24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.54 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs lay on the table of the House the text of the two resolutions which, according to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, were adopted in the political committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations relating to the banning of nuclear weapons? Will the Minister also indicate the attitude of the various member countries to those two resolutions?
– I have been giving some consideration to the question of how I might make available to honorable members texts of resolutions passed in the United Nations, together with the names of the countries which vote pro or con, or which abstain. So far, my inclination is to provide copies of these resolutions soon after I receive them and to place them on the table of the Library. I would do so in order that honorable members might have access to them there rather than that we should clutter up the table of the House with them. I will certainly take this course with respect to the particular resolution that the honorable gentleman brings to my attention. I have also thought of supplying the libraries of Australia with copies of these resolutions so that they may be available to the public, although, when I examine the matter more closely, I recognize that such a course might prove to be beyond the resources of my department.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether the Government has received any request from India for arms and military supplies and whether, in the event of such a request being made, the Government will look at it promptly and sympathetically?
– Consultations are proceeding in Delhi in which our capacity to supply military equipment is being made known to the Indian Government. No request to the Australian Government from the Indian Government for any military assistance or any military material has yet emerged. If such a request is received it will be dealt with urgently by the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Have serious differences of opinion arisen between a member, or members, of the Tariff Board and the Government? If so, what is the nature of the differences? Has any member of the Tariff Board resigned or threatened to resign?
– No serious differences have arisen between the Tariff Board and the Minister or between the Tariff Board and the Government. A member of the Tariff Board has intimated his desire to resign-
– Is it the chairman?
– If the honorable gentleman will be courteous enough to let me finish he will know. A member of the Tariff Board has intimated his desire to resign. The Government has indicated its willingness to approve the termination of his appointment. By an arrangement proposed from overseas it is intended to make a simultaneous announcement of this both in Australia and overseas to-morrow evening. Because this request has been made from overseas, and approved by me, I propose to make an announcement to-morrow evening.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister I refer to public statements made in the last few days by him and by the Leader of the Opposition regarding nuclear disarmament. First, I ask him whether it is a fact that Russia at this time possesses a great preponderance of forces armed with conventional weapons and whether, in view of this, it is the policy of the Government to promote and support moves for disarmament only when those moves take into proper account both types of weapons and, of course, also provide for adequate international inspection. Secondly, will the Prime Minister distinguish between nuclear disarmament and what is termed a “ nuclear test ban “? Thirdly, will the right honorable gentleman assert the interests of the Australian Government in world peace that is consistent with the liberties of free people?
– I will try to deal with those matters in the order in which the honorable member has put them. It is, I believe, quite true that what we are pleased to call the conventional forces of the Soviet Union are immensely powerful, and if there were no other forces in Europe the power of the Soviet Union to overrun that continent would, I think, be clear. It is for that reason that we have always insisted, in our own arguments both at Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conferences and elsewhere, that to talk of disarmament solely in terms of nuclear weapons is to abandon a position the abandonment of which would expose us to very great danger. We have, therefore, always put the view that any programme of disarmament should be conducted in balance. We believe that by such a balanced programme, both nuclear and non-nuclear armaments would be reduced in an orderly way, ultimately perhaps to the point of extinction. We have made our view on this point quite clear, because of the very danger that the honorable member referred to in the third part of his question.
At a Prime Minister’s conference last year we passed a resolution on disarmament, which we re-affirmed this year, and in that resolution we pointed out that the first practicable step towards a measure of disarmament would be an agreed abandonment of nuclear testing, with, of course, effective inspection and verification on both sides. So far the Soviet Union has resolutely opposed any such step, because it will not have any inspection, alleging that it would be a form of espionage. We remain strongly of the opinion, as, indeed, I am sure the great western nuclear powers do, that the abandonment of testing by an agreement which could be made effective would be a first-class step towards the easing of tension in the world. We hope that this view will continue to be held. Apart altogether from the abandonment of testing, I do not think anybody so far has been bold enough to propose that nuclear weapons, as they now exist, should themselves be abandoned, because this would give rise to the very imbalance that has been referred to by the honorable member.
– I ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs, supplementary to that asked him by the honorable member for Perth. In view of India’s determination to acquire military aid only on a commercial basis, so as not to jeopardize her unalined status, has the Government considered arranging assistance to India on an acceptable commercial basis? In particular, has the Government considered extending credit terms to India, at least to the extent that credit terms have been extended by Australia to India’s neighbour, China?
– As I said in answer to the honorable member for Perth, we have made known our capacity and, in the broad, our willingness to make arrangements, and we await a request. It will be dealt with when it is received, whether it is for a commercial transaction for cash or for one on a credit basis.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he aware that in the last three weeks there have been considerable imports of pig meats from New Zealand, amounting to approximately 1,100,000 lb.? Will the Minister pay very close attention to these imports in order to ensure that the present price to the Australian producer is not depressed, as pig producers have until recent months had two years of very low prices?
– The latest information I have on imports of pig meats, either canned or fresh, from New Zealand is that they have been on a very low level. As far as I understand the position, the market is not over-supplied, and the imports should not depress the price so long as they are not excessive. The honorable member’s suggestion that large quantities of pig meats have been imported is a surprise to me. I will keep the matter under review. I would remind the honorable member, however, that all pig meats from New Zealand are subject to tariff duties. If the duties are. insufficient, the industry can always make an application to the Tariff Board for further assistance.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Has the Government taken any interest in the dispute in Sydney between representatives of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited? The organizations, I understand, operate under a charter from the Commonwealth. As these two organizations, which are in partnership, control millions of pounds on behalf of contributors - I believe there are over 900,000 contributors - will the Prime Minister, if he can, intervene on behalf of the contributors to ensure that their interests are safeguarded, and particularly to ensure that, as a result of the wrangle, contributions which are already high will not be increased?
– I have not had an opportunity to-day to discuss this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Health. I agree with the honorable member that this matter is important and troublesome. However, I will be having a discussion with the Minister for Health later, and afterwards I will take the earliest opportunity to answer the honorable member’s question.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Last November in his policy speech the Prime Minister said that, when legislation on restrictive trade practices had been prepared, it would be introduced and allowed to remain open for public examination and criticism for six months. Will the Attorney-General assist the House to reconcile the Prime Minister’s statement of last November with his own statement a fortnight ago that the Government had made no promise to introduce restrictive trade practices legislation?
– I do not see any inconsistency between the two statements that requires to be removed. The second statement indicates that, if and when legislation is brought to the House, there will be sufficient time for the community to evaluate it, to make comments about it and for the Government to make any necessary adjustments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. Is it a fact that concern has been expressed regarding the high percentage of deaths by suicide amongst ex-servicemen covered by the Repatriation Department’s statistics? What steps have been taken, or are proposed, to investigate this area of distress and to ensure that departmental psychiatry services are adequate?
– This matter was referred to in the annual report of the department. I presume that is where the honorable member obtained his information. A statement also appeared in the metropolitan press in both Sydney and Melbourne, and I think in Brisbane. The press reports tended to overemphasize, and I am afraid to exaggerate, the point that was raised. The statistics which were provided showed an analysis of the deaths of ex-prisoners-of-war over a period of years, and it is a fact that reference was made to 65 deaths that occurred by people taking their own lives. These principally occurred in the first five years after the war. Taken out of context, the figures give quite a wrong impression. There was a wide variety of other causes of death. For instance, there were more than 94 deaths through road accidents. I do not think it right to take one cause of death and overemphasize it, as was done in the press statements that I read. A medical investigation into the health of ex-prisoners-of-war was undertaken by my department shortly after the war. A survey was made in which 12,000 ex-prisoners-of-war were medically examined and interviewed. As the result of that survey medical brochures which assist in the treatment for ex-prisoners-of-war at the present time were drawn up. I assure the honorable member that careful consideration is being given to the treatment of eligible ex-prisoners-of-war and of all eligible ex-servicemen, and that there is no need for him to worry about the matter he has raised.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is he in a position to afford the House further information in regard to the present negotiations relating to Britain’s proposed entry into the European Economic Community and the reported breakdown of negotiations at Brussels recently, particularly in respect of matters that affect members of the British Commonwealth of Nations?
– I have no authoritative information on the matter at this moment, but I realize the interest which all honorable members have in it. Whether I make the statement or arrange for my colleague, the Minister for Trade, to make it, we certainly will, before the next break in the sittings of the Parliament, take the opportunity to bring the picture up to date as well as we can.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to farm management clubs, which I consider will play a most important part in the future economic welfare of many of our primary industries. Has the Minister any information regarding the success or otherwise of groups of farmers who have formed farm management clubs in various parts of Australia? Will he consider asking the relevant section of his department to investigate fully the results achieved by these clubs, and present its findings to members of this House in the form of a report?
- Mr. Speaker, we have had good reports of the work of farm management clubs; but I shall have to seek the information which the honorable member requires, because such clubs come under the auspices of State departments of agriculture. I shall see what information I can obtain for the honorable member, and for other honorable members who may be interested.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Will he outline the action his department is planning in order to protect Australian primary industry against disastrous trade losses in the event of the European Economic Community, with the United Kingdom as a member, failing to provide any of the guarantees which are so important to the future development of Australian primary industries? Is it a fact that The Six, headed by Germany and France, are already most active in extending trade to Asian, South African and South American markets? Finally, is this effort in fact beating Australia to the punch in the development of future trade with these areas, particularly Asia, to the detriment of Australian interests?
– Quite frankly, in answer to a question without notice, I do not think I can do full justice to the matter which the honorable member has raised. If he would study the speeches made by the Prime Minister, and those made by myself and other spokesmen for the Government on this subject he would find his question answered.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Will he inform the House whether it is a fact that the Amalgamated Engineering Union is merely a branch of the United Kingdom union and, further, whether the United Kingdom branch instructed the Australian branch of the union to withdraw an application for a court-controlled secret ballot for the election of officers of the union? Did the Australian branch of the union, in following those instructions, apply to the Commonwealth Industrial Court accordingly? Has the court now decided the issue and, if so, did the court consider the legality of an Australian union being subservient to an overseas union?
– The Amalgamated Engineering Union of Australia is affiliated with the Amalgamated Engineering Union in the United Kingdom and, in some respects, there is a right of appeal, particularly in relation to the right of members inter se, from the Australian union to the United Kingdom central executive of the union. As to the second question asked by the honorable gentleman - or perhaps I should say the second and third questions because, if he does not mind my saying so, they should be taken together - the council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union did apply for a court-controlled ballot in relation to the election of the president, Mr. Horsborough, and one other officer, and there was an appeal by some rank-and-file members to the central executive in the United Kingdom against that exercise of the council’s right. The Industrial Court has, I think very rightly, held that the central executive in the United Kingdom has no right to interfere with the administration of the Australian Amalgamated Engineering Union in matters of every-day administration.
– It did not say that.
– Yes, it did say that. In its decision the word used was “ administration “. The second important point was that there was a much stronger case for holding that the central executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in the United Kingdom had no right to interfere when the right was conferred upon the Australian executive by an act of the Australian Parliament. To me, as Minister for Labour and National Service, the most important point that emerges from this decision is that the secret ballot legislation of the Commonwealth Government has been upheld; that both the council of the union and the rank and file have the right to use that legislation, to get the benefit of it, and so to keep Communists from dominating Australian trade unions.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is true that during the last three months importations of motor parts have increased by over 140 per cent. Have the Australian manufacturers of motor parts applied to the Government to take action to defend their industry against activities that they consider to be unfair and to be endangering the very existence of the motor parts industry in Australia? Will the Government take such action at an early date?
– I am not familiar with the statistics to which the honorable member referred in the first part of his question. I will ascertain the facts and let him have them. I am not aware whether an approach has been made to the Government by the interests referred to by the honorable member. There is, as honorable members well know, an arrangement under which a particular industry can establish a panel and make to the Department of Trade representations designed to secure a reference to the Special Advisory Authority of a request for protection. Such an approach may have been made to the Department of Trade in this instance; I do not know. If it has been made, it has not yet reached ministerial level. I will inform the honorable member promptly when any such approach has been made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the announcement by the Minister that the first of the new “ J “ ships now being built by Evans Deakin in Brisbane is to be named “ Jeparit “. I ask: When is it expected that the ship will be launched, and will there be a ceremony to mark the occasion? Is the name “ Jeparit “ taken from the progressive Victorian town which is the birthplace of the right honorable the Prime Minister?
– There is a new line of ships to commence with the letter “ J “, and it is quite right that the first one will be named the “ Jeparit “, after the birthplace of the Prime Minister. It is being built in Brisbane at the present time, and will be launched, I think, in eight months or so. I think it is a very happy augury that it should be named after the birthplace of one who, after all, has steered this country through storms into peaceful waters during the last thirteen years.
– Has the
Minister for Primary Industry seen London reports that Canada and Australia might reduce or stop grain shipments to Communist China in view of the fighting between China and a member of the British Commonwealth? Can the Minister confirm or deny these reports?
– I have not seen the reports, nor do I know anything about them.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that his department is holding relatively large parcels of unimproved land close to capital cities. Have various local authorities sought the release of such land to meet the accelerated demand for areas for civic development? Can the Minister give an assurance that land held is subject to regular appraisal to ensure that it is needed for the genuine long-term programme of the Army?
– I think I have previously explained in this House that we have demands upon land in capital cities, and we have a special committee which sits continuously to examine this problem. I can assure all honorable members that any land that is not needed for the purposes of the Army is handed back for the use of the civilian population.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information concerning the move made by Brazil at the United Nations to have Latin America declared a nuclear-free zone? If the Minister has any such information will he give it to the House? Will he also give some indication of what the Government’s attitude will be to this matter when our delegates address themselves to it before the United Nations? Does he recollect that the declaration of a nuclear-free zone is the policy of the Australian Labour Party?
– I recognize that leaving this country defenceless as far as any nuclear capacity is concerned appears to be the policy of the Australian Labour Party. As for the resolution recently passed in the United Nations, I told the Leader of the Opposition that I would place a copy of the resolution and particulars of the voting on the table in the Library. If it is of any help to the honorable member, I shall furnish him with a copy of the statement made by the Australian delegate on the resolution and in explaining his vote.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been directed to a report which has been given some prominence, particularly in New South Wales, that Army exercise “ Nutcracker “ has had a high casualty rate? The figures cited were two killed and 100 injured, and the number of troops taking part in the exercise was stated to be 800. Is it not a fact that 8,000 troops are carrying out the exercise and that, of the two fatalities, one concerned a man missing at sea during the exercise “ Springtide “, and the other concerned the unfortunate death of a soldier when a scout car overturned? Is the Minister in a position to comment on the report of a high injury rate?
– I saw some press reports about this matter, and we have had it investigated. There has been no undue proportion of injuries, considering the number of troops engaged in this exercise compared with the number engaged in any other exercises. Most of the injuries, of course, were very minor ones. A Sunday newspaper reported that two men were killed. The suggestion that they were killed in the exercise was quite an error. One death occurred before the exercise began, and in the other instance a man who was on leave is missing. We do not know what happened to him, but it is presumed that he went out in a boat and was drowned. I repeat that this incident occurred while the man was on leave and not during the exercise ashore.
– I address my question to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that successive Directors-General of Army Medical Services in Australia have advised the Government that the outdated system of military medical care based on repatriation hospitals does not meet Army medical requirements for modern warfare? Has the Government rejected the Army’s proposal to acquire the old Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for use as an Army hospital and an Army medical college? Is any provision made in the current three-year defence plan to remedy the lack of technical training for Army medial personnel?
– I think that the honorable member refers to an article that appeared recently in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “. It is quite true that the Army submitted to the Government a proposal that we take over the old Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for use as an Army hospital. The Government has examined this proposition carefully, and it is still being considered. But other things are going on, too. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you will allow me just to refer to this article in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “. It states -
Two years ago in these columns we set out the argument in favour of coordination of the armed forces medical services with special reference to pooling resources in hospitals, medical equipment, training, &c.
This journal states that two years ago in its columns it advocated this. Well, three and one-half years ago we in the Department of Defence appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Surgeon Rear-Admiral Lockwood, which numbered among its members the directors-general of medical services of the other two forces. The committee has done a tremendous amount of spade work concerning medical stores and the very matters to which the medical journal refers.
The article in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “ goes on to say -
Apropos of our present subject, the comment was then made that it would seem logical thai, instead of each medical service requiring and competing for its own service hospitals, some of these could be integrated. We know that the army medical authorities have had dreams of the equivalent of the Royal Army Medical College at Millbank or of the Walter Reed Medical Centre at Washington, and this has its attractions and merits. However, it may be more realistic in the light of limited financial resources and small medical services (as compared with British and American equivalents) for the Australian army medical services to try to work out a means of achieving their essential objectives within a coordinated service. If future expansion of the army medical services should set the case for their own centre in a more favorable light, we wonder if a more appropriate place for this may not be further north than Melbourne. Meantime, the idea of a major hospital shared by the three armed Services could be considered.
In the light of that passage from the article, I am sure that the honorable member for Wills, and probably the editor of the journal, will be pleased to know that we have a Medical Rationalization Committee, composed of Rear-Admiral Lockwood, Air Vice-Marshal Wilson, Colonel Gurner and the chiefs of the services, which is chaired by Major-General Refshauge, the DirectorGeneral of Health. We have Group Captain Colquhoun, one of the brightest young senior officers in any of the services, as co-ordinator and as the right-hand man of the chairman. I am delighted to say, also, that Professor Sidney Sunderland has agreed to act on the committee. This committee is already working and is attending to the very things that have been advocated in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “.
– My question to the Minister for Defence is supplementary to that to which he has just replied. Despite all these plans and the array of names he mentioned, is it not a fact that the services, particularly the Army, cannot obtain the medical personnel that they require and that if our services had to send forces overseas they would be woefully short of both medical officers and medical equipment?
– It is true that the Army is shorter than it would like to be of fully qualified doctors. It is not true to say that the Army is short of equipment. If the proposition were that we were going to war and were sending troops overseas, then, of course, we would recruit or conscript doctors. In the meantime, we have in the Citizen Military Forces, and on the reserve of officers many of the best doctors in Australia. We are conducting a scholarship scheme for the training of medical graduates who afterwards pass into the services. We are doing everything that we can reasonably be expected to do to strengthen the medical services of the three arms of the defence forces.
– Recently the Minister for Air disputed claims which had been made concerning the capabilities of a Russian-built bomber. Does the Minister still stand by the statements he made to the House a fortnight ago concerning this Russian aircraft?
– During the debate on the Estimates a fortnight ago I said that the statements contained in a Sydney newspaper to the effect that the Badger aircraft had the capability to bomb any city in south-east Australia was incorrect. The figures which I cited were supplied to me by my departmental officers. At my request they have checked the figures and they are certain that there is no need to amend the information which was given to me.
– Then “ Jane’s “ is wrong?
– “ Jane’s “ is incorrect to a certain extent. I think that even the editors of “ Jane’s “ would be the first to admit that their estimates, particularly of Russian military and civil aircraft, are liable to error. For the interest of honorable members, I have extracted some portions of the report in “Jane’s”, from which honorable members will see that there is a considerable amount of estimating. “Jane’s” claims that the power plants in the Badger aircraft are probably two Mikulin axial-flow turbo-jets, each with a rating of about 9,500 kilograms at sea level; that the total capacity of fuel in wing and fuselage tanks is approximately 10,000 imperial gallons; that the aircraft carry a crew of about seven and that their weight is approximately 175,000 lb. Then “ Jane’s “ gives the estimated performance. It can be seen that the estimates made by “ Jane’s “ are very rough. They are what we would call “ guesstimates “. This is particularly so in the case of aircraft which have not flown outside the iron curtain.
There may have been some misunderstanding when I said that the range of these aircraft with a full bomb load was 2,600 miles. That is nautical miles, not statute miles. I repeat that. Even with a very small bomb load, and assuming that, they could operate from Koepang, these Badger aircraft would not have sufficient range to reach south-east Australian cities. In any case, they cannot operate at present from Koepang because the airstrips there cannot cope with them.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that our overseas trade deficit for the first four months of this financial year was £51,000,000 whereas for the corresponding period last year we had a favorable balance of £61,000,000? To what circumstances is this serious trade decline attributed? What plans are in hand to arrest it? Are our export earnings being frittered away on high freight charges, insurance and other invisibles? If this is so, will the Government consider Labour’s plan for an overseas shipping line of our own and an insurance and export bank to prevent further loss of our export earnings?
– It is true that the balance of trade in the period mentioned was not as favorable as it was in the corresponding period of the previous year. This is explained principally by the fact that a year ago there was a relatively low level of general economic activity in Australia and many people were still drawing upon stocks of imported commodities. By comparison, more recently there has been a high level of economic activity, imports have been greater, and there has been the tendency to build up stocks of imported goods. This accounts in part for the-
– And the figures show that there are fewer exports.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition feels better equipped than I to answer this question let him do so in his own caucus room. He cannot have his own supporters asking me questions and then answer them himself.
– Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to comment on the source of information which enabled certain newspapers throughout Australia to forecast accurately, before its presentation to the Parliament, the details of the three-year defence plan which he announced two weeks ago?
– Yes. After the honorable member asked a question a week or two ago I obtained the newspapers to which he had referred. I came to the conclusion that some of the information in the articles was wrong, as he will know, and that some of it was right. Of the parts which were right, I concluded that some had been deduced by a very intelligent journalist and some, I regret to say, had been given to the journalist, I believe, by persons who were completely unauthorized to do so.
– Can the Minister for Immigration give any reason for the sudden increase in the migration of British subjects to Australia? Does he agree that the people of Great Britain are fearful of the effects of the European Common Market on their freedom and liberty, and that they are turning to Australia? What is the ratio of British migrants to non-British migrants entering Australia?
– I have said on more than one occasion that one of the bright stars in the migration firmament is the very marked upsurge in applications in the United Kingdom to come to Australia.
There are a number of reasons for this, but I do not think that the honorable gentleman is wide of the mark when he attributes a good deal of the increased interest to the uncertainty in the minds of many people in Great Britain following the determination of the British Government to lead its country into the European Common Market. My own opinion is that this tendency will continue. The figures are indeed very stimulating and pleasing from Australia’s point of view.
The honorable gentleman also asked about the proportion of British and non-British migrants. Speaking without the book, in the financial year 1961-62 roughly 52 per cent, of migrants came from the United Kingdom and other British countries, and 48 per cent, from European and other countries. If the tendency to which the honorable gentleman has adverted continues, I should imagine that this year the percentage of British immigrants could be even higher but it is still too early to be definite, and at this stage I would not like to make a statistical percentage prognostication for the current financial year.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Have any discussions taken place with United States authorities regarding reported plans to have a United States Navy ship carrying thermo-nuclear missiles stationed near Albany in Western Australia to service nuclear-armed submarines? If such discussions have taken place will the Prime Minister make a statement on the matter?
– I am bound to say that I have not heard of any such thing, but I will find out from my relevant colleague-
– When will he give it to you?
– I have said that I will find out about it. That seems to be plain English, even for you. I will find out whether there is any truth in this rumour and I will advise the honorable member for Stirling.
– For the information of honorable members I lay on the table the following paper: -
The Commonwealth and Education - Statement by the Prime Minister, 6th November, 1962.
Honorable members will remember that I promised to do this. Copies of the statement will, of course, be available for all honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– I advise the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) that I have ascertained that the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers is in consultation with the Department of Trade to prepare a certain case along the lines suggested in a question asked by the honorable member a little while ago.
– by leave - Two weeks ago to-day President Kennedy, in a televised broadcast, made it known to the whole world that the Soviet Union had been, and was at that hour, swiftly and with secrecy transforming Cuba into an important strategic base. In flagrant contravention of assurances it had given at the highest level and in face of the President’s clear statements of 4th and 13th September, the Soviet Union was rapidly constructing and equipping offensive missile sites and introducing jet bombers which would be capable of striking with nuclear weapons against North and South America. This “clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace “ as it was described by President Kennedy, took the world to the edge of disaster. Disaster was averted only by the prompt and decisive action taken by the United States in conjunction with its regional partners in the Organization of American States, by the use of the machinery of the United Nations, and by the restraint exercised by the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union in the course of negotiations for a peaceful issue to the crisis.
It would be imprudent to assume that the situation is yet fully resolved and its dangers ended. It is, however, possible to put events into some sort of order and perspective even at this stage. Honorable members have been provided with copies of the most important relevant issued documents which they will wish to study, and to which I shall refer.
President Kennedy’s actions were designed:
First, to halt the build-up of offensive capability in Cuba by interdicting supply of further arms and closely watching the construction of the missile sites - with possible further action in mind;
Second, to make clear the consequences of the use of the offensive weapons against any American State; and
Third, to have the missile bases dismantled and removed under effective supervision.
He was willing to negotiate, but would not be diverted from his determination to eliminate urgently the threat built up by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Cuba.
In revealing the awesome threat the Soviet introduction of nuclear-capable weapons into Cuba presented, President Kennedy rightly stressed the fact that modern weapons are so swift and destructive that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace. The Soviet challenge had to be met and the threat removed for the sake of the peoples of the Americas immediately and newly threatened. But not only that. Peoples in many parts of the world are allied for defence with the United States. If the United States had proved unable to defend herself and her LatinAmerican friends against the threat from Cuba how much could peoples thousands of miles away, faced with similar threats and pressures, have relied on United States assurances that she would assist to defend them? The consequences, if the United States had shown weakness over Cuba, would have been profound and far-reaching. The confidence of free peoples everywhere would have been sapped. The Soviet would have succeeded in its monstrous blackmail and would doubtless have repeated the tactic elsewhere to provoke dissension and appeasement throughout the free world.
The Australian Government was quick to make its attitude clear. On 23rd October, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement in this House commending President Kennedy’s resolute stand. In this statement the Prime Minister noted with particular approval the President’s reference to the vital importance of regional defence agreements authorized by the United Nations Charter. He also welcomed the readiness of the United States to bring the matter to the United Nations.
Having been advised in a personal message from President Kennedy to the Prime Minister of the purpose of the resolution that the United States proposed to put to the Security Council - that is, to secure the complete dismantling and withdrawal of the offensive weapons - we instructed our Ambassador to the United Nations to do all in his power to support the passing of such a resolution. President Kennedy has written to the Prime Minister expressing his appreciation of the promptitude of Australia’s publicly stated support.
There was widespread approval of the firmness of the United States’ reaction to this dangerous Soviet challenge. If part of Mr. Khrushchev’s purpose both then and in his subsequent proposals was to split the United States from its friends and allies he was to be disappointed. An immediate meeting of the Organ of Consultation of the Organization of American States endorsed the actions initiated by President Kennedy. The Security Council met from 23rd to 25th October. Draft resolutions were submitted by the United States, by the Soviet Union and by Ghana and the United Arab Republic. The texts will be found in the collection of documents I have tabled.
There was a vital defect in the GhanaUnited Arab Republic proposal. Their draft resolution called for mediation by the United Nations but made no provision which would ensure that the build-up in Cuba would not continue. Similarly, U Thant’s proposals of 24th October that the “ quarantine “ of Cuba, the shipment of arms to Cuba, and work on the missile bases in Cuba should be suspended to allow a breathing space for negotiations provided no guarantees of compliance. The deliberate deception practised by the Soviet Union must be regarded as a primary weapon of Soviet strategy, and it was essential to ensure that it could not be used again. President Kennedy’s demand for verification was thus an integral and essential part of his terms for disposal of the Soviet threat from Cuba. The twelve African States which wrote to the Acting SecretaryGeneral on 25th October recognized the importance of this gap and stressed the need for the guarantee of effective United Nations supervision.
U Thant wrote further to President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev on 25th October asking them, as a temporary measure which would enable negotiations to take place, to avoid confrontation at sea. Chairman Khrushchev agreed, stressing that this must be a temporary measure. President Kennedy also agreed, provided that the Soviet Union also accepted and abided by U Thant’s request.
However, while the risk of a direct clash was reduced by this temporary agreement, the development of the missile sites still continued rapidly. New areas were being cleared on the sites. Approach roads were being built. Missiles which had been observed parked in the open on 23rd October were moved, and cabling was observed running from missile-ready tents to power generators nearby. Attempts were under way to camouflage the work that was proceeding.
Honorable members have copies of messages exchanged between President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev. On 27th October, the president stated the key elements in the chairman’s proposals, which seemed generally acceptable as he, the president, understood them, as follows: -
The United States would agree, when adequate United Nations arrangements to carry out these , commitments were established,
On 27th October the chairman also proposed that the Soviet installations in Cuba should be removed in return for the removal of similar United States equipment in Turkey. President Kennedy ignored the proffered bargain. He made it clear that action to remove the offensive weapons from Cuba was the first imperative, and other questions must not be allowed to obscure or delay this.
Throughout the crisis, the president concentrated unwaveringly on the particular situation at issue and refused to be diverted; but he did so without excluding future negotiation of other issues. While insisting on dealing initially only with the immediate Soviet threat from Cuba, he did not display an attitude of intransigence. The United States, he made clear, was interested in reducing tensions and also halting the arms race, and was prepared to consider with its allies any useful proposals in regard to discussing a detente affecting Nato and the Warsaw Pact; but he added that a prolongation of the discussions concerning Cuba by linking these to the broader questions of European and world security would surely lead to intensification of the Cuban crisis and a grave risk to the peace of the world.
The Soviet Government seems to have realized that the president meant what he said and that the United States would not be drawn into bargaining about extraneous questions, that delay was dangerous and that the only profitable alternative to nuclear war was a quick transition to conciliation in an attempt to reap what credit could be gained from a liquidation of their own threat to world peace. Mr. Khrushchev replied to Mr. Kennedy on the following day, 28th October. He said that the Soviet Government had issued orders for the dismantling of the weapons in Cuba which the United States described as offensive, their crating and return to the Soviet Union. It is to be noted that his formula did not admit that the weapons were offensive in character. He made it clear, however, that the weapons in Cuba were in the hands of Soviet officers. He stated that both he and the president were ready to come to an agreement with representatives of the United Nations to verify the dismantling of the weapons. He said that the Soviet Union had stationed them in Cuba in order that no attack should be made on Cuba, and trusted the president’s statement that no attack on Cuba would be made “ not only by the United States but also by other countries of the western hemisphere”. He spoke also of the questions of regulating relations between Nato and the Warsaw Pact and of wider questions of disarmament and the prohibition of nuclear weapons. He informed the president that the first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Mr. Kuznetzov was being sent to New York to participate in discussions with U Thant.
In a statement on 28th October, President Kennedy welcomed Mr. Khrushchev’s reply as “ statesmanlike “, and he wrote a further message to the Chairman saying that he regarded his own letter of 27th October and the Chairman’s reply of 28th October as firm undertakings on the part of both governments which should be promptly carried out. He hoped that the necessary measures would be taken at once through the United Nations, so that the United States would be in a position to lift the “ quarantine “. There was thus a reasonable prospect that the intention of the United States resolution proposed in the Security Council would be achieved outside it. The council had heard statements by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the other members of the Security Council, and by Cuba, and had adjourned on 25th October to await the outcome of consultations the Acting Secretary-General had entered into with the Soviet and United States representatives. The three proposed resolutions had thus not been brought to vote.
U Thant kept in touch with United States and Soviet representatives, facilitating discussions and acting as a link between them. He al– endeavoured to secure Cuban cooperation in an approach to a peaceful settlement. So far as appears, to this point of time the Cuban Government had not been consulted by the Soviet in connexion with the matter. On 26th October U Thin: wrote to Dr. Castro saying that the latter could make a significant contribution to the peace of the world by directing the suspension of construction and development of major military facilities and installations in Cuba, especially those designed to launch medium range and intermediate range ballistic missiles. Dr. Castro replied that Cuba was willing to discuss its differences with the United States and to do everything in its power in co-operating with the United Nations in resolving the crisis. However, it rejected any violation of its sovereignty. Dr. Castro also invited U Thant to Cuba for direct discussions. On 28th October U Thant accepted the invitation and said he would bring a few aides with him and would hope to leave some of them behind to continue common efforts towards a peaceful solution. He went to Cuba on 30th October and returned on 31st October.
He reported on his return that he was satisfied that the weapon sites were being dismantled, and is reported to have said since then that the United States and U.S.S.R. had reached agreement on the principles for a peaceful settlement of the Cuban crisis. It is also reported that both agree that the facilities of the International Red Cross could be used for the purposes of verification. But it is not clear whether the Red Cross would be able to carry out ground inspection in Cuba or, if it could, whether Dr. Castro would permit it or any agency to do so. At this moment it does appear that work has been done on the dismantling of the bases and that verification of their removal is contemplated.
Some lessons are already beginning to emerge from the dramatic developments of the past two weeks. One derives from the speed and secrecy of the build-up of offensive weapons in Cuba, carried out at a time when the U.S.S.R. was assuring the United States - at the highest level - that any weapons supplied to Cuba were “ earmarked for defensive purposes”. American photographs - which Australian experts have examined - have clearly revealed the offensive capability of the weapons supplied. The deliberate duplicity practised by the U.S.S.R. in this regard, as on other occasions in the past, is an aspect of its actions which has always made negotiations with that country extremely difficult. The fact of this duplicity makes imperative the need for verification of any proposals for disarmament, whether regional or universal. When there is no basis for trust, and the world is driven to the conclusion that there is not, stringent, foolproof safeguards for the fulfilment of negotiated agreements are indispensable. The present experience may possibly prove of great value for the future if it makes all nations realize the absolute necessity of effective verification. The Soviet Union in this case has conceded this and it is to be hoped that the realism it has shown in agreeing to withdraw its missiles from Cuba under United Nations supervision will be matched by equal realism in it’s approach in future to the broader questions of disarmament. For its part, the West has continually attempted to reduce the area over which inspection and verification must be demanded, whenever it can be satisfied by other means that compliance with undertakings is taking place. The hollowness of the Soviet opposition to adequate inspection and verification, on the grounds that such measures are due to a Western desire for espionage in the U.S.S.R., is all too plain if the events I have briefly recited are regarded.
A second lesson derives from the prompt and effective action taken by the United States to nullify the offensive threat to the Americas which was growing so swiftly and secretly. Urgent action to preserve the security of both the Americas was imperative. The United States took that action, in conjunction with its regional partners in the Organization of American States - an act in defence of the region. The Charter of the United Nations recognizes the legitimacy of regional arrangements for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action. The action taken was necessary to deal realistically with the clear-cut aggressive activity which, if allowed to proceed unchecked, could have gravely threatened the United States and its neighbours and thus international security as a whole.
In this crisis the need for and the efficacy of regional defence have been demonstrated. The United States was not alone in the action it took. All the Americas were threatened by the build-up in Cuba and responded by support of the United States action inside and outside the United Nations. Their determination to assure their own security and not to be intimidated by the new menace of nuclear attack was an important factor in the outcome. It is hoped that the Soviet Union has taken the point that its intrusion of nuclear-capable weapons neither disrupted the unity of the American States - or of the West in general - nor inclined them to accept an intolerable situation. In fact, under threat, they came closer together.
A third and very significant lesson derives from the part so far played by the United Nations. The United States properly showed readiness to refer the matter of removal of the military bases to the Security Council. It has shown its clear resolution to have the bases removed by interdicting the delivery of further offensive weapons to Cuba. The United Nations clearly had a role to play, not merely in providing a forum in which the parties could seek to find a peaceful solution to the situation, but in itself actively promoting a basis for such a solution. Recourse to the United Nations offered a way of avoiding an armed conflict which might have escalated into nuclear war; negotiations and discussions were possible in the Security Council - a forum in which the Soviet Union, like the United States of America itself, has a special status. The United States did not regard the mere reference of the question to the United Nations as being in itself a solution or as necessarily producing a solution, and retained the right to act to protect itself and its allies if the United Nations failed to assure them of protection. However, the efforts of the United Nations, and in particular of U Thant, in playing its part and negotiating a means of protecting the proper rights of all concerned and the world as a whole from war, deserve the highest praise. The strength which the initiative and determination of the President provided - a strength which the United Nations would not otherwise have had - has been used to good purpose so far and its use will, I hope, bring a secure solution.
A fourth lesson derives from the evident absence of consultation of the Cuban Government by the Soviet. This points up not only the dependent condition into which Dr. Castro had led his people but the extent to which the Soviet regarded Cuba as merely an instrument for the pursuit of its own policies.
There are grounds for hope that the immediate crisis over the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba will be resolved. But Cuba’s behaviour in aiding and abetting the intrusion of hostile power into the Americas and in trying to foment subversion among its neighbours suggests that Dr. Castro and his régime may still have to be reckoned with. Even if the threat of Soviet offensive weapons is successfully removed, this does not necessarily mean the end of difficulty and trouble with Cuba. The problems of, and prospects for, economic and social development in South America - notably, under the Alliance for Progress - are such that all countries of the area, and outside it, should agree that disruptive influences such as the spread of militant Communist ideology should not be permitted to impede the common tasks of the people. If the economic and social progress we all desire is to be made, it will be necessary for all to resist such disruptive influences by continuing to show the firmness of purpose and restraint which was demonstrated in the crisis over Cuba.
We should also bear in mind the need for vigilance in other parts of the world. Declarations of Soviet desires for “ peace “ and willingness to negotiate for the settlement of wider problems give some hopes for progress in these regards. But there can be no guarantee that the Soviet Union, or other members of the Communist bloc, will not again seek to gain an advantage before or in the course of negotiations that may take place. in an effort to achieve a position from which they might hold the world to ransom. Caution and vigilance will be required until acceptable solutions to the broader questions affecting the peace and security of the world are found.
This does not mean that Australia will not enthusiastically support every bona fide move for the relief of tension and for general and complete disarmament and in the meantime for the cessation of nuclear testing. Australia will continue to do so, but it does mean that every proposal must be examined realistically and due safeguards for performance insisted upon at every stage.
Meanwhile, we may hope that, if the Cuban crisis is successfully resolved - and as I have said we are not yet out of the wood - its resolution may give a new impetus to the search for solutions to these broader questions. The realistic appreciation of American determination shown by the Soviet leaders and their readiness to respond to it could perhaps offer such hope of this. The most important thing now is for the Cuban bases to be dismantled, under proper inspection, in an orderly and systematic way, avoiding further East-West clashes. If this can be done I myself would not exclude the hope that the atmosphere in future may show some improvement over that in the past.
I lay on the table the following paper -
Cuban Crisis- Ministerial Statement, 6th November, 1962 - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1962.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1962.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1962. Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1962.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 25th October (vide page 2023).
Proposed Vote, £5,390,000.
Proposed Vote, £106,459,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed Vote, £14,120,000.
.- In this discussion I shall address my remarks to two items, if time permits. The first item concerns broadcasting and television services, and I wish to discuss the programme “ Four Corners “ conducted by Mr. Michael Charlton and presented on Channel 2. I consider this programme to be one of the best produced since the introduction of television to Australia. At the outset, let me say that any criticisms of this programme are not directed at the commentator, Mr. Charlton, or the choice of subject. Mr. Charlton is to be congratulated on the excellence of his efforts. In fact he leaves little to be desired in regard to production, questioning, choice of subject and the general presentation of his programme. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is fortunate in having a man of his calibre, and many commercial stations could improve the quality of their programmes considerably by the employment of men of talents similar to those of Mr. Charlton. The programme to which I refer is that covering Mr. Charlton’s visit to Moscow. It was excellently produced, and I was interested in the various aspects of life in the Soviet which he presented. To those of us who have had the opportunity to visit the iron curtain countries, the priority given to education, culture and most of the other matters portrayed in Mr. Charlton’s programme did not come as a surprise. It should, of course, be an indication to us in the free world - if I may use that term - that the challenge of Soviet ideology cannot be taken lightly and that unless we in turn adapt ourselves in similar fashion, on a priority basis, to the cause and way of life to which we are dedicated we, too, may in time become sovietized
The programme was excellent as far as it went, but I felt that it did not give a real picture of life in the Soviet Union. I would have liked to see in that programme something of the working conditions of the Soviet people in industry, and to have learned of their hours, wages, holidays and general conditions. The health and hospitalization programme of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would also have been of great interest to me, and, I believe, to most Australian viewers. I believe that, like me, most Australians who have come to accept trade unionism as part of their way of life would have been greatly interested in the Soviet trade union movement and its functions. We would have been interested in interviews with trade union leaders, discussions concerning the conduct of Soviet trade unions, election of officials, interference by the State - if any - and the attitude of trade unionists there generally on the right to strike and other industrial matters. The inclusion of this information would have (improved Mr. Charlton’s programme (Considerably.
Apart from the cultural and educational survey made by Mr. Charlton, I would have liked him to compare every-day life in Australia with life in the Soviet, or with that in any other country the subject of a similar programme. It would have been interesting to have seen on the programme an interview with some one who could give the background of the working of the Soviet parliamentary institution and the rights of minorities in that country. As I said before, I do not make these observations in criticism of Mr. Charlton but as one who believes that an observant and impartial survey of life in the Soviet and other countries should be presented to Australian audiences. I would be interested to hear from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) what preparations were made by Mr. Charlton and by the Australian Broadcasting Commission prior to his visit to the Soviet Union. I would like to know whether he was given full and complete freedom to film all aspects of life in the Soviet Union in the time at his disposal, or whether he was directed upon any particular course where only favorable aspects would be shown to Australian viewers. If Mr. Charlton was not so directed, apart from the time factor, why were not the matters I have mentioned and which I feel are of interest to most Australians portrayed in this Australian Broadcasting Commission telecast? If restrictions were placed on Mr. Charlton, with stipulations as to what might or might not be filmed, could it be said that the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Commission were parties to portraying to Australian audiences a censored programme of every-day life in the Soviet Union?
I believe that a programme of such importance should have covered at least some of the aspects of the Soviet Union that I have mentioned, in order that a clearer picture might be given to Australian audiences. The expense and the distance involved in preparing this programme justified a complete coverage, and that is why I have expressed these views during my remarks on the estimates which we are discussing. I have nothing further to say on this matter except to repeat that I have levelled no criticism at Mr. Charlton, whose programmes I admire in every way. Unless we are given the true background of a country in a programme such as this we are apt to get a false picture. I feel that programmes in this major medium of information should be presented objectively in order to cover all aspects of the country concerned and not just a particular section of its activities. If this is not done, a false picture of what is happening can be presented, with the result that the programme does not do full justice to its subject-matter. 1 wish next to refer to the provision of telephone services. It is now about seventeen years since the end of World War II.; but in my electorate, which includes one of the most heavily industrialized districts in Sydney, people requiring telephones for either business or private purposes have to wait anything up to twelve months before the service is installed. People should not be expected to suffer this delay. I have here a letter dated 12th October, 1962, relating to a big Sydney firm which transferred to my electorate and, prior to taking over its new premises, applied for the installation of a telephone and was given to understand that the installation would be made within a couple of weeks. When the telephone service was not installed the company contacted the Postmaster-General’s Department by telephone, in August, and was given to understand that the service would be available in a few weeks’ time. In a letter dated 24th September, 1962, the department advised the firm that the delay in installation would be from six to nine months. In a letter dated 12th October, 1962, addressed to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Sydney, I stated, with regard to the delay in the installation of this service -
This does appear to be rather a lengthy period to wait for a telephone in such a heavily industrialized area and naturally Mr. Pearson is most concerned in this regard. He informed me that the entire business is transferring to the new premises almost immediately and therefore it will be appreciated that the Company will be severely handicapped in its business operations by the lack of this service.
I subsequently confirmed from the PostmasterGeneral that the department could not provide the required service for from six to nine months, or possibly longer. This is the case of a big company which is waiting for the installation of a telephone service, even a single line. It is a firm located in a heavily industrialized area in Sydney and is employing labour at a time when unemployment in Australia is increasing. It is endeavouring to maintain a reasonable level of production and employment, but has been informed by the department that it cannot have a telephone installed for from six to nine months, or possibly even twelve months.
I do not think that is good enough. I do not blame the technicians of the department but feel that there is lack of planning because delays of this kind are not justified. There are many instances of delay similar to that relating to this firm. A mile or so from the firm I have mentioned resides a war service pensioner who, because of ill health, urgently requires a telephone service. About the middle of lune I was advised that it would be twelve months before this man could get a telephone, although he lives in an area where there should be telephones galore available because people have left the district in hundreds as a result of the housing shortage. As there is only a limited number of homes in this area I feel that all the facilities for installing a telephone service should be available; but this man has been informed that his telephone cannot be installed for a further twelve months.
I do not know whether any provision is made in this year’s Estimates for additional capital expenditure for telephone services for the people in my electorate. I have “iven two instances, one of a big business firm and the other of a war pensioner who because of ill health in his family requires, for medical and other reasons, a telephone service, but cannot get it for about twelve months. I do not know how the PostmasterGeneral or his department can justify such a delay. I ask the Postmaster-General to investigate the position personally in order to see for himself what is occurring in the department and whether there is a need for a complete overhaul of our telephone services to meet immediate requirements. I cannot understand why such a delay in installation of telephone services should exist seventeen years afer the end of World War II. I believe that in metropolitan or country areas people within a reasonable distance of existing telephone exchanges should be able to obtain telephone services without delay. Quite often people complain that their telephones have not been installed although they have been asked to pay the fees involved. There should be a complete review of the capital expenditure on telephone services. We were told, once, that a daily “ Hansard “ could not be provided, and yet that service was given after an investigation of the position was made. I do not see why, after proper investigation, telephones should not be made available immediately on application. I suppose that if you were to go round Sydney there would be countless thousands of people with more than one telephone - some required and some not - but the fact remains that at least one telephone ought to be available on application, particularly to business houses in heavy industrialized areas.
I ask the Minister to give particular consideration to two matters that I have mentioned. I should like to hear his views on the television programme that I spoke of and to know whether it was censored or what restrictions were placed upon it. At the same time I add my commendation of that programme, which was an excellent one with a big following in this country. In regard to the second matter, which is more one concerning my own electorate, I hope the Minister will be able to give some reasonable hope to the people who so urgently require telephones.
.- I wish to speak to the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It is now well over twelve months since the broadcasting of frequency modulation was discontinued, and since that time a number of members of this Parliament - senators and members of the House of Representatives - have had a series of meetings with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and with some of his senior officers. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the PostmasterGeneral for making those discussions possible, because they were very interesting, although, I regret to say, they have not led to the re-introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting.
During those discussions it was pointed out by my colleagues and myself that although frequency modulation broadcasting in other countries was being developed and the service increased, at the same time it had been abolished in Australia. One of the main reasons that were advanced to us for the abolition of this service was that the wave-lengths were required for increased television services that were being provided throughout Australia. I find that hard to reconcile, because other countries, to which I shall refer in a moment just by way of example, are increasing their television services also and, at the same time, increasing their frequency modulation broadcasting.
The officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have informed me that the wave-lengths used previously by the frequency modulation services in Australia were required for use by fixed and mobile services. In countries such as the United States of America, which is a large country with a larger population than ours, the United Kingdom, which has a larger population of much higher density, Western Germany and Austria the authorities are providing fixed and mobile services to the same degree as we are, but, in number, many more. Yet those countries are also increasing their television and frequency modulation broadcasting services! I would like to know why it has become necessary for us to abandon this service.
It has been said to us, in addition, that there is very little demand for frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. I think the position was mis-judged. Even so, the demand has been increasing over the past years, and the manufacturers also have joined the plea that the frequency modulation broadcast service be restored in Australia. I have looked at the estimates under divisions 731, 732 and 733. I assume that the actual responsibility for starting frequency modulation broadcasting again would be with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which comes under division 731. However, from inquiries I have made about the proposed expenditure for the year 1962-63 under this division, it appears that there is no provision for that service. Of course, the provision of this service could come within division 733, “Technical and Other Services “, but once again 1 have made inquiries and I can find no information to suggest that provision has been made in those estimates.
One function of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is to ensure the provision of services by broadcasting and television stations and the transmission of adequate and comprehensive programmes. The functions of the Postmaster-General’s Department include the provision and operation of the technical services of the national broadcasting system, and of the transmitting stations of the national television service. Therefore, it seems to me that the responsibility lies with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to initiate the frequency modulation broadcast service once again and with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide the technical services.
May I just give by way of example some of the results of conversations I had in London with engineers and broadcasting people. Frequency modulation broadcasting in the United Kingdom has certainly been justified. That was the first impression I got from these conferences. Apart from the improved quality of the broadcasts, interference on medium wave in Europe is so serious that in many parts of the United Kingdom very high frequency and frequency modulation broadcasting are the only means of obtaining satisfactory reception. Incidentally, for the same reasons, there are very extensive very high frequency and frequency modulation coverages in almost all countries in Europe, although not all these services are yet as complete as the British Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage. I understand that at the present time the B.B.C. coverage gives a frequency modulation service to something like 99 per cent, of the population. The very high frequency band used in the United Kingdom is at present 88 to 95 megacycles, but we are expecting that it will shortly be extended up to 100 megacycles. The 88 to 100 megacycles band is the one generally in use in Europe. In Australia the 87 to 100 megacycles band is shared by broadcasting with fixed and mobile services, to which I have already referred, and in addition the 100 to 108 megacycles band is allocated exclusively to broadcasting.
In the United Kingdom television has no priority over very high frequency for those bands allocated for very high frequency sound broadcasting and, of course, vice versa. I am not sure of the view of the
Australian Postmaster-General’s Department on this matter, but I should like to hear its comment. The 625-line television services in the United Kingdom will be operated in ultra-high frequency, and the first of these will come into operation in 1964. These ultra-high frequencies will be used for black and white and for colour. The advantages of very high frequency for sound broadcasting are, principally, the reduction of noise; secondly, adequate spacing of channels and therefore absence of interference from adjacent channels; thirdly, a better dynamic range and a better audio frequency range, though for some listeners these are points of limited attraction.
– Can you tell us whether there is any room on the spectrum for additional frequency modulation space?
– We claim that there is room. It is in one channel which, if I can put it in layman’s language, is adjacent to the band being allocated for channel 4 in Australia.
At page 100 of the October issue of a radio and television magazine there is a reference to the rapid growth of frequencymodulationstereo broadcasting in the United States of America. I shall not quote the article in full but shall paraphrase portions of it. It states that although only just past its first anniversary, frequency modulation-stereo broadcasting in the United States of America has made great strides in coverage of the major markets. Also, equipment manufacturers, after a rather sluggish start, are now keeping abreast of the demand for equipment to receive such broadcasts. By 15th April last, 81 frequency modulation stations had converted to stereo and were broadcasting an average of 66 hours of programmes a week, via multiplex.
I want to emphasize that the provision of fixed and mobile services in the United States of America in proportion to population is at least equal to, if not higher than, that in Australia. In the November issue of the magazine from which I have just quoted the following statement appears: -
Information to hand from the Japan Broadcasting Corporation indicates that about 230 television stations are currently operating in Japan, sharing twelve VHP channels. The transmission standards are broadly similar to those used in the United States . . .
It then mentions the frequencies and the channel numbers, which I shall not go into. I think the main point of the article is that in Japan frequency modulation sound broadcasting is currently under consideration. Special consideration has been given to the possibility of a stereophonic service. It is stated -
Frequencies between 76 and 96 Mc have been allotted for VHF FM, with a restriction of 86.5 Mc in areas where TV channel 1 is in use. Regular FM broadcasting is expected to begin shortly. lt would therefore appear that Japan plans to establish FM stereo broadcasting in the VHF spectrum. Television is to spill over into UHF, with a possibility of the ultimate transfer of all TV stations to the higher frequencies.
I think that this is the reverse of the present Australian plan. So I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he would be good enough to confer wilh his technical officers, and see whether some arrangement can be made of the channels I have cited so that frequency modulation broadcasting can be reintroduced into Australia.
There is a further subject which I wish to mention in this connexion. For a number of years I have made representations on behalf of the central coast district of New South Wales for the establishment of a local broadcasting station. I understand from the replies I have received from the PostmasterGeneral that it is not possible to allocate a frequency in audio modulation broadcasting frequencies, but that the area would have to wait until such times as frequency modulation broadcasting was introduced if that comes about. I think that officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board look at the central coast on a map and realize that it is only approximately 38 air miles north of Sydney and 30 air miles south of Newcastle, and they know that both those cities are amply provided with broadcasting and television stations. But I wish to point out that for many hours of the day reception in this area is very poor. Secondly, a district with the population of this area warrants its own broadcasting station. I suggest that this district is not alone in that respect, and that a great service could be rendered to it if frequency modulation broadcasting were introduced.
.- I address my remarks to the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways. Yesterday, virtually the first blow was struck in regard to the standardization of the railway between Perth and Kalgoorlie. Naturally enough, I am very pleased that, at long last, this Government has decided to carry on this project, which should have been commenced some thirteen years ago. In 1949, the Labour Government made plans for this project. Therefore, it could have been finished about the mid-1950’s instead of in the late 1960’s, as it will be. Had the project been carried through when it should have been it would have cost about onefifth of the amount that it is now expected to cost. I venture to suggest that this project would not have been undertaken at this stage had not the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited put pressure on the Government for a railway to be taken to Koolyanobbing. That is obvious from the point made in the document “ Commonwealth Payments to or for the States”, as revised in August, 1962. I quote from it as follows: -
Under the Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Act 1961, the Commonwealth is to provide financial assistance to Western Australia for the construction of a standard gauge railway from Kwinana to Koolyanobbing-
That was their first thought. It goes on - . . with an extension to Kalgoorlie, and for the purchase of rolling-stock, for the railway. The project, which is planned for completion in 1968, is associated with plans for the development of an iron and steel industry at Kwinana, using iron ore taken from Koolyanobbing. The extension of the railway eastward to Kalgoorlie will, however, also provide a standard gauge link between Perth and the Trans-Australian Railway.
So, on second thoughts, they said: “ We have taken it to Koolyanobbing for iron ore for Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. We will continue it to Kalgoorlie.” Government supporters may be inclined to say that this is a gift to Western Australia. That is far from the fact. The document from which I have quoted continues -
The estimated cost is approximately £41,000,000, of which one-half is attributed to development and one-half associated with the creation of a uniform gauge railway between Western Australia and the eastern States.
In respect of that part of the cost associated with railway standardization, the Commonwealth will provide initially all the finance and the State will repay 30 per cent, by instalments over 50 years, plus interest on outstanding balances. In respect of that part of the cost attributed to development, the Commonwealth will provide initially 70 per cent, of the finance and the State is to repay this in full over twenty years, plus interest on outstanding balances.
So, Western Australia will pay back £26,650,000 out of £41,000,000. In addition, it will pay interest on £6,150,000 in respect to the standardization loan, plus interest on £14,350,000, the amount of the development loan. Western Australia will eventually pay back two-thirds of the cost of this railway, which is going to be mainly for the benefit of the Broken Hill company and secondly for the benefit of Australia, while Western Australia will get the minor benefit.
I am very surprised to find that in this year’s estimates for the Trans-Australian Railway the estimated amount for working expenses is about £200,000 less than one would expect to be required considering the yearly increase in working expenses over the last few years. It is also less than one would expect to be required after studying the interim report of the Commonwealth Railways for 1961-62 in regard to works required to be carried out. During the last three years the working expenses for the Trans-Australian Railway have increased each year by about £300,000. In fact, except for 1956-57 and 1957-58, that £300,000 increase has applied each year since 1954- 55. This year, we find that only £115,000 more than last year’s expenditure is expected to be spent. A similar position applies both to the central and north Australian railways. For the central railway, where last year’s expenditure was £273,000 more than that for the previous year and £370,000 more than that for 1959-60, we find that this year the Government has estimated than an increase of only £81,000 will be necessary. On the North Australian Railway we fina” a similar position. So for these three projects the Government has provided only about onethird of the increase that one would expect to be necessary, and only about one-third of the increase that has obtained for several years.
In strong contrast we find that whereas the working expenses for the Australian Capital Territory railway last year were only £2,000 more than for the previous year, this year the Government is allowing an additional £5,500, or two and a half times the increase of last year. There may be some simple explanation why it is thought necessary to provide the extra money for this railway. But I find it very hard to appreciate why the increase in expenditure for working expenses will not continue on the Trans-Australian Railway as it has for several years, and why there should be such a sharp drop in the estimated expenditure for the central and north Australian railways.
The Trans-Australian Railway is the main source of revenue and shows the highest returns over working expenses. The interim report on Commonwealth Railways operations for the financial year 1961-62 shows that railway as having produced 66.4 per cent, of that financial year’s total revenue, the Central Australia Railway 30.2 per cent, and the North Australia Railway and the line to the Australian Capital Territory only 3.4 per cent, between them. The earnings of the trans-Australian line last financial year were £772,829 more than working expenses and those of the Central Australia Railway £346,286 more, whereas the North Australia Railway showed a loss of £29,694 and the Australian Capital Territory Railway a loss of £12,962. Goods and passenger traffic, also, are increasing on the Trans-Australian Railway. The interim report suggests that this traffic is expected to increase in the current financial year. No doubt, when the standardization of the line between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana is completed, both passenger and freight traffic will increase even more, and revenue, too, will rise further. So I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Trans-Australian Railway is a very important one. Indeed, it is the most important section of the entire Commonwealth Railways system.
The interim report, dealing with costs, at page 4, states -
One factor which influenced the increase in working costs was the basic wage rise, which became effective on 6.7.61, and thus operated for practically the whole of the year. The greater scope of operations involved higher costs, but in the main the increases were due to the expansion of track relaying and higher maintenance standards on the Trans-Australian Railway and the Central Australia Railway.
The increased costs on the North Australia Railway and Australian Capital Territory Railway had no material effect on the total expenditure.
Although the basic wage increase did have some effect on increased expenditure on the
Trans-Australian Railway, it is pointed out here fairly clearly, I suggest, that the main reason was the re-laying of tracks and the other work that has had to be undertaken. At page 2 of the interim report, we read -
It is now 50 years since the construction of the Trans-Australian Railway was commenced. The rails then laid have now to be replaced as rapidly as possible to strengthen the track for handling the transport at high speeds of the increasing volume of traffic. This necessity for increased rail replacement and higher maintenance standards is being reflected in higher operating costs. To a lesser extent these increased costs are evident in relation to the Central Australia Railway, where the original light rails are also being replaced.
If it is the intention of this Government to carry out the recommendations made in this report, and to continue with the rapid relaying of the rails which the report claims is necessary - one does not need to be of better-than-average intelligence to realize that the track has to be improved to cope with the higher speeds, the heavier loads and the greater volume of traffic - I fail to see why the increases in working expenses that have occurred in the last few years are not to continue and are to stop suddenly. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) will reply and give me some satisfaction on this matter.
It must be remembered that the wages and conditions of the men working on the Trans-Australian Railway on track maintenance are sadly below what they should be. Wages and conditions must be improved. This is another reason why more funds should have been provided in the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways. It is quite obvious that improvements are urgently required in the conditions of the men employed on track maintenance on the trans-Australian line and the Central Australia Railway. The fact that there is such a high turnover of labour shows quite clearly that, under present conditions, the job is quite unacceptable. The high turnover of labour, of course, means that maintenance costs are much higher than they should be and that they will continue to increase. You cannot expect the same efficiency in track-laying and maintenance from men who have been on the job only a short time as from men who have been working on the tracks for a considerable time and have become efficient at the job and know what it involves. During the financial year 1960-61, 1,588 men were engaged to work on track maintenance on the Trans-Australian Railway and the Central Australia Railway, and 1,507 left the job. Of the 1,588 engaged, 73 per cent, stayed less than two months. During 1961-62, 1,502 men were engaged and 1,613 left. Of the 1,502 engaged, more than 65 per cent, stayed less than two months. So, over a period of two years, 3,120 men left the railway maintenance gangs on the trans-Australian and Central Australia lines, and of that number 2,250 stayed less than two months.
– Are these official figures?
– They are given in the interim report for the year 1961-62, from which I have already quoted. The difficulty of getting men for labouring work over the last couple of years emphasizes the poor conditions of employment on the TransAustralian Railway. Men will not stay in the job there. I doubt very much whether under this Government we shall get to a situation in which jobs will be readily available to all, but I suggest to the Minister that, if we do, he will not be able to get any men at all on the trans-Australian line. I do not know what will happen to the Commonwealth Railways if that comes about.
I would expect the Minister, if the Government intends to pursue a policy of improving the employment situation, to be rather concerned about all these men leaving the service of the Commonwealth Railways. I would expect him to be trying to do something to encourage them to remain. He knows as well as I do, of course, that conditions of work and wages on the Trans-Australian Railway are well below what they should be. I know that the actual working conditions, particularly in the summer, are hot and dirty and that glare from the line is a problem. You cannot do much about that, but those disabilities could be largely made up for by providing better conditions in other respects. If we cannot improve the job itself, we can improve the lot of the people who are called on to do it. In the interim report for 1961-62, there is a photograph of the single men’s quarters at Finke on the Central Australia Railway. I suggest that the
Minister ought to distribute photographs of the quarters at Karonie, Coonana, Zanthus, Rawlinna and Haig, on the Trans-Australian Railway. I wonder whether he would agree that the quarters at those places are fit and proper residences for the men.
Perhaps the Minister could support me in one proposal that I have urged here previously - the extending of the taxation zone A to cover the people living along the TransAustralian Railway. This would mean that a single man with an income of £750 a year would pay £35 less in income tax than he pays now. A married man without children would pay about £28 less and a married man with one or more children would not pay any income tax. Although that is not the complete answer to the situation, I suggest that it would be of considerable help in encouraging people to work on the railway and remain there. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will intimate his intentions about the improvement of living and working conditions along the line.
In the very short time that remains at my disposal, I want to discuss broadcasting, with particular reference to radio listeners’ licences. At the present time, a reduced licence fee is paid by people who live more than 250 miles from places such as Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and-
The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, in the few minutes at my disposal this afternoon I want to direct my remarks to capital works for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I fully appreciate the efforts made by the department in the completion of the coaxial cable between Sydney and Melbourne and the new post office at Darwin, the work on the new mail exchange at Redfern, Sydney, and the installation of many thousands of new trunk lines. The department’s efforts, I believe, have improved the service given to many thousands of telephone subscribers. The broad principle of any business or department is to try to satisfy as many customers as possible. I do not believe that we should give a very good service to a few, a reasonable service to some and a poor service to the remainder, so I want to confine my remarks to the subscribers in the third cate gory who are receiving a poor service. Unfortunately, I do not have the latest figures but I have before me the “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin “ for the year ended 30th June, 1961. According to table 32, there were 1,007,494 telephone services in metropolitan areas and 623,590 in rural areas, a total of 1,631,084. In the metropolitan areas over 1,000,000 were automatic and only 1,500 were manual, whereas in the rural areas 256,000 were automatic and 366,000 manual. This indicates clearly that- the- metropolitan -areas- are -fairly wellcatered for in relation to automatic telephone services.
For the information of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) I point out that in the last financial year no fewer than 44,000 telephones were installed in metropolitan areas but the picture in the rural areas is not comparable. In the main, automatic telephones are being installed only in the larger country centres. Only about 40 per cent, of services in rural areas are automatic. It has taken more than twenty years to reach that figure of 40 per cent.; how long will it take to meet the requirements of the remaining 60 per cent.? At present the smaller country centres are suffering because, as I have said, the automatic exchanges are being installed mainly in the larger country towns.
Let me direct attention now to table 35 of the bulletin which indicates that the total of over 7,000 country telephone exchanges is made up of 476 standard automatic exchanges, 1,385 rural automatic exchanges and 5,300 manual exchanges. It is the Government’s aim eventually to make all these services automatic. In my own electorate where I seem to have many problems associated with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, there are no less than 114 non-official telephone exchanges and, naturally enough, a fairly small number of official exchanges as well. Eventually all these must be converted either to rural automatic exchanges or to standard automatic exchanges. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), wants to know when this will be done. Let me tell him that many thousands of subscribers in the rural areas also want to know when they will have automatic telephone exchanges.
Now let me deal with the number of exchanges being converted at the present time in comparison with the number converted a few years ago. In the year ended June, 1957, 74 rural automatic exchanges were installed throughout the Commonwealth. In 1958 the number rose to 145; in 1959 it fell to 123; in 1960 it fell again to 93 and in 1961 there was a further fall to 79. I understand that for 1962 the number of installations was even less than 79. I turn now to standard automatic exchanges. In 1957 26 were installed. In 1958 the number was 28; in 1959 it was 30, but in 1960 the number dropped to 20 and in 1961 rose again to only 21. We must bear in mind that in June, 1961, there were still 5,300 manual exchanges in operation, although progressive reductions had been made. In 1957 the number then in operation was reduced by 91, in 1958 by 131, in 1959 by 153, in 1960 by 193 and in 1961 by 185. At this rate of progress it will take 25 or 30 years to complete the programme. Is this good enough? Many subscribers certainly would claim that it is not good enough, but we must remember that it is the Government’s policy to have a completely automatic telephone system throughout Australia.
In fairness to the department and to the Government let me say that the rate of installation of individual services has increased year by year. In the financial year ended June, 1957, there were 19,000 conversions or new installations. In 1958 the number rose to 31,000, in 1959 to 32,000, in 1960 to 33,000 and in 1961 it remained static at 33,000. But during the same period the number of manual services dropped from 384.000 to 366,000, a reduction of only 18,000. In other words, there were only 18,000 fewer manual services in 1961 than there were in 1957. This, of course, has been caused by the demands of newly developed areas and a general increase in requirements.
Now let me state briefly the reasons why I believe it is so important that the automation of country telephone exchanges must be speeded up. Since the introduction of Elsa many anomalies have arisen. I must pay a tribute to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) who has been very co-operative and most helpful. Practically without exception I have received satisfaction when I have directed his attention to anomalies and complaints. But there is one question to which we have not received an answer, namely, the drop in units earned by non-official postmasters operating nonofficial post offices and telephone exchanges. I have taken up this matter with the PostmasterGeneral and I know that he will give it the consideration it deserves. However, the solution to this problem must be found. In one non-official post office in my electorate there was a drop of 96,000 units, or 23.5 per cent, of the total in the two-year period 1960-62. The number of units fell from 369,000 to 273,000. At the same time, however, telephone transactions increased from 79,000 to 93,000, quite a considerable increase. The decrease in units represents a fairly substantial fall in the salary of the non-official postmaster. Naturally enough, he is asking himself how long he can put up with it. I suggest that anybody in any undertaking which showed a drop of 23 per cent, in its business would consider getting out. That is exactly what the non-official postmasters are considering.
I have mentioned before the problem of the small country exchanges, and I forecast that the existing problem could get worse. People in country areas who have had poor telephone services, like the old party line services, for anything from 30 to 60 years, find themselves virtually in queer street to-day because of the closing-down of some exchanges.
I ask the Government to consider the two problems that I have mentioned. The only answer to them that I can see is a speeding up of the introduction of automatic exchanges in country areas. Otherwise I forecast that in five years’ or ten years’ time there could be many hundreds or even thousands of people who are now telephone subscribers who will not have a telephone service at all.
I turn now briefly to a consideration of the financial position of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In 1958-59 the general revenue of the department was roughly £100,000,000. In 1961-62 it was £140,000,000 and this year it is estimated at £147,000,000. In other words, there will be an increase of £7,000,000 in revenue over last year’s figure. On the expenditure side, allowing for the £13,000,000 for capital works that was originally in the general fund the expenditure last year was £101,000,000, and this year it is expected to be £106,000,000. So the revenue is to increase by £7,000,000 and expenditure by £5,000,000, which means that there will be an extra £2,000,000 available. The amount spent on capital works in 1958-59 was £36,000,000. Last year the amount spent was £46,000,000 and the amount estimated to be spent this year is £62,000,000. Again allowing for that amount of £13,000,000 for capital work’s, there is” an increase of some £3,000,000 over the last year.
– About £3,300,000.
– I am giving round figures because statistics can become very dry. The situation as I see it is that we have virtually an extra £2,000,000 in the trading account and will spend an extra £3,000,000 on capital works, leaving a difference of £1,000,000. Does the Government consider that this is sufficient in view of the fact that this year’s Budget provides for a deficit of more than £100,000,000 and that practically every department has increased its expenditure?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to express in this debate the concern which I feel about the serious position of many Australian actors and writers because of the Government’s apathy regarding the introduction of legislation to guarantee a fixed percentage of Australian talent and material for use on Australian television. We all realize that television is one of the most powerful influences affecting the people. Undoubtedly it is the most powerful conditioning influence affecting the opinions and outlook of people, and even their cultural desires.
First, it is essential that Australian television should provide not rubbish but a high standard of entertainment for the public. Secondly, in view of the fact that there is a very pressing need for the development of an individual Australian culture, a greater proportion of Australian television programmes should be provided from Australian sources. To-day, relatively not many television programmes come from Australian sources. Often we hear complaints in this chamber about the huge amount of cheap razzle-dazzle - the counterfeit type of American entertainment - which is broadcast over Australian television channels. Sex and sadism, unfortunately, predominate in such programmes, and these are hardly the influences on which to base the cultural development of this nation. In Australia we have occurring concurrently the development of television and the waning influence of sound broadcasting. Whereas once up to about 90 per cent, of the script material used in Australian sound broadcasting came from Australian sources there has been a serious deterioration in the percentage. As to television, very few script writers are employed full-time in the provision of television scripts in Australia. I base that statement on correspondence I have received from the Australian Radio, Television and Screen Writers Guild, which states -
Apart from a handful of staff script-editors and contracted gag-writers, there is not one dramatic or documentary writer in Australia to-day fully employed in providing scripts for the television and film industries.
That is a serious situation. I know, from personal contact with people engaged in acting, that Australian actors have found the demand for their talents greatly depleted. This means that some of them, in their endeavours to live, are now heavily involved in respect of overdrafts from their banks.
This situation is serious and is not being exaggerated by me. Australian writers are in the same position. Instead of their being encouraged to make a contribution towards the development of a particularly Australian culture they are left wandering around hopelessly seeking work from the television stations. Instead of the work of these people being shown on television we are getting a cheap form of American culture. I should like to make clear at this point that I am not criticizing American culture in general. I believe that the serious side of American culture has a great contribution to make to the world. But we are not receiving the products of this serious side of American culture - we are receiving cheap razzle-dazzle. We are receiving old films that were made in the grand old days of filmland. We are receiving films that were made before the last war. We are receiving an overplenitude of boring, trifling westerns instead of the work of Australians which could make a great contribution to television entertainment here. We are not receiving even the kind of imported programme which is based on educational and informative scripts.
In a question which I directed to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) recently I asked whether there were any legislation providing for a minimum amount of Australianproduced materia], employing Australian talent, to be presented on television programmes and whether, if such legislation did not exist, the Government had any intention to introduce it. The Minister’s answer said, first, that the Government did not favour the introduction of further legislation dealing with this matter. In other words, the Government does not favour the introduction of legislation guaranteeing to Australian people who are trying to make a sincere contribution to Australian culture the opportunity to help to nurture such a culture. I also received from the Minister in reply to that question a rather bland statement which means, in effect, that there is a gentleman’s agreement with the commercial stations on the percentage of Australianproduced entertainment presented over television channels. He pointed out in his answer that the proportion has been accepted as 40 per cent. It is interesting to note the proportion of total time devoted by city stations to Australian-produced programmes in 1961-62. These figures are taken from the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and the proportions shown are as follows: -
In other words, five of those nine stations, more than half of them, are in fact devoting less than 40 per cent, of their time to the nurturing and encouragement of Australian talent, and this two years after the Minister asked them to keep to the proportion he suggested.
These television stations are in a very liquid financial position. They are financially very healthy indeed. The annual report to which I have already referred shows that revenue of commercial television stations in 1961-62 was £14,618,073, and that their profits amounted to £2,839,227. Surely these enterprises can afford any slight loss that might be incurred - although I do not believe that there would be a loss - in contributing further to the development of Australian script writers and actors. There are many wealthy people in control of the television industry in Australia who have been able to make what I consider a rather flippant gesture in contributing towards the purchase of the sailing ship “ Gretel “, I refer particularly to Sir Frank Packer. While admitting it is his right to make a donation towards the purchasing and competitive sailing of “Gretel” in an international contest, I suggest that he should show interest not only internationally but also nationally, and should contribute to a much greater degree towards the development and encouragement of Australian talent.
So much rubbish is being disseminated by television stations to-day that our young people at an impressionable age are being exposed to violence, sex, sadism and crime in all forms. These young people are undergoing an apprenticeship training in these kinds of detrimental behaviour. I know from my own experience in the police force, and from my continued association with former workmates, that many offenders who come before the juvenile courts, and many older ones who appear before the police courts, have obtained the inspiration for their depredations from what they have seen on television programmes as well as what they have heard on radio programmes. These young people acquire a distorted sense of values, and this is of no benefit to the development of Australia.
There is at present a growing need to develop our country at a rapidly accelerating rate, and every possible avenue for the quickening of this development should be exploited. Therefore, I suggest, a responsibility devolves upon the Commonwealth
Government to take positive action to introduce legislation - instead of relying on gentlemen’s agreements, which, as I have shown, are not being honoured - which will guarantee that Australian actors and script writers will have some secure income, and will be able to pursue their ambitions and make their individual contributions to Australian culture. We do not want our culture to be continually adulterated by the cheap banalities that are being imported from overseas. Commercial television stations are in a financial position to make a worthwhile contribution in this field. The Australian programmes that they are using at the present time are of the kinds that use very few script writers and artists. They are mostly quiz shows or variety shows, which require very small casts and very small script-writing teams. They make very little contribution, if any, to the cultural development of Australia. I suggest that the Government, in introducing the legislation I have mentioned - and it will be sadly remiss if it does not do so - should, first, give attention to the proportion of time to be devoted to programmes using Australian talent, and, secondly, to the kind of entertainment provided during that time. In this way we can guarantee a serious contribution to the kind of cultural development of benefit to the nation.
The position has been allowed to deteriorate for far too long. The Government has given assistance to those people overseas who have wished to export muck to this country, and thereby to obtain great wealth. At the same time, Australian citizens who wish to make serious and constructive contributions towards the development of their country have received no encouragement. How many times have we heard people remarking of the nausea with which they greet each evening’s television programmes? We have all heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the defender of Australian artists, criticizing the apathy of the Commonwealth Government. The Government has been consistent in one respect at least. It has shown a consistently apathetic attitude towards the welfare of Australian workers, whether they be manual workers or those engaged in contributing towards Australia’s cultural development.
– I would like to pay a brief tribute to the keen ness and enthusiasm of the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. At all levels these officers have shown tremendous enthusiasm from their work. They are on top of the latest electronic devices for sending communications. Their knowledge of this equipment is as extensive as that of officers in any similar organization in the world. Production of electronic equipment in the postal field in Australia ranks with production in any other part of the world. I would like, therefore, to congratulate those officers, as well as the hundreds of men in non-official post offices in the country districts, each of whom acts as guide, philosopher and friend to the country people.
In discussing these estimates I would like to refer to the votes for broadcasting and television services. I think this is the appropriate time to ask whether there has been a sudden accretion of power to the proprietors of the big city television stations. The honorable member for Oxley said that revenue of commercial television stations in 1961-62 amounted to more than £14,000,000, and that their profits were more than £2,800,000. This being so, considerable credit facilities are in the hands of the people controlling these television stations. I have had the advantage of perusing a document entitled “ Report of the Committee on Broadcasting, I960 “. The chairman of this committee was Sir Harry Pilkington, and the report reached this country in June of this year. The committee dealt with newspaper participation in television companies, and I propose, if the committee will bear with me, to read some parts of the report which deal with this question. I am particularly concerned with the effect of the sudden accretion of power to television companies that are allied with the press on the small provincial and country stations. I think it is fair to say that all Australians are adverse to any form of dictatorship in any activity at all, and particularly any dictatorship over ideas and thinking. We have been proud of the fact that in our country districts we have had people capable of clear and independent thought and rugged individualism. They have not been afraid to criticize, they have retained the spirit of protest. They have had the courage to say things that have needed to be said. These have been the people in control of small country newspapers. We have had the spectacle of the small country newspaper editor not being afraid to direct attention to what is happening throughout the nation. But we have seen the big metropolitan newspapers become the creatures of their advertisers. Those who pay the big bills have the best publicity and those who do not advertise freely do not get a good crack of the whip at all.
I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) whether it is true that newspaper organizations have tried to obtain control of television companies and whether, because of the success of these ventures - we do not begrudge that - they have begun to exert a control on communications to the mass of the people. Are they able to influence the thinking of the people?
– Do you mean by programmes?
– Let me try to get through this in my own way. The honorable member for Parkes asks, “ By programmes? “ I will come to that in this sense, that the big television stations have tied up the best programmes, and that this is a dangerous development. I ask the Postmaster-General whether these large companies have denied programmes to the small country stations and then, having crushed the country stations and ground them into the dust, have used the enormous sums of money available to them - this has already been mentioned by an honorable member - to take over the country stations. I understand that the policy of the Government is to preserve control of the country stations in the country and not to allow the country stations to be taken over or merged with the larger stations. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to examine this aspect carefully and to inform Parliament whether the large stations are taking over the small country stations. He might also say whether there is a danger to the community in having control of television in the hands of one or two persons. If this is happening, the Parliament may decide to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the control of television.
I should like to read from the report of the Pilkington committee. I apologize if I quote in a biassed way, because the report is very comprehensive. I understand that Sir Harry Pilkington spoke on the Australian
Broadcasting Commission’s “ Guest of Honour” programme last Sunday night. The committee said -
It has been represented to us by many who gave evidence, including the Authority-
That is the Independent Television Authority - that the profits now made by the companies are excessive.
I do not cavil at that at all, but I am concerned about the use of the excessive profit and power. The committee in its report continued -
They derive from the grant on the public behalf of a highly privileged concession. The use of broadcasting time, whether for programming or by selling it for the presentation of advertisements, is the use of a national asset.
In writing to the committee, the PostmasterGeneral in Great Britain said -
The question of the television contracts has two main aspects. First, there is the possibility that mergers or take-overs may result in significant changes in the effective control of programme companies which are inconsistent with the intention of the I.T.A. in granting the contracts.
That is the Independent Television Authority. The Postmaster-General continued -
Secondly, there is the general question of the relationship of the press to television, including the question whether control over newspapers and television stations should be vested in the same hands. Similar questions might arise with certain patterns of local sound broadcasting.
I should like to read another part of the committee’s report, but once again I apologize if I divorce the passage from the context. At page 183, the following passage appears: -
We observe, however, that the concern expressed was at the threat to democracy. It is seen as prospective and potential, as a risk that might materialise, not as damage already done . . . But, if the likelihood is small, the consequences could be profound.
In another part, the committee reported -
In short, the suspicion of too great a concentration in too few hands of the power to influence and persuade cannot be dismissed by the argument that the power has not been used, and is not very likely to be used. It might be. So, some limits must be set. The simplest rule would be to prohibit press participation altogether. But in no company, however independent television is constituted and organised, should the press interest be dominant . . . Where a press interest is dominant, as in Scottish Television, we recommend that the contract should not be renewed on its expiry in 1964, unless the press interest has been sufficiently reduced.
The committee then speaks in the same strong language about the effect of control over broadcasting. It refers to the combination of control of the mass media of press, television and broadcasting in the hands of one or two people. If control were exercised in this way in Australia, the one ideal that we have thought to be worthwhile - that we have independent thought and that the ordinary Australian has a rugged individualism - would disappear. Australians would be influenced from childhood by the one or two people who controlled the mass media, who decided what programmes would be shown, what information would be supplied and the way it would be presented. The thoughts of our young people would be influenced from the cradle to the grave.
If control of this nature is being sought and if we are to be confronted with the situation that the committee found to exist in Great Britain, the Postmaster-General should report to the Parliament on the position. If control of television is falling into the hands of a few, the Parliament must immediately appoint a royal commission and let the public decide for itself what should be done.
.- It was very refreshing to hear the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) speak on a subject that is not usually dealt with by him in the Parliament. On this occasion, his views on the influence of the press, radio and television and the unsavoury features in the ownership of a television station by press and radio interests coincide with the views of the Opposition. Television stations have been controlled in this way in several parts of Australia. The only newspaper and the only radio station or one of the two radio stations in a town have combined to produce the only television station. There is then the complete control of press, radio and television in the hands of one group of people. The report referred to by the honorable member is a most revealing, challenging and frightening document. I hope that this problem will be investigated by the Government in the not-too-distant future.
I would like to remind the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) about another matter, because he is very complacent about most of these things. Within twelve months of the grant of a television licence, the ownership of the television company changes very much. The original owners cease to be members of the company to which the licence was granted by reason of sales of shares to other interests.
This expensive entertainment medium has taken Australia by storm. My early opinion of it was very prejudiced, and I opposed the introduction of television when it was first mooted in this place. To-day, I suppose I could be called a prejudiced viewer. Many others may think as I do about television. I am still not completely converted to television, particularly with the programmes as they are presented at the moment. However, 1,377,529 viewers’ licences have been issued and they provide revenue of £6,880,845 to the Postmaster-General’s Department. The department’s total income from radio and television licences last year was over £12,000,000. At the present time, only three years after the advent of television in Tasmania, there are in that State 35,000 television licences. Previous speakers have pointed out that television, even more than radio, has great influence for either good or evil. I will outline some of the dangers associated with television, and some of its good points, also.
First, there is the danger in television of emphasis on crimes and violence. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June last gives some revealing statistics and shows that between 1958 and 1960 there were some dramatic changes in television programmes in Australia. In the showing of films depicting crime and suspense there was a 92 per cent, increase in two years. In the showing of “ westerns “ there was a 41 per cent, increase in two years, whilst adventure features decreased by 50 per cent, in the same period. Domestic comedy, which is good clean entertainment, decreased by 22 per cent, and variety programmes by 33 per cent, in the two-year period. The figures I have given were based on research in Melbourne.
Secondly, I remind the committee of the powerful impact television programmes involving violence and crime have on the more easily influenced minds of children. I do not think these films affect adults unduly, but their impact on the immature minds of children is very great. For that reason we must condemn the showing of this type of film. Thirdly, there is the time wasted in looking at television, which can become one’s master unless one has a strong will. Television has a tremendous fascination for many people and we must see that we master it and that it does not master us because, should it do so, it could have a very detrimental effect on our minds, health and lives generally. Fourthly, there is the effect of television on organizations in towns and in country areas as more and more people become hypnotized by it. I believe the effectiveness of many organizations is in danger of being greatly reduced through loss of membership, because people prefer to watch television. I know that some organizations have already gone out of existence for this reason.
Fifthly, there is the danger of selfcentredness in the family unit, when families are shut in night after night viewing television. I believe this trend is increasing at an alarming rate, and it is something which must be countered. The sixth danger is the Americanization of our thinking and way of life, which is going on at an increased tempo. The seventh factor is excessive advertising. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, at pages 54 and 55, contains some interesting information in this respect. Referring to the commercial stations, the report states -
The policies on the sale of station time for advertisments are not uniform among these stations’.
Observations during the year by the Board’s officers revealed an increasing tendency for the televising of advertisements to a greater extent than is provided for in the Standards.
In other words, these stations are going beyond the standards laid down for the time given for advertisements. I have not time to go into detail on all these matters, but will endeavour to give a general picture of my own impressions. Advertising, of course, occurs on commercial television stations only.
– Which station do you view?
– I have not much choice. I view TNT9, the Launceston station. My eighth criticism of television programmes is their small Australian content, although I think this is slightly on the increase. I believe Australian films are urgently required to offset the volume of importations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission in its last annual report points out that the function of the Australian National Service in radio and television is to increase the proportion and improve the standard of locally produced material to be used in conjunction with the highest quality productions from overseas. The report states -
Such a policy as mentioned above cannot be achieved within the normal budget, and it is therefore hoped that, with the help of the Government the Australian film industry will be encouraged to meet the special needs of television.
Experience in the television medium has shown there is considerable scope for the use of filmed programmes of documentary and informative character, but because of the shortage of trained personnel and with the restricted sale overseas, some additional financial help will be needed to make any substantial contribution in this field.
There is a new film company being established in Australia at present, and we all wish it well. We hope that it does not go the way of other Australian film companies in the past. The Government should help to finance this Australian company, which is designed to film Australian scenes and stories for television. This firm has pointed out that it has an excellent chance of utilizing Australia’s talent, scenes, history, sporting ability and way of life and of encouraging script writing. These are things for which we on this side of the House have been fighting for years.
My ninth criticism of television is the failure to provide adequate emphasis on Christianity, to which we all subscribe. It is appalling to read the statistics provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which show that the total coverage of religious services has steadily declined in both radio and television. I cannot understand this trend. The total number of religious services on radio has dropped in both metropolitan and country areas. On television the total has dropped from 111 hours in 1960-61 to 83 hours in 1961-62. In my opinion that is not good enough. It shows the trend away from religious emphasis and towards an increase in programmes dealing with crime and violence. With this trend it is no wonder we have all sorts of social problems and a lessening of moral values and principles. We have some responsibility in this matter, in the training of our children. Finally, I come to the financial monopoly in television, which I mentioned earlier this afternoon and about which the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) spoke when dealing with the terrific influence of the press on television in Australia.
I come now to some of the good points relating to television. First, it serves as a medium to keep families together and is a good influence unless it leads to complete self-centredness. Secondly, television encourages young people to stay at home rather than roam the streets and contribute to mob action and mob violence. Thirdly, television brings the world into our lounge rooms in the most fascinating and gripping way An event of great importance on the other side of the world can be shown on our own television sets within two or three days of its occurrence. This has a great impact in bringing home to us the smallness of the world in which we live and the importance of overseas events. Fourthly, television has great educational value when used properly, for what we see remains longer in our minds than does what we hear. In its report the Australian Broadcasting Commission refers to the immense possibilities of television for education. Fifthly, with crime films there is one happy feature - the emphasis that crime does not pay. Sixthly, there are the Australian live shows, which include drama, sport, farming activities and industry. These shows are all good and must be increased at the expense of imported and out-dated pre-war American films.
Seventhly, there is a great stimulus through television to non-fiction reading. In to-day’s Melbourne “ Sun “ we read this interesting comment by the librarian of the Melbourne Library, Mr. K. J. Ling: - the most notable trend in public taste foi literature during the year has been the marked dec line in the reading of fiction and the greater increase in non-fiction reading.
Statistics show an increase of more than 10,000 in non-fiction book issues and a decrease of 3,000 in fiction issues for the year.
That is a very important development as a result of television. Eighthly, documentaries are excellent and we want more and more of them. I hope a new Australian film company will develop the documentary aspect.
Ninth, I think that children’s programmes on television are of a very high quality indeed.
I shall now give some of my impressions of programmes. The news sessions are excellent, particularly those recorded on film for “ Flashback “. News sessions to-day have a greater and livelier interest than they did when presented on radio. “ This Wonderful World “ is a magnificent travelogue type of film, but is even better than a travelogue because it shows secondary industry development that we otherwise would not see. It is an excellent series. “ Singalong”, in my opinion, is the outstanding live show on television to-day. This is a fully Australian show which has glorious harmony, splendid backdrops of stage settings and expert photography. It is a good, clean, uplifting and inspiring feature, and I congratulate Mr. Keith Walshe, the producer.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There are three disconnected matters that I want to mention briefly. The first is railways. Honorable members have drawn attention to the earnings of the Commonwealth Railways, particularly the Transcontinental line. We are all gratified at this and we know that when the standard guage line is extended from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, its earnings will be even better. But while it remains an isolated line without standard guage connexion to the main 4-ft. 8i-in. system, its earnings will not be as high as they ought to be. I am quite unable to understand why the Government is not yet making moves with regard to the standardization of the missing link of line from Broken Hill down to Port Pirie, which would join the 4 ft. 8i in. of the Trans line via Broken Hill with the main 4-ft. 8Hn. system from Brisbane to Sydney and Melbourne. It seems to me that this would be a worthwhile link even looked at in relation to the earning capacity of the Trans line. The Commonwealth has a special interest in it and I am hopeful still that announcements will be made which will enable this missing link to be completed concurrently with the Western Australian line so that no longer will the Trans-Aus- tralia line be an isolated island in the Australian railway system.
Next I should like to say that 1 agree with the concern shown by some honorable members opposite and by honorable members on this side of the chamber at the need for a greater Australian content in our television shows. This is something which is much more important even than the livelihood of the people who would be concerned in producing the material. As Australians we want to have our national identity shown on this most important of all mediums of public communication. This is not an easy thing; this is not something on which we want to be in opposition to the television stations. We want to co-operate with the television stations, many of whom have already been making great efforts in this direction. It is not easy to finance an Australian television show, and we should be helping them to do so. I should like to see the Government bring forward some constructive idea whereby, in co-operation with television stations, it could help a greater Australian content to appear in their programmes.
The third thing I want to say, and again very briefly, is that I support the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) in his remarks in regard to frequency modulation broadcasts. I am unable to understand why frequency modulation is not being permitted in Australia. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to answer this question clearly and concisely at the conclusion of this debate. There must be a short answer to it, and I know that the PostmasterGeneral, who has held his portfolio for many years, will be quite familiar with all the technical considerations involved. I ask him not to fob us off with generalities, but to tell us clearly and definitely why it is that countries in Europe and America, with greater population densities than ours, can find room in their allocated spectrum for frequency modulation broadcasting while we cannot. There must be a short answer to this. What is it in Australia that makes us different from all other countries? I ask the Postmaster-General this simple question, and I shall await his answer.
.- I wish to deal specifically with the inability of the Postmaster-General’s Department to overcome the backlag in telephone applications. We all realized that the war years and the immediate post-war period would produce a backlag in the provision of telephone services, but at the same time we hoped, quite logically I submit, that that backlag would soon be overcome. But to-day, seventeen years after the war ended, we find there has been very little improvement. This quite obviously shows a complete lack of understanding of the problem and a complete lack of planning and imagination on the part of the department. Despite the fact that our development and our expanding economy must result in a greater demand for telephone services, we find that the rate of connexions is dropping. In 1958 metropolitan and country telephone connexions numbered 88,492, but in 1959 the number dropped to 84,770. In 1960 installations numbered only 70,651, and in 1961 the figure was 69,116. At the present time throughout Australia there are 78,836 outstanding applications - an extraordinary number, seventeen years after the war ended. One could almost place this in the same category as the Government’s record in regard to housing, in which there is also a large back-lag, and one which, by this time, could have been overtaken. Here we have the same lack of planning, lack of understanding and lack of the foresight to look ahead and anticipate the demands of the public in regard to telephone services. In “Hansard” of 30th August the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is reported as having asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) -
What is the (a) average and (b) longest period of waiting time which elapses before installation of telephones?
The Postmaster-General replied -
Surely that is a dreadful admission by the Postmaster-General. He also stated that the longest period of time that had elapsed between the date’ of application and the installation of a telephone was six years. A person can wait six years for a telephone! In my case, I waited from 1947 until 1954 for a telephone to be connected to my home. Seven years! I accepted that wait because I believed that there had to be a back-lag after the war because of the disruption that had been created, but I thought that surely this was a state of affairs which would be ended. Throughout my suburb of Normanhurst, in the metropolitan area of Sydney, at that time in 1954, telephone services were installed and it appeared that all applications had been satisfied. Recently, I wrote to the Postmaster-General’s Department concerning people in that area who had placed their applications for telephones in 1950. So apparently no real effort has been made to overtake the back-lag.
It should be realized that the telephone branch is a profit-making organization. The cost of its operation is not a charge against the Government. Provided there is efficient administration, a profit should be earned. There is no excuse for limiting the service to the public. I think it could be validly maintained that there has been faulty administration, a lack of planning and a failure to foresee the future requirements of the community in the matter of telephone services.
As an example of what is occurring throughout Australia I should like to state what has happened in my own electorate, where the population has been growing very rapidly over the last four years. Actually, enrolments have increased at a greater ate than in any other New South Wales electorate. No doubt the unnaturalized migrant population of this electorate would also be one of the largest in the State. Having endeavoured to take a commonsense viewpoint and a reasonably intelligent interest in the provision of telephone services, my impression is that the officers of the department, including the engineers and the men in the field, are doing everything they possibly can to overtake the lag, which is of huge proportions. The main problem lies in the lack of staff.
Obviously, sufficient money has not been allocated to the department for that particular area which runs from the northern suburbs of Sydney through to the western suburbs west of Parramatta, which is developing at a tremendous rate. I realize that even if the necessary money were allocated now there would be a great deal of tooling up to be done. It would be necessary to employ more staff and train them. But it should be realized that the development of this area is only starting to-day. There will be far greater development in the not far distant future in the Mount Druitt- Rooty Hill - St. Mary’s districts. An already serious problem will be accentuated. I ask the Minister to consider this problem.
I emphasize that the officers of his department are doing their utmost, despite very serious depletions of man-power, money and material. If the Minister would consider that rapid development has occurred, is occurring and will occur in the future at an even greater rate, he would realize that immediate action is required in order to avoid chaos. This area provides only one example of what is occurring throughout the country. Other members, including the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld), who has the same problem in his electorate, have mentioned this matter. The problem arises from failure to realize the need for future development, a lack of imagination and a lack of planning on the part of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I ask that the Minister give very serious consideration to effecting a complete overhaul of the administration of the telephone branch of the department so as to ensure that the back-lag, which exists seventeen years after the war finished, will be overtaken.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Chairman, the committee is at present discussing the estimates for the business undertaking. These include the Commonwealth Railways and the Postmaster-General’s Department, which embraces television and broadcasting services. I want to confine my remarks for the present to the proposed vote for the Postal Department. During the discussion of this group of estimates, there has been considerable criticism because that department is not proceeding as fast as it should, in the opinion of some honorable members, in the provision of the services which come within its field of activities. Honorable members say that people are waiting for months and years for telephones and other facilities. I agree that there is a lag, but, if honorable members care to look at the records which the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is prepared to let them have, they will find that in recent years a fantastic job has been done in overtaking what was a very severe lag. It may be that not sufficient has been done, but there are reasons tor this. Let us not forget the problems of obtaining money, materials and manpower, all of which are limiting factors. Then there is the question of priorities.
– Does not the honorable member think that seventeen years is too long?
– If my honorable friend considers, he will find a vast difference between what was done seventeen years ago and what is being done now. When the Government which he supported went out of office in 1949, we were waiting years for telephones. There was hardly a sign of a new telephone service. To begin with, the instruments were not available. But to-day we have instruments in stock ready to go out for installation.
– At a price.
– The honorable member need not talk to me about prices. The price situation was damnable in 1949 when the Labour Government went out of office. There was not an honest price anywhere. People had to pay fantastic sums to get goods from under the counter because scarcities were so severe.
– Tell that to your electors.
– I do te!l it to my electors; the honorable member need not worry about that. I compare the record of this Government with that of the previous government. The difference is sufficient to convince the people that they have a far better government now than they had previously.
Returning to this question of the lag and the insufficiency of money, materials or man-power - whichever it may be - I want to put forward again the case which I have stated previously in this chamber concerning the finances of the Postal Department. That department is classified as a business undertaking. It is run as a business undertaking, except that it has to rely on the Government for the capital which it needs to expand its works. If it is a business undertaking, it should be run completely as a business undertaking, just like gas works, electrical undertakings and water boards. It should be responsible for raising its own funds according to the d.g ee to which it can expand its activities during the ensuing year for the purpose of providing the services which it is called on to provide. At present, the Postal Department depends on an allocation of portion of the total sum which the Governnent decides to raise during the financial year. It is appropriate for me at this stage to remind honorable members that there is no component of taxation handed over to the Post Office. That is something which should be impressed on the taxpayers. Many of them are inclined to say to members of the Parliament, as honorable members opposite know very well: “ Look at the taxes we pay. Why does not the Post Office do this and that? “ The taxes paid have nothing to do with the Postal Department, except that portion of the revenue raised throughout the Commonwealth is handed to that department. The department has to pay interest on that money and eventually pay it back.
Under the present sytem, the Post Office is the victim of government policy when the government of the day says that, because of inflation or excessive demand or for some other reason, it will reduce expenditure. If the government of the day, on the other hand, decides to spend more money, the Postal Department benefits. However, that is not the way to run a business. The Postal Department should have the responsibility for determining, on the basis of the availability of materials and man-power, the amount which it will spend on its programme for the year, so that it may complete the best possible programme of which it is capable. That can be done only if the department raises its own revenue. This is the way to conduct its operations properly as a business undertaking.
However, even some people in the business world fail to appreciate a very vital factor. I noticed some comment in the newspapers and I hoped that the PostmasterGeneral would take the opportunity to explain the matter. According to newspaper reports, somebody criticized the Treasury system of keeping accounts and said that the Post Office had made a profit of £25,000,000 in one year. That suggestion has created an entirely false impression in the minds of many people. The Post Office, under the commercial system of accounting, on the contrary, made a loss of £1,900,000 last financial year. People say to me: “ What is the matter with the Post Office? Does it cook its books to hide this profit of £25,000,000?” The department does nothing of the sort. It keeps its accounts on a business basis, as a result of a recommendation made by the Public Accounts Committee, of which I was a member at one time, as was the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The difference is that the Treasury keeps its accounts purely on a cash basis. It does not take into account creditors and debtors, contra entries or any of the other things which are taken into account in a commercial system of keeping accounts. The Treasury is concerned only with cash coming in and cash going out. The Post Office deals with a great deal more than mere cash.
I repeat, Sir, that there is no taxation component in the revenue of the Post Office. It gets the whole of its funds as a business undertaking, and it should have the responsibility for raising the funds required to meet the demands of the programme that it has to undertake and then spending the money in accordance with the priorities which it determines. I am not too happy about priorities, either. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) makes a terrible noise in this place demanding telephones for a twopence halfpenny suburb only half an hour’s travel from Sydney.
– I shall tell my electors about that statement.
– The honorable member is quite at liberty to tell them. That suburb is within cooee of doctors, hospitals and every possible kind of service and facility. Yet the honorable member howls for more telephone services there. I am concerned about telephone services and other communications for people who live 150 and 200 miles from the usual amenities of civilized life and from doctors. They are the people who must be given priority. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that television should be given the lowest priority in the expenditure of the funds which he has available. I would sooner see improved radio services than the extension of television, because I believe that improved radio facilities are essential. The highest priority of all must be given to the provision of essential means of communication such as telephone and postal services. The further people are from doctors, hospitals and other services and facilities, the higher should be the priority given to the provision of telephone and postal services for them. In my electorate are districts which have no postal or telephone services. In reply to a question which I asked some time ago the PostmasterGeneral told me that his department was considering installing a radio-telephone link in those districts. I appreciate that to construct a metallic line over such long distances is not a business proposition. Fortunately, the Postmaster-General is in the chamber, and has been throughout the debate, so I give him notice that at an early opportunity I propose to ask him how far the trials have proceeded with these radiotelephone links because I believe that they will be the answer to the top priority question of communications in the outback.
I too, support the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), in relation to speeding up the installation of automatic exchanges. The basic remedy lies in making additional funds available to the Postmaster-General’s Department and in the department spending those funds wisely along the lines that I have suggested, giving first priority to the provision of a greater number of automatic exchanges in the country districts. It is true that at present we are faced with the problem that many persons operating manual exchanges in country districts want to be relieved of the burden which they accepted in the early days. They want to retire. As a result of these manual exchanges closing down many people will lose their telephone communications until they are linked up with an automatic exchange. This is an important problem. I do not know what the limiting factors are. One may be the availability of material and/ or skilled man-power, but I am certain that the availability of funds plays an important part in the matter. Finance should be made available for this purpose. It cannot be made available under the present system but I am sure that it could be provided if the department were responsible for raising its own funds.
Whatever faults may exist in the operations of the Post Office, they are faults of the kind that I have mentioned. I think every honorable member will support me in paying a tribute to the staff of the department for the work that it” does. We have an honest crew of workers ranging from the man who handles a pick to the State directors of postal services. All these officers are there to give service, and I have always received service and consideration from them. Of course, they are bound by the limiting factors which I have mentioned but they will go out of their way to satisfy any one who approaches them with a problem. There always will be people who grizzle and grumble. Very often people complain without having any real reason for doing so, or if they have a reason they have not taken up the matter in the correct way. I support the proposed vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I only wish that the vote were larger so that the PostmasterGeneral, who is sympathetic to the people in country areas right up to the hilt, could carry out the proposals that he has in mind.
.- In the course of his remarks the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) referred, and gave support, to the practice of charging interest on the capital provided to the Post Office. I and other members of the Labour Party have voiced strong opposition to this practice of levying an interest charge of anything up to £15,000,000 on the capital debt of the Post Office. This serves only to force up the cost of the services that the department provides. This matter was the subject of inquiry by a special committee and the recommendation which was made, which if I remember rightly was only a majority recommendation of two to one-
– It was three to two.
– Well, that places the Postmaster-General in an even more invidious position. If we charge interest on the capital which we provide to put the Post Office on what is supposed to be a commercial basis it is obvious that costs will be forced up substantially and that the people who use the telephones, and the postal and other services provided by the department, will pay the bill. The silly thing about it all is that the Post Office is not a commercial enterprise in the sense that private organizations are commercial enterprises. For a start, it is a monopoly. In the main its capital is provided by the taxpayers. What the position amounts to is that the taxpayers who provide the capital for the Post Office must then foot the interest bill on the funds which they have subscribed by way of taxation. That has always seemed to me to be a ridiculous state of affairs. The taxpayer who provides the capital is the same person who posts letters, uses a telephone or buys a broadcasting or television licence. As I have said, he provides the funds by way of taxation and then has to meet an interest bill of about £15,000,000 on the contributions which he has already made.
The worst feature of this most unreal proposition is that it has been a major cause of inflation in business. Every business which uses the postal service to send letters, catalogues or accounts, and every business which sends telegrams or uses telephones must share this heavy interest burden which has forced postal, telephonic and telegraphic charges to their present high level. I am not surprised that there was a decline last year in the income earning capacity of the Postal Department. Possibly this was due substantially to the depressed economic conditions which the country was experiencing as a result of the Government’s mismanagement, but I would say that it was also evidence of some delayed resentment and reaction against the increases in postal, telephonic and telegraphic charges which were made not so long ago.
I want to refer also to what are called non-official post offices. Many of these are spread throughout the country and, I do not mean only in rural areas.
– There are 9,000 of them.
– As my colleague reminds me, there are 9,000 non-official post offices which provide various postal facilities for the public. I do not think that the people who run these offices are treated in the way that they should be treated. In my experience they do a good job in view of their limitations. From my observations, not only in the metropolitan area of Sydney but also in various country districts, many non-official post offices are located in most unattractive premises. Many have not seen a paint brush for years; many have outmoded equipment and the furniture is dingy and not very presentable. These premises do not enhance the prestige of the Post Office which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, commercial enterprise in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately such offices exist not only in localities which have a small population. The suburb of BrightonleSands which is in my electorate is expanding remarkably following the advent of home units. There could be anything up to 7,000 or 8,000 people in that suburb but they are served by a non-official post office. I stress again that I cast no aspersions on the people who run these post offices. They provide a very courteous and a reasonably efficient service within the limits of the facilities available to them. These establishments, by their very nature as nonofficial post offices, can provide only a limited service. The premises and the facilities provided are not in keeping with the general standard maintained by the department.
I have mentioned Brighton-le-Sands. The position at Ramsgate in my electorate is somewhat similar. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), who has a deep interest in the Postal Department and, in fact, a vocational background connected with the department, directed a question to the Postmaster-General not long ago asking whether there was sufficient business in those two areas to warrant the provision of official post offices with full facilities. The Postmaster-General said that the business warranted official post offices, but their provision would be delayed because the department had no sites available. I suggest that it is time that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department tried to find sites, because development in those areas is going on apace, and if the sites are not obtained soon they are going to cost a darn sight more when they finally are obtained than they would cost now. To save cost they will have to be obtained in a very short time - not in five years or ten years, but in one year or two years - because land is becoming extremely costly in those fastdeveloping districts. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral and the Government will show foresight and energy and will see that these communities have proper postal facilities available to them, provided by a department which not only has such a large revenue but which also spends so much money.
I doubt whether there is a member in this place who has not complained about the inadequacy of telephone facilities. I admit that there has been in recent years an increase in the department’s activities in providing telephone services. Not long ago, I put a question on notice to the PostmasterGeneral which he answered on 30th August last. He told me that whereas in 1957-58 164,184 telephone services had been provided, in 1961-62 the number had risen to 209,020. Of course, any increase like that is welcome, but all such figures are relative to something else - and one of the things to which they are obviously relative is the number of new applications for telephone services. Whereas in 1957-58 there were 160,620 new applications for telephone services as against the 164,184 services provided in that year, in 1961-62 there were 236,185 new applications. I know that statistics are dull, but I will simplify the position in this way: That over that fiveyear period the yearly number of applications for telephone services arose by 75,500 whereas the number of services provided increased annually by only 45,000. So, although 45,000 more services were provided each year, the number of new applications has risen by 75,000 each year. It appears that we are falling further and further behind, although the figures that the Minister gave me do not indicate that directly. He said that at 30th June this year there were 78,836 people awaiting telephones. The figures do not quite add up as far as I am concerned. The only way I can reconcile them is by assuming that some of the people who applied for telephones cancelled their applications or that some people who already had telephones cancelled their subscriptions and thus made the phones available to other persons.
By June this year - seventeen years after the end of the war, as another honorable member has pointed out - we are still nearly 80,000 telephone services in arrears. That figure does not take into account the fact that there are about 91,000 people who have duplex telephone services. I do not think that there is one person who has a duplex telephone service who would not prefer to have an exclusive service if one were available. There are businessmen in my electorate, as there are no doubt businessmen in other electorates, who have had to be content with duplex services. The department’s attitude is that that does not matter when a particular duplex line has a low calling rate. But the low calling rate refers to outward calls only. It is no comfort to a businessman who wants an exclusive service to tell him that the record shows that he has only three or four outward calls a day. To many businesses the important thing is not the number of outward calls but the number of inward calls. An instance is the butcher’s shop which receives - and relies on - inward calls from housewives. The same applies to many retail establishments. The department takes no account of that.
To put it briefly, there is the greatest inadequacy in telephone services in this country. On the Minister’s own admission there are almost 80,000 services still required. Apart from that there are, as I said, between 89,000 and 91,000 people who enjoy only a limited service because they are on duplex lines. I hope that the Minister will be able to divert even more money to the task of providing telephone services for people who in many cases depend on the telephone for their livelihood.
Now I turn to another matter. I receive complaints from municipal bodies in my electorate about the Postmaster-General’s Department’s habit of tearing up strips in concrete footways. The department has some new machinery to do this job. It cuts into the footway and excavates a strip about 18 inches wide. After having dug up these strips in footways the department will pay only for the cost of replacing the actual strip dug up along the middle of the footway. The engineer of a municipality in my electorate has shown me what happens after periods of upwards of a month after the re-laying of the footways. The footway looks ugly immediately it has been repaired. It looks a proper hotch-potch, because obviously the new cement in the replaced strip does not match the colour of the old cement on either side. But more serious than that is the fact that often the replaced strip subsides and the local council is forced to replace the whole footpath at the expense of the ratepayers. A municipal body making a claim to the department for some sort of help in this regard finds that the department is a law unto itself in the matter. It claims that it has the right to cut the foopath and to replace only the part that it has cut. What actually happens is that the local ratepayers finally bear the cost burden, because it is necessary to replace the whole footpath. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter. I have written to him about it before, and I had asked a question on notice about it. The complaints made in this respect are genuine and sincere, because councils do not make such complaints idly. I have been taken around by council officers and shown what has happened to some footpaths which have had a strip dug out of them by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and later replaced and have seen photographic evidence of what has happened in other cases.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am glad to be able to spend a little time in replying to various matters that have been put before the committee in this debate by honorable members on both sides. I appreciate the fact that there has been a free and frank discussion of the problems of the various instrumentalities under my control, and I appreciate the spirit in which the various points have been made. Quite a few individual cases have been referred to by honorable members. I do not want to give detailed replies at this stage to the various individual questions raised, because I would take up too much of the time of the committee in doing so. I assure those honorable members who have brought forward these cases, however, that their representations have been noted and that they will receive replies from me in due course.
A number of other comments have been made to which I can give a more or less general answer. This answer, I think, will satisfy a number of honorable members who have made representations. I propose to refer, first, to comments made regarding Post Office services. These comments have, in the main, been characterized by criticism of the department’s inability to provide more or less immediate installation of all services that are required, or, if not immediate installation, installation within a reasonably short period. I admit immediately, Mr. Chairman, that some applications have had to wait for varying periods, but I do say that the charge that these delays have arisen from a lack of planning or a lack of enterprise on the part of departmental officers cannot be sustained.
One honorable member this afternoon said that in replying to a question concerning the longest period of waiting for a telephone installation I had said that six years was the longest period. The honorable member said, “Isn’t that dreadful. It is a dreadful commentary on the operation of the Post Office that people have to wait six years for a telephone.” Let me say that in replying to the question I gave a perfectly fair and frank answer. As I pointed out by way of interjection during the honorable member’s speech, of some 30,000 outstanding applications, 87 have had a waiting period of six years. In the case of the great majority of them, the waiting period was between one and two years. Certainly there is no justification for a suggestion that applicants normally have to wait six years for a telephone installation. After all, it is very difficult indeed to provide telephone connexions in many places from which applications are received. When we can say that only this relatively small number of applications have been outstanding for that maximum period, I think we have nothing to apologize for. I repeat that any charge that the delays in providing installations, such as those delays are, result from a lack of planning and enterprise on the part of the department is quite unfair.
Let me tell the committee the main causes of delays, in some cases, in these installations. The first would be the everincreasing demand throughout Australia for more and more telephone services. It is interesting to note that, despite the criticism we hear from the other side of the Parliament about the state of our economy, and about the adverse effects of the Government’s economic policies, in every month since the time last year when we brought in our economic measures .there has been an increase in applications for- new services which has represented a record for the particular month of the year. These increasing numbers of applications have arisen from the prosperity of the country that has been brought about as a result of the Government’s policies and its great developmental programme, with private enterprise taking advantage of the opportunities available and consequently demanding more and more telephone services. The general high level of prosperity has meant that, apart from the applications for services from the industrial section of the community, more and more private citizens living in the suburbs are requiring telephone services.
Let me remind honorable members of the amazing industrial development that has taken place in cities like Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. This has posed serious problems for the Post Office in providing the necessary services. In addition, we all know of the development that has taken place in country areas, and which has made it difficult for us to keep pace with the great new demand. There is, of course, another factor that honorable members should take into account when they set out to criticize the Post Office for some delay in the provision of services. This is a federal government, do not forget, and it has to consider a great number of varying requirements in the light of available finance. You know, of course, that the Government has embarked on an extensive programme of assistance to the States for their developmental works. You know that when the State Premiers come here looking for finance they demand more and more from the federal purse to cope with their individual requirements. You know that the available funds have to be spread over all the requirements. This is a circumstance that determines the amount of cash available to the Post Office to satisfy the greatly expanding demand.
Let me show honorable members how we have dealt with this increasing demand. I know it is difficult to assimilate quoted figures while listening to a brief speech such as this, but the figures I shall give will be sufficient to answer some of the comments that have been made this afternoon. I referred a little earlier to the increase in the number of applications. Honorable members will be interested to know that gross applications for telephone installations increased from 143,000 in 1953-54 to 230,000 in this year. This represents an increase of 90,000. I shall not go into a lot of detail. I know, from what I have heard in speeches to-day, that some honorable members get a bit confused between gross applications, net applications, deferred applications, outstanding telephone orders, and so on. These are all matters of detail, and I am giving only sufficient figures to show what the actual position is. As I say, there has been an increase of 90,000. Honorable members opposite are now trying to interject. Don’t they want the figures? Don’t they want the facts?
– We cannot follow you.
– Unfortunately, that is the trouble, and that is why a good deal of this criticism has been levelled. You cannot follow the figures given to you. I have just told the committee that over the period mentioned there was an increase of 90,000 in gross applications. Now I shall give the increase in the net demand, which is arrived at by taking cancellations from gross applications. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) implied that, somehow or other, these figures do not add up. He suggested that perhaps cancellations come into the picture. Yes, they do, and I am giving now the difference between the increase in gross applications and the increase in net demand. We find gross applications up by 90,000, net demand up by 70,000.
Here is the point, and it is the real nub of the matter: In that period there was a reduction in deferred applications - that is, applications deferred for six months or more - of 30,000. Here is an example of the way in which the Post Office is progressing in solving the problem of keeping pace with the increasing demand. There was a net increase of 70,000 applications in that period, and a reduction of 30,000 in deferred applications.
I want to refer to the capital works allocation. This was mentioned in the debate this afternoon. I will not go into details, but it is necessary to make some reference to this matter. Some honorable members, including my honorable friend from Wimmera (Mr. King), asked why we could not make a greater allocation for telephone services. I agree with him, but let us face the problem. The position for this year has been clouded a little in the presentation of the estimates because of the introduction in the capital works vote, purely as an accounting measure, of £13,000,000 from the ordinary services vote for previous years. However, I will give the actual figures. This year the vote for purely engineering works is £42,000,000. We also have a vote of £6,750,000 for new buildings and £500,000 or more for sites. That is an increase of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 over the amounts available to us previously. That means in our planning - the planning that some people say we do not have - we can provide at least another 8,000 telephone installations with the additional money that has been made available to us by the Government and will be able to reduce the deferred applications by at least 12,000.
Let me give some of the highlights of our proposals. This will be of interest to all honorable members, because I know they are concerned with the position in their electorates and they do sincerely want to know what is happening. The amounts I have just mentioned total £49,290,000, and this will be used on engineering works, buildings, sites and so on. It is an increase of £3,300,000 over the amount allocated for last year. With this extra amount we plan to install - and we will install - 261,000 gross telephone services, compared with 247,000 for last year. Now let us consider trunk line channels, which are essential. There will be 3,065 new trunk line channels, compared with 2,300 last year.
My honorable friends, particularly the honorable members for Wimmera and Lawson (Mr. Failes), have asked for an increase in the number of new country automatic lines. When we talk now about country automatic lines and R.A.X.’s, we should keep in mind that we no longer refer to the provision of R.A.X.’s. Formerly, we may have said that we had installed 200 R.A.X.’s. They might serve an average of 20 to 25 subscribers each. If in the next year we put in 100 R.A.X.’s, we would be told that we were not providing as many services as we did in previous years, but these exchanges may serve an average of 100 subscribers. We now determine our services by the number of country automatic lines we have installed. This year, we will put in 55,000 new country automatic lines, compared with 42,000 last year. That is part of our planning. The additional amount made available by the Government for our capital works vote and our ordinary services votes will enable us to start a drive to catch up on the lag in industrial areas and in country areas, and we are proceeding to do so.
Several honorable members raised matters which I shall deal with in detail by letter. The honorable member for Wimmera referred to the difficulties facing non-official postmasters whose units have dropped because of the development of our automatic system. That is a problem and I know it. We do not have the answer yet, but we are trying to find it.
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) refer to our commercial accounts. He pointed out that this year we have presented commercial accounts which show a loss of £1,900,000. The honorable member for Barton also referred to the commercial accounts. I point out that these accounts have been prepared following an inquiry by an independent committee. This was the action recommended by the Public Accounts Committee, of which honorable members opposite were members. The committee recommended that the Post Office should be regarded as a commercial entity and should present commercial accounts. It made certain suggestions regarding the presentation of interest, superannuation, depreciation, furlough and so on, and we have adopted those suggestions. As a result, any one with a knowledge of accountancy can determine exactly the results of the annual operations of the Post Office as a business entity, and I think that is very valuable. It is idle to say that because we are including interest and other charges in the accounts, our tariffs will increase. The adoption of commercial accounts does not mean increased tariffs, but it does mean that people can ascertain exactly how this enterprise - the biggest business enterprise in Australia - compares with other business enterprises that publish balance sheets which include a charge for interest on capital, depreciation, superannuation, furlough and the like. I am glad that the honorable member for Moore brought up this very important matter.
I could say much more about the Post Office, but I do not want to take up too much of the committee’s time. I turn, therefore, to comments made about the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to a programme called “ Four Corners “ which is conducted by Mr. Michael Charlton. The honorable member was quite profuse in his praise of Mr. Charlton, but apparently Mr. Charlton did not cover all the points that the honorable member would1 have liked him to cover. The honorable member for Grayndler asked whether Mr. Charlton had been under some inhibition or had been told that he must not do this or that. In the first place, Mr. Charlton spent only six days in Russia and during that period filmed as much programme material as he could. He would have liked to remain in Russia longer in order to cover a wider range, but he was not subject to any control over his movements while in Russia nor was he in any way inhibited in what he did by instructions from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. His object during his visit was to try to bring before Australian audiences interviews with interesting people in Russia and to show some aspects of everyday life in that country. I, as one who completely condemns that type of life, would have liked Mr. Charlton to have had more opportunity to portray real life in the Soviet Union.
The quality and Australian content of television programmes were mentioned by a number of honorable members. One honorable member opposite said that the situation which is at present developing constitutes a breach, on the part of commercial television licensees, of the gentleman’s agreement which they entered into with me that their programmes would have 40 per cent. Australian content. I do not agree with the honorable member’s suggestion. The figures available to me and my discussions with the commercial television licensees show that they are doing all they can to honour the agreement that was made. Those who have been quoted as being below the agreed Australian content in their programmes are licensees who have not yet been in the game long enough to enable them to build right up to that stage. Admittedly the Australian Broadcasting Commission is in a favoured position, but it does a fine job in building up the Australian content of our television programmes. It has commissioned a number of Australian authors to write dramatic scripts and is always ready to produce dramas of good quality of Australian origin. I think every one will admit that in this regard the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done a very good job. It has already shown several very successful Australian historical serials, which have been appreciated by the viewers. In the last financial year the commission employed in television 426 Australian actors, 811 musicians and 665 dancers and entertainers. I concede that we cannot require commercial licensees to reach that high standard, but I believe they are attempting to do so.
It has been suggested that the Government should fix by legislation a certain quota for the Australian content of television programmes. I maintain my attitude that by fixing a quota of 50 per cent., 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, we would not achieve the ultimate objective of providing Australian programmes of the highest quality. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said it was not easy to determine how we should finance or £0 about building up the Australian content of programmes; and that is true. He asked what the Government is going to do in this regard. I announced a considerable time ago that we had decided to set up an interdepartmental committee to inquire into the problem of how we could best encourage the production of Australian television material. The committee was appointed to inquire into the question in regard to television and not the wider field of film production. It was asked to inquire how best we could encourage the production of that material - not necessarily by some easy form of subsidy, or something of that sort, but by other methods. That committee has been given its terms of reference and has had several meetings. Having closely considered the matter it has now invited all those concerned with the development of Australian television programme production to answer, with comment, a questionnaire which it is now sending out. This action has been taken so that the committee may have before it all the facts and problems involved in this matter. This is a definite forward move in an endeavour which will of itself build up the Australian content of our television programmes. I hasten to say that the inquiry being held by this committee is not going to be resolved in a day or two or a week or two. I expect months to pass before the committee will be in a position to make a recommendation to Cabinet. Its findings will be simply in the nature of a determination of facts, and on them the Government will determine what is best to be done. I wish to make it plain, however, that we are not thinking of going into some wild form of subsidy or some expanded form of help to the television programme industry.
During the debate honorable members raised the question of frequency modulation broadcasting. I was asked whether there was a simple reason for the fact that for the time being at any rate we have departed from frequency modulation broadcasting by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Let me remind the committee that, in the first place, the question of frequency modulation broadcasting was referred to the Huxley committee which inquired into the allocation of frequencies throughout Australia. That is a vitally important and difficult question in relation not only to television but also to broadcasting and all the other services throughout Australia which require the allocation of frequencies. For that reason we appointed a high level independent committee to inquire into the matter. One of its recommendations was that the frequencies at that time being used in the capital cities for frequency modulation broadcasts should be used for the provision of fixed and mobile services and the extra television channels that were needed. We wanted thirteen television channels and could not have serviced the expansion of television in country areas without that number. In the very high frequency band we had only ten channels at that time and had to obtain three more. We can provide frequency modulation in the ultra-high frequency band if and when it is required, and we will do so, but there is yet no general demand for it. When the demand comes forward we will look into it. If some commercial enterprise says, “We want to provide a frequency modulation service in the ultra-high frequency band”, we will hear the proposition and give it immediate consideration, but we will not do so if a proposal comes for national television in the ultrahigh frequency band.
It must be remembered that if that request were granted in one area it would have to be granted throughout Australia, and that would involve the expenditure of from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000. While we are still engaged in expanding television through the ordinary very high frequency channels and are facing large capital expenditure in that regard, I am not prepared to recommend to Cabinet that we should go into frequency modulation in the ultra-high frequency band as a national proposition. As a commercial proposition it would be quite all right. I have been asked what is the position regarding America and the United Kingdom. The position is simply that in those countries, particularly Great Britain, the amplitude modulation bands were jammed some time ago and it was necessary to go into ultra-high frequency, sometimes at the expense of television in the very high frequency channels. That is something that we have been setting out to avoid in Australia because we do not want to have some television on very high frequency and some on ultra-high frequency. We decided some time ago to confine our television services to very high frequency, and we want to retain them there.
Comparisons have been made between America, Britain and Australia, but when they are fully gone into it will be found that the services that we are providing are in many cases the envy of people in these other countries. We lose nothing by such comparisons. As a result of our experience we are going along what we consider to be the proper lines. Consequently, it is not right to say, “ Those countries have done it, why can’t we? “ We could do it, but we would suffer from the same disadvantages as those countries are experiencing.
Mr. Chairman, I have endeavoured to treat the committee in the proper manner by touching upon a wide variety of matters, including postal services, television and broadcasting. I have tried to give as much information as I could to those who sought information. I hope I have succeeded. If there are other matters that have been brought up but which I have failed to cover, I assure honorable members that I will be quite happy to remedy such omissions by writing to individual members concerned.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who drew attention to the position of fettlers employed by the Commonwealth Railways. The honorable member produced rather startling figures to show that in one year more fettlers left the Commonwealth Railways than were engaged. It would seem that that position is true also of previous years, and that it is likely to remain much the same in future, unless we do something to make the conditions for these men more attractive. I realize that this is not entirely the responsibility of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) because the Commonwealth Railways has statutory power to determine on his own initiative what shall be the attitude of the Commonwealth Railways to claims by unions before the Public Service Arbitrator for better conditions. I know the Commissioner for Railways, Mr. Smith, and I have the very highest admiration for him because there are very few engineers with qualifications higher than his. I believe that if the Minister would indicate to him that the Government views seriously the alarming turnover of labour on the Commonwealth Railways, and considers that he may be able to rectify this position by offering more attractive conditions, or at least not resisting claims by the trade union movement for better conditions, this serious problem could be largely met.
There are some matters that I would like to bring to the Minister’s notice in the hope that he will discuss them with Mr. Smith to see whether something can be done about them. The last major review of wage rates for fettlers and other grades was in 1947. I was then secretary of the Australian Workers Union and presented a case to the Public Service Arbitrator on behalf of the fettlers on the Commonwealth Railways. While it is true that in 1947 we received a substantial improvement in the conditions of fettlers and other grades in the Commonwealth Railways, we have to remember that that is now fifteen years ago, and that practically nothing has been done since then, other than to follow the automatic adjustments in the basic wage and the marginal increases approved by the full court in the metal trades case. Nothing has been done to meet the peculiar position of the Commonwealth Railways.
I think the Minister should try to get the commissioner to resist the pressures that I know are brought to bear by State railways commissioners whenever applications for improved conditions are made. The State commissioners say to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, “Look, if you agree to increased payments for fettlers on the Commonwealth Railways then the Australian Railways Union will ask for a similar increase for A.R.U. grades doing equal work in other parts of Australia”. But this statement is not true because the A.R.U. will be first to admit that there is no similarity between the conditions of the large bulk of fettlers in Australia, living near towns and able to take advantage of the ordinary facilities available to them, and fettlers on the Commonwealth Railways. I know that the position of some isolated fettlers in the backblocks of New South Wales and Queensland is closely akin to that of the Commonwealth men, but they would represent the minority of the total of A.R.U. grades in any State.
I tried to get the former Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Hannaberry, to agree to grant to the Commonwealth Railways men the same district allowances as are already paid to other Commonwealth public servants. I am not criticizing Mr. Hannaberry. He was a good commissioner and, I believe, had a good understanding of the fettlers’ problems, but for some reason he would not budge on this matter of district allowances. Does the Minister know that Commonwealth Railways men employed in the isolation of the Nullarbor Plain and on the north-south railway line are getting a lower district allowance than are the employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and other Commonwealth employees in these areas? Does he know that fettlers working at Zanthus, Cook, Marree, Oodnadatta and similar localities are getting this lower district allowance? How can he justify that? It cannot be done.
The Railways Commissioner has sought to justify the differentiation by saying, “We are charging these men less rent than is normally charged under the Treasury practice “. The Treasury practice is to charge a rent that has some relation to the capital value of the house occupied or, alternatively, to the wage that the person is receiving, whichever is the lower. The commissioner pointed out that these men were paying lower rents and argued that because they were paying less rent, they should be forced to accept a lower district allowance. I concede that in some cases, especially in relation to more recently erected houses, the rent charged is not commensurate with the capital value of the buildings. On the other hand, to counterbalance that, in many cases the rent charged for a house built long before the war has no relation to the original capital cost of that house. Such rents are very much more than the Treasury requires to be charged.
The Minister must try to get the Railways Commissioner to agree to increase the district allowance to bring it into line with that paid to other Public Service grades working in those areas, or to reduce still further the rents charged for the houses that the men occupy. These men are working in complete isolation. Their children are not given the opportunities for schooling that other children get, nor have they the same opportunities of association with other children of their ages, and so on. No one can say that the Commonwealth Railways, especially the Trans-Australian Railway, are not first-class railway lines. The Trans-Australian Railway is one of the best kept railway lines in the whole of Australia. Ever since the advent of the Hallade recorder many years ago workmen on the Commonwealth Railways have been working under conditions akin to those to which the postal employees very rightly objected when television spies were introduced. The Hallade recorder virtually spies on any fettler who does not do his job properly. When a Hallade recorder is taken over a section of line on which a gang is working, it indicates any laziness or neglect by that gang and the men concerned can be quickly brought to book.
No one can say that the Commonwealth railways cannot afford the small additional cost. The Commonwealth Railways system is the only railway system in the whole of Australia which has an excess of receipts over running expenses. It shows a profit of approximately £1,000,000 a year, and as high as £1,400,000 in some years. The amount required to give the things I am suggesting should be given to these fettling grades would be infinitesimal, compared with the total profit being made and compared with the benefit which would be gained from having constant labour. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) pointed out, the value of this would be almost impossible to calculate. You do not need to be a railway expert to know the difference in efficiency with a labour turnover of more than 100 per cent, a year and a turnover of only 10 per cent., which is the approximate turnover of other railway systems.
Do not imagine that fettling is a job which does not require skill. It requires a great deal of skill and experience. A fettler is not at his peak until he has served for three years. For that reason, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner agreed to a request which I made for increment payments based upon service with the department. After twelve months’ service, a fettler in the Commonwealth Railways gets an additional payment. After the second year of service, he gets a further additional margin. But that is something that every fettler in Australia gets. I believe that the first increment ought to be paid after six months. This would be a good inducement to the 55 per cent, of the employees who now leave the job after two months of service. They leave because the wages are not attractive enough, and because the working conditions, the isolation and the unsatisfactory climatic conditions in the area make it too difficult to live there. They are able to get better jobs with better pay under better social conditions nearer to the cities.
With great respect to the commissioner, I say that the Minister ought to do more than he is doing to meet the request of the fettlers for power plants to be installed at various locations. About twelve months ago, at the request of Mr. Jack Wright, the Australian Workers Union organizer in Port Augusta, I came to the Minister, who gave me a sympathetic hearing. I asked whether he would install power plants in the fettlers’ camps so that the workers could get the benefit of electric light. I thought that was a reasonable request. The Minister said that it would cost a lot. I know it would cost a lot, but it would not cost a fortune. It would not take more than a small fraction of the profit of the Commonwealth Railways, but it would give to the people concerned something they would never get otherwise except by working near a city.
– They are pioneers.
– They are pioneers, in a sense. I also suggest to the Minister that he ought to revert to the longservice leave provisions that applied prior to the Public Service Board’s intervention, when it virtually forced the commissioner to vary the long service leave conditions. I do not know to what extent, legally, the Commonwealth Railways employees are bound by the Commonwealth Public Service Board, or if they can legally be separated from it, but I believe there is an unanswerable case for meeting their requests for modification of the long service leave provisions in view of the enormous turnover in labour mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The long service leave provisions should revert to those which obtained up to eight or nine years ago.
Finally, I believe there is an urgent need to begin the ballasting of the north-south line so that the line can be made more suitable for fast and heavy traffic. We ought to begin at once the ballasting of the line, so that we can have a fully ballasted line all the way from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Until this is done it will be impossible to make the central Australian line pay as the trans-Australian line has been paying. If this proposal were carried out and if the line were standardized, as I think should be done, we should have fast passenger traffic between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. We could also have fast freight trains bringing stock and other freight from Alice Springs. All in all, the Commonwealth Railways would then be in a much better position to do the job that has to be done on that line. I hope the Minister will give some attention to the points I have raised.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) obviously has an interest in the railway line which passes through his electorate. He said that the expenditure on the Commonwealth Railways system was being decreased this year, proportionately, and implied that this would lead to deficiencies in the railway administration and in railway services. I think he will appreciate the clarification which I now make because, after all, we are all working in the best interests of transport.
He dealt with the estimates of working expenditure, which covers only maintenance, and he incorrectly drew the inference that less work was to be done in this financial year than would have beenxpected. The control of working expenditure at a very satisfactory level does not mean a curtailment of the maintenance programme in any way. It is a reflection of the use of mechanized permanent-way equipment and of dieselized locomotive power.” The greatest incidence of expenditure occurs on the maintenance and rejuvenation of the permanent way on the trans-Australian line. It is proposed completely to re-lay 60 miles of the track with 94 lb. welded rails on that section of the Trans-Australian Railway to which he referred. It is also proposed to re-lay 40 miles of the central Australia railway and 3 miles of the northern Australia railway.
It is proposed to spend £2,300,000 on capital equipment and on improvements to the permanent way, in addition to the amount set aside for working expenditure. We have eight diesel locomotives on order. Three have been put into operation. At the present time they are meeting the upsurge in the traffic on this line. Traffic is up by 30 per cent, in some sections and by 27 per cent, in others. That increase is being met adequately because the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, to whom the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) rightly referred in eulogistic terms, had the foresight to look ahead. Despite a fall in traffic early in the last financial year, the commissioner had the foresight to get extra rolling-stock. Traffic figures are going up on the Trans-Australian Railway. As I have said, it is proposed to spend £2,300,000 on capital equipment and on improvements, in addition to the amount set aside for working expenditure. Overall, including all of these things, there is £700,000 in excess of the amount spent last year on capital works. I do not think there is any doubt that any one who has studied the Commonwealth Railways will admit that in all sections it has carried out development which will enable it to run more efficiently.
Both the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned personnel problems and directed attention to the turnover of labour on the Trans-Australian Railway. That problem has been recognized for some time. The honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned that the circumstance on this line is peculiar. Of course it is, and it always has been. Work along that line calls for persons who perhaps have an outlook on life different from that of the average person. Natural conditions along the line are not good; we understand that. At the same time, despite the turnover of men from year to year, sufficient staff has been available to administer the line effectively and to develop it better. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggested that the turnover of labour would perhaps detrimentally affect the working of the line in the future, but I say that the line is advancing and not going back.
– Surely the Minister will admit that with a permanent staff of trained men the work would be done more efficiently.
– That is agreed. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the organization generally are working towards that end as much as possible. It must be remembered that the number of men seeking employment depends on certain factors. It is noticeable that the turnover of labour is higher in the summer than in the winter, and this speaks for itself. To a great degree, those who remain on the job only a short time are seasonal workers. They work on the line between lay-offs when seasonal work of the kind that they usually do is not available. As I have said, the isolated conditions and the climate are factors peculiar to this line which have much to do with the turnover of staff.
– Most of the seasonal work, such as fruit-picking, is done in the summer.
– That is right. The statistics are available, and, obviously this factor of seasonal work comes into the problem. However, that is only one factor. The commissioner and his officers are working to better the conditions along the line in many ways. They have now instituted a bi-weekly service to take to the isolated camps regular supplies of provisions, including fresh meat and bread, at prices comparable with those charged at the terminals at each end of the line. Special refrigerator vans are provided for the transport of those commodities. In recent years, a welfare car has been put into service to serve in some degree the medical, dental and spiritual needs of the people resident along the Trans-Australian Railway. I think that the provision of facilities such as these to a certain extent answers what has been said about the need to look forward and to improve the conditions of the staff.
Arrangements are at present in hand for the fitting up of a mobile camp train, with all the usual comforts and amenities, to transport men to the site of their work. This train will enable the men to live in comfort when off duty and will permit the elimination of the smaller camps and make it possible for families to be housed at the larger centres. It is proposed, as time goes by, to extend this arrangement by providing additional mobile accommodation. Action is being taken also to fit up a railway car as a mobile picture theatre, and before the end of this financial year regular picture shows will be given at the various camps. I mention these things to show that the welfare of the staff is not being overlooked. Progress may not be as fast as we would like, but great difficulties exist. There are peculiar and particular problems in that part of Australia where the line lies.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh suggested that electric light plants should be provided at isolated camps. That matter has not been overlooked. Indeed, it has been examined very thoroughly. The initial cost of the lighting plants is not the real problem. Maintenance is the real difficulty. We have been told of the isolation of these camps and of the great distances between them. It has been found that very seldom is there in a camp any one who can adequately maintain a lighting plant. Therefore, it is necessary for a maintenance mechanic to travel long distances at great expense which is out of all proportion to the benefit that the men get from these electric light plants.
– Is not the Minister exaggerating those difficulties?
– No. I went into the matter very thoroughly because, as I have said, I was impressed by the case that the honorable member put to me. He asked me to look into the matter, and I did so. After investigations over a period, I was informed of these difficulties. I understand that at one camp, the name of which I cannot recall at the moment, a plant was installed as a test. But an essay at the installation of these plants had been made before that occasion. If electric light plants could be developed so as not to require so much maintenance, with consequent high monetary overhead, it would be possible to install them in the camps.
I believe that we have to be careful that we do not exaggerate too much the difficulties of the conditions of living in the communities along the Trans-Australian Railway. When I was at the table earlier to-day, an honorable member, by interjection, suggested that I had never been to see conditions in any of these small communities. I have a clear memory of a time when, while travelling on the east-west train, we made a special stop at a small wayside station where there was a group of about half a dozen houses. The commissioner and I made a snap inspection. I emphasize that it was indeed a snap one. We had been told of the isolation of these places, and it has been said that the children living there have not facilities equal to those enjoyed by children elsewhere. However, we found, on entering one of the houses when we made our snap inspection, that it was as clean and neat as any that one could find. It exhibited elements of comfort and an air of satisfaction on the part of the people living there. I shall never forget the quiet dignity with which we were received and the complete self-possession of those who greeted us. People such as those have an outlook on life that, possibly, is different from ours. Perhaps, as well, they have a contentment of mind that we have not. Life in those places is different from life elsewhere, I know. I want to take this opportunity to compliment the people who live in such isolated places. Obviously, life in such places has some attraction for them.
It would not be right for me to dismiss lightly what has been said during the discussion of this group of estimates and what the honorable member for Hindmarsh has asked me to do. I have noted the matters that he has brought up. His remarks will appear in “ Hansard “ and I shall discuss all the matters that he has mentioned with the commissioner, just as I have discussed such matters from time to time. The Commonwealth Railways is a fine undertaking with a very good team spirit among the administrative staff at Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, at each end of the Trans-Australian Railway, where, perhaps, the staff are in closer contact with civilization.
– How does the Minister account for the labour turnover?
– As I have been saying, since the inception of the railway there has been a big turnover of the rankandfile staff in the isolated areas. I have mentioned the movement of seasonal workers who take jobs on the line during the off seasons, and also the conditions along the line, which are not entirely congenial. Everything possible in the circumstances is being done to improve conditions and make them more congenial. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his officers are doing their best to get on top of the difficulties. The permanent officers of the Commonwealth Railways are dedicated men. Many of those employed at Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta have long records of service. However, among the rank-and-file staff in the desert country along the line, especially in summer, there is a big turnover of labour.
– A lot of the good things that are evident are due to the common sense of the trade union officials who are concerned.
– That may be, but the man at the top is the one who lays down the policy to be followed. I am sure that the commissioner will carefully consider what has been said in the discussion on these estimates, just as he always considers carefully every suggestion that is made.
.- Mr Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Chaney) put-
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . l
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £599,035,000 for the services of the year 1962-63, viz.:-
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1962-63, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £317,599,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Davidson and Mr. Freeth do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Davidson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1962-63 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed vote, £167,877,000, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £167,877,000 for the services of the year 1962-63 for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1962-63, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £103,323,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Davidson and Mr. Freeth do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Davidson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 592), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is not opposed by the Opposition. In fact, we want to facilitate the passage of the measure as much as possible since its purpose is to adjust the pension rights of men in the services. Before giving approval to the bill I point out that retirement benefits for members of the defence forces have been a long-standing problem to this Government and to the Labour Government which preceded it. In the years before 1949 the Honorable John Dedman began a process of analysing how best to provide adequate pensions for all members of the defence forces. Later, with the advent of the present Government, similar consideration was given to this, because it is not a thing that can be done as easily as providing superannuation for civilians. The Allison committee made a most exhaustive report on the matter, which came to this House as the first really concrete attempt to get a level, down-to-earth and reasonable scale of pensions having regard to the special requirements of the services. The resultant measure came before us in 1959 and I had the honour of speaking from this side of the House in support of it and of analysing it. On that occasion we took a good deal of time on the amendments moved to the measure and also on the bill itself in order to see that it was right - and I believe that, having regard to the circumstances, it was a reasonable piece of work so far as reasonably adequate pensions for members of the defence forces were concerned.
This is a bill which proposes that there shall be done by statute something which is done, in respect of the Public Service, by the ordinary force of automatic action. Problems frequently arise because of the manner of retirement of servicemen. Various members of the forces retire at different ages. For instance, the ordinary ranks retire at 55 years, while a major retires at 47, a lieutenant-colonel at 50, a brigadier at 55 and a major-general at 57. There is great complexity involved in assessing the adequate pension applicable in a particular case. We found also, in regard to fixing pensions for service personnel, which was an unheard-of concept until about 25 years ago, that we had to deal with a strange factor called the service requirement. Both in the days of the governments of yesteryear and of the Government of to-day, there was a reluctance on the part of certain sections of the defence departments to see eye to eye with us in what we were trying to do. What we were all trying to do was to provide a pension which would have the same basis for the men and women of the services as that for civilians. We had to make adjustments for regularized organizations such as the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, which would give as much justice to those members serving their country in the forces as to those serving it in other capacities, as members of the Government or of government departments. That has been the problem for a long time.
The first problem was to overcome the difficulty represented by the various retiring ages. When one looks at the schedule of retirement one is rather amazed to find that after having undertaken such an intensive course of training an officer is retired at such an early age. I mention that merely in passing. It is something at which I have been rather amazed, but I am informed that the service requirement has been accepted as such, so that a major retires at 47, a lieutenant-colonel at 50, a brigadier at 55, a major-general at 57 and so on. If a person is an active member of a fighting unit or of corps troops, the various provisions apply. This is not the time to discuss that matter, and I merely point out to the House the difficulties that we have all had to face in connexion with the Superannuation Act and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act.
Honorable members will find this bill a lengthy document, but all that it and the associated amendments seek to do is what the Minister has told us. The Minister said: -
The principal purpose of this bill is to adjust the pension entitlements of the majority of the contributors to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund in respect of salary increases which have taken place since 1959.
If salary increases are granted to public servants, their contributions to the Superannuation Fund are automatically adjusted. No legislative action is required. But in the case of members of the forces, the statutory provision has to be replaced by another statutory provision. In other words, since there have been increases in the salaries of members of the forces, an act of Parliament has to be passed to provide that if those members wish to remain in the pension scheme they must make certain contributions to qualify for higher pensions on retirement. That puts the matter on all fours with the provisions of the Superannuation Act. Further, this bill makes the process automatic, and we will not have to go through this procedure in similar circumstances in the future. Adjustments will be made automatically, as is the case under the provisions of the Superannuation Act.
This is a matter that has been fought out for a long time between the various departments concerned. When I say, “fought out “, I mean that they were all approaching the matter from different angles, and they found difficulty in reaching agreement. However, I believe that agreement was reached after the Allison commitee’s investigations and recommendations, and certain decisions were made. Now we find that, to the extent that pensions are adequate - and that is not something to be debated here - the relevant provisions are being faithfully observed in connexion with wage adjustments, new salaries, and so on. That is important. The second important point is that after the passage of this bill it will not be necessary to come back to this Parliament every time the defence forces receive increases in salary.
The Minister said also -
The Commonwealth Actuary has examined the rates of contribution which should be paid by existing members fo qualify for the additional entitlement. Although it is still too early to estimate with accuracy the adequacy of the rates which were introduced in 1959, the Actuary reports that there are indications that the Fund is at present accumulating some surplus.
It appears that we have at long last, with the co-operation of both sides of the House, evolved a pension scheme that is working, and which, with these new adjustments, will work more smoothly, because there will bd provision for automatic adjustments.
There are some points that honorable members would like to discuss concerning the conditions on which members of the forces can take up their extra units. There are certain sections of the legislation that do not apply in the case of ordinary superannuation. The Minister said, further -
The bill also gives effect to two minor changes. The scheme of the act requires contributions on promotion to be paid during the period of service remaining to retirement, which in some cases is short and the contribution is accordingly high. Members will be permitted in certain circumstances to defer until the end of their service some or all of the contributions payable on promotion. At the end of their service most members become entitled to payments such as pay in lieu of furlough from which the deferred contributions, plus interest, may be met.
In other words, if a man elects to qualify for a bigger pension, and the amount of the pension is high, there are certain other payments due, such as pay in lieu of furlough, which can be used to discharge the commitment incurred in connexion with the higher pension. That is a very useful provision, and it is something that we approve on this side of the House. The Minister continued -
The second minor change is to permit members who have attained the age for retirement applicable to their rank, but have been retained in the service, to contribute for any increases in pension entitlement which may become available within a period of two years after attainment of that age.
I believe, and the Government believes, that the changes embodied in the bill are substantial improvements. We have no criticism of the measure and will facilitate its passage through the committee stage, so that the procedure will be streamlined to an even greater extent than was the case after the implementation of the Allison committee’s recommendations and the legislation that was brought down in 1959.
In conclusion, let me say that no matter how well a scheme is thought out anomalies creep in. I believe the Government should look at the question of amending the relativity of some pensions. I have in mind a case in my own electorate, concerning a man who served for twelve years in the Navy. For personal reasons, involving a sick wife and children, he elected to remain on shore as a reservist. He performed exactly the same duties as previously, at the same depot, for another eight years, bringing his total service to twenty years, but because he was not on the active list no pension accrued to him. That is a completely anomalous position. I asked the Minister previously, and I now ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is at the table, to consider the anomalies that can occur under this legislation. If I may, I will repeat the details of this case. A sailor who has served twelve years as an active member of the Navy elects to retire but goes back into the Navy as a reservist and does exactly - not substantially but exactly - the same work for another eight years, bringing his service to twenty years. Although he is at a pensionable age, he is not given a pension because his service has been broken. I would like to see this case argued to determine whether a man’s continuity of service is broken when he does exactly the same work. The only difference is that he is not required for service abroad, but he is in exactly the same service category whether he is serving in the Navy or the naval reserve. The man served for twelve years in the Navy and then for eight years in the reserve, and he was able to prove that it was purely family reasons that made him leave the Navy so that he would not be available for duties that would take him away from his home. Some human consideration should be given to this matter. Pensions have to be based upon the humanities of the matter and not on a rigid reading of the service code.
I approached the Navy on this matter some months ago and attempted to have an amendment prepared. We have not had the opportunity to consider an amendment at this stage, but I do suggest to the Minister that he should place this matter before the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and ascertain whether this anomaly and other anomalies can be corrected. This is a very good scheme, and it would be a pity to have it spoilt by these anomalies. I do not say the rates are high enough or the pensions are good enough, but they are much better than they were. We should not rest upon our laurels but should progress slowly and make sure that these pensions are increased, so that men and women in the defence services will have the prospect of a good retiring pension. However, before we do this, we should put a fine comb through the clauses of the act to ensure that anomalies such as that to which I have referred are corrected or at least examined. If they are not, a current of dissatisfaction will run through the services because of the attitude that this is a cast iron scheme, that this is the pension and the defence personnel can take it or leave it. It would be a pity to let the matter rest there.
The Opposition approves of the retirement benefits for members of the defence forces being increased in accordance with the recent increases in salaries, and will support the bill. We will facilitate the passing of the amendments that have been put before us and of the bill.
.- This bill provides that future increases in the rates of pay of servicemen will result in an automatic adjustment of their pensions instead of the adjustments having to be subject to an amendment to the act as at present. I congratulate the Government on bringing the defence forces’ retirement benefits fund legislation into line with the superannuation legislation with respect to automatic pension adjustments. The contributor to the defence forces retirement benefits fund has been at a disadvantage compared with the contributor to the superannuation fund for too long and this legislation will correct the anomaly. It will be extremely popular amongst members of the defence forces.
The Government has also seen fit to permit members who have reached the retiring age but whose services have been retained by the Government to contribute for any increases in pension entitlements which may become available within a period of two years after they have attained retiring age, and this provision is also welcomed by members of the defence forces.
There is only one point that I would like the Minister to make clear, and that relates to the daily rate of pay referred to in clause 5 of the bill. I understand that this means the maximum daily rate of active pay for the member’s substantive rank plus the adjustment for payments in kind. Some contributors are in doubt about the definition. They believe it may refer to the daily rate of pay which the contributor is currently receiving.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to Retirement Benefits for Members of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I ask for leave to move together the four amendments that have been circulated.
Clause 13 -
Amount or Contribution to be Paid Fortnightly by Members.
Table 1. - Male officers, other than -
After section fifty of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-1961 the following section is inserted: - “50a. - (1.) Subject to this section, an existing contributor who is not a contributor for maximum additional basic pension and has not made an election under section twenty-eight of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1962 may, by notice in writing given to the Board within six months after the commencement of this section, elect to contribute under this section for such part of his maximum additional basic pension as is specified in the election and does not exceed the difference between the amount of his maximum additional basic pension and the amount of his additional basic pension immediately before the election. “ (4.) Where an election is made by a contributor under sub-section (1.) of this section -
Amendments (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
In clause 13 -
Omit from proposed First Schedule “ 1 4 10 “ “ (wherever occurring), insert “1 4 11 “.
Omit from proposed Second Schedule “16 6 “, insert “16 3 “.
In clause 17 -
Omit from paragraph (a) of sub-section (4.) of proposed section fifty a “ as from the pay-day next following the commencement of this section”, insert “as from the date of the election (or, if that date is not a pay-day, as from the next following payday)”.
Omit from paragraph (b) of sub-section (4.) of proposed section fifty a “as from the date of commencement of this section”, insert “ as from the date of the election “.
– The question is, “That the bill, as amended, be agreed to “.
– I wonder whether I could have a reply to the question I asked.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) raised the question of the meaning of “ daily rate of pay “ in clause 5 of the bill. I am advised that this will be the daily rate of active pay for the member’s substantive rank and trade group for other ranks plus the adjustment for payments in kind which at present amount to 10s. 9d. a day. Allowances received by members will not be included. The amounts in the regulations will be determined on lines similar to those used in arriving at pension levels in the 1959 amending act. I hope this provides the information that the honorable member seeks.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9th October (vide page 1257), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this bill, which is in line with the recommendations contained in the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s twenty-ninth report. The main purpose of the measure is to authorize the payment in 1962-63 of special grants, totalling £11,251,000, to the only remaining claimant States - Western Australia and Tasmania. The recommendation contained in the twenty-ninth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is only part of the story and the report provides some very interesting reading for South Australian representatives in this Parliament. In it we see further evidence that the Government of South Australia made a grave error - I said “ further evidence “ - in ceasing to be a claimant State. My view is that South Australia acted prematurely in ceasing to be a claimant State and that consequently it lost a considerable amount of money compared with what it would have been entitled to receive after placing a properly presented case before the Commonwealth Grants Commission under the old arrangement.
I believe it has been officially estimated that in one year alone the Government of South Australia lost something like £200,000 on the transaction. That is perhaps only a small loss compared with what it might have been now that the commission has adopted the two-State standard for the purpose of measuring the Budget result of each claimant State and its efforts in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. The two-State standard was based on the budgetary experience of New South Wales and Victoria, and the standard which was therefore adopted was a departure from the threeState standard system which applied while South Australia was still a claimant State and New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were the three States whose financial position was always taken into account. In my submis sion, now that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has adopted the two-State standard the loss by the South Australian Government, estimated at £200,000 in one particular year, would have been much greater had it been measured against the loss under the three-State standard.
I am rather surprised to note that the report of the commission indicates that the Commonwealth Government opposed the commission’s adoption of the two-State standard. At page 33 of its report the commission quotes what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said during the 1961 debate on this matter, indicating the Government’s attitude to this question. The Treasurer said -
The Government is not persuaded that the adoption of a “ two-State standard “ is justified in1 principle and believes that this change in procedure of the Commission should be examined closely.
The commission did examine the Treasurer’s remarks very closely and it carefully weighed the case for and against and still came down on the side of the two-State standard in assessing the disabilities on the claimant States. The commission - very properly, I think - went on in its report to make some comments which I believe are pertinent to this question. At page 34 the report explains the history of this procedure and then says -
In the early 1930’s, the conspicuous feature of Federal-State financial relations was the fact that the States were divided into two clearly contrasted classes. On the one hand, there were three claimant States and, on the other hand, three non-claimant States. The contrast between these two classes was to be found in the fact that the three non-claimant States, could, on the whole, conduct their governments from resources under their own control and raised by their own efforts.
The report added -
It is clear that in essence this situation no longer exists.
It is no longer true, as it was in the 1930’s, to say that the non-claimant States are responsible for and are capable of conducting and are expected to conduct their governments from the resources under their own control and raised by their own efforts. The report - I agree with this entirely - continues -
No State is able to carry on its government with resources which are raised by its own efforts.
That is true of New South Wales and Victoria, and also of the other four States. The report continues -
All States are able to maintain their governments only after receipt of very considerable contributions from Commonwealth sources amounting, in the case of the wealthiest States, to approximately 30 per cent, of their total revenue even including the gross revenue of business undertakings.
I think that answers completely the objection which the Government took to the adoption of the two-State standard by the commission. I believe the commission is perfectly correct in taking, as the two-State standard, the positions of New South Wales and Victoria and equating them with the positions of Western Australia and Tasmania.
I want now to hark back to the point I made at the beginning of my speech - that the Government of South Australia acted prematurely in seeking to become a non-claimant State. The mere fact that South Australia got some temporary advantage in the very first year after that decision does not overcome certain criticism which I believe should be levelled against South Australia. At page 71 of the commission’s report appears a table showing the net per capita expenditure of the various States from revenue sources on certain social services during the year 1960-61. Here we find that of all the States in the Commonwealth, including little Tasmania, South Australia spends the least per capita on health, hospitals and charities- Under these headings South Australia spends 145s. Id., compared with an expenditure of 215s. lOd. in Western Australia, 164s. lOd. in Victoria and 189s. 3d. in Tasmania. If we compare the amount which South Australia - a nonclaimant State - is spending on hospitals, health and charities, with the corresponding expenditure in the two claimant States we have the ridiculous position that South Australia is able to spend only 145s. Id. per capita compared with 215s. lOd. expended by Western Australia and 189s. 3d. per capita expended by the other claimant State, Tasmania.
– They must be pretty mean, in South Australia.
– They may be, but let me tell the committee something else about South Australia. That State compels recipients of benefits in regard to child welfare and public relief to repay any benefit paid out by the Child Welfare Department as soon as the person to whom the money was paid is able to make such repayment.
– They do not ask that in this day and age, surely?
– I know it is difficult to believe, but it is true. Under the Labour Government in New South Wales the wife or other dependants of a sick person or of one who is sentenced to a term of imprisonment receives payment during the period while the breadwinner is unable to meet his responsibility for any of the reasons which I have mentioned or in other circumstances that may occur. That payment is not regarded as a debt which must be repaid to the State when the breadwinner is able to resume work.
– That is reasonable.
– Of course it is reasonable, and it is the only humane way of treating this question of meeting the requirements of a family while the breadwinner is unable to do so. In South Australia the position is quite different. If a man is in prison in South Australia for, say, twelve months, and during that period his wife seeks relief payments from the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Department, then every single penny she has received has to be repaid to the South Australian Government by the husband when he returns to employment.
– Yes, but nevertheless it is true, and the task of trying to meet the repayments of these debts that have been mounting up while the breadwinner has been in gaol is often the cause of his return to gaol. That is entirely wrong and I think it ought to be condemned by every honorable member. No doubt the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who is listening to what I am saying, will get up in a moment and condemn this practice. At least I hope he will. He has not indicated so far what he thinks, but I hope he will say that he completely disagrees with this system. If he does not do that, I think I can arrange for some vote to be taken in the House so that we can test the remaining members on the Government side to see whether they support the Opposition’s attitude.
I want to turn now to expenditure under the heading of “Law, Order and Public Safety”. Here again South Australia is spending only 57s. 2d. per head of population compared with 69s. 7d. in Western Australia, and 79s. lOd. in Tasmania - two claimant States. This is another example of claimant States being able to spend much more than South Australia is spending.
– What sort of Government have they in South Australia?
– A Liberal Government, the same as the present Commonwealth Government and it is kept in office by the worst form of gerrymandering one can imagine.
– Who is the Premier?
– Sir Thomas Playford; but he would not be if an election were conducted on proper democratic lines. However, I must not depart from my text. Not only is South Australia spending less than the claimant States of Western Australia and Tasmania on law, order and public safety, but its expenditure under that heading is the lowest of all States in the Commonwealth. According to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, on all items of social services including education, South Australia is spending 497s. 5d. per head, while Western Australia, a claimant State, is spending 597s. 3d., or 100s. per head more than South Australia, and Tasmania, another claimant State, is spending 597s. lid.
– There is intellectual malnutrition in South Australia.
– That is an apt description. I think most people in South Australia will agree that if the Government of that State had its way it would reduce still further the amount spent on education. The fact that even the present sum is being spent on education and hospitalization is due in no small measure to constant prodding in the State Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Frank Walsh. He has done a magnificent job in constantly drawing the Government’s attention to the fact that its expenditure on education, health, and law, order and public safety is the lowest in the Commonwealth. Had it not been for this constant prodding, the Premier of South Australia would have allowed South Australia’s position to drift still further into the mire.
– A terrible position!
– It is, and if the honorable member were to see some of the conditions under which pensioners live in South Australia and compare them with the conditions obtaining in New South Wales he would realize just how true that remark is. For example, in South Australia pensioners are given very limited benefits on the public transport system. In New South Wales pensioners are entitled to free travel on Government transport services and local government bodies are entitled to charge pensioners lower municipal rates than those paid by other people.
– They can get a complete rebate.
– They can get a complete rebate, as the honorable member for Banks, and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), who have always taken a keen interest in the welfare of pensioners, indicate.
– The council is not too good to me; it gives me nothing.
– Only Labour councils are doing it.
– That may be, but the point I make to the honorable member for Newcastle is that other councils could do it.
– The Liberal-controlled councils merely write off rates.
– That is the fault of the people who put them into power, not the fault of the New South Wales government. In South Australia an act of Parliament prevents local councils from striking lower rates for pensioners than for other people. This all adds to the disabilities that South Australian people suffer from.
– Order! I draw attention to the fact that the main purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment in the current financial year of special grants to Tasmania and Western Australia. I suggest to the honorable member that it would be in order to make some passing reference to other States, such as South Australia, but I ask him to come back to the main point of the bill.
– What I am trying to show the House is that Western Australia and Tasmania are receiving a total amount of some £11,000,000 as a result of the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, when in actual fact these two States are already in a position to spend more than South Australia spends on hospitalization, education, law, order and public safety. I am trying to make the point that this is part of my case against the South Australian Government for prematurely deciding to cease to be a claimant State. I am quoting - with respect, I think I am entitled to do this - from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission upon which the bill is based. The bill is the result of the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the Minister referred to the report. The leading speaker on the Opposition side is usually given some latitude. If you will bear with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before leaving the question of hospitals - in deference to your ruling I shall be brief - I want to refer to the fact that South Australia charges pensioners £3 a day while in public hospitals, as against a much lower rate in New South Wales. Now this Commonwealth Government is trying to force the Labourcontrolled State of New South Wales to charge the same amount as South Australia.
I pass on to page 21 of the commission’s report, which deals with a very important point in my case against the South Australian Government’s premature decision to cease to be a claimant State.
– That question is not relevant to this debate.
– I say that it is very relevant, as I shall show as I proceed.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask for your ruling on whether the issue that the honorable member has raised is relevant to the debate.
– I have already asked the honorable member to be good enough to comply with the Standing Orders and to keep his remarks relevant to the framework of the bill and its purposes. I have granted him considerable latitude, and I ask him to comply with my request.
– Yes, Sir. If one looks at page 21 of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for 1962, one finds that in Western Australia the net loan expenditure per capita on works and services is £24 5s. We must compare this with the expenditure in South Australia in order to know whether we are doing the right thing in giving Western Australia this money.
– Are you opposing this?
– No. We must make this examination in order to be certain that we are not giving money to a State that is not entitled to it. If, in the process of that examination, we find that the State concerned is entitled to the money and if, by accident, we discover that some other State should have been a claimant State and also should have got additional assistance, I think that the examination will have been worth while. What do we find here? We find that South Australia is spending £27 15s. per head of population - that is loan expenditure - on works and services, compared with only £15 17s. in Queensland, £16 16s. in Victoria and £15 10s. in New South Wales.
– Playford’s pittance!
– The honorable member for Kingston says, “ Playford’s pittance! “ Here is where the story reverses itself. Whereas South Australia is spending less than the other States on social services, its loan expenditure per capita on works and services is greater than in other States. This means that it is costing South Australia more per head of population for public works than New South Wales, Victoria and even Queensland. This is what the Commonwealth Grants Commission said about that matter -
The Tables show that on a per capita basis accumulated loan expenditure is substantially higher in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania than in the ether three States, and continues to be incurred at a higher rate.
Now we come to one of the main reasons why it is higher. As appears at page 21 of its report, the Grants Commission said -
Thus it is found that loan expenditure has been - relatively heavy … in South Australia on water supplies and harbours . . .
The commission went on to say -
Provision of assured water supplies to both metropolitan and country areas has been costly in all mainland States, particularly in South Australia and Western Australia where pipe-lines have been constructed to convey water over long distances.
These are very real disabilities. I shall conclude soon, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so you will be spared the job of reminding me again that I am transgressing. We support this measure. We believe that Western Australia and Tasmania should get every penny included in this. In fact, we are inclined to think that the Grants Commission, in some respects, has been rather niggardly in its assessment of the disabilities of Western Australia particularly and of Tasmania. I conclude by repeating what the Opposition said last year. South Australia clearly has prematuraly ceased to be a claimant State. There is evidence - I do not say it is conclusive, because it would be rather an involved process to go into the figures, and the Standing Orders probably would not permit me to do so - that there is a possibility that South Australia is losing this year, as it did in a previous year when official estimates showed that the State lost some £200,000 by the mere fact of ceasing to be a claimant State. The Opposition offers no opposition to the bill.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) certainly made a facetious approach to this very important debate. During the last few minutes, he made a very parochial speech. As he took that line, I am sure he will not wonder if I speak from the Western Australian viewpoint, as is my intention. This measure proposes to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in respect of the financial assistance sought by the two applicant States, Western Australia and Tasmania. The applicant States have now been reduced to those two. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh made frequent reference, shows that in July the commission considered requests from these two States for grants which were not inconsiderable. An amount of £7,378,000 was requested by Western Australia, and £5,631,000 was asked for by Tasmania. These amounts were requested to balance the budgets of the respective States.
Honorable members will be well aware that in connexion with the special assistance which is given under the States grants legislation the principle has now been firmly established that the relatively financially weaker States should receive proportionately higher payments than the larger States of New South Wales and Victoria, and that, in addition, Western Australia and Tasmania should benefit from grants recommended by the Grants Commission. The basis of comparison and assessment is the experience of the two larger States. Western Australia has raised no objection to that. It appears to be a fair proposition basically. There must be a standard in all things. There must be a measuring rod. In the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission it is interesting to see the difference of opinion between the Commonwealth Treasury and the commission. The chapter entitled “Inequalities among States”, which is devoted to this subject, is chapter 2 of the report. The determination of a standard for ascertainment of special grants is dealt with in chapter 3 of this rather complex and extensive report. It is interesting to see that in paragraph 51 the commission has set out the comments of the Treasurer in 1961, when he said -
The Government is not persuaded that the adoption of a “ two-State standard “ is justified in principle and believes that this change in procedure of the commission should be examined closely.
The commission, in this report, comes out strongly in support of its chosen standard and says -
The Commission is of the opinion that the decision made in the 28th report to adopt a twoState standard was a correct one and in present circumstances should be continued. It is also of the opinion that the reasons for this decision set out in the 28th report are in themselves valid
I note with interest that the commissioners also quote the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who said some time ago -
We adhere to the principle, which is a long established one, that those States which operate under basic financial difficulties should be extended a helping hand in order that the standards of services available to arl citizens, regardless of whether they live in one State or another, should not be far out of line.
I therefore say that the Western Australian viewpoint is that the chosen standard of the commissioners, by which Tasmania and Western Australia are to benefit under this bill, is acceptable. That is so not just because we are on the receiving end, but because it seems to be in accordance with the opinions expressed by the Prime Minister and particularly with the detailed reasons put forward in the report by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I say, therefore, that it is a fair proposition basically and is a measuring rod which seems to us to be quite acceptable.
By the application of a method of plus or minus, the achievements of the various States may be appraised, and the deficiencies in local administration may be criticized. The adjustments which have resulted from this particular report and the final recommendations to which I refer, although perhaps a little complex to those who may not be students of the procedure which has developed over the period in which the 28 or 29 reports of the commission have been presented, surely are fair. I want to answer the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who seemed to adopt the attitude that his State of South Australia was certainly not on the receiving end and was greatly disadvantaged. The inference to be drawn from his remarks was that South Australia was being harshly treated. I remind him that the benefits which go to his State from the normal financial reimbursements are attractive ones. The formula that has been accepted and implemented shows that South Australia cannot stand as a claimant State, in contrast to the position of Western Australia and Tasmania at the present time. I do not argue with the method upon which this report of the commission is based. It is now a time-honoured and proven system which is used, but as a matter of assessment and of judgment I suggest that there always will be scope for differences of opinion. I say, with respect to the opinions of the Grants Commissioners, that they differ from the opinions put forward very forcibly by the representatives of the Commonwealth Treasury.
It is at this particular point that local State knowledge may permit of some complaint to be made. The representatives of the State governments appear before the Com.monwealth Grants Commission and detailed evidence is presented regarding the achievements and the problems of their respective States. In this connexion, I suggest that the system we are debating at present surely protects the interests of the weaker States, and not only those of the weaker States. In my opinion, the system protects the interests of all the States, large and small. The commissioners, wth their forthright reports, have a leavening effect on the very extensive influence of the Commonwealth Treasury officers. The Treasury view, as expressed by the evidence presented to the commission, is to some extent limited. This leads me to propose that perhaps many members of the Treasury staff, particularly newcomers and young men with high academic qualifications and probably a splendid future facing them in the service of the Commonwealth Treasury, need to be given more intimate contact with Australia’s vast developmental potential. They should be sent out in the field because the application of their economic and academic training is quite deficient when they come to grapple with the great responsibilities of Australia’s developmental problems. This view is supported by that of many people in Australia. I believe that many members of the Treasury staff would benefit if they were to be attached for a time to various State developmental activities. A visit to the north would give* them wider vision. Days or weeks spent in the field with various Commonwealth and State officers who are responsible for some of the greatest undertakings that we have seen in our time would be of great advantage to them. Experience of that kind would broaden their horizons and deepen the fundamental knowledge of men whose influence is not inconsiderable in these fields.
That leads me to say, Mr. Speaker, that the problems of development such as those with which my own State of Western Australia has to grapple, need to be understood. The grants which are being made to Western Australia must increase rather than diminish, for the task of developing the third of Australia which Western Australia embraces is a long-term one. I make the point that Western Australia surely will have heavy burdens, not just for the present or for a few years to come, but for many years. Is it not axiomatic that, as you enter into a developmental programme, problems arise regarding future development? You do not just achieve something for one day without bringing, as a result, the problems of to-morrow. I believe that the cheese-paring attitude of some of the Treasury officers just cannot be sustained when we look at presentday problems, particularly in Western Australia.
I have referred to deficit figures of some £7,000,000 for Western Australia and £5,000,000 for Tasmania. Following the normal practice of the grants, the bill is in two parts. The first part relates to the final adjustment of the previous year’s grant, and the second part to the first instalment, or the initial grant, for the current year, resulting in payments under the bill of some £6,210,000 to Western Australia and a little more than £5,000,000 to Tasmania. Like the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I would have liked to deal, if time had permitted, with some of the adjustments mentioned by the commission. At page 76 of the report, reference is made to several of the adverse adjustments made to the grant which is being provided for Western Australia. There is a figure of £200,000 for railways and one of £60,000 for metropolitan transport. These are adverse adjustments which point out to the Government of Western Australia that, notwithstanding a very creditable performance in the administration of the railways system and a great move forward under the vigorous administration of the Minister for Railways and the very competent railways staff, adjustment has been necessary.
A tribute was paid to those connected with the railways as recently as Monday afternoon, when many hundreds of people gathered at the invitation of the State Minister for Railways to mark the opening of the Northam-Avondale-Midland railway link under the standardization scheme. Our own Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) was present. The commencement of the expenditure of some £86,000,000 in Western Australia was truly an historic occasion. The Commonwealth Minister, in his usual way, paid a well-deserved tribute to the achievements of th? railways department in Western Australia. I make this point because I believe that a tribute should be paid every few years to the success of this particular railway system in Western Australia. Notwithstanding that, there are in the system imperfections which brought about an adverse adjustment of £200,000 in the grant.
There are the problems of metropolitan transport, also. Many of us here viewed with some concern the move made by the Labour Administration in Western Australia a few years ago to absorb the private bus companies and to establish a metropolitan transport trust. It is most noticeable to-day that, as we feared, there is an increasing deficit in transport. As a consequence, there has been an adverse adjustment in the grant.
In the summary of adjustments at page 76 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report, there is an adverse adjustment of £436,000 for Western Australia’s scale of social service expenditure. But the severity of its non-income taxation brings about a plus adjustment, and there is another minus adjustment of £687,000 because of the impact of State undertakings on the Western Australian budget.
These are points which I think we must bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, when we consider the special assistance provided for under the terms of this bill. Basically, it is sound and the criticism made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh with respect to his own State, South Australia, is unjustified. Comparing the results of all States with the measuring rod of the two major States, this report shows unequivocally that Western Australia and Tasmania are well deserving of the substantial sums which are being allocated to them.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I come back again to the fact that this problem of the States which are difficult financially calls for no short-term assistance. Our view must be broad. It must be deep. It must be a continuing one. I say again that Western Australia is well deserving of the encouragement that will be given by the substantial grant of £6,210,000 provided for in this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Coutts) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Papua and New Guinea.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I take it that the question refers to the lapse of time between the passing of the Native Employment Ordinance by the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea on 11th June, 1958, and the bringing of the ordinance into operation on 6th October, 1960. The reason for this was the time needed by the Administration for drafting of the regulations under the ordinance and related legislation and for the preparation of extensive administrative instructions to ensure uniform application of the legislation throughout the Territory.
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. No such proposal has been received.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) The Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers was inaugurated in June, 1916, by the purchase in England by the then Prime Minister, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, of fifteen second-hand cargo steamers. The first legislation setting up the Commonwealth Shipping Line was the Commonwealth Shipping Act No. 3 of 1923, which set up the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board to manage the Commonwealth Fleet. 0>) The line was finally wound up in 1928 by the sale of five Bay and two Dale class steamers to the White Star Line Limited.
The trading and financial results of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers (old organization) and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers were as follows: -
For the period 1916-1923 it is only possible to give year by year, the gross voyage results sustained by vessels of the line. These are as under. -
Taking into account depreciation, interest, office expenditure and other sundry items from the inception of the fleet until its transfer to the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, a total loss of £388,666 16s. 2d. was sustained by the old organization.
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 17th October, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) asked whether the Government would consider making recommendations to the tourist authorities for the holding of a national tourist week in this country. I have made inquiries about this matter. I find that the honorable member first asked me a question as long ago as 1950 and subsequently followed it up by correspondence. The Australian National Travel Association feels that its objects can be better achieved by means other than the holding of a national tourist week. When it considered a national tourist week in conjunction with its annual Australian Travel Convention, which is held in a different State each year, the main objection was that officials associated with tourism would be absent attending the convention at a time when they would be required to give drive to national tourist week activities in their own States. The association feels that better sponsorship of tourism will be achieved by holding more international conferences such as the one planned for February, 1964, which will be attended by 500 delegates from countries of the Pacific area.
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority declared that a port stoppage had occurred on 25th September in Melbourne. Consequently, the attendance money of watersiders identified in that declaration was suspended for four days. For the reasons given above the attitude of the branch officials was neither understandable nor justified - it is explicable only as a manifestation of a policy of deliberate disruption of waterfront work in Melbourne.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: - 1-7. Death benefits payable to the estate of an employee who loses his life in the performance of his duty are governed by the various State Workers Compensation Acts. These acts make it a requirement that employers take insurance cover, and naturally Ansett-A.N.A. does so. I am advised that on no occasion has the insurance money paid to the company been greater than the amount paid out to beneficiaries. The liability of the airlines for compensation in the event of injury or death to passengers resulting from an air accident is governed, in respect of interstate air services, by the provisions of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959-1962. Two States- Western Australia and Victoria - have introduced legislation which has the effect of extending that liability in respect of intra-state traffic in those States. Other State governments have similar legislation under active consideration. Ansett-A.NA. does provide itself with insurance cover to the extent of its liability under this legislation and indeed voluntarily offers to all intra-state passengers, the same protection as is provided by Commonwealth legislation in respect of interstate passengers. Again I am advised that on no occasion has the insurance money paid to the company been greater than the amount paid out to beneficiaries.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
United Nations Conventions.
m asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice -
Does Australia propose to accede to the following conventions adopted under the auspices of U.N.E.S.C.O.:-
Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Material (1950) ;
Convention for the Establishment of the International Computation Centre (1951) ;
Convention concerning the International Exchange of Publications (1958);
Convention concerning the Exchange of Official Publications and Government Documents between States (1958); and
Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960)?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows - (a)It is not the present intention of the Government to accede to this Agreement.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The following information has been made available by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. In providing it, the Corporation has pointed out that the figures supplied in response to question 4 should be treated with reserve, if only because the distinction between an application and an inquiry is not always clear cut and because, in the early days of the Development Bank’s existence, there was some misconception on the part of prospective borrowers of the functions of the bank and many applications were clearly not only outside the stated policy of the bank, but also beyond the limits of its statutory authority. All figures quoted are gross, but the figures provided in the answer to question 4 do not include applications that were withdrawn or were not proceeded with.
Figures are not available for the period 1st January, 1962, to date, but loans approved between 21st December, 1961, and 19th September, 1962, amounted to £9,900,000. 3. (a) 2,551; (b) 246.
The numbers of loan applications approved and declined by the Development Bank in each of the six States between the the commencement of its operations in January, 1960, and 19th September, 1962, are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Forty-seven residences and seventeen other properties, (b) two properties, (c) seven residences and five other properties, (d) six residences and nine other properties, (e) seven properties, (f) four properties, (g) twenty properties, (h) four properties.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The Australian Government has been informed in advance of British and United States programmes for tests in the Pacific and gave permission for the carrying out of tests at Monte Bello and Maralinga. The latter were conducted in accordance with Australian safety requirements. Australian citizens have not been exposed to radiation hazards as a result of these tests.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621106_reps_24_hor37/>.