23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the
Treasurer a question. On 22nd November, and again on 23rd November, the right honorable gentleman advised the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Darebin respectively that the higher interest rates which he had announced the Government had decided upon would not apply to co-operative building societies. Will he give an assurance that this is firm Government policy? I am inspired to ask the question because in 1956, when interest rates were increased, the concessional rate fixed in regard to co-operative building societies was increased fifteen days after the general increase. I ask for an unequivocal statement about this matter, and also for an assurance that an announcement of a rise is not being delayed until after the Higinbotham by-election on Saturday next.
– The Leader of the Opposition seems to be terribly sensitive about this Higinbotham by-election. References to it creep into his conversation constantly, and into practically every statement he makes.
– Why haven’t you been there?
– I opened the campaign there.
– You left the stricken field!
– Oh, no! The honorable member misjudges the position completely. If he were as confident of the loyalty of his own supporters as we are of the result of the Higinbotham by-election, he would be a much happier man. I have been asked what our attitude is towards interest rates applicable to co-operative building societies. I remind the House that the rates of interest are determined by the Reserve Bank, which makes its views known to the trading banks. The Commonwealth Government is represented on the board of the Reserve Bank in the person of the Secretary of the Treasury. The directive that went out from the Reserve Bank quite clearly reflected the view of the Government, I think. I shall make the text of that directive known to the honorable member. I have not had any indication myself that co-operative building societies are not being dealt with in accordance with the Government’s wishes.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health a question. Now that the revised pharmaceutical benefits scheme has been in operation for some months, will the Minister say whether the objectives aimed at by introducing the 5s. charge for prescriptions have been realized? Do the results achieved by the provision of pharmaceutical benefits under the National Health Act justify the heavy cost involved?
– The answer to the question as to whether the objectives have been achieved is, unequivocally, “ Yes “. One of the main objectives sought by the Government was to ensure that in such a measure as this, which is of course a social welfare measure, the recipient would bear directly some portion of the cost. Coupled with that was the desire that the very rapidly rising annual cost of pharmaceutical benefits should be in some way restrained. It is too early yet for us to give definite figures about the financial result, but I am sure it is perfectly true to say that without this measure the expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits within this financial year alone would have been several million pounds more than in fact it will be.
The honorable gentleman’s second question as to whether the expense is in any event justified can also be unequivocally answered in the affirmative. As I said, this is a social welfare measure. It brings a very great range of drugs within the financial resources of the population. Every national health scheme must have, as one of its objectives, the provision of adequate modern therapy for the citizens of the country. The average price of prescriptions dispensed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is about 19s. and with important drugs, of course, the price to the patient without this scheme would be very much greater, amounting to many pounds per prescription in some instances. In no instance does the patient under the pharmaceutical benefits arrangements pay more than 5s. So I think this can fairly be described as a social welfare measure of very great importance and, from the health point of view, of very great advantage.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware of the rackets being practised by certain road hauliers in some States to evade payment of road taxes on the pretext that the goods are subject to section 92 of the Constitution. For instance, wool produced in New South Wales is carried by road transport for upwards of 100 miles across the border to an interstate loading depot, transferred to another vehicle if it is thought that some one is watching, and then taken back across the border to Sydney, Newcastle or some other seaboard town for sale and shipment abroad. Is this considered to come within the provisions of section 92 and does the Government countenance such scandalous conduct? In view of the fact that railway finances, and State finances generally, are suffering badly as a result of this unfair competition, which virtually amounts to highway robbery, will the Attorney-General examine the ramifications of this swindle to ascertain whether something can be done to defeat it?
– I have no knowledge of these matters. I think I ought to inform the honorable member that if there are any practices which evade the State laws concerning taxation on motor transport, the State governments can bring their proceedings and prevent those who are evading the tax from achieving their objective. I have some recollection that recently a case was decided by the High Court in connexion with people moving out of Queensland into New South Wales and back into Queensland in what was substantially one journey. In that case, the Queensland Government took steps to look after itself. I can do nothing in my capacity as Attorney-General to interfere in these matters. If the Attorneys-General of the States took action and it was necessary for the Commonwealth to intervene in order to protect the Australian Constitution or its operation, I would have some function.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia the body which negotiates with the Commonwealth Government on matters concerning pharmaceutical benefits? Does this body or its State branches accept royalties or commissions from the manufacturers of certain patent medicines, in return for which it permits the term “A Guild Product “ to be used by one manufacturer only of each product, thereby conferring on such firms a very considerable commercial advantage? If so, is this a restrictive practice which effectively curtails competition and thus increases the price which the public has to pay for essential drugs? Does this practice in any way affect the cost to the taxpayers of the extensive pharmaceutical benefits which they now provide for themselves through the agency of the Commonwealth Government?
Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia does negotiate with the Federal Government over the price which the Government pays to the individual chemist for pharmaceutical benefits. As the honorable gentleman will realize, the Government is concerned only with drugs which are listed as pharmaceutical benefits. The chemist is paid under a rather complicated arrangement which covers his cost of purchasing the drug, his cost of prescribing, and so on, in order to arrive at a fair price which the Government will pay to him. The honorable gentleman used the words “ patent medicines “. I am not quite sure whether he intended that term to be taken in the strict sense.
– No, generally.
– Patent medicines are not included in the list of pharmaceutical benefits. Whether the Pharmaceutical Service Guild receives royalties on certain products, I do not know.
I do not think that whether it does or not makes any difference to the price that the Federal Government pays, because that price is calculated on the actual cost of the drug - what the chemist has to pay for it - and is reviewed in the light of what the negotiators who act on behalf of the Department of Health consider to be a reasonable price. I am not sure whether the practice referred to by the honorable gentleman can be described as a restrictive practice. Whether it can or not, the matter appears to me to be outside the administrative orbit of the Federal Government. In any event, so far as I can see, the practice is unlikely to exert any influence on the price paid for pharmaceutical benefits.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Was any attempt made to inquire into the reduction of noise from the jet engines of the three new Boeing 707 aircraft about to be purchased by Qantas Empire Airways Limited and from the replacement jet engines for the seven Boeing 707 machines already in service with that airline? Would I be right in assuming that the extra power of these engines will be used to enable the planes to carry heavier payloads and that, as a consequence of the failure to extend the short runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport out into Botany Bay, residents whose homes are in line with the ends of the one existing runway suitable for use by these aircraft will be subjected to even greater torture by noise as the more heavily laden aeroplanes labour to gain height after take-off? Are the feelings of residents who live near aerodromes ever considered?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place. It involves quite a lot of technical matters, as I am sure he will realize. I feel that noise is one of the things that we must accept with jet aircraft, especially fast machines. The Boeing 707 aircraft are fitted with noise suppressors, but these do not suppress the noise as much as anybody would like. The simple fact is that the noise given off by an engine is governed by a fairly rigid and inflexible formula. That formula is the thrust of the engine multiplied by six times the velocity of the jet. If you build the velocity of the jet up to a higher speed and power, to improve lifting, the noise will increase. The modification now being made to the new engines that are about to be installed - the fitting of a turbo fan - gives greater power output with an increase in the velocity of the jet, and I do not think the honorable member need fear that the new engines will increase the noise of the Boeing jets.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether there has been any increase of imports due to consignment trading, in which the importer does not have to pay cash for his goods. Does the Government expect this to be a challenge to its credit restrictions? If so, what action, if any, does the Government propose to take?
– I am informed that the importation of goods on consignment is not a simple matter to identify from the records of either the banks or the customs authorities. The Department of Trade, Treasury officials and bank officers are interested in this matter and are watching it.
I think the first comment I should make is that the overwhelming proportion of imports are goods which are not for re-sale in the form in which they were imported. Such goods do not lend themselves to the system of importing on consignment in the same way as do the straight consumer goods. Therefore, it is not considered likely that there will be a big increase in the importation of goods either on consignment or under deferred payment conditions. There has not been any noticeable increase of importations on consignment so far as the Customs Department is able to identify this form of importing, and it does keep a close watch on these matters. I am told that, so far as it is identifiable, the increase in the importation of goods under this system is no greater proportionately than is the total increase in the volume of imports. In the judgment of the officers who have the responsibility of watching the situation, it is not considered likely that there will be a very significant increase in this system of importing.
– I address a question to the Treasurer supplementary to that asked of him by the Leader of the Opposition. Has the Reserve Bank, on the board of which the Government is represented, advised or directed the savings banks to raise, or not to raise, the interest rates they charge on overdrafts they have already granted to building societies? Has it advised or directed them to raise or not to raise the interest rates they will charge on new or increased overdrafts they will grant to building societies in future?
Since the Government is also represented on the board of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, does the Treasurer know, or will he say, whether the Commonwealth Trading and Savings Banks, which have provided three-quarters of the funds for building societies, have decided to raise, or not to raise, the interest rates they charge on loans they have already made to the societies, or to raise or not to raise the interest rates on loans they may hereafter make to the societies?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to be getting his hand in for a return to hrs legal practice in the recess. I shall be glad to study the question and give him a considered reply.
While I am on my feet, let me say that yesterday the honorable gentleman asked me whether I would ascertain what the position was with regard to movements in the deposit rates payable by the State savings banks.
– And the Commonwealth and the private banks.
– That is so. I have made inquiries into that matter, and I have been advised by the Governor of the Reserve Bank that, following consultations which have occurred, there will be some upward movement in the deposit rates payable to the many millions of Australian depositors with the savings banks. They are entitled to a fair and reasonable rate of interest just as any one else would be entitled to it. The Governor informs me that an announcement will be made by the savings banks themselves within the next day or so and, for certain technical reasons, it is not considered desirable to make any earlier announcement.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether it is possible to reach a decision to lift the ban on the use of languages other than English in international communications by amateur radio?
– This is a subject to which considerable attention has been given for some time past by the honorable member for Paterson, the honorable member for Mallee and their colleagues in this House and in another place. It has now been decided that the need for the ban which had been previously imposed no longer exists and it will be lifted.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that members of the Melbourne Wireless Singers, employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, have been given notice that their services will not be required after 17 th December because funds are not available to enable them to be further employed. If so, will the PostmasterGeneral discuss the matter with the Treasurer and see what can be done to prevent these dismissals?
– I shall certainly discuss the matter with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order to ascertain the exact position. When I have that information I shall see whether it is necessary to take any action. The commission, of course, operates under its own statutory authority.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether any unions under Commonwealth awards are involved in the dispute in breweries in New South Wales? Can the Minister say whether the unrest is a hangover of unresolved disputes or the work of disgruntled spirits?
– I am not quite sure whether the hangover is due to disgruntled spirits or sour beer, but I shall find out for the honorable gentleman and let him know.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Health by saying that, from time to time, people contract diseases which require operations which cannot be performed by the medical profession in Australia and the patients have to go overseas. Will the Minister, in these cases, consider making an allowance equivalent to the expense which the Government would meet in respect of hospital accommodation, medical attention and pharmaceutical preparations for these people so as to assist them in the great expense of having to go to other countries to have an operation performed?
– The honorable gentleman has raised this matter with me previously. I think that there must be very few instances indeed of people having to leave Australia because adequate surgery is not available for them here. I think that I should say that the Department of Health has no funds at its disposal for the purpose of giving effect to the suggestion of the honorable member. However, if he has a specific case in mind I shall certainly have a look at it.
– Will the Minister for Trade inform the House what has been the percentage increase in shipping freight rates from Australia to the United Kingdom for wool,lamb and apples in thelast ten years? By what percentage has the export parity price of these goods fallen in that period?
– I can tell the honorable member that the percentage increase in freight rates on wool over the past five years has been 29 per cent. The increase on freight rates forlamb has been of the order of 41 per cent. and up to last year, the increase on the rate for apples was 31 per cent. The freight rate for the impending export season has not yet been determined. As to the comparative values of the products over the period, I am not able to give the honorable member the percentages immediately. I will secure them as soon as I can; but the ho norable member will understand that whilst I can give the average price of wool over the past five years, the average price currently could not be the price for the full season but only the average up to the present time. However, I shall let the honorable member have these figures.
– Can the Minister for Territories inform the House when a more comprehensive draft of the Forster report on Northern Territory agricultural prospects will be available? I ask the question because of the interest that has been created by the report and because of a desire to ascertain the reasons set out for the conclusions that have been reached. I also ask the Minister whether a decision has been made by Cabinet in respect of any of the recommendations.
– The report is a document of about a quarter of a million words with diagrams, maps and tables, and the actual physical task of printing will be a major one. The Department of Territories is in discussion with the Treasury on the question of funds and with the Government Printer on the question of printing capacity. I cannot promise an early publication of the full report, but it would be possible, I think, for honorable members to have access to a mimeographed copy of the text of the report, even if not to all the diagrams and tables. If the honorable member himself cares to get in touch with me, I will try to make arrangements for him to see such a copy. A submission for Cabinet on the main recommendations of the report is at present being prepared.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it true as reported that Australia is allowing a refined form of apartheid in New Guinea?
– Is this an arranged question.
– Certainly not. In reply to the honorable member for Balaclava, I think that in matters relating to the relationships between races we should take some care over the definition of our terms. As Iunderstand it, the word “apartheid” is a word which is given official use in the Union of South Africa to describe the method that the Union of South Africa has chosen to deal with its internal problems of how two communities and more than two races can live side by side within the same territory. As I understand it, the solution there is that the racial communities live and develop in two separate compartments within the same constitutional framework.
Using that exact meaning of apartheid, that policy is directly contrary to the policy we have adopted in New Guinea; because the policy to which we are working, and the policy that has been expounded to this House and the nation on many occasions, is for such instruments as a common electoral roll, one single parliamentary body and full participation of people of all races in all instruments of government. That is the clear policy of the Government and it is, of course, completely contrary to any policy of apartheid. I would, however, like to say that one cannot go, at one leap, from a community jr. which, in fact, two races do exist, to a community in which race becomes of no importance. We cannot escape the facts. I can illustrate my meaning perhaps by a reference to one field of government - education. At the present stage in Papua and New Guinea we have schools which are attended by European children only, and in which the teaching is wholly in the English language, because those children have English as their mother tongue and can be taught in English. We have other primary schools which are attended by native children only, because English is not their native language. They do not have the same cultural and social background as the European children, and for the simple purposes of efficient education you need to put them into a school where they can be taught by a method different from the method that is applicable to children who have English as their native language. Yet at the same time we have established, and are carrying out, a policy in the Territory by which, at the secondary school stage, all children will go to the same schools, because at that stage they are capable of profiting from the same education, and eventually in the Territory there will be only one set of schools. I want to emphasize that you do have a transitional stage in which there may be a superficial appearance of treating the two races in separate compartments, but there is no doubt that Australia’s policy in the Territory is for a common development towards a common future.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer, and arises from the statement he made a few minutes ago in answer to another question, to the effect that in consultation with the Governor of the Reserve Bank he had been informed that there would be an increase in the interest rate paid to depositors in savings and other banks. I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Will this not make it inevitable that there will be an increase in the interest rate charged by those banks to people who borrow from them, so that the increased cost to the banks resulting from the increase of the interest rate paid to their own depositors can be met? If this is so, is it likely that this increased interest charge made by the savings and other banks to building societies and others will be made before the end of this year, or will it be made six months after the decision, as in the case of the horror budget of 1951, or in March of the year following, as in the case of the little horror budget of 1956?
– Each bank will, of course, have regard to its own policy, subject to the general directives which have gone out on those matters. Generally speaking, when an increase rn deposit interest rates occurs it normally follows that there will be some increase in the interest rates charged by the particular financial institution, but how it applies this increase is a matter for that institution, within the broad directives which the Reserve Bank has announced. I would say, Sir, adding a point of detail to my earlier answer, that associated with an increase in deposit rates there is also to be an increase in the limit of deposits on which the increased interest will be paid. The combined effect of these should be to encourage, usefully, the deposit of savings in the savings banks, and these have been, as honorable gentlemen know, a most valuable source of lending for home buildin L! and other valuable community purposes. While in particular cases there may well be some increase in interest rates, to the extent that the savings banks are able to secure additional funds by this action, other people who would have had to pay very much more for their borrowings outside the savings banks, in future will be able to secure funds from those banks at very reasonable rates of interest.
– When will the Minister for Air be able to make a statement regarding new types of fighter and other aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I have no information for the honorable member at present. However. I direct his attention to the reply which the Prime Minister gave last week to a question touching on this subject.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a statement which was published by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited which reveals that it has assets exceeding £2,700,000 and a claims reserve of £2,706,300? Will the Minister institute an investigation into the operations of all organizations that are registered under Commonwealth legislation to ascertain administrative costs, reserves and other assets to ensure that the insured receive benefits more in keeping with their contributions?
– The financial operations of the benefits funds are constantly under review and the Department of Health is constantly in consultation with the organizations. It would be unfortunate if the impression were gained that because some of these organizations have considerable reserves they should increase their payments to contributors. After all, if the honorable gentleman considers the position of other insurance companies he will realize that every sound insurance business must build up considerable reserves if it is to function efficiently.
– The Treasurer in his statement on the Australian economy stated, among other things, that the Reserve
Bank of Australia would give much more specific guidance to the trading banks on the classes of borrowers, especially certain classes of export producers, whose, activities may reasonably call for additional accommodation. Does this mean that primary producers who have valuable assets now should be able to secure from trading banks this necessary additional accommodation if it can be proved that the assistance is necessary to increase or maintain output in their primary producing activities?
– I thought that the terms of the directive were given wide publicity at the time. The effect should be that even in a situation of rather stringent liquidity of the banking system the banks would be able to make reasonable advances to primary producers for purposes of export production. I think that I qualified that general statement some time ago when referring to purchases of land and matters of that kind, which might not be so directly or immediately related to export production. However, in terms of the directive and even in the light of the current banking situation, funds should be reasonably available to assist primary producers in their normal farming operations.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Is it correct that our overseas balances have now fallen to £341,000,000? In view of the continued deterioration in our overseas funds, is the Government satisfied that its policy of credit restriction will stop this downward trend? Will the Minister say what is the minimum figure that he regards as being reasonable and safe for our overseas funds to reach? Is it correct that the decline in those funds has exceeded the Government’s expectations? At what stage will the Minister take firm and positive action to deal with this serious and alarming situation?
– The Government is confident that the total effect of its policies in the economic field will be adequate to safeguard Australia’s solvency in relation to its international trading requirements. It is true that the disappointing lower value of wool since import licensing was substantially lifted in February last has caused a somewhat greater run-down in funds than might have been calculated at that time but not a disastrous or unmanageable additional run-down, because it was always contemplated that there would be a run-down, and it was in anticipation of that situation that the Government pursued pretty strong policies, as the whole country knows, over a succession of years to build up our funds to pretty high levels.
The honorable gentleman not unreasonably asks what is the level of funds which the Government would regard as safe. The Government has a clear mind on this and always has had. There is no arithmetical figure to which we can point and say that that is the figure which is safe or not safe. The significant thing is the trend of movements at the time - the trend of imports as against exports, calls through invisible expenditure, earnings in the invisible field and capital inflow. Those things taken together can be evidence of a trend which, rather than any arithmetical figure, is the real indicator of whether the position is safe, deteriorating or improving.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. It relates to the licensing of television sets in outer country areas. In view of the fact that many people in the country have spent very large sums on television aerials-
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– In view of the fact that many people in country areas have spent large sums on television aerials and still receive only intermittent programmes, will the Postmaster-General consider working out a plan for a free or concessional licence in those areas which prove, under test, not to give reasonable service? Does he agree that it is wrong in principle to ask people to pay for something which they do not receive?
– I am afraid I cannot agree with the contention in the latter part of the honorable member’s question - that people are being required to pay for something which they do not receive. The position is that before a person outlays, say, some £200 for a television set and possibly something over £100 for aerials, it is to be expected that he will make some investigation of the type of service which he is likely to receive. If, having made that investigation, he is then prepared to outlay between £200 and £300, I do not think it can be logically contended that there is justification for the remission of a £5 fee.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the “ Annual Bulletin of Oversea Investment, 1958-59 “, discloses that the new capital inflow from the United States of America and Canada exceeds the outflow to those countries by £5,000,000 since 1947, and when you take into consideration-
– Order! The honorable member is now giving information and making comment.
– When the loss of revenue to the Treasury due to the double tax agreement with the United States of America is taken into consideration, the deficit in 1953 was £25,000,000. If he is aware of that fact, will the Treasurer review the position of the double tax agreement with the United States of America and Canada as it is working against the best interests of the Australian people?
– I do not agree that the double tax agreement with the United States of America is working against our interests. Australia has gained great practical advantage as a nation from the inflow of capital from the United States of of America and other countries not only through direct investment here, but also through the industrial development which has been stimulated as the result of what has come here from other countries. Figures which I have given the House before would suggest that of total investment in this country 90 per cent, is still coming from Australian sources. As long as we can maintain that kind of proportion I think we shall have little to worry about in connexion with matters which seem to terrify honorable gentlemen opposite, who, if ever they came to office, would lay a palsied hand upon the development of this nation.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 7th December (vide page 3749).
.- This legislation was discussed last evening at the second-reading stage, and I think the first point that emerged was that the method adopted by the Government to achieve the purpose of regulating the funds obtained by certain financial institutions is a fairly inflexible one. It is the tax weapon applied to companies of particular kinds. Clause 4 of the bill excludes from the operation of the legislation defined companies and other concerns, of which there will be a large number. The provision which attempts to regulate the funds borrowed by financial concerns has been made necessary because the application of the banking power to trading banks only has allowed a large number of other concerns to escape any kind of regulation.
We were told during the second-reading debate what consequences have flowed from this. There has been an extraordinary increase in the amount of money obtained and lent by unregulated finance companies, while the regulated concerns, the trading banks, have increased their borrowings and lendings to a relatively far lesser extent. In its attempts to deal with a situation in which a portion of the financial system is unregulated and a portion is regulated to a certain extent, the Government has chosen the method of disallowing as a deduction for taxation purposes interest paid by certain financial concerns. It has excluded from the operation of this provision a considerable number of concerns which are defined in clause 4 of the bill, which amends section 51 of the act. The concerns to be excluded will be paying interest which will be called excepted interest.
What are these concerns? First of all, a bank is such a concern. The second group includes a company or body in respect of which, on the day on which notice of the assessment of the amount of the taxable income for the income year ending on 30th June, 1961, is served, there is in force a declaration by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), made after consultation with the Reserve Bank Board, declaring the company or body to be a declared pastoral finance company, or a declared dealer in the short-term money market. So, in addition to banks, there are also declared pastoral companies and declared dealers in the short-term money market. These two kinds of concerns include companies handling a great deal of money. In the first place, many of the pastoral companies are lending institutions, the activities of which are identical with those of finance companies that are being affected by this legislation. Some of them are borrowing at high rates and lending at high rates. With the establishment of the short-term money market, many of the dealers in that market are playing an increasing part in the financial operations of the country.
The next type of concern which is excluded is a body registered as a building society or as a co-operative housing society under the law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth. Included also are companies registered under the law of a State or Territory relating to co-operative companies, the principal business of which is the provision of housing or of finance for housing.
The real financial problem that has arisen in respect of these concerns springs from the fact that there has been partial regulation in the past. The expansion of the money supply has been regulated in such a way that in a certain section of the economy it has been kept under some kind of control. This, in part, has been the reason why there has been an undue expansion, almost an explosion, in the provision of finance in the unregulated parts of the financial sphere.
The first point I want to make about this method of using a flat tax exemption is that it still leaves the economy partly controlled and partly uncontrolled. This is said to be an interim measure, although if any one who had hopes that it would apply for only a short period heard the Treasurer last night, I do not think he would now be nearly so hopeful. The right honorable gentleman said that permanent measures were being devised, and I suggest that when this is being done, instead of using the method set out in clause 4 of the bill of excluding by definition certain concerns, the Government should, if it is going to use the tax weapon as a method of control and regulation of money raising and money lending, use it selectively. Instead of applying it to some companies which are set out by definition, and withholding its application from others which are also defined, it should apply it to all in relation to the interest that they pay and claim as a tax deduction. In other words, low-interest rates should be allowed as a tax deduction but high, excessive interest rates should not. Instead of excluding some companies, they should all be included, banks as well. If interest charged at less than a certain rate were allowed as a tax deduction or on a sliding scale, relating the interest charged to the tax deduction - a much more flexible instrument than this and one that would not require much thought to devise - a more effective and appropriate method of regulation would result.
I suggest this method because what is needed here is selective control. The point I tried to make last night in answer to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) was that the concern here is not so much the high profits that these people make as the fact that they are able, in the circumstances of full employment and an inflated economy, to charge very high rates of interest. In this sense, they are inefficient. Efficiency in capitalism is tested by the rate charged for services or by the relative cost of goods produced. These hire-purchase companies, which are now coming within the provisions of the bill, are inefficient on that test. They are charging and are able to charge high prices for the service they provide of lending money. That, on the fundamental test that this system applies, is inefficient.
In disallowing interest charged as a tax deduction, we have a most effective means of dealing with the situation. We can, in effect, force efficiency out of the lending institutions, instead of allowing them to be completely free to charge whatever an expanding inflated economy can be made to pay. Here is a very effective instrument, if it is used selectively. The whole problem here is to achieve a selective control of lending. There is no natural supply and demand factor, as a law of nature, which solves these problems, as the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) seemed to imply last night. All these things are the result of what we do.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
After section fifty-one of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “51aa- (1.) “ (10.) If a company elects that this sub-section shall be applied in relation to the company -
.- I move -
In proposed section 51aa, sub-section (11.), after paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph: - “ (c) that-
on or before that date, the company agreed to acquire, construct, improve or alter any property; and
since that day, the company borrowed money for the purpose of paying for the cost of the acquisition, construction, improvement or alteration of that property,”.
The aim of the amendment is simple.It is designed to carry out the general policy of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that this measure should not be retrospective. The Treasurer has in proposed sub-section (1 1 . ) (a) and (b) gone a long way to meet the position, and the overwhelming majority of instances where hardship would be caused by the fact that people had committed themselves to contracts which would have come into operation after this legislation was brought down will be met. The position of contracts for borrowing money seems to be met quite effectively. But there are other instances in which companies have entered into contracts binding them to do certain things which deper.d upon their ability to borrow money in the remaining portion of this year. It is these cases to which the amendment is addressed. Companies may have made plans over a period and undertaken contracts, and now, because of this legislation, the source of money on which they would have been able to rely to carry out the contracts is closed to them. This would not matter so much if alternative sources of finance were available.
– What companies are concerned?
– We are dealing with a general matter. One of the difficulties that these companies face is that bank accommodation will be very tight. If they could obtain overdrafts, on appropriate security, the position would be met. But naturally a guarantee that they would be able to do so cannot be given. The alternative is to borrow on very short term, perhaps paying interest for a short time at high rates. But in those circumstances they have to run the risk of not being able to renew their notes, in perhaps a changed situation, next year. If they could not renew their notes, of course they could be very badly caught.
One has to recognize that there is a danger that such a provision as this would open up the legislation too far and would let in too many cases where people may try to produce evidence of agreements of this kind. This could nullify the legislation, which is certainly quite legitimate in its aims and objectives. The Commissioner of Taxation must be satisfied and if a firm agreement existed he would be satisfied. I would hope there would not be too many cases in which this would be so. My amendment is designed to meet the position of companies which otherwise would be or could be in a very difficult position. Of course, this affects not only the financial interests involved but also the development of schemes, their timing and much of the employment depending upon them. I hope that the Treasurer will be able to extend this legislation so that in addition to those who were committed to borrowing contracts, those who were committed to other contracts which depend upon borrowing for their completion will be exempted.
This legislation is intended to last only for this year. It may be said, therefore, that people who had to borrow and then pay tax on the interest would not be unduly affected if they could rely on the tax on their borrowing being lifted at the end of the financial year. But this would impel them to pause and go easily on their new commitments and that is the objective of the legislation. It could be said that they could borrow and bear the tax for a short period. But although this legislation may last only for the rest of the year, there is the possibility that at the end of the financial year something of the kind may be continued. They could well face for a period of months the prospect of borrowing at 8 per cent. - and the effective cost of borrowing at 8 per cent, now is around 13 per cent. But it may be very difficult to face the prospect of paying the much higher rate if in fact this legislation were continued next year. I hope that the Treasurer will see his way clear to accept this amendment in order to relieve a situation which could be quite serious for a number of firms.
, - Mr. Temporary Chairman, I sincerely hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will not accept the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I think that the Treasurer has done too much in trying to accede to the requests of various groups all over the place as a consequence of little pressures from this quarter and that quarter. For instance, the exempting of the banks from the provisions of this bill will detract from its efficacy.
Let us analyse the proposition contained in this amendment. Its aim rs the exempting of yet another group from the provisions of this bill. If the bill is a good one - and I believe that it is - nobody who has played any part in the development of the economic position which we now face should be exempted from the application of its provisions. The people that the honorable member for Wentworth would help would be mainly firms like Lend Lease Corporation Limited and L. J. Hooker Limited. They are the worst culprits in the whole of Australia in the development of the situation with which we are now faced economically. Each of them has done more to cause this situation about which we are worrying than has been done by any other one firm or organization. Why should we exempt from the provisions of this measure the people who are chiefly responsible for the situation that it is designed to rectify?
The honorable member for Wentworth said that rf this bill were to operate for only one year, the situation might not be quite so bad as it is. I hope that this is not just a temporary measure and that the Government will continue it for as long as is necessary in order to straighten out the country’s economy. The Government may find at the end of next year that the good that has flowed from this bill is so great that it cannot afford not to extend the measure for a further period. One of the tragedies of the situation seems to me to be the fact that the Government is showing some signs of weakening and of making this only a temporary measure, although in certain circumstances it ought to be a permanent one. I think that the Government ought to give no assurances at all that this will be only a temporary measure. It ought to state that, as I have sard, it will continue this measure as long as is necessary.
– I have made it clear that we are working towards a continuing measure.
– I am pleased to hear that.
I think that the Government is perfectly correct in bringing in legislation like this and attacking the situation in the way in which it is being attacked. The Treasurer spoke a truth when he said in a television interview not long ago that the trouble is that the hire-purchase companies have borrowed short and lent long. They have lent more than they were entitled to lend and now they are forced to square their accounts, and they are squealing out and seeking exemption from the provisions of this bill.
– I did not say that that was true of all of them. I said that that is perhaps what has happened in some cases.
– I agree that that is the position. All of the hire-puchase companies have not borrowed short and lent long, but that is true of those that now seek exemption from the operation of this bill. They are the very ones that ought to be caught. They are the ones that have lent more money than they had available for the purpose.
– I do not think that is a fair interpretation of what the honorable member for Wentworth said.
– I do, with great respect. I think that it is a perfectly correct interpretation of what he said. He spoke about people who have made commitments beyond their capacity and who now want to be exempted from the provisions of this measure.
– I did not say that they had made commitments beyond their capacity. 1 said that the commitments that they had made had put them in a position in which they ought to be exempted.
– If they have not made commitments beyond their capacity, they should bear the brunt of this proposal the same as anybody else has to bear the brunt when a new law comes into operation. It is impossible to bring in a law affecting the economy of the country without affecting somebody. Some people are hit. What is wrong with the real culprits being hit hardest? Of course they ought to be hit. I see no reason why they ought to be exempted.
The honorable member for Wentworth said last evening that the hire-purchase companies did a job that can be financed only at relatively high rates of interest. I do not agree with that. He said that there are great losses in the hire-purchase field. That is not true. We have in South Australia a hire-purchase company called the Trades Union Hire Purchase Cooperative Society Limited. Its experience has been that the conduct of hire-purchase transactions does not cost the tremendous amount that the big hire-purchase companies would lead us to believe.
– How do the interest rates charged by the South Australian co-operative company compare with those charged by the other companies?
– I am pleased that the honorable member asked that question. The rate started at 4 per cent, flat for the first two years of the company’s operations. It has now been reduced to 3 per cent. flat.
– Does that company lend to the public?
– But not interstate. It would not have the honorable member for Hume on its books.
– I do not say that it would not have the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) on its books, but as a matter of course we do not lend interstate. This South Australian hirepurchase co-operative charges no interest at all, in effect - it refunds the whole of the interest - if the loan is repaid within twelve months, because, like all other hire-purchase companies, it buys at discount. It can buy some electrical equipment for cash at discounts as high as 20 per cent, and it says to its clients, “ If you can repay the loan within one year, we shall settle for the 20 per cent, discount for cash that we received “. The ordinary hire-purchase companies obtain this advantage, also. But they receive a further benefit which the South Australian trade union co-operative does not get. This is in the form of insurance. An ordinary company requires the purchaser to insure with a firm nominated by it, and this is usually a firm owned by it. If the insurance firm is not owned by the hire-purchase company, it is certainly a firm in which that company has a substantial controlling interest. Premiums have to be paid by the purchaser in advance for the full term of the loan. If the term is three years, the premiums have to be paid for three years in advance. Interest is paid by the purchaser on that part of the loan which is applicable to the premiums which are paid in advance, although the hire-purchase company itself does not pay the premiums until they actually fall due in each year.
If the Trades Union Hire Purchase Cooperative Society, in South Australia, can run its business at an interest rate of 3 per cent, flat, and provide finance without charging any interest at all when the loan is repaid within one year, how is it that other hire-purchase companies have to charge rates as high as 10 per cent.? A rate of 8 per cent, is very common.
– Does the South Australian co-operative lend on motor cars?
– Of course it will lend on motor cars.
– There would be no 20 per cent, discount in that case.
– I know that. A discount of as much as 20 per cent, is received on electrical appliances such as refrigerators, radiograms and television sets.
– And washing machines.
– And washing machines. Those are the things for which hire-purchase accommodation is most sought after. On such goods, the South Australian co-operative hire-purchase company lends for up to a year without charging any interest.
– What does it pay for its money?
– We pay 5 per cent, simple interest for our money. We have proved that we can re-lend it at 3 per cent, flat, and, on goods such as I have mentioned, for a period of up to one year without charging any interest at all.
I should like the Treasurer to examine this matter more fully. The secretary of the South Australian co-operative hirepurchase company is Mr. L. P. Noller, who, until his retirement, was manager for South Australia of what used to be known as the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He is a reputable man who has had wide banking experience. He will show the Treasurer what can be done. Since the Minister has now evinced so much interest in hirepurchase transactions - I commend him for it - I hope that he will carry his interest one step further.
– The honorable member’s leader attacked me when I referred to this scheme.
– I do not think my leader quite understood what you were saying.
– He did not understand that you had a scheme.
– My leader hae said that he is very pleased with what is happening in South Australia, and he has congratulated the trade union movement for what it has done.
Mr- Pearce. - Can you extend this scheme to other States?
– We are hoping it will be extended to other States.
One difficulty is finance, and this is a field in which I believe the Commonwealth Bank could play a major role in cutting down the interest rates now charged by hire-purchase companies. If the Commonwealth Bank will make finance available to properly approved trade union hirepurchase co-operatives, organized on proper lines, as is the trade union hire-purchase co-operative in South Australia, the scheme could be extended to other States and could strike a very telling blow against the kind of robbery that goes on now under the guise of hire-purchase transactions.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is passing strange that the Opposition, whose duty it is to oppose, supports this measure. Indeed, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) expresses the pious hope that it will not be a temporary measure at all. No doubt this bill does appeal to the Opposition as, naturally enough, any legislation with a socialistic association meets with the support of honorable members opposite. If I were the Treasurer, I would regard the blandishments and the softsoap of the honorable member for Hindmarsh with a great deal of suspicion.
I wish to refer to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). It seeks to remove one of the many anomalies which will undoubtedly occur as the result of the passage of this bill. The object of the proposed amendment is to prevent the retrospective operation of this legislation. As presented, the bill provides for deductibility of interest on borrowing where the contract for the borrowing was entered into before 15th November. The proposed amendment merely seeks to extend that concession to interest on moneys borrowed subsequently to that date for the purpose of financing commitments which were entered into before 15th November. In other words, the commitment is there and the company has entered into the contract. The company would have committed itself by contract prior to 15th November to an expenditure for the purchase of a capital asset to be delivered or constructed after that date, intending to arrange the requisite borrowing after that date, but prior to delivery or completion of construction. That is fair enough. It is a reasonable business transaction. The company enters into an agreement, and wishes to arrange finance on that agreement.
A company that has entered into the agreement finds that the interest on the money borrowed under the contract is not deductible. Thus, this measure has a retrospective operation. The avowed intention of the Government is that the bill should not have a retrospective operation, and this proposed amendment ensures that the intention of the Government is carried out. The proposed amendment is a logical part of the structure of the sub-section into which it is proposed to be inserted. It is fair and equitable, it removes the remaining element of retrospectivity in the bill, and is thus consistent with the Treasurer’s public statements. Therefore, it warrants the support of the committee. 1 support the amendment.
I turn now to clause 4, which deals with excepted interest. This clause contains provision for the exclusion of a number of companies, including pastoral finance companies. I have no objection to pastoral finance companies being exempted, but I believe that a good case can be made for the extension of the provision to other companies. Under this bill, the pastoral finance companies are the sacred cows of our financial structure because they are deemed to provide some assistance to rural development whereas, in effect, these companies work on an extended credit system. It is admitted that they advance money to primary producers, but I point out that a condition of advancing the money is that it shall be a charge upon the proceeds from the wool clip, the wheat crop and so on. They then proceed to enforce on the borrower a condition that he will buy everything possible from the trading section of the pastoral company. From then on, it is usual for the borrower to buy anything ranging from tractors to whisky, stallions to bantam roosters, theatre tickets, refrigerators and consumer goods of every description through the trading organization which is owned and controlled by the pastoral finance companies. He is tied up completely, and the small amount devoted to development is offset by the trading activities of the company.
What is the difference between this extended credit and hire purchase? After all, when they force the borrower to trade through them, the pastoral finance companies are engaging in a form of hirepurchase business.
– They are not forced.
– If you borrow from a pastoral finance company, or other financial institutions, what opportunity have you to refuse? In any case, it often suits you because you have no money anyway, and they provide you with the finance to trade with them. What virtue have these pastoral finance companies over the ordinary hire-purchase company which devotes a fair amount of its funds to housing? Should not a set-off in interest be allowed on funds so employed, even if they are financed by note issue?
T wish to make a proposition. I know it will not be considered, but at least it will be placed on record. I suggest that these companies should be entitled to a set-off of interest on the proportion that their loans for home building and housing advances bears to their total loans for the period. In other words, these companies should be able to claim a set-off of interest on funds devoted to such worthy projects as housing. This would be an incentive to devote funds to housing, and divert them from the purchase of motor cars, if the purchase of motor cars is considered to be an evil at the the present time. To support my argument I mention that Direct Cash Orders Limited, a company which has already devoted £1,000,000 to housing, has announced that it will be unable to continue to advance money for this purpose if the projected legislation is passed. Cambridge Credit Corporation Limited has announced that they will be obliged to slow down on the financing of housing under the Government’s proposal. If housing is a problem - and, heaven only knows, it is - the Government should encourage finance to be devoted to it through these companies in the way in which I have suggested.
.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) seems surprised at our supporting this proposal by the Government, Of course, the Opposition supports it! All we say is that it does not go far enough. The Opposition makes it quite clear where it stands: We represent the trade union movement and the great broad mass of the Australian people. I think that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) discloses that his loyalties are divided between this Government and the financial interests. If the honorable member has the right to reply in this debate, I should like to hear him assure us that he has no financial interest in the companies that will be affected by this legislation and that the amendment that he proposes will not benefit any financial concern with which he is associated. We know that Mr. Dusseldorp, managing director of the Lend Lease Corporation Limited, which has made great speculative investments in Sydney and its metropolitan areas, has been present in this chamber. We know that he was closely associated with the honorable member for Wentworth.
– That is a very nice implication!
– The honorable member can tell us in his reply that he has no financial association with this company.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I invite your attention to Standing Orders Nos. 78 and 79 and suggest that the honorable member for Redd is out of order. Standing Order No. 78 reads as follows: -
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I suggest that the honorable member for Reid is casting aspersions on the character of the honorable member for Wentworth. His remarks, therefore, are highly disorderly and they should be withdrawn.
– Order! Honorable members of the Opposition will cease to interject. I have been asked to rule on this matter. The honorable member for Reid is in order. However, if imputations are made against another honorable member he will be out of order.
– I want to make it quite clear that I am asking the honorable member for Wentworth whether he has any association with the financial interests that will be affected by his proposed amendment.
– I have none whatever.
– The object of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth is to extend the tax concession to additional moneys borrowed by companies in certain circumstances. Just before this legislation was introduced, the Lend Lease organization wanted to raise £1,000,000. It obtained £1,900,000- nearly 100 per cent, more than it had sought. Loans floated by the L. J. Hooker Investment Corporation Limited have also been over-subscribed. These big city combines are not in the best interests of the community. The Opposition has great faith in the future of Australia, but we say that money should be diverted into the correct channels. At last the Government is accepting the responsibility of trying to direct money into correct channels. But what has it done? It has taken as the basis for this legislation the position existing at 15th November.
I have warned the Government, time and time again, concerning the position. Debenture raisings of listed companies in June, 1955, amounted only to £27,000,000; by the end of June this year they amounted to £193,000,000. When I discussed this with a gentleman representing hire-purchase interests in King’s Hall this morning, he said that there has been an increase in costs and wages. But have they increased seven-fold? The borrowings of these companies have increased seven-fold, which is out of all proportion to the increases in costs and wages. The people concerned in these companies will not suffer great hardship under this legislation. At least this legislation is a step in the right direction.
I support the Government on its action, but the Opposition holds that these speculative companies in the building industry are not diverting available finance into the correct channels. What do they do? They build luxury home units which can be bought for between £14,000 and £20,000. The Opposition contends that money should be used to build homes for the people - for the workers - instead of for luxury building. Luxury hotels are being constructed. Instead of money being put to that purpose, it should be used for the construction of hospitals and schools.
The honorable member for Mitchell spoke about housing. The New South Wales Government has done a great job in his electorate by building homes. But would it not be wonderful if the Government could so control investment that money would be available for the provision of sewerage in those homes? At least there is a little hope under this legislation that the Government will tackle the activities of building speculators. This measure represents a contribution to the solution of the problem.
I want to reply to the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on an issue on which I have challenged him time and time again. The clause with which we are dealing relates to banks. Interest on bank overdrafts is most important. I have asked the Treasurer questions on this matter. Last night in my second-reading speech I asked him whether interest on bank overdrafts would be treated in the same manner as it was treated before the introduction of this legislation.
– It is exempt.
– What action does the Government propose to take to stop the banks from diverting some of their funds, by means of overdraft, to their subsidiary hirepurchase companies? Will the Government put a limit on bank overdrafts to firms such as Lend-Lease and Hookers? If it does not, those firms will find ways and means of evading the intention of this legislation. Under normal circumstances, there was no need for legislation of this kind because more money was raised as share capital than by loans. But companies have been raising increasing amounts by borrowing as a manoeuvre within the taxation laws to save the payment of tax. If they can evade the taxation laws in that way they can engage in other manipulations such as the use of bank overdrafts to avoid the effect of this legislation. There is co-operation between the banks and the hire-purchase companies. T have asked the Treasurer to give some indication of what action the
Government will take in this regard. Last night, the Treasurer referred to Mr. Chifley’s attitude to hire-purchase rates.
– I referred not only to Mr. Chifley, but to the Labour Party.
– Mr. Chifley, when he was Treasurer, permitted ‘the Commonwealth Bank to enter into the hire-purchase field. When Mr. Chifley relinquished office as Treasurer and Prime Minister in 1949 the Commonwealth Bank had lent £16,000,000 by means of hire-purchase. At that time hire-purchase companies had lent a total of about £70,000,000. To-day, the Commonwealth Development Bank - the hirepurchase section of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation - still has total loans outstanding of only £16,000,000. Yet the hire-purchase companies have lent nearly £450,000,000! When the Commonwealth Development Bank was established great promises were given to the Australian Country Party concerning assistance to primary industry. Although those promises have not been fulfilled, not one member of the party has expressed his point of view on this legislation. There was some criticism by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England). He put a pertinent question to the Treasurer.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). Mr. Temporary Chairman, you have ruled against a point of order raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who asked whether the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) was in order in reflecting upon the honorable member for Wentworth. Might I say in reply to the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Reid that I have a high respect for the honorable member for Wentworth and so also have many other honorable members in this House. We are conscious of the fact that the honorable member for Wentworth resigned from the position of Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to enter this Parliament. He has advised many of us on financial matters and we appreciate his help. Might I add, for the sake of the record, that the honorable member for Wentworth said, by way of interjection, that he had no personal interest whatever in any effect that might flow from this amendment. I want to make it clear that many honorable members have a great respect for him and his financial knowledge, which has been of some help to the Government and the Parliament.
The honorable member for Reid said that he represented the trade union movement and the great mass of the Australian people. I am proud to be able to say that the honorable member does not represent the trade union movement and the great mass of the people. Maybe in the time of Andrew Fisher, the Australian Labour Party represented the great mass of the Australian people, but not now, because the Labour Party has made its arrangements with international communism. I repeat that because the Labour Party has made its arrangements with international communism, it does not now represent the great mass of the Australian people, and it will not do so as it is at present constituted.
I support this amendment, although I am wholeheartedly behind the spirit of the Government’s financial measures. I believe they were necessary. I believe they were necessary some time ago. But now, because they are bold and courageous, I support them. I think that without the amendment, an injustice might be done. The spirit of the bill is that interest charges on financial advances by certain organizations should not be allowable as tax deductions. The measure is aimed at certain speculative undertakings in the community. The amendment seeks to remove from the effect of the bill those companies which have entered into contracts or made other arrangements and have perhaps done everything except actually make the loan. Because of their contracts and the arrangements they have made, they must go on and borrow, but the interest they pay will not be allowable as a tax deduction. This may do some financial damage, and, as a result, cause a loss of confidence and buoyancy and some unemployment. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to study this matter carefully and to see whether he can accept the amendment, because it is in the spirit of the bill itself. which seeks to remove retrospectivity. I believe retrospectivity is inherent in the bill, and I support the amendment.
.- First, in general criticism of the Government’s measures, I want to say that 1 believe that they are unfairly discriminatory; they are too late and above all they are too imprecise. That can be said of some of the other measures we have had before us, including the bill to increase sales tax on motor vehicles. In this measure, the Government is discriminating between certain purveyors of public credit. On the one hand, the Government proposes to remove a tax concession that has been given in the past in respect of interest payments that have been met by certain public interests. On the other hand, the Government proposes to exempt from the provisions of the bill co-operative societies, pastoral companies and other public and semi-public organizations which provide public utilities. I am happy about that because the Australian Labour Party has said for some time that what was needed in the Australian community was a recognition of the fact that certain companies operating on behalf of the community must be given priority over other companies. This is a young and developing country and we must put first things first. We are at a stage when we must recognize that we cannot have all the things we would like. The bill is an attempt to recognize rather belatedly that there are priorities.
Under the terms of the bill, certain organizations would be permitted to retain a concession in the payment of taxes. What concerns me - and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) referred to it to some extent - is that there is no guarantee that some of those who are to be allowed to retain this concession will pass the benefit on to the people at large. Like the honorable member for Mitchell, I have serious misgivings about the pastoral companies. It is quite true, as he said, that these people do not make money available only to those who are already pretty secure in rural life for farm development; they also provide finance for a large range of consumer goods. I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) did not intend that these organizations should retain this concession in respect of such business whilst other institutions which cater for the people’s wants in consumer goods will lose it. I am not sure that these people will provide credit, even for farmers, at an appropriate interest rate in conformity with the concession that they are to be allowed to retain. 1 am confident that the Australian Labour Party would have said that if there is to be discrimination there should also be a stipulation that those people who give financial accommodation should bear in mind, when fixing the interest rate, that they have been allowed to retain a tax concession. The Government does not propose to fix an interest rate. The bill does not stipulate that those concerned must pass on the benefit of the concession. There is no doubt about the application of the bill to other institutions. They will have to lift the price of the money they supply to the community by way of hire purchase because they will have lost a tax concession that they previously enjoyed. The way will be left open for other institutions which retain the concession to charge a higher interest rate because their competitors are in a less favorable position than they are. So the community will continue to give a concession to organizations such as pastoral companies but will have no guarantee that the benefit will be passed on to those who obtain credit. There is no guarantee that any more money will be diverted by the pastoral companies to the very needy farming community. As I said recently, there is a lot of evidence that these pastoral companies are not doing the right thing by the farming community and that they are not doing all they could to provide finance for rural development. Instead they are competing with other financial organizations in catering for the more profitable demand for durable and non-durable consumer goods. I have also criticized the Development Bank for not doing as much as it could either.
The Treasurer might claim that he has no power to fix interest rates that may be charged by many of the organizations which are to retain this concession. If that is so, it is about time, as the Labour Party contends, that we took advantage of the Constitutional Review Committee’s recommendations, and got down to acquiring the kind of power and authority in this Parliament which will allow the Government to be much more precise in the instruments it uses in order to direct the community’s resources, man-power and finances into avenues that are for the fundamental wellbeing of the community.
My main misgiving is that the instrument being used by the Government now is too imprecise, and it does not guarantee that the organizations that will derive the benefit in regard to interest payments will pass that benefit on to the community, first in the form of loans at properly reduced interest rates and, secondly, by feeding money into the channels through which the Treasurer hopes it will go.
.- I should like to refer to some of the remarks made a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who is continually complaining about the use of smear techniques. Normally, I ignore such remarks, but as they were permitted by you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am obliged to speak in reply to them. I assure honorable members that 1 have no shares in any company either involved, or likely to be involved, in this legislation. I have no other financial connexions in any way with any companies likely to be affected in the least degree. If I did speak in this chamber on an occasion where financial interests of mine were involved, I would certainly divulge that fact beforehand.
I have received a number of representations on this subject from a good many of my constituents. Since I agree with them, and my views are in harmony with theirs - and I hope that this will always be considered legitimate in this Parliament - I have brought forward those views which, as I say, m any case closely coincide with my own.
.- I rise only to support those honorable members who have spoken in opposition to the exemption of pastoral companies from the provisions of the legislation. As the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said, pastoral companies not only facilitate the buying and selling of primary products, but they are also in a very large way involved in the sale of merchandise and industrial requirements to men on the land, on both farm and station. They are to be exempted from the provisions of this bill, which brings within its ambit all sorts of money-lending institutions; but there is to be no check on them, and there is to be no requirement that they pass on the benefit that they will receive from their exemption. That situation is almost intolerable.
Only one member of the corner party - the Australian Country Party - has said anything about this matter, and that was by way of a question that he asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) recently. That honorable gentleman asked the Treasurer whether it was a fact that in the Calare electorate a certain investment finance company had vacated the field, and that it was no longer possible for primary producers in that area to obtain the machinery they needed. The Treasurer did not give a very satisfactory answer. The plain fact is that one of the companies that was providing financial accommodation - I forget its name - has vacated the field, which will now, of course, be exploited to an even greater extent than ever by the pastoral companies, because the pastoral companies are to be exempt from the provisions of this measure. The result will be that pastoral companies already operating fairly extensively in that area - their services are availed of very largely in all rural areas - will have a larger field than ever at their disposal, and a greater opportunity for the exploitation that they undoubtedly practise. After all, exploitation is the prerogative of moneylending and trading firms. It is nothing new.
Let us look at how this exploitation is already going on in this country. I asked a question a week or so ago and referred to a piece of documentary evidence - which is still in the possession of “ Hansard “, to which I made it available, but it can be obtained. That document was a copy of a slip sent out by one of our largest pastoral firms, which intimated to some of its clients that because of the economic legislation introduced by this Government and this particular measure-
– Ah, Reg!
– You can have your say directly. This firm gave an intimation to its clients that the stock and station agents’ organization of South Australia-
– Do you claim that it made any reference to the economic legislation?
– It said that because of the increase in bank interest-
– But you presented it as if it had come after the legislation was introduced. It came before any statement was made by me in the House.
– That slip went out as a result of the way this Government is administering the country’s economy. Honorable members opposite know that the sting is coming. This particular firm indicated to a client - and others have had the same intimation - that the stock and station agents’ organization of South Australia in future would charge its clients 6£ per cent, interest. That is a pretty heavy sting on the primary producers who are providing the financial means to enable this country to service its overseas debts and import its requirements. Did they have an idea of what was going to happen, or did they make a sound, shrewd judgment that they were going to be excluded from the ambit of this bill and that it was safe for them to jack up their interest rates to the borrowers to 6J per cent.?
Who are these pastoral companies? They are part and parcel of the great financial institutions. Through their directorates they are intimately connected with the banking institutions, and their financial relationships extend even to London and other international centres. They render a service to the primary producers, but over the course of my lifetime I have seen them gradually but surely crushing out in parts of Victoria the old-established auctioneering firms which operated there. When I was a boy I could go to the nearest market town and see twelve or more local auctioneers carrying on their business there, all with their business connexions in that district. But surely, and almost silently, either by direct purchase or by the pressure of their superior economic position as the result of their tie-up with the private banking system, the pastoral companies have crushed a number of these auctioneers in the district I have in mind, so that instead of twelve or more there are now only four or five. The result is that the people of that district - the primary producers in particular - have no alternative but to accept the terms and conditions laid down by the pastoral companies in regard to borrowings. Of course, generally speaking, these companies do not raise their financial requirements through debentures or by the issue of unsecured notes. They are part and parcel of the banking organization itself, and when they finance primary producers who are awaiting the returns from the sale of their products, they are committed for the money they require to the banking institutions. Nearly all of the pastoral companies in this country are tied up with the private banking institutions. Thus, in effect, they borrow money from themselves and lend it to the primary producers. You would think that these were saintly organizations which act in a paternal or a maternal way towards the people with whom they deal. But they will be as ruthless as they ever were out of a sense of duty to their shareholders, not only shareholders with a direct interest in their organization but also shareholders in the banking institutions in which these organizations are interested. They will extract from the primary producer the last penny piece that they can without losing his business.
– Markets are made to order for them.
– That is right, and this Government makes this very nice gesture to the pastoral companies - in other words, the banking institutions - in addition to the concessions that have been granted already. What are these great pastoral companies? Numbered among them are Dalgetys, MacNamaras, New Zealand Loan, Goldsbrough Mort and Elder Smith. No doubt, they are very efficient organizations. Members on the Government side, and Country Party members in particular, should read very closely the balance-sheets of these companies and consider their financial position in relation to the financial position of the majority of primary producers.
– But they publish all the Country Party literature.
– Of course they do. They provide advertisements for Country Party journals. Country Party members seem to be half asleep now because most of them are linked more or less directly with these institutions. Look at their balance-sheets; look at their profits for the last ten years or, for that matter, for the last half-century. They have always been on the winning side.
This measure that will screw down other investing firms - rightly so - exempts those organizations which should be dealt with in the same way as other bodies are dealt with which operate adversely to our economy. I make no apology for saying what I think of them. I do not blame them in the commercial sense. They are shrewd commercial operators, and I emphasize again that the ultimatum has gone out - pay 6£ per cent, or else. By the time that this measure becomes law you will find that they are charging their less stable customers 7 per cent, or 7i per cent.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to comment, briefly, on some of the points that have been raised. I shall not take up too much time defending the pastoral companies because honorable gentlemen are familiar with their activities. It is rather surprising that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is so critical of institutions which I believe most people on the land feel give good service on reasonable terms.
– Always at the maximum that they can extract.
– It is a competitive field.
– Six and three-quarters per cent, this week; 7 per cent, or 7i per cent, next week.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman now thinks that that is a very excessive rate of interest. I reminded him last night of rates that the Government, of which he was a member in 1941, thought were reasonable for some of these financing operations. Those rates ranged from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent.
– Did the liberal Government not appoint a committee?
– I shall stick to the present. I want to nail down something that the honorable member for Lalor tried to raise a few days ago. He brought into this House a notification from one of these companies and presented it at question time as though the notification had followed as a direct consequence of the statement that I had made in the House relating to the Government’s financial policy. Honorable gentlemen will recall the way in which the question was addressed. Certainly, it was my clear understanding at the time, because notice had not been given to me previously, that the honorable member for Lalor was saying that as a result of the Government’s announcement of its financial policy these pastoral finance companies had jacked up their charges to their clients. It was not until a little later that one of these standard notices, which was attached to a statement rendered to a client of the company, came to my attention. I realized then that the notice had gone out well in advance of the Government’s announcement. I shall give the honorable member for Lalor the benefit of the doubt. I shall accept that he did not intend to mislead the House, but that certainly was the effect of what he did at the time.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) spoke, as he has spoken before, about the possibility - he thought it a likelihood - that the banks will take advantage of the present situation by increasing their advances to hire-purchase organizations in which they have some direct interest. I remind him that for some time now there has been in operation a directive from the Reserve Bank to the trading banks prohibiting increased advances for the extension of hire-purchase and instalment selling. The latest directive, which was broadcast and telecast on 25th November, and published in the press on 26th November, contained this passage -
The prohibition of new or increased advances for the extension of hire purchase and instalment selling is being continued and banks have been asked to review existing arrangements with a view to reduction.
That statement answers the question which he raised. Reference has been made to the organizations that will be exempted by this measure. As I said in my secondreading speech, these organization were exempted because in one way or another there is some direct control over their interest rates. Those which have not been exempted are organizations in respect of whose interest rates we have no direct control.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) saw some significance - not a very happy significance - in the fact that this measure was receiving the support of the Opposition. I think it could be fairly inferred from what the honorable member said that this Government had adopted, in some degree at any rate, the ideology of honorable gentlemen opposite. I should have hoped that any or.e who heard the second-reading debate and the speeches of the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and Reid would have realized that there is a very wide gulf between the attitude and policies of this Government and its supporters and those of honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber. They are doctrinaire socialists. We ceased a long time ago to be doctrinaire supporters of laisser faire or of even a free market. We have seen some of the excesses and evils of an unrestricted free market and of the unrestricted laisser faire policies of the past. As an illustration, that is why we have carefully regulated the central banking system to give it strong powers in relation to the trading banks; that is why we have required the savings banks to invest a certain percentage of their deposits in ways that we specify; that is why we have required insurance companies conducting general insurance business to deposit with the Government a proportion of the premiums that they receive as a protection for their policy-holders.
We have not been bound by some theoretical doctrine. We are facing up realistically to the practical problems with which we, as a government in a highly diversified and rapidly growing economy, are confronted. In a situation where you have a balanced immigration programme you cannot just conduct yourself as though everything can be left to chance. You have to maintain some special arrangements about the placement of labour and the checking of the health and character of the migrants. You do not leave these things to a sort of free market in immigration. I merely make those points because I think it is possible to over-simplify these problems and see things in the beautifully simple and direct way in which some of our newspapers can afford to see them, where everything is in black and white and there are no complexities in between.
At this point we believe that we are facing up to a very difficult situation as realistically as we can. This brings me to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment. I would feel rather more troubled about having to say that, if I did not know that this measure on the Government’s quite explicit statement is not only of a temporary character but also very limited in point of time so far as the operation of the set of proposals at. present before the House is concerned. We have put a time limit to it. Most of the financial year has already gone, and I would imagine that the great majority of the concerns which might be affected do not overlook the exemptions already given not only as to classes of undertakings but also as to interest which had been paid in the last financial year, or, if it suits a company better, the annual interest liability as at 15th November. So, how much area is left to cause concern? The honorable member for Wentworth admitted that if this legislation was to be limited in operation to a short period of time there might be in some cases - and they cannot be many, proportionately to the whole - a tax liability which otherwise would not have existed. I suggest that it is not more burdensome a tax liability than would have been the case had the Government decided to cure this situation by some general increases in the rates of company taxation.
– Will you have something to say later about the success of the trade union co-operative hire-purchase system which is operating in South Australia?
– I will, if I have time. As far as any continuing legislation is concerned, I suggest that the clue to that is contained in the words I used in my second-reading speech - that what we would be looking to in any continuing scheme was a curb on excessive borrowing and excessive rates of interest. I do not need to elaborate the reasons why this House would wish to see some curb placed on excessive borrowings or excessive rates of interest. But I do add that while it is simple enough to say that, it rs not simple to work it out in a form of permanent legislation which is to operate reasonably and equitably. That is the reason why we have brought along this holding measure which, quite frankly, does not touch a whole range of undertakings which, in a continuing scheme, we would want to touch. On the other hand, it may have an immediate effect - or an effect during the life of the legislation - on some undertakings which, in a continuing scheme, we would not wish to come within that ambit.
I feel that already we have so widened the exemptions, either as to classification or as to the interest liabilities of the organizations concerned, that we would be depriving the legislation of real effectualness if we were to take the matter any wider. I believe that in almost every case the sort of situation to which the honorable member for Wentworth has alluded will be met by the ingenuity of the entrepreneurs concerned. In any event, the Government accepts it as an obligation to state, as early as is humanly possible, the elements of the continuing scheme that it will be presenting to the Parliament in the next session.
– Things will be much worse next year. This will be no use. You know that.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has been praying for years that things would get worse. He sees that as the only hope of realizing his long-cherished ambitions. I entertain a friendly regard for the honorable gentleman, and but for an even stronger regard for the welfare of this nation I would like to see his personal ambitions realized. I regret that the policies of this Government are not likely to bring his ambitions any closer to fruition.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke of the success of the trade union co-operative hire-purchase scheme operating in South Australia, and I am glad to learn that it is continuing successfully. Competition in this field might well be useful, and when, on an earlier occasion, I said by way of reply to something which came to me from the Opposition, that the trade union movement with substantial funds at its disposal might try to service its members in these directions, the Leader of the Opposition attacked me and accused me of being facetious in what I said. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has shown that it is a practical possibility and that, on his evidence at all events, it is succeeding. I hope that having heard what I have to say, and having received the assurances that I have given as to our intentions in this matter, the committee will now indicate its support for this measure and allow us to proceed to other business which is before us.
– I wish to make a personal explanation; I claim to have been misrepresented. The Treasurer certainly said that he did not think I did intentionally what he accused me of doing. He said, “ I give him this much credit, that he did not do it intentionally “. I refer to the slip sent out by the South Australian Pastoralists Association. The Treasurer said it was sent out in October.
– The one I had was.
– The one I have was sent out in November, after the Treasurer’s statement of the Government’s economic policy.
– But would it not relate to transactions occurring in October?
– I do not know what it related to. The information reached the primary producers after the date of the announcement of the Government’s economic policy.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
CUSTOMS BILL (No. 2) 1960. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 11th October (vide page 1854), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to amend the Customs Act 1901-1959 as amended by the Customs Act 1960. It comes to this House from the Senate. The bill makes provision, in the main, for simplification of administration by the Department of Customs and Excise, particularly in regard to the. collection of taxes imposed on refined petrol. There is also an amendment made necessary by an oversight in a previous amending Customs Act, and there is some provision for warehousing machinery as well.
The Opposition does not oppose the measure. Some doubts were held for a time as to the effectiveness of the new idea of policing the taxation provisions under a so-called honour system, under which the honour of the petroleum or the refining companies is relied upon, subject to certain safeguards. Some of us doubted that there was sufficient protection of the revenue in this system. However, the Department of Customs and Excise has circulated an admirable publication, the “ Petroleum Products Handbook “, in which is explained the whole of the procedure involved. The handbook is a credit to the department. The Opposition believes that the bill is satisfactory. We adopt our usual attitude; we are all for anything that provides for simplification of administration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 2097), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to permit the Government to make regulations for conferring upon an international organization, of which Australia, or the Government of the Commonwealth, is a member, juridical personality and such legal capacity as is necessary for the exercise of the functions and the fulfilment of the purposes of the organization. The bill increases, thereby, the powers of the Government to carry out the convention on the privileges and immunities of the United Nations, to which Australia was a signatory in 1946, and which was ratified as a result of this Parliament’s passing the principal act in 1948.
It is altogether laudable that the Commonwealth should be exercising its constitutional power to legislate with respect to external affairs, and that it should be carrying out its international obligations and undertakings. We have been too timid in the exercise of our parliamentary power in respect of external affairs, and very often we have been too dilatory in carrying out our full obligations and undertakings ur.der conventions and treaties to which we have been a party.
The legislation will become more and more important as more international bodies, particularly those associated with the United Nations, become established in Australia and send representatives here or set up offices here. The U.N. itself, the International Committee for European Migration and the World Health Organization have already established offices in Australia. It is anticipated that the Antarctic Treaty Organization will have its head-quarters in Australia. In the next decade, furthermore, we can expect that there will be set up a very great number of international bodies, we hope under the auspices of the U.N., having as their task the pooling of the world’s resources and the distribution of them among the underdeveloped, emerging countries, particularly the newly liberated peoples on all the shores and islands of the Indian Ocean. Australia would be a natural place in which to have the head-quarters, or at least branches, of such organizations concerned with the countries around the Indian Ocean.
Furthermore, if branches, or, better still, head-quarters, of such organizations are to be established in Australia, one would hope that they would be established in the Australian Capital Territory. There has been some tendency for a number of these international organizations to establish themselves in Sydney or Melbourne, and there are still a few diplomatic missions from other countries in those cities.
– Mere provincial towns!
– There are not enough provincial towns in Australia, and there are loo many capital cities. Such international bodies would most properly be established in the Australian capital. Honorable members from time to time have brought up in this chamber the subject of diplomatic immunity. We all realize that without such immunity it is impossible for various countries and international bodies to carry out their functions properly. Nevertheless, the members and employees of diplomatic missions and international bodies have as much susceptibility to those incidents in civil life which give rise to litigation as do other persons who are citizens or residents of Australia. In particular, matters that have been raised in this House show that the employees and members of diplomatic missions are just as likely as other people to participate in incidents such as those which come before the courts as a result of accidents in employment or on the roads. But the diplomatic missions and international bodies are not amenable to the ordinary processes of law.
This problem is of particular concern in Canberra. There is probably a greater proportion of vehicles with diplomatic numberplates in Canberra than there is in any other city in the world. Furthermore, diplomatic missions have larger domestic staffs than one would normally find in Australian or other Atlantic-type communities. I therefore think it proper to consider, when debating this bill, what procedure we should adopt to ensure that persons who are injured by diplomatic vehicles, or who are employed by diplomatic missions, should not be at a disadvantage as compared with other residents or citizens of Australia.
I brought up this matter of running down cases with the immediate past Minister for the Interior two and a half years ago. He told me that from the beginning of 1954 until the date on which he answered my question, 13th May, 1958, there had been eighteen diplomatic cars known to have been involved in accidents in the Australian Capital Territory, and in those accidents one person had been injured. I suggested in my question that the motor traffic ordinance
– Give certain immunity from injury.
– No, I am suggesting no Utopian condition. Injuries seem to be inevitable in a motorized community. All I am wishing to do is to suggest measures by which persons suffering these injuries in Australia may have the same rights, whoever are the persons who have been negligent. I suggested to the Minister that the
Australian Capital Territory Motor Traffic Ordinance should be amended to give persons bereaved or injured by such accidents the same right to sue the nominal defendant as the ordinance gives to persons bereaved or injured by uninsured or unidentified motor vehicles. He replied -
The present position is that before diplomatic number plates are issued the applicant is required to submit a current third party insurance policy. The question of whether it is necessary to provide additional remedies to injured or bereaved parties will receive consideration.
As far as I have been able rapidly to check, there has been no amendment of the ordinance and I know of no amendment in procedure. I realize quite well that one cannot sue persons with diplomatic immunity. I am not suggesting that one should be able to do so. At the same time, the procedure of requiring a current third party insurance policy to be produced before a diplomatic number plate is issued does not alter the position, because the insurance company is under no more obligation to meet any claim made upon it by a person injured by a diplomatic car than it would be to meet automatically any claim made by a person injured by some other motor car.
I think the position can be properly covered, as regards residents and citizens of Australia, and no embarrassment need be caused the diplomatic persons concerned if the Australian Capital Territory Motor Traffic Ordinance is amended to provide that the nominal defendant can be sued by persons bereaved or injured by uninsured, unidentified or diplomatic motor vehicles.
The other matter that arises is in respect of workers’ compensation. Here again, employees who are injured at their work in embassies or other places cannot sue their employers. I am not suggesting that they should be able to sue their employers, but I do suggest that the Australian Capital Territory Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance should be amended to provide that such persons can make claims upon and prove their claims against the nominal insurer in the same way as workmen can make such claims where their employer is not insured or is not fully insured. This need cause no embarrassment to the diplomatic mission or the international body concerned; but it would avoid these incidents which have arisen in Can berra more than in any other part of Australia and which have been aired in this place. I am not to be taken as underwriting all that has been said on these matters in this place. Diplomats, of course, are like judges; they cannot engage in controversy on these matters. They cannot present their side of any of these disputed matters to the public through the press or through a member of Parliament. They are at a disadvantage in that if the employee’s side is brought up, it cannot be answered.
It is true that although citizens may be without remedy, the Australian community can assert its own view if a diplomatic mission has been responsible for some breach of the code in these matters. If the country itself proves obdurate in our view, we can sever diplomatic relations with it. If a diplomat proves obdurate, we can declare him persona non grata. However, these are all matters which provoke some scandal and provide the person injured with no remedy other than to apply for some social service benefit. If the person concerned has not lived in Australia for the requisite time, it very frequently means that the social service benefit is a special benefit awarded by the Department of Social Services at discretion. Here again, the amendment which I suggest would provide that any such person would have the same remedy as other residents and citizens of this country.
It is true that I have only suggested the amendment of Australian Capital Territory ordinances. That would, in fact, cover most of the workers’ compensation and running down cases that occur in Australia. It would moreover provide a pattern for similar legislation in all the States. I believe that all the States provide for proceedings to be taken against nominal defendants or nominal insurers under their third party insurance and workers’ compensation legislation. That I would suggest might well be extended to cover diplomatic defendants, as they may be called, if we were to show in the Australian Capital Territory, where these cases mostly arise, what can and should be done.
I should point out that there have been no complaints in this place, as far as I remember, concerning the conduct of employees of international bodies, which are expressly granted immunity under the principal act and this amending bill. With the United Nations, Australia is an equal participant with all other powers. Indeed, regulations can only be made under this bill and the principal act in relation to international organizations to which Australia has acceded or of which it is a member. One would imagine, therefore, that such incidents as I have quoted are not likely to cause any injustice or scandal because Australia, as one of the joint employers, would ensure that proper compensation was forthcoming. Nevertheless, this seems to be one of the few occasions upon which one can make a comment on this general question of diplomatic immunity without referring to some matter which is the subject of contemporary heat, and which therefore cannot be the subject of dispassionate comment.
The Opposition supports the bill and hopes that the relevance of it will become more and more apparent as other diplomatic missions and international bodies set up representation in Australia and, in particular, in the Australian Capital Territory.
– in reply - I am glad that the Opposition supports the bill. The bill has in fact a very limited scope. Its purpose is to extend the provisions of the existing act to the Territories and to enable regulations to be made to confer juridical personality on international organizations of which Australia is a member. There are at present only three international organizations operating in Australia. They are the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration and the World Health Organization.
There are two good reasons for the passage of the bill. It is desirable to facilitate the activities in Australia of international organizations of which Australia is a member by enabling them to own property, to have rights and to protect their rights. Also, perhaps more importantly still, the constitutions of a number of international bodies to which Australia belongs should be protected by the parties to the conventions under which those international bodies are constituted conferring juridical personality on those bodies. We are unable to comply with that obligation until this bill is passed in order to amend the principal act.
The remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) about diplomatic immunity are relevant to this bill, if at all, to only a very small degree. This measure and the act will not in any way affect diplomatic personnel. The only relevance of arguments about diplomatic immunity arises from the fact that in international practice it is usual to treat the personnel of international organizations in a manner akin to that in which diplomatic personnel are treated. Very few people will be affected by this bril. I understand that the total staffs of the international organizations at present represented in Australia do not exceed ten in number. About half of those are locally engaged, and locally engaged personnel have no diplomatic immunities of any sort. Moreover, there are important differences between the treatment of diplomatic personnel proper and the treatment of the staffs of international organizations with respect to immunity from legal suit and diplomatic privilege. The immunity of officials of the United Nations is confined to their official acts. Furthermore, under the United Nations convention on privileges and immunities, that organization is obliged to waive diplomatic immunity where such immunity would impede the course of justice and where it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations. I point out again that personnel engaged locally by these international organizations have no immunity at all.
– May I ask: First, would motor cars owned by these organizations have diplomatic number plates? Secondly, would one of these organizations be regarded as the employer of any of the locally engaged people?
– I cannot answer those questions specifically.
– Mr. Speaker- .Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).-
The Minister closed the debate when he spoke in reply.
– But he did not propose the motion for the second reading of the bill. The Prime Minister did.
– I did. However, I shall meet the convenience of the Leader of the Opposition in any way I can if he would perhaps like to speak at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to raise the question of diplomatic immunity as it affects not only the officers of the three international organizations already represented in Australia, but also members of the staffs of other organizations which, under the provisions of this bill, will be admitted to Australia in the future. At the present time, ten people are employed in Australia by the three organizations which will be affected by this bill. But power is taken to admit any number of organizations in the future. At the second-reading stage, the Leputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) expressed the hope that Australia would become the head-quarters of a number of United Nations organizations. We all share that hope, I am certain. But whether or not that eventuates, a lot of agencies of the United Nations will be represented here. And so the question of immunity will arise.
It is interesting to note that the United Nations acts differently from the member states of that organization with respect to the preservation of diplomatic rights and privileges. The United Nations will not insist on immunity and all the privileges that go with diplomatic representation unless the waiving of those rights and privileges adversely affects the interests of the United Nations in some way.
– That states the situation rather more broadly than it is. The limitations which the United Nations has itself imposed on the diplomatic immunity of its officials is more restricted than the honorable gentleman has stated it to be.
– Well, I am glad even of that. But I imagine that it is still pos sible for representatives of United Nations agencies to claim diplomatic immunity when Australian citizens are in some way harmed or injured in accidental happenings. There is a good deal of feeling in this National Capital that Australians should not continue to be denied in their own Australian courts, when they claim against diplomats, the justice to which they would be entitled if the respondents to the actions happened to be Australian citizens. Some change will have to be made, if such a change is possible, with respect to diplomatic privileges generally, in order that Australian interests shall be protected.
I know that this is a very wide question. If this is to happen in respect of foreign representatives in Australia, it will have to happen, too, in respect of Australian diplomats accredited to other countries. Over the years, this issue has been raised repeatedly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and other honorable members.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has raised it, too.
– It has been raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser).
The matter is not merely a question of civil damages. The subject of ordinary compensation has been argued in this chamber before. Questions have been asked and representations have been made, particularly in debates on the motion for the adjournment of the House and on the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, as well as in other debates. But the Government does nothing. It merely gives answers which avoid the issue. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has given no satisfactory assurances to the House to-day, and I am certain that he will give none to the committee. He has not intimated that the Government is in any way interested in the matter. It will say only ‘that the fears that we entertain with respect to this bill as a result of experience in Canberra of incidents in which diplomats proper have been involved are not as real as we think they are. I am sure that if in the Territories - I am thinking particularly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea - there occurred events similar to some that have happened in the Australian Capital Territory, and native people were affected, these matters could very well be raised at the United Nations and it could be said that we were not making adequate provision for the protection and compensating of persons who had been injured. This is a matter that involves the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I believe that this is a subject which might very well be studied by a Cabinet sub-committee or by a departmental committee under a Cabinet sub-committee because, sooner or later, the issue must be faced. We have to do something about the question of diplomatic responsibility for accidents. As the representation of agencies of the United Nations grows, we shall have to do something also about the responsibility of officers of that body.
We of the Opposition cannot accept the Minister’s assurance that we need not worry about the first issue because the fears we might entertain about the second are not as real as we think they might be. I ask the Minister to look at this question of compensation. We might have to provide some special fund, through the Commonwealth Treasury, for cases of this sort. It is certain that the Australian people do feel that the victims of accidents in which diplomats are involved should not be deprived of redress, and should not be obliged to meet all medical and other expenses without any assistance from any source at all, and without any right of recourse to law to protect themselves in any way whatsoever.
– I stated on the motion for the second reading that I know of no case in which a complaint has been made in this place about the conduct of representatives of the United Nations or any of its bodies. Nevertheless, it is quite plain that, in the convention which forms the schedule to the principal act, the force of which is now being greatly spread, it is possible for the United Nations and its bodies, and for its representatives, to claim immunity in the very matters which have been aired in this place on earlier occasions and which have been associated with diplomats in the traditional sense as representatives of foreign powers in this place. Article II., section 2, of that convention reads -
The United Nations, its property and assets wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except insofar as in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity.
Again, Article IV., section 11, provides -
Representatives of members of the principal and subsidiary organs of the United Nations and to conferences convened by the United Nations shall, while exercising their functions and during their journey to and from the place of meeting enjoy . . . immunity from legal processes of every kind. I will concede that if a United Nations representative in Australia were to drive a motor car negligently and were to injure another person, that person could sue the United Nations representative if he could show that the United Nations representative was not in fact exercising his functions as a representative of the United Nations and was not on a journey to or from the place of meeting, or if he could show that, in driving his motor car, the United Nations representative was not doing an act in his capacity as United Nations representative. That has always been the position with respect to Commonwealth car drivers until about a year ago. It was always possible for a person to secure damages against the driver of a Commonwealth car as an individual. It was also possible for him to secure damages against the Commonwealth itself if he could show that the driver was acting in the course of his employment. We knew, however, how difficult it was in that remaining field of the old doctrine of respondeat superior to prove the fact that the driver was acting in the course of his employment. Until a few years ago, that difficulty confronted everybody who was suing a person who was not, in fact, the owner of the vehicle which caused the injury. Until last year, the same difficulty confronted every body injured by a Commonwealth car.
All we have suggested is that the general question which arises under this bill in a particular set of circumstances should be resolved. We certainly do not believe that diplomatic immunity should be abridged. At the same time, we do not think it is satisfactory that residents and citizens of Australia should depend for remedies on either the country or the international organization concerned - in this case, the United Nations - waiving its immunity. We do not think the remedies of Australian residents and citizens should depend upon their being able to prove that the employer or the driver was not, in fact, doing his job as a representative of the United Nations when the injury occurred on the road, or during the course of his employment. All we have suggested is that in cases such as those to which we have referred our own law should be amended to provide that where a diplomat would be the respondent or defendant the Australian resident or citizen may take proceedings against the nominal insurer or nominal defendant in the same way as he can take proceedings against the nominal insurer or the nominal defendant where he does not know who has hurt him, or where the person who has hurt him is, in fact, uninsured. We are not suggesting that the matter be corrected under the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Act itself, because this question affects other persons who are given immunity by ordinary custom as well as under that act. But we do think this is the time to mention necessary improvements to the law to overcome this difficulty, which is well known to every resident of the Australian Capital Territory, and which also is not without significance to residents of the State capitals where a certain number of these international bodies and diplomats have their headquarters or branches.
– As I pointed out earlier, the scope of this bill is not so wide as to make relevant a complete discussion of diplomatic privileges, and for that reason I shall restrict myself to saying that the problems which arise from time to time in the exercise of diplomatic immunity are by no means peculiar to Australia, but exist throughout the world. Diplomatic immunity itself is very old. It has its origin in the need to facilitate the work of diplomatic representatives. It is not intended for the personal advantage of diplomats; its purpose is to facilitate the work of diplomatic representatives. Change in diplomatic privilege is not a matter which can be undertaken by this or any other country on its own; it can be properly undertaken only multilaterally.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 2nd June (vide page 2216), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition will not oppose the second reading of this bill, but will move an amendment at the committee stage to preserve the present position concerning the publication of a complete specification. Hitherto, the bill has taken a course with which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has familiarized us during his term of office. He made his second-reading speech on 2nd June, but the second-reading debate did not proceed during the autumn session. On 9th September, the Attorney-General made a statement in the House forecasting the amendments which he would make to the amending bill of which he had moved the second reading three months before. It was quite a considerable statement. It took up six roneo-ed foolscap pages. At the same time, he circulated to interested persons outside the House a further statement of eight roneo-ed foolscap pages explaining the amendments which he proposed to move to the amending bill. Last week, the Attorney-General once again made a statement in the Parliament - this time of four roneo-ed foolscap pages - saying that he would make some interim amendments to the amending bill in lieu of the amendments which he had previously explained in the companion statement of September.
The amending bill arose out of a report made to the Attorney-General by Mr. Justice Dean of the Supreme Court of Victoria, who does not seem to have signed the report, by the president and past president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia, by the Commissioner of Patents and by the Parliamentary Draftsman. The criticism has been made that the report was prepared principally by patent attorneys on the basis of representations and evidence which they had received from patent attorneys, but that the committee did not receive representations, to any extent, from manufacturers and included no representatives of manufacturers’ organizations. Consequently, when the Attorney-General introduced his original bill in June, the manufacturers complained about some of its provisions.
Normally, a complete specification is published after its acceptance. In Australia, before the war, we had the rather unusual position in which such a specification could be published practically forthwith. After the war, we amended the act to provide that the complete specification could be published six months after lodgment. The Attorney-General, last June, proposed to repeal that provision. Then the normal position would have applied in Australia which applies in- most other countries that the specification would be published when it was accepted.
The manufacturers made representations to the Attorney-General and he then, in September last, proposed various amendments which would, he said, meet some of the manufacturers’ objections. His chief proposal was that publication should take place a year after lodgment. He now proposes that publication should take place on the second anniversary of lodgment of the complete specification or on the date of its acceptance, whichever date first arrives. This seems to be the only matter of controversy in the bill.
We will not oppose the second reading of the bill. There are many features of the bill which we should promptly enact since they enable us to ratify the Lisbon revision of two years ago of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. At this point, we do not see any advantage in extending the period of publication as an interim measure from six months to two years which the AttorneyGeneral, last week, told us was the longest period that he could envisage, when as he also told us then, in the autumn session he will move an amendment to make permanent provision in this matter. We might as well leave the six months’ publication period until he has made up his mind definitely as to what period he proposes to lay down for the indefinite future.
There is one point that I feel I should mention at this stage because it affects the general amendment of acts concerning industrial property as they come before us from time to time. I notice that in this bill there is a reference to the appeal tribunal. Under the principal act, the appeal tribunal is constituted by a single justice of the High Court of Australia. An appeal lies from him to a Full Court of the High Court. I would have hoped that the opportunity would have been taken to provide for the appeal tribunal to be constituted by the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
The Commonwealth Industrial Court now includes several members who have had considerable experience in matters of industrial property. If one may say so with respect, some members of the Commonwealth Industrial Court have had greater experience in matters of industrial property than they have had in matters of industrial relations. In fact, one can properly pay tribute to the Chief Judge of the Industrial Court for having done more than any other Commonwealth Attorney-General to institute a review of Commonwealth legislation on industrial property. I therefore regret that this opportunity seems to have been missed to give the Commonwealth Industrial Court work for which it is well qualified and which would,. I would think, secure more general acceptance in the community than some of the work which the Parliament has given it.
I want to make it quite plain that I am not in any way reflecting on the way in which the judges of the Industrial Court perform this work. It is the fault of this Parliament that it has given them this work to perform. But on matters of industrial property 1 would think, with respect, that the Industrial Court is very well qualified, and that the High Court has far too much of an appellate or constitutional nature to be worried with appeals under the Patents Act. 1 will refer to the generally confused matter of appeals under our acts which deal with- industrial property. Under the Copyright. Act, Mr. Speaker, the Supreme
Court of any State may order the rectification of any register; an appeal lies to the High Court. Under the Designs Act, there is an appeal, if the Registrar of Designs refuses to register a design, to the AttorneyGeneral or to the Crown Solicitor. If either of them, in turn, refuses the application, there is an appeal to the Supreme Court of a State. After registration, any interested person may apply to the High Court for its cancellation or for a compulsory licence. The Supreme Court of a State may order the rectification of the register. An appeal lies to the High Court. Finally, under the Trade Marks Act, appeals lie to the Appeal Tribunal constituted by a single justice of the High Court and thence to a Full Court of the High Court. While this bill is going through, and whenever these other bills to which I have referred are being amended, the opportunity might well be taken to co-ordinate the methods of appeal by providing an appeal from a Registrar or Commissioner to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Sometimes appeals lie to the law officers of the Crown - the Attorney-General or the Crown Solicitor - sometimes to the Supreme Court of a State but not it seems to the Supreme Court of a Territory, and sometimes to the High Court. These various means of appeal are provided and, in fact, they sometimes occur in the one act.
As we have a new tribunal which has been created since any of these acts were passed and since the Patents Act was last amended, I would have thought that the Attorney-General would have seized the opportunity to relieve the High Court of some of its original jurisdiction and give a special court - this new court - the job of co-ordinating these provisions. In this connexion, last week we passed the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Again, one would have thought an appeal procedure on what would be regarded as an industrial matter - workers compensation - could also be properly given to the Commonwealth’s special new court - the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The Opposition does not oppose the second reading of the bill.
.- I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on his thoughtful contribution to this debate. The law of patents is extraordinarily complex one, and he has touched upon a number of very interesting points. I think perhaps it may be helpful to the House, considering the variety of amendments that have been introduced in this bill, to touch very briefly on the historical aspects of some very important details of our law of patents in Australia. As honorable members probably know, this branch of the law derives from the ancient Statute of Monopolies passed in 1624 in the reign of James I. The purpose was to limit the prerogative of the Crown in the granting of monopolies.
I should like to refer to some of the basic sections of the principal act of 1952, which is amended in many respects by this bill, because I think it will help to clarify the minds of honorable members as to the real basis of this branch of the law. For example, section 69 of the principal act grants to the patentee, his agents and licensees, during the term of the patent, the right to make, use, and sell his invention in such manner as he thinks fit anywhere in Australia, accompanied by restrictive provisions which would not apply in the case of ordinary chattels. That is a very special aspect of the law of patents that we need to have in our minds when considering amendments to this law.
Again, to safeguard the public interest, section 110 of the principal act provides that the invention shall, where possible, be worked on a commercial scale. Clearly, it is in the interests of the public that these matters should be carefully supervised and not abused. Clause 9 of the bill seeks to amend section 48 of the principal act with regard to the report which has to be made by a patents examiner as to the novelty of the article or its manufacture. I think it should be stressed that an invention, in order to be patented, must be in some way novel and useful. The novelty must be a genuine one and, of course, as provided under section 48. the examiner of patents must report in detail as to such novelty and satisfy himself and the commissioner that it is a genuine case. A mere addition to abstract theoretical knowledge cannot be made the subject of letters patent. I should like to quote, very briefly, from an old Victorian case which was decided in 1886. The court held -
A patent is a monopoly, and the applicant for a monopoly is bound to limit his application to that which is a new manufacture, whether a thing or process, of which he is the true and first inventor and which others at the time of the making of the letters patent do not use.
The bill makes reference in a number of places to specifications. Here again, I think it might be pertinent to stress very briefly one or two of the essential ingredients in relation to specifications. First, each application must be accompanied by a complete specification and is given a priority date according to the date of lodgment. Section 40 of the principal act provides that the invention and its method of performance Shall be fully described. Drawings must accompany the specification where required. If time permitted - and I feel that it does not - I should like to give the House details of a very interesting case that was heard by the High Court of Australia 50 years ago - Rodgers v. Commissioner of Patents (1910) - but I will not trespass on the time of the House as this is the last day of the session.
I pass to one or two other clauses of the bill. Clause 5 seeks to rectify an omission with regard to the persons who may make an application for a patent by including a person who would, if a patent were granted upon an application made by any one of the persons referred to in section 34 of the principal act, be entitled to have the patent assigned to him. An example given by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in his second-reading speech some time ago was that of an employer who is unable, at present, to apply in his own name for a patent in respect of an invention made by his employee in the course of his employment.
Since the Attorney-General’s secondreading speech was delivered, I have read a very interesting article, from which I will quote briefly. This article was published in the September, 1960, issue of the quarterly journal of the Queensland Justices of the Peace Association. Two cases are discussed. The question in the first is where an employer enters into a contract with an employee in relation to any inventions that may be discovered by an employee in the course of his employment. It is pointed out in this article that scientists who may be likely to develop new processes usually covenant to assign all their inventions or patents to their employers. How ever, this is not always the case. Very often there is no contract at all, and the courts have been faced with the task of balancing the interests of employer and employee.
The approach by the courts has been emphasized very clearly in a House of Lords appeal case in 1955 - the Sterling Engineering Company Limited v. Patchett. The approach of the courts has been that an invention ‘belongs to the inventor, and the employer’s interest therein arises only by virtue of any particular engagement or covenant in a contract. If there is no contract, the matter is left up in the air. An applicant under section 34, and the section as it will be amended, does not have to be a British subject.
The bill will put into effect the bulk of the recommendations of the expert committee which was appointed to review the principal act- the Patents Act 1952-1955 - a considerable time ago. It will enable the Commonwealth to subscribe to the Lisbon revision of the international convention for the protection of industrial property mentioned a few minutes ago by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to patents. Generally the bill will streamline and improve the law relating to patents in Australia. The principal act retained the general principles laid down in earlier legislation, and dealt mainly with procedural amendments. This bill does likewise. I know that the compilation of the bill has not been easy, and I pay a tribute to the Attorney-General and his officers for the very patient and capable way in which they have tackled this technical and involved subject.
The House is aware, from the statement made by the Attorney-General, that considerable difficulty arose over recent months, particularly in relation to section 43 of the principal act, which deals with the publication of complete specifications. Clauses 1 1 and 29 contain amendments which provide for an extension of the time allowed for accepting an application for a patent, from fifteen months to 21 months. There is also an amendment regarding the commissioner’s power under section 160 of the principal act to extend the time laid down for the doing of certain things. These are straightforward enough, and so are the amendments proposed under clause 23 with regard to applications under international conventions which, as the Attorney-General pointed out some months ago, are of considerable benefit to Australia.
Conversely, the drafting of the amendment to section 43 dealing with the time for publication and acceptance of a complete specification was complicated by a conflict of interests between, on the one hand, Australian manufacturers and, on the other hand, applicants for letters patent. The respective advantages and disadvantages of early publication were also touched on by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and they have already been very clearly analysed and set out to the House by the AttorneyGeneral, so I shall not go over that ground again.
The original amending bill, introduced some time ago, proposed, in accordance with the recommendations of the Patent Law Review Committee, that a complete specification should be published immediately after acceptance of the application. To meet the wishes of interested sections of the community the Government now proposes to amend section 43 in such a way as to be as fair as possible to the manufacturers and the inventors and also to have clue regard to the interests of overseas applicants and the desirability of giving protection against infringement at a reasonably early date after the lodgment of the complete specification. The Attorney-General re-emphasized a few days ago his view that section 43 should not remain in its present form, and he has proposed in his latest amendment, as an interim measure, that the documents accompanying a patent application become open to public inspection on acceptance of the application or at the expiration of two years from the lodgment of the complete specification, whichever is the earlier. This approach seems to be a sensible, balanced one. As I said before, the whole subject of the law of patents is most complex and difficult. I should like again to express my congratulations to the Attorney-General and his officers. I think that this is a sensible measure pending the preparation of the more permanent one that has been foreshadowed by the AttorneyGeneral.
.- 1 should like to say a few words, and I hope that on this occasion they really will be few. I do not wish to speak so much on behalf of the manufacturers, who seem to have made their wishes well known in this regard, as on behalf of some small inventors who have formed an organization in my electorate. They are particularly concerned - and I have conveyed this to the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) on a previous occasion - about the expense of gaining a patent if it is contested during the process. The people I am referring to are small inventors, and not wealthy people. They have very genuine contributions to make to the advancement of our industrial life.
One can easily imagine the legal and economic difficulties .of those people if, during the process of their applications, they are confronted by submissions and other kinds of thwarting activities by people with vested interests. They also experience considerable difficulty in the detection of infringements of their patents. For the kind of people of whom I am speaking the task of detecting infringements is often difficult. They mention that in many cases, for instance, their inventions may be incorporated in a manufacturing process, and it is quite difficult for an individual or a small group of individuals to detect infringements. Sometimes, of course, the inventors are not even aware of the infringements. They would like me to mention that even where infringements are detected the cost of challenging wealthy firms would be prohibitive, because the inventors are often relatively poor.
The inventor whose patent has been infringed has to sue each of the transgressing firms if he wants to get redress, and challenging wealthy firms is too formidable for an individual inventor unless he has a lot of resources. So the inventors ask that in order to give them the protection that they are not economically able to give themselves they should have the resources of some government instrumentality to call upon. It is just out of the question for such inventors to take on large and established organizations which might infringe their patents, and they suggest as a positive step that a government legal office be established to fight cases for inventors whose patents have been infringed. They suggest that an inventor whose case is fought for him by a public legal office of this kind be required to pay a proportion of the royalties that come to him in the future as a result of the successful prosecution into a Commonwealth fund, which could be used to finance the presentation of other cases, possibly including some unsuccessful ones. Another suggestion that has been made, and to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) referred, relates to the court of first hearing. As I understand it, if a patent has been infringed the Supreme Court or the High Court is the court of first hearing. They are asking for the establishment of a lower court such as obtains in many European countries, notably Germany.
– The appeal tribunal under the act is the High Court.
– In any event, the claim is that a formidable expense is involved in the court of first hearing, and they have directed attention to the courts that operate in Europe, notably in Germany, where a quick decision is given and, on occasions, there is even conciliation by the relevant judge in an attempt to solve the problem. Those judges have been trained in industrial and commercial activities and, at a relatively small expense, are able to give the litigants a guiding decision in the early stages of the dispute. More often than not this guiding decision is accepted. On this basis, quite a number of cases could be dealt with in a few days. It is claimed that under this system the litigants concerned have to meet only comparatively low costs. The small inventors, therefore, benefit.
In making my general plea on behalf of the inventors who are not so well off, I should like to direct attention to the report of a statement that was made by Mr. G. M. E. Williams, head of the Department of Production at the Northampton College of Advanced Technology in London, which appeared in the “ SunHerald “ of 17th July last. Mr. Williams was an accredited British observer at the congress of the International Federation of Automation Control which has just ended in Moscow. The report is in these terms -
Mr. Williams said a key to Soviet progress was the existence of a science committee in every industrial unit in Russia.
New ideas from workshop bench upwards are passed to this committee for examination.
Ideas approved by the science committee get forwarded to the State Planning Commission.
The commission has the power to order manufacture of any equipment to improve output.
This way the hit-or-miss system of capitalism is avoided.
Soviet inventors have no selling problem with a new piece of equipment.
The formidable problem that confronts many of our small inventors is to obtain a market. They allege that many manufacturers in Australia are very shortsighted and do everything to discourage the inventor and to prevent his application being accepted. Even when it is accepted they have devious means of getting around ft so that the small inventor either cannot pay his fees to keep the patent alive, or loses his incentive. The inventors claim that this attitude is in sharp contradistinction to what obtains in other countries. After referring to the fact that a Soviet inventor has no selling problem with a new piece of equipment, the newspaper report continues -
It has been vetted by experts. There is no risk to discourage the man who manufactures anything new that he might go broke trying to sell it.
The small inventors are asking the Commonwealth to protect their inventions. They claim that there should be some fund into which the Commonwealth or inventors who have sucessfully defended claims should make a contribution, such as part of the subsequent royalties, so that other inventors needing assistance can turn to the fund. In addition, they are asking the Commonwealth to set up an inexpensive court of first hearing so that they can obtain justice at a relatively low cost. This is essential now when we are trying to promote trade in our manufactured goods. They ask also that inventors who feel that they have something good to offer on the international market should have the opportunity to display their inventions at the trade fairs in which Australia is participating. Early this year there was a great engineering exhibition in Sydney at which the association with which I have been in touch had an exhibit. The promotion of inventions in this way could make a substantial contribution to Australia’s production. I hope that the Attorney-General will give some consideration to the pleas that I have made on behalf of the association.
– in reply - I want to mention only two matters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has no reason to suppose that I have overlooked the question of trying not only to make the appellate provisions in industrial property law uniform but perhaps to change their venue. He knows very well that that has been in my mind for some time, but this is not the appropriate bill in which to give effect to such a change if it should be desired.
I know the constituents of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) who have put this matter before him. I have had correspondence with them; indeed, I gave them access to one of my offices on one occasion for a discussion which proved very helpful to me. I did see the germ of an idea in what they put to me, but it was not quite what the honorable member has stated. I have told his constituents that I shall meet them again to see whether I can do something to assist them.
I do not propose to set up a special legal aid agency for inventors, as I think the honorable member would like to counsel, nor do I propose to do anything that is comparable to what is done in the Soviet Union where, according to the honorable member, people have no problem in selling inventions. That is probably quite right. There are many differences between this country and the Soviet Union. In this respect, I do not propose to advance Australia one whit towards the state of affairs that exists in the Soviet Union. However, I shall meet the honorable member’s constituents from time to time to see whether I can render them some assistance in solving the problem that I know confronts some of them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Sections forty-two and forty-three of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead: - “ 42. Where-
.-I move -
Omit “ Sections forty-two and forty-three of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead “, insert “ Section forty-two of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section is inserted in its stead “.
The consequence of the proposed amendment would be to preserve the present provision in the Australian patent law that a complete specification shall be published six months after it has been lodged. In his second-reading speech last June, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) announced that he would repeal section 43 of the principal act, which makes this provision. Then, in September, after he had had the advantage of consultation with the manufacturers - which the Patent Law Review Committee had not had - he forecast an amendment. His published explanation of the proposed amendment is in these terms -
The scheme that has been evolved would provide that where acceptance of the application was likely to be unduly delayed the Commissioner of Patents would determine the date of publication, but that he could not publish before twelve months had elapsed from the date of lodging the complete specification, and in the case of a Convention application, not before the date on which it was expected that the invention would be published in the Convention country. He could be required toy the applicant to publish after the expiration of the twelve-month period.
That further scheme is still not acceptable to the manufacturers and, accordingly, the Attorney-General has forecast amendments, and has circulated them, which would provide for an interim measure under which the publication would take place on the second anniversary of lodgment or on date of acceptance, whichever date first arrives. He is careful to point out that this will be an interim measure, because he proposes to bring in a final measure on this matter next session. In the statement which he made in the
House last week he twice reiterated the term “ interim measure “, and said that the result would be that there would be a holding period on publication until a further bill is introduced next session. He said, further -
The sir?.? result could, of course, be achieved by the stipulation c’ a shorter period; however, it is, i think, preferable that if the period is to be altered by future legislation, it should not be increased by that legislation. i would not expect that any longer period than 24 months from lodgment of the complete specification would in any case be favoured.
The Attorney-General is proposing, therefore, to introduce this interim measure the effect of which will be that a complete specification which is lodged with the commissioner after this week cannot be published until the commissioner has accepted it, or until two years have elapsed, whichever happens first. Next session - in about another four months - he proposes to bring down another amending bill. I hardly think it will come down on 28th February, when it is expected we shall come back. I anticipate that this proposed measure will reach us for discussion about April. If the Attorney-General then proceeds with the proposal he made in September, we shall then alter the law to provide that any specification lodged thereafter - or in fact any pending specification, that rs, any specification lodged next week or thereafter - will be published at, say, twelve months from the time of its lodgment. It appears to us that this is messing about with the law too much. Any specification which is now pending or which rs lodged from next week onwards can be published two years after its lodgment. However, the position may be that after next April any specification which is pending or which is thereafter lodged will be able to be published in twelve months.
We cannot see why the present position should not be held at this stage. We are not saying what our attitude will be towards the amendments which the AttorneyGeneral forecast in September, because we have not had the advantage of full consultation with patent attorneys or manufacturers on this subject, and apparently the Attorney-General feels that the Government can profit from further consultation with them in the meantime. What is the purpose of having an interim measure to make an alteration which will probably be altered again in so short a time? Surely there can be no prejudice - such as the Attorney-General referred to on several occasions - to patent applicants in convention countries or in our own if the present law continues until we can bring in a final measure next session. It is true, as appears from information which the Attorney-General has given me since the second-reading stage, in answer to a question which I put on the notice-paper last week, that in actual fact the time of publication in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America is in excess of two years. But it is not quite right to say that Australia is alone in the period of its early publication.
Belgium, which is one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world, as well as one of the most closely settled, provides for publication at the same time as we do - six months from the date of filing. The Canadian law at present provides for the publication to take place on acceptance, after the patent has been issued. The average period which that takes is two years. That is not a statutory requirement, but is the result of the congestion in their patent office, which is of the same order as or perhaps a little worse than the congestion in our own Patent Office. Canada has recently had a committee report on this matter, the same as we have, and the Canadian committee has made a recommendation1, I believe, in line with our present statutory provision.
– It is the same idea, but not the same recommendation.
– I have not seen the report. Does the Canadian committee recommend the publication of a complete specification six months afterwards?
– No, before acceptance.
– At some period before acceptance and some period, presumably, less than two years. I would be indebted to the Attorney-General if he would quote the provisions of the Canadian report, which is not available in the Parliamentary Library. The Attorney-General is proposing to review the recommendations of our own committee which recommended, in effect, that publication should take place on acceptance. He forecast an amendment, in September, and he was then minded to recommend, in effect, publication after twelve months. He is now introducing an interim measure to provide for publication after two years. The committee which recently inquired, into this matter in Canada has apparently recommended publication prior to acceptance, perhaps after six months. I submit that the reasonable thing to do is for this Parliament to hold the position until next session. There will be a multiplicity of legislation in this matter and there will be. uncertainty. Tho patent attorneys and manufacturers want to know what the time is, and the Attorney-General says that he will therefore fix two years; but they will also know what the time is if we leave the period at six months for the time being.
– I think I can shortly put the committee in possession of what the difficulty is here, why the proposal of the Opposition is unacceptable to the Government and why I propose amendments which I hope later to move. The difficulty in the matter is that when the work load in the Patent Office in this country had become so great that publication of the complete specification after acceptance was delayed many years, what was really a stopgap provision was put into this act, allowing the publication of the specification to be made within six months after lodgment, in order to assist the inventor. When the work load had fallen a good deal and publication was not likely to be so long delayed, a special expert review committee recommended the repeal of this provision. I accepted that recommendation and thought it was right.
Subsequently the manufacturers, who had had opportunity to put matters to this committee, said they had not done so adequately; and I agreed to see them and hear their point of view, which I did. But I remained convinced after hearing them that section 43 ought to go, if the positron of the work load of the Patent Office was not deteriorating, thus making the publication date after acceptance too late. In the course of these conferences, I did see that the manufacturers had a problem. I offered them a solution, after consideration, which involved a provision for publication before acceptance, but at the discretion of the commissioner, and not in any case before twelve months. This proposal of mine has not had a very good reception. It has not been rejected, but the patent attorneys and the manufacturers’ representatives would prefer me not to pursue it in its present form. 1 have discussed with the manufacturers’ representatives what we might do immediately. I think it is fair to say that they realize that some extension of the time of six months that is provided in section 43 ought to be made, and that the extension of time ought to be substantial. But they could not agree with me, in the time available to us, on a particular period. Thus, 1 have set the period at 24 months. In the time between now and the beginning of the next sessional period, or perhaps during the early part of that sessional period, I hope to continue these discussions with the manufacturers’ representatives and the patent attorneys to see whether we can arrive at a suitable compromise period of time to be included in the legislation. My inclination now to have some fixed time for publication before acceptance is dictated very largely, if not entirely, by the fact that the work load in the Patent Office has increased substantially, and the anticipated time for publication is now much longer than it was contemplated to be when the review committee made its recommendation. I thought it right that I should respond to these changed circumstances and propose that there be a fixed period, but that it be longer than six months.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) says that there can be no harm in letting the present position rest until some time in the autumn. I would like to point out to the committee that it cannot be allowed to rest in its present state. What has happened is that this country has become a source of information of technical development ahead of most, if not all, of the other countries of the world. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition cited Belgium and France, but their systems of patents are different from ours. They have no period of examination in the patent office as we have, and their six months’ period is quite incomparable with the periods of time applicable to our patent system with detailed examination in the Patent Office. “I he fact is that, due to section 43, this country is one in which information can be obtained much earlier than it can be obtained in other countries. People of other countries, including those of the Soviet bloc, desire to know as soon as possible what the latest technological developments are. As a result, many people who have patent applications in the convention countries, and particularly in the United States, will not apply here because the disclosure comes much earlier than disclosures in the countries in which they have made their applications. Even if we lost only a few applications between now and next April, May or June - whenever we are able to work out the final scheme - our country will be disadvantaged. As the patent experts in manufacturing industries can see, with me, that the period of six months is too short, it follows that there must be immediately some extension of time. 1 have deliberately chosen the longest period, because if 1 am to participate in negotiations, it is much better that those negotiations take place from the highest point, as it were, than that they should start off with no period, or a very short period. Any period longer than about twelve or fifteen months would achieve the same purpose, of course, as a period of 24 months, in practical results in the interim.
These are the reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment offered, and the reasons why I shall later move an amendment, to which I will not speak separately.
.- I can see the force of the argument of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that it is undesirable that Australia should be the source of premature information on patent applications. I can readily see the disadvantage to Australia of people withholding the lodging of specifications in Australia, which, in effect, means withholding their technical know-how from Australia, for fear that their rivals in other countries can get the jump on them. But if this is to be an interim measure, to be replaced by another act in the autumn session, I do not see why the Attorney should not defer this general matter.
If our amendment is carried, then the present six months’ delay of publication after lodgment will remain. Therefore, if we have an act passed in the autumn session on any date before 8th June, any specifications lodged between now and the time of that act coming into operation will, in fact, be covered by the permanent provision which the Attorney-General is going to sponsor in the next sessional period. There can be no disadvantage to us in respect of specifications which have already been lodged, because we have’ got the advantage of them already.
People clearly have not been deterred from lodging such specifications in Australia by fear that they would be prematurely revealed to their rivals in other countries. This is obvious, because we have already got them; people were not deterred from lodging them. If prospective applicants need reassurance, then it is given to them by the fact that any specifications lodged from now on will not be published until the period provided by the Attorney-General in the continuing bill to be brought in next session. We need have no fears whatever; we have already got those which could be revealed - and we have not been denied them - and any which we would get if we were to increase the period we will still get, because the Attorney-General will increase the period before six months elapses. He promised that on several occasions in his latest statement.
The Attorney-General’s argument, 1 suggest, falls down also on this score: He says that in other countries, such as Great Britain and the ‘United States, specifications are not published until they have been accepted, and the work is so far behind in those countries that specifications cannot be accepted, and therefore -published, until a period of more than two years has elapsed. Even if the provision for two years’ delay between lodgment and publication, which he is proposing in this bill, is accepted, any specifications lodged in Australia will still be published in Australia, to the world, before they would be published by the applicants who reside in the United Kingdom and the United States. Therefore, if we do not desire to publish our specifications before they would be published in convention countries, we ought to fix a period longer than two years.
There will be no continuing protection for Australia by an interim alteration.
Applicants from convention countries will still be prejudiced in the way suggested by the Attorney-General, if in any case Australia permits publication prior to publication in the particular convention country concerned. The Attorney-General’s other argument, that we should hold the line until the next sessional period, falls to the ground, in that the present period of six months provided in the act will more than carry us through the next sessional period of the Parliament.
I have not expressed any view as to what period should be provided in our legislation next year. I have deliberately refrained from criticizing the Attorney-General’s proposal of September. I would think it is an imaginative one which should cover the objections of manufacturers in this country. I do not know their objections to that proposal. Nevertheless, there can be no objection, I submit, to extending the present provision until we come back next year, because we will make a continuing provision within less than the period of six months which is already provided for in the principal act.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 10 omitted.
Sections fifty-two, fifty-three and fifty-four of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “ 52. - (1.) If the Commissioner is satisfied that there is no lawful ground of objection to an application and complete specification, or that the grounds of objection to an application and complete specification have been removed, the Commissioner shall, subject to sub-section (3.) of this section, accept the application and complete specification. “(5.) When acceptance of an application and complete specification has been advertised in the Official Journal, the following documents shall be open to public inspection: -
Amendment (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
Proposed section 52, omit proposed sub-section (5.), insert the following sub-sections: - “ ‘ (4a.) Where-
a period of two years has elapsed since a complete specification was lodged in respect of an application; and
the application and complete specification have not been accepted, the Commissioner shall forthwith publish in the Official Journal a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection. “ ‘ (5.) When-
acceptance of an application and complete specification has been advertised in the Official Journal in pursuance of subsection (4.) of this section; or
a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection has been published in the Official Journal in pursuance of the last preceding subsection, the following documents shall, subject to this Act, be open to public inspection: -
the application as lodged;
if the application as lodged has been amended, that application as so amended;
the provisional specification (if any);
the complete specification as lodged;
if the complete specification as lodged has been amended, that specification as so amended;
the declaration lodged in respect of the application under sub-section (3.) of section thirty-five of this Act; and
in the case of a Convention application, the documents referred to in subsections (3.) and (4.) of section one hundred and forty-three of this Act.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section seventy-eight of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “78. - (1.) Except for the purpose of correcting a clerical error or an obvious mistake, an amendment of a specification under this Part is not allowable (whether before or after acceptance) if the specification as amended would claim matter not in substance disclosed in the specification before amendment. “ (2.) An amendment of a specification under this Part is not allowable after acceptance -
Amendment (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
Omit proposed section seventy-eight, insert the following section: - “ ‘ 78. - (1.) Except for the purpose of correcting a clerical error or an obvious mistake, an amendment of a specification under this Part is not allowable -
after publication of the complete specification - if a claim of the specification as amended would not in substance fall within the scope of the claims of the specification before amendment; and
at any time - if the specification as amended would claim matter not in substance disclosed in the specification as lodged. (2.) An amendment of a specification under this Part is not allowable after acceptance if, by reason of making the amendment, the specification would not comply with the requirements of section forty of this Act.’.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
Mr.WHITLAM(Werriwa) [4.3].-I want to ask the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) about clause 29, which inserts a new section 160. He wrote me that this proposed new section is the one part of the bill which does not fully and faithfully carry out the recommendations of the Patent Law Review Committee, which dealt with this matter in paragraph 39 of its report. When I say it is the one part of the bill which does not carry out the committee’s recommendations, I exclude the provisions concerning the original section 43, which has been repealed, and the amendments just made by this committee concerning the time between lodgment and publication of a complete specification. Leaving out of consideration the time that elapses between lodgment and publication, I believe that this is the only provision on which the committee’s recommendations are not fully and faithfully carried out. I ask the Attorney-General for the reasons for his departure from the committee’s recommendations on this point.
– I am not aware of any divergence from the recommendation of the committee in the provisions in this bill.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 3776).
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to discuss proposed new section 51aa of the principal act and in particular sub-section (11.). This subsection appears to afford some protection to companies which have involved themselves in the raising of finance for specific developmental projects by protecting them from the application in retrospect of this proposed new section of the act. Paragraphs (a), and (b) of the sub-section amount to an assurance that there will not be discrimination against firms which have taken firm action towards the raising of £nance for specific developmental projects; but I feel that there is some degree of cloudiness in the definition on which this provision depends.
It is true, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) says, that this provision will operate for only six months and therefore any firm will be affected to the extent of only 50 per cent, of the funds which it has raised by the issue of notes. If the rate of interest is only 8 per cent., then the tax levied on the company will be only 8 per cent, of 50 per cent, of the value of the notes issued. I think that greater clarity could be given with respect to contractual commitments. Sub-paragraph ti) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (11.) contains the words - the company was hound by agreement to borrow a sum of money specified in the agreement; . . .
Sub-paragraph (ii) is in these terms - the company has borrowed that sum of money or a part of that sum; . . .
If the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied as to these conditions, companies will receive the benefit. But the point is: If arrangements have been made for financial assistance from a bank on a temporary basis, will such arrangements be regarded as an agreement under sub-paragraph (i)? Or must the company have actually borrowed some part of that money against a note issue which may not be made until January or February of next year? Paragraph (b) of sub-section (11.) is in these terms -
As I have said, the money may not have actually been borrowed.
I feel that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) will clarify the position as it is stated in the bill. A firm may have had a meeting of its board, notified its brokers and made all the necessary arrangements. Contracts may have been prepared to give effect to the company’s plans for development, but those contracts may not actually have been signed. The company may actually have committed itself to building contracts or to the purchase of machinery or other equipment needed for the expansion of its business. As the bill stands, such conditions do not appear to be sufficient to enable the company to receive the benefit of subsection (11.) of proposed new section 51aa of the principal act. I should like the Treasurer to give an assurance that in such a situation he would interpret the expansion activities of a firm as indicating that it has in good faith entered into a contractual obligation prior to 15th November last.
If the Treasurer can give the committee an assurance that companies in that position will not be prejudiced, I shall be quite happy with the bill as it is drafted. But I do not think that the Treasurer can in fact give such an assurance. 1 feel that there is some haziness about the retrospective application of the provisions of the bill. It seems to me that in the absence of an assurance by the Treasurer such as I have mentioned companies in the circumstances which I have described will be prejudiced. Therefore, in the absence of an assurance from the Treasurer, I shall have to support the amendment.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I oppose the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I feel that it is designed to protect an already overprotected empire - the secondary banking structure of Australia, which is now described somewhat innocently by the phrase “ fringe institutions “. The fact remains that these fringe institutions are at liberty to exploit the public and embarrass governments at their own sweet will. Furthermore, they have made a major contribution to the process of inflation which has been going on in Australia and which still continues.
The activities of these institutions which have had this effect have been made possible, of course, only because we have a government which will not face up to the responsiblity of overcoming the constitutional difficulties which have permitted these things to happen. That magic section 92 of the Australian Constitution allows exploitation to go on, provided that it is undertaken in an organized fashion and on an interstate basis. At times, we have seen the Treasurer using this constitutional limitation as an excuse for not taking the action necessary to overcome these disabilities. It is obvious that the large financial institutions wish to retain their present privileged position in our financial structure. That would seem to be the reason why the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) are pleading their cause in this place. This bill does not cure the malady, but it does attack some infectious parts of it. It will tend to check the easy technique of our uncontrolled banking structure, and I hope that it will curb exploitation of the public, who are now being charged exorbitant rates of interest. It should also help to prevent any increase in the monopoly control of this type of business by the large companies, many of which are owned by the private banks.
Let me refer now to the matter outlined by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) this morning. I refer to the scheme under which the Trade Union Hire Purchase Co-Operative is working in South Australia. That co-operative is a striking example of what can be done when an organization is dedicated to giving service. It started from a humble beginning, but it has shown already that it is possible to pay interest on borrowed money, to offer financial accommodation at reasonable rates and still carry on. Not only has this organization been able to carry on, but it has been able progressively to reduce the rate of interest charged for financial accom modation made available by it. In three consecutive years the interest was reduced, first to 5 per cent., then to 4 per cent, and finally to 3 per cent, and the shareholders in the co-operative have still received a profit on their investment. It is limited only by the finance available to it. If adequate finance were available, it could extend its service to a tremendous number of potential customers.
I submit that this co-operative is an example of what could be achieved by the hire-purchase section of the Commonwealth Bank structure. Some weeks ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) praised the South Australian venture in this chamber. After he had spoken, 1 asked whether he would support a move to make funds available through the Commonwealth Bank for the establishment of a hire-purchase co-operative. 1- asked him to re-consider the re-opening of the hire-purchase section of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to offering to the people of Australia a service similar to that provided in South Australia by the trade union co-operative there. He promised to consider the matter, but finally answered in the negative. Again to-day the Treasurer spoke in commendation of the South Australian co-operative, but that was just another instance of the lip-service to which we have become accustomed.
The hire-purchase business of Australia has now reached the staggering sum of over £400,000,000. I should say that most of that money has been lent out at a flat rate of interest of from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent. It would be even more if certain other charges were taken into consideration. If the Commonwealth Bank were operating in the hire-purchase field there is no doubt that it would handle the vast bulk of the business, possibly at half the rate of interest charged by the private companies. But we cannot expect it to do that until we have in office a government which is sympathetic towards the people, and favorable towards such a proposal. This Government has no appreciation of the desirability, indeed the necessity, of such a step. Hire purchase has become a major factor in our economy, and it has been allowed to develop in its own way under predetermined conditions without any control at all. Tt is not even subject to the slight control being exercised over our orthodox banking structure.
The Government’s refusal to make hirepurchase facilities available to the people through the Commonwealth Bank is understandable, especially when we remember that, in March, 1959, we were given a demonstration of the Government’s attitude towards granting banking benefits to the people. We all remember the banking legislation of that year, and I register my protest against not making hire-purchase facilities available through the Commonwealth Bank now. The present bill is some step forward, but it is not adequate to achieve the purpose that we would all desire. I appeal to the Government to reconsider the re-opening of the hire-purchase section of the Commonwealth Bank, for I am confident that it would play a tremendous part in offering hire-purchase facilities to the people at reasonable rates of interest. I support the bill so far as it goes, and express the sincere hope that in the not too distant future the Government will do something more in the interests of the people.
.- In supporting this measure I feel it necessary to refer to the charges levelled by some members of the Opposition against the pastoral finance companies. I was very surprised to hear the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) make charges against those companies. There is no doubt that the pastoral finance companies have played an important part in the development of Australia, especially in the pastoral areas. I do not think there is a general appreciation of how well the companies have operated. It is well known that livestock are looked upon as poor security. Yet, many a man in Queensland who has contemplated entering the grazing industry has been enabled to buy livestock with the aid of finance provided by these companies at the rate of £1 for every £1 contributed by the borrower. This has meant that, instead of entering the industry with 500 head, the client has been able to begin operations with 1,000 head. That has been of tremendous advantage throughout Australia to those people whose finance was limited.
It is only fair that the companies should be entitled to charge reasonable rates of interest for the money that they have provided, and which they will provide in future. I think the honorable member for Lalor would be the first to admit that it is better for a man to be able to finance the purchase of his cattle on the basis of £1 from the company for every £1 provided by himself than to have to seek accommodation from the hire-purchase companies on much more difficult terms.
There is very little money that can be obtained under hire-purchase agreements for less than 6 per cent. flat. Honorable members of the Opposition who rail against pastoral finance companies will find that an interest rate of 6 per cent, flat is the equivalent of more than 11 per cent, per annum on a monthly reduction basis. The pastoral finance companies, up to date, have charged in the vicinity of 6 per cent, and if they now propose to charge 6i per cent, that is still a reasonable rate of interest. Let me point out, also, to members of the Opposition who have said how good it is to get finance from the Commonwealth Development Bank that if that bank charges 4 per cent, flat for hire-purchase finance, which is regarded as reasonable by many people, that rate is greater than the 6J- per cent, which the honorable member for Lalor says that pastoral finance houses will charge because the 6) per cent, is not a flat rate.
– The rate of 61 per cent, is not a hire-purchase rate.
– It is not a flat rate. I am pointing out that if you pay 4 per cent, flat for hire-purchase finance you are, in effect, paying more than the 6) per cent, to be charged by the pastoral finance companies on a monthly reduction basis. So, their interest charges are reasonable. But it is not only a matter of the interest charged. It is a matter of being able fo get finance to develop a property. There is many a grazier in Australia who can thank the pastoral finance companies for helping him along the road. I think that even some honorable members of this chamber will be glad to acknowledge that they have been helped in this way although, of course, they have paid interest. So I think it is a mistake for honorable members, however wellintentioned they may be, to criticize the activities of pastoral finance companies.
Those companies have served a useful purpose in the past and they will continue to serve a useful purpose in the future.
There is a further point to which I would like to refer: At a time when it is customary for everybody in the country to criticize the Commonwealth Government, we should place the responsibility for control of hirepurchase finance where it belongs. In spite of the fact that the State governments have the power to take steps that would help to curb any hire-purchase excesses, they have not done so. The States of the Commonwealth have the power to meet together to decide, for example, what minimum interest rates should be. They have not done so and now everybody is trying to blame the Commonwealth for taking other steps to correct an unfortunate situation. The Government, in spite of its difficulties and in spite of the fact that the States have not taken the steps that they could have taken, has introduced a measure which should meet with the approbation of this committee.
.- The definition of “ interest “ in the bill reads - interest ‘ means interest, or a payment in the nature of interest in respect of -
I should like to know who will determine questions that may arise in relation to paragraph (c). I assume that when there is a doubt on such a matter it will be determined by the Commissioner of Taxation. But I believe that the Commissioner of Taxation, for his sins, will have to decide quite a number of matters which will be placed before him and that there may be many arbitrary decisions. There is a case in point when we accept the proposition that the bill is aimed at speculators, land developers and others engaged in speculative practices. But it may happen that a builder, a developer, or a land speculator may lack collateral security and be unable to finance a venture which he has in mind or in hand. He may secure finance by a financier lodging collateral security with a third party. He may draw his finance from a cement company, a seller of builders’ supplies, or a timber supplier on the understanding that if the financier guarantees his account he will pay the guarantor a fee for his services.
Another possibility is that a local council may require a bond from a land developer to guarantee that roads will be put into a subdivision and that local government requirements will be carried out. Again, the developer may secure a guarantee for which he will have to pay a fee. It does not appear to be clear, in a case of this nature, whether the fee paid to the guarantor would come under the definition “ any other form of debt or liability,”. I presume that such a matter would be determined by the Commissioner of Taxation.
During my speech in the second-reading debate last night, I referred to the Commissioner of Taxation having to be satisfied on various matters. As I have said, I imagine that a number of applications Wa be made to the Commisisoner to determine matters such as this and the Commissioner will have to be satisfied as to the circumstances of each case. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for an assurance that there will be a right of appeal in these matters and that that right of appeal is covered by the substantive act which this bill seeks to amend.
.- The case presented by the Australian Country Party in this debate has been very weak. The only member of that party who has spoken is the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt).
– We could have arranged for more speakers if we had wanted to drag out the proceedings.
– This is a very important question and it should be well debated, particularly by the Country Party. Clearly the Liberal Party is not united on this measure. There is a great division in its framework. I wish to remind the Country Party of its responsibilities. On 1st December the new member for Calare (Mr. England), at question time, asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the following question -
I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that, in the town of Grenfell and, indeed in all towns west of Bathurst where all industry is engaged in export pursuits, the Industrial Acceptance Corporation has withdrawn agents’ finance and retail finance for the purchase of farm machinery, tractors and motor vehicles, and that since then it has not been possible to arrange hire-purchase finance with any of the well-known hire-purchase companies in those areas.
During the debate on the measure establishing the Commonwealth Banking Corporation it was stated that the Development Bank would make sufficient money available on hire purchase for the purchase of goods necessary for development in country areas. The Government has not faced up to this problem. The Country Party has been trying to paddle its own canoe. The first field of activity from which the hire-purchase companies have withdrawn is that which is most essential to the development of this country. Those companies are diverting their finance to more profitable channels such as land speculation - interests which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) seems to be so concerned to protect. At question time to-day I drew the attention of the Treasurer to the subject of farm investment.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill. I must ask him to relate his remarks to the amendment before the committee.
– I direct attention to the statistics of the Treasurer’s own department on finance and profits.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! As I have ruled previously, the honorable member is referring to a matter that should properly be referred to in the debate on the second reading and not at the committee stage.
– Under this bill, we are dealing with financial institutions. If you will give me an opportunity-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Reid be further heard.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I rise to speak on this clause only because the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) said that the Australian Country Party was not taking part in the debate. The members of the Country Party in this House agree entirely with the principles behind this legislation. We believe that the bill is a sound way to implement those principles. We also realize that this is an interim measure. There is no purpose in our speaking on something of which we approve. I should like to say to the Leader of the House, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), that the measure will go through only slowly while the Opposition can take advantage of the fact that the proceedings are being broadcast. One honorable member after another on the Opposition side has risen simply to make use of the broadcast. We had a similar experience last Tuesday when one Opposition member after another rose to say the same things simply because our proceedings were being broadcast. They spoke on a measure which presents no problem at all.
– I rise to order. I am one of the members of the Opposition to whom the honorable member for Hume has referred, and I object most strongly to his remarks. I never take advantage of the fact that our proceedings are broadcast.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I want to reply to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who asked whether there would be any right of appeal. T can assure him that if a company objected to a decision of the commissioner it could go before a taxation board of review.
.- I listened to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) offer some criticism of what was said this morning about the financing of primary producers by pastoral companies. It is quite true that pastoral companies make finance available to primary producers, particularly in regard to the purchase of live-stock on bill, and the interest rate as a rule has some relation to the interest rate which the pastoral companies in many cases pay the banks for their accommodation - and in many instances the banks are part and parcel of the pastoral companies, through interconnected shareholdings.
It is true, as the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said, that pastoral companies often provide finance for all sorts of equipment required on farms. I have not the slightest doubt that if a farmer required a refrigerator or some such amenity for his home, quite a number of the pastoral companies would supply it through their merchandising house and that the farmer, if he was financially strong enough and was prepared to continue to finance his live-stock operations through the pastoral company, would get the benefit of the lower interest rate applying to farm equipment. One member of the Australian Country Party has waved his hand at me as if this had something to do with having a drink. Perhaps he meant to convey by his gesture that such business could be more satisfactorily arranged over a drink. But if a man was not a good financial risk, I have not the slightest doubt that some pastoral companies would refer him to a hirepurchase organization, which would require him to pay an interest rate equivalent to the interest rate normally charged by all other financial institutions engaged in hire purchase to-day.
Perhaps the best illustration of that fact is the case mentioned recently by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England), who said that because of the Government’s credit control policy a corporation known as the Industrial Acceptance Corporation, I think, had vacated the field of financing the purchase of farm machinery in his electorate. The plain fact is that apparently in that area anyhow - and it is a prosperous area - if the honorable member for Calare is correct the pastoral companies were not extensively engaged in financing the purchase of farm machinery. A lot of them keep shy of it. So this Industrial Acceptance Corporation has been operating there, and of course its hire-purchase rates would have some relation to the 4t per cent, flat rate which the Commonwealth Bank charges on hire purchase of machinery. In all probability, if a farmer in that area who normally did his stock financing through a pastoral company asked a pastoral company for £400 or £600 towards the purchase of a tractor the company would agree, because it might be financing him in relation to the purchase of 2,000 sheep or so. But when it came to the purchase of a new hay-baler or harvester the pastoral company might tell the farmer that he had better go to the Industrial Acceptance Corporation or the Commonwealth Bank - which I believe provides hire-purchase finance for farm machinery at a flat interest rate of 4± per cent. Tt is quite obvious that if what the honorable member for Calare said is correct there is no doubt that the pastoral companies are not themselves engaging very much in financing the purchase of farm machinery.
– Is that why you want to cut them out of the benefit under this bill?
– No. On the other hand, the honorable member for Wide Bay is not going to tell me that organizations like these are the same as other organizations. As a matter of fact, the primary producers would be better served by the Commonwealth Bank. However, there is a lot of talk about the financial provision made by the Development Bank, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be by this Government, or there would not be any room for financing by pastoral companies or this Industrial Acceptance Corporation.
.- After listening to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) I want to make one or two remarks about pastoral companies, on which the honorable member has spoken at length on several occasions during this debate. I should like to say. first, that when it comes to a comparison of the pastoral companies with, say, the Commonwealth Bank, credit is due to the pastoral companies for giving service to the primary producers. They have staffs of experts who will help in the selection of stud rams or stud bulls, or in regard to anything designed to improve the stock. On occasions they will send men out to help to draft and cull sheep, and they give a wonderful service.
The honorable member for Lalor spoke about pastoral companies supplying refrigerators to primary producers. That is only one side of the activities of pastoral companies. The real test of the whole thing is whether the pastoral companies could continue to exist if they did not give service to the primary producers.
– Of course, they could not.
– As the honorable member says, of course, they could not. The simple fact is that if people who are engaged in pastoral pursuits want to deal with the Commonwealth Bank they are at liberty to do so. If they want pastoral companies to finance them and give them service they are equally at liberty to deal with them. The pastoral companies are in big business to-day because through the years they have given service to the primary producers. The honorable member for Lalor shows by his comments that he is miles behind the times. He spoke of promissory notes.
– I did not mention promissory notes.
– Of course, you did.
– I did not.
– Well, what were the words you used?
– Why did you not listen properly? I did not mention promissory notes.
– The honorable member spoke of promissory notes.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member said that stock was purchased on promissory notes. The “ Hansard “ report will show whether or not he said that, and as far as I know he did. I am making the point that promissory notes were much in evidence in the buying of stock about 30 years ago. Usually to-day, when stock is bought it is on the books of the pastoral company or an auctioneering firm, which is ever so much better, because otherwise when the amount became due in three or four months at an inconvenient time the farmer might have trouble in meeting it. If it is on the book he can pay it off after he has completed his shearing or at some other appropriate time.
Why has the honorable member for Lalor chosen to attack the pastoral companies? I can see no reason for it except the desire of the Labour Party to bring in socialism. Any party that has a policy which provides for the socialization or nationalization of industry, production, distribution and exchange would have to stress the points that have been stressed by the honorable member for Lalor. Any one who believes in free enterprise - the free enterprise that has built this nation and on which we depend for our future stability and peaceful occupancy of this great country-
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. A few minutes ago you considered it necessary to call me to order because I was straying from the bill. The honorable member for Mallee has not spoken about the bill for the last five minutes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Mallee is in order. He has covered the relevant points that were raised by other speakers in the debate.
– I have not very much more to say. I have pointed out the difference between socialization or nationalization and private enterprise. When 1 was so rudely interrupted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) I was stating that any one who believes in the freedom of private enterprise will say that if pastoralists desire to do business with the Commonwealth Bank, they may; if they desire to do business with the pastoral companies, they may. That is why we put up such a strong fight in this chamber against the proposal to nationalize the banks. We believe that the people should have freedom of choice. Ever since I have been in this place the Country Party and the Liberal Party have always stated clearly that the people should be given a choice. Let them decide and, in deciding, they will pick the organization that serves them best.
– In a debate such as this one feels impelled to say that the Government should do more than it is doing to obtain the constitutional power to deal directly with the problem of interest rates paid and received by hire-purchase companies. The Commonwealth’s power has never been tested. We have only assumed that we do not have it. The Government should assume that it has the constitutional power, pass a law and let it be clearly understood by the hire-purchase companies that if they challenge the law the Government will then be forced to adopt the only other means that I know of to deal with the problem, that is, to prevent them from deducting, for income tax purposes, any of the money that they pay in interest. Instead of drawing a line at 15th November and telling these companies that from that date interest payments will not be deductible the Government should make it clear to them that if the law is declared invalid by the High Court the Government will not hesitate to treat all interest payments in the same way as it is now treating interest payments on moneys borrowed after 15th November.
A law, if passed by the Parliament, is a valid law until it is challenged. Only the hire-purchase companies are likely to challenge it. Let it be made plain to them that if they do so the Government will use the full power of Parliament to deal with them, just as it is now half-heartedly using the power of Parliament to deal with moneys borrowed after 15th November. In addition, we should tell the hire-purchase and finance companies generally that if they continue to charge excessive interest rates on money that they lend, and to offer excessive interest rates on money that they borrow, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation not only will enter the hirepurchase field actively in competition with them but also will lend money to approved co-operative hire-purchase companies to enable them to compete with the existing private organizations.
I conclude -I suppose to the relief of the Treasurer - by saying that the Government on this occasion has the full support of the Opposition. We repeat that the Government should have taken this action much earlier than it has; that the action should be much severer than it is and that the Government should not have granted the exemptions that it has granted. The private banks certainly should not have been exempted from the provisions of the bill. I hope that the Government, at the expiration of the time during which this bill will operate, far from considering allowing the measure to lapse, will re-impose it with greater severity.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.-I shall confine my very brief remarks to the provisions of the bill, and then I shall have finished for the season. The bill not only throws into doubt the payment of interest as provided in the measure but also will, I fear, compromise wider fields of interest and dividend payments. It surely will create repercussions in many directions, and 1 hope that the ensuing bother will inspire a move for a full review of all taxation laws.
There is a complacency among Government supporters. Because this is only a temporary measure the attitude is, “Why worry, it will be all over and done with by the end of June next?”. The danger with temporary measures is not only that they tend to become permanent but also that if they are superseded, their pattern becomes the standard for other and more stringent enactments. That is the line of action that has been proposed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). They want selective control, but no one knows what selective control means. It is just as indefinable as the Opposition’s other catch-cry “ democratic socialism “.
I trust that the bill will have the effect that the Government hopes for, but I foresee that it will touch off a series of problems and a spate of applications to the Commissioner of Taxation, the decisions upon which will not be given until long after this bill expires in June next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment):
This Agreement made and entered into this day of , 19 , by and between the Commonwealth of Australia (hereinafter called “ Commonwealth “), Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, Washington (hereinafter called “Boeing”) and Export-Import Bank of Washington (hereinafter called “ Eximbank “), an agency of the United States of America.
Whereas, in addition to the predelivery payments of Four Million Two Hundred Six Thousand Six
Hundred Thirty-Five Dollars and Twenty Cents ($4,206,635.20) to be made with respect to the Boeing model 707-138B aircraft and not to be financed hereunder, Qantas has agreed to make other cash payments with respect to the contract price of the program; and
Senate’s amendment -
In the tenth paragraph of the preamble, after “ with respect to the “, first appearing, insert “ ‘ retrofit kits ‘ and the three (3) additional “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
I can assure honorable members that this will not involve any major constitutional issue. Rather curiously, it derives from an error in cable transmission which is now being corrected. I am assured that the need for this minor amendment to the text of one of the preambles to the loan agreement arose because through an undetectable and freak cable transmission last week-end the six words now to be added were not received in Canberra although they were relayed from Washington. The omission was not discovered until the bill had been passed by this House, and the necessary amendment was consequently made in another place. The words added merely make clearer that the 4,200,000 dollars referred to in the preamble is the sum of the predelivery payments to which the two preceding preambles make reference. They conform the words to the preamble as drafted by the Export-Import Bank.
.- The Minister has suddenly thrust this amendment upon us. It is relatively clear, but it makes some reference to “ retrofit kits “ and I would like to know what is a retrofit kit.
– My colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), is in another place and I will have to get the information from him or from that amateur airman, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley). I will see whether he can supply the honorable member with the information he requires during the dinner interval.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Statement taken as a whole.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to House: -
That the committee agrees with the statement for the year 1959-60 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1960.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
JUDICIARY BILL (No. 2) 1960. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 3658), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As this bill and its related bill, the Judges’ Remuneration Bill, are limited in title and subject, I direct the attention of the House to the limited nature of the debate which is allowable. Standing Order No. 82 states that no member shall digress from the subject-matter on any question under discussion. The Chair has always permitted the debate on a second reading to cover a reasonable reference to matters relevant to the bill as, for instance, the necessity for the proposals in the bill or the advancing of arguments supporting alternatives to ils provisions or opposed to its progress; but discussion on these related matters cannot be allowed to supersede debate on the subject-matter of the bill. As honorable members will see, the subject-matter is restricted, as stated in the title of this bill, to the matter of the remuneration of justices of the High Court, and as stated in the title of the following bill, to the matter of the- remuneration of judges of certain other courts and of presidential members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I therefore ask honorable members to keep their remarks relevant to these matters.
.- 1 compliment you, Sir, on the judicial utterances which have just fallen from your lips. If you or the holders of your position were remunerated as are persons who conduct themselves with similar eloquence and decorum under the bill which I am about to discuss, you would be vastly better looked after than you are.
This bill provides the highest emoluments provided by any statute of any Australian parliament. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) justified the bill on the basis that it is necessary to preserve a proper margin between the salaries of High Court judges and those of Supreme Court judges of New South Wales and Victoria. The salaries of High Court judges were last determined in 1955. In the intervening period the salaries of Chief Justices and puisne judges of the Supreme Courts of Victoria and New South Wales have been increased on three occasions. Now we find that all judges in Victoria and New South Wales receive higher salaries, in effect, than do the puisne justices of the High Court; and that the Chief Justices of Victoria and New South Wales receive only £200 or £300 less in salary than does the Chief Justice of Australia.
– Are you opposing the bill?
– In logic, there are no arguments against the bill taken in isolation; but we are opposing it for three reasons. The first is that this bill was brought in at 2.30 a.m. yesterday. That is legislating by exhaustion and by stealth.
– Notice of it was given a long time ago.
– Not to the Parliament. I believe a statement was made outside the Parliament some time before.
– Notice was given in the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– If it was, I had forgotten it.
– Order! It would be a good idea to let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proceed with his speech.
– No notice whatever was given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), to myself as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or to the Opposition
Whip, in the way that notice is always given, on the blue paper which they are handed in respect of each day’s proceedings. Nobody in the Parliament knew - the Government Whips themselves did not know, and the legislative officers advising the Government did not know - that this matter would be introduced yesterday morning or during the course of the day, in the proceedings in which we were still engaged yesterday morning.
The second reason why we are opposing the bill is that the only reason for the increase proposed is to preserve the margin above the two Supreme Courts of New South Wales and Victoria. Those are the substantial reasons given.
– You said “ the only reason”.
– They are the substantial ones. They are the reasons which the Attorney-General developed in his second-reading speech. It is rather belated to come to the Parliament and ask us to correct that margin when in the intervening five years the Government has done nothing to co-ordinate judicial salaries in Australia. We realize that the comparative status of the States is always in the mind of State governments. It is a matter of pride to the various States to see that their judges are remunerated as well as the judges of the other States, and we are dragged along at their coach wheels. We find now that High Court judges, to whom appeals lie from decisions of the Chief Justices and other judges in the States, are receiving less than the puisne judges in Victoria and New South Wales. The Chief Justice of the High Court is receiving very little more than the amount received by the Chief Justice of a State from whose decisions he hears appeals.
The third reason why we are opposing the legislation is that this seems a singularly inapt time in which to bring it forward. Why is this legislation brought down at the end of a session? One would have thought that in a year when the Government has been giving reasons for opposing increases in salaries and wages determined by Commonwealth arbitration tribunals, and in a year, moreover, when it made only very small increases in the incomes of social service beneficiaries, for whose incomes it is principally responsible, the Government would have held its hand on this matter. If there is criticism of the scale of these increases, as there undoubtedly will be, not only in this Parliament but also outside it, then the Government has only itself to blame.
This Parliament directly determines the incomes of hundreds of thousands of social service beneficiaries. By intervening before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, as it did earlier this year, the Commonwealth Government substantially determines the margins and the standards of living of at least half the people in Australia receiving wages and salaries. This Parliament also, of course, determines the incomes of its own public servants, numbering tens of thousands, and of certain persons holding statutory offices, and of judges and members of the Parliament. If we were to arrange for a regular review of all these incomes, so that they would be dealt with all at the one time, a good deal of the ground for criticism of such measures as this would be removed. But it is inevitable that there will be criticism of legislation which is brought in at such an unusual hour of the morning, in such a surreptitious manner and in such clandestine circumstances.
– It is not being discussed in clandestine circumstances in the secondreading debate.
– That is true. The debate is now perfectly open and every honorable member on the Government side will have the opportunity to give reasons why there should be such large marginal increases for the persons covered by this bill in these circumstances and at this time and no increases at all in the incomes of other persons.
Another reason why the Government must expect criticism is that it picks out, in two specific bills, two classes of the community for the salaries of members of which it is responsible. There is no question that there should be proper remuneration for our judges. Judges in general, and certainly the judges of the High Court, would have expected to receive - and, in fact, nearly all of them did receive - when they were at the height of their powers in private practice incomes very much greater than this Parliament is providing in this bill.
There should also be no dispute that judges should be able to maintain themselves in a position of independence and dignity - I do not mean of ostentation or majesty, and I do not think any of them live in such conditions. They should be given a sense of independence and dignity while carrying on their jobs and after they retire from them. It is our task as parliamentarians to see that they are given the wherewithal to maintain themselves in such a fashion. As I have said, there can be no question that the persons who occupy these judicial posts would have enjoyed, at the height of their powers, very much greater incomes than they will receive under this bill.
– On points the bill is winning.
– In logic one cannot oppose this bill if one takes it in isolation. But what we ought to do is to co-ordinate judicial salaries throughout Australia. Who is to do that? Quite clearly it is the Commonwealth Government, and that Government has not done so. The position has got out of hand because of the Government’s inaction over the last five years. One can go into the details of the way in which it has got out of hand much more clearly in dealing with the next bill, which has to do with the remuneration of judges of Supreme Court status. At the moment, however, we are dealing purely with the remuneration of High Court judges, whose principal work is the hearing of appeals from decisions of the Supreme Courts of the States. The basis of the legislation is to restore the margin between salaries of the High Court judges and the judges from whose decisions appeals lie.
It is not inappropriate to recall that there has been, over the period during which the High Court has been in existence, a contraction, and a very proper contraction, in the extremes of income in Australia. While the salaries of High Court judges in 1903, when the court was set up, appear to us at this time to have been quite small, they showed a proportionately much greater margin over the salaries of average persons than do the salaries of High Court judges to-day. But that applies in the cases of most persons who receive statutory emoluments. There have been some compensations for the judges in the meantime. They now receive pensions which they did not receive in earlier times, and they are non-contributory pensions. They receive travelling allowances, whereas, I believe, they did not receive them initially. They now receive transport allowances, the use of Commonwealth cars and so on, which they did not receive when the court was first set up. But these advantages would make little real impact on the differential, which has been gradually and properly diminishing between the top statutory office holders in Australia and persons whose wages are determined at more frequent intervals by industrial tribunals.
We are registering an objection to this bill at this time because we think that the Government should take steps to coordinate judicial salaries in Australia. It is true that while the difference between the salaries of judges of the Supreme Courts of Victoria and New South Wales, on the one hand, and of the High Court on the other, is now quite small - far too small in fact - that is the fault of the State governments concerned. But in many of the other courts the differential is still quite large. In the figures that I am about to quote of judges’ salaries, I shall state what salaries the various State judges would have to receive in order to obtain the amounts that they receive now by way of salary and tax-free allowances. This is a proper basis for comparison, because the tax-free allowances that are made to judges in Victoria and New South Wales - and in those States alone - are meant to cover expenses which, in fact, Commonwealth judges and judges of other States have to meet out of their salaries alone, lt is not to be thought that the Supreme Court judges of Victoria and New South Wales would be liable to incur greater expenditure on robes or books than their counterparts in other States, still less than the Commonwealth judges. On that basis, the Chief Justice of Victoria receives an effective salary of £7,938 and the Chief Justice of New South Wales receives £7,732. The Chief Justices of the other States receive the following amounts: -
The puisne judges receive the following amounts: -
The Chief Justice of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea receives £4,000.
It will be seen that there is now an inadequate margin between the Supreme Courts of Victoria and New South Wales and1 the High Court. But the margin between the High Court and the other Supreme Courts, both State and territorial, is still a large, adequate and indeed a handsome one. We are opposing this bill to make it plain that we feel that the Commonwealth, which alone can do this should co-ordinate the salaries in a better way. The Supreme Courts of the States and the Territories all perform functions of exactly the same nature. It is true that professional incomes very largely vary between the States, but that should not be the basis of differentiation between judges who actually carry out similar work. The Commonwealth should1 co-ordinate the salaries. If the Commonwealth had done so at any time in the past five years since Commonwealth judicial salaries were last altered, this disproportion would not have now occurred.
– May I ask how this coordination would be achieved?
– Like any other form of co-ordination, at the Premiers’ Conference or by correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premiers. That is the way that all other legislation is coordinated. Judicial salaries are the subject of legislation, and it is quite obvious that we should have taken steps to co-ordinate them during the last five years. The Attorney-General implicitly hopes that by placing the federal salaries comfortably above the Supreme Court salaries in Victoria and New South Wales, he will now bring about some fixation or moratorium or freeze in those salaries. But there is no guarantee that the two large States will not start the race once again. Unless some procedure is announced, we certainly cannot support this legislation.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has given three reasons for opposing this legislation. Two of them, the first and third as he enumerated them, are quite empty reasons. He said, first, that the Opposition decided to oppose this legislation merely because it was brought into the House at 2.30 this morning, but it is common knowledge that the Opposition decided in its caucus room yesterday to oppose the bill. I am sure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would not deny that the Opposition was well aware of the circumstances of the bill and of the money sums proposed to be included in it. The mere fact that it was brought in this morning is not a valid reason for opposing it. It is a completely empty reason. The bill must be looked at as a piece of legislation, and a decision as to whether to oppose it should be based on what the bill intends to do. If the bill is offensive, it may be opposed, but if it is not offensive it ought not to be opposed merely because of the hour or the day on which it was introduced into the House.
The other reason, the third in order of his presentation, was that this is a singularly inapt time to bring in legislation of this nature. He said that the Government has opposed other wage increases. He mentioned Public Service margins and said that therefore the bill should not be passed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seeking to divert from a real consideration of the bill. The reasons for the Commonwealth Government’s intervention in the margins case in respect of public servants are well known. The decision of the commission is well known. I am sure that even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has read it. The judgment, I thought, was a very well reasoned judgment. The suggestion that the factors that were true in relation to Public Service margins are equally true in relation to judges completely overlooks the fact that the judges have had no salary increases since 1955, whilst members of the Public Service have enjoyed a series of increases. Indeed, it is true to say that since 1955 there have been, in the
Commonwealth Public Service, two margins increases and four basic wage increases. To attempt to equate these two situations is illogical and does not do the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the service that his intelligence would otherwise demand.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that the only reason these increases are brought in is to preserve the margin above the New South Wales and Victorian judges. This is not a reason to oppose the bill; it is the very reason why the bill should be supported. I feel like seeking leave to have incorporated in my speech all that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in relation to this point, because he gave reason after reason why the bill should be approved. It is true that the puisne judges of the State Supreme Courts have reached a level of salary which has built up since 1955 until it is now. I think, £6,500 in New South Wales and Victoria. That is the rate of salary for the puisne judges of the High Court.
That these two judges, exercising such incredibly different levels of judicial responsibility, should receive the same salary rate completely overlooks the difference between their judicial responsibilities. The High Court of Australia is the supreme court of the Commonwealth. It was created by the Constitution as the third arm of the triumvirate of government - the High Court, the Executive and the Legislature. It is the highest court in the land, and it attracts to it the best judicial brains in Australia. Indeed, the High Court of Australia, with its present composition, is honoured and recognized as the best court that the Commonwealth has ever had. It stands comparison with the Supreme Courts of all other countries. So this bill to increase the salaries of the High Court judges, for this reason, should be approved.
It must be said that it is most desirable that the salaries of the High Court judges should be at a higher level than the salaries of judges of the State Supreme Courts. The judges of the State Supreme Courts themselves would, I am sure, be the very first to agree with that proposition. The judges of the Supreme Courts are bound by the decisions of the High Court and constantly apply the principles enunciated in decisions of the High Court. For all these reasons, together with the long history and tradition of the court, the bill should be approved.
The only other point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made was that the judges’ salaries should be co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Government. That is an extraordinary proposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition well knows that the Commonwealth can do nothing about the salaries of State judges. He knows that the area of judges’ salaries is one of the closest preserves of every State government, and no State government could claim to exercise any sovereignty at all if it permitted some other government to fix the salaries of its judges. Indeed, it would be most inappropriate to ask the State governments to join in a conference at which the salaries of State judges are to be fixed. A variety of different matters are taken into account by the State governments in fixing those salaries, and it is quite erroneous to suggest that the Commonwealth can coordinate the salaries of State judges or should attempt to do so.
It is true, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the salaries of State judges have been advanced regularly - I think perhaps eight times since 1955 - whereas the salaries of judges of the High Court of Australia have remained static. There has been a game of leapfrog as between Victoria and New South Wales. The Victorians, as a matter of pride, do not want the salaries of New South Wales judges to be significantly higher than those of the Victorian judges. Therefore, there has been a kind of levelling-up process. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition fails to realize is that the salaries of judges of the High Court were in no way involved in this game of leapfrog, because the salaries of High Court judges have remained stable at the level at which they were fixed in 1955. The level of the salaries of judges of the High Court should not be in any way brought into this game of leapfrog. For that reason, I wholeheartedly agree with the Government’s decision to raise the salaries of High Court judges to a level at which they cannot be involved in any game of leapfrog.
This bill will substantially increase the salaries of High Court judges, but not I believe, to anything ‘ike an excessively high level. My reservations, if I have any, are only as to whether or not the increases proposed are sufficient. The exercise of the Government’s judgment has been brought to bear on that point, and I accept the salaries provided for in the bill. I believe it is proper that the salaries of judges of the High Court be raised to a level at which there can be no possibility of charges that judges of the State Supreme Courts will encourage the State governments to raise their salaries merely because of the difference between those salaries and the salaries of High Court judges.
I think it can be said quite properly that High Court judges are called upon to exercise functions of all kinds. Unfortunately, the Opposition in this House is always too ready to criticize the judges. The Opposition is always ready to detract from the nation’s judicial officers - the very judicial officers to whom it so readily runs when it wishes to establish or protect its rights. One of the honorable members who these days sits on the Opposition front bench resorted to the judiciary in order to establish his rights against what he called the oppressive rules of an organization to which he belonged, and his action was determined by three judges sitting together. We on this side of the House cannot express our deprecation of the Opposition’s attitude more strongly than by asking it to exercise some judgment in these matters and not to allow itself to be carried away by a caucus room platitude which is inspired only by jealousy on the one hand or by complete ignorance on the other.
I wish to make one final point about the new salaries for judges of the High Court, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The High Court is the supreme judicial body of the Commonwealth. Quite frequently, it could be adorned by a man already serving on the bench of a State Supreme Court.
– Even the honorable member might get to the High Court bench.
– That is a possibility. We should not put aside these remote possibilities. The salaries of High Court judges must be sufficiently high to attract to the court men of the highest standing on the State Supreme Court benches in order that those who have the capacity and the quali ties of judicial knowledge and character which fit them to serve on the High Court will not be reluctant to accept appointment to the court because the salary differential is small and because judges of that court have so much travelling to do. For this reason - and this I put only as a reinforcing reason - the differential between the salaries of judges of the State Supreme Courts and those of High Court judges ought to be at least as great as is envisaged in this bill. I fully support it.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the second-reading speech made by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was amazing and fantastic, for he said things which I believe are not sustained by the ordinary people of Australia. This bill will raise the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from £8,000 to £10,000 a year and the salaries of puisne justices from £6,500 to £8,500 a year. It is quite apparent that in the last few years salaries at the top levels have got completely out of hand. No one can convince me that an income of £10,000 a year is necessary for the maintenance of the standards expected of a judge of the High Court or that a salary of £8,500 a year is needed by a puisne justice in order to maintain the standards expected of him.
In his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral said -
The problem of setting appropriate salaries for the judiciary is never easily resolved. Many factors must be weighed, such as the need to attract the most able men when still at the height of their careers in the legal profession, the need to secure to the Bench financial independence and freedom from pecuniary anxiety, the need to reflect the prestige of the court and a sense of justice in the remuneration for the work required to be done.
Surely a salary of £10,000 a year is more than any person would require in order to free him from pecuniary anxiety. The men who are appointed to the High Court can in no way be regarded as high-livers. They have not indulged in wine, women and song, and they are men who generally would be regarded as persons of dignity. When they are appointed to the High Court, not only do they receive a salary much higher than is the income of most people, but also they are accorded the prestige and honour of the positions to which they are appointed.
After reading the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech, 1 can only draw the conclusion that the Government considers that we must buy the honesty of our judges - that we must see that their salaries are kept at a level which will prevent them from doing anything dishonest. If we have to raise the salaries of the judges in order to ensure that the Bench remains independent and the courts above reproach, we are apparently appointing to these positions the wrong men. Our judges should be prepared to be honest and above reproach because of the dignity and prestige which they are accorded. They are not expected to work for a mere pittance. Even on their present salaries, all of them would show a remarkable profit. Generally, the family responsibilities of judges are behind them and their homes are well and truly paid for. Indeed, most of them probably have a country home as well as a city residence. Judges are not people who indulge in motor racing or any other activity that might cost them a great deal of money. They are men of dignity and standing in the community. They are balanced in their ideas and moderate in their habits. They are men of substance in the community. It should not be necessary to buy any of the high officers of our courts or the Commonwealth Public Service, or even, for that matter, important men in industry itself.
Until the people who run Australia, whether they be administrators in the Commonwealth Public Service, administrators in Parliament, judges or industrialists, get to the stage where they say, “ I do not wish to die a millionaire, I have no intention of amassing an amount of money that I cannot possibly use “, many of the economic problems confronting us now will continue to confront us. Judges are men of dignity and prestige. They do not require such a large amount of money to make them free from pecuniary anxiety. Irrespective of whether they make a great deal of profit out of their present salaries, the point is that they should be able to live very highly and very well on their present remuneration. It is significant that at a time when this Parliament is prepared to recommend salary increases of £2,000 to the Chief Justice and the puisne justices it is not prepared to recommend substantial increases in pensions, or in child endow ment, or to introduce a free medical benefits scheme so that those who now have nothing may enjoy the things they need in life. I admit that judges have a right to live at a certain standard, but so has every other person. I have no desire to pull down the standard of the justices of the High Court, but on the other hand I have a strong desire to lift up the man on the bottom rung of the ladder. Until such time as the whole of the community realizes that it is not necessary for one to amass a fortune during one’s lifetime, that it is not necessary to be extravagant in one’s home, that it is not necessary to live at a standard well above that which should normally be expected in the community, our problems will remain with us.
This bill seeks to put the justices of the High Court on far too high a pedestal. 1 believe that they are well satisfied with what they are receiving now. In my opinion, the argument adduced by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) that the justices in New South Wales and Victoria are receiving more than the justices of the High Court of Australia is fallacious. Surely those men, who have been appointed to the High Court, are men of standing in the community, men who can be relied upon to do a job for Australia and for the people in general. Surely, if they feel that, in being honoured by appointment to the High Court they are given the opportunity of doing something for Australia, they should accept the posi-tion even though it might mean financial sacrifice to them. The present AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) undoubtedly made a great financial sacrifice when he entered this Parliament, but, in return for that, he was given prestige and honour. He was also given an opportunity to do something for Australia, an opportunity that he did not have when he was practising as a barrister. In the same way, when men leave the practice of the law to go on the Bench they have honour and prestige bestowed upon them. They also are given the opportunity to demonstrate through the judgments they bring down, and by their approach to the problems with which they are confronted, that they are big men, sincere men and real Australians. The Government has made a grave mistake in bringing down this legislation at a time when we are faced with an economic crisis, and when we are unable to do anything for those who have problems in buying homes or for those who are required to exist on pensions.
– What about Dr. Evatt?
– I make no apology for my criticism, and I know that the gentleman referred to by the honorable member would be the first to say that he was satisfied with what he is receiving. He would be the first to say, “ I do not wish a higher salary than I am getting now “. I am surprised that the Attorney-General should utter the platitudes he did in his secondreading speech, for they do not do justice to the members of the High Court of Australia. I oppose the bill.
.- The argument advanced by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) is an unusual one. He says that because a man has honour and glory bestowed upon him by his appointment as a judge, his salary should not be increased beyond the figure at which it has stood for the last five years. The natural corollary to that argument is that judges should be satisfied to accept onethird of the amount they are receiving now because of the honour and glory they enjoy. The honorable member for Lang pointed out that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is receiving a great deal less to-day than he enjoyed when he was in private practice some time ago. He argued that, because the Attorney-General was satisfied to accept so much less, judges also should be prepared to accept a great deal less. In other words, he is suggesting, in effect, that a salary of about one-third of the amount they are receiving to-day would satisfy the judges because the loss would be counterbalanced by honour and glory.
Honour and glory have their place, but they are not enough. What a strange state of affairs it would be under present conditions if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria were invited to sit on the High Court bench and accepted! How ridiculous it would be if the salary of Supreme Court judges remained at £6,750 a year plus an allowance of £500, and the salary of a High Court judge remained at £6,500! It is ridiculous to suggest that any judge who is elevated to the High Court should be paid a great deal less than he received as a judge of the State Supreme Court.
If we are to adopt the reasoning of the honorable member for Lang, it is also equally logical to argue that even if the States of New South Wales and Victoria continued to increase the salaries of their judges the remuneration of High Court judges should remain at the present figure, and the disparity between the two should be allowed to widen without correction. It is only common sense to argue that judges of the High Court, because of the ability they must possess, because of the integrity they always show, because of their independence of thought, because of the necessity that they be financially independent, and because of the dignity attached to the position they occupy are deserving of the highest possible salary this country can afford to pay them.
Australia has been the envy of all other countries in the world because it has enjoyed the services of judges of the highest integrity and ability. We are being told to-day by honorable members of the Opposition that although the salaries of High Court judges have not been raised for five years they should remain as they are. My contention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the salaries that have been laid down in this bill are fair and reasonable. They pertain to men of high office and of great distinction. This House will do itself credit by passing the ‘bill.
.- I suppose that no one could broadly object to the sentiments expressed in the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) when introducing this measure. He set out fairly clearly the reasons why the Government considered that the increases should be granted. I suppose that it is the proud boast in this country, as it is in other countries, that we desire to have an impartial judiciary, members of which are not influenced in their decisions in any way by monetary considerations nor by matters associated with their general welfare and mode of living. It is true, as the AttorneyGeneral has said, that the High Court of Australia performs as itself an organ of the national government, the supreme judicial task of the interpretation and the safeguarding of the federal Constitution. He went on to say -
Not merely does this function call for con.sumate knowledge of the Constitution, its history and its past construction, but also for great judgment of a practical kind.
The honorable gentleman described the position of High Court judges and the problems that face them. He compared their tasks with those of supreme court judges and, generally speaking, I suppose that no one could object to the principles that he set out nor to the basis upon which the Government has made its assessment. Whilst we all agree that it is essential to have on the High Court bench qualified men of integrity, who are capable of understanding and applying the broad principles of justice as we know them, I think that the Attorney-General has not given any substantial reason for the great increases in salary provided in the bill. The Chief Justice, for instance, is to have his salary increased from £8,000 to £10,000 a year. The puisne judges are to have their salaries increased from £6,500 to £8,500 a year. This means that the judges will receive an additional £2,000 per annum, which is the equivalent of £40 a week or £5 15s. a day. That is a substantial amount of money.
An honorable member interjects that these increases will be subject to tax. The effect of the tax will be more than offset by the facilities available to judges which are not available to other persons. These include the use of cars, travelling facilities and allowances, and they are very substantial. In any case, there is no reason on earth why judges should not pay taxes just as every section of the community pays them. Let me say that the Government has stated, in effect, that it believes the tasks of the judiciary to be so great that, although wage increases for the rest of the community are now being opposed, judges should receive an increase of £40 per week. In anybody’s language, that is a tremendous increase. It is very difficult to justify at this time.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) stated that there were three very important factors in our opposition to this bill. He said that the Government must have reservations .about this measure because it was introduced at 2.30 a.m., in the dying hours of the Parliament. It was introduced by stealth in the course of the Government’s programme of legislation by exhaustion. That, in itself, shows that the Government knew that it was going too far on this issue and that it did not want the bill to be seen in the light of day when a full discussion could ensue.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the proposal in the bill to increase the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia by £2,000 a year and the salaries of other judges by a similar amount. As I pointed out, this is an increase of £40 a week, or roughly £6 a day on virtually a seven-day basis. Members of the Opposition believe that at this time the Government cannot justify such increases in salaries. We agree with the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that the judges of the High Court should have the highest qualifications, and we realize the need to preserve the integrity and the prestige of the judiciary, but we cannot agree that an increase of salaries by £40 a week is justified at this time.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has said, the Opposition opposes this measure on three main grounds. One is that this measure has been brought down in the dying days of the sessional period. It was introduced about 2.30 a.m. - one could say it was brought in at an early hour by stealth - and it is to be put through the Parliament by a process of exhaustion. If this proposal can be justified, it could very well have been introduced in time for proper debate. The only substance in support of the increase is that it preserves the margins of the High Court judges in relation to the salaries of the Supreme Court judges and the salaries of the Chief Justices in the States. Evidently the Government is effectively maintaining those margins by increasing salaries by £40 a week, but we cannot agree that the preservation of margins in this case is sufficient ground for the increase. We oppose this measure because the time is clearly inopportune for such salary increases.
Recently, the Government introduced measures which have had far-reaching economic effects on the community, and without trespassing on your views of the appropriate time to discuss these matters, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me say that under the Government’s economic policy, all other sections of the community are being denied increases in wages and salaries. Moreover, they are being called upon to make sacrifices. Yet the Government has introduced a measure at this time giving persons in exalted and privileged positions increases of salaries equal to £40 a week. What is the position? The Chief Justice will receive £10,000 a year, or approximately £200 a week. Even allowing for taxation, is there anybody here who would deny that if he were in the position of a High Court judge he could save at least half his income? Is it not possible for a judge receiving £160 a week to save a considerable sum even after paying taxes? Apart from that, I shall show why it is not necessary for judges to save money. Naturally, they have privileges that go with their positions. They have free transport, secretarial assistance and travelling expenses. I do not quibble at those things because they are part and parcel of the machinery of government and the judges are probably entitled to them; but they represent an average of at least £10 to £20 a week above the ordinary income of the judges.
Let us take these considerations a step further. When a judge of the High Court retires after ten years on the bench, if he is over 60 years of age he retires on a pension equal to 50 per cent, of his salary, and I understand that the pension is on a non-contributory basis. The Chief Justice who retires in the circumstances that I have outlined will receive a pension of £5,000 a year or roughly £100 a week. Some honorable members on the Government side seem to be disturbed because the judges will pay income tax. But who would object to paying taxes on a pension of £5,000? The fact of the matter is that at an age when their needs will not be as great as those of a younger generation, the judges will be receiving £100 a week, which is a substantial income. Since the Chief Justice is to receive £10,000 a year, nobody can say that the position does not give the judges every bit of security that they require. Certainly their integrity is being preserved at extremely high cost. The other judges, apart from the Chief Justice, will retire on not less than £4,000 or £4,250 if they have been on the bench for ten years.
How can the Government justify this measure at a time like this? With the background of the High Court of Australia, this is difficult to understand. I think it must be said that the Government is leaving itself open to the charge that there is a certain amount of patronage accorded to High Court judges. In other words, the Government is looking after the judges pretty well. Would it be to get favours from the judges on a governmental level? Because, when all is said and done, that has been very effectively achieved through the Arbitration Court in recent times when workers’ wages were pegged.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that it is not in keeping with the traditions of this House to cast any reflection on the judiciary.
– I do not wish to trespass on your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. 1 was pointing out that the charge could be levelled when the Government is giving an increase in salary of £40 a week to judges of the High Court and only 9d. a day to the pensioners. The Government is laying itself open to the charge that it is guilty of patronage to a privileged section of the community. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the time is inopportune to increase these salaries. The Government claims that the economy cannot stand increases and privileges for other sections of the community. It claims that the economy cannot permit a 40-hour week or less. The Government is clamping down on desirable increases for every other section of the community. Pensions have been increased by a minimum amount of 9d. a day. Child endowment has not been raised for ten or twelve years. There has been no increase in a wide range of benefits for which the people were looking. If these things are denied to people in the lower and less-privileged income groups, on what grounds can any government justify an increase in salary of £40 a week, or £6 a day, to persons who are already receiving £8,500 a year? I remind honorable members that the estimate of £6 a day is based on seven days a week and the average is more on a five-day week, while the hours observed by the court are generally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This proposal shows that the Government bas gone crazy on high salaries for the higher strata of society. Public Service salaries recently were increased in the higher ranges by £20 a week to £7,000 a year. Now the judges’ salaries are to be increased by £40 a week. But down the line, workers are denied miserly increases by ‘the direct intervention of the Government. If salaries are to be increased, let the benefits be spread over the whole range. Family men cannot get higher wages, and the Government claims that things are so bad that it has taken back the miserable 5 per cent, concession in income tax that it gave last year so that it can make ends meet. By what reasoning can the Government say that this is an opportune time to introduce this measure?
Some of the judges who will receive this increase of £40 a week in their salaries have denied to workers in industry any increase in wages because they say the economy cannot afford it. The judges will not have to take work at the week-ends to bolster their incomes. Apparently it is all right for judges on £200, or £160, a week to say that the economy cannot afford an increase in workers’ wages, but they are prepared to take this increase in their salaries: and the Government agrees that such an increase is justified. The only reason given is that these are privileged positions, the integrity of the judges must be preserved, and they must not be subject to outside approaches or anything of that sort.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) mentioned the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). I think that he must have made, in his own way, a financial sacrifice to come into this Parliament. Other members on this side have done so in other days, and no doubt various men in other spheres of activity have made great monetary sacrifices in order to serve their country. Why place the judiciary outside and above that? Why should not men prepared to serve on the highest court in the land be prepared to take reasonable salaries? Why should their honesty and integrity have to be bought at tremendous cost - to the extent of increases of up to £40 a week? What justification can there be for it? I am not one who subscribes to the view that there are not many people in the ranks of the judiciary to-day who would be quite prepared to serve on the High Court of Australia at very reasonable salaries, instead of the exorbitant amounts offered to-day as what might be said to be a form of patronage, the ground being that this is done in order to see that they are completely immune to outside considerations.
When all is said and done, I suppose there are no more important positions than those of Ministers of the Crown, positions that directly involve the well-being of the people; yet if it were suggested that, in order to ensure the integrity of Ministers, it was necessary to pay salaries comparable to those proposed here, there would be an outcry. In all spheres of activity, right down the line, people are called upon to shoulder great responsibilities in positions requiring a high degree of integrity, but without the emoluments involved in this instance. I do not know how honorable members will justify these increases to their electors. I hope that my Country Party friend, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who has continually interjected during this debate, will go forth into his electorate and try to justify increases of up to £40 a week for judges, when at the same time people who work in industry and on the farms have been refused increases, and people dependent on pensions and other social services have been given only a miserable increase, on the ground that the economy cannot afford more. You cannot possibly justify this by any stretch of the imagination. No reasonable grounds have been advanced for the increases except the need to ensure integrity and honesty in those who hold judicial positions. In that respect, it would be interesting to know whether any approach or request was made to the Government by the judges for an increase of salary. Who decided on this basis? By what method was it worked out? Certainly it was a different method of compilation from that applying to people in industry, people on wages, who are dependent on margins and so on for their income.
Therefore, I join with other members on this side in opposing this proposal, and while I regret the necessity to offer criticism of the judiciary in this respect, at the same time I feel that we should not be called upon to agree to these exorbitant increases running up to £40 a week, or £6 a day for seven days a week. Exorbitant in the extreme! The fact that the Government has brought in this proposal in the dying hours of the session, in the last sitting before the Parliament is prorogued, indicates that it is frightened. It is doing this in the middle of an economic crisis. This shows that the Government, no matter what its intentions, might be subconsciously influencing the judges on the various tribunals which will be called upon to adjudicate on wage applications and other things at a time of economic crisis.
– You have a suspicious mind.
– You cannot escape it. I do not have a suspicious mind. I am just objectively telling you the reaction of the workers outside. How can you possibly induce industry, and the people of this country, to support the Government’s economic policy when the people can look on one side and see a judge getting an increase of £40 a week, while on the other side the man in industry, working at his bench, is denied any increase at all because of the intervention in the court, by this same Government, which said that the economy could not afford it. It is just the same as telling the worker that the country cannot afford to give him an increase of 2s. a week, while on the other side of the ledger he can see General Motors-Holden’s Limited making £15,000,000 profit. You just cannot work it out in terms like that.
I cannot see how honorable members opposite can justify these increases while at the same time increases have been denied right down the line through a very wide section of industry. I wish, Mr. Deputy Speaker - but I feel certain from the look on your face that you will not let me do it - that I could run right down the wide range of things that should be done in this country from the economic point of view, and the wide range of people desirous of increases in order that they might keep “body and soul together and rear their families, and point to the thousands and thousands of pensioners who cannot live on their pensions with the miserable increase of 9d. a day that was given to them. I wish I could point out to those people that this Government considers judges are worth an extra £40 a week. It would be different if the judges were on only £40 a week now, but this amount is on top of salaries of £8,500 or £6,500 that they are receiving at present. There is no justice, no honesty in this approach. In no possible way can it be justified in view of the position of the average person.
It is said that judges will not come from the State Supreme Courts unless the offer in the Federal sphere is better. I have yet to learn - and it is a tragic state of affairs if it is so - that those people occupying judgeships decide on monetary grounds where they will go. I was one who thought that the men who went to these positions had higher motives, and were people who desired to serve the country in the highest capacity. Of course, I dread to think, knowing what can happen under this Government, that some day the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) might be sitting on £8,500 a year in one of those jobs. In this we can see the possibility that there could be a man who might desire to serve, without the ability to serve, and might get the salary.
I conclude by saying that at a time when wages are frozen, when we are told that our economic position has never been worse, when people in all walks of life cannot get increases to enable them to meet inflated costs, I cannot see any justification for these tremendous increases that are to be made almost overnight. This Government deserves to be condemned for, amongst other things, seeking by stealth to introduce a measure that it was not prepared to bring in and allow to be debated logically at a time when full consideration might be given to it. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been interrupted by the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). He said, “ Sit down “. It is the only speech he has made this session. T am delighted to conclude my speech at a time when he has made his only speech. With other honorable members on this side I oppose the measure.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– If you speak now you will close the debate.
– I had proposed to do so.
– That is hardly fair.
– I am thinking about the time.
– I am not concerned about the time. I should like to speak on the measure.
– Well, it will have to be on the wicket.
– What do you mean, “ It will have to be on the wicket “ ? You are trying to intimidate me.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor has the floor.
.- I am threatened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by a remark make by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is a potential Chief Justice of Australia. I am paying him a compliment by admitting that he has the ability to occupy the position. It is well known that appointments to the High Court have in the past been political. Sir John Latham went to the High Court after having sat at this ministerial table, both on this side and in the very seat that the AttorneyGeneral occupies to-night. The AttorneyGeneral told me that I shall have to be right on the ball.
– I said “ on the wicket “.
– Well, on the wicket. Same thing, but a little different. That means I am going to be intimidated, and he is endeavouring to intimidate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not think that is fair. First, may I say that I think it is unfortunate that at this particular time the Government should bring forward a proposal to increase the salary of the Chief Justice by £2,000 a year, and the salaries of his colleagues by similar amounts - including the salaries of judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission. After all, we have been listening, in this Parliament, for some considerable time to the details of measures designed to rectify Australia’s rather difficult economic position. We are in the presence of Ministers of the Crown who only a few months ago sent their advocates into the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to state before Their Honours, who are now to be awarded an increase in their salaries, the reasons why the basic wage should not be increased for the ordinary worker. I say that it is somewhat unfortunate that, having been confronted some months ago with the situation that the country could not afford increased wages for the workers, we are immediately afterwards confronted with a proposal for Their Honours to be awarded salary increases. An increase was refused the worker who is trying to keep his wife and family on a limited income. We have before us a bill to increase judges’ salaries by £2,000 a year. One honorable member has said that he does not think that judges would ask for an increase. I do not know what they did, but I do know that a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria used his own court to advance his claims for an increase in salary. I suppose that judges in other courts, not necessarily adopting the same means as that gentleman did, have seen the Attorney-General and, perhaps, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and have suggested that there should be some increase in judges’ salaries.
– That is a pretty bad remark.
– It is not a bad remark. Judges are no more insensitive to the hip pocket nerve than is any other member of the community.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put -
That the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I believe, of course, in very high salaries and, like the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is at the table, I believe that the question of relativity arises for consideration. How does one determine the salaries of judges? In introducing the bill the Attorney-General said that the problem of setting appropriate salaries for the judiciary is never easily resolved. He continued -
Many factors must be weighed, such as the need to attract the most able men when still at the height of their careers in the legal profession, the need to secure to the Bench financial independence and freedom from pecuniary anxiety.
In those circumstances, the sky is the limit. Do you fix the salary of a judge at a figure that is higher than any remuneration thai a member of the legal profession receives, or do you fix it at something similar to what he was receiving previously? If you fix the salary on the latter basis, the salary of a member of Parliament must be the determining factor because the main avenue to the judiciary is through the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. Very recently there sat in this chamber Mr. Joske, the then honorable member for Balaclava, and Dr. Evatt, the then right honorable member for Barton and Leader of the Opposition, and in another chamber there sat Senator Spicer. Those men, no doubt, have certain qualifications - one of them perhaps has outstanding qualifications - but no one can tell me that the qualifications possessed by any of those individuals was the determining factor in securing his appointment to the judiciary. Of course, it was not, as every one in this chamber knows. Likewise, every honorable member knows that irrespective of the remuneration that these men received as members of Parliament, their salary as members of the judiciary represented an increase. The same position applies in relation to State legislatures. The measure that might be used in deciding judges’ salaries is the capacity of the country to pay and that is what the judges of the Arbitration Court are entitled to use in determining what shall be paid to other members of the community. It is the capacity of the country to pay, and that is determined by the question of relativity and what the country pays to other sections of the community. It is determined by what the country pays to age pensioners and people on the basic wage, and what it gives through social services, such as child endowment and other benefits. If those payments are not adequate this country cannot afford to pay exceptionally high wages to other sections of the community. 1 remember suggesting in this House that an increase of 5s. a week for age pensioners was inadequate under the existing circumstances, but that, inadequate as it was, it should at least be made retrospective for a couple of months to the commencement of the financial year. On that occasion the Government said, “We cannot possibly do that. We cannot increase the amount or make it retrospective for any period.” Yet the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said in his statement -
The only other matter I need to mention is that the Government decided that the new salaries should take effect from 1st October, 1960.
The increases on higher salaries can be made retrospective, but the payments to age pensioners cannot. And in order to prevent the worst features of inflation this Government went before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to prevent a rise in the basic wage although, in Victoria, in six months the cost of living had risen by 28s. a week. In spite of rising prices the Government had to go into court, in the interests of preventing inflation, to see that not one additional penny piece was given to the people as an increase in the basic wage. Yet a few months later the Government comes into this chamber - its supporters remind me of so many Uriah Heeps - and says, “The judges must have their salaries increased “. One honorable member interjected and asked what kind of people are members of the Government. I know that if I endeavour to tell him what kind of people comprise the Government you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order. There is not the slightest doubt that if honorable members on the Government side of the House divested themselves of humbug they would say that no Government is entitled to increase by £40 or £50 a week the salary of a person who is already in receipt of £150 a week. If the Government, in the interests of the economy of this country and in order to save Australia from disaster, must go into the Arbitration Court and plead with the judges of that court not to increase the basic wage, how can it justify the present proposals?
– What is the relative cost?
– It is not a question of relative cost, but of relative justice. If it were a question of the cost of a rise in the wages of an individual, the AttorneyGeneral could, under that argument, raise that person’s salary by £25, £30 or £100 a week, and, because only one individual was concerned, it would not matter. The Government keeps the masses in subjection in order that the few shall have these immensely increased salaries. The Government serves the interests of the few to the disadvantage of the many. Much as I like to look at the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), I hope he will not be here after the next election. It is obvious that those sitting behind the Attorney-General know that they have not a scintilla of evidence to support giving to one section of the community - whether judges, public servants, parliamentarians or any one else - immense increases in salary while the vast majority of the people do not get small increases and, in fact, get no increase at all.
The Government has brought down this present proposal although it contends that the economy of the country is balanced on a razor’s edge, and that it cannot agree to a couple of shillings a week rise in the basic wage when the cost of living is increasing month by month by exorbitant amounts, as in Victoria, where the cost of living rose in six months by 28s. a week. In spite of that rise, there has been no increase in the basic wage. The deprivation of purchasing power due to that increase in the cost of living denies to a vast section of the community some of the necessaries of life. It does not deprive them of a few luxuries, or money to invest, but essentials. If the judges were not granted this increase of £40 or £50 a week, would that deprive them of any of the necessaries of life? Certainly not. They would still live opulently and would still have a considerable amount to invest. They generally invest quite a lot of their remuneration, as it is.
Members of the judiciary generally invest to such an extent that when they retire they do not need the £5,000 pension that is given to them free of contribution and free of the means test. They do not need it, because while they are working they receive a much greater emolument than they require to provide for .themselves. When they retire and their needs are very small, they get a greater pension than is received by other sections of the community. I see no reason why judges retiring from the Arbitration Court, the High Court Bench or from any other section of the judiciary, should not be in receipt of exactly the same pension as is received by age pensioners, free of the means test. I know that people will say, “That is going a bit too far, because, after all, even though he will not spent it, it is desirable to give to a judge who has done something in the service of his country a pension which enables him to accumulate property or money to an extent that he can pass some of it on to a son or daughter who has done nothing in the interests of the country “.
We all know how judges reach their position of high eminence. We also know that generally they carry out their duties, in spite of the methods by which they achieve their positions, in a most desirable manner, whether they be appointed from the Labour side of the House or from the Government side. But to create a fiction that they are appointed because of their vast knowledge of the law - a knowledge which outshines that possessed by the legal man who has been in practice outside Parliament and who has never been inside it - is, of course, another absurdity. Of the people who desire promotion to judgeship, those with foresight come into the Parliament of this country with their eyes on the wool sack and put up with the inconvenience, as some of them consider it to be, of being members of this Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), for instance, has a judge’s wig in his locker, or that the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and other honorable members on the other side of the chamber, and perhaps some members on this side, have judges’ horsehair wigs in their lockers. The reason why there are so many legal men in the parliaments of Australia is largely that they realize that a parliamentary career is the quick way to a judgeship in this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) rose to seek the call.
– I cannot help that.
– Order! When I called the Attorney-General I failed to remind him that if he spoke he would be closing the debate.
– I propose to do so. I now move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- The Opposition opposes this clause, which makes the remuneration of the High Court justices retrospective to 1st October last. This is an unusual feature in Commonwealth legislation. No reason has been given for itsbeing inserted in this particular bill. The bill was introduced at 2.30 yesterday morning. It was introduced without any announcement in this Parliament, and no reference has been made to any announcement concerning the legislation outside the Parliament. There is no reason for making this legislation retrospective. Legislation as to salaries has been made retrospective in the past only after it has been recommended as a result of an inquiry that salaries at a higher rate shall be payable from a certain date, or after a governmental announcement, usually in the Budget, that certain changes would be made from a given date. The Opposition would not oppose this clause if this bill were to come into operation in the normal way - that is, from the date on which it receives the Royal assent. There is no reason for making this measure retrospective, and the Opposition accordingly opposes this clause.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced these salary increases during October. I have not the date by me, but
I think the announcement was made fairly early in October.
– It was made in September.
– It was made either late in September or early in October. If the House and the Parliamentary Draftsman had not been otherwise occupied, this bill would have been introduced in October - and fairly soon after 1st October, in very truth. The remuneration provided for in this measure is not being made retrospective. The measure is merely being made to operate from the time at which the Prime Minister announced the Cabinet’s decision.
While I am on my feet, I should like to deal with this reiteration of criticism about the bill being introduced at 2.30 in the morning. That is fairly childish. This bill came in on message from the GovernorGeneral.
– On a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: The Minister is making a second-reading speech.
– I am answering the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– We intend to keep the Minister to the clause, which prescribes the date on which this measure shall be deemed to have come into operation. Under this clause, retrospectivity is being discussed, and I suggest to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that anything beyond that is out of order.
– The Attorney-General may proceed, but I ask him to bear in mind the provisions of the clause.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition opened this matter, and I want to answer his remarks.
– The Minister is not entitled to do so.
– Is this something new? Am I not entitled to answer him?
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I submit that the Minister is not entitled to answer any remarks that were out of order. That is obvious. Even the Minister ought to know that.
– No point of order is involved.
– I was saying, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that this bill came in on message. I waited about in this chamber at some personal inconvenience until half-past two in the morning.
– On a point of order: The fact that the Attorney-General was waiting until 2.30 a.m. at some personal inconvenience to himself to receive a message has nothing to do with the clause, and I ask you, Sir, to direct him to keep to the clause.
– On the point of order-
– No point of order is involved.
– I was saying that I waited here until 2.30 a.m. to read two very short second-reading speeches, of which I gave copies to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who was present when I read them. I did that in order that the honorable gentleman could take the bills to the caucus of his party on Wednesday morning and give the caucus an opportunity to consider them. Had I not read those speeches - as I have said, at some personal inconvenience - at half-past two in the morning, they would have been read on Wednesday, after the caucus of the Opposition party had met, and the caucus would have had no opportunity to consider the two bills.
So far from there being any stealth, one has only to stop to think about the matter to know how silly is the suggestion that there was stealth. I read two very short secondreading speeches, neither of which occupied five minutes, and the debate on each bill was immediately adjourned. What I was supposed to be achieving by that so-called stealth just escapes me. But the criticism that has been made indicates the tone of the debate this evening. We are down in the kindergarten class.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has said that the opera tion of this bill is being made retrospective in order to make the higher salaries payable from about 1st October, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced the Cabinet’s decision that these salaries be increased. I grant that that statement is correct. However, I remind the committee that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his Budget speech, announced that age pensions were to be increased, and that we on this side of the chamber endeavoured to have the increases in pensions made retrospective to 1st July - the beginning of the financial year - and, when we failed in that, to the date on which the announcement was made in the Budget speech. This would have given age pensioners about £1 more, but the Government said, “ We cannot possibly do that”. Yet, in this instance, it takes the view that it can make legislation retrospective in order to give to judges more than £300 in back pay.
If it is correct, as the Attorney-General has said, that the only reason for the retrospectivity in this instance is to date the new rates of salaries back to the date on which the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to increase judges’ salaries, a similar course should have been adopted with respect to age pensions. But it was not. I think that this circumstance reveals in all its stark nakedness the hypocrisy of the Government.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I support the criticism by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) of the clause now before the committee. It states -
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and sixty.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) says that this measure and a similar bill were not introduced by stealth. Let me tell him that we on this side of the chamber, too, found it a great inconvenience to have to wait here until half-past two in the morning.
– We had to wait until after half-past three in the end.
– That is right. We had to wait until after half-past three. This bill should have been introduced at a proper hour - in the day-time. I am not at all enamoured of the Attorney-General’s statement that this bill was introduced in the early hours of the morning at very great inconvenience to him. When all is said and done, he receives a very good salary, and it is his job to be here at the right time and not to introduce legislation in the early hours of the morning when he knows that it will not be debated. The Minister is afraid of this clause, as he has shown by the manner in which he introduced the bill and by his action this evening in preventing the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) from speaking on a point about which the Attorney-General was very touchy.
Order! The honorable member is not in order in referring to matters that did not arise in committee.
– That is right, Mr. Temporary Chairman. But reference has been made to other things that did not occur in committee, and especially to the reasons why the bill was introduced in the early hours of the morning. I mention that only in passing.
The Attorney-General says that this measure is to be back-dated to 1st October That is very generous. After all, I suppose that these judges who are at present battling along on something more than £120 a week cannot wait for increases of about £40 a week. I suppose that they have overdrafts unlimited and must have the higher rates of salary back-dated in order that they may meet their obligations. These High Court judges and others are doubtless struggling to satisfy their creditors and just cannot do so unless their salary increases are backdated. I point out that this back-dating of the salary increases by more than two months will give them each about £320 a year.
The honorable member for Scullin has stated that no such consideration was given to the poor, the needy, the sick, the aged and the infirm. They were given an increase in pensions of only a miserable £13 a year, but even that was not back-dated for so much as a week or a day. They were not given the benefit of £1 or £2 by the back-dating of the validating legislation. The Government deliberately stopped the Opposition from criticizing that legislation because had we done so we should have delayed the payment of the higher rates of pension to all those needy people who were looking forward to the additional 5s. a week, which represents only a miserable pittance compared to the additional salary of about £40 a week now being given to men who can well afford to continue on their existing salaries. As if that were not enough, these increases for judges are to be back-dated by more than two months under the terms of this clause.
I am not at all impressed by the Government’s attitude. As the honorable member for Scullin has said, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced in his Budget speech that age pensions were to be increased. Why could that increase not have been back-dated to the date of the announcement?
Order! 1 hope that the honorable member will not continue on that line.
– This is a pertinent point. The increases in judges’ salaries are being backdated to 1st October, 1960. We are told that this increase to High Court judges is to be granted as from a certain date. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, we on this side would not oppose retrospectivity if the Government applied that principle generally. We are pointing out the privileged position of the judges and the patronage which the Government is giving High Court judges by back-dating the increases; and we cannot help but think that there is some ulterior motive for doing this. What consideration will these men who are having their salary increases back-dated give to the wages claims of those who may want increases back-dated to the date on which they lodged their applications, which, in in some cases, would be twelve or eighteen months previously? This is an instance of inconsistency de luxe on the part of the Government. It proposes to give plenty to those who have wealth unlimited. It proposes to back-date the increases of men in receipt of from £120 to £200 a week, and it will give nothing at all to the pensioner on £4 or £5 a week, or to the factory worker who is on £15 or £16 a week.
Why does not the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) rise and justify his action in voting to back-date the proposed rise of £40 a week to judges of the High Court while refusing to give the pensioners a paltry 40s. by way of retrospective payments? I should like the Government to justify its action in this instance and to explain its inconsistency. Is it to show the judges some form of political patronage?
– I rise to order. I submit that under Standing Order No. 77 the honorable member is out of order.
– Order! I did not hear properly what the honorable member for Grayndler said. Will he repeat it?
– My memory is not clear on that.
Order! The committee will come to order. I cannot ‘hear what the honorable member for Grayndler is saying.
– I do not speak from notes, and I just cannot remember precisely what I said. If the honorable member for Ryan will repeat what I said, I shall be able to tell him whether he is reasonably accurate.
– The honorable member for Grayndler said that the effect of this proposal was to bestow political patronage upon the judiciary. It was heard by every one on this side of the chamber.
Order! Did the honorable member for Grayndler say this measure was designed to bestow political patronage on the judiciary?
– I did not use the words which the honorable member for Moreton said I used.
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will proceed.
– You have not got the backbone of a jellyfish.
Order! The honorable member for Moreton will come to order.
– I wish I could have a few moments to recover from that terrible insult. What I said was that we must place some interpretation on the Government’s action in back-dating this increase to 1st October. Let me repeat that I am con vinced it is being done just because the Government thought that it should be granted as from that date. It is probable that it was considering some date months earlier than 1st October.
What is the justification for granting substantial retrospective payments to men who are in receipt of huge salaries when less privileged sections of the community are not accorded the same treatment? That is something that must be explained. Why does not the honorable member for Moreton, who was so vehement in his attack upon me a moment ago that he cut me to the quick, stand up in this place and defend his attitude towards this issue? It is significant that although honorable members on the Government side interject and criticize from their seats, very few rise to their feet to support the Attorney-General’s attitude. I ask them to stand up and support it. I ask all those who made such an outcry, who joined in the cry of the wolf pack when they gagged the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) a few moments ago. to stand up and justify this back payment to the High Court judges. The reason why members on the Government side are silent, the reason why the Attorney-General is acting like a little fascist dictator-
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will withdraw that remark.
– In deference to the Chair. I withdraw it.
– Yes. The point 1 am making is the reason why the AttorneyGeneral does not want this particular clause to be discussed in detail. He does not warn us to know why he is doing this; he does not want us to know why he at least wants to be on the side of the judges in the courts of this country.
I repeat that the only interpretation the man in the street can put on his attitude is that for some hidden reason the judges are entitled to privileges in connexion with salary increases which are denied to the average working man. the pensioner and others. Is it not reasonable for the man in the street to say that the reason why the back payments are being made to judges is that they must have something on the Government, that the Government must want something from them, that it must want them to do something and for that reason has decided to back-date their pay to give them wealth unlimited?
– 1 rise to order. Surely the honorable member’s remarks are a gross reflection on the judiciary and are, therefore, out of order?
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler may proceed, but I ask him not to reflect on the judiciary. He knows very well that to do so would be entirely out of order.
– He has not done so.
Order! I am not suggesting that he did. I am asking him not to do so.
– Not for a moment in my wildest dreams would I reflect on the judiciary. I am reflecting upon the Government as completely divorced from the judiciary. Not for a moment would I believe that these judges would be a party to such a thing. I am merely putting the hypothetical case; I am merely saying what the man in the street must think of it. I am asking what the average man must think when he reads in the press that a government will not back-date pay increases for workers, a government which will not backdate pension increases, has decided that the salaries of judges are to be back-dated at the rate of £40 a week to 1st October. I am suggesting that he can only think that the Government is looking after the judges for some particular reason.
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will not proceed in that strain.
– Very well. At the same time, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I think you are adopting a most restrictive attitude. I was putting a hypothetical case.
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will resume his seat.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Grayndler be beard.
Order! The honorable member for Grayndler exhausted his time.
– You did not say that.
– You did not sit him down because of the expiration of his time. You said, “ The honorable member for Grayndler will resume his seat “. You did not say, “ The honorable member for Grayndler’s time has expired “. I move -
That the honorable member for Grayndler be heard.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– But only since this point of order has been under discussion.
Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member.
.- It is not at the invitation of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that I rise to speak in support of this clause, but I am bound to say something about the miserable and contemptible philosophy that he has propounded in this chamber this evening. It is completely idle for the honorable member to deny having said - the witnesses to his having said it will be the people of Australia - that the judiciary of this country were influenced by considerations of political patronage.
– I rise to order. Can you tell me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, what relation the honorable member’s remarks bear to the commencement date of these salary increases?
Order! The honorable member for Moreton is in order. He is replying to the previous speaker.
– The honorable member for Grayndler said in the most explicit of language that the judiciary of this country was interested in some consideration relating to political patronage. The whole trouble with the honorable member for Grayndler, apart from the fact that he has the backbone of a jellyfish and denies his own’ words, is that he judges other persons in this country by his own debased concept of integrity.
– Order! The honorable member will not proceed in that strain.
– Why cannot I proceed?
– Order! I am asking the honorable member for Moreton not to proceed in that strain.
– I am sorry. The argument that the Opposition is adducing to the committee against this clause is that the retrospectivity relationship should be applied to every form of legislation. The Opposition believes that the salaries of judges of the High Court and of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be related to the basic wage. If that is to be the view of the honorable member for Grayndler, then one can only presume that he is prepared to sit in this Parliament on the understanding that his salary is to be anchored to the basic wage.
Order! This clause contains no reference to salaries or the basic wage. It relates only to the date on which this measure will come into operation.
– I am developing the argument that the reason for the retrospectivity is not to be considered in relation to other wage and salary factors. That is the argument that has been advanced by the honorable member for Grayndler and by other honorable gentlemen during the committee debate. I think it is an argument that should be repudiated.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the judges of this country are no more immune to the influence of the hip pocket nerve than is any other section of the Australian community. In dealing with the clause before the Chair, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) made the point that the Government had made its decision to increase these salaries and had announced it at the end of September or at the beginning of October. It happens that I have in my hand the estimates of receipts and expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1961. They show that no increase whatever is provided for the judges of th* High Court. The relevant item is “Item 0051 - Justices of the High Court (Judiciary Act 1903-1960)”. The vote shown for 1960-61 is £47,000, the same amount as the vote for 1959-60. What has the AttorneyGeneral to say to that? He only claims that a statement of the Government’s intention to increase these salaries was made when he was absent from Australia and when the Parliament itself was not sitting. The whole fact of the matter is that his clause proposes to make retrospective the increases in salaries for judges of the High Court on the ground that the increases had been previously announced as the intention of the Government. But the Government, when announcing increased pensions for age, invalid and other social service pensioners, refused, as a matter of policy, to make them retrospective. It provided that the increases should not come into operation until after the act had been proclaimed’ and on a date to be fixed by the GovernorGeneral. There is, therefore, no consistency whatever in the Government’s position in this matter and there is no relevance whatever in the Attorney-General’s argument. The Attorney-General, speaking to this clause, complained of the deterioration of the tone of this debate. I think it is relevant to reply to him that he might take notice of the fact that bitterness of this kind develops when he is in charge of a bill. Honorable members in this chamber, including his colleagues on the Government side, are well aware of that fact.
Members of the Opposition must take every possible means that they can to defend their rights when they consider that they have been unjustly assailed as the AttorneyGeneral unjustly assailed them to-night. The judges of the High Court will certainly not be thankful to the Attorney-General for the bitter debate that he has provoked in this chamber to-night. I am quite certain that the judges of the High Court would not wish their case to be put in the way that it has been put by the Attorney-General to-night. I am quite certain, too, that the judges of the High Count will not like to be opposed to the public criticism and contempt which will follow the passage of a bill giving them retrospective increases in salary for two months when such retrospectivity has been denied to the social service pensioners of Australia. While we in this chamber may be well aware that the judges of the High Court would not have asked the Attorney-General to do for them something that is denied to other sections of the community, people outside will not be able so clearly to recognize that fact. They will believe that the judges have sought and have been granted this retrospectivity of payment which, by Government policy, is denied to every other section of the community.
What possible reason can there be for granting retrospectivity in this case? The Attorney-General made the most extraordinary and absurd statement that he had had to wait until 2.30 in the morning for this bill to be introduced, so that he could :give the Labour caucus time to consider it, ten or eleven hours later. He himself has said that the Government had decided upon this bill and had announced it at the end of September. It is a bill of three clauses; a bill of the most simple kind involving no problem of draftsmanship. It could have been put together in an hour or a day at any time since the end of September.
There can be no reason, therefore, which the Attorney-General can advance, why this, bill was not brought before the House until 2.30 in the morning. What reason was there? What reason can the AttorneyGeneral give? It is a bill of three clauses requiring only the simplest kind of draftsmanship - exactly the kind of draftsmanship which has been used in many similar measures. It is a bill upon which the Government had decided at the end of September, yet the Attorney-General said that it could not have been introduced until 2.30 yesterday morning! That the AttorneyGeneral’s excuse is false is shown by the statement that I now make to the committee.
– I rise to order, fs not the committee at the present time debating clause 2 of the bill? Has the honorable member for Eden-Monaro addressed one word to clause 2?
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may proceed. He is referring to the reasons why the Opposition objects to clause 2 coming into operation. However, I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro not to indulge in too much repetition.
– The point that I wish to hammer in’ to members on the Government side is that the AttorneyGeneral had no justification for saying that there were reasons why this bill could not have been introduced very much earlier, since it was so simple to draft and was of such simple content. The Attorney-General said that this bill was decided upon and its terms announced on 29th September. That was an extraordinary thing to say. I quote from “ Hansard “ of Thursday, 29th September, at page 1481 as follows: -
Mr. Speaker (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
What then happened is shown as follows: -
MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS. Mr. Menzies. - As I announced yesterday, I am proceeding overseas to-day to attend the United Nations General Assembly. I desire to inform the House that during my absence . . .
There was no announcement whatever about an increase in salaries for judges. There was only an announcement by the Prime Minister that he had decided to take off at once for the United States to take over the post of Australian representative at the General Assembly which, up to that time, had been handled by the Attorney-General.
I am reminded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that this is the shortest bill which has been introduced to the Parliament in the whole of this year. It is the shortest and the simplest bill. Yet it had to be introduced at 2.30 in the morning! In view of all the facts, Mr. Temporary Chairman, what other conclusion can you come to than that the Attorney-General came to this House like a thief in the night.
Order! I think the honorable member should withdraw that statement.
– In deference to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I withdraw the remark. I substitute this question: What other conclusion can the committee and the people of Australia come to than that the Attorney-General came to the House furtively, at a time when the ordinary facilities of press and radio were not available, and brought down this bill -
I would say “ like a thief in the night “, but the Temporary Chairman has distinctly ruled that I must not say “ like a thief in the night” so I will not say it. I say instead that the Attorney-General came to this House furtively at 2.30 in the morning when the ordinary facilities of press and radio were not available to report the proceedings, and introduced a bill, which could have been introduced at any moment from 29th September onwards, to increase the emoluments of fellow members of the legal profession who occupy the honorable position of High Court judges. In acting in that way he did no credit to his own position, he embarrassed the judges of the High Court, and he certainly created a terrific suspicion in the minds of the people. The conduct of the Attorney-General in this matter has been shameful.
– This is not in clause 2.
– The honorable member interjects that the conduct of the Attorney-General is not in clause 2. I remind him that it was on clause 2 and on no other clause that the Attorney-General defended his conduct.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- 1 shall be brief. Everybody seems to be controversial to-night, but I will speak to the clause. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) said that the clause will make the proposed payments retrospective, and they asked why the Government did not make pension increases retrospective. They said the Government supporters were hypocritical. I remind honorable members on the Opposition side that when they were in office they did not make a single pension payment retrospective although they claimed to be a party of high principles. I must say that they carried out their high principles, because on the only occasion in the history of Australia when pensions were reduced, the decreases were’ not made retrospective.
.- I think the committee is deeply touched at the picture drawn by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) of sneaking through the darkened corridors at midnight with his little three-line message to tell the people of Australia that they were going to give some, people 40 quid a week extra. The Attorney-General said, “ I do not want to be called a thief in the night “. Of course not; he did not want to be a Cinderella either. He was Prince Charming to the judges.
Order! Reference to 2 o’clock in the morning could very well be discontinued. Statements in that respect have been made freely by Opposition members and they have been replied to. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause before the chair.
– There is only one thing to be said, because the committee must be wearied of this small clause which, I note, is of three lines. Since the Attorney-General has 44 amendments to the Marriage Bill and introduced 46 amendments to the Crimes Bill, I am sure that with a little contriving at 2 o’clock in the morning, he can manage this single clause. To be honest and faithful to the Australian concept of fair play as enunciated by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the Attorney-General could do so. If there is to be retrospectivity and if you are going to pay back money to the deserving, you do not begin with the judges whether they are the high and mighty of the land or not; you begin with the indigent poor, the Australian workers and the age pensioners. No matter how much rhetoric is expended on this bill, or how much the Minister tries to wriggle from under this miserable job, the fact is that the Government is giving the benefit of retrospectivity to the wrong sector of the community. The Opposition is opposed to the clause and will vote against it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepreesnted?
– Yes. Earlier in the debate, I said that the judges of Australia were no less conscious of the hip-pocket nerve than anybody else. The Attorney-General (Sir
Garfield Barwick) moved that I be not further heard.
Order! The honorable member for Lalor, who persists in talking across the table, must confine himself to a personal explanation.
– I beg your pardon, Sir. I
Tias deeply involved in an argument with the Attorney-General.
Order! The honorable member has no right to be involved in an argument. He will resume his seat. He has not spoken on this clause, and therefore he cannot have been misrepresented in respect of it.
.- -I think it was absolute hypocrisy on the part of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro-
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask for a withdrawal of that expression and an apology from the honorable member for Perth.
– I withdraw the word “ absolute “ and say that it was hypocrisy.
Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw.
– I withdraw and say-
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask for an apology.
– Filthy hypocrite.
Order! I have asked the honorable member for Perth to withdraw.
– I have already done so. I say that the honorable member for EdenMonaro who was talking about back pay-
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I direct your attention to the remark by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) who called me a “ filthy hypocrite “. I ask for a withdrawal and an apology.
Order! I did not hear the honorable member for Barker make that remark.
– Then I request you, Sir, to ask the honorable member for Barker whether he said it.
Did the honorable member for Barker use that term?
– Yes, and I repeat it most sincerely.
Order! 1 did not hear the honorable member for Barker. I ask him to withdraw that remark if he used it.
– At your request, Sir, 1 withdraw it.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the words used are unparliamentary and I ask for a withdrawal.
Order! I call the honorable member for Perth.
– What a beautiful chairman!
Order! The honorable member for Scullin, who is a Temporary Chairman himself, will withdraw that remark.
– I am in very grave difficulties, but I withdraw having said that you are in any way beautiful.
Order! The honorable member will withdraw and apologize to the Chair. He was reflecting on the Chair and not on me personally.
– I withdraw the statement I made, “ What a beautiful chairman! “; and I apologize to the Chair for ever having made it.
– First of all, let me say that I apologize to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for saying he was hypocritical in his approach to this question. All I can say is that any member of this House who has shown opposition to backdating this legislation is hypocritical, regardless of who he is, because recently in this House we had a bill to raise parliamentary salaries. Apart from two or three voices that were raised in some sort of protest, the measure was back-dated and members wholeheartedly agreed with that provision. Apparently, when you come to raise parliamentary salaries, you cannot possibly compare them with the money that you pay to pensioners, but when you raise the salaries of judges of the High Court of Australia, it seems that you can compare them with the benefits paid to pensioners.
Let us study the criticism of the Opposition. The honorable member for EdenMonaro said that the Government introduced this measure at 2.30 o’clock in the morning. He said it was a sneak action on the part of the Minister. Where is the Opposition penalized if a bill is read a second time at 2.30 a.m.? The penalty lies on the side of the Government, because the Opposition is not asked to do anything about such a measure at that time. The next morning, at 11 o’clock, members of the Opposition can read the “ Hansard “ report and the full text of the second-reading speech. They can read it with rested minds because they have been in bed, and they can criticize the measure when the debate is resumed. That is exactly what happened in this case.
Until the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was elected to this Parliament, no one with wide experience of these matters had been a member. Here we have an honorable member elected who knows the task that the judges undertake. Throughout the history of Australia we have had cause to be thankful for the fact that we have had on the Bench of the High Court men of high repute of whom Australia can be proud. If the standard of the High Court judges is high we have nothing to fear. For years, judges of the High Court were going along, dedicated to their task and considering it an honour to serve the country.
– I rise to order. As a matter of interest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, can you inform the committee on what clause the honorable member is speaking?
Order! The honorable member is quite in order.
– For the first time, a bill has been introduced into this Parliament to give these judges the remuneration to which they are entitled. If any one would tell me that the honorable member for EdenMonaro, or myself or any other member of this Parliament is worth £3,500 a year and a High Court judge is not worth the salary that is provided for him in this bill, I think he would be quite crazy.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth will relate his remarks to the operation of the bill, not to the amount of the remuneration.
– I will do so, Mr. Temporary Chairman. It is a pity that in the ranks of the people who constitute this Parliament there is no former High Court judge who could tell with honesty how he fared in relation to the economics of his daily life. I am quite certain that there is not the sincerity shown here that one would expect on a measure like this . It is quite ridiculous to relate the salary of a High Court judge, and the back-dating of an increase of salary to a High Court judge, to any payment to pensioners, whether or not one believes that pensioners are underpaid or overpaid. These things fall into different categories and, as I said earlier, I think it is sheer hypocrisy to try to make comparisons between them. What we as a Parliament have to do, if we have the legislative power to do it. is to give an adequate reward to the men who hold the highest positions in the land. The High Court of Australia is a memorial to the men who have made it the greatest High Court in the world. It is something of which we can be proud. The public can rest assured that, whatever happens in the parliaments of Australia, there are in the High Court men who will act without bias and with reasoned judgment - men who will carry out their tasks to the utmost of their ability. I challenge the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who has just interjected, to point out one case in the history of Australia where a judge of the High Court has given a decision influenced by political bias. The honorable member could not do so. Furthermore, he could not do it in relation to Sydney or anywhere else. It is extremely simple to get up here, covered by parliamentary privilege, and say things about High Court judges and other people, knowing that you cannot be brought to account for your statements.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
Docs the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Perth said that I had objected to the provision that the increase of the judges’ salaries be made retrospective and that I did not object to increases of salaries of members of Parliament being made retrospective. I did not, and do not, object to the making of the increases of the salaries of the judges or of members of Parliament retrospective. What I do object to - and the whole of my argument was based on this - is that the Government refuses to make increases of social service benefits retrospective, while it makes the increases of salaries of members of Parliament and judges retrospective.
.- This bill, particularly the clause now under debate, deserves much more mature consideration than it has received this evening. I wish to join with honorable members on this side of the chamber in deploring the manner in which this legislation has been brought to the Parliament. The Parliament, Mr. Temporary Chairman, has a solemn responsibility in this matter. It has, indeed, a sacred duty to safeguard the interests of the people of this country. I deplore the excitable, irrational and hysterical attitude shown by some members on the Government side in relation to this clause, in the face of opposition voiced in a vigorous, free and easy way by some members of the Opposition. When all is considered, Mr. Temporary Chairman, this is a parliament of Australia, and it must be expected that in the hurly-burly of parliament, during the consideration of legislation brought down for good or evil, vigorous discussion and criticism will inevitably arise. This would be a strange parliamentary institution if we were to consider a matter like the retrospectivity provision in this bill without some measure of criticism and analysis. The Opposition is entitled to consider a clause which proposes to back-date the increase of judges’ salaries to 1st October. 1960.
There has been wide and general discus sion of this clause. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Perth tried to make it appear that the rank is hut the guinea stamp, that Bobbie Burns had put his finger on the pulse of things, and that unless we paid judges vast sums of money and made their salary increases retrospective we could not get the type of judicial consideration of the various matters which might come before the courts-
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Here, again, is a case of a reflection’ on the judiciary. It should not be allowed.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I am not reflecting on the judiciary. I am doing the reverse. I say, in view of the remarks made by the honorable member for Perth suggesting that we must pay vast sums of money to the judiciary and back-date their salary increases, that if that is the only standard that this Government applies to the country’s courts, it is a grave reflection on the judges of our land, and the honorable member for Perth ought to be ashamed of casting that reflection.
I want to sum up this matter in a reasonable and dispassionate manner. As I said at the outset, this clause deserves much better consideration. When we have before us a clause providing that increases of salaries of judges be made retrospective to 1st October of this year, I would ask the honorable member for Perth and other honorable members-
Order! The honorable member for Macquarie will address the Chair.
– I do so, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Through you, I want the message to come home directly to the honorable member for Perth, because he needs some correction in regard to the erroneous views he expressed. He dealt with certain things that happened in other days. He dealt with the condition of the economy when payments were back-dated to certain people in this country.
Order! The honorable member might deal with the bill.
– I am dealing with it. and I am pointing out that I oppose the back-dating of these increases because of the changed circumstances to-day, when, the
Government admits, we have an economic crisis - such a crisis as to require new financial and economic measures on the part of the Government. I say to honorable members, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that people who rely on incomes derived from the land have suffered reductions of their incomes. Wages have been pegged, pensions have been pegged, and standards have fallen in the present conditions. Therefore, the Parliament has no right to vote the taxpayers’ money away in this fashion by back-dating the salary increases as proposed by the bill.
What do the people outside this Parliament expect of the Parliament? They expect justice. They want an equal measure of justice, a standard of justice, measure by measure, no more to one than to another. If we were to adopt the bill as presented to us, and back-date these salary increases, we would leave ourselves open to attack throughout this land. Whatever the Parliament may want to do in regard to judges’ salaries, I think that there is need for responsibility on its part. There is need for the Parliament to consider this clause fairly and squarely in the light of existing circumstances. Knowing, as we do, that wages have been pegged, that pensions have been pegged, that there has been a fall in rural incomes, that secondary industries are in a state of crisis, we have no right to do what has been suggested by the Attorney-General and supported by a number of members on the Government side.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– This will be brilliant.
– I thank the honorable member for the publicity. I want to say that despite what the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said about the attitude of the Opposition in this case being dictated by the excitement and the normal cut and thrust of parliamentary debate he, having said that, did not act accordingly. His was a considered statement. Whatever the Opposition says; whatever hyprocrisy it introduces into the debate; whatever it claims to be its attitude to this matter, it knows, as every honorable member in this chamber knows, that its attitude is determined by the desire to make political capital out of this measure. Every honorable member knows that every word that has been uttered by Opposition members in this hypocritical vein has been uttered-
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to use the word “ hypocrisy “.
– Very well, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Every argument that has been used in this way has the effect of reflecting on the judiciary of this country. I can imagine how the minds of Opposition members work. They say, “ The judges are few in number; they are the tall poppies in the higher income bracket; they are fair game.”
Order! The honorable member should speak to the clause.
– I have said enough to indicate my view of the Opposition’s attitude to this measure. I refer particularly to the attitude of the honorable mmeber for Macquarie when he raised the retrospectivity content in the bill in relation to pensions and other matters. I am sure that he, and every member of the Opposition, knows that that is absolute nonsense and poppycock and that it is a deliberate attempt to drag down the judiciary of this country. They say, “The judges are the tall poppies; they are fair game “.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I require the honorable member for Barker to withdraw the concluding sentences of his speech. He said that members of the Opposition knew that when they said certain things they were reflecting on the judiciary. He also stated that that was our deliberate intent. I refrained from objecting when he stated that what we said had the effect of reflecting on the judiciary because he was not thereby implying any motive to us, but when he said that we knew that what we were saying had that effect, and that we said those things with deliberate intent, he became offensive to us. We require those remarks to be withdrawn.
– Do you believe that he imputed an improper motive?
– Yes. Nothing that we said is a reflection on the judges. We have before us a bill for an act to do certain things. This is the Commonwealth Parliament, and we are entitled to criticize this measure, but in doing so we are not criticizing the judges, who have not sought this amendment.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition considers that the remarks of the honorable member for Barker impute improper motives to him, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– Very well, I withdraw those remarks and substitute in their place this statement: The effect of the attitude that has been adopted by the Opposition in this debate is to denigrate and lower the status of the judiciary of this country. Because I believe the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to be an intelligent man - I would not say that about some of his colleagues - I was tempted to strike the attitude that I took. However, I withdraw the imputation of improper motive and change my view that intelligence was reflected in the attitude of the honorable members concerned. I have nothing further to say.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I desire to make a personal explanation.
Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Macquarie said that I had stated that we would not get the kind of judges we wanted unless we paid them high salaries. I said no such thing. I said that it is about time that this Parliament, which has the necessary power, legislated to give them the salaries to which they are entitled. That is something totally different.
– I oppose this clause. It is obvious to me that in the Government’s view there are two ways in which to look at the question of retrospectivity. The first is how to apply it to the lower income group - the pensioners and the workers in industry - and the second is how to apply it to the top brass - the judiciary. It is obvious from the smug approach to this question of the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Forbes), Perth (Mr. Chaney), Moreton-
– 1 rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. If you maintain that the word “ hypocrisy “ is unparliamentary, 1 maintain that the word “ smug “ is unparliamentary.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– It is obvious that every time an honorable member on this side of the chamber makes some remark to which the smug honorable members on the Government side object, they jump to their feet and complain to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. When the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to a point earlier in the debate, we saw how the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) dropped the axe and moved that the honorable member be no longer heard.
– Order! The honorable member will direct his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– I am referring to the clause.
The honorable member is referring to matters that occurred earlier in the debate. We are now in committee, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion. This clause already has received a good deal of consideration and I am not prepared indefinitely to listen to the same arguments being advanced repeatedly.
– This is the first time that I have spoken in the debate on this bill and I think that I am entitled to express my view on the way things are progressing in this chamber. As I have indicated, this is typical of the smug approach of the Government to the class struggle that is going on. The Government states that we must not make any reference to the top brass and, in particular, to the judiciary. The honorable member for Perth challenged Opposition members to prove that any judge had ever brought down a biased judgment. I can give him some examples if he does not know of any. We have seen-
Order! The honorable member is not in order in proceeding along those lines. The clause refers merely to the date of operation of this bill, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that aspect.
– He is smearing the judges.
Order! The honorable member for Moreton will remain silent.
– If I am not permitted to reply to some of the statements that other honorable members have made in relation to this clause, why were they permitted to make those statements?
Order! The honorable member must not canvass the Chair’s ruling.
– Very well, I shall not canvass the Chair’s ruling. The Government adopts a certain attitude when dealing with the top brass - the judges - but it does not adopt a similar attitude when dealing with the lower income groups. I remember clearly back in 1947-
asked the honorable member to refer to the clause of the bill.
– I am trying to do that if you will only let me.
If the honorable member does not proceed as I have directed I shall have no option but to ask him to resume his seat.
– I have been trying to point out to honorable members and to yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I am opposed to this clause relating to retrospectivity because it applies only to one section of the community. In 1947 when the question of the introduction of the 40- hour week was being discussed before the arbitration court the trade union movement could not get even a decision from the court, let alone any retrospectivity. When I went, as a member of a delegation from the Newcastle trade union movement to the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry, he said that the 40-hour case then before the court had become a 40- year case and that the Government would legislate in respect of it. But when the court brought down its decision, did it make it retrospective to the time when the trade union movement lodged its application some years before? No. The court gave its decision in August or September and it did not become operative until 1st January the following year, 1948. That was the attitude of the court towards retrospectivity.
Order! I remind the honorable member that there is another bill dealing with the court to which he is referring. He must confine his remarks to the bill which is now before the committee.
– I am dealing with the judiciary as a whole.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN__
Order! This bill refers not to the judiciary as a whole but to that of the High Court of Australia. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– While this Government has been crying poor mouth in the last couple of weeks about the economic position of this country and has been appealing to everybody to confine their activities to essentials and not to overspend, under this measure it proposes to make available an additional ?40 a week - ?6 a day for a seven-day week - and to make the salary increase retrospective. When the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) introduced his Budget in this House, did he make the pensions increase retrospective? Of course not. It did not become operative until October; and the same applied to the review of the means test.
– On a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I direct your attention to Standing Order No. 86, and I submit that the honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant to the clause before the committee.
Order! The honorable member for Newcastle may proceed.
– Members of the Government do not like criticism of their legislation. I was dealing with the Government’s attitude towards liberalization of the means test. Did the Government make that retrospective? No. It post-dated it some months, and the new test will not become operative until March of next year. The same consideration is not extended to pensioners as this Government is extending to members of the judiciary. Just because the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had an idea that we should increase the salaries of the judiciary, and thought of it on 1st October, the increases are being made retrospective to that date.
The Government had not the same ideas in regard to the pension increases and the liberalization of the means test, as was clearly indicated when the Budget was introduced. When certain Government supporters threatened to rebel, the Prime Minister gave an assurance that the means test would be reviewed in the following Budget. The Prime Minister backed down to the rebels in 1959 and said, “ Take it easy, boys. I will give it to you in 1960.” He did not do that. In order to save the Government a little expense he has postponed implementation of the new means test until March, 1961. That clearly indicates the attitude of this Government with regard to retrospectivity in the payment of salary increases in this instance, and the payment of pensions and the liberalization of the means test. It is typical of the smug approach of this Government towards these matters-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to say one or two words about retrospectivity. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) put the Opposition’s case, he said this proposal could not be faulted in logic, because he knows quite well that any one who analysed accurately the structure of the salary of the judges-
– I did not say that about retrospectivity but about the salaries of the judges.
– That is so. Any one who accurately analyses the structure of the salaries of the judges must realize that we cannot avoid giving them a substantial increase. The increases should have been given on 1st January of this year because the logic and justice of the increases existed then as much as it does now. But the Government has not hastened to do this. So far from this bill doing anything retrospectively, it marks caution on the part of the Government. In truth these judges have been deprived of salary increases that they were entitled to receive many months ago. The Government deliberately withheld this bill and this announcement for this distinct reason: I said, in substance, in my secondreading speech that I was anxious on this occasion to prevent this constant leapfrogging of State and Federal salaries. My speech shows how some States have lifted their salaries to the point where they are greater than our Federal salaries; and I do not think that any member of this House will disagree with me in saying that that is an intolerable situation. The Government therefore wanted to fix on this occasion proper salaries for the judges which would not merely be proper at this moment, but would also be proper in prospect for a substantial number of years. The Government did not wish to countenance any suggestion that these salaries were going to be constantly re-adjusted when changes took place in industrial wages or in Public Service remuneration.
The Government therefore set a date to fix these salaries - late rather than early; because in all justice these judges should have had these increases in salary long since. Further, there has been a great deal of bandying of words about the economic situation. I do not know whether honorable members realize that in this bill we are dealing with a sum of about £4,000 per year net, because the net increase of salary to these judges is something of the order of £500 or £600, assuming that they have no other income. If they have any other income, the net increase is considerably less There are seven of these judges, so we are dealing here with a sum of about £4,000 in actual cost to the country. Really we have been listening to what some honorable members behind me have, I think very properly, referred to as a good deal of humbug.
.- The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and many honorable members on the Government side of the chamber seem to have drawn the conclusion that members of the Labour Party oppose adequate salaries being paid to the judiciary. No member of the
Opposition has made such a statement during the course of this debate. The point we are making in this debate on retrospectivity and otherwise, is that irrespective of what happens in Victoria or New South Wales we consider that the salary being paid to judges of the High Court at present - £8,000 for the Chief Justice and £6,500 for the puisne justices - is adequate.
– Order! That clause deals not with the amounts of salary, but the date of commencement of the salaries.
– These amounts are to be increased.
– Order! The honorable member for Lang will have an opportunity to discuss that matter under clause 3. We are discussing clause 2, which, as I have said repeatedly, deals with the date of operation of the legislation.
– I agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but my point is that the £2,000 a year increase is to be back-dated to 1st October. Surely a man who is receiving the kind of salary that the judges are receiving at present has no need to take a week-end job in order to make ends meet. There is no reason at all for this legislation to be back-dated. If there were reasons, then the very same reasons could be put forward for back-dating increases granted to pensioners. If it is right to back-date increases for members of Parliament, it is likewise right to back-date increases for pensioners. If we are going to lay down a standard for judges and members of Parliament, the same standard should be applied when dealing with pensioners.
There is just one other suggestion I would like to make when dealing with this retrospective provision. When the back salary is paid to the judges, I suggest that the Attorney-General should arrange for the Christmas present of £300 or thereabouts to be sent out to each of them in the form of a gift cheque, with an accompanying letter wishing them a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Clause 3 increases the salary of the Chief Justice of Australia from £8,000 to £10,000 and of the puisne justices of the High Court from £6,500 to £8,500. At an earlier stage, I gave the basis of the Opposition’s objection to the timing and the size of these increases. It is true, of course, that now every justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Victoria receives a higher judicial income than does any judge of the High Court, except the Chief Justice. It is also true that the Chief Justice of Australia receives only £62 a year more than does the Chief Justice of Victoria and £268 more than does the Chief Justice of New South Wales.
As 1 conceded at an earlier stage, thereis logic in increasing the salaries of judges to whom appeals can lie from judges whonow receive higher salaries. But I pointed out the lack of wisdom in introducing this bill at this stage, the hour at which it was introduced, the stage of the session at which it was introduced, the isolation with which this particular question of salaries is being dealt with and the fact that the margin has now to be corrected because of the Government’s inaction over the past five years, during which this leap-frogging process, as the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has aptly described it, has occurred through the judicial jealousies between New South Wales and Victoria.
I shall not go over those arguments again. There are just a few matters that I wish to bring up at this stage when we are dealing with the precise salaries involved. The salary of the Chief Justice of Australia, which is now to be £10,000 a year, is the largest salary fixed by any act of any Australian Parliament. Furthermore, it is a salary £1,500 in excess of the proposed salary for the other judges who sit with him on the bench.
– Is not the salary of the Governor-General greater than that?
– That is fixed under the Constitution, which is a British act. This salary is higher than any salary fixed by any act of any Australian parliament.
– Did the same argument apply five years ago?
– Yes, I think it did. What I have said consistently throughout these proceedings is that we should not have allowed ourselves to be manoeuvred into the position where something had to be done to correct the Australian judicial scale We should have done something to ensure that judicial salaries throughout Australia bore some relation to each other throughout that quinquennium. The other States, including the State from which the honorable member for Wide Bay comes, have not engaged in the leap-frogging process and there is an adequate margin between the salaries of the Chief Justice and the puisne justices of the High Court and the Chief Justice and puisne justices of the Supreme Courts of the other four States. The margin is still a handsome one.
I was coming to the question of this very large difference between the salary of the Chief Justice of Australia and the salaries of the puisne justices of the High Court. This is a very much larger difference than the difference between the salaries of the Chief Justice and the other Supreme Court judges of all the States. Furthermore, the Chief Justice of Australia has no constitutional or judicial function which is not also a function of the puisne justices of the court. He does not perform the ceremonial functions which by tradition the Chief Justices of the States perform. When a Lieutenant-Governor dies or resigns, the custom is to commission the present Chief Justice to succeed as LieutenantGovernor. There are functions of a public or ceremonial character which the Chief Justices of the States perform and which the other Supreme Court judges of the States do not perform. There are no ceremonial functions performed by the -Chief Justice of Australia. His functions are precisely those of every justice who sits beside him on the High Court bench.
In fact, the only difference between the Chief Justice and the other judges of the High Court is that where a full court of the High Court is equally divided on a matter other than an appeal from a justice of the High Court or from a State Supreme Court the opinion of the Chief Justice prevails. But there is no other circumstance in which the functions of the Chief Justice differ from those of his fellows. Why is it, therefore, that there is this very great margin between them? In the United States of America, for instance, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States receives 500 dollars and no more in addition to the salary received by the associate justices.
If the increases in salary which are proposed for the puisne justices of the High Court are adopted, there will be a considerable margin between them and all other judges in Australia, including the Chief Justices of the States. What is the reason for having such a large difference between the puisne justices of the High Court and the Chief Justice of the High Court? In this instance, it is £1,500, but the margin between the Chief Justices and the other Supreme Court judges of the States is very much less. We fix very much smaller differences between the President and the presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and between the Chief Judge and the other judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The States set the following margins between the Chief Justice and the other judges of their Supreme Courts: -
We are setting a margin between the Chief Justice and the other judges that is about three times as great as the margin between any other Chief Justice and his colleagues. There is no difference in function between the justices of the High Court, but there is some ceremonial or public difference in the functions of the Chief Justice and the other judges in the States. T believe that that at least requires explanation by the Attorney-General. Even if the difference between the salary of the Chief Justice and the salaries of the puisne justices were set at, say, £500 or even £1,000, his salary would still be well ahead of the salaries of all other judges in Australia. This is the highest salary received by any person under an Australian act of Parliament, and it is the highest salary received by anybody in public employment in the southern hemisphere.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has asked me for an explanation, may I say, first of all, that it is quite clear that in every instance a chief justice is regarded as having some functions beyond those of the other justices which require additional remuneration. It is quite inaccurate to say that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia has not any functions different from those of the puisne justices. For one thing, he has to administer the court. That means that he has work off the bench to a much greater extent than do any of the other justices. He is responsible for keeping the work of the court going, for apportioning the time of the court, and so on. But in addition to that, unlike the other justices, he sits on every appeal. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had sufficient experience of the High Court to know that you always find the Chief Justice presiding over an appeal, unless he is ill or otherwise absent. But the other justices do not sit on every appeal. If five justices are sitting on an appeal, two of the puisne justices are off the bench, perhaps preparing judgments or doing some other duty. But the Chief Justice must remain with his court.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will bear me out. if he harks back to the days when he took some cases in the High Court, when I say that the significance of the Chief Justice in the deliberations of the court is most apparent. His is a very high and very significant office - the highest judicial office in this community. It is quite true that the salary proposed for the Chief Justice of the High Court is a very large one. It is quite true that the differential between the salary paid to a puisne justice and that paid to the Chief Justice is a matter of some judgment. The difference between the two is a large difference, but the duties which the Chief Justice performs in addition to the ordinary duties of a puisne justice are very significant.
In addition to all this, I do not know that people in this country approach this question rightly when they fail to see - the Opposition completely fails to see it - the importance which the standing of these justices has for the prestige of the community. This evening, I have seen a most dangerous thing done. Once a political group begins to denigrate the judge - to pull him down and depreciate his significance - that political group is on the road to ruin and so is the community.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I said quite deliberately that what I had heard constituted an attempt to denigrate the judiciary. I repeat that. What was done was deliberate and it has been concerted effort for the greater part of this evening.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask for a withdrawal of the term “ denigrate “. Nothing has been sard-
Order! The term is not unparliamentary.
– I submit that it is, Sir.
The term is not unparliamentary.
– This is probably the first time you have heard it.
Order! I take that remark as a reflection on the Chair, and I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, Sir.
– Should the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not apologize? If he has any manners, he will. Perhaps therein we see the reason why he has not done so.
Will the Attorney-General take his seat for a moment? There is far too much disorder in the chamber. Honorable members are well aware of the privileges that are committed to them. The hour is getting late, and we are trying to get through the business of this chamber. I am sure that all honorable members are anxious to complete it, and I ask them to .come to order.
– Try to keep the Attorney-General in order.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in considering this clause, which makes provision for an increase in the salaries payable to the justices of the High Court of Australia, the committee is at least entitled to consider, first, whether a differentiation between the salary payable to the Chief Justice and the salaries payable to the other justices is justified. I think there is every justification for the difference. The general practiceis that the chairman of a tribunal or committee, or the presiding officer in this place, is paid a margin above what is paid to thosewho serve with him on the body over which he presides. I have noticed before, and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has emphasized it this evening, that when any attempt is made to discuss the people to- whom salary increases are to be paid, some sort of an inferiority complex becomes apparent and there appears a tendency on the part of the Government to think that anybody who mentions the people concerned, what they do in their vocations, their weaknesses, their failures or the fact that they are interested in their-
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss those matters.
– I am just making passing reference to them, Sir. I am sure you recognize that the Attorney-General did the same sort of thing. In effect, I am doing what you have allowed other speakers to do this evening. I am answering remarks made earlier.
– I hope that the honorable member will confine himself to a passing reference.
– I shall keep my remarks within that narrow field, if I can. I think that the attitude which I have mentioned is regrettable. In discussing the salaries of judges I have made no reference to their characters. I am as proud as is anybody else in this country of the great skill, ability and work of the judiciary in all the courts. But I think that it is regrettable that when we are considering a clause such as the one now before us we are not at liberty to express ourselves as freely about the people to whom the salaries are to be paid as we are to express ourselves about wage-earners, public servants or others when we are dealing with their remuneration. Whenever the salaries of members of the judiciary are involved, hands are thrown up in horror if there is a suggestion that members of the judiciary as a whole have human frailties and are interested in money, and that they may even by some manner or means approach the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister or somebody else with the suggestion that they are entitled to more money. Members of the judiciary do these things.
– They do nothing of the kind.
– I know that they do.
– That is outside my knowledge.
– What is wrong with my mentioning it?
– The honorable member reflects on the judiciary if he does.
– Surely I have a right to say these things. I can cite the case of a justice in Victoria who used his own court to state his case on a salary matter. I do not blame him for that. He is only human, and he may have been legally entitled to do that. I know that representations have been made by judges to governments in the past, and I think I am justified in suggesting that in this instance there may have been some personal conversations of an informal nature between the Attorney-General, some other members of the Cabinet and the justices concerned. What is wrong with that? It is perfectly human and perfectly justified. It is the practice of everybody in the community to do that sort of thing by some manner or means - sometimes quietly, sometimes more blatantly, and sometimes in writing. What is wrong with it? Are not judges entitled to do it? Why is there all this hullabaloo? Anything associated with a court seems to be surrounded with some aura of reverence which people who discuss these matters are not supposed to penetrate.
– Order! I think the honorable member should come back to the clause.
– Why does this aura of reverence surround judges when we are discussing their salaries? Let us examine the qualifications required of the men to whom these salaries are to be paid. I say their qualifications are marvellous. It has been my privilege over many years to have intimate association with all sorts of people with legal knowledge, and they excite my admiration. But it has also been my priviledge throughout life to have very close association with the artisan class, with the wage-earning class and with every other section of the community. They, too, excite my admiration for the skill, knowledge and so on which they utilize according to the talents which a divine providence has bestowed upon them. Why should not they avail themselves of those talents? They have every right to do so, but, in his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral said that judges are required to have consummate knowledge of the Constitution, its history and its past construction. He said, too, that their duties call for great judgment of a practical kind, ls not the man swinging a heavy wheel worth £1,000 in a great machine tool required to have great judgment, great skill, great learning and great experience in order to avoid ruining a great piece of work worth perhaps £5,000 or £10,000? We have heard much about the prestige that these judges should enjoy. Every human being is entitled to prestige and dignity. Prestige is not the prerogative or preserve of any particular section of the community. Surely the fact that we criticize - T hope justly - the people occupying these positions is of benefit to the people and the people should have the opportunity of listening to these discussions. I. for one, refuse to accept the dictum that the member of the legal profession who becomes His Honour, who becomes a judge, is in any different position from the humble Australian citizen when it comes to discussing qualifications, activities, salary and so on. No doubt those who occupy these high positions have graduated from the school to the university and on to the court, then finally to the judiciary as a result of their own great industry and in many instances at great sacrifice on the part of their parents, but it must not be forgotten that through the last century or two, right up to the present day in Australia - as was demonstrated during our discussion of the bill relating to universities - the prestige which is theirs, and which should be the right of every individual in the community is not unrelated to the fact that the humble taxpayer has met 50 per cent, of the cost of providing the opportunities for them to graduate through the universities, and that cost is increasing every day. The community reaps the benefit of that, and rightly so, and we all want to see these facilities extended still more.
We are told also that we need to attract the most able men to these careers. Of course we do. It is only fitting that we should provide opportunities for those upon whom divine providence has bestowed great talents to serve mankind, but this Government adopts the attitude that special protection should be accorded in this Parliament to those who occupy these high places when the remuneration which the people should pay them is being discussed. Why should there be any distinction between them and the ordinary man engaged in the more menial tasks? Surely any reference to the comparative positions of the two classes should not be taken as a reflection upon the judges. After all, society is not. or should not, be divided according to capacity to extract a certain amount of remuneration from the community, whether it be as a professional man, an artisan or a labourer.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Lalor’s complaint about the attitude of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and Government supporters is not very well based at all. During the last few minutes, he endeavoured to be rational and constructive in his approach. No one will quibble at what he has said, but I want to put one thought to him, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I believe that there is proper ground for complaint by honorable members on this side at the attitude of some of his colleagues. The honorable member for Lalor has likened judges of the High Court of Australia to tradesmen of various types. I do not think that is a very useful comparison whatever because, in the final analysis, the judges remain the custodians of the liberties for Australia.
This evening we have heard in this chamber certain honorable members referring to members of the judiciary in a most sneering, contemptible way. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) said they were all crooks. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said they were associated with political patronage. Another honorable member whom I did not see, but heard, said they were stooges. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) spoke of their being associated with week-end jobs. If that is not denigration. I do not know what is, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition condoned this tissue of abuse which was levelled against the judiciary. The Labour Party is certainly well and truly in the shallows when it adopts that attitude.
.- The remarks which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has just uttered were clearly irrelevant to this clause. Furthermore, they were utter humbug. He is only seeking notoriety in his customary way by trying to get written into *’ Hansard “ and into the newspapers things which were not reported in “ Hansard “ and which, you yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman, said that you did not hear when he tried to get notoriety from it earlier. It is the technique of merely protesting about something in order to gain publicity from it. He has read into “ Hansard “ things which in fact were not heard by you, which were not heard at the centre table and which nobody protested against in a legitimate fashion at the time. That is the technique which the honorable member adopts in season and out of season, lt is his stock in trade in these matters. During divisions, and every time when the committee has been unduly quiet, he has been trying to catch your attention by taking points of order and so on and by protesting in his spurious way at matters which otherwise would not have been heard or reported.
Order! I think you should leave the Chair to look after those matters.
.- I support the Opposition in protesting at this allround increase of £2,000 a year for the Chief Justice and puisne judges of the High Court. In my opinion, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) made one of the most degrading remarks I have heard in this Parliament when he referred to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), as a fibber. I think, too, that the timing of this increase is very bad. I also feel that an increase of £2,000 is excessive. As an indication of what is thought about this proposed increase in judges’ salaries, I quote the following editorial from to-day’s “ Mirror “-
The Commonwealth Government proposes to increase Commonwealth judges’ salaries by £2,000 a year.
No sensible person objects to judges being highly remunerated, and in normal times these increases would call for no adverse comment.
But it is, to say the least, bad timing for the Government to make the increases at the very time it is opposing general wage rises and exhorting the rest of the community to cut its spending.
The only thing in its favor is that the rises might induce some Cabinet Ministers to get out of Parliament and sit on the Bench.
For five and a half years now I have heard honorable members on the Government side advocating steep increases in the remuneration of the tall poppies. Ne-er once have I heard them advocate that people in the lower income group should receive wage rises. It was not very long ago that we had a very respected Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner who brought in an award for the Public Service - the Castieau award. This Government appealed against that award, but did one honorable member on the Government side protest? No. There was not one word. Nor did we hear one member from the Government side protest about the Government’s intervention in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to oppose the basic wage increase. When any rise is proposed for the tall poppies Government members are on their feet to support it.
One statement that was made by the Attorney-General, in my opinion, was quite fallacious. He said that the total net cost of the increases would be only £4,000. People do not look at it in that way. They ok at the gross income. You cannot have it both ways. On numerous occasions the Government has made statements about the average income of the people of Australia, referring to the gross income. If Government supporters wish to consider the increases proposed in this bill on the basis of net income they should consider wages in general on the basis of net income. They cannot have it both ways. The important question is not what these increases proposed in the bill will acually cost. There is a principle at stake. Is it the right time for this increase?
It has been stated that we should try to attract people to these positions. Nobody denies that. Let us look at the importance of a puisne judge of the High Court who will receive a salary of £8,500. It is not a puny salary even though it may be received by a puisne judge. Let ais compare the importance of such a judge with the importance of the Chief Justice of New South Wales, who, despite a tax-free allowance of £350, will still receive £1,000 less than a puisne judge of the High Court. Would any honorable member try to say that a puisne judge of the High Court is more important than the Chief Justice of New South Wales? When the Chief Justice of New South Wales left this Parliament he accepted a salary lower than that which he is getting at the present time.
Some honorable members have pointed out that both the Chief Justice of the High Court who is to receive £10,000 a year and the puisne judge who is to receive £8,000 have to pay tax. There was a wail about this from the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). What does he want? Does he expect them to get their salaries tax free? Is not everybody else except the Governor-General supposed to pay tax? Why should anybody in Australia have any sort of tax-free allowance unless that allowance is paid in respect of expenses? What a ridiculous argument these people put up! As I have said before, not once in my memory since 1 have been in this Parliament have I ever seen any Government supporter making a fight on behalf of the workers of Australia when they want a few bob. Let us look at the timing of the pension increase.
Order! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to the timing of the increase. This clause deals with the amount of the remuneration. He must confine his remarks to that subject.
– I believe that the proposed increase of £40 a week for puisne judges of the High Court is absolutely scandalous compared to the 5s. a week increase given to the age pensioners a few weeks ago. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said, the judges’ increase amounts to about £6 a day, compared with 9d. a day for the pensioners. I believe that the editorial in to-day’s “ Mirror “ explains and elucidates the position and reflects the thinking of the people of Australia about these increases.
.- There is only one issue before the committee and it is this: If a salary of £8,000 was fair in 1955 for the Chief Justice of the High Court, is a salary of £10,000 fair to-day? If a salary of £6,500 was fair in 1955 for the puisne judges of the High Court is it fair to give them another £2,000 to-day? Any sensible member of this
House, disregarding all sorts of disputes and arguments that do not matter must agree that, as a matter of relativity, it is fair to give these judges £2,000 more per annum to-day than they received five years ago.
– With my colleagues, I am opposed to this clause. I do not believe that the time will be ripe for the proposed increases until the members of my organization, the Boilermakers Society of Australia, have had their wages increased. The members of my organization, day by day, produce the very things that we need in our everyday life. Honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), get up and wail about how much these venerable old gentlemen of the High Court are receiving. I believe that the producers of this country’s needs should be the first consideration. These men who sit on the bench are supposed to be intellectuals. They hear applications for awards by the producers of the Commonwealth.
Order! This bill deals with the High Court of Australia, not with industrial courts.
– I am taking the courts in general.
– The honorable member will deal with the High Court which is the subject of the bill.
– I think that the High Court is well provided for generally. I believe that more consideration should be given to the lower scale of incomes - to the basic wage-earner for instance. Honorable gentlemen opposite keenly appreciate the action of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in freezing the basic wage.
The Government has claimed that the economy of the country is in danger. It has said that we cannot afford wage increases because they will increase inflation. Yet an increase of £2,000 a year, or £40 a week, is proposed for these venerable old gentlemen, some of whom are 70, 75 or close on 80 years of age and should be retired. In addition, some Government supporters say that this increase is not sufficient and that it should be tax free.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has had quite a lot to do with these gentlemen in the course of his employment. In speaking on this bill he has engaged in side issues and has become abusive to my colleagues in general. I resent his remarks. After all, he is getting himself down to the level of the street corner lout with some of the language that he has used in this Parliament. If he can insult my colleagues morning, noon and night, I think it is right for me to tell him what I think of him. Until such time as the basic wage is increased considerably, and until the boilermakers of Australia and the engineers, the real producers, have their wages increased I shall oppose with all the strength at my command any increase for any of the so-called intellectuals of the courts.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the title be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put-
That the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr.Curtin. - I have been misrepresented, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I did not say they were a pack of drongoes. I said they were intellectual drongoes.
Order! I think the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith might withdraw the remark that they are intellectual drongoes. I ask him to withdraw it.
Order! I have asked the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to withdraw the remark “ intellectual drongoes “, referring to the judiciary.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- To indicate its dissatisfaction with the action of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in having threatened the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he rose to speak during the second-reading debate, and in having, in a manner which happily is rare among Ministers, moved that the honorable member for Lalor be not further heard, and to indicate its dissatisfaction with the conduct of the AttorneyGeneral in having gagged the secondreading debate and in having gagged the debate in committee on the two operative clauses of the bill, the Opposition proposes to vote against the motion which is now before us.
.- I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to reply to the allegations that Opposition members have smeared the judiciary. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) stated that I had said that the judges were subject to political patronage. That is not the case. I cited the hypothetical case of what the man in the street might think. At no stage did I make the allegation to which he referred. I express the same view as was expressed by the honorable member for Lalor earlier this evening, namely that whenever measures of this kind come before the Parliament, although we are entitled to debate them and to criticize them, when we do so we are accused by people like the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Moreton of smearing the judiciary. Surely we are entitled to discuss all matters objectively. If a boilermaker asks for an increase in his wages he is criticized irrespective of how strong his case may be.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler is going outside the scope of the motion.
– There is another matter to which I should like to refer. I was very disturbed earlier in the night to be called a big fibber by the honorable member for Moreton. Remarks of that kind disturb me because they indicate a very vile state of mind. They are quite unbecoming in the Parliament, particularly coming from a student who one day may be seeking to qualify for an £8,500 a year High Court job.
I should like to know also why the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has adopted such an adamant attitude to-night during the debate on this bill. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has said, we on this side of the House object to his general tactics and intend to vote against the motion that the bill be read a third time. I should like to know whether a well-known senator who recently took certain action is one of those who ultimately will qualify for the increases which this measure proposes. That is the kind of thing that happens to the judiciary. We have had members of the Parliament appointed to the judiciary-
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will resume his seat. I remind him of what I said earlier and also that the Standing Orders provide that it is unparliamentary to reflect on the conduct of another member of the Parliament.
– I shall keep my remarks within the scope of your ruling and shall conclude very quickly. I merely want to take this opportunity to support the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Werriwa and to indicate my disgust at the Government’s attitude on this occasion. I should have thought that honorable members on the Government side would have tried to make some contribution to the debate and sought to explain the purpose behind these proposed increases rather than sit and jeer at Opposition members. I hope the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) will learn his lesson from to-night’s proceedings and in future extend to representatives of at least 50 per cent, of the Australian people the right to speak in this Parliament. When members on this side of the House rise to speak they do not want to be knocked down and told that they have no right to discuss things, as occurred to-night. I wish to express my opposition also to the attitude of government supporters that we on this side have been reflecting on the judiciary. At the same time I express our disgust at the attitude of the Government on this measure, the increases generally and the Government’s approach to these issues.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 3660), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- If the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) behaves himself with parliamentary propriety during the debate on this bill there will be only one division in the course of the debate, and that on the second reading. The justification for the previous bill was that it established adequate margins between the salaries of the Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Victoria, on the one hand, and those of the Chief Justice and puisne judges of the High Court, on the other. The justification for this bill is that it will provide salaries for other federal judges commensurate with the salaries paid to judges of the Supreme Courts of New South Wales and Victoria, and provide salaries for the President and presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, commensurate with the salaries paid to the president and members of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales.
The increase in margins involved is somewhere about 23 per cent, or 24 per cent., which is a larger increase in margins than has been granted to any persons in receipt of more than about £2,000 a year under Commonwealth legislation in the last five years. There are no persons other than High Court judges who receive, under Commonwealth legislation, salaries as high as those provided for under this bill. The ones who receive salaries nearest to those provided under this bill have received a marginal increase of 15 per cent, above the salaries granted five years ago. Under this measure the federal judges concerned will receive a marginal increase of 23 per cent. or 24 per cent. above the salaries that they received five years ago.
The Opposition’s objections to the bill are largely the same as its objections to the previous measure. First, the Opposition objects to the bill because it was introduced, as was the previous measure, clandestinely. Secondly, the Opposition objects to the bill because judicial salaries are being treated once again in isolation from the other incomes provided for by legislation of this Parliament. Thirdly, the Opposition objects to the increases under this bill in federal judicial salaries because, once again, they are necessitated by the failure of the Commonwealth Government to take the steps which it, of all Australian governments, can most properly take, namely, to co-ordinate judicial and arbitral salaries set by all Australian governments.
This amendment is necessitated by the leap-frogging in the salaries of New South Wales Supreme Court judges and members of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales and judges of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The other State courts have not indulged in this process of leap-frogging. Quite clearly it is illogical that the President and presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should receive lower salaries than are now paid to the President and members of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. The members of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales deal with matters of lesser economic and social significance than those which are entrusted to the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, yet they receive larger salaries. This is clearly an anomaly which should be corrected, and which, still more clearly, should have been anticipated. We propose to vote against this bill for this further reason that the Government is still showing no intention of avoiding such anomalies in the future.
The remaining reason why we propose to vote against the bill is that it takes no steps to co-ordinate all federal judicial salaries outside those of High Court judges, to whom, of course, appeals lie from all federal judges and, in most cases, from the State judges. A consideration of all federal judges’ salaries was forecast by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the statement he released to the Australian public on 29th September last, a few hours after he left for the celebrated meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am indebted to the Attorney-General for having, since the second-reading of the last bill dealt with by the House, provided me with a copy of the press announcement released by the Prime Minister on that occasion. The right honorable gentleman forecast that bills would be introduced during the present sitting to increase the salaries of the judges of the High Court - that has now been done - and of the federal courts created by the Australian Parliament.
The bill with which we are now dealing increases the salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Bankruptcy Court. It does not deal, and we have not yet been given legislation which does deal, with the salaries of the judges of other federal courts created by this Parliament, namely, the Supreme Courts of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, of Norfolk Island and of Christmas Island. I have not mentioned the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory or, for that matter, the Supreme Court of Cocos Island and the courts of Nauru, because they were not set up by this Parliament, but by ordinances of those territories. Nevertheless, I will deal with the general position of the salaries payable to judges of federal courts with jurisdictions commensurate with those of the State Supreme Courts and the State arbitration tribunals.
I hope that there will be no occasion for honorable members to interject, as they did on both sides of the House during the debate on the preceeding bill, with remarks concerning individual members of the judiciary. It is true that Government supporters took the opportunity at various times to take points of order, so that improper remarks which were made on the Opposition side about some specific members of the judiciary and about members of the judiciary in general would be read into “ Hansard “. I want to make it plain that no honorable member on this side made such remarks while he was on his feet and making a speech, and I would dissociate myself from the remarks that were made by way of interjection. It is also true, however, that many Government supporters interjected with remarks concerning members of the judiciary and, in particular, concerning a recent member of the Parliament on this side of the House who is now a judge. But we forbore from taking spurious and synthetic points of order which would result only in opprobrious remarks being read into “ Hansard “. I hope that responsible members on the Government side who spoke during the debate on the previous bill, and who may speak on this bill, will dissociate themselves from remarks that have been made about judges, by interjection, on their side, just as I dissociate myself from such remarks made by interjection on this side of the House.
I have summarized, and I do not propose further to develop, the reasons which prompted us to vote against the previous bill, and which also prompt us to vote against this bill. I propose to address myself solely to the fourth reason I gave, namely, the Commonwealth Government’s continuing failure to co-ordinate judicial salaries in all the federal courts which it has created, apart from the High Court, which is a court of appeal from decisions of all federal courts and of State courts.
The Attorney-General gave me information on the salaries paid to all such judges on 20th October last, in answer to a question I put on the notice-paper. This bill, unfortunately, leaves some of the federal judges in receipt of salaries which are utterly inadequate for the positions which they occupy, having regard, especially, to the very difficult circumstances in which they have to operate.
– What are these salaries?
– The most flagrant example is in the case of the Supreme Court judges - the only judges - in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The three puisne judges of that Supreme Court receive £3,500 a year, while the Chief Justice receives £4,000. Those are the lowest salaries paid to any judges in Australia of any status - Supreme, county, local or district courts, let alone arbitration tribunals.
– What about taxation?
– It is true that they pay taxation at only half the rate which applies to any other federal or State judge. It is also true that they are provided with furnished homes free of charge. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that judges in the territories, and particularly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, are required to operate in an unusual state of legal and social isolation. I hope that this Parliament will soon be given an opportunity to amend their salaries.
The Parliament must act quickly in this matter. Mr. Justice Kelly has recently retired. Mr. Justice Gore, after a very long period of service in the Territory, and Mr. Justice Bignold are soon to retire. The only remaining judge of the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea who will continue in office is the Chief Justice. If I may express a respectful view, the Commonwealth was very fortunate to obtain a man of his professional attainments and his associations in the law.
– Do you think he is adequately recompensed for the job he has been doing?
– No, I do not.
– How do you reconcile that view with the argument you propounded in relation to the previous bill?
– I thought the honorable gentleman heard me - and I have done him the courtesy of listening to his interjections, thinking he was genuinely wanting information - point out that the judges of the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea receive lower salaries than the judges of any court receive from any Australian government. I point out that we must act promptly to increase their salaries, because there will soon be only one of the four judges of that court who will be continuing to serve, the Chief Justice himself. He is, I believe, the only senior counsel who has ever accepted an appointment to that court. He is, in fact, one of the few practising counsel who have accepted appointments to it.
I have referred to the legal and social isolation in which members of that court have to operate. The same remarks apply in the case of the late judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth was singularly fortunate in having for some ten years the services of the late Mr. Justice Kriewaldt. He was a scholar and a jurist, and he was an extraordinarily humane, dedicated and able man. He also worked in the same condition of legal and social isolation, as do the judges of the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea. Such judges have had to pioneer ideological and juridical frontiers. The courts of the Northern Territory, where half the population are aborigines, and of Papua and New Guinea, where practically the whole permanent population are indigenous inhabitants, are operating in circumstances where Australia is judged by all its neighbours and by the world. We saw the circumstances in which the decision of one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea in the Sear case had repercussions in the United Nations, and this decision required a considerable amount of dexterity to justify.
The members of those courts have to work in circumstances where there are not only no other judges or few other judges; they have also sometimes to make decisions hundreds of miles from other lawyers and from law libraries. I make no reflection on members of the legal profession in the Territories, but we must face the fact that the judges do not have the same degree of assistance from members of the profession appearing before them as quite obviously is available in State capitals. It would be true to say that few people have refused appointments to State Supreme Courts or to Federal Courts because of the salaries offered and it would be true to say that nobody has refused appointment as Chief Justice of Australia because of the salary attaching to the position. Only the late A. B. Piddington ever declined appointment as a puisne justice of the High Court and that was not because of the salary offered. Yet it is true that the salaries available to the judges of the Supreme Courts of the Northern Territory and of Papua and New Guinea are rarely sufficient to attract persons who have normal family responsibilities and who have the normal professional openings available to them and who would ordinarily be considered for Supreme Court appointments.
It is true that the judges in the territories have never resorted to the irregular procedure which the Chief Justice of Victoria followed six years ago to-day in making a statement from the bench asking for an increase of salary. Nevertheless, every one knows the circumstances in which judges have operated in those territories. A man acceptsan appointment. He accordingly breaks his professional connexions. It is no longer possible for him to come back to practice in the southern States where he formerly practised. We have up to now taken advantage of the people who have accepted appointment to the Supreme Courts of the Northern Territory and of Papua and New Guinea. There is a vacancy in the Northern Territory. The three puisne positions are now vacant in Papua and New Guinea.
– How do you connect this with the bill?
– I stated that I connected it because the Prime Minister outside the House on 29th September released a statement, after he had left for New York, that bills would be introduced during the present sitting of Parliament to increase the salaries of the judges of the federal courts created by the Australian Parliament. I pointed out that the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea was created by this Parliament and the salaries of the judges are not being determined in any legislation we have yet been given. I pointed out, furthermore, as the Minister for Territories knows quite well, that the three puisne positions in the court are now vacant. If we are to get first-rate men to accept appointments in the legal and social isolation and the ideological and juridical frontiers that there apply, we will have to put up their salaries to a rate comparable with those fixed by the bill. As I said earlier when speaking on the other bill and as I brieflymentioned earlier in my speech on this bill, we have failed as a Parliament to co-ordinate judicial salaries throughout Australia. We are here failing to co-ordinate the judicial salaries which are fixed by this Parliament itself. For that reason also, we will vote against this bill.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Friday, 9 December 1960
Debate resumed from 17th November (vide page 2991), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to extend the period of office of Sir William Hudson as Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for three years. Otherwise he would retire on reaching the age of 65 next April. The Snowy project is at a vital stage, with the Snowy-Murray diversion, which is, indeed, the second major phase of the Snowy scheme, about to be begun. As the leader of the skilled team which he has assembled from all over the world to carry out this scheme, Sir William has his finger on the pulse of every phase of its operations and his personal influence is immense. He is certainly an exceptional man, and in the exceptional circumstances the Opposition supports the extension of his term. In my opinion, to lose him at this stage would be a calamity. As parliamentary representative of the Snowy Mountains region I have heard many expressions of approval of the proposal to continue Sir William as commissioner since it was first announced a month ago, and it is notable that not one word of objection has reached me from any section of my electorate.
Sir William Hudson is a great Australian.
– Does he live in the honorable member’s electorate?
– Yes. I speak as one who has clashed with him on various matters in my capacity as representative of the Snowy Mountain Authority’s employees. We have disagreed vigorously with some of the actions and policies of the authority. We have not always had our viewpoint accepted, but the commissioner’s door has always been open to me; he has been willing to go fully into every case, and on many occasions by his personal efforts a grievance has been removed, an injustice righted, or a hardship ameliorated. Certainly, I have not always got my own way with him. Far from it. But every man is entitled to be wrong sometimes. What 1 am describing is Sir William’s readiness to give every one a fair go, and his extraordinary capacity to handle the most diverse and detailed problems. I often wonder that he does not find it necessary to delegate more of his duties to those around him.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his second-reading speech, detailed the spectacular progress which has been achieved since the Chifley Government inaugurated the scheme, and in August, 1949 appointed Sir William Hudson to conduct it. The Attorney-General also set out the chief features of the authority’s future construction programme, involving an expenditure of close on £100,000,000 in the next six or seven years. In doing so he described the world-wide search for staff required to investigate, design and construct one of the largest individual civil engineering undertakings ever attempted. At the same time he pointed to the marked success with which the authority has built up such a highly skilled and experienced technical team which has established a world-wide reputation for enterprise and achievement.
Mr. Speaker, it is to that aspect which I now propose to turn, because, just as the departure of Sir William at this stage would be a calamity, so would the breaking up of the unique organization which functions under his leadership. Indeed, in considering the extension for some years of the commissioner’s term, this House has to take account of the need also to maintain the professional staff working under his control. It is of no use to re-appoint the commissioner unless we ensure that he has adequate professional staff to work with him and under his direction. This is a most urgent need, because the authority is at present losing a number of highly qualified engineers - men mostly in the 30 to 45 years age group - and it is certainly going to lose many more of these professional men unless some reasonable assurance can be given to them of their long-term prospect of employment with the Commonwealth. As it is, lacking this assurance, and being bound to look to the future for themselves and their families, they are accepting much more profitable offers from big private companies, and the rate at which such skilled professional men are leaving the authority has become most disturbing.
The explanation is simple enough. At the present rate of progress, the major works of the Snowy Mountains scheme will be completed in another fifteen years. While a peak effort will be required in the five years now beginning, from then onwards some engineers will become superfluous. In five years’ time, particularly, men engaged on investigation and developmental works will become superfluous to the authority’s requirements, and that state of redundancy will then gradually extend to other sections of the authority.
It is well known to all those who are interested in the authority that its work is already being adversely affected by the resignations of skilled staff.
Order! I think that the honorable member is now getting a little too far away from the re-appointment of the commissioner, which is the subject of the bill.
– I am trying to make the point - I hope with your agreement, Mr. Speaker - that the reappointment of Sir William Hudson is very important, and it is important to the House, in deciding whether or not to re-appoint him, to consider the adequacy of the authority’s staff. I have now finished my consideration of that point.
The way is open to the Government to remedy this situation by now proclaiming further tasks for the authority to carry out when its present programme is completed. I wish to urge on the House the importance of not missing the opportunity of reappointing Sir William Hudson for another three years, so that, during the next three years, his great engineering ability and skill may be used in the planning of future works for the authority and its staff to undertake. This would possess not only the immediate advantage of encouraging present staff to remain with the authority but also the far greater advantage, in the national interest, of keeping intact a highly expert organization, under the leadership of Sir William Hudson, animated by a common team spirit, and ready in the future to tackle some of the other great water supply projects for which this thirsty continent is crying out.
I am not suggesting that another similar project for this organization could be announced by the Government immediately. A vast amount of preliminary negotiation, such as with State governments, and of research and investigation is essential before any such work can be approved, or put in hand. That is one of the reasons why Sir William Hudson’s continued service for the next three years would be of the utmost importance. We have already learned that lesson during the many years which passed before the Snowy scheme could finally be actually begun.
What I am urging on the Government with all the force at my command is that the opportunity to re-appoint Sir William Hudson should be taken so that these preliminary tasks may be put in hand now without any further delay, because, all over Australia, there are great works of this nature waiting to be done, and not a day should be allowed to pass without advancing them. If we do not undertake the task of national development in Australia with all possible speed, then people from other lands will eventually come here and do it in their interests.
I emphasize the importance and urgency of some announcement by the Government along those lines coincidental with the appointment of Sir William Hudson. It need not be a detailed announcement, nor an iron-clad guarantee, but at this stage a general announcement of the Commonwealth’s determination to maintain the great construction organization which it now possesses, and to employ it on other national tasks would be an important reassurance to many of the Snowy Mountains Authority’s officers as well as a wise investment in future national policy.
In the Snowy Mountains region to-day Sir William Hudson has assembled from around the world many technical experts, including geologists, hydrologists, engineers, scientists, and construction technicians of all kinds. They came here thrilled with the prospect of carrying out an immensely useful public work in a new land. It was the kind of challenge to which scientists and engineers naturally respond, and they have worked wonderfully well under the leadership of Sir William Hudson. While Sir William continues to be there, this team will work under him, but now these people are beginning to look elsewhere. They see the end of the present project, and they do not see any successor. They are drifting either to private employment in Australia or back to their homelands. Every man so lost to the authority is a loss also to Australia. It is a loss which ought to be halted now, and I am sure that the Government will see the need for it.
I urge once more upon the Government the proposal already put forward that the Snowy Mountains Authority be made the basis for setting up authorities like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the United States Bureau of Reclamation, with Sir William Hudson at the head of such authority. It has been pointed out that this can be done under section 96 of the Constitution. The Snowy Mountains scheme itself was initiated under the Commonwealth defence power.
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting away from the bill. The purpose of the bill is to authorize the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson. The honorable member is inclined to develop a general discussion of the scheme itself and of the employees of the authority. If the honorable member will confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair, it will be very helpful.
– I shall be very happy to comply with your ruling, Sir, but I do wish to advance the argument that, in deciding whether to reappoint Sir William, it is important to see the advantages that can be gained by using him in further planning for the Commonwealth, and I shall confine my argument to that as closely as possible. As to the nature of these future tasks, perhaps the most succinct definition would be “ A national organization for the investigation, planning and development of water conservation “. Australia needs water conservation more than any other country. The field for such activity here is limitless and Sir William Hudson’s services, should the House agree to re-employ him for another three years, could be very usefully employed in preliminary work on such projects as -
Multi-purpose development and flood control of the northern rivers of
New South Wales, involving power inter-connexion with southern Queensland.
– Order! I think the honorable member is now moving into a general debate on national development.
– I shall proceed no further along those lines. The other two schemes I suggest - and I will do no more than name them - are -
– Now back to the bill.
– Right. It may be argued that it is too early yet to be thinking of any of these future tasks, but I regard the appointment of Sir William Hudson as being of importance because it is essential that preliminary consideration of these tasks be undertaken now.
– Order! The measure before the Chair relates to the extension of the term of employment of the commissioner and a general debate on national development throughout Australia is not in order.
– Then I shall confine myself entirely to mentioning arguments supporting the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson.
– If the honorable member does that he will be keeping to the purposes of the bill.
– I am arguing that the House should agree to this measure for the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson so that Sir William may be engaged on behalf of the Government in the long period of negotiations which will be necessary to achieve satisfactory arrangements with the States for the carrying out of further water conservation projects in Australia. Furthermore, I am arguing that Sir William Hudson should be re-appointed to carry out the investigation necessary before the Government can commit itself to such very large expenditure. If he is appointed, the projects can be scrutinized carefully.
– This has nothing to do with the Snowy Mountains Authority.
– It has everything to do with it. I point out that the Snowy Mountains Authority already has made preparations to undertake other work and is undertaking work for Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales at the present time. My argument is strictly relevant.
– Order! I again ask the honorable member to come back to the bill which relates to the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson.
– Yes, Sir.
– The honorable member has been allowed a good deal of latitude.
– I am coming to the conclusion of my remarks. I put aside, at your request, some pages of what I intended to say. It is probably true that no other hydro-electric or water conservation authority in the world has been as meticulous in its investigations as has the Snowy Mountains Authority. This factor has undoubtedly contributed largely to the achievement of major works within target estimates of cost and often ahead of time schedule, which is another very important reason for the. re-appointment of Sir William Hudson.
The other aspect to which I desire to add emphasis from the viewpoint of Sir William Hudson’s re-appointment to the authority is that of construction work. I think very few people outside those actively connected with the Snowy Mountains Authority realize how large a proportion of its staff is associated with construction.
That is, either directly on dams, tunnels, power stations and transmission lines or indirectly in providing services such as plant and materials, and basic facilities such as roads, camps, communications and power. In all of these, Sir William Hudson is the key man in the authority’s service. The efficient planning and execution of these unspectacular aspects has significantly helped the remarkably smooth and swift progress of the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is typical of Sir William Hudson that his foresight, experience and tenacity have been directed especially to these aspects, and in the further three year term which the bill provides for him, the Government could take abundant advantage of his abilities in future planning along these lines, without which no water conservation work can be put in hand.
I say finally that Sir William’s integrity, energy, and engineering ability compel admiration, and it is particularly appropriate, therefore, that the question of extension of the authority’s field of activities to other great water supply and conservation schemes throughout Australia should rightly be dealt with while he is still in office during the next three years. I commend the bill to the House.
.I, too, would like to support the reappointment of Sir William Hudson, whose term of office as Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has been accompanied by a great sense of achievement and a certain uplifting of spirit generally towards projects of this kind. Among his other achievements, of course, is the creation of a wonderful propaganda machine - a combination of facts - which has succeeded, amongst other things, in anaesthetizing the critical spirit of inquiry into the scheme- just as the critical faculties of the House at this moment have been somewhat dimmed.
What we do know about this scheme in which Sir William Hudson has played such a . otable part is that, since it was first adopted, the calculations upon which it was based have changed very considerably. Certainly the relative costs of capital such as the rates of interest at which such long term projects are being financed, have changed remarkably, as has the relevant cost of generating thermal power compared with hydro-electric power. 1 do suggest that at some time in the future it would be of great interest to have reinforced our belief that such a very large proportion of the capital expenditure available in Australia for all purposes, including a number of the things which honorable members on both sides support so heartily, should be directed so heavily, relatively, towards the Snowy Mountains scheme. Sir William Hudson, of course, is particularly well qualified to direct the operations in the southern section of the scheme. Before we reach the point of no return in this section it would be interesting to have from the Government a reappraisal of all the facts.
– Order! I think the honorable member is now getting a little wide of the bill.
– This is a task with which I gather that the reappointment of Sir William Hudson is closely connected in view of his experience with the rest of the area. I feel sure that this is essentially a sound scheme but it would be interesting to have the reappraisal which I have advocated. Honorable members may laugh this off at this late hour but it is interesting. After all, any scheme which absorbs such a large proportion of our total capital resources per annum should be on a very sound basis and should be justified by the initial calculations on which the scheme is based. We ought to reaffirm in the mind of the taxpayer who has contributed towards the cost of the scheme that it is basically sound.
There is one other point that I wish to make. It concerns the future employment of the Snowy staff. There seems to be very little doubt of the quality of the engineers concerned. Like civil engineers the rest of the world over, the best of them move around to various schemes in the course of their engineering life and I have no doubt that their record on the Snowy will ensure that however long they stay there, in the end, other employment opportunities will readily be open to them.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) has stated that conditions have changed in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme since the scheme was inaugurated. He produced no evidence to support that assertion. He merely said that a change had taken place. To date, £163,000,000 of Commonwealth money has been spent and about £253,000,000 has been committed. The scheme has to be completed. Sir William Hudson is the man to see the job through as he has been associated with it from the beginning. The Opposition supports his re-appointment to enable that to be done. Whether he is to direct the southern half or any other portion, it will all be part of the one scheme. The generation of electricity and the use of the water for irrigation works after the electricity has been generated are all part of the one scheme. Three States are involved in this activity.
Recently, the Premier of South Australia came to Canberra and the Commonwealth was threatened with High Court writs. Sir William Hudson is the man to advise the Government on all aspects of engineering and, 1 suggest, on legal aspects of the scheme. I have an idea that the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking, first as a State-righter and secondly as a person who wants to hand this scheme over to private enterprise - to the Dusseldorps and the rest so that they can make a profit out of it, too. Perhaps he has some other hidden objection to a great scheme which is a monument to socialism. I do not know what his motives are. The Government is right in doing what it wants to do. The Opposition believes in always supporting the Government when it is right. We are only sorry that the Government affords us so few opportunities for supporting it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1st December, (vide page 3545), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.Mr. Speaker, this bill is intended to give parliamentary approval to the agreement that was signed last month between the Commonwealth Government, Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited and the Tasmanian Government to dispose of the Commonwealth’s interest in the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay. When this bill becomes law the Commonwealth Government will retire from an industry which was established by the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania in 1944 during the time of the Curtin Government. It was then a 50-50 partnership between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, the Commonwealth providing £1,500,000 while the State of Tasmania was to provide a further £1,500,000, a total of £3,000,000. In 1949, the Menzies Government took over from the Chifley Government and continued with the programme that had been laid down in the 1944 act. Six years later, in 1955, the Bell Bay industry produced its first ingot. It is now producing 12,000 tons of aluminium annually. Last year, Mr. Speaker, we imported into this country 37,000 tons of aluminium ingots, so it is obvious that the industry at Bell Bay is not meeting the aluminium requirements of the Commonwealth.
The importance of aluminium is not disputed. I believe it would be generally agreed that it is second to iron and steel in importance to the building industry. Since 1951, the Opposition has frequently requested the Commonwealth Government to expand the industry at Bell Bay in order to increase production as well as to provide for rolling mills and extrusion plant. Despite the requests that have been made frequently in this Parliament to have the industry further developed, the Commonwealth has remained adamant that it was not prepared to enter further into aluminium production. Obviously, it was not the intention of the Government to expand the industry at Bell Bay. I believe that that point of view has been further illustrated by statements that have been made from time to time by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner).
The act was amended in 1952 to provide that the Commonwealth Government would not be obliged to consult the Tasmanian Government if it was decided that the Commonwealth should retire from the Bell Bay industry. However, the
Aluminium Industry Act of 1944 provided in paragraph 3 (J) of the agreement in the schedule to the act -
The Commission shall not enter into or be in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking;
I believe that the intention of the act was quite clear. The Commonwealth Government should always remain in the industry at Bell Bay. Although the 1952 amendment provided that the Commonwealth Government would not be obliged to consult the Tasmanian Government if it decided to sell out its financial interests, beyond giving three months’ notice, no attempt was made to alter the paragraph to which I have referred. In other words, the Commonwealth Government was prepared to leave in the agreement the provision that the Commonwealth Government should remain in the Bell Bay industry.
The Government’s attitude to Bell Bay is completely un-Australian. This industry was established under the 1944 act to serve Australia’s defence requirements. If the Government had any intention of retiring from Bell Bay, surely it should have been on the basis at least of retaining a one-third interest, even if it wanted outside capital. On that basis, both the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government would have retained a controlling interest in the industry. The Government’s clear intention now is to withdraw from the industry. What was an industry fully controlled jointly by the Commonwealth and Tasmania will now pass primarily to overseas interests. T believe that the need for the expansion of the industry at Bell Bav and the Government’s decision to retire from it are due to the fact that in 1957-58, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission drew attention to the fact that on the existing basis of production at Bell Bay, it would not be possible for the industry to progress economically.
The commission drew attention to this matter in paragraph 53 of its report in that year in which it stated -
As indicated earlier in this report, the Commission’s efforts to reduce operating costs met with some success and further gains are expected. The Commission naturally gives close and continuous attention to the scope for effecting reductions in costs, but sees little prospect, on the basis of present productive capacity, of being able to reduce costs to the extent necessary to compete with recent Canadian and Russian prices. In this connexion, it is relevant to observe that the present capacity of the Bell Bay plant is only about one-third of that of the smallest aluminium plant in north America. The Commission believes that a substantial increase in the size of the plant would offer the only means of achieving a significant reduction in costs per ton of production.
That, I believe, was a challenge to the Commonwealth Government. When the report was made available, the Government was approached by the Premier of Tasmania who requested the Commonwealth Government to provide additional finance so that the proposal of the commission could be put into effect. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated at once that the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to make available additional finance for the Bell Bay industry. I acknowledge at once that since 1952, the Commonwealth Government did make additional moneys available over and above the amount of £1,500,000 originally laid down in the act of 1944.
The argument has been advanced by the Minister for National Development that this Government has provided the bulk of the finance to establish the industry at Bell Bay; but it should not be forgotten that although the Commonwealth has supplied more than £1,500,000, the Tasmanian Government has also spent more than the £1,500,000 originally set down in the act. Had it not been for the money made available by the Tasmanian Government for incidental expenses in connexion with hydro-electric development, the housing project at George Town, the water scheme to service Bell Bay and a first-class highway from Launceston to Bell Bay, obviously the industry would not have been able to function as it does to-day. So on a £1 for £1 basis, I think it can be shown that the State government has provided equally as much finance for this project as has the Commonwealth Government.
Following this report, the Premier of Tasmania sought additional finance to increase the output at Bell Bay. It was subsequently refused. In September, 1958, the Minister for National Development made a statement on this matter in which he indicated quite clearly and definitely that the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to make additional finance available.
On that occasion, the Minister for National Development said -
In my talks with Mr. Cosgrove it was agreed that we should explore the possibilities of obtaining additional capital in order to increase the size of the Bell Bay plant and expand its activities. The Commonwealth Government believes that this expansion should be effected with private capita] and not with Government funds. Mr. Cosgrove agreed with this view and, following our discussions, he wrote me a letter in which he told me that he had raised the matter in the Tasmanian Cabinet. He assured me that his Government would favour the admission of an outside partner into the Bell Bay project.
The Commonwealth Government has indicated that it was not prepared to make available additional finance. It had been suggested that additional capital should be provided for the industry from an outside source. I believe at the time the Premier of Tasmania anticipated that that would mean a third partner would be admitted into the industry. I do not believe that the Premier of Tasmania thought at the time that the Commonwealth Government would retire from the industry. The proposal was on the basis of an outside partner acquiring an interest in Bell Bay in conjunction with the Commonwealth and State governments. The bill now before the House indicates that the Commonwealth Government has decided to retire from Bell Bay and will hand over its interest completely to aluminium interests outside the Commonwealth.
Following the agreement that was outlined by the Minister for National Development, this House had an assurance that additional finance would be made available. It is on that basis that the Opposition concedes that some improvement of production at Bell Bay can be expected in the near future. We welcome the proposal to expand production. I believe it will be appreciated by all honorable members, particularly those from Tasmania, and it will certainly be appreciated by the Tasmanian public.
However, I believe that the Government is open to criticism for the way in which these negotiations have been conducted, because, following the statement to which I have just referred, the Minister for National Development did not hesitate to inform the Parliament that he was negotiating with an overseas interest for the sale of the
Commonwealth holding in Bell Bay. At that time it was commonly believed that the company with which the Minister for National Development was negotiating was the British Aluminium Company Limited. This House was never informed of the details of those negotiations, and subsequently the negotiations fell through. When the agreement was finally announced we found that it was not the British Aluminium Company Limited, but Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited which was to be the new partner. It is now proposed that that company shall take over the Commonwealth’s interest, which will give the company a controlling interest in the Bell Bay industry. The holdings will be on the basis of two-thirds by Consolidated Zinc and one-third by the State of Tasmania.
While those negotiations were being conducted by the Minister for National Development, the Tasmanian Government, in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, as outlined in its report to which I have referred, on its own initiative decided to push ahead with its plans to expand the industry’s annual production to 16,000 tons from its present rate of 12,000 tons. The Commonwealth had already stated that it was not prepared to provide additional finance, so the Premier of Tasmania indicated that Tasmania would provide the additional finance for the commission, to the extent that was possible from accumulated revenue.
Now we have an agreement with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited under which the output at Bell Bay will be increased - according to clause G of the agreement - to 28,000 tons annually. As I have already said, we welcome this plan to expand production to that extent; but there are five features associated with this agreement to which the Opposition raises very great Objections. First, there are the conditions of sale; secondly, there is the basis on which interest charges will be levied; thirdly, there is the failure of the Government to guarantee in the agreement the continued security of the industry at Bell Bay; fourthly, there is the surprising departure on the part of the Commonwealth from the principle previously observed in this country of calling for tenders when taxpayer’s assets are being disposed of; fifthly, there is the failure to maintain effective Australian control. There are probably matters with which the Opposition would find itself in agreement, and I have no doubt that other speakers will refer to them in due course. Let me deal with the propositions that I have just outlined.
The first of these refers to the conditions of sale. The industry at Bell Bay is an asset worth £11,200,000, but the purchase price under this agreement is £10,980,000, and the price is to be paid over a period of sixteen years. We are told in the Minister’s second-reading speech that the first payment will be a deposit of £2,500,000, which is to be paid on 3rd January, 1961. Thereafter instalments are to be paid on 31st December of each year. Between 1961 and 1964 there will be four instalments of £250,000; between 1965 and 1975 there will be a further four instalments of £625,000; and in 1976 there will be a final instalment of £605,000.
I would suggest, Sir, that this is a very generous proposal on the part of the Government. Surely we may assume that Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, which has wide interests, would be able to pay the purchase price in a shorter period. This company is prepared to establish an aluminium industry in New Zealand which is expected to cost £125,000,000. It can find an additional £43,000,000 to develop the bauxite deposits at Weipa. So surely it cannot be said to be short of capital. Yet under this agreement the Government allows the payment of the purchase price of a Government asset to stretch over a period of sixteen years. I suggest that, in view of the fact that this company is now a world-wide organization of both British and American interests, it should have been possible for it to pay the purchase price for the Commonwealth’s interest at Bell Bay under far less generous terms than have been guaranteed to it by this Government.
The second point to which I want to turn concerns the interest rates. Interest is to be paid on the investment, and according to the Minister’s second-reading speech it will be levied at the rate of 5 per cent. The interest, however, will be paid only after the company has declared a dividend of 6i per cent, and paid tax calculated at 3i per cent. In other words, 10 per cent, must be shown on the investment before the company will be obliged to pay interest. Interest in the first year, according to my rapid mental calculation, would be approximately £420,000, after the deposit has been paid. In the second year the interest due would be £407,500. I have calculated only the interest payable in those two years. In the fourth year it could be expected that interest accumulated over the four years would be very nearly £1,000,000. Yet under this agreement which we are asked to accept interest is allowed to accumulate unless the company can show a profit of 10 per cent. - that is, its dividend of 6± per cent, after paying tax of 3i per cent. Unless it can show that 10 per cent., no interest is payable. Of course, the tax accumulates, but one should consider the profit that has been made by the industry. The report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission indicates that for the year 1959-60 the profit was only £122,753, and for the preceding year, £153,700. This profit is far below that which would have to be made by the company before it would be liable for tax. I suggest that no tax will be paid by the company in the first five years of its operations. When the expansion programme has been completed and when production has been increased, the company might be able to pay some tax, but here is a peculiar circumstance which is contained in the agreement. If, after five years, the company shows a profit after allowing the 6i per cent, and the 3i per cent, and after paying the interest that is due in that year, it is required to pay only one-half of the additional profit off the accumulated arrears of tax. I claim that the arrangement in relation to the tax is merely window dressing.
To support my contention that very little if any tax will be paid by the company, I refer to the agreement which provides that if, at the end of sixteen years, the tax remains unpaid the Government has the right to waive the tax. That arrangement does not apply to any other organization in this country. It is not a concession that is given to ex-servicemen, for example, who are buying a home through the War Service Homes Division. Any amount that remains unpaid at the expiration of the period of the loan is not waived by the
Government. However, according to the agreement that we are asked to accept, the Government has the right to waive any tax outstanding at the end of sixteen years. The opposition does not accept that section of the agreement.
The third point to which I wish to refer relates to the failure of the agreement to provide a guarantee that the industry at Bell Bay will continue to produce aluminium. 1 do not suggest that Consolidated Zinc will accept responsibility for the undertaking, will assume control and then immediately close it down. But a company which already has stated its intention to provide an industry in New Zealand worth £125,000,000, and which has extensive bauxite deposits in Weipa, which no doubt it will develop, can hardly be expected to worry very much about the industry at Bell Bay. The agreement should have provided some guarantee that the industry at Bell Bay will be continued. As the matter now stands, there is nothing to prevent the company from closing it down.
The fourth point to which I now turn - another extremely important aspect - relates to the failure of the Government to call tenders when it decided to sell an industry of this size. I have indicated already that in the first instance negotiations were conducted with British Aluminium but, for some reason, the conditions which were laid down by the Government were not acceptable to that company. The Minister then decided to negotiate with Consolidated Zinc. At no time did he consider making the industry available to Australian interests despite the fact that they approached him. We know that on one occasion an Australian organization contacted the Premier of Tasmania and offered to purchase the industry at Bell Bay on the same terms as had been extended to Consolidated Zinc, but apparently this Government, which claims to recognize at all times the rights of private enterprise, was not prepared to consider this offer.
The Minister has suggested that the price that was paid for the industry was the best that could have been obtained in the circumstances. The Minister is in no position to make that statement. How does he know that it was the best price that could have been obtained if tenders were not called? The Minister is not aware of the price that might have been paid, for example, by Aluminium Industries Actien Gesellschaft, the Swiss company which was very interested in the industry and which sought to submit a tender for it. But on all occasions its representations were ignored. So the industry was handed over to one company and organizations in Australia which were interested in it and which wanted to participate in the negotiations, were not given the opportunity to tender for it.
If the Commonwealth Government decides to retire from control of an undertaking, it has an obligation to advertise that industry and call for tenders in accordance with the normal procedure that has been laid down. When the Government made up its mind to dispose of the industry “British Aluminium should have been given the first opportunity to purchase it. Although the papers relating to this matter have never been made available to honorable members, we have been told that documents are in existence which indicate that British Aluminium had to be consulted first. If that is the case, the Commonwealth had an obligation to consider not only Consolidated Zinc but also any other interested organizations. But the Government chose to ignore the other companies. It is true that Consolidated Zinc and British Aluminium were at that time joint partners in Comalco, which was registered in Australia, but the fact remains that other Australian organizations were interested in this enterprise and they should have been given the opportunity to tender for it, but the Minister refused them this opportunity. The Opposition has no objection at all so far as the conditions relating to employment, long service leave, furlough, sickness benefits and so on at Bell Bay are concerned. We believe that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has given very serious consideration to these matters in this agreement and we raise no objection to those conditions at all. We believe that the interests of the employees are fully protected as indeed they should be. I turn now to the question of the effect on Australian control of this industry. We believe that the Commonwealth Government should have ensured that an effective Australian interest was maintained in the Bell Bay industry. I have already indicated that when this bill becomes law Consolidated Zinc will have a two-thirds share in the industry at Bell Bay and the Tasmanian Government a one-third share.
Consolidated Zinc consists of 12 per cent. Austraiian interests and the Tasmanian Government will have a 33i per cent, interest, which gives Australian interests approximately a 45 per cent, interest in the Bell Bay industry. We believe the Commonwealth Government should have ensured at least a 50 per cent. Australian interest in Bell Bay. Under the terms of this legislation, the Australian interest is far less than 50 per cent, and that is one of the omissions which the Government should never have allowed under this agreement. The industry at Bell Bay will now be controlled by Consolidated Zinc in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government. It might be just as well at this stage to consider the tie-up of these overseas interests with the industry at Bell Bay, not only as regards the production of aluminium but also so far as the bauxite supplies of this country are concerned.
Following the agreement signed by the Minister for National Development with Consolidated Zinc, British Aluminium dissolved partnership with Consolidated Zinc. At that stage it was decided to share the assets that were previously held by those two companies in relation to bauxite supplies in this country. British Aluminium was to take control of the bauxite supplies at Gove in the Northern Territory and also to retain control of the Purari River rights in New Guinea. Consolidated Zinc, on the other hand, was to take control of the bauxite supplies at Weipa - 2,270 square miles - with a further deposit in the Cape York Peninsula and also a five-year lease over the Blair Athol coalfields. Between them these two companies control all the bauxite in this country, with the exception of one or two small areas in Tasmania, and another at Marchinbar Island which, under the agreement, will be retained by the Commonwealth. The fact remains that between them these two companies have a controlling interest in the bauxite supplies of this country. According to the schedule to the agreement the industry at Bell Bay will - under the agreement which is not available to members of this House - be guaranteed a supply of bauxite from both British Aluminium, from the Gove deposits and from the deposits at Weipa. I understand from information that has been made available to me, that 150,000 long tons of bauxite from each of these areas will be made available to the industry at Bell Bay. From that agreement it appears that the production of aluminium at Bell Bay is guaranteed because, on the proportions of 4-2-1, on which I believe the production of aluminium is based - that is four tons of bauxite to two tons of alumina to produce one ton of aluminium - it would guarantee sufficient bauxite to produce 75,000 tons of aluminium each year at Bell Bay and it would appear that that would be sufficient for the requirements.
Under the agreement Consolidated Zinc and the Tasmanian Governmer will increase the output to 28,000 tons annually, which, of course, is far below the 75,000 tons to which I have just referred. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the industry there might ultimately be increased to a production of 40,000 tons of aluminium ingots per annum. There is no guarantee of that. It has only been suggested and is not contained in the agreement. The agreement merely refers to the 28,000 tons but I hope the production will be increased to 40,000 tons of aluminium ingots each year, because by 1970 the requirements of this country will be far in excess of 40,000 tons. Twentyeight thousand tons of aluminium ingots per year is now well below the requirements of this country, so the position arises that we will be exporting bauxite supplies from Weipa and Gove to a major industry in New Zealand which, in turn, will produce aluminium ingots for export to this country and to overseas countries. We, of the Opposition, believe this Government should have remained in the industry at Bell Bay and should have provided the additional capital, or, if outside capital was desired, it should have been admitted on the basis of equal representation. That would have ensured control so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned. The control would have remained in the hands of Australian interests, but this Government has chosen to hand over our extensive bauxite supplies to overseas interests. It has handed control of the industry at Bell Bay to overseas interests and therefore I believe the Government can expect that in the future the major aluminium industry in the southern hemisphere will be established not in Australia but in New Zealand.
Nobody disagrees with the attitude of the New Zealand Government in respect of this industry. It was able to secure this industry for New Zealand, but I believe the Commonwealth Government lost five valuable years in which negotiations could have been completed, thus putting Australia in the position of being the major producer and exporter of aluminium in the southern hemisphere. As it is, the Government now presents to this House an agreement which will guarantee that the greatest bauxite supplies in the world - sufficient for 150 years at current world production rates or for several thousand years to meet Australian requirements only - will be exported to another country for production into aluminium ingots. On that basis, we believe the Government has refused to accept the responsibility that it was originally intended to accept under the 1944 act. It has set aside the principles so clearly laid down in that act; that this industry was established as a defence measure.
The Government should have retained its interest in the industry. There was no reason why it should not have pursued a course which would have resulted in increased production at Bell Bay. The undertaking is now producing an aluminium ingot that is as good as that produced anywhere else in the world. We have technical advantages at Bell Bay. The industry is already well established. All that was required was a sympathetic and co-operative government. We could then have had a major aluminium industry. The opportunity has now been lost. We welcome the provision df the agreement which is designed to increase production from 12,000 tons to 28,000 tons, but we believe that if this Government had been prepared to accept its responsibilities it could have done much better for Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to make a few general comments, without going into details, which have been most ably covered by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), in whose electorate this great Australian industry is established. There are three good features of this bill. First, the aluminium industry will be retained in Tasmania. Secondly, its capacity will be increased to at least 28,000 tons annually. Thirdly, in spite of the overwhelming use of overseas capital in the new set-up, the Tasmanian Government will have at least a one-third share. We can say, in effect, that the Tasmanian Government has its foot in the door - but only just.
These three positive features of the transaction will actually ensure employment for nearly 800 men without loss of industrial rights and privileges. They will ensure the increase of the work force in the future, if expansion of the industry proceeds according to plan. The transaction will enable the town of George Town to continue to grow, and it will help to bolster the economy of Australia, and Tasmania in particular. I congratulate the Tasmanian Premier, the Honorable Eric Reece, and his Cabinet on their successful fight to retain a voice in the control of this vital undertaking. Actually the set-up is unique. It is a private-enterprise-government enterprise partnership, and there are very few such undertakings in this country.
I now have some criticism to make of the transaction. The Commonwealth Government has run for cover, rather than invest a further £9,000,000 of public money in a publicly owned enterprise. Furthermore, the sell-out of Commonwealth interests, together with Australia’s precious bauxite deposits, to two of the most powerful international cartels in the world, is anathema to the Australian Labour Party. When considering this aspect of the matter we must give attention to the defence angle, which my colleague mentioned in the latter part of his speech.
No country conscious of its defence commitments has a moral right to hand over vital defence materials to overseas interests. If it became nationally necessary in the future to re-establish Commonwealth control of such a vital industry, and to regain access to the industry’s lifeblood, the bauxite deposits, we would find it well nigh impossible to do so. It would be most difficult to regain control or even any form of direction of this great industry in time of national emergency. It is a scandalous situation in which our bauxite deposits have been practically sold out to foreign cartels. We know that these foreign interests are our friends at the moment, but in this rapidly changing, fantastic world in which we are living, who is to say that they will remain our friends? In any case, international cartels are the friends of no one. They do not recognize national boundaries. That is the main feature of them; they have their roots in all countries, and in time of war they work underground, behind the scenes, in countries that are enemies of one another. We know the story of international cartels only too well. This transaction really amounts to the selling out of our bauxite deposits and our interests in the aluminium industry in such a way that we may never get them back. The denuding of Australia’s vital mineral resources, such as bauxite, copper, iron ore and coal, by selling them overseas, with the active connivance of the Liberal Government, could spell disaster for Australia in years to come.
I also criticize the fact that tenders were not called for the purchase of this enterprise. Senator Spooner said in another place, “ We have dealt in no direction other than with this particular company “. On Tuesday, 29th November, as reported at page 1810 of “ Hansard “, Senator Spooner said, in his speech in the Senate -
In view of the good price offered it was only reasonable that the company should be granted terms which allow the payment to be spread over a period of years.
What rubbish! Good terms, he said! Actually there has been more money invested in these works than this big organization is going to pay for them. Had we called tenders we could perhaps have got £20,000.000 from another international organization. If the Government intended to sell out to an international show, why did it not open up and let all the international shows have a go? Instead, it kept the negotiations in one channel. That is a most unusual way of dealing with Commonwealth assets.
Another objection I have is in regard to the astounding arrangement for the payment of interest. I simply make one comment without going into the details which have been covered by my colleague. It may well be that during the first five years the company will not pay any interest at all, and it may even get out of paying any interest over the period of sixteen years. In our opinion this is another scandalous feature of the legislation.
Another serious omission is the Government’s failure to protect the industry from being sold out to some other firm, or from being closed down altogether. The company is investing more than £120,000,000 in an aluminium plant in New Zealand, while it will be investing only £10,000,000 or £ 1 5,000,000 in Tasmania. Bell Bay is small, therefore, in comparison not only with the undertaking in New Zealand but also with vast undertakings in other parts of the world. The failure to ensure against the possible closing down of Bell Bay is a serious omission. Enterprises of this kind have been closed down before. To big companies such as this one £10,000,000 is a small price to pay. Such organizations have bought up small shows and closed them down deliberately in other parts of the world. The Opposition’s fear is that if international circumstances changed within the next ten years the company could easily wipe off Bell Bay. In those circumstances the loss of the Bell Bay undertaking might be offset by gains somewhere else. If the price of aluminium fell and it was hard to sell the product, Bell Bay could well be sold out. This loophole in the bill has not been closed, and we consider that this is a very serious omission.
Tasmania has invested £10,000,000 in this undertaking, and it is natural that Tasmania should be interested in the continuation of it. It has retained a one-third share. As I have said, Tasmania has its foot in the door. Obviously it would not want to throw away the £10,000,000 of capital that it has invested.
How did the Commonwealth clear the decks for this sell-out? The original act of 1944 provided that this great industry could be sold only after legislation had been passed by both the Tasmanian and the
Commonwealth Parliaments. A very important amendment was made in 1952. At that time, I said that this amendment would open the door for an eventual sell-out. Mr. Howard Beale, who was then Minister for Supply, said in effect that the intention of the Government was to sell it. Now, eight years later, this has happened. In 1952, section 9 of the act was amended to provide that the consent of the Commonwealth Parliament only was required for the sale of the undertaking. That was the critical point in the history of Bell Bay. Mr. Beale on that occasion said plainly that the ultimate intention was to hand the project to Australian private enterprise when it was developed. Liberal governments do that. They use public money to establish an enterprise and when it is running sweetly and making a profit, sell it to private enterpise. That is liberalism and has been done frequently, particularly in the past five or six years. Mr. Beale said that the project would be sold to Australian enterprises, but when the sale is arranged, we find that Tasmania has a one-third share and the Consolidated Zinc-Kaiser organization has a two-thirds share.
We will not oppose the second or third reading of the bill. That will be a good thing at this hour of the morning. However, though we criticize the sell-out to private enterprise, especially overseas enterprise, we understand Tasmania’s position. It is because of Tasmania’s position, with its investment in this industry, that we are prepared to allow the bill to pass without voting against it. However, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this House is of opinion that the Commonwealth Government should provide the capital necessary to expand the aluminium industry at Bell Bay and other suitable places and condemns the Government for handing over to foreign interests the development of bauxite deposits and the production of aluminium which are vital to Australia’s economy and defence.”
As I said earlier, the Commonwealth ran for cover, instead of investing £9,000,000 of public money to keep this great enterprise fully Australian. That is why we have moved this amendment. The Opposition will vote for the amendment, believing that what we have suggested should have been done. Had Labour been in office at this time, this industry would never have been sold to private enterpise, foreign or local.
– I second the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Duthie’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses and Schedule - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a new clause to be moved by a Minister in a bill for an act to approve an agreement relating to the sale of the undertaking carried on by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay in the State of Tasmania, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Proposed new clause.
Amendment (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “11. The Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated to the extent necessary for the purpose of the making by the Commonwealth of payments required to be made by section five of this Act and any payments that the Commonwealth is liable to make by reason of the operation of the last preceding section.”.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I present the sixth report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
– I ask for leave of the House to move that the report be agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Is leave granted?
Mr.Luchetti. - No
Leave not granted.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a short personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– No, I do not claim to have been misrepresented. I misrepresented some one else. I said, during a debate yesterday afternoon - and so I thought - that the honorable member for Lalor had made reference to promissory notes in a speech. I now find that the honorable member made some reference to unsecured notes but did not mention promissory notes. I am happy to correct my misstatement, and at the same time I take the opportunity to wish the honorable member a happy Christmas.
– Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the correction made by the honorable member for Mallee. I did not expect it, as he made his statement yesterday in good faith. I very greatly appreciate his tendering of Christmas greetings, which I am happy to reciprocate.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Explosives Bill 1960.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1960.
Defence Forces Special Retirement Benefits Bill 1960.
National Library Bill 1960.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Public Service Bill 1960.
States Grants (Universities) Bill 1960.
Copper Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Pyrites Bounty Bill 1960.
Patents Bill 1960.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1960.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1960.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1960.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 1.40 to 2.23 a.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Judiciary Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Judges Remuneration Bill 1960.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Before we adjourn, I should like to say to all honorable members, on behalf of the Government, that we wish them a very merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. I should like to say to you, Mr. Speaker, how much we wish you well, and to express our thanks to you, to the Chairman of Committees and to the Temporary Chairmen of Committees, remembering, as we do, at this time, that we lost one of our Temporary Chairmen in the course of the session with very great regret. He was a man universally admired and liked in this House.
I should like to offer, in conjunction with my very warm Christmas and New Year greetings, my politically restrained greeting to the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition. I know that they will be warmly reciprocated in the same sense.
I want to offer my own thanks to the Leader of the House who, though he had many other preoccupations, has undertaken with the assistance of certain other Ministers, and in conjunction with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the task of organizing the business of the House.
As a fairly old hand at this business, I want to say that the business of the House in the course of the session could not be conducted to the satisfaction or without trying the patience of honorable members on both sides of the House unless the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were able to arrange things in a civilized way. So we are very greatly indebted to both of them.
It is no mere form of words when I offer my thanks to the Whips because I am bound to say that I think the work of the Whips has never been better in my experience. The majorities have come out right, to my intense satisfaction. But they are all our friends and when they are summoned to tell the votes we look on them as our friends. I like them. I would not have honorable members believe that I am not experienced in being on the other side of the table. I have had it both ways and I like the Whips very much, particularly when they are my way.
Then I would like, I think on behalf of all of us, to thank the officers of the House, because the truth is that we occasionally thumb over the pages of the Standing Orders in order to develop a really stunning point, and in the last resort it is the officers at the table, and the other officers of the House who manage to keep us occasionally - frequently perhaps - on the straight and narrow path. But there is no doubt about it that if a Parliament is to work it must have efficient, quiet, unobtrusive officers of Parliament and I must say that they do us extraordinarily well, as indeed do all the attendants who look after the interests of members and help us to do our work.
Then I think everybody would wish me to say a word about the “ Hansard “ staff. Somebody complained the other day - I think it was my distinguished friend from the Mallee - about broadcasts in foreign languages. I am sure he felt that they ought to be interpreted into English. I say about the “ Hansard “ reporters that they perform that task quite simply day by day, and to our great satisfaction. I should like to thank the Parliamentary Librarian who is now entering into wider fields as the result of legislation that we have passed in this session. Every member is grateful to the Librarian and the staff of the Library.
I do not know whether I ought to offer a special word of thanks to the broadcasters. They sit hidden in that corner compartment. Occasionally they do interrupt a speaker in the middle of his most pungent paragraph and say “This is the honorable member for so-and-so.” But, for better or for worse, the broadcasting services have enabled our masters to judge us. Whether that is good or bad awaits the event. Then we have the gentlemen who sit aloft - the press correspondents. Sometimes I have agreed with them and sometimes my friends opposite have agreed with them; but at least we must concede that they do let the public know that we are here and arouse interest in what we are doing.
I do not think we ought to finish a session without thanking, first of all, the Government Printer whose labours are not small in the course of the session. More broadly still, our thanks are due to all our civil servants, whose services are available to Government and to Opposition alike, and for whose impartiality and integrity we have the highest regard. Then, Sir, it would be foolish, just before Christmas and at half-past two in the morning, not to offer a word of thanks to those who conduct the refreshment room services. Sometimes they may be underworked and sometimes overworked, but they are always friendly, always courteous, even to the robustious member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). As usual - and I have had to say this quite a few times - I may have omitted various people. I apologize if I have. This has been a long and strenuous session, and it would be foolish to pretend that we have not had exchanges. There may have been difficulties. I have even known my own friend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to engage in a little crossfire occasionally. But it would be foolish to pretend that we are not all rather proud of having taken part in our own fashion in the machinery of self-government in the Commonwealth of Australia - a great institution, a great source of pride for all of us who sh here, a great responsibility, and, therefore, a great matter for mutual goodwill.
– Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Opposition, I join in the felicitations that have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) particularly to you, Sir, for your impartiality, generosity, and understanding; and, after you, to the table officers for their help on all occasions, for their appreciation of the needs of the members of the Parliament, and for their willingness to help to make the work of the Parliament easier by advising members of their rights, assisting them in preparing amendments and keeping them on the straight and narrow path in regard to procedure. After the table officers and their assistants, and the officers of the records office downstairs, come all the other people - the attendants, the people who serve us in the dining rooms and the broadcasters.
There are also the “ Hansard “ reporters to whom the Prime Minister paid a fitting tribute and whose very presence here is so necessary if our words are to be recorded so that they can be published in due course in journals throughout the electorates. The work of “ Hansard “ is necessary if our words are to be preserved so that they can be quoted for us or against us in the years ahead. We are very grateful to the officers of “ Hansard “ at all times. They are very painstaking. Not only do they send proofs along for corrections but they even follow members up to make sure that the corrected proofs are returned. This is an added service. Then, Sir, come all those people who staff the Government Printing Office and who work very late to produce that daily “ Hansard “ which is so valuable now. This is one of the innovations of the Parliament since 1949 which is particularly helpful to members, and to the general public. To all those in the Government Printing Office we are most grateful.
We also owe a debt to the Library staff - to the girls who serve behind the counter, to the Librarian, Mr. White, and all the others who have given us a great deal of service over the years. Now, Sir, I come to the point at which the Prime Minister commenced: I wish our privileged rivals a very happy Christmas. We wish them a prosperous and happy New Year. We hope they and their families will have good health during the year, because the work of a parliamentarian is quite strenuous and so much time is spent away from our homes that when sickness strikes down any member of the Parliament, we have a feeling of very great regret for the particular person and his family and we wonder how much we have deprived ourselves and our own families of company we should have shared with them.
Next year, of course, we will probably adjourn earlier than 8th December, but no one knows. We had an idea the other day that perhaps we might have had a double dissolution some time next year. But in any case, the Parliament will move to its close some time towards the end of next year. In the meantime, while we transact our business in this House, we will have our differences. We will clash on occasions, but beneath it all, although we fight vigorously for our point of view, we have a mutual respect for each other and I hope a tolerance, too, which may wear a little thin at times but is always present. When the heat of the contest is over we can meet as friends and respect each other’s point of view. If we cannot do that, there is not much hope for democracy. The great idea about a democratic institution is that we can agree to disagree. In our system of government, there must always be a government which has the support of the majority of the people and some others who can form an alternative government if people wish to change their minds.
I have taken longer than I intended, Sir, but I repeat how much we on the Opposition side are indebted to everybody who has helped. Even to our opponents at this time of the year, we feel in friendly mood.
– I would not wish the Parliament to adjourn without associating myself as leader of the Australian Country Party and my colleagues of the Country Party with the good wishes that have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I extend for myself and the members of my party our very best wishes to you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulate you upon the dignity with which you have occupied your high office and the impartiality with which you have discharged your duties. At the same time, I would wish to express the same thoughts for my colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) who, as Chairman of Committees of this Parliament we will all recall, acts with impartiality and dignity. The honorable member is a gentleman who has served this country well in war, in peace and in this Parliament. We extend to him our best wishes for good health. We thank the Temporary Chairmen of Committees who have served the House and occupied the Chair with distinction. 1 wish to extend my congratulations to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). In the to and fro of Parliament we respect the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy and those who sit behind him. On this occasion when there is no fray, we join in extending to them best wishes for the Christmas tide and minimized good wishes for twelve months hence.
There is particular significance for me and my colleagues of the Country Party in this adjournment. To-day signifies the last appearance as a Minister in the Parliament of a great and warm colleague of ours, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who is relinquishing the portfolio of Minister for Repatriation. I speak for my colleagues and, I am sure, for all members when I say that here is a great Australian man who has served this country with great distinction, with great understanding and with great credit to the office he has occupied for a very long time. He has occupied that office for eleven years and, with a short break, he has been a member of this Parliament since 1928. Therefore he must be one of the longest-serving members of the Parliament. We would all wish Senator Sir Walter Cooper the very best on his relinquishing his ministerial office, as he will do in the very near future.
I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in extending our felicitations and thanks to the Clerk of the House and to those officers of the Parliament who serve within the House; also to the. “ Hansard “ staff, the Government Printing Office staff, the Library people and those who work in the refreshment-rooms - indeed, to all those who aid the Parliament of this democracy in operating as it does. A happy Christmas to you all and the very best wishes for the New Year.
To the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Trade, let me say that I thank you for the kindly references you have made to me. I can assure you that I appreciate them very much. On behalf of those whom you have praised, and to whom 1 shall refer, I express appreciation for the kindly references you have. made. I want to say how much I appreciate the references made to the Chairman of Committees and the sympathy expressed for him in his sickness. I mention also other members who are away on account of sickness. All of them are in our thoughts. I also wish to express to the House the appreciation of the relatives of the late Mr. Frank Timson for the references made to him.
On behalf of the staff from the front door down to the kitchens, of the cleaners, the outside staff and the girls who do all the typing for members, I express my appreciation of all kindly remarks made. May I say an appreciative word about the young lady who does an efficient job for the Speaker himself and who renders a service, I am sure, to all members. I also express appreciation for the kindly remarks made about the Library staff, the “ Hansard “ staff, the press, the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who broadcast the proceedings of the House and all the officers who work in the basement and elsewhere. We appreciate greatly the kindly references you have made.
I want to say before I finish how much I appreciate the help I have received from the officers associated with the House itself. You are fully aware of the very great weight they have to carry. They have rendered the greatest of service and have shown the greatest of loyalty to me. I appreciate very much the support and co-operation that I have always received. On behalf of all the people to whom I have referred, I extend to you the best wishes for 1961.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.44 a.m. (Friday) to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What sections of the Navigation Act 1912- 1958 must be proclaimed before Australia can ratify the following International Labor Organization conventions: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
As far as the Commonwealth is concerned the requirements of Conventions Nos. 23 and 92 are already met by the provisions of the Navigation
Act as now in force, but in respect of No. 23 the necessary regulations have not yet been promulgated.
m asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
What period elapses by law or in practice between lodgment and publication of a complete specification in countries proclaimed to be Convention countries for the purposes of the Patents Act?
– The information requested is not available in respect of all convention countries. The following table has been compiled on the best information available. It indicates the legal provisions of the country concerned regarding the publication of complete specifications, and, where the information is available, indicates the approximate period that elapses between lodgment and publication of a complete specification.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable Member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) and (b). Mr. Khrushchev, on 12th October, speaking in the General Assembly on a
Soviet draft resolution which proposed the allocation to the plenary session of the item entitled “Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples”, said, inter alia, “… the population in a number of colonies as for example, in the Congo, has diminished almost two-fold. Every one knows in what way the aboriginal population of Australia was exterminated. Mr. Menzies, who spoke here, should not forget this. The same happened in the United States of America; the aboriginal Indian population was exterminated here, the remaining few Indians have been driven into reservations.” This is the only reference made by Mr. Khrushchev in the fifteenth session of the General Assembly to Australian aborigines. Mr. Khrushchev also made a somewhat similar reference at a press conference luncheon on 7th October, 1960.
State clearly on the defensive, and I did not believe it necessary or desirable to take any special notice of them.
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. Negotiations, and details thereof, concerning positions in the United Nations Secretariat are substantially matters between the organization and the persons seeking employment in the secretariat. I understand, however, that on 1st November, 1958, our mission to the United Nations in New York was informed that Mr. Albert Date was a candidate for a post of eighteen months’ duration in Central America under the expanded technical assistance programme of the United Nations.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Banking Corporation, is also managing director of Elder Smith and Company, a private firm of woolbrokers?
—The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. Figures for Reserve Bank loans to banks are not published.
S and 6. The rate of interest charged on Reserve Bank loans to the trading banks is not published. Therefore it is not possible to discuss implications of the current rate or any alternative rate.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount has the Government borrowed since 1st January, 1950, from each of the following sources: - (a) Great Britain, (b) the United States of America, (c) Canada, (d) Switzerland, (e) the International Bank, and (0 the International Monetary Fund?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The amounts borrowed from overseas sources by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Commonwealth and State Governments between 31st December, 1949 and 30th June, 1960 are shown in the following table, together with details of movements in debt during the period: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 December 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601208_reps_23_hor29/>.