qualms at all that people who are inducedto come to this country are being subjected to any form of deceit about conditions obtaining here.
– In accordance with section 20 of the Coal Industry Act I lay on the table the following paper: -
Coal Industry Act - Joint Coal Board - Eleventh Annual Report and financial accounts, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth, for the year 1957-58- and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 33 (2) of the Australian National University Act I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian National University Act - Australian National University - Report for 1958- and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1959.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1959.
Housing Loans Guarantees (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1959.
Housing Loans Guarantees (Northern Territory) Bill 1959.
Fisheries Bill 1959.
Bankruptcy Bill 1959.
Judiciary Bill 1959.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill 1959.
Statutory Declarations Bill 1959.
Western Australian Grant (Northern Development) Bill 1959.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1958-59.
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1958-59.
Supply Bill 1959-60.
Supply (Works and Services) Bill 1959-60.
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1959.
Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1959.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1959.
Public Service Arbitration Bill 1959.
Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Bill 1959.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1959.
Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill 1959.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1959.
Housing Loans Guarantees (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1959.
Housing Loans Guarantees (Northern Territory) Bill 1959.
Fisheries Bill 1959.
Bankruptcy Bill 1959.
Judiciary Bill 1959.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill 1959.
Statutory Declarations Bill 1959.
Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Bill 1959.
Customs Bill 1959.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 2031, vol. H of R. 23), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the following paper: -
Extension of Television Services - Statement by Postmaster-General made on 30th April, 1959- be printed.
.- The Opposition wishes to say something on the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on the extension of television services to country districts throughout Australia. We already have television licences in operation, or about to be brought into operation, or about to be operated upon, in all the capital cities. On 30th April last the Postmaster-General said that the Government had decided that the third phase of television development would be the consideration of licences for thirteen non-State capital areas of the Commonwealth. He mentioned, first, the Australian Capital Territory and Canberra. He mentioned, in New South Wales, the NewcastleHunter River area, the Illawarra area, the Richmond-Tweed Heads area and the central tablelands area; in Victoria, Ballarat, Bendigo, the Latrobe Valley and the Goulburn Valley; in Queensland, Darling
Downs, the Rockhampton area and the Townsville area; and in Tasmania, northeastern Tasmania.
– Was South Australia mentioned?
– There was nothing mentioned for South Australia.
– Nothing at all?
– Nothing at all. Whether or not the authorities advising the honorable gentleman believe that all the settled districts of South Australia can be served from Adelaide I do not know; but there is no provision for any station, or for any consideration of any station, at Port Augusta in the electorate of the honorable gentleman who so ably represents the division of Grey in this Parliament.
Now, Sir, the important points in the Postmaster-General’s statement were, I think, these -
The Government has . . . decided that the number of commercial licences in any area should not necessarily be limited to one and that, subject to technical considerations and to the quality of the applicants, more than one commercial service in each area might be licensed.
Then, again, the Postmaster-General said -
It has decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations, provided such applicants demonstrate their capacity to provide … a service comparable with that available to city viewers. . . .
I want to make this passing comment on the Postmaster-General’s statements that I have read: They are so highly qualified that, in the net result, it might well be that big city interests will control all the commercial television stations in country districts as they already control the stations in metropolitan capital cities. As a matter of fact, three out of the four stations now operating are controlled by newspaper companies. The fourth is controlled by Electronic Industries Limited, of Melbourne. lt may well be that when Brisbane and Adelaide, Hobart and Perth, have television, all but one of the stations operating in all the capital cities will be owned by newspaper companies.
If my memory serves me rightly, all the licences that have been granted to date have been granted to companies in which newspapers have a dominating interest. I think that they will have a dominating interest in the operation of commercial stations in the country districts, too. I will give the reasons for that statement. There are ten channels which can be operated in every State. In New South Wales, channel 2, channel 7 and channel 9 have been allotted. In Victoria, channel 2, channel 7 and channel 9 have been allotted. That leaves channels 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10 that can still be operated in each of these two States. I understand that if stations are 170 miles apart the same channel can be allotted to two stations without one of them causing interference with the other. The distance could well be double that figure. I am not certain on that point.
I understand that, in Victoria and New South Wales, any allocations in the districts that I have mentioned will be made to people who will be authorized to operate channels 1, 3, 6, 8, or 10. But it is possible that it will not be worth while allocating commercial licences in, for instance, the Illawarra area of New South Wales, which is not very far from Sydney. This is because the strongly entrenched Sydney stations will be able to transmit much better programmes than the local stations would be able to provide.
But there is something worse about it all: If the present owners of licences in the metropolitan areas can make agreements with the big motion picture interests in the United States of America to secure the sole right to show films in Australia, the commercial stations operating in country districts will have to take the films that are provided for them by those who own the Australian rights or they will not get any films at all. I understand that the four commercial television companies, two in Sydney and two in Melbourne, have combined to try to secure such film rights in America.
Whilst the nominal ownership of country stations might reside with the grantees of licences in country districts, the effective control, in actual fact, will remain with the big city interests. There is nothing in the Postmaster-General’s statement to indicate that the Government has guarded against that possibility. The Postmaster-General seems to imagine that such a situation has been guarded against but he should know that this is not so. He said that it has been decided, as far as practicable - that is his first qualification - that priority in the granting of licences in country districts would be given- to applicants which were local and independent companies, not associated with, metropolitan stations, provided - and this is the second qualification - that such applicants could demonstrate a capacity to provide a service comparable to that available to city viewers.
– Fraser. - How can they?
Mi. CALWELL. - They cannot do it. That is the point that I am emphasizing. The people who get licences in country districts, even if they are independent local companies, will not have the same facilities at their command to provide programmes as the big city interests have. So we are indulging in the practice of fooling ourselves if we believe that anything worth while is to come out of this Government’s plan for. granting independent licences to country interests.
– What is your suggestion?
– My suggestion, always,, is to get rid of this Government. That, is my first, suggestion. However, I have another suggestion which is that the Government should adopt the United Kingdom system. The system that has been adopted by the Conservative Government, of the United Kingdom provides a much fairer deal to viewers and is much better than the present, system in Australia.
I believe that the Postmaster-General, as a member of the. Australian: Country Party, is anxious to give licences to independent country authorities. But he has this; Australian Broadcasting Control Board which does not see eye to eye with him or with; the Government on these, matters. If I might digress - and I suggest it is relevant - honorable members will remember that when the two licences were being granted in Brisbane and two in Adelaide, the board said that it did not think that any of the applicants were suitable and that, in any case, it did not think that Brisbane and Adelaide could maintain more than one television station each. But the Government sent the recommendation back to the board and said, in effect, “ Never mind what you think about the applicants. Don’t call for any more applications; choose two of the three applicants whom you have already described as being unsuitable “. The licences have now been granted and very soon the stations will commence operations. At the first opportunity, I will go up and “ Meet the press “ in each one of them. The Government is not being honest with people in country districts when it does not do something better than it proposes to do.
The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) asked me what I would do. If I believed in private enterprise participation in television - and I do not - I should adopt the practice that exists in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has its Independent Television Authority - “ I.T.A.” for short. This is a statutory corporation which has been established by the Government, lt is independent of the Government. Lt is something like the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Its function is to build and operate transmitters. It owns the transmitters. It does not allow newspaper companies to own the transmitters as we do here. The government authority allows commercial interests to apply for the right to telecast programmes. It leases the rights to commercial companies. That is better than the system which prevails in this country. The programmes are provided by programming contractors. These people, in general, share time on the governmentowned transmitters.
I think it was in 1951 that this Parliament, on the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), passed a resolution suggesting that no newspaper company from Great Britain should be permitted to own more than 10 per cent. - it may have been 15 per cent. - of the shares in any radio company operating in Australia. That was to prevent the London “ Daily Mirror “ group from retaining control of the Macquarie Network which it had established. If that is a good thing in regard to an Australian radio corporation where British newspapers are concerned, it is a good principle to apply generally in regard to newspaper ownership of radio and television stations. 1 would not say it is the Best solution, but it is better than the principle which operates under this Government. To-day, we have newspaper companies that own and- control newspapers, television stations and radio corporations in one huge monopoly. The reason why the United Kingdom Government - and, I emphasize, a conservative government - decided to establish its I.T.A. set-up was to prevent monopolies developing in the British television industry and to enable competition as between a number of different interests on the limited system available. As I said earlier, we have only ten channels for use in each State up to date. If we fully used our frequency shortwave band, we could provide opportunities for more stations to be established; and perhaps that might be done some day. But while the Government pretends to want to be fair to everybody, it limits the opportunities to a few regardless of how well they do out of it and how the general public suffers.
Anybody who has viewed television knows that the programmes provided in Melbourne and Sydney, except on special occasions, are not very high class. I do not own a television set, and I do not want one; neither does my wife nor my. daughter. There are still a few people who do not want television sets, but the number of persons who are applying for licences or who have already got them is very large. When I want to view television I go to a neighbour’s place because, after all, what are neighbours for if they will not let you use their television sets? I have gone to their homes on several occasions to view notabilities and prominent personalities. I have generally gone a half-hour early. On one occasion, I remember I had to witness two murders, three or four or even more assaults and a couple of attempted strangulations before I could get a sight of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I have even had to suffer similarly before I could have a look at the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and the right honorable gentleman who holds the title, but does not exercise the functions, of Minister for External Affairs. I suppose it was worth it because I wanted to study their emotional reactions on the screen and listen to their views. But Australians are entitled to something better than the usual programmes they are getting, and they would get better programmes if the British system were adopted.
– Has the honorable gentleman ever seen himself on television?
– How could 1 see myself on television? I cannot see myself now, but I hope I have pleased the honorable gentleman whenever 1 have appeared on television. At least I have the record for having appeared on the “ Meet the Press “ programme in Melbourne, and I believe I have been invited there because the newspapers want to exploit my curiosity value. I noticed in the press to-day that the Government of Ireland has decided that its government-owned television system can sell advertisements. I think that the Australian Broadcasting Commission ought to be allowed to sell advertisements on its programmes. I am not happy about the A.B.C. television set-up. I am not happy about the A.B.C. set up in general, and anything I said about it in 1957 I still believe. On that occasion, I accused the commission of being an anti-Australian broadcasting commission in some respects. And, unfortunately, because the commission will not shift to Canberra or resists every attempt to shift it to Canberra, it tends to become parochial. It becomes just a Sydney broadcasting commission, and I do not think that is right either. There are many people in Australia to-day who are concerned about television. It is a tremendously powerful instrument for good or for evil. It has great educational and entertainment values. It could be of great importance to schools and universities, but no university has ever been considered in the granting of television licences. Returned soldiers’ organizations and churches have never been considered. The only people who have been considered up to date are commercial interests and some others who, while pretending to want to serve country interests, have been hawking their wares around trying to enlist sympathy from honorable members on both sides of the House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has been trying furiously to find a little bit of fury about the statement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on television. If I might say so to the honorable gentleman without any wish to offend him, because that is the last thing in the world 1 want to do, he did not succeed. He wandered on the one hand from the extreme socialist doctrinaire approach that he espouses to a declaration of what he said in 1957. He wandered from the extremes of the bluntly stated doctrinaire socialist point of view on communications to a wishy-washy proposal that the answer to all our problems regarding television in Australia is simply to establish a statutory corporation, like the Independent Television Authority in Great Britain.
Sir, may 1 ask the honorable gentleman: With such a statutory corporation, who would find the money to establish it and who would control it? The honorable gentleman might say that it could exist in approximately the same setting as does the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That might be so; but as one who is still willing to propound the cause of free enterprise, 1 think a little too much of the taxpayers’ money has been socked down the drain to support statutory organizations and that sort of thing in various enterprises which are but a stepping stone to complete control by a government made up of gentlemen like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and possessing similar points of view. The honorable gentleman will forgive me if I recall what he said in 1952. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 26th November, 1952. reported the honorable member as having said -
The Labour Party made television a government monopoly and will keep it that way.
I think that is significant. The honorable gentleman does not deny that he made that statement. He nods his head willingly and with warm approval. That is significant, Mr. Speaker. The 1957 federal conference of the Australian Labour Party reaffirmed the objective of nationalization of broadcasting services, and implicit in that proposal lies the nationalization of television services. It does not require very much play upon one’s imagination to see that control of those two mediums of communication is aimed, from the point of view of the socialists, at complete nationalization also of press services. I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the principle of a free television system is as vital as the principle of free press services. You have only to control one medium of communication, you have only to erect a fabric that shuts out the possibility of any person discovering a point of view other than the Government’s directed point of view, and you have purely and simply a totalitarian set-up. It is of no avail for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to deny this.
We have the programme before us, and I think it is advisable for the House and the country to pay some heed to that programme, particularly in relation to the statement made by the Postmaster-General. Phase 3 of television in Australia presents some formidable problems for Queensland. I believe that the problems in Queensland are possibly a little more manifest than those in some of the other States. Country television stations will be required to provide programmes of a quality at least comparable with those of city stations, but in Queensland, of course, we have the immense difficulty of distance. It has been suggested that if television is to be established in Townsville, a microwave link will have to be provided between Brisbane and Townsville, but in considering that proposal we have to come down to earth and realize that the establishment of a microwave link between Brisbane and Townsville will cost about £1,000,000.
– Who said that?
– It is an assessment that has been worked out by reasonably informed people in the television world. Every commercial station in country centres will have to face the problem of survival. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to it this afternoon, and he declared, with synthetic energy-
– Not synthetic!
– It was synthetic, really and truly. The honorable gentleman said that commercial stations in the country would, of course, have to depend on. city stations for their programmes. I would be amazed if anything else were possible. Of course they will have to depend on city stations for at least some of their programmes. Take the case of a centre such as Townsville, with a viewing audience of 60,000 people. A commercial station survives only as long as it commands revenue, and it can command revenue only as long as it can find markets for its advertising facilities. But 60,000 people in Townsville and the surrounding districts will hardly be in a position to support two commercial television stations if those stations have to provide their own .programmes. It emerges quite clearly, df course, that if commercial television stations are to survive as .going concerns in country districts, they will have a very real dependency upon the major city stations for their programmes and, in great measure, for their news. 1 see no reason to join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in expressing concern as to the outcome of the establishment of television services in country districts. I thought the statement of the Postmaster-General was a very mild and restrained one. I do not share the view expressed, on the evening when the PostmasterGeneral made his statement, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when he said -
I agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), that is is quite -evident from what the PostmasterGeneral has said that this is ‘merely an attempt to wipe off the smaller interests in the country and place country television stations in the hands of the great monopolies that already control television, radio and newspapers in the major cities of Australia.
The same remarks, more or less, have been made this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. How do these honorable members square those remarks with their declared platform, with their stated attitude of mind - and I presume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking this afternoon at least with some authority on behalf of the Opposition in this Parliament - concerning the establishment of one monopoly and of one single control of broadcasting, of television and, in my opinion, of all press services?
I believe that the Postmaster-General is adopting, if I may say so without giving rise to offence, a cautious approach to this problem, and a realistic approach. He is faced with the very real problem of giving television services to country people, and with that problem runs the complementary problem of enabling commercial television stations to function and to survive as going concerns. Poised beyond those problems is the further and, in my judgment, the massive problem of a possible State monopoly of broadcasting services, television services and every other medium of communication. Anything that this Government can do at any time to ensure the erection of a series of bulwarks against the establishment of a State monopoly of the means of communication will command my support and, I believe, the support of all sensible and responsible people throughout the community.
.- We are all mindful of the fact that the extension of television to the vast country areas of this continent is a major project. It is a project that bristles with problems, and we on this side of the House, despite our criticism of certain aspects of the statement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), which we are debating to-day, feel that those problems will not be solved easily. We, as an Opposition, have a right to criticize, but the fact that we strongly criticize statements made by the Minister does not necessarily mean that we do not appreciate that the achievement of a solution will involve a good deal of organizing and hard work on somebody’s part.
The Postmaster-General, during his period as a Minister, has given us as much information as -he could, week by week and month by month, on the progress of television in Australia. We had, first, stage 1, which has long since been completed. We now have stage 2, which is in the process of being completed. This involves the inclusion of Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart among the capital cities with television facilities. We are now debating stage 3, which is the most difficult df all. It involves the extension of television beyond the capital cities to places like Ballarat, Geelong and the Latrobe valley, in Victoria, and to Toowoomba, the Darling Downs and the Surfers’ Paradise area of Queensland. The country areas of South Australia have not been discussed. The electorate represented so ably for many years by my colleague, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell), has not yet been mentioned. Neither has mention been made of Port Augusta, nor of Mount Gambier, in the south-east of South Australia. These places will have to be considered sooner or later, because the country areas of South Australia deserve television facilities, as do those in Western Australia. The Western Australian position has not been mentioned, and that, too, will have to be given consideration.
The statement that we are discussing refers to the provision of television, in the case of New South Wales, in Newcastle and the Hunter valley, and in the Illawarra area, represented by my colleague, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney). It may be years before the Richmond-Tweed Heads area and the Central Tablelands area of New South Wales get television. It is the Government’s responsibility to see that those areas get television at the lowest possible cost and of a standard at least equal to the present standard in the cities. The Government may agree in principle that that should be so, but it is a different story to provide television to those districts on those conditions. It will be years before it can be done.
In his statement to the House on 30th April last thePostmaster-General said -
The location of the transmitters in these areas, as well as areas to be covered, has not yet been determined.
This is a very knotty problem. Where will the transmitters be located in the areas mentioned by the Postmaster-General? There will be rivalry between Ballarat and Bendigo for a start, and there will be rivalry between the Newcastle district and the Richmond district. It will not be easy to decide where to locate the transmitters in these various areas. The PostmasterGeneral said too, that when television was extended to the areas that he had mentioned, 75 per cent, of the Australian people would be able to receive a television service. That will be excellent; but it is still a long way off. No thought has yet been given to extending television to the small country towns in Australia. It will be many years before they will have television. They may get it in the latter stages of the third phase of television development, which is designed to bring television first to the bigger country cities and towns.
The difficulties confronting the PostmasterGeneral were emphasized when he said -
Who will get the licences for those areas when they are distributed? An acute difference of opinion has already been shown by the preliminary investigation by the
Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Another important question, which was mentioned earlier in the debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), is who will control television in the country districts. The Government, we are told, would like to see more than one commercial service in each area. 1 think that is a very forlorn hope. The Minister also said that the Government had decided that as far as practicable it would give priority in the granting of licences “ to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations “. The remarks made this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are very relevant to this subject. It would be a tragedy if the monopolistic control of television in Australia were extended to the country districts. If that happened Australia would have a greater television monopoly than any other country. Such a state of affairs would not be good for such a young country. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was very upset to think that we on this side of the House favoured Government-controlled television services. The Labour Party will always believe in Government-controlled television services, and my own view is that television should have been developed in Australia as it was in the United Kingdom. There, the British Broadcasting Commission controlled television for many years, and commercial television was introduced only a couple of years ago. Since then the standard of programmes has deteriorated. That is the information contained in official reports.
In Australia we started off television services with a piebald system of Government control and private enterprise control. Viewers of programmes telecast by Governmentcontrolled stations are spared the more degrading and useless type of programme that is telecast by the commercial stations for the sake of advertisers. I feel that if private enterprise gains control of television in country areas, within ten years this Parliament will regret that it ever passed the Television Bill. I opposed the bill. I think that television is the most expensive luxury or toy ever to be brought into this country. The bad aspects of television far outweigh the good. However, although I hold that view, I am still prepared to fight for justice in television distribution throughout the country. Even though I hold a private view regarding television, it does not mean that I will not fight for the rights of people in country areas who want television. If they want television and are prepared to pay for it, it is our job as their representatives to help them get it.
Only a few large country areas, such as Ballarat or Bendigo, would have independent companies large enough to be able to set up a television station. Toowoomba also may be large enough, but areas such as RichmondTweed Heads would not have companies able to afford to erect a television station costing about £1,000,000. That is where the scheme will break down and the city boys will move in like locusts. They will take over, put up the money, and obtain licences. I think that the Government should determine to what extent the metropolitan monopolies may interest themselves in country television. If particular country areas cannot find sufficient money to erect and operate a television station, they should be denied television for the time being, rather than allow city interests to extend their monopoly further. If the present television monopoly is allowed to grow, programmes will deteriorate even further. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out how the big four commercial television channels in Sydney and Melbourne, which include the interests of three major newspapers, are bringing their influence to bear on prospective groups in country districts that are applying for television channels. The big four are doing this in order to obtain a financial interest in country television. That is typical of what I might call these gregarious television interests. Not satisfied with the tremendous power that they have at the moment they want more power and influence in this new propaganda field.
It costs about £32 a minute to advertise on television. So far, only the big commercial companies in Australia can afford to advertise on television. So, television becomes the great propaganda monster of the biggest companies in the country. If a company cannot afford alone to advertise on television it has to amalgamate with some other company so that it can. At the moment television is creating bigger and bigger monopolies. It is actually giving the present monopolies greater power in all fields of advertising. It is all very well to have television programmes, but who pays for them? The small companies cannot advertise on television because of the enormous cost. This is a typical state of affairs in a capitalist country, which always gives priority to capitalists. Under capitalism the bigger a monopoly group is, the better go it will get from the Government. The little businessman and the small company cannot afford to advertise on this great monopolized medium.
It will cost approximately £1,000,000 to erect a television station in country areas. I suggest that television should be extended to the nearer country districts by microwave repeaters without creating new stations.
– And give a monopoly to the present licensees.
– I am coming to the cost factor. If country organizations cannot afford to install a transmitter as costly as those at Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or Brisbane, why not use microwave installations, at least temporarily, rather than deny country people television, until the development of country towns and districts is sufficient to enable country organizations to get together sufficient capital to establish independent stations? That is one method that could be adopted. Booster stations, too, should be used in the early stages in order to provide television in country districts, in preference to asking big companies from Melbourne and Sydney to invest more money in television stations in country districts and so enabling them to develop into far greater financial octopuses than at present.
I should like now to deal particularly with television for the north-west coast of Tasmania. In this third stage of television development which we are discussing now, north-eastern Tasmania is included. Hobart, as a capital city, was included in stage 2, and two television stations are being established to provide programmes there, one of them being a national station. The plans for stage 3 provide for the extension of television only to north-eastern Tasmania, which includes Launceston, a city of 60,000 or 65.000 people. I am concerned, as is my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), about the northwest coast of the island, which is not specifically included in stage 3, although it is one of the richest and most heavily populated areas of Tasmania. The Bass Strait ferry, “ Princess of Tasmania “, will call there when it begins operating in a month or two on the service between Melbourne and Devonport, which is one of the main ports on the north coast. I have mentioned this matter before in this House, and the Postmaster-General has a lot of correspondence from me on the subject. The honorable member for Braddon and I have been urging the Minister to investigate the possibility of establishing a booster station on Mount Roland, which is 30 miles south of Devonport. It rises to a height of 4,000 feet, and the summit gives a most commanding view of the whole of the northwest coast of Tasmania, extending as far east as Low Head, at the entrance to the Tamar River, and as far west as the Nut, at Stanley.
– The whole of Tasmania can be seen from it.
– The greater part of the Tasmanian north coast can be seen. At a cost of approximately £5,000, a booster station could be established on top of Mount Roland to relay programmes from Hobart. If this were done, the people of the north-west coast would not have to wait until the completion of the third stage of television development, or even until late in the third stage, for television programmes. A booster station on Mount Roland could relay not only Hobart programmes but also Melbourne programmes throughout the north-west coast districts. It would enable the people there to enjoy television within the next twelve months instead of waiting another five years for the establishment of a television station at Launceston, or somewhere on the northwest coast under some long-term scheme.
This suggestion has everything to commend it. The State Ball held in Canberra on the occasion of the Queen Mother’s visit in 1958 was televised and the broadcast was transmitted to Sydney, approximately 200 miles away, by means of two booster stations between Canberra and Sydney. The perfect picture seen by viewers there demonstrated most effectively how well programmes can be transmitted over considerable distances by this remarkable medium of television with the aid of booster stations. If a programme can be transmitted in that way just for one night, programmes can be transmitted on a permanent basis by similar methods to the districts on the north-west coast of Tasmania of which I am speaking, and also to the northern and southern districts of New South Wales, and country districts in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Some of our mountains have very useful purposes, and not least is the provision of suitable sites for booster stations needed to relay television programmes. Programmes can be provided in country areas much more cheaply by this means than by the establishment of full-scale transmitting stations or the use of microwave channels.
Once again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon and myself, I make a plea for the people of the north-west coast of Tasmania. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to investigate the possibility of providing, in stage 2 of television development, a booster station on Mount Roland to relay programmes to the north-west coast of Tasmania. If it is not possible to provide such a booster station under stage 2 in order to relay programmes from Hobart, it could still be provided under stage 3, which we are now discussing, to relay programmes from a station on the north-east coast. I do not know where such a station will be situated - whether it will be at Launceston, Scottsdale or on the mountains near Launceston - but we must think of the interests of the people of the north-west coast at the same time as we think of those of the people of the northeast. As I have indicated, for a very small financial outlay, we can extend television programmes through about 75 per cent, of Tasmania, with only one transmitting station at Hobart and booster stations at Mount Barrow and Mount Roland. If a transmitting station were established on the north-east coast near Launceston, more than 75 per cent, of the island could enjoy almost direct television broadcasts.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has just made a rather remarkable speech.
– It was a very good one.
– The honorable member has not waited for me to finish my criticism of it. The honorable member for Wilmot began by pointing out that, at one time, he had almost bitterly opposed the whole idea of television. He said that he was certainly opposed to monopolies in general, and particularly to any form of monopoly controlled by city television stations being extended to country areas, and he then proceeded very smartly, by his very ardent plea for the establishment of a booster station to relay programmes to the north-west coast of Tasmania, to demolish the whole of the argument that he had advanced previously.
It is rather interesting to look at this matter from the stand-point of a Queenslander, Sir. In Queensland, we have had trial television broadcasts for some six days now. Like a number of other honorable members, I think that the coming of television to Queensland is a mixed blessing, and I wonder what impact it will have on social life. Undoubtedly, television has had a marked impact in different ways on social life and commercial enterprise in other States. I understand that in some of the southern States sales of overcoats have dropped by some 90,000, and that this is due to television. I am told that sales of dressing gowns, on the other hand, have increased by about 120,000.
One of the things that I am most concerned about, Sir, is the money that will be drawn from Queensland to the southern States with the advent of television in the north. There is not the slightest doubt that, in the first couple of years after television broadcasts begin, somewhere between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000 will flow from Queensland to the southern States for the purchase of television sets. That may be very nice for the southern States, but we in the north have been moaning for a considerable time that we have not enough money as it is.
– Do not we in the south buy your pineapples?
– You did, until the Labour Government in Queensland almost succeeded in killing the pineapple industry by driving it over to South Africa.
On a number of occasions, I have asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) questions about the sales methods adopted by some of the firms selling television sets. I know that in Sydney, and, to a certain extent, in Melbourne, many people were talked into putting up expensive aerials - or antennae, or whatever they are called - when in fact they did not need them. To persons contemplating the purchase of a television set, I repeat the warning given by the Postmaster-General in reply to one of my questions that they should check carefully to ascertain whether they need an antenna, having regard to their particular locality and the room in the house in which the set will be located. Quite a number of people have spent between £40 and £80 in erecting an antenna which is completely unnecessary.
Mention has been made of the ability of organizations in country towns to set up independent stations. On 30th April, 1959, the Postmaster-General made the following statement: -
It has been decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant of such licences would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations, provided such applicants demonstrate their capacity to provide, in the circumstances prevailing in the area, a service comparable to that available to city viewers and to conform to the technical and programme standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
To my mind, those are the most important words in the Minister’s speech.
As far as 1 have been able to ascertain, there is no scarcity of money in country towns with which to set up country television stations. There is no doubt that the money can be raised locally, nor is there any doubt that some of the major companies presently in existence will endeavour, in some cases by threat and in other cases by blandishment, to prevent the small companies from commencing operations, or, in the event of their operating, to obtain control of them in one way or another. The very difficult task of solving this problem confronts the Postmaster-General. It is essential that independent companies remain genuinely independent. It can be done. T
It is ridiculous to suggest that the programmes on the small country stations should be of the same standard as those on the city stations. The southern States have had the benefit of television for quite some time and the improvement in the standard of programmes on the country stations must be a gradual process. The station which has recently commenced operating in Brisbane is still experiencing considerable teething troubles. I understand that its programmes cannot be compared with the programmes on stations in the southern States that have been established for a longer period. As I have said, it is ridiculous to place too much emphasis on the idea that country programmes must be of a standard similar to those on the city stations.
To emphasize the necessity for the country stations remaining independent, I shall instance the case of Brisbane where the two daily papers are owned by the same company, which also has investments in Other newspapers and commercial radio companies throughout Australia. It is wrong that the only two newspapers published in a city of 500,000 people should be owned by the same company. If the position in the city is allowed to extend into the outer districts we shall find that eventually the influence of those newspapers, from a propaganda point of view, will become a very real danger. If we must have a monopoly in any industry - we have monopolies in Australia but fortunately most of them benefit the, people - I favour government monopoly.
– Can the honorable member give an example?
– At one stage private enterprise had a monopoly of aviation services in Australia and abused its position shockingly. The honorable member raised the question, and I have now given him the answer. If the danger of a monopoly in the propaganda field exists, I should prefer it to be in the hands of the Government rather than private enterprise. If we can have Government and private enterprise in competition we shall have a diffusion of different points of view, which will be to the advantage of the people.
The Postmaster-General must tread a rough and thorny road during the next few years to reach the ultimate in television. 1 hope that honorable members on both sides of the House will give him every assistance to ensure that the smaller country television stations will remain truly independent units.
.- Television is a medium of entertainment and propaganda that is influencing, and will continue to influence for ever and a day, the minds of a large percentage of our people. A new development of this kind is of the utmost importance not only to this Parliament, but also to every individual in the community. It could be a medium for good but it could also contain within itself the ingredients for the destruction of proper thinking among the people. This Parliament must exercise a close supervision over the methods of control of television. I was interested to hear the forthright statement of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) to the effect that a newspaper monopoly, even in the small provincial towns, is bad and on a loftier plane, he suggested that Government monopoly was better than private enterprise monopoly. In other words, the control of television must be vested in the people. We must not lose that control but, in order to retain it, we must defeat this Government. That is inevitable. This Government’s policy, as evidenced by the various bills relating to the control of television that have been placed before us, seems to be to hand over this new profit-making medium to a limited number of vested interests both inside and outside this country. We on this side of the House join active and forceful issue with the Government and the Minister charged with the administration of Government policy.
We should seek to place the control of television in the elected government of the day rather than hand it over to private enterprise, which has already acted to the detriment of a section of Australian industry as represented by Australian artists, writers and those concerned with the development and presentation of the arts, and of drama in its various forms. Unquestionably, this Government has done its best to strangle that section of industry. The Australian content of the television programmes is not sufficient. One would think that Australia has become the fiftieth state of the United
States of America and that our television world is controlled by Hollywood and New York. Most of our television programmes are produced in the United States of America and are pushed down our throats. This situation arises because of the form of control of television stations permitted by the Government.
The Australian people object to the low standard and moronic type of programme that is being flashed on to the television screens each night. Most of the time is given to programmes of a poor quality. The facts show that, excluding sport, news, magazine, demonstration and quizz programmes, more time is given to imported material than to locally-produced programmes. A check of the three Sydney stations, made during the week ended 27th February, 1959, revealed that on station ABN programmes with an Australian content were shown for thirteen hours and foreign programmes for eighteen and threequarter hours. Station TCN used Australian programmes for nine and three-quarter hours and foreign programmes for 49i hours, and station ATN used Australian material for fourteen and a quarter hours and foreign programmes for 50i hours. These figures show that the situation is serious, and the Minister should ensure that Australian-produced items receive a greater share of the time.
Australia has a wealth of material in its wonderful legends and its history, and these features should be presented to the viewing public more frequently. Foreign programmes could distort the views of the Australian people. They should not be asked to watch programmes such as “Wyatt Earp “ and other items featuring gun battles, garrotting and murder. Programmes which emphasize our national character should be shown. Members of this Parliament have shown their concern in the last few years in the questions that they have asked. They have suggested that programmes produced in Australia to portray our history, development and scenery should be shown over the television stations. If a little initiative were used and some money expended, the controlling forces in the television world could make these programmes readily available to the public. But, of course, those in control want to make money as fast as they can and as easily as they can. Therefore, they buy in tin cans, the programmes that we see so frequently on television. A British television executivewho visited Australia early this year, Mr. John McMillan, controller of programmes of Associated-Rediffusion Limited, was aghast at the small amount of time given to Australian programmes. He suggested that this situation should be thoroughly investigated, and said that some driving force was needed to foster Australian programmes. I ask the Minister to rediscover himself, as it were, and to correct the position.
Labour gives careful scrutiny to the monopolies that are developing in this field and has appointed a special committee from within its ranks to investigate the control of the press, radio and television in Australia. When the committee produces a report, its findings will be reflected in the debates in this House and will pinpoint the fact that the television companies now to be formed will be largely controlled not by local people but by dummies acting for the vested interests that now control the major stations. I was interested to hear the statement of the honorable member for Bowman that local money is available. Perhaps local money is available, but I know that some of the proposed new companies which will seek to obtain licences to operate television stations in country areas have held from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent, of their shares for people who have been selected to act as dummies for vested interests, and the local suckers will be brought into the picture by a share distribution among them. I should not be surprised to learn that kindergartens, surf clubs and other small organizations have been invited to take shares. They will become a front to protect the real financial interests. This matter must be looked at very closely to ensure that any company formed to operate a television station in a country area has the general support of the people in that area and that those people are not made the dupes of alert financial manipulators.
There is another matter that causes me concern. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) touched upon this aspect when he referred to Hobart and portions of Tasmania. I shall use the area in which I live as an illustration. The three Sydney stations basically serve those in the Illawarra area who want to use a television set. We are only 50 miles from the major stations already operating in the Sydney metropolitan area and I question whether the establishment of a television station in this area is not somewhat redundant. It is possible, also, that such a station would be blotted out by the major stations. If those in control of the major metropolitan stations have no interest in the development of the local station that is physically located close to the metropolitan area, the local station could be choked by the major stations. The erection of a television station is a costly business and the operators of the major stations would have an advantage over the small local station in competing for programmes. I trust that the Minister will examine this aspect.
Another matter of importance is the speed with which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will determine who shall establish these stations. Will the Government delay the development of a national station in each selected area so that the private companies will first become firmly established and secure the bulk of the local market, leaving the national station, which would be established with public money, to tail the field? The Minister’s statement contains proposals for the extension of television services. The Government should first establish national stations in these particular areas and let private enterprise companies find their level in competition with those stations.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the allocation of licences. 1 am sure that every honorable member, after thinking the matter over, is concerned to see that licences should be granted to scholastic institutions in our country. Universities and schools, or at least some of them, should be granted television licences, so that they might use television in the development of technological teaching. It is quite feasible for this to be done. In the United States of America it is a widely accepted method of teaching technical subjects and plays a tremendously important part in education. I should think that it would be proper for the Government to make available to universities and educational groups within our country television licences so that they might use television to disseminate knowledge. We are rapidly becoming a manufacturing nation and a great proportion of our economy is dependent upon secondary industries. This emphasizes the need to develop technical training, and television could be a most important medium for teaching, for both adults and younger people. In the United States of America this aspect of television is attracting tremendous audiences and people are alive to the value of disseminating knowledge by this means. Such means of communicating advanced knowledge in subjects such as chemistry or engineering were denied to many of us when we were young. It was available only to those who were able to continue their studies at university level. But to-day, in America, millions of young people are attracted to programmes which are devoted to the teaching of technical and engineering subjects.
Combined church organizations in our community have held conferences concerning their opportuntiy to use television. In common with universities and with the rest of the public they have had to queue up and buy time on television at an abnormally high price. A great deal of that high cost is dictated by the desire to make substantial profits as speedily as possible for those who have invested in television companies. When all is said and done the salient purpose of investment is to make as large a profit as quickly as possible. The cost of television time is high but the article produced is inferior. This is an aspect that must be carefully considered and I trust that, even at this late hour, the Minister will endeavour to influence Government policy to ensure that television services are developed on a unified, intelligent basis. It must aim to protect, within its framework, the Australian people who earn their living by writing, dramatization and other contributions in the field of art. They should be granted a larger portion of time on television programmes. We must remember also that television is playing. an important part in moulding the thinking and the national outlook of millions of young people who consistently watch television with greater avidity than they ever apply to the study of books. They probably learn more from what they see on the silver screen than they are taught in class.
.- Anybody who has followed this debate will realize that the Opposition has no unified policy on television. Never, in any debate that has taken place in this House, have we heard more foggy thinking. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) began his speech by decrying the Government’s policy on television and ended by suggesting that the Conservative Party in Great Britain has a better idea by causing commercial programmes to be channelled through a network of government stations. The honorable member forgot to say that last year commercial broadcasting in Great Britain made a fabulous profit. So here we heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is anti-profit, recommending to Australia a system which induces enormous private profits. The only opposition to this proposal which we have heard so far has dealt with monopolies. It is ironical to hear this opposition coming from a party which is a monopolistic party. The Labour Party represents the trade unions and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney), who has just spoken, said that it was quite wrong that there should be a monopoly in television services. But he is a member of a trade union which denies anybody else the right to appear for a trade’ unionist engaged in the particular occupation with which he is associated. Surely he is monopolistic.
Let us examine this question of monopolies. In the two main cities where television stations have been established, Melbourne and Sydney, there are both Government and private television stations. There is no monopoly there, but competition. How can commercial television survive? It is on the proceeds of honest advertising. Tt has no other revenue. If it does not provide an adequate service for the advertiser, he will not use it; therefore it has to give service which is satisfactory both to the advertiser and to the public. I guarantee that the great majority of the public prefer commercial television or broadcasting programmes to those which come from national stations. But the Australian Labour Party would deny the people their right to enjoy what they want. The honorable member for Cunningham complained that the commercial stations would have a monopoly. In America television is provided entirely by private companies and there is no complaint about that. Provided there are sufficient stations, no monopoly can gain a hold.
A great problem in Australia is created by the unequal distribution of population, and this is an important factor in the dissemination of information- Television has a very powerful. impact in the spread of propaganda and information and therefore it is the duty of the Government to ensure that this method of communication is not used to the detriment of the country. The criticism of honorable members opposite that television will be in the hands of monopolies clearly indicates that they have not read the statement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). What is the Government’s proposal concerning the third phase of television? It is to bring television to country areas. The Minister has definitely stated that as far as possible priority in granting licences will be given to applicants who represent local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that it is the duty of the Opposition to criticize- Of course it is, but it should criticize constructively and not destructively.
There is no question that the scene in Australia is changing. We are expanding enormously and new ideas and new industries are being introduced into the country. There is, however, one great problem that we have to face, and that is that a great deal of our expansion is taking place in the metropolitan areas instead of in the rural areas. That is particularly so in New South Wales. Herein lies the danger that could come from restricted control of the mass propagation of information. It is true that television in the metropolitan areas is under newspaper control. The Government has decided that the position in the country areas will be different. Here is a new approach to the matter - a definite Government policy against the mass control of information in this country - but we do not see any bouquets coming from the Opposition for this. All we get from members of the Opposition is destructive criticism not based on any sound logic.
There is no question that in Australia we have, unfortunately, a bad distribution of population, and the trend towards concentration of population in the metropolitan centres will continue unless something is done about it. At the present moment in New South Wales the country is losing great numbers of people who go to the metropolitan area for jobs, because the party in power in New South Wales is a city party. I was very impressed by a speech made recently by an outstanding personality in Australia who was speaking in Adelaide on the subject of the popular press. He told how in the old days we regarded the press as an important medium of factual information for the public. Those days have changed. The function of giving factual information is now accompanied by a purely commercial function. To-day, popular newspapers in the metropolitan areas are powerful financial organizations and sometimes - too often, the speaker that I have mentioned considered - the commercial personality of a newspaper overrules its political personality. Recently, we witnessed a very powerful press propaganda campaign that was aptly described as a fraudulent presentation of a case that affected this Parliament. This has to be changed.
The country is totally different from the city. Recently, some criminals escaped from prison and were trapped in the Bigga area of my electorate. The city newspapers said that these criminals would be unable to survive in the wintry conditions around Bigga. What nonsense! There was only a little frost, that was all. The knowledge of Sydney newspaper reporters is confined to the area between Surry Hills and Market-street. The Australian character and Australian traits were not built in Woolloomooloo or Surry Hills. The Australian character has been built in the Australian countryside, but the countryside is now suffering because of the drift of population to the cities. We could get these people back into the country if there was a proper government in New South Wales instead of a government that is concerned mainly with the cities.
That is why 1 think that the Government’s policy on television for country areas is most important. Country newspapers are generally locally owned. They have not the great coverage of the metropolitan popular press. Country newspapers generally report faithfully. There is a reason for that. Every member of a country newspaper staff is known to the local people. Everybody knows the editor and the reporters. There is no anonymity as there is for the staff of a metropolitan newspaper. In contrast with the small coverage of events in local areas provided by country newspapers, country television will give a wider sweep of information and will reach a greater number of people. If television stations in country and city were under the same control you would have a large number of people all being taught to think the same way. So I think that the policy announced by the PostmasterGeneral of making country television licences available to local interests is commendable.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) talked knowingly of how vested city interests will use local people as dummies to apply for television licences. If the honorable gentleman knows that this kind of thing is happening surely it is his duty to appear at public hearings of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, when it is examining the question of the issue of licences for country areas, and place the facts before the board. We often hear such accusations, and if we paid too much heed to them we would be fearful of starting anything new.
The population distribution in Australia - of New South Wales in particular - is a very serious matter indeed. I believe that with the provision of television in country areas, not only shall we bring amenities to the country people, but also we shall widen the social thinking of country people, because of the wide scope of the information that can be broadcast over television. Instead of country towns being isolated one from the other we shall have a number of country towns all interested in the same thing.
Another aspect of the spread of television to country areas will be the provision of opportunities for local talent. How many of the painters, actors, dramatists and musicians who go overseas are country people? In order to get recognition for their talents country people have to go to the cities to have auditions, and so on. Why can we not have such opportunities for them in their own districts? The fact is that there is no country comparable to Australia where the population is so badly distributed as is that of Australia. The great cities of Melbourne and Sydney dominate the whole countryside. Here, in this country television policy announced by the PostmasterGeneral, is an attempt to make big changes to improve the position. I believe that the Government’s policy in this regard is soundly based, and I believe that it is workable.
I do not propose to be moved by this constant fear of monopolies that is expressed by the Opposition. Anything that is big is a monopoly in the eyes of the Opposition. That is complete nonsense, because all over the world there are powerful industrial undertakings that have great production and huge returns, but are not necessarily monopolies. There is competition between them just as there will be competition between television interests in Australia. I am quite certain that the competition between the big television companies in Sydney will in time improve television programmes, because television is increasingly used as a medium for advertising, and the advertiser will always seek to get the best results. Unless programmes on a station are good no advertiser will sponsor them, and thus competition will force the stations to improve their programmes.
The Postmaster-General’s statement was a wise one, and the Government’s policy on country television and the method that it is using to make television available to country areas are to be commended. I hope that this fact will be recognized.
.- At the outset let me say, so that people will really understand the position, that I disagree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). He outlined certain difficulties facing the television industry in its introduction to both country and city areas, and he expressed pious hopes that the Government’s policy, as enunciated by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), would be quite different from the policy that the Government has applied in the control, administration and establishment of television stations in the capital cities.
It is beyond doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the policy of this Government in relation to television and other avenues of investment and development is a policy of monopoly control. The Government stands before this Parliament, judged by its record in practically every sphere of activity, from retail trade to television, as a government that has sponsored monopolies. To-day we have, against the wishes of the people, television stations throughout Australia which are under the control of rich television and newspaper interests. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has made recommendations on these matters. But in order that control of television may be given to wealthy interests the Government has rejected the recommendations of its own board.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has said that the country newspaper interests are fair and impartial. I suppose they are all right if one happens to be a member of the Australian Country Party. The only parties that they ever praise are the Australian Country and Liberal parties. Not much is said in a constructive way about the policy of Labour, particularly with respect to country districts. The country newspapers, practically without exception, where they are not controlled by the huge newspaper interests of the cities in a chain, are owned by people in country districts who are Tory in the extreme and who are opposed to impartiality and justice. One may travel the country districts from one end of the Commonwealth to the other at election time and find that the country newspapers are as vicious a medium of propaganda as is the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or the “Daily Telegraph”. Therefore, this action by the Postmaster-General will mean that, in country districts, television will be brought under the same control as exists in the capital cities.
The honorable member for Hume said that television and other services in country districts could not progress very much in New South Wales until the Labour Government there was removed. That was a very interesting statement. I have here a copy of the Melbourne “Sun” dated 11th August, 1959. In this newspaper is a weekly article called “ Country Party Comment “.
The article is prefaced by the mora. “ This weekly feature is written by spokesmen of the Country Party. It is published in the ‘ Sun ‘ as a matter of public interest. The ‘ Sun’s ‘ own views are expressed in leading articles “. This article is headed “ Hope Springs Eternal “. Then it goes on to criticize extensively the attitude of the Bolte Liberal-Country Party Government in Victoria and its treatment of people in country districts. For the benefit of the honorable member for Hume, let me say that the Australian Country Party writer excelled himself and answered effectively the statement of the honorable member in regard to the Labour Government of New South Wales when, in his final paragraph, he summed up his article by referring to the Bolte Government of Victoria in these words -
Can any one believe this Government has any genuine interest in helping country areas?
So much for the statement made bv the honorable member for Hume against the Labour Government in New South Wales. I do not know how bad the Labour Government of New South Wales is in its country administration, but it holds a majority of country seats and has been in office for about 20 years!
The Postmaster-General has never effectively answered criticism of the administration, control and establishment of television in city and country areas. This Government is determined that only monopoly vested interests shall control television. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “. the “ Daily Telegraph” and the “Sun”, in New South Wales, with the radio stations and country newspapers, with which they are linked to-day control, as a monopoly, the television medium of propaganda in New South Wales. When these interests are attacking the Labour Government in New South Wales they put on the television screens only people who will answer questions in such a way as to support their attacks.
In this Parliament, I raised the question of how these monopolists left their keen commentators and their keen questioners off the panels in order that a point of view contrary to the interests of those who control the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the “ Daily Telegraph “ will not be expressed. This Government has placed control of television in the hands of the Hendersons and the Packers whose unscrupulous treatment of their employees was exemplified in this building recently by the dismissal of a man named Kerr. Because of their monopoly interests, they control a medium of propaganda and information which possibly is the greatest invention of our time.
What will be the position in country districts under the Government’s policy? As the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) has said, it costs a lot of money to establish television stations, and private country interests may not be able to find the huge sums that will be required. Dummies will be put up by the big newspaper and radio companies as has happened in Brisbane and other places, and country stations will fall under the complete domination of the unscrupulous propagandists who control television under this Government Why has the Postmaster-General not answered the question raised on the Brisbane case? Why has he not answered the question raised by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) from Western Australia?
The Government’s hand-picked board which was set up to give television control to monopolists, at the Government’s behest, made certain recommendations. But what did we find? When the recommendations on the establishment of television in Queensland and Western Australia were brought to this Parliament, not only did the Government reject them but, in one case, it doubled the number of stations against the advice of its own board. The vested interests behind the Government demanded that as their price for the support that they were going to give the Government throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Let us look at what the Government is doing in the capital cities and what it will do in the country areas with respect to television programmes. There is hardly any Australian talent appearing on television despite the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Commercial television stations constantly present American gangster films depicting crime, graft and corruption. These monopoly stations are buying up cheap old films. Probably one of the most popular television programmes in Sydney to-day is that dedicated to the Country Party - “ Crusader Rabbit “. I suggest that it may also be the most popular programme in country districts. It has appeared on Sydney stations many times. It is a syndicated programme which adds little to the education or advancement of the people.
Any television programme will show that unlimited westerns are being presented, all depicting violence and crime. There are unlimited stories of crime in which violence is depicted in every possible way. The whole sentiment of Australia and the whole background of the nation is completely cast aside in the various television programmes which are presented under this Government’s policy. What guarantee can the PostmasterGeneral give that this kind of trash will not be presented in country districts? What guarantee can he give that appropriate action will be taken to see that local artists in country areas will have opportunities to display their talents - as they should have in the cities - in this important medium of propaganda?
Under monopoly control, television is a golden field of investment for the huge overseas film interests. The work of television artists in America is being sold in Australia to the detriment of Australian scriptwriters and artists. I do not doubt that the American nation is pleased that we have introduced television into Australia. Its live artist talent is being developed while this country is buying American films with scarce dollars. Our own artists are unable to obtain work because we are supporting the film combines represented by newspapers and other vested interests.
I mention these matters in order that the Postmaster-General may make some attempt to answer my questions and give some guarantee that what is happening in the cities will not be continued in country areas. I do not share the pious hopes of the honorable member for Hume that everything will be different under the changed policy announced by the PostmasterGeneral. Not for a minute do I think that the country stations will be any different from the city stations. They will have the same approach on an administrative level and they will have the same desire to obtain profits and put forward their propaganda. I do not in any way share the belief of the honorable member for Hume that, following this statement by the PostmasterGeneral the existing policy of the Government on television will be changed. If the Australian Broadcasting Control Board were to decide on a change of policy there is no guarantee that it would be carried into effect because this Government is notorious for its rejection of the board’s submissions.
All these facts must cause grave misgivings to people in country districts. In democracies, times change, governmentschange and parliaments change. Undoubtedly, this Government is receiving great support from television interests in the various States at election time and at other periods. But times may change; another government may come, and television may be used against the present Government parties.
It is extremely important that the mediums of propaganda, particularly television with its important effects on the community, should be under national control. I have one great regret with respect to the introduction of television into this country. I am sorry that the Labour Party was not in government at its inception to place it under national control in the interests of Australia. Whatever honorable members may say, whatever they may think, there is nothing in television, with the exception of a few programmes, that adds to the culture and advancement of the people. This is because of the policy laid down by the Government.
I want to conclude by saying this quite sincerely: In Sydney, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the “ Daily Telegraph “ and the “ Sun “ have a control over mediums of propaganda which should never be tolerated in a democratic community. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ alone controls a television station and practically every newspaper in that city except the “Daily Telegraph “. The power and influence of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ group is out of all proportion to what is right in a democratic community. I hope that country districts will have the benefit of a different arrangement. Although I am not very hopeful about this, I would like to see a change in relation to the country districts. I am afraid, however, that this Government’s policy in relation to television, as shown by its rejection of reports of its own Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and its determination to see that monopolists control television, will be exemplified in its policy in respect of television for country districts. It has shown that it wants to see the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. the “ Daily Telegraph “ and other newspapers throughout the Commonwealth dominating and controlling television.
No matter what the supporters of the Australian Country Party might say about the extension of television to country districts, I doubt seriously whether many of them will appear on the television screens. Possibly, that will not be a bad thing; but they will appear on television only if they put forward the propaganda that the television stations want. When their policy changes, so also will the policy of the stations change. Such power should not be tolerated in this Commonwealth. I hope the Postmaster-General will take notice of what has been said. This tremendous medium of propaganda has passed under the control of newspaper, radio and other interests. Such monopoly control was never contemplated when television for Australia was planned. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should examine carefully the submissions made by the Broadcasting Control Board concerning television for country districts, so that those areas will be saved from the bad influences which have become apparent so early in the monopoly controlled combine stations in New South Wales and other States.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has probably set up a record for himself because he sat down before his time expired. During the time he was amusing honorable members, he spoke, as usual, a great deal of pleasant nonsense. Four points mentioned by the honorable member were plainly incorrect. In the first place, he said that the Government was carrying out its policy on television in opposition to the wishes of the majority of the people of Australia, whereas there is no evidence whatever of this but, in fact, a great deal of evidence to the contrary, as the results of recent elections show. Secondly, the honorable member attacked quite strongly and bitterly the country press because he said the country newspapers belonged to monopolistic interests which did not truly represent country ideas and thoughts. In my electorate, there are twelve country newspapers, as well as several others which are just on the fringe of the electorate. Each newspaper is separately and independently owned, and 1 am quite convinced that those papers give a true and correct interpretation of local events, colour, feelings and opinions. No inference of monopolistic control can be drawn from their ownership, and I believe that that applies to the country press throughout Australia.
In the matter of country television, costs have been mentioned. The honorable member for Grayndler implied that the cost of establishing a country television station was so prohibitive that country interests could not afford it and that Melbourne, Sydney and other capital city interests would be called upon inevitably. It has been suggested that £1,000,000 would be needed to establish a country television station. All the authorities I have been able to find fix the cost at a sum between £300,000 and £400,000 to provide a wellequipped country station which would be able to give an adequate service to its area. That would include an outside unit which would report local events adequately. The honorable member for Grayndler said that Australian national policy in regard to communications of this sort was not being carried out in television. He implied that we should have only national stations; but that is not traditional Australian policy. Our policy is that in the field of radio, we should have privately-owned stations operating side by side with a national network. That policy has been translated into the field of television. It is being carried out by this Government in relation to television in the metropolitan areas, and ultimately will be applied to the country areas as well. In many ways, possibly it is a policy unique to Australia, and especially suited to Australian conditions. It is one of which this country as a whole can be proud.
I was pleased to see in the statement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) an announcement of the way in which television was to be extended throughout most of the country areas. As a representative of a country district, I believe that a very attractive case can be made, or could have been made long ago, for giving television services to the country areas before the metropolitan areas. People living in country districts have many disabilities compared with their city or metropolitan brothers. These are well known, but I believe that most country people realize that for economic and technical reasons city and metropolitan areas had to have television services first. It is very pleasing to see that those services are now to be extended into the country areas. I would particularly draw the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to several important facts in the PostmasterGeneral’s recent statement. The first was the statement that television stations would be established in several districts, and I am speaking at the moment of Victoria. The districts mentioned were Ballarat, Bendigo, the Latrobe Valley and the Goulburn Valley. Some people - perhaps a great number - were disappointed when they saw the reference to Ballarat. I think perhaps those people read the wrong implication into the use of that name. Quite clearly, it would not make sense to establish a television station right at Ballarat, because people only twelve miles on the Melbourne side of Ballarat get quite a reliable service from the Melbourne stations.
Surely there is no sense in having country television stations overlapping the transmission from city stations in the same areas. The purpose must be to supply as many areas as possible which have not already an adequate service. That would not be achieved by putting a station at Ballarat. The sensible thing to do would be to establish a station considerably to the west of Ballarat. It would serve the people living in Ballarat but would also provide a service to those living many miles further into the western district of Victoria. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will refer that matter to the Broadcasting Control Board and that when applications for licences are being considered, those companies which seek to serve a wider field and not the immediate locality of Ballarat, will be given some preference.
Secondly, I believe strongly that western Victoria will certainly support more than one television station. I believe the area is big and rich enough, and has a population large enough, to support at least two stations in western Victoria. In this district there are the very important centres of Colac and Camperdown, which are in my electorate, as well as Warrnambool, Portland, Casterton, Coleraine and Hamilton, all of which are in Wannon. These are fairly large towns, some of which have highly concentrated rural population on their borders and outskirts. There are very intensively cultivated rural areas around Koroit and in the hinterland of Portland near Heywood. The concentrated population of these areas will make it possible to run at least two television stations in western Victoria.
The third point I wish to mention, and of which I hope the Parliament will take particular notice, is one which I think even’ honorable member who has spoken in this debate has mentioned. I hope that country television will remain truly country in its interests and control, and in the way in which it is presented. I most certainly hope that it will not be merely a service relayed from metropolitan centres to country areas. I have been told that certain metropolitan television companies are taking it for granted that they will get licences to relay their services into the country. I certainly hope they have been given no reason by any one at any time to feel confident that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will recommend granting them permission to do this. The board would most certainly come in for very strong criticism if it made a recommendation to this effect.
Control of this powerful medium must not be allowed to become concentrated in the metropolitan areas. Country television must be controlled from the country centres. I think this point has been adequately emphasized in this debate by honorable members of all parties. The concentration of power which would be made possible by this kind of relay service would be wrong. I want to express this opinion in the strongest possible terms. Furthermore, if metropolitan stations were given permission to relay their programmes to country areas, the country centres would be denied the opportunity to provide local television. They would not be able adequately to report local events, such as football matches and race meetings in which the country people are interested. Country television stations must be equipped to serve their particular areas.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who spoke earlier this afternoon, mentioned a paragraph in the statement of the Postmaster-General, to the effect that if and where possible priority would be given to country stations and companies, so long as they could provide a reasonable standard of service or one comparable to that provided by the metropolitan stations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to say, if I may paraphrase his remarks, that in his view the country areas would not have a chance in a million of supplying an adequate or comparable service, and that control would go automatically to the metropolitan companies. I think this supposition is completely unjustified and that there is no evidence of any kind to support it.
Why does the honorable member say that the country areas cannot give a good and adequate service? Certainly the provision of such a service may present a challenge to country areas, and they may take some time to get themselves organized, but there is no reason whatsoever why they should not be able to supply an extremely good service. I have been given a very striking example of what can be done in this regard in my own district. About twelve months ago the Hamilton Arts Council decided to stage a fully-fledged musical show. The lyrics were written by a resident of Hamilton, as was the music. The producer and actors all came from Hamilton and the district. The Australian Broadcasting Commission thought enough of this musical, after its representative attended the opening night - the show ran for a week - to send down, two nights later, a recording unit. The whole musical, which was called “ Hamilton Ho “, was recorded. It depicted early squatter life, and covered the period from the gold rush days to the pre-Federation era. Many people with fairly high musical standards thought a great deal of this show. The standard of talent revealed as being available in a country district was truly remarkable. The lyrics would compare favorably with those of well-known musical shows, and the songs were delightful. If it had not such a truly local flavour and if it were of more national interest, I think it would be capable of attracting a considerable audience in much larger centres throughout Australia. I hope those connected with the presentation of this musical will seriously consider giving it a wider appeal, so that people may see what can come out of our country centres.
It is quite true that in the initial stages some sacrifice of quality may be necessary if country control of country television is to be preserved. But any slight sacrifices of quality that may be necessary will be well worth while if we can ensure that country television will remain in the hands of country people and country interests. 1 am quite sure that the Australian people would unanimously support this kind of thinking. City interests must not gain a monopoly of this extremely powerful medium. If they did, it would be to the very real disadvantage of country areas.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Work and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1960; and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
– I desire to lay before the House estimates of receipts and expenditure for the financial year 1959-60. I wish also to explain certain proposals affecting revenue and expenditure which the Government has decided to make.
As a background to these matters I shall first review briefly the progress of our economy during the past year, its present condition and the prospect ahead. Generally, 1958-59 proved a better year than we expected this time twelve months ago.
It was a notable year for rural production and, in the secondary field, the majority of industries increased their output. Employment rose considerably and unemployment fell. Of the additional people available for employment most if not all found occupations. Construction of houses and flats ran along somewhere about 80,000 a year, which is a very high figure. Other forms of building activity continued strongly. Some 242,000 new motor vehicles were registered in the year, this being an increase of nearly 14,000 over the previousyear. There was considerable expenditure on factory plant, and rural investment seems, to have held up quite well. Business had: remarkable success in raising new capital.
In the first nine months of 1958-59, new money raisings by listed companies were £144,000,000, compared with £84,000,000 in the corresponding period of 1957-58, an increase of 72 per cent.
Externally, our position improved as the year went on and, instead of our overseas reserves falling by something over £100,000,000 as had been feared when the year began, they fell by only £10,000,000. At 30th June last they stood at £515,000,000 which is a comfortable figure. This came about partly through a strong inflow of private capital combined with some success in public borrowing abroad, and partly through a recovery in exports. Rural output being high, we had a large volume of commodities to sell and, although wool prices fell heavily in the first half of the selling season, they improved later and the market closed strongly. For most other exports, except metals, prices were fairly good and beef had a record year.
Fortified by this improvement, the Government has, as my colleague, the Minister for Trade, has already announced, raised the ceiling for import licensing from £800,000,000 a year to £850,000.000. It has also done much to reduce discrimination between sources of supply so that, as to more than 90 per cent, of the goods we obtain abroad, importers are now free to seek their requirements anywhere they choose.
These are the essential facts of a successful year; but they are more than that. They are especially significant because they indicate that high activity was maintained and substantial progress made despite an external setback which, earlier in our history, almost certainly would have brought On a sharp recession.
Undoubtedly we were fortunate in some respects, but good fortune alone would scarcely have brought us through; it required also an intelligent and determined approach on the part of the community, and that was forthcoming. It was realized by governments, by the business world and by the public generally that the vital thing was to keep local expansion moving so as to counter the effects of the fall in exports and prevent these effects from spreading. That resolve, probably more than anything else, supported our domestic situation until growing recovery abroad removed the source of the dangers to which our own economy was exposed.
Our current prospects are, accordingly, more favourable than those of twelve months ago. Overseas there is an upswing in production and trade, especially in the United States of America, but also in the United Kingdom, Western Germany, Japan and other countries of trading importance to us. With a good season, export production will again be high and, given some rise in wool prices over the relatively low average ot last season, it could be a good export year. If capital inflow keeps on at something like the rate of recent times, that also will assist our balance of payments. Im*. . ally, employment is high, investment has been running strongly and several factors - the recent basic wage increases amongst them - should tend to promote consumption expenditure.
However, it is not simply a matter of holding our position. Expansion must go on. Each year brings a larger number of additional people - chiefly migrants and young folk leaving school - for whom occupations must be provided. In net terms the addition to the work force this year will probably be about 80,000. Our whole economy these days is based upon the asumption of strong and continuous growth.
For that reason amongst others it is important not to restrict our view on these matters solely to the problems closest at hand. We must strive for a longer perspective, looking backwards from time to time to see what experience can teach us and looking forward to identify and assess the problems that will face us. The Government is now in its tenth year of office and the decade over which it has had responsibility for national administration has seen great achievements. I am very conscious of our indebtedness to my predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden, whose nine consecutive budgets laid so firmly foundations for progress. When the decade began we had much against us. There were still some post-war dislocations and shortages and then came the Korean war boom. Yet at no time, except briefly in 1952, was there anything like a serious interruption of growth. Population rose during the ten years to June last by about 2,150,000 and, of this increase, about 925,000 came from net migration.
Some 750,000 houses and flats were built and motor vehicles registered increased by 1,440,000. -Industrial progress was remarkable. To give only a few .indicators - steel output increased by 17.1 per cent., cement by 143 per cent., and electricity by 133 per cent. Where, ten years ago, we refined only a small fraction of our petrol in Australia, we now refine more than 90 per cent. Rural industry has shown striking gains. In particular, the average wool clip has increased by 50 per cent, and average annual meat production by 44 per- cent. In mining, there has been progress on much the same scale. These facts, however, are no more than pointers to the immense expansion and diversification of industry which has taken place and to the gains in efficiency which have been made.
Can this broad achievement be equalled or surpassed in the current decade? In some respects, conditions are more favorable than ten years ago. There are not now the crippling shortages of materials, equipment, fuel and power which then hampered progress. Because of the special character of migration and natural increase, our labour force will be .growing relatively to our population, and it will be a better-balanced and more versatile labour force. This should help .towards higher productivity - as also should the better equipment of industry and the new techniques now at hand. We seem also to have found in recent years a remarkable basis of stability - economic, political, social and industrial. These factors should all help us to achieve a rising national product and that in turn should make it easier for us to maintain and improve living standards, at the same time providing the additional capital facilities which expansion requires. .But there will be the same problems as in the past of keeping up an adequate momentum of growth without trying to run faster than our legs will carry us and of securing full employment of resources and the most efficient distribution of resources.
For these requirements, confidence is vital - confidence on the part of all concerned with the expansion of our economy; and that applies, in some degree, to practically every one. Confidence here relies on a basic assurance that steady growth will go on. There are .many elements .in this but few more important than population growth; and that gives a key significance to the migration programme. Three years ago the Government decided that, subject to periodical review, it would aim at an average net immigration equal to about 1 per cent, of population per year. Since then, however, the annual target for gross migrant intake has been kept at 115,000 and, with total population rising, this has meant that the rate of net migration has fallen appreciably below 1 per cent. If this ratio were to decline too far, we would be falling substantially behind the rate of general population increase on which many forward plans have come to be based. It is not .good that this should happen; the Government is also convinced that, with the broad expansion of the economy, we can now absorb rather more immigrants than we could -some years ago. Accordingly, it has decided to adopt for this year a target for gross intake of 125,000 people, 10,000 over the target for 1958-59 and about 8,000 more than actual gross intake in that year. As in the past, the target will be reviewed from year to year.
To keep all resources, and particularly our resources of .labour, fully employed is, of course, not only a social obligation but also a vital economic need. It will be, as I have said, an advantage to have an increasing flow of people, and especially of young ;people, available for employment. But these additional people must find occupations readily and continuously, and this can happen only if there is all-round expansion of the economy. So far, the rising numbers of new workers appear to have been successfully absorbed. This is encouraging; but the number will grow fairly rapidly in the next few years. It is a challenge to which the Government and, I am glad to say, the world of trade and industry, are very much alive.
In the sustained, collective effort which expansion demands there is a role for every one. There must also be effective partnership between our various governments and other public authorities. In the past year we have made great headway in that direction. First, there is the new Commonwealth Aid Roads scheme under which the Commonwealth makes large and increasing payments for roads expenditure over five years and the States have the opportunity to obtain still more by contributing from their own resources. More important still are the new arrangements for general financial assistance to the States for which legislation will be introduced this session. These arrangements, which are to apply for six years, were worked out in the friendliest spirit with the State governments and they offer good prospects of settling the longvexed problem of allocating resources between Commonwealth and State governments according to their respective responsibilities.
Similarly, there must be partnership between government and business in its various forms. The main task of production belongs to industry, with public authorities providing basic facilities and services. In a growing economy the demand for such services and facilities is necessarily strong but it should always be borne in mind that, if provision for them is pushed ahead too fast, the cost will fall back on business and on the community in the form of higher taxes. It is important to keep the burden of taxes down to a minimum. It is even more important that the Government should, so far as its powers and resources allow, promote a condition of progress combined with stability; and that is essentially what we have endeavoured to do.
Above everything else, however, it is the individual citizen who counts in this enterprise. He is the ultimate unit upon whom the work of the economy depends and his attitude and disposition are, therefore, decisive. If his heart is in the task of building the nation, if his job is satisfying, if he feels that the community values his work, if he considers his reward to be fair and his burdens not unfair, then he will give of his best. And in Australia, where our womenfolk are making such a splendid contribution to the national achievement, we must include “ she “ with “ he “ in the senses I have mentioned. These considerations may to some appear remote from financial policy, but I am convinced that they are not. They go to the heart of budgetary arrangements and of the various measures we take to raise revenue and provide for expenditures.
As usual in recent years, the main body of Commonwealth expenditure is compre hended by the items usually charged to Consolidated Revenue Fund; but there are three items, two of them large, which have to be financed from other sources. I shall now comment briefly on the more significant items. The Consolidated Revenue Fund estimates are explained in detail in Statement No. 3 attached to the Budget Speech. There will also be found in Statement No. 1 details of last year’s Budget results. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall have these and other statements referred to in my speech incorporated in “ Hansard “.
This year, the amount being provided for defence is £192,800,000. Last year, expenditure was £189,308,000. Like other governmental activities, defence is being affected by increases in rates of pay and other costs and additional provision has been made for these factors.
The Government has had to consider what, if anything, should be done this year to improve various social service benefits. This is, of course, one of the two largest items of Commonwealth expenditure and it has risen fast in recent years. Moreover, to make any significant additions to major benefits, like age and invalid pensions, must add substantially to total expenditure because there is such a large number of beneficiaries. On the other hand, the aged and infirm are generally less able to assist themselves than most others in our community and if they have a case for additional aid, it must naturally have a strong claim to consideration by the Government. After reviewing the subject of social services generally, the Government has decided to bring forward proposals for increases in certain major benefits.
Last year, supplementary assistance of 10s. per week was introduced to assist eligible pensioners who pay rent. The measure has been effective in relieving hardship in a number of cases, although it is interesting that applications for this form of assistance in 1958-59 were considerably less than half the number which had originally been expected.
This year all age and invalid pensions will be increased by 7s. 6d. per week to a new maximum of £4 15s. per week. The same increase will be granted in widows’ pensions, raising the pension for widows with one or more children to £5 per week and for other widows to £4 2s. 6d. per week. It is worth noting that, for an aged couple both of whom are entitled to pension, the rise in combined pension will be equal to the recent increase in the federal basic wage.
I should like to draw attention to what the position of a pensioner couple may be when the new rates come into force. Their pensions together may amount to £9 10s. per week. They may, in addition, have income of £7 per week without suffering any loss of pension, making a total combined income of £16 10s. per week. It is sometimes argued that our present social service system penalizes thrift. Yet it is a fact that, under the policies now in force, there are pensioners who, by reason of thrift, industry or good fortune, receive additional income up to the permissible limit, own their own house, a motor car and have up to £400 in the bank - all this without incurring any loss of pension.
– I am making the point that thrift can produce these results without any reduction in the eligibility for the pensions applying under our policies.
The proposed increases in pensions will become payable on the first pension payday after the necessary legislation has been passed. The estimated cost of increase is £12,700,000 in a full year and £9,525,000 in 1959-60.
Aborigines, unless they are nomadic or primitive, are, in effect, already eligible on much the same basis as the rest of the community for all social service benefits other than pensions and maternity allowances. Legislation will be introduced to provide that Australian aborigines, unless they are nomadic or primitive, will be eligible to receive pensions and maternity allowances on the same basis as other people. The additional cost will be £1,000,000 in a full year, and £500,000 in 1959-60. Payments will be made direct to aborigines in some cases; in others, some or all of the payment will be made for the welfare of the aborigine concerned to missions, State or other designated authorities or persons. At present, the eligibility of these aborigines to receive pensions or maternity allowances generally depends on whether they are in possession of a certificate of exemption from the law of the State in which they reside relating to the control of aborigines. This qualifying condition will be removed.
The Government intends to negotiate with registered medical benefits funds with a view to introducing a plan for considerably higher government and fund benefits for major surgery and certain other medical services. Under this plan, benefits for many surgical services will be substantially increased. The maximum combined government and fund benefit payable for a major operation is now commonly £30. This will be increased to £60. The plan will involve an increase of a few pence per week in the contributions payable by insured persons to their medical insurance organization for the increased fund benefits to be provided.
It is proposed that the necessary legislation will be introduced during these sittings of Parliament and that the plan will apply to medical services rendered on and after 1st January, 1960.
The cost is estimated to be £475,000 in a full year and £100,000 in 1959-60.
Last year the Government introduced a plan to make possible under the hospital and medical insurance arrangements the payment of fund benefit in chronic and pre-existing ailment cases.
Some anomalies have developed and it is now proposed to re-define and liberalize the class of case to which this special benefit will be payable. Under the new definition, claims for payment of special fund benefit for treatment in “ unrecognized “ hospitals will be allowed in cases where it is established, firstly, that the patient is suffering from a condition for which he would normally be admitted to a general public hospital and, secondly, that he is actually receiving hospital treatment of a standard substantially equivalent to that which he would have received at a general public hospital. Further details of the amendment proposed will be announced when the legislation is introduced, following negotiations with the hospital insurance organizations.
Allowances payable to single and married sufferers from tuberculosis will be increased by 7s. 6d. and 15s. per week, respectively, to £6 17s. 6d. and £11 2s. 6d. per week.
The additional cost will be £80,000 in a full year, and £60,000 in 1959-60.
The Government has decided to make two important changes in the system under which pharmaceutical benefits are provided for the public. These changes have become necessary through revolutionary developments arising from the discovery of new and very costly drugs. It would have been contrary to the intention of the national health scheme not to make these drugs available as benefits. However, the inevitable consequence has been that many of these expensive drugs are now widely prescribed without regard to their cost, in order to save the patient the expense of paying for other drugs which are not included in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
The result has been to make the taxpayer responsible for a great deal of expense, much of it perhaps difficult to justify.
The cost of general pharmaceutical benefits has risen from about £3,000,000 per annum when the scheme commenced in 1950-51 to £18,455,000 last year. The number of prescriptions has increased from 3,600,000 in the first year of the scheme to an estimated 16,000,000 this year and the cost per head of population has increased from 15s. 4d. in 1951-52 to 32s. 8d. last year. It is obviously necessary to stabilize the position.
On the one hand, therefore, it has been decided to extend considerably the list of drugs which may be prescribed under the scheme so that doctors will have a choice extending virtually over the whole field of drugs and medicines. On the other hand, a charge of 5s. will be made for each individual prescription.
Under the new arrangements the1 patient’s position will thus be that practically every prescription written for him by his doctor will fall within the scheme. Honorable members should not forget that at. present the patient receives free those drugs, which come under the scheme. Many- prescriptions contain drugs which do not. Whilst he will pay 5s. per prescription for a. range of drugs which are now free, he will at the same time pay no more than 5s. per prescription over a range which, in many cases, would now cost him a great deal more.
The chemist’s position will be that the long-standing arrangements already existing between him and the Commonwealth for payment for life-saving drugs will be extended to a comprehensive range of medicines. The fee of 5s. for each prescription will be retained by him in part payment of the cost and the Government will pay the balance.
Most pensioners now obtain a very wide range of medicines free of charge under the pensioner medical service. Their position will not be affected by the new arrangement; in other words, the medicines they obtain will continue to be entirely free.
Adequate arrangements will be made to ensure that sufferers from diseases where a specified drug is essential for the maintenance of life - for example, diabetes - will not suffer hardship by reason of the need to renew their supplies of the drugs at too frequent intervals. In these special cases payment of a single fee of 5s. will cover supplies of the drug for a reasonable period.
The full details of this plan will be announced after the Government has conferred with the professional bodies concerned, and will be the subject of legislation to be introduced later in this session.
After bringing these various proposals into account total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in 1959-60 is estimated to be £300,785,000. Expenditure in the last financial year was £278,227,000. Details of the National Welfare Fund estimates are contained in Statement No. 5.
The Government also proposes to make substantial increases in a number of repatriation benefits.
It will increase the special rate of war pension payable to those totally and permanently incapacitated through war service by 15s. per week, bringing the pension to £12 5s. per week.
The full 100 per cent, general rate of war pension will be increased by 7s. 6d. per week to £5 10s. per week.
The war widow’s pension will also be increased by 7s. 6d. per week, making the rate £5 5s. per week. In addition, the domestic allowance payable to widows with children under sixteen, and certain other classes, will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £2 15s. per week.
The Government has also agreed to extend, in certain respects, the scope of free medical treatment now provided for war widows, the children of deceased members, and certain widowed mothers. In particular, treatment in country hospitals may now be authorized in special cases, and the range of specialist and out-patient services will be extended.
The service pension payable to certain classes of ex-servicemen and women will be increased by 7s. 6d. per week to a maximum weekly rate of £4 15s.
Further proposals include increases in rates of allowances payable for certain serious disabilities under the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, adjustments in subsistence and attendance allowances, and a new cloth ing allowance payable to amputees and certain other classes where the nature of the disability or treatment results in deterioration of clothing.
These various repatriation proposals are estimated to cost £4,021,000 in a full year, and £3,016,000 in 1959-60.
Total expenditure on war and repatriation services this year is estimated at £87,485,000 compared with £79,405,000 in 1958-59.
Payments to the States.
The amount provided for payments to the States this year is £321,728,000. The grants payable under the new roads legislation are expected to be £42,325,000 which is approximately £5,000,000 greater than the amount provided from Consolidated Revenue last year for Commonwealth aid roads purposes. In addition, an amount of approximately £2,000,000 will be payable this year to complete the payments under the previous roads legislation. The proposed new financial assistance grants for this year amount to £244,500,000 and the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended special grants of £7,299,000. The proposed grants available to the States in 1959-60 for general revenue purposes therefore amount to £251,799,000.
Current expenditure of the business undertakings is estimated at £123,284,000, which is an increase of £10,056,000 over 1958-59. Of this increase, £8,498,000 relates to the Post Office and is due partly to expansion of business, but more particularly to increased wage and salary costs and to the fact that an additional pay-day falls within this financial year. Expenditure on broadcasting and television is expected to increase by £1,255,000.
Expenditure on capital works and services this year is estimated to be approximately £142,000,000. Expenditure in 1958- 59 was £132,349,000. It is considered necessary to provide an additional £2,791,000 over expenditure last year for Post Office technical equipment. Expenditure on the Albury-Melbourne standard gauge railway is expected to be £4,900,000 this year, an increase of £3,273,000 over last year. This will probably be the peak year; next year expenditure will be somewhat less although still fairly substantial; after that it will fall away rapidly. The estimate for the Snowy Mountains scheme is £1,600,000 greater than expenditure in 1958-59. Expenditure on the Snowy, which has risen steeply in the last two years, is expected to fall back to an appreciably lower level in 1960-61 and for some years thereafter. Provision for the National Capital Development Commission will be £1,000,000 greater than expenditure last year.
The estimate of departmental expenditure in 1959-60 is £72,682,000, an increase of £7,249,000 over expenditure in 1958-59. This item will be heavily affected by the full year cost of the recent basic wage increase, which is estimated at £1,500,000, and the additional pay-day which falls in this year, adding approximately £1,800,000,
The estimate of expenditure on the Territories this year is £23,660,000 which represents an increase of approximately £3,000,000 over expenditure in 1958-59. The provision for Papua-New Guinea is £13,123,000 or £1,528,000 more than last year.
A total sum of £6,259,000 is being provided for international relief and development, this being an increase of £2,161,000 over actual expenditure last year. The main item is, of course, Colombo Plan aid for which the estimate is £5,500,000.
The report of the committee, under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison, upon the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1958 has been closely considered. Legislation will be brought down at an early date to increase the pensions available to contributors and rates of contribution. There will also be alterations in the Superannuation Act 1922-1958 to restore the basis of pensions that was adopted for the 1954 legislation. The Government has also decided to increase, on a contributory basis the future pensions for the widows of servicemen and public servants who are contributors to the schemes. These changes are estimated to cost £435,000 in a full year.
Careful thought has been given to the position of existing pensioners, many of whom retired a number of years ago with pensions that were a proportion of the salaries being paid at that time. Legislation will be brought down to provide, in respect of all existing pensions, an increase in the benefit for widows from one-half to fiveeighths of the full pension. The cost of this proposal, which will diminish in later years, is estimated at £300,000 in its first year.
The Government has also reviewed the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1956 and will increase the benefits provided under the Act for death or disablement. The cost of these changes is estimated to be £120,000 per annum.
The estimate of total expenditure on items ordinarily charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund is £1,385,263,000, which is £88,020,000 above actual expenditure in 1958- 59.
Over and above the expenditure just described, the Commonwealth has undertaken, subject to need and certain other conditions, to give some support to the Loan Council borrowing programmes for 1959- 60. As agreed by the Loan Council at its annual meeting in June last, these programmes total £220,000,000, which is £10,000,000 greater than the programmes last year. I am glad to report that there was unanimous agreement at the Loan Council on this figure being provided.
It is expected also that substantial amounts of maturing debt will again have to be redeemed. Whilst there are no loans maturing abroad this year, three large loans fall due within Australia and of these two are very widely held. In addition, repayments of International Bank loans will amount to £7,200,000 and it will be necessary also to redeem War Savings and Savings Certificates.
It is very difficult indeed to estimate what the total amount of debt redemptions will be since a great many factors can affect the outcome. The Goverment will make special efforts to induce holders of maturing securities to take up new securities rather than to seek cash payment. Nevertheless, the problem is formidable. The amount of debt maturing this year, which at 30th June last was in non-official hands, was somewhat greater than the comparable amount at 30th June, 1958. In 1958-59 total redemptions were £72,000,000. After taking various factors into account, the estimate for redemptions this year has been placed at £70,000,000.
Funds will also be required for war service land settlement - the amount is estimated at £7,000,000.
Taking together the items of expenditure ordinarily charged to Consolidated Revenue, estimated at £1,385,263,000, the Loan Council borrowing programmes, £220,000,000, estimated redemptions of maturing debt, £70,000,000, and war service land settlement, £7,000,000, the total amount for which, it is estimated, cash will be required in 1959-60 is £1,682,263,000.
Revenue will be substantially greater this year than in 1958-59 when, it will be remembered, there was a fall in revenue by comparison with the previous year. The fact that additional revenue will be available naturally gives rise to the question whether some tax relief can be given. The question must of course be considered in relation to the budgetary position as a whole and that in turn must be related to the state and prospect of the economy. I shall say more on those matters later on. Such issues apart, however, there is always the further question of what changes can or should be made in the current system of raising revenues from various sources. In other words, accepting that certain total revenues have to be raised and that a certain general policy on revenue may be desirable from the economic standpoint, there can sometimes be a case for adjusting the structure of taxes and charges so as to adapt it to changing circumstances. The result of such a review can well be that, while a case is established for reducing certain taxes or charges, a case will also be found for raising others. The Government receives a great many requests for taxation relief of various forms but, even under the most favorable circumstances, it cannot meet more than a fraction of them. I have mentioned elsewhere that the representations before the Government at the time this budget was prepared covered many hundreds of separate items and could involve a reduction in revenue of approximately £800,000,000. What the Government can do is, at the most, to give relief where the case for relief is strongest and where the greatest economic and social advantage appears to lie. After examining the whole position thoroughly the Government has decided to make a number of tax concessions, which I will outline presently. The principal concession is in direct personal income tax. Faced with a multitude of various requests, the Government has concluded that this form of tax relief is the fairest and most widespread that could be given at this time.
A 5 per cent, reduction will be made in the income tax payable by individuals.
The reduction, which will apply to income of the current year 1959-60, will be in the form of a rebate of1s. in the £ of the tax calculated at last year’s rates. By applying the reduction on this basis, equal proportionate relief will be given to all the 4,000,000 taxpayers who are subject to individual income tax.
Instalments from salaries and wages will be appropriately reduced as from 1st October next, which is the earliest date by which it will be practicable to distribute the revised instalment schedules to employers. The 5 per cent, reduction will also be reflected in provisional tax for 1959-60.
The cost to revenue will be £20,000,000 for a full year and £17,900.000 in the current year.
Consistently with its desire to encourage thrift and personal savings the Government has decided to raise to £400 the maximum allowance for life insurance premiums, superannuation contributions and similar payments. The limit is now £300.
The cost to revenue is estimated at £400,000 in a full year, but there will be little or no cost in 1959-60.
The Government has two proposals to afford taxation relief to aged persons.
The first is to increase the level of the age allowance for taxpayers who are residents of Australia and who are qualified by age (men 65 years and women 60 years). The new exemption limits will equal the total of the increased age pension now proposed and the maximum permissible income for pension purposes. That is to say, whereas tax is not at present payable if the aged person’s net income does not exceed £410, in future tax will not be payable if the aged person’s income does not exceed £429. In the case of aged married couples, the present exemption level of £819 for combined incomes will be raised to £858. The cost to revenue of this concession will be £550,000 in a full year and £400,000 in 1959-60.
The second proposal relates to deductions for medical expenses paid by a taxpayer aged 65 years or over in respect of a person (either self or spouse) who has attained the age of 65 years. I know that the fear of heavy medical expenses for some chronic illness worries many elderly people in our community at the present time. In these cases, the limitation of the deduction for medical expenses to £150 per person is to be removed. The concession is limited to taxpayers and -their spouses and the present limit of £150 per person will continue to apply in respect of expenditure relating to other persons.
The cost of the concession will be small -£40,000 in a full year. There will be no cost in 1959-60.
Restitution Payments Received by Australian Residents from the Government of Western Germany.
Perhaps several honorable members in the committee have received representations on this point. In 1953, the Federal -Republic of Germany accepted responsibility for restitution in respect of personal injuries and losses suffered by residents of Germany under the Nazi regime both before and during the 1939-45 war. These restitution payments are made partly as capital amounts and partly in the form of pensions.
Some of the people receiving these payments are now residents of Australia. In these cases, the capital sums are free from tax, but the pensions, being of an income nature, are technically liable to Australian tax.
Having in mind the unfortunate circumstances for which restitution is being made, the Government has decided that the value of these pensions should not be diminished by taxation. Exemption will accordingly be granted, with effect from 1st July, 1959.
The cost to revenue is estimated at £25,000 in 1960-61 and later years. There will be no cost in 1959-60.
It is proposed to allow the deduction of gifts of £1 and upwards to the following: -
The Australian National Committee for the United Nations World Refugee Year.
Approved marriage guidance organizations.
The Council for Jewish Education in Schools; provision has previously been made for such a deduction in the case of gifts to the Council for Christian Education in Schools.
These are, of course, in addition to the long list already in the income tax legislation. It is estimated that the cost to revenue of these four items will be £75,000 in 1960-61, but there will be no cost in 1959-60.
Under our income tax system, private companies pay a primary tax and, if a sufficient amount is not distributed as dividends to shareholders, a secondary tax at the rate of 10s. in the £1 becomes payable.
The amount of a sufficient distribution is determined according to a formula which allows for the retention of a portion of business profits.
This retention allowance ranges from 50 per cent, of the first £1,000 of distributable income down to 25 per cent, of the excess of distributable income over £4,000.
Since the present limitations have been in force much complaint has been made that the penalties for insufficient distributions have prevented the younger and growing companies from retaining sufficient profits to ensure stable development. Often, they do not find it as easy as longerestablished companies to get access to additional capital either from the banking system or the public and so they have to rely to a greater extent on building up capital from their earnings. The Government has decided, therefore, that, commencing with the income year 1958-59, the minimum retention allowance in relation to business profits will be increased to 35 per cent. The new scale will thus be as follows: -
The cost to revenue is estimated at £2,200,000 in a full year and £1,275,000 in 1959-60.
As I announced in May last, the Government has decided to make certain further concessions to companies engaged in oil exploration in Australia, Papua and New Guinea. I then outlined the general nature of the concessions and further details will be given when the legislation is brought before the House. The proposals will apply from the commencing date of the original pro visions which was 1st. October, 1958. The cost to revenue is estimated at £1,250,000 per year, including 1959-60.
Proposals will be brought forward to liberalize under certain circumstances the depreciation provisions relating to various categories of expenditure by mining concerns on housing and certain other amenities.
The annual cost to revenue is estimated at £250,000 including 1959-60. I think that honorable members are familiar with the sort of problem which arises particularly in remote rural areas, and the provision will be directed to that kind of situation.
Withholding Tax on Dividends paid to Non-residents.
In his Budget Speech for 1957-58 my predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden, announced that many representations had been made concerning the method of taxing dividends paid to shareholders residing outside Australia. Overseas investors pointed out that the replacement of the present assessment procedures by a withholding tax system would have the advantages of simplicity, certainty of liability and promptness of payment. For this and other reasons, its introduction could be expected to encourage overseas investment in Australia.
After examining the proposals carefully, the Government has decided to introduce legislation enabling non-resident investors to meet their liabilities for Australian tax on dividends by means of a withholding tax or, if they prefer, to have the present basis of assessment applied.
Under the proposed legislation, companies and other persons remitting dividends to non-residents will withhold tax at the appropriate rate and remit the amount retained in payment of the tax due. The withholding tax will be the final liability for Australian tax of the overseas shareholder unless be elects to account for the dividends in a return of income and pay tax on the present assessment basis. In that event, the non-resident investor will be entitled to a refund of any excess of the withholding tax over the tax ascertained by assessment.
When considering the rate of withholding tax, the Government had regard to the provisions of reciprocal taxation agreements that have been concluded with the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. The withholding rate on dividends flowing to those countries will be 3s. in the £1 where this is appropriate under the provisions of an agreement. In other cases, the rate of withholding tax will be 6s. in the £1 but, as I have explained, it will be open to shareholders to have the present assessment basis applied.
I should emphasize that the introduction of the withholding tax will not affect the taxation of company profits, which will continue to bear tax at the declared rates.
The withholding tax will not apply until 1st July, 1960 and it will not, therefore, have any effect upon the revenue for the current financial year.
A reduction of1/2d. per gallon is being made in the Customs duty on motor and aviation spirit. This will involve a revenue loss of £300,000 in the present financial year and £340,000 in a full year.
This change in the Customs duty on motor and aviation spirit arises from the Government’s acceptance of a recommendation of the Tariff Board in its report on the petroleum refining industry that the protection to petroleum refining in Australia be reduced by id. per gallon.
The Government hopes that this reduction in duty will make possible a reduction in the price of petrol to the public.
The reduction in duty on imported motor and aviation spirit involves consequential alterations in duty on certain other items of the Customs tariff where duty is imposed in order to protect the revenue derived from motor and aviation spirit.
Tariff proposals will be introduced later this evening to bring the proposed Customs Tariff alterations before the Committee of Ways and Means. These proposals will also introduce a number of other amendments to the tariff items on petroleum products which arise from the Government’s consideration of the Tariff Board’s report. These additional amendments will not have any significant effect on the revenue.
The Tariff Board’s Report on the petroleum refining industry will also be tabled later this evening.
All told, these tax concessions will involve a cost to revenue of £25,130,000 in a full financial year and £21,375,000 in 1959-60.
Allowing for tax concessions, revenue from taxation is estimated to be £1,204,625,000, compared with £1,126,119,000 in 1958-59.
I may mention here that we have been giving thought to the broad structure of our taxation system. In his policy speech last October the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to the complexity of the taxation system and said that the Government would set up a competent and independent public investigation of the taxation laws. It is now proposed to establish a committee of inquiry, consisting of five members, to examine and report upon this extensive and difficult subject. An announcement as to the terms of reference and personnel of the committee will be made in the course of these sittings of the Parliament.
As part of the review we make for Budget purposes of all major governmental activities, we have considered the trend of Post Office finances.
The Post Office is, of course, a great public utility - easily our greatest in point of the range, scale, and variety of its operations.
We all know it to be a highly competent organization - efficiently managed, devoted to the service of the public, progressive in its outlook, eager to meet the everincreasing demands upon it for wider and belter facilities. It has had notable success in this; it has made really great headway in providing Australia with an adequate and up-to-date communications system.
As the economy grows, Post Office requirements for capital facilities are bound to increase. Growth of population and expansion of industry must mean that the Post Office will have to extend and improve its facilities in all directions. New techniques will doubtless become available but, while these will in some cases help to save on actual costs of services rendered, they will, on past experience, be likely to involve heavy initial costs of installation.
As a financial consequence of this effort, however, the Post Office has had to seek larger and larger amounts of money for capital expenditure. The facilities it provides - the post offices, telephone exchanges, cables, lines, transport vehicles and so on - are all costly, and they have become more costly as the costs of wages and salaries, materials and equipment have risen.
Since 1945, the Government has provided some £400,000,000 for new buildings and equipment. Each year the requirement has tended to grow. All told, capital provision for the Post Office this year is close upon £50,000.000.
Since the war, all the money for Post Office capital expenditure has been provided from the Budget. It has not been borrowed; much, if not all of it, would have been borrowed had loan money been available. But though the money has been provided by the general taxpayer, it is, none the less, capital in the business sense.
It is only proper to say that, over the long period from federation to the end of the Second World War, the Post Office commonly earned substantial surpluses on its operations. This enabled it it pay off capital debt and to make sizeable contributions from time to time to the general revenues of the Government.
There is room for difference of opinion as to what the true capitalization of the Post Office should be in accounting terms, and so that the Government may have the best advice on that and other outstanding questions, we have recently decided to appoint a committee of competent outside people to study and report upon the basis on which the commercial accounts of the Post Office should be prepared.
When we have the advice of that committee we shall review the whole question of Post Office finances, and we hope then to be able to determine in precise terms what constitutes the capital of the Post Office, regarded as a business undertaking, and what annual return upon it the Post Office should reasonably be required to seek.
In the meantime, however, it is clear beyond doubt that, since capital expenditure on the Post Office must continue to increase, the earnings of the Post Office should also be increased, not merely to meet the cost of its day-to-day services but to provide something by way of return on the additional capital.
There are, of course, other important considerations. The costs of the normal day-to-day services rendered by the Post Office have been rising and, no doubt, will continue to rise. The costs of labour, material and equipment have all increased considerably. Since 1951, wage rates payable to Post Office employees have risen more than 50 per cent. In the same period, increases in the basic wage alone have added no less than £22,000,000 annually to the Post Office wages bill. Prices of material and equipment, of which the Post Office uses very large quantities, have also risen by more than 50 per cent, since 1951.
On the other side of the picture, Post Office charges have not been varied at all since 1956. Indeed, some charges have remained unchanged since 1951. Examples are the charge for a local telephone call in metropolitan areas, country telephone rentals, postage on parcels and certain other articles. These are all the same to-day as they were eight years ago, despite the big rise in costs which has occurred during that period.
Because of these factors, and despite great gains in the efficiency with which the Post Office is providing an increasing range of services, it is clear that Post Office charges must reflect, not only the increasing cost of operating its normal facilities, but also the increasing amounts of money being devoted to capital development.
It has, of course, always been recognized that, as a matter of practical necessity, the cost of some services rendered by the Post
Office - as for example in remote outback areas - must be greater than the revenue obtained from them. Equally, however, it has been recognized that other Post Office services should readily produce revenues greater than their cost without imposing an unfair burden on the users.
In view of the overall position, therefore, the Government believes it necessary to make this year certain increases in postal and telephone charges. These will be announced and explained in more detail by the Postmaster-General. At the same time, he will be announcing certain important improvements in postal and telephone services.
The first of the proposals contemplates that first class mail and other mail of letter form character posted within and for delivery within Australia will be carried by air without a special air mail surcharge wherever this will speed delivery. This will mean a vastly improved service and, to offset the loss in revenue reflected in the surcharge and the higher costs of the improved service, including additional payments to airlines, it is proposed to increase the letter form rate from 4d. to 5d. for the first ounce.
Because of losses sustained in postal operations in recent years, due to increased costs not within the control of the Post Office, some of which have been absorbed by improved methods of handling and higher turnover, the Government has decided to increase certain other charges and adopt a simplified rate structure more in keeping with that employed by overseas countries, including the United Kingdom. These changes will be announced by the Postmaster-General.
The second proposal provides for a completely new basic telephone policy which will give telephone subscribers extended local call areas and the advantages of automatic working over longer distances. This will involve an increasing degree of mechanization of the telephone service. In this respect, the Post Office has established that it is far better to spend available capital funds on automatic switching and metering equipment and on additional trunk lines than on the additional .manual handling facilities with their resultant increased annual charges. If such a plan of mechanization is not progressively implemented as Australia’s expanding economy demands, avoidable operating costs of the order of £37,000,000, over the next ten years, will almost certainly be incurred.
The mechanization plan and programme will provide for subscribers to call over much longer distances and to many more other subscribers for a local call fee. Exchanges are to be grouped in zones, based on community of interest, and calls within a zone and to adjoining zones will be treated as untimed local calls. In country districts the distance covered by a local call fee will be increased from 5 to about 30 miles on an average, providing the exchanges concerned are in adjoining zones. Calls between non-adjoining zones will be charged at trunk rates. Subscribers grouped in those zones adjoining metropolitan areas will share access at the local call fee with metropolitan subscribers. These important benefits will be available to subscribers immediately the new plan is formally introduced on 1st May, 1960, and it is proposed that a revised charging basis more appropriate to mechanized working will be applied under both manual and automatic conditions of service.
This new charging basis will involve some simplification of the tariff system. At present, trunk line charges are divided into 22 separate categories depending upon the distance between the two exchanges concerned. For technical reasons, it is undesirable to continue the use of so many categories, as has been found in other countries where a similar problem has arisen and where the number of separate categories has had to be reduced considerably. For example, there are now only three categories of trunk line charges for the whole of the United Kingdom. In Australia, because of longer distances involved, it would hardly be practicable to reduce the tariff categories to three only, and it is intended, therefore, ultimately to replace the 22 scales at present in force by eight, and to adjust the charges accordingly. As from 1st October this year, the number of charging scales will be eleven, and those covering charges up to 25 miles will be abolished as from 1st May, 1960, when the full advantages of extended local call working will be available to the public.
From 1st October the charge for local telephone calls will rise from 3d. to 4d. I might point out here that, as the average household subscriber makes fewer than two calls per day, the cost to most householders of the additional Id. will certainly not be very large. Honorable gentlemen, with their telephone experience, may find this difficult to believe, but I am assured it is the case, statistically.
It is also proposed that there be some increases in charges for trunk calls and that telephone rentals be raised. Some of these have remained unchanged since 1951. Increases in telephone charges and telegraph charges are expected to produce an additional £12,700,000 in a full year and £7,300,000 this year. The total additional revenue expected to . accrue from increases in postal, telephone and telegraph charges is £17,800,000 in a full year and £11,100,000 in 1959-60.
Business Undertaking ‘Revenue.
After allowing for these adjustments, Post Office revenue in 1959-60 is estimated to be £119,800,000. Railway revenue is estimated to be £4,940,000 and revenue from broadcasting and television services £10,000,000. This makes total estimated revenue from business undertakings £134,740,000 compared with £116,896,000 in 1958-59.
Revenue from the territories is estimated at £3,433;000 and miscellaneous revenue at £42,465,000.
The estimates of total revenue in 1959-60 therefore -become ‘£1,385 ,263,000, which is an increase of £97,381,000 over actual revenue in 1958-59.
To estimate loan raisings is difficult in any year and this year it is more than usually so. Last year total loan raisings in Australia and overseas were £209,000,000; but this must be regarded as exceptional. We did unexpectedly well in borrowing abroad. The net amount raised was £31,000,000 and the new special bonds introduced during the year brought in £27,000,000. But there were also exceptionally large subscriptions to Commonwealth loans by trading banks which were unusually liquid at that period. Moreover, the new short-term market institutions, which were establishing portfolios of securities, contributed heavily to Commonwealth loans. A considerable part of their funds was obtained from the trading banks.
It is not possible to judge with any real certainty the extent to which various factors will operate in the current financial year. The bond market has been very firm and if it continues so we may expect good support for Commonwealth loans from the classes of investors who normally seek this form of security. The special bonds continue to attract a good flow of subscriptions and, although holders of the first series have, since 1st July, been able to obtain repayment if they wished, there has not so far been any great number of the bonds presented for repayment. The special bonds will be available for the whole of this year whereas in 1958-59 they were available for only about nine months. The Government will certainly follow up all possible opportunities of borrowing overseas on acceptable terms. Locally, the monetary situation remains liquid and indications are that overseas capital is still coming in at a good rate. Both these factors could help, directly or indirectly, to support Commonwealth loans.
After weighing all considerations, however, the Government has not felt justified in .placing the estimate of loan raisings this year as high as actual raisings in 1958-59. It has, for budgetary purposes, adopted a figure of £190,000,000 compared with £209,000,000 last year and it realizes that, in the event, £190,000,000 could prove to be somewhat high. It is well to recall, perhaps, that loan raisings in 1957-58 were no more than £125,000,000, and in previous years they were a good deal less than that.
I should like to mention here that the Government has decided in principle upon a further innovation in public borrowing. It has for some time, been considering the need to reduce the seasonal fluctuations which occur each year in the liquid assets of the banks and the public. These wide seasonal variations in the money supply are brought about by a combination of factors, including the temporary borrowings by the Government against treasury-bills to finance expenditures in advance of the receipt of revenues and proceeds of public loans, the seasonal flow of export proceeds, and the seasonal advances to primary producers financed by the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank.
We believe that any action which substantially reduced the upswing and subsequent decline in liquidity would make a useful contribution to the efficient working of our financial system. With this in view, the Government has decided to issue a new form of Commonwealth security to be called seasonal treasury-notes. These securities, which will have a currency of three months, will be issued to the public during the period when liquidity is rising seasonally, and will be redeemed within the same financial year as liquidity declines. The new securities will be issued on a discount basis to give a return in line with other market rates of interest - a feature, I believe, Mr. Chairman, not only in keeping with Australia’s peculiar needs as I have outlined, but also evidence of our growing financial and economic maturity. Some of the details associated with this proposal have yet to be finalized, but it is intended that issues of the securities will be commenced in the first half of the financial year. Since these notes will all be repaid before the end of the financial year, they will not, of course, add to the net amount obtained from public borrowings in the year.
Apart from revenues and public borrowings, the only other resources in sight to meet the cash expenditures of the Government are certain receipts of the National Debt Sinking Fund. It is estimated that the amount of such receipts which will be available for redemptions of maturing debt this year will be of the order of £46,000,000.
Therefore, bringing together revenue, estimated at £1,385,263,000, loan raisings, estimated at £190,000,000, and Sinking Fund receipts available for redemptions, estimated at £46,000,000, it appears that the total cash resources available to the Government will be of the order of £1,621,263,000.
If total cash resources for the year are £1,621,000,000 and total cash requirements are £1,682,000,000, the estimated overall deficiency for the year becomes £61,000,000.
It was mentioned earlier that the Commonwealth has undertaken, if necessary, to support the borrowing programmes of £220,000,000 for State works and housing in 1959-60 which were agreed upon by the Loan Council in June. Besides this, we will need an amount, estimated at £7,000,000, for war service land settlement. The amount which the Commonwealth may need to contribute from its own resources to meet these commitments must remain uncertain. If, however, ordinary loan raisings, reach £190,000,000, the Commonwealth would still need to find finance to the amount of £37,000,000. We are, accordingly, seeking an appropriation of that amount from Consolidated Revenue to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
To enable this appropriation to be made without running the Consolidated Revenue Fund into deficit, defence expenditure to an amount of £37,000,000 will be charged to Loan Fund. As redemptions of maturing securities are estimated at £70,000,000 and the current receipts of the Sinking Fund available for meeting redemptions are estimated at £46,000,000, the current receipts of the Sinking Fund may fall short by some £24,000,000 of the amount required to finance redemptions. To meet these redemptions, it is proposed to utilize some of the balances in that fund and in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. It will therefore be necessary to realize some of the investments held by these two funds.
These estimates of our overall financial position are set out in detail in Statement No. 2 attached to the Budget Speech. Further details of our estimated loan transactions in 1959-60 are given in Statement No. 4.
The Government has naturally given much thought to the question whether it should budget for a cash deficit in this financial year. In its Budget last year, it provided for an estimated cash deficit of £110,000,000, and this was deliberately designed to support and stimulate the economy at a time when some slackness threatened. In the event, the realized deficit was much smaller, chiefly because loan raisings were quite exceptionally high. But since these greater loan raisings were due, in large part, to subscriptions derived, directly or indirectly, from trading banks, it is clear that the economy had the support of a good deal more bank credit than the reduced cash deficit itself would indicate. The economic prospects for this year, as we now see them, would certainly not justify any large additional stimulus to spending. The real question has been whether the cash deficit should be as large as the £61,000,000 for which the present estimates provide. The amount could, of course, be a good deal smaller if the Government were to add nothing to repatriation and social service pensions and benefits and to make no tax concessions. But that in itself raises issues of considerable difficulty. There is certainly a strong case for increasing the benefits concerned to the extent we propose. Would the Government be justified on other grounds in deferring them for a further twelve months and perhaps longer? Similarly, there is a case for each of the tax concessions we have proposed. Should these also be deferred indefinitely? To do so would reduce the cash deficit but it would also forgo certain economic advantages that will flow from the relief given to taxpayers. On the whole, therefore, the Government has decided that it ought to go ahead with these benefits and concessions in the current Budget.
This is not to suggest, however, that the Government regards cash deficits, financed with bank credit, as the normal and proper order of things in Commonwealth finances. On the contrary, it is very much concerned to ensure that we should get back as soon as we can to a position in which total cash receipts will at least balance total cash outgoings. This is particularly necessary if, as appears probable, our economy is moving into a phase of strongly rising demand. Accordingly, the Government has been giving close study to the general trend of
Commonwealth finances. Last year there was a falling-off in revenue because of the drop in farm incomes of the year before. This year there has been a welcome recovery in revenue and if, as we expect, the economy continues to thrive, this trend ought to be maintained.
On the other hand, total Commonwealth expenditures have risen steeply in the past few years. To some extent this has been due to special factors, such as the large and sudden rise in debt redemptions and the big increase in provision that has had to be made for various capital facilities. Rising costs have also contributed; but a large part of the increase is undoubtedly the result of general community growth. This applies particularly to social service expenditure, business undertakings and payments to the States. The last item illustrates the matter very well. The new arrangements with the States on roads grants and general financial assistance are unquestionably desirable in themselves but, under them, total payments to the States this year will be £35,137,000 greater than last year. In addition, the Loan Council borrowing programmes this year have been increased by £10,000,000.
Because the economy is growing, it is inevitable that there should be some addition to total expenditure each year. But there must be limits to the increase and from our study of the position we believe that the rate of increase need not be as great next year as it has been this year. We consider that expenditure can be kept within reasonable bounds without unduly restricting the provision of necessary services and facilities or curtailing the essential part which the Government has to play in the furtherance of economic growth.
In general, the Government believes that while we should not be afraid to profit from the strong position we have reached, we must be very careful not to jeopardize in any way the internal stability upon which this strength is founded. Externally, it has seemed proper that, having reasonably large reserves and an improved trading outlook, we should ease import controls and reduce discrimination in the application of those controls between overseas sources of supply. This should help in several directions, lt will give industry and trade larger and wider access to materials, equipment and finished products from abroad, so that they will be able to obtain not only more and better supplies but cheaper supplies. It will also add to the total volume of goods available in Australia, and that will help to meet the rise in demand which seems likely.
We have decided to raise the immigration target to some extent, this by way of keeping up- a steady rate of population growth. Enterprise should thereby be confirmed in its belief that long-term expansion will continue. Financially, our position has improved enough to justify some tax concessions and some additions to pensions and related benefits. We regard the pension increase as a measure of social justice which ought not to be deferred. The tax concessions we have chosen commend themselves as likely to encourage effort and saving and enterprise.
On the other hand, it will be observed, we are taking steps to increase Post Office revenues and to stabilize the cost of pharmaceutical benefits, a service which has been, proving inordinately expensive. We are planning to bring down progressively the overall rate of increase in governmental expenditure.
In brief, our policy, as expressed in this Budget, is not aimed at giving any general boost to spending; we do not regard that as necessary at this stage. We have aimed rather at providing, on the one hand, some carefully-chosen incentives to effort and enterprise and, on the other hand, a degree of restraint on certain tendencies which, if they became too exuberant, could undermine stability.
For while expansion of the economy is our objective and while we have been prepared to take strong measures and, at times, considerable risks to promote expansion, it is our belief that expansion must be founded upon a secure state of internal stability. As we all know, stability has two related aspects. One is the preservation of a balance between the demand for goods and services and the supply of these factors. The other is stability of prices and costs. It is obvious, for example, that our present rather fortunate external position and the relaxation of controls we have been able to achieve could be upset if demand for imported goods were to rise excessively, as it has done more- than once’ before; It is obvious, again, that the present confidencein the bond market, which has helped us to raise larger loans, could quickly be destroyed if prices began to rise sharply. It is obvious also that rising costs could throw the forward plans of industry all astray, retard the growth of exports and, by forcing up public expenditures, set- us heading not for tax reductions but for tax increases. The emphasis we. continue to lay on the need for internal stability is no mere platitude; it is a statement of reality learned from hard experience.
Earlier I have referred to some notable achievements of the last ten years, and posed the question whether we can look forward confidently to the same scale of national progress in the future. I have shown how, in some respects, we are even better placed to do so. Our population is much bigger and growing rapidly. Our larger national work force is better equipped and more highly skilled. Our industries, primary and secondary, are, for the most part, more efficiently conducted and prospering. Australia has succeeded in establishing improved industrial relations and a degree of economic, social and political stability unparalleled in our own national history and, taken in combination, not surpassed, I believe, by any country in the world to-day.
As one of the world’s top ten trading nations, we cannot insulate ourselves entirely against what happens elsewhere. Our internal circumstances, however, leave us favourably placed to profit from rising world prosperity, and our base is now sufficiently firm to enable us to cope with fluctuations in fortune as they occur.
The Budget I have presented to-night has been directed to the twin purposes of expansion and stability. It has also sought to express a spirit of social justice to all sections of the community, and to provide fresh incentive for future national progress. Over the last ten years, our national motto, “ Advance Australia “, has proved a stirring reality. It is our aim and great task to make it no less a reality in the decade which lies ahead of us.
Part A. - Summary or Budget Results; 1958-59. Total cash payments of the Commonwealth Government in 1958-59 exceeded its total cash receipts from sources other than borrowings from the Central Bank by £29,535,000. This deficiency was financed by the issue of Treasury Bills to the Central Bank.
The overall Budget result, in terms of cash, can be summarized as follows: -
Excluding the payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund totalled £1,259,935,000, which was £59,790,000 greater than the Budget estimate. (This increase was due mainly to the fact that it was decided during the course of the year to increase by £40,000,000 the amount of Defence expenditure charged to Consolidated Revenue and to reduce correspondingly the amount of Defence expenditure chargeable to Loan Fund.) Taxation revenue, on the other hand, fell short of the Budget estimate by £16,581,000 and although other revenue was greater than had been estimated, receipts of the Consolidated Revenue Fund were, at £1,278,882,000, £14,263,000 less than the Budget estimate. Thus the amount available for payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, which had been estimated at £102,000,000, was £27,947,000.
Further details of Consolidated Revenue Fund transactions are given in Part B of this statement
The Loan Council borrowing programme for State works and housing in 1958-59, which the Commonwealth undertook to support, was £210,000,000. Loan proceeds received during, the year which were available, towards meeting this programme totalled £206,788,000, leaving an amount of £3,212,000 to be provided by the Commonwealth. This amount, together with £5,700,000 required to finance advances to the States for War Service Land Settlement, was provided by the Commonwealth subscribing, from the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, to a special loan.
The loan proceeds of £206,788,000 referred to above compare with £115,191,000 in 1957-58. Unusually large subscriptions by trading banks and other financial institutions to public loans, the introduction during the year of the new Special Bonds and greater receipts from overseas loans all contributed to the increase in 1958-59.
Securities amounting to £326,384,000 were offered for conversion in public loans in Australia during 1958-59 and, of these, £65,549,000 were redeemed. In addition, redemptions of securities maturing in London cost £1,097,000 and redemptions of savings certificates £5,371,000. These redemptions, which totalled £72,017,000 were met from the National Debt Sinking Fund. Current receipts of the Sinking Fund available for meeting redemptions of maturing securities amounted to £47,254,000. In addition, the Fund received during 1958-59 net proceeds of £1,804,000 from International Bank loans.
Further details of Loan Transactions and the Public. Debt are. given in Part C of this statement.
The manner in which the various expenditures comprehended in the 1958-59 Budget were financed may be summarized as follows: -
This deficiency was financed by the issue of £31,000,000 of Treasury Bills to the Central Bank, the remainder of the proceeds of this issue of Treasury Bills (£1,465,000) being added to the cash balances of the Commonwealth.
Total revenue in 1958-59 amounted to £1,287,882,000. This was £14,263,000 less than the Budget estimate. Taxation revenue was £16,581,000 less than had been estimated; but other revenue exceeded the estimates by £2,318,000.
Customs revenue was £2,329,000 less than the Budget estimate, mainly because the value of imports of textiles was lower than had been expected and the duty on rubber was removed. Excise collections fell short of the estimate by £6,757,000. Clearances of beer, tobacco and petrol were lower than expected; clearances of cigarettes, however, were greater than expected.
Sales tax collections fell short of the Budget estimate by £3,383,000. The value of sales of some goods subject to Sales tax was not quite as large as expected.
Income tax collections from individuals were £14,435,000 less than estimated, mainly because taxable incomes of business and professional taxpayers in 1957-58 were not as high as had been estimated. Collections from arrears of tax were also less than expected.
Collections of Income Tax from companies exceeded the Budget estimate by £12,695,000. Public company incomes in 1957-58 were somewhat higher than had been estimated. In addition, collections of assessments due for payment in 1958-59 exceeded expectations.
Pay-roll tax collections were £881,000 less than the Budget estimate. Estate duty receipts were £1,391,000 less than estimated because of generally lower values of estates assessed to duty. Gift duty receipts were £100,000 less than the estimate.
Miscellaneous Revenue exceeded the Budget estimate by £720,000. Defence receipts were £2,315,000 greater than the estimate, due mainly to a payment to Consolidated Revenue from the Trust Fund of £1,727,000, being proceeds from sales of surplus stores in connexion with the termination of Korean operations. Interest payments on loans for War Service Homes exceeded the estimate by £351,000. Repayment of advances by the Joint Coal Board, for which no provision was made in the Budget, amounted to £144,000. Receipts from the Department of Shipping and Transport were £969,000 less than the Budget estimate because of the deferment of a payment in the nature of a dividend from the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission.
Total revenue from Business Undertakings was £116,896,000, which was £1,399,000 greater than the Budget estimate. Higher receipts from the Post Office and from broadcasting and television were offset to some extent by lower revenue from the railways.
Revenue from Territories was £199,000 greater than estimated, the increase being due to higher revenue from expanding services in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Expenditure normally charged to Consolidated Revenue Fund amounted to £1,297,242,000 in 1958-59, which was £19,097,000 more than the Budget estimate. (These figures exclude the appropriation to Loan Consolidation and Investment
Reserve, but include Defence expenditure charged to Loan Fund.) In the Budget it was estimated that £112,000,000 of Defence expenditure would be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1958-59 and £78,000,000 to Loan Fund, but the amount actually charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund was £152,000,000 and the amount charged to Loan Fund was £37,308,000. In total, Defence expenditure was £692,000 below the Budget estimate of £190,000,000.
Expenditure on War and Repatriation Services was £1,820,000 less than the estimate. Interest and Sinking Fund payments on War Debt fell short of the estimate by £1,593,000. Expenditure on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation was £180,000 below the estimate. Miscellaneous expenditure was £198,000 below the estimate largely because discounts on conversions of war loans were less than had been estimated. In addition, the excess of recoveries over expenditure on supplies and services provided to other Governments was £375,000 greater than estimated. Repatriation benefits, however, cost £757,000 more than was estimated mainly because of higher payments for medical treatment.
Payments from the National Welfare Fund exceeded the Budget estimate by £4,410,000. Expenditure on Unemployment and Sickness .Benefits exceeded the estimate by. £3,152,000, and expenditure on Pharmaceutical Benefits exceeded the estimate by £3,900,000. On the other hand, expenditure on Age and Invalid Pensions fell short -of the estimate by £2,429,000.
Departmental expenditure was £516,000 less than the Budget -estimate, mainly because expenditures by the Department of the Interior and the Department df National .Development were below the estimates. “Expenditure on Bounties and Subsidies was £629,000 greater than the Budget estimate. There were increased payments of £464,000 and £235,000, respectively, on the Sulphuric Acid and Tractor Bounties, while expenditure on the Copper Bounty was £232,000 less than had been estimated.
Miscellaneous Expenditure was £16,407,000 greater than the estimate because of payments to the International Monetary Fund df £11,228,000 associated with the increase in Australia’s quota in the Fund and of £6,324,000 in respect of an automatic repurchase obligation. There was also -a payment of £500,000, for which no provision had -been made, to increase the capital of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. On the other hand, public debt charges were £1,768,000 below -the estimate. Expenditures on Immigration and on International Development and Relief were also below .the Budget estimates by £565,000 and £886,000, respectively.
Railways expenditure was £299,000 less than had been estimated, and ‘Post Office expenditure £1,380,000 less. Expenditure on Broadcasting and Television was £104,000 below the estimate.
Payments to or for the States were £876,000 below the .estimate. Allocations to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account were £1,051,000 less than the Budget estimate. Expenditures in relation to Tuberculosis Hospitals and Mental Institutions were also less than had been estimated. On the other hand, the amount paid in special grants exceeded the amount included in the Estimates by £1,250,000.
Expenditure on Capital Works and Services was £3,784,000 greater than the Budget estimate. Expenditure by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was £4,500,000 greater than the estimate, reflecting a faster rate of work progress than had been expected. Expenditure in respect of civil aviation was increased by an additional capital subscription of £2,000,000 to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. On the other hand, expenditure was less than estimated on some items, including £330,000 on account of the Department of the Interior, £318,000 on the Standardization of Rail way Gauges and £560,000 on Broadcasting and Television.
The amount transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was £27,947,000, or £74,053,000 less than estimated in the Budget. The main reasons for this outcome were that, as mentioned above, Defence expenditure met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund was £40,000,000 greater than had been originally estimated, payments totalling ‘£17,552,000 were made to the International Monetary Fund and receipts of the Consolidated Revenue , Fund were .£14,263,000 below the estimate.
At its meeting in June, 1958, the .Loan Council approved a governmental borrowing programme of i£210,000,000 for State works and housing in 1958r59. The Commonwealth offered, subject to certain conditions, to make monthly advances to the States for the first six months of the year on the basis df that programme and indicated that it would then review the position. -In January, 1959, the Commonwealth notified the States that it was prepared to continue making advances for the remainder of the financial year at -the annual rate of £210,000,000 and to provide sufficient special assistance to enable the borrowing programme to be achieved.
In addition to the amount required to finance the Loan Council borrowing programme for State works and housing, an amount of £5,700,000 was required to meet Commonwealth advances to the -States for WaT Service Land Settlement.
During 1958-59 the Commonwealth issued three public cash loans in Australia, with two of which was associated a .conversion offer to holders of maturing securities. Subscriptions to the cash loans, including advance subscriptions received before 1st July, 1958, totalled £147,536,000 (face value). After allowing for discounts, the net cash proceeds available for the Loan Council programme amounted to £147,176,000. Securities offered for conversion in Australia amounted to £326,384,000, of which £259,107,000 were converted, £65,549,000 were redeemed from the National Debt Sinking Fund, while £1,726,000 were still outstanding at 30th June, 1959.
In October, 1958, the Commonwealth, with Loan Council approval, issued new securities called “ Special Bonds “, designed primarily to meet the needs of the small investor.
The first series of Special Bonds - Series A - was offered in conjunction with the October, 1958, loan. These bonds bear interest at the rate of 4 per cent, until 1st January, 1961, then 41 per cent, for the next two years and 5 per cent, for the remaining three years. From 1st July, 1959, they have been redeemable on one month’s notice, the redemption value commencing at par and increasing successively to £103 at maturity on 1st January, 1966. In April, 1959, Series A was discontinued and Series B was introduced. The terms of Series B are :similar Ito those of Series A, except that interest for the third year is 4 per cent, instead of 4) per cent. Series B bonds finally mature .on 1st October, 1966, and are redeemable from 1st April, 1960.
New cash subscriptions to .-Special Bonds - Series A were £22,035,000 and, up to 30th June, 1959, new cash subscriptions to ‘Special Bonds- Series B were £5,105,000. In addition, maturing securities totalling £15,113,000 were converted into Special Bonds during 1958-59.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590811_reps_23_hor24/>.