House of Representatives
29 September 1959

23rd Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

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Prime Minister · Kooyong · LP

Mr. Speaker, before the business of the House begins I wish to refer very briefly to the tragic loss that has been suffered by our sister member of the Commonwealth, Ceylon, by the assassination of her Prime Minister, Mr. Bandaranaike. I knew him, of course, very well. At an earlier date I knew his distinguished predecessor, Don Stephen Senanayake, who was accidentally killed. Now this horrible event has occurred. I took steps at once to send expressions of sympathy from the Australian Government and from this Parliament, but I am perfectly certain that the House would like me to associate it with an expression, not only of horror at this crime, but also of the profoundest sympathy with the people and the Government of Ceylon. lt is unfortunately true that in the early days of independence some turbulence manifests itself. We have had this tragic event in Ceylon, and on an earlier occasion, in Pakistan, that very great man, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated. Of course, it is a particularly severe blow for Ceylon to have lost, by sudden death, two of her Prime Ministers in the very brief history of her independence. The existence of turbulence, danger and disorder is, I believe, something that we always must bear in mind when we consider the history of these new and independent countries. It emphasizes the fact that we must have a great deal of sympathy for them and show a great deal of understanding. On this occasion, our sympathy goes out very strongly to the family of Mr. Bandaranaike and to the people of Ceylon.

This was a tragic event. One can only hope that it will not leave too deep a mark on the future history of a country with which we are so closely linked, and with which we have always enjoyed the most friendly associations.

Leader of the Opposition · Hunter

– I wish to say a word or two in support of the Prime Minister. Ceylon is a nation that is very close to Australia. Our friendly relations with Ceylon were confirmed during the war. This tragic event must arouse our sympathy for the people of Ceylon. 1 think that everybody must have been struck with the heroic qualities that were displayed by Mr. Bandaranaike in speaking to the people of Ceylon from the operating room, and even urging that some patience be shown with the alleged assassin. It appears also that he defended his wife against assassination. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, in three nations, all previously British colonies and now belonging to the British Commonwealth of Nations, such sad events have occurred. There has been the assassination of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, of the Prime Minister of Ceylon, anc of that very great and extraordinary man, Mahatma Gandhi, during the critical period of the history of India and Pakistan. The road to democracy is sometimes strewn with great difficulties and our best course is to give our sympathy and understanding to these people and their leaders. I join unreservedly in the message proposed by the Prime Minister.

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– On the 15th September, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked me whether copies of the Radcliffe committee’s report could be made available. I indicated then that I would have some sent out. They are here, and are available to such honorable members as may be interested to study them.

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– I desire to ask the Minister for Health whether clinical tests are proceeding of the Cox oral antipoliomyelitis vaccine. The question is prompted by the poor response to the adult antipoliomyelitis Salk vaccine campaign which has been seemingly due to the innate dislike of injections by healthy adult human beings. In view of the importance of encouraging immunization against poliomyelitis, is special attention being given to laboratory and field tests of the new oral vaccine to determine whether it can be accepted as a safe and valuable ally in the campaign against poliomyelitis?


– A great deal of information about oral antipoliomyelitis vaccines is available to us in this country from experiments which have been conducted abroad. In addition, some investigation is being undertaken at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories into this aspect of the immunizaton of people against poliomyelitis. With respect, I would say to the honorable gentleman that I do not think it is really the fear of pain which deters people from receiving the poliomyelitis injection. I think it is the feeling of security which pervades the country on a rather insecure basis. While we have achieved a very high level of immunity among the child population of Australia, there is a large number of susceptible adults in the community. I would urge that they take advantage of the present mass immunization campaign to become immunized. Our present intention is not to change to any other form of vaccine because we have, at present, a highly effective vaccine, which must of course be given by injection. Until we are completely satisfied that it could be satisfactorily replaced by an oral vaccine we would be very unwilling to replace it.

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– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister in his capacity of acting Treasurer. In view of the fact that Commonwealth 3) per cent, bonds falling due, I think, in 1967, were selling on the New York stock exchange at 92i last March and April, why was it necessary in the recent loans to go to 5i per cent, interest on bonds issued at 97 and falling due in 1979?


– The approach to the New York loan market involved a great deal of very close negotiation with our agents in New York, very experienced people. The market itself was uncommonly disturbed for a variety of reasons, but, by and large, as the results of the loan would indicate, we did very well to be able to raise the loan on the terms and conditions that were ultimately worked out.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– It filled very quickly.


– The honorable member says that; but in point of fact it took a little time for the loan to go off. However, the loan was successful, and subsequent events showed that we got the market at the right point of time. Indeed, a great many people have since congratulated us on being able to raise the loan at that time on those terms.

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– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: How long must the community endure, and how long will the Government continue to tolerate the dual monopoly in commercial television which exists in Melbourne and Sydney? Does provision exist for the granting of a third licence and the establishment of a third commercial television station in each of those cities? Will the Minister state whether the Postal Department is presently considering the demand for the establishment of these third stations? Can he tell the Parliament whether applications for additional commercial television stations in Melbourne and Sydney will be called soon?

Mr Griffiths:

– I hope not before we get ours.

Postmaster-General · DAWSON, QUEENSLAND · CP

– It would appear, from the comment, that opinion on this matter may be divided among my friends opposite. The reply to the honorable member’s question is that some approaches, but not applications, have been made concerning the possibility of granting a third commercial television licence in either Sydney or Melbourne. Honorable members will probably recollect that in the frequency allocation plan provisionally adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board frequencies were allocated in all the capital cities for three commercial stations. Only two each have been allotted to Sydney and Melbourne, as honorable members are aware. The suggestion that a third licence might be granted in both Sydney and Melbourne emanated mainly from advertising interests for the purpose of expanding the availability of advertising avenues in those cities. No actual applications have been received, and it is not the intention of the Government to call for applications for a third station in those cities.

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– I preface my question to the Minister for the Interior and Works by referring to the retrenchment notices issued to certain employees engaged by the Department of Works and more particularly to men who may be so employed at Richmond and Schofields aerodromes, and also at St. Mary’s in the electorate of Mitchell which I represent. If any future work is carried out in these establishments or elsewhere by the Department of Works, on contract, will the Minister consider having a clause inserted in the contracts to provide for a percentage of local labour to be engaged? I have been informed that on a contract job for painting at Schofields aerodrome, not one of about 30 hands employed is a local man. Also, at Richmond aerodrome only two of my constituents are employed in a work force of about 30 men on a building contract.

Minister for the Interior · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I can sympathize with the desire of the honorable member to have his constituents employed. However, I think that it would defeat the idea of obtaining the best tender for works if we tried to restrict independent contractors too much. The whole essence of the idea is that independent contractors should be free to engage such men as they wish on a particular project. We find that, apart from the hard core, as it were, of the independent contractors’ staffs, it is usual for these contractors to engage local men in order, thereby, to reduce their own transport and accommodation expenses, and to enable them to tender more cheaply. I cannot give the honorable gentleman any undertaking to embody in our public contracts such a restriction as he suggests.

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– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Chancellor of the Monash University has announced that he cannot appoint senior staff for the university until he is informed what Com monwealth building aid the university will receive and what the time-table of payments will be? If so, can the Prime Minister terminate the present uncertainty about the future of the university by making a statement at a very early date, if not to-day, setting out what help the university can expect from the Commonwealth?


– I had, first of all, a letter from the Premier of Victoria; then I had a personal interview with him; and then I had this matter looked at by the Australian Universities Commission, which, of course, is a very appropriate body for these purposes. I have now had a report from the commission, and I will be communicating the decision on this matter to the Premier of Victoria within the next two or three days.

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– My question is directed to the Minister who is acting as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the proven existence of equine infectious anaemia in central Queensland, and the potentially disastrous effect of the spread of this disease to horses in other areas, will the Minister instruct the C.S.I.R.O. to undertake research into a possible cure for this disease or a method of preventing it?


– A disease which has recently appeared amongst horses in central Queensland has now been identified as equine infectious anaemia. This is a serious disease of horses which does not affect other stock. It would be a mistake to imagine that no investigation of this disease is going on. In fact, a great deal of investigation is being undertaken by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, and the matter has recently been considered by the Consultative Committee of the Commonwealth Veterinary Conference. On this committee are represented the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Commonwealth Department of Health and all the principal veterinarians of the State departments concerned. So the honorable gentleman will see that the matter is already under active examination, and that the C.S.I.R.O. is involved in this examination.

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– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the keen interest shown in the new Bass Strait ferry, “ Princess of Tasmania “, and the recognition by this Government of the high standard of workmanship displayed by the Australian tradesmen responsible for its construction, will the Prime Minister direct that the beautifully constructed model of the vessel which is now on display in King’s Hall be kept there for an extended period so as to give the thousands of tourists who visit Parliament House an opportunity of seeing this fine example of the craftsman’s art? Further, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to place an order for a sister ship with the Newcastle State Dockyard, thus ensuring the retention of the high-class tradesmen employed there in a very essential industry?


-Mr. Speaker, I cannot say what the future construction programme will be, but I rather imagine that the question of exhibiting things in King’s Hall is a matter within your bailiwick and that of the President and, therefore, Sir, I refer it to you.

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– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that commercial television stations in Melbourne are re-exhibiting a number of feature films that have already been shown - a case in point was a film called “ Pattern for Violence “ in a series known as “ Conflict” - will the Postmaster-General bring the matter to the notice of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board so that viewers will not be the victims of this unsatisfactory practice?


– I understand from the question that the honorable member is referring to the practice of exhibiting the same film on several occasions. I do not know the film mentioned by him but obviously it must be suitable according to our programme standards. If it were not, it would not be exhibited. With that qualification, I have to say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has no authority to dictate whether a film will be shown only once or will be repeated. The only oversight which the board, acting on behalf of the Government, exercises over commercial stations in the exhibition of films is to require that the film shall meet certain standards laid down by the board. If it does so, it is within the province of any licensee to exhibit the film on a number of occasions.

I point out, however, that the development of this practice to any great extent is most unlikely because commercial stations gain practically all their revenue from advertisers. If a film were shown so often that viewers switched to another station, obviously the advertising value of the television station concerned would decline and its revenue collections would suffer.

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– Will the Minister for the Army explain why his department, through the Department of the Interior, has taken action to acquire farming properties near Murray Bridge in South Australia? Does the Army require these farm properties for exercises or is the land being taken over because the Army has not been able to recover a large number of unexploded bombs which were left on the property during Army exercises some years ago and the department is concerned that there may be further accidents which may make it liable for the payment of heavy compensation? Is the Minister aware that the amount suggested as appropriate payment for the land is only a fraction of what it would cost farm owners to purchase similar farm land?

Minister for the Army · BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– It is true that we have had some unfortunate incidents in the Murray Bridge area. This land has been used for field firing exercises for a considerable number of years. Notwithstanding diligent search, it is not certain that the land has been effectively and properly cleared. The action proposed by the Army is dictated by public safety. It is felt, after investigation, that the public interest would be best served by the Commonwealth acquiring this land, which, incidentally, will still be required for field firing exercises. There is no intention at present to acquire the land compulsorily; it is being acquired on the basis of negotiation.

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– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, and concerns the division of responsibility for civil defence among various Ministers. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that on 26th August last President Eisenhower, in a message to the American Senate asking for additional funds to be made available for civil defence, used the following words - and I quote -

I cannot emphasise too strongly the urgent need for Congress to appropriate special funds before adjourning. The nature of nuclear war places upon the American people the responsibility-

Mr Whitlam:

– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. 1 submit that the question is out of order, since I have had a question on the notice-paper concerning civil defence, as administered by the Prime Minister’s Department, since the 18th of last month. I consider that it is inappropriate, under the Standing Orders, that an impromptu reply should be given to a question which the Prime Minister has had many weeks to answer.


– I think, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable gentleman-


– Order! Is the question that the honorable member is asking identical with the question appearing on the notice-paper?


– That is the point I was trying to make.


– Yes or no?


– It is not identical.


– The honorable member may continue, but I ask him not to give information in his question.


– I quote from what the American President-


– Order! I ask the honorable member to direct his question.


– I think I am in order in giving this quotation.


– Order! The honorable gentleman will direct his question.


– Very well, Sir. I ask: In view of the statement of President Eisenhower emphasizing the vital need for civil defence, without which, he said, any defence plan would be lacking in meaning - and I am sorry I cannot quote–


– Order! The honorable gentleman will be out of order if he does so.


– I ask the right honorable gentleman: First, would it not be true to say that the risks of attack on Australia were rather greater than the risks of attack, on the United States, in view of the fact that Australia does not possess the means of reprisal; secondly, is it not true, therefore, that whatever the needs of civil defence in the United States, the needs in Australia are rather greater; thirdly, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for the Minister for the Interior, during the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior, which, I understand, will take place to-day, to make, on the introduction of the departmental estimates, a statement to this chamber setting out the Australian Government’s policy in regard to civil defence?


– I do not know that question time is the time for carrying on an argument, but I should have thought that as to the first two parts of the question the answer was clearly “ No “, not “ Yes “, as the honorable member seemed to expect. As to the position of the Government, my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, has had considerable discussion with his colleagues in the Government. He has put himself into a position to make a statement on this matter, I expect during the currency of the debate on the vote for the Department of the Interior. That was decided some time ago.

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– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to a statement by the Minister for Health in New South Wales to the effect that a survey of 35i,000 children taken last year had shown that 93 per cent. - or more than nine out of ten of these children - were in need of immediate dental treatment or had some dental defect? In view of the alarming disclosures of this survey will the Minister immediately consider convening a conference of all State Ministers for Health, and representatives of the Australian Dental Association, with the object of establishing a free dental health scheme for children?


– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable gentleman refers, and the answer to the second part of his question is, “ No “.

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– In asking the Minister for Social Services a question I refer the honorable gentleman to that excellent publication entitled “Commonwealth Social Services”, published under his name some years ago, which has been of very great value to me and other honorable members, but which is now out of date. Is the Minister able to say when a further booklet containing the latest information on social services will be issued, since the present publication can serve only to confuse the public?

Minister for Social Services · RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I am very pleased to know that the honorable member for Wimmera and, I have no doubt, other honorable members, find some merit in the handbook that was published on social services some years ago. The preparation of a publication of this kind takes no little time, but, so rapidly is the social services scene changing from year to year and budget to budget, that no sooner is such a handbook published than it is out of date. It then becomes more out of date, progressively, year after year, as the social services scene continues to change. To get over this difficulty the department has issued from time to time leaflets or information sheets, covering the main aspects of social services. Even these informaton sheets, however, are found to be out of date when changes are made in social services. The matter of the preparation and publication of another handbook, which I am afraid would meet the same fate as the one that has been referred to, has not been seriously considered by me, but 1 will be pleased to look into it. Having in mind the surname of the honorable member for Wimmera, may I say, “ A king can mak a belted knight, a marquis, duke, and a’ that”, but a social service handbook is an entirely different affair.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister reconsider the decision, made either by himself or by the responsible committee, that resulted in the withdrawal of certain drugs from the regimen applicable to age pensioners? One is a drug very frequently prescribed by doctors for the treatment of rheumatism, and the other is a heart tablet. The consensus of opinion generally is that these are highly beneficial drugs, and doctors who have been prescribing them are urging pensioners to make representations to the Minister with the purpose of having them restored to the list. Is the Minister aware of the position with regard to these two drugs, and will he take some action, along the lines I have suggested, either by recommendation to the committee responsible for compiling the list of such drugs, or by executive action on his own part?


– When the honorable member speaks of “ the consensus of opinion generally “, I am prompted to ask him, “What consensus of opinion? “ It would be quite futile for any government which had appointed a committee of experts in the medical and pharmaceutical professions to advise it what drugs should be placed on the pharmaceutical benefits list - and let us remember that the committee makes decisions after considering the therapeutic qualities of the drugs - to refuse to follow the advice given to it by that committee.

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– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that sections of certain media of public information are apparently conducting an intense campaign to undermine and destroy public confidence in, and respect for, the institution of Parliament, will the right honorable gentleman consider the appointment of a joint committee of the Parliament with full powers to examine and recommend ways and means of reestablishing public faith in this ancient and honorable institution?


– I have been in Parliament, one way or another, man and boy for about thirty years, and during the whole of that time there have been some organs of opinion that have sought to undermine Parliament. The answer is not to be found in repressive measures; the answer is here. We are all public relations officers for the institution of Parliament, and it is according to the way in which we perform our duties as such that the reputation of Parliament will be determined.

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– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. As the United Nations is in the process of investigating the position in Laos, will the right honorable gentleman take action to ensure that Australia discontinues its participation with other Seato countries in talks involving consideration of armed intervention? Further, will the Prime Minister give an unqualified assurance that Australia will not be committed to any armed intervention without the Commonwealth Parliament being first consulted?


– Australia is a member of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. As a member of that organization, which is set up by a treaty, we will, of course, observe our obligations under the treaty, whatever they may be. If there are discussions in Seato about Laos, we will naturally take part in them. For the honorable member to seek to anticipate what may or may not occur in a hypothetical set of circumstances is not very helpful, because at this point of time a delegation of the United Nations is in Laos investigating the state of affairs there and seeking to determine the facts. If what the honorable gentleman has in mind is that we should withdraw from Seato. I assure him that he is wasting his time.

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– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Is there any substance in a report that during October the minimum charge for sending an airmail letter within Australia will be 8d.? If there is, will he as a matter of urgency arrange to introduce transitional provisions in order to ensure that there will be no unnecessary upgrading of postal charges during the movement from the previous charges to the proposed charges?


– The honorable member asks whether there is any truth in the report to which he has referred. I direct his attention to the fact that the information about which he is concerned was not contained in a report; it was part of my second-reading speech when I introduced the bill to increase certain postal charges. The matter was given sufficient prominence. The reason for the increase, as was explained during my second-reading speech, is that a great deal of administrative work is required in the Post Office in order to change over to the all-airmail system. It was not possible to arrange for that system to commence on 1st October. Consequently there would be some small period of time - from 1st October to 1st November - when those people desiring to use the airmail service would need to continue to pay the airmail surcharge.

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– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question without notice. Is he aware that the cost of providing ambulance services in New South Wales during the past twelve months was £44,748? [s he aware that 44 per cent, of that cost was incurred in transporting pensioners at an average cost of £3 4s. 7d. a person and that that cost cannot be recovered from pensioners? Will the Minister subsidize the ambulance service to meet the cost of transporting pensioners?


– This is a matter that arises from time to time in this House, and I have had occasion in the past to say that questions such as this could more properly be addressed to the Minister for Health. The ambulance services in Australia come under the administration of the State governments and any co-operation that State Departments of Health would seek from the Commonwealth would be through the Commonwealth Minister for Health. If the honorable member cares to discuss the matter with the Minister for Health I am sure that his question will receive the consideration that is its due.

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– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. As apathy is probably the chief cause of such a small percentage of migrants seeking naturalization, will he give consideration to communicating with local government bodies - city and shire councils, and roads boards, in Western Australia - requesting that they invite migrants in their areas to public gatherings at which Australian citizens would state the advantages of naturalization and, in a local social atmosphere, invite them to give earnest consideration to becoming citizens of our Commonwealth?

Minister for Immigration · ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I appreciate the interest of my honorable friend in the subject of naturalization, and I shall certainly give consideration to the idea which he has just put forward. I would remind him, however, that some time ago my department instituted a field force, as we call it, of specially selected officers to contact local government authorities, local industries and people in influential positions, especially in country towns, and generally to mingle with our European settlers and point out to them the manifest advantages of becoming fully fledged Australian citizens.

I should like to add that whilst I suppose every member of this Parliament wants to see more and more people becoming naturalized, we should not allow ourselves to be made too despondent by the present figures, because in fact naturalizations are taking place at the rate of, in round terms, about 48,000 a year. I would be the last person to be complacent about such a rate of progress, but nonetheless one can easily fall into the error of looking at this matter too gloomily.

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– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the high cost of hearing aids? I understand that the cheaper transistor sets cost about £50. Is it a fact that almost one-half of the cases of deafness occur in the age group over 64 years? Is the Minister aware that the Government of Denmark provides hearing aids which it purchases from commercial firms by open tender for about £8 10s. Australian? Will the Minister recommend similar action by this Government or, alternatively, explore the possibility of such aids being provided by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories at cost to deaf persons in needy circumstances?


– The

Government already makes certain arrangements for the provision of hearing aids for children and ex-servicemen. The fact that other countries have other arrangements does not, of course, have any application in Australia. I cannot, therefore, give the honorable member an undertaking that the Government will proceed along the lines that he has suggested.

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– Last week the Minister for Social Services, in reply to a question put to him by the honorable member for Lalor, stated that organizations administering aged persons homes which had received assistance from the Commonwealth Government under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act, could not admit service pensioners to these institutions. I ask the Minister whether, at the time when the grants were made, he, as the Minister for Social Services, or the department which he administers, advised the charitable organizations that were administering the homes that they would be debarred from admitting service pensioners to their institutions if they acepted the government grant. What is the present position of institutions which have admitted service pensioners in good faith? What is the position of service pensioners who are living now in these homes?


– A great deal of care is taken by the Department of Social Services to ensure that applicants for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act understand the letter and the spirit of the act. Information sheets are prepared and discussed with them, and an officer of the department gives a further explanation of the act. There is never any doubt that every applicant understands all the responsibilities associated with the success of his application.

We have never had the slightest difficulty, because the act provides that those who may be accommodated in the homes that are to be constructed shall be over the age of 60 years in the case of women and 65 years in the case of men. I know of no instance in which that arrangement has been disturbed in any way. If the honorable member for Lilley, or any other honorable member, cares to lodge a complaint that people younger than those to whom I have referred are being admitted to these homes, I shall be prepared to investigate the complaint. But I would remind the honorable member for Lilley, and other honorable members, that this Government does not interfere in any way with the people who are responsible for the effective operation of these homes.

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Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

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In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 15th September (vide page 995).

Attorney-General’s Department

Proposed Vote, £2,011,000


.- I shall take the opportunity to speak on the most prevalent and the least appropriate form of litigation in Australia, and on the methods which this Parliament could promote to dispense justice more satisfactorily.

Half the number of cases in the supreme courts of the States or Territories, and in the district courts or county courts in those States in which they operate, are concerned with determining whether and, if so, to what extent damages should be paid by a motor driver, or rather by his insurer, for injuries or fatalities which may be caused by his negligence.

I shall point out, first, the prevalence of such actions. The Commonwealth Statistician states that in the financial year 1.957-58 there were in Australia 39,473 accidents involving casualties, and as a result of those accidents 2,146 people were killed and 52,213 were injured. In the same year the premiums, less returns, rebates and bonuses, paid by Australians in respect of compulsory third party insurance amounted to £16,064,000, and the claims, less, amounts recoverable,, paid to Australians in respect of compulsory third party insurance amounted tq £14,202,000.

I pass now to the appropriateness of such litigation. It is uncertain whether a plaintiff will recover damages. He has to establish the negligence of the defendant, and very often he has to show that he himself did not contribute to the accident by his own negligence. A plaintiff may have to sue two or more defendants and succeed against only one or some of them. It is also uncertain how much damages he will recover. He may recover only a. lump sum, which may be quite inappropriate, for instance, if a woman plaintiff shortly afterwards remarries or if there is inflation in subsequent years. Again, practically always, expense is attached to the present procedure. Legal costs are recouped if the plaintiff succeeds, but this is only partial in most cases.

Thirdly, there is delay in these cases. The standard time that elapses before: a verdict is secured by a plaintiff in New South Wales is two years. Throughout that period, not only does the plaintiff have to go without any compensation for his pain, and suffering or his loss of income or his: “ out-of-pocket “ expenses, but hospitals and doctors have to wait for payment for a similar period.

Fourthly, there is a general unreality about such proceedings. There is a pretence that the jury does not know what, of course, every juryman does know - that the defendant or the defendants have to be covered by insurance.

Again, there are many anomalies in this form of litigation. The owner-driver cannot recover damages for an. accident which was caused solely by his own. negligence. His wife cannot recover damages although his parents, his children, his mistress or a complete stranger to whom he had given a lift can recover damages.

Contributory negligence is a complete defence in New South Wales, however little that negligence contributed to the accident. In the other States it does not prevent a plaintiff recovering at all but it prevents a plaintiff from recovering the full amount of damages. For instance, if two drivers are involved in an accident and each is 50 per cent, to blame, each gets half the damages he would have got if the other driver alone were to blame. Then one still meets, though infrequently, the defence of “ inevitable accident “. If an accident would have happened, anyhow, on the roads, irrespective of any driver’s negligence, nobody gets damages for the injuries arising from it. Then there is defence of the voluntary assumption of risk where the person who accepts a lift from a driver whom he knows to be under the influence of alcohol cannot secure damages if he is injured as the result of the negligence of that driver.

To sum up, all motor owners have to pay insurance to cover damages arising from road accidents. There is no certainty, however, that the victim of a road accident will receive damages. The only certainty is that he will have to wait for damages of a conjectural amount at a conjectural cost.

The remedy, I suggest, is that the element of fault should be eliminated from running down cases. We have already done this with respect to industrial accidents. The whole principle of workers’ compensation turns on the occurrence of a casualty and not on the presence of culpability. It is true enough that workers’ compensation has failed to supplant negligence actions in industrial accidents. This is because the compensation offered, either by way of periodic or lump sums, is obviously inadequate, and needlessly inadequate, since employers pay twice as much in premiums as workers receive in payments.

The Commonwealth should, through the Department of Social Services, make periodic payments available to the victims of road accidents or their dependants to give them the same income after the accidents, until the age at which they retire or would have retired as they would have received but for the accident. The amount of their income could be readily established from documents such as income tax returns. These payments could be financed through the petrol tax or some such excise duty which the Commonwealth could impose. I suggest this because I believe it would be a cheaper and readier form of financing the proposals for compensation than insurance.

It is a matter of doubt whether the Commonwealth, under its power to legislate with respect to insurance, can compel people to insure. There is less doubt whether the Commonwealth could compel interstate road users such as interstate hauliers to cover their employees by workers’ compensation. But, Sir, a scheme financed through the petrol tax would be very easy and cheap to administer and everybody would pay roughly in accordance with the use to which he put the roads.

I realize that there would still be matters in which litigation might be necessary. Litigation would still probably be necessary to determine the retiring age of certain persons. The automatic retiring age in many occupations is 65. Any dispute between the applicant and the Department of Social Services as to the age at which the person would have retired could be determined by litigation.

Again, there may be dispute as to a victim’s potential earnings. For instance, if a medical student were injured on the roads it is pretty obvious that his future income would have been very much greater than it was at the time of his injury. There might also be some question as to the degree of dependence which a person had on a person who was injured or killed on the roads. Cases occur in which a child is dependent during minority or in which some elderly relative is being maintained, but there might be differences of opinion as to the extent of the dependence. Lastly, there might be some doubt as to the amount of the lump sum by which periodic payments could be redeemed in order to sei up a victim in a business in which he would be able to earn as good a living, or almost as good a living, as he would have earned in the occupation which he followed before the accident but could not follow after the accident because of the accident. Such litigation could appropriately be determined by the Federal Supreme Court which I suggested in the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department a year ago. I suggest that the method that I have spoken of would give prompt, adequate and reliable compensation in road accidents. The Commonwealth could make a system available which would by its merits come to supplant the inefficiencies and fictions of the present method.

The greatest number of accidents involving injury occur on the roads. Many more occur on the roads than in industry. We have, for long, throughout this century, accepted the proposition that if a person is injured in industry he should have the right to some compensation. It is true that the compensation that he receives is inadequate under Commonwealth and all State laws at the moment. But we have recognized the principle. “ Fault “ has been removed from the concept. I would suggest that, in the still greater field of accidents on the road, it is about time that we accepted some similar principle. It would be easily administered. Furthermore, it is quite anomalous in my view that there should be the delay, the expense, and the uncertainty attending these accidents which at present inevitably attends them. 1 therefore commend to the AttorneyGeneral, as representing the Government in this matter, that some such scheme would get to the very root of the largest and least appropriate form of litigation in the Commonwealth.


.- The remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) concern a matter of distinct importance. But that matter is now the subject of a royal commission of inquiry in my own State of Victoria, and therefore I do not propose to discuss it. Perhaps, however, I may suggest to the honorable member that if he really feels deeply on this subject, in order that the depth of his knowledge and the validity of his judgment might be considered, he should submit himself to cross-examination before that commission.

I rose to deal with a matter that was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when these estimates were last before the committee. It appeared that the honorable member on behalf of a profit-making firm made an inquiry of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in order to ascertain whether any federal action could be taken on behalf of that firm to protect it against other profit-making firms. The AttorneyGeneral gave the honorable member a wellconsidered legal answer which covered the whole field and for which, of course, the honorable member and his client, the profit- making firm, did not have to pay any fee at all. As the honorable member for East Sydney pointed out, this profit-making firm could have obtained its own legal opinion or, maybe, it could have brought an action in its own name against the other profitmaking firms which, it alleged, were guilty of illegal practices towards it. But so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, as the Attorney-General pointed out, what had happened did not occur in the course of interstate trade but in the course of trade wholly within the State of Victoria. As the Attorney-General further rightly said, the Commonwealth had no power whatsoever to deal with this matter and no action could be taken by the Commonwealth Government or by the Attorney-General.

If the honorable member for East Sydney had intended to make his point that there should be constitutional reform, he might very well have referred to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee on this matter, but he did not endeavour to make that point. He then proceeded to attack the Commonwealth Government and the Attorney-General for not taking action. After the Attorney-General, with commendable restraint, sat at the table and listened to the honorable member without interjecting at all, the honorable member then rounded on him and said he was not making an answer to him. The Attorney-General then felt that he had to say, somewhat mildly, “ You were fully answered in writing “ as, of course, the honorable member had been answered in writing. Then, the honorable member having been treated most courteously and given the fullest information on this matter, when acting on behalf of a profit-making concern which on other occasions he purports to detest, proceeded to make an unreal attack on the Attorney-General and the Commonwealth Government.

He excused himself in earlier remarks that he was not a legal luminary but only a layman. He may not be a legal luminary,, but before he got on his feet he evidently knew the position from the AttorneyGeneral, which had been stated to him fully. He also knew the position perfectly well from the fact that he had been a member of the Constitutional Review Committee which had fully dealt with this matter. The report of that committee, which was presented to Parliament, had this to say on the subject -

The present legal position is that the Commonwealth can control harmful restrictive trade practices in interstate commerce but not in intrastate commerce or productive industry.

Under that report appears the signature of one “E. J. Ward”, who is, I understand, no other than the honorable member for East Sydney. It is quite clear, therefore, that on this occasion, as on many other occasions, the honorable member rose in his place in this chamber with his tongue in his cheek and made an attack which he knew to be completely unfounded. I bring this matter to the attention of the committee because this is one occasion on which these tactics should be clearly sheeted home to the honorable member.


– Judging by an experience which I had towards the end of last year, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) in the early years of his portfolio might well look at the methods of collecting evidence and imposing punishment on Commonwealth public servants and also the method by which the appointed authority deals with appeals made by public servants against punishment imposed by chief officers. First of all, I should like honorable members to note the fact that the Commonwealth Public Service Act is a document of great dimensions. It covers the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service and consists of 94 sections which occupy 78 pages of print. In conjunction with the act are 153 Public Service regulations, covering 144 pages. In addition, there are the various schedules to the act. But that is not all; there are also Public Service Orders. All these play some part in the control of the Commonwealth Public Service.

I first direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to regulation 8 which provides that-

Officers in charge of branches or sections of Departments shall requisition for sufficient copies of the Act and these Regulations to enable officers working under their direction to have ready access to the Act and these Regulations.

I make the point right now that this regulation is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. I direct particular attention to the unfairness of this approach in the Commonwealth Public Service com pared with the procedure followed in the New South Wales Government railways. That is the first example that comes to my mind. In New South Wales, immediately an employee joins the railways service he is given a general appendix and book of rules and regulations. This contains every regulation and provision of the appropriate act which he is bound to observe during the time that he is employed in the service of those railways. Very few Commonwealth public servants could say how many public service regulations there are or how many sections are contained in the Public Service Act. Section 55 of that act deals with offences. The first sub-section has several paragraphs, marked (a) to (h). Sub-section (1.) provides that -

An officer (other than an officer in the First or Second Division) who -

wilfully disobeys or disregards any lawful order made or given by any person having authority to make or give the order . . . shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable to such punishment as is determined upon under the provisions of this section.

I am prepared to say that 80 per cent of the Commonwealth public servants have never read section 55 of the act because it has never been made available to them. I wish to direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral particularly to paragraph (e) of the sub-section. It reads -

  1. is guilty of any disgraceful or improper conduct, either in his official capacity or otherwise.

The term “ improper conduct “ is nowhere defined in either the act or the regulations; and it is capable of very broad interpretation. I put it to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) who is now at the table and also to the Attorney-General that the implication of these words “ improper conduct” is so wide that it is capable of a blanket application. Any Commonwealth public servant could be convicted on any day of the week throughout the year under this provision if he were charged by his chief officer. Let us see what happens when an officer is charged with improper conduct. I have had occasion to appear before an authority on behalf of Commonwealth public servants who are returned soldiers with long service in the department concerned. They have observed every departmental regulation and never once in their long period of service have they ever been charged with any offence under any of the regulations in respect of their duty.

Let us now have a look at the obligations as to duties and behaviour, Sir. Regulation 32 of the regulations made under the Public Service Act carries the caption, “ Obligations as to duty and behaviour “. Surely, when a clear standard of obligations as to duty and behaviour is laid down, that is the standard on which charges against employees should be based. The Attorney-General should insist that the Crown Law authorities look at that regulation when a case is being investigated. That regulation, under five headings lettered (a) to (e), lays down quite clearly the obligations as to duty and behaviour. The regulation provides -

Every officer shall -

in due course and at proper times comply with, and give effect to, all enactments, regulations, and authoritative instructions made or issued for his guidance in the performance of his duties.

The regulations say nothing about this broad field of “ improper conduct “. It does not exist. So, when an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service is to be charged, section 55 of the Public Service Act 1922-1927 is relied upon. The powers that be look to the mention of improper conduct in that section and the charge becomes a charge of improper conduct.

Let me now relate to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. -Ereeth), who is at the table, and to the Attorney-General, what happens. An officer may be charged by a chief officer with “ improper conduct in that “ he did such and such a thing. The term “ improper conduct “ is the only one that need be used. But there is no definition of improper conduct of which account may be taken even when the employee is first called on to give his defence. I am pleased that the Minister who is now at the table is a legal man. Before the offence is listed, the Commonwealth Investigation Service is called on to investigate the particular improper conduct that has been reported. On the occasion that I have in mind, men of very high repute were affected. Throughout their history in the Public Service, they had never been charged with any failure to observe the obligations laid down in regulation 32, which, as 1 have pointed out, describes their obligations as to duty and behaviour as employees of the Public Service. When improper conduct is charged, an interrogation takes place. Surely, the situation that arises should not be tolerated in any free country. One may expect it in Russia, and one may have expected it under Hitler, but on*; would not expect it in any free country.

In the case that I have in mind, an anonymous letter was sent to the department. It was handed to the Commonwealth Investigation Service, which began an investigation of matters arising out of that anonymous letter. The officers concerned were called in one by one. Probably, the first was the first one nominated in the letter, although, in point of fact, no officer may have been nominated; there may have been just a blanket reference to something happening to officers, or a suggestion that something was happening to them or that officers were doing something. The officers involved were called in for questioning by members of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It is the practice for the questions and answers to be taken down in shorthand by a girl. The questioning may go on for hours, with the girl taking notes in shorthand throughout. At some stage, she takes the shorthand notes away, transcribes them in her own way into the form of a statement, and that statement is then taken as the evidence upon which the Chief Officer makes his decision.

The employee interrogated by officers of the -Commonwealth Investigation Service is not warned, in the first place, that whatever he may say will be used as evidence against him before the Chief Officer, who may finally determine that the matter is so serious that the employee ought to be dismissed or that a heavy fine ought to be imposed. The officer being interrogated is judged by the Chief Officer on whatever part of the interrogation the girl shorthandwriter catches in her shorthand notes. The statement prepared by the girl goes to the Chief Officer, who recommends to the Public Service Board, to take the worst case, that the employee be dismissed. An officer who is dismissed is given an opportunity to appeal against the decision, and 1 now want to take the next phase - the proceedings before the appeal board. The chairman of the board shall have the qualifications of a stipendiary magistrate, one member shall be an officer of the department to which the appellant belongs, not being an officer concerned in the laying of the charge, and the third member shall be an officer elected, as prescribed by the officers of the division to which the appellant belongs. But here is the catch: All three officers selected to comprise an appeal board are required to take the oath that appears in the schedule to the act. This means that the officer elected to represent the employee on the board takes the view that he shall not even talk to the representatives of the employee concerned.

When the appeal comes on for hearing, the transcript of the shorthand notes of the interrogation by officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is presented as evidence before the appeal board. When the board is asked to insist that the report made to the Chief Officer by those who conducted the interrogation - the report upon which the Chief Officer makes his decision - be made available, the reply is that it is not available to the board or to the appellant. I have yet a lot to learn about appeals if it is really considered right that this sort of thing should happen in a free country. In this situation, a man is condemned on the evidence of a transcript prepared from shorthand notes of an interrogation by officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service - a transcript prepared by a girl shorthand-writer in her own time, never read back to the employee concerned, never signed, and sent to the Chief Officer along with other reports that nobody knows anything about. The officer appeals to an appeal board that is stacked against him before he starts - I use those words deliberately - because of the very framework of the Public Service Act. The officer charged is never warned that anything he says may be used against him, the transcript of the shorthand notes of his interrogation is never read to him and it is not signed, although it is used as a basis for the Chief Officer’s decision. The appeal board says that it has no power to call for the report sent to the Chief Officer about the employee who is being dismissed. After it is all over, the transcript of the shorthand notes is read back to the employee for the first time - perhaps four, five or six months after the notes were taken. Then the decision made by the stacked appeal board goes back to the Chief Officer before it goes to the Public Service Board.

I put it to the new Attorney-General, Mr. Chairman, that if ever there was something that ought to be torn to pieces it is the provisions of the act relating to appeal boards, read in conjunction with the regulations relating to offences and punishment. These provisions are the greatest scandal that could exist in a free country. Surely no honorable member, and nobody outside this chamber for that matter, imagines that there is any justification for a charge of improper conduct when, in point of fact, the obligations of public servants as to duty and behaviour are laid down in regulation 32 in these terms -

Every officer shall -

  1. during the hours of official business devote himself exclusively and zealously to the discharge of his public duties;
  2. behave at all times with courtesy to the public, giving prompt attention to all reasonable requirements;
  3. obey promptly all instructions given to him by any officer under whose control or supervision he is placed;
  4. promptly and correctly carry out all duties appertaining to his office, or any other duty he is directed to perform; and
  5. in due course and at proper times comply with, and give effect to, all enactments, regulations, and authoritative instructions made or issued for his guidance in the performance of his duties.

He is subject to the whole ramifications of regulation 32, and then is liable to a charge of improper conduct, without the term “ improper conduct “ being defined anywhere. This is a blot on the standards of a free country, Mr. Chairman, and on a great Public Service, which employs fine officers. It is no wonder that legal men who appear before these appeal boards call them - and this is commonly known - rubber stamps for Chief Officers. They are nothing more than that, because the appellant does not know the reasons on which the Chief Officer based his decision and is not aware of reports presented to the Chief Officer. All that the appellant ever sees is the transcript of the shorthand notes taken by a girl at his interrogation perhaps six months before. To me, this is a continuing disgrace and I hope that the new Attorney-General when he looks at the whole picture - I am sure that he knows something of it already - will give us a proper appeals authority and some decent type of charge sheet. The charge of improper conduct is not at all satisfactory. It is based on a section that was put in the act in the 1930’s - the days when Hitler was in power in Germany. Germany has scrapped the type of doctrine that Hitler embraced, but this section still remains in the act. I put it to the AttorneyGeneral and to the Government that they should do as the German Government has done and remove such stains on our reputations. This section is a disgrace in a free country such as Australia.


.- Recently, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in answer to a question, announced that the control and structure of the Legal Service Bureau had been altered. The bureau had been controlled independently by a director, but on the retirement of the director the position was left vacant for some months and eventually abolished. The control of the bureau has now been placed under the Crown Solicitor’s office. I feel that the action taken by the AttorneyGeneral is the thin edge of the wedge and will lead to the complete abolition of the bureau. The bureau has given wonderful service to members of the forces, exservicemen and their dependants and would have been much more widely used if its facilities had been better publicized by the Government.

I do not know whether the fact that Labour was instrumental in establishing the bureau had anything to do with the Government’s lack of interest in it, but I feel absolutely certain that servicemen, exservicemen and their dependants who had anything to do with the bureau and its officers were completely satisfied with the service made available to them and would like to see the bureau continue all its activities. The staff, particularly in Sydney, where I have had some contact with the bureau, consists of loyal and efficient officers. However, in the past few years, the Public Service Board has made investigation into their duties. Positions have been down-graded and that of director has been abolished. The attitude of the

Government towards this bureau has had a disheartening effect upon the officers, because their chances of promotion are dwindling away. Their future security is being affected because they cannot be sure that the Government will not continue to curtail the services that are available through the bureau. The officers find, despite years of loyal and efficient service, that they are now not certain of what the future holds for them.

This is a matter not only for honorable members but also for ex-servicemen’s organizations to look at. The facilities introduced by Labour have more than proved their worth. Ex-servicemen and their dependants, particularly widows, often have need of legal advice. If they go to outside solicitors, they must meet some expenses. Through the Legal Service Bureau, they have been able to get whatever advice they have needed, freely, efficiently and pleasantly from the officers of the bureau. The Government should reconsider the action that it is taking in altering the structure and control of the bureau. Its activities should be strengthened rather than diminished so that servicemen, ex-servicemen and their dependants will be able to get the same service as has previously been available through the bureau. I should like to see some action taken to publicize the services that are available from the bureau. Servicemen, exservicemen and their dependants who are confronted with litigation are often afraid to proceed with an action because of the cost that is involved. The services available to them should be publicized so that they will understand exactly what they are entitled to receive. The officers would, in consequence, be kept busy and would be given some assurance that their future employment in the Commonwealth Public Service was secure and that their future rights of promotion would be maintained.

Perhaps the best known section of the Legal Service Bureau is the pensions section. Officers of this section appear before the assessment appeal tribunals, the entitlement appeal tribunals and various other sections of the Repatriation Department. I have often had to refer men to the bureau because at the time they wanted an advocate to appear for them I was busily engaged on other matters and could not do so myself. On every occasion, I have found that the officers in the pensions section have given the utmost service to ex-servicemen and have in many instances been successful in righting a wrong by obtaining for an ex-serviceman a pension for some war-caused disability.

I feel that, if the Government continues to reduce the activities of the Legal Service Bureau, ex-servicemen’s organizations will be up in arms about it. I appeal to the Attorney-General to see that no further alterations are made in the structure, the control or the activities of the bureau.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of the Interior.

Proposed Vote, £5,115,000

Department of Works

Proposed Vote, £3,915,000

All arrangements are being discussed with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and either I or my colleagues in the chamber as the debate proceeds will be in frequent consultation with the representative of the Opposition at the table or with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The whole timing of the debate will be adjusted in consultation with, and with the co-operation of, the Opposition as far as possible, but the Government, of course, reserves the right to retain control of the business of the committee, as is the normal practice. In order to assist honorable members, I will have circulated a document showing the tentative groupings and order of debate for the remaining votes. This, of course, will be a most flexible arrangement and subject to the concurrence of the committee. (Ordered to be considered together.)


.- Mr. Chairman, in rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Interior I want to talk particularly about forestry and forestry research. It is not my purpose to say very much at this stage about civil defence; but before I get on to the subject of forestry research, 1 should like to say this about civil defence: I do not support any grandiose scheme for civil defence in this country. On the other hand, there is no excuse for failing to have any civil defence policy. There are many people in Australia, Sir, who share my belief that, although nothing elaborate is required in the field of civil defence, at the very least it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to lay down a policy, so that the many well-meaning and responsible people and organizations in Australia who feel deeply about this matter, and who think along the same lines, and who are looking for a lead so that they can do something in their own time and at their own expense about civil defence, may have a basis on which to work. I should have thought that that was the least that the Government could do. So far as I understand it, it would be a fulflment of a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government which would cost, nothing. I regard it as a very grave reflection, indeed, on the Government that it has done nothing in this field except establish a civil defence school, which has had the effect of creating in people’s minds a realization of the need for the very policy which the Government should have brought forward. That is all I want to say on the subject of civil defence.

Last year, when I spoke on the estimates for the Department of the Interior, I emphasized the importance of forestry in the sum total of Australia’s resources, and the equal importance of the extension of the Commonwealth Government’s activities in the field of fundamental forestry research. I pointed out that the British Commonwealth forestry conference, which met in Australia in 1957. emphasized in its report again and again the importance of expanding the research division of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, which is under the administration of the Department of the Interior, into a full-scale research institute in forestry.

In that debate I pointed out, Sir, that this body, which at present undertakes valuable research work, can barely keep up with the urgent needs of the State Departments of Forestry that do fundamental research on the spot, for answers to the most pressing problems that come up in the forestry field. I pointed out also that such a development - the establishment of a forestry and research institute where the Commonwealth would do the fundamental research and the States would do the practical, on the spot research into specific day to day problems, would be in accordance with the example set in many other fields - for instance, in respect of wool research, wheat research, dairying industry research and, we hope, very soon, also in respect of the meat industry.

When I put this argument forward in the debate on the departmental estimates last year, the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Fairhall, replied as follows: -

In case any one should think that nothing has been done about this matter, and that the Government is insensitive to the need to assist work of this kind, it might be interesting to supplement to some extent the figures that those two honorable gentlemen-

That is, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and I- have given to the committee. The estimated growth of timber in this country is about 6,000,000,000 super, feet a year. When we consider the. fact that about 1,000,000,000 super, feet is lost in waste, and that there is a loss of about twice that amount due to the depredations of various kinds of beetles and borers, fires and that sort of thing, we readily see that timber research could help us to save a considerable amount of timber. As well as a great deal of actual timber being lost for various reasons, a great deal of potential growth is also lost. When all these factors are added together it may well be that increased production of timber, which will arise not immediately, but eventually, as a result of research, could bring the total to 9,000,000,000 super, feet a year, which could have a value of £25,000,000 in the forest. So nobody need have any doubt about the value of research in the timber industry.

The Minister continued -

Honorable gentlemen can readily accept the figures that I have given because there rests on my desk at this moment a proposal for the establishment in Canberra of a forestry research organization. The cost of this organization, including buildings and additional staff, may be, over a period of five years, about £500,000. But, in the face of the figures I have given relating to the saving in timber which might be made as a result of research, I do no think that anybody will doubt the value of expenditure in that field.

I cannot imagine, Sir, any more clear-cut testimony to the value of the Commonwealth’s establishing such a research institute. The previous Minister stated that the plan was on his desk. The implication was that it was going to Cabinet in a few days. Since then we have heard absolutely nothing about it. I gather, on the grapevine, that the reason for the delay is not any failure on the part of either the previous or the present Minister for the Interior in pressing it, but something that so often happens - a dispute over who will undertake the work. In this case, although it was suggested that the forestry research institute should be created within the Forestry and Timber Bureau, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has stepped in and wishes to gather this proposed activity into its maw. All the States, and the Forestry and Timber Bureau, want it to be done through an institute under the control of the bureau. Now, Sir, I have nothing but admiration for the C.S.I.R.O.; but at the same time I do not believe that all research financed by the Commonwealth should be undertaken by the C.S.I.R.O. It depends, I believe, on the circumstances in each individual case.

I believe that there are dangers as well’ as advantages in gathering all research into one great empire. The danger is that in such circumstances the research will not be the sensitive instrument it should be. There is danger that it will become bureau.cratized, and therefore less effective than it might otherwise be. In this case the fact that all State governments have confidence in the Forestry and Timber Bureau should be, I believe, a decisive factor in the decision, because it is the State Governments that control the majority of forests in Australia and channel resources into the research organization.

I conclude, Sir, by expressing the hope that this vital matter will no longer be held up by jurisdictional disputes. It is too important a matter for the future of this country to be held up because of petty squabbling by empire-building organizations.


.- While we are considering the estimates for the Department of the Interior, I wish to discuss the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. In 1956 the then Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), invited suggestions from members of all parties, and also from interested bodies outside Parliament, for proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. All members on both sides of the House then conceded that some improvements, to keep up with modern times, were necessary and were overdue. In that year the then Minister had this to say, when we were debating the relevant estimates -

I am not anxious to intrude on this debate for any great length of time, but I consider that one or two comments that have been made should be dealt with at this juncture. I am sensitive to the fact that most of the debate this afternoon has centred on the functioning of the electoral law. As honorable members are doubtless aware, there is in progress at the present time a review of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that it may be amended in due time. Already I have extended to the general public an invitation to submit their ideas, views and criticisms in relation to the act. To those views - which I may say are quite voluminous - I shall be very glad to add the suggestions that have been made here this afternoon. To them all will be applied the very great and lengthy experience of the officers of the Department of the Interior engaged in the administration of the electoral law. From their study, enlightened by their experience, I hope that we shall produce an amended act that will accord with, at least in major part, the views which have been expressed here this afternoon.

That was back in 1956, and, with all good intentions, honorable members put their points of view and hoped that the act would be brought up to date. Nothing has happened since then. Later in that same debate the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who is now a Minister, also said that an overall consideration of the matter was justified, and he suggested that people representing the electoral organizations of Commonwealth, State and local governments should meet, discuss the differences between them, and agree on some form of uniform electoral procedure in every sphere of government. I believe that in the interests of this country, which boasts of its democratic system, this should be done. In many spheres of government, we have very imperfect methods of carrying out our democratic processes at the moment, and I believe that this problem should be looked at and dealt with in the manner that was suggested at that time. For instance, the method of distribution of seats should be considered. Electoral boundaries should be carefully looked at, having in mind such matters as community interests, and defined on a more democratic basis.

The present system of distribution operates most unfairly against the Australian Labour Party. No party, whether it be Labour or anti-Labour, should indulge in the practice of gerrymandering electorates, and I claim that electorates all over Australia have been gerrymandered. When you have a system under which electorates are gerrymandered in this way, you have an absence of democracy. When you have an absence of democracy you have the danger of revolutionary forces arising in your midst. Before the Australian Labour Party can govern this country, it must obtain a 54 per cent, majority of votes in order to secure 51 per cent, of seats. This is not democracy. At best it is a lopsided democracy, and steps should be taken to remedy the situation. Electorates in Commonwealth, State and local government spheres should be distributed on the basis of democracy, in other words, on the basis of “ one man one vote “. This is what democracy means, and if you do not adjust the system according to that policy then you might as well scrap the idea of democracy.

We should also, I believe, institute a uniform method of marking ballot papers. At present there are different systems operating in different spheres of government, Commonwealth, State and local. In some instances the ballot paper is marked with a cross - and sometimes we get the double-cross! Under some systems, if there are six candidates, with only three to be elected, the voter is required to mark only the first, second and third preferences. Under other systems it is necessary to mark all candidates in order of preference. Sometimes the election is held on the principle of “ first past the post “; in other cases there is preferential voting and in still others there is the system of proportional representation. There is a multiplicity of complexities which serve only to confuse the people.

Another matter that should be considered concerns the hours of voting. Uniformity should be arrived at here also. A person sometimes misses an opportunity to vote because of confusion. In State elections in Queensland the voting hours are between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. In most other cases the hours are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. This leads to confusion. In these modern times we do not need such lengthy voting hours as are now provided for. In earlier times they may have been necessary, because people had to travel long distances by horse and buggy to get to polling booths. Now, however, working hours have been reduced and much better travelling facilities are available. It is not necessary to have the polling booths open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I believe that the closing time should be brought back at least to 6 p.m., as is the case in Queensland. It is a sensible idea.

Everything possible should be done to reduce confusion in elections. I cannot see anything wrong with the suggestion that a candidate’s political party should be indicated on the ballot paper. It is not nearly so important to have his initials on the paper as his party. From my experience I believe that most people look to the party rather than to the man that represents it.

I suggest also that we should have a system of drawing for positions on ballot papers, as is the case with Senate elections. At the present time there are candidates in various elections who take advantage of the fact that their names rank high on alphabetical lists. Sometimes a person whose name begins with A or B will nominate in order to gain an alphabetical advantage on the ballot paper. We know from experience that it is a decided advantage. At times it is worth several hundred votes. If the voting is close, this advantage can represent the difference between defeat and victory. 1 believe that in a democracy we should try to avoid that sort of thing happening. I know that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has conducted a good deal of research into this matter; and he has produced figures to show that it is a great advantage to a candidate to have his name placed at the top of the ballot-paper. He has informed me of my own position in the electorate of Banks, where in 1955 a Communist can didate named Clancy was placed first on the ballot-paper. On that occasion, that candidate polled 3,350 votes. But in 1958, when a Liberal candidate whose name commenced with the letter “ B “ preceded him on the ballot-paper, the same Communist candidate could poll only 1,600 votes - a drop of more than 50 per cent. I stand to gain nothing from a rearrangement of the ballot-paper, as my name commences with the letter “ C “, but I think that we should deal fairly with all candidates and not present opportunities for certain persons whose names begin with early letters of the alphabet to exploit that fact.

I should like to say something about our complicated election systems - Commonwealth, State and local government. It is the existence of a variety of election systems that causes so many informal votes. Scrutineers at election time will tell you that quite a number of people put a cross opposite the name of the person for whom they wish to vote. I do not know whether that means they want to give him a kiss or a vote. The number of informal votes at the 1958 election was a disgrace. The total number of votes cast for the Senate was 5,141,109 and of that number more than 500,000 were informal. The complicated voting systems in the various States contribute a great deal towards this state of affairs. In New South Wales, 12 per cent, of the votes cast in the election for the Senate were informal. The factors leading to such a high percentage of informal votes should be inquired into in an effort to rectify the position. In New South Wales where 250.000 votes were needed to elect a senator, 244,000 people voted incorrectly in the Senate election. If those 244,000 people had voted correctly they could have had a different representative in the Senate. Those people now have no representative in the Senate. But Tasmania, with about 152,000 voters, elects ten senators. I am not complaining about Tasmania having such good representation, not only in numbers but also in quality, particularly so far as Labour members and senators are concerned. However. the position is a bit lop-sided and our system of voting should be simplified to avoid so many informal votes.

At present candidates must pay a deposit of £25 when they nominate for election. I think the amount is too small. Many people nominate for election for a number of reasons, including mischievous reasons. If the deposit were increased to £100, fewer people would nominate for ulterior motives. 1 believe that any man who sincerely believes that he has a good policy has the right to seek election, but we know that many people submit their names for election for ulterior motives. At the last election for the House of Representatives, 114 candidates lost their deposits. Bear in mind that a candidate does not lose his deposit if he polls 20 per cent, or more of the votes polled by the winning candidate - the figure is 10 per cent, in the case of the Senate.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden:

Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I wish to say a few words about civil defence, which comes under the administration of the Minister for the Interior. A study of the Estimates will show that for the year 1958-59 only one-third of the amount estimated was spent on civil defence. Many people in this country could suggest how the remaining two-thirds could have been spent to great advantage. I noted with some interest the reply by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to a question by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The Prime Minister said that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) will possibly make a statement about the Government’s civil defence policy during the course of this debate. Such a statement is long overdue. Most honorable members are aware that a very worth-while school of civil defence is being conducted at Mount Macedon, but I believe that the net result of that school has been to put fear into the hearts of the people who have attended it. When they have returned to their home States their only comment has been, “ What now? “ They have found that there is no follow-up to what they learned at Mount Macedon. Unless we are prepared to take the matter further we might just as well close down that school.

In two States some steps have been taken with regard to civil defence, but the difficulty is that the States feel that if there is a need for civil defence the Commonwealth should give a lead. Since that lead has not been forthcoming the States have not been over-anxious to do anything of their own accord. A fairly substantial effort has been put into civil defence in New South Wales - at no great cost to the Commonwealth Government. That effort has paid some dividends because New South Wales now has the nucleus of an organization that can be used not only in time of war when the country is attacked but also during peacetime emergencies, such as extensive floods, bushfires and other national calamities. Fortunately, New South Wales has been lucky in that there have been no extensive floods since 1956, but the fact remains that an organization has been ready and willing to act if required. In my own State of Western Australia certain plans have been drawn up by the State Director of Civil Defence.

The people are quite prepared to do something about civil defence if they are told that there is a need for something to be done. I think that the Government can count on the people learning how to protect themselves if they are told that there may be a need for them to protect themselves. I do not think they should be told that war is probable. The fact is that at all times war is possible. No amount of talk about thawing the ice that surrounds the nations of the world or the approach of a summit conference will remove the everpresent threat of war. I do not think that in the very near future we can say with all certainty that we can forget about an atomic attack, because while atomic weapons exist the danger of atomic attack is always present. One has to realize that training in civil defence is purely insurance for the future. As in the case of house insurance, which most people undertake, one has to decide the amount that one is prepared to spend to give adequate coverage for the sort of thing that might happen. It is only necessary for a reasonable amount to be put into this fund in order to get the training going so that the people of Australia may be ready if any attack comes.

As I have said before, I do not think that the States will make any great move unless the Commonwealth comes out with a clearly defined policy. It is interesting to see that, in other countries, steps have been taken to educate the people and institute a force which can be counted on in time of attack. I do not suppose that we in Australia can say whether or not we are going to be subjected to an atomic attack. Because we cannot answer that question with any degree of certainty we have to make our own preparations.

I am not certain that the administration of civil defence under the Department of the Interior is correct. I believe that it is so closely allied to the defence of the Country that it should be placed under the control of the Minister for Defence. Perhaps it would be much fairer to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), and a much better result would be obtained if civil defence came within the orbit of the Department of Defence. I would like to quote from a United Kingdom White Paper entitled “ Report on Defence - Britain’s Contribution to Peace and Security “ which was issued in February, 1958. The White Paper stated -

Civil Defence remains an integral part of the defence plan. The framework of the local civil defence services and of the regional organization is being maintained. Provision will continue to be made for training schools and training equipment: and additional orders are being placed for instruments to measure radio-activity. It is the Government’s policy to encourage the recruitment and training of the Industrial Civil Defence Service, which contributes some 200,000 volunteers towards the total of well over half a million men and women now enrolled in civil defence. Improvements continue to be made in the warning and monitoring system and in communications.

Notice the figure 200,000! We have to be careful to see that training in civil defence is not limited to densely populated areas. Obviously, attacks will always come, in the first place, on the heavily populated areas. But it is no good having our only trained personnel in the regions in which the attacks will come because there would be no one to carry out the civil defence after the attack had been made.

In Canada, as recently as April of this year, following a White Paper presented to the Government, rather sweeping changes were made in the defence structure. Canada has never had compulsory military training in peace-time. Recruitment to its services is on a purely voluntary basis. There is a reserve training scheme for the armed services which is also voluntary. Up to April of this year that voluntary service was manned and equipped in much the same way as the Citizen Military Forces in Australia. But this White Paper drew attention to the need for the militia to play a civil defence role. The Canadian Government adopted the report contained in the White Paper I referred to and has started to put into operation the plan to train people for civil defence. I want to quote from the “ Ottawa Journal” of 30th April, 1959. I suggest that the Government could well consider what has happened in Canada. Since our defence planning in Australia is in a state of flux, and we are entering a new period, I think the powers that be could well consider what Canada has done to solve the problem. The article in the “ Ottawa Journal “ reads -

The 41,000-member militia will be converted almost exclusively into a civil defence force, it was indicated in a defence White Paper published to-day by the Government. The equipment not needed for survival operations will bc withdrawn gradually from the militia as equipment for these (civil defence) operations is introduced . . . Informants said all artillery, tanks and mortars will be taken away from the militia though the reserve army will retain small arms such as rifles and transport and communications. There are 26 armoured units in the militia, including 22 regiments, and 52 artillery units, including 17 field regiments and 6 medium regiments. They will not be disbanded. All the regular and reserve forces in Canada not directly engaged in activity against an aggressor will be available for survival operations . . .

That is very important. The article continues -

Regular and militia units will be trained so that they can undertake reconnaissance and radiation monitoring and move into damaged areas to rescue and evacuate the injured. Also, training will be necessary in traffic control, road clearance, demolitions, bridging, assistance in the restoration of public utilities and in the maintenance of law and order.

Honorable members will see that not one of those activities would need a great expenditure of money. Most people shy off this kind of organization because they seem to think in terms of millions of pounds, but training in the activities mentioned would not mean a great outlay of money. The article goes on to say -

  1. . necessary equipment will be provided the army to meet the civil defence job. Mobile support columns would get radiation detection and rescue equipment and vehicles for evacuation and communications.

I think that that is the commonsense approach to this problem, and it is the sort of thing that we must have in Australia. There is no need for people to be brought into a state of panic just because we are getting into a state of preparedness. Obviously, we need insurance against attack. The attack may never come. We insure our houses against a fire which might never come, but it is money well spent. If it does come and there is no insurance, it is then too late to act. One can only hope that the statement about to be produced by the Government will express a positive policy which will be accepted by the people and put into effect without delay.


.- I desire to direct my comments to the failure of the Commonwealth Government to pay rates to municipal authorities for Commonwealthowned properties that are receiving services from those authorities. This, of course, has been a vexed question with local governing bodies throughout Australia for many years and has been the subject of numerous deputations and numerous conferences between the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and various Prime Ministers and Treasurers. Up to the moment, not much success has accrued.

It is true that over the last two years some minor concessions have been made by the Commonwealth. But it is contended that wherever a Commonwealth Government building is situated in, and receives services from, a municipality it should pay rates equivalent to those paid by private property holders in the locality. In an endeavour to get clarification and an ultimate solution of the problem, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations some time ago suggested to the Government that it should set up a committee to inquire into the whole ramifications of the problem, taking evidence from municipal bodies throughout the Commonwealth and hearing of their difficulties resulting from the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to pay compensation for services rendered and other matters of that nature. The then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, implied that the Government was not prepared to set up a committee of investigation because of the non-co-operation of the respective State governments. It was said that the States complained that as local government authorities came under the direct jurisdiction of the States, it was not within the province of the Commonwealth Government to make any such investigation.

On the receipt of the refusal from SirArthur Fadden, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations got in touch with its State branches and asked them to communicate with their respective State governments. They found, to their great surprise, that no State government objected to the setting up of a committee of inquiry. Yet they had been told by this Government that that was so. The State governments, told their respective local government associations that that was not the case. That information was then forwarded to the Prime Minister last year. It was pointed out that the Commonwealth Government, had received wrong information and that the State governments were not antagonistic to the setting up of the proposed committee of inquiry. However, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations has not since received any reply from the Prime Minister.

It looks as if the Commonwealth Government is side-stepping its definite obligation to see that some inquiry is made into the difficulties besetting local government authorities under the present set-up. Although we can castigate the Commonwealth Government for refusing to do the right thing by the municipalities, a similar charge can certainly be levelled against all State governments. But as this is the Commonwealth Parliament we can refer only to matters that come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It is true, of course, that the Constitution does not permit direct grants to be made by the Commonwealth to municipalities on the basis on which grants are made to them by State governments. However, it was never visualized in 1900, when the Constitution was framed, that the responsibilities of municipalities would grow to the extent they have. In those far-off days their activities were concentrated on building macadam roads, earthen drains or primitive sorts of footpaths. That was all they were expected to do. But over the last 30 years, and particularly within the last ten or fifteen years, the responsibilities of local government authorities have grown tremendously. Under the present set-up local government bodies throughout the length and breadth of Australia are encountering serious financial difficulties.

These difficulties would be eased if the Commonwealth Government would pay for services rendered to it by the respective councils. It is true that over the last ten years some minor concessions have been made. For example, if the Commonwealth Government has a factory engaged in a commercial undertaking in competition with private enterprise, it pays rates on the land occupied by that factory. Also, if a local instrumentality is providing water, sewerage, electricity, sanitary or garbage services the Commonwealth pays the council rates involved. War service homes are under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and rates on these properties are paid on an equitable basis. The Commonwealth Bank makes an ex-gratia payment equivalent to what would be paid under the rating system by a private bank. Trans-Australia Airlines, another Commonwealth Government instrumentality, pays rates commensurate with the services rendered.

But the difficulty has been accentuated in recent years because the Commonwealth Government has acquired properties all over Australia in respect of which lucrative rates were paid to the local government bodies. After acquiring such properties the Commonwealth has razed the buildings to the ground and in their place built large edifices on which it has paid no municipal rates. Some years ago, in Melbourne, the Commonwealth acquired property bounded by Lonsdale, Latrobe, Spring and Exhibition streets, for the purpose of erecting a series of high Commonwealth buildings. The first one has already been built. Before that acquisition was made the Melbourne City Council was receiving £28,000 in rates from the existing properties in that area. Honorable members can appreciate what the position will be when all five buildings are completed. That council will lose correspondingly in rates. The same thing has happened in Sydney where a policy of extensive building for the Commonwealth is being followed in Phillip-street. Some years ago when I was a member of the Public Works Committee authority was given for the erection of a taxation building in Brisbane. It may be completed by now. The site of that building was formerly occupied by a number of commercial buildings all of which were paying rates to the Brisbane City Council. A year or two ago in Perth the Commonwealth Government acquired a property for the purpose of building offices for the Repatriation Department. As a result the Perth City Council was deprived of the amount of rates which it had formerly received from property on that site.

I point out that the city councils in all these cases have been expected to provide the same roads and sewerage services for the occupants of these Commonwealth buildings as they did when the sites were occupied by commercial premises, but they now receive nothing from the Commonwealth in rates. When they were occupied by private buildings they received amounts in rates commensurate with the services rendered. All that municipal councils throughout Australia are asking is evenhanded government in this matter. It is no earthly good anybody saying to me that no Commonwealth government in the past has paid such rates and therefore they should not be paid in the future. It must be obvious to every honorable member that every new piece of legislation enacted in this Parliament cuts across precedents of the past, otherwise the old legislation would be allowed to continue. The Government brings down legislation to improve the existing law. It is time, therefore, that we altered a few of the old regulations relating to local government and brought in new regulations in keeping with the changing times.

I am not at all impressed by anybody who says that the Chifley Labour Government or the Curtin Labour Government did not bring down amending legislation. I am not concerned with what they did; I am concerned with what is happening to-day. The responsibilities of municipal bodies have been tremendously increased compared with what they were ten or fifteen years ago. I am concerned that whatever government is in office it should give justice to the municipal bodies of this country. All they are asking the Commonwealth Government to do is to pay municipal rates the same as private individuals and commercial firms pay them for services rendered.

After all, why should a very insignificant, poverty-stricken municipal council - as practically all of them are now - pay for services rendered to the mighty and wealthy Commonwealth Government? All over Australia to-day not only are Commonwealth office buildings and post offices exempt from municipal rates, but postal residences as well. Yet those residences receive all the municipal services provided to every other residence in the municipality. No rates are levied on those houses but they are levied on all others, including those owned by age pensioners. In addition, munitions and ordnance factories, migrant hostels, military camps, naval dockyards and other Commonwealth Government establishments pay no rates. The local government body provides roads to these places and the loads carried over them, which are always heavy, cut them up, yet no rates are paid by the Commonwealth although the local government bodies have to pay for the repair and improvement of them.

It is true that at the present time there is no legal obligation to pay but I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is now at the table, that there is definitely a moral obligation and the Commonwealth Government should not hide behind the Constitution or the fact that there is no legislation which compels it to pay. It should do the right thing by the municipalities throughout Australia and pay rates on its properties as every other property owner is required to do. The Commonweath Government’s policy in this respect is having a marked adverse effect on local government finance. Under the Government’s immigration policy, more than 1,000,000 new inhabitants have been brought to Australia since the war. This has placed a great strain on many municipal bodies. There must be more roads and an extension of health services, more public amenities and the many other services that a municipality is expected to provide which were not expected of it in 1900 when the Constitution was framed. But despite the fact that the municipal councils have provided all these services neither the Department of Immigration nor the Commonwealth Government has taken any cognizance of the fact that they have a definite moral obligation to see that the municipalities are adequately recompensed for the services they are expected to give to the new arrivals in this country. At the moment the Commonwealth Government has turned a deaf ear. It is wielding a mighty baton against the insignificant municipal councils.

I point out also that as a result of this Government’s failure to control inflation adequately, councils to-day are groaning under the effects of inflation. Anybody who has a knowledge of municipal matters knows perfectly well that inflation is killing municipal government. Costs are going up apace, with the result that councils are forced to increase rates, often far beyond the capacity of the residents to pay. People on the basic wage and pensioners are finding it impossible to meet the added impost of municipal rates and the charges levied by various semi-governmental authorities. 1 suggest that the Government should realize that’ its failure adequately to control inflation - and inflation is a real bogy to local authorities - has increased the difficulties of councils tremendously. The Government should therefore,, if it is not prepared to pay rates at present, accede to the request of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate the matter. The obstacles which the Government formerly placed in the way have been swept aside, because none of the State governments objects to the appointment of such a committee.

In expressing the point of view that I have stated this afternoon, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am not putting a party point of view. Nobody would ever suggest that the Australian Council of Local Government Associations is of the same political kidney as I am, for example. The Municipal Association of Victoria represents 205 municipal councils, only thirteen of which are controlled by Labour; so that 192 - the overwhelming majority - are not under Labour control. Whenever this matter comes before the conference of that association, it is unanimously decided that the Commonwealth Government be requested to do the fair and proper thing by municipal’ authorities.

I appeal to the Minister for the Interior to take this matter to the Cabinet. If the Cabinet is not prepared, at present, to make adequate recompense to local authorities for services rendered, the least it can do is to accede to the request to appoint a committee of inquiry. Such a committee could hear evidence from practical and experienced people with an authentic, first-hand knowledge of local government affairs - people who know what they are talking about. I have in mind, particularly, the leaders of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations throughout Austraia, none of whom is a Labour man, so far as I know. These men are well versed in the problems of local authorities. They have had a lifetime of experience in this field and they know the difficulties involved. They are especially familiar with the vicissitudes through which local government is passing at the present time. They are men who give freely of their time and talents, and often of their money, in order to carry on, in a voluntary capacity, local government, which is the third arm of government in this country.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to make a few brief comments on a number of matters which come under the heading of the estimates for the Department of the Interior. The first is a matter that has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) - voting hours on polling days. The honorable member for Banks and other members of the Parliament have suggested that voting hours should be reduced. I agree with this suggestion, and it could be put into effect. I suggest that the hours should be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. These hours have been observed in Queensland for many years, as you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, know. They have proved satisfactory and have not brought hardship on anybody. The percentage vote of the electors enrolled has been maintained, and absenteeism has been very low. As one who has had some experience in polling booths, I suggest that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) should consider this suggestion sympathetically. Experience in Queensland indicates that not many people vote during the last couple of hours of the period within which polling booths are open, and most of those who do could easily have voted before 6 p.m. I know that members of certain organizations object, for religious and other reasons, to voting before that hour, but the act makes special provision to enable them to cast their votes, and I think that they are adequately catered for. The suggestion for shorter polling hours is a good one, and the Minister ought to consider it seriously and sympathetically.

The next matter that I want to mention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, concerns the inadequate and unsatisfactory accommodation provided for most Commonwealth divisional returning officers in country electorates. As an example, I cite the situation in the Maranoa electorate. I have made a few investigations and inquiries of Commonwealth electoral officers in other country electorates, and I understand that similar conditions prevail fairly generally. The Maranoa division is unique, electorally, in that it presents certain unusual problems, and I should say that not many people would put up with the conditions under which the divisional returning officer for the electorate and his assistants have to work. The old building that they have occupied for a considerable number of years has now been condemned by the authorities. It does not provide anything like adequate space for decent working conditions and efficient work, and the officers labour under great difficulty in discharging their duties as efficiently as they do.

It seems, Sir, that the unwillingness of the Department of the Interior to pay rent above a certain level for office accommodation for electoral officers presents the problem. I appreciate the Minister’s difficulties and also those of the public servants who are required to work under these unsatisfactory conditions. These conditions are unfair to officers. We see in the Estimates for Capital Works and Services that a great deal of money is being spent on works, and we find that most of it is being spent in the metropolitan areas. It is time that consideration was given to people who work under unsatisfactory conditions out in the bush. My little knowledge of the Department of the Interior and other departments leads me to think that the prevalent attitude is that nothing is too good for the person in the city and that every amenity should be provided for him. I agree that proper amenities should be provided.

Mr Stewart:

– Country people should have them, too.


– They should. Why should works in country areas be limited? Let us take schools, as an example. All the amenities under the sun are provided in schools in the Australian Capital Territory. No one thinks of constructing a school here without including a gymnasium or an assembly hall. I thoroughly agree that these things should be provided, but a little more thought should be given to the needs of people in the bush, who would derive great benefit from the expenditure of a little money. Amenities in country areas are cut down, and the excuse usually given is that not enough money is available. That sort of thing happens all the time, and I suggest that the divisional returning office in the Maranoa electorate is a glaring example of neglect of the needs of people in the country.

As I have said, the Maranoa electorate is unique, electorally. As a rule, a period of 21 days elapses before the poll is declared. Most of our elections take place in the summer months, and the working conditions of electoral officers in this electorate are extremely trying. I was about to use, in describing them, a term which is used by those who experience them, but I suppose that it would be unparliamentary. It is time that something was done to provide decent office accommodation for these people. Suitable accommodation could be obtained, but, as I have said, the department is not prepared to pay the rent required. I repeat that I appreciate the Minister’s problems in these matters. The department claims that the rents asked for office accommodation in country areas are too high. If they are too high, let the department construct suitable buildings. The Department of the Interior is now paying more than £1,000,000 a year in rent for buildings, many of which it has been renting for many years now. I take it that rent for buildings occupied by Commonwealth electoral officers is included in this figure. Most buildings occupied by electoral officers are rented.

I make this appeal to the Minister for the Interior, who is now at the table. I have corresponded with him on this matter and I know that he is sympathetic, but I ask him to treat this matter as an urgent matter, not only for my electorate of Maranoa but for other country electorates where divisional returning officers are working under adverse conditions. These public servants are entitled to decent working conditions and I appeal to the Government to give some consideration to them.


.- I take this opportunity to speak on the estimates for the Department of Works. Mention has recently been made in this chamber of the dismissal of members of the day-labour work force of the Department of Works and the change-over, in many instances, to contract work. We have always been assured by the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) that this has been done to conserve the taxpayers’ money and that it would not be right to retain these men when no work is available for them. We have been told” that the country would benefit from the change to contract work.

I want to speak about a tender that hasrecently been let for work at Woomera. If all tenders in the Commonwealth are treated in the way that this tender was treated, the taxpayers are getting very little value for their money. The Minister, who says that he is concerned about conserving the taxpayers’ money, is not paying much attention to the way that tenders are let. A constituent interviewed me recently, and I have no doubt that his information is correct. However, the Minister can check it to make sure that it is correct. I refer to a contract that was let for work at Woomera, W.R.E. 59/396, Addendum No. W1234. The work consists of sealing roads and air fields with hot bitumen. Previously, most of this work at Woomera and elsewhere was done by a very efficient daylabour force employed by the Department of Works. The work proved of good value for the money paid in wages and was a credit to the officers of the Department of Works who supervised it.

Tenders were called for the work at Woomera. I understand that three firms submitted tenders and the job was finally given to a firm which offered to do the work for £76,401. Another tender submitted for the same job was for £74,691. I was about to say that the difference is almost £2,000. However, it is £1,710 and that is a very substantial difference between the two tenders. I can readily understand a contract being given to a company other than the lowest tenderer if the lowest tenderer is considered not to be reliable or not capable of carrying out the work. But the firm submitting the lower tender on this occasion has done work of a similar character and of at least the same magnitude for the South Australian Department of Highways and Local Government. Its work must be considered to be fairly satisfactory because it was given a smaller job of bitumen spraying at Woomera at the same time as the larger contract was let.

When tenders were called, the type of machinery that would be required was stipulated. In submitting its tender, the firm to which I have referred said that it was capable and could obtain the machines to do the job. On the surface anyway, it appears that this firm should have received consideration, particularly as its tender was almost £2,000 lower than that of the firm that was given the contract. If the department had any doubt about the company meeting its obligations, the officers responsible should have had a further discussion with the principals and made sure that it could not do the job, if that is the reason it was not given the contract. In accepting the tender that it did, the department has caused £1,700 to be expended needlessly. If this happened each week - I have no reason to doubt that a similar discrepancy could occur each week - the cost to the taxpayers would be £100,000 a year.

Mr Stewart:

– That would not matter to this Government.


– My colleague from Lang says that it would not matter to this Government. Maybe, with the high taxation collected from the people, the Government is not very much concerned with saving a mere £2,000 on tenders. But if the Government is not concerned, I suggest that the taxpayers are concerned and it is high time that an inquiry was held into the methods of calling tenders and letting contracts. If the difference between the lowest tender and the tender accepted were £50 or £100, I do not suppose there would be much in it.

Mr Thompson:

– Was that a recent tender?


– It is a recent job at Woomera. The Minister should have a full inquiry into this matter.

Mr Thompson:

– A royal commission.


– You could do worse than have a royal commission. If the Government is prepared to throw away £2,000 of the taxpayers’ money on one job, it is just as likely to throw away £100,000 on another job. A full inquiry should be held into this matter, and I hope that the Minister will be prepared to do so. I am not concerned about who gets these jobs. I do not know any of the firms concerned and I have no personal interest. All I am concerned about is that the money of the people who are paying exceedingly high rates of taxation is being wasted and that the Government is dismissing permanent day-labour men from the Department of Works. These men have given good value to the department. They formerly did work similar to that at Woomera for which this contract was let. We have received good value in the past and now we are to pay a higher price than need be paid for the same work to be done. I ask the Minister to look into this matter thoroughly.

I join with other honorable members who have urged that action be taken on civil defence. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the New South Wales Government and the New South Wales Premier on the magnificent lead that they have given on civil defence to the governments of the other States. It appears, however, that the other States are not much interested in civil defence. So I appeal to the Minister for the Interior, who is now at the table, to see that the Commonwealth gives a more positive lead to the States in this field, because I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) that the States really do not appear to be much concerned about the matter, but are relying on a lead from the Commonwealth.

The Premier of my own State, South Australia, is on record as saying, when asked a question about the miserable sum of £250 provided for civil defence in that State -

It is for office expenses. On trie general question, I do not believe any one to-day can give an adequate answer concerning civil defence.

So the South Australian Premier is not very much interested in civil defence, despite the fact that more than 200 South Australian Government nominees have attended the civil defence school at Mount Macedon, and that the public service in South Australia has taken a great interest in civil defence. The South Australian Government itself could not care less about the matter. It appears that people who have gone from South Australia to learn about civil defence at Mount Macedon under the Commonwealth Government’s scheme get interested in it, but when they go back to their own State they find that there is nothing they can do about it there. I agree with the view of other honorable members that the need is for this national Parliament and this Commonwealth Government to give a lead to the States by setting up a comprehensive civil defence scheme. Of course, it will cost money to do so. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) that there need not be a grandiose scheme, but we do need a basic scheme covering each State. If the Premiers are not prepared to act, we have to get round the constitutional difficulty - if that is a difficulty involved in this - and find some way of setting up a decent civil defence scheme. I am sure that most of the back-benchers of this Parliament are anxious to see some scheme come into operation, but it seems that the Cabinet, like the South Australian Premier, cares very little about civil defence. Perhaps we shall have to wait until some of the Government’s own back-bench supporters force it into action. Perhaps we shall have to wait until a Labour government is elected at the next general election.


.- I wish to direct my remarks to the proposal to allocate £100,000 to the Australian National Travel Association. The allocation of this money demonstrates that the Commonwealth Government is interested in attracting tourists to Australia, and at the same time recognizes the work of the Australian National Travel Association. Now, tourism is no novelty, although it may be somewhat new to Australia. The national economy of Switzerland, for instance, depends to a large degree on tourism, and I point out that Australia has many of the great attractions that Switzerland can offer to tourists. But the job of attracting tourists here still has to be done, and I believe that the Australian National Travel Association can help to do it.

Little attention has been given to attracting tourists to Australia. Indeed, few people recognize the importance of tourism, not only from the point of view of trade but also for its value in creating good relations between countries - something which cannot be over-estimated. Visitors to Australia are free spenders, and of great importance to us is the fact that the money they spend here remains here. Visitors here get a much better understanding of Australian trade, of Australia’s potentialities, of Australia’s primary products and of Australians themselves, than they could ever obtain without coming here.

I remember that before the last war Germany set out to attract tourists and thereby to achieve a better understanding between the people of Germany and the people of other countries. The Germans realized the great value to Germany of tourism, so they provided a favorable rate of exchange for tourists. I think, from memory, that although the official rate of exchange was twelve marks to the £1 sterling the special rate for tourists was twenty marks to the £1 sterling. Germany deliberately instituted that favorable rate of exchange in order to attract tourists who would spend in Germany. She thereby earned a great deal of money and achieved better understanding and a greater mutual respect between herself and other countries than had previously existed. This is an example which we could well follow, and I suggest that the Government institute a special exchange rate favorable to tourists. That would be a convenient and easy way of helping tourists to finance trips to Australia.

Mr Daly:

– Especially for the tourists.


– The tourists- the bona fide ones only - could get more for their money at the more attractive rate of exchange than at the official rate, and that would be an inducement to them to come here. Ordinary men and women overseas would thereby be encouraged to visit Australia at less expense to themselves than otherwise, see for themselves how we live and how we enjoy ourselves, and get a better understanding of our way of life. The policy of having a special favorable rate of exchange for tourists could well be adopted by Australia, to apply to various countries. For instance, we could reach a reciprocal agreement with Asian countries on special exchange rates for tourists, which would allow Australian visitors to those countries also to enjoy the advantage of a special rate of exchange.

I need not labour the point that this could have the effect of reducing world tension by improving understanding between us and other countries. Indeed, I think that herein lies an opportunity for Australia to take the lead, by getting reciprocal favorable exchange rates with other countries, particularly Asian countries, so that the ordinary man and woman would not be denied, on the ground of expense, the opportunity to visit those countries and see things for themselves.

Whence do overseas visitors to Australia come? During 1958, Australia had 61,000 visitors from overseas, that figure showing the normal steady rise of 7 per cent, a year in the number. Of those visitors, 20,000 came from New Zealand, 6,000 from the United States and 9,000 from the United Kingdom. A survey of spending by visitors indicates that during 1958 overseas visitors spent £10,000,000 in Australia - twice as much as was spent by tourists five years ago.

It is easy to see from those figures that the tourist industry is vitally important to Australia. It is an integral part of our export industry, because it gives Australians a chance to meet people from overseas as well as to earn overseas currency. The expansion of tourism is of long-term importance, and cannot be overestimated.

There has been a great deal of criticism about facilities for tourists in Australia. Some of that criticism is well founded. On touring their own country Australians themselves spend something like £60,000,000. a year. We all know that hotel and motel accommodation has been improved, and there are more established authorities now engaged in the development of tourism who could promote more internal spending, and attract also overseas tourists.

Attracting tourists from overseas is difficult not only because of the distance of Australia from other centres of population, but also because of the expense involved in getting here. That is why I think the Government has acted wisely in giving a subsidy to the Australian National Travel Association on a £l-for-£l basis. This is an example of the Government’s helping private interests which are prepared to help themselves and also to help Australia.

The board of the Australian National Travel Association, which is an honorary board, consists of distinguished men drawn from all sides of private enterprise, together with two representatives of the Commonwealth Government. The distinguished chairman of the board is Mr. John Bates, who has had a lifelong association with travel and who has a deep knowledge of travel and of tourism. He is also a man skilled in matters related to shipping.

The Government, very sensibly, has not appointed merely a couple of watchdogs to guard its contribution of £100,000; it has appointed two men who are highly qualified and who can help considerably. Let me refer to one of them only, Mr. McClintock. He is a very suitable person to be appointed, because with his knowledge of trade and the trade commissioner service he can make a practical contribution to the work of this body.

What are the activities of the Australian National Travel Association? With this contribution of £100,000 from the Commonwealth Government it is able to build up its activities. It has opened up offices in London, San Francisco and Wellington. It is able to step up its output of publications. It is running a small-scale but effective development programme in central America, in New Zealand and in some eastern countries. It is producing films. Its programme is being arranged so that its representatives can meet important people coming to Australia and show them what they want to see.

This year, the association has received support from industry to the extent of £50,000. This shows a growing awareness that industry must make its own contribution. It is becoming more generally realized that tourist attraction cannot be left to the Commonwealth Government alone. It must be a partnership enterprise. Industry has made its contribution. In the future it must make a bigger one, because it will benefit in the same way as Australia as a whole will benefit. Industry has indicated its awareness of the importance of the tourist industry to our national development and the development of our export trade.

Here we have an example of cooperation that might well be carried further afield. We see the Commonwealth Government joining with an honorary body, the Australian National Travel Association, comprising men drawn from all fields, working together towards a common goal, to bring about a better understanding between Australia and other countries. Tourism, of course, is one of the best methods of promoting this understanding and of boosting our trade. It is an activity that results in bringing to Australia money that stays within Australia. I believe the work of this body is to be highly commended. It sets a pattern that could be followed in other spheres of our national life. I believe the Commonwealth should investigate the possibility of extending this kind of co-operation into other fields where work of a national character has to be done, so that Australian industry and Australian citizens can match the Commonwealth contribution in the furtherance of activities of national importance.

Finally I ask the Government to consider seriously the possibility of establishing a favorable exchange rate for tourists. I believe this is a practical suggestion and that it would provide great benefits for this country. In particular, I suggest that it would promote better understanding between this country and its Asian neighbours.


.- I join with other honorable members who have addressed themselves to the question of civil defence, a matter that comes under the control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). We live in a world of uneasy peace. While the world will fervently welcome any action designed to promote peace, we cannot deny the continued existence of the causes of war. We welcome meetings of world leaders. We welcome the possibility of the holding of summit conferences. We are pleased to know that the United Nations continues to exist, rendering service to the cause of humanity and endeavouring as best it can to solve the problems of the day. But whilst the United Nations and all its agencies, and all well-meaning people throughout the world, will strive for peace, there continue to exist in the world to-day the basic causes of war. Whilst causes of war exist - greed, corruption, ambition for national expansion and all the other causes that make war possible - there is a need for us in this Parliament to face our responsibilities for the defence of the people of Australia. We must accept the fact that any future war will be brought to the homes of the people, and consequently we must face our responsibility to defend the people.

Australia’s special problem arises from the fact that it has a coastal fringe of population and of economic development. This is a very important point to be remembered when we are considering our defence needs, our requirements of steel, power, refined oil, transportation and all the other things that are essential to our preservation. I believe that the Government has failed the people of Australia in neglecting to give adequate consideration to the matter of civil defence.

I join with the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) in paying a tribute to the Premier and the Government of New South Wales for the work they have done in endeavouring to solve the particular problems of that State. I believe we would all agree, however, that defence is essentially a national question, calling upon the resources and the leadership of the Commonwealth as a whole. The unreality of the outlook of this Government is illustrated by the failure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to show leadership in the field of civil defence. The procrastination and the dream-time attitude of the Prime Minister and his Government are pathetically revealed by their lack of action and their failure to make known their intentions. For some considerable time past, the Prime Minister has been declaring that a national pattern would emerge. In recent months on a number of occasions he has said that a policy would be outlined designed to meet the needs of the nation. On 11th August of this year I asked him in this House what his intentions were in regard to this matter. I asked him to outline a policy and give leadership in this field. The Prime Minister replied -

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.

That was on 11th August. Every person who has gone to the civil defence school at Mount Macedon seeking information with regard to the civil defence needs of this country has been assured that in the course of time a policy will be made known to the people of Australia, and that those patriotic people who are giving their time and energy in a voluntary way, civil defence controllers and others, will be given a line of policy, so that they may proceed in a useful and constructive manner. This policy has not emerged. It is not surprising that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in recent times has directed attention to this matter. In an editorial on 8th August of this year the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said -

The two articles on Civil Defence published on this page illustrate dramatically enough the great gap between needs and resources. The plain fact is that if a nuclear bomb or missile fell on Sydney, or on any other part of Australia, no effective Civil Defence organization would be available. Thanks to the interest taken by the State Government, and particularly the Premier, and to the hard work of General Dougherty and his pitifully small band of helpers, New South Wales is far ahead of any other Australian State in Civil Defence preparations. But, as to-day’s article shows, even those preparations are grotesquely inadequate.

The article directs attention to the need for the Commonwealth Government to take action in this matter and give the lead. For the year 1958-59, about £300,000 was estimated for civil defence requirements, but only £102,066 was actually spent. That was at a time when civil defence workers throughout the country were clamouring for some leadership so that they might know what they were doing. The need for leadership in civil defence is urgent, and if good citizens are prepared to make themselves available in a voluntary capacity to serve the people surely it is not too much for the Commonwealth Government to indicate what it is prepared to do.

Civil defence basically is a matter for the Commonwealth, and the Prime Minister has a duty to outline without further delay his Government’s attitude towards civil defence. Promises have been made, but all we have had is confusing lack of action on the part of this Government. Complaints have been made by Major-General Dougherty. He has protested vigorously at the Commonwealth’s failure to take action and give leadership in this matter. Time does not permit me to read all the comments made by this distinguished soldier and gentleman who is in charge of civil defence in New South Wales, but his charges deserve to be answered by someone in the Government and above all by the Prime Minister. It is up to the Government to give a reply. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) pointsout, Major-General Dougherty is a very able man. That is undoubtedly true. He is a distinguished soldier and educationist. On one occasion he committed perhaps the only misdemeanour of his career - he stood for election as an Australian Country Party candidate. Apart from that misdemeanour he has an unblemished reputation. He is a distinguished Australian and he seeks the Government’s support and leadership in the field of civil defence.

The Commonwealth Government has established the school at Mount Macedon. The people who have attended that school have been told of the dangers inherent in a war. One does not need a very keen imagination to appreciate the problem that could exist in this country if a submarine were to stand 500 or 700 miles off-shore and fire a nuclear device into our centres of population, perhaps detonating it high above our cities. There would be heavy radioactive fall-out which would immobilize vast numbers of people and cause great havoc. The school at Mount Macedon has done a lot towards making people aware of what could happen if this country were under attack, but the Government has done nothing by way of follow-up to provide the means to meet such a situation. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that there is a responsibility for some one in authority, either the Prime Minister or the Minister nominally responsible, to make a carefully calculated speech giving leadership in this matter.

Mr Galvin:

– Is the Minister for Defence interested?


– He should be, but he is not in the chamber. I cannot agree with the way civil defence is handled in the Estimates. The Minister for the Interior is nominally responsible for civil defence, but the vote is under the defence estimates. Civil defence must be considered during the discussion on the estimates for the Department of the Interior.

Recently I received a deputation from civil defence controllers in my electorate. Those people are gravely concerned about the problem and they seek clarification on this matter. They want to know either whether something will be done on a national basis or whether nothing at all will be done. All I can do is plead with the Government to clarify the position, to say something about it and to give leadership to the people. If an organization is to be set up, what will it do? Who knows?

Mr Bowden:

– You tell us.


– I should like to be able to tell the honorable member. As soon as the Government, through the Prime Minister or the Minister responsible, outlines a policy we will be so much better informed on this subject. But until the Government takes action, we will remain in the dark. Civil defence controllers would like to know what it proposes to do, and they are entitled to know. Is there any plan for evacuation, or are shelters to be built? What is the Government’s attitude towards the non-essential population? Has a plan been drawn up for the distribution of food, stores and equipment? Has the Government an economic policy with regard to the defence of Australia? Those questions require an immediate reply from the Prime Minister. It is quite apparent that we are not to get that reply.

At the present time, State jealousies seem to have crept in. Is there any plan for a co-ordinated policy by the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and local government authorities? In a matter such as civil defence, surely co-ordination and uniform action is necessary. We have enthusiastic patriotic citizens who want leadership, and it is up to the Prime Minister to give that leadership. Surely we should give some thought to atomic detection and the establishment of stations to test radio-active fall-out. All these matters are important, but above all else, if civil defence is to be established in this country on a worthwhile basis we must have a plan for strategic roads through out the country, from the heavily populated centres over the ranges, so that if the Government wishes to evacuate large numbers of people, it may do so. One particular plan-


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- Every honorable member who has spoken on the estimates relating to the Department of the Interior and who has referred to the important issue of civil defence has expressed concern regarding the inadequacy of our present civil defence arrangements. From those remarks one would gather that at least on this issue of civil defence we in this Parliament are one co-operative movement and that our theme song is “ Solidarity Forever “. In a very real sense we should be one co-operative movement on the issue of civil defence. Furthermore, I believe that “ Solidarity Forever “ would be a very reasonable theme song on the issue of civil defence. Nevertheless, standing at the threshold of this problem of civil defence are some questions which must be asked and which, I believe, call for fair and honest answers. The first question is this: Why does the responsibility for civil defence rest upon the shoulders of the Minister for the Interior? For the life of me, I cannot understand why it does.

Mr Bryant:

– You have only to look at the other Ministers.


– I beg the honorable member for Wills to contain his boyish enthusiasm. Looking through the Estimates, it is very difficult to find another department which ranges over such a wide variety of subjects as does the Department of the Interior. Frequently we hear a member in this chamber asking a question of the Minister for the Interior relating to meteorological services, and five minutes later we hear the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) asking a question of the Minister relating to, say, water rates. I say bluntly that the responsibility for civil defence should not rest upon the shoulders of the Minister for the Interior. 1 do not say that in any disparaging fashion. I have no ambition to destroy or debilitate the department over which the Minister exercises authority, but if there is one logical reason why civil defence should be within the control of the Minister for the Interior, this Parliament and the country would be very interested to know of it. I believe that the responsibility for civil defence should rest clearly upon the shoulders of the Minister for Defence.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– There should be a Minister for Civil Defence.


– My colleague has suggested that there should bs a Minister for Civil Defence. That suggestion is worthy of consideration. However, as a starting point, I think that we can all agree that the responsibility should not be upon the Minister for the Interior. Civil defence is not a subject that can be fragmented or divided into watertight compartments. It is an overall issue. I do not think that any person with two wits to rub together would seriously contend that some of the responsibilities of the Department of Defence should be scattered all over the Commonwealth, some residing in New South Wales and accepted by the Government of that State, and some residing in Victoria and accepted by the Government of that State.

That brings me to my next question: Is there any substance in the point of view that there is no constitutional warrant for the Commonwealth Parliament to administer civil defence? I should be very interested to hear an opinion on that. As the matter stands at present, I suppose the only argument that can be advanced in favour of that opinion is that the assistance and co-operation of the police forces are necessary in civil defence. But if this Parliament were to legislate in relation to civil defence, that legislation would stand until such time as some individual challenged it in the courts. I doubt very much whether any State parliament, or any citizen of this Commonwealth, would challenge the constitutional warrant relating to this Parliament’s power to legislate on civil defence.

Having said that, I pass hurriedly to my next question: Is there a need for civil defence? On that question of need, 1 simply say that possibly the most elaborate system of civil defence in any country in the world has been constructed within the Soviet Union. There are official Soviet documents - a whole pile of them - which bear eloquent testimony to my contention. It is an established fact.

Mr Wentworth:

– Unfortunately, it is true.


– My friend, the honorable member for Mackellar, has said that unfortunately it is true, lt is an interesting exercise to compare the existence of this elaborate system of civil defence within the Soviet Union with the present proposals of the leader of the Soviet people, Mr. Khrushchev, for disarmament.

I pass now from civil defence to a matter that of late has engaged the attention of a great number of Australian people. The Minister for the Interior is responsible for many aspects relating to the running of this Parliament. For instance, he is responsible for providing office accommodation, arranging travel facilities and so on. Well, Sir, we have seen the Gilbertian spectacle of one individual associated with this Parliament representing one State and moving his electoral office to another State. Let me take my own case as illustrative of the sort of principle that I believe we must establish. Let us assume that I feel that the climate of Brisbane in January and February is becoming intolerable and that I think it would be a wonderful idea to move to Tasmania, where the climate is pleasantly cool and temperate.

Mr Duthie:

– Ah!


– I know that the honorable member for Wilmot would be delighted to have me there, but he should not build up his hopes too much. It would be fantastic for me to move to Tasmania. That would be completely unacceptable to my electors and, I should imagine, completely unacceptable to the good sense of the majority of Australian people. But the fact of the matter is that if I did want to make that move, there is no law, regulation or administrative control which would restrain me. I say bluntly, Sir, that it is high time that there was some administrative restraint.

Mr Freeth:

– To compel a member of parliament to live in a particular place?


– No. If the Minister will wait until I finish my argument, he will see what I propose.

Mr Bryant:

– The honorable member for Moreton would slam us all into a concentration camp if we disagreed with him.


– If the honorable member for Wills wants to make such a childishly stupid remark, which really becomes him, I shall not challenge it. Before I announce my proposal, I should like to remind honorable members that the Prime Minister said only recently that we are all public relations officers for the Parliament. I do not suppose that any of us claims to be the possessor of all the parliamentary virtues, but I believe that by far the majority of members of this chamber look upon the falling away of parliamentary prestige with grave and growing concern. I have given a clear-cut example of this Parliament being brought into contempt because of the unhappy circumstance that one person associated with it has established his electoral office at the end of the continent furthest away from those whom he represents. What an utter sham! What a priceless display of humbug! How can the people whom this individual may have been elected to represent see their member, or whatever he may be, if he has moved his electoral office thousands of miles away?

I put my proposition to the Minister. If we are to have what I would call a schoolboyish ignoring of the rules of the game, there should be some form of sanction, acceptable to us all, that could be exercised. Surely there could be a regulation to the effect that no member or senator, other than acknowledged leaders of recognized political parties, shall, for the purposes of maintaining his electoral office, live outside the State that he has been elected to represent. I think that that is a fair proposition. We have reached the stage that the following words are being sung to calypso music. I recite them very hurriedly, with all apologies to Harry Belafonte -

Life in the Senate can be so glum,

I have toiled since my term begun,

Now I hope for evermore,

I will be a sunshine senator.

I see them striving mightily,

Trying to get on in the A.L.P.,

I want no role in this party strife,

I’m cut out for the Gold Coast life.

I hope the day will never be,

When away from this life I must flee,

My Senate term is six short years,

Until that’s up I have no fears.

Now comes the chorus, and you can all join in -

Now Aylett’s in the sun,

Away from Tassie I have run.

How I like this life of mine

Up in Queensland sunshine.

Mr Daly:

– Who is the author of that?


– I am not at liberty to identify him. It is sad that, because of the actions of one individual, this whole parliamentary institution should be brought into ridicule and contempt. I plead with the Minister, not just to have a look, but to have a very careful look at the possibility of introducing some sort of restraint which could be placed on a member of the Parliament who, by his behaviour, brings the whole system into contempt.

Before my time is up, I want to refer to one other matter which possibly will not delight the heart of the Minister for the Interior. Among his responsibilities, as I have already stated, is the care of the Australian Capital Territory and, broadly, the development of Canberra. This is a terrific responsibility for the honorable gentleman, or for any honorable gentleman, to administer. But there is, associated with the development of Canberra, one proposal which, while I believe it is admirable in itself, is singularly ill-timed. I refer to the Canberra lakes scheme.

I make no claim to be a Philistine. I admire things of beauty, with you, Mr. Chaney. But I do submit, with respect, that if we embark on the Canberra lakes scheme at the present time, having a consciousness of the other tremendously important and pressing problems of development in Australia, we are showing a very real lack of responsibility. On that score, I simply ask the Minister to look at the question of whether the Canberra lakes scheme can be held up and put into some measure of perspective in relation to priority works throughout Australia. Many places in Queensland are crying out, to-day, for development. If I may say so without impertinence, it seems rather ironical to many Queenslanders that some millions of pounds should be devoted to a lakes scheme in Canberra where there is no real pressing or demanding need for it yet.


.- I wish to refer to section 106 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which reads thus -

In printing the ballot-papers to be used in a House of Representatives election . . . the names of all candidates duly nominated shall be printed in alphabetical order according to their surnames . . .

The application of this section of the act undoubtedly gives the candidate in the top position on the ballot-paper a marked advantage over the other candidates. This was clearly illustrated in the federal general election held on 22nd November, 1958, for the House of Representatives. Of 46 New South Wales seats contested by the Australian Labour Party, it was in the top position in seven; of 46 seats contested by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, those parties were in the top position in 21 seats; of 40 seats contested by the Democratic Labour Party, it was in the top position in fifteen; of seven seats contested by the Communist Party it was in the top position in three.

The advantage gained is illustrated by using the D.L.P. and the Communist Party as examples. The D.L.P. occupied the top position in fifteen electorates and the allocation of formal votes was as follows: -

Out of the total of 612,538 formal votes in those electorates, the D.L.P. gained 55,345, an average of 9.03 per cent. In the remaining 25 electorates contested by the D.L.P. - those in which its candidates were not in the top position - the results were as follow: -

Out of the total of 1,063,749 formal votes cast in those 25 electorates, the D.L.P. gained 51,472, an average of 4.83 per cent.

In the three electorates in New South Wales in which the Communist Party occupied the top position it gained the following percentage of votes: -

The average number of votes secured represented 6.9 per cent. In the other four seats contested by the Communist Party in which it was not on top of the ballot-paper the results were as follows: -

The average in these electorates was 3.51 per cent. So, in the electorates in which the D.L.P. occupied the top position on the ballot-paper, it averaged 9.03 per cent. Where it was not in the top position it averaged 4.83 per cent. Where the Communist Party was in the top position it averaged 6.9 per cent., and where it was not in the top position it averaged 3.51 per cent.

Perhaps the most notable illustration is gained by comparing the votes recorded by P. M. Clancy, the Communist Party candidate in the electorate of Banks for the 1955 and 1958 general elections. In 1955, Clancy occupied the top position on the ballot-paper. He polled 3,356 votes out of a total of 41,875 formal votes, or 8.014 per cent. In 1958, when Clancy was not in the top position, he polled 1,634 votes out of a total of 48,701 formal votes, which was an average of 3.355 per cent. The difference between the two averages was 4.659 per cent.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out the marked advantage enjoyed by a candidate for the House of Representatives by having his name in the top position on the ballot-paper. This was illustrated at the last federal general election. The Australian Democratic Labour Party contested 40 seats and in the fifteen electorates in which its candidates occupied the top position on the ballot-paper they polled an average of 9.03 per cent, of the votes. In the remaining 25 seats, where the names of that party’s candidates were not in the top position, they averaged 4.83 per cent, of the votes, a difference of 4.2 per cent. The difference in the case of the Communist Party candidates was 3.4 per cent. On these figures it would be reasonable to assume that a minimum estimate of the advantage gained by the candidate occupying the top position would be 3 per cent., or 1,200 votes of 40,000 votes.

I suggest to the Minister that the Electoral Act should be altered to provide for a ballot for positions on the ballot-paper, which is the system followed in respect of Senate elections. It is true that the Australian Labour Party took advantage of the alphabetical system when it was applied to the Senate, but when the Government of the day realized the injustice of that system it was altered. That being so, why should such a system be applied to the House of Representatives? Would any honorable member suggest that any candidate should be penalized to the extent of 1,200 votes simply because his name is lower in the alphabet than that of some other person who therefore is allotted the top position on the ballot-paper? It is too silly for words. When one considers some of the new honorable members who won swinging seats from the Labour Party during recent years, one will notice that many of them have names beginning with “ A “, “ B “, or “ C “. How the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) was ever elected is beyond me. He must have been a “ ring-in “ because his name starts with “ S “.

As a further illustration of the abuse of the present alphabetical system I turn to the last State election in Queensland. A candidate for the seat of Mount Gravatt in the Queensland Parliament was named Boon. He was no relation of the famous Daniel Boone. Forty-eight hours after nominations had closed and the ballot-papers had been printed, he publicly announced his withdrawal from the election. The reason he nominated in the first place was to prevent an Australian Labour Party candidate from being at the top of the ballot-paper. It is hard to imagine a system existing which would allow so much abuse of the Electoral Act. I say again that the House of Representatives election should be conducted on similar lines to that for the Senate with regard to order of names on the ballot-paper. This should be determined by drawing the names from a hat.

In the few minutes left to me I should like to comment on the application of section 73c of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which has been operative since 1902. When related to money values it is obvious that it is completely outmoded and should be amended to meet present-day requirements. That section provides -

Twenty-five pounds must be deposited with a nomination of a candidate entering the House of Representatives or Senate elections.

The amount of £25 was set in 1902 as a deterrent to frivolous nominations. At that time that sum was equal to more than twelve and a half times the current average wage. The amount is still £25, despite the fact that the basic wage now averages £13 16s. It is quite obvious that if the amount was set at £25 in 1902 to prevent frivolous nominations it should be increased very greatly at the present time. In the United Kingdom the amount is fixed at £150 sterling. “I suggest that the amount in Australia should be increased to at least £100. I may be accused that this would keep a working man out of the ballot, but that would be a very weak argument. Any person who would have a possible chance of election could always find £100 to put down with his nomination. The Electoral Act provides that if a candidate for the House of Representatives gains one-fifth of the number of votes polled by the person obtaining the most primary votes he will retain his deposit. In a Senate election a candidate must gain 10 per cent, of the number of primary votes gained by the winning group. If the nomination fee were increased from £25 to £100 it would deter many frivolous nominations which are now purposely made with the object of defeating candidates of certain political parties.


.- Mr. Chairman, as you are well aware, the committee is now discussing the estimates for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. As a rule, each year when these estimates are under consideration the same old matters are brought up and very little new matter is introduced. The debate on this occasion has been no exception. As far as my speech is concerned, I will repeat some of the things that I have said in other years when debating these estimates. The reason for this is that if one wants something done at Canberra he has to keep hammering away at it year after year. After hammering long enough one might get some results.

With regard to elections, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) suggested that there should be a change in the hours of polling. At the present time polling for the Federal Parliament is conducted between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The honorable member said that this was a confusing arrangement because Queensland State elections were conducted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The honorable member seems to imply that the Commonwealth and all the States were out of step, except Queensland and that the only way to rectify the position was to bring the Commonwealth practice into line with Queensland. The honorable member’s suggestion was supported by my colleague the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who, of course, is also a Queenslander.

I am very much against that suggestion and think that the federal polling hours should be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the simple reason that election day is one of the most important days in every three years, or perhaps within a shorter period if a government is defeated and an election is held earlier than normal. Surely it is not too long a period from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to have the polling booths open. I strongly favour the continuance of the present system. I notice the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) nods his approval, but he may not agree with my next suggestion.

The honorable member for Banks strongly advocated the principle of one vote one value. He added that in a democratic community, such as Australia, all electorates should have the same number of electors. If the quota of voters for a federal electorate is 40,000, the committee which is set up to fix electoral boundaries is allowed a 20 per cent, margin either way. This means that an electorate could have 48,000 voters or 32,000. I believe that such committees should use to full advantage the rights they are given. In my view, metropolitan electorates should have 48,000 voters and country electorates 32,000. That would be quite in order under the Australian Constitution, and such a proposal should be adopted. I believe that, not because I come from a rural area, but because I have the good of this great country at heart.

The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) spoke about civil defence earlier to-day. That is wrapped up with these electoral proposals. The first need in civil defence is to decentralize the population, and the only way to do that is to decentralize political representation. A majority of members of Parliament represent metropolitan electorates, and most of the amenities provided for the people are found where the greatest concentration of parliamentary representatives occurs. The people flock to those metropolitan areas where they can have the benefit of the most amenities. In turn, as more people concentrate in an area, a redistribution of electoral boundaries becomes necessary. So the whole thing snowballs and we reach a stage, as we have done now, at which most of our population is concentrated in the metropolitan areas on the seaboard.

When the Australian Labour Party was in office, I protested very strongly against proposals by the Department of Works and Housing, as it was then known, to construct buildings for Commonwealth offices in Melbourne and in other metropolitan areas throughout Australia in order to provide office space for public servants and Commonwealth officials. I objected very strongly to these plans and pointed out that population should be decentralized, first, by decentralizing those sections of Commonwealth departments with which the general public did not come in direct contact. We all know that in any department, whether it be the Department of Immigration, the Department of Social Services or any of the other departments, only a small percentage - perhaps 10 per cent, or less - of the officials come in contact with the public. The others who do the ground work can be located outside the metropolitan areas. I know that many Labour members do not agree with this, and I have not received a great deal of support in my advocacy of these ideas. Recently I listened to a broadcast in Australia of a programme known as “The Wilfrid Thomas Show” which had been broadcast in England by the British Broadcasting Corporation. I propose to read a passage from the script in order to show that there is some support elsewhere for my arguments, even if they receive no support in this Parliament.

Mr Costa:

– The honorable member is reading.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden:

Order! Honorable members on both sides of the committee are making too much noise.

Mr Daly:

– The honorable member for Mallee is reading his speech, Mr. Chairman.


– Whenever I quote something in this chamber, members like the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) accuse me of reading a speech. Every one knows that I am quoting; so I shall proceed with the quotation from the script of “The Wilfrid Thomas Show”. (Opposition members interjecting) -


– Order! The honorable member for Mallee has the floor.


– When the interjections die down, I shall go on. The passage that I wish to quote from the script of “The Wilfrid Thomas Show” is as follows: -

Each year, 19,000 more office workers come to work in Central London. From 1948 to mid 19S7 planning approval was granted for over 40 million square feet of new office space to accommodate them. You’ve heard of Parkinson’s Law of course.

I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, have heard of it. The script continues -

Yet, as an exhibition at Olympia is showing nearly every office operation can be mechanised; machines of smooth grey, humming, clicking, tabulators and computors and copyers, can transmit their findings quickly to distant points, so there is no need for the whole administration of a firm to be under one roof, in a district where land is limited and therefore costly, just because that district was given over to that class of business in medieval times. It’s wasteful to make hundreds of employees, pale, nerve-strained, haggard and cheerless, commute from the suburbs where house rents are cheap, for a couple of hours each day, probably standing for most of the time at that. A great deal of the office work now done in Central London could be shifted to the outskirts, with benefit to millions of sore feet, fog-bound lungs and worried digestions. While the bosses could stay in town among petrol fumes, entertaining each other at expensive restaurants on expense accounts.

Wilfrid Thomas added something that I particularly want honorable members to hear, when he said -

I just thought I’d mention it because Australian cities may come up against similar messes, which could be avoided by imaginative planning. You’ve got room to spread.

That is what he said to Australia.

Mr Costa:

– Who is Wilfrid Thomas?


– He is one of the most famous commentators in London.

I put it to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) again that the construction of great buildings in central Melbourne and in Sydney in order to provide office space for Commonwealth public servants is not in the best interests of this country. We must decentralize Commonwealth departments. Man has the ability, now that he has the secret of atomic power and nuclear bombs, to destroy humanity on a mass scale, and we must do something to decentralize our population and industry in the best interests of our economy. Honorable members laugh and joke about the matter this evening, but the time will come when my words will be remembered. With the concentration of Government departments in big buildings in the great cities of Australia, it needs only one atomic bomb in a particular spot to destroy the administrative and working ability of the Public Service and of the departments that would mean so much to Australia if a war broke out. All governments, including the present one and the previous Labour Government, the present Opposition and, indeed, the whole of the Parliament, seem to have been unaware of these things. 1 offer a warning this evening. I have read to the committee what one man thinks about London. That same man has told us that we in Australia have room to spread. Why do we not spread our risk? That is the point. In a financial undertaking one spreads the risk by insuring. Why do we not spread our population and protect our welfare in the future? Why do we not spread the risk and assure our future by spreading our population?


.- Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has made certain suggestions for the improvement of the Commonwealth electoral laws. I have no doubt that, whatever suggestions he makes, and whatever improvements are made in the law, he will not be satisfied. Nor will he reap much benefit if the same thing happens in future election campaigns as happened during the last general election campaign. I am informed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who is a particularly truthful and reliable informant, that, during the last general election campaign, the honorable member for Mallee undertook a door-to-door canvass. After spending about half an hour with one elector, he said to her, “ Well. Madam, will you vote for me? “ The lady of the house replied, “ No; I am sorry, Sir, I shall not “. The honorable member for Mallee asked, “ Have you met the other candidate? Do you know him? “ The lady replied, “ No, I do not know him, but I have had good look at you, and that is enough “.

There seems to be an almost unanimous opinion that the Commonwealth Electoral Act ought to be overhauled, Mr. Chairman. One of the most pressing electoral problems is the great number of informal votes cast in Senate elections. In the last Senate election, held in 1958, 244,828 informal votes were cast in New South Wales. Ins Victoria, there were 142,416; in Queensland, 53,431; in South Australia, 36,677; in Western Australia, 32,427; and in Tasmania, 19,271. A number of reasons can be given for informal votes being cast. Amongst them is lack of interest by the elector who merely votes because he wishes to evade the penalty that might be imposed on him for failing to vote. Then there is the citizen who writes rude or insulting words across the ballot-paper. Then there are the aged and infirm, and the people with bad eyesight who are unable to complete their ballot-papers in a formal way. There is also the person who does not take sufficient care or has not sufficient knowledge of what is required in order to cast a formal vote.

Perhaps little can be done about lack ot interest in the voting system or in the selection of a representative. Little can be done, too, about age, infirmity and bad eyesight; but a good deal can be done about lack of knowledge or lack of care in filling out a ballot-paper. With the advent of television, and its extension to South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland in the next few months, a form of education is now available to the Parliament which was not previously available. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) that he consider having a demonstration or documentary film made showing how a formal vote should be cast. He should then prevail upon the commercial as well as the national television stations during election campaigns to show the demonstration film. Viewers would then know exactly what is required to cast a formal vote and would have explained to them just what an informal vote is. A film such as this would reduce the number of informal votes cast. There is no doubt that a person watching a demonstration has a much better understanding of what is required than has a person who merely has the procedure explained to him in words.

Mr Freeth:

– It would be all right provided we put in a Government how-to-vote card.


– That is a point. You would have to be careful that you did not show the Government how-to-vote card or the Opposition how-to-vote card, but I feel that those problems could be easily solved by a brilliant and efficient Minister such as we have at the head of the Department of Interior at present.

Another point that should be taken into consideration is the showing of party affiliation on ballot-papers. A great many people merely vote for parties irrespective of the qualifications of the candidate. Showing the party affiliation on the ballot-paper would j>ive these people information that perhaps they did not obtain before they went to the polling booth, and it would help them to cast the vote that they intended to cast. It would also help them to put the Liberal Party last when voting.

The effect of the position on the ballotpaper has been covered extensively by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) this evening. The figures he has given are very interesting and informative and should be considered by the Minister when the Commonwealth Electoral Act is being overhauled. The Constitutional Association of Australia wrote to all honorable members some time ago suggesting a circular ballotpaper for the Senate vote. The association chose the Communist Party for the purpose of illustration because it is the party which attracts the least number of votes. The figures show that the number of votes cast for the Communist Party increases substantially when the party has first position on the ballot-paper. In Victoria in the 1953 election, it had the first position on the ballot-paper and polled 3.48 per cent, of the votes. In 1958, it was fourth on the ballot-paper and polled only .89 per cent. The same situation obtained in Queensland. When the Communist Party was first on the ballot-paper in 1955 it polled 4.15 per cent, of the votes but when it was third on the ballot-paper in 1958 it polled only .94 per cent, of the votes. These fluctuations in votes cast for the Communist Party are a clear indication of the advantage gained by the party which draws the first position on the ballot-paper. Perhaps it is not possible to introduce a circular ballot-paper for the House of Representatives, but with the Senate, where all parties and unaffiliated candidates are grouped, it should be quite simple to introduce a circular ballot-paper which will give no advantage to any person or any group appearing on the ballot-paper.

The other matter that I wish to discuss is civil defence. Like some other members of the Parliament, I have attended the civil defence school at Mount Macedon. Those of us who have done so are entitled to wear the Mount Macedon Star, although it does not bring with it any repatriation benefits or the right to wear a returned serviceman’s badge. The course was interesting and informative, but as I continued I found that my thoughts were becoming much more confused than they had been when I arrived at the school. The complexity of the problem and the very many difficulties that must be surmounted leave one wondering whether civil defence is possible and whether a system can be introduced to solve all the problems that would be created by the explosion of a hydrogen or atomic bomb on one of our capital cities. But these problems must be faced and something must be done. Apparently economic considerations are taken into account in the framing of a civil defence policy, because up to the moment we have no such policy on a federal basis. If that is the problem, I suggest that part of the defence vote be used for a civil defence policy.

Another suggestion I make is that national service trainees be not trained solely in the manual drills and so forth that they are getting at present but that some of their training be devoted to such matters as first aid and engineering. If a hydrogen or atomic bomb is dropped, many roads, bridges and other utilities will be completely destroyed, and there will need to be some one to rebuild them and get them back into working order. Many deaths will be caused amongst the drivers of public transports. Perhaps national service trainees could be trained in the driving of omnibuses, trams and trains so that, if any of those facilities can still be operated, man-power will be available to drive them. There will be need also for decontamination squads. I feel that national service trainees could well spend part of their time in learning some of these things. There is also the training of civilians in first aid. Perhaps municipal councils would be best suited to undertake first aid training in their respective areas.

There are other pressing problems, dealing with which will not cost a great deal of money, but which will have to be tackled on a federal basis. They include a survey of accommodation available in country areas in case of the necessity to evacuate people from one of the cities. An evacuation plan will have to be laid down so that women, children, the aged and the infirm can be taken away from vulnerable places where it is expected an atomic or hydrogen bomb will be dropped. All those things should be done now. Doing them will not cost the Government a great deal of money.

Then there are the things that State governments can do, with help from the Commonwealth Government. One is the provision of hospitals in country areas, because untold thousands of people will be killed or wounded if there is an atomic bomb attack on any of our capital cities. The injured will have to be treated somewhere. At the moment our main hospitals are situated in city areas, and unless we have alternative hospital facilities outside these areas there will be no place in which the injured, the maimed and the people buried by debris may receive attention.

Then there is the problem of water supplies. All water in the supply system close to the area bombed will be contaminated. Some plans will have to be made, some survey taken, for alternative supplies for use in the event of an emergency. Many other things can also be done. 1 agree that the problem is a difficult and complex one, and I sympathize with the Minister for the Interior and his officers in their efforts to find where to make a start. But the essential thing is that a start be made. A plan should be laid down on a federal basis so that the States will be able to do whatever is required of them under the federal plan. That plan should be laid down now, and it should be one which could be implemented gradually. The most urgent things can be done first - the things that will not cost a great deal of money. Then, as the situation worsens, or as the people in the world working for peace begin to gain some advantage and to improve the prospects of peace, the plan could either be developed or curtailed.

However, Mr. Chairman, I believe that the essential thing is that some policy on a federal basis be laid down so that the States will know exactly what they can do, and exactly what they should do, in order to implement a plan of civil defence.

As I said earlier, I sympathize with the Minister in trying to find where to start on a civil defence policy but a start should and must be made.


– There are four matters on which I should like to touch rather briefly. The first is office accommodation for members; the second is civil defence; the third is semi-governmental authorities, and the fourth is the Canberra University College.

As regards office accommodation for members, I do not know of any legislation governing what is to be done or not done. I understand that the matter is entirely in the hands of the Government, through the Minister for the Interior. I think I am safe in saying that every member of this House would agree that office accommodation should be provided only in the State in which a member is elected. 1 say “ State “, because a country member has the alternative of accommodation in the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices of the capital city or in his own electorate. The same thing applies to suburban members. In other words, a member of this Parliament may have office accommodation either in the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices or in his electorate. But, as for providing offices in a State other than that in which a member is elected, I would not give any member a typewriter ribbon, far less a typewriter or any equipment, or any office, if he wanted to go as far afield as that. I do not think that it was ever intended that a member of the Parliament should be able to do that, except of course, that interstate accommodation is naturally provided for Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who need such facilities in every capital city, as they travel around.

Office accommodation is provided for members in their electorates so that they can work for the areas for which they were elected. I think that all honorable members will agree with that. Other people may express their different points of view. I do not want to spend much time on that subject, but I should like to say a word on behalf of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) on civil defence.

Civil defence is one of the most difficult and complicated problems that any government or any Minister has to face because what is, or sounds, reasonable, or even partly sufficient, this year, is out of date next year. 1 know that it is a difficult and very complicated problem here, as it has been found to be right throughout the world to-day. The word of sympathy I wish to say to the Minister for the Interior arises from the fact that when I held that portfolio I found that I had no control over civil defence whatsoever, because the money for civil defence comes from the defence vote. Whether or not money is to be devoted to civil defence is decided by the Defence Committee, yet the Minister for the Interior comes in for all the criticism for what has not been done that people think should have been done. This puts the Minister for the Interior in a very difficult position.

I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) that control of civil defence should be taken away from the Minister for the Interior. I asked for that to be done on several occasions, but my requests were never met. I think, along with the honorable member for Perth, that civil defence should be taken over by the Minister for Defence or the Defence Committee, who can decide whether or not there should be a civil defence policy. I know that several activities, such as national mapping, the Mount Stromlo observatory, War Service Land Settlement, and a few other bits and pieces, have been taken off the shoulders of the Minister for the Interior since I was Minister, and I am delighted to know that, because when I was Minister I sometimes thought that the Department of the Interior was formed in the first place by other Ministers writing on a slip of paper the bits and pieces they did not want, then handing the slip to somebody to put in a waste paper basket, from which they were collected and put into another basket labelled “ Department of the Interior “, because it is a department of bits and pieces. For that reason, the department is a difficult department to administer, and one that requires a lot of paper work and a lot of concentration and hard work.

The Minister for the Interior has no control over expenditure on civil defence, as

I have said, but gets all the criticism, and for that reason he has my deepest sympathy. On the other hand, if anything is to be done, I would recommend to the Minister the suggestions made this afternoon by the honorable member for Perth and another honorable member, that we follow along the lines of what has been done in Canada.

Every morning all the currawongs in Canberra are warbling the fact that national service training is to go out very shortly. That does not seem to be any very great secret. I said at the time when we reduced national service training that I did not think it was of any use as part of the defence potential in this technological age. I still am of that opinion, and I shall shed no tears if national service training as such goes out. On the other hand, it is very good training for citizenship and, as the honorable member for Perth said this afternoon, as a combination of training for citizenship and training for civil defence it might be one of the best solutions to both problems which has yet been proposed. It is certainly one of the best that 1 have heard so far.

The civil defence problem is not an easy one to solve, and I hope the Government will relieve the Minister for the Interior of it or, if it does not intend to do so, will give him some control over what finances are to be allocated to it, because I think anybody will agree that it is impossible to administer something when you have no say as to whether the Budget is to provide funds for its administration.

I should like to say something now about semi-governmental authorities, chiefly about the brickworks and various other businesses run by the Government in Canberra. I tried to turn two of these businesses - the brickworks and the electricity authority - into semi-governmental authorities. I got one of the best accountants in Australia on electricity work to report on the electricity supply in Canberra. I got another man, who was one of the best brick men in Australia, to report likewise on the brickworks. We were able to carry out some of his recommendations, but unfortunately the Public Service Board decided that the head man at the brickworks must not receive a higher salary than a foreman. We had a very good man lined up for a managerial position, but of course you cannot expect to have expert management of the brickworks if you will not pay a higher salary than that which is paid to a foreman in any other brickworks in Australia.

With regard to the electricity authority, I think possibly the Treasury had something to say. An investigation was carried out and an approximate but very thorough calculation was made of the extra charge to the consumer resulting from what might be termed the long-line transmission which is necessary because of the way in which Canberra suburbs are scattered. It was recommended that this extra cost should be borne by the Treasury, in other words that the cost to Canberra users should be reduced to that extent. Canberra is, of course, an all-electric city. Coal, if you can get it, is very expensive, and even wood is expensive. Therefore, the matter of the true and proper cost of electricity for homes or businesses in Canberra is very important. Unfortunately, this recommendation went by the board, because, I think, of the magnitude of the estimate that was made of what should be carried by the Government in this period when Canberra consists of so many widely scattered suburbs.

Another recommendation made was for the appointment of two fairly senior officers in new positions designed to achieve the efficiency in administration that is necessary in an authority of this nature. The Public Service Board refused to agree to these appointments, and so we could not get any further.

I do not know whether any improvements have taken place in either of these two business undertakings since I was Minister for the Interior. I believe that they should both be semi-governmental authorities. There would be no difficulty about transferring the rights and privileges of the staff involved any more than there was when the Newport power house in Victoria was transferred from the Victorian Railways to the State Electricity Commission. I believe, in justice to the people of Canberra, that this report on the electricity authority should be dug out of the files and reconsidered. The man who was asked to make the report was, I think, the head accountant of one of our big electrical undertakings and, therefore, knew what he was talking about. Problems of this kind are always rather difficult, but now that we have the National

Capital Development Commission running Canberra it may be easier to make the alterations that we thought desirable at that time.

I wish to refer, finally, to the Canberra University College. It is now five years or more since we commenced discussing the question whether the Canberra University College should be made a full undergraduate university. I hope a decision on this question has been made, but, as far as I know, it has not. The final examinations under the auspices of the Melbourne University, will take place, I believe, in December. Of course, one swallow does not make a summer, nor one building a university; nor does the granting of a site - and I believe a site has been set aside by the National Capital Development Commission - make a university. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is to lay the foundation stone of the arts building for the university college next month. However, I would like to ask the Minister whether any real decision has been made as to whether the college is to become a full undergraduate university. If so, are the professors of the Australian National University to spend part of their time in teaching at the undergraduate university? I do not refer to the physicists, nor to those in the medical school, but principally to those who work iri the field of social studies and in other similar faculties. Has the Australian National University agreed that those professors should spend part-time in teaching and part-time in research? I believe they would be better researchers if they did.

The delay that has occurred in making a decision on this matter has greatly handicapped the Canberra University College. I know that it is conducting some courses now, but I also know that it is a long time since I discussed the matter with the Premier of New South Wales, who was. then considering the establishment of are undergraduate university at Wagga. He said that if we were going to have an* undergraduate university in Canberra it could cater for the surrounding districts. It is not only Canberra, therefore, that has been waiting and waiting for this decision, but also all the surrounding districts.

Unfortunately, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) is in a very difficult position, because the Australian National University is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department. It has been receiving all the money, while the university college, under the Minister for the Interior, has been put off continually and so has been severely handicapped. The decision cannot be delayed any longer, in view of the statement emanating from the Melbourne University, and I hope that the fact that the arts building has been commenced means that a final decision has been arrived at, and that the council of the university college will be able to go ahead and plan its future, step by step, instead of being held back all the time, seeing ample funds going to the Australian National University and very little to the university college.

When the first move to Canberra of certain government departments was mooted, I lost from one of the departments I then controlled two or three very good young engineers and architects, who went out into private business, only for the reason, as they said, that if they moved to Canberra they could not meet the cost of sending their children to Melbourne or Sydney universities - and it is a very high cost. If we have the university college turned into a proper under-graduate university, then almost the last handicap to living in Canberra will have been removed. I do not think that any of the other suggested handicaps are handicaps any longer. As a matter of fact, Canberra is now a delightful place in which to live, and I am sure that it will continue to go on from strength to strength.

Mr Makin:

Mr. Chairman-

Mr Freeth:

Mr. Chairman-


– The Minister for the Interior.

Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works · Forrest · LP

– One is always faced with a big problem-

Mr Daly:

– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman; it is established practice in this Parliament to call successive speakers from different sides of the chamber during the course of a debate, and although the Minister has now risen, I contend that we should follow the established procedure and that an honorable member from this side should now speak.


– Order! The honorable member knows perfectly well that in the Estimates debate a Minister may rise whenever he likes.

Question (by Mr. Daly) put -

That the honorable member for Bonython be now heard.

The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)

AYES: 38

NOES: 60

Majority.. . . 22



Question so resolved in the negative.

Honorable members will know that last year the Government established an interdepartmental committee and invited it to provide a civil defence appreciation and proposals for a programme. The Government has now had an opportunity to consider the report of that committee and other relevant information provided by the Government’s defence advisers. I propose to outline in broad terms for the information of honorable members the bases on which the Commonwealth proposes to develop a civil defence programme. A nuclear threat to Australia would arise only in the event of global war, which is unlikely as a deliberate act of policy. But even in that event it is unlikely that Australia would be a primary target for nuclear attack, or an early target for nuclear attack, although the possibility of an attack in some form could not be ruled out entirely. Despite the destructive power of modern weapons it is possible to set up a civil defence organization which can make an effective contribution to survival and rehabilitation following conventional or nuclear attack.

The civil defence programme should be consistent with the overall defence policy and programme, and it should be related at any time to the assessment of the strategic situation. In these circumstances a substantial diversion of our national resources from the active defence programme to the civil defence programme is not warranted at the present time. An active civil defence programme is necessary to ensure the orderly development of plans and preparations for a national civil defence plan. It is a basic principle that the States are responsible for the development of their own civil defence planning and programmes. It is the function of the Commonwealth to provide information on the strategic situation; to initiate plans for civil defence as required in Commonwealth territories; to give national guidance; to undertake the programme of public education on weapons effects; to co-ordinate as necessary the plans for the States into an effective national civil defence plan; and to provide a limited range of specialized equipment for training purposes.

I want to deal with some aspects of those points. In broad terms, the tempo of our civil defence preparations should be determined on the basis of expert assessment of the likelihood of war and the nature of the threat of attack on the Australian mainland. An appreciation of the threat is made regularly by the Government’s defence advisers in the light of changes in the strategic situation and current intelligence; and our defence policies are modified from time to time to take account of any changes. Of course, for obvious reasons, details of these assessments cannot be made public, but I do not think honorable members will disagree with the general assessment that global war is unlikely as a deliberate act of policy. It is considered that there would be no threat of nuclear attack against Australia except in the context of global war. Even in this context, it is considered that Australia would not be an early or a primary target for nuclear attack. Clearly the cost of providing against all contingencies would be prohibitive, and the task, enormous as it is, must be kept in its proper perspective and the demand for resources to be allocated to civil defence must be properly related to our other commitments.

Just as our active defence policy and programme are based on the strategic situation as assessed by the Government’s defence advisers, and are related to the estimate of the military threat to Australia in the light of enemy capabilities and intentions, so our civil defence policy and programme must also be based on these assessments. For this reason priority in our national defence effort has been centred on the need to act effectively in cold war or limited war situations in which there is no threat of nuclear attack on the Australian mainland. In these circumstances substantial diversion of national resources, to the detriment of the active defence programme, has not been warranted and is not warranted at the present time. Substantially, the Commonwealth’s policy has been to provide training facilities for students nominated by the various State governments. This has been achieved through the activities of the Commonwealth Civil Defence School.

Since the school opened in July, 1956, 107 courses have been completed and 3,078 students have been passed through it. The courses given include general information on, and study of, the destructive effects of modern weapons in civilian aspects, and specialized courses in particular fields such as fire-fighting, first-aid, communications, and other phases associated with civil defence. This has been done with a view to ensuring a common background on which the State Governments could complete their detailed programmes.

In May, 1957, the National Radiation Advisory Committee was appointed to provide guidance to the Government on any matter pertaining to the effects of ionizing radiation on the Australian community, whether arising from medical, industrial, scientific, international or other causes. This committee has provided valuable information in its two reports. Nevertheless, the Government feels that, in the light of recent technological developments, a more active civil defence programme is justified to ensure the orderly and gradual development of civil defence plans and preparations, and the steady enlargement of civil defence services.

Under our federal system, State governments exercise control over most of those functions which are essential to survival in major catastrophies, for example, maintenance of law and order, medical and hospital services, fire-fighting, transport, public utilities, including water, gas and electricity supplies and so on. Control over these functions is the very essence of an adequate civil defence programme. Honorable members will agree, therefore, that a more active civil defence programme at once raises the question of the division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States.

I do not propose to cover this aspect in detail. I hope to take an early opportunity to discuss the whole civil defence problem with representatives of the State Governments. However, I think I should state now the Commonwealth’s view that, as a basic principle, the States should be responsible for the development of their own civil defence planning and programmes; with the Commonwealth providing national guidance and co-ordination as necessary. Moreover, we should aim at the development of common doctrine, organization and training, and standard or compatible equipment where possible.

I mentioned earlier that the Government believes that the time has now come to pursue a programme of preparation for civil defence. This programme will be designed to ensure the orderly development of plans and preparations, and to keep them in balance with the active defence programme. As a first step, therefore, we propose to re-organize the Civil Defence Directorate to ensure that it is adequate to the task of planning an effective programme and maintaining proper liaison with the States. Moreover, the Civil Defence Directorate should be capable of rapid expansion in time of emergency in order to play an effective part in a national defence effort.

The role of the Commonwealth Civil Defence Directorate would be to make available to the States, as necessary, information on the effects of nuclear weapons; to initiate planning for civil defence as required in Commonwealth departments and territories; to give national guidance; to provide liaison with and co-ordinate the stockpiling of items of essential equipment which are likely to be in short supply in emergency. We will, of course, continue to maintain the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon.

Honorable members will know that comparatively modest measures, particularly self-help, can be most effective if the public is informed. We therefore propose in due course to undertake a programme of public education on weapons effects. Suitable training manuals for civil defence personnel will be provided at Commonwealth expense. The State civil defence authorities will be provided with such special detection equipment for radiological monitoring as the Minister for the Interior may decide from time to time. The Government will consider the expenditure of Commonwealth moneys on other projects developed between the Commonwealth and the States, which are necessary to give effect to an adequate national civil defence programme. A civil defence organization will be established in the Commonwealth territories to the extent deemed necessary.

This, in broad outline, is our programme for the current year. An amount of £300,000 has been set aside in the estimates for civil defence. Much work will be necessary before the programme gets under way but it can be expected that, as planning proceeds and the programme develops, it will tend to gather momentum and perhaps to become more costly in future years. The job of planning is a long, detailed and unspectacular one, and progress towards the goal of a national civil defence plan must proceed by logical and practical steps. The tempo should be reviewed from time to time in the light of assessments by the Government’s defence advisers of known enemy capabilities and intentions. The Government attaches great importance to the development of an orderly programme of civil defence and, in association with the States, it will pursue with energy the preparation of this plan and devote to it, from time to time, such resources as are warranted in the light of the strategic situation and our other pressing commitments.


.- I will endeavour to conserve as much as possible the time of the committee for I appreciate the present circumstances of our deliberations. I wish that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) had not made his reply at this juncture because I was anxious that he would give some clear and definite reason why certain matters are not being attended to in the city of Adelaide in respect of Commonwealth office accommodation. At present, arrangements border on scandal because of the large amount of public money being paid in rent for space in commercial properties. Private concerns need much of the office space which is now being occupied by Commonwealth departments. When the Minister was questioned as to whether a Commonwealth building would be erected in Adelaide, he said that no immediate plans had been made for such a project. The Government is at present spending approximately £250,000 a year in rental of offices in that city. It is a mighty financial proposition for the Commonwealth to pay that sum annually in the city of Adelaide for the accommodation of public departments, and the time is long overdue for the preparation of plans for Commonwealth buildings to house them.

In reply to a question which I recently asked the Minister on this subject he said that the Commonwealth was now occupying 70,071 square feet in the Da Costa Building for which it paid £87,241 15s. a year. In the Colonial Mutual Life Building the space rented was 13,234 square feet and the rental was £21,418 9s. Id. In the Bank of New South Wales Building the space occupied was 1,221 square feet and the annual rental was £1,775 4s. In the Churchhill Building the area was 28,456 square feet and the rental was £11,831. Only 450 square feet was taken in the City Mutual Building for which a rental of £600 a year was paid. In the Richards Building, offices occupied 43,722 square feet and the rental for these was £29,346 17s. In the Adelaide Railway Station building the area rented was 33,125 square feet and the rental was £18,997 2s. 6d. The total annual rental for all this office space is £162,210. To all this has to be added another £80,000 for the “ Advertiser “ building now in the course of construction. It will consist of twelve stories of which the Taxation Branch will occupy six and one-half stories. This building is being erected for the principal newspaper in the city of Adelaide.

Mr Curtin:

– Who owns that newspaper?


– The “ Advertiser “ Newspaper Company Limited of South Australia - a very good advocate of the present Government. This building is regarded as one of the most up to date in that city. But if the Commonwealth erected two buildings of the same size and character it could pay for them completely in eight years with the annual rental it is paying for its office space in the various buildings I have mentioned. It seems that the Government prefers to pay this rent to private concerns. It is really a subsidy to these private interests. lt is a sort of security for the interest they have to pay on the money they borrowed to build their various premises. But it is ironical to think that that interest is being paid by way of rent out of public revenue.

Some of these Commonwealth departments are leaving cheaper premises and going into these more luxurious and extravagant types of accommodation in the principal city buildings. The time has surely come when something should be done about this matter. I will persist in my advocacy for action and bring the matter to public notice as much as possible. The payment of this vast sum in rent is nothing short of a public scandal. I hope that the Government will be seised with the importance of the position and do something to rectify it at an early date.

The Commonwealth already has land in one of the principal streets of Adelaide upon which it could build a suite of offices. Some of the buildings the Commonwealth rents at present are leased from one to ten years. If the Government rents the office space that is proposed in the “ Advertiser “ building for anything more than twelve years it will have paid the estimated total cost of that building. Talk about a racket! The owners of that building undoubtedly will benefit substantially at the public expense. This is something which the public of Australia, particularly the people of South Australia, will greatly resent. I am glad to have this opportunity of making known this grave anomaly to the public of South Australia through the facilities for broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament. They will be aware of what is happening in the city of Adelaide and what the Commonwealth Government is paying to certain private landlord interests in that city.


Mr. Chairman, I want to turn to the speech on civil defence made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) earlier. May I say that, as a statement of Government policy, I found it disappointing, inadequate and unrealistic. I do not in any sense blame the Minister for this, because I know that it is true, as has been said in this chamber before, that the Minister, in his administration of the Department of the Interior, has virtually no control over this aspect of departmental activity. He has no say in the funds allocated for it, and he has very little say in the general policy governing the expenditure of those funds. So I should not like any remark that I make this evening to be taken as being a reflection on the Minister in any way at all.

May I extract two points from the remarks made by the Minister. First, he said - and I think quite rightly - that, although civil defence had a limited role, there was nevertheless a great deal that could be done under the heading of civil defence for the protection of our people. We should not write off civil defence as entirely useless because it cannot give complete protection. In this, I find myself in agreement with what the Minister said. I felt, although the Minister did not say it, that, in what he said, there was an implication that we would always have time to change and adapt our policies. I think that this is not true. An effective civil defence organization can be created only over a period of years - perhaps three or four years. Do we think that plans set down on paper will protect us in the meantime? Something more than paper planning is needed. If we are not ready when the time comes, we shall not get breathing space in which to make our preparations. We make them in time, or not at all. None of us can tell when or if we shall have to act upon our planning. I hope that it will never be necessary to invoke the aid of civil defence. I think the odds that we shall not have to do so are better than even, but that is no argument against making reasonable preparations.

Let me try to estimate the need for civil defence planning in the light of a statement made in the United States of America on 26th August last by President Eisenhower, in a letter which he wrote to the President of the United States Senate requesting an additional appropriation for civil defence. The President wrote this -

I cannot emphasize too strongly the urgent need for the Congress to appropriate such funds before adjournment . . . The nature of nuclear war places upon the American people the responsibility for considerable action and sacrifice to insure their own security. This is clearly spelled out in the National Plan for Civil Defense and Defense Mobilization and the National Shelter Policy.

President Eisenhower added -

It would be unwise to neglect our civil defense mission because our total defense is incomplete and meaningless without reliable and responsible home defense. Survival cannot be guaranteed merely with a capacity for reprisal.

If these things are true of the United States - and I have quoted the words of the United States President in that regard - they are even more true of Australia, because the United States sits under the umbrella of its capacity to make reprisals if it is attacked, and, therefore, it is not so likely to be attacked as are those countries which do not have the protection of that convenient umbrella.

I disagree with the statements quoted by the Minister - I shall not say that they were made by him, because they are not his responsibility - to the effect that Australia stands in no danger of nuclear attack except in a global war. That is not true, and the people who wrote it live, as it were, in a bygone age, and are guilty of old, stone-age thinking.

I have quoted something to indicate the thinking in the United States, Sir. That is not the only thing that I could quote. I intend now to say something about Russia. That country has a very elaborate system of civil defence which is set out in a White Paper of which I have a copy before me. That White Paper contains many pages of information about the details of the Russian system of civil defence. I shall not read it, but honorable members may rest assured that Russia does not let civil defence go by the board. There is extant in the Soviet Union quite an elaborate civil defence organization, which includes bodies such as the Volunteer Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force, and Navy - commonly known as Dosaaf. Nor is Russia the only country that has an elaborate civil defence system.

I turn now to the forty-third annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, for the year ended 31st December, 1958. The league appointed a committee to study the whole subject of defence policy, including civil defence. The chairman of the committee was Mr. W. S. Lonnie, and the other members were Air Vice-Marshal Bladin. Mr. C. H. McKay and Mr. R. F. Bunting. The national secretary of the league acted as secretary of the committee. That was a highly responsible committee. The annual report of the league sets out some conclusions by the committee about civil defence organizations in various other countries, every one of which is in no greater danger than is Australia. Let us not kid ourselves about this any longer. I quote the considered opinions of this committee of the league, as follows: -

For the past several years the League has made repeated requests that there should be established in Australia a Commonwealth organised plan for civil defence and civil defence training.

At the moment, civil defence is without any national control or policy. Whilst nominally coming under the Minister for Interior, it nevertheless is left to the States to decide whether to organise civil defence plans. The result is complete lack of uniformity and liaison.

It is true that the Commonwealth is maintaining an excellent civil defence school at Mount Macedon (Victoria), to which representative citizens are sent on short courses (which, however, can hardly do more in the time than promote an appreciation of the problems of civil defence); and it is merely a “ drop in the bucket “ so far as the national need is concerned.

The report goes on in the same vein.

This is not something which comes up now for the first time, Sir. For years, we have seen an accomplished performance of duck-shoving by Ministers in relation to this important - indeed, vital - matter of civil defence. 1 repeat that I do not blame the present Minister for the Interior. I do not blame his predecessors, who, also, were powerless in the administration of the department. Last financial year, we voted £300,000 for civil defence - a miserably small amount - and we spent only £102,066 of that vote. If honorable members look at the reports of the debate on these Estimates last year, they will see that it was said at the time that the vote of £300,000 would enable us to make a start with our plans. But nothing has been done. We are just where we started. We have an excellent civil defence school, certainly, but that represents only a very tiny portion of the plan that is needed. Civil defence is not the business only of the States. I believe that we should use the machinery of the States, but the responsibility for defence - and civil defence is a vital and integral part of our national defence - rests with the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament. We neglect that responsibility at our peril, and we do not do ourselves any credit by trying to push it on to somebody else.

Considerable constitutional difficulties are involved in this matter, Sir. We know that some arrangement must be made with the States and that it must be put on a proper constitutional basis. It is years ago now that I endeavoured, without success, to get this Parliament to do something to set up the machinery, to discuss this with the States and to get a plan into action. We still have not started. The constitutional difficulties that will be involved in the utilization of State instrumentalities for the federal plan, which is the only possible plan, have not even been touched. Will we be given time? Will we ever need civil defence? I hope we will not; I hope we will be given time. But we cannot be certain.

I think the suggestions, which have been made here for a long time and which have been repeated to-day, that national service training should be in some way and to some degree directed towards civil defence are excellent and practical, and they should be adopted. I agree with the Minister that civil defence is not everything. I agree that we do not want a morbid preoccupation with civil defence which significantly reduces our power in other defence fields. Nobody is asking for an immense slice of the national defence effort to be devoted to this, but to have spent only £100,000 and to be allocating only £300,000, compared with a defence vote of some £190,000,000, is simply not enough. Mr. Chairman, it will not do.

Port Adelaide

– I want to raise to-night a matter that was the subject of a question I directed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) a fortnight ago. During the war years, when big munitions works were established at Finsbury in South Australia and war work was done at the Islington workshops, it was found necessary to build homes for munitions workers. In the Finsbury area at Woodville North, which is in my electorate, about 111 houses were built and adjacent to Islington in the Prospect area another 60 houses were built. Since the war, these houses have been let to various persons. They were not of the cabin type built at Salisbury merely for the duration of the war; they were the ordinary type of house, not of brick but mostly of timber construction. The Government has decided that it will not continue to let the houses but will now sell them.

An analogy between this situation and the situation in Canberra can be drawn. For many years, people in Canberra were permitted only to rent Government houses, but some years ago it was decided to give tenants an opportunity to buy their homes. I quite agree that that was the right thing to do, but the point I make is that the Government allows the tenants in Canberra to purchase the homes on terms. In my question to the Minister I pointed out that the occupants of the houses in South Australia were only workers and would not be able to pay cash for them, and I asked about terms. The Minister in his reply, which was quite satisfactory, said -

I cannot recall a decision having been made on the lines suggested by the honorable member. When sales are made to tenants, it is usual to give terms to them. I will consider the honorable member’s request

I do not know whether the Minister now has the details available, but I shall read a letter which has been sent to each of the people living in these homes. The letter, which is dated 30th July, 1959, is from the Department of the Interior in Adelaide and reads -

Dear Sir,

Following a full examination of the purposes for which the Commonwealth Houses erected for Munitions Workers at Prospect, Ovingham and Woodville North are now being used, approval has been received for these to be offered for sale to the present occupiers thereof.

If you are interested in purchasing the house which you are occupying, the price required for same may be obtained from the Property Section of this Department. All sales will be on a cash basis only.

Before transfers can be given for houses at Prospect and Ovingham, it will be necessary for plans of these areas to be lodged with the Town Planner. It will therefore be approximately three months before sales of these houses can be completed.

Transfers of the houses at Woodville North can be executed within about four weeks of the signing of a Contract for Sale and Purchase.

The letter is signed by the Chief Property Officer in Adelaide. The occupants of these homes are ordinary workers. I am told that the sale price of the houses is between £1,800 and £2,100. They are of the timber framed and asbestos type. The price of £2,100 does not seem high, but in Adelaide now the buyer of a home finds that the banks will not lend on it if it is more than twenty years old. Lending institutions will advance money only on houses that are practically new. The buyer of an extremely good house that is more than twenty years old would not be able to get more than half the purchase price advanced to him, even though the purchase may represent really good value. However, the purchaser of a home of the type being sold by the department in Adelaide would not have any chance of getting an advance from any of the institutions. In any event, an advance of half the purchase price would be of no use because these are working people who would not be able to find the balance of the money.

I put this to the committee. Is it fair to say to people in my electorate in South Australia who are renting a Commonwealth house that they must pay cash if they purchase it while at the same time the Government says to people in Canberra who are renting a Commonwealth house that they can purchase it on terms? I am not trying to lay down what the terms should be, but I say that it is impossible to expect the occupants of these munitions workers’ homes to be able to pay cash for them. This matter has been taken up in the State Parliament in questions to the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. The State Savings Bank, which advances money for the purchase of homes, would not make an advance to purchase these homes on terms similar to those for the purchase of new homes. A new home can be purchased on a deposit of 10 per cent, of the purchase price, and the Government guarantees the amount of the advance. In some instances, the deposit is only 5 per cent. But the Government would not guarantee any advance made to the purchasers of these munitions workers’ homes. The occupants of them have tried all means to raise money to purchase the homes but they have not met with any success.

I do not say that the Minister has turned them down. I do not know whether he has completed the inquiries he said he would make when I addressed my question to him a fortnight ago. The estimates before the committee now really relate to the administration of the Department of the Interior. However, no provision has been mads in them to enable these homes to be sold on terms. The people living in them are paying an equitable rent and the Com monwealth has not lost any money. I do not suggest that the Government should keep on letting the premises to the tenants. However, if the department considers that it is no longer necessary for the Government to own these houses and that there is no possibility of being involved in a war which would require munitions workers to live near these big establishments, then there is nothing wrong with selling the houses. But if the Government decides to sell them, the occupants should be allowed to purchase them on the same terms as were given to the tenants of Government houses in Canberra. I paid £25 deposit when I started to buy my home some thirty or so years ago. It was a State Bank home, built with only £25 deposit. If those people could only get a home on that amount of deposit, and pay the remainder off in the form of a weekly or monthly rental including so much for interest and so much for principal, on a Credit Foncier system, they would be all right. I know very well that these people cannot be given 50 years to pay for their homes. We are not asking for that. I say, however, that the department should be able to put a reasonable life on those properties and then make them available to the people occupying them for purchase on a reasonably small deposit, the balance to be paid off on the Credit Foncier system. I ask the Minister to give me an answer on this question to-night if he can.

I am informed by the State representative tive for the area that practically none of these people - he did not say none at all, although one member told me “ none “ - are in a position to buy those houses on the terms stipulated. Yet they are subject to eviction if they are unable to purchase the home they are living in. You have to realize, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that these properties are not under the control of the State Controller of Rents. Before people can be evicted from properties under the control of the State Controller of Rents alternative accommodation with vacant possession has to be found for them. If these people are turned out of their homes when there are already thousands of people on the waiting list for homes I do not know what their position will be. I appeal to the Minister and to the committee to-night to change the arrangement by which these houses are to be sold on a cash basis only. The position demands that something better than that be done for the people in those homes. That is all I want to say on that matter. In fact, I would not have risen to speak to-night had not the matter come up.

I should like to refer now to one or two points brought up by honorable members, particularly in connexion with the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) gave us some figures to-night showing how the Communists had benefited in elections by having the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper. 1 have here a folder containing some very interesting figures which show that when the Communists get the No. 1 position on a House of Representatives ballot-paper - or, in a Senate election, the left-hand position on the paper - they get a vote tremendously bigger than they would otherwise get. That fact was illustrated several years ago at a Senate election in which there were 22 candidates. Two men from Sydney nominated to contest the Senate for South Australia. They nominated under the party name “Protestant Labour”, although they had nothing to do with any genuine Protestant Labour party anywhere in Australia. At no stage during the election campaign did they come to Adelaide. No howtovote cards were issued on their behalf. Nobody worked for them at campaigning, nobody knew anything of them. Yet, because they had drawn the position on the lefthand side of the ballot-paper, they received li per cent, of the votes cast. That shows very definitely how people vote straight down or straight across the ballot-paper as the case may be.

I hope that action will be taken to provide for the drawing of lots to decide positions on the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives. That is the only fair and reasonable way. What the honorable member for Watson had to say in regard to how the Communists fared in elections after getting the No. 1 position on the ballotpaper, I could easily say in regard to other people who have derived a great advantage from getting that position, owing to the fact that many people vote straight down the paper. I have a statement here to the effect that Jim Healy, the leader of the Communist team in the last Senate election, got 100,000 votes, many of which he got only because the Communists had drawn the left-hand side position on the ballotpaper.

I am not, however, arguing for an alteration in the system only because the Communists sometimes derive a benefit from having the favorable position on the ballotpaper. I am arguing for a change in the system as it applies to everybody. In what is known as a “ swinging “ electorate, 500 votes either way among the 40,000 or so votes in the electorate can make all the difference to how the election goes. A party which is wide awake to this fact can, under the present House of Representatives voting system, select candidates whose names begin with “ A “ or “ B “, so that its candidates will be at the top of the paper and have all the advantages given by that position. My name is always nearly at the bottom of the ballot-paper, and I know that when there was only a Communist standing against me, and no Liberal candidate, the Communist got ten times as many votes as any Communist candidate got on any other occasion in that electorate.


.- What I have to say can be said in a few short words. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that the Minister for the Interior, as such, in presenting the statement on civil defence, was probably presenting a statement that was a product of Cabinet rather than his own product. I wish to make some very straight comments about this, if I might.

I think, quite frankly, that the Government has let the country down, and I make no bones for one moment about saying that.

Mr Ward:

– Hear, hear!


– You do not have to say “ Hear, hear! “ I am saying it. We have spent £200,000,000 each year on the armed forces of this country, but a few pennies on civil defence. Yet one of the major needs of this country is, I think, the establishment of a proper civil defence organization. I do not for one moment detract from the magnificent job that has been done in training at the civil defence school at Mount Macedon. It has been a magnificent job very well carried out. But from that point forward there has not been one continuation of effort. People go there from the States, from the Parliament, from anywhere you like, go through that school at Mount Macedon and, literally, the whole thing ends at that point. There is no cohesion.

I am entirely at one with the honorable member for Mackellar in saying that I believe - and I think the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) believes with us on this point - that the Cabinet, for some obscure, obstinate and silly reason, believes that civil defence is a State responsibility. At that point, let me make this clear: We are too small to fiddle around with the States, as if it were a small problem, on a big matter. That is where we fall down very badly. The Minister said in his statement - I think I understood him correctly, and I ask to be forgiven if I did not - that there is no immediate danger of atomic attack on this country. As the honorable member for Mackellar has pointed out, and as any intelligent member of this Parliament would know, it is a very simple matter for an atomic submarine to come anywhere near our shores and throw off an atomic bomb. We are of very small importance in the world scheme of things. Suppose that happened and we had no proper organization in this country to deal with that kind of problem, everybody would say that the Government had let us down. Failure to provide a proper civil defence organization would be the way in which the Government would have let us down in such an event.

We have two possibilities before us, a contained war or a major war. In a major war we might be excused for being out of the party, if I may use that expression, but even in a contained war it is probable that we may have an atomic bomb of any size thrown on our territory, and I say, in the fewest possible words, that if the Commonwealth Government does not get down to the problem of unifying civil defence policies, and taking its own responsibility on its shoulders, then it is letting the people down.


.- On this occasion I find myself in complete agreement with honorable members opposite who have spoken about civil defence, although this is not the main burden of my complaint this evening. I believe that even without a great deal of extra expenditure much can be done to organize the community to face the disasters that would be implicit in any kind of future war. I believe, for instance, that the Australian trade union movement could be basic to an organization to counter disaster. There is no doubt that the trade union movement comprises the largest organized and disciplined force in the community, and the one that is most likely to respond to leadership in time of disaster. It happens that it is the only great force in the country which has had a continuous history, over 60 or 70 years, of combined action, in the face, admittedly, of its own peculiar problems. In my opinion, it could be our greatest source of assistance in time of civil disaster when the ordinary administrative processes are likely to collapse.

The matter that I wish to raise particularly with the Minister, and more or less on behalf of my friend, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), is one that forms the basis of question number 19 on the notice-paper. It concerns housing in tropical areas. During the last two or three years a special report has been produced on tropical housing for Australian conditions. I think that this report was prepared on behalf of the Department of Health. It is quite a lengthy and informative document. However, in a recent visit to the Northern Territory it appeared quite obvious to me that the Government has taken no notice of the observations of the very prominent man who produced the report. In Darwin, and in any other part of tropical Australia, you may find houses being built that are not significantly different from the houses being built in other parts of Australia, except that they are being put up on stilts.

What were some of the recommendations made in this report for the comfort of the people living in our tropical areas? Let me remind honorable members that if we are to have people living contentedly and continuously in the northern part of Australia, we must pay just as much attention to their housing conditions as we do to those of people living in the southern parts of the continent. One matter mentioned in the report was air-conditioning. Consider the position in Darwin. If you study the climate statistics you will find that Darwin is continually one of the hottest spots of the continent. Even at night the temperature does not fall much below 60 degrees for most of the year, and for a significant part of the year it is higher. It is essential for a person to have a good night’s rest if he is to do a good day’s work on the following day. One of the recommendations in the report is for a room in each house, preferably a bedroom, to have the equivalent of an airconditioning system. This kind of amenity is essential to comfort. All over the southern parts of Australia much attention is being paid to the heating of houses. Airconditioning is becoming quite common in the southern part of Australia, for instance in Canberra and Melbourne and other cities.

There are large areas of the earth’s surface which would be uninhabitable if we simply accepted the conditions that nature imposes. If, for instance, we did not take steps to warm the houses in cold climates, we would not be able to live in those places. Similarly, in hot climates we should take just as effective steps to cool houses. This would probably cost no more, in the long run, than heating in colder climates, and it is just as essential to comfort. With modern devices the cooling of houses would probably present no special difficulties if we planned for it beforehand.

The report referred also to the comparatively simple matter of the installation of slow-moving fans. It is remarkable what even a slow movement of air in a room will do to make conditions more comfortable. It is almost criminal, and certainly shows a callous disregard of the welfare of our officers and their families, not to install this kind of equipment in the houses being erected in the tropical parts of Australia. I saw plenty of houses that were not fitted with fly wire. And this is in a country in which the insects at night make life almost unbearable! This is indefensible, and the Minister should give a good deal of attention to these matters. Generally speaking, the houses are not nearly spacious enough. It was a pleasure to visit a home that had wide verandahs screened with fly wire, and to experience the feeling of space. Probably in a warm climate it is more important to have extra space than in a cold climate.

Certainly this is a country which can afford to be a bit more spacious in its planning for housing.

Another undesirable feature of the houses being erected is that although they are built 7 or 8 feet off the ground, they are provided with only one stairway. From the information that was given to me, this is contrary to the fire control regulations. The first authority to ignore these regulations is the Commonwealth Government itself. I know quite well that in any part of Australia building is very expensive. In the northern part of Australia it is especially expensive. But you can search throughout the Northern Territory for attempts to establish basic building material industries, and what do you find? I believe that there is one fibrous plaster works at Alice Springs, and that is about all.

These are matters that the Minister should give attention to, as the Minister in charge of the responsible authority, the Department of Works, because he can do much to help make the north habitable. Unless we do make the north habitable we cannot expect people to stay there. Unless we provide decent housing we cannot fairly ask people to take their families there. I know that families face many other difficulties in the north, for instance with regard to education and the cultural background that people expect to find in the communities in which they have to live. But good housing is the fundamental requirement, and if we cannot supply good housing we ought not to ask people to go there. I particularly appeal to the Minister to look into this matter. A question is on the noticepaper, but he may be able to give us some answers now to the various matters I have raised. Who designs these houses? Do the architects responsible live in the tropics themselves, or are the houses designed in Brisbane or some other place where conditions are not nearly so severe?

Several other matters have been raised with regard to the departments controlled by the Minister. The Canberra University College has been mentioned. The college was founded 30 years ago, and it still does not confer its own degrees. It still relies to a great extent on Melbourne, in the same way as the Commonwealth relies on an outside authority for education in other fields in the Australian Capital Territory. Primary and secondary education in the Australian Capital Territory is under the control of the New South Wales Education Department. There is, I understand, an inspector of schools in the Territory, but he is not responsible to the Minister for the Interior, who has to supply the money and who is the Minister responsible to this Parliament for the education of people in Canberra. The inspector of schools is responsible to the Director-General of Education in New South Wales and ultimately to the New South Wales Minister. The Canberra University College provides merely another example of the way in which the Commonwealth Government avoids its own main responsibilities.

Other honorable members spoke on mat-, ters connected with voting. Let me say something about voting in Senate elections, particularly in electorates such as mine. In the electorate of Wills there are two or three polling booths at which some 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 people vote. This is the case in some 20 or 30 other electorates throughout Australia. It is almost physically impossible with the facilities that are provided for a person to cast an accurate literate vote in many suburban areas in Melbourne at least, and particularly in my electorate. So I ask the Minister to attempt to find some solution to the problem of adequate seating accommodation at polling booths so that a person may take a complicated Senate ballot-paper away and fill it in carefully. I also ask the Minister to see that an adequate supply of pencils is provided, and to print the ballotpaper on card instead of flimsy paper.

I also think that the ballot-paper should show party designations. I know that many arguments have been put forward why party designations should not appear on ballot-papers, but, if we are to get a higher percentage of formal votes in Senate elections, it is essential that we do everything possible to simplify the ballot-paper. In addition to improving facilities for voting we must make the ballot-paper clear and strong so that a person can write on it without damaging it. We must see that there is an adequate supply of pencils. We must see that lighting in booths is good and we must do something about putting party designations on ballot-papers.


.- I should like to raise one or two matters with regard to civil defence. We are indebted to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) for his statement this evening in which he made one or two points clear. A great many people have been puzzled over recent years at the very small and inadequate expenditure on civil defence at a time when the Government presumably .has accepted the probability of war. In 1951 we were informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that we had to prepare for the possibility of world war within three years. Following that statement very small and inadequate amounts were made available for civil defence. The people who took seriously the Prime Minister’s statement were extremely puzzled that so little preparation was being made for civil defence in view of the Government’s assumption. Recently the Prime Minister returned from overseas and gave the impression that the chances of war had become unlikely or remote, or far less likely than previously. But that statement was not made in Parliament. Parliament was given no opportunity to consider the statement or the Prime Minister’s reasons for making it.

To-night, in his statement, the Minister for the Interior introduced a most important series of propositions. He said -

Just as our active defence policy and programme

That is, our total defence policy and programme. This statement was made by the Minister for the Interior - not by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) or the Prime Minister. The Minister said -

Just as our active defence policy and programme are based on the strategic situation as assessed by the Government’s defence advisers and are related to the estimate of the military threat to Australia in the light of enemy capabilities and intentions, so our civil defence policy and programme must also be based on these assessments. For this reason priority in our national defence effort has been centred on the need to act effectively in cold war or limited war situations in which there is no threat of nuclear attack on the Australian mainland.

Apparently so little is being provided for civil defence because the Government does not think that we will need civil defence. Last year £102,000 was spent on civil defence, although £300,000 was provided in the Estimates. The year before £90,000 was spent. This year another £300,000 has been provided. The Government is planning not only its civil defence programme but also its total defence programme on the assumption that we will only be involved in cold war and limited war situations.

That statement is a most important policy statement. It did not come from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence. It came in under the door as a statement by the Minister for the Interior. This is typical of the way this Government treats Parliament and the people. It makes these vastly important statements incidental to some other matter.

I think that perhaps Parliament has not yet been taken the full distance in relation to this matter. In his statement to-night the Minister for the Interior said -

Despite the destructive power of modern weapons it is possible to set up a civil defence organization which can make an effective contribution to survival and rehabilitation following conventional or nuclear attack.

The weight of scientific opinion - including, I fancy, Professor Sir Marcus Oliphant - seems to be to the effect that nothing effective can be done to combat a nuclear attack in the area of that attack. I wonder if that is also an assumption underlying Government policy. I wonder if the Government accepts that assumption that little can be done and therefore has decided to spend so little on civil defence. Is that a hidden assumption in the Government’s decision - that it will not spend money on civil defence because civil defence is pretty near useless?

Only a few days ago I asked the Minister for the Interior a question arising out of a statement made by the President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I asked the Minister whether complete disaster, as the president of the R.S.L. had put it, would follow a nuclear attack under present circumstances - that is, with the inadequate amount of civil defence available to us at present. Interestingly enough the Minister in answer to my question said - 1 think it is pretty well established that any nuclear attack would be a disaster almost too horrible to contemplate.

Any nuclear attack. Presumably that is under any circumstances. I ask the Minister, as I have done on notice to-day, whether his answer means that under any circumstances nuclear attack would produce a disaster almost too horrible to contemplate and whether in fact underlying the Government’s present decision is the assumption that nothing effective can be done in the event of a nuclear attack and therefore it is not worth while spending money-

Mr Freeth:

– All our teaching at Mount Macedon is to the contrary.


– The Government has not carried its teaching into effect by providing a civil defence programme consistent with that teaching I do not deny that certain things are said and done at Mount Macedon, but the Government has not done anything consistent with its teaching at that school. Is the Government in fact accepting that teaching, or is it accepting something else? That is my question. If the Government is accepting the teaching that something can be done, why is it that nothing is being done? Not only this Parliament but also the country is awaiting an answer to that question.

I do not think the Government has been completely frank with the Parliament and the people on this matter. The Government is doing nothing about civil defence in the event of a nuclear attack because it anticipates that we will only be involved in limited or cold wars. It does not anticipate total war. It says that nuclear attack will only come in total war and that it does not anticipate total war. Therefore it does not anticipate nuclear attack, and it is not doing much about civil defence. That is the process of reasoning admitted to by the Government to-night.

Mr Freeth:

– The honorable member has left out a few steps.


– Perhaps the Minister may care to put those in for me. The other assumption that I am asking the Minister to consider is whether, involved in his decision and in particular in the question that he answered a few days ago, there is not another series of assumptions, perhaps with a step or two left out, that not much can be done even if a nuclear attack comes, and therefore the Government does not propose to do much about civil defence. At least I think we are very indebted to the Minister for the information that he has given in his statement to-night. His statement showed more clearly than anything I have seen or heard up to date that the Government’s civil defence programme is nothing more than a token.

East Sydney

.- . I find myself largely in agreement with my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns)-

Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -

That the question be now put. (The bells being rung) -

Mr Ward:

– Why is the Minister closing the debate?

Mr Freeth:

– Because you cannot abide by your arrangement.

Mr Ward:

– What arrangement?

Mr Freeth:

– You know very well what arrangement.

Mr Ward:

– I know nothing about an arrangement. All 1 know is that this Government does not want any criticism and it has applied the gag more frequently than any government before it.

Mr Freeth:

– You are only talking now for the microphone. Your own deputy leader made an arrangement.

Mr Ward:

– He made no such arrangement.

Mr Freeth:

– He is behind you. Ask him yourself.

Mr Ward:

– I have asked him and he has said that there was no arrangement. You lie faster than a donkey can trot.

Mr Freeth:

– That is nice language.


– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will not use such language.

Question put.

The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. F. C. Chaney.)

AYES: 59

NOES: 35

Majority…… 24



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Department of Civil Aviation

Proposed Vote, £12,140,000.

Department of Shipping and Transport

Proposed Vote, £1,240,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)

Smith · Kingsford

– I should like to deal with the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport. I notice that on the administrative side the appropriation in 1958-59 for the First Assistant Secretary and Assistant Secretary was £5,769. For the year 1959-60 we find that for some reason it was necessary to appoint an additional first assistant secretary and an additional assistant secretary, in effect, doubling the staff. As a result, the appropriation has been practically doubled, having risen from £5,769 to £10,859. Why is it essential to have so many assistant secretaries? In contrast, we find that the number of administrative and executive officers has been reduced from 66 in 1958-59 to 65 in 1959-60. What is the reason for this? I should like the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) who is now at the table, to answer my questions.

I should like to refer also to a most important matter - the secret deals that have been made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for the sale of our ships. Some time ago four of our ships were sold, the “ River Hunter “, “ River Mitta “, “ River Murray “ and “ River Northern “. Allegedly those vessels have been sold to A. G. Sims Limited, scrap iron merchants in Sydney, but I believe that they have been sold to Japanese ship breakers in a secret deal.

Until recently A. G. Sims Limited carried on business in a small establishment in Newtown, an inner Sydney suburb, but all of a sudden the company blossomed out in a big way. My information is that A. G. Sims Limited have extended their operations to all the capital cities of Australia, buying scrap metal and a ship or two when they can inveigle the Minister into their confidence. My information is that the firm of A. G. Sims Limited is a front, a dummy or a stooge for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is acting secretly for the Japanese Government, buying scrap iron throughout Australia and buying ships when the occasion offers.

Let us look at this secret deal. A report on the subject reads as follows: -

The Secretary of the Maritime Unions Transport Council, Mr. J. Tudehope, said the River ships had been sold for “ less than £60,000 each “. The Minister for Shipping, Senator Paltridge, has refused to disclose the price at which the Menzies Government sold them. The Minister says the price is “ confidential “.

Why was not the Parliament acquainted with the price at which these ships were sold? I am very curious when I feel that something shady is going on. Since this Government has been in power, many shady deals have been operating. The Minister said that the price was confidential. I think it is intolerable that the taxpayers’ property should be sold at confidential prices. This occurs also in connexion with real estate and other property, and the taxpayer has to foot the bill for losses. The report states -

The River ships are 13 and 14 years old approximately, and the economic life of a ship is supposed to be at least 25 years.

The River ships are suited for different types of trade. The report makes this comment -

On May 25, Senator Paltridge announced that the four River ships had been sold to “ a Sydney scrap metal company “. The Sydney Morning Herald (26/5/59) quoted Mr. Albert D. Sims, Managing Director of A. G. Sims Ltd., for the statement that his company had bought the four ships “ to carry its metal cargoes to the east “. “We are quite pleased about it,” he said-

He was undoubtedly quite pleased to get such a bargain - “ and glad that the ships are still Australian owned.”

This roused suspicions among waterfront unionists, because there is not enough scrap trade to Japan to justify the employment of four ships on regular runs. Then the Sydney Daily Telegraph (29.5.59) quoted Mr. A. J. Sims Junior, of A. G. Sims Ltd., the scrap merchants and alleged buyers, as saying that the real buyer of the four River ships was “ an eastern buyer “. A. G. Sims Ltd., he said, had acted as the buyer’s agent.

So there is some confusion and conflict somewhere. The report continues -

Mr. Sims Junior would not say if the buyers were Japanese, and he claimed that he was “not at liberty to disclose the name of the company.” The new “ Eastern “ owners had not ordered their recommissioning, and he did not know if foreign crews would be sent to Australia to take delivery of them. He did not know if they would be scrapped when they went overseas.

Mr Opperman:

– What are you reading that from?


– It is a confidential document. Tt comes from the waterfront in Sydney through my union, the boilermakers and shipbuilders union. The report continues -

Mr. Sims made the remarkable revelation that “ a clause in the sale contract “ forbade him to disclose the ships’ purchase price.

Mr Pollard:

– They are a lot of thieves.


– Sometimes I agree with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The Minister for Shipping and Transport, under very great pressure from the organized unions on the waterfront, disclosed that the sale price for these ships was not £60,000 each, but £55,000 each. Ships twelve years of age of the type of the “River Mitta” and the “River Norman “ are very cheap at that price. I think that all honorable members would like to know why they were sold at so low a price. The report states -

Shipping Minister Senator Paltridge must have known full well that A. G. Sims Ltd. was only acting as buyers’ agents, and that he had in fact, sold the River ships to an Asian firm, presumably Japanese.

Why the secret collusion between this Government and the Japanese Government? The report continues -

The Minister must also have known that when Government property is sold, it is considered obligatory to publish the price, as with the sale of Government shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries, Amalgamated Wireless and the Glen Davis installations. Obviously, a full inquiry is needed into this scandalous affair.

I agree with the union that this is a public scandal.

Mr Pollard:

– Were any tenders called?


– No tenders were called. A secret sale was made between A. G. Sims Limited, acting on behalf of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for Eastern buyers, and the Minister himself. I think the Minister should be called to book in regard to this matter. The Commonwealth shipping line reduces the value of its ships by different methods. One of the favourite techniques is to use them for trading in cargoes for which they were not built. The report states -

Commonwealth ships should be used for overseas trading, and expanded coastal trading, and new ones should be built by the Government for this purpose. Considerable damage has been done to the River ships and other Commonwealth ships by putting them in service for the Broken Hill Pty. Co., carrying heavy cargoes for which they were not designed.

This resulted in considerable damage being done to these ships, which made them temporarily unserviceable. That was the excuse made by the Minister for the sale of four fine ships which were thirteen and fourteen years of age. We find that the Tokio correspondent of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ wrote about two weeks ago -

Shipbreakers have been asked to preserve key parts from the Murray and Mitta as spares for the other two freighters.

That means that they will cut two ships up, keep the spare parts that are serviceable and use them for repairs to the ships that they keep afloat. The Tokio correspondent continued -

Profits from the sales of scrap cargoes and from the sale of two of the freighters are being transferred to a Hong Kong company called the Hang Fung Shipping Co.

Honorable members may like to know about the Hang Fung Shipping Company. It is possible that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and kindred organizations which contribute largely to Liberal Party funds arranged these transactions through several companies so that they could remain secretly behind the scenes. The Tokio correspondent said -

The two River ships to be operated between Japan and Australia will be registered in the name of this company, it is believed.

They are going to trade between Japan and Australia for the Japanese agents.

Mr Pollard:

– It is crook.


– Of course it is crook. The correspondent continues -

The Australian crew of the Mitta were flown back home a week ago after a bitter dispute over whether they should go first class or tourist. Their Australian employers eventually agreed to pay first class fares.

The report from which I have been reading states -

The Tokio correspondent says the River Hunter and River Norman will be used as scrap carriers, although sold on the understanding that they would be scrapped. This, however, is denied by Australian shipping interests. A spokesman for the Australian National Line said yesterday that the four River ships were sold as and where they lay, and no condition was attached to their sale.

There was nothing in the contract of sale which said they must be broken up for scrap. “ Having regard to the laid up tonnage throughout the world, however, it was anticipated that these ships would be scrapped,” he said.

However, the Japanese agents had different ideas and they put these ships back into trade on the Australian coast. The report continues -

So far as transport home of the delivery crews is concerned, the agreements with the various unions provided that the crews would return to Australia in aircraft owned by a first class company.

The general manager of Albert G. Sims Ltd., Mr. P. E. Low, said the River ships bought by his company had now been transferred to another register. “ When the sale was negotiated there was no condition imposed that the ships must be scrapped,” he said. “ Quite early in the piece we were going-

This is an Australian company - to run the ships ourselves as scrap metal carriers but, difficulties arose over manning by Australian crews.”

This Australian scrap metal company, A. G. Sims Limited, acting on behalf of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, had four ships built in Australia. They were in service round the Australian coast for fourteen years doing a magnificent job. Now this Australian company was busily engaged in buying scrap iron for the Japanese and using these ships to transport it. It is really remarkable to reflect on how often the subjects of scrap iron and pig iron crop up when a Liberal Government is in office. Honorable members will recall that in 1939 there was a certain gentleman who carried the sobriquet of “ Pig Iron Bob “.


Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr Curtin:

– I would like to move that I now have my second period of fifteen minutes.


Order! I call the honorable member for Lilley. The honorable member for KingsfordSmith may take his second period of fifteen minutes if no other honorable member rises to speak.


.- It is bad luck for the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) that he did not have sufficient time to complete reading the editorial article published in the newspaper of the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney.

Mr Curtin:

– It was not a newspaper article; it was a report.


– Although the honorable member says it was a report, honorable members know in fact that it was an editorial article in the newspaper of the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney. It was not something original put forward by the honorable member.

At the moment, the committee is considering the appropriation of a sum of £12,140,000 to the Department of Civil

Aviation for the ensuing year. As the member for Kingsford-Smith suggested, we are considering also an appropriation to the Department of Shipping and Transport. I shall confine my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not think that any honorable member, whatever his party political affiliation would disagree with the statement that Australia has been singularly fortunate in having the services of the Department of Civil Aviation. We must acknowledge that this department is principally responsible for the high standard of efficiency of Australian airlines. Not just one or two airlines, but all civil flying activities are under its control, including aircraft used for crop dusting and other industrial purposes.

Australia has the highest record in the world for commercial air transport. Its safety record in all airlines is also higher than that of any other country. The standard of service provided by Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines is higher than that of any other country, America included, which many people regard as the home of civil aviation. This magnificent safety record is no mere fluke. Honorable members will appreciate that it has been achieved because of the standards set, policed and controlled by the Department of Civil Aviation and the high degree of cooperation that it has obtained from commercial airline operators, I and all honorable members will wholeheartedly approve the proposed vote for this department because of its efficient service and control. There are certain factors on which some of us might disagree, but I think there is unanimity in this respect.

Mr Pollard:

– It is an Ansett-A.N.A. racket.


– As one who flies regularly with Ansett-A.N.A. I can say that that company has lifted the standard of service, and by the competition it is offering to Trans-Australia Airlines it is ensuring that this government-controlled airline will maintain the high standard of efficiency which it has demonstrated for a great many years.

The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) considers that Ansett-A.N.A. should not continue to operate. His attitude confirms my belief that if ever a Labour government came to power, Ansett-A.N.A. stockholders could be assured that their airline would be taken out of their hands and placed under government control.

Mr Pollard:

– How right you are.


– The honorable member interjects “ How right you are “. I understand that the Australian Labour Party does not believe in monopolies, yet the honorable member seriously believes in a government monopoly of air transport. Members on the Government side believe that the Australian people are best served by having two major airlines in operation and in active and fair competition with each other. We believe, also, that the intrastate air services provided by independent operators are a great boon to the people of outback Australia. They have made a great contribution to the development of our country. We will pursue a policy of encouraging private enterprise to enter this field. I hope that the Government will continue to give assistance to the Ansett-A.N.A. organization so that it may continue to operate as efficiently as it is doing at the moment on the major routes.

We have to acknowledge that AnsettA.N.A. is operating at somewhat of a disability in comparison with TransAustralia Airlines because T.A.A. has a numerically stronger fleet of aircraft. In order to compete, Ansett-A.N.A. has to ensure that its administration and service are maintained at a high level of efficiency on the major routes. This is principally responsible for the high standard of service which many honorable members of this committee have enjoyed as its passengers.

I wish to make some comment about Qantas Empire Airways Limited. As some honorable members know, twice this year I had the privilege of flying overseas by Qantas. For the benefit of those occupying the press gallery, who seem so anxious to disparage the movement of members of Parliament overseas, let me say at once that my fare was not paid by the Commonwealth Government. During those flights I was able to compare the standard of service offered by Qantas with that of other international airlines such as Air India, Swiss Air, Air France, North-West Airlines, and others. I can say quite categorically that the finest service of all was that given by Qantas Empire Airways Limited to its passengers. We have every reason to be very proud of the work that this company is doing on the air routes of the world.

There is one feature of the operations of Qantas which has caused me some apprehension. I do not mention it in order to criticize the company. I would direct any criticism, rather, at the policy of the Commonwealth, before this Government took office, which allowed the establishment of our major airports in the heart of the metropolitan area in each of the capital cities, and not, as is the case in so many other countries, in areas well removed from city centres. In Australia, we have concentrated our airports in densely populated areas. Brisbane Airport, at Eagle Farm, is situated within a radius of about three miles of the Brisbane City Hall, in one of the most densely populated urban areas, and immediately adjacent to one of the best suburbs, which contains some of the highest rated land in the Brisbane metropolitan area and in which people have invested a tremendous amount of capital in some of the finest homes in the city. If the Boeing 707 aircraft which have been introduced by Qantas are operated from Brisbane Airport, the residents of this fine suburb will suffer a great deal of discomfort.

Reports from the United States of America indicate that it has been found advisable to operate Boeing 707 airliners only from airports situated at least 20 or 30 miles from the heart of a metropolitan area. I suggest that, if we intend to operate jet airliners in Australia, we shall face similar problems in the very near future. It is of no use to try to make shift by using aerodromes situated in densely populated areas, as is the case with our main airports to-day. It is true that Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. may not operate Boeing 707 aircraft from Brisbane Airport on schedules that will cause continual disturbance, or disturbance every hour or even every day. But we must face the fact, Mr. Chairman, that the density of jet airliner traffic will increase at a tremendous rate. It is reasonable to believe that, in the very near future, our major domestic airlines - AnsettA.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines - will want to introduce jet services on interstate routes. This will greatly increase the density of the jet aircraft traffic to capital city airports, and it is reasonable to assume that, if this development occurs, the noise and smoke nuisance caused by Boeing 707 aircraft, which we have already experienced, will increase tremendously and cause great discomfort to the people living in areas adjacent to the airports, and, as I have pointed out, in a fine suburb adjacent to Brisbane Airport in which millions of pounds of capital have been invested in good homes. If this happens, the value of this great capital investment will depreciate very severely.

The increasing density of road traffic now causes delays in transport between city terminals and airports so great that this journey in the buses provided by the airline companies often takes longer than does a flight from Sydney to Brisbane or from Sydney to Melbourne. The density of road traffic will continue to increase, and the problem will be greatly accentuated because the time spent in journeying between city terminals and airports will lengthen more and more. As a result, the airline companies will certainly explore the feasibility of transporting their passengers between city terminals and airports, not by road, but by helicopter. Ansett-A.N.A. is already experimenting with the idea in Melbourne. It is the only alternative to ever-increasing delays in road journeys between city terminals and airports. It is reasonable to assume, Mr. Chairman, that, if helicopter transport is adopted, airports can be established 20 or 30 miles from the heart of a metropolitan area, and that a journey between the airport and the city terminal will take about the same time as a passenger on an interstate or intra-state air route takes at present to travel by road between the city terminal and the airport.

I make an urgent appeal to the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is now at the table, to inform the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) of the apprehension of many members of this Parliament - not only those who live immediately adjacent to aerodromes, but also those who live in nearby suburbs - as well as local residents, about the future operation of jet airliners from airports in the heart of densely populated areas. They feel that this development will be detrimental to the welfare of the people living nearby. It is of no use for the Minister for Civil Aviation or anybody else to tell the Parliament that Boeing 707 aircraft do not emit a great black cloud of smoke composed of the same kind of lamp-black with which we all were familiar in the days when we used kerosene and hurricane lamps. A great black cloud is emitted by the exhausts of all four jet engines of a Boeing 707 aircraft during take-off. I have seen these aircraft take off on a number of occasions, and I can say definitely that the cloud does not consist of ashes blown up from the runway. Even when the aircraft is hundreds of feet in the air its engines belch a great black cloud of smoke, which is not readily dissipated unless the wind is blowing strongly. The black smoke which belches forth from these aircraft causes a considerable nuisance to anybody who lives in the vicinity of an airport from which planes of this kind operate.

As to the noise problem, I should like to relate one of the most ludicrous incidents that I have ever known. It involved the sending of a Boeing 707 jet airliner to fly about Brisbane in order to try to make the residents of that city believe that these aircraft do not make any great noise. While this jet airliner was flying about the city, the residents saw an old DC3 aircraft slip over the horizon and whiz past the Boeing 707 as if the jet were standing still.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden:

Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.


– I hoped, when the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) rose to his feet, that we would hear something about the real national requirements of transport as related to the two departments, the estimates of which are now under discussion. Instead, the honorable member devoted the whole of his time to aspects of civil aviation. I should have thought that the first Queensland representative on the Government side of the committee to discuss the estimates of these two departments would have mentioned the failure of the leader of the Commonwealth Government, and later of the leader of the Queensland Government, to persuade the International

Bank for Reconstruction and Development to lend Australia £22,000,000 for the reconstruction of the railway line between Townsville and Mount Isa. I thought that any Queenslander who had the real interests of his State at heart would have kept in mind the great national value of Mount Isa Mines Limited as a producer of minerals and would have acknowledged the need to do something to reduce the cost of transporting its products to the coast in order to enable it to compete on fair terms with overseas producers of the same minerals. Therefore, I was astounded when the honorable member devoted all his time to civil aviation and entirely neglected the real national transport requirements and the measures that ought to be taken in order to safeguard future generations of Australians.

No issue that comes before this Parliament, Mr. Chairman, should command closer attention and thought than transport problems should command. Those of us who have paid some attention to national transport requirements and their effect on the future of Australia’s economy know that the Department of Shipping and Transport, for at least seven years now, has been gathering facts and presenting reports on transport matters to the Government, notably in 1954 and in March, 1959. But the only forward step along the road to the improvement of Australia’s transport system has resulted from the appointment of an all-party committee to consider constitutional reform. In this matter, I want to pay tribute where it is deserved. Although we have had only a preliminary report from the Constitutional Review Committee, reference is made to the need for a body that will do something about the co-ordination and control of transport in this country. One of the first points made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in the report he submitted in April, 1959, for the information of the general public and of this Government in particular, is that in the year 1956-57, Australia’s total cash expenditure on its transport services was approximately £1,732,000,000, which equalled 26 per cent, of Australia’s total expenditure for the year.

When an honorable member from Queensland or from any other State rises to take part in this debate, surely he should adopt something a little above the parish pump outlook. It is not black smoke from the Boeing 707 that is clouding our vision but lack of action by the Government on transport. We should think in terms of the latest report presented to the Parliament by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on what can be done with rail transport. If any transport organization in Australia should be showing a loss, it is the Commonwealth Railways, because of the long hauls that are involved; but we find that the most profitable concern at the Government level to-day is the Commonwealth Railways. We underline that by asking why the Commonwealth Railways is such a paying proposition. It is because sufficient money was found to bring it up to date with modern equipment. That is the first step. But if the Government thinks that merely by agreeing to the Victorian Liberal Government’s proposition for the unification of the rail gauge between Sydney and Melbourne by building a new track between Albury and Melbourne it is playing an important part in the moulding of a worthwhile national economy, then again it is whistling in the dark to try to keep the fears of rail transport chaos at bay. If we stop at that point, we are merely shifting the bottleneck from Albury to Melbourne.

Admittedly this standardization project will link three capital cities, but it is not the answer to the problem confronting us. The report of the Commissioner for Railways reveals that the greatest income earner to the Commonwealth Railways is the piggyback system between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. Those of us who have read the report pay tribute to the Commonwealth Railways for its foresight in building the trucks that made it possible for this piggyback loading to take place between those centres. But what is the effect of it? When we look at the national economy aspect of what this really means, Mr. Chairman, we find that it costs more to haul the loaded vehicles from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie than it would to carry the goods from Sydney to Perth by rail without any motor vehicle being used. In addition to that, the time factor must be considered. In dealing with costs, we must remember that the Budget for this year totals more than £1,600,000,000. For a mere £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 the rail gauge between Sydney and Perth could be standardized in three years, if this Government had the courage to go on with it. This would strip away immediately the great national waste now occurring in the cartage of goods between Sydney and Perth.

I was impressed earlier to-night with a comment that a certain other problem was too big to be left as a State issue and that the responsibility for it fairly rested on the shoulders of this Government. In the same way, the responsibility for transport fairly rests on the shoulders of this Government. The Department of Shipping and Transport has the responsibility. This authority compiles many reports, but the Government puts them into pigeon-holes and forgets them. The fact that 17 per cent, of Australia’s available man-power is tied up in transport means nothing to the Government, although our transport systems could be handled with much less than 17 per cent, of our man-power. This is not merely a question of the railways. Railways, road transport, airways and sea transport all play a part in the national economy. In to-day’s press is a report that the New South Wales Government is spending £1,250,000 on the construction of one wharf for tourists who will come to Australia in overseas ships. On other levels, great planning is taking place all over Australia. In one State it is the Main Roads Board; in another, the Maritime Services Board. But this is being done without any co-ordination. We are drifting from one peg to another without any overall plan being considered to prevent chaos in our transport systems.

My mind goes back to two reports that were prepared, one by Government members and one by Opposition members, and presented to the Parliament in October, 1956. I remind the committee that Opposition members reached the conclusion that rail standardization did not provide the answer to Australia’s transport problems. Rail standardization is merely the first step in making possible a co-ordinated transport system. Fundamentally, some form of coordination of transport is needed to correct anomalies in our transport systems. But this Government, during ten years of office, has failed to consider any one factor which would lead to such co-ordination. The States are hamstrung. Politics cannot be brought into a consideration of this problem. The greatest loss per capital on railway operations is in Victoria, despite the fact that it is the most compact State with the shortest distances for rail haulage.

We know of the great national wealth that is available at Mount Isa. The need there is not for a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway on which a maximum load of 1,000 tons can be carried. When consideration is being given to the expenditure of £22,000,000 on the reconstruction of the Mount IsaTownsville line, we should pause and think for a moment of what was done when finance was made available for the construction of the standard-gauge Marree-Stirling North line. This line allows 5,000 tons to be carried over 160 miles in less than six hours. A 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway would carry a maximum load of only 1,000 tons, but would cost about the same for the line and the equipment. These things cannot be measured by the capacity of the States to bear responsibilities. The States may be excused for failing to expend as much money as is desirable on transport. After all, a State is obliged to do only what it can within the frame work of its own financial structure to meet its own State requirements. Who are we to say what should be done in six different States when in reality transport costs are crippling the economy of the nation? Yet the Government allows this situation to continue from day to day and month to month.

The standardization of the line, from Broken Hill to Perth will play an important part in the development of the west and in linking the west to the east. With fast diesel-electric locomotives, the journey from Perth to Sydney could be completed in less than 50 hours, and the cost of haulage would be cut almost in half. But that result cannot be achieved merely by the New South Wales Government, the South Australian Government or the Western Australian Government giving attention to the problem. The lead must come from this Government. The Department of Shipping and Transport has prepared two massive reports on the subject, and I invite those who are interested in achieving a coordinated system of transport which will improve our economy to read these reports, particularly the references to the costs involved. I am sure that any honorable member who studies the problem will be shocked at the great national wastage that is going on in respect of transport in this country. If transport were not such a vital factor it would not be so involved. Let honorable members opposite remember that wars have been won or lost in accordance with the existence, or non-existence, of a properly co-ordinated transport system in the country at war. It is tragic to have to say that if this country were at war to-morrow we would be in a worse position in relation to transport than we were in during the Second World War when a Labour government had to arrange for the transport of massive numbers of American troops who came to this country.

The State transport systems are run down because the States lack the financial capacity to do the job that is necessary to restore railways and roads. A total of £600,000,000 is invested in the railway systems of this country, and a total of £900,000,000 has been spent on roads between 1931 and 1957. Yet in Australia to-day we have a transport system of such a nature that 26 per cent, of the national income goes in the provision of transport requirements. Surely after ten years in office it is time that this Government - or, if not the Government itself, some members on its back-benches - realized the responsibility they have to the people in regard to road transport.

I repeat the words I uttered when I rose to speak. I was shocked to find a Queensland member rising to his feet and showing himself more concerned about AnsettA.N.A. making big profits than about the state of the transport system in this country. When he talks about people in that type of competition, does he believe that the Commonwealth should put in another railway and run it in competition with the State railways? That is similar to what he suggests.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Wide Bay

.- I should like to speak to-night about an airport and a man. The airport is the airport of Bundaberg, and the man was one of Australia’s greatest sons - Bert Hinkler. Only recently in this House the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), in answer to a question said that because of an international agreement it was not possible to call the airport at Bundaberg the Hinkler airport. But he did mention) one exception to that rule - the airport known as the Mascot (Kingsford-Smith) Airport or the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. The suggestion that I wish to make to the Government, Mr. Chairman, is that, because of the fame of Bert Hinkler, the airport at Bundaberg be called the “Bundaberg Hinkler “ Airport.

I base my argument on two grounds. The first is that the airport at Bundaberg is not an international airport and therefore, if the name Hinkler were added that would not interfere in any way with international rules, because international planes use only international airports. There would never be any confusion as a result of adding Hinkler to the name. The second ground on which 1 base my argument is that if the airport at Bundaberg may not have the name Hinkler added to it, because of the international agreement, because of the importance of the man who would thereby be commemorated, it would be worth while making international arrangements, if necessary, for the airport to be so named. 1 believe that just as it was possible to add the name Kingsford-Smith to the international airport at Sydney, it would be possible to add the name Hinkler to the airport at Bundaberg.

Hinkler was born in December, 1892. He lost his life in the Italian Alps a little more than 40 years later - on either 7th or 8th January, 1933. Into those 40 years Hinkler packed more than most of us could pack in three lifetimes. He was a remarkable man, because he never knew what it was to be defeated. He made up his mind he was going to be a top aviator, and he became a top aviator. He was one of the few members of the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War. He was the first man to fly a solo machine from England to Australia. Those of us who have been privileged to see the little Avro Avian in the museum at Brisbane cannot help marvel that he was able to fly that machine so far over such a dangerous course and arrive in Australia safe and sound. I was fortunate to be in Brisbane at the time Hinkler landed. He received a hero’s welcome, and he deserved it. He always serviced his own aircraft. He was an expert mechanic. He continued to fly, and in the end met his death through flying into a mountain in Italy.

It is not only the people of Bundaberg who think so greatly of Hinkler. All the people of Australia think the same of him. It would be only fitting, therefore, to commemorate his name by adding it to the official title of the Bundaberg airport so that it would be known as the Bundaberg Hinkler airport. In fact, the City Council at Bundaberg has anticipated this request 1 now make, because as I speak there are two big notice boards, measuring about 8 feet long, on the road fronting the airport at Bundaberg, bearing the words “ Hinkler Airport”. Because of the Department of Civil Aviation’s ruling it has not been possible to put these notices inside the fence, so at present they are placed a few feet outside the fence. My suggestion, and my wish, is that the Government make it possible to have these two notices shifted from a few feet outside the fence to a few feet inside the fence. Then that airport will be called, as I believe it is entitled to be called officially the Bundaberg Hinkler airport.


– I desire to support the remarks made by my colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) in which he criticized the lack of a co-ordinated transport policy on the part of the Government. It is an incontrovertible fact that the cost content of transport in the Australian economy is far too high. Various suggestions have been made whereby it can be decreased. In recent years, of course, there has been a great campaign among all sections of the community for the modernization of all forms of transport in Australia.

One form of transport that I frequently mention in this chamber is the roads system. Two years ago public interest in transport generally was so high and so many statements on the condition of transport in Australia were being made by influential transport and other bodies that the Government realized that something had to be done to appease people who were protesting about transport. Members of this Parliament were being inundated with letters from various organizations suggesting methods of improving the transport system. So, about May, 1957, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that in response to public demand he had decided to set up a special Cabinet sub-committee to suggest methods of improving the transport system. He said he hoped that as a result of the establishment of this system something of a tangible nature would be achieved.

When that statement went forth to the world, everybody was in a seventh heaven of delight, - and the various organizations interested in transport laid great stress on the fact that at last the drought had apparently ceased and that we were embarking upon a fertile era in Australia’s transport history. Almost two and a half years have elapsed, and if the Cabinet subcommittee has made any report to Cabinet, the Cabinet has made no report to Parliament on what it intends to do as a result of the recommendations of the subcommittee. Nothing of a tangible nature has been brought before this Parliament during the last two and a half years that would lead one to believe that the Government is at long last getting to grips with the various problems of our transport system.

Nothing further was heard from the Prime Minister until the last election campaign, when he evidently realized that the transport industry was becoming restive because nothing further had been done in connexion with this much-vaunted transport sub-committee of the Cabinet. In his policy speech, therefore, the Prime Minister said that so interested was the Government in transport reform that it intended early in the new year, if re-elected, to convene a meeting at Canberra of all those interested in transport, with a view to hearing their suggestions before re-enacting the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation. A gathering representative of all the people interested in transport was accordingly called together in Canberra early in the new year. There were the Transport Ministers of the various State governments, representatives of the Australian Automobile Association and the hauliers’ associations, the local government authorities and others. They all came along to put forward positive and progressive suggestions, so that the Government could take heed of them, as promised or implied by the Prime Minister. They hoped that at least some of their suggestions would have been incorporated in the new legislation to operate from 1st July of this year.

Many valuable suggestions were made at that conference, which was held in the Albert Hall in Canberra early this year.

However, when the Government brought down its bill in this House it was found that not one suggestion emanating from that conference had been embodied in it. In other words, the conference was a complete fiasco. Undoubtedly it was simply a confidence trick on the part of the Government to appease the transport industry for the time being and to induce people to believe that the Government was carrying out an election promise. If the Government thinks that the transport industry and the various automobile associations are satisfied with the legislation that was passed a few months ago and is now the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, it has another think coming. The Act has been subject to a lot of examination. Many mis-statements were made during the debate on the bill, and the various organizations have had time to read dispassionately the speeches that were made in the House. Once again rumblings are being heard in the transport industry at the fact that the Government is doing nothing towards advancing a progressive transport policy. Influential organizations all over the Commonwealth have been pointing out the weaknesses of the present position. T have not time to quote at length from them. I will quote the remarks of one person who is by no means a Labour supporter. A report appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ a few weeks ago to this effect -

Australia’s roads should make us thoroughly ashamed, the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Norman Robertson, says in his annual report issued to-day.

The so-called highway linking Melbourne and Sydney is SO years behind the times, he says. It is narrow, tortuous, and abounding in death traps, and stands as a grim monument to the failure of successive governments to meet their responsibility.

That is typical of the protests that are being made all over Australia to-day as a result of this Government’s marked and inexplicable reluctance to face up to the present transport position. All that happens is that the Prime Minister makes honeyed statements every six or twelve months promising positive action to deal with the situation, and if the right honorable gentleman thinks he is going to placate the transport section of Australia’s economy with these statements only, he is in for a sharp disappointment.

I suggest to the committee that treating this major national malady with palliatives is futile. The truth of the matter is found even in the Government’s own publications, and it is obvious that with regard, for instance, to the roads position there is a great deal to be achieved, and this Government is not making any effort at all, other than by re-enacting legislation that first appeared in 1926 under the title of the Federal Aid Roads Act and has since become known as the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The Australian Transport Advisory Council is an organization set up by the Department of Shipping and Transport. In its latest publication, issued in March of this year, entitled “Transport Costs in Australia “, the council says, at page 65: - lt is interesting to note that the level of expenditure on roads in 1956-57 was inadequate to cover the works programme deemed necessary by road authorities to provide the national roads system necessary for the increasing traffic density and traffic trends. Considerable additional expenditure on Australian roads, both primary and secondary, is needed beyond the finance now available to the responsible authorities.

That is a comment made not by an Opposition member of this Parliament, not even by an outside transport authority, but by a Government-established committee. The committee says also -

As stated earlier, it was assessed in consultation with State Road Authorities in September, 1956, that the finance required for decade ended 1965-66 for a reasonable and practicable roads programme would be £1,643 million. On the other hand, the finance available from all sources under the existing conditions was estimated to be £1,325 million, this being a shortage of £318 million. The special assistance to States resultant from the introduction of the tax on diesel fuel in 1957 will provide approximately another £18 million in that decade. Various taxation adjustments had also taken place within the States since the estimate of £1,643 million was made, and at 30th June, 1958, it was estimated the shortage of funds to meet the above roads programme had been reduced to £260 million.

It is widely recognized, therefore, that another £260,000,000 should be provided to ensure a reasonably adequate road system throughout Australia, and this Government is doing practically nothing about it.

An analysis of the roads systems throughout Australia shows that the States, despite their limitations in regard to finance, have achieved a great deal. They have established technical and road building facilities capable of designing and constructing whatever is needed in accordance with State requirements and with the money made available by the States. Nevertheless, something iis lacking. Compare the position in Australia with that of another country which has broadly the same constitutional set-up, the United States of America. The Federal -Government of that country shows a positive and continuous interest in road development, whereas the Australian Government, in marked contrast, shows no interest whatsoever. In America this interest is tangibly expressed in the Bureau of Public Roads, which is responsible for a vast programme of road reconstruction in the United States. As a result of this federal interest in America, the people of that country are now in the process of getting what will undoubtedly be an adequate national arterial roads system. Not so in this country, where we have a series of State roads authorities concerned only with serving State needs.

There is another fundamental difference between Australia and America. I suggest that we can, after all, learn from America in these matters. This country does not know everything about every subject under the sun. Surely we can learn something from another country that shows a realization of the problems confronting transport. In America the various States have power to collect petrol taxes and every cent so collected is spent on roads. The same position applies where the federal Government in America has power to collect petrol taxes. Every cent collected in that way is also spent on roads.

About two weeks ago an announcement appeared in the newspapers that the petrol tax in America would be increased by one cent a gallon in order to provide additional finance for roads. There was no protest from the motoring organizations in America. They would not cavil at any increase in petrol tax because they know that all money collected in that way goes towards better road facilities for the American motoring public. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to make all the proceeds of the petrol tax available to the States for road construction why does it not give the States power to collect their own petrol tax? It could cede that power under the Constitution. At present, the States do not have the necessary power to collect sufficient money to do the job properly. -I suggest that the Commonwealth should give a lead in this direction. It should call a meeting of the States and ascertain where the present road system is deficient. It should then find out how much money is required to overcome that deficiency. It must estimate what additional funds are necessary to meet the anticipated needs. The contemplated programme must be based on a system of priorities. The Government should ascertain a method of providing funds for this purpose. If the Commonwealth Government is prepared to cooperate with the States and give a lead in this matter by devoting the proceeds of the petrol tax towards better roads, I am satisfied that the motoring public would not oppose a further small increase in petrol tax.

The United States has shown an imaginative grasp of this problem. It has grasped the nettle and the public has responded, despite the fact that motorists in America have been called upon to dig deeper into their pockets. In a few years the United States will have a magnificent road system. What have we got in this country? We have an outmoded system of pot-holey roads. The main road between Melbourne and Sydney is a disgrace to any civilized country. We must convince the Commonwealth Government of the need for action by citing the traffic facts of to-day and the expert estimate of the traffic facts of to-morrow. We must point out to the public that the continual increase in the ratio of the number of vehicles for every 100 persons in the community makes an improvement in our road system imperative. We must point out to the Government that a continual increase in petrol consumption calls for an immediate improvement in our roads. The Government must realize that the present act, which does not expire until 1964-


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Progress reported.

page 1544


Assent reported.

House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.

page 1545


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Overseas Trip by Parliamentarian

Mr Ward:

d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Is the right honorable member for Cowper engaged on any work on behalf of the Commonwealth during his present trip abroad; if so, what are the details and when is he expected to return to Australia?

Mr Menzies:

– On 1st September, the House granted two months’ leave of absence to the right honorable member for Cowper because of his absence from Australia. From 25th to 29th July, the right honorable member was an Australian delegate at the Commonwealth Education Conference at Oxford.

Government Loans and Finance

Mr Ward:

d asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What loans have been advanced to each of the States by the Commonwealth since the introduction of uniform taxation?
  2. What rate of interest is charged upon these loans?
  3. From what source were moneys obtained by the Commonwealth for this purpose?
Mr Menzies:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. The advances made by the Commonwealth to the States since the introduction of uniform taxation in 1942 are set out below. These advances do not include the proceeds of loan raisings which have been allocated to the States, as such allocations do not come within the category of advances by the Commonwealth to the States. The advances are: (i) Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements of 1944 and 1956, to all States; (ii) under the Railway Standardization Agreements, to South Australia since 1951-52 and to New South Wales and Victoria since 1957-58; and (iii) under the War Service Land Settlement arrangements, to New South Wales and Victoria since 1955-56.
  2. The rates of interest charged on the moneys advanced to the States have been as follows: - (i) 3 per cent, per annum under the 1944 Housing Agreements and 4 per cent, per annum under the 1956 agreements; (ii) under the Railway Standardization Agreement with South Australia, 31 per cent, per annum in 1951-52, 4i per cent, between 1952-53 and 1955-56, and 5 per cent, since then; under the Railway Standardization Agreement with New South Wales and Victoria, 5 per cent, per annum; and (iii) 3i per cent, under the War Service Land Settlement arrangements.
  3. The source from which the Commonwealth obtained moneys for the purpose of making these advances to the States was - (i) Loan Fund for all funds provided under the 1944 Housing Agreements. Of the £104,678,000 advanced under the 1956 Agreements, £101,120,000 has come from Loan Fund and the balance of £3,558,000 from Consolidated Revenue Fund; (ii) Consolidated Revenue Fund for all advances under the Railway Standardization Agreements; and (iii) Loan Fund for advances made to New South Wales and Victoria since 1955-56 under the War Service Land Settlement arrangements.

Some of the loan moneys provided for these purposes since 1951-52 represented proceeds of special loans which were financed, to some extent, from Commonwealth revenue sources.

Licences for Blind Persons

Mr Daly:

y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

What number of blind persons have been granted (a) radio and (b) television licences?

Mr Davidson:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

As at 31st August, free licences had been granted to blind persons as follows: - (a) Radio, 2,690; (b) television, 265.

Canberra Dentists


ser asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -

  1. Has the Dental Board of the Australian Capital Territory recently received complaints of excessive fees charged by some dentists now practising in Canberra?
  2. Is it one of the functions of the board to control all matters affecting dental practice in the Australian .Capital Territory?
  3. Does the Dentists’ Registration Ordinance give him power to make regulations governing the scale of fees to be charged by dentists?
  4. If he does not possess this power will he discuss with the Dental Board the necessity to amend the relevant ordinance to provide that registered dentists must display a scale of charges?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. One complaint was recently received by the secretary to the Dental Board.
  2. The Dentists’ Registration Ordinance charges the board with the general administration of the ordinance.
  3. No.
  4. No.

Pharmaceutical Benefits.

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Minister for

Health, upon notice -

  1. When did he ask the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to consider whether butazolidine should be removed from the list of pensioners’ pharmaceutical benefits?
  2. When did the committee recommend that it be removed?
  3. When was it removed?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. In reply to a question asked by the honorable member on 26th February, 1959, I outlined the functions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and advised the honorable member that I proposed in future to regard the recommendations of this committee as confidential to the Minister.

  1. As from 1st August, 1959.

Statistics of Blind Persons

Mr Daly:

y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -

  1. How many blind persons are there in (a) each State and (b) Australia, and in each category how many are (i) male and (ii) female?
  2. How many (a) male and (b) female blind persons are in each age group?
  3. How many blind persons in Australia are (a) married and (b) single?
  4. How many blind persons in (a) each State and (b) Australia are living or maintained in homes for the blind?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. The only figures available are those of blind persons receiving age or invalid pensions. These figures exclude aliens and persons under the age of sixteen years, but represent fairly closely the number of all other blind persons resident in Australia. The following information regarding the number of blind persons who were receiving age or invalid pensions as at 30th June, 1959, has been furnished by the Department of Social Services: -

The most recent available classification into the number of males and females is in respect of blind persons receiving age or invalid pensions as at 30th June, 1957 -

  1. No classification into age groups is available.
  2. The most recent available classification as to marital status is in respect of blind persons receiving age or invalid pensions as at 30th June. 1957-

St. Mary’s Filling Factory.

Mr Bryant:

t asked the Minister for

Supply, upon notice -

  1. What was the final capital cost of the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory?
  2. What is the annual cost of maintenance?
  3. Is the factory now working at full capacity; if not, why not?
  4. What has been the (a) value and (b) type of production since operations commenced?
  5. What has been the operating cost in each year?
  6. How many persons are employed at the factory?
Mr Hulme:
Minister for Supply · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. The net cost of the construction contract was £25.84 million.
  2. The cost of maintenance of buildings and plant in the first full year of operations (1958-59) was about £90,000.
  3. No. As explained in reply to previous questions on this subject, St. Mary’s was built as a war factory and would operate at full capacity only in the event of war.
  4. The value of production was £786,000, including various types of ammunition, bombs and rockets.
  5. Normal operating costs are included in the value of production mentioned in the previous answer.
  6. Present employment is 745.

Pensions for Blind Persons

Mr Daly:

y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -

  1. How many blind persons in (a) each State, and (b) Australia, are in receipt of pensions?
  2. How many are in receipt of other income?
Mr Roberton:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) and (b) The following numbers of blind persons were in receipt of age or invalid pensions, in each State and the Commonwealth, on 30th June. 1959:-

The Department of Social Services has no information concerning blind persons who may be in receipt of other types of pensions.

  1. As blind persons receive their pension free of the means test there is no information available as to their financial circumstances.

Import Licensing

Mr Cairns:

s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that import licences to the value of £600,000 have been cancelled since last July because of abuses?
  2. What value of import licences was similarly cancelled because of abuses during each year ending in July since import licensing was introduced?
  3. What are the abuses for which these licences were cancelled?
  4. Have the cancelled licences been re-issued?
  5. If so, what proportion of the licences was issued to those who have no historic engagement in the business of importing?
Mr Osborne:
Minister for Air · EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -

  1. As the honorable member is already aware, the figure of £600,000 was the approximate value of import licensing quotas cancelled or debited because of abuses since July last year and not since July last. The period involved is therefore fourteen months and not two months. I may add that up-to-date-figures for that period total £693,216.
  2. Records of action taken in this direction prior to 1st January, 1954, are not available. The figures since that date, which can more conveniently be quoted against the periods shown below than for each year ending in July, are as follows: - 1st January, 1954, to 31st December, 1955, £3,195,134; 1st January, 1956, to 30th June, 1958, £1,048,714; 1st July, 1958, to 31st August, 1959, £693,216.
  3. There have been two main irregularities which have resulted in subsequent cancellation of or debits to quota. First, persons or firms have obtained licences against quotas established in their own names and have allowed their licences to be effectively used by other parties. Secondly, firms with quotas, which have ceased to engage in active business, have been bought for the substantial purpose of acquiring the quotas. 4 and 5. There have been a few cases in which a cancelled quota has subsequently been restored to the original quota-holder after a lapse of time. But any action in that direction is limited to restoration of the quota to the original quotaholder - in no circumstances is a specific quota otherwise available for “ re-issue “ in the manner in which the question implies. What happens is that the value of cancelled quotas is automatically taken into account and absorbed in the arithmetic used in determining overall licensing levels from time to time.


Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -

  1. On what dates in 1958-59 did importers produce to a Collector of Customs the permission of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to import ships?
  2. On what dates had the Minister given his permission?
  3. Of what type and tonnage were the ships?
Mc. Osborne. - The Minister for Cus- ing answer to the honorable member's toms and Excise has furnished the follow- questions: -

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.