23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. In view of the statement by the Dutch Embassy to the effect that the issue of a vise to Professor Gluckman to enable him to visit Dutch New Guinea has been recommended, and in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Relations Office in Britain, the British Colonial Office and the South African Government have disclaimed any responsibility for having complained in any way about Professor Gluckman’s conduct, will the right honorable gentleman have this case reviewed again, even though Professor Gluckman may claim that it is too late now for him to alter his itinerary, and consider the advisability, even at this stage of giving Professor Gluckman a vise to visit New Guinea?
– I have as yet no facts relating to the alleged statement by the Charge d’Affaires of the Netherlands. Until I know precisely what was said, I would not care to comment on it. I have read with some interest newspaper accounts of what the Commonwealth Relations Office and some other departments have had to say. I am not in any sense, nor is any one else, affected by that. You could get a dozen departments, all of which might have nothing to do with this matter, to say that they had no cause for complaint about Professor Gluckman. I have read with some interest the suggestion that this matter has to do with South African affairs. All I can say is that the newspaper accounts are the first I have heard of it.
– Has the Minister for Supply heard anything of the use of stopwatches by methods engineers at the Footscray ammunition factory, particularly in relation to the work done by blind employees, and even in relation to the number of times that a female employee brushes back her hair?
– I should like to give a little of the background )o the introduction of methods engineering in some of the defence factories. Methods engineering, which involves time study and the use of stopwatches, was introduced at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow 2i years ago and at the ammunition factory at Footscray 18 months ago. A few months ago the Amalgamated Engineering Union protested against the use of methods engineering at Footscray and was prepared to call on an industrial dispute because of it. The matter was referred to the Arbitration Commission and the A.E.U. asked one of the commissioners not to hear it. It was heard, nevertheless, and I think it is pertinent that I should read one or two extracts from the decision given by the commissioner after having heard all the pros and cons.
– Which you just happen to have with you.
– Which I .happen to have with me following publication of this matter in the press in Melbourne only two or three days ago. Amongst other things, Senior Commissioner Chambers stated -
It had not been shown that unreasonable or impossible tasks have been set for any employee;
A genuine desire to improve efficiency without creating hardship for any individual should be encouraged at all times, but surely it is especially of moment in defence establishments, lt seems quite clear that the mcn at Lithgow found nothing obnoxious in methods engineering procedure adopted by the department.
He decided that it was quite proper that we should have methods engineering procedure within our defence establishments.
A short time ago, a meeting was held at lunch time at the ammunition factory. I believe that approximately one-third of the members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union were present at that meeting when exception was taken to the use of a stop watch in connexion with a blind employee and in connexion with a female employee who, according to the press, was brushing her hair. As to the female employee, I did make inquiries and have been unable to find anything to substantiate the suggestion.
I think the honorable member will appreciate that while we may establish certain standards for physically capable persons, different standards must be established for blind persons. It was while endeavouring to decide upon a suitable standard for a blind person that the stop watch was used. There was never any intention to use the methods engineering procedure for the purpose of establishing that a blind person was inefficient and1 therefore might lose his job; its purpose was rather to establish the different standard that should be set for a blind person.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that I feel sure that all Tasmanians and all would-be visitors to the island paradise welcome the decision to build a sister ship to “ Princess of Tasmania “. When does the Minister propose to call tenders? When will the tenders close? What is the approximate date of completion? Will the commissioning of a new drive-on, drive-off ferry involve the construction of terminal facilities at any Tasmanian ports other than Hobart?
– I am delighted to know that Tasmanians are interested, as I am sure all other Australians will be, in what has been termed a sister ship to “ Princess of Tasmania “. Because of the longer voyage involved from Sydney to Tasmanian ports, I think one might say that the new ship will be not quite a sister ship in that, to cater for the longer voyage, different accommodation, such as a dining room instead of a cafeteria, and so on, will have to be provided.
– Call it a step-sister.
– Whatever it may be called, I think Tasmanian representatives will have nothing but praise for it. As to the calling of tenders, I point out that, as yet, because of the factors I have mentioned, definite specifications have not been drawn up. When those specifications are ready, tenders will be called. The tenders usually close about three months after being called, and I should say that the completion date will be probably two years after that.
No definite arrangements have been made for port facilities at other terminals. There are some facilities already at Bell Bay. They were established when “ Bass Trader “ was operating, but I can give no information on other passenger terminals because the Australian National Line has not yet made any investigation into the matter. Of course, the Maritime Services. Board of New South Wales will have to be consulted about facilities at Sydney.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister concerned at the failure of the organizations representing the woolgrowers in Australia to evolve a common policy on the various matters affecting the industry? If he is concerned, does he not feel that he, as Minister, could help to improve this position if he would encourage the National Farmers Union of Australia to take a leading part in the industry group activities as the main wool-growing organizations are members of the National Farmers Union?
– I rise to a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that the conditions under which questions may be asked of a Minister shall not require the Minister to give an expression of opinion. Does the question that has been asked by the honorable member for Wakefield require the Minister to give an expression of opinion?
– Order! The honorable member for Wakefield is in order.
– As I have said publicly on several occasions, the inability of certain primary industry organizations to co-operate in determining a common policy for the welfare of their own industries is a matter of regret to me, and T think the wool industry is a case in point. However, I understand that two of the main organizations associated with the wool industry are to confer within the next few weeks on the welfare of that industry. I understand that both organizations are affiliated with the National Farmers Union. For myself, I have always refrained from participating in primary producer organization politics. I do not consider it appropriate that I should participate; but I do think it is only a matter of common sense that the industry organizations themselves should take a real interest in their own welfare.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories concerning his announcement of a four years’ postponement -in bringing the Territory of New Guinea under complete administrative control - the only objective for which he has hitherto disclosed a target date. Will the Minister inform the House why he released that statement to the press late last Thursday afternoon although it must have been available in time for him to make it in the House after question-time that day and, however humiliating it might have been, it was not so urgent as to have prevented him from waiting to make it until after question-time to-day? I also ask the Minister: Does he not think that the proper course while the House is sitting was for him to have made yesterday’s announcement on the plan for attracting teachers to the Territory instead of allowing the Territory’s Director of Education to make such a statement?
– Regarding the last point of the honorable member’s question, I am not aware of any statement having been made by the Territory Director of Education.
– The statement was broadcast in the news session.
– Any statement by the director was made on his own responsibility, and not as a result of any direction from me. On the other point, I apologize to the House if the House feels affronted that an announcement was made outside the House which honorable members would like to have heard inside the chamber. However, the honorable member, by framing his question in the way he did, has rather exaggerated the importance of the announcement concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade concerning the International Industrial Conference to be held in San Francisco in September, 1961. Will the Minister inform the House, first, what are the specific purposes of the conference; and secondly, does the Government propose to take any steps to ensure that Australia shall be adequately represented at it?
– The conference to which the honorable member has referred will be held in San Francisco in, I think, September, 1961. It will be held under the auspices of the National Industrial Conference Board of the Stanford Research Institute, which is associated with the Stanford University, California. The conference is really a successor to that which was held in San Francisco in 1957, promoted by the “ Time “ and “ Life “ magazines of the United States of America, lt will be, as was the case at San Francisco, a conference of international business interests at which leaders from all interested commercial countries will discuss the problems and opportunities of commerce and, particularly, the role of private capital in the development and well-being of nations. This conference will not be held under government auspices, so this Government does not propose, itself, to participate, but hopes that Australian private enterprise leaders will form a strong delegation. That was done on the last occasion and I have confidence that it will be done on this occasion. If, as previously, such a group should feel that the Government could usefully give it some assistance in compiling its dossier and, particularly, in compiling material that would better publicize Australia at this conference, we would stand ready to heed such a request.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the poultry industry, to which my Bendigo electorate contributes largely, will face a serious situation shortly when an expected 20 per cent, increase in production will not be met by local sales and consumption? Will the Government examine the position with a view to assisting the industry by instituting a subsidy on the export of eggs and egg pulp to the United Kingdom?
– The poultry industry comes within the jurisdiction of State administrations but the Commonwealth Government has established an export marketing board to assist the export of the products. There seems to be a better prospect of selling more eggs during the coming season, but the outlook for the disposal of pulp is not so bright. Of course, realizations from pulp are not comparable with the return from fresh eggs. One regrets that there are two marketing organizations. Whereas the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board sells its pulp independently, the other States co-operate to sell to the Australian Egg Marketing Board. If we did not have that competition I think we would be able to get a better price for the Australian producer.
– By way of preface to a question which I address to the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Acting Treasurer, may I say that the medical profession has recently come to the conclusion that the best way of resuscitating the apparently drowned is by a new method known as the “ expired air “ or “ mouth-to-mouth “ method. This method, for its successful application, requires a special model which is used in training. Is the Prime Minister aware that the defence forces have adopted this new method and have ordered a large number of these models? Is he aware that the Surf Life Saving Association has decided to adopt this method, and has recommended that the clubs purchase this apparatus at their own expense? The models cost £42 each. Would the Government consider supplying models to the clubs in the numbers considered appropriate by the Surf Life Saving Association as a gesture towards the saving of lives and to mark the great value of trie surf life saving movement?
– will, of course, have a look into this matter which comes before me now for the first time. I remind the honorable member, first, that we do place great value on the work of the surf life saving clubs. We have demonstrated that by making a grant to them from year to year.
– It is very small.
– It is £8,000 a year. It has proved to be very useful to the life saving clubs. We have adopted the policy of dealing with the general body rather than with particular clubs, as the honorable member knows. However, this aspect of the matter is something that I would like to have a look at.
– Will the Minister for Health consider introducing an amendment to the National Health Act to provide for the payment of benefits in respect of spectacles prescribed by a legally qualified optometrical practitioner as well as spectacles prescribed by a doctor?
– This matter has been reviewed from time to time. There is no intention at present to alter the existing provisions.
– I wish to add one further comment to the answer I gave to the honorable member for Mackellar, in case any confusion may arise. I said that the Commonwealth Government grants £8,000 a year to the Surf Life Saving Association. We also provide, of course, another £8,000 a year for the Royal Life Saving Society.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. It refers to the draft agenda for the eleventh Unesco conference, to be held in Paris during November. Has the Australian Government considered the item placed on the agenda at the instigation of Soviet Russia concerning red China’s representation at the conference?
– Representation on any of these special agencies depends basically on the broad decision taken by the General Assembly. The General Assembly has not voted in favour of the admission of Communist China. We, of course, have always opposed such admission. The question of the membership of Unesco will, we have no doubt, be determined according to the general attitude of the General Assembly. We will not support the admission of Communist China.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. In view of the fact that the market value of the proposed bonus share issue by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited exceeds £100,000,000, all tax-free, and as the COS of the last margin and basic wage increases granted to all salary and wage earners in Australia amounted to only £160,000,000, what action does the Government propose to take to regulate capital gains by shareholders and to prevent a handful of directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited from acting in such an arbitrary way? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that it is unjust to ask for wage restraint while such non-taxable capital profits can be made? In view of the recent record profit announced by this company, and also of the fact that it increased steel prices in January of this year by from 5i per cent, to Ti per cent.-
– Order! I think the honorable member has gone beyond the asking of a question and is giving information.
– I can conclude, Mr. Speaker, by asking: What action does the Government propose to take to ensure that increases in productivity lead to lower or stable prices rather than increased prices and profits?
– I am sure that the honorable member, having heard the recent submission by the honorable member for East Sydney, will realize that I am being asked either for an opinion, which would, of course, put the question quite out of order, or for a statement on policy, which would also put the question quite out of order. In case the honorable member is grievously upset by the success of the great organization he has mentioned, let me remind him that every time wage claims come before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission evidence is given of the profits made by particular companies, and 1 have no doubt that the tribunal gives proper weight to that evidence.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is there some public misunderstanding about the amount of Commonwealth aid for roads? If so, will the Minister state what is the total amount to be made available this financial year under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1959, and what was the total amount provided from this source in the financial year 1949-50? Will the Minister also tell me whether the amount available to the State of Victoria this year is greater than the total that was provided for the whole of Australia in 1949-50?
– As the honorable member for Mallee asked a question on this subject last Thursday, and knowing the tenacity with which he pursues a purpose, 1 checked up on the matter. I am happy to inform the honorable member that the total amount provided for 1960-61 is £46,000,000. As to whether the amount provided this year for Victoria, which is £9,300,000, is greater than that made available for 1949-50, I assure him that it is, because in that year the figure for all the States of Australia was £8,600,000. I might add that under the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement with the States - the new five-year agreement - the figure will be £100,000,000 more than frothe preceding five years.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that in 1940 Sir John Latham recommended that the provisions of the Australian Constitution be suspended and a six-man non-elective committee be set up with complete power to govern? Is it a fact that Sir John Latham wrote to the Prime Minister regarding his proposal? Did the Prime Minister contact Sir John Latham expressing agreement with tn scheme and, if so, will he state why the plan was never proceeded with?
– The honorable member for East Sydney is inviting me to look up the records of twenty years ago in order to add to his knowledge of modern history. I really do not consider that to be part of my duty at this stage of my life.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. On the assumption that as the result of the findings of the Constitutional Review Committee there may be a referendum, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will consider incorporating in the proposals for such a referendum a provision that the Parliament shall not determine the salaries of its members but that the question shall be referred to an outside body for decision. .
– The honorable member is suggesting that one more proposal for amendment of the Constitution should be added to those under consideration. I will be very happy to consider not only the proposals in the report and those made by the honorable member, but also any other proposals that may be made by honorable members.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is he aware of the unrest that exists in the Commonwealth Public Service and, indeed, among salaried and professional and white collar workers generally throughout Australia due to the failure of this Government to give wage justice to these employees, and also due to the intervention by the Government in the basic wage case? Would the Minister agree that this unrest and hostility could lead to a deterioration in our Public Service institutions and cause considerable concern to the nation? Will the Minister give an assurance to the Mouse that he will take urgent action to rectify the position in order that our Public Service, adjudged to be the finest in the world, can be maintained?
– I am well aware that the Australian Public Service has an enviable record, and, as far as I could judge, its standards are the equal of those of the public services of most of the countries I recently visited. I have read the case presented to various members by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Officers. I think those officers know that their problem was decided by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and, wherever it was necessary, by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. It is true that the Commonwealth did intervene, but it is the commission and the arbitrator who made the decisions. They are independent, and I personally think that their decisions were correct.
There is one matter that I would like to make clear to the honorable gentleman, and that concerns the application of a 28 per cent. increase to the people on a basic margin and to those on the higher salaries. I think that if the submission as made to, and accepted by, the commission on that issue is known to the House, the House will agree that the man who should have been most protected was the fitter and turner, and he did receive his full 28 per cent. increase.
“BUY AUSTRALIAN” CAMPAIGN.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question. Has the right honorable gentleman vigorously supported the “ Buy Australian “ campaign in order to induce our people to refrain from buying goods coming to Australia as a result of the trade treaties he has effected and as a result of the lifting of import restrictions by the Government, which the Government claimed was necessary to stimulate
– Order! The honorable member is framing his question a little too widely.
– Is it essential to refrain from purchasing goods coming from abroad in order to preserve Australian industries, employment and overseas funds? Does the right honorable gentleman consider it legitimate business to facilitate the import of goods into Australia and then to conduct a campaign to discourage Australians from buying such goods? Are the only alternatives under this Government inflation or international insolvency?
– The outcome of the policies of this Government is unprecedented prosperity for the whole country and full employment, the like of which was never dreamt of or achieved by the Australian Labour Party when it was in office. The support that I am proud to give to a “ Buy Australian “ campaign is a support which rests in its own right on the fact that Australian products are worth while, and is in no sense to be taken as a campaign against the purchase of goods from overseas. As one of the biggest overseas traders amongst all the nations, Australia expects to buy as well as to sell, and I have made it clear, in appealing to Australian manufacturers to go further into the export fields, that their greatest strength when competing on overseas markets is that they have the maximum enjoyment of their local markets.
The policies of protection which this Government accords to Australian manufacturers gives them that strength, and we point out the opportunities and responsibilities to manufacturers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Are arrangements being made to convene a second national conference on industrial safety? If so, when and where will this conference be held and what organizations and departments will be represented? What will be the theme of the conference? Were any definite results achieved in accident prevention in industry, following the first conference?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a series of questions, and I will attempt to answer them in sequence. First, it is intended to hold a national safety convention, I think in February or March of next year. Up to the moment we have not made up our minds what organizations will be invited, but 1 think it can be taken for granted, Sir, that the main organizations invited will be the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the organization representing Australian manufacturers. Naturally the Department of Labour and National Service will participate in the conference.
The theme of the conference will relate to safety in small industries - that is, those industries which employ fewer than 100 people in each establishment. I think that such industries employ, in total, about 500,000 people throughout Australia. That, 1 think, answers the questions put to me by the honorable gentleman, but if it does not I shall let him have the balance of the answer later.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask him: Since when has it become the policy of the Department of Labour and National Service to conscript women for employment far from their place of residence and, on their refusal to accept it, report the fact to the Department of Social Services in order to prevent payment of social service benefits to the women concerned? Will the Minis ter call for the papers in the case of a 49-year-old deserted wife who has reared a family - 1 will give him her name later - in order to ascertain whether his officers at Newcastle were justified in depriving the woman of sustenance since 25th July last, when her invalid pension was cancelled, although she is still certified by her doctor as being unfit for work? Finally, will the Minister ascertain whether the woman is, in fact, an alcoholic, as has been suggested in his department? Will he do this in the light of a firm denial by her that she has ever been drunk or that she frequents clubs or hotels?
– I think that the honorable gentleman must know that the word “ conscript “ is totally out of place. No person, either male or female, is directed to employment. It should be stated that if the Department of Social Services feels that a person has been offered employment of a kind which he or she is both physically and intellectually capable of undertaking, and fails to accept the opportunity given, without being able to give a good reason for the failure, unemployment benefit is discontinued. That is a fairly well-known and, I think, sensible procedure. What is just as important is that it is a procedure which has not been changed since this Government came into office. In other words, we are carrying out both the policy and the administrative procedures of the former government. As to the actual case mentioned by the honorable member, I have no knowledge-
– Will you call for the papers?
– Of course 1 will call for the papers and have a look at them. Please wait a second or two. I was saying that I have no knowledge of the person or her habits, and up to the moment I have not had the case presented to me. However, if the honorable gentleman wants me to examine the file I will do so and let him know the facts and the reason for discontinuing the payment of unemployment benefit.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the Premier of South Australia has said that, despite the holding of two conferences with the Commonwealth, the States still do not know, if they establish civil defence organizations, “ what work they would be able to undertake or what work it is essential to undertake “? Will the Minister say when it is intended to provide the States with a detailed overall plan that will enable them to get on with the job of organizing for civil defence?
– The Commonwealth Government issued a statement on civil defence policy last September. That statement set out the requirements, laid down within the framework of policy arrived at concerning the expansion of civil defence. This required consultations with State governments. A conference was held last January with the State Ministers in charge of civil defence, and it was agreed that the Director of Civil Defence would consult with the State governments in detail to ascertain their individual requirements regarding civil defence organization. At a further conference which was held in June, all these considerations were again examined and requests were made to the Commonwealth by the State governments. The Commonwealth then undertook to examine those requests, and is at present considering them. I remind the honorable member, who talked about a detailed, comprehensive plan for civil defence, that more than 4,000 members of the State public services and other organizations in the States have attended the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon precisely for the purpose of enabling them to go back to their States with an idea of what is required in their own areas.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Is the honorable gentleman familiar with the opinions about the interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act - the onus-of-proof and benefitofthedoubt section - given at various times by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and Mr. Justice Joske? Will the Minister examine the section and inform the House whether he is of the same opinion as are the three learned judges, whose interpretation of the section differs from that of the various authorities who administer the act? If he agrees with the three judges, will he inform the Minister for Repatriation to that effect with the object of having this contentious provision interpreted in the manner in which the Curtin Government intended it to be interpreted?
-I am familiar with the opinions to which the honorable member has directed attention, but I do not propose to offer my opinion on the matter in this House. I can tell the honorable member that I have afforded my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, such benefit as he can get from my views, and I think he has the question before him at the present time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. In view of the public concern over the possibility of large-scale disposals of . 303 rifles to the general public, will the honorable gentleman inform the House what disposal arrangements have been approved?
– In recent months, the Department of Supply has disposed of approximately 100,000 . 303 service rifles which have been declared surplus by the Department of the Army. Of that number, 82,000 were sold overseas, and the balance was sold in Australia. Generally speaking, at these sales, the prices tendered from overseas are higher than the prices offered in Australia. It has been suggested that we should not sell rifles to the public, but it seems to me that the problem of control presented by the sale of these rifles to the public is a matter for the State governments, through the various police departments. It has always been the policy to offer surplus rifles for sale to the public, because they are wanted in substantial numbers by kangaroo shooters, buffalo shooters, emu shooters, and the like. Furthermore, I think there is not likely to be a wholesale disposal to the general public because of police regulations, and the difficulty of obtaining ammunition and also its cost.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that the Australian School of Pacific
Administration, in Sydney, has experienced difficulty in obtaining sufficient recruits for training as patrol officers and education officers, and for other positions involving service in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Since the present and future progress of the Territory substantially depends on the training of such personnel, I ask: Has the Government any particular plans in hand for the encouragement of many more young Australians to offer themselves for service in the Territory?
– Perhaps I may point out to the honorable member that a basic misunderstanding is apparent at the beginning of his question. The Australian School of Pacific Administration is purely a training institution, and does not engage in recruiting. Recruitment is carried out by the Department of Territories and the Public Service Commissioner of the Territory. In most categories for which we have advertised we have received more than enough applicants of good standard to fill the vacancies. In the case of patrol officers, we have always received more applications than the number of vacancies existing. I think that, quite rightly, we have set our standards rather high. We have been prepared to appoint only people who pass a fairly stiff selection test. Certainly we would like to have a larger number of men from whom to choose, but the broad answer to the honorable member’s question is that we’ have had more applicants than vacancies.
– For the information of honorable members and to assist them in their consideration of the Estimates, I lay on the table of the House the interim report on the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30th June, 1960. As soon as the final report is available, I shall table it in accordance with statutory requirements.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Tariff Board Bill 1960.
Customs Bill 1960.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 520), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of a new international terminal building at Perth Airport, Western Australia.
.- The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the proposed construction of a new international terminal building at Perth airport must be read in conjunction with the committee’s report on civil engineering aerodrome works at Perth airport if one is to arrive at the committee’s view of the future of Perth airport. The committee’s view certainly does not amount to a vision of a great international airport. Both reports are characterized by a bare minimum view of the future of Perth airport. What the committee is prepared to accept in relation to the length and structure of the runways seems so economical as to be even inconsistent with safety.
The reports do not amount to a plan for a really first-class terminal and one which allows for future growth. The committee does not advocate that the Government should really seize the opportunity presented by the absence of a built-up area near the aerodrome. One may not expect the buildings of San Francisco or Zurich airports, but similar facilities, if on a smaller scale, are justified. In addition, one is entitled to expect runways of maximum length, breadth, and strength for heavy, modern jet aircraft and the kinds of jets now coming forward. The committee does not really envisage such runways. It seems convinced that it cannot successfully advocate to the Government the necessary expenditure.
The committee takes the view, surprising but accurate, that Perth was formerly an international airport, but now has ceased to be one. This cessation, the committee states, is an economic loss to Western Australia. Qantas Empire Airways Limited estimates that it loses £200,000 a year by routing two Boeing services a week through Darwin instead of through Perth. As things stand, Qantas cannot send Boeings through Perth.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The matters now being dealt with by the honorable member for Fremantle will come up for discussion when the second report dealing with the engineering aspects of this project arc before the House. Will the House be permitted to debate the matters which are now being dealt with by the honorable member?
– Order! The honorable member for Fremantle would not be in order in conducting a full-scale debate on any subject away from the subject-matter before the Chair, but he may frame his speech to ensure clarity.
– I did explain at the outset that it is impossible to understand the committee’s vision of a terminal building unless you have some idea of what the committee is advocating as a landing place. Qantas is maintaining an obsolete type of aircraft unnecessarily to run a piston-engined feeder service to Singapore from Perth. If Perth could take Boeings, this would not be necessary. Either Perth becomes a terminal adequate to handle jet aircraft, or its international aspects will atrophy even further. Plainly, it is foolish not to have a first-class airport on the whole west coast of Australia capable of taking the most modern jets. If Perth is not made an airport of this kind, it means that there will be no international airport west of Sydney and Brisbane except Darwin. This is absurd in a country which has an area of 3,000,000 square miles.
With the development of jet aircraft we should make Perth airport, which is capable of great expansion, a first-class airport, near as it is to what is becoming a great city.
– Order! I think that the honorable member is getting away from the subject of airport buildings.
– If, as the committee suggests, a 10,850-ft. runway is necessary to take some of the Boeings now in operation - though the committee states that future Boeings will not need quite that length - then a 10,850-ft. runway should be built. At present it is 6,000-ft. Sufficient space for expansion has never been allowed at Australian airport terminals as witness the problems of Kingsford-Smith and Essendon. Even granted that planes in the future may need shorter runways than do the existing planes, it is wise to seize the chance to build a large airport before the surrounding land is built up. But heavier and faster planes may need longer runways. You must plan for many years ahead, and the development of the aircraft transport systems of the world must necessitate more space even if take-off length is shorter. There is greater safety in greater landing space.
The terminal facilities which have been recommended by the committee are not startling. There is no provision for the accommodation of stranded passengers, for instance, which could well be made having regard to Perth’s rather inadequate hotel accommodation. In addition, the tendency of the hotel trade to become the motel trade is not a development which helps the air traveller to find accommodation if he is stranded at an airport terminal in an emergency.
The Government is concerned to stage trade exhibitions on ships. Members who have seen Zurich airport have seen attractive displays of the products of Switzerland, both for sale and on exhibition. A first-class air terminal at Perth could have such a feature. Passenger lists on international nights tend to include many people who are engaged in commerce and trade, and an airport terminal is a good shop window for a nation.
The committee has put to the Government a scheme for the provision of bare minimum facilities. If the Government international airline would gain another £200,000 a year by routing its flights through Perth, an expenditure of £1,000,000 is a comparatively small capital outlay and a beggarly one compared to the economic gain to the State expressed ultimately in increased Commonwealth revenue. Qantas revenue is ultimately Commonwealth revenue. It seems false economy to spend 42,000,000 dollars on Boeings and to arrange so few landing places in Australia that can take them and so few terminals adequate to meet the needs of their passengers. In the words of the committee -
The need for adequate airport facilities in the development of trade with South-East Asia, the desirability of an alternative air route to the United Kingdom through Cocos Island, and for an alternative airport to Darwin and the reasonable demand that Western Australia should not be handicapped in its commercial development by restriction to a second-class international airport impressed your Committee.
The committee therefore puts it mildly when it says, as one of its grounds for erecting a full first-class international air terminal that -
All the indications are that jet travel has so captured the imagination of the overseas traveller that operators of international air services have no alternative but to convert to jet aircraft.
Within the decade, the artificial restraints imposed by the Government on internal jet airlines must cease. The Government should recognize that the Opposition, as an alternative government, does not believe in these restraints. If future air travel, international, interstate and intra-state, is to be jet travel, then the opportunity should be seized while there is plenty of land at Perth airport, and around it, to make an absolutely first-class jet terminal. If this is not done, we shall be faced inevitably in the future with the problem of compensation for removed buildings in built-up areas, as the Government has been already in Sydney and Melbourne.
Perth must be the major west coast point of entry. The metropolitan area of PerthFremantle is the San Francisco of Australia. As a food-producing area, Western Australia must develop in importance and population because it has a population which will readily apply new soil sciences and agricultural techniques. Seventy years ago, its population was less than one-tenth of what it is to-day. That is a mere lifetime. The tempo of growth is faster. The Commonwealth must look at least 30 years ahead. When this Government took office in 1949, the aircraft in use on internal lines were DC3’s, DC4’s and Convairs. They hardly exist to-day. On external lines they were DC6’s and Constellations. Boeings and Comets are now common and, on the drawing boards already, and even in prototype form, their successors are coming forward. The new Vickers designs of jet air liners are of very great size and passengercarrying capacity. Their weight will need stronger and stronger runways. These should be being planned for. Again, more people will travel and the terminals must be planned now to accommodate them. That the Government tends to be satisfied with the ludicrously-inadequate is shown by the years of lack of substantial alteration of the Canberra terminal. Its inadequacy is constantly manifest to every Minister and every member.
There is a tendency in Western Australia to seize on the committee’s proposals as a great boon, but, actually, what the committee is suggesting is almost certainly inadequate for the next ten, let alone the next 30 years. The heavy types designed on the drawing-board and prototype planes actually existing to-day will be normal in five years. The committee is almost pathetic in its eagerness to get the Government to take some action. It urges the cheapness of the inexpensive second-rate, and probably unsatisfactory, in the following words: -
Minimum standards for large jets can, it has been submitted, be provided with less elaborate development than was proposed earlier.
I ask honorable members to note that what the committee humbly suggests is minimum standards. It has no idea of approaching a government proposing to make an international terminal with a suggestion for maximum standards. It is appalling to think that the minimum standards are actually related to safety for the report goes on -
Experience since large jets have been using the runways at Sydney airport leads to the belief that although some damage may occur the runways at Perth would, in their existing state, stand up to the amount of jet traffic likely during the next few years.
It would not be proposed, therefore, to overlay the existing runways, although this work will have to be carried out, possibly within the next five years, even if large jets do not use the airport.
If it must be done, irrespective of whether it is to be a jet terminal, why not do the work now and plan the thing fully and adequately?
What is needed is a really first-class terminal with an Australian exhibition, accommodation, banks, airline offices, customs and immigration facilities, parking space, refreshment facilities, shops and fully strengthened runways which meet maximum safety standards. If this is going to take longer to construct than the time required to make some lesser terminal ready for the Empire Games, which the committee mentions, then the Empire Games are insignificant compared with the whole economic and transport future of the State of Western Australia.
The committee’s suggestion concerning navigational aids costing £10,000 seems less than maximum. The future of air travel is very modestly estimated by the committee when it says -
Evidence has been given that the passenger terminal portion of the building has been planned to cope with traffic to 1970.
Th is refers to the poor terminal at Perth now. It is an international terminal far inferior to the Adelaide airport, which is intended purely for internal airlines. Referring to 1970, the committee says -
By that time it is expected that facilities will be needed to accommodate simultaneously passengers from two international, two interstate and four intra-State aircraft.
The United States has given Qantas permission to cross the United States from east to west, and from west to east. India has granted similar permission. How will we be able to resist a request from PanAmerican Airways and Air India for like facilities here? Again, we may have more than two international aircraft in at a time. It is common enough to see that now.
The Government should see the opportunity now to go all out for a first-class terminal with maximum standards, maximum length and strength of runways and maximum use as a trade and tourist showpiece. As the metropolitan area builds up, the opportunity to do what is required at the Perth airport will recede or become more expensive in that possibly a heavy component of compensation will be involved. The committee errs on the side of asking too little. Unfortunately, the television interview of Senator Paltridge recently in the west suggests that the committee’s small concept is almost more than the Government, or at any rate its responsible Minister, can bear.
.- I would be the last to think that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) would neglect to study the committee’s report before speaking, but I think he was caught by a ruling given by you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order raised by the chairman of the committee that submitted this report as to whether the honorable member was discussing the right report. I think it is a great pity that the two reports were not discussed together in this House because they are so closely interrelated that, as the honorable member for Fremantle pointed out, one is wasting one’s time talking about a terminal if one is unable to discuss the means of serving that terminal.
On page 14 of its report, the committee makes it quite clear that, in deciding on this terminal building, it had in mind an airport of international standard because it says that there is a pressing need for a new terminal building of international standard at the Perth airport. I hasten to say that any parliamentary committee consisting of members of both sides of this House would refrain from discussing the building of an international terminal if it did not have in mind international type runways. That should be obvious.
One of the fears expressed by the honorable member for Fremantle was that, in the space of ten or fifteen years, what is recommended now will not fully cover requirements, and that the plan ought to be increased to cover the possibility of PanAmerican and other overseas airlines coming into Perth airport.
The third recommendation, which is referred to in paragraph 36 of the report, says that a desirable feature of the design of the building is that, because it could be extended with ease, the need to overprovide now is overcome. I think he would be an extremely brave person who would attempt to predict what will happen in civil aviation in ten, twenty or 30 years’ time. If you go back fifteen years and compare the aircraft that were serving Australia on civil airlines then with those that are in use to-day, you realize that nobody with even the wildest imagination can say how we will be served by aircraft in the future. There is a possibility that in 30 years’ time an intercontinental airliner will not need a runway for take-off. It is possible that there will be some form of rocket which will enable an aircraft to take off from a standing position, and it will not need any run at all.
– But it has to land.
– That is so; but if the honorable member has seen the latest films of developments in aviation in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, he will know that there are new types of aircraft, such as hovercraft, which will take off and land at a point; they do not need an inch of runway. Honorable members might say that these aircraft are capable of carrying only one or two persons; but that might be said of the original Wright Brothers’ aeroplane, and in a very short space of time we have progressed to what we have to-day. I would hesitate to make any forecast and say that we would need at some time in the future runways 10,000, 11,000 or 12,000 feet long. The tendency as we get aircraft that can travel faster, fly higher and carry more passengers might well be to decrease rather than increase the length of the runway. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has pointed out, Australia has entered into this jet age for intercontinental travel with the expectation that the next replacements of aircraft might be something totally different from those that are already on the drawing board.
When one studies this report, I think it will be acknowledged that the people of Western Australia have little to fear if the recommendations of the Public Works Committee are carried out. The accent is on the Empire Games to be held in Perth in October, 1962. In paragraph 63 of its report, the Public Works Committee strongly recommends that its time-table be adhered to. Paragraph 61 states that the time-table provides for -
Complete contracts documentation by the end of October, 1960.
Invite tenders and arrange contracts by the end of December, 1960.
General contractor to commence work by late January, 1961.
Building to be completed by the end of July, 1962.
It seems to me that honorable members have some sort of feeling that within the period of two years covered by the report, one will see the development of the Perth airport to a stage where airliners that are used at present on inter-continental routes will be able to use all these facilities. I think the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out that there is press ing need for an aerodrome or airstrips on the western side of the continent capable of taking any aircraft at present in use. That is very true. It is said that the alternative route to Europe lies through Perth and Africa. We must keep in mind that it does not require a state of war to prevent airliners flying over the present routes. It is quite possible that a situation may arise in which nations like Indonesia or even India might deny the right of air travel over their countries to airliners from Australia. In such a case, we would have to look for alternative routes, and it is impossible to get an alternative route unless we have aerodromes capable of taking the aircraft in use.
I have not the technical knowledge to know whether a Boeing 707 can operate through South Africa. South African Airways at present are operating DC7 pistondriven aircraft. I believe they might be changing to the DC8 which is a Douglas jet aircraft, but I am not too certain on that point. Obviously, if we attain an aerodrome of international standards for landing and taking off in Perth, we will need the type of aircraft that South Africa can handle. They will travel from Australia to the Cocos Islands, Mauritius and South Africa unless the range of the aircraft is increased.
I join with other honorable members in complimenting the Public Works Committee on its report. I hope the work will proceed as envisaged and that in the future there will be a discussion in this House on the supplementary report, if I might call it that, on the airstrips of the Perth airport. I hope the work will proceed and that the Perth aerodrome will be brought up to international standards as early as possible.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) on the necessity for coordinating the construction of buildings with airstrips. It is a little difficult to know what is going to happen in this field. I suppose there are two contrary factors working. In the first place, it is likely that improvements in methods of taking off and requirements for landing strips will become higher. Oithe other hand, with the increase in the length of hop or the weight of load, the take-off is likely to increase. So it may be that, temporarily at any rate, we shall need longer runways. Whatever the developments might be, the terminal building we are discussing has to be adequate to the runway. It gives a very bad impression of Australia if the first terminal at which landing takes place is not adequate and does not provide the proper facilities for travellers. Those who have been abroad will know that the terminals overseas are on a rather more elaborate scale than those in Australia, and it is not altogether a true economy to pinch the pennies here.
Might I say in passing that while I support the proposed work being done in Perth, 1 hope it will not in any way impede the much more urgent jobs that have to be done at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) air terminal at Mascot. It handles and will continue to handle, I suppose, 90 per cent, of Australia’s overseas air traffic and is rather more important. I think honorable members will agree that the overseas terminal at Mascot is not up to standard, and honorable members from New South Wales are a little perturbed at the failure to realize that the landing strips at Mascot have to be lengthened to the full length necessary for take-off. It has been said, of course, that the first hop out of Mascot is a short one so that aeroplanes do not carry a full load of fuel and do not need the long runways. That might be true at the moment, but very shortly, as aeroplanes improve, the first stage set-down from Mascot will tend to be further away and we may find that the first hop from Mascot will be a very long one provided the strip is adequate. Recently I was at Biak, a small island, and the strip there was being lengthened to 11,000 feet. Mascot should be improved in the same way.
.- As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has discussed runways and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has referred, among other things, to types of aircraft, I will not endeavour to cover that ground again. I believe that whatever science has for us in the development of aircraft, we will be well served by the type of terminal that has been recommended by the Public Works Committee. The committee has stated in its report -
Although the proposal has been referred to as “n international terminal, the building is designed to meet the needs of domestic as well as international traffic and to accommodate a small administrative section and the operational activities of the sections of the Department of Civil Aviation which are required to control aircraft movements in and out of, and on the routes linked with Perth.
That means that the building will meet the needs of the traffic for ten years in every way, irrespective of how aircraft are developed - whether they be guided missiles carrying passengers or aircraft capable of a vertical take-off. The committee has been guided by its estimate of the numbers of persons who will be travelling to and from this airport and passing through it. This airport is situated in my electorate. It has provided a fairly poor standard of accommodation for the travelling public. In addition to providing for travellers, it will also have to cater for the many persons who go to the terminal to see relatives and friends depart or arrive.
It is interesting to note that in 1959, 127,000 people travelled to and through the Perth airport and of that number 5,500 came from overseas. The congestion at Perth Airport has to be seen to be believed, particularly if a Qantas aircraft, one or two Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft, an AnsettA.N.A. aircraft and an aircraft of one of the smaller services are all going out at approximately the same time. The future expansion and development has been assessed by the Public Works Committee and I think that the committee has worked it out fairly well. In its wisdom, it anticipates the time when Perth will be the main entry port to Australia for most European air services.
As the speed and range of aircraft increase we will find that a lot of the European air services will have an almost direct route from parts of Europe to Perth instead of going through many parts of Asia as they do at present. Should some argument develop in international law regarding air space over certain countries, particularly Communist-ruled countries, some air services may eventually have to find a different route to Perth from that which they now take.
The report of the committee indicates that space is planned at the terminal buildings for approximately 1,200 people. That seems to be fairly reasonable. Provision has been made for various types of business concessions including buffets and cocktail bars. It is to be hoped that when the Department of Civil Aviation sets rentals for the various business concessions those rentals will give the concessionaires a chance to provide a satisfactory service without having to worry too much about high costs. If the department endeavours to charge rentals similar to those which would be charged in commercial centres in the city it may find that the concessionaires will provide an unsatisfactory service because of the need to meet high costs. Consequently, 1 hope that all concessionaires, whatever their type of business, will have to pay only a reasonable rental.
The holding of the British Empire Games in Perth is not the most important factor in providing these new terminal buildings. They are to provide for the needs of Perth airport, for, perhaps, the next ten years. But I think it is important that, as has been recommended by the committee, the work should be completed before the games are held during the period 22nd November to 1st December, 1962. Having that in mind, I hope that this building is proceeded with as early as possible so as to be of benefit, not only to Western Australia, but to Australia as a whole.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and I shall only reply to that portion of his remarks dealing with the international terminal buildings. I also heard what the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Chaney), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Stirling (Mr. Cash) had to say. As a member of the Public Works Committee I wish to say only that the committee took evidence from a very wide group of people representing a large number of interests. These included the commercial airlines, the pilots’ association, a town planner, local government organizations, and members of the public. Our recommendations, which have now been presented to Parliament, have been made as a result of hearing that evidence.
We have taken into consideration the number of planes that would be on the ground at any one time, whether overseas, interstate or intra-state. We had impressed upon us that the important thing was not the number of planes that might arrive at the airport per week or per day, but the number of planes that would be on the ground at any one time. We also took into consideration the friend-to-passenger ratio which is much higher in Perth than in the airports of the eastern States. We gave little consideration to the proposal made by the honorable member for Fremantle as regards the provision of accommodation because we believe - I think rightly - that such provision could be made more appropriately by other organizations and elsewhere than at the airport.
The honorable member for Fremantle also posed a hypothetical question as to why it was not possible to do more at the present time. While, in some ways, it might be possible to do more I remind him of the great programme of public works throughout Australia, the limited funds at our disposal and, therefore, the necessity for an order of priority. I believe that the committee has done well in giving priority to the provisions recommended in this report. Several references have been made to the need to extend the Perth terminal prior to the British Empire Games. While the committee realized the necessity for the provision of improved facilities at Perth, irrespective of whether the Empire Games will be held in that city, the recommendation is that the work should, if possible, be completed in time for the games.
.- I am sorry that, for reasons best known to himself, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) should have sought some basis for putting up a purely parochialview as against the national view on this matter. I rather think that some important and responsible people in Western Australia from whom the Public Works Committee had evidence would be heard to repudiate the views presented to the House in criticism of the committee by the honorable member for Fremantle. The criticism savours of biting the hand that feeds one. If the honorable member reads the evidence taken by the committee he will become aware that an inter-departmental committee which considered the availability of funds for airport development throughout Australia had some reservations about how far the Government should go in providing facilities at Perth. However, the Government had a second look at this matter and made the terms of reference sufficiently wide for the Public Works Committee to make a recommendation on runways, which will be presented in a forthcoming report and which, I hope, will be debated by the honorable member for Fremantle with a little more knowledge and effect.
The Public Works Committee has a deep sense of responsibility for national development. In view of the obvious limit on the funds available for this great task, and of competing needs, one of which was referred to by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), it will be well understood that we would not recommend to this House the provision of facilities very far in advance of present requirements, provided of course that there is room for expansion without wasting public funds. Both of these matters had to be given a good deal of consideration and have been dealt with in the committee’s report.
The honorable member for Fremantle is quite out of court in suggesting that the time will come when the available land at Perth airport will limit the development of that airport for the type of international aircraft which will use it. There is ample land in reserve for runways for any aircraft which can possibly be foreseen at this stage. Ample evidence was given before the Public Works Committee that the tendency is to reduce runway requirements. The Boeing 138B aircraft, which is a modified version of the existing Boeing 707 and is due to fly in January next year, is expected to cut another 2,000-ft. off runway requirements because of its ducted fan turbines. The committee was told on good authority that aircraft manufacturers throughout the world are very sensitive of the problem created by the heavier aircraft and the need for longer runways. The whole technical development of the aircraft industry is now devoted to getting bigger, heavier and faster aircraft off the ground in a shorter space. How this is to be done is not to be debated at this point. Having recommended the extension of the runways sufficiently for the take-off of jets in lieu of piston-engined feeder aircraft on the services and to allow our own flag carrier to operate its present international aircraft, the committee believes that it is recommending all that will be required for some considerable time. If
Pan-American Airways wishes to fly heavier jets it will have to conduct negotiations with the Government, and the Government may at that stage extend the runways that are now recommended to provide ample landing room for those aircraft.
A good deal has been said about the provision of facilities at the airport. It has been suggested that the terminal facilities should be adequate to cope with the numbers of passengers carried by aircraft capable of using the extended runways. A matter that concerned the committee was the possibility that the space provided in the airport buildings might well exceed the requirements of present services. We were very concerned about this question of overprovision. We believe that the airport terminal buildings as now proposed will be more than adequate to handle the traffic in the immediate future, and adequate to handle traffic for the next ten years. We have been careful to consider the plans from the point of view of possible extensions to the building left and right. I use that phrase in the physical sense. The building can be extended left and right to increase the accommodation as additional space is required, but without wastage of public money and without any undue disruption of activities in the building.
I might remind the honorable member for Fremantle that it is not the function of the Commonwealth Government to provide accommodation for overnight passengers stranded at the Perth airport. The fact is that the airport is only a few miles from the City of Perth and there are adequate road transport services. No doubt other services will be provided in course of time in close proximity to the airport itself. I do not think the honorable gentleman need concern himself about that matter.
I direct attention to the fact that there is a demand for the expenditure of vast amounts of money on the improvement of airport facilities all over Australia. I believe the committee would not be fulfilling the responsibilities that this House has placed upon it were it to recommend gross over-provision in a case of this kind and starve some other part of Australia. As it is, the adoption of the committee’s report will reinstate the Perth airport as a fullyfledged first-class international airport. Therefore, I support the motion.
– in reply - I shall not occupy the time of the House for very long. I do not feel compelled to defend the Public Works Committee from the entirely unwarranted attack made upon it by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), but I do think that some of the matters mentioned by the honorable member should be put in perspective. The honorable member is not unaware, 1 imagine, that the provision of an international airport in Perth is quite an issue in the State from which he comes, and I imagine that his intemperate and extravagant remarks were directed against the Public Works Committee with an eye to the cheap applause which he could get in his own State. However, they were quite unrelated to the facts.
The honorable member pleaded for a grandiose and extravagant building unrelated to passenger requirements and to our present knowledge of the aircraft that will use the runways and the airport facilities. He made no estimates himself of probable requirements. He did not refer to the detailed evidence which the Public Works Committee examined, which is set out rather fully in its report, and which indicates that the proposed provisions for the Perth airport terminal building are quite adequate as far as can reasonably be foreseen.
The matter also has to be looked at in a far wider context than that of the provisions of adequate facilities in the Perth area alone. All over Australia we are faced with enormous demands for airport facilities. Many millions of pounds have been spent in this way in recent years by the Australian Government, and many more millions are required. But enormous amounts of money are required not only for airport facilities - and we are groping, as are authorities all over the world, to try to foresee developments in air transport - but also for roads, railways and shipping facilities all over Australia. The honorable member for Fremantle displayed a regrettable lack of sense of proportion in his remarks concerning the kind of facilities that should be provided at the Perth airport. I can only imagine that his quite uncharacteristic attack was caused by some unbalanced thinking in regard to his own home State.
I hope this was the only cause of it. I commend the proposal to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 520), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of a new nurses’ home and training school at the Canberra Community Hospital, Australian Capital Territory.
– The motion is to the effect that it is deemed expedient to proceed with the construction of a nurses’ home and training school at the Canberra Community Hospital. The necessity to proceed with this work arises, of course, from the decision to build a new hospital block and other buildings to cater for the future hospital needs of this community. I do not think a great deal can be said on the motion before the House. It is clear, I think, that the plans placed before the Public Works Committee have been considered by that committee to be adequate. The members of the committee have shown assiduity in examining witnesses and in going into considerable detail to ensure the achievement of the aim expressed in paragraph 38 of the report - that is, to create in the nurses’ home a strong domestic character and provide pleasant buildings in which to live.
It seems to me that the committee gave due weight to the evidence placed before it by persons who are experts in this field, and that it went into great detail. Apparently at one stage of the inquiry there was a difference of opinion between witnesses on quite a domestic matter, which concerned the number of washing troughs and ironing boards that should be provided for the use of the nurses in the home. The report says, indeed -
Evidence was given that the design brief by the client department-
That is, the Department of Health - called for more washing and ironing facilities than have been provided. The suggested provision was considered to be on a more elaborate scale than necessary and, on the grounds of economy, reductions were made. It was stated that the standards compared favorably with the new nurses’ homes in the State capitals and were identical with those applying to Repatriation hospitals. However, other witnesses stated that these facilities were inadequate and suggested that provision should be made for one wash trough and one ironing board to fifteen nurses. There was also criticism of the location of these facilities on the ground and sixth floors only.
It is a tribute to the committee that it considered these requirements in such detail. However, it seems to have come down rather on the side of compromise by recommending to the Parliament that there be not less than one washing trough and one ironing board for each twenty nurses. I suggest that the committee has been a little niggardly here, and that in a project involving the expenditure of about £915,000 it should not necessarily be guided by considerations of what is provided in repatriation hospitals or other hospitals, but rather by the opinions of the women who will use the building and live in it during the course of their training and their service in the hospital. I believe it should have provided more generously in this regard. I have not sufficient experience in this field to speak with any knowledge on the subject, but I am certain that there are honorable members of this House who would be inclined to suggest that one washing trough and one ironing board would be quite inadequate for twenty women. One other aspect to which I wish to refer is the provision of the training school for the Canberra Community Hospital. Apparently, because of some timidity or from some sense of realism the authorities concerned with the preparations of the plan for the training school did not put forward any request for the inclusion of a film room in the training school. I am sure - I believe the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will agree - the showing of films to-day is a very important and integral part of the training of nurses. Training films are used in many aspects of medical and nursing training and even in inculcating proper laundry practices and the use of hospital facilities. I am assured that the showing of films to trainees is a most important part of their training and I feel that there should be specific provision in this building for the showing of films, lt should not be necessary, when it is required to show a film to nurses as part of their training, to take over some other room or facility which has a more general or domestic use. Perhaps the Minister for Health who is at the table will consider that need and seek to take appropriate action on it.
I commend the committee on its report and the detail it has revealed. Indeed, I think it has been a bit alarmed about the possible flood level at both the nurses’ home and the hospital itself. I am surprised that the committee, which had available to it the evidence of local people, spent so much time on’ this aspect of the proposal. I think the precautions which the committee recommends are completely adequate and I believe that there is no danger at all to either the hospital building or the nurses’ home and training school from floods arising in the Molonglo River or the lakes.
.- I do not want to detain the House for very long, but one or two matters of concern arise out of a consideration of this report. Unhappily they do not refer particularly to the technical details of the report, but rather to matters of principle. In 1956, when the committee last looked at this proposal there was a recommendation that the work on the nurses’ home should be done in two stages. At that time the anticipation of population growth in Canberra was that there would be a population of 75,000 in 1985. But, as the House well knows, in 1956-57, consequent upon the Government’s decision to transfer the head-quarters of Public Service departments to Canberra, there was a great increase in population and a great projected increase, so that the figure of 75,000 population proposed to be reached round about 1985 will now be reached in 1965. As a consequence of this the committee looked closely at this question of whether or not the construction of the nurses’ home should be done in two stages. The committee came hard down on the side of recommending that it should be done as one continuous project, for two reasons: There are some modest but quite useful savings in cost; and, secondly, there is a saving in the inconvenience where you have to go back at some later date and start altering an existing building which is then in use. My concern is that when this matter was presented to the House a few days ago the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) mentioned £915,000 which is the total cost for both stages - that is, for the completed project - and yet I note that on page 43 of the Estimates covering the civil works programme of the Australian Capital Territory there is reference only to stage one, at a cost of £750,000.
This raises the matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the extent to which a motion of this kind accepts or rejects the report of the Public Works Committee. The fact is that at some later stage - it is not to be canvassed on a motion of this kind - I believe we will have to consider this question of reports coming back from the Public Works Committee; because at this stage the motion introducing this matter merely refers to the expediency of doing a job which has been referred to the committee and upon which the committee has reported, lt does not say anything about accepting the committee’s report, and therefore the committee is not to know whether its recommendations are being fully embodied in the proposal or not, unless, of course, it is to use its new-found powers under the act and bring the matter into review at some stage before tenders are called. That, of course, refers to recommendations 8, 9 and 10, to which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has referred. We do not quite know whether these recommendations of the committee are to be incorporated.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory takes the committee to task in mild fashion for being a bit niggardly about the provision of additional facilities such as ironing boards, laundry facilities, bathrooms, and so on. I think I might reasonably point out to the House that the matter which concerned the committee was economies, but not the mere economies of providing additional ironing boards, washing machines and things of that kind. We looked carefully at the plan, and the fact is that a considerable amount of re-designing would have been required had we gone past the level of facilities recommended in this report. It is true that we compromised on what is required or what was suggested as desirable by those who would use the facilities, and indeed by the hospital authorities themselves, who would have been satisfied with something less. But I believe the compromise is quite a reasonable one, and particularly as it protects to a very major extent the cost of the projects and does, I think, give the staff something which, if not completely adequate, is very close to an adequate level of facilities. So, I join in recommending acceptance of the motion.
– I want only to add a few words to what has already been said. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) referred to the question of ironing boards and similar amenities, and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) will, I am sure, be pleased to know that the consulting architect has incorporated the committee’s recommendations in this regard into his design, so that they will be provided in accordance with the committee’s recommendations. This will result only in the loss of two rooms. The facilities recommended will fit into the same total plan. On the question of a room where films can be shown, there is a room which will be suitable for this purpose. It will have other uses as well, but they will not detract from its capacity to be used as a room where films can be shown when necessary. On the question of safety, as the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory probably knows, a levee bank is to be erected to make sure that there will be no flooding even in the lower ground floor of the new building. The question of the work being done in two stages, to which the chairman of the committee, the honorable member for Paterson referred, has not yet been finally decided, but it has been considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 682), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of a new main hospital block at the Canberra Community Hospital, Australian Capital Territory.
– The motion proposing the construction of the new main hospital block at the Canberra Community Hospital and the extensions and alterations to the existing building proposes an expenditure of £2,854,500, a very substantial expenditure and one which is, of course, completely justified. I think it is possible that some people representing State interests might express criticism of the Commonwealth on the ground that this is lavish expenditure on a city of this size, or of this projected size; but I believe critics who express those views are not looking at the facts correctly. It is true that in the several States of the Commonwealth the provision of hospitals and hospital facilities is largely the responsibility of the State Governments, but they do have the assistance of Commonwealth finance to an extent which many States say is not adequate, although they do have it. In the Australian Capital Territory, of course, where there is no form of local selfgovernment at either the municipal or the State level, the Commonwealth must stand to the people of the Territory both as a national parliament and also as a government at the level which normally would be the State level, so that expenditure here might be assumed as equalling - and I hope, perhaps, exceeding - what would in other places be a combination of State and Commonwealth expenditure. Therefore, I say at the outset that the expenditure is completely justified and I believe cannot be validly criticized.
I believe that the construction of the new main hospital building should be proceeded with urgently, as over-crowding of the present hospital wards must result before the new building can be completed1 on the present planning. The hospital has, on several occasions already, been occupied to its full bed capacity, and serious results could ensue in the event of, say, an epidemic or a serious accident involving numbers of people who needed immediate admission to hospital.
– Where is the nearest hospital?
– There are, of course, smaller hospitals in the surrounding districts at Queanbeyan and Yass, but the nearest large hospital is at Goulburn, some 60 miles away. The Canberra Community Hospital serves people from outside the Australian Capital Territory as well as those who reside here.
It is true that the advance of medical science and particularly the use of antibiotics have contributed to reduce the average stay in hospital of many patients; but this community cannot afford any further delay in the provision of adequate hospital facilities. It is fortunate that the hospital was able to come through this winter without serious over-crowd’ing. Next winter it should have the use of a temporary 50-bed ward at present occupied by ancillary services, which will be transferred to buildings now occupied by sections of the Department of the Interior at Acton when these sections are transferred to Civic. On present population trends, the position will again be acute by the winter of 1963. The recommendation of the committee is that this building be proceeded with as one work, but the committee envisages within that recommendation, that the first stage will be completed by 1964. We could well suffer a very acute shortage of hospital beds by the winter of 1963, but the first stage of the building will not be completed and will not provide any additional beds until some date in 1964.
One of the great problems that the Canberra Community Hospital has had to face arises from the need to provide beds for aged people who do not really need hospital treatment but who cannot, in this community, be cared for elsewhere. This has placed1 a burden on the hospital that it should not have to bear. It is true that the community, with the assistance of the Commonwealth, is now building the Goodwin Homes for the aged. This will provide accommodation for some of the elderly people, but will not, of course, provide hospital facilities. There is need in this community for the establishment of convalescent homes for people needing care and rest after hospital treatment, and there is need for a home to cater for old people requiring nursing care. I think it is important to mention these matters here, because they have a direct bearing on the capacity of the present hospital, and indeed of the future hospital, to cater for the needs of the community. lt is true that the population of Canberra is considerably younger in composition than the average for Australia, but this composition will vary as the years pass. In fact, figures have been given to show that by 1970, when the population of Canberra will be somewhere about 100,000, there will be 5,000 people over the age of 60. Quite obviously, many of these will require medical advice and nursing care. I appreciate very much the interest the committee has shown in the domiciliary service provided by the Royal Newcastle Hospital, which the committee inspected. I suggest to the Minister that earnest and prompt consideration should be given, first, to an immediate extension of the district nursing service now provided here and, secondly, to the establishment of a domiciliary nursing service, controlled by the hospital and supervised by a trained and experienced sister working under the direction of a doctor. In such a scheme, aged people who are at present, by necessity, admitted as patients to the hospital would be cared for in their own homes. They would have the services of their own doctor, but would be classed, I suggest, as outpatients of the hospital which would maintain records of their treatment and which would impose the charges approved by the Government for out-patient services.
Aged people, wherever possible, should be cared for in their own homes, but the burden of caring for them should not be placed entirely on family members or other relatives. Under the scheme that I have suggested, nurses employed by the hospital would visit patients as frequently as their condition required; would, for example, change bed linen which would be the property of the hospital, as also could be the beds and equipment necessary for nursing in the home; would give baths to the patients; would provide any necessary injections; and would in fact give all the treatment that is now gi.cu to aged people in hospital beds which should be occupied by sick people who require constant hospital care. In general, members of the family would continue to look after the elderly person with meals and other comforts, but any special dietary advice required could be provided by the hospital. Physiotherapy and other ancillary services could also be provided.
I believe most firmly that the provision of such domiciliary nursing services, which are referred to in the report of the committee, under the control of the hospital and under the strict supervision of a trained and1 experienced sister, could be most valuable in relieving the strain at present borne by the hospital - a’ strain which must increase very steeply before the new buildings now planned are completed and in use. Such a service would not only be of benefit to the hospital but would also be of immense benefit to elderly people who suffer some infirmity. They would be able to continue to be with their own folk in the familiar surroundings of their own homes. I know only too well, from my work, the heartbreak that has been caused - through no fault of the hospital, let it be said - when elderly people who are sick have had to be sent away to Sydney and elsewhere because of the lack of proper provision here. They have left the area with which they have been familiar for years, knowing that they will die in a strange place away from those whom they love and who love them, ending their days, lonely, in a bed away from lifetime companions and unvisited. because of distance and the cost of travel, by members of their families. From time to time the hospital has had to seek to persuade people to agree to be transferred to homes available in Sydney and Melbourne, and, because provision cannot be made here, sick elderly people have had to go away.
The recommendation of the committee that the first stage of the new building be completed in 1964, is based on the estimate of eight beds per thousand of population and refers to figures provided by the National Capital Development Commission, giving the estimated annual population growth of Canberra over the next ten years. Apparently, the figures provided by the commission relate to the Canberra city district. They show an estimated population of 49,000 in June, 1960, increasing to 55,000 in June, 1961; to 60,000 in June, 1962; to 65,000 in June, 1963; and to 70,000 in June, 1964. This population increase, as the figures show, will not come about suddenly in 1964.
On the basis of eight beds per 1,000, and using the figures provided by the commission, it will be seen that at present Canberra should have a 440-bed hospital. In June next year, on these figures, it would need a 480-bed hospital. The desirable bed total at the end of June, 1963, is 520 beds. The hospital at present has a total of 253 beds or, as the committee has commented, 5.5 beds per 1,000 of population, even on the figures quoted. But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, experience has shown that estimates of population increases in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory invariably fall short of the actual population increases. It should be remembered too, that the population of the whole of the Australian Capital Territory must be provided for. Figures that I have secured to-day show that at 30th June, 1960, the actual population of the Australian Capital Territory will prove to have been several hundreds in excess of 52,000, compared with the 49,000 estimate which the committee had before it.
I very much regret that the committee has recommended the provision of airconditioning in only operating theatres, the X-ray department, labour wards and nurseries. It seems to me that public opinion and usage in Australia are swinging more and more towards realization of the need for air-conditioning in public buildings, particularly hospitals. I think that air-conditioning should extend at least to the out-patients department, and I feel that the hospital administration in years not far ahead will have to meet demands for its installation.
I believe that the Minister should have a look at the need for the provision of a staff amenities block. I am referring to the need for amenities for day-time staff - living out staff who bring their luncheons to work. They need dining rooms, change rooms and recreation rooms.
It is accepted that a 600-bed hospital is the maximum size for efficient and economic administration. I commend the committee’s recommendation that preliminary planning should be undertaken now to determine the types of subsidiary suburban hospitals which must be provided to cope with future needs, and I hope that those who are responsible for the planning will benefit from the lessons of to-day and will see that that planning will take place so that the future hospital needs of the community will be met ahead of the demand.
In the minute or so left to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to refer to a matter on which no comment is made in the Minister’s reference to the House. I suggest that stage 1 and stage 2 be proceeded with as one project, for reasons stated in this House on an earlier occasion and which I completely support. I believe that the Minister and those responsible for construction and advice on these matters should consider that that is the best possible means of proceeding with this construction. The hospital will be needed long before the envisaged completion of stage 1. The extra beds will be needed.
I hope that the ‘‘Minister will see the need to provide some of the services T have suggested, so as to reduce the load on the hospital and make more beds available for sick people in need of constant treatment - and also to provide for something not coming within the ambit of this report, but very important. I refer to the provision of comfort and ease of mind to the old sick people in the community who at present literally have, at times, to go away from here to die when they could be kept here within their family circle and be treated by a domiciliary service such as I have suggested, under the control of the hospital - the only body that should properly control such a service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1st September (vide page 761).
– For the information of the committee I propose to outline briefly the order and the grouping of the departments which it is proposed we shall follow in this debate. The grouping of certain departments is proposed for the purpose of enabling orderly discussion. The following is the order and the grouping proposed, the first five departments, it is proposed, to be considered separately: -
Prime Minister’s Department.
Department of External Affairs.
Department of the Treasury.
Department of the Interior.
Department of Works.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Department of Territories.
Territories of the Commonwealth -
Australian Capital Territory.
Papua and New Guinea.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Department of Customs and Excise.
Department of Trade.
Department of Primary Industry.
Department of Health.
Department of Social Services.
War and Repatriation Services.
Payments to or for the States - Department of Health.
Department of Immigration.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Department of National Development.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Defence Services -
Department of Defence.
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
Department of Air.
Department of Supply.
Refunds of Revenue.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
Bounties and Subsidies.
Business Undertakings -
Broadcasting and Television Services.
It will be seen that the practice followed in previous debates of this nature has been proposed. Where it is necessary to group departments for the purposes of debate they have been grouped according to the affinity between them so as to avoid any unnecessary repetition by honorable members during the debate.
I want to say, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Government has no desire to stifle the debate on the Estimates unduly in any way. We hope to be able to give adequate time for debate, and of course we hope also - and we believe it will be possible with the co-operation of our friends across the table - to ensure that there will be no necessity later on for the institution of the guillotine.
– Do you propose three weeks for the debate?
– On a rough estimate of the time which we expect will be sufficient for the debate on the estimates for the various departments, we consider that approximately 60 hours will be spent, which is about three hours more than was spent last year on the debate. This, leaving time for some few intrusions of other matters which may have to be dealt with, would provide between three or four weeks, which should be sufficient for the debate.I mention that there may be other items intruding on the debate on the Estimates because of the need to have some business on the notice-paper ready for the conclusion of the debate on the Estimates, but I assure the House that any time so spent on other matters will be kept to a minimum and will not be considered as part of the time devoted to the various departments of the Estimates.
I think that that sums up the position. An outline of the proposed grouping has been given in writing to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), andI hope that they will indicate that they are prepared to accept the grouping on the basis that I have stated so that we can proceed now with the debate.
– As I hear no dissent from any honorable member, the committee will take the debate in the order and grouping proposed by the Postmaster-General.
Remainder of proposed vote of £1,312,000.
.- I desire to direct my comments to the Parliament and certain of its procedures. It is my firm conviction that the experience and talents of members are not being utilized to the best possible advantage under the system that at present operates in this Parliament. I realize that since the Parliament was enlarged eleven years ago the time allocated for various items of business on sitting days has not permitted members to take part in all the debates in which they wish to participate. Consequently a great deal of frustration has been experienced by members who perhaps prepare an argument on a particular subject which they are not able to discuss owing to the limitation of the time for debate. I suggest that the Government should seriously consider what it can do to ensure that members who desire to render conscientious service are not prevented from doing so by restriction of the time allowed for debates. I think the Government should very seriously consider the extension of the committee system which at present operates in this Parliament to a limited degree.
I do not suggest that anything highly controversial should be referred to committees. Obviously, that would not be worth while. We have already in the Parliament a number of examples of the way in which the committee system can wark very well indeed. In certain matters, of course, political parties deliberately pursue premeditated courses of action, and any joint parliamentary committee appointed to consider such matters would not get very far and would not reach any decisions. In very many matters that come before this Parliament, there is a clear and unambiguous line of divergence, and I see no hope of agreement between the opposing sides of the Parliament on those issues. Nevertheless, on many aspects of numerous matters that come before the Parliament there is no great gulf of disagreement between the Government and the Opposition.
When the Government brings a bill before the Parliament - I refer not only to the present Government but also to previous ones which have been guilty of similar sins of omission and commission - it is only on rare occasions that an amendment proposed by the Opposition is accepted. It just is not done to accept Opposition amendments. Although there may be a great deal of merit in a suggestion, if it emanates from the Opposition scant consideration is given to it just because it is advanced by the Opposition. In the eleven years during which I have been a member of this Parliament, I have not seen more than about five or six Opposition amendments of any importance accepted by the Government. A few minor amendments designed to alter the wording of provisions in various measures have been accepted, but the Government does not consider any Opposition amendment of consequence. This is a regrettable attitude, and I think that the Australian people are the sufferers.
I first became enamoured of the benefits of the committee system when I became a member of a municipal council, to which I still belong. I have always found, and still find, that various committees of the council can hammer out problems in such a way as to enable members on both sides of the council politically to make a positive contribution to its work. In this way, the committees reach agreements that are of great benefit to the people of the municipality.
Eighteen months after I entered this Parliament I became a member of the Public Works Committee, and in the deliberations of that committee I saw the committee system working at its best. That committee considers proposals for public works which are referred to it by this chamber, and those proposals are considered by it in a non-party atmosphere which is untrammelled by the usual parliamentary atmosphere, which often is electric and which often is due to the fact that members want some of their comments to receive publicity in the press or on the radio. Sitting around the committee table, members of the Public Works Committee are able to consider calmly and dispassionately the issues that they have under review. Very few of the votes taken by the committee are on party lines. Sometimes the members of the committee who belong to one party are divided on the issue. Quite often, I have found myself voting in the deliberations of that committee with members with whom I have never agreed in the discussion of issues in this chamber. But in the committee atmosphere, with a different approach to the problems under discussion, in the final analysis the people derive a great deal of benefit from the unique committee approach to the country’s problems. Unfortunately, in the atmosphere in this chamber, Australia’s problems are not considered in the same way.
The Public Accounts Committee, also, has rendered great service to Australia over the last few years, and its approach to the country’s problems has been similar to that which I have found in the deliberations of the Public Works Committee.
Two or three years ago, the Government decided to appoint an all-party committee to deal with the problems presented by the Australian Constitution and to consider suggested amendments. In my opinion, the report presented by the Constitutional Review Committee is an excellent one. My study of that report indicates that, after a lot of discussion, the committee almost reached unanimous agreement on many aspects of the matters. Admittedly, in one or two instances, divergent views were expressed. However, I am firmly of the opinion that had the same problems and issues been discussed in the Parliament itself, a similar measure of agreement would never have been attained.
In the calm atmosphere of the committee room, as I have found particularly with respect to the Public Works Committee, there is a different outlook. Indeed, the atmosphere is wholly different. Members of committees seem to understand! that they have to consider the issues before the committees solely on their merits. By contrast, in the Parliament itself, members on the Opposition side say, “This is our point of view. That is the Government’s point of view.” On the other hand when an Opposition member suggests an amendment to a bill, the Government says, “ This amendment is suggested by the Opposition. No good can come out of Nazareth. Therefore, we cannot consider this amendment.”
Other parliaments of the world have used the committee system to a far greater extent than we do here. The United States Congress uses it much more. However, I do not advocate the adoption of the American system in Australia. I think that we could learn a great deal from the procedure in the House of Commons, where standing committees are appointed to consider bills. My information on this subject comes from a report on procedure in the House of Commons, which was prepared in 1953 by Mr. A. A. Tregear, who was at the time Clerk-Assistant of the House of Representatives, soon after his return from about a year’s study of procedure in the House of Commons. That report was ultimately printed. A section which deals with standing committees on bills begins on page 21 of the report It appears to me that these committees function very satisfactorily in the House of Commons. During the year that Mr. Tregear was there, four of these standing committees were appointed - two to deal with government bills, one to deal with bills introduced by private members, and another to deal with certain bills relating to Scottish affairs. Each of these committees has a core of twenty members, and up to 30 more members can be added to each committee, these being chosen for their special qualifications and particular knowledge of and interest in the subjectmatter of the bills for the consideration of which their services are co-opted.
These committees usually meet in the mornings, and their procedure is somewhat akin to that of the existing committees of this Parliament. The appropriate Ministers sit on the committees of the House of Commons, and the chairman of each committee is appointed by the Speaker from the panel of temporary chairmen. With respect to the bills that are referred to these standing committees, Mr. Tregear stated -
With the exception of Tax Bills, Consolidated Fund Bills, Appropriation Bills and Provisional Order Bills, all Public Bills stand referred to a Standing Committee for their Committee stage, unless the House otherwise orders.
In other words, the United Kingdom Government has in its hands the power to decide whether or not bills shall go to one of these committees. The committees then give the bills very lengthy and mature consideration. That is something which we do not have in this House because very often a hill is rushed through the committee stage and there is not sufficient time to give proper consideration to all of its clauses. Any amendment which emanates from the Opposition does not receive any consideration. In the House of Commons, the committee is required to have regard to the composition of the House. In other words, the Government has a majority on the committee.
The House, of course, has power to amend the committee’s report. In summing up the merits of these committees, Mr. Tregear states -
Members have more opportunities to participate in framing legislation, especially those who, by reason of their special qualifications, are appointed additional Members of Standing Committees.
In other words, a member who had taken some time to acquire knowledge in a particular direction and who was keen to discuss the measure, was co-opted by the committee which availed itself of his talents and considered his views. In this Parliament a member may have special qualifications but, as the time for discussion of a measure in committee is limited, his views very often are not given any consideration. As I have said, in the House of Commons a member who has taken the trouble to specialize in a subject has the opportunity to put forward a point of view to the committee. Mr. Tregear went on to say -
At Committee meetings, there is a “ let’s get down to work “ atmosphere without undue hustle or bustle, full consideration being given to every point. The absence of Party feeling makes for speedy business. In fact, argument on some occasions is principally among Members of the same Party.
Honorable members can sec that the approach in the House of Commons to these matters is completely different from that which exists in this House. The Government should consider seriously the introduction in the near future of standing committees on bills. Because of the large number of members in this House, those members who have specialized knowledge are not given the opportunity to address the House and so use is not made of their talents which could be avail?’! of for the benefit of the Australian people.
I do not suggest that controversial bills should be discussed by these standing committees, but there are many matters on which the committees could make a wellreasoned approach without emphasis being placed on any particular political outlook. Matters relating to social services, the transport system, television, primary production, immigration, housing and national development could be discussed by the committees. On bills dealing with these subjects there is not a great deal of difference of opinion between members on both sides of the House, but if an Opposition member puts forward an amendment to a bill he receives scant consideration and his amendment is never adopted even though it may be of value. In the House of Commons it frequently happens that suggestions which are advanced by Opposition members are adopted and are included in the report which goes to the House. Ultimately those suggestions become the law of the land.
If the same approach were adopted in this Parliament we would have much better legislation with consequent better results for the Australian people as a whole, because the Government would find that the committee’s conclusions would be balanced conclusions which had been arrived at in the committee room after mature consideration and away from the heat of debate in the parliamentary chamber. Such a system would provide a better approach to national problems than the system which now operates by which any suggestions emanating from the Opposition side of the chamber receive no consideration irrespective of their value.
We have seen what other Parliaments do. During discussion on a bill relating to tariffs which was before the House about two weeks ago the suggestion was made that because the Parliaments of the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand agreed to a certain course of action we in this Parliament should agree to it also. If I carried that suggestion further, I would suggest that because the Parliaments of the United States and the United Kingdom use the committee system extensively we should do likewise. I must admit, however, that the United States Parliament uses the committee system far too extensively. I think that the House of Commons strikes a very happy medium, and 1 can see no reason why the Government should not give mature consideration to extending the committee system by appointing standing committees to consider bills that come before the House. If this were done, those honorable members who are being frustrated because their specialized knowledge is not being availed of, would have the opportunity to state their views on matters in which they are well versed.
.- I think that most of us agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) when he states that the talents and knowledge of individual members on both sides of the chamber should be used in every possible way for the advantage of the nation. I think that most of us agree with him also that we could well have another close look at the operation of the committee system. I notice that three joint committees - the Joint House Committee, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts - are covered by the section of the Estimates which we are now debating. I understand that before very long a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee will be held. No doubt some consideration could be given then to a general review of the procedures of this Parliament, to the Standing Orders generally and to the desirability of altering our procedures in accordance with recent House of Commons practice. 1 should like to make one point regarding the suggestion which was advanced by the honorable member for Batman. I do not put this forward exactly as a test of sincerity - not in relation to him personally, at any rate - but I suggest that the Opposition could well reconsider its attitude to the Foreign Affairs Committee which was originally set up by the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey. Despite his pleas year after year, the Opposition refused consistently to join this all-party committee and to play its part. I urge the Opposition to reconsider its attitude, especially in the light of the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Batman.
He referred to Opposition amendments to legislation. I suggest that many opposition amendments to bills have been advanced purely for party political purposes. I do not claim that they are not put forward in all sincerity - no doubt in most cases they are - but they are not acceptable to us as a government because the creed which the Opposition follows and the tenets that it holds are, in a political sense, so very different from ours. I do not agree with the honorable member’s statement that merely because the amendments emanate from the Opposition they are put to one side. If they are worth while and if they are acceptable to the Government, the Government is willing to accept them. In fact, the Government has followed this course through the years.
I remind the honorable member also that during the last year or two we have seen the introduction of two non-party measures. Last year we had the Matrimonial Causes Bill - which now is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 - and this year we have on the notice-paper the Marriage Bill 1960. The Government has approached these bills on a non-party basis which, 1 think, is a very good thing, par ticularly as the measures are highly controversial and can have grave effects on society.
Getting back to the Estimates, we are now considering the estimate of the cost of the Parliament for the current financial year which is £1,312,000. lt is noteworthy, and should be pointed out, that this amount is about £66,000 less than the appropriation which was made in 1959-60, and about £42,000 less than the actual expenditure in that year. Putting it in another way and, perhaps, in a more simple and personal fashion, the cost per head of the Australian population in this current financial year is estimated at about 2s. 6d. On the basis of the tax-paying population of Australia, it may be put down at a shade over 5s. per head per year. I do not think anybody could complain that Parliament is costing the people of this country more than it is worth. On the contrary, I believe that all of us have a great appreciation of the value of this very fine democratic institution. It is up to the members of this Parliament and those who help in the running of the Parliament to maintain the highest traditions, the highest standards of behaviour and the highest standards of operation in this National Parliament.
Sincerity and honesty are two characteristics that we all look for in a member of Parliament. While honorable members opposite have political views which are diametrically opposed to those of honorable members on this side on many issues, I do not dispute the sincerity and honesty of the overwhelming majority of the members of all parties in this Parliament. I think it is salutary, too, that we should remind ourselves that the Queen in Parliament is supreme, that the Government is Her Majesty’s Government and the Opposition Her Majesty’s Opposition. As a parliament, we should always look with a jealous eye at the power of the Executive, whatever its political colour may be, and see to it that a not undue proportion of power passes into the hands of bureaucracy.
This is a fine institution. The Parliament represents a true cross-section of the people of the country. It has not just grown up like Topsy. Parliament has evolved slowly through the centuries, and I believe it will continue to evolve, for the good of the people of Australia. It is something far greater than the petty, puny critics and cynics who, with their cheap jibes and sneers, do a great disservice not only to this, the people’s Parliament, but also to the people of Australia as a whole when they take such delight in attempting to belittle Parliament and the members of Parliament by their extreme misrepresentation and distortion of facts. I do not think it is too much to say that the Parliament and the law courts of this country are the principal ramparts which protect the people of Australia against despotism, tyranny, the law of the jungle and even anarchy. Are not these ramparts worth preserving? Or are they to be torn down? Only one answer can be given to those questions by every loyal Australian. Those people who are continually trying to belittle Parliament for their own purposes, are, without doubt, giving great aid and comfort to those subversive elements in the community which would like to see the whole institution and the whole Australian democratic way of life overthrown in favour of tyranny and dictatorship.
I have not mentioned one person by name, nor do I intend to do so. Suffice it to say, “ Whosoever the cap fits, let him wear it.” In these days, with pressure groups attempting to bring so much force to bear on members of Parliament, it is worth reminding ourselves that every one of us here represents many thousands of people who did not actually support us at the poll. In other words, I am reemphasizing the old theme - independence of the member of Parliament and the duty of the member of Parliament to remember at all times that, in this place and elsewhere, he represents the people in his electorate, not only the people who happened to cast a vote in his favour on the preceding polling day. Here I take the opportunity of quoting the words of that great statesman, Edmund Burke, and I am indebted to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) for putting them into my hands. In “ A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol “ Mr. Burke said -
His unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you. Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
Those words should always be remembered by every member of Parliament.
There are no doubt some ways in which this Parliament could be improved. For example, I feel that there could be better planning of each parliamentary session. First, we should be able to evolve some better arrangement of sitting hours. Often I feel that during the adjournment debates when we sit here into the small hours of the morning, we discuss matters which could much better be debated on Grievance Day, and I am happy that in recent times there has been a regular Grievance Day every second Thursday, in accordance with the Standing Orders. I also believe that, by dint of a little forethought and good management, we could avoid the continual endofsession rush which I think is undesirable. We could also avoid the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule which enables the Government to bring in perhaps vital legislation at a very late hour of the night when members are tired and cannot give of their best in the interests of their constituents.
I had intended to criticize the proposal to suspend the sittings of Parliament during the first week in November to coincide with the running of the Melbourne Cup. As I have now learned from the Government Whip that the time-table for legislation is such that unless the House sits at least until 27th October, we shall not be able to get through the House vital legislation proposing to grant increases in social service and repatriation benefits to all those who will be entitled to them as from 1st October, I withhold my criticism.
But there is one point on which I have strong views. I refer to the custom that has grown up during the last year or so of holding a parliamentary ball at the commencement of each parliamentary year. I believe that a Royal ball is fully justified whenever we have Royal visitors because those are occasions for joyful celebration. There may be justification for holding a parliamentary ball at the beginning of each new Parliament, but I do not think there is any justification for the holding of a ball at the beginning of each parliamentary year. I. feel that receptions of the type we enjoyed in former years were quite adequate and much more acceptable to the Australian people as a whole. They afforded a most convenient opportunity for returning hospitality to members of the Diplomatic Corps and others in the Canberra community.
Finally, I pay tribute to the Temporary Chairmen of Committees who do such excellent work. Amongst them I include those honorable members opposite who take their turn in the Chair. I am always very pleased to see the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) in the Chair because that lends emphasis to the impartiality of the Chair in this National Parliament. I also pay tribute to the Clerk of the House and his staff, to the “ Hansard “ staff, to the Library staff, to the Joint House staff, the printing staff and all those people in the Parliament who render such yeoman service in helping this National Parliament to run smoothly.
.- I heartily agree with some of the things that have been said by the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) and there are some with which I wish to express some disagreement. I am not firmly convinced by the arguments of the Government Whip as to the sittings of this chamber; but this is not the time or the place to pursue that argument and 1 shall do so at some other time. I was interested in the quotation from Edmund Burke by the honorable member for Ryan which was so kindly given to him by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The honorable member for Moreton also inspired me to look up the views expressed by Edmund Burke on Parliament. We are inclined to blame the press for criticism of Parliament and its members when at times we should look in the mirror and see the cause of that criticism. It is not entirely justified. Some of the criticism of expenditure in respect of the Parliament is ill-informed. If the public were told the true story - a story that any capable newspaper man could write after studying the annual reports of the Parliament and the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure - the public would be quite satisfied that it was not being treated in the way that some newspapers like to suggest.
Concerning the functions of Parliament Edmund Burke had this to say -
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.
The part to be played by the Parliament might become smaller if the members of Parliament are not awake to their responsibilities. I refer, for example, to the attendance in this chamber. On some occasions 1 have heard honorable members delivering speeches which other honorable members might well listen to and digest, but the speakers have had an audience of only three or four members. Admittedly, honorable members have other duties apart from sitting in this chamber and listening to the speeches; but I refuse to be convinced that those duties keep some honorable members away from this chamber during the whole of the sitting time. If the press writes strongly against us, surely we must admit that we deserve some of that criticism. The remedy is in our own hands.
The honorable member for Ryan said that we had a Grievance Day every fortnight. I am not convinced by his statement because I think that over the past three years we have not been given the number of Grievance Days to which we are entitled. At times, we are kept out of bed by debates on the motion for the adjournment of the House because time that was set down for Grievance Day has been taken from honorable members and Government business has been given precedence. In 1958, we were entitled to seven Grievance Days but were given two. In 1959, we were entitled to eight Grievance Days but were given three. This year, we should have been given six but we have had three - so the percentage has risen. Again, sometimes we have the spectacle of a Minister taking 20 or 30 minutes of the lime that should have been allotted to private members for Grievance Day. T realize that Ministers must answer criticism, but they get frequent opportunities to speak, and when a day is set aside for private members to air grievances affecting their electorates, the time should not be taken from them.
Earlier, I referred to criticism by the press and said that honorable members deserve some of the criticism that the press directs against us. However, I, for one, totally disagree with the statement made by an honorable senator in another place about the daily allowance that is provided for members of Parliament while in Canberra. The press should realize that the Parliament is composed, in the main, of members who could not possibly have their wives in Canberra the Whole time the Parliament is sitting. The Parliament is also composed in the main of members who have responsibilities in their electorates. They look after those responsibilities and do not spend the whole of their time in Canberra. Some of them travel long distances to do things that their electors put them in the Parliament to do. Some published statements react unfairly against every member of this Parliament, and the press is decidedly unfair in using some incident to whip members of Parliament when such criticism does not apply to 1 or 2 per cent, of honorable members. There are in this Parliament 184 members and senators who represent a cross-section of the Australian people; and criticism could be directed just as easily against 184 journalists.
Matters relevant to parliamentary expenditure should be put in the proper perspective. Over the past few weeks, there has been repeated criticism based on a statement by the Auditor-General about the cost of the parliamentary dining-room. Articles on this subject that have been published would lead the public to believe that we in this Parliament receive free meals, free drinks and free everything. That is quite ridiculous. If the persons who wrote that criticism studied the relevant annual reports and balance-sheets, they would find, in the first place, that there is gross profiteering in the bar at Parliament House. That could be proved by the figures. What happens in relation to the parliamentary refreshmentrooms is no different from the situation that arises in respect of practically every other part of the establishment. Would the journalists who have written this criticism suggest that no person should be in attendance in the Parliamentary Library unless a majority of honorable members wanted a book? Would the press suggest that there should not be a clerk, a serjeant-at-arms or an attendant in this chamber unless all members were present? Parliament is a particular institution with certain requirements and honorable members need certain services which they cannot get elsewhere. When the press selects one service and uses it as a stick to whip members of Parliament, it is playing into the hands of those forces which seek the destruction of parliamentary government and democracy. The results must be on the heads of those who perpetrate this disservice.
A cursory glance will show that there is no reason for this criticism of members of Parliament and what they do. After all, a net profit was shown in the dining-room. The £40,000 deficit to which reference has been made arises from staffing arrangements similar to those provided in all sections of the Parliament. In the bar itself, there was an overall profit of 34 per cent. Anybody who has any knowledge of trading in hotels or clubs will know that there is no ground for criticism there; but for some unknown reason, the staff in that section apparently is supposed to be entirely different from the other staffs that give service to members and the public generally.
– Has the honorable member ever seen an article in the press which mentions that pressmen use the parliamentary dining-room all the year around?
– No. I hope that my friend, the honorable member for Moreton, will quote in this debate the words of somebody who is known to more people than Edmund Burke was; and I refer to the editor of a leading Australian newspaper who made a statement a few years ago and now permits his newspaper to print statements to the contrary. I hope the honorable member for Moreton will express to this chamber what has been said in those articles and show what a- ridiculous situation has arisen.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I think two things must happen: First of all, members must be more aware of their own responsibility to Parliament. Secondly, there has to be a greater awareness of responsibility on the part of those who write about the Parliament. It is true that if only the debates of Parliament were reported, the reports would not be widely read. One has only to see what happens at the Olympic Games where there are nearly as many pressmen as there are athletes. The pressmen never bother to report that we have a band of fit athletes whom we are proud to have representing Australia. Instead, they report that this one has a sore throat, another one has marital trouble and another has some other sort of trouble. Just as pressmen have a responsibility to sport and what sport means, they have a responsibility to Parliament and what Parliament means. The quicker people realize their responsibility to Parliament the more chance there is of our continuing with a democratic way of life and handing to our children and their children a system under which we have been proud to live. We need to- come to a realization that unless this occurs we play into the hands of those forces which seek to destroy us.
– I join with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and other honorable members who have made pleas this afternoon for a more effective working of our parliamentary institution. I think it will be agreed that Parliament is a bulwark of our democracy. Each of us is elected on the votes of our constituents and each vote has equal value. It may be said that certain electorates are of greater size than others but, generally speaking, I think that the principle of democracy prevails in the election of all members of the Parliament. But Parliament cannot work effectively unless honorable members on both sides of politics are given adequate opportunities to serve. Not one person who comes to this place does not from time to time feel great frustration and great difficulty in discharging his work as a parliamentarian.
One of the most important matters, I believe, is the question of meetings of Parliament. Parliament ought to meet frequently enough to give private members opportunities to express themselves on current matters affecting their electorates and the people generally. At the present time, the Parliament is called together only to meet the needs of the Executive Government - to meet the needs of Ministers when legislation has to be brought down for the Budget session and at other times. When Parliament is meeting it is important that members should have the fullest opportunities to express themselves on the various issues that arise for discussion. If circumstances permit, they should be able to use the adjournment debate and other occasions to ventilate urgent matters of public importance.
I deprecate the attitude of certain members, some of whom have been in the Par liament for some considerable time, who, evening after evening, embark on filibuster debates on issues which they think have a political advantage for their party. I am concerned particularly with those who profess to fight communism and who frequently speak on this subject at great length and with great heat. They do nothing to help our democracy and, in the long run, will do much to undermine the parliamentary institution. Those who do that sort of thing are often playing a diabolical and dangerous game of politics. They constantly use the catch cry of “ communism “ for sordid party gain. Let us fight all forms of totalitarianism through positive work for our people. By coming to grips with urgent matters affecting our people we can make a contribution that will find a responsive echo throughout the land and there will be no need for us to go on these filibusters and talk about matters merely for sordid party political gain.
Another important matter is the constant absence from the Parliament of Ministers of the Crown. We all know that Ministers are obliged, from time to time, to leave this country for certain special reasons such as important conferences. But the tendency over recent years has been for Minister after Minister to leave the Parliament whilst it is in session, despite the fact that the business of the Parliament relates to their departments. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is absent from the Parliament while the debate on the Estimates is in progress. Such action does not strengthen the standing of the Parliament. It does not help us to build up our position. It does not help honorable members to secure the informed answers that ought to come from the Government side. , Other Ministers too are frequently absent from Parliament.
Another important matter is one which was raised earlier to-day. I refer to the fact that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) made an official statement relating to his department to the press and not in the Parliament. That, again, is to be deplored. I hope that, in view of the question that was asked in this chamber to-day and in view of the interest of members in this matter, Ministers, in future, will take advantage of the forms of the House and, instead of making statements to the press, will make them in this Parliament where members can examine and debate them.
Another matter of concern is the fact that we have not had the number of Grievance Days to which we are entitled. It has been mentioned that, in recent times, we have had a number of Grievance Days. But I believe that the elimination of even one Grievance Day should not be tolerated. We are entitled to the full use of Grievance Day to express ourselves on our local problems and on the important issues of the day. I make the plea that in future Grievance Day will be neither eliminated nor interrupted by ministerial statements or other business.
I want to express concern at late sittings of the Parliament. I agree with other speakers who have complained that late sittings do not make for the useful working of the Parliament. They do not get the best from the Parliament. I consider it is necessary that Parliament should terminate its business not later than 10.30 each evening and that the adjournment debate ought to be included in that period. I also think that perhaps some of the important matters which are raised on the adjournment, from time to time, might usefully be broadcast. This would give the electorate quite a lot of interesting matter which is denied to it at the present time.
I agree, also, with the previous speaker who complained that the rush of business at the end of the session is disturbing and does not work in the best interests of our parliamentary institution. I plead, therefore, that the Government will so arrange its business that the Parliament may deal with it in an orderly way, giving careful thought to all matters on the business paper. Vital questions should not be passed over in the haste to complete a parliamentary session, but should be given the consideration to which they are entitled.
May I add, Mr. Makin, that by gracing the chair this afternoon you add an essential link to our parliamentary institution? You, Mr. Makin, have been a Speaker of the House, a Minister of the Crown, and a very honoured representative of Australia overseas, and I think it is most important, as the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) quite rightly pointed out, that temporary chairmen of committees should be given opportunities to grace the chair and to carry out the duties of the chairman.
I want to support enthusiastically the plea made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) for more extensive use of the parliamentary committee system. We have the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee both rendering splendid service to the Parliament and the people of Australia. There is a need to increase the use of the committee system, and I express very great concern and regret at the fact that the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to work in co-operation with the Government in establishing a committee for the purpose of keeping a watchful eye on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was not accepted, and that the opportunity that presented itself will perhaps be lost. If it is lost, that will be something to be deplored, because I think that in matters concerning a trusteeship territory, an area of great importance to Australia and to mankind, the views of the Opposition should be considered. If a committee such as that suggested by the Leader of the Opposition had been operating, and if the Government had had the benefit of the views of Opposition members of that committee, I am sure that the unfortunate situation in which the Government finds itself at the moment in connexion with a matter concerning the Territory of Papua and New Guinea would not have arisen. In any case, the work of our parliamentary committees has proved of great value indeed.
For some years I have been advocating the need for the establishment of a committee on defence expenditure and preparedness. Year after year this Parliament has been voting about £200,000,000 for defence, and most members of the Parliament would agree that there is very little tangible evidence to-day of what we may have gained from the spending of these vast sums of money annually for the last ten years. Constant changes are being made in the defence field, and I believe that a committee on defence expenditure and preparedness, established on somewhat the same lines as the war expenditure committee, would be able to render great service to the nation.
We might well consider also the establishment of an education committee. It is true that pleas have been made by responsible people in the sphere of education for a committee similar to the Murray committee, to investigate primary, secondary and technical education. This would, of course, be a specialist committee, and 1 see no reason why the Parliament itself should not come to grips with this problem, with a committee composed of suitable types from both sides of the Chair to probe fully our educational requirements and so ensure that every Australian child has the fullest opportunity to be of service to his country and to develop in the fight direction and to as great a degree as possible. For this reason 1 suggest that such an education committee should be established by the Parliament.
Other committees have been formed from time to time which have given good service. There have been party committees, the work of which has been of inestimable value. We remember with gratitude the work of the rail standardization committees under the leadership of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The reports of those committees were of great value. Quite recently a committee on mining, over which I had the pleasure of presiding, made what I consider a very useful study of the coal-mining industry and published an interim report which I think should help considerably to enable us to understand problems associated with the mining industry and the mining communities. While I am on the subject of that committee I should like to pay a compliment to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was at that time Acting Prime Minister, for the help he gave the committee by providing a meeting place for it, but I must deplore and express sadness and regret at the fact that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) did not extend the same kind of courtesy and assistance. We were denied the assistance of eminent experts and top public servants, whose ability and knowledge should be made available not only to Ministers of the Crown but also to every other member of the Parliament, to enable members to render maximum service to the people.
I conclude by expressing regret at the fact that the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, which was presented to the Parliament some time ago, has not been acted upon. At the present time there is a pressing need for constitutional change. Our Constitution, which was framed in 1901, must become out of date and outmoded in this fast-moving period of our history, and changes along the lines suggested by the committee could make this Parliament better fitted to tackle the problems of the present day.
.- I join with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) in his criticism of some newspaper articles that have appeared recently concerning the operations of this Parliament. However, I would like my position to be very clear, and I think most honorable members are grateful for the fact that only one newspaper in this place took up the cudgels. It would appear that the others had no truck with this kind of attack, and for that they deserve some thanks from honorable members of this Parliament. The attack that was made has been dealt with, of course, in another place. It was a most scathing attack on all members of the House of Representatives and all senators.
It is rather strange that we never find the press, as a body, telling the people what it or its representatives receive from this Parliament. There has never been any mention of these things in the newspapers in the fourteen years or so that I have beet? here. The press representatives enjoy concessions here. They have the use of the dining rooms, for instance, for far greater periods than the members of Parliament do.
– The press barons do not pay for their dining room accommodation.
– Let us be fair; the pressmen pay for their meals.
– Their employers do not pay for the amenities provided.
– Well, if the honorable member thinks a little further, he may consider it wise to leave it at that.
Let me make a further point in this connexion. Since the retiring allowance scheme for members of Parliament was introduced in the 1940’s, I have never known any organ of the press to give members of Parliament the credit for having subscribed to the retiring allowance fund. I have never seen a reference in the press to the financial position of that fund, although figures released only recently showed quite plainly that the fund had a credit balance of about £106,000, and that it had used no accrued interest. It was also apparent that the fund had not received any government contribution but had, over the whole period1 of its operation, paid out some £230,000 to retired members or widows.
I do not mind the press failing to publish these facts, but it is not only the members themselves who suffer because the correct situation is not put before the people. The wives of members are also embarrassed by it in the ordinary course of their daily contacts with people, because everybody loves to have a go at members’ wives, saying, “ Look at what the members are getting! “ But the people are never told that parliamentarians are paying subscriptions at an excessive rate in order to get very little more than an age pensioner couple can obtain, provided that they can gain some additional income from working or from superannuation. It is an unfair attitude which they adopt and I suppose we must put up with it; but I repeat that in this particular instance I am glad to say that only one section of the press engaged in this sort of thing.
I wish now to remind honorable members of a resolution that was carried in this Parliament as far back as 20th December, 1912. I think we will all agree that in those days the ethics and manners of the press were far higher than they are to-day. At that time, Mr. Bamford, the then Chairman of Committees, moved, pursuant to notice -
That in the opinion of this House, immediate action should be taken to protect members of this Parliament from the aspersions and misrepresentations of the newspaper press by making an order that, when any article or paragraph appears in a newspaper reflecting upon the good conduct or integrity of a member which, in the opinion of the said member, is calculated to prejudice him in the eyes of the community, and the member affected, by personal explanation or otherwise, declares that the statements so made in regard to himself are erroneous, misleading and injurious, and the House in good faith accepts such statement, no representative or representatives of the newspaper implicated be allowed within the precincts of Parliament House unless, or until, the explanation or contra diction made by the aggrieved member be given in the aforesaid newspaper prominence equal to that given to the offending article or paragraph.
That question was put and passed.
– This would be a lonely place if that were carried out.
– That may be so. If honorable members want to protect themselves they must watch their interests in this regard; and they are the masters of their own destiny here. If these things happen honorable members can take action against the press. That would be nothing novel because 48 years ago, almost to the month, such action was taken to protect members of this Parliament. I would not be certain whether that resolution committed future Parliaments, but if it was incumbent upon members in those days to take that action, it is probably more so to-day because of the scurrilous attacks made upon members from time to time. I read in “The West Australian “ a letter to the editor, in which the correspondent talked of the privileges we get and finished up with this gem of all time - a statement that upon retirement or defeat we all get the privilege of free travel. That correspondent can go anywhere he likes and he will realize that that is not so.
I want now to speak about the Constitutional Review Committee. In his policy speech in 1955 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said there were tremendous problems facing this Parliament. For the sake of accuracy, I will quote what he said -
We still believe that there are many constitutional problems, from the relations between the Houses to the creation of new States, which need the studious consideration of an all-Party Committee.
We can take that statement to cover the Constitution from A to Z, because the only matter arising after the creation of States is the machinery whereby the Constitution can be altered. On 24th May, 1956, very shortly after the 1955 election, this committee was set up under the chairmanship of Senator Spicer. It had its first meeting in June, 1956, and because of various happenings - the appointment of the chairman to the Commonwealth Industrial Court, various elections, and the need to re-constitute the committee - its report was not tabled in this House until October, 1958, just prior to the last general election. Following that election the committee was re-constituted to write the reasons for the report it had given, and they are now in the hands of all honorable members. One of the things about which I wish to complain is simply that the committee, in its report tabled in 1958, on page 6, paragraph 28, said -
The Committee wishes to point out, however, that because of insufficient time it was not able to conclude its deliberations on all aspects of the Constitution which it wished to consider fully.
That committee, during the couple of years it was working and despite hold-ups took evidence in regard to some of the remaining questions which were not dealt with in its report, but now we find, apparently, that the committee is not to be re-constituted and no further committee is to be constituted to finish the job. It was the first time since federation that an all-party parliamentary committee tackled such a job, but now the Parliament is left in the air again with this job half completed or two-thirds completed.
Unless honorable members pay attention to matters of this kind we will reach the crazy stage of having nothing attempted and nothing finished. Despite what the Government might say, if sufficient pressure was applied by members of this Parliament I feel certain that a committee would be constituted to complete that job, and for once in the life of this federation the Parliament would have something concrete before it in respect of constitutional reform. It would have supplied to it a report based on evidence received by this committee and that evidence would be available, although it depends entirely upon the Parliament whether it thinks fit to make such evidence available, and to whom. We have all sorts of people writing to the newspapers about the Constitution; but evidence such as the Constitutional Review Committee was able to obtain will be invaluable for reference in years to come. I wonder how many members of the Parliament are aware of the difficulty of getting a copy of the debates which took place during the conventions of the early ‘90’s, before our federation was formed. I have not seen one complete set; and I can assure members that they are very scarce indeed. Therefore, a complete study of this report would be most valuable to members of this Parliament.
I have heard some members of the public and even some members of this Parliament say that the committee’s report tends to wards being something like a socialistic document. I take exception to that statement here and now, whether in doing so I offend any member of this Parliament or any member of the public. If that sort of charge is made against members of the committee, including the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), Mr. Justice Joske, who was in this Parliament until very recently, Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, Senator Wright, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) and myself, I throw it back into the teeth of those who make it. Whether we agree with the report or not, members of this Parliament should be prepared to stand up against any members of the public who might say that this is a socialistic document. The committee made an honest effort to review the Constitution, as it was directed to do, and it reported to the Parliament.
I shall conclude by mentioning two matters in respect of the Constitution. The first is the defence power which is covered by section 51 (vi.). That section deals with “ naval and military defence “ but makes no mention of the Air Force. Another problem is that if a person dies in Western Australia and has investments in New South Wales and Victoria, before his beneficiaries can get anything from his estate, the whole of the probate has to be opened up. It is a harvest for the lawyers, as they themselves will tell us. Yet we sit here and do nothing about problems of that kind. At present there is no uniform company law. No matter what the State Attorneys-General might be doing in conjunction with our own AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) to bring in a uniform company law, until this Parliament is clothed with the relevant power it would be wise to have a report from the Constitutional Review Committee on which to base our arguments when we go out to fight this issue. I hope that honorable members will watch this matter and ensure that - in the near future, I hope, but at least at some time in the future - a committee is constituted to complete this job. It was commenced when twelve members from both Houses of the Parliament sat for two years earnestly trying to prepare for the Parliament a document that would prove of value in me years to come.
.- I join with other honorable members who want this Parliament to be the instrument of democracy. Unfortunately, it is not as effective an instrument of democracy as it should be. I have pointed out previously that at the last Senate election, in the constituencies of Melbourne, Scullin and Yarra in Victoria, and in constituencies embracing industrial suburbs in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, up to 8,000 informal votes were cast, although the electorates are constituted of about 40,000 electors. That means that one vote in every five was informal. For the whole of Australia, the informal votes cast for the Senate in each electorate would number between 5,000 and 8,000 or between 12 per cent, and 20 per cent, of the total votes. A Senate representation arising from an election with such a high proportion of informal votes could hardly be said to be absolutely democratic. I suggested that some action should be taken to alter the method of election, and I suggest now that, prior to the next election, the method of voting for the Senate be altered to eliminate-
– This matter comes under the estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– My friend says that this should be dealt with when we are considering the estimates for the Department of the Interior, but as it has to do with the Parliament, I think I will make my speech now and repeat it when the estimates for the Department of the Interior are before us. Having said that, I add that I believe the honorable member for Mallee is, as usual, correct. The subject I raised would rightly arise when we are considering estimates for the Department of the Interior.
I should like to deal now with the question of the prestige of the Parliament. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) spoke of aspersions that have been cast on the character and integrity of honorable members not only in newspaper articles but also in the speeches of other parliamentarians. I believe that honorable members should be protected from these aspersions which sometimes take the form of an allegation that parliamentarians receive bribes. This protection would be given if honorable members were to make public information as to their total income and the sources of their income. There is nothing objectionable in doing this. It is done in other countries. If we want to keep our reputations unsullied, this is an easy method of ensuring that we do. The implication of dishonesty could not be levelled against us if we presented a balance-sheet each year. This is done in other democracies and is regarded there as a worth-while method of preserving the public from unscrupulous parliamentarians, and the reputations of parliamentarians from an unscrupulous press or from suggestions made by other parliamentarians who may be unscrupulous. It is a method that could well be followed here.
– Would you include the income from selling wool to Russia and red China?
– I do not think that that has anything whatever to do with this issue; but I do think that the matter should be treated seriously. Honorable members may want to keep some particulars of their sources of income as private as possible. However, parliamentarians in other countries reveal full particulars of their incomes, and other members of the community are required to do so. If it is good enough for other members of the community to adopt this course so as to preserve their integrity, then I believe that parliamentarians should also adopt this course and so preserve themselves from groundless attack.
– You may win Tatts!
– Yes, and if I did, I believe that that information should be made available to the public. By revealing the sources of my income, I would make clear to the community that any increase in my assets did not arise because I was selling the interests of the Australian taxpayers who elected me to the Parliament.
– Do you think that any suggestion has been made lately that any member of this National Parliament has received bribes or has been associated with graft or corruption?
– Since I have been a member of the Parliament, I have heard the suggestion made constantly that members were receiving bribes. This suggestion is most destructive of the prestige of the Parliament. Every honorable member knows of members of the various Parliaments of Australia who did not have a penny when they were elected but who were wealthy people after a few years. If it were known that their wealth had been derived not through any misuse of parliamentary opportunities but through legitimate business transactions, the prestige of the parliamentary institution would be much higher than it is now.
In making this suggestion, I do not really believe that it will be acted upon now, because I have made it on about 25 occasions during the eleven years that I have been a member of the Parliament, and nothing has been done. However, I hope that in the future, when the Australian Labour Party comes into office, some scheme along the lines that I have suggested will be adopted.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
.- When the sitting was suspended we were discussing the first item on the Estimates - The Parliament. I believe that when we consider the significance of Parliament we must recognize that in this country at any rate Parliament is synonymous with democracy. When we consider democracy we recognize that besides the other characteristics that go to build democracy, there are three principles. One, of course, is Parliament itself. The next is the efficiency and honesty of our Public Service. The third is the truthfulness, the sincerity, the honesty and the freedom of the press. I believe that in this country we have a parliament of which the nation can justly be proud. I say that, Mr. Temporary Chairman, after considering the work of this Parliament and the integrity of the members of this Parliament - of all parties - in comparison with the work and the members of the parliaments of at least seven other countries that I have visited, whose parliaments I have seen in operation.
As an Australian I believe that we have every reason to be proud that we have inherited possibly the highest standard of democracy that exists anywhere in the world. This Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia functions on a plane of which every Australian can be proud and of which every member of the Parliament can be proud. I believe that there is not one member of the press gallery in this Parliament who would suspect or believe that any member of this particular Parliament has been, or would be, associated with anything of which he would be ashamed. I believe that in Australia we are fortunate that we have a Public Service of the highest standard of integrity and efficiency; but I am afraid, Sir, that I am not prepared to admit that the same circumstances can be ascribed to the Australian newspapers.
It is a fact that in this country we have freedom of the press. If democracy is to work the press must be free. I have been in countries in Asia where the press has been muzzled, where newspapers have been stopped from continuing their operations as a result of their criticisms of the government in power. Such is not the case in Australia. Here the press has complete freedom, and because here it has freedom I believe a very great responsibility is placed on those who control the newspapers of this country - a responsibility to ensure that they do not betray the trust that is placed in them, that they do not regard the freedom of the press as licence.
Recently, we have seen a series of attempts by newspapers to bring this Parliament into discredit. As one who has an intense belief in all the principles of democracy, I believe that it is the right of the press to criticize the Parliament, to criticize individual members of the Parliament, or to criticize the Government. Sometimes there have been in the press criticisms levelled at the party of which I am a member and with which I agreed, criticisms of the Government, or of myself as an individual - criticisms that were fair, honest and deserved. But there have been times when, I believe, irresponsible members of the press, and frequently irresponsible members of our own press gallery, have published stories which were complete distortions of the truth, and which could have no other effect than to bring discredit on the parliamentary institution, which is the symbol of democracy in this country. They have published articles which have endeavoured to cause unreasonable and unjustified embarrassment not only to the Parliament and its members, but also to the very institution of Parliament itself - articles which have aimed at destroying the confidence of the people in Parliament, articles in which the writers have tried to make the people believe that members of this Parliament have adopted an attitude of irresponsibility towards their work of administering the affairs of the nation and its finances.
In the last fortnight or so there have been two instances which I shall mention in particular. One was that which caused the Speaker of the House to make reference to the article concerned from the Speaker’s Chair. The other was that small, that petty, that cheap attitude of some of the editors of the newspapers who sent photographers to an airport to take photographs of members of Parliament arriving in Commonwealth cars on their way to Canberra. Sir, does the editor of the Brisbane “ CourierMail “, or Sir John Williams, or any member of his staff who has been sent on a mission by a newspaper, travel under his own steam and at his own expense to the airport to catch a plane, or does he use a car that is provided by the company?
Members of Parliament are more restricted than are ordinary, second-rate commercial travellers in the use of transport to and from Canberra. The commercial traveller is provided with a motor car; but a member of this Parliament is provided with transport to the aerodrome only at those particular times which are specified - the early hours of the morning or late at night. I am not ashamed to arrive at the Brisbane airport in a Commonwealth car, and the editors of the newspapers can send as many photographers as they like to photograph my arrival. I know that the constituents I represent do not believe that a member of Parliament should be required to walk, hitch-hike, or travel by public transport, by taxi or some other means, when he is travelling to the airport on his way to Canberra to carry out the duties that he was elected to perform.
I think that the worst and most disgraceful attempt to belittle this Parliament and to humiliate its members in the eyes of the public were the articles that were recently published about the subsidization of the parliamentary dining-room. The Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ carried an article which asked, “ Why should the taxpayers of this country subsidize the members of Parliament for their meals in Parliament House? “ The article was instigated by a special feature writer who sits in our gallery, and who par takes of all the privileges that are available to him - and then writes this article which is a complete distortion of the facts!
The facts are that this particular gentleman and his company are being subsidized by the taxpayers. The newspaper which he represents pays no rent for the office which he and his staff occupy in the precincts of this building. They contribute nothing to the public purse to recompense the people for the facilities provided for them which enable them to print their stories and distribute them to the public. But this gentleman avails himself of the privileges of the refreshment room.
Now let us look at the situation which prevails in the parliamentary refreshment rooms. The prices that members of this Parliament pay for the food which is served in the dining room of this building are comparable with the prices paid in any normal club in any capital city of Australia. We find that a loss is not incurred on the serving of meals to members of the Parliament. The real loss is incurred in the continual maintenance of a considerable staff in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms during periods when the Parliament is in recess. I have been able to obtain from the Secretary of the Joint House Department of the Parliament figures which indicate that the losses incurred in the dining room could perhaps be well and truly ascribed to the fact that the dining room used by the members of the press gallery and by the staffs of Parliament House is kept open when the Parliament is in recess. Therefore, it may well be that the taxpayers are subsidizing the newspapers of Australia to enable them to feed their staffs here and turn out stories that are sometimes unreliable and sometimes distortions of the truth.
Let us consider the meals that are served in the dining rooms. In the dining room used by the representatives of the newspaper companies, 3,975 meals were served in the period from 2nd May, 1960, to 3rd June, 1960, when the Parliament was in session. In the same period, only 2,693 meals were served in the main dining room which is used by members of the Parliament. To be strictly truthful, Sir, I must point out that the dining room used by the press representatives is used also by the staffs of Parliament House and by the staffs of Ministers, and it is essential that we maintain during periods of recess a staff of thirteen in all, including a chef. During the recess period from 6th June, 1960, to 8th July, 1960, no meals were served in the main dining room, which is used by members of the Parliament, but 1,528 meals were served in the dining room used by the press - a dining room that is used by 81 newspaper employees continually throughout the year. 1 suggest that if we are to continue to enjoy real democracy in this country, the newspapers have a responsibility not to set out deliberately to destroy the confidence of the people in the most democratic form of Government that exists perhaps anywhere, in the world. They have a responsibility not to try to destroy the confidence of the people in the Parliament but to print the facts. No member of this Parliament would resent criticism if it was well and honestly founded, but when the criticism to which we are subjected is a distortion of the facts, that is a different matter. When the truth is investigated, it appears that the members of the Parliament are not having their meals subsidized but that probably the meals enjoyed by newspaper employees are being subsidized by the taxpayers.
When in these circumstances a member of the press gallery writes a story in an effort to make the people believe that members of the Parliament are surreptitiously taking out of the pockets of the taxpayers money to which members are not entitled, we have reached the greatest depths of degradation of the press that we could possibly imagine. I am surprised that any man is capable of writing such dishonest stories. I emphasize that the writer knew they were dishonest, because he quoted details from the report of the Auditor-General - a report which clearly explained what the position was. This man attended the staff dining room in Parliament House, and he knew the prices that were being paid by members of the Parliament for their meals in the main dining room. He was well aware that those prices compared with prices paid in the leading clubs in the capital cities.
I deplore the fact that a newspaper man who uses an office for which his company pays no rent tries to capitalize on his position here and make a profit out of writing articles such as the one in question, which was published in the newspapers of the capital cities throughout Australia in a deliberate attempt to bring the Parliament into disrepute. Such a person is not fit to be a member of the parliamentary press gallery or of a newspaper staff reporting the proceedings in this Parliament. I think it is high time the Parliament gave attention to abuses of the privilege of Parliament. Anybody who abuses the privilege of Parliament, whether he be a member of the Parliament or a member of the press gallery, should be adequately dealt with.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I do not desire to continue with the theme on which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has dwelt. I suggest, however, that the press should take his words to heart. There is no doubt that over the years the press, in leading articles and various reports, has attempted to belittle members of the Parliament and has tended, perhaps at times unintentionally, to make the people believe that the members of this Parliament get great benefits from their position - benefits that in fact they do not get. Lots of people think that members of the Parliament get their meals in this building free. That is the impression the people are given by the publicity that constantly appears in the press.
Only recently I went into a hairdresser’s establishment in my own district for a haircut. I had known the hairdresser since he was a lad. While I was in conversation with him he said, “ But members of Parliament do not pay taxes “. As it happened, I had with me one of the slips that members receive every month giving details of their salary payments. I showed it to the hairdresser and pointed out that for the month deductions from my salary for income tax amounted to £44 and for retiring allowance contributions to £21 13s. 4d. All honorable members get these slips, and they know what information is shown on them. The hairdresser was amazed. He said, “ But you do not have to pay that, do you? “ I said, “ I do. Those are my actual payment; so that over the year I pay twelve times £44 in income tax.” Some other honorable members may pay even more. I mention these things this evening, Mr. Temporary Chairman, because I think that the members of the press staffs should realize that in writing down members of the Parliament they are doing Australia a very great disservice indeed. 1 should like now to deal with one or two other matters in this discussion on the remainder of the vote for the Parliament. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) this afternoon discussed the committee system and dealt with various committees appointed by this Parliament. He referred in particular to the committee system as it operates in other countries, and contrasted it with the system of committees that we have in this Parliament. For years, I served in a small State Parliament. In the House of Assembly in South Australia, of which I was a member, there were only 39 members. When 1 became a member of this Parliament in 1946, the House of Representatives had 75 members, and the number was increased later to 124. My experience of the workings of the Parliament has been that with greater numbers we get less of that democracy which has been mentioned this evening by the honorable member for Lilley. My experience in this National Parliament has been very different from my experience in the South Australian Parliament. We hear talk here to the effect that members of this place represent the people and put before the Parliament the people’s case for what they need. Indeed, we on this side of the chamber put the case for the great majority of the Australian people - for the great masses of the working people. I know that Government supporters will say that a lot of workers vote for the Government and that if this were not so it would not be in office. We acknowledge that. Nevertheless, we on this side of the chamber are here officially to represent the great masses of the workers. Yet I have never known the Government to accept one amendment put forward by the Opposition in respect of any measure introduced in this Parliament, whether it be industrial legislation to control the working conditions of the people, legislation with respect to the arbitration tribunals, or legislation regulating activities in the industries in which the seamen and the waterside workers are engaged. Yet Government supporters talk about democracy and the expression of the wishes of the people with a view to having them acceded to.
Since this Government took office in 1949 I have not known it in one instance to accept an amendment proposed by the Opposition in respect of any legislation. Two or three years ago, when we were dealing with social services legislation, I put forward certain suggestions for improving it. After I had completed by speech some Government supporters came to me and said that they would have liked to support my proposals, but that the Minister in charge of the bill had more or less directed them to support the Government.
– Labour did that too when it was in office.
– I am not talking about what Labour did. When Labour was in office and was passing measures which would benefit the people the then Opposition wanted to defeat them, but we won. The Opposition of the day forced us into doing something of which the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) now complains. It is a different story altogether. When an anti-Labour Government is in office and we can see that it is not doing what it should for the workers, we propose amendments to the legislation which it introduces, but our amendments are rejected. The honorable member for Mallee is completely lost in the Mallee when he talks as he does. However, one cannot go very far in the fifteen minutes which is allotted to honorable members in this, debate, so I shall turn to other matters.
If the Parliament were increased in numbers the democratic aspect of the parliamentary institution - the right of every honorable member to have his say and to try to get something done - would shrink. To illustrate my point, let me refer to what happened two or three weeks ago. An hour or two before the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) came into the chamber and introduced the Budget, there was a meeting of the Government parties. The Treasurer said, “ This is the Budget; this is what the Government proposes,” and every honorable member opposite now stands behind the Budget although some may criticize it very mildly. Therefore, it is not a democratic budget; it is the Budget of the eleven men who form the batting team. Not even the other Ministers who are not in the Cabinet had a say. I repeat: The bigger the Parliament the less chance will the backbencher have to state his views.
We have to stick up for Parliament and help it to express the wishes of the people. The honorable member for Batman mentioned committees. I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for the last eight or nine years. This committee was formed because Parliament is too big to deal with all the details of Government expenditure announced in the Budget. This committee inquires how money voted by the Parliament is spent. I am sure that honorable members will agree with me that the committee has done valuable work. Even the newspapers have expressed their appreciation of it. The Public Accounts Committee commenced operations under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) who is present in the chamber to-night. He devoted practically all of his time to ensuring that the committee would work in the best interests of the country and in accordance with Parliament’s wishes. Professor Bland was congratulated by the Parliament generally, and by honorable members personally, for the work that he had done as chairman of the committee and when he retired from that position there were many expressions of regret.
The Public Accounts Committee has been (Instructed by the Parliament to do a certain job, and during the time that I have been a member of the committee we have done our job. We cannot decide matters of policy, but when we investigate the way in which various departments have expended the money that has been appropriated by the Parliament - whether there has been overspending or underspending - we become, as it were, the watchdogs of the Parliament. The committee is formed of members of both sides of the House. It is an all-party venture. We do what we can to ensure that the wishes of Parliament are given effect, and I repeat that we have done a good job.
Another committee which is doing great work is the Public Works Committee which decides whether Commonwealth funds should be expended on public works and, in fact, whether the works are really neces sary or desirable This committee is particularly valuable to the Parliament.
However, I would not like the Australian system to go as far as does the American system which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Batman. Some years ago I visited the American Congress and noticed that the House did not go into committee to discuss each bill clause by clause, as we d’o. Instead, it merely adopted the reports of the committees which had been set up to discuss the various measures. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) was with me on that occasion. The American system is very different from our own. Although committees can be of immense benefit to the Parliament, I would not for the world adopt the American principle by which committees become practically the deciding bodies. Of course, the American House of Representatives consists of 400 or 500 members and detailed discussion of a bill is practically impossible. This bears out my contention that the bigger the parliament the less chance individuals have to shape policy.
Since I have been a member of Parliament I have not taken every opportunity, as perhaps I could have, to lambaste the Government on various matters. Instead, I have endeavoured to advance proposals which would benefit the people of this democracy. I am pleased that some of the suggestions which I have made have been adopted.
I believe that people outside can get a wrong impression of Parliament. Parliament is a body which represents the people. We have been sent here to do a job. I do not like to hear one honorable member assail another honorable- member. That is just as bad as the newspapers running down the Parliament. I was very sorry to hear recently a Government supporter make the worst attack on a member of the Opposition that I have ever heard. The honorable member who made the attack has accused the press of writing down the Parliament, but I say to him that his speech did a lot to write down the prestige of this Parliament. I do not speak out of nastiness, but I hope that the honorable member will read the speech that he made and realize that he should change his attitude if he wants the people to look up to the parliamentary institution and to the members who represent them. If we have anything against an honorable member, let us tell him about it straight out, but in so doing there is no need to lower the prestige of the Parliament. I have always believed that the parliamentary institution is the mainstay of our country. Unless that institution legislates in the interests of the people, it will not last.
Honorable members on the Government side often criticize the New South Wales Government. I say to every worker in the community, and to the man who earns £5,000 a year and still received his 28 per cent. marginal increase, that they should thank the Labour Government of New South Wales for blazing the trail. It blazes the trail every time. It is blazing the trail now for a 35-hour week. Government supporters condemn the New South Wales Government and if we dare to support that Government we also will be condemned. When the Labour Government of New South Wales blazed the trail and had the working hours reduced from 48 to 44 a week, the Liberal-Country Party governments condemned it. When the Labour Government of New South Wales blazed the trail and had the working hours reduced from 44 to 40 a week, Liberal-Country Party governments again condemned it again and forecast dire results. But Australia has gone ahead because the New South Wales Government has endeavoured to do its best for the small people - the backbone of the community. If the working man has not much to live on, the small corner storekeeper cannot make much to live on either.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My friend, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) is a very well respected member of this House. That respect, I may say, without impertinence, is well deserved. He has a simple yet very solid philosophy towards life. I wanted to say that because, this evening, he said one or two things to which one is entitled to take exception, and I shall do so with no sense of heat.
In dealing with the matter of Parliament and the need to preserve this edifice of democracy in this country, he referred to the Budget and, Mr. Temporary Chairman, with your permission, I shall make fleeting reference to it myself. The honorable member for Port Adelaide asked honorable members on this side, “ How can you have democracy if, on Budget nights, the Treasurer announces, some 30 minutes before presenting the Budget, the broad details of it? “ Implicit in what the honorable member said was the question, “ Why does he not consult with every one in this Parliament? “ That is plainly a convenient proposal to put forward. One can just imagine the right honorable Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) coming to me and saying, “Jim, what are your views on the Budget? “ I am a poujardist and I would say to him, “ Let us abolish taxation altogether “. I can see him shaking with excitement and saying, “ That is one of the advanced ideas that I welcome “. I think the honorable member for Port Adelaide will admit that while, in a theoretical detachment from the reality of political life here it is an attractive idea that every one should be consulted with respect to what goes into the Budget it is, in the final analysis, not a practical one.
In speaking to the matter before the committee, I should like to pass what may appear to many people to be rather mundane remarks concerning the Library of this Parliament. Despite some cynical contradictions, unhappily, I have not yet reached that ecstatic state where I can speak without having done some homework, and I find the Library of this Parliament of wonderful service to those who search for material and those who honestly ask for information. I should like to pay my humble but nevertheless very warm tribute to all of those who work in the Library of this National Parliament for the very fine service they give to every member of this Parliament.
Having said that, I should like to refer now to the institution of Parliament. This afternoon, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and a few moments ago. the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), with characteristic candour, made reference to the institution of Parliament. I suppose, if we could strip aside all the miserable inhibitions that we may possess all of us do back and appreciate the institution that is postulated by a parliamentary democracy. We may speak about it very glibly sometimes and at other times very sweetly, but nevertheless, if we can come down to baring ourselves, we will be prepared to go on record as saying it is something worth while. I for one would be the last in this place to stand in opposition to criticism of those who sit in Parliament. I think that intelligent criticism, criticism which stems from a genuine conviction that something is wrong, is a wonderful vehicle of correction. But I want to join with my colleagues on both sides of the chamber in expressing concern at the deterioration - I do not put it any harder than that - in the respect of many people for the parliamentary institution. It is all very fine for those of us who sit in Parliament to criticize those outside Parliament who criticize Parliament, but we ourselves must set the example. I do not bar any holds at all in conceding that, but one is bound to recognize that whereas, on the one hand criticism may be completely justifiable, some criticism on the other hand, is completely unjustifiable. With all respect to those who prepare it and those who dish it out, some of the criticism borders on being pathological nonsense.
I hope that no one will regard my remarks as being a general stricture. There still remain in this country many responsible orders of public opinion and public expression, but one does find some isolated examples of powerful and well-placed expressions of public opinion that fall within what I describe as the pathological class of criticism.
My friend the honorable member for Lilley, who I have said spoke with characteristic candour, has had some very blunt comments to make about some sections of the press in this country. I want to make a few fleeting references to what I hope are some tolerable examples of the gross unfairness of some of those criticisms, and I do so not with any animosity, but with a genuine feeling and warm conviction that this is the sort of thing that is destroying, that is weakening the parliamentary institution.
The first has reference to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. Honorable members may say that that has been covered already by the honorable member for Lilley and may ask why I dwell on it. I dwell on it only to point out that one Brisbane newspaper, the “ Courier-Mail “, of 19th August, published a leader referring to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. If I may say so with all respect to the one who wrote it, that leader was grossly inaccurate; it had no sense of fairness about it at all. A few days later, when the Speaker of this National Parliament, mark you, was moved not in defence of himself, not in defence of any member of this Parliament, but in defence of the institution, to reply point by point to this unfair criticism, no reference was made to what he had to say. That is a very unhappy circumstance. It is one thing for one person to hold a point of view, but surely the genuine test of democracy is whether one is prepared to listen to the other fellow’s point of view even if you do not agree with it.
I turn now to the second example, an article published in the Brisbane “ SundayMail “ on 4th September last. It is headed, “ Rent for a Senator “. First, I hope that no person will think that I have any sympathy for the senator concerned. I do not want any one to have any doubts about that. I, the member for Moreton, have no sympathy for the senator concerned. The article is by a Mr. Cox, who had this to say about the Hotel Kurrajong -
This included a radiator thrown in to keep the frost out of a good room in what generally rates as the best of Canberra’s quiet establishments of the kind.
If not explicitly then certainly by implication, there resides in that observation the suggestion that the Kurrajong Hotel is a quite comfortable establishment possibly bordering on the luxury class. I was determined to get to the truth of these matters, and my mind went back a few years to an open letter which was addressed to members of the Commonwealth Parliament. This letter was headed “ How Low Can Our Standards Be? “ The letter was as follows: -
I hope you will read this although you are busy electioneering.
I hope you realise what a low standard you set in living at Canberra.
I have just returned from four days at the Kurrajong Hotel, Canberra.
This is the hotel at which the majority of Federal Members live when attending sessions of the Commonwealth Parliament.
I lived there with distinguished international visitors to this Commonwealth. I could not repeat, Mr. Member, all they told me about your hotel.
Because the Hotel Canberra could not cope with them all, a number was diverted to the Kurrajong. They were warned that this hotel lacked “ amenities usually found in a hotel.”
Even with this warning they were not quite prepared for your hotel.
Remember, you are Members of Parliament, and therefore expected to set standards for this country.
Therefore, I ask, why–
And now, Sir, I will recite hurriedly the questions contained in the letter -
No telephone service worthy of the name?
No coat hanger in any wardrobe.
No notepaper for letter-writing.
No soap in the shower rooms.
Only one glass in each bedroom.
How any ageing gentleman who has dentures can get a drink in the night without swallowing his teeth no one has discovered.
One pat of butter per guest at the table.
Few visitors had experienced such rationing since their boarding school days.
These may be minor amenities, but they are things that count … If you get back to Canberra just look around your hotel and try to make it a bit better than a canecutter’s barracks.
Please remember, the reputation of Australia depends on the way you live yourself, and the way you live is no credit to your country.
That letter was written and signed by the editor-in-chief of the “ Courier-Mail “ and the “ Sunday Mail “. I put it to you, Sir, and the committee that we have here two extravagant points of view. Mr. Cox has implied that we are living in a state of luxury, and the editor-in-chief of the “ Courier Mail “ has said that we are living in what might be regarded as a canecutter’s barracks. This is the exhortative, extravagant nonsense which is damaging to the parliamentary institution. I say to those outside this Parliament: By all means criticize those who sit here but try to make your criticism accurate, if not moderate. It has taken many centuries to evolve the parliamentary system. It is not perfect. It has manifest weaknesses, but never let us forget that it has its strengths. When people have liberty, that estate defies definition; yet let liberty be lost and a multitude of voices will cry out its meaning. Our parliamentary system has the hallmark of liberty, and men of goodwill everywhere will not likely desert that cause.
My plea is not for any abatement of criticism of those who sit in Parliament.
That, after all, is the well-defended right of every free man. My plea is for that character of criticism which will not grievously damage the parliamentary institution - a criticism which, while conscious of its historic mission, will not mistake licence for liberty and so bring good men and women to despise a distinguishing feature of free people and prepare them for oppression. In brief, my plea is one which may be summed up in two words which have the same eloquent appeal right over this Commonwealth - Fair go!
.- The committee is debating the vote for the Parliament, and the one bright spot in the document before us is that there will be a reduction of £66,000 in the expenditure on the Parliament in the next twelve months compared with the past year. That may be some comfort to the critics outside who never come here, never visit members of Parliament, and never see what we are doing as members of Parliament. They are snipers on the sidelines without any real knowledge of what is going on. I am very encouraged by the fact that about 100,000 persons visit the Commonwealth Parliament each year. Those visitors should be getting some idea of what Parliament does and what it stands for. I hope they will do something to educate others when they return home from their visits to Canberra.
I join with other honorable members in commending the committee system to which reference has been made during this debate. The Parliaments of the United Kingdom and United States of America place strong emphasis on the committee system and we in this Parliament have increased our use of committees in the years that I have been a member. The latest suggestion for a joint committee applies to New Guinea. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has refused to agree to the settingup of this committee. We have a serious mission in New Guinea and it is entering more and more into our thinking. The Territory needs more of our care and attention, not only so that we can protect it from errors and the criticism of other countries, but also so that we might improve its internal administration. We on the Opposition side made the first move for the setting-up of such a committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) approached the Prime Minister and suggested a joint committee on New Guinea. We have good members on this side of the chamber who would be prepared to serve on such a committee. I hope the Prime Minister has not given the final answer to the proposal because the people of Australia are beginning to realize how important New Guinea is in world affairs.
I wish to refer now to the Australian High Commissioner’s Office in London. I am always astounded to find - and we have never had a satisfactory explanation of the reason - that the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom is under the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department and is not associated with the Department of External Affairs. This is the only High Commissioner’s Office that comes under the Prime Minister’s Department. The Estimates for the Department of External Affairs–
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I remind the honorable member that we are dealing with the vote for the Parliament. The honorable member may refer to the other matters during the debate on the Estimates for other departments.
– I am sorry, Sir, for the diversion. I turn my attention now to a comparative minor matter relating to the Parliamentary Library and the provision of newspapers that are of interest to honorable members from distant States. Tasmania produces three daily newspapers. Copies of those newspapers do not arrive in Canberra until 7.30 p.m. That is very slow delivery in this age of jet aircraft. Usually they do not arrive until nearer 8 p.m. People who are resident in Tasmania receive their daily newspapers not later than lunch-time in these days of fast motor transport from Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. We who are in Canberra are not able to read the newspapers from our electorate until 8 p.m. I point out to Tasmanian newspaper proprietors that their newspapers would reach Canberra by 3.30 p.m. if they were sent via Sydney. That may appear strange, but the delivery is earliest by that route. If the newspapers are sent first to Sydney, they can be in Canberra by 3.10 p.m. Such a delivery might cost a little more, but I think the small extra expenditure is worth while to permit an adequate service to the national capital. This should be done, not only for the sake of Tasmanian members of Parliament, but for the sake of Tasmanian visitors to this Parliament as well as visitors from other States. I am not sure when the papers from other States arrive in Canberra. Western Australia is farther away than Tasmania. So are Queensland and South Australia, butI think it is a very bad reflection on somebody that, for many years, Tasmanian papers have taken so long to reach the Library.I make this earnest plea that consideration be given to sending Tasmanian papers via Sydney so that they will reach this city by ten past three in the afternoon.
– Why bring in any at all?
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has made a suggestion which, after having read the press to-night, I think may be very realistic. There is another matter on which I would like to make a suggestion. There are many visitors to Parliament House and, unless a member of Parliament befriends them, they cannot get even a cup of tea. In another place, last week, one of my colleagues from Western Australia suggested the provision of a kiosk at Parliament House. I think that was a very sensible suggestion. Recently, a kiosk was erected at the Australian War Memorial. I saw it on Saturday afternoon. It is an excellent kiosk which provides afternoon tea and other amenities for the visitor to that national shrine. There is only one thing about it that astounds me. The lessee is paying £35 a week in rent for it. That, to me, is scandalous and outright profiteering. I was shocked to think that the folk who serve afternoon tea have to pay such an exorbitant rent. I heard that the Department of the Interior called for tenders for the lease of the kiosk. The people who were successful in getting it presumably offered the highest rental, but I am very much surprised that the department arranged the lease in that way and that it expects the lessee to provide a service for the public while paying such an exorbitant rent.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will realize that we are discussing the Estimates for the Parliament.
– I am only using the kiosk at the War Memorial as an illustration of what we could do here. I sug- gest to the Prime Minister’s Department that a kiosk be provided for the public at Parliament House. If the department wished to lease such a kiosk, that would be all right. About 100,000 visitors come to Parliament House each year and few of them have a chance to have a cup of tea or any other refreshment in this building. That is an indictment of this Parliament and of the National Capital. Visitors to Canberra are the greatest ambassadors for the federal Parliament. Every one of them returns to his own State as an ambassador of this great city. The distance from Parliament to Canberra restaurants is so great that a kiosk would be doubly appreciated by all those people who come here. They deserve some kind of attention. They are our unpaid ambassadors.
I have no more to say about Parliament but 1 do endorse the remarks of speakers who have criticized individuals who lower the reputation and standard of this place. They would have people believe that we are a race apart in Canberra. We are the people’s representatives. We come from all walks of life. We have our weaknesses as any other people have, but uninformed individuals should not lower the standard of the Parliament which is the greatest bastion of democracy. We are here to represent all sections of the community, and uninformed and vicious criticism of this place can only undermine the greater bulwark of the democratic system in Australia. Perhaps the critics would like to see a dictatorship here. Perhaps they would like to see a situation similar to that which exists in the Congo. They should be very glad that the framers of the Constitution and other people who have gone before us have given us an institution of which we should be proud. We should fight for it to the best of our ability while at the same time giving the best service that we can give to the people.
.- Mr. Makin, it is with great pleasure that I see you in the Chair. I recall that for a couple of years you occupied the Speaker’s Chair and I will never forget the manner in which you handled the House at that time. I well remember your naming the Leader of the Government, which is a substantial thing for any Speaker to do. We all admired your courage. I deeply regret the absence of the Chairman of Committees,
Mr. George Bowden, as I am sure everybody else does. I hope that he will have a very speedy recovery and that he will soon be able to come back to our midst. In the meantime, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and his assistants are doing a good job as temporary chairman and I think we are getting on quite well.
I wish to examine, for a few minutes to-night, the changes that are being steadily forced on this Commonwealth Parliament and also on the various State Parliaments by the rapidly increasing growth of our gross national product. Last year, this production growth was 8 per cent, while the growth of the population was just over 2 per cent. This disparity between production and population growth makes it more obvious every day that the formula originally agreed upon for uniform taxation, will need to be carefully looked at. Some legislative device must be brought into being to enable the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth to examine the problems that have arisen.
The original formula was based on population. Now we have an extraordinary difference between the rate of production growth and the rate of population growth, and queer things are going to happen to the development of the States. The difference in these two rates of growth which was apparent in last year’s figures is not a chance one. Over the last eighteen or twenty years, since the change was made to uniform taxation, population has increased by about 50 per cent, but production has increased between 200 and 300 per cent. It is imperative, therefore, that this Parliament should devise some parliamentary means of solving this problem equitably. Perhaps we could decide upon having a cabinet of the Parliaments - something like the Australian Loan Council or the Australian Agricultural Council - in which both the Federal and the State Parliaments would be represented. This cabinet could carry out a policy of development which would ensure that we were able to feed the people whom we need to defend this country.
I would like to explain how we can improve the situation in respect of one matter alone. Similar considerations apply, of course, in the case of other aspects of our development. I refer to water conservation. Water is our scarcest and most important commodity, and we should use our available water supplies as efficiently as possible. The fact that we do not use them in an efficient manner is due to high capital costs of water conservation projects, and to the fact that the State Parliaments cannot get from the Commonwealth sufficient money to deal with the problem effectively.
In earlier times we had to arrange collaboration between the Commonwealth and State governments in order to settle the question of loan raisings. It seems to me that we will have to achieve the same kind of co-operation on the matter of development. The point is that if there is a particular economic sphere in which benefits are accruing both to the people and to the Government, we should decide whether those benefits are equitably distributed. When we realize that since the introduction of uniform taxation there has been a tremendous increase of production, with a consequent increase in revenue from taxation, it is obvious that we must find some legislative means of dealing with the inequitable situation that arises.
– Order! I am reluctant to interrupt the right honorable member, but I must remind him that we are discussing the Estimates for the Parliament. The right honorable member has got a little wide of the subject. I have endeavoured to show a certain amount of indulgence, but I think the right honorable gentleman will realize that he must come back to a discussion of the Estimates for the Parliament.
– I am dealing with the question whether this Parliament and the State Parliaments will be able to maintain their present relative positions. It is imperative that we do something about the problem. In what other part of the debate on the Estimates can we discuss a matter affecting Parliament, as this does? Perhaps I may be allowed to make the point that unless the discrepancy that now exists is adjusted, we shall find that our development will be retarded. I remember that Mr. Curtin, the then Prime Minister, brought representatives of all the State governments and the Commonwealth Government together in this chamber to devise equitable methods of raising loan money and distributing it. A measure of success was achieved at that time. It has not been possible to adopt similar procedures with regard to other matters affecting relations between the Commonwealth and the States because referendum proposals designed to confer the necessary powers were rejected by the people. But the problem of development is an acute one and must be dealt with, and I have suggested one way in which it can be attacked.
.- I ask the public not to be deceived by the attacks made by certain supporters of the Liberal Government to-night on parliamentary institutions, and by remarks made by them in connexion with various other matters. They are deliberately lengthening this debate on the Estimates for the Parliament in order to prevent us from subsequently debating important issues in respect of which the Government is at fault. I refer particularly to social services and pensions, inflation and prices. To-night, the Government is taking up the time of the committee in talking about the parliamentary refreshment-rooms and other such matters. We even heard a reckless and almost unparalleled outburst to-night, when honorable members opposite attacked the press. Why did they conduct this attack against the staunchest supporters that they have? It was because they seek to prevent Labour members of this Parliament from discussing, at a later stage, pensions, health services and other vital matters.
No one brings this Parliament into greater disrepute than do the members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, with their wanton, reckless and inaccurate statements and charges of all kinds, the greatest offenders being the honorable members for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and Moreton (Mr. Killen). They are continually misleading the people on important issues and bringing the Parliament into the very depths of disrepute. They do not appreciate the necessity in this place to make accurate statements founded on fact, and not statements deliberately designed to mislead the people. Who is bringing this Parliament into disrepute if it is not the supporters of the Government?
Let me tell the committee some of the things that are bringing the Parliament into disrepute. The first is the arrogance of the Government as displayed in the manner in which it treats the Opposition, which represents about 50 per cent, of the voting population of Australia. Ministers treat with complete contempt questions that are asked by members on this side of the chamber - that is when the Ministers are in this country, which is, of course, very rarely. The answers they give are, almost without exception, misleading in every way. They are designed to give the minimum of information in the longest possible time. One thing that is bringing the Parliament into disrepute is this attitude of the Ministry. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) wants almost a special session for himself in which to answer questions. It would not be so bad if there was any information in the answers he gives, but there is not. He is verbose in the extreme. There is in the Minister a wealth of talent wasted, if one may judge by the answers he gives.
Who else but Liberal and Country Party members is responsible for any dissatisfaction with or contempt of this Parliament that may be felt by the people of the country? We go into recess for long periods, while the Government seeks to evade its obligations and make itself secure from any criticism that might be levelled at it if the Parliament were in session. In addition, the reckless use of the gag and the guillotine shows the public at large that this Government is excessively arrogant, incompetent in the extreme, and without one ounce of virtue.
One of the most difficult tasks when we are discussing the Parliament is to find the members of the Ministry, who are seldom in Australia all at the one time. I think that only once since the last federal elections, or before then, have all the members of the Ministry been here at the same time. It is a remarkable achievement to get them all to remain in the country. They are continually travelling the world. My colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), has told us that since 1949 the cost of sending this Ministry abroad has totalled £1,250,000. If travel broadens the mind we must have the broadest-minded Ministry of all time. Again, these people are bringing the Parliament into disrepute by not being here to do the jobs they should do.
Look at the situation to-day. We are here discussing the expenditure of £1,700,000,000. This expenditure is controlled by the Treasurer (Mr Harold Holt), but where is the Treasurer? He would be harder to find than Marco Polo at the present time.
– He is in Capri.
– No. I thought he might have been in Capri, but I have been brought up to date. The other night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in taking over another one of the half-dozen portfolios that nobody else is competent to administer, said that he would make a statement on ministerial arrangements. As reported on page 594 of “ Hansard “, the right honorable gentleman said -
I desire to inform the House that the Treasurer will be leaving Australia to-night on an official visit overseas In London he will attend the meeting of the Commonwealth Economic Council, at which other Commonwealth Finance Ministers will be present. Later, he will preside at the annual meetings of the boards of governors of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation. He will also open the seminar for prominent European businessmen which the Minister of Trade has arranged in association with the Lausanne Fair, at which Australia is the guest exhibitor this year. He will attend also to various other official matters, and will be away from Australia for about six weeks. During his absence I will act as Treasurer.
Naturally, the Prime Minister undertook to act as Treasurer, because evidently nobody else in the Government can do the job. Having in mind the right honorable gentleman’s statement, I was astounded to pick up a copy of the Melbourne “ Age “, a very reliable newspaper, despite what honorable members opposite said about the press a while ago, and to read an article under the date line, “ Tokyo, September 5 “, headed, “ Mr. Holt Guest of Japanese “. So at this stage he must be looked upon as a misguided missile - on his way to London, but now the guest of the Japanese - while we are discussing his Estimates and his Budget and the things he is paid a big salary by the taxpayers to present to this Parliament. A news item about him appeared in the Melbourne “Age “ under a Tokyo date line, 5th September; but on the 6th September, the Treasurer is on the other side of the world, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). This paragraph says -
The visiting Australian Treasurer, Mr. Holt, to-day called on Mr. Zentaro Kosaha, the Japanese Foreign Minister, and Mr. Nikio Miyuta, the Finance Minister at their respective offices. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said these were courtesy calls.
But this Government does not worry; the Treasurer can be anywhere from Japan to Jamaica. These were courtesy calls, fixing business on a courtesy basis. We are told that the Treasurer will stay in Japan until 8th September, and that during his stay he will inspect the Canon camera factory and the Toshiha transistor plant; so we can expect a full supply when he comes back. He will also go to Karuizama, a summer resort near Tokyo to rest for two days. I venture to say that in debating this most important department today–
-On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. We are not debating the estimates of the Department of the Treasury but those of the Parliament. The honorable member’s statement is the grossest misrepresentation; and he is the greatest demagogue in the Parliament.
– I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to confine his remarks to the estimates of the Parliament.
– I bow to your very sound ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I am dealing with the Treasurer’s disrespect for the Parliament, because he is the Leader of the House. So the honorable member who has intervened is as far off course as the Treasurer is in Tokyo. Is it any wonder people outside ask why the Treasurer gets the thousands of pounds a year he is entitled to as Treasurer when he can afford in the middle of the debate on the most important document that he brings down in this Parliament, to be on the other side of the world? It would not be so bad if he were where he ought to be, but apparently he did not tell the Prime Minister where he was going; although he was said to be in London he ends up in Tokyo to make a couple of courtesy calls and will then take a couple of days rest in the hills. It must be the first time in history that the Treasurer and Leader of the House has left in the middle of a Budget session to buy Japanese cameras and transistor radios. Never before in our time has there been such a farce in the history of our country. As this momentous document is being debated and thousands of people on inadequate wages and salaries are suffering because of inflation the Treasurer is a long way from where he ought to be. When he introduced this Budget into the Parliament he admitted it made him sick; he fell sick recently in Queensland. We, on this side of the House are sick of the antics of the Government and the antics of the Leader of the House on the other side of the world. We have not the time, energy, or good fortune to be able to go to Tokyo at the people’s expense and relax in the hills for two days as the Treasurer has done.
Too much time has been wasted by Government speakers on the Estimates of the Parliament. Let us get on with the debate on the real issues in this Budget - trade, commerce and rising prices. Let us forget the incompetence that has been shown by critics of the Government among its own supporters, and the unwarranted attacks they have made on the Parliament. I exclude expressly from that rebuke the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) who can in no way be linked up with illmannered criticism which often brings disrespect on this Parliament. The absence of Ministers running round the world at the most inopportune times, and running up debts totalling nearly £1,500,000, brings the Parliament into disrepute and deserves to be condemned. I think enough has been said on this subject. I will finish my speech earlier than necessary in order that we may pass on and debate pensions and other matters. I urge honorable members to take full note of the shortcomings of this Government and its failure to implement the promises upon which it was elected.
.- I do not propose to follow the tortuous steps that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has been asking us to pursue. I want, rather, to mention one or two matters, in the time at my disposal, which I do not think have been touched upon by other speakers. I want, first of all, to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Treasury and its staff and all those who have contributed to the Herculean task of preparing this Budget. Those people should be given our sincere thanks for the work they have done in bringing down the Budget at the time they did. lt is a far cry, Sir, to the days when the Budget used to be discussed in November and December; in those days it was frequently not brought down until towards the end of the year. A great improvement has been effected on this occasion.
I want to mention some matters such as the changing the form of the Budget and the form and content of the returns which we get these days, but I will leave my remarks in that respect till a little later, if I may. The implication in most of the statements of various honorable members during the course of this debate has been a desire to enhance the power and prestige of the Parliament. We have had the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) distributing some classical comments about what Edmund Burke, that great parliamentarian, said, and I want to add one other comment from Burke’s writings. I hope that as the result of what the honorable member for Moreton has said to-night honorable members will be persuaded to re-read that wonderful essay, “Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol “, because it gives an idea of what Burke thought of parliamentarians and parliament. I want to add one other quotation to those given by the honorable member for Moreton. Burke said that the real function of the parliament was to exercise on behalf of the people power over the government. That was how Burke saw the power and duty of parliament - to exercise control over the government on behalf of the people.
There is little doubt these days that the power of the Parliament over the Government is becoming more and more tenuous. That, I think, can be attributed to a number of reasons - the work of the Government is becoming so comprehensive and allpervading that no one can keep in touch with what is going on, and therefore members of Parliament are not in a position to exercise the control they could if they had been brought up, say, in the civil service. It is a commonplace to say that the control by the Parliament over the purse is the control by the Parliament over the Government. I wonder what that does mean in the minds of members when they use that phrase.
What controls can they exercise? The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said to-night that the Budget was discussed in the party rooms and that no alteration would have been made even then if members wished to discuss it. The control to-day therefore is exercised, for example, by the Auditor-General, whose reports are masterpieces of criticism of what the Government is doing; and there is the work that the Treasury does in safeguarding the funds of the country as well as the work of the Public Service Board in controlling staff. There is the work of the Public Accounts Committee in its post-mortem examinations of what the Government has been doing. At this very moment, the Government is spending money made available to it by supply bills which were passed in May of this year. These supply bills simply gave in lump sums the money that the Government wanted to spend for the first three months of the financial year, during which time it would bring down the Budget. For the first three months - already two months have gone - the Government is able to spend at the same rate as it spent during the same period of the previous financial year; but the Parliament has not been able to consider the Estimates at all until to-night. The control, therefore, is rather tenuous; Parliament has not had an opportunity to consider what has been spent in the last two months.
In dealing with the problem of enhancing the power of the Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee considered the advisability of bringing down the Budget at the beginning of the financial year instead of later in the financial year. If it was brought down at the beginning of the financial year, all the Estimates could be presented in bulk, instead of part at the beginning of the year and part later in the year. The committee had support from many departments when it put to them the suggestion of introducing the Budget earlier to enhance the power of the Parliament. But the difficulties are considerable. I am sure that most people would agree that some of the difficulties are climatic. Some people would not want to come to Canberra in June or July to talk about Estimates when they could go to warmer climates.
When looking at this question of control, the Public Accounts Committee spent a good deal of time considering the nature and form of the Budget Papers. I congratulate the Treasurer on the alterations, reforms and improvements that have been made in the Budget Papers. Tables and returns have been reviewed, and care has been taken not to omit any tables that would be valuable to the Parliament when considering the Estimates. However, on the other hand, the Budget Papers have not been cluttered with all sorts of tables that are no longer relevant to the discussion. Throughout, the aim of the Public Accounts Committee has been to present the changes in such a way as to facilitate Parliament’s examination and, therefore, its control.
I turn now to another matter that was raised during the course of this discussion, and that is the way in which the Government deals with bills during the committee stage. Here is one of the many occasions on which the Parliament has not only surrendered its powers but has also failed to take advantage of the opportunities available to it for controlling the actions of the Government. It seems to me to have become an almost invariable practice for honorable members during the committee stage to accede to the invitation of the chairman to take the bill as a whole. In other days, the committee stage was regarded as an invaluable opportunity to analyse and to criticize the details of the measure before the committee. That is an occasion on which the Parliament could exercise control. It is just as easy to say, “ No “, when asked to take the bill as a whole as it is to say “ Yes “. If honorable members said “ No “, the bill could be considered detail by detail and clause by clause, and honorable members would have a better idea of the purpose of the legislation.
One other matter I want to raise concerns the proposal for joint standing committees. I used to hold the view that one way for the Parliament to control the Government was to appoint standing committees. I wanted standing committees on finance, foreign affairs, social services, agriculture, communications and so on. I felt that the investigations of such standing committees, with members appointed from both sides of the chamber, would provide the Parliament with material that would not otherwise be before it. But any widespread adoption of this system would necessitate a fundamental change in the present practices of the Parliament and would need to be considered in terms of the way in which the committees were to operate. The advantages would be, for example, a large and informed opinion in the Parliament with which to challenge and criticize the Government. This system would also, to a large extent, remove the feeling of frustration that now saps the enthusiasm of members on the back benches, and it would keep the bureaucracy on its toes. The disadvantages are that the committees would have to meet when the Parliament was sitting. If they did this, the rules in regard to quorum and the conduct of the House generally would have to be modified. Committee meetings would make serious inroads into the time ordinary members would have to spend in their electorates. They would be working on committees and would not be able to attend to their duties in their electorates. Only a fortunate few are in a position to be able to neglect their electorates, and only the families of honorable members realize how much energy goes into the selfless service of a member in his electorate. This would have to be altered if the additional committees were to work in the way that the present committees are working.
The Parliament has in its own hands a degree to which it can exercise control, lt can, as I have shown, exercise control during the committee stage of the consideration of bills. It can exercise control also by the appointment of standing committees of various kinds to keep the Parliament informed on what is happening. If Parliament were to adopt some of the suggestions made to-day by various honorable members, many of the ills I see to-day would be cleared away.
.- Most of the Government supporters who have taken part in this debate have directed their attention to what they regard as unfair attacks on the prestige of Parliament and unfair criticism of Parliament. I think they are unduly sensitive. My criticism of the approach of the press to the Parliament is entirely different from that of Government supporters. I do not object to the press factually reporting everything that happens in the Parliament and outside it. My criticism is that the press does not report accurately what happens in the Parliament and on many occasions suppresses news.
The political slant given to the news leads to my criticisms. For instance, any incident in the Opposition party room becomes headline news. If there is a brawl in the parliamentary bar, amongst Liberal members, as there was on a previous occasion, when the glass top of a table was broken, not one word is reported in the newspapers, although the incident is well known to the press. On another occasion, a leader of the Australian Country Party either stepped or fell through a glass door, but no mention of this appeared in the daily press. However, if the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and I become a little heated in a party discussion, this becomes a most desperate brawl in the Labour Party caucus. We do not have in this country what is termed free press, because members of the press reserve to themselves the right to decide what news shall be published and how it shall be presented. The great bulk of the daily press is violently anti-Labour and always distorts the presentation of the news to suit the opponents of Labour.
Let me turn to the question of criticism of the Parliament. It is quite true that, during debates on the Estimates, we have a very good attendance of honorable members. But on practically every other debate, many of them of the greatest importance, even when their leaders are speaking members on the Liberal side have to be conscripted to come into this place to hear the speeches. They have to be told to be present. Members are continually obliged to call for quorums so that we can have 41 members in the chamber to enable the business of the Parliament to proceed.
– Forty-one out of how many?
– It is one-third of the membership. We have a facade of democratic government in this Parliament. Do not pretend that the Parliament is the allpowerful instrument in this country to-day. Under the present Government we have a great growth of bureaucracy. We could easily have, behind the facade of a democratic parliament, the growth of dictator ship. Members will recollect that there was recently reported in the Sydney press a statement made to some gathering of a political kind in New South Wales by Sir John Latham, a former Chief Justice of the Commonwealth and also a former leader of the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament. He told us something that previously we had heard nothing about. He said that in 1940 he, Sir John Latham, had suggested the putting aside of constitutional government. The Parliament was to be closed and we were to be governed by a committee of six, including Sir John Latham himself. According to Sir John Latham he advised the present Prime Minister, who was Prime Minister also in 1940, of what was intended. Sir John Latham says that the Prime Minister approved of the plan to establish this committee of six. When I asked the Prime Minister a question to-day about this statement he did not deny it. He did not say there was no basis for it. He did not say that it was untrue to say that he had agreed to the plan about which Sir John Latham spoke. All the Prime Minister said was that to satisfy my thirst for historical knowledge he was not going to take the time to search the records. Does anybody believe for one moment that the Prime Minister has forgotten the incident, that he does not know whether or not it occurred? Of course he was prepared to enter into this agreement to set up a committee of six!
To-day you have elected members in this Parliament. What are they? You have Ministers selected by the Prime Minister. You have the great bureaucracy behind the Ministers. When a member asks a question, as he is entitled to do without notice, what happens? In nine cases out of ten when a question is asked on the Government side the Minister concerned who gets up to answer it really knows nothing about the subject-matter. He has a prepared answer put into his hand, because he has been advised by the Government supporter asking the question that it is to be asked. The Minister proceeds to read the prepared answer, and it is often noticed that if a Minister misplaces a word during his reading he is confused, because he really knows nothing of the subject-matter of the question and of the reply he is supposed to give.
What are Ministers supposed to do? Public servants direct them. Ministers lay foundation stones of hospitals, and open schools and so on, and while they busy themselves with the social life the public servants behind the scenes - the real rulers of the country - are making the decisions. All the Government does is to act as the mouthpiece of the bureaucracy. 1 was rather interested in some of the statements made by honorable members who were worried about the prestige of the Parliament. I have already referred to the evasion of questions and the prepared replies presented to Ministers. In the United States of America action has been taken to abandon rigged quiz shows. I think it would be a good thing if this Government abandoned them, and in future we would really have questions without notice - questions of which no notice had been given to the Ministers concerned.
I compliment you, Mr. Makin, for having taken, as Temporary Chairman, a realistic and sensible view in this debate on the estimates for the Parliament. You have allowed the debate to cover quite a wide scope, as 1 think is proper. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) - I do not know whether or not it was in his innocence - has declared that the Hotel Kurrajong is a quiet country pub. “ Rather dull “, he said. 1 do not know whether he regarded last Thursday evening’s performance at the Hotel Kurrajong as dull, but I know that at 3 o’clock in the morning I was awakened by what appeared to me to be the noise of a team of wild brumbies galloping down the corridors of the hotel. The people doing this were shouting loudly and singing as you would expect people who were fully intoxicated to do. There was a great noise of vomiting in the lavatories. In the morning there were empty whisky flasks and glasses to be seen in the corridors of the Hotel Kurrajong. And this is the country pub where nothing ever happens!
– Were they Labour or Liberal members?
– These were Liberal members. I do not know what they were celebrating, but of course they do not require much encouragement to have a celebration.
They can drink themselves to death as far as 1 am concerned so long as they keep away from the room where 1 have retired and where I want to get my night’s rest. 1 think it is a bit over the odds to be awakened by this sort of thing at 3 o’clock in the morning. The present time of the year is the worst time for such a thing to happen, because everybody knows that the Australian Capital Territory is full of parents who have brought their children during the school holidays to see the Parliament working. A great number of the people living at the Hotel Kurrajong and other hotels are young children and their parents, and I say that what happened is an absolute disgrace. And here is the remarkable thing about it! Some of the people taking part in this sort of conduct at the Hotel Kurrajong last Thursday night were, only a relatively few hours earlier, on Thursday morning, the people who voted tor my suspension from the service of the House because they wanted to preserve the dignity of Parliament. Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous or hypocritical in your life? Everybody knows that if the Government wants to remove a member for some reason or other he does not have to say much. As a matter of fact, the only way to be assured of security is to become a silent member and say nothing at all. I do not think 1 am made that way.
I say to members on the Government side that there ought to be some investigation of the kind of occurrence which I have described, because it is not the first time it has happened. If you want people to respect this Parliament, and to uphold its prestige, not only should you be concerned with what happens in the Parliament but you should also be concerned with how members conduct themselves outside. I think there is a responsibility on every member of the Parliament to conduct himself properly outside the Parliament unless he wants to be brought into contempt in respect of his general behaviour. I hope there will be no recurrence of the kind of incident that occurred last Thursday evening.
While I have the opportunity, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to refer to the way in which the forms of the House are applied. If a member is regarded as having offended by defying a ruling of the Chair, or by infringing, in some way, the rules of conduct that apply in the Parliament, there is nothing wrong with Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, or whoever occupies the chair at the time, directing attention to the fact that the member has not been observing the prescribed rules or forms. But I think it is distinctly wrong for either the Speaker or the Chairman, particularly when the proceedings are being broadcast, to say over the air, “ I warn the honorable member that if he does not improve his conduct I will take action “. Everybody who is listening regards that as something reflecting on the member’s personal conduct. They think that the member has used bad language or has behaved in a way that a gentleman should not behave. It occurs to me that sometimes that kind of remark is used over the air deliberately in an attempt to prejudice a member, particularly with the people in his electorate, who expect their representative to behave in a proper manner. I think I have offended no more than other members of this Parliament. There may be occasions when discussions get a little lively, and there is a bit of crossfire, and quite frequently members have been called to order. But I think it ought to be made clear that it is not their personal conduct, in the sense to which I have referred, to which the Speaker or Chairman is directing attention.
I believe that the prestige of this democratic Parliament is important. But we must not regard all the members of the general community as fools and ourselves as the intelligents thinking that we in this Parliament represent the full volume of the knowledge in the community. There are many people who earn their livelihood by the sweat of their brow and the exercise of their mental powers who would probably do much better, if they applied themselves to a parliamentary career, than many of the present members of this Parliament do. Those people will not be fooled by the idea that because somebody in this Parliament gets indignant at criticism and objects to it, there is no justification whatever for some of the criticism that is levelled against this institution.
If we want this parliamentary institution of ours to be respected, we must do three things. First, we must see that it is maintained as a democratic parliament. Secondly, we must see that Ministers are not allowed to conduct themselves merely as social lions and as the mouthpieces of the bureaucracy of this country. Finally, we must see that by our own conduct in the Parliament and out of it we deserve the respect of the people we represent.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I waited to see whether anybody on the Government side of the chamber would speak for those people to whom the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred, but nobody on the other side of the chamber rose. The general public know Hotel Kurrajong, to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred, as the pub with no beer, and the idea that gay parties could have been held there seems rather remarkable.
I should like to direct attention to two items in the estimates for the Parliament covering the costs of representation at conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with particular reference to the conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was held in this chamber last year. I am very pleased that the Government has again made fairly substantial provision under these items. The two organizations in question are most valuable bodies, not only from the stand-point of the individual member of Parliament but also because conferences of these organizations afford members opportunities of meeting members from parliaments all over the world.
We know that at times there is criticism of the parliaments of other countries as being undemocratic and unlike our own, but we should value any opportunity to rub shoulders even with the members of those parliaments. At the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, we mixed with members of other parliaments in the British Commonwealth. In this very chamber, at that conference, we had a Communist member of parliament from India. The conference afforded members of this Parliament an opportunity to meet him and talk to him, and I believe that he learned a great deal from his visit to Australia and especially from the way in which we in this Parliament conduct our affairs. He was able to see how this country prospers, despite the liability of being administered by the Menzies Government. We were privileged to have that Communist representative from India among us, as he was to be here, and for a change we were able to try to indoctrinate a Communist in the ways of democracy.
If 1 have any criticism to make of this Parliament, it is directed at certain honorable members who have recently in this place criticized trade union visitors to this country just because they are Communists. We should welcome such visitors. We ought to be pleased to bring them here and show them how we live, and I should like to see this Parliament encourage more of this interchange of ideas. I commend the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the provision of funds in the estimates of the Parliament to meet the expenses of representation at conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It will be of benefit to us to invite through these organizations more members of parliament from South-east Asia to come here. Never mind whether they are Communists, Trotskyites or conservatives. The people who differ from us politically are those whom we should bring here. I hope that this provision in the Estimates which I have mentioned will enable us to bring to this country more people who think differently from us politically so that we may show them how this Parliament works and how our country prospers despite the liability of its present Government.
Before I conclude, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to say “ Thank you “ to the parliamentary staffs for the services that they render to us. We are indebted to the clerks for their great efficiency and their help, and also to the other members of the parliamentary staffs, and especially the members of the “ Hansard “ staff, who put up with a lot. Members of the Parliament complain about the press. We are a queer mob. There is no doubt about that, and we all admit it when we are being honest among ourselves. We are at times quite a trial to the officers of the Parliament and to the various workers in this establishment, whatever may be their positions. I am sure that when I say “ Thank you “ to all the members of the various parliamentary staffs, I speak for every member of the Parliament.
May I conclude by saying that I sincerely hope that after the next general election, at which there will be a change of government, you, Mr. Makin, will occupy the Speaker’s chair, which you graced so well some years ago.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to say a few words about the staffs of the Parliament. We have heard honorable members this evening singing the praises of this staff and that. We all know that the Parliament could1 not function effectively without the assistance of the various staffs which carry out their duties so courteously and attentively. I refer particularly to the attendants and to the waitresses in the refreshment rooms, and also to the members of the staff of the Parliamentary Library, who day by day, with the utmost courtesy, help us to meet our commitments. I strongly suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), since he is in the chamber at the moment, that he earnestly consider improving the conditions and the rates of pay of the members of the staffs which so ably discharge their duties in this Parliament.
I now want to say something about the press - not about the press reporters, but about the press barons, who order their employees to write the objectionable articles which appear in the press from day to day. Something should be done about the manner in which the press barons are favoured at the expense of the taxpayers. I refer particularly to the accommodation provided in 23 rooms on this side of Parliament House and seven rooms on the other side of the building where the staffs of the press barons are accommodated absolutely free. The taxpayers in general do not know about this state of affairs. The employees of the press barons are allowed to use the amenities provided in Parliament House. Admittedly, they have to pay for their meals. As a good, strong trade union member of this Parliament, I believe that, in view of the expansion that has occurred iri this great city, the press barons ought to be directed to provide an amenities building at their own expense for the accommodation of the press employees who carry out their duties in this building.
I suggest very strongly to the Prime Minister - I am pleased to see that he is in the chamber to hear me - that the favours which are granted to the press are paid for by the ordinary citizens who receive no benefit from them. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he direct the press barons to include, in the vast plans which are being drawn up for the expansion of this great city of Canberra, an amenities block for their employees.
Remainder of proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed Vote, £3,681,000.
– I desire to say something on the question of education - one of the gravest problems confronting Australia to-day - because it has a direct relationship to the Prime Minister’s Department. 1 suppose that every parent in Australia, and certainly every educationalist, is greatly worried about education. We of the Labour Party are very worried about it too. We would like to feel that the Commonwealth Government was equally concerned about this question of accommodation and teaching our growing young population.
Of course, the Commonwealth Parliament has no direct power in relation to education, but it can and does make grants for education purposes in increasing proportions. The Government is spending a lot of money on the education of the children in the Territories. This is particularly true of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If I have the time, I shall have something to say about the problems associated with education in the Territory pf Papua and New Guinea. We of the Labour Party believe that upon a sound education through primary, technical and secondary schools and through universities, depend not only the future lives of our children but also the future happiness and security of the Australian nation.
Education is becoming very important in every country. It has reached the stage in the present United States presidential election campaign at which one of the candidates, Senator Kennedy, went on record a few months ago as saying -
It is no exaggeration to say that the struggle in which we are now engaged may well be won or lost in the class rooms of America.
In Great Britain and in the United States there is very grave concern at the speed of the democratic world’s educational development as compared with that of the Communist bloc. This concern has been expressed openly in Great Britain and in the United States by parliamentarians and congressmen respectively, and by educationalists and others who are interested in the matter. We have not done as much in Australia as we might have done. There are those who think that education should be a head of power under the Commonwealth Constitution. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his earlier and more fervid days, expressed himself in unequivocal terms as being in favour of making education a Commonwealth power. I think that was in 1942.
– You are quite wrong.
– I shall give the Prime Minister the exact reference later. If I have misquoted him, I shall be the first to apologize, but I have it on record that he said something of that kind. However, a number of people in Australia believe that education should be a Commonwealth responsibility because of the amount of money which the Commonwealth has spent and is spending on education through its various departments and in various ways. We have not a Commonwealth Minister for Education. We have not even a Commonwealth department of education.
We have had two periods in our history - formative years - when we made moves forward in the field of education. One period was in 1943 and the other was in 1958. In 1943 the then Minister for Postwar Reconstruction appointed a committee of three persons to investigate this matter. The committee reported to the Government. As a result of that report the Office of Education was set up. The Universities Commission was then established and other work was undertaken which resulted ultimately in the establishment of the only postwar university in Australia. In 1958, at the instance of the Prime Minister, the Murray committee was set up to advise upon the needs of Australian universities. Good work flowed from that committee. One of its recommendations was promptly given effect by legislative enactment, and we now have a permanent commission which advises the Government on the needs of universities in Australia. Whether the: recommendations of Sir Leslie Martin’s commission have met with the full approval of Cabinet is something of a mystery at present, but we on this side of the chamber hope that the Government will give effect to the whole of that commission’s recommendations.
– So that the honorable gentleman may not be under any misapprehension, the report of the Universities Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Martin will not reach us until next month. Of course, the moment that it does reach us we will give it the closest examination. 1 do not want the honorable gentleman to think that there is any mystery about it.
– I am sorry. I have been somewhat misled by a newspaper report. 1 have read that Cabinet is divided upon the issue. I am glad to know that Cabinet has not yet considered the matter simply because it has not yet received the report. I am glad to know also that when it does receive the report it will give the matter serious consideration.
The Commonwealth has always hesitated to act in its own right. Of course, it can claim that there is a constitutional bar to doing anything. But if honorable members look at the Estimates they will find provision for an expenditure of £28,000,000, on educational purposes of one kind or another. This amount is almost as great as the total amount expended on education directly by Victoria. Many institutions are covered by this proposed Commonwealth expenditure under the headings of research, defence, cultural and territorial. These make up some of the Commonwealth’s educational commitments.
In the field of education the Commonwealth is in big business. Indeed, any Commonwealth business to-day is big business and Commonwealth expenditure on education in fields which are largely regarded as incidental gives an indication of its importance in the national life. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, for instance, spent £205,000 in 1957-58 on educational broadcasts. It sends its educational programmes to some 88 per cent, of Australian schools. A total of 8,000 schools take its broadcasts. Between 1944 and June, 1958, the Repatriation Department spent £51,000,000 on the re-establishment and training of ex-servicemen. This too can be classified as educational work. At the same time, Tasmania spent only £34,000,000 - only two-thirds of the expenditure of this one Commonwealth department. As at 30th June, 1958, some 7,253 children were receiving benefits under schemes for the education of soldiers’ children. Expenditure for 1957-58 was £593,000.
The Public Service Board is doing great work. It has 259 officers pursuing full-time courses under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme and the university free place scheme. As I have said, the Commonwealth Constitution makes no mention of the word “ education “. I am sorry that it does not, but it is understandable that education was reserved to the States in 1901, because at that time only £2,000,000 was spent for both maintenance and capital works in connexion with State education throughout the whole of Australia. But for 1959, expenditure by the States on those items is estimated at £138,000,000. The Labour Party feels that there has to be co-ordination between the activities of the Commonwealth and the States in these directions. We felt so strongly about the matter on the occasion of the last federal election that the then leader of the Labour Party, Dr. Evatt, stated that a Labour Government would appoint a fully representative committee, similar to the Murray Commission, to examine and report upon the needs of primary, secondary and technical education as complementary to the report by the Murray Commission on universities. At the moment the Labour Party has a committee trying to undertake precisely this task, and its work has aroused very great interest throughout Australia. Many telegrams and letters have been received by honorable members in connexion with it.
Having regard to the need for an exhaustive inquiry, I should like to quote the following statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 6th May, 1959:-
It is quite true that education is a matter of great national importance.
If he still feels that way, we suggest that the role of the Commonwealth in the work of education must acquire greater significance and the Commonwealth must play a greater part than merely making grants to the States, as it has done, and merely providing for the needs of tertiary education. In that same speech, the Prime Minister said -
I have not heard very much if any agitation in Australia to have education transferred to the Commonwealth. Nobody has suggested that.
We are suggesting it now. We are suggesting that a qualified commission should be appointed to examine the needs of all sections of education throughout Australia so that the Commonwealth Government may be in a position to do more than it is doing at the moment in connexion with this matter of great national importance. When we consider what other countries whose philosophies we dislike are doing, we have reason to fear what will happen in the future. For instance, Soviet Russia spends 8 per cent, of its national income on education. The United Kingdom spends 4 per cent., New Zealand 3.4 per cent, and the United States 3.8 per cent. Australia spends only 1.8 per cent, of her national income on education. In 1955, the number of graduates in science and engineering per million of the population in the various countries was: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 450, United States of America 281, Britain 162, Canada 143, Italy 96 and Australia 79. In 1955, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics produced ?6.999 science and engineering graduates while Australia produced only 715 in that year.
Time does not permit me to elaborate all these points, but we of the Labour Party believe that every boy and girl in Australia is entitled, as a basic human right, to the fullest possible education commensurate with his or her ability. So earnest are we in our belief that we have passed the following resolution: -
Having regard to the undertaking given in the policy speech of our Leader in 1958 that a Labour Government would appoint a fully representative committee similar to the Murray Committee to examine .and report on the needs of primary, secondary and technical education, and -
Appreciating the mounting gravity of the crisis, the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party requests the Federal Conference to set up a committee comprising one representative of each State branch and three representatives of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party to report upon those needs and to recommend the nature and scope of any Commonwealth assistance that may be deemed necessary (so as to ensure-
I emphasize this - that no Australian boy or girl would be deprived of the basic given right to a fuller education.)
Every boy and girl in Australia is a valuable asset to Australia. The better educated every boy and girl in Australia is, the more valuable the contribution that boy and girl can make to Australian life. We do not want to see them lagging behind other countries. If we have to make sacrifices in these days of tension and in these days when other countries are devoting so much expenditure to the field of education, we must rechart our course; we must not be satisfied with what we have done in the past; we must not be content to move along slowly; we must move faster. The other day, the Prime Minister told us that of all the secular professions teaching was the most profoundly important. He told us that the teacher did the work of making men, and that of all the professions teaching was the worst paid and, broadly speaking, enjoyed the least recognition in a social sense.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
. “ Populate or perish “ has been his cry for years. The very size of our immigration programme and the consequences which have followed from it have in fact given rise to the worst difficulties now facing our educational system. If we are to spend a large proportion of the nation’s resources on providing new houses and suburbs, on providing sewerage and all the capital equipment which new immigrants can sustain only after a great lapse of years, then we must be faced with serious problems in connexion with all items of public expenditure.
It would be quite erroneous to suggest that in Australia there has been no response to this problem. Every State has vastly increased expenditure on education. All over Australia education and its implications are in the forefront. More is being said about it to-day than ever, and in fact, more is being done than ever before. If we fall far short of what might be done in happier circumstances, it is because we have other very onerous burdens to bear.
The Leader of the Opposition conjures up beautiful thoughts of all the good things he would like to do. He would like to double expenditure on education, he would like to treble or quadruple expenditure on the Colombo Plan, he would like to pour millions of pounds into the development of northern Australia, he would like to expand social services and, alongside all these things, he would like to stop inflation. I suggest it would do the Leader of the Opposition good to sit down and count the cost of his policies and set that against the resources available in Australia. I suggest that he compare it with the amounts already being expended by the Government on education, together with the total expenditure necessary to expand the economy of this country. If the Leader of the Opposition did in fact embark upon his policies he would find himself in an impossible situation, because every time he opens his mouth millions of pounds pour out of it. There is a general problem derived from the very policies he advocates, and it is absurd to attribute it to the peculiar set-up in Commonwealth and States relations in this matter.
However, I rose mainly to say a few words on another matter which, somewhat by chance, falls within the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. I refer to the Public Service Board. The Public Service Board reports to Parliament. We have heard a great deal to-night about the responsibility of Parliament and the rights of parliamentarians and what a good job they are doing. Member after member has risen and defended the Parliament. I hope that the honorable members who spoke realize that the Public Service Board reports, not to the Government, but to them. I hope, in fact, that they read its reports.
Unfortunately, the reports are a little late. We received the report for last year in March. So far this year, we have had the preliminary statistics. When you examine the report of the Public Service Board, it is indeed difficult to imagine what it is about these documents that takes nine months after the close of the financial year to produce. It is surprising, in fact, that those members who are so keen on the responsibilities of Parliament have not, so far, had a word to say on this subject. The statistics - the main data on which the report is published - reach us within a month or two. It is difficult when you read this report to imagine why, in two months, we cannot get this report when discussing the Estimates.
When we look at the Estimates, this is our twin in the business of government; and let us not deceive ourselves. Any country and any government may dispense with a parliament and many do; but no country can dispense with its Public Service. Lei us bear that in mind. Liberty may go and it may be a very serious change. Society may be uprooted, and unpleasant changes may come into being; but ultimately, the Public Service is the essential service of government. So it is as well to look on the problems that are raised by the Public Service carefully. In relation to numbers, perhaps the first thing to note is the increase in expenditure. This is 12i per cent, higher than that for last year. In two years, the appropriation for the Public Service Board has increased by 25 per cent. The figures are not altogether clear in relation to salaries for the other departments, but in fact, the departmental expenditure per se has increased this year by something like 5 per cent. In other words, the little flea is growing at twice the rate of the big flea on which it feeds. The administrator is growing faster than the administration it administers. There must be a ready explanation of this and there probably is; but it is a point to note that our instrument - the Public Service Board, the instrument of Parliament which administers the Public Service - is increasing rather faster than what it administers.
I would utter a plea in this case, but not to ourselves, because we are not responsible to the Public Service Board but to the Government. I refer to Public Service recruitment. There are many things in relation to the Public Service that require doing, but no one would overlook the need to improve recruitment, because it is common knowledge to any one who takes an interest in these matters that the brains and the energy of our youth now being turned out from the schools and universities, are not going to the Public Service. The best of them are looking elsewhere for careers. What, in the long run, is more important to the life of this country than the Government which administers it? This is a serious long-term problem. This will not win or lose the next election, but Public Service recruitment will make a profound difference to what happens in Australia a generation hence when present members of the Public Service have passed on. I do hope that the time will come when we shall hear about the Government’s proposals in relation to the Boyer report. This report may be a somewhat academic and limited document, but it does raise pertinent issues. In its report last year, the Public Service Board stated -
The Board, nevertheless, hopes, as a result of discussions which have already taken place, and are proceeding, that the Government will be in a position to consider main legislative changes involved before the Autumn Session of Parliament in 1960.
I hope that before this Parliament closes, we shall hear more of this particular report. It was made, not to Parliament, but to the Prime Minister representing the Government. Before I sit down, I wish to emphasize again the seriousness of this position in one particular regard: the people who head our Public Service. At the moment, we are fortunate that the small cluster of able people we have at the head of the Public Service entered it, for the most part, in somewhat unusual circumstances; but any big Public Service should be able, energetic and, above all, disciplined and anonymous. That is not the case to-day and it will not be until the flow of people coming into the Public Service in the best jobs is at a higher level. I say that, because the youth of this country, as of now, will not enter the Public Service. That might appear to be satisfactory to some, but it means a light-handed government. In the end, if we do not improve greatly the quality of the Public Service, our successors will suffer exceedingly.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) was, of course, as usual a prophet of gloom and woe. He told us of the things that cannot be done. He is pleading for action on a report that was tabled long since and on which the Government has taken its normal course and done nothing. The honorable member was struck with the difficulties that we shall face if we try to implement the social policy of the Australian Labour Party. The honorable member was struck with the difficulties of finance; we are concerned with people and personalities. That is why the Leader of Opposition (Mr. Calwell) chose this debate to take up the cause of the most important single social problem affecting the nation - the development of a proper education system.
I know that honorable members on the Government side are inclined to say, with due deference to their leader, “ This is not our pigeon because some 60 years ago, certain people drew up a document which did not give us this job to do. So now, we try to avoid our responsibilities in this field and close our eyes to the responsibilities we have already haphazardly accepted.” So tonight, I hope that we shall get some forthright statement from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about what action he proposes to take to develop a national system of education and a national attitude on the part of this Parliament about priorities.
This problem appears to have escaped the honorable member for Wentworth although he is a man of erudition and experience here and overseas. Unfortunately, he seems to have been wandering in an intellectual and physical stratosphere. This is a simple system of priorities. Just where are we going to place our priorities, and to what extent is the Government going to direct national income and wealth to overcoming the deficiencies evolved from probably 100 years of neglect of the State education systems? You do not need to travel far to see exactly what is needed. One can easily find depressing school buildings. You do not have to look far into statistics to find overloaded classrooms. You do not have to turn the pages of many newspapers to find references to the struggles of educationists in any field in trying to do the job that they are expected to do. Therefore, the Opposition says that this is simply a matter of priorities.
While Australia lags behind the other nations, whether Western nations or otherwise, in its percentage of national wealth devoted to this task we are not doing a good job. This is not a question that can be escaped by the simple diversion of constitutional arguments. A country which can buy Boeings and Viscounts almost by the dozen and which can spend extraordinary sums on defence of various sorts can well turn its attention to the people’s schools, which are the principal cry at this moment. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that we had received dozens of telegrams asking us to take up this subject. Most of them have come from New South Wales where the Labour Government’s education committee has commenced its task of conducting a full inquiry. If the Government will not attend to this matter, we will press on. There are lots of questions to be answered. The first task which any government with a national conscience ought to undertake is the development of a system to give equal educational opportunities to every person in the Commonwealth.
It is not necessary to look far into statistics to realize that there is not equality of educational opportunity offering to the young people of Australia. The expenditure per capita by the States on education is a significant indication of the educational opportunities available to the people of those States. I shall cite figures from a report which was published last year, although they are a couple of years old. The annual expenditure per capita by the States is as follows: - Tasmania, £12 16s.; Western Australia, £12 10s. 6d.; New South Wales, £13 9s. 4d.; Victoria, £10 11s. 7d.; South Australia, £10 6s. 8d.; and Queensland, £8 1 2s. 5d. It should be noted that the Premier of South Australia has been knighted for his activities of this sort and that Queensland is a Liberal-Country Party controlled State.
– There was a Labour government there for a long time.
– The present Government has been in office long enough to overcome the position. No government conscious of its obligation to Australia can escape these facts, nor should we attempt to avoid them by any plea of constitutional difficulty. The expenditure statistics are reflected in the number of people who reach the highest educational level. Earlier this year, I received some figures from the Commonwealth Office of Education. I had asked for the number of people who had sat for the matriculation examination last year in the various States. They are printed on page 1265 of “Hansard” of 28th April. These are the figures for 1959-
The proportion of students who sat for the matriculation examination in the various States is significant. It will be noticed that of a total of 29,930 who sat throughout Australia, 12,700 were in New South Wales. Almost 50 per cent. of students sat in the State which had about 38 per cent. of the population! Under twenty years of Labour government in New South Wales, an educational system has been produced which offers greater opportunities to people to reach matriculation standard than the system of any other State. Here, we are simply voicing the same sentiments which have activated the New South Wales Government in such a way that it has produced that state of affairs.
This indicates that the people of other States, principally South Australia and Queensland, are suffering from a lack of opportunity. Queensland has 14 per cent. of the population, but had only about 12 per cent. of matriculation students in Australia last year. South Australia I find has managed to get a proportion of students to the matriculation standard which is greater than its proportion of the population. It is in Victoria that the most serious deficiency exists. Of course, various factors have to be taken into consideration before reaching a final decision on this matter such as the period of high school study necessary to prepare for the matriculation examination which, in Victoria, is six years. But there is evidence on the basis of simple statistics that the people of Australia are not receiving equality of education opportunities.
There is only one Parliament that can take the necessary steps to overcome that state of affairs and it is this Parliament. The kind of steps which have been taken in a rather diffident way in relation to uni- versity education should be extended down the educational ladder to the other spheres of education. All these difficulties and inequalities throughout the Commonwealth are having their effect on the community so that there is a rising public demand for action. People can see, in the light of taxation and constitutional developments, that the position can be rectified only in this Parliament. There are all kinds of special difficulties. There is the question of raising the school leaving age to fifteen years all over Australia, so that the other States would be on terms of equality with New South Wales. In one State the school leaving age is sixteen. Surely this matter should have the first priority in an educational programme. Yet there is no action and it appears from the reports that have been published that the State governments find themselves incapable of taking action. So here is one simple measure which the Commonwealth could make the basis of its activities.
What can the Commonwealth do in its own sphere? The Commonwealth, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out is, at the present moment, actively engaged in education in a -much more wholesale way than any State. The Commonwealth has the only research university. It operates kindergartens through the Department of Health as style leaders or pace setters in every capital. It would not be a bad idea if members took the trouble to study this question and see what is going on. From the highest research institution, the Australian National University, to preschool training, the Commonwealth is already involved in education in a wholesale way. Therefore, the Commonwealth Office of Education is inadequate to give the Prime Minister the kind of expert assistance and advice which he needs to discharge his responsibility.
No Minister of this Government is responsible for all the Commonwealth’s educational activities. Although millions of pounds are being poured out in the development of universities and of education within the defence system, nobody is responsible for education as a whole. The Government spreads largesse and lets somebody else have the responsibility. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is in the chamber now. Who is responsible for the development of the educational programme in the Territories under his control? I understand that in the Northern Territory, education in the schools is the responsibility of the South Australian Department of Education. If we are interested in the curriculum observed in Northern Territory schools it is useless to direct our questions to the Minister for Territories. The answers can only be given by a Minister in the South Australian Parliament. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has a school at Butterworth in Malaya. This is another case in which the Commonwealth pours out the largesse but educational responsibility lies somewhere else. To whom do we look for information concerning education at Butterworth? I understand that we would turn to the Minister for Education in Victoria. There is no point in asking him questions about his own education system, let alone those to which he attends as our agent. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has some of the most magnificent schools in Australia under his control in Canberra. Is there any point in asking him about education in them? Not a bit of it! The primary parliamentary responsibility for them lies in the Parliament for New South Wales. So there is a diversification of our effort. The first thing that the Prime Minister ought to do in the fifteen months which remain to him in his high office is to bring the educational activities of this Commonwealth under control so that the responsibility for them shall lie in this Parliament. About sixteen Ministers are in active pursuit of educational aims laid down by acts of this Parliament. This educational activity is scattered through many government departments and instrumentalities, yet no one has a direct responsibility to this Parliament in this regard. Therefore, without spending a penny and merely by using its intellect, the Government could observe the principle of parliamentary control which has been advocated this evening by making a Minister directly responsible to this Parliament for educational activities.
There are many things we can do as a Parliament, and as a Commonwealth Government, to give immediate assistance to the States in the matter of education. The first thing we should do is to bring teacher training within the ambit of the
Universities Commission. Teacher training is tertiary education. An article appearing in one of the Melbourne papers to-day points out the necessity to raise the status of teachers. Teacher training must be given the status of tertiary education. It must be tertiary education in name and in fact, and by legislation if necessary, and it must be brought within the jurisdiction of the Universities Commission. This is a logical suggestion, and I cannot understand why it has not been adopted previously.
We can also develop such accessories as educational television and broadcasting programmes. The Australian Broadcasting Commission at the moment has the nucleus of an organization which could be built up to do something in this field. But these are merely sidelines. They are incidentals of the educational system.
There is no doubt in the minds of all those engaged in educational activities that there is a big job to be done. Thousands of schools in Australia are out of date. There would not be more than three or four high schools of the 130 or so in Victoria with adequate assembly halls, let alone gymnasiums and such amenities, which are considered bare essentials in modern educational institutions. The Commonwealth Government is the only body that can assist the States to provide these amenities.
What of the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, which is the sole responsibility of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself? I can give the right honorable gentleman information about this scheme, if he wants it, which has been supplied by his own department. The number of scholarships awarded has remained at the same figure for years, despite increased pressure by the States for more scholarships.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was not my intention to discuss education during this debate on the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, but in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) I feel I should say something about it. Quite frankly, I treat with suspicion any move for extra finance for education that is made by the Labour Party, because in February of this year the Premier of New South Wales, who was also the Minister for Education in that State, promised the education council, which I understand consists of State Ministers for Education and Directors of Education, that he would make a request on behalf of that council at the Premiers’ Conference this year. About a week before the Premiers’ Conference was held he notified the State Ministers that he was not prepared to proceed with that arrangement, and at the last moment it was decided that the Premier of Western Australia should raise the matter on behalf of the education council.
Then we noticed that the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who I understand is a Labour man, started to launch a campaign against the Commonwealth, asking for more funds for education. The honorable member for Wills said that the greatest demand for this increased finance came from New South Wales. He then went on to destroy his argument completely, at least in one respect, by citing figures from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, from which it can be seen that the two States which members of the Opposition are prone to call the mendicant States can find more money to spend on education than can the two major States - and those two States have been governed, for the most part, by Labour governments. Honorable members may remember that in reply to an interjection by me the honorable member for Wills said that a Liberal-Country Party government is in charge in Queensland, but I direct attention to the fact that the figures being considered were prepared when a Labour government was in office in that State.
The position is that no matter how much money is granted by the Commonwealth to the States, the Commonwealth has no control over the spending of it once the States have it in their grasp. We find to-day, as we have found ever since this Government came to office, that the number of foundation-stones being laid in New South Wales is almost as great as the number of electors in that State. There is no semblance of order, and the Government there is running hither and yon trying to placate the people, saying, “ We are doing this for you and we are doing that for you, but we cannot get enough money from the Commonwealth “.
The honorable member for Wills raised the matter of priorities. He is apparently unaware that when this Government first came to office the Prime Minister and Treasurer of the day, at a Premiers’ Conference, suggested that the States should set up a committee to organize their priorities within the States and come to an agreement between themselves. The Premiers left this chamber with the intention of giving effect to that suggestion, because I feel certain that they realized that the extent of the demand for development in every section of our economy was such that some semblance of order had to be organized. Shortly afterwards they returned, and the man who destroyed the idea of bringing some semblance of order to this matter was none other than the Labour Premier of New South Wales.
– Is that true?
– Yes, and the Premier was none other than Mr. McGirr. I repeat, therefore, that I treat with suspicion all this heat that is generated by members of the Labour Party in their contribution to debates on education.
Honorable members opposite know full well that education is a State responsibility. They also know full well that under the formula that has been in operation ever since one of their own Prime Ministers introduced the tax reimbursement scheme the States can get money to cater for their education needs. They know, too, that in 1947, when the scheme was amended, it was provided that after the expiration of seven years any government could ask the Commonwealth for a reconsideration of the formula, and until 1958 not one State availed itself of the opportunity, which I think is afforded by section 10 of the act, to request the Commonwealth to do so. That section of the legislation specifically states that upon receipt of such a request the Commonwealth shall hold a conference to reconsider the whole matter.
We have heard these complaints so very often that I want to say just one thing in concluding my remarks on the matter of education. I hope the people of Western Australia will not get sucked into the vortex created by the New South Wales Government, because if they do so, then as sure as night follows day they will lose the education system they have in their State of which they can be justifiably proud. They have a free university, at which the son or daughter of any man or woman in that State, irrespective of financial position, and providing only he or she has the necessary ability, can receive a first-class university education. Once the matter of education comes under the control of the Commonwealth, Western Australia will face two problems. First, it will be told by the Commonwealth what it shall do, and, secondly, when the Commonwealth Grants Commission undertakes an assessment of the requirements of the State it will use the eastern States as a yardstick and Western Australia will be penalized in other directions. I sincerely trust that we will not allow ourselves in Western Australia to be affected by the heat that is being generated in New South Wales. I hear an honorable member interjecting and saying that it is a threecard trick. Well, it is something very similar.
I now wish to speak of something else that has cropped up in the last couple of days. A gentleman who is a member of the New South Wales Parliament has apparently made a trip overseas and has come, back and made a statement which has been reported in the Sydney “ Sun “. This gentleman is reported to have said -
I don’t want to knock the work that Australians are doing overseas.
He then proceeded to attack what his fellow Australians are doing in London. He is then reported to have said -
But I feel it my public duty as an Australian to express my concern and disappointment with what I found at Australia House.
I think we can accept the fact that Australians know their way about, particularly if they are politicians, and if this gentleman had any real complaints we could all expect him to have gone to Sir Eric Harrison with them. We had that gentleman in this Parliament for many years. He mixed it in the hurly-burly of debate, and he was respected by honorable members on both sides of the Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) appears to disagree, but I believe that even his leader would accept that statement. I just say to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that when I had the pleasure of going overseas a couple of years ago 1 was asked to convey his leader’s sentiments to this particular gentleman. Let me go a little further with my examination of the remarks of this well-respected member of the New South Wales Parliament. He said -
There seemed to be too many on the staff with too little direction on how to disseminate information needed by inquirers.
A couple of years ago 1. had the opportunity to go overseas and I know for a fact that Sir Eric Harrison, who is in charge of Australia House in London, regularly calls a conference of all the heads of the branches of that establishment and they have discussions, lectures and so on. The whole staff is working as a co-ordinated body.
– Did he take you to dinner?
– He was a little busy doing a job for Australia and I said to him, “ Go ahead with what you are doing “. This member of Parliament says that he does not want to knock the work that Australians are doing overseas, but he feels it is his duty to say certain things. He says -
I watched queues lined up to see particulars of work and conditions in Australia, trade possibilities and other details.
That is something of which we can be really proud. If people who wish to find out details about this country are prepared to wait in queues, it shows that some interest is being created, which brings them to Australia House to make these inquiries.
I am not surprised at this statement by the gentleman from Sydney because it is typical. I do not know him, but he is a public man and he should be aware of the responsibility placed upon him by his position and he should be careful about what he says. He states that staff members are just meandering around doing this and doing that. Does he want Australia House to be a tourist bureau to which people rush in order to find out the time a certain train leaves the station? Does he want Australia House to compete with the ordinary tourist organizations? The staff at Australia House provides that information and a lot of other information. The officials represent every Commonwealth department. They have a job to do and they do it right loyally and right well, as those who have had the pleasure of calling at Australia House are able to confirm.
This man says that there are too many cocktail parties and he insinuates that the officials do nothing but drink the duty-free liquor. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who interjects, can read the article for himself. The point I make is that no cocktail party is held in Australia House unless it is to commemorate an important Australian occasion or the visit of a dignitary. I wonder whether the gentleman from Sydney realizes that all the AgentsGeneral in London use Australia House for their cocktail parties because they have not the facilities in their own establishments for entertainment. If this gentleman wants to be so critical, let him first find out what his own Agent-General is doing.
I do not want to delay the committee, but I want to say that other people go overseas and have a look at Australia House. One is the Reverend W. J. Johnson. I think he is a Methodist minister from Melbourne. He has just returned to Australia after having spent four months abroad. He said he could not praise Australia House too warmly and that everything possible was being done there. I entirely agree with him.
I think the complaint to which I have referred is another example of the old, old trick that is played from time to time, lt always seems to be played by some one from New South Wales. The purpose is to destroy parliament, more particularly the Commonwealth Parliament, and to knock those associated with parliament. I do not know what is behind it all, but I hope the people of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular, pay no heed to statements of this kind and that, in the years to come, they will keep men of that kind out of politics, particularly federal politics, so that this country may be safe for our children and our children’s children.
.- The High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom comes under the Prime Minister’s Department. At the present time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is also Minister for External Affairs. It is, perhaps, a more appropriate combination of offices than is usually made, because it seems to me somewhat anomalous in Australian politics that the Prime Minister conducts a very important segment of foreign affairs through his relations with the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and his special relationship with the United Kingdom, yet other aspects ot external affairs are conducted by the Minister for External Affairs. That anomaly becomes clear in any period of emergency in Australia, such as at the time of the Suez crisis, when the Prime Minister becomes primarily responsible for all external affairs matters.
The second point I wish to discuss under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department is the matter of the Commonwealth National Library. This subject now is almost a chestnut. It must be nearly a decade since the Public Works Committee reported on a building, which at that time would have cost £2,500,000, to house the National Library. It cannot be stressed too often that in the Australian Capital Territory we have an immense and valuable collection of books for which the accommodation is extremely unsatisfactory. The Australian taxpayers have paid for those books, and some people who are interested in the records of the history of this Commonwealth, such as Nan Kivell, have made priceless contributions to the National Library with the intention that they should be enjoyed by the Australian people. I think it is necessary for us to remind ourselves that as a Parliament we have never made those contributions available to the Australian people because there is no adequate building open to the public where people are able to see them.
The Government has been in office for a decade. It has extensive plans for Canberra and has carried out considerable building ventures here. I think it is time the Government asked itself whether some of the projects that are in hand are more important than the building of the National Library. Personally, I believe the construction of a National Library is more important than, for instance, the construction of a mint when there are two royal mints in Australia at the present time which, at least temporarily, could carry on the business of the coinage of the Commonwealth. The National Library is a tremendously valuable educational instru ment for the people if they have access to it. The Parliament has made very considerable appropriations, which I do not criticize, for the Australian National University and the library the university is to establish, but it will serve only a handful of scholars, probably not many more than 200 at first. On the other hand, the National Library would be a valuable acquisition for thousands of people going through the Australian Capital Territory, scholars and the people of the Territory.
I should also like to direct attention to the unsatisfactory position of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and scholarships tenable at the universities. In 1956, the enrolments of the Australian universities were 34,406. And 3,000 scholarships were awarded. In 1960, the enrolments had increased by more than 50 per cent, to 52,000 and 3,000 scholarships were awarded. In 1956, 8,895 students applied for scholarships and 3,000 were awarded. In 1960, more than 13,000 students applied and 3,000 scholarships were awarded. If the numbers of applicants and students are increasing and the number of scholarships remains static, then quite clearly in successive years people with probably more ability than their predecessors who were successful in getting scholarships have been excluded from scholarships as the percentage being awarded becomes a lower percentage of the total. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has stressed the need for a technical and scientific effort on the part of the Commonwealth Government to raise the standards of technical and scientific education in the schools; but this applies all the way through.
Quite clearly, if the Commonwealth effort in assisting able people through the universities is not keeping pace with the increase in the student population, then we are not doing to-day a job comparable with what was being done some years ago. The greater number of adolescents and young people, with the increase in population, does call for more than a fixed quota of scholarships to be awarded by the Government. The schools of this country in many respects are backward. The statistics of the sizes of the classes are extremely depressing to any one who knows that the number of children who can be educated in a year in a class room is about 30 or 35, and that beyond that figure a process of dragooning tends to take place. There is not, in the statistics of my colleague, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), any significant advance by the States in reducing the sizes of classes. But at least the Commonwealth ought to be interested in the technical and scientific equipment in the schools and those expenditures of a capital nature which have much to do with the efficiency of education in the States.
We have almost worn out the kind of dispute which has been going on across this chamber in debate after debate on the Commonwealth’s responsibility for education. But at least in those fields where the Commonwealth has assumed responsibility, I thinkit is in order for the Government to consider whether a static number of scholarships being awarded to an increasing student body and an increasing number of applicants is not a sign that the Commonwealth’s educational effort is beginning to flag. It would be a good thing if the Government looked at the number of scholarships and started revising it upwards at least pro rata with what it was when the Government initially awarded 3,000 scholarships per year.
– I wish to make a personal explanation regarding a matter in which I claim to have been misrepresented by the press. The following passage appears in a report headed “ M.H.R. Backs the Ban on Scientist “, in an edition of the Melbourne “Herald” of Monday, 5th September: -
Mr. Erwin said the British Home Office had given information on Professor Gluckman.
What in fact I did say, Mr. Speaker, was that on his own assumption Professor Gluckman had stated the British Home Office had given information about him. In other words, the clear intention of my statement was that I was accepting at its face value Professor Gluckman’s own assumption that the British Home Office had given information about him. I was not myself attributing to the Home Office any statement whatever about Professor Gluckman.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Question (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many live artist shows have been presented at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, since the weekly performances ceased on 27th April, 1958?
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation that the entertainment provided at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, for the period in question is as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What was the (a) number of beds and (b) daily average number of occupied beds in Repatriation hospitals and sanatoria in each State in the last year?
– I have be”” advised by the Minister for Repatriation as follows: -
The average normal operating capacity (that is, the bed capacity of wards or parts of wards in use) and the average number of occupied, beds for the last year were as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
2 and 3. The total Loan Council allocations shown under 1. for the financial year 1960-61 are the amounts finally requested by the States concerned and approved by the Loan Council.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What steps (a) have been taken, or (b) does he propose to take, to persuade the States to accept the Commonwealth’s censorship rulings on imported books, films and recordings?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
An approach has already been made to each of the State Premiers seeking their preliminary views on the question of uniformity of literature censorship and the desirability of a joint examination of the problem by the States and the Commonwealth. The Premiers have not as yet made known their views on these matters.
In addition to its Commonwealth function of determining whether imported films shall be admitted into Australia either wholly or after elimininations the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board, under agreements reached with the various State governments, classifies such films under the following headings: -
Suitable for general exhibition (“ G “);
Not suitable for children (“A”);
Subject to special conditions, e.g., for adults only (“ AO “).
The various States have the power to impose their own censorship requirements. However, under the arrangement mentioned, certain States have legislation for the acceptance of classifications by the Film Censorship Board and in practice they are accepted by all States.
So far as recordings are concerned, Commonwealth powers extend only to imported articles which, if indecent or obscene, are treated as prohibited imports. Sales of indecent or obscene recordings within Australia are a matter for the State governments.
No problems have arisen in connexion with any State-Commonwealth variances which might or might not exist in dealing with recordings and no steps have been taken to have the States accept Commonwealth rulings on these articles nor are any such steps contemplated.
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Committee at all. These are purely my own views and I want to make that perfectly clear.”
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
With what countries has (a) the Commonwealth, (b) each State and (c) each Territory negotiated the bilateral agreements to which his predecessor referred in his answer of 24th November, 1959, to the question of which I gave notice on 10th November?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The enforcement of maintenance orders is primarily a matter for the individual States and Territories of the Commonwealth. Reciprocal arrangements for the enforcement of maintenance orders have been made by the States and Territories under their relevant legislation with the places indicated by the letter “ X “ in the attached chart. The Commonwealth as such has not entered into any bilateral agreements in this field.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Why has Australia not yet signed the convention on the (a) nationality of married women; and (b) political rights of women?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Have engine fire extinguishers been fitted to Neptune aircraft pursuant to his statement of 12th May, 1959, and his answer of 23rd September, 1959, to the question of which I gave notice on 13th August?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Up to the present time no Neptune aircraft have been fitted with fire extinguishers. As I said in reply to an earlier question on this subject, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was to carry out a design study on the fitting of fire extinguishers. This has now been completed and the Royal Australian Air Force has accepted the proposed modification subject to the successful fitting of a prototype to the Neptune aircraft.
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is now carrying out a trial fitting of the proposed system to a Neptune aircraft. I expect that the programme for the modification of all the R.A.A.F. Neptune aircraft will begin early in 1961 and will be completed towards the middle of that year.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What percentage of the retail price of beer and spirits is paid to the Commonwealth in the form of excise and customs duty?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
Because retail prices of the several brands and types of liquor vary considerably between States, and zones within States, while the rates of customs and excise duty remain constant throughout the Commonwealth, the percentages of duty in relation to the retail prices vary accordingly.
For the purpose of the question, therefore, the retail price of beer and the more predominant retail prices for spirits in the public bars in the Sydney metropolitan area have been taken as a basis for calculation.
The following is the position: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Six months ended 30th June, 1959- £29,076,647.
Six months ended 31st December, 1959 - £29,717,545.
Six months ended 30th June, 1960- £31,270,954.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
Final annual figures are not yet available, but the following preliminary figures are supplied: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The main features of each scheme are as follows: -
the Wheat Stabilization Fund at present consists of moneys contributed by growers under previous plans. The fund has an upper limit of £20 million. The fund has been established by charging an export levy of up to1s. 6d. per bushel on wheat exported when the export price has exceeded the guaranteed price. The levy applies to all wheat exported at above the guaranteed price.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Did the Government, before agreeing to the request of the sugar industry for a higher price for its products, take into account the enormous reduction in costs resulting from the great reduction in the number of workers employed consequent upon the introduction and extension of mechanization in all phases of the industry?
Will he make available for the information of honorable members the material which the Government had before it when considering this aspect of the matter?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The May, 1959, conference requested the Commonwealth to exclude the King Island/North-West area from the crayfish closure of 1st September to 15th October in each year and to impose a separate closure for this area from 16th December to 31st January in each year. Action taken: The Commonwealth gazetted, on 23rd July, 1959, a notice under section 8 of the Fisheries Act incorporating this proposal.
The conference also requested New South Wales to introduce a carapace measurement of 44 inches for crayfish instead of the overall length measurement in force. However, the New South Wales authorities have considered this change unnecessary and no action has been taken. In addition, all the States were asked to consider adopting a uniform method of measuring crayfish when the rostrum horn is broken. Action taken: Because of the difficulty of framing a legal definition acceptable to all States and the Commonwealth, the matter was held over until the conference scheduled for December, 1959.
The December, 1959, conference recommended - (a) That the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania introduce complementary regulations requiring the mesh size in all sections of otter trawl and Danish seine nets to be of a dimension no less than the mesh in the codend of the net.
Action taken: New South Wales and Tasmania have agreed to implement the recommendation. Victoria is not prepared to introduce the necessary measures at present. In Victoria the Danish seine fishery is complicated by the fact that it takes fish known as “ trawl whiting “ and the alteration in the mesh sizes would result in considerable loss to the fishermen. An endeavour is being made to find a solution to the Victorian problem so that uniform action can be taken by all parties.
Action taken: The Commonwealth has gazetted a new notice under section 8 of the Fisheries Act incorporating this proposal.
Victoria has also proclaimed a new close season for female crayfish omitting the month of November. It is understood that Tasmania and South Australia propose to take the action necessary to comply with this request.
Action taken: A uniform definition has still not been achieved.
Wales should introduce regulations complementary to the existing Tasmanian regulations concerning the conservation of gummy shark.
Action taken: The necessary steps are being taken by the Commonwealth to introduce a close season for gummy shark during the month of November. Different legal minimum lengths are at present in force in Victoria and Tasmania for gummy shark, namely 24 inches and 30 inches respectively. The Commonwealth is endeavouring to get the two States to agee to a uniform measurement before taking action on a legal minimum length. New South Wales has not yet indicated whether it will take any action.
Action taken: This matter has been under investigation and it is hoped that the September,1960, Conference will find a definition suitable to all authorities.
No requests or suggestions were made for legislation to be implemented by the Territories.
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Which Commonwealth departments and State governments have been asked and have given their views on ratifying the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows: -
The text of the convention was referred to the Stales, and to the Departments of Territories (in respect of the Northern Territory) and the Interior (in respect of the Australian Capital Territory), for consideration as to ratification and all have indicated their views. These will be covered in the statement in respect of the conventions and recommendations adopted at the 1957 session of the International Labour Conference which I hope to table during the present parliamentary session.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Reserve Bank determined a statutory reserve deposit ratio of 16.5 per cent. with effect from 14th January, i960, when the Banking Act 1959 came into force. The ratio was raised to 17.5 per cent. on 10th February, 1960, and has since continued unchanged. In accordance with the provisions of sections 20 and 25 of the Banking Act 1959, the same ratio applies to and is observed by all the major trading banks.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that money is being provided from Italian sources for the housing of Italian immigrants in this country?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
Land Ownership by Aliens.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Which States restrict the right of aliens to own land?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n. - On 16th August, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) asked me the following question without notice: -
Is the Minister for Trade aware that certain Australian textile manufacturers have used for many years trade marks such as a sheep or a ram’s head on their products, and are now continuing to use those trade marks on synthetics? In view of the fact that the public could be misled into thinking that they were buying wool, will the Minister look into this matter and see whether it is not possible to reserve trade marks denoting sheep for purely woollen goods only?
I now supply the following answer: -
I am informed that there are five marks containing the device of a sheep or sheep’s head registered with the Trade Marks Office in respect of textile piece goods which are not restricted to goods of wool or predominantly of wool. Three of these marks are registered in respect of cloths and stuffs of wool worsted or hair and two of the marks are registered in respect of cotton goods. All these marks were registered over fourteen years ago. The current practice of the Registrar of Trade Marks is to have the statement of goods, in respect of which registration of a mark is sought, restricted to accord with the description of goods appearing within the mark. That is to say, if the Registrar considered that the device of a sheep was a dominant feature of a mark when viewed as a whole and would give rise to the belief that the goods were of wool or predominantly of wool, he would require as a condition of registration that the goods be so restricted.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Exports. - 1st September, 1960 - Wool 5 per cent.; 1st October, 1960 - Refrigerated cargoes 74 per cent. (fresh fruit rate still subject to negotiation). General cargo, 5 per cent.
Imports. - 1st October. 1960 - All commodities, 74 per cent.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The United States and India have entered into an agreement, similar in principle to those which have operated since 1956, under which the United States will sell India 16,000,000 tons of wheat over a period of four years, and will accept payment in local currency. A condition of the agreement is that India will purchase on commercial terms each year 400,000 tons of wheat, subject to an annual review of India’s balance of payments position. It is expected that the outcome of the review with respect to 1960-61 will be known shortly. The commercial purchase quota of 400,000 tons embodied in the new agreement is the same as the commercial quota provided for in the 1959-60 agreement. In that year, India purchased almost the whole quantity from Australia. It may be expected that the bulk of India’s commercial purchases will continue to be made in Australia.
Oil from Russia.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1-3. None has been charged.
d asked the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600906_reps_23_hor28/>.