23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a proper interpretation of the right honorable gentleman’s speech yesterday that the Commonwealth has decided to reject the unanimous request of the six State Premiers for an emergency grant to meet the requirements of primary, secondary and technical education? Has the Commonwealth also rejected the Premiers’ request for a national inquiry, along similar lines to the Murray inquiry, into the needs of these three levels of education? If the Commonwealth has decided not to accede to these requests, is the basis of rejection not that the Commonwealth lacks constitutional authority or that the States have not requested assistance, as the Prime Minister has previously asserted, but that, as the Prime Minister now says, there is no crisis in education? Finally, can the right honorable gentleman say that this judgment has been made after full consideration of the submissions of the Australian Educational Council-
– Order ! I think the honorable member is ranging too far afield, tie should ask his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether I have given a proper interpretation of the remarks he made yesterday.
– 1 would have thought that the remarks I made yesterday were expressed quite plainly. They represent a considered view, and I adhere to them.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether Australian firms are availing themselves, to any great extent, of the Government’s tax incentives in relation to exports. If they are not, are steps being taken to ensure that exporters are made fully aware of the pay-roll tax deductions and income tax concessions available to them in relation to increases in their exports and expenditures on export promotion?
– Obviously it is not possible at this stage for me to provide a statement of the extent to which Australian traders have taken advantage of these concessions. That cannot be done until they lodge their income tax returns next year and make their claims for these concessions and deductions. However, 1 can say that information that has come to officials of the Department of Trade shows that there is a widespread awareness of the incentives, that advantage is being taken of them in a number of cases, and that in many more cases plans have been made to take advantage of them. The chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce are quite active in disseminating information concerning this opportunity that is available for commerce and industry, and the Export Development Council is actively taking steps to see that full information about the opportunity is available to traders. I am glad to say that in all States campaigns are proceeding to encourage traders to take advantage of the incentives.
– I wish to ask the right honorable member for Cowper a question about the notice of motion for Thursday. 12th October, which stands in his name, and which is in these terms -
That this House give consideration to the recommendations, in relation to the formation of new States, of the Joint Committee on Constituional Review.
As the proposed date for bringing on the motion is less than two months from the announced date for the holding of the general election - that is, 9th December - and the Australian Constitution requires that a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution which is passed by the Parliament be submitted to the electors noi less than two nor more than six months after its passage, will the right honorable gentleman seek leave of the House to bring on his motion to-morrow, that being th” next general business day, so that all honorable members may state their views on thivital matter, and so that their views, if favorable, can be embodied in legislation in time for a referendum on this question to be held in conjunction with the genera! election?
– I was satisfied with the Prime Minister’s assurance that he would provide an opportunity for this matter to be considered by the House, subject to the pressure of public business. I accepted that assurance earlier, and I still accept it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for External AffaHas the right honorable gentleman any information obtained through the Department of External Affairs which would indicate whether or not the death of Mr. Dac Hammarskjoeld was the result of an accident or of deliberate and premeditated sabotage of the aircraft in which he was travelling? Further, is it possible to obtain a record of the evidence of the one survivor who later died? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make this information available to the House?
– We are doing all we can to get the best possible information about this somewhat mysterious event. A technical investigation into the occurrence is in process. Whatever authentic news on this matter we get I will be very glad to make available to honorable members.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. In view of the success which has accompanied the efforts of the Randwick Municipal Council in developing portion of the Long Bay rifle range as a housing project, I ask the Minister: Will he favorably consider the granting of a further 100 acres of this area for a similar purpose?
– As the honorable member well knows, this matter has been considered very fully by both the Department of the Army and an interdepartmental committee. The decision made as a result of such consideration was that the land that the department now has at the
Long Bay rifle range is needed for Army purposes. I am sorry that I cannot oblige the honorable member by releasing another 100 acres.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs. The right honorable gentleman is aware that the honorable member for Gwydir, who is the leader of the delegation which is representing the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia at the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at Brussels, has been elected to the executive committee of that union. Is the fact that the honorable member topped the poll in a free election among representatives of more than 50 national parliaments indicative of the high status enjoyed overseas by Australia and by the delegates who represent us?
– I am happy to say that I agree entirely with the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state why age or invalid pensioners who enter psychiatric or mental hospitals are not paid the full rate of pension while they are inmates of such institutions? What becomes of the money so withheld? Why is there discrimination against persons suffering from mental illness? Persons suffering from other illnesses are not penalized in this way.
– I remind the honorable member that the care and hospitalization of the mentally sick is the exclusive responsibility of the State governments. The State governments provide hospitals for the accommodation of the mentally sick and the Commonwealth Government assists them in the capital cost of the construction of those hospitals. Under the provisions of the Social Services Act, an inmate of a mental hospital who is in receipt of a social service benefit loses that benefit as soon as he comes under the care and custody of the State authorities, but I remind the House that the wife of an inmate of a mental hospital may qualify for a widow’s pension appropriate to her circumstances.
The whole question has been examined carefully from time to time. Because the lunacy laws vary from State to State, it is most difficult to solve this problem with complete satisfaction and without prejudice to the wives of those who are inmates of mental hospitals. I can assure the honorable member that the very careful consideration which has been given to this matter in the past will continue to be given to it.
– My question to the Minister for Health relates to the fluoridation of water supplies. Have any investigations into this matter been carried out by any scientific body under his control? If so, what conclusions have been reached? Can he say where, under what circumstances, to what extent, whether for a short or long period and with what results fluoridation has been carried out in this country or other countries? Will he consider whether further studies can be usefully undertaken and further information assembled so that authoritative guidance can be given to persons who have to decide this issue?
– As the honorable gentleman will realize, a decision in relation to the fluoridation of water supplies is, except in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, a matter for State authorities. Investigations or experiments in this regard are made under authority of the State governments, not of the Commonwealth Government.
The matter has been examined by the National Health and Medical Research Council which reported some considerable time ago that, in general terms, it was in favour of fluoridation. I think the actual term the council used was that it could not see why the benefits of fluoridation should be denied to the people of Australia, but it qualified this by saying that concurrent research should be carried out into the results of treatment and the amounts of fluorine which should be added to water under Australian conditions.
There have been reports from other countries about the effects of fluoridation which, so far as I know, are all favorable to it. But I think that it is fair to add that one or two eminent authorities do not agree with fluoridation. As I have said, the responsibility for carrying out fluoridation of water supplies is, except in the Territories of the Commonwealth, the function of the States.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, refers to the supply in ample quantities of Salk vaccine to the departments of health in the various States, including New South Wales. Has the Minister considered the statement of Dr. Meyers, director of the New South Wales State health services, published last week, in which he claimed that supplies of Salk vaccine were needed most urgently and further that “recurrent cases in Wollongong are alarming and we can understand the concern of local residents, but we are left helpless without any vaccine whatever “ ? What are the views of the Minister on these authoritative claims? Can the Minister give a positive assurance that any shortage of supplies from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, which may occur, will be met by importing vaccine to eliminate the increasing danger of the spread of poliomyelitis?
– I answered a question very similar to this yesterday. The fact is, as the honorable gentleman will know, that there have been difficulties in *.he manufacture of Salk vaccine at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. However, we have quite recently been able to make available 300,000 doses for use by the States. These are supplied to the various State governments, and the New South Wales Government would, of course, receive its allocation. On the question of the importation of vaccine, the honorable gentleman will probably recall that we imported some Canadian vaccine some time ago. This question of the importation of vaccine has been discussed with our advisers from time to time. It must not be thought that it is a simple problem. People overseas also have difficulties in the production of Salk vaccine and it is not merely a matter of sending a request for some one day and getting the supply back by airmail a couple of days later.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman know whether the Australian delegation to the United Nations will be given any opportunity to express a view on the Soviet’s proposal for a troika system of administration of the Secretary-Generalship of the United Nations? If so, can he say what instructions, if any, the Australian Government has given to the Australian delegation?
– I have no doubt whatever that the Australian delegation will have ample opportunity to express the views of this Government, and, I would think, of this Parliament, on the troika proposal. I have made it quite clear that we utterly reject it and that will be the instruction to the representatives of Australia at the General Assembly.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Some time ago, in response to a question asked by the honorable member for Bowman relating to the employment of physically handicapped persons in the Public Service, the Prime Minister stated that he hoped to make a statement on this subject at an early date. In view of the limited life of this Parliament and the importance of the subject to handicapped people, can the Prime Minister give a firm indication as to when the announcement will be made?
– I cannot give an indication to within a day or two, but the honorable member may be assured that I will have something to say about this matter in the House in good time for honorable members to express whatever views they have about it.
– 1 direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. In view of the great advantage to primary producers and to the nation of fostering investment and increased production, and the need for longrange planning to maintain full production, will the Prime Minister say whether the 20 per cent, tax deduction allowed to primary producers on plant and improvements will be continued on the expiration of the concession next year?
– Without having the advantage of a formal decision on that matter, I think the honorable member may rest assured that this valuable scheme will not terminate at the end of its current term.
– I should like to know from the Postmaster-General when the report recently brought down by the committee of inquiry into the establishment of broadcasting and television stations in distant country areas will be made available to the Parliament. Will the Government be taking any action during the life of this Parliament to implement the proposals?
– This is a matter currently under consideration by the Government, and I expect that within a couple of weeks I shall be able to advise the honorable member and the Parliament generally of any decision taken.
– Can the Minister for Immigration give the House a report in relation to efforts to bring about a better balance of the sexes within our immigrant population?
– The honorable gentleman has asked for a report on a comprehensive, and what I think the House might regard as an intimate subject. I should like to say that for years now the Government has been most concerned to attract. by devious and perhaps sometimes slightly unorthodox means, an increasing inflow of females into Australia. We are resolute in our efforts to do this, and I am glad to be able to say that so far it seems we are meeting with some success although, I might add, not the entire success that one would wish to see.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade by saying that the poultry industry is regarding with apprehension the approaching Christmas season. The uncertainty surrounding the terms under which imported canned chicken may be able to compete with locally produced poultry during the major selling season has already reacted severely in this preChristmas stocking-up period. Accordingly, I ask the Minister: Has he or his department yet received the Tariff Board report on the importation of canned poultry meat? Secondly, if the report has not yet been received, can he say when it may be received? Further, can the Minister, in view of the oncoming Christmas season, request the Tariff Board to make the furnishing of the report a matter of urgency? Finally, will he, when the report is received, reach a decision as to its application with all speed?
– I understand the great interest that attaches to this matter in the electorate of the honorable member for Bendigo and in a number of other electorates. I, as Minister, have not yet received the relevant report of the Tariff Board. It is my understanding that the Tariff Board has completed the hearing of evidence and is in the course of compiling its report. 1 give an undertaking that so soon as the report is received there will be no avoidable delay in the Government’s dealing with it. I will take steps to see that the Tariff Board is aware that there is a seasonal significance in this particular trade. It has never been the practice of Ministers administering the portfolio that I now administer - or, previously, the portfolio of Trade and Customs - to ask the Tariff Board to give priority to the hearing of one case as against another. I think that that would be generally undesirable. However, as there is a seasonal factor that applies to this trade, I shall direct the attention of the board to that fact, as the honorable member wishes.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Supply by saying that many Australian manufacturers consider that too often Commonwealth government departments import capital equipment for their requirements although equivalent equipment is produced in Australia at competitive prices. I ask the Minister whether instructions have been, or can be, issued to all Commonwealth departments to purchase Australian-made equipment whereever possible. Also, will the Minister insist that the duty applicable to imported equipment be charged to departments importing equipment as would be the case in respect of private industry?
– The Department of Supply Contract Board is responsible only for the purchase of capital equipment for factories under the control of the department. I assure the honorable gentleman that a proper comparison is made between equipment from overseas and that which is available in Australia. I think it would be impossible to find absolute equality between the two items of equipment, but if they should be very nearly equal, the officers responsible, before making a decision, consider from whom the equipment will be purchased, the actual landed cost of the overseas machinery, plus primage, plus duty, and compare the cost with the price of the Australian product.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. With a view to assisting local government bodies which are now carrying out many obligations outside their original charter, will the right honorable gentleman consider calling a convention of representatives of the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and the Australian Council of Local Government Associations to determine the functions and responsibilities of local government and its ability effectively and adequately to discharge those functions with the financial resources available to it?
– I will, of course, consider with respect any proposal that is made by the honorable member; but I would point out to him that the chances of this being a practical proposition do not seem very high, with a few weeks to the end of the session and, I believe, an election shortly thereafter.
– We will look after all that.
– That is right. I thought that this might give a golden opportunity to repeat the question to the incoming Prime Minister.
– You suggested it yourself in 1950.
– It is a difference of form but not of substance.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the national television station ABV2 has arranged to film certain parts of the grand final of the Bendigo Football League in Victoria next Saturday? Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the grand final of the Ovens and Murray Football League is also being played next Saturday between Wangaratta and Benalla at Wodonga? Will he ascertain whether arrangements can be made for sections of this important match to be filmed for showing some time next week? For the information of the PostmasterGeneral and honorable members, the Ovens and Murray League functions in the north-east of Victoria and is widely regarded as the premier country football league in the State-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is going a little too far in asking a question.
- Mr. Speaker, the House will understand the interest of the honorable member for Indi in this most important matter as we are all aware that, for a number of years, he was a very prominent footballer in Melbourne and after that, he was player-coach for one of the teams he has mentioned. In fact, he can claim the distinction of having led Wangaratta to four successive premierships which is not a bad record. Therefore, I am very sorry I have to inform the honorable member that at this late stage, it would not be possible to make arrangements for filming part of the grand final in which he is so interested. It is true that arrangements have been made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to film portion of the Bendigo Football League’s grand final next Saturday. The commission is also committed to make a live television broadcast of the grand final of the Victorian Football Association on the same day, and therefore it can give only a very limited coverage of the Bendigo match. However, I can assure the honorable member that if at any time in the future he desires to arrange for a similar film recording of the games in which he is interested, the commission will be only too pleased to give favorable consideration to such a request.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer, ls the right honorable gentleman aware that though many banks will not advance finance for the legitimate needs of the Australian timber industry they are prepared to advance finance freely to importers of timber because of the better financial returns secured? Can any control be exercised over such investment which, while unrestricted, is detrimental to our already seriously depressed timber industry?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to give me chapter and verse of one, two or three examples of the things that he is speaking about, 1 will promptly get in touch with the Reserve Bank and direct its attention to this matter if the suggestion is that its directives, which are quite clear, are not being carried out. But I would like one, two or three precise examples of what the honorable member means.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Will he give consideration to some form of assistance to off-set the cost of artificial limbs to those civilian amputees where amputation has not been due to an accident and the only Commonwealth benefit operating at present is that of taxation concession? I ask, further, whether it is possible for rehabilitation training in the use of an artificial limb to be extended by his department to persons in this category.
– I am well aware of the keen personal interest of the honorable member for Maribyrnong in the vexed question of the physically handicapped. The honorable member knows that at the moment artificial limbs and other aids are available only to those who are accepted for rehabilitation under the Social Services Act. I would remind the House that there are rehabilitation centres in each of the six
States and that they are rendering a great public service to those who are in need of assistance of that kind. I will be happy to give consideration to his proposals, but I am bound to point out that assistance in the procurement of artificial limbs is usually available in most of the States through other agencies of a charitable character.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for the Interior. Is he aware that approximately 22 self-contained cottages are vacant at Rathmines air base and have been so for approximately six months or more? Will he recommend that these homes be put into immediate use to relieve the acute housing shortage in the Newcastle area, pending a decision by his department on the ultimate use of the former air base?
– I was not aware of the situation which the honorable member has described. I thank him for the information and I will see what can be done.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Army a question. It refers to the Army display which has been arranged in King’s Hall in this building. Will the Minister indicate the purpose of this display, which has attracted wide attention? Has it been designed to emphasize the integration of the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces in one army? Will the Minister also indicate the period during which this display will remain in King’s Hall?
– I hope all honorable members will have a look at that display. It has been put there by the public relations section of the Army. The photographs have all been taken by Army photographers. The display is intended, as my questioner has assumed, to show what is being done in integration. The main purpose of the display is to give honorable members the opportunity to see some of the new equipment that we have in the hope that it will assist them when discussing the Estimates. It will remain in the King’s Hall for a period of two weeks, with the approval of Mr. Speaker, and I hope that it will be of some assistance to all who view it.
– I ask the Minister foi Immigration: Why was it necessary for a professional model to accompany News and Information Bureau photographers to a naturalization ceremony at Liverpool last Monday night? Who arranged for her to pose as a candidate? Why was the ungallant impression given that the genuine candidates were not themselves an adequate adornment at the ceremony? Does the Minister reserve to himself the hiring of models, or has he given general authority to his officers to choose, pay and accompany them to future naturalization ceremonies?
Mr. DOWNER__ I shall have inquiries made into the honorable member’s statements and allegations. In the various exchanges of views that I have had officially with my honorable friend, I have not ascertained hitherto that he has such an interest in the display and welfare of models. At least he has added to my own knowledge as well as that of the House in that regard.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that tobacco sales in South Queensland to date have averaged nearly 4s. per lb. less than the average price per lb. last year. Have the tobacco companies yet bought enough tobacco to entitle them to a reduced tobacco import duty? What percentage of tobacco offered so far during this series of sales has been rejected by the buyers, and what percentage of the tobacco offered last year was rejected by them?
– No, the difference in price does not amount to 4s. per lb. The average price paid last year was 142d. while that paid up to the present time this year is 11 2d. The honorable member’s question referred to sales in South Queensland. I remind him that these sales would include tobacco from the northern part of New South Wales.
As the tobacco being sold during the current series will not normally be used by the manufacturers until the year 1962-63, 1 could not possibly answer, from the information at my disposal, the honorable member’s question as to percentages relating to reduced import duties. The honorable member also asked about rejections. This year they amounted to 21.9 per cent, as against 2.7 per cent, last year.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. When the right honorable gentleman said to the federal council, of the Liberal Party this week -
If you are going to- put down a boom, then you must be prepared to hit a. few heads in. the process. And we have done it, was he referring to the 110,000 unemployed and the still greater and steadily increasing number of men and women who are working less than five days a week at the present time?
– Of course I was not, and the honorable member knows I was not! I regret to say that he has been misled by reading that particular observation in a newspaper yesterday. I am grateful to him for his interest in my speech. It was tape recorded, and I will see that he gets the full text of it. He will then see that I directed my attention to the problem of unemployment in a completely humane fashion.
– 1 preface a question to the Prime Minister by stating that no doubt he will recall that at the time of the nuclear tests conducted by the United Kingdom and the United States of America in 1957 certain members of the Opposition made repeated protests against those tests on the ground that the radio-active fall-out was endangering the human race. I point out also that at that time the Opposition raised this matter as one requiring urgent discussion-
– Order! The honorable member is getting out of order.
– Can the right honorable gentleman tell the House whether he has received any protests from Opposition members against the current tests by Soviet Russia?
– I am not aware of any.
– I ask the
Minister for Immigration: Has an entry visa been refused to a gentleman appointed to the staff of the University of Adelaide? Is it a fact that this gentleman was a member of the staff of the University of London, where he was a lecturer in modern history? Had he been appointed by the University of Adelaide to a position on the staff of that institution? Is there any information that the Minister can give the House on this matter?
– The situation concerning Mr. Brenner, who is evidently the gentleman referred1 to by the honorable member, is this: I do not think he had actually been appointed to the staff of the Adelaide university. He was one of the applicants for a position that was vacant on that staff. Inquiries made, and information given to me, showed very clearly that Mr. Brenner was not the kind of man who should come to Australia, either as a member of the staff of the University of Adelaide or in any other capacity. The circumstances were explained to the ViceChancellor of the University of Adelaide quite six weeks ago. So far as I know, he fully agreed that the information which was given to him justified the conclusions reached, and the information now at my disposal shows that after the university authorities were made aware of the facts they did not desire to proceed with Mr. Brenner’s appointment.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware that recently when a man. who was receiving the unemployment benefit, his wife being in receipt of the invalid pension, was admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg, his unemployment benefit payments were cancelled and he was granted a pension at the rate paid to temporarily totally incapacitated ex-servicemen? Is it customary in such circumstances for the exserviceman not to be paid until he leaves hospital, the amount of invalid, pension having been paid to his wife during his period in hospital then being subtracted from the payments due to him?
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Mallee is a complicated one, concerning sustenance payments, other social service payments and the means test. If the honorable member gives me personally the name of the exserviceman concerned and the details of his case, I will be very glad to look into the matter. Speaking generally, I can say that when a repatriation patient goes into hospital and becomes entitled to a sustenance payment, which is paid at the same <rate as the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s pension if he or his wife is also entitled to some social service payments, the total receipts from such benefits are lumped together and are subject to the social service means test. It ,has only recently come to my notice that it is the practice in such cases to withhold the sustenance payment until the total amount payable to the family unit can be determined and the means test applied. This involves an obvious difficulty, in that the patient may be deprived of sustenance for several weeks during which he is in hospital. I will look into this matter and see whether this difficulty can be overcome.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Because of the inordinate delay in confirming promises made earlier, I ask the Minister when 1 may expect a reply to my numerous letters and other representations concerning the Jong-promised telephone exchange building at Bathurst. As this work was favorably reported upon by the Public Works Committee and endorsed by the Parliament, and as it was the subject of firm promises by the Minister’s predecessor and the Minister himself, will he now say when the work will be commenced?
– The honorable member for Macquarie has referred to the fact that the Public Works Committee conducted an investigation into the proposal “for the construction of the telephone exchange building at Bathurst. Even if the Public Works Committee reports favorably on a particular work, that does not mean that the work must proceed immediately.
– There were promises!
– Order! The honorable member for Macquarie will cease interjecting.
– The final determination depends, of course, on the money available to the Postal Department and on the priority given to other urgent works, of which there are many throughout Australia. I have pointed out previously, and it will be obvious when the capital works commitments are discussed in the forthcoming debate on the Estimates, that the Government has been making more and more money available for capital works purposes each year, and that very considerable progress has been made with the most urgent works.
– This work has been delayed inordinately.
– Order! The honorable member for Macquarie is out of order in continuing to interject.
– I cannot give the honorable member an immediate answer to his question as to when-
– But you said-
– If the honorable member does not want to let me answer, the question I will sit down.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The honorable member has not spoken. He has not asked a question.
– But I have been misrepresented.
– The honorable member could not have been misrepresented.
– Earlier in question time I was misrepresented by a statement made-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I was misrepresented by a statement made by the Prime Minister.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) and to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas; and to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and to the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas; and to the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), to the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and to the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 26th September (vide page 1344).
Proposed Vote, £2,437,000.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, while the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department are being considered I wish to raise a matter which affects the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. In theory, this department is charged with the duty of administering law and justice in the Commonwealth sphere. A lot of lip service is given to the ideal of what is rather broadly described as British justice and the rule of law, under which, it is said, any individual anywhere, no matter how remote his situation, has access to the courts and has a right to have his interests protected if he has suffered some injury. That is the theory of the matter but, in practice, there is a very wide gulf between that theory and the real attainment of a citizen’s rights. This is due to the fact that, as everybody knows, it costs a great deal to sustain a case before the courts.
I wish to bring before the committee a case with which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is familiar, for I have written to him about it. I am no lawyer, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I am a layman in this field. But, in my view, if ever there was an example of an innocent party in the community being afforded no redress, this case provides it. The case is that of a small child who was aged five when the incident which I am about to describe took place on 17th December, 1960 - less than a year ago. On a Saturday afternoon, at about a quarter to four, she was, as any child ought to be able to do in safety, standing in the front garden of her parents’ home. The property abuts on the Williamstown rifle range, and a stray bullet struck the child - fortunately, in a peculiar way, so that the injury was not fatal. The bullet entered the front part of the throat and came out through the shoulder. Had its path of flight been a fraction farther in one direction, the child would not have been touched at all, but had it been a fraction farther the other way she probably would have been fatally injured.
There does not seem to be any doubt that the bullet came from the Williamstown rifle range. What there is argument about is whether the bullet was discharged by a person who was authorized to be on the range. 1 suggest that the Commonwealth, as the owner of the large area that comprises the range, has some responsibility for anything that takes place on the range, whether it is caused by authorized or by unauthorized persons. The matter seems clear enough to me on the basis of simple facts. On a Saturday afternoon, this small girl was standing in the front garden of her parents’ home, and a bullet injured her. True, the injury was not fatal. Nevertheless, her parents were involved in an expenditure of £30 or so on medical treatment.
As I have said, I have written to the Attorney-General about the matter. I want to raise here the question of the gulf that exists between the theory and the practice of the administration of justice. A few months ago, I watched a television programme on which the Attorney-General and a learned legal gentleman from India argued the respective merits of legal systems. 1 think that there are in India some laws that are known as fundamental laws, under which certain action can be taken. As I understand the law in Australia, it springs from British precedents. Although, in theory, an individual who has sustained an injury can take action in the courts, his right to do so is very greatly attenuated in practice by the costs of such a process. In the case with which I am dealing, we have the Commonwealth at one extreme. If action is taken and costs awarded against the Commonwealth, those costs do not matter very much to the Commonwealth in the final analysis. But costs matter a great deal to an individual who contemplates embarking on action in the courts.
The case that I am discussing illustrates the situation about which I am concerned. 1 hope that in the future some simple process will be instituted. At this stage, I am not arguing about what it ought to be. I merely say that there ought to be some preliminary stage at which an individual could approach some official and state his case. If the official considered that the case had some merit, the individual concerned ought to be able to proceed against the Commonwealth without being liable for costs. Whether or not the case succeeded, the Commonwealth ought to meet the costs. That is my view as a layman. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General will raise all sorts of objections to the procedure that I have proposed.
I do not suggest that everybody who wants to sue the Commonwealth ought to be afforded a simple way of doing so. But, in my view, there have been cases in which injustice has been done, wittingly or unwittingly, by government agencies and in which the persons aggrieved have not had their grievances redressed, simply because they hesitated to embark on the hazardous and costly path of litigation. The case that I have outlined seems to me to be the sort of one in which the Government ought to have been big enough to say, “ It is true that no agent of the Commonwealth was directly responsible for this event, but the child was simply standing in the garden of her own home, and the bullet, without much doubt, came from the rifle range “. Whether or not the bullet was discharged by somebody who ought to have been on the range does not seem to me to be the important point at all. An injustice was done to an individual by a Commonwealth instrumentality, and there should be some process by which at least the medical expenses incurred could be reimbursed on an ex gratia or some similar basis.
I cannot understand why the Commonwealth, in the legal sphere, should feel that there is any reflection upon it because a judgment is given against it. In my view, this is a clear case of an injury to an innocent person who was on Commonwealth property. Whether that person wa> authorized to be on the property does not matter. There is a moral obligation, whatever the legal trappings may be, for some redress to be paid in this case. Unless occasionally the Government recognizes its moral obligations, as distinct from what might be called mere legal quibbles, it does a great disservice to the majesty, dignity and justice which it claims is inherent in the law.
At least there should be the recognition to-day that the individual citizen theoretically has the right to sue the Crown whether at the level of a public undertaking of a State or of the Commonwealth. As the learned Attorney-General knows, a long period elapsed before that right was given to the individual. There was a theory inherent in the older law that the Crown could do no wrong, but at least it has been recognized that, because of the peculiar manifestations of the Crown in modern government, from time to time that doctrine has to be abridged to some extent. The individual now has the right to sue the Crown In other words, this admits the possibility of the Crown, in one or other manifestation, having committed a wrong.
Although that right exists in theory, in practice it is very difficult of attainment In my reply to the lady concerned I stated that probably if she consulted a solicitor he might suggest that she did have an action against the Commonwealth. But because the sum involved was comparatively small and there was no certainty that she would be successful in her litigation, I advised her to proceed only with caution. If ever there was a case in which an injury was done to an innocent person, this is the case. II the Attorney-General cannot do anything immediately, I hope that at least he will ponder upon this matter in the abstract. He wants to make a name for himself as a great reformer of Australian law. Heaven knows, there are plenty of needs for reform. But he should recognize that a gulf sometimes exists between theory and practice in the operation of the law and the attainment of justice by the individual.
– i should like to refer to a matter that I brought to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) some weeks ago relating to the efforts of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers to prevent the wool sales at Portland being a success. I believe now, as I did when I first approached the Attorney-General, that the action of this council and also of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia might well offer him a fertile field for investigation when considering legislation relating to restrictive trade practices.
Further evidence has come to light since I first approached the Attorney-General. The Australian Council of Wool Buyers, or more particularly the Victorian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association, which is a constituent part of the Australian body, has taken its opposition much further than appeared to be the case when the matter first came to light. On 29th June, 1961, the Victorian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association authorized a circular to be sent, as far as I know, to all of its individual members. Certainly this circular, of which I have a copy, has achieved wide publicity. It reveals that as early as 16th December, 1960, the Victorian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association passed the following resolution -
That this Association recommends to the Australian Council of Wool Buyers that very vigorous opposition be adopted towards the establishment of Portland as a wool selling centre.
The following paragraph appears above the signature of C. M. Greenwood, chairman -
As mentioned in the General Meeting on 16.12.60, members are bound by this decision, and may not attend nor support, directly or indirectly, the Portland market should sales take place there.
This takes the opposition of the buyers to the Portland sales a good deal further than was apparent in the original information which I gave to the Attorney-General. It should be borne in mind that it was not until 19th May, 1961 - although the decision was made in December, 1960 - that Mr. Lempriere, chairman of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers, wrote to the Portland wool-brokers informing them that the Portland sales would not be supported. After setting forth the policy that the buyers had adopted, he said -
In the opinion of my Council the opening of Portland as a market at this point of time conflicts directly with this policy and, from the point of view of the industry, is completely unjustified.
The policy to which he referred is mentioned in the letter.
A further letter of 9th June emphasized this point to some extent. It stated -
My Council and its constituent Associations unanimously agree that the establishment of Portland as a wool selling centre at this point of time is commercially and economically undesirable and contrary to the interests of orderly marketing and have resolved that no support will be given to any sales that may be proposed in that centre.
I ask the committee to note those last few words. I believe that the two letters which were sent by Mr. Lempriere did not reveal anything like the position which was revealed, and was not meant to be revealed, in the circular that was distributed, because the two letters from the Portland woolbrokers state that no support will be given. They did not state, and did not imply, that a directive would be issued to individual buyers telling them that they must not attend either directly or indirectly. Although expulsion was not mentioned as a direct threat, it most certainly was an implied threat should a member of the association attend the Portland sales. This distinction should be noted. To say, “ We will not support the Portland sales”, and do nothing further about the matter is vastly different from saying, “We will not support the Portland sales and our members must obey this directive and not attend the sales “. This implies a threat of expulsion if they attend the sales. The activities of the council as a whole should be examined. I should like to know whether an internal organization should be able to wield this power over its members.
The purpose of the buyers’ association as such - I make a distinction between the association and its individual members - quite clearly is to prevent competition and, if possible, to cripple the Portland sales. In doing this, the association is misusing the privilege and power that it has in controlling, and to some extent organizing, not all but the bulk of the buyers on the Australian market. It hopes to cripple the sales by directing the bulk of the buyers to keep out of the market. It is my belief that it will not succeed in this, but that is its hope. This, surely, is an action which is in restraint of trade. I would not know whether that is so in a legal sense, but to some one like myself, it seems to be so. It is true that the association cannot stop sales being held and cannot prevent growers from sending their wool to the sales to be bid for, but the buyers’ association can try to cripple the sales and can try to use its monopoly power over the majority of buyers to do so. That is what the association is trying to do and that is what I believe it should not be allowed to do.
I know that the Australian Council of Wool Buyers and its Victorian and South Australian constituent parts will argue that facilities at Portland are inadequate, that shipping is inadequate, that the wool must go on to Melbourne, that the quantity of wool is not sufficient, and that the store is not big enough. In fact, it will argue that sales at Portland are contrary to the interests of the industry as a whole. But its claims are false and the information that has been circularized as facts to its members is not true.
The Oversea Shipping Representatives Association has left it to its individual members to decide whether they will go into Portland and the individual members have given a very good coverage of shipping for wool or any other produce that may be shipped through Portland. A magnificent store has been built and about £80,000 has been spent in completing what the Commonwealth never completed. There are magnificent facilities for any buyers who may go there or any growers who may send their wool there. The size of the store is sufficient to mount a sale of between 6,000 and 7,000 bales, and that is a pretty fair sale when compared with other sales in the Australian scene. It is my firm belief that the quantify of wool at Portland will be sufficient to provide a sale of this kind not once but twice, and perhaps three or four times, in a season; and more sales will be held as time goes on. Already a quantity of wool is in store and much is to come in. In other words, the promises of delivery by growers are being kept and they have shown that they are sincere in this matter.
Quite frankly, I believe the attitude of the buyers is incomprehensible. I could understand the opposition of established brokers because they would have to provide some capital and put up their own stores. But no capital is involved for buyers and they would not suffer much inconvenience in going to Portland when regard is had to the facilities that are there. 1 would like the committee to note in particular the tactics of the Victorian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association. In December of last year, it passed a resolution declaring vigorous opposition to the Portland sales. Then, on 26th January, a special committee, which the association formed, wrote a letter with 20 or 30, or perhaps even 40, questions in it to Portland Wool Brokers Limited. This letter would seem to suggest a real interest in the Portland enterprise. Portland Wool Brokers Limited was asked what facilities would be available for sales and in general what arrangements had been made. This letter was answered as soon as it could be, about four weeks later, in March. The Attorney-General has a copy of the correspondence. It is my view that any fair-minded person would believe that the questions had all been answered in a realistic fashion; but it is also my belief that the buyers’ association or the SubCommittee of Outside Markets, as it was called, merely asked these questions’ of the Portland wool brokers hoping that Portland Wool Brokers Limited would in their answers give ammunition that could be used by the buyers to prevent a sale being held.
Though the opposition of the buyers was announced on 16th December, Portland Wool Brokers Limited was not officially told of the opposition until 19th May, and the opposition was then not put in its strongest terms. Quite frankly, this was a pretty shabby attitude. If the buyers had been sincerely trying to help the industry, they would have at least had more detailed discussions with Portland wool brokers before the brokers had spent £60,000 to £80,000 in improving the facilities in the wool store and before Woolgrowers Co-operative Limited had decided to spend a further £20,000 building two modern sale rooms on the traditional Australian pattern entirely for the convenience of buyers. But no, the buyers waited until these two organizations - Woolgrowers Co-operative Limited and Portland Wool Brokers Limited - had committed themselves to this expenditure before they made their opposition known. Even then they did not say that their members would be directed not to attend; they merely said they were opposed to sales at Portland. As I understand it, there is a distinction here.
The circular that has been sent around also revealed that a Mr. Kurashige, who is president of the Japanese Wool Importers Federation, gave evidence against the opening of secondary markets to the committee of inquiry into wool marketing. In this instance, this evidence must be against the opening of Portland as a selling centre. This evidence was given to the inquiry in camera. Therefore, it could not be made available by the inquiry and was not made available by the inquiry. It should not have been made available by Mr. Kurashige The Victorian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association could only know of it, I submit, because there had been arrangements or collusion between the Australian and the Japanese buyers in this regard. In other words, the Australian buyers are trying to get overseas buyers - in this instance, the Japanese - to support their attitude before the inquiry. If the Japanese have allowed themselves to be used by the Australian Council of Wool Buyers in this way, I can only say it was most unwise of them. The Australian Council of Wool Buyers is not held favorably in public opinion in Australia.
I ask the Attorney-General to examine this matter and to examine the powers of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers and its constituent parts. I know that governments cannot compel buyers to go to any place or compel them to bid, but I believe they can prevent an organization having unjust power over its members. I believe that many individual buyers will object to the powers that the” Australian Council of Wool Buyers and its constituent parts appear to have over its individual members. I am quite confident that, with the support of the growers, with the support of individual wool buying organizations such as that known as Goulburn Wool Export, which is not concerned with the opinions of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers, and with the support of some wool buyers who will not heed the directive, the sales at Portland will be a success because of the magnificent way in which they have been organized. But quite apart from that, this matter should be examined because I believe that organizations such as the one I have mentioned should not have this power over their members.
.- The matter to which I desire to direct attention concerns the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in his capacity as the Commonwealth Minister controlling the legal machinery and in his other capacity in which he shares responsibility for the Commonwealth security service. I referred to the case I shall now mention in an earlier discussion in this chamber. Since then I have had the opportunity to check the information furnished to me and I find that in certain unimportant details it was incorrect. I hope now to put those details right.
I propose to mention the name of the person concerned, because it appears to me that this lady could not suffer any greater injury than she has suffered up to the present at the hands of the Government, and further this lady seeks a complete investigation into her case. Obviously, if her request is met, her name will eventually become known. This matter concerns a Miss Dowd. She served with the armed forces in Queensland during the war period and subsequently she secured a position with the Weapons Research Establishment in South Australia. After she had been in this employment for some time she lost her position on the basis of a security report. The lady in question protested her innocence of any offence, and did it to such effect that she was subsequently reinstated in her position and was given a personal apology by Brigadier Spry, the directorgeneral of the security service. So that, from the Government’s viewpoint, this lady was completely cleared of any suggestion of subversive activity. It was then admitted that the adverse report had been based on a mistake in identity. The security service had attributed to this lady the activities of some other person.
Some time later, after she had left the position in the Weapons Research Establishment to which she had been reinstated, she opened a coffee lounge in Adelaide. As a result of the fact that during her service with the armed forces and in the Weapons Research Establishment she had become known personally to a good number of serving personnel in the armed services, such people were patronizing her coffee lounge. But rumours began to circulate that it was dangerous even to be seen in the vicinity of this coffee lounge because, it was whispered around by agents of the security service, that this lady had been investigated by security. Of course, if it is once said that you have been investigated by security lots of people look askance at you, because they think that the security reports must have been the result of a thorough investigation and therefore must be accurate. The newspapers began to talk about a centre in Adelaide where there was an organized spy ring. This lady did not associate that with her own business until it was made plain in some of the newspaper articles that it was she and her coffee lounge that they referred to. Her custom began to fall off, until now she has lost her business. She has been financially ruined. But the amazing thing about it is that, according to information furnished to me, of the three security agents who were responsible in the first place for casting suspicion on this lady, and responsible in the second place for disseminating among the customers of her coffee lounge the information that she had been investigated by security, two have since served a term in a mental asylum and the third is at present serving a prison sentence. In my opinion this shows up to a very alarming extent the danger there is to the liberty and the rights of the Australian community unless such a service is kept under strict and rigid supervision - and that evidently does not apply to-day.
This lady invites a complete investigation by the Commonwealth Government into the whole of the circumstances associated with the case. I think that she is justified in demanding that at least there should be an investigation, and if it is proved that her statement in regard to the circumstances is correct, and that she has been financially ruined as the result of these false reports emanating from the security service, she is entitled to be fully compensated by the Commonwealth for the injury done to her.
Let me turn to another matter - one which concerns a former member of the security service. I have mentioned this matter previously, but I have not up to date had any reply concerning it. I shall again mention the name of the man concerned, because unless you do this the AttorneyGeneral infers that you are talking abour some mythical person whom you have manufactured in your own imagination and built a case around. In this instance 1 am able to give the Attorney-General the name without, I should imagine, injuring the gentleman concerned, because he has now resigned from the security service. He is a Mr. Clive de G. Young.
This man joined the security service in 1950. He must have been one of the longest-serving members of the service when he resigned, because he joined almost at its inception. So it must be accepted that, from the viewpoint of the Attorney-General and the security service, he was a satisfactory officer. He had eleven years’ service. He resigned in February of this year, and my information is that he did so because he is completely dissatisfied with the manner in which the security service is controlled and with the activities in which it is engaging. One of the things to which he strongly objected is the fact that the manager of the Darwin branch of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited discussed his financial affairs, and the financial affairs of his wife, with a Mr. R. G. Meldrum, who was his immediate superior officer in the service. This Mr. Meldrum reported to Brigadier Spry on the personal financial affairs of this couple. It may be asked how we know that that happened. I am given to understand that the gentleman who was affected has been able to have a look, unofficially, at the report that was submitted to Brigadier Spry by Mr. R. G. Meldrum. So this information is, in my opinion, sufficiently authentic to prove that what is alleged by this former member of the security service actually took place - that is, that his private financial affairs and those of his wife were discussed, by the manager of the hank with which they were doing business, with his superior officer in the security service. I do not know whether the manager of the Darwin branch of the A.N.Z. Bank is an agent of the security service. If he is, that is a very serious matter and must cause a great deal of disquiet to a great number of Australian citizens. If he is not an agent of the security service then I want to know whether the Attorney-General approves of the practice of securing information from this kind of source regarding the personal affairs of members of the security service itself.
Now I turn briefly to one other matter, because we do not have a great deal of time in these debates to develop our cases. This relates to the activities of the security service in injuring Australian citizens without giving them the right to know with what they are charged, or the right to confront the people who make the allegations against them, or an opportunity to clear their reputations. There are innumerable cases in Australia to-day of people of many years’ residence here who are refused certificates of naturalization, the rejections being based on these secret reports which are never revealed even in this Parliament and about which the Attorney-General refuses even to answer questions. I have here the case of a Portuguese family in which the husband and the three children received their certificates of naturalization, evidently prior to the security service taking an interest in the family. The wife applied for a certificate of naturalization and was refused a certificate, the refusal, according to a letter that I received from the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), being on the basis of a very positive report submitted by the Director-General of Security. I have spoken to these people on a number of occasions and I am perfectly satisfied that what they tell me is true - that there is nothing against their reputations, that there is nothing in their activities or their characters which would warrant such a decision.
– A point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I should like a ruling on this point. During the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department last year I was making a speech and the Opposition took points of order on me. I was mentioning the security service, and I was ruled out of order. Finally I was ruled completely out of order and had to sit down. Nowhere in the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department can I find any reference to the security service.
– I believe that the AttorneyGeneral has some administrative responsibility for that service.
– I can answer questions, but there is nothing in the department’s estimates about the service.
– I was ruled out of order.
– And rightly, too.
– 1 rule that the Attorney-General has administrative responsibility in this matter and therefore the honorable member is in order in proceeding.
– I hurry on to say that this family arrived in Australia some years ago. I questioned members of the family closely on a number of occasions and asked them whether they had been engaged actively in any political party or any political activities, or whether they knew of any incidents which would warrant such a report being made against them. The woman has never been in a political party and has never been active in politics, but the husband has been active industrially. After his arrival in Australia and during a period of unemployment, acting on the advice of a friend, he applied for a position as waiter-cleaner at the Russian Social Club. He was there about four months. The wages were not too good and he was looking round for another job. He eventually secured another position in the building industry and joined the Building Workers Industrial Union. He became a job delegate.
Those are the whole of his activities that could be likely in any way to affect a decision of the security service. The moment officers of the security service heard that he had worked for four months at the Russian Social Club and then joined the B.W.I.U., which has been dubbed by this Government as Communist-controlled, they evidently thought that was sufficient to declare him a security risk.
I think it is scandalous if Australian citizens are to be affected in this way. Here we have an organization which is not responsible to the Parliament. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, who jointly administer the service, refuse to answer for it. They refuse to answer questions of even the most nominal character. If you ask them how many officers are employed in the security service or how many agents there are, without seeking further details, the Ministers refuse to give this information. Under this Government, the security service has developed into what might be termed a political police force. It is no longer a security service in the sense that it was originally when it was established by the Chifley Government and placed under civil control. If there is any organization in Australia exercising such tremendous powers and about which the responsible Ministers refuse to give any information, it is a scandalous state of affairs and the sooner the people realize the danger and demand correction of the situation the better it will be for all of us.
.- I have listened carefully to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I desire to make a few remarks about this subject.
– What do you know about it?
– I do not know very much about it, but I know that the security service in Australia is vitally important to our safety. I know that the honorable member for East Sydney over the past ten or twelve years has tried consistently at every opportunity to put the security service in an unfavorable light before the people of Australia. The honorable member has set himself up as one who asked certain people whether they had had any connexion at all with Communists or other subversive elements. The honorable member is quite satisfied if these people say, “ No, I was not connected with them in any way “.
I am not saying for one moment that these people are Communists; but does the honorable member for East Sydney really believe that if these people were Communists and were out here to destroy Australia, they would immediately tell him their whole story in reply to his questions? Would they say that they were going to try to undermine our economic and defence systems? Does the honorable member really think that? He sets himself up as an individual investigator with far more power and opportunity and a far more intelligent approach to questioning people and defining just where they stand than the whole wellorganized and expert security service. The honorable member for East Sydney has put his case to the committee against the security service and then moved out of the chamber because he does not want to hear any other case.
I say to honorable members on both sides of the chamber: Surely to goodness the members of the Australian Labour Party support the security service! If they do not support it, how do they think we are going to find subversive elements in the community? In spite of the interjections of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney is the only member of this House with the point of view that he has advanced in the speech he has just concluded. I say for myself, and on behalf of the people I represent, that I am thankful for the security service. This country is not the same as it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. If you move about Australia, you find there are many different nations represented in our population. Most of the people are of very high calibre but amongst them there must be some who perhaps - and I emphasize that word - are not working in the best interests of Australia.
The honorable member for Scullin and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) are suggesting by way of interjection that I know nothing about it. I know the difference between security and just letting things slide and allowing people to take charge of our economy and the national set-up. I know what is right and wrong about protecting Australia and I will support anything that is done to protect the security service in its legitimate operations.
.- Before bringing some matters to the attention of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) I want to correct a statement that was made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who said that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had left the chamber because he was not prepared to stop and listen to somebody else’s point of view on the security service. The fact is that the honorable member for East Sydney is chairman of the Labour Party’s industrial committee and has a meeting with certain trade unionists who have a problem that has been created by this Government through the contraction of credit and the decline in the number of homes being built.
– Who is his boss? Is he in the Parliament or outside?
– We are more responsible than is the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If the Minister wants to refer to people being absent, let him look at the vacant Liberal and Country Party benches.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Attorney-General a section of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech delivered at the opening of the second session of the twenty-third Parliament on 8th March, 1960. I refer to the second last paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in which His Excellency said -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
I want to emphasize that point - to legislation to protect free enterprise against such a development.
Through its spokesmen, this Government agrees that there are tendencies in the community for certain people to form combines to determine and regulate prices. This Government has continually opposed control of prices. Supporters of the Government who claim to occupy the bastions of free enterprise are allegedly against control of prices by governments. Here we have a situation in which these people, by arrangement, organization and agreement among themselves, have been able to fix prices throughout the Commonwealth. I have referred to this matter on a number of occasions in speeches that I have made in this chamber. Back in March, 1960, the Government said it would do something about these practices, but instead it has been too busy creating a recession in the community and bringing about unemployment and the many other ills which people are complaining of to-day, and about which I hope they will take the necessary action very shortly.
I wish to deal particularly, as I have done previously, with the tire monopoly that has been created by the Dunlop, Goodyear, Hardie and Olympic companies getting together and agreeing to fix prices. This combine has been able almost to ruin a number of businessmen who were not prepared to fall into line. The effect of the agreement was to increase the price of tires to the Australian consumer. For instance in the case of “ AA “ fleet owners the discount was reduced from 40 per cent, plus 5 per cent, for 30-day settlement to 22i per cent. The ordinary trader who previously had been able to buy tires at trade price less 15 per cent., to-day has to pay the full trade price.
After these companies found that their agreement was working satisfactorily they then moved into the field of tire retreads. Once again we saw a substantial increase in the cost to the consumer because discounts were cut. Even to local government authorities the discounts which had been 55 per cent, and 3 per cent, were reduced to 30 per cent, and 5 per cent, respectively. I could give other instances of the action which this combine of four major tire companies has taken while the Goodrich company has sat on the sidelines, acquiescing and doing nothing to offer real competition. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) says that he has no control over the position, that it is a matter for the States, and that it is not a case of interference with fair trading. Yet both the old agreement of 7th July, 1960, and the new one of 1st July, 1961, have been openly referred to in circulars. The only difference is that whereas the circulars distributed by the four companies back in 1960 had slightly differing wording because the companies were trying to create some impression of independence, the letters now being circulated are identical. In each case the final result is the same - prices have to be those agreed upon by the combine companies. Now they have become even more arrogant because they realize that this Government will not do anything about combines or restrictive trade practices.
I have here three unopened registered letters to a tire trader. One is from the Goodyear company, one from the Hardie company, and the other from the Olympic company. The person to whom they are addressed did not bother to open them because, having opened a fourth, he knew what they contained. These letters are here for the information of anybody who likes to accept the responsibility of opening them and is prepared to do something about this combine which clearly is engaged in restrictive trade practices. Traders have to buy from the combine companies and they have to charge the prices that are laid down. I have quoted in this chamber the names of a number of traders who have been removed from the discount list. I have here a letter that has been circularized throughout the tire industry. It is dated 29th June, 1961, and is addressed to a particular service station. It reads as follows:- -
This advises that the following firm/person has been removed from Volume Discount.
Holroyd Tyre Service, Atlantic Service Station, 62 The Boulevarde, (Mr. F. I. Traina), Fairfield Heights. 131 Anzac Parade,
State Tyre Committee.
The typed signature is preceded by somebody’s initials in a scribble. Even though I have continually brought this matter to the notice of the Attorney-General - the first time was approximately eighteen months ago - and have asked a number of questions on it, he still, as the representative of this Government chosen for the responsibility of carrying out the promises made in the Governor-General’s Speech on 8th March, 1960, has not made any move to eliminate this restrictive trade practice under which people to-day are being forced to pay more for tires, tubes and retreads.
The combine companies found that in defiance of their instructions on the price of new tires, some independent traders - some of the few who have not already been taken over by the combines - were adopting the attitude “ All right. You can keep your new tires. Our main business is retreads, so we will continue to charge whatever price we like for retreading.” But then, having already removed these traders from the volume discount list, as it is called, the combine companies decided on a new approach. Prior to 1st April, 1960, the price of plain tread rubber - I have the various scales here, but I will refer only to tread rubber because it is the type most commonly used - was 3s. Hid. per lb., less from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, discount depending on the quantity of rubber used. A large user of rubber for retreading obviously got a larger discount. But on 1st April, 1960, the companies terminated the discount and fixed the price at 3s. Hid. per lb. plus sales tax, less 2i per cent, for cash in 30 days. That was one way of getting a crack at these independent traders.
Then, earlier this year, a letter from the Hardie Rubber Company Proprietary Limited in the following terms was circulated: -
NOTICE TO THOSE ENGAGED IN RETREADING.
In addition to the enclosed Terms and Conditions of Trade and the letter advising amendments to our trading policy, also attached is a copy of the revised Trade Price List for tread rubber and associated repair materials, effective 1st July, 1961. Although nominal prices have been increased 7i per cent., traders will receive their volume discount on purchases which will be included on invoices at net prices, so that there is, in fact, an actual reduction in the prices of these products.
But that actual reduction in the price of these products is only for the yes-men and the subsidiaries of the combine companies; for those people who are prepared to toe the line and carry out the dictates of those companies. They are the only ones who get the volume discount. Traders such as those I have mentioned, the Holroyd Tyre Service and the Atlantic Service Station, will not get the reduction. They will be subject to the increased price which has gone out for tread rubber - an increase from 3s. Hid. to 4s. 3d. per lb. These traders will find themselves in a difficult and invidious position in trying to compete with the yes-men who have agreed to fall into line with the restrictive trade practices of these companies. These practices have brought about a substantial increase in the cost of tires, tubes and retreads to the general public and to this Government’s own instrumentalities.
As government departments also are affected by the pricing tactics of these people, this Parliament must be concerned with the problem. The Government talks about economizing in its various departments, yet it has permitted these companies to engage in these undesirable restrictive trade practices for over eighteen months now, despite the fact that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral said, on 8th March, 1960, that it was intended to introduce legislation to curb such practices. The discounts allowed on list prices now depend upon the number of tires and tubes sold and the amount of rubber used by each purchaser. For example, the more tires and tubes sold, the greater the amount of rubber used, the larger the discount granted. This makes it all the more difficult for the small man, or the man who is prepared to take on the combine, to exist.
Let me give one example of what is taking place to-day. Only last month, the Newcastle City Council called tenders for the supply of tires. The ruling prices at the time were subject to a discount of 21 per cent, for cash, or settlement, as it is called in the trade. One tenderer inadvertently offered 5 per cent, discount for settlement. The other suppliers immediately asked why he was breaking the prices agreement entered into by the tire manufacturers. He was reminded that he was a party to that agreement, and he immediately advised the Newcastle City Council that he would be unable to supply tires at the prices mentioned in the tender submitted by him. The result was that the Newcastle City Council was obliged to call for fresh tenders. I mention this as a typical example of the restrictive trade practices being engaged in within the tire and tube industry.
I trust that the Attorney-General will do something about this matter. I earnestly hope that at an early date the Government will introduce legislation designed to crack down on the practices to which I have directed the Attorney-General’s attention on numerous occasions, practices which led the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to say when delivering the basic wage judgment on 3rd July last that the increased profits being made by industry to-day were the reason why the commission was granting a basic wage increase of 12s. a week.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When I first entered this Parliament I was told that no speech is ever wasted, and, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I must agree with the ruling given by you a few minutes ago, because it allows me the opportunity of completing a speech which I was prevented from making during the discussion of the Estimates last year.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made certain charges with respect to the security service, charges which, even in the short time for which I have been a member of this Parliament, we have become accustomed to hearing. A perusal of “ Hansard “ over the years during which the security service has been in operation will disclose that it is studded with similar charges, all made without supporting evidence, all made without foundation, all based on the claim by the honorable member for East Sydney that “ somebody told me “ or “ so I was told “. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) stated that he is a staunch supporter of the security service. I, too, support it wholeheartedly, as I am sure every decent, sane-thinking Australian does.
For the information of the honorable member for East Sydney, let me outline some of the background leading up to the establishment of the Australian security service. In 1949, the Chifley Labour Government formed the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Its reason for doing so was at that time it was clear that Russia was turning on her former war allies. It will be remembered that in 1949 a cleft was developing between Russia, America and the Western powers. In that year, Russia had a dutiful fifth column in Australia which, by then, had become a highly industrialized, self-contained Pacific power. That fifth column was the more menacing because, from the involvement in the war of Russia in June, 1941, the Communists, converted overnight to the Allied cause, had acquired a grip of key unions in the guise of fervent supporters of the war effort. The security organization existing at that time could deal with industrial sabotage, but, with the commencement of the guided weapons testing range at Woomera, Australia assumed a new international responsibility and there was not only sabotage, but espionage on a major scale to guard against. There was never more complete unanimity between opposing party leaders than there was upon the functions and privileges of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization at that time. The late Mr. Chifley, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)- and even the former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, have used almost identical language in their public statements about the organization. In addition to the honorable member for East Sydney, there are only about two honorable members of the Opposition who might disagree with the opinions expressed by those leaders.
Honorable members might remember that, when making my maiden speech, I quoted statements made by Mr. Chifley and Dr. Evatt in connexion with this matter. I shall quote only one of them now. The late Mr. Chifley said on one occasion -
I will not discuss in detail in this House the proposed activities of the new security organization. It is not the practice in any country to reveal such matters.
Apparently the honorable member for East Sydney did not accept that principle then, and he has never agreed with it since. When the honorable member for East Sydney made one of his many charges of telephone tapping, which was referred to the Committee of Privileges by himself, and, again 1 would stress, by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the matter was not pressed. Later, Dr. Evatt said -
I have no evidence or just cause for complaint against Colonel Spry as head of the security organization.
I presume that the honorable member for East Sydney did not accept that reply by Dr. Evatt to his charge. The situation of the world to-day, particularly that of Australia, is indicated, I think, by an article which appeared in the Melbourne “Herald” on Saturday, 10th September, under the heading “ Reds Out to Drive United States from Pacific “. The article was written by Denis Warner of the “ Herald “ staff. I have time to read only a few of the paragraphs contained in it. The first reads -
The braggadocio of Communist China’s threat that it will drive the United Stares out of the West Pacific cannot be ignored any longer as an empty boast.
Another reads -
With the exception of Malaya, which is remote from the main concentrations of Communist Far Eastern strength, there is not a politically stable state in the ranks of all Western-allied, or protected, nations in the Far East.
Another paragraph said this of the Communists -
It is in short determined to drive the Americans out of the West Pacific and to use all possible weapons, political, military, social and economic, to achieve its purpose.
I underline the words - all possible weapons, political, military, social and economic, to achieve its purpose.
In view of these statements, and of Australia’s isolation in the event of war, either cold or hot, would it not be a magnificent achievement for the Communists and their sympathizers in Australia if they could destroy the confidence of the people in the security service and indeed in the defence forces, all of which are set up for the security and protection of this country? Do not let any one forget that internal security and our armed forces work arm in arm for the protection of Australia.
Is it coincidence that this pressure comes to a head at the time when the United Nations is meeting, when the British Government is having discussions with Australia on the use of the Woomera Rocket Range for space research, a project which is both highly secret and of considerable defence interest, and when the Australian Government is negotiating with the Government of the United States of America on the Mutual Weapons Development Programme Agreement? Would it not be very satisfactory indeed to the Communists if, because of lack of security, the United States Government withdrew from those discussions and refused to consider the use of the Woomera Rocket Range? If the internal security of this country was considered to be unreliable, who could blame any country for withdrawing from such projects? And what would honorable members opposite suggest as an alternative for our protection and for the development of our defences?
I should like now to quote a few passages which I consider to be relevant to the situation which confronts the nation to-day. They are taken from a book entitled “ The
Front is Everywhere - Militant Communism in Action “. Possibly they will evoke hollow laughter from the authors on the opposite side but surely it must be admitted that the statements contained in books such as this are not lies, that they are not figments of somebody’s imagination. Surely they relate the practical experiences of people who have been confronted with the problems of fifth column activities and the other dangers that our security service is designed to guard against.
– Who wrote that speech?
– I will give it to you later. To my horror I have heard in this House many statements which appear to me to bear a great similarity to those made by the Communists prior to their making disruptive attacks on other countries. Quoting further from the book, I have mentioned -
There is no better field for combining political espionage with political provocation than the halls of a parliament. This dual role gives added significance to the membership of a Communist sympathizer in such a body.
Political exposure, whether truthful or not, has real revolutionary value. A sense of revolt, a sense of despair cannot be created unless the people are conditioned to respond to every political act as if it were the result of oppression, stupidity, violence, and abuse.
We are reminded again of the various matters raised periodically by the honorable member for East Sydney. To continue with the quotation -
Whether they be of this nature or not, acts which can be presented in such a fashion are legion in every society. It is the aim of the Communist to focus attention on them in such a way as to present them as normal. The Communists hope thus to create an irresistible urge to destroy a free society.
A sense of oppression can be obtained only from living examples, from exposures, following hot after their occurrence. These universal political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity.
A further extract from this book is as follows: -
No matter where the Communist power undertakes operations, espionage agents already will have spied out the land before the Communist legions march.
In a further passage we find the following: -
Members of the Communist party - whether proven party card holders or not - enter bourgeois legislatures only to carry out the Communist task of ‘blowing up the whole machinery of the bourgeoisie, in destroying it, and all the parliamentary institutions with it.’ 1, together with the majority of the members of this Parliament, support the Australian security service. I consider that it has done a magnificent job. It is composed of officers who have the interests of this country at heart. As well as the responsible Minister, it has at its head a director who is a man of very high principle, as is the Minister himself. I am confident that these are people who would not take action that was illegal or in any way detrimental to the freedom of the people. I consider the service essential for the protection of the majority of the people of Australia, although I believe we should reserve the right to take the necessary action to rectify any injustice that may be done.
I emphasize that the security service was established by a Labour Government. It has been continued by the Liberal-Country Party Governments, and I am quite sure that it will be retained by any future Labour Government if such government consists of true Labour men acting on behalf of the Australian people as a whole.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for La Trobe. In the course of his speech the honorable member said that on a previous occasion I had moved that certain charges regarding telephone tapping be referred to the Committee of Privileges of this Parliament and that I had not pressed the matter. If the honorable member refers to “ Hansard “ he will find that the matter went to a division, that it was supported by all the members of the Labour Party and that it was defeated by a Government majority.
.- It always surprises me to find Government supporters becoming agitated and deeply concerned when simple questions are asked concerning security. As the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) has said, the security service came into existence during the regime of the Chifley Government, following a visit to this country by a highranking military officer, Sir Percy Sillitoe, of Ml 5. That gentleman recommended that all the nations of the British Commonwealth should have a reasonably wellfounded security service. It was never thought by the Labour Party, of which I was a member at that time and also a member of this Parliament, that the security service should be a kind of sacred cow about which no word could be spoken. It has never been understood by the democratic countries that you must not say anything about a security organization, and that if you do say anything about it you are, ipso facto, criticizing it to its detriment and to the detriment of the nation.
The United States of America is most security-minded. For every one officer that we have policing security affairs, the United States would have many hundreds and even thousands. But people in the United States have never hesitated, neither during the regime of President Eisenhower nor latterly under President Kennedy, to slam the security service good and hard whenever it was believed to have overstepped the limit. If you are not prepared to criticize your security service you simply have a necessary evil. That, after all, is all that a security service is, because no one could laud the use of such a service, and we merely recognize that it is necessary for us to have some sort of protection. That is the way in which the Chifley Government approached the matter.
In contrast to that approach, we have the attitude of Government supporters in this House, particularly of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) himself and of the honorable member for La Trobe, whose perfervid speech which we just heard was laced with communism, fellowtravellers, terrors in the Pacific, bombs by night and bombs by day and gumshoe boys floating in and out of the place. It was quite a script. It was not, however, in accordance with the ideas of the Americans, who have a highly efficient security service. The magazine “ The Nation “, which was founded by Henry Wallace, who was an aspirant for the presidency and was for many years Vice-President, devoted one whole issue to the Central Intelligenc Agency and the troubles that occurred because of mis-information concerning Cuba.
We should not get hysterical when questions are asked in this House about security. Because of the dynamics of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) it is only natural for many honorable members to want to slap him down Nevertheless, most of his queries are pertinent and valid, and certainly they are in respect of security.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of what security is or is not, I suggest that the security service is a willy-nilly institution, although a necessary one. It is, as I have said, a necessary evil. It is somewhat like the military police, which has a valid function to perform, but which also has a certain amount of background. The security service conducts certain activities, and surely there is no reason why questions cannot be asked about those activities. But when questions are asked, the Minister says that he cannot reply. It is completely wrong to put a blanket over the Opposition’s queries and launch a tirade about Communists and fellow-travellers and authors, writing being apparently a perfidious profession according to some honorable members of this House.
The honorable member for East Sydney asked the Minister about a lady named Dowd, who served her country in one of the women’s services, and later worked on a protected project. As the honorable member for East Sydney has told us, she was afterwards processed by security and found guilty. At a subsequent stage the security service found that it had been wrong and apologized to her. In those circumstances the security service should be well and truly slammed, because in this country, security or no security, there should be the opportunity to institute actions for defamation of character. If such an action is capable of being sustained the Minister should investigate the case and do something about it.
I have not seen the Attorney-General, who is now sitting at the table, show any human interest or feeling in regard to this case. I have read the letter that was received by the honorable member for East Sydney. It appears to be an honest and sober letter, and she seems to be the sort of ordinary Australian woman who would be and has been very upset by what has happened to her. If the officers of the security service have pulled a boner they ought to be dealt with.
Let me refer also to the other case, with regard to bank balances in Darwin. There appears to be a certain looseness about what we used to regard as matters that one did not, in decency, reveal - matters that were regarded as having been mentioned in club, over a glass of beer, or in places where people confer or congregate socially. If a bank manager has broken his oath to the firm for which he works by divulging the balances or financial activities of his customer, he ought to be sacked forthwith. So should the security officer in question for accepting that kind of information outside the requirements of security. This appears to be a case in which, in some way or other, financial transactions were involved, and the bank official wanted to clear himself of something, and so he leaked to security. It is obnoxious, it is perfidious. If the facts can be substantiated they show a situation almost as serious as that involving Miss Dowd.
Another matter which gives me some concern relates to the blind decision made with regard to all intending immigrants to this country. We process them before they leave their native countries. This is a most expensive business. Honorable members can have a look at the Estimates for the Department of Immigration and see the amount of money we spend on selection officers. I would say that our selection officers are quite expert. They have done a very fine job over the years. They have been most careful and cautious. When a question crops up they invoke security. But here is the point - and the AttorneyGeneral himself will appreciate it - the security service sometimes invoked is not the Australian security service. I realize that the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have told us that some administrative control is retained. I know that in Hong Kong, for instance, you can get “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ on a security dossier provided you put down the 50 or 100 Hong Kong dollars required. That fact is notorious. You can do the same thing in any of the Eastern countries. That has been possible for some years now. In the same way, these security dossiers compiled in Israel and elsewhere are in many instances suspect. Yet the security service of this country relies on them.
All of these circumstances mean that we are confronted with a very human problem. The activities of the security service should be closely watched. They are so ex-parte A decision is made on the blind. It does not matter what is said by a migrant who has come to Australia with his family. He may say: “ I was not involved in politics. I am not a Communist. I have committed no crime. I am completely clean.” Indeed, migrants have said these things not once but many times. Many honorable members have had migrants come to see them on these matters and have been impressed by their explanations. But their explanations do not matter. These people just cannot get past the security screen. Officers of the Department of Immigration say to honorable members who make representations on behalf of migrants, “ I should like to show you the relevant papers, but I cannot do so because of the security slant “. So we are judging on the blind. Justice is being denied to these people.
There is a prior reason why this problem ought to be resolved. If migrants are looked at and screened before they come to this country, they have already gone through the security processes, which are pretty thorough. But, sometimes, when migrants apply for naturalization, the immigration authorities say: “ It is all a dreadful mistake. We did not process them properly. There is a big dossier here.” It is only human nature that a service for which a four-story building is provided to accommodate the numerous personnel working for it will feel that it has to keep on getting cases. It gets itself in a position like that of a police force which feels that it must continue to get convictions. We admit that the Australian Labour Party had some share in the creation of the security service, but we never envisaged at the time that it would become the great industry, shall I say, that it has become - an organization that touches every aspect of life.
I know of a man who wanted to obtain a job on the weapons project. A friend, in good faith, gave him a reference, only to be subject to a gruelling crossexamination about his reasons for providing the reference. Surely, when this happens, security is getting out of proportion. All over the world, as the Attorney-General surely knows, one has to be pretty careful about security. Admittedly, we have a security service. We accept the Government’s view about its effectiveness. We on this side of the chamber are not in office and we have no facts to the contrary to submit to the Parliament concerning the efficiency and skill of the security authorities. But security work has become a sort of craft, or trade, or calling which ought to be watched. I think it is completely undemocratic for a Minister to say, in response to questions asked in this chamber, “ You should not ask these questions, because I cannot answer them “. Just because the security service is the subject of a question, we are told, “I do not think there is anything in the question “. That sort of attitude is completely indefensible.
I suggest that the honorable member for East Sydney, with the support of the evidence supplied by his constituents and persons who have written to him, has made a prima facie case for some sort of inquiry. But he will not succeed in getting an inquiry. Because of the vendetta raging between the Minister and him, he will be wiped off. This should not happen. The Attorney-General knows, from his own legal experience and training on which his attitudes are based, that this should not be so. I think that the case put on behalf of Miss Dowd is a reasonable one. Here is a girl who lost her job and her little coffee shop. We all know what whispering can do. The whole world is a sort of whispering gallery to-day. This situation has been brought on by the cold war. We have to extricate ourselves from this sort of situation in which the ordinary people are involved. We cannot divide ourselves into the parties of the right and the left in relation to this matter. Nor should we scare the pants off ourselves by saying, “Look what the Communists are doing! “ Somebody could equally well say, “ Look what the Americans have done! “ And, one day, people may say, “ Look what the Australians have done! “ We need to draw the line in a reasonable way where security is concerned.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney about Miss Dowd, and also about incidents in Darwin. The honorable member does not say that the allegations are entirely substantiated. He asks that inquiries be made in order to establish whether the allegations are sound, and he requests that, if the allegations are established, action be taken in some way in order to prevent the same sort of thing from occurring again.
I return to the question of the migrants, for their position is the most tragic one of all. They are completely defenceless in a new country. We have now in Australia 190,000 new Australians who will not become naturalized. It is of no use to say that they are thinking about seeking naturalization. They will not become naturalized, because there is in their minds some little thought that they ought not to take the final and irrevocable step of becoming Australians. Among themselves they say: “ I cannot obtain naturalization because of some screening process. I do not know what it is that I am supposed to have done. The voice in the dark says that I and my family have a record that is not acceptable.” What sort of a way is that for anybody to start off in a new country? First of all, we ourselves are culpable, as I have said, if our screening is inadequate. Of course, mistakes can be made, and there could be instances of such mistakes which are caught up and rectified. But, in the main, the injured person is never given any hint of the reasons why the screening goes against him. He is just denied naturalization.
That is the sort of story that gets about among the communities of migrants who are living among themselves and not becoming assimilated. Let us face it; they are not being assimilated. They are living in their own little corners. They are clotting up into racial groups. The story that goes round is this: “ Once they put the finger on you, you will not obtain naturalization. In any event, even if you do become naturalized you will be only a second-class Australian.” Those are the things that we ought to watch.
I am surprised that Ministers come out roaring like lions whenever anybody says any sensible and common-sense thing about the security service. That service, like any government department or agency, has to be watched. If we leave it alone, it will become an empire like the Treasury and some of the other government departments. It will become an iron-clad agency with cast-iron views if we do not watch it. The security service raises this great barrier of the confessional beyond which no one can go. It regards itself as a bulwark. But we are creating a Frankenstein monster. The attitude of the security service is: We have to have a thread - and more than a thread, a pipeline - of information to know whether these things are true. The Government says, “We are not free to bring any information before the Parliament in explanation “. We saw the outcome of this attitude earlier to-day. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is a very fine Minister for Immigration, smeared a man whom he had never seen. I was astounded and shocked. The Minister said, “ After inquiries, we found that this man was not a suitable person to come to this country “. He gave no evidence. He just put on the blank, dead-pan security mask when he was asked about a university teacher who sought a job in South Australia. We, as members of this place and representatives of the people, do not know whether the Minister is right or wrong. We do not know whether the security direction that he received was right or wrong. And we shall never know.
I do not know how Ministers can rise in this chamber and wax ecstatic about the security service. This attitude seems strange to me. The security service is, of itself, a sinister thing. It is, as I have said, a thing of the cold war and a feature of the curious mess into which we have got ourselves in international relationships - a situation which impels the Government to keep the security service going. But I think that a valid case can be made for proper and discreet inquiries about matters such as those which were raised by the honorable member for East Sydney. He did not raise them in a challenging way. He merely put all these matters before the Attorney-General only to be attacked by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who, of course, as usual, knows nothing about the matters under discussion. He is just a blind supporter of the Government, and, since the security service is an instrumentality of this Government, he supports that service. Likewise, the young and brilliant honorable member for La Trobe took the opportunity to make a speech that could better have been made when he first became a member of this place about eighteen months ago.
But the views of those honorable members on the other side of the chamber have nothing to do with what we on this side of the chamber are trying to do in this matter. We are trying to warn the Attorney-General. But he is a very hard man to warn, because, in these matters, he exhibits a very stubborn mind. We consider that we, as the Opposition, ought to tell him that the security service is not by any means perfect. How could it be? We suggest that when matters such as these are raised, the Minister ought to investigate. If he does not do it, the Prime Minister ought to do it. Miss Dowd’s career has been badly damaged. As the security chief apologized to her, there must be something in the case for an inquiry. We suggest also, that the incidents in Darwin ought to be investigated. Leakages from banks have been mentioned. We fought a political war over matters such as these.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am certain that the Opposition has at no time suggested in this chamber that it is completely opposed to the security service. The only objection that we have ever made is that, in security investigations, things happen to people and we can get no explanation for the decisions made or the action taken. Surely no organization can be regarded as being completely perfect. An organization like the security service works in the dark and relies to a very great extent on information given to it by people who wish to remain anonymous. Because of its nature, the security service can be used ‘by vindictive people to impose hardship or difficulty on other persons whom they dislike. We of the Labour Party realize the importance of security. But we would like to believe that security is operating in the best interests of every citizen and of the country, and not to the detriment of some who may be affected because a report may be obtained from a source or sources unknown which never can be checked or queried by the people against whom the report has been made.
However, I rose to speak not about security but about the grants that have been made under the Matrimonial Causes Act to approved marriage guidance organizations. When the Matrimonial Causes Bill was introduced great play was made of the fact that it provided facilities for marriage guidance organizations to come into operation and to be subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. According to the Estimates, the appropriation last year was £50,000 and the expenditure £36,500. This year the proposed allocation is £49,500. I appreciate that it may be a little early for the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to have any specific information relating to the activities of the marriage guidance organizations, but I should like him, if possible, to tell the committee how many organizations have been approved; under what conditions they have been approved, because the Matrimonial Causes Act allows the Attorney-General to lay down those conditions; and what has been the result of the activities of these approved organizations. There appears to be great scope for marriage guidance councils to operate and, unless a considerable number have been approved and are being subsidized to the extent that they require under conditions which are favorable to them, I feel that this provision of the act will not be as successful as the Attorney-General hoped it would be when he introduced the bill into the House.
I should like the Attorney-General to state the number of petitions that have been allowed under section 28 (m) of the act. All honorable members will remember that this section was hotly and fully discussed when the legislation was before us because it was expected that it would be a loophole for certain people to obtain a divorce.
I should also like information relating to section 71 of the act which provides for certain arrangements to be made for the children of a divorced couple. Honorable members will remember that these arrangements were to play a major part in the granting of a divorce decree. How is this section of the act being intrepreted by the various judges? Are proper arrangements being made for the children? Is the section being applied in the way in which the Attorney-General indicated it would be applied when the bill was being discussed?
Another matter which was the subject of some discussion during the secondreading and committee stages of the bill relates to the maintenance, custody and settlement provisions. Under this division it is possible for women who have been divorced to garnishee their husband’s wages so that an order for maintenance may be enforced. This is covered by the third schedule of the act. I should like the Attorney-General to state how many orders have been issued under the schedule, how many have been actually put into effect, and how many have not been put into effect because the husband has disappeared from the State or his whereabouts are unknown and there is no possibility of the order being enforced.
Although I appreciate that the matter of deserted wives perhaps does not concern the Attorney-General directly, it is something which has exercised the minds of many honorable members from time to time. Once a deserted wife takes maintenance proceedings against her husband and an order is made, there seems to be no jurisdiction that the wife can approach to ensure that the maintenance order is preserved. Most of us have had deserted wives asking what assistance they can obtain because their husbands have not paid the maintenance that has been awarded. I believe that in a large number of cases in which a husband deserts a wife and a maintenance order is obtained, the payments are not made by the husband, who merely disappears so that his whereabouts are unknown. This results in non-payment of the maintenance which has been granted to the wife and children. In those circumstances the wife has no option but to become a charge upon the Commonwealth by obtaining a deserted wife’s pension, which is equivalent to that paid to a widow. The deserter escapes scot-free unless the wife is prepared to take out a warrant for his arrest which can be served by the police. But if the deserter is put into gaol, this means that the wife still has no prospect of obtaining any money from her husband because while he is in gaol he is not earning anything. I seem to remember that during the debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill the Attorney-General stated that this was a matter for the States, but, as the Commonwealth is called upon to pay the pension in these cases, I feel that the Attorney-General should take steps to ensure that the procedures in the States are made uniform so that a deserted wife will have an opportunity to receive the maintenance that is awarded to her by the court.
I should like to mention two other matters, the first of which was referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who stated that the promise was made in the Governor-General’s Speech, in March last year, that legislation designed to prevent restrictive trade practices and the operation of cartels, monopolies and trusts would be introduced. Eighteen months have elapsed since that promise was made. I appreciate that it takes time to iron out difficulties that might arise, but the position certainly is not improving in regard to restrictive trade practices. The honorable member for Newcastle cited what is happening in the rubber industry. I am sure that most of us could give examples of restrictive practices in the retail and manufacturing industries and even in the field of newspapers. It is about time that the Government kept the promise which it made eighteen months ago, because, until something is done to curtail the activities of people and organizations who are prepared to use restrictive practices in industry to keep up the price of their commodity, to defeat present competitors in the fields and to prevent newcomers to the field, we shall not develop this nation as we would like it to develop.
The next matter to which 1 should like to refer relates to the Legal Service Bureau. Until two years ago this was a separate entity but it was then placed under the control of the Attorney-General. From my experience, the bureau appears to be overworked and understaffed. It is unable to give the necessary attention to servicemen and their dependants who seek legal aid. In Sydney, for instance, it is impossible to obtain any information over the telephone. A person seeking to ascertain whether assistance from the Legal Service Bureau is available on a particular matter must ring to make an appointment and then go in to see the officers. On making inquiries as to why this was so, I was told it was impossible for the staff to handle the number of telephone calls coming to the bureau all through the day. The only way to get advice from the bureau at this stage is to make an appointment and go in to see the officers. It is quite possible that the inquiry could concern a matter which the bureau does not handle. This information could be given over the telephone quite simply. The fact that the staff cannot spend the time answering telephone calls means that ex-servicemen and their dependants must make an appointment and go into town in order to obtain the information they seek.
The Legal Service Bureau is still unable to undertake many activities because it has not the staff to handle them. I do not say this in any critical way, but I do feel that the men in the bureau who are handling repatriation appeals are so flooded with work that they are unable to give adequate attention to cases that they handle before the entitlement appeal tribunals and assessment appeal tribunals. There are so many of these cases that the officers are unable to sit down quietly and examine them. I believe that while the bureau is allowed to operate, it should operate at a standard that meets with the approval of all ex-servicemen and their dependants. I would like the AttorneyGeneral to consider the matters I have mentioned and to give me an answer - perhaps not at this stage but at some other stage when it is more convenient for him to do so.
.- I should like to make some reference to the report of the committee appointed to investigate the copyright laws of the Commonwealth. The original decision to have such an investigation was made by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan and the report in due course came to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). It involves a good deal of legislation - and rather intricate legislation, I should think - concerning the vexed question of copyright. I merely want to help in the consideration of this matter, if I may, and to make some comments about literary copyright.
The copyright laws of Australia have been a sort of carbon copy of the laws of the United Kingdom. They have been in the main reasonably watertight, except for certain classic instances which I shall enumerate. In order to obtain some sort of world convention on copyright for the writer of a literary work or the creator of a work of art, we adopted the Berne convention. A further convention arose out of that and it was called the Rome convention. Subsequently, the Brussels convention analysed both these conventions in an effort to eliminate mistakes from them and to add the points needed in a new convention. The Brussels convention has not yet been ratified. I believe the reason for not doing this is that it would entail considerable amendment to the existing law. The Attorney-General may correct me if I am wrong, but I have no doubt that he will attend to the ratification when he is able to do so.
One of the real troubles in our situation to-day is that in world copyright Great Britain, Australia and Canada, with European countries, are in a general sort of Commonwealth set-up. The United States of America has always kept outside the Berne convention. However, it did join a universal copyright convention, which was the last move on copyright legislation and the last convention affecting the literary works in which I am interested. This copyright convention has not been ratified by the Australian Government for perhaps the same reason as it did not ratify the Brussels convention - that is, that serious and widespread amendments to the legislation would be necessary. However, a gap has been left wide open in our copyright laws. Pirating in the United States is notorious for various reasons but mainly because of the vast demand for scripts and for the re-writing of books for films and to satisfy the voracious appetite of television, which wants new programmes every week, every month and every year. Everything is gone through. Matter coming to the United States from abroad, which seems safe, is in many instances dealt with by unscrupulous agents. The names of works are changed. This happened with a book written in this country when it reached the United States. But we have no redress, and I know that the long and exhaustive analysis that has been made by the committee takes this factor into account.
A universal copyright convention seems to be the only way in which we can obtain protection, since we have so much contact with the United States. Literary works and scripts are sent from Australia to America and elsewhere and a blanket copyright cover is needed. I do not think really that the final word to make everything secure can be said, because new situations arise and new mediums of public entertainment, such as television, are created, and so we have a new set of problems.
I congratulate the committee on the report it has furnished to the AttorneyGeneral. I note with satisfaction the lar.’. number of submissions made by the Australian Journalists Association, J. C. Williamson Theatres Limited, the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited and various other organizations. All of these people are interested in this problem of copyright. A man could, perhaps, in his lifetime, if he is fortunate, write one very good book that would make him a fortune if he were not the victim of gaps in copyright laws in other countries. Such flaws in the laws could cost him a great deal of revenue, amounting perhaps to many thousands of pounds. However, if the Minister adopts this report, as I believe he will, and introduces the necessary legislation, it will be extremely useful.
The point I make is that the universal copyright convention must be ratified and our legislation brought up to date. Our act first came into operation in 1907 and wa.-. altered in 1956 and on other occasions. But certain points in the report are very interesting, though perhaps only for the specialist in this field. Unclear statements have been clarified. An author’s right to copyright after his death has been clarified and copyright now extends for 50 years from the end of the calendar year after his death. Since this is an international agreement, all pirating is prevented. Think what would have happened to Bernard Shaw if he had not been protected by the British copyright laws when he wrote his famous play “ Pygmalion “. Whilst he made thousands of pounds out of the play, his estate has benefited by many thousands of pounds more because of the sensational success of “ My Fair Lady “. Though we may not do too well during ‘ our lifetime and may have to work in Parliament to keep the wolf from the door, some one may find a hidden ray serene in our work after our death and our estate would benefit accordingly. Be that as it may, we should be protected by the copyright law.
The broadcasting and television fields are causing no end of bother to-day. There is no knowing where copyright ceases. Take ordinary working actors and journalists who have prepared a script for which an advertising agent has paid, say £50 or £100. Copyright is vested in the first performance, but when it is played 50 times by the same company, which says it has bought the script, the copyright ceases to exist because of the inadequacy of the contract. There was a strike of script-writers and actors working for the radio stations of Australia only a few months ago. They objected to the replaying, over and over again, of their Original work. Since copyright did not exist, royalties did not accrue. I notice that not very much has been made of this b” the committee, which probably has not been able to catch up to it. Then there is the case of the script of a comedy, or of the transcript of a section of a story, which is allowed to be played free of copyright in boarding houses and such places. The act says, “ if this situation simulates that of home entertainment “. There are various degrees of home entertainment, and I would not like to enumerate them all. The report states -
In our opinion a performance in a guest house Or a hotel to residents or their guests should not be treated as a public performance.
What about floor shows? Highly-paid artists are given huge sums of money to give floor shows using a script the copyright content of which belongs to some author or authoress but, because the performance is considered not to be a performance in a public place, as it is in either a hostel, a hotel or a boarding house, the copyright does not apply. I think that the Attorney-General should look at that aspect very seriously. This is not something that the whole of the Parliament would go into raptures about, but it is a serious aspect for the writers, journalists, actors and others in the community who are affected by it. I just wanted to direct the Minister’s attention to those things that I see implicit in the workings of the copyright law. I ask him particularly to look at the implica-tions of television in relation to copyright. S When he is framing the legislation he will have to have a great deal of advice as well * as rely on his own innate knowledge in regard to the law of copyright as it applies to the new medium of television.
That is all I have to say on the matter, except that this is a very well-substantiated and well-prepared report, and that those who do any writing or are concerned with copyright would welcome any legislation based on this document.
Mr. LUCHETTI (Macquarie) [5.12J.-1 wish to deal with Division No. 213 of the Estimates which refers to the Crown Solicitor’s Office. In doing so, I ask the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) why he has failed to provide an increased vote for this section of the department in view of the oft-repeated statement that the Crown Solicitor’s Office is overworked and that the parliamentary draftsmen are incapable of coping with the great demands that have been thrust on them over the years, and also the statement that important regulations have had to be put on one side because of lack of staff to deal with the rush of work. An example of what can happen as a result of the inadequacy of staff was seen in the recent revelation as the result of an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee, that over a considerable period payments had been made illegally to members of the Services. During the subsequent inquiry it was acknowledged that the Attorney-General’s Department had to some extent fallen down on the job, and that the Solicitor-General was incapable of meeting the demands made upon him. I mention those things at the outset because I regret that funds have not been made available to fill all the vacant posts and to give opportunities for promotion or the recruitment of new staff to help in this important work concerned with the operation of the Parliament.
I now propose to deal with a matter which is perhaps of much wider and more significant importance. I refer to the existence of restrictive trade practices and monopolies in this country, which was raised by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) in respect of the tire industry. I shall not deal explicitly with that industry. I should much prefer to deal with the general question of restrictive trade practices and, in particular, the growth of monopolies, which is a threat to every person in this land. It matters not whether a person is a wage-earner, a business man, a farmer, a manufacturer or anything else - at present he is threatened by the operation of monopolies in Australia. The existence of monopolies was acknowledged by the Government in 1960 when the late Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil, in his Speech at the opening of the Parliament on 8th March, 1960, said -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
That promise was made last year, and despite the time that has elapsed since then there is no visible evidence so far as this Parliament is concerned of any practical steps taken by the Minister or the Government to deal with this subject. It is true that the question has engaged the attention of private members on the Government side, and the position has alarmed many people outside who are concerned with the threat to what they believe is the free way of life in this country and the free enterprise which members on the Government side are so vocal about from time to time.
Another matter related to that was the historic statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), away back in the dim and distant past, that an excess profits tax would be applied to control profiteering. It requires only the development of a situation such as we saw recently, where the Government and its friends in the motor industry became estranged, for members on the Government side to direct attention to the scandalously high profits made by General Motors-Holden’s Limited or others engaged in the motor industry in this country. However, when one seeks action to deal with this one finds it sadly lacking.
I should like also to direct attention to the fact that the Government, by its own calculated economic policy and by its action in allowing a flood of imports into the country, has accelerated the growth of monopoly. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was not backward in directing attention to this. That newspaper, along with other leading publications in Australia, has from time to time devoted a considerablee amount of space to the matter. For instance, in an editorial published on Thursday, 9th March, 1961, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ quoted the Prime Minister as saying -
We mean to achieve such results as we can within the limits of our power at the earliest possible moment.
So, according to the Prime Minister, this action was to be taken as early as possible. That quotation, I remind honorable members, appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” on 9th March, 1961, but, according to that newspaper, the statement quoted was made by the Prime Minister on 25th March, 1960. Those are the brave words that the Prime Minister uses when he strikes an attitude as the great spokesman for the people of Australia, and when he is moved from time to time to say a word on behalf of the mass of the people who feel bitter about the encroachments by monopolies and cartels and the existence of restrictive trade practices.
Monopolists are never pioneers. They come behind after a project has been proved to be profitable. As Henry Lawson quite rightly summed them up, they are the “ men who come behind “. These people, merging and absorbing, taking over small shareholders and small businesses, have eliminated from the scene many of the great pioneers who helped to develop Australia. The monopolists are never creators. They engage in battening on the efforts of other people who have gone before and made the way easy for them by proving that a proposition of some kind or another, whether it be in manufacturing, business, mining, rural industry or anything else, can be made into a great success.
Monopoly in all its forms is totalitarianism. Monopolies and restrictive trade practices have, perhaps more than any other feature, characterized the conduct of this Government. This Government’s term of office has been the day of the big man, of the take-over and the monopoly. It has been the day of the sell-out to big businessmen from overseas who have gained great wealth at the expense of the people who have developed Australia and worked for its expansion.
The Attorney-General himself made a statement about 14th April this year in which he said that he was proceeding with this matter without haste. Well, we can accept the Attorney-General’s words that he is proceeding without haste. He is certainly not setting the country on fire in this matter despite the deep interest that has been shown in it by honorable members on the Government side. The Restrictive Trading Practices Commission of the United Kingdom offers a pattern or a starting point that might have been adopted by the AttorneyGeneral, but nothing of that kind has been done by him. He has not been prepared to act. The inquiry, the surveillance of prices and the investigation of profiteering must have had a desirable effect.
The Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Attorney-General, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) know the facts about wool pies in operation in Australia but they have done nothing about this practice. They know all about the pies and the splitting of lots. They know, as you do, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that these restrictive trade practices have hurt all producers of wool and all those who depend on the results obtained at the wool auctions. The Government knows all about this because Mr. Justice Cook revealed the facts for all to see, but there has been no action.
In the merchandising field, because of monopolies and take-overs, there will be no more than four or five operators of any significance at all in Australia if the present trend continues. The small shopkeeper, the corner shopkeeper and the country storekeeper, one by one, are being absorbed by the major corporations and companies throughout Australia. In the City of Bathurst, the heart of the electorate of Macquarie, Western Stores, a great organization, was taken over by Farmer and Company Limited which, in due course, was taken over by the Myer Emporium interests. This trend has continued throughout Australia.
The small man who has a little ham and beef shop or a grocery store cannot compete with the big storekeepers who have control of the supplies through the manufacturers and the agencies upon whom he must depend for the goods he wants to sell. If competition becomes keen and the little man has succeeded in weathering the storm because of his own personality or for some other reason, the big organizations will engage in price cutting until they destroy the little man with his small shop. Then the take-over is complete. The little man of free enterprise - the man whom this Government is supposed to defend and protect - is being destroyed throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The mammoth has its links in all fields of manufacturing and finance and everything that goes with them.
All these things are weighted against the small business people. Some have been trying to produce tinned vegetables and foodstuffs, only to find that this Government has permitted an inflow of products from overseas. The noble but feeble efforts of the Australian producers have been destroyed They have no hope of meeting the competition for the very important reason that the big people have control of the shops. The products of the little man, manufactured with great care and skill, are unwanted because the trade has been tied up.
Restrictive trade practices apply to tendering in exactly the same way. When tenders are called for almost anything at all, there is collusion because the tenders come out at precisely the same price. These things are happening right under the nose of this Administration and the Government is not prepared to do anything about them. The modern trend of take-overs is essential to monopoly control. By this means, competitors are sold up, agencies are withdrawn and suppliers are bought and controlled.
You will observe that no one is safe. The work of the buyer and the agent is at the mercy of the mammoth. Shopkeepers, small business people and manufacturers are victims of the controllers of the mammoth which owes allegiance only to dividends. New techniques and new means of increasing production are not for the man - the people who are the buyers and those engaged in industry - but for the few who direct operations oblivious to public feelings. The people’s feelings do not counand votes do not matter in the field of take-over and monopoly. Increased production has no bearing on prices whatever. This is borne out in the motor trade.
Despite great production, improved techniques and the huge mass of vehicles available, prices do not fall, wages do not increase, standards do not rise but profits are maintained throughout.
Precisely the same situation exists in the coal industry. With new techniques an ‘ means of production, greater quantities of coal are produced without any benefit the people in the industry.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to amplify and support the protests of my colleagues regarding the inactivity of the Government in protecting Australian producers in the sense that the Government is doing nothing about restrictive trade practices engaged in by the great monopolies. While I am greatly impressed by the examples of these activities that have been given by other honorable members, I want to refer to one problem which other honorable members apparently were not able to speak about because of lack of time. I refer to the tobaccogrowing industry in which members of the Australian Country Party claim to take a particular interest.
It must be evident to honorable members what is happening to this Australian industry which has been developed considerably in recent years. According to statements that have been made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in reply to questions, the tobacco-growers are in a very difficult position. They have to deal with great manufacturing organizations, not many in number, which purchase their product. I refer particularly to Rothmans and the British Australasian Tobacco Company, more commonly known as W. D. and H. O. Wills (Australia) Limited, which are the main buyers of the products of the tobaccogrowing industry. There may be other purchasers, but these organizations buy the bulk of the production.
Information given by the producers themselves shows that the buyers regulate their purchases in such a way that they depress the prices that are paid to the unfortunate tobacco-growers. The manufacturers do not even bid the minimum price at the sale for some lots on the ground that the leaf is not of the right quality. Subsequently, after the sales have been completed, this leaf is bought by private tender at a figure below the minimum price which was paid at auction.
It must be obvious that this is a very dishonest method that has been adopted by the great tobacco-manufacturing organizations. If the leaf is of such inferior quality that it does not warrant a bid even at the minimum price at auction, obviously the quality does not change merely because the sale is ended. If the leaf is of any use, the buyers have no right to purchase it at prices below the minimum rates after the sales are concluded. Evidently the industry is in a very desperate position at the moment, because, speaking from memory, the Minister said that whereas the price received last year had been 142d. per lb., this year the average price was 11 2d. per lb. So, the tobacco growers have already lost 2s. 6d. per lb. on the average price which they received for their product and as well they have had a little over 21 per cent, of this year’s production left on their hands by the tobacco cartel. Last year the unbought proportion of their crop was only 2 per cent., so not only have they suffered a considerable drop in the price of tobacco but they now have a greater proportion of their crop left on their hands.
I believe that in order to get the advantage of certain tariff concessions on imported tobacco, the manufacturers are required to use 43 per cent, of Australiangrown leaf in the manufacture of cigarettes and 40 per cent, in the manufacture of other tobacco products. The Government has open to it an easy way to remedy the position. If it is satisfied that some abuse of their power is being engaged in by the tobacco cartel, it ought to take action to compel the great companies to take a greater proportion of Australian-produced leaf. Members of the Country Party ought to be very active in this matter, because they claim to represent the primary producers and here is an important Australian industry in an area of the Commonwealth where we require development and where the people engaged in it are proving to be efficient. I understand that in recent years the growers have vastly improved the quality of their product. I have been informed that the quality of Australian leaf is equal to that of imported leaf, yet the tobacco-growers will be left with 21 per cent, of their production on their hands unless, of course, the major tobacco manufacturing companies propose to buy it by private tender at a price much below the average of 112d. per lb. which was paid at auction.
As my colleagues have said, the Government has often threatened to do something about monopolies. On innumerable occasions we were promised, as the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said, an excess profits tax. We were given a’ssurance after assurance in this chamber that something would be done about it, but no action was ever taken and the Government subsequently ceased even to talk about the project. Then we had the new Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) taking over the announcement in the Governor-General’s speech of the Government’s intention to legislate to control monopolies. The Attorney-General told us that he was giving the matter close attention. He said that the Government had sent officers overseas to examine what had been done in other parts of the world, and we waited with great attention to see what would be done here. The attitude of the Attorney-General gave me the impression that, complex and difficult as the subject might be, it would be only a comparatively short space of time before we would have some announcement of what the Government intended to do in respect of monopolies. But it evidently does not intend to produce its legislation during the life of this Parliament. This means that it has now lost its opportunity of producing the legislation at all and the task will be left to another government.
If the Attorney-General argues, as he may, that there are certain constitutional difficulties in dealing with restrictive trade practices, I say to him that he has failed in this Parliament to support a proposal to amend the Constitution in order to give the Commonwealth Parliament the power which it now lacks to deal with the activities of these great monopolies and cartels. On the contrary, he made it quite clear on a previous occasion when we were discussing the report of the committee appointed by this Government to examine the Constitution of this country, that he does not want an extension of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers, because he knows that if those powers are extended some effective action on a Commonwealth level will be possible. A considerable time ago, I brought to his notice the case of a manufacturer in Victoria who, because he refused to fall into line with a ring of manufacturers engaged in the same type of activity and increase his prices, had his supplies cut off from the source, the manufacturer of the raw product in Tasmania. The Attorney-General then said that because the producer of the cloth was in Tasmania and the firm refused supplies was in Victoria the Government had no power under the Constitution to deal with the position and he therefore washed his hands completely of the matter.
I am of the opinion that the AttorneyGeneral has no sincere desire to do anything about restricting the activities of monopolies or cartels. He was for many years their legal representative in the courts of this country and he obtained huge fees for representing their interests. It is quite obvious that he has not changed his attitude to the monopolies and cartels that are functioning in this country and which are restricting the development of Australian industry. There is only one real way to deal with this matter. If the Commonwealth Parliament lacks the necessary constitutional power, let the Attorney-General disclose where the deficiency of power exists and then let him urge the Government to give the Australian people an opportunity by referendum to grant the Parliament the power to be exercised by whatever government might find itself in control after the next federal election. That is the only way to do it. It is no use talking about the activities of these people unless we are prepared to take some effective action against them.
I hope the words of my colleagues and myself will be taken into very serious consideration when the Attorney-General is replying to the debate. As I have said, I realize that his opportunities of doing much in this matter are rapidly disappearing, but if he could at least indicate that the party to which he belongs will support an amendment of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth Parliament the power it needs, the incoming Labour government would know that when it brings down a proposal to submit a referendum to the people it can expect the support of the present AttorneyGeneral and his colleagues. Then we will not be able to use as an excuse for inaction in the future the claim that we have not sufficient constitutional power.
.- I think the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is typical, in his remarks, of members of the Opposition when he makes use of the plight of some unfortunate people to put a case for attacking monopolies. If we search for the cause of the trouble in the tobacco industry I think we will find that it is not cartels, as the honorable member for East Sydney alleges. If we look a bit more closely at the matter I think we will find there are other reasons for the present difficulties. Of course the honorable member did not mention that the production of tobacco leaf has increased by 100 per cent, over the last two years, and I think that is where most of the trouble lies. The honorable member also did not mention either the tremendous increase in the production of motor cars last year, which put Australian industry in the plight in which it was, or the severer plight it would have been in if this Government had not acted as it did. That happened in our private enterprise economy. If you over-produce without regard to your prospects of sales you will get into no end of trouble. It is interesting to note that when the honorable member for East Sydney advocates more controls he is typical of members of the Labour Party, because its socialistic policy emphasizes outright monopoly over every industry in this country. To advocate the holding of a referendum for this and that, and to say, “ We will take power away from the States and centralize everything in the Commonwealth”, is quite consistent with Labour’s views.
We have had a good deal of experience of this socialism in Queensland. We have had it in connexion with cattle stations, food processing plants and so on. It is utterly ridiculous to use the tobacco industry an argument against cartels. That is a cor.pletely false approach to the whole position. The people who are suffering to-day are receiving no sympathy at all from the Oppo sition. Honorable members opposite are merely using them to support some ridiculous suggestion that the whole position of the tobacco industry is bound up with the actions of cartels.
.- I would not have risen to speak if I had not heard the speech of the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes). The Australian Labour Party has consistently opposed the growth of monopolies in this country. At one stage in our history it appeared as though the Government had decided thai monopolies had become so dangerous a factor in the economy that it was time to take action against them. As a prelude to taking that action, the Government set up a committee which investigated cartels, trade restrictions and monopolies and, according to a speech delivered by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) in this chamber about a year ago, that committee came to the conclusion that restrictive trade practices were being engaged in in about 69 cases in Victoria and in something between 500 and 600 cases throughout Australia. The honorable member for Bruce also stated that these practices which were detrimental to the trading community, and which were imposing onerous conditions on the consuming public, were most blatant. I emphasize that this is not merely the opinion of a Labour Opposition; this is the conclusion arrived at after the garnering of evidence by members of the Government parties, men who thought that the members of the Cabinet were sincere in saying that they intended to make an attack upon malpractices and restrictive trade activities within the community. But the Gover” ment was not sincere about this, and when we on this side rise to-day to emphasize that insincerity, we are attacked on the ground that we are advocating socialism. When the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) pointed out that there were only two companies buying the produce of the tobacco-growers, when h” stated that those two companies determined the price at which the commodity would be sold and just how much of the commodity would be purchased, he was attacked by honorable members on the Government side. There has been a tremendous increase in the consumption of tobacco in all forms in this country over recent years. Concurrently with that increase in consumption there has been an enormous increase in the profits made by not only the companies which manufacture cigarettes and tobacco in Australia but also the companies which distribute cigarettes and tobacco coming to this country from overseas. Why, it is impossible to watch a television programme for half an hour without seeing extremely expensive advertisements for five or six brands of cigarettes, many of them not the products of this country at all. One advertisement exhorts the people, “Buy Camel, buy the American cigarette, for the cigarette that is favoured by the American people should be favoured by the Australian people “. Frequently we see cigarette advertisements that read, “ Buy Viscounts “, “ Buy Marlboroughs “, or “ Buy the cigarette in the flip flap packet; the filter’s right and the taste’s right “. Such advertisements are designed not to promote t!v interests of the people of this country b”’ to increase the fortunes of American millionaires.
Order! The honorable member is getting away from the proposed vote before the committee.
– I am seeking to defend from exploitation by cartels and monopolies the tobacco-growers of Victoria and the tobacco-growers in electorates represented by members of the Australian Country Party who will not rise in defence of them and who, when the honorable member for East Sydney seeks to defend them, impute most dishonorable motives to him. Everybody knows that the motivating force behind every action and every speech by the honorable member for East Sydney is a sincere desire to promote the development of this nation and to protect the welfare of its people. I desire to add my voice to those which seek to protect the Australian people in all walks of life from undue exploitation by monopolies and cartels.
Let me give one example of how the community is exploited. I refer to the furniture trade. A huge organization fixes the price of almost every article of furni ture sold in Australia. If the members of the retail trade refuse to submit to the edicts of that organization, they are blacklisted, and refused supplies of those items of furniture necessary for the carrying out of the proper retail distribution of furniture. On a previous occasion I have read to honorable members the terms of the agreement which has to be entered into by members of the furniture retailers association. Recently, we were told about what happened to certain electrical retailers who were selling goods at less than the price fixed by an organization which I think is called the Electrical Traders Retail Association. They, too, were refused supplies of articles essential to the proper carrying on of their business. One supplier had recourse to the law courts in his fight to defend the rights of free enterprise in this community, a free enterprise which is supposed to be sponsored by this Government. This Government, which calls itself a free enterprise government, allows shackles to be placed upon free enterprise by the exploiters within the community. I join with the honorable member for East Sydney in his attack upon these exploiting cartels and monopolies and in his defence of the rights of the Australian consumers. I also join with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), both of whom have defended, on the same grounds as those submitted by a committee set up by this Government, the right of retail organizations to serve the interests of the people of Australia. This Government is now deserting a committee of its own members, and it is repudiating a statement made by the former GovernorGeneral, the late Lord Dunrossil, that restrictive trade practices were having such a detrimental effect upon the community that it had become necessary for the Government to take action against cartels and monopolies engaging in them. The Australian Labour Party, on the other hand, will continue to fight against monopolies and cartels in the interests of the people of Australia. Many of these monopolies, let me remind honorable members, are not Australian-controlled. Many of them are controlled from overseas, and a bigger and bigger number of them are being controlled from overseas. What is happening is that me Australian interest is being strangled or bought out, or taken over, as the honorable member for Macquarie said, and the overseas interests are determining the practices and conditions of trade within Australia.
– I want to make just a few wellchosen remarks about the security service. I am disturbed at one branch of the activities of the service. I refer to the way in which the security officers go snooping around, looking into the affairs of perfectly innocent people, and then putting in reports, seemingly to justify their existence. It seems that they have to do a certain amount of book work. Evidently they must put in a certain number of words. At least, that is the way it appears. I have had information regarding people seeking naturalization who have been told that they cannot be naturalized because of security reports made about them or reports that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has had given to him.
There was one case concerning a lady who sought naturalization. The Minister replied to the member who made representations on her behalf saying that naturalization was refused because of a very positive report submitted by the Director-General of Security. I had occasion at one time to examine personally some of these positive reports. I refer to a particular case involving an old Bulgarian tomato-grower who had been in this country for about 30 years. He tried to bring his wife here and was refused permission to do so, not because she was a Communist, but because the security service said he was. So it appears that one of the penalties one must pay for being a Communist in this country is to be deprived of the company of one’s wife, if it can be arranged by the security service.
I said to this old man, “ Are you sure you have not done something that would justify a belief that you are a Communist? “ He said: “ Never in my life. I sit here in my little garden at Fulham. I grow tomatoes and I never talk to anybody except a few of my Bulgarian friends. That is the length and breadth of my activities in this country.” I asked him whether he was naturalized, and he said he was. I said, “ Do you take an active part In politics? “ He said, “ No, I have never done anything in politics, except that a few months ago I handed out how-to-vote cards at the Communist Party referendum “. I said: “ Ha! Now you are on to it. Now I can see the crime you have committed. You have handed out how-to-vote cards. Who gave you the cards? “
I thought perhaps some Communist had given him the cards and that some security sleuth, discovering that he had distributed cards printed by the Communist Party, had said: “ Here is prima facie evidence that he is a Communist. This will be another victim for this week, and that will make my alley good for two or three weeks to come. I will put him in.” I discovered, however, that the man did not know what party had printed the cards, and that all he knew was that they had been given to him by the baker. The baker, I discovered, was the secretary of my own branch in Hindmarsh.
– The red
Dean, who got here on Communist preferences, seemingly is very disturbed about the fact that my secretary gave the man the how-to-vote cards for distribution at the Communist Party referendum. The secretary happened to be the brother of Harold Souter, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He is a man called Jack Souter. He has been an Australian Labour Party man all his life. He has been an A.L.P. councillor and an A.L.P. candidate for parliamentary honours. He said to this old chap: “ You know all the Bulgarians around here. What about taking this handful of cards? We cannot speak the Bulgarian language. You can tell them that this is the way to vote if they want to preserve their freedom.” Let me remind honorable members opposite, who are trying to interject, that the members of the High Court of Australia shared that view. They said that legislation like the Communist Party Dissolution Act should not be passed. They threw the whole thing out neck and crop. They would not have a bar of it. They, like the old Bulgarian tomato-grower, evidently held the same view as the baker.
The old man went around with these cards and handed them out. That was sufficient, in the eyes of the security service, to make him a dangerous Communist, a man who had tried to engage in some dangerous plan to overthrow the establishment.
This is the kind of thing that must be stopped. If people are as dangerous as the security reports would seem to suggest, if they are not entitled to bring their wives here, or to be naturalized, then they ought to be deported. If they are not so dangerous, if their activities are so harmless that they are allowed to remain here, then they should be entitled to ordinary citizenship.
This, as I have said, is an example of the kind of activity indulged in by the security service. Let me give another example. In South Australia a couple of years ago I picked up the “Advertiser” and I saw glaring headlines, “ Adelaide Spy Ring Unmasked. Rocket Secrets Leaked” - banner headlines. I said to myself, “ Hullo - they found Petrov in 1954, and now they have been able to arrange for another spy ring to be discovered just before the next election “. But the whole thing fizzled out, because when investigations were made, it was found that no rocket secrets had been leaked at all. As a consequence of this matter, however, a person was victimized and had her business destroyed. The security police went up to Elizabeth and waited on a little girl in her teens and cross-examined her. They asked her what her father and mother did, what books they read, how they voted at elections, whether they talked politics, whom they visited, and many other questions of that kind.
While I am speaking of the kind of questions asked, I would like the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) to give instructions to Brigadier Spry and Mr. Richards that when people are asked whether they are suitable candidates for naturalization they ought not to be subjected to cross-examination as to how they vote and what books they read. What on earth have those things to do with the security service? Why should the security officers want to know what books I read, the newspapers to which I subscribe or the people with whom I mix and talk politics? Why should they want to know what my political views are? What right have they to pry into these matters? Do they do so in order to find out whether people are harbouring dangerous thoughts? This is something we must watch. We must be careful about these dangerous thoughts, and so we must snoop around to find out what books people are reading.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) once said, according to the memoirs of Sir Anthony Eden, that Egypt was a police state. How did he know this? He discovered while he was in Egypt that Colonel Nasser carried on a form of government that had all the trade-marks - I think those were the words he used - or all the characteristics of a police state. The No. 1 characteristic of a police state that he found was telephonetapping. Until that time, and even after that time, the Prime Minister had emphatically denied in this Parliament that telephonetapping
Order! I remind the honorable member that the estimates before us are those for the Attorney-General’s Department, not the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I know, Sir, but, with great respect, the Attorney-General is the Minister in charge of security, and if he were to instruct Brigadier Spry to stop telephone-tapping, Brigadior Spry would have to observe the instruction, because he would be sacked if he did not. That is why I am trying to impress upon the AttorneyGeneral what an evil thing it is to use this method of prying into people’s businesses.
I wanted to say to the Attorney-General that in no other country in the Western world is this kind of practice permitted, and that if we want to preserve a state of government dissimilar from those in operation in the countries controlled by fascists and by Communist dictatorships, we ought to follow some system that is easily discernible from the systems that operate in those countries. If we are to allow telephone-tapping to be carried on almost ad lib.-
– “ Oh “ says the Minister for the Interior! He does not know about these things. The AttorneyGeneral knows.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Chairman, as I was about to say when the sitting was suspended for dinner, I am one who has always had a very high personal regard for the Attorney-General.
– He is a fine fellow.
– Not only is he a fine fellow; I believe that he has some regard for tradition. I do not think that he would willingly agree to the tapping of telephones just for the fun of tapping them. I am sure that he would require very good, solid reasons for allowing the security service to tap a telephone. But we shall not always have an Attorney-General of the calibre of the one that we now have. We could have as Attorney-General a person more like the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), for instance. Who could feel safe in this country if that honorable member had the right to authorize the tapping of a person’s telephone? For these reasons, I say that we have entered on a very dangerous course in adopting the methods used by the totalitarian governments in dealing with what they are pleased to call espionage and subversion.
A safeguard against this would be provided if the Attorney-General would at least table annually a report stating the number of telephones tapped during the year. The honorable gentleman raises his eyebrows and smiles as though the tabling of such a report would be foolish, but when the measure which authorizes the tapping of telephones was before us, he led me to believe that he probably would table a report of this kind. However, since then, he has thought the matter over and found very strong reasons for not taking this course of action. What are these strong reasons for not tabling in the Parliament annually a report at least stating the number of telephones tapped during the year? We have never been given this information, and I think that we are entitled to have it.
Moreover, I think that the Minister ought to consult the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) before he authorizes the tapping of any telephone. I do not ask him to consult the honorable member for Mackellar. I ask him to consult a responsible person who could be the Prime Minister of this country and who, no doubt, will be the Prime Minister of this country after 9th December. Surely it is not asking too much to request that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition be given this information, unless, of course, telephones are being tapped for purely party political purposes. If that were so, I could understand the Minister not wanting to tell the Leader of the Opposition that he intended to authorize the tapping of the telephone of the federal secretary of the Australian Labour Party, the telephone of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) or even that of an innocuous person like myself. If the Attorney-General proposed to authorize the tapping of telephones for security purposes only, what would be wrong with telling the Leader of the Opposition about it? There would be nothing to fear from doing so unless the Minister considered that the telephone of the Leader of the Opposition, too, ought to be tapped because he was a person who harboured dangerous thoughts and was not to be trusted. If that were the case, I could understand the attitude that the Minister adopts now.
– Is the honorable member fishing for information?
– Yes, I am fishing for information. I should very much like to get it. I should like to know how many telephones are being tapped each year. Is the number increasing or decreasing? Are telephones being tapped for political purposes or are they being tapped purely and simply for security purposes?
Another thing that I should like the Attorney-General to do is to take strong measures now to ensure that a fire does not break out in the head-quarters of the security service before 9th December. He will recall that there was a fire in the head-quarters of the service before an earlier election, and documents were subsequently found to be missing. This fire occurred before an election at which the Australian Labour Party seemed likely to win. The security service would have been most embarrassed if its files had been intact after the election and a new Attorney-General had called for them and looked through them in order to see whose telephones had been tapped and who in this country was being spied on. A fire provides a very convenient means for destroying evidence of that kind of thing. I hope that no fire breaks out again in the head-quarters of the security service before the forthcoming election. We know that telephones are being tapped. I imagine that some record is kept and that an incoming government would be able to examine it and see whose telephones were being tapped at the instance of the present Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, I should like to deal very briefly with one or two matters that have been raised. Others more or less speak for themselves. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) brought to the notice of the committee a case in which a young girl had been injured by what he said was a rifle bullet while she was standing in the front garden of her parents’ home, that garden being adjacent to the Williamstown rifle range. The honorable member had previously brought this matter to my attention by correspondence. As the rifle range comes within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), I asked him to have the matter investigated and to see whether there was any material on the basis of which it could fairly be said that any legal or moral responsibility rested on the Commonwealth. Police officers as well as Army investigators looked into the matter, but could find no such material.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has now brought the case up here as if there had been some invasion of the ordinary rights of citizens. But I remind the committee that our system of law is based on responsibility for fault. None of us can insure others against the hazards of life. For the honorable member to achieve what he seeks to achieve, it would be necessary, first, to find, not somebody authorized by the Commonwealth, as he suggests, but somebody who was at fault. In this case, far from finding anybody at fault, we have been unable to track the incident down to any agency associated with the Commonwealth in any sense, shape or form. After looking at the matter, I considered that I could not fairly, with any sense of responsibility, recommend that anything be paid on behalf of the child who was injured. This is far from being a denial of right. It is, indeed, nothing more than observing what we all regard as the limit of obligation in the civil field.
I turn now to a matter which was raised by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who asked me quite a number of questions about the operation of the Matrimonial Causes Act. I am very pleased to be able to give him what answers I can. I cannot answer him in full detail, because he asked me questions the answers to which I could not call to, and carry in, my mind on the instant. The honorable member asked me, first, how the marriage-guidance provisions of the act were operating and whether enough money was being made available to marriage-guidance organization.. I think it is well that I tell the committee that these organizations ‘are working very well. I have appointed to the staff of the Attorney-General’s Department an officer who is highly trained in social work and who is a very well reputed psychologist. He has been moving among the marriageguidance organizations, advising and assisting them, and, of course, also taking care to see that they use their funds and their capacities sensibly. I am told by those who are interested in these organizations that they are very grateful for this assistance. They find my officer most co-operative and most helpful. He also assesses their financial needs in an impartial and fair way after discussing the matter with them. The amount shown on the Estimates fairly covers what these organizations can use at present.
One of the difficulties in giving assistance to this group of organizations is that they lack a sufficient number of properly trained workers with the necessary background and temperament to undertake this work. I have been rather careful not to lure these organizations into stretching themselves beyond their competence simply by making money available to them which they cannot fairly spend in the employment of the right kind of people. Although a full year has not elapsed since the scheme was put into operation, the statistics covering a year will be collated later and in due course, if if it falls to my lot, I shall be pleased to see that the House is informed more fully of the year’s experience.
I cannot tell the honorable gentleman nor the committee the number of petitions that have been presented under section 28 (m) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, but I can say that they have been surprisingly few. All the doubtful comments that were made about this section and what it would do both to the work of the court and to the community have been proved to be illfounded.
– One justice did not say so.
– The honorable gentleman has seized on a statement that was made by one judge. I remind him again that one swallow does not make a summer. A lot of other judges administer the laws of divorce, and when they all 9/ the same thing that may be time to say something about them.
– Say something about Mr. Justice Nield.
– I have said something about him. It is not for me to speak about a single judge. I am content to remind the honorable member that one swallow does not make a summer.
The honorable member for Lang asked me whether section 71 of the act, which requires the judge to be satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for the support of the children, was working well. I have been told by judges, particularly in New South Wales, that the section is working very well and that it is a very wise and useful provision. It is worth while saying now something which I said at some stage during the debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill. Honorable members will recall that I disputed the proposition that the bill would increase divorce or make it easier than it was. Section 71 is acting as a very strong brake on divorce. Legal practitioners have told me of their experiences. When a man who has not seen his children for years after having deserted his wife and left the children on the shelf, so to speak, approaches a solicitor, the solicitor, under this legislation, must ask the man what arrangements he has made for the support of his children. The layman may say. “ What has that to do with it? “ The solicitor replies, “ You will not make first base unless you can advance some proposition to provide for the children “. The fellows who are not worth much turn away and do no; try to obtain a divorce because that hurdle is too high. Others that have some spark of decency in them realize that they mus advance some proposition and they do so I can assure the honorable member for Lang that the section of the act to which he referred is working very well and doing what I, for one, intended it to do.
The honorable member also asked me whether I had any statistics to show the way in which the special provision for the collection of maintenance was working. I must confess that I have no such figures. A full year will have to run - probably a little longer - before the statistics can be collated. But I can tell the honorable gentleman in relation to deserted wives - that is, wives who are seeking not divorce but only maintenance - that I know this Parliament’s limitations and I have taken up the matter with the Attorneys-General of the States. We have pooled the resources of the officers of the States and the Commonwealth to devise not merely a uniform law in relation to the allotment and collection of maintenance which all States will pass but also, where necessary, to improve the laws as they now stand. That work is very well advanced and I should imagine that it will be completed in the new year. All the States will then begin to pass laws in the same terms, and I hope that the resulting position will be better than the present one. I may say in passing that the standing committee of Attorneys-General, which is endeavouring to bring uniformity into some fields of the law and to utilize all the resources of the States and the Commonwealth in this way, is functioning very well. We can expect uniformity in quite a number of aspects of the law without the need to alter the present constitutional power. Sufficient power exists among all the States if it can be utilized in harmony, and the committee, in which I have played my part, has been working to that end.
The honorable member for Lang mentioned the Legal Service Bureau which he claimed is under-staffed and over-worked. 1 regret to say that his statement does not tally with the information which I last had. I have been at pains to ascertain from time to time exactly how the officers of the bureau are working. It is true that they have been placed under the control of the Deputy Crown Solicitor in each capital city. The best of the reports that I have received indicates to me that their numbers are adequate and that they are not over-worked. Of course they cannot answer inquiries over the telephone. I was a little surprised to hear the honorable gentleman suggest that they should. This is a service bureau which is intended for use by a limited section of the community. I do not know how one would identify a telephone caller as coming within that section. One must do more than have a straight telephone conversation with somebody to make sure that that person is entitled to free advice. What is more, it is not the best practice to obtain free advice over the telephone because a caller does not communicate thoroughly, at any rate to a lawyer, all the facets of a problem.
– I stated that I asked an officer of the bureau whether it handled a certain problem and I was told to call in and see him.
– If that is all that happened, it shows a degree of wisdom on the part of the officer. If he were to give the straight reply “ No “ to that question without knowing all that was involved, there would be trouble. This is a question of the ability of a layman to communicate his problem precisely in a brief telephone conversation. Nothing takes the place of meeting a person face to face so that not only do you have an idea of what that person thinks but also you have the opportunity to ask questions to ensure that the person’s mind is running along the right lines.
A reference was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to the Copyright Act and the report of the expert committee that has been set up. This very good report was written after the committee received a large number of representations and after a good deal of consideration. However, since it came to my hand and since I tabled it in the House I have received a great number of further representations. I have indicated that I do not propose to re-open the whole report of the committee. The representations indicate that perhaps the committee had not sufficient material before it and that additional material which now is available might have altered its conclusions. I am considering that material together with the report. This is a long and heavy task Which my department has partly completed, f must confess for my part that I have not attempted to deal with it finally, and it cannot be expected that any legislation will be presented during the life of this Parliament. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), like so many old men dreaming dreams, thinks that I will not be here after the election and that probably some one else will have the task that otherwise would have fallen to me.
The next matter that was mentioned - and mentioned in various aspects - was restrictive trade practices. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) has brought to my attention on several occasions, and did so again to-day, an arrangement within a wool-buyers’ association. The association seems to have some right as between itself and its members to stipulate where its members shall buy. This arrangement has apparently come in conflict with the wishes of graziers in some areas. I told the honorable gentleman, as I think I told all honorable members on one occasion, that I have no present power to deal with this but that 1 would keep the matter in mind, when considering restrictive practices, to determine whether this was a practice of a kind that ought to be dealt with. Whether the conclusion is “ Yea “ or “ Nay “, I cannot say.
– The New South Wales Government has already dealt with that.
– It has plenty of power to deal with it.
– So has the Bolte Government, but it has not dealt with the problem.
– It can do as it will. I have in connexion with restrictive trade practices to consider the matter from the viewpoint of the Liberals on this side of the chamber; I have not to consider it the way the Labour Party affects to consider it. I have listened time and again to a good deal of talk from the Opposition about monopolies and restrictive trade practices, but truly, you know, the Opposition is not against monopolies. It favours the greatest monopoly of all; it favours state monopolies. There is no doubt about that. We on this side of the chamber believe that the right way to regulate prices, and to obtain efficiency in production with the satisfactory supply of goods as cheaply as possible, is by competition. The Opposition does not believe in that at all. The Opposition does not believe in competition or the efficacy of it. The Opposition believes there is only one way in which to get prices right ‘and that is by governmental, bureaucratic price control.
We have only to think for a moment and we will realize that we would have only one airline to-day if the Opposition had had its way. We would have one airline being run under the shelter of government, with probably all the nepotism and inefficiency that attaches to socialist enterprises elsewhere. The Opposition does not believe in competition. We notice now that it does not like the competition we have under the two-airline policy of this Government. It does not favour competition. We would have had only one bank if it had had its way. It is not against monopoly; it favours monopoly. Really, it is very bogus for honorable members opposite to talk about monopolies and restrictive trade practices, because they have no real dislike of monopolies or of restrictive trade practices.
– Would you like to start this all over again?
– No, you started it.
I have had to consider restrictive practices in this light: We, believing in free enterprise and in the virtue of competition, know that there is a point at which restrictive practices and monopolies are harmful to competition, are restrictive of it and therefore are dangerous to free enterprise. The task of determining what is happening and then what is to be done about it is very lengthy and difficult. The British Government took two years with twenty officers working full-time to produce a restrictive practices act, after a commission had investigated monopolies for some years. In this instance, with never more than four officers working part-time, I have arrived at a point where I have a specific proposal. I have taken it to the States and I have discussed it with them over a period of some months. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) seems to imagine that only those who talk a lot do anything. I have not been talking very much, but I have been doing something. By and by, the Opposition, when still the Opposition after 9th December, may well find out that from this side of the chamber there will be produced a useful law to protect competition. It will not satisfy those who hate competition, and it will not satisfy those who believe in nationalization and state monopolies.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) criticized the estimates because no sum was allowed for an expansion of the staff of the department. No one could regret this more than I do, because the staff of my department is scarcely up to two-thirds of full strength in any place that is faced with difficulty, and that is not for want of trying to obtain officers.
– Why not give them more money?
– At present, a matter has been placed before the Public Service Arbitrator in an endeavour to lift the level of salaries of officers. The pay, no doubt, is an important factor, but the attractions of private enterprise for the sort of men we need in this department are also very great. I relate that difficulty to the work done on restrictive practices and the work of the draftsmen. I would like to say here and now that there is not a slack moment for the draftsmen. They work much beyond the call of duty, but there are not enough of them. We should remember that we cannot pick up draftsmen quickly. It takes seven or eight years to begin to make a draftsman. The shortage of staff is not for want of trying to get people and the arrears of work have not arisen because those I have on the staff do not work - they do!
Let me now refer to the last matter I want to deal with, and that is the talk about the security service that we have heard to-day. Those who raise matters in this chamber and say, “ I have been informed “, or “ I have no reason to doubt “, or “ I have a letter “, are very brave. They know very well, particularly with my own philosophy about this, that I will not come out and tell the truth about matters that ought not to be disclosed in this place or anywhere else because of security considerations. So it is a very brave effort on the other side to bring up these socalled cases. It is a very easy contest. I have been in office for three years, but I have never had one of these cases laid on my table by the honorable member for East Sydney or by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). My office is the place to discuss these matters. If there is any consideration for people and the use of their names, these cases should be brought to my office, and I am a pretty accessible fellow. Honorable members can bring credible information to me and no one has made any single complaint to me that has not been fully investigated.
– That is not true.
– That is absolutely true, and it applies also to the Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies). But these matters are raised in this chamber. The other night I was able to check the honorable member for East Sydney. We know the value of his information, and what is more, we know the weight of his judgment. We know that he will believe anything, that he will say anything and that he has no judgment to determine whether what he is told is true or false. So why should we worry about the honorable member for East Sydney. For the rest, they are very busy endeavouring to ask questions, if they can. They want to know how many telephones are tapped. The people who ought not to know that would like to know it. And why should they be answered? An answer will not help anybody here, but it will help somebody who wants to know whether the service is busy in this respect, and I do not propose to give the answer. In that, I propose to follow the example of the former Prime Minister whom the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) mentioned, because he said quite flatfootedly that he would never discuss the particulars of security in this chamber.
– But he did not tap telephones.
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting across the table. They have both spoken in this debate, and the AttorneyGeneral now has the floor.
– I was about to say Mr. Chairman, that I suppose all of us regret very much that in our midst there are those who are pledged to destroy us. All of us regret that. But what do you do when a fellow with small-pox comes into the community? Do you let him go anywhere or do you put him on one side? You have a fellow who is a danger to you, and you deal with him. If you want to find out what he is up to you must have somebody who is skilled in this work, who has complete integrity and in whom you can have confidence - and in the security service we have such people. I know that there are those who do not like this. I wonder why. I said the other night that of course it does not suit the gentlemen on the “ Tribune “ to have a security service operating in this country. I should have imagined that they were the only people in Australia whom it does not suit, but every now and again I am disappointed in this respect.
I do not propose to trouble myself any more about this talk of the security service. We have heard it ad nauseam. I have been here only a little while, but I could almost make the speech for the honorable member for East Sydney. You remember the fellows on the edge of the street with the hurdygurdies and the monkeys on top. They turn the handle and out comes the tune. This talk just goes round and round like that.
– A point of order, Mr. Chairman. There have been numerous interjections from the Government side, but you have taken no action on them.
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– The note on which I want to close is this: We are very lucky that Australia has the measure of these people who are constantly attempting to besmirch the security service. I was delighted that to-day three members on this side stood up and said, “ We are all behind the security service “. It would be a jolly good thing if more people in the community did that, because this body is rendering a very great service to this country - quietly, unobtrusively, fairly and with complete integrity - and I only hope that nothing is ever done to weaken the great strength of its work.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– Before the next item is called on, Mr. Chairman, may I have your indulgence to suggest a slight rearrangement of the business of the committee. On 6th September, the committee agreed to consider the Estimates in a particular order. I now wish to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the committee to vary this order by considering the group of votes for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade, the Department of Primary Industry and Bounties and Subsidies at a later stage of the consideration of the Estimates than that previously agreed upon. The group of estimates to which I refer is group 8. We have concluded the consideration of group 4, and the effect of my suggestion would be that we proceed to deal with group 5 - the Department of Works and Department of the Interior - groups 6 and 7-
– Is there any particular reason for this?
– Yes. If, when we reach group 7, we have not reached the conclusion of to-morrow’s sitting, I suggest that instead of continuing to group 8 we pass to group 9. The debate on group 8, including the proposed votes for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade, the Department of Primary Industry and Bounties and Subsidies would require the presence in the chamber of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I think that all honorable members would expect his presence in the chamber during the consideration of those estimates. Unfortunately, because of ministerial engagements, he cannot be present to-morrow, but he will be present next week. It is solely for that reason, after consultation with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), that I suggest that we defer the consideration of the proposed votes in group 8, and if it should happen that we have not reached that stage by the hour of adjournment to-morrow night we will return to the order previously agreed upon.
– Is the suggestion agreeable to the committee? As I have heard no dissentient voice, the Minister’s suggestion will be followed.
Department of the Interior.
.- This is probably the appropriate time at which to return to a subject-matter that in my opinion has not yet been satisfactorily concluded. I refer to the circumstances arising from the letting of a contract for the construction of the new Reserve Bank building in Martin-place, Sydney. When I first raised this matter on 29th August the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) - the Department of Works acted in this matter as agents for the bank - assured me that there would have to be some substantial reason for the lowest tender not being accepted, and he agreed to have the matter investigated and to make a full report to the Parliament. Two nights later, on 31st August, he did make a statement to the House, but it could hardly be regarded as indicating a thorough investigation of the circumstances or as an expression of opinion by the Minister in regard to the reasons for the overlooking of the lowest tender in this case. What the Minister did was to come to the House with a carefully prepared statement - obviously prepared by the bank officers themselves, because he read every word of it in the House. In that reply no reason was really advanced for the overlooking of the lowest tender beyond the fact that the Minister said that there was a condition in the form of tender which provided that the lowest tender would not necessarily be accepted, and that the bank had acted on the advice of its experts after full consideration of all the factors involved.
Let me remind honorable members of the suspicious circumstances surrounding this whole matter. I have continually pressed for some reasonable excuse to be advanced why the lowest tender - and not merely the lowest, but the second lowest also - was passed over, and the contract let to E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited, a Melbourne building contractor. Away back early in May and, I understand, on a later occasion in the same month, it was indicated through the press that the bank pr:posed to invite tenders for the construction of this great building in Martin-place. Sydney. Building contractors were invited to register if they were interested in work. On 24th June, fourteen of the building contractors who had registered were invited by letter from the bank to submit tenders. In the intervening period very exhaustive investigations had been made in regard to the capacity of the various contractors to undertake the work and their financial standing. This is one of the systems employed by the Government, so the Minister said when giving his reply through his representative in the Senate, to ensure that contractors do not become involved in unnecessary expense where it is deemed that they do not meet requirements and have no chance of getting a contract, even if they submit the lowest tender. On this occasion, these fourteen firms had been subjected to the most intensive investigation of their circumstances. They were required to provide balance-sheets for the past three years of their activities. They were asked to give an authority so that their banker could supply any information required by the department. All these contractors complied with those requirements. They were asked to give a list of the works they had completed and the works that they had in hand.
After this investigation, the bank officers evidently were satisfied and invited fourteen of the registered contractors to submit tenders. All of them did so. On 11th July, at the request of the fourteen tenderers, a conference was held with representatives of the bank and certain phases of the terms of tender were discussed. That conference was held some considerable time after the investigation of the affairs of the companies had commenced, but no questions were raised by any of the bank officers which suggested that any one of the fourteen tenderers would not be acceptable to the bank if it happened to submit the lowest tender.
The tenders closed on 4th August. Six days later the bank was able to tell four of the five lowest tenderers that they were not successful. In the six days between the 4th and 10th August, there was a bank holiday week-end and the Saturday, Sunday and Monday could not be counted as normal working days. So within a matter of three working days, the bank was able to tell four of the five lowest tenderers - the first and second and the fourth and fifth - that they had been unsuccessful.
Naturally, there was a great deal of concern and comment about this happening. The lowest tender was submitted by F. T. Eastment and Sons, a well-known building firm which has erected many great works around Sydney including the Yaralla Repatriation Hospital, the Haymarket telephone exchange and the Greenway block of flats on the north side of Sydney Harbour, probably the biggest project of its kind completed in Sydney for many years. The second lowest tenderer, E. S. Clementson (N.S.W.) Proprietary Limited, has also constructed many great works in the Sydney metropolitan area. No explanation was advanced why these two firms were passed over and, up to this point, nobody has been prepared to say why they were passed over.
What the committee has to keep in mind is that the authorities concerned are dealing with public money. They have accepted a tender which is approximately £40,000 above the lowest tender. The job is to cost about £4,500,000 and £40,000 might not be regarded as very important to some people, but this happens to be public money.
The firms concerned want the Government to give the reasons why their tenders were not accepted. It is not a question of keeping this information confidential at the request of the tenderers because the tenderers want the reasons why the two lowest tenders were passed over to be revealed. As a matter of fact, I understand that the New South Wales Master Builders Association, which has expressed great concern about what has happened, wants to meet the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) by deputation so that its representatives can discuss this matter.
If honorable members cast their minds back to 31st August, when the Minister made a statement in the House, they will recall that he based it exclusively on a statement that had been made by Mr. H. N. Barton, who is president of the New South Wales Master Builders Association. That statement was published in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ of the same date. This was evidently cunningly organized to make it appear that everybody directly concerned was satisfied, and when the Minister made his statement in this chamber he said, “ Mr. Ward is barking up the wrong tree “, or something to that effect. A few days later, the same Mr. Barton claimed that his statement was misrepresented. He said the report was the result of a telephone conversation with a representative of the “ Daily Telegraph “, and in a letter which he himself submitted to the same paper a few days later, he said that not only were the tenderers dissatisfied with the handling of the matter, but he also was not satisfied. So the whole of the argument on which the Minister based his statement is completely destroyed.
According to a reply made by the Minister through his representative in the Senate, the Minister claimed that the practice that had been followed had been adopted by the Government in regard to big projects and was designed to save the contractors who could not, under any circumstances, obtain the contract involving themselves in unnecessary expense. I understand that the preparation of a tender for such a project as this would cost between £2,000 and £3,000. After having involved these firms in this expenditure and having wasted the time of their officers, the authorities cast aside four of the five lowest tenders within a few days and said they could be regarded as unsuccessful.
Let me return to the other argument of the Minister that the bank acted on the advice of its experts. In any building project, I would regard a quantity surveyor as being one of the experts. He would be one of those who would have to advise his principals whether everything was satisfactory from their point of view. The quantity surveyors for this project were Bruce Cameron and Associates. This firm was working on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Works and Mr. Bruce Cameron wrote to the bank protesting against the way in which the tenders were handled. Mr. Bruce Cameron was one of the experts and I will tell the committee what happened to him. Since he wrote to the bank in protest, he has received advice from the Commonwealth Department of Works that Bruce Cameron and Associates will get no more Commonwealth work. This organization has done a lot of work for the Commonwealth. I understand that 90 per cent, of its past business was work given to it by the Department of Works. But, because he protested against what happened in regard to these tenders, Mr. Bruce Cameron will not get any more work from the Commonwealth. lt seems to me that there are many suspicious features surrounding this matter. When I asked the Minister why the two lowest tenders were rejected, he sidestepped the question because he told me it was a matter to be decided entirely by the bank authorities. So I went back to the bank authorities and 1 have two communications from the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia in which he refuses to reveal any reasons why the two lowest tenders were overlooked. He said that he did not feel obliged to reveal the details of the material on which the bank relied. 1 have not asked for details of the material. All I want to know is whether the two lowest tenderers were passed over because they were considered financially unsound or because they were regarded as incapable of undertaking this great work. What is the reason why they were passed over? Surely, if both firms - Eastment and Son and Clementsons - want to know the reason, no valid argument can be advanced by the Minister or the Governor of the bank why the reasons should not be made known.
– They have experience?
– They have vast experience. Anybody who has seen the great projects that they have completed knows that it is well within their capacity to do this work. Why were they overlooked? If the tender system is worth anything, surely the lowest tenderer should get the contract. The Government has been silent. The Minister side-stepped the question and said, “ It is not for me to reveal the reasons; it is for the bank “. But the Department of Works acts as agent for the bank and the bank refuses to reveal the reasons, which have been sought by the tenderers themselves and by the Master Builders Association.
I want the Minister and the Government to tell me the reason for this secrecy. There may be nothing to hide, but suspicion has been created by the attitude of the Government and of the bank officials themselves. 1 repeat that expenditure of public money is involved and every person in Australia is becoming interested in seeing a satisfactory conclusion to this matter. But it will not be concluded satisfactorily until the reasons requested have been revealed to the public. I again ask the Government and the responsible Minister to say why these two tenders, submitted by well-known and wellestablished contractors, for the building of the Reserve Bank, were rejected.
.- The estimate which we are debating has within its ambit the provision of money for civil defence and it is to that subject that I wish to address the remarks that I shall make to the committee. The whole question of the security of the nation devolves upon civil defence, yet I rather feel that in our broad structure of defence, including the three armed services, civil defence seems to be the weak link. We have now three highly efficient services, the Air Force, the Army and the Navy to defend this country, but I believe that we are not going nearly as far as we ought to in civil defence.
In every other major English-speaking country - the United Kingdom, America and Canada - civil defence has for some years been regarded as a national problem and has been dealt with on a national basis. In Britain, to quote an instance, there is a very extensive system of civil defence which permeates down from the central government, through the councils, to the local agencies. America, of course, has a vast system of civil defence, which is very active indeed. We may say that because of Australia’s geographical position and her place in the world situation the conditions that apply in
America do not necessarily apply directly to us. But I say quite positively that we no longer live in any kind of splendid isolation. Time and distance have narrowed immensely in the last few years and consequently it is idle for any one of us to think for a second that it is not possible for a nuclear weapon to be lodged on this continent. That is a reality which we must face up to. If we face that reality, surely it must follow that we ought to look at civil defence rather more seriously and comprehensively than we have ever done before.
I think an ultra simple test can be applied to civil defence. Let us suppose there was an emergency such as a nuclear attack. The test is whether the individual would know what to do and where to go. Would he know what to do to help the situation and to help other people effectively and usefully, and would he know where people should go to protect themselves and their families and to be useful if the attack was followed up? Those fundamental and simple questions are the test of the effectiveness and efficiency of a civil defence system.
A very interesting development has occurred recently in Canada. Since the Berlin crisis the Canadian Government has speeded up its civil defence programme very considerably indeed. I think that until then Canada’s system had been rather like ours, with a certain laxity of thinking in the matter of getting a cohesive all-round policy of civil defence. Canada’s problems, while not entirely similar to ours in that respect, are not entirely different. The Canadians have provincial governments in the same way as we have State governments and, they have local councils as we do. They have not had a war on their territory since the war of 1812. We have had only one touch of war. That was in Darwin during the last war, and I am afraid that that was not a very happy experience for any one concerned. The point which I would like to draw to the attention of the committee is the action which the Canadian Government has already taken or has in train and will complete. First of all it set up permanent rescue head-quarters in all of the major cities, and there is no reason why we cannot do the same thing. The Canadian Government has stock-piled all the essential medical supplies and is conducting a vast and intensive campaign of education in the needs, requirements and effects of civil defence. Interestingly enough, it is now constructing fall-out shelters.
Most thinking on civil defence up to the present time has been on the question of bombs, including nuclear bombs, and the provision of bomb shelters. The Canadian authorities are now going beyond that sphere and into the realm of providing fall-out shelters. They now also have in train a very extensive warning system employing both radio and telephone. I submit that the projects being carried out in Canada at the present are well worthy of the consideration of the Minister. Up to date, with the exception of N.S.W., where the authorities have their own system, we have more or less relied on volunteers, as it were, to provide a system of civil defence. It is all very commendable, and those people who have participated have done so with the best of intentions, but I submit to the committee that it is a very haphazard performance and does not really give a cohesive picture. I submit again that civil defence is a vacuum in our defence programme.
I come back again to the question of the individual knowing what to do and where to go in any eventuality. I submit that we should also follow the Canadian principle and example by conducting a nation-wide campaign to train all our people in what one might term the elements of survival. That could be done quite simply through the press, radio, television, films, lectures and all the various media which give easy access to all the people. They could be taught the elements if not all the refinements of what is necessary in the event of any catastrophe. Even if there were no military action one of the fundamental operations which could be carried out by a cohesive national civil defence organization would be to cope with disasters such as floods and bushfires, which are fairly frequent in this country. One of the outstanding jobs which the Commonwealth Government has done was the setting up of the Mount Macedon civil defence school. I have met many people who have been through that school and without exception they came away from it completely convinced that it was a thoroughly good, very interesting and well-worth-while course. But beyond that, the scheme tends to fall short. The States as a whole are apathetic towards civil defence. In my own State of Tasmania there is no real effort by the State Government to establish a proper civil defence system. The dissipation instead of, as it should be, the dissemination of the knowledge gained from the excellent work being done at Mount Macedon is the tragic result of this lack of cohesion between the Commonwealth and the States.
I do not suggest for one moment that the Government should set up a great bureaucracy, a vast army of people, in Canberra to run a civil defence scheme, but I do suggest most emphatically that the Government ought to accept the responsibility of co-ordinating the work of the Commonwealth and the States in this field. The States could do the major part of the work because it is a fairly involved business. Civil defence measures involve dealing not only with the capitals of the various States but also with all the villages and our spread-out population, so that the practical and direct application of civil defence measures ought to be in the hands of the State instrumentalities from the State governments, through the councils and local government bodies to the local policemen in the villages. That is where I believe we have lacked the final thrust which ought to be made to carry out this very large, very useful and proper work in the interests of the preservation of our people.
As I have said, the Mount Macedon civil defence school is a particularly fine school in itself, but for goodness sake do not let us waste all the very fine work that is being done there. Either let us regard civil defence work as worth while and carry it out properly, or let us not worry about it at all. In my view, there is no midway between those two major points. Unless the Government takes the realistic point of view, as I believe it ought to do, and takes steps to co-ordinate civil defence measures in concert with the States, then I feel those measures are apt to be a rather useless venture on our part.
.- I am sure we all agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) on the great need for more work to be done in connexion with civil defence. This subject has been talked about in this Parliament for years, but I believe that the Commonwealth is falling down badly on its job in this direction. It would seem that this Government is leaving most of the pioneering work to the States. There can be no doubt that a Commonwealth co-ordinating committee is definitely required. It would appear to me that the Government is adopting the attitude “ it cannot happen here “. We experienced that difficulty before the outbreak of World War II. with the result that we were caught napping and had to make hasty preparations after the battle had been joined. We are once again frittering away time when time is not on our side.
My purpose in rising to-night is to deal mainly with Division No. 251, item 17, “ Commonwealth contribution to Australian Road Research Board, £5,000”. This board was, I think, first set up about two years ago. I understand that on it are representatives from all the States and the Commonwealth, and that its head-quarters are in Melbourne. When I was in England in 1952, I was keenly interested in a road research centre which had been established just outside London. Their experts were constantly conducting traffic tests and their work had reached high scientific levels indeed. When I came back to Australia I suggested to the Government that a similar centre should be established here to carry out detailed research on road construction. Whether the Australian Road Research Board is being developed along lines similar to those on which the road research centre operates in England, I have not yet been able to ascertain, but at least the establishment of the board is a move in the right direction. The purposes of the board are to test all types of materials for road construction, road maintenance and road making in general. Another function is to carry out research into the availability of the materials for roads. We all know that natural materials vary greatly from State to State and, indeed, from municipality to municipality. The board is also commissioned to carry out experiments in consolidating techniques - the use of various types of materials at the one time. Experiments along these lines have been carried out in Tasmania with a great deal of success.
In Australia, there are about 12,000 miles of secondary roads and those of us who have travelled in the outback areas of our States know only too well how difficult it is for some of the municipalities to find road construction materials that will stand up to the modern fast, heavy motor traffic. The old system of using gravel to surface our highways and byways is rapidly being replaced by new methods or surfacing. A road research body such as the Australian Road Research Board will render immense services to Australian road making. I believe that this branch of science will extend further and further into Commonwealth fields. The Australian Labour Party has a definite road-building plan ready to be put into operation when it forms a government. Our proposal has never been tried by any government yet and we hope to revolutionize the whole approach to road making throughout the Commonwealth. It is because the Australian Road Research Board will be of vital importance to our five-year national road plan that I have drawn attention to it to-night.
I understand that in England one centre is exclusively engaged on experimental research. I do not think we have a similar centre in Australia, but each State has a research section which is working in cooperation with the Australian Road Research Board. The findings of these sections from tests of road-making materials, consolidating techniques, the availability of materials and so on are all correlated at the one main centre in Melbourne. That is quite all right so far as it goes, but I am certain that at some later date it will be necessary to set up an experimental centre, in the same way as we have set up experimental and research farms and laboratories throughout Australia. Eventually we may need some central place at which we can carry out tests by scientific and modern methods. The purposes for which the Australian Road Research Board was set up are very good indeed and I am certain that the municipalities of Australia will benefit greatly from its work.
The method of financing this board is fairly simple. Each State contributes a certain proportion of the cost and the Commonwealth makes an annual grant. I notice from the Estimates that the grant has been increased from £1,000 last year to £5,000 this year. That is a very substantial increase indeed and is indicative of a recognition by this Government of the importance of the research being carried out by the board. The Commonwealth grant is not a fixed sum. It may be £7,000 or £8,000 next year. As the research work expands, so will the Commonwealth increase its grant. I take this opportunity of congratulating the Department of Works, through the Minister, for its foresight in making more money available to the Australian Road Research Board, for no research can be carried out satisfactorily without money. If we clog the wheels of this board’s progress through lack of money, the whole purpose of carrying out research will be lost. This board must have the money necessary to carry out tests on road-making materials and so on, for its findings will be of immense value to every road-building organization in the Commonwealth. We can start at the grass roots, the local municipalities, of which there are 935 throughout the Commonwealth, 780-odd of them being rural municipalities. Every one of them suffers from this severe headache of road construction. Every one of them is looking for finance and for a kind of material that will hold the road surfaces together in wet weather and in windy weather, and which will take the heavy loads and the faster traffic that are travelling on our highways at the present time.
I believe that the findings of the research body will be available to the Commonwealth for its road-building purposes, and for assistance in the building of aerodromes and the like. The findings will also be available to the State governments for their roadbuilding projects, and to the local government authorities throughout Australia for their road-making programmes.
All of us who travel realize that ordinary ironstone gravel, with which thousands of miles of our roads are paved, is no longer a suitable road material. It chops out quickly, it erodes quickly, and there is no way of compacting it so that it will take the heavy traffic now using our roads. Most of the roads in the Commonwealth were established in the horse-and-buggy days. They were quite adequate for buggies, for gigs, for wagons and for carts, but they just cannot take the semi-trailers, the fast motor cars and the heavy trucks that are now using them. We should long ago have produced a new type of road-surfacing material. When a council has to renew the surfaces of most of its roads about every year, a tremendous strain is thrown on its resources. If we can find a suitable road-surfacing material which will be not too costly, and which can be used to replace our existing gravel surfaces, or even if we can find some binding material so that gravel could still be used, we will make tremendous savings in our annual road bill.
I believe this research body will do a wonderful job for the Commonwealth, the States and the municipalities. But it must have the necessary finance to keep it moving forward in its research, its experiments and its tests. I commend the department on its foresight in this very important field, and I hope that the projected research will finally result in the discovery of a material that will revolutionize the work of road surfacing throughout the Commonwealth, and enable our roads to stand up to modern, twentieth-century traffic.
.- I wish to discuss an item in these estimates that was touched on briefly by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and which was discussed by you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in your capacity as the honorable and gallant member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). I refer to civil defence services. Quite recently a number of newspapers throughout the Commonwealth have devoted a far greater amount of space to civil defence than they formerly have. Within recent weeks I received a letter from an association of returned servicemen in Queensland, asking me to support the proposition that the Commonwealth Government should be called upon to provide a master plan for civil defence and provide the money to implement that plan, on the ground that the State governments - the organization referred particularly to the Queensland Government - could not implement an adequate civil defence plan inside five years.
Like the honorable member for Franklin, I underwent a course at the Mount Macedon Civil Defence School, but after I had finished that course and given the matter a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that I had been left with one outstanding impression in my mind; that was that the only way in which our country could be defended, in terms of civil defence, against an attack by atomic weapons was by the prevention of the use of atomic weapons. I still believe this to be very true.
The widespread talk that is currently being indulged in about civil defence is concentrated almost entirely on civil defence against atomic warfare. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, mentioned civil defence in another context as well, when you spoke of a force that could do useful work in times of other national disasters. With you, I agree. But if you are going to think in terms of such a force, then You must necessarily think of a force set up by State governments, not by the Commonwealth Government. As to civil defence against a nuclear attack, I believe, as I have said, that the only adequate defence for any civilian population is for the country to have an adequate power to strike back, so that other countries may be dissuaded from using atomic weapons. It is patently obvious that we in Australia have not such a power. We have not sufficient striking potential to deter the major powers of the world from using atomic weapons. It is also obvious that if there is to be an atomic war within the next five or six years it will be waged by the major powers.
I believe we should seriously consider what we mean by adequate civil defence against an atomic attack, and what it would involve, not for this Government but for the people of the country, in terms of money. Surely the first thing we must think about in a long-range plan is the dis persal of our industry and population in units each of which would contain probably not more than about 100,000 people. Could our economy stand a dispersal of this kind? Could we economically cope with such a move? I personally do not believe that we could, because costs of production would increase tremendously. Thinking in terms of time, I would estimate that it would take 25 to 50 years to carry out such a dispersal effectively. Therefore, I write that proposition off, other than as a very long-range plan.
To get back to the more immediate tasks, and thinking in terms of the proposal in the letter I received the other day, that the Commonwealth should provide the money for an adequate civil defence scheme, because the Queensland Government could not do so in less than five years, let me ask: What do we mean by an adequate civil defence plan against atomic attack, in terms of something that can be achieved in less than five years? When the organization says that the Queensland Government could not do the job in less than five years, I take it that it is thinking of something that needs to be done within two or three years at the outside. Can this country afford to stockpile a sufficient amount of materials, for instance, housing of one kind and other, and of food? Can we ensure that in the places where that food and tentage or other housing is stockpiled there will be adequate provision for water supplies and hygiene facilities to cope with the remnants of one of our major cities? I understand that an estimate has been made of the casualties that would result from the dropping of a powerful weapon on a city with a population comparable to that of Sydney. It has been calculated that if it were dropped at a time when there was not a major concentration of people in the centre of the city the number of casualties would be about 600,000. If it were dropped at a peak period the estimated casualties would be from 1,200,000 to 1,400,000.
We have to think in terms of dealing with not only the casualties but also the people who are unharmed and who have to be moved out of the damaged area. The whole surviving population will have to be moved out, because there will remain no water supplies, no sewerage services and no means of communication. We cannot: say that only Sydney or. Melbourne will be attacked. Outside virtually every major city, in an area where there is no. fear of atomic attack, we must have enormous stockpiles of food and materials, together with adequate water supplies and hygiene services.
So far, Sir, 1 have not mentioned the need for medical, facilities. I understand that it is estimated that in a major atomic attack we shall probably lose more than 90 per cent, of the trained medical personnel in the big cities, as well as all our hospital facilities. Therefore, we must attempt to organize groups of trained medical personnel who can be- moved into the areas where people are to go in the event of an attack. We must provide blood plasma and a wide variety of medical supplies. Furthermore, we must provide blankets and accommodation adequate for the needs of fairly seriously injured casualties. We must plan to overcome the problem of getting them to the areas to which they will have to be evacuated.
These are the things that we should be thinking of if we are to think in terms of adequate or even worth-while civil defence. The people must realize that they will have to bear the cost of making all these preparations. 1 understand that some people have nice schemes for the digging of holes in backyards and think that they may be able to lie down in the holes and protect themselves reasonably in that way. Reasonably effective shelters can possibly be provided, but I understand that the average cost of such a shelter for a family would be some £5,000, because food and water supplies as well as other facilities will have to be provided in it. If it is to be reasonably effective, it must have some form of air-conditioning, for example.
– The honorable member could afford one.
– I wish to God that I could. For the sake of my children, I should like to be able to provide such a shelter. But I. would rather think in terms of- the children, of all Australian families. ls there any reason why one family should have a shelter and others should not? 1 cannot see any reason for distinction. We must think in terms of adequate protection for the whole of. the population, Sir.
Some people are urging the Common wealth Government to take over civil defence completely and make effective preparations within a short, time. I have been informed in a letter that the short time available is considered to be under five years. I hope that the people who are urging the Commonwealth Government to take over civil defence preparations con>pletely will bear in mind the things that I have said and remember that the whole of the country’s economy would have to be disrupted if the Commonwealth were to make the complete preparations that these people demand. Furthermore, they ought to bear in mind that they have to pay for whatever is done.
The important point to remember is that we do not decide whether or not we have an atomic war. You may say that that is no reason why we should- not take adequate steps now to safeguard our population. I believe that it would be a very good thing if there were a conference between the Commonwealth and the States to discuss what the respective authorities consider to be the adequate steps that could be taken in the existing circumstances. I believe that at such a conference the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States should state publicly what they consider to be adequate steps that can be taken in the existing circumstances.. There is no question about the fact that whatever they think can be done will be far from adequate in the event of a real attack.
I have spoken so far in terms of an atomic attack by major nations. But there, seems likely to come a time when smaller nations will have atomic weapons. I do not believe that we are in danger of a nuclear war caused by a major nation, because the fear of retaliation is so great. The certainty of retaliation is uppermost in the minds of the governments of the major powers, and therefore none of them would be foolish enough to start a nuclear war. But I believe that if atomic weapons get into the hands of smaller nations there could be danger in the future. This is the reason why I consider that, thinking in terms of Australia, we could and should now begin to determine how we can defend ourselves against an isolated attack by a smaller nation. We can defend ourselves against such an attack only if we have the power to retaliate. I have completely changed my mind on this issue. If the other smaller nations are to have atomic weapons, it is essential that we have them, and I believe that this Government could play a very useful part by fostering the construction of atomic reactors at suitable sites. Those reactors could be used to assist industry in the comparatively near future and to defend Australia in the more distant future if necessary.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, honorable members will recall that on 29th June of this year a census was taken throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. I wish to discuss the wording of one of the questions on the form. Question 9, under the heading “ Nationality “, read -
State the nationality of each person in relation to the country to which he or she owes legal allegiance, for example, “ British “, “ French “, “U.S.A.”, “Stateless”, &c. If British by naturalization write “ British (N) “.
I was most surprised, and even dismayed, to see that no provision was made for a person to state his nationality as “ Australian “. On inquiring from one of the Commonwealth electoral officers, I was told that if I wrote “ Australian “ it would be erased and the word “ British “ substituted. As I have pointed out, the question asks for the nationality of each person in relation to the country to which he or she owes legal allegiance. Surely Australia has been a country in its own right for a sufficient time for us to have our own nationality, and surely we who live in Australia and are Australians owe legal allegiance to Australia. Consequently, we should be entitled to state our nationality as “ Australian “ rather than “ British “. After all, we have been a federation-
– Order! The honorable member is really out of order. The census comes under the Department of the Treasury, and it would be more apposite for him to raise the matter when the estimates for the Department of the Treasury are being considered.
– The census was conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
– It merely acted as agent for the Treasury in the conduct of the census.
.- The Commonwealth Electoral Office is part of the Department of the Interior, the estimates for which we are now considering. Therefore, I propose to discuss electoral matters. Elections are very important events to at least a few honorable members. I believe that next year there will be a redistribution of electoral boundaries. The last redistribution gave to electorates in the inner metropolitan area of Melbourne quotas similar to those allocated to electorates in the outer metropolitan area. The population in the inner metropolitan electorates has since decreased. It could no nothing else. As a consequence, the number of voters enrolled has decreased. The decline in population has been due to the fact that residential development in the inner areas has given way to industrial development. Homes have been replaced by factories. But, in the outer metropolitan areas, where large expanses of unoccupied land were available, the population has increased. As a result, inner metropolitan electorates such as Scullin have fewer voters enrolled than have the outer metropolitan constituencies.
At the present time, there are about 34,700 voters on the roll in the Scullin electorate, whereas the Lalor constituency has about 84,000 and the Bruce electorate about 86,000. The members for those constituencies have to represent approximately twice as many citizens as are represented by the members for the Melbourne and Scullin electorates. The honorable member tor Scullin and the honorable member for Melbourne are competent to represent as many people as the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Bruce. The present unsatisfactory position should have been avoided. There was no necessity for it to have arisen in the first place, but it arose because the committee which was appointed to re-distribute electorates evidently felt that it should not interfere in any way with the electorate of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Kent Hughes, as he then was. There may have been one other electorate that was not affected, but two in Victoria were not touched during the last re-distribution. I refer to the electorates of Kooyong and Chisholm. I do not want to imply that the gentlemen representing those electorates did anything to ensure that the electorates remained unaltered.
– What do you think happened?
– I think the commissioners who were re-distributing the electorates were affected psychologically. They no doubt were mentally intimidated by the importance of the positions held by the Prime Minister and the then Minister for the Interior.
Now that the time for a re-distribution of electorates is approaching, the Government should direct the commission to take into account local common interests, natural boundaries and the fact that certain electorates inevitably must have an increase in population while others will either remain static or diminish in population. The Minister for the Interior should drop a hint to the commissioners whom he will appoint, in addition to the other hints that naturally he will drop to them, to consider the important factor of the rapid expansion which will take place in certain areas.
I was amazed when I saw the cut-up of electorates in Victoria after the last redistribution. I made a statement in this Parliament after the new electorates were made known. It was obvious to any one that the electorates of Lalor and Bruce and other outlying electorates inevitably would increase rapidly in population while those in the inner areas would diminish. And they did! I do not want to see that position repeated after the next re-distribution of electorates in Victoria.
When the estimates for the Department of the Interior were being discussed on a previous occasion I suggested that, as the Minister for the Interior is responsible for the distribution of electorates, he should seek to secure a correct reflection of the opinions of the people. Large numbers of informal votes should not be allowed to occur if they can be avoided without much trouble. At the last election there was a total vote of a little over 34,000 in the electorate of Scullin, but there were over 8,000 informal votes for the Senate cast in the electorate. That position applied in other industrial suburbs in Melbourne and in Sydney. It applied in the electorates of Melbourne, Yarra and Melbourne Ports in Victoria. The number of informal votes represented between 20 per cent, and 25 per cent, of the total votes cast. They were informal, not because the people did not demonstrate clearly the individuals and the parties for whom they desired to vote but because they may have made a mistake in placing their numbers on the ballot-paper. For example, a voter may have numbered his paper 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7 and so on. Despite the fact that he indicated this preference in no uncertain terms, his vote was informal. Other voters may have omitted a number in the sequence, thus rendering their votes informal.
In a democracy we should not permit a position to exist in which 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, of the total votes cast are informal. The system of voting should be so regulated as to prevent such a position occurring. In the ballots for seats in the House of Representatives the informal votes were as low as 5 per cent, and not more than 10 per cent, of the total votes cast. By practically a stroke of the pen the Government could alter the system of voting to provide that informal votes occurred only when a voter had omitted to show by the numbers on his ballot-paper the preferences that he wished to allocate to the candidates.
This Parliament should not merely lay down hard-and-fast rules by which people shall vote, lt should also, as the representative organ of a democracy, seek to put into operation a system of voting which is as easy as possible to follow, and it should seek to secure representation of the vast majority of the people as indicated by their votes. Even at this late stage the Government should make it clear that when, say, 20 or 25 candidates are standing for election it is not absolutely essential to number every candidate in sequence for the vote to be formal.
. I support the remarks which were made by (he honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) relating to the necessity to extend our civil defence programme. One should not lose a sense of proportion about this matter, but if one compares what is being spent in Australia per head of population with what is being spent in, for example, the United States of America - I refer to What is being spent by the central government and not by state or municipal authorities - one finds that according to the Estimates we shall spend only about one-twentieth of what is being spent in the United States. There may be differences of opinion about the dangers, but i should like to read a statement made on 15th September last by President Kennedy, lt was in these terms -
Nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear war are facts of life we cannot ignore to-day. I do not believe that war can solve any of the problems facing the world to-day. But the decision is not ours alone.
The Government is moving to improve the protection afforded you in your communities through civil defense. We have begun, and will be continuing throughout the next year and a half, a survey of all public buildings with fallout shelter potential, and the marking of those with adequate shelter for 50 persons or more. We are providing fallout shelter in new and in some existing Federal buildings. We are stocking these shelters with one week’s food and medical supplies and two weeks’ water supply for the shelter occupants. In addition, I have recommended to the Congress the establishment of food reserves in centres around the country where they might be needed following an attack. Finally, we are developing improved warning systems which will make it possible to sound attack warning on buzzer’s right in your homes and places of business.
More comprehensive measures than these lie ahead, but they cannot be brought to completion in the immediate future. In the meantime there is much that you can do to protect yourself - and in doing so strengthen your Nation.
The security of our country and the peace of the world are the objectives of our policy. But in these dangerous days when both these objectives are threatened we must prepare for all eventualities. The ability to survive coupled with the will to do so therefore are essential to our country.
The New York “ Times “, only a couple of weeks ago, said this -
Persons who at one time showed indifference or a “ ho-hum “ attitude towards civil defence have at last been shaken by President Kennedy’s appeals for greater effort, the worsening crisis, over Berlin, and Russian feats in rocketry and weapons . . . Russia’s resumption of nuclear tests apparently has convinced many more that some protection against radioactive fallout might bc desirable.
Commercial builders of shelters tell almost the same story as that of the civil defence offices.
The newspaper said that typical of the situation was the experience of one builder: When he advertised his product in a newspaper, the response was five times as large as he expected. One type of shelter alone is being erected at the rate of 5,000 a month.
It can be shown that a great deal more is being done in the United States than is being done here. There may be differences of opinion as to the relative dangers. 1 will not go into that; I have views that I do not propose to express at this stage of the debate. However, we cannot altogether ignore, even in Australia, the dangers that might confront us. We need a civil defence programme of adequate size. For it to be successful, it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to give its backing, and to show people, as the President of the United States has shown people, that it is necessary. If the Commonwealth Government does not give the lead, people will not be seriously concerned.
In regard to this, let me say three things. First, I believe that the initiative must come from the Commonwealth Government, which must direct and to some extent control the overall plan. This is part of defence. It is just as much a part of defence as are -the Army, Navy .and Air Force. It is an essential fourth arm of defence. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that a good deal of this work must be carried out through the States, which have the machinery and, through their police and other forces, are in more intimate contact with the people than the Commonwealth Government is. The States must, to a large extent at any rate, be the instrumentalities that carry out the plan; but the initiative and direction can come only from the Commonwealth Government. I believe that the funds needed for this work should also come from the Commonwealth Government. I make no reservation or equivocation about that statement. So, the first paint I make is :that the Commonwealth must give the lead, although the actual execution may lie in the hands of the States.
The second point I want to make is that time is required to make any plan effective. We do not know whether an emergency is coming. If it is coming, we do not know when it is coming. We think that if it comes, the warning of it will be very slight. In the nature of things, it will take some years to implement an effective plan. The time to start, therefore, is now. The difficulties in front of us are not merely physical difficulties. There are also constitutional difficulties and the necessity of interlocking the State and Federal facilities for the protection of our people. The mere drawing up of a plan cannot be done over night, and when the plan is drawn up, many months will still be needed to implement it and make it effective. Therefore, the second point I make is that we have not unlimited time and, if a start has not been made, now is the time to make it.
My third point is that, although civil defence cannot give protection against some kinds of eventualities that may face us, there is still a very large area in which civil defence can be effective, even against nuclear attack, and there are large segments of the people whose survival or failure to survive will depend on the taking of really quite elementary civil defence precautions. In particular, one thinks of fall-out shelters. They .are not effective, of course, against the direct effects of blast, but they are1 effective against the residual radiation which can be comparatively harmless to those who have adequate shelters and fatal to those who have not. Coupled to this, we need the necessary instruments for the detection of radiation. These instruments should be disseminated fairly widely and their use should be understood. This is something again that cannot be done quickly. It should be done. My third point, therefore, is that although nothing can give full protection, quite a moderate effort now can still give a considerable degree of protection.
Finally, may I come back to where I started. We need some sense of proportion. 1 would have liked this programme to have been started some years ago so that it would now be under way and effective. But we must face the situation not as we would like it to be but as it is. We do not want to be driven into the position of saying that civil defence is everything. It is not. We need other kinds of defence, too. It is the fourth arm of defence and does not supersede the other arms. It must be co-ordinated with them, for without it we may find that the defence potential of the other arms is neutralized. These are unhappy considerations that lie before us, but we cannot ignore them. As President Kennedy said, and as I think the honorable member for Bowman said earlier in the debate, the decision is not ours. The decision as to whether we will be attacked or not is not one that we can make ourselves; it is made by other people. In those circumstances, Sir, we should be prepared for an eventuality that we all hope will not occur, but which if it did occur could be tragic beyond belief to those who are not prepared to face it.
.- I wish to identify myself with the contention of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that this Parliament is entitled ti know the reason why the directors of the Reserve Bank of Australia did not accept the lowest tender for the new head-quarters which the bank proposes to build in Sydney. I believe that this is a matter of vital principle. It is of the highest importance to the parliamentary institution that we exercise permanent vigilance when public funds are involved. I think that we will be falling down very badly on our job if we allow to pass what to my mind is the cavalier attitude adopted by the directors of the bank.
When the honorable member for East Sydney was speaking the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) said by interjection that the matter was not the responsibility of this Parliament, because it was the bank’s money. That is not correct. I remind the Minister that the Reserve Bank is operated under an act of this Parliament. The Government decided to split the existing Commonwealth Bank of Australia into different sections, one of which is the Commonwealth Trading Bank and another the Reserve Bank of Australia. The money that was made available to finance the Reserve Bank was Commonwealth money. I submit that inasmuch as Commonwealth funds are involved the directors of the bank have a responsibility to this Parliament. Other statutory bodies have a final responsibility to the Parliament. They cannot spend money or do things just as they think fit, but have to have parliamentary authority for their actions. The first example that comes to mind is Trans-Australia Airlines. It is a well-known fact that some years ago T.A.A. wished to purchase Caravelle aircraft, but the Government was not amenable to the request. It was the Government’s policy - and direction - that prevented T.A.A. from purchasing aircraft of that type. A similar instance was the recent approach by Qantas to the Government for sanction to spend money on the erection of a hotel in Sydney for the accommodation of overseas tourists.
I think I have said enough to prove to honorable members that what is involved in the present instance is not private money but Commonwealth money. If we were dealing with the case of a private bank there would be no grounds for such a request as we have made. If this matter referred to the doings of private enterprise the position would be different, because what private companies do with their own money, and how they operate their own businesses, are purely their concern. But that is not the case in this instance. I emphasize again that because Commonwealth money is involved a vital principle is also involved. This Parliament would be recreant to its responsibilities if, without uttering some protest, it allowed itself to be rebuffed in the way that the directors of the bank are trying to rebuff it. I believe that as a matter of courtesy the directors of the bank could quite easily have informed the Parliament of the reason why they did not accept the lowest tender. I know that there are reasons - on occasions, quite justifiable reasons - why lowest tenders are not accepted, and I do not propose to go into the pros and cons of the position of the people who tendered for this project. All I am concerned about is the right of the Parliament in this matter.
I remind the Minister that some time ago, when the tenders for the King’s-avenue bridge in Canberra were being considered, the successful tender on that occasion was not the lowest tender. A firm in Tasmania had submitted a tender about £13,000 below the successful tender. On that occasion the Minister gave an explanation to the Parliament of why the lowest tender was not accepted. The reason he gave was that the Government considered that the firm whose tender was accepted was a firm of long-standing and long experience in this work, and, because of the comparatively small difference in the two prices, that firm was given the contract. That could have been a satisfactory explanation, but I do not suppose that the people who missed out were amused or satisfied, because in that particular case it had cost the unsuccessful firm somewhat over £1,000 to prepare plans. But at least on that occasion the Minister gave an explanation to the Parliament. I think he would be failing very badly in his duty if he did not prevail upon the directors of the Reserve Bank at least to inform the Parliament of the reason for their not accepting the lowest tender.
.- I have listened to the speeches on civil defence and have appreciated them, and I really believe that it is at present very necessary that we have a highly efficient civil defence service. But it appears to me that honorable members are approaching this problem from the wrong end. Are we in this country to wait until there is an attack on our congested cities, or are we going to try to decentralize city populations before these attacks happen?
I listened very carefully to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He said, “ It is not as we would have liked it to be, but how it is to-day.” But how is it going to be to-morrow, and the next year and the year after? The first figures available from the recent census have just come out, and they show a remarkable growth of the populations of metropolitan areas. It appears that metropolitan populations in this country will continue to increase. I believe that the Governments of Australia - this Commonwealth Government, the State Governments of Victoria and New South Wales, and all other governments in Australia - should take some action in this matter. I know Victoria best of all the States, and I want to base my case on that State. It has become an annual occasion for me to suggest in this chamber that it is high time that we had decentralization in this country, but I know that decentralization has just become a catch-cry for many politicians, and means nothing to them. The reason is that the majority of politicians represent metropolitan electorates. Any move towards decentralization has to have some sort of legislative authority or encouragement and, of course, the weight of metropolitan votes will prevent anything from being done in that direction. I have suggested that the governments should try to decentralize political representation. Of course, I immediately run into opposition from members from metropolitan areas.
– What effect would that have?
– Now the honorable member for Bendigo comes in with the annual question as to what effect that would have. It would have the effect of leading to the bringing forward of legislation that would encourage people to live in decentralized areas. At present, on the contrary, we have a large number of members representing metropolitan electorates, who, by their votes, are able to have amenities provided in the areas they represent. As a result of having those amenities those areas attract larger populations. People from far and near in the country decide that they must live in say, Melbourne, so that they will be able to educate their children and have all the amenities available in a city area. When they come to the cities the population- of the cities swells, and the next redistribution of electoral boundaries results in more members representing metropolitan areas who manage to get still more amenities for their electorates. As I have said so often before in this Parliament, this produces a snowballing effect. As the population and political representation in the cities snowballs the effect in the country is just the opposite. City electorates become smaller in area and country electorates larger. I shall give some instances of this in Victoria. The electorate of Isaacs covers 4.47 square miles. Any decent rifle would fire a bullet across it.
– That cannot be right
– These are the official figures from the Chief Electoral Officer in Canberra. The electorate of Mallee in Victoria, which I represent, comprises 18,529.58 square miles. In a small State like Victoria, surely the difference between less than 4i square miles and more than 18,500 square miles is a little too wide for successful administration.
Some of the other electorates in Australia are tremendously large. Let us look at the largest electorate - Kalgoorlie. After all, to put some common sense into this discussion we must remember that some of these extremely large electorates are chiefly barren country including places like the Nullarbor Plain. The Kalgoorlie electorate covers 898,935 square miles. Much of it comprises the Nullarbor Plain and probably in 500 years much of it would not become productive.
My suggestion is the decentralization of political representation. It does not need any act of this Parliament because provision is already in the Electoral Act. The relevant portion of the act will be put into operation before long because we have had a census which shows a large increase in population. Very soon there will have to be a redistribution of seats and a committee of three good men will be appointed to fix the boundaries of the electorates. This committee fixes a quota.
Let us say for argument’s sake that the quota is 40,000. The act allows a variation of that quota up or down by 20 per cent, when necessary. That is the important point. The act states, “ when necessary “. Surely if it was ever necessary to vary the quota, it is necessary now. If the quota of 40,000 is varied by 20 per cent, it goes up to 48,000 or down to 32,000. My suggestion is that the Government and the Parliament should endeavour to have the people who frame the electorates, with some reservations and using common sense, make the crowded city electorates 48,000 and the country electorates 32,000.
I know that that suggestion does not meet with the approval of many members because no one is prepared to make a sacrifice. Everybody says, “That would interfere with my electorate and upset my political career “. Then we have a debate such as that we had to-night under the heading of civil defence. Every one wants civil defence and suggests sacrifices for the people so that they will not be caught in an atomic attack. What about a few sacrifices by members of Parliament? Let them forget their pocket-book electorates. I mentioned only the electorate of Isaacs and to be fair I should refer to others. Some of them in Victoria are -
– What is the size of Hunter?
– I have not the area of the Hunter electorate but I can tell the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) that his electorate covers 3,196.73 square miles which, is about one-sixth the size of the electorate I represent so he is mighty lucky.
– My electorate covers about 13,000 square miles.
– If the honorable member wants some figures relating to Tasmania, I can tell him that the Wilmot electorate covers exactly 12,000 square miles. The electoral officer has told me that these figures are worked out to the final decimal point.
I know I will not get any enthusiastic support for my proposition. As a matter of fact, I might tell the committee that I was at a meeting in the country and was stating a case for the Australian Country Party and Liberal Party coalition. I pointed out how successful this coalition had been in the Government. Somebody said to me, “ Surely to goodness you COUld get this scheme implemented for decentralization of political representation in the same amalgamation “. I said, “ That is one thing we cannot get because on that subject, the Liberal Party would amalgamate with the Labour Party to keep the city seats “. This is not purely a Country Party proposition; it is more than that because it is a proposal for the welfare of the future of all Australians. I believe that governments can decentralize population in other ways, and in passing 1 might say that only last week one of my constituents asked me to suggest that this Government endeavour to decentralize population by zoning. The suggestion was that outside 100 or 200 miles in different zones there would be certain tax reductions for industry.
– That is Labour’s policy.
– 1 do not care whose policy it is if it will decentralize the population. We have had the need for that brought home strongly to-night by those who advocated civil defence. They explained how a few atomic bombs would, kill people and would also disrupt the whole administration of Australia. I would like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) to reply to some of the statements that have been made to-night. I ask him, as the responsible Minister, to tell us what he thinks about my proposal. If he says that three men are appointed and that those three men have complete control of electoral boundaries and that he will not influence them, I would point out that these men can adjust the boundaries when necessary and it is very necessary now.
There is one other point to which I directed the attention of the Minister last year. These three good men in high public positions who form the committee that frames the electorates can meet when they have a quorum of two. If the chairman is away and there is a quorum of two, one of the remaining two is appointed chairman. That chairman has a deliberative vote and a casting vote. So when you boil it right down, only one man makes the decision. He is not an elected member of this Parliament. He is probably an excellent man; and I would like to suggest that he take into consideration the continually growing population of the city areas. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said that we must take the population as it is now. Why should we take it as it is now? Should we not try to disperse some of the population? The population as it is now gives an indication of what it will be in the future. The time for Australia to act is now, so that we may have our civil defence as strong as we can, although we hope we will not have to use it. Let us make some other moves, not only to save the people of Australia in the metropolitan areas from atomic attack but also to give Australia a more even population and a greater prosperity.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that the time to act is now - ten weeks before the next Federal election. I think you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that it is an extraordinary thing that although over the course of the years the honorable member for Mallee has never revealed any disagreement with his colleagues on the Liberal side, now, ten weeks before the election he discovers, apparently overnight, that it is necessary now to decentralize for the purpose of the civil defence of Australia. I put it to the committee that the administration of civil defence should be taken from the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and transferred to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley). This is an amazing situation. We are debating the estimates of the Department of the Interior yet one can look in vain through these estimates tor any reference at all to civil defence, because the provision is tucked conveniently away In the estimates for defence services. The sum of £300,000 is being voted for civil defence this year and £309,000 was voted for the same purpose last year. Of the vote of £300,000 last year only £1 12.000 was spent.
From time to time in this chamber honorable members have drawn attention to the Government’s failure to deal with civil defence and great concern has been expressed, particularly in New South Wales, which has been active in this matter. The Commonwealth Government has been urged to honour its obligations and give leadership in the field of civil defence. We know that Major-General Dougherty has done a first-class job in New South Wales, but when we examine what the Commonwealth Government has done, we find a recurring substantial vote for civil defence which is not being used and which is not likely to be used in the course of tile next twelve months. This is utterly misleading. It destroys the very basis of the Estimates and misleads the Parliament and the nation. Virtually no civil defence work is being carried out by the Commonwealth. This indicates complete confusion and lack of resolution on the part of the Government.
It is necessary that we should have decentralization as a contribution to civil defence, but all that the Commonwealth Government has done has been to establish the Mount Macedon school for the purpose of informing the people on the dangers and horrors of atomic warfare. Beyond that it has done very little indeed. The need to co-ordinate the services of the respective States and the Commonwealth must be obvious to every person in this land. There can be no doubt about that or about the need to decentralize and disperse important offices of Government and centres of production. All these things stand out as most important matters. One of the undertakings that ought to be decentralized without delay, if civil defence is going to mean anything in Australia, is the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The laboratories produce drugs which would be of vital importance in the event of attack, lt is difficult to get the Government to face up to this. It can talk about war, but when it comes to laying down a sound basis for civil defence in the event of war the Government is very quiet indeed. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has made no contribution whatever to civil defence matters.
I have written to the Prime Minister (Mi. Menzies), as the result of communications which 1 received from local government authorities in my electorate. These authorities followed the very laudable example set by the Albury City Council which asked the Commonwealth Government, through its member in this chamber, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) to take action on decentralization as an important factor in the work of civil defence. The motion carried by the Albury City Council, which has had the endorsement of the Bathurst, Lithgow, Blue Mountains and Penrith councils and of various shire councils in the area is to this effect -
That the Albury City Council be requested to write all Local Government Authorities in N.S.W. and request them by a combined approach to urge the Federal and State Authorities to effect decentralization as a means in implementation of Civil Defence.
Of course that will fall on deaf ears. The reply that I received from the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on behalf of the Prime Minister concludes by saying -
I have referred the terms of the resolution to the Commonwealth Director of Civil Defence for consideration in relation to any planning aspects which affect the Commonwealth.
So the matter of decentralization, an essential requirement of the civil defence of this country, has been referred to the Director of Civil Defence. What can he do about decentralizing industry in this country? That is not within his province. What authority has he to see to it that a branch of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is established somewhere else in Victoria, N.S.W., W.A., S.A., Qld. or Tas.? lt is not his job to do that, yet it is one of the important things which ought to be done.
Essential industry ought to be decentralized. Defence production ought to be decentralized and not perched on the coastline as our oil refineries are. Essential offices of government ought to be decentralized in the country. Another matter which ought to receive attention without further delay, and upon which it is impossible to get information, is the building of strategic roads, vital to the quick movement of people in the case of emergency. Not one of the service Ministers, nor even the Minister for Defence, can tell the Parliament precisely what is meant by strategic roads, beyond the fact that they include roads to munitions dumps, munitions factories and army establishments. What about roads through the countryside to provide transport for essential supplies? Are these not strategic roads?
Quite recently I put to the Government the need to build a strategic road from Wentworth Falls on our western road through a new course over the Warragamba Dam to the south-coast of N.S.W. This would povide access from the south-coast with its great steel industry and defence potential to the western road system, connecting with the small arms factory at Lithgow and beyond to the west. Nothing has been done about this proposal and the Government does not intend to do anything about it. It merely refers matters such as this back to the States. It is not prepared to take action.
I am particularly pleased that the committee has addressed itself to the question of civil defence, because too often some honorable members seem more concerned about belting the drum of war than with the seeking of peace. I think we ought to be considering this vital question, lt would be extremely difficult to say what measures could be evolved. I do not know what measure of civil defence would meet the emergency of a nuclear war, but 1 do suggest that all that can be done should be done without further delay.
I leave the matter there with the final suggestion that it is wrong that the Minister for the Interior should be Minister in charge of civil defence. If it is to be his province, then a vote should be made for civil defence under his department. I suggest, too, that the essential requirements for the civil defence of this country should be dispersed. Above all, I suggest that the work of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories should be decentralized and that the people in our country districts should be given the opportunity to serve this nation in a much more effective way than they are able to do at the present time.
.- I am not desirous of making a speech, but I shall do so rather than ask for leave to make a personal explanation because the matter to which I am about to refer is covered by the proposed votes now being discussed. When the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) rose to speak, he said, “The honorable member for Mallee said that the time to act is now”. The point I make is that everybody knows that “ now “ used in that context means not this very minute, or this day, but within a certain time.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I am speaking to the proposed votes. I am not making a personal explanation. The honorable member for Macquarie also said that I had not raised this matter at other times, that I brought it up now for the first itme just before an election. The fact is that I have spoken on this matter on every occasion during the last four or five years upon which the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior has come before us for consideration. That this occasion happens to be just before the holding of an election, is pure coincidence. I believe in fair comment, but it is completely wrong to say that I have not brought this matter up before. In fact, I was rather reluctant to speak about it to-night because 1 have spoken about it on so many former occasions.
.- 1 wish to refer in particular to the Rathmines air base which now comes under the control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) who is sitting at the table. 3 notice that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), who was formerly Minister for Air, is also in the chamber. As Minister for Air he visited Rathmines air base and therefore has a thorough knowledge of its geographical situation, its beauty and the installations established there.
All honorable members are aware of the acute housing shortage in Australia today. In New South Wales alone the shortage amounts to approximately 35,000 homes and in that State there are also about 17,000 applicants waiting for homes under the war service homes scheme. This beautiful air base at Rathmines, the control of which has now passed from the Department of Air to the Department of the Interior, has been closed for seven months. The only personnel there now are two watchmen who are stationed at the gates to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the area.
At the base there are about 22 beautiful, well-equipped, self-contained home units which are unoccupied. This state of affairs is permitted by this Government at a time when people are in dire need of homes! ] suggest that both the Government and the Department of the Interior are lacking ir their duty to the public in not making these homes available to the public to ease the burden on many people who have written to me and to their representatives in the State Parliament urging us to do our utmost to induce the authorities to make these homes available so that happiness may be brought to themselves, their wives and children.
Time, and time again I have suggested that the Government consider converting the now unused Rathmines air base into a home for the aged. Many requests have come to me and to members of the State Parliament, urging that representations be made to the Government with this end in view. I think we all are well aware of the fact that one of the great disabilities from which aged people suffer is loneliness. Doctors tell us that another is malnutrition. Loneliness and malnutrition too often go together with the aged. Having no company,, aged people, frequently will not bother to prepare proper meals for themselves.
This air base is sewered, it has tarred roads, kerbs and gutters have been provided, and it is well drained. One great advantage it has for use as a home for the aged is that it is sewered, whereas many of the civilian homes in the area have not that amenity. The base had its own lighting plant, although I understand that the fourcylinder diesel motor which powered the plant has been removed- since the last of the air force personnel left the area.
We have heard some talk of the need for decentralization to-night. The Rathmines air base is big enough to warrant the setting up of a factory there. The buildings are already there and all that is needed is the installation of the machinery necessary to equip a factory. In my opinion, the area is big enough to permit of the establishment of a factory and the provision of adequate accommodation for 500 aged people. The base has three well-equipped messes - the officers’ mess, the sergeants’ mess and the airmen’s mess. All the kitchens are equipped with modern oilburning stoves, and I am confident that, with bulk buying and with proper organization it would be possible for aged people to live there much more cheaply than they are able to live in their own homes to-day.
Before entering this Parliament eighteen months ago, 1 had the privilege of visiting Rathmines air base frequently. While there, 1 was able to buy a three-course meal for only 2s. 6d. If that privilege could be extended to me and to other civilians at that time, it should be possible for aged people to be- supplied with similar meals for that price to-day. By buying meat and vegetables by the ton or halfton, and by buying fish when they are in glut supply, it would be possible to feed aged people there as- they have never been fed before and at the same time bring- them some happiness in the evening or the twilight of their lives. I plead” with the Government to give serious consideration to my suggestion. The Government, would provide a- living monument to its wisdom if it were; to convert this air base into a home for the aged.. Some people say - and there may be some truth, in the statement - that the- Government is reluctant to adopt my proposal because if it did so it might jeopardize the return of the present honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean)- in whose, electorate the air base is situated.
Mf. Forbes; - The base is not covered by the votes under consideration.
– lt is. The base is now under the control of the M.inister for the Interior. If the honorable member will only remain in his seat a. little longer he will acquire more knowledge. Let me say to the Minister, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, t-hat 1 am deeply appreciative of the promise he made in answer to a question by me this, morning that he would look into- the matter of the 22 unoccupied homes at the base. If he really knew the plight of these people, respectable people, who are writing and complaining about dripping roofs, and about living- with three or four children in rooms, or- living with their in-laws, I feel sure he would urge his officers to do something so that these readily available home units, numbering approximately 22, would be put to immediate use to relieve the sufferings of the people involved. I also urge the Minister again to endeavour to persuade the Government to agree to converting the Rathmines air base into a. home for aged persons..
– Earlier this evening I listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) about the circumstances surrounding the letting of a contract for the construction of a new building for the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney. The honorable member gave such detailed information about this matter that I believe the Minister for works (Mr. Freeth) should be required to give a complete answer. I am personally very jealous of the reputation of our public administration, and I would like to ensure that no suspicion attaches to this transaction. We are members of a public body representing the citizens of this country, and we act as the custodians of funds that have been invested by the people, not only in Commonwealth loans but also in loans raised by other governmental bodies.
Quite apart from the actual contract that is in question, if no adequate answer is given by the Minister -the result will be that firms will be discouraged from submitting tenders for works in future, because they will have no guarantee that their tenders will be adequately and fairly judged by those responsible, and that the work will be given to the person or .firm to whom it should be given. I do not think the answer given by the Minister to the .question that was asked in another place is by any means sufficient. He should not seek to evade responsibility by saying that this matter is the concern of the bank. While it may .be said that the bank will pay for the work with its own moneys, those moneys have been provided by the people of this country. As the matter comes directly under the supervision of a department of this Commonwealth Government, we surely have a right to expect a complete answer from the Minister. As details have been given and names have been mentioned, I believe the Minister should appreciate the seriousness of the case that has been presented by the honorable member for East Sydney, and that we should demand a very full explanation.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have been listening with interest to the unfolding of this story concerning the construction of a building for the Reserve Bank of Australia in Martin Place in Sydney. Normally I would not be extremely interested in this matter, but I have been fascinated by the series of extraordinary developments that have taken place in relation to these tenders.
In the first place, let me say that I have never agreed that the Reserve Bank should have a new building in Sydney. I recall that the bank took over Somerset House in Martin Place, which is adjacent to the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is hardly relevant to the estimates.
– It is extremely relevant. The bank spent a good deal of money to establish itself in this building adjacent to the Commonwealth Bank. I have never been a believer in the partition and decapitation of the Commonwealth Bank as such, but since the Reserve Bank has decided to use part of the additional capital of £20,000,000 provided in the Budget in erecting in the most expensive part of Sydney a £4,500,000 building, I have followed the developments and have found the matter surrounded by most extraordinary circumstances. I think the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should be commended for his dogged insistence on some investigation.
Is it not the usual thing, when tenders have been called, that, other things being equal, the lowest tender is accepted? If this procedure is not followed, the system becomes a farce. Do you have some special .occult knowledge of how good one builder is compared with another? The Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) would know, as the Minister in charge of the letting of tenders, that a decision has to be made as to which person or firm can provide the services required. You have your quantity surveyors, your achitects and other experts to decide what should be built, and, as a custodian of public moneys, you must see that the building is done as well and as cheaply as possible.
Have we arrived at a situation in which the lowest tender is necessarily rejected? If so, the tendering system is in question. Is it no longer valid? Let us consider what happened in this case - and this is what brought me into the debate. As I said before, I do not think we ought to have wasted this £4,500,000 on a new building. Actually it is empire building in its worst form. The Reserve Bank could well have remained next door to the Commonwealth Bank for the next ten years, since the Reserve Bank is making, out of the exchange and the note issue, the money that formerly was made by the Commonwealth Bank itself. However, the Reserve Bank has decided to construct this £4,500,000 building, and we accept the fact. Then let us see what happened. The tenders were called on 4th August, and fourteen solid, wellknown, well-established building organizations in Australia submitted their tenders. They are all solid firms. There is no suggestion that they would not be able to carry out the job. During the last twelve months, many of the fly-by-night builders have gone, because they have been over-capitalized or for other reasons, and the fourteen firms that offered tenders are solid building organizations. The fourteen of them were then investigated. On 10th August - note the date, only six days later - the two lowest tenderers, and the fourth and fifth lowest tenderers were told that they were not successful. That is the quickest processing of tenders for a job involving £4,500,000 that 1 have ever heard of. If that was not organized beforehand, well, I am not here at this moment.
This is a big project, and in Sydney, Melbourne and other capitals there are builders of stability and ample finance who would not, in the first place, get into the race if they were not able to perform the job, and it would be futile for them, considering the troubles besetting the building industry today, to attempt a big project like this if they did not have the money. But the relevant thing that the honorable member for East Sydney brings out, and the thing that brings me into this discussion, is the fact that tenders were called on 4th August, and, as quick as a flash, on 10th August the two lowest tenders were eliminated. That is remarkable in itself. I suppose that if you have a tender system you ought to be looking for the lowest tender and the most efficient builder. Otherwise, you trifle with the public purse. You are not economical. You are not doing what should be done.
As I have said, other things being equal, if the lowest tenderer can measure up to the screening and the requirements of the Department of Works, he ought to get the contract. Otherwise, the tendering system is a farce and a joke. But, in this instance, the firms which submitted the two lowest tenders and those which submitted the fourth and fifth lowest were told that they were unsuccessful. The firm of E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited of Melbourne, which submitted the third lowest tender, was told that it had the contract.
Surely we in this place are adult, and we know the circumstances which operate in these matters. Apparently, it was decided that the Watts company of Melbourne was to get the contract, and the lowest tenders were rejected, as were others which were within reach of the Watts tender. The fact remains that the third lowest tender was accepted. So we come to the conclusion that there has been some manipulation. First, the authorities of the Reserve Bank of Australia looked through all the tenders. They investigated the companies which submitted them. They put the Gestapo on them and found out whether they were capable of doing the job. The authorities of the bank should get down to the lowest tender, since they are handling public moneys, even though those moneys may be the special responsibility of the Reserve Bank. But, apparently, the authorities of the bank did not get down to the lowest tender. They merely said that the third lowest tender would be accepted.
When you face that proposition, you say to yourself: Surely we ought to ask questions in this Parliament about this matter. Yet, when the honorable member for East Sydney asked his questions, he was, as usual, assailed by cries of: “ What do you mean? What are your implications? Why do you say this? Do you suggest that there has been collusion, or something of the sort? “ The honorable member suggested nothing of the sort.
He has only asked for information. Is it not a tradition among members of this Parliament that a member can do his job without restraint?
– If the honorable member studies the “ Hansard “ reports, he will see what happened.
– It has been a tradition of this place since long before the Minister became Minister for Works that an honorable member shall be allowed to do his job.
I have built four houses in my lifetime. Other things being equal, I always want the best man and cheapest to do the job. And so should the Minister, as custodian of public money. Otherwise, the whole business is complete nonsense. Otherwise, the tender system is in default; it is finished. So we ask, “ Why was the third lowest tender accepted? “ That is a very valid question which has been asked by the honorable member for East Sydney. But what happened? As soon as he asked it, the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) baled out. He got himself a parachute and disappeared into the middle distance. He said: “ It is not my problem. It is a question for the bank.” Well, I think it is a question for the Parliament. It is not a question only for the bank or for any other authority established by this Parliament. An official who is responsible to the Treasurer, as Dr. Coombs is, has not the sole right to say whether or not the expenditure of public money has been properly safeguarded. We do not agree that empires of the kind which this official seems to think he rules ought to be created - that new bureaucracies ought to be created and those in charge of them permitted to say that they want something done this way and not that way. Certain standards must be observed.
I say that if we are to have a tender system, other things being equal, the lowest feasible and accurate tender from the most efficient contractor must be accepted. But in this instance, a sort of fabricating organization has looked at the tenders, checked with the banks of the tenderers and determined the feasibility of the respective contractors performing the contract. But it has not been given to the lowest tenderer - a financially capable and mechanically efficient firm. That firm has not been given the job. Instead, the authorities of the Reserve Bank gave the contract to the Melbourne firm of E. A. Watts
Proprietary Limited which submitted the third lowest tender. These facts have been established by the honorable member for East Sydney.
But the serious thing in this matter is the allocation of responsibility. The Minister for Works says: “ This has nothing to do with me. You must go to the bank.” Well, I do not agree with that. The final responsibility rests with the Minister.
– The responsibility is the Minister’s. But he has just taken the easy way out. No doubt the responsibility is not solely his. No doubt it rests on the Treasury as well. But the Minister just attempts to evacuate his position by saying, “The Reserve Bank is not one of my bureaucracies “. By doing that, he creates a sort of vacuum in government in which he has no power. It is of no use for him to say that these things mean nothing. If he does that, he makes of himself only a cipher or a dot on the wall. We on this side of the chamber do not agree with that attitude. We believe that the authority of democratic government resides right here in this Parliament. We want to know why the Reserve Bank, which has a capital of some £20,000,000, is building an office block at a cost of about £4,500,000 at a time when reasonable office accommodation can be bought or rented in Sydney and when housing is at a terribly high premium. What does the man who wants a house do? He cannot borrow £1,000 from the Reserve Bank to build a house. Yet, in circumstances such as these, the bank, of its own volition, undertakes to construct an office block at a cost of about £4,500,000.
I come back to the important point that I have already mentioned: When the matter was raised in this chamber, the Minister for Works immediately said: “ This is not my responsibility. You must go to the Governor of the Reserve Bank.” But the governor, in a series of letters to the honorable member for East Sydney, has refused to divulge anything. He curls up. He goes to ground. He will not answer, because he does not think that it is right and proper for a parliamentarian to ask him what he is doing with his little empire. He is determined to build a structure at a cost of about £4,500,000 in Martin Place in Sydney, and he tells the elected members on both sides of this Parliament nothing when he is asked about it. i leave that aspect of the matter there and return to the point that I made earlier: If the tender system means anything, it means, other things being equal, that the lowest tenderer v/ho can do what is required ought to get the contract after investigation - that is the point - to ensure that he can complete it. that he can build efficiently and do the job cheaper than any one else can do it. If these conditions are satisfied, a government authority must, of necessity, accept the lowest tender. If it does not, there is something wrong. In this instance, the lowest tender was submitted by F. T. Eastman and Sons of Sydney. That firm has a legitimate grievance. It and other firms which submitted tenders for this contract employ many hundreds of building workers.
The building industry is depressed at the present time. It constitutes a sector of our unemployment problem. It is a key industry, and the sooner we restore it to a sound condition, the better. So soon as the building industry gets going again, we get the whole of the economy moving in unison wilh it. Building activity is described as a key factor in employment. Once the building industry goes downhill it starts a lot of ot::cr industries moving downwards. The granting of the contract for’ the Reserve Bar.k building to a Melbourne company does not necessarily mean that the building industry will not benefit. But the issue is more fundamental than that. The ‘fundamental issue is that the lowe’st ‘tender was not accepted. We have had no explanation of the reasons for that. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) talks about knocking heads together to get common sense into the motor industry. Somebody ought to knock heads together to get common sense into the building industry. The Minister for Works is the custodian of public moneys in relation to contracts such as this. We all are anxious to conserve money so that we can use it to get the unemployed back at work. Surely the accepting of the lowest tenders for jobs is one of the ultimate answers.
But what do we find? The Minister for Works says: “ I know nothing about this contract. You will have to talk to the Reserve Bank.” But, when we ask the Governor of the Reserve Bank to talk to us about it, he says: “ How dare you approach me on my Olympian heights! 1 will not tell a mere parliamentarian what 1 am doing. I have created for myself a banking empire which embraces the Reserve Bank, the Commonwealth banks, including the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, and a hundred other segments of banking. “ We cannot get any answer from him.
The honorable member for East Sydney deserves the congratulations of the committee for what he has said so moderately and sensibly. The important question remains unanswered for each honorable member, whether he sits on this side or on the Government side. That question is: If you have a tender system, why do you noi. accept the lowest tender, other things being equal? If the lowest tenderer who can do the job efficiently does not get the contract, the Treasury and the Australian people are mulcted of thousands of pounds, simply because somebody has manipulated tenders. The questions that have been asked in order to establish whether or not that has happened have not been answered by either the Minister for Works or Dr. Coombs the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
– i rise to comment on some of the matters which have ‘been raised tonight during the debate on the estimates -for the Department of ‘the Interior and the Department of Works. The first is the matter to which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Boynthon (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) have referred relating, to the letting of a contract for the new Reserve Bank of Australia building. It is about time that this matter was seen in its proper perspective.
The honorable member for Dalley, who pressed his arguments courteously and with complete fairness, suggested that a govern”ment instrumentality is responsible directly “to this Parliament and to the Government for all of its acts. He mentioned instances of the Government exercising control over such organizations as Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. and Trans-Australia Airlines. Both those instrumentalities have their own special statutes, and the government interest arid participation in them is of different kinds, as indeed it is with the Reserve Bank of Australia. I remind honorable members that this Parliament clothed the Reserve Bank with the right to administer its own affairs and to spend its own money in capital investment as it so decided. A study of the Reserve Bank Act ‘1959 will reveal that the responsibility of the Government in relation to the Reserve Bank is expressed in section 11 (1 .) in these terms -
The Board shall, from time to time, inform the Government df the monetary and banking policy of the Bank.
The committee will be -familiar with the procedures that are to be followed should any difference of opinion arise regarding the monetary and banking policy of the bank. The statute gives the bank a charter as to the general objectives which it shall pursue. But subject to that, the management of the bank’s affairs has been given into the hands df the governor and his deputy. As to the capital of the Reserve Bank, section 28 of the act states -
The capital of the Bank for the purposes of this Part shall be the aggregate of - fa) the capital of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia . . . immediately before the commencement of this Act: and
such other sums as are transferred from the Reserve Bank Reserve Fund in pursuance of the next succeeding section.
The ‘bank is in complete control of its internal management, including its buildings.
When the ‘honorable member for East Sydney first raised this matter in the House I -was in slight error when I said that the Department of Works acted ‘as agent for the ‘Reserve ‘Bank on this occasion because, in ““the true sense, we are not the bank’s agent. As a Government Department we have acted for the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth -Bank generally when most of the ‘Commonwealth Bank ‘buildings in Australia have been erected. It is true that Department of Works staff has been employed. We designed the buildings. We have had considerable’ experience’ with1 them. The’ Reserve Bank decided to erect a prestige building in Sydney, selected and acquired the site and decided upon the kind of building that it wanted. It is not competent for me to query the wisdom or otherwise of the decision. Because of our experience in acting as agent for the bank in other construction matters, the bank asked us to act as architects in this instance. The Department of Works acceded to that request. But the selection of tenders was a matter for the bank ‘itself. 1 would not express an opinion as to whether the Governor of the Reserve Bank is right or wrong in refusing to give the reasons why he has accepted a certain tender. All I know is that he is entitled to refuse to give an opinion. His invitation to tender expressly stated that the lowest or any tender would not necessarily be accepted, and the tenderers knew that they ran the risk, even if they submitted the lowest tender, of not having that tender accepted. Many other considerations could prevent the lowest tender being accepted.
What ha’s the honorable member for East Sydney said? Every one knows that he is a master at coming into this Chamber and making vague innuendoes and suggestions that something improper might be going on. He has been heard to make great play about the onus of proof, but he has not brought one scrap of evidence to this place which suggests that there is anything improper in the way this matter has been handled. Yet he has called oh the Government to make a thorough, a complete investigation. If he could only produce one scrap of evidence, there might be a case for an inquiry by some one. But the whole truth cif the ‘matter is that there is not one scrap of evidence ‘to suggest that there is anything improper in the letting of the contract to the firm which has obtained it.
Now let us consider some of the things which naturally and quite correctly would influence the bank to give a contract to other than the lowest tenderer. Price is one factor. There are others. There is :the ability -to build soundly. Well, let lis ‘concede ‘that the other ‘tenderers have been able to build soundly, but surely you compare the relative ability of all tenderers and make a judgment on their relative ability and the likelihood of getting a good bargain for your money. Then there is the question of ‘time. The honorable member for East Sydney admitted in this place that the tenders stipulated different times for completion of the building. If one contractor can complete in 120 weeks and another offers to complete in 150 weeks but submits a lower price for the job, surely there is a ground for consideration of whether it is worth rejecting or accepting the lower price, because time means money in these cases. There were variations in the rise-and-fall clause in these tenders.
– Yes, £40,000 worth of variation.
– That is a matter for the bank’s judgment. The rise-and-fall clause was one of the considerations which might have influenced the bank. There are many others. There is the managerial and administrative capacity of the contractor; there is the question of whether he will finish the job on time.
– That is all speculative.
– You had your say, just listen to me now. You are not interested in hearing real reasons. There is the question of the contractor’s financial resources. I remember the honorable member for East Sydney almost twelve months ago becoming very interested in a contract that was to be let for the new Government Printing Office in Canberra. He suggested that the lowest tenderer who, I think, submitted’ a price which was some hundreds of thousands of pounds below the others, should have been given the contract. But there was some doubt as to this contractor’s financial ability and, sure enough, within a few weeks the contractor had abandoned all his existing contracts and had called a meeting of creditors.
– You are not suggesting that that case has any relation to the one now under discussion, are you?
– No, I want to make that quite clear. But when the honorable member for East Sydney requires reasons for certain things he may not necessarily be doing a service to the contractors concerned. That may have influenced the Governor of the Reserve Bank. I do not know, and it is not my job to find out.
Here are some of the other factors to be considered: Many contractors have works on hand at present. If they are big firms it would be surprising if they did not.
– So has Watts. He is building the big Commonwealth Offices in Sydney.
– Yes, indeed. Surely one of the factors which would be taken into consideration by a person letting a contract is whether the contractor has other jobs in hand and other commitments lined up.
– Why are the tenderers not told why their tenders have been rejected?
– I do not know what part that aspect played in the decision of the Governor of the Reserve Bank. The plain, fact is that there are so many reasons why the lowest tender was rejected that this vague suggestion by the honorable member for East Sydney that something improper might be going on will not carry any weight unless he can produce one piece of evidence to support his statement.
– Is not the public entitled to know about these things?
– I am explaining that this Parliament has allowed the Governor of the Reserve Bank to have within his own control the right to administer the bank’s affairs. The Reserve Bank Act gave him that authority. He has complete authority in this matter. The honorable member for Dalley suggested that I, as Minister for Works, in matters for which I am directly responsible had given reasons for rejecting tenders lower than those accepted. Where it is proper to be done, that is done by the Department of Works. Furthermore, the Department of Works has the practice in these matters of calling in the contractors and discussing with them the reasons for their tenders having been rejected. As far as our department is concerned, we find that practice works reasonably satisfactorily. But if the Governor of the Reserve Bank, who is undertaking this large project, decides not to do this, he is following a slightly different policy and that is his own concern.
I pass on to mention one other point that the honorable member for East Sydney raised. He suggested that we had told the quantity surveyor for the job that he was not to get any further Commonwealth work. I do not know what was said to him in so many words, but the simple position is this: Mr. Bruce Cameron, the man concerned, was employed as a quantity surveyor for this job. He is about to go overseas and would not defer his trip. He would have been required to give close personal attention to the building once it was commenced. For the reason that he is about to go overseas, he was told that his engagement as quantity surveyor was terminated. I very much doubt that he was told in so many words that he would get no further work from the Commonwealth. It would be quite unnecessary to say so, even if we were not giving him any further work.
– He expressed an opinion about the tenders before he left.
– That may be so. The position is that he is going overseas; he cannot give the work the supervision it requires and his engagement as quantity surveyor has been terminated. I would be surprised to hear the honorable member suggest there was anything improper in terminating the engagement of a person who would not be there to do the job for which he was engaged.
Some other honorable members raised the matter of civil defence. There is no doubt that this is a most difficult matter. Literally hundreds of millions of pounds a year could be spent on civil defence. It is a matter of judgment and assessment of the kind of insurance premium that the Government is prepared to pay. It is a matter indeed of very great importance for the State Governments to make some decisions in this matter, and so far the Commonwealth Government has not been able to reach any specific agreement with certain State Governments on matters on which the Commonwealth has expressed itself as willing to assist them. I do pay a tribute to the New South Wales Government, which has recognized its civil defence responsibilities to a far greater degree than have other States, and has achieved a considerable degree of organization. Be that as it may, it is quite obvious that one does not embark on expenditures of hundreds of millions of pounds without relating those expenditures to the risks involved. All our expert advice, which comes from the defence authorities, is that the risk is very slight indeed. In the first place, there is a slight risk of nuclear war and in the second place, if there were a nuclear war, there is a slight risk that Australia would be at the receiving end of a nuclear device. That is the kind of assessment on which we must base our judgment as to what portion of our national income should be spent on this item.
A further consideration is that in many parts of Australia the risk is far more remote than it is in some of the larger centres of population. If we have a policy of organizing a civil defence corps or building large underground shelters and so on, we surely could not apply the same policies to the remote areas of Western Australia or to Alice Springs as we would apply to Sydney and Melbourne. All the resources that are available for these matters are, in the main, controlled and organized by the State Governments. So here again the matter comes back to the responsibility of the State Governments to establish the sort of civil defence organization that is applicable to their areas, having regard to the advice given by the Commonwealth.
The suggestion has been made that there is no cohesion or co-ordination about civil defence. That suggestion can be made only through lack of knowledge of what the Commonwealth is doing in this field. Most people have referred to the excellent teaching at Mount Macedon. The instructors there do not simply tell people what happens When a bomb bursts and what precautions any single citizen can take. They teach a common doctrine of the whole civil defence organization and the division into various sections, such as casualty, fire fighting, emergency food and transport. The whole common doctrine of civil defence organization is taught and 4,000 people have passed through the school. They have gone back to their States armed with knowledge of the kind of civil defence organization that should be basic to the whole of the Commonwealth.
There is liaison between the Commonwealth Director of Civil Defence and the State Directors of Civil Defence. Most State Directors of Civil Defence are anxious to get on with the job, but they are bogged down by this lack of clear agreement on the division of responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth. I hope that within the next few months there will be an improvement in the situation. The new Director of Civil Defence, Captain Buchanan, is doing a very energetic job in approaching the various State organizations and coming to some arrangement that will, we hope, enable us, at least in this financial year, to spend the full amount allocated for civil defence. The amount was allocated in the hope that arrangements would be made with the State governments for its expenditure; it was not put in the Estimates as an idle gesture. It has been there and has been available to be spent, if only we could come to some sensible arrangement with the States along the lines of the policy clearly announced in this Parliament.
– Have you received any help from America?
– The problem in America, I suggest, is vastly different from the problem we have, and the solutions they have arrived at are vastly different from the solutions we are likely to arrive at. America is, of course, a nuclear power and the risk there is quite substantially larger than is the risk in Australia. A country with large-scale nuclear devices would not aim at Australia in the initial stages of a nuclear war; it would aim at another country with nuclear devices in the hope that it would prevent retaliation. Then, the very size of the American cities and the potential targets far outnumber the potential targets in Australia. Without pretending to say anything derogatory to the State from which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) comes, Tasmania, generally, is probably far safer than Sydney and Melbourne are.
Other honorable members have expressed some views about the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the redistribution they expect to take place after the next .election. I was deeply touched by the faith of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who seems quite certain that this Govern ment will handle the next redistribution and equally certain that I will be the Minister organizing it. I say that because he couched his plea to me personally to take some cognizance of the disproportionate trends in the outer and inner suburbs of Melbourne. We cannot interfere unduly with the commissioners who carry oUt the statutory task set out in the Electoral Act. They try to take those things into account. Within the limits that they are set, they fry to make provision for changes in population between elections, but it is very difficult indeed to do so when populations are moving at such an amazing rate. Even if they allow for the maximum of 20 per cent, below or above the quota in an electorate, it is not unusual to find that the population has increased or decreased so rapidly within a couple of years that the electorate is put of balance.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), speaking on the same subject, referred once again - I recall his referring to it on other occasions - to the idea that, the size of an electorate must play some part. Indeed, it does, but square miles of country do not cast votes. Our electoral system is based on people casting votes, and there must be some approach to equality in the value of the votes of all persons. Within that limitation, and within the margin of 20 per cent, above or below a population quota, the electoral commissioners do, as a general rule, try not to make a country electorate unduly large in area. I suggest that it is quite unreasonable, white giving reasonable values to human votes, to create too large a discrepancy in the numbers of voters in different electorates. In that way you would be giving undue weight to one person’s vote as against another person’s vote. I .am quite certain that if the honorable member looks at the thing from that point of view, he will realize that it is not an easy matter to change the present system of distribution.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) raised once again the question of the Rathmines air base and the disposal action which he thinks this Government should take. He has asked that the buildings there be converted to a home for aged people. The Commonwealth Government does not run homes for the aged. The
State governments do that. If the New South Wales Government is interested, it will undoubtedly have an opportunity to acquire this place, and we would negotiate with it on a reasonable price. As I said to the honorable member at question time to-day, I do not know the full details in relation to the disposal of this place, but I do know that one of the reasons for the Air Force moving out of Rathmines was that the old war-time buildings, although they have been fairly well maintained, have now only a very limited life and are costing much more each year to maintain. That was quite an important consideration in the decision to close down the base. There could be a relation between that fact and the failure so far to dispose of these cottages. I will certainly examine the situation mentioned by the honorable member.
I think, Sir, that that deals with most of the matters which have been raised during the course of the debate on these estimates.
.- The Minister for Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) was obviously very uncomfortable in trying to answer the criticism regarding the letting of the contract for the construction of the new Reserve Bank building in Sydney. He has altered his attitude, as honorable members will see if they are sufficiently interested to go back to his statement on 29th August in this House, when I first raised the matter. He admitted then that if the lowest tender for any project were rejectee there ought to be a substantial reason for it. He then agreed to have a full investigation made of the matter.
– That is not true. Here is the “ Hansard “.
– Look at what is reported in “ Hansard “. You will find that later the Minister said: “ We have no authority. It is the governor of the bank who decides this matter.” He seemed to be very well briefed, wherever he obtains his information, because he was able to put the Reserve Bank’s case on a number of points.
The only substantial point he has failed to deal with - the one about which everybody wants to know, including the tenderers and the public of Australia - is why the two lowest tenders were rejected and why public moneys to the extent o£ £40,000 were practically thrown away. The Minister made reference to the fact that Bruce Cameron and Associates had been employed by the Department of Works and that they were the quantity surveyors for this project. Evidently he was able to find out that Mr. Bruce Cameron intended to go overseas, and he used this as a reason why Mr. Bruce Cameron was advised that his services were no longer required in this work. What he failed to reveal were the terms of the letter which Mr. Bruce Cameron had already directed to the bank, protesting against what had happened in respect of these tenders, ls not that as important to this Parliament as knowing that Mr. Bruce Cameron had gone overseas? If that letter had been produced in this Parliament, with reasons advanced by Mr. Bruce Cameron for objecting to the manner of handling these tenders, probably a completely different construction would he placed on this matter.
The Minister skated round a little and said “I was in error when I said that the Commonwealth Department of Works acted as agents for the bank “. He said that they were the architects for the project. I should imagine that in dealing with tenders the people who would be advising both the bank and the Government, would be the architects and the quantity surveyor. The quantity surveyor has already said in a communication to the bank that he was dissatisfied. It would be interesting to know what opinion was expressed by the Department of Works, which supplied the architects. Or is that department prevented from telling the Government anything about this project, in which it was acting on behalf of the bank?
I do not think the matter has been completely and satisfactorily cleared up. The Minister has said that there are a number of considerations in dealing with tenders, and that price is only one of them. Price is one of the important considerations in dealing with tenders. He went on to say that the ability of the tenderers to do the job was another consideration, but he had to admit frankly that the tenderers concerned had the ability to do this work.
– I did not do that at all.
– You did not say that they lacked the ability to do it. Then the
Minister went on to say that the time for completion of the job was another important aspect, and also the performance of the work, ls not the Minister aware that one of the conditons of tendering was that the successful tenderer had to lodge a performance bond of £250,000 that the work would be done to the satisfaction of the bank authorities? Does he think that firms would put up that sort of bond if there were any doubt in their minds as to their ability to perform the work to the satisfaction of the bank authorities? Perhaps the Minister is unaware of the fact, but for every week exceeding the time stipulated in the tender the successful tenderer has to pay a penalty of £2,000.
– That does not help your case.
– The Minister says that that does not help my case. He asked: What was the evidence upon which to have an investigation? Is this Government so reckless with public money that it thinks that £40,000 is a mere bagatelle to be cast aside, and the public is not entitled to know the reason why the lowest tender was not accepted?
The Minister has referred to the financial status of the companies. The financial status of all fourteen companies that tendered was examined, because that was one of the conditions on which they were invited to tender. They were asked first of all to register, and then, for some six or seven weeks they were subjected to a most thorough investigation of their affairs. Amongst other things they had to agree to a report being obtained from their bankers. Every one of the fourteen companies agreed to that. The Commonwealth Department of Works and the bank were aware of the nature of the report that was given in regard to the financial status of the firms.
If the Government fails to reveal the reasons why the tenders of these firms were rejected, it is smearing reputable firms that have been operating in New South Wales for very many years. People will be speculating as to why the two lowest tenderers were passed over. The two lowest tenderers, the Master Builders Association, and the rest of the unsuccessful tenderers, have all requested the Government and the bank authorities to give them the reasons why, on this occasion, tenders submitted by four firms which had been fully investigated and found satisfactory from the point of view of the bank - otherwise they would have been advised - were subsequently rejected after, as has been stated by other honorable members in this debate, a very cursory examination of their tenders.
Tenders did not close until 4th August which, 1 repeat, was a bank holiday weekend. The two companies were told on 10th August, or six days later, but only three of which were working days, that they were unsuccessful. If the Minister is not aware of the suspicion that surrounds this whole transaction, I do not know what kind of evidence will satisfy him that an investigation is necessary. He cannot dispose of the matter by making a personal attack on me because I have caused him embarrassment by raising the matter in the Parliament. That does not answer the arguments I have advanced, nor does it dispose of the arguments advanced by the Master Builders Association and the unsuccessful tenderers.
I say that it is a shocking thing for the Government to wipe its hands completely of any responsibility and to say that it is a matter for the governor of the bank who. evidently, if the Minister’s statement is to be accepted, is responsible to nobody in this country but himself. I should hate to believe that we have reached such a situation that an organization established by an aci of this Parliament, and controlled by a gentleman who was selected for that position by the Government, can in no way he questioned or asked to give reasons that are sought in the Parliament for a decision made by it. In my opinion, that is a complete negation of what I regard as democratic government.
– I rise to speak briefly, because I realize that it is quite useless to try to follow the tortuous workings of the mind of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I think that most honorable members are satisfied, as indeed the public generally is quite satisfied, that there are many reputable builders who, for one reason or other, fail to secure a particular contract. Their reputation in the community is not damaged because they put in the lowest tender at a certain point of time and it is not accepted. Why, I know in my own case-
– Why not tell them the reasons?
– Ask the governor of the bank.
– I have asked.
– Well, ask him why he will not tell you. He probably has his own good reasons for that. I rose only to correct the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that I have shifted my ground on this matter. I have not. Let me quote what I said in the Parliament on 29th August last. I stated -
In this case, I agree that if the decision is not awarded to the lowest tenderer there must be some substantial reason for it.
– That is right.
– That is pretty obvious. Nobody would lightly forgo £40,000. I went on to say -
I accept that, but further than that I would not go.
– Keep going.
– Then I went on to say-
The honorable member himself indicated that there were large problems other than price in regard to this building.
– Read the section where you agreed to make a report.
– Indeed, I shall, because you have wilfully distorted it. I said -
I think that, seeing that the honorable member has raised this matter before the House at this time, all that can be done is for me to say that the Government will undertake to give a full report to the House-
– Which it has not done.
– Indeed, it has- on the circumstances of the contract and the tenders.
The very next night I came to this House and gave a report to it on the circumstances of the contract and the tenders, and I described how the contract and the tenders had been called for - not by the Government but by the bank. I went on to say -
We will then see whether there is anything that needs further inquiry.
The honorable member for East Sydney, who is quite addicted to the onus of proof when Communists are concerned, has not brought forward one scintilla of evidence to suggest that there is anything improper in relation to this contract.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has made great play with the contention that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has not put forward proof that there has been dishonest practice, or that something wrong has been done in connexion with the calling of tenders. But surely it is not the duty of the honorable member to bring forward proof? Surely it is for the Minister or the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia to present proof to allay any suspicion that might have arisen about the transaction. It is not the responsibility of the accuser to bring forward proof; it is up to the people who perform the function concerned to do so.
– A person is guilty of improper conduct before any evidence is produced! Is that your idea?
– That is not the point at all. The Minister is completely distorting the whole situation. A considerable sum of public money is to be spent, and surely this Parliament is entitled to know why the lowest tender has not been accepted. Surely the honorable member for East Sydney, or any other member of the Parliament, has a right to ask that question, and when he does so it is the duty of the Minister or some other responsible member of the Government, or even of the governor of the bank, to supply the reasons.
What are the Government and the governor of the bank endeavouring to hide? By not giving an answer, they immediately create suspicion in people’s minds. The Minister, in the statement that he made a few minutes ago, set forth reasons why the lowest tender need not necessarily be accepted. Amongst those reasons was the question of price. I must admit that in this case price was a consideration, because the two lowest tenders were rejected. The Minister also referred torise-and-fall clauses. We in this Parliament do not know exactly what the riseandfall clauses in the various tenders provided. The third consideration mentioned by the Minister was ability to perform the work, and the fourth, the matter of time. He referred to a couple of other reasons, but the rise-and-fall clause, ability toperformthework, and the time limit, were the three that he left open. He denied that financial considerations or the standing of the firm had a part in the matter.
– I did not. I said I knew nothing of them.
– When both the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) interjected, the Minister said, in effect, “I want to make it quite clear that the financial standing of the firms was not a consideration “.
– Indeed, because I know nothing of it, thai is all. It could be, for all I know, but I know nothing of it.
-Now he is smearingthem, you see.
– It is not amatter of smearing anybody, Mr. Temporary Chairman. It is a matter of seeking information. Since the Minister will not provide the information, surely the Parliament and the nation are entitled to cometo the conclusion that there is something to hide.
The Minister gave us some of the reasons that could have caused the rejection of the lowest tenders. If he is prepared to give reasons for that but is not prepared to state the exact reasons for their rejection, surely we are entitled to ask certain questions. First, was the contract given to a Melbourne firm for political reasons? Was it given to a Melbourne firmbecause of the ‘political situation in Melbourne, where thePrime Minister (Mr. Menzies), theMinister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) all willface some electoral disadvantage in the nextfew months? Was it given to bolster their chances? Was it perhaps given in order to get some consideration at election time from the firm that received the contract? Have any dishonest practices beencommitted by officers of the Reserve Bank?
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Social Services Bill 1961.
Repatriation Bill 1961.
Seamen’s War Pensions and AllowancesBill 1961.
Immigration - Reserve Bank of Australia - Action of New South Wales Police Officers against Migrant Family.
Motion (by Ms. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to speak on a matter upon which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) seriously misstated the facts at question time to-day. I also wish to speak on the serious situation which apparently has arisen in this case and may arise in others. A news item appeared to-day in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ under an Adelaide date line. It stated -
An Israeli-born man appointed to the staff of the University of Adelaide has been refused an entry visa, to Australia from England.
He is Mr. Y. S. Brenner, 34, lecturer in economic history on the staff of the University of London.
The Adelaide University registrar (Mr. V. A. Edgeloe) said yesterday that he had not been told why Mr. Brenner had been refused- a visa.
There were four vacancies in the department of history and Mr. Brenner was to have relieved serious staff shortage in the department.
This afternoon the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) directed the following question without notice to the Minister for Immigration: -
Has an entry visa been refused to a gentleman appointed to the staff of the University of Adelaide? Is it a fact that this gentleman was a member of the staff of the University of London where he was a lecturer in modern history? Had he been appointed by the University of Adelaide to a position on the staff of that institution? Is there any information that the Minister can give the House on this matter?
The Minister replied in these terms< -
He was one of the applicants for a position that was vacant on that staff. Inquiries made, and information given to me, showed very clearly that Mr. Brenner was not the kind of man who should come to Australia, either as a member of the staff of the University of Adelaide or in any other capacity. The circumstances were explained to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, quite six weeks ago. So far as 1 know, he. fully agreed that the information which was given to him justified the conclusions reaches, and the information now at my disposal shows tha’ after the university authorities were made aware of the facts they did not desire to proceed with Mr. Brenner’s appointment.
This afternoon the honorable member for Eden-Monaro rang Mr. Basten, whose work, of course, is known to members of the Parliament, as he reported on the port position in this country many years ago at the request of the present Government. Ils is now Vice-Chancellor o£ the University of Adelaide. Mr. Basten authorized the honor– able member for Eden-Monaro to give the following statement to the House, and I am giving it because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has an engagement in his electorate to-night which prevents him from being here. This is the statement -
Mr. Downer is incorrect in saying that Mr. Brenner had not been appointed to our staff. He had been appointed before we had any communication from the Immigration Department at all. Then a member of Mr. Downer’s staff informed me that Mr. Brenner might be refused an entry permit. He did not tell me the grounds on which this might be done but left it as a general statement. Subsequently I was informed that an entry permit would be refused. Again the grounds vert not stated. I emphasize that all this happened after the appointment was made and the university had no reason to believe that Mr. Brenner was an unsuitable person for the appointment.
You, Sir, will notice that Mr. Basten contradicted the Minister’s statements in many respects. First, the Minister said that Mr. Brenner had not been appointed to the staff. Mr. Basten said that Mr. Brenner had been appointed. The Minister stated that the circumstances were explained to the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor said that the grounds were not. The Minister said that after the university authorities were made aware of the facts they did not desire to proceed- with the appointment. The Vice-Chancellor said that the university had not been told the grounds and had in fact made the appointment and had no reason to believe that Mr. Brenner was an unsuitable person for the appointment.
There are very many unsatisfactory features here. If the Minister’s facts, as he recounted them this morning, were so astray, no doubt the facts which were given to him and on which he formed his judg-ment may have been astray or his judgment itself may be astray. Our suspicions in this matter must obviously be aroused, first, from the fact that Mr. Brenner has proved acceptable as a member of the staff of the University of London and, secondly, has also proved acceptable as a member of the staff of the University of Adelaide. The University of Adelaide is quite cautious, by all accounts, in the appointments which it makes. One remembers the account of the procedures which Mr. Rowe, the former
Vice-Chancellor, made in his book, “ If the Gown Fits “. If the objections to Mr. Brenner were political ones, those in particular are matters which the University of Adelaide notes very carefully. It is the only Australian university whose statutes or ordinances preclude its professors from engaging in political activity although not, of course, its lecturers.
It is clear that where there is a dispute on matters concerning persons in this position there should be some way of resolving the dispute. The University of London may be wrong. The University of Adelaide may be wrong. The Minister may be wrong. But there is no way of resolving this matter. This is not the first time that Australia has been brought into international ridicule in academic matters. We remember quite vividly the position of Professor Gluckman last year. He was excluded from the Territory of New Guinea. No reasons were ever given, but the people who know him and worked with him did, in fact, promote and honour him on his return from Australia to the United Kingdom.
I am not suggesting that information should be disclosed if the persons concerned do not wish it. The fact is that there are academic persons who are known to have been excluded from our country and that they are persons who are in apparent good standing in their own countries, chosen by the Australian National University in Professor Gluckman’s case and by the University of Adelaide in Mr. Brenner’s case, to carry out work in Australia or in its Territories. There clearly should now be some procedure by which such persons can be cleared, or some impartial tribunal may review the facts. I make no assumption that the university was wrong or that the Minister was wrong. These are cases which involve questions of civil liberties and professional reputations, quite apart from the reputation of our country, our universities, our civil services and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Two responsible authorities have reached different conclusions. There should be some procedure by which these matters can be settled if either side desires.
It is many years now since members on this side of the House advocated that there should be impartial and continuous tribunals to which access could be gained by persons whose nominees are refused admission to this country, or who are themselves refused naturalization, who are to be deported, or who have been discharged from or demoted or transferred in the Public Service. They should have access, at their own request, to a court. This is yet another example of a conflict which it is impossible to resolve in Australia under our present procedures. There are, I believe, no other Englishspeaking countries in which no tribunals are available to deal with such matters. In the United States and in the United Kingdom there are liberty boards and there are such committees as the Three Advisers. There are many opportunities for judicial review of security decisions. It is high time that in this country we caught up with the methods of preserving freedoms and reputations which English-speaking countries pursue in the Northern Hemisphere.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) started by accusing me of seriously misstating the facts. As he chose to raise the matter tonight, I am very happy to follow him so that the facts can be stated again in more detail than I was able to give at questiontime and also to put the matter, I hope, beyond all dispute. This man, Mr. Brenner, is of a joint German and Irsaeli nationality - rather an unusual combination - who has resided in the United Kingdom for a comparatively short time - since 1956. In June of this year, the Agent-General for South Australia sent to the Commonwealth Migration Officer in London Mr. Brenner’s application to take up an appointment as a lecturer in history at the University of Adelaide. I now find - and this is the only matter in which I was astray at questiontime to-day - that in actual fact Mr. Brenner was appointed by the university in June. I point out that I was replying this afternoon to a question asked completely without notice by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The honorable member gave me no intimation beforehand that he proposed to raise the matter. I said in my reply -
I do not think that he - Brenner - had actually been appointed to the staff.
So it was not a very positive denial at all. After the appointment of Mr. Brenner by the Adelaide university, information was forthcoming from official sources showing, I am sorry to say, that he was unsuitable for admission to this country. I covered that point at question-time to-day. That information having come into the possession of my department on 11th August, a quite senior officer of the department discussed the matter with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Mr. Basten, and explained to him, in general, the circumstances of the case. From inquiries which I made personally this afternoon, I find that the officer put Mr. Basten pretty fully into the picture as to the reasons underlying what subsequently occurred.
Mr. Basten told my departmental officer that the position which the university was offering Mr. Brenner was not a very senior one. I think any university man, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), would agree that, although not unimportant, a lectureship in history is not a very senior post. Mr. Basten went on to say that if Mr. Brenner’s entry were not approved, it would present no serious problem to the Adelaide university. After considering this matter very carefully - I would like to re-assure the honorable gentleman, if it is necessary, that I give all these disputed cases the most earnest, and frequently prolonged, consideration in an attempt to see that justice is done - I decided, on 13th September, against admitting Brenner to Australia for the reasons which I gave to the House at question time this afternoon. I may say - without, I hope, any sense of undue self-justification - that during my period, now exceeding three and a half years, of administering this department 1 have always tried to administer it with a due sense of responsibility.
This Parliament, for very many years, has done what every other Parliament has done. It has vested the Minister for Immigration of the day with very wide discretionary powers. It is all very well for my honorable friend to talk about establishing tribunals, courts of appeal and things of that sort, but he knows as well as I do that there is no country in the world which, if a person from outside applies for an entry vise” and is rejected, gives that applicant from outside a right of appeal to the courts of the country against the exercise of the discretionary power of a Minister or the Executive. So it was nonsensical for my honorable friend to come into the House to-night and put the proposition which he unfolded in this case. It just does not apply.
If the Opposition feels deeply about this case and still has doubts as to the propriety of my action - which was taken, I repeat, after very careful consideration - I will make this offer: If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) cares to see me, 1 shall be quite happy to disclose to him in confidence certain things about Mr. Brenner. I am quite sure that any doubts that the Leader of the Opposition or his colleagues might have about this matter would be completely resolved when I placed this information in their hands. I hope that what 1 have said puts the sequence of events in this case and the effects of it - on which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made such play earlier - once and for all in perspective. What I have said is true. What 1 have said is reinforced by a conversation which I, as well as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), had this afternoon with the Vice.Chancellor of the University of Adelaide.
.- Earlier this evening, while I was endeavouring to obtain information from the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) regarding the contract that has been let by the Reserve Bank for the building of bank premises in Sydney, I was silenced by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I now wish to continue the remarks that I was making at that stage, because I feel that this matter, raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) two or three weeks ago, deserves a much fuller explanation than has been given by either the Governor of the Reserve Bank or the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works. Undoubtedly many questions remain to be answered.
In order to bring the matter up to date with you, Mr. Speaker, let me say that the fact is that the two lowest tenders for the building in Sydney were rejected. The Minister, in one of the statements that he made, advanced what he said could be reasons for the rejection of the two lowest tenders. He said that the rise-and-fall provision in the contract and ability to perform the work could have affected the selection of the tenderers. He said also that the time involved in performing the work could have had some part to play in the rejection of the two lowest tenders. The Minister said that the honorable member for East Sydney and other members on this side of the House were unable to advance proof that there were dishonest practices-
-Order! The honorable member may address himself to this subject matter, but I ask him not to revive a debate.
– I am not reviving any debate. I am talking about statements that were made-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member must not make any reference to what took place in committee, because we are not aware of that. I am giving him guidance as to what he should do and say.
– The Minister has insisted that the honorable member for East Sydney produce proof of his allegation or suggestion that dishonest practices might have been involved in the letting of the contract. I suggest that it is not up to the honorable member for East Sydney or any other member of the Opposition to prove that there were dishonest practices. It is up to the Government or the Governor of the Reserve Bank to prove to the Opposition and the Parliament that everything was above board in the letting of this contract. In most instances, the lowest tender is accepted. It is acknowledged that the architects for the bank were architects from the Department of Works. If the usual procedure had been followed in this instance, those architects would have suggested to the Reserve Bank who should be asked to tender for the project. They would have selected builders because they believed that those builders were capable of performing the work. When the tenders were opened and considered, the architects should have been there to advise the Reserve Bank authorities on which tenders should be accepted. The Minister has indicated, in two or three statements made over the last couple of weeks, that he cannot give any specific reason why the two lowest tenders were rejected.
If the Minister is not prepared to state why one of the two lowest tenders was not accepted he leaves us with no option but to ask questions about the matter. We must have this information, because £40,000 of public funds is involved. If the Minister contends that the sum of £40,000 is not very important - he has said as much in answer to questions - I would refer him to the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June, .1961, wherein reference is made to the fact that overpayments amounting to £41,307 arose from departmental overassessment of the value of work completed or. two contracts. The Auditor-General states -
Subject to these overpayments, the Department issued further instructions, re-stating and amplifying the procedures to be followed in the preparation of progress payments and emphasising the responsibilities of personnel associated with the preparation of progress assessments for the purpose of such payments.
If the Auditor-General considers that £41,000 is worth remarking upon, surely the Minister will agree that the acceptance by the Reserve Bank of a tender £40,000 higher than two other tenders is worth inquiring into and that this Parliament deserves to be told why the two lowest tenders were rejected.
The Minister has never indicated exactly why one of those tenders was not accepted. On one or two occasions he has hinted vaguely at the reasons. I ask the Minister: What is he or the Governor of the Reserve Bank attempting to hide? Architects from the Department of Works were closely associated with the calling of tenders and their acceptance for this project. They must know what transpired. Has the Minister asked any of his architects whether they are satisfied that the tender accepted by the Reserve Bank is the best possible tender taking into consideration the time aspect, the price, the rise-and-fall clause, ability to perform the job and the financial stability of the contractors? Are his departmental architects satisfied with al! those things or are there some hidden reasons why one of the lowest tenders was not accepted?
The firm whose tender has been accepted is a Victorian firm. In view of the political situation as affecting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and one or two members of the
Australian Country Party, including the Deputy Prime Minister, all of whom are likely to be opposed at the election by independent Liberal Party candidates or independent Country Party candidates, and also in view of the fact that financial backers of the Liberal Party are not coming forward as quickly as they might at this stage, we are entitled to ask whether this contract was let for a political reason. Was the contract let in an effort to boost the Government’s standing in Melbourne or in an effort to obtain finance for the Government’s election campaign?
– I rise to order! Earlier in the sitting, in committee, the honorable member for Lang made the very statement that he is making now. I invite your attention, Sir, to Standing Order No. 71, which reads -
No Member shall allude to any debate . . . nor to any speech made in Committee except by ;he indulgence of the House for personal explanation.
I ask for your ruling.
– Order! 1 have told the honorable member for Lang that he may not revive the debate. He has the right when speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House to deal with any subject matter that he wishes to discuss, but if he endeavours to recapitulate anything that took place in committee he wil i be out of order. 1 think he is aware of that.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I feel that we are entitled to have from the Government or the Governor of the Reserve Bank the answers to certain questions. Are there any improper practices involved in the letting of tenders by the Reserve Bank or by any Commonwealth departments? Why is it that firms whose tenders have been rejected have not been given reasons for the rejection of their tenders? Is this because the reasons would not bear exposure to the light of day? Is it because some favoritism was displayed in the selection of the firm that received the contract or is it because the firms that submitted the two lowest tenders were not customers of the Reserve Bank? Are any of those matters the real reasons why those tenders were rejected?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Mr. Speaker, I rise to assert the rights - not the sublime rights of a lecturer from London University but the ordinary rights - of simple and humble citizens. It is a mundane matter affecting their liberty but a matter that is perhaps of some importance to them. I refer to the gross and despotic abuse of power displayed by certain officers of the New South Wales Police Force to two very simple new Australian citizens. The matter is, I think, of some concern because the people involved have come from countries where the Gestapo is not unknown and it is rather disappointing for them to be faced with the same kind of situation in this country.
Naturally, these people do not like publicity and I will not refer to them by name. An alarming feature of this matter is that they are afraid that if they come forward they may be persecuted by the police. I shall refer to the two people concerned in this matter as Mr. A. and Mr. B. My information comes from a person whom I am proud to know as a friend. He is a new Australian and his evidence is impeccable. If required I will give his name in due course to the Minister concerned. Let me quote briefly what my new Austraiian friend has to say about this matter, because he is very familiar with the details of it. He states that Mr. A., whose name he gave me -
Mr. B. and Mr. B.’s son in law with their share in the late afternoon. Shortly afterwards a stranger came to the door and introduced himself as a friend of one of the men who had shared the wine. He said he wanted to buy a gallon of wine. The request was refused. The owner of the viae said that he wanted the wine for himself and asked why did the stranger not go to his friend who had allegedly sent him if he wanted some wine. The visitor replied that his friend lived too far away and that he himself lived in- a certain street, the name of which he gave me - and that he would be inconvenienced if he could not get a gallon of wine now. The man was very insistent and eventually Mr. A. allowed himself to be persuaded to sell a gallon of wine to his visitor. The wine was charged at slightly less than the cost price to make a round sum and a deposit of 4s. was asked for a demijohn.
An hour later when the seller was already in bed the stranger came back with local police. He introduced himself as a sergeant of the Vice Squad. He went up to the room where the householder slept and arrested him. The man had to dress in the presence of the policemen. The house was searched and the wine declared forfeit. The man was taken to the local police station, fingerprinted, charged with selling liquor without a licence and released on £30 bail. He was told that he would have to appear at the Licensing Court to face the charge.
My friend then was advised to go to the court when the case came up and listen to what the police had to say. He did this and asked one of the neighbours who had known the migrant family for years to accompany him. He goes on to say -
The defendant pleaded guilty on the advice of his solicitor, who said that technically an offence had been committed. In the course of proceedings the police witness was asked by the defendant’s solicitor whether there had been any suspicion of sly-grogging on the part of the accused. The witness replied with a clear and simple “ No “. Asked why the police had taken action at all, he replied that it was well known that the national group to which the defendant belonged did that sort of thing. A fine of £15 was imposed.
The other case - the case of Mr. B. - was on all fours, at least in all important respects, with that case. Mr. A. is a constituent of mine. He lives in a very respectable home in one of the best parts of my electorate. He is a member of a good family. He is obviously a middle-class person. He is a naturalized Australian citizen and after a hard struggle in this country he has made a home for his wife and family. One of his sons is employed in a bank in Sydney. Another son is attending one of our universities.
I have no doubt that legally the police were fully entitled to take the action that they did, but it seems to me, and I hope it will appear so to the public, that this was a shocking outrage. I am giving publicity to the matter in the hope that public opinion will be brought to bear upon this kind of thing. It was perfectly apparent to the police, or to anybody - I myself have visited both these people - that they live in decent homes in decent suburbs. There was no question whatever of their disappearing from those homes. In fact, the wife of one )f them - Mr. B. - when bail was demanded produced a bank book showing that her husband had a credit balance of £600. He was obviously a respectable working man. and it was perfectly obvious that these people would not disappear or run away. There was not the slightest need to arrest them, there was not the slightest need to fingerprint them, and there was not the slightest need to drag Mr. A. out of his bed at night and take him to the police station and to require £30 bail before releasing him. In this case, a summons would have been perfectly adequate and the fine should have been absolutely nominal.
If this is the way we are to treat our new citizens, we cannot be surprised if they believe that they have come to a country that is not unlike the countries in which they lived before. These are the very methods of the Gestapo. I think it is a disgrace to this country that this kind of thing should happen. It is oppressive, it is tyrannical, it is absolutely wrong.
– Why should they have to be finger-printed, in any case?
– As the honorable member asks: Why should they have to be finger-printed and treated as if they were criminals who had committed serious crimes? I have raised this matter, as I have said, in the hope that public opinion will ensure that this kind of thing does not happen in the future. It makes my blood boil, it nauseates me to find men bullying poor simple folk who are afraid to take any action in their own defence. If this had happened to you, Mr. Speaker, or to me, we would have known how to meet it, but it is a deplorable, bullying action, when it is applied to people without status in the community, poor, humble people; and I hope that the publicity I have given to the matter will ensure that this kind of thing does not continue to happen to our new citizens.
– On an occasion when honorable members on both sides of the House are endeavouring to induce more liberal and generous treatment of individuals who may offend against the standards of the more restrictive and conservative of us, I feel pleased at having heard from the honorable member for
Bradfield (Mr. Turner) the statement of the cases he has submitted to the House. It leads me to refer again to a matter that was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I am not sure whether honorable members on the Government side are satisfied with the position as it rests. Certainly we on this side are not satisfied, and nobody on reading the press reports of what took place could be satisfied. I submit that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has misled the House in three ways.
– If the Minister will be content to listen for a moment I think I can demonstrate that he has. First, in answer to a question this afternoon, he said in this House -
I do not think he had actually been appointed to the staff of the Adelaide University.
It turns out that this man had been appointed to the staff of the university. The Minister’s explanation is acceptable to me, for he said -
I do not think that he had actually been appointed to the staff.
Such a statement does not suggest any attempt to mislead in any way, but when we come to the next two points we do begin to suspect that something is wrong. The Minister said this afternoon that the circumstances had been explained to the Vice-Chancellor in Adelaide - those were his actual words - but he did not say that they had been explained in a general way. He merely said that the circumstances had been explained. It now appears from the statement of the Vice-Chancellor himself that the member of Mr. Downer’s staff had not told him the grounds on which this might be done but left it as a general statement. The Vice-Chancellor said -
Subsequently I was informed that an entry permit would be refused.
Again the grounds were not stated. I suggest that the circumstances were not explained to the Vice-Chancellor, and I cannot understand how the Minister in charge of the Department of Immigration could give the House the impression this afternoon that the circumstances were explained if they were not. Presumably there was no indication of the grounds, and the circumstances just were not explained. Therefore, the Minister’s statement this morning was quite contrary to the facts.
The third point on which I submit the Minister misled the House this morning is the most significant of them all. This morning, the Minister said quite emphatically and advisedly -
So far as I know he fully agreed that the information which was given to him justified the conclusions reached, and the information now at my disposal-
This is quite definite - shows that after the university authorities were made aware of the facts they did not desire to proceed with Mr. Brenner’s appointment.
In other words, the university had changed its mind. The statement made by the ViceChancellor this afternoon is completely contrary to that. The Vice-Chancellor says, in fact, that all this happened after the appointment was made but the University has not changed its mind. Even after the visit by the member of the Minister’s staff, the Vice-Chancellor had no reason to believe that Mr. Brenner was not a suitable person for the position. In other words, I submit that the Vice-Chancellor’s statement is directly contrary to that of the Minister, and the Minister had made no attempt to explain the position this evening.
– You could not have listened to what I said.
– I listened very carefully to what you said. Do you deny that you said that the Vice-Chancellor agreed that the information which was given to him justified the conclusions reached? The Vice-Chancellor says, in fact, that the information did not justify the conclusions; that, as far as he knew, there was nothing which did not justify the university making the appointment. I repeat that this was after the appointment and after the explanation given by the member of the Minister’s staff. I submit that the House should require a further explanation from the Minister. Did he know, or did he believe that the Vice-Chancellor had been informed of the reasons? Did he know, or did he believe that the Vice-Chancellor, after having those reasons explained to him, was then satisfied not to make the appointment? He should give us some explanation because what the Minister says is quite contrary to what the ViceChancellor says. The House is entitled to know more of what happened in this case.
For a very long time now it has been denied that official reports are taken into account when appointments are made to university staffs. It is only now that we have been able to drag from the Government an admission that official reports are taken into account. In this case we have clear proof that an official report of some kind which has not been explained in any way to the employing authorities, and which has not been mentioned to the man who does not receive employment, or to anyone else, has been taken into account. I submit that these official reports are made by people who are not liberal-minded or generous in their attitude, that they are made by people similar to those who were criticized a little earlier to-night by the honorable member for Bradfield - people whose attitudes are restrictive and conservative, people who are likely to object to anyone who has political or social interests which are far from objectionable in any sense of the word. I submit that these official reports emanate from sources which are biased in a great many ways. We know that there are many cases similar to this. Presumably, people are sometimes prevented from coming to this country for certain reasons. We also know that a little while ago a man whose reputation was not very good - I refer to a gentleman named Krupp who came from Germany - was allowed to come into this country. I submit that the Minister in charge of this department at least has some responsibility to inform us of the genera] reasons for refusing entry permits in cases such as that to which I have referred. He should give us some indication of the matters he bears in mind when deciding whether people will be permitted to come here. Without referring to the individual reasons in this case, he should indicate just what he bears in mind in reaching his conclusions.
On the Minister’s own statement, Mr. Brenner has been in London since 1956. Presumably he has been on the staff of the University of London for the greater part of that time. If he has been acceptable to the University of London for six years, why is he not acceptable to the Minister for Immigration in this country?
Isubmit that in six years the University of London would have bad an excellent opportunity to ascertain a great deal more about Mr. Brenner than the Minister for Immigration in Australia knows on the basis of an official report. Whatever information was available in that report would be available also to the University of London. Apparently Mr. Brenner was good enough to be able to retain his position in London for six years and also to obtain an appointment to the University of Adelaide. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has submitted, the University of Adelaide is well known for its cautious, if not conservative, attitude to the appointments it makes.
– That is your opinion.
– I believe that is a fairly general opinion amongst academic people. If the honorable member for Corangamite refers to academies in Australia, he will find that what I have said is true. If the University of Adelaide is satisfied after the inquiries it naturally would make, there is at least a presumption that we should know more about the Minister’s objections.
We have been discussing the appointment of a man to a university position which, although it is not a senior position, is important and significant. That appointment cannot be taken up because of an official decision of which no one has any knowledge other than the officials who made it. There is a wrong tendency to believe that, because no answer is ever given in these cases, the case against the applicant is unanswerable.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.28 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
These dividends represent an average return of £141,636 per annum over each of the last ten years, or a rate of just under 3 per cent. per annum on the average capital available to the commission over this ten-year period.
These rates are all lower than those payable by Ansett-A.N.A. on its loans.
m asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What are the figures of expenditure incurred by his department on behalf of the services departments in each State in the last financial year corresponding to the figures he quote . 1 for the previous financial year on 27th April, 1961, as shown in “ Hansard “ on page 1277?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I recently replied to a similar question, the answer being included in page 681 of “Hansard” for 30th August, 1961. I regret that I canonly reiterate the information then furnished to the effect that a detailed analysis is impossible as the State in which a contract is let and inwhich payment is made is not in itself an indication of the source of the commodity. Merely to indicate the States in which actual payments are made is misleading.
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. As previously explained, the estimated cost of restoring the Sydney General Post Office clock and tower is £130,000.
Although £4,432,000 was spent on Post Office buildings last year and the proposed allocation this financial year is £4,800,000, there are still many essential postal and telecommunication projects to be put in hand throughout the Commonwealth. In my view, there is no case whatever for incurring expenditure of £130,000 on the clock and tower restoration while there are other works of much higher priority in need of funds.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What changes in (a)the beneficial ownership of the shares in television companies, and (b) the memoranda or articles of association of television companies has he (i) been asked to approve, and (ii) approved?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Changes in the beneficial ownership of shares in companies to which licences have been granted for commercial television stations and in the memoranda and articles of association of these companies which have been approved by the Minister are set out in the following statements. The first statement contains also details of new share issues made by licensee companies since the date of the grant of their licences. The original shareholdings in Melbourne stations, in the eighth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ending 30th June, 1956, and in respect of the Brisbane and Adelaide stations, in the eleventh annual report of the board for the year ending 30th June, 1959. It is appropriate to point out that extensive details relating to shareholdings in companies holding licences for commercial television stations are published each year in the annual reports of the board.
CHANGES IN THE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP OF SHARES APPROVED BY THE MINISTER.
Station - ATN, Sydney. Licensee - Amalgamated Television Services Pty. Ltd. - The licence was granted on 1st December, 1955. The company originally was comprised of four groups of shareholders. With the Minister’s consent, new issues of shares increasing the issued capital from £794,118 to £1,491,118 were made to three additional groups of shareholders as follows: -
The following changes in the beneficial ownership of shares were approved by the Minister on the dates indicated: -
TV Limited in exchange for 50;000 (10s.) shares in that company. In the latter- part of 1960 the capital of the licensee company was increased to 2,898,000 shares of 10s. each by a “ one-for-two “ share issue. On 10th September, 1958, the Minister approved of the purchase by Consolidated Press Holdings Limited of 20,000 shares held in the licensee company by Newcastle Broadcasting Company Proprietary Limited.
The only case in which the Minister refused approval was that in which The Herald and Weekly Times Limited proposed to acquire 40,000 shares in Brisbane T.V. Limited from Consolidated Press Holdings Limited. The Minister refused approval for this transaction because at the time it appeared to him that the extent of the voting rights of The Herald and Weekly Times Limited in companies holding licences for commercial television stations exceeded that permitted by the Broadcasting and Television Act1960, which had been enacted shortly before his approval was sought. Subsequently, as indicated hereunder, the articles of association of Brisbane T.V. Limited were altered to provide that no person would be permitted to exercise more than 15 per cent. of the voting rights in that company. In consequence of this amendment, the extent of the voting rights of The Herald and Weekly Times Limited no longer exceeded that permitted by the act and the Minister could not then refuse approval for the acquisition of the shares in question by The Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
CHANGES IN MEMORANDUM AND ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION APPROVED BY THE MINISTER.
Note.- Apart from the above changes, each licensee company has amended its articles of association to comply with the provisions of section 92g of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942- 1960 and, in each case, after being satisfied with the amended provisions, the Minister gave his approval pursuant to section92g (2.) of the act.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
My department does not maintain a record of the votes recorded by political parties. However, the printed statistical returns showing the number of votes recorded by individual candidates are available at the Chief Electoral Office or at the principal libraries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610927_reps_23_hor33/>.