24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question without notice to the Prime Minister. What is the present attitude of the British Government with regard to its application for entry into the European Common Market? Has the British Government altered the conditions which it set down concerning the maintenance of preferences on certain Australian products, the protection of its own agriculture and safeguard’s in respect of its agreement with its partners in the European Free Trade Association? If so, in what way have these conditions been altered? Has the British Government stipulated any new minimum requirements for its entry, and if so, what are they?
– I have just received from the Minister for Trade a very long communication about the discussions he has so far had in London. I cannot profess to have completely assimilated all that is contained in that communication. I have just begun to read it. I think it would be much better if I could answer the honorable gentleman with some precision rather than make some vague general reply. So if he would be good enough to renew his question when the House next meets I will see that I am able to give him some information.
– Will you treat the question as being on notice?
– I certainly will.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade a question. In view of the unstable condition that once again exists in the textile industry - a condition that has been with the industry at frequent intervals since the end of the Second World War - will the Minister take action at the earliest possible date to have an inquiry held into the industry, directed specifically towards cost of production, turnover, merchandizing prospects and the industry’s capacity to meet imports at the current rate of tariff protection? If the present slackness of orders continues, despite the general buoyancy of the economy, will the Minister also consider the possibility of applying an emergency tariff until the inquiry can be finalized?
– I appreciate the concern expressed by the honorable member, who has a vital interest in the textile industry because there is in his electorate a number of relatively large textile factories. I know that several other honorable members also have textile factories in their electorates. The textile industry is a most complex one. It consists of many different sectors. Perhaps the honorable member remembers that in October, 1960, the Minister for Trade submitted to the Tariff Board a general reference for protection of the textile industry as a whole. The investigations necessitated by that reference have been complex and lengthy and have had to be fitted in with the other work of the board. It will still be some considerable time before the board’s final report is received. In the meantime a number of interim reports dealing with various sectors of the industry have been received, and since 1960 a number of separate references concerning individual sectors of the industry have been made either for special consideration by the board in the course of its normal business or for emergency consideration by the Special Advisory Authority. At the present time the Tariff Board is considering several special references by different sectors of the industry and the Special Advisory Authority also is considering an emergency reference that has been made to him. It remains open for any other sector of the industry to make representations to the Minister for Trade for consideration by a special advisory authority if it is considered that some emergency protection is required.
“HANSARD” STAFF SALARIES.
– My question without notice is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Is it a fact that the salary paid to “ Hansard “ reporters in the Victorian Parliament is £2,998 per annum, while “ Hansard “ reporters in this Parliament receive £2,751 per annum? If so, do you, Sir, agree that the disparity of £5 per week is causing much discontent amongst “ Hansard “ reporters in this Parliament? Will you, Sir, cause an inquiry to be made into the relative salaries paid in State parliaments with a view to providing a salary suitably commensurate with the talents required for “Hansard” reporting in this House?
– I will give attention to the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask him: Has he any further information he can give to the House regarding the machinery for the settlement of a dispute which apparently exists between an authority of the Commonwealth - the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority - and an authority of the State of New South Wales- the Kosciusko State Park Trust - in regard to works in the Kosciusko primitive area? Can he tell the House whether works are in fact proceeding pending settlement of this apparent dispute?
– I understand that no agreement has been reached between the authority and the trust. One of the aqueducts involved was commenced substantially before the trust declared this to be a primitive area, and that work is proceeding. The other one is not expected to be commenced for another seven years or so, so that there ought to be ample time for discussion.
– I ask c question without notice of the Postmaster-General. Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission held discussions recently with the Department of External Affairs over the commission’s proposed Intertel film on Malaysia? If so, who prompted these discussions? Has the commission entered into any understanding with the Department of External Affairs concerning either the content of the production or the timing of its release?
– There is an understanding - a natural understanding - between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Department of External Affairs that when the commission proposes to produce a film which deals with external matters there will be a discussion between them. This is designed, not to hamper in any way or to abrogate the right of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to determine its own programme, but simply to provide background information which will be useful to the commission.
– Why not?
– Of course. It is quite proper. I am merely pointing out that there has been a misunderstanding for some considerable time in regard to films such as the suggested one on Malaysia. Of course there would be some discussion, but there has been a suggestion that a ban has been placed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Department of External Affairs in relation to this film. I give this suggestion a flat denial.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister which is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask the Prime Minister: When he is replying to the Leader of the Opposition will he say whether or not the British Government has shown it will consider the possibility of giving more attention to developing the Commonwealth as an alternative to Great Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community? I have in mind the plans put forward by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, and Mr. Harold Wilson, and others. Will he say whether or not a Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference is proposed for this year?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I would be very happy to give such information as is possible at the present time. The honorable member will realise that it may not be possible to say everything that occurs in the course of private discussions. As for the Prime Ministers’ Conference, I have not heard any proposal that there should be one this year.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact, as reported, that the Queensland Country-Liberal Party Government has requested that the Prime Minister and federal Ministers make no further appearance in the Queensland State election campaign? If so, does this mean that the State Government is trying to place all the blame on the Commonwealth for the fact that Queensland, among all the States, has, proportionately, the highest level of unemployment, almost the lowest level of industrialisation, proportionately the lowest net population increase through immigration and the lowest per capita expenditure on education? Or is the State Government trying to blame the Commonwealth for the depressed prices of potatoes, onions and dairy products -
-Order! The honorable member is completely out of order. He will direct his question.
– I refer to the depressed prices resulting from-
– Order! The honorable member will not continue in that way.
– Will the Prime Minister give the Australian Labour Party an unqualified assurance that he will appear in the Queensland election in as many places as possible?
– The honorable member professes to refer to some report. I have never seen it, nor have I ever heard of it. Perhaps the best answer to that part of his question is that I think he cannot know - some of his colleagues do - that it is only a few days since I was in Queensland and made two or three speeches. And, of course, honorable members opposite are unhappy, because I have never had better meetings in my life. I can understand them squealing. As for the rest of the honorable member’s question, I think he is overlooking one fact about Queensland. It has in recent years been struggling to recover from the years of desolation put on it by a long period of sterile Labour government. The honorable member talks about industrial development. What encouragement did the Labour governments of Queensland ever give to industrial development? He talks about private investment. Those governments warned it off with the highest income tax in the Commonwealth of Australia. Now this gentleman has the nerve to get up and talk about Queensland being a backward State. I am happy to say that Queensland is now going ahead magnificently, and no thanks to the Labour Party.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Supply, is not a Dorothy Dix-er. Late last year the Minister announced that his department had called tenders from private firms interested in operating and maintaining deep space tracking stations to be built at Carnarvon in Western Australia and a place in south-east Australia, which I believe is Tidbinbilla, near Canberra. Can he say whether tenders have been dealt with and whether the firms to be responsible for maintaining and operating the stations have been selected? If so, are they Australian firms? When is work likely to begin on the construction of the stations? When are they likely to begin operations?
– In connexion with the development of the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s deep space programme, a need developed for two additional stations in Australia. One will be established at Carnarvon in Western Australia and the other, as the honorable gentleman said, will be established near Canberra. Tenders were called and twelve very good tenders were received. The margin between the top six was very small. They have been subject to detailed analysis by the officers of my department and the contracts have been let. The contract for the Canberra station has been let to a company headed by Hawker de Havilland Australia Limited, with which will be associated Elliott Automation Proprietary Limited and Australian Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited. In the case of the Carnarvon station in Western Australia, the contract has been awarded to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The construction of the stations will begin immediately. Some officers will be sent abroad to commence their training, and the stations should be in operation within twelve months.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Now that consideration is being given to the preparation of the Budget, and having in mind the fact that adults undertake technical college courses in order to increase their earning capacity, will the Treasurer consider allowing technical college fees paid by adult workers to be deducted from income for taxation purposes?
– This is, of course, a policy matter. It contains an element of policy which, I think, is well known to most members of the House, that expenditure, even of a personal kind which is designed to improve, as it were, the capital position of the person concerned, is not normally deductible for taxation purposes. However, I shall study the honorable gentleman’s question and its implications.
Congratulatory Messages Received by Trade Union Leaders.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House which trade union leaders received on May Day congratulatory telegrams and letters from Liu Ning-Yi, the president of the so-called All China Federation of Trade Unions? Was the fact that these telegrams and letters had been sent broadcast all over Asia by the Peking radio station? Do the trade unions under the control of the persons who received these telegrams and letters from Liu Ning-Yi, the Labour Party financially? Is the person who sent the telegrams and letters the same Liu Ning-Yi who was expelled from India last year for political intrigue and subversive activities while attending a world peace conference in New Delhi? Is he the same Liu Ning-Yi who was invited to Australia by members of the Australian Labour Party and was the guest of the Victorian Trades Hall Council approximately two years ago?
– I have received reports that the Communist referred to by the honorable member a Communist whose name I cannot remember and cannot repeat has sent congratulatory messages to certain Communistdominated trade unions. Some of those unions, as the honorable gentleman has well said, make contributions to the funds of the Australian Labour Party. As to the honorable member’s last two questions, I have not the facts available, but I will make inquiries about these matters and convey an answer to him.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. I assume the right honorable gentleman knows that officers of the Bureau of Census and Statistics have received a questionnaire, said to be for the purpose of bringing staff records up to date, and requiring them to give, among other things, their private addresses for the last ten years, the names and addresses of their wives, children, parents and brothers and sisters, of the full and half blood, and three referees not from the same department or firm. Can the right honorable gentleman state why records need to be kept of such detailed and remote information, and how such information can be relevant to the bureau’s staff work?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter to which the honorable gentleman refers. I assume that it has arisen from appropriate discussions with the Public Service Board, perhaps with the Secretary of the Treasury and, for all I know, with others, possibly even the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. However, I shall make inquiries and see whether I can give the honorable gentleman an authoritative reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that special surveys for tuna off the Western Australian coast which have been undertaken or sponsored by his department have been confined to southern areas and have been unsuccessful? Why have not Australian efforts been concentrated in areas further north where it is known that the Japanese have fished for tuna with extremely satisfactory results?
– As the honorable member knows, there have been surveys in the Great Australian Bight and more particularly around the south-west corner of the continent. A private company is interested in surveying the north-western portion of Western Australia. In the meantime the inter-departmental committee which makes recommendations to me and to the Government concerning any surveys under the fisheries trust fund is considering the position, not only in the north-western area but, also, in relation to the whole Australian coast. I am awaiting the committee’s report. When I receive it I may be able to give the honorable member further information.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that funds exist in both the United States and New Zealand out of which compensation is paid to farmers and other persons affected by national disasters similar to the devastating floods which at present are sweeping large areas of New South Wales? Is he aware also that the United States fund is financed by the United States Federal Government and that the New Zealand fund is financed by a levy of ls. for each £100 of insurance policies written? Will the right honorable gentleman consider setting up a committee of inquiry to investigate the practicability of establishing in Australia a national disaster insurance fund, the committee’s terms of reference to include methods of financing the fund and the kind of risks to be covered? In the meantime, will he consider granting funds for the relief of persons affected by the present floods over and above the grant which is normally made in conjunction with the State governments on a £1 for £1 basis?
– The honorable member will be interested to know that the problem which he has raised has, I think on two occasions, engaged the attention of the Premiers’ Conference. On each occasion one particular Premier raised in somewhat general terms the idea of an insurance scheme along the lines of that which operated in relation to war damage. This proposal received no support from any other Premier for the reason that the working out of a scheme of that kind, in which premiums are collected from people who are in flood-free country or in country not normally subject to disaster, presents great difficulties. If there is to be a scheme it must be one in which as many people as possible contribute. None of us has been able to devise any method by which we could secure public acceptance of a scheme in which all people would contribute and in which very few people - and only on rare occasions - would be beneficiaries. The honorable member will understand that that is always a difficult kind of problem, but we have certainly taken the problem as such very seriously and it is by no means finally determined yet.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. I have just received a communication from people in the Macleay district who are having difficulty in getting food to certain areas in the district. Will the Minister contact the Royal Australian Air Force authorities at Williamtown to see whether it is possible to fly any supplies from Williamtown to the devastated areas?
– I shall get in touch with my department immediately to ensure that any requests received from the area in question are met, provided, of course, that we are able to undertake this commitment. However, 1 feel perfectly sure that we will be able to do so. Before question-time this morning I checked with my department to learn whether any additional requests had been received. None had been received up to that time. If any reasonable request is received the Air Force will meet it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question about the application by the postal workers unions for the closure of post offices on Saturdays, on which the unions have been trying to negotiate with him. Will the Postmaster-General tell the House why he did not inform the eight postal unions in writing of the reasons for the rejection of their proposal for the closure of post offices on Saturdays? Will he inform the House whether he has received from the general secretary of the
Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, Mr. McGrane, a letter registering a strong protest at his action in issuing a statement of reasons for the rejection to all members of this House without the same information being forwarded to the unions concerned? Is it a fact that on two occasions at a deputation, and1 once by correspondence, the unions requested a written reply from the Postmaster-General or the Prime Minister, and as yet they have not received one? In view of the contradictions contained in the Postmaster-General’s memorandum to members of the House and Mr. McGrane’s letter, will he undertake, first, to have a further look at the question and, secondly, to send a written reply to the unions concerned?
– It is right, as stated by the honorable member for Banks, that on two occasions I saw representatives of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and associated unions on this question of the closure of post offices on Saturdays. I think it is well known that the matter was thoroughly considered by both myself and the Government and we decided that we would not agree to the request of the unions. That information was given to the unions. After that, as a result of a considerable amount of pressure from the unions, letters to honorable members and all that sort of thing, I prepared a lengthy statement which I sent to all honorable members for their information. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, complaining that that statement was not sent to him. In fact, he was already in possession of the information contained in that statement, which was designed particularly for the information of honorable members who were having requests made to them. Of course, I know that the secretary of that union has a copy of that statement; but if he wants one from me formally, I am quite prepared to send one to him.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that recently Mr. Khrushchev admitted that Russian women are forced to wear panties of very inferior quality? Also, is the right honorable gentleman aware that Australian manufacturers are now producing this essential wearing apparel, and that the quality is comparable with world standards? Will he study the position with a view to further expanding our trade with Russia by the sale of this article?
– I think, if I may say so, that this is a very valuable suggestion, but it is directed to the wrong member of the Government. I think I will invite the attention of one of my younger colleagues to this problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it expected that recent increases in wage margins will be reflected in the cost of production and handling of the next wheat crop, and that the full force of increased costs will not be felt until after the found cost of production of wheat is announced towards the end of November, which will be well before the crop is handled and transported? If that is so, will the Minister have this factor fully investigated and considered when the next season’s cost of production of wheat is being assessed?
– I am not aware of what effect any increase of wage margins will have upon the wheat industry at this stage or even later. But I can assure the honorable member that any effect of wage increases and other matters pertaining to the stabilization proposal naturally will be taken into consideration by the Division of Agricultural Economics in fixing the cost index from year to year.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, deals with a report of the reaction of some local inhabitants at the time of the Indonesian take-over of West New Guinea. The report was very critical and, in portraying the reaction of some of the local inhabitants, it stated among other things -
They are further angered by the way the Australian Liaison Mission provided the Indonesian civil police with a list of the names of 46 antiIndonesians.
Has the Minister any knowledge of this report and, if he has, can he give any information to the House about it?
– I saw the report and I investigated it. It is absolutely false. It is of the same character as some other reports I have seen lately, which are doing no more than attempt to make mischief.
– I desire to ask the Attorney
General a question. Recent decisions reveal that the Government is making provision for additional Australian defence preparedness. Is the AttorneyGeneral able to assure the House that Australian internal security is also being closely watched? Is the Minto Communist training school in New South Wales still enrolling potential candidates for internal subversion in Australia?
– The House can rest assured that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization is doing its work and doing it well. I see no reason to alert the Communists in this community to all the action we are taking.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to that asked earlier by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I ask the Minister: Are the extraordinary screening procedures being applied to the staff of the Bureau of Census and Statistics based on the fact that shortly this staff will move into portion of the Government Printing Office? Has considerable expense been incurred in the construction of a wall dividing the west of this building from the east and separating the portion to be occupied by the Bureau of Census and Statistics from the portion occupied by the Government Printing Office? Are guards to be stationed at the only doors in this wall? Is it true, as reported, that members of the staff of the Bureau of Census and Statistics seeking to pass through the doors in the wall, which give the only access to lavatories, will be required to produce passes?
– The honorable gentleman seems to be much better informed on this matter than I am. These matters are, as I assess them, administrative procedures which have been determined inside the relevant departments. The matter having been raised in the House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I said I would secure such information as I could for him. When I make those inquiries I shall embrace also the points put to me by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. The need for secrecy in relation to publications of the Government Printing Office should, I think, be obvious to all honorable gentlemen.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he inform the House what success is attending the scheme for training apprentices in the engineering and electrical trades in accordance with the agreement made late last year between the Department of Labour and National Service, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and employers? Are arrangements being made to extend the scheme to other trades requiring more skilled tradesmen?
– From time to time I have received progress reports relating to the apprenticeship schemes in both the engineering and the metal trades, but I have not yet had the reports collated. I shall now have them collated and give the details to the honorable gentleman. Referring to the last part of the question, I can now tell him that within the next few days a conference will be held between representatives of the Department of Labour and National Service, some State departments of labour, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, manufacturers, commerce, the tertiary industries and other employers. This will relate to the building trades, and I hope soon to be able to make some statement about the matter. We hope, as soon as that conference is completed, to deal with the problem of the printing industry. I shall let the honorable gentleman have details of the decisions made as soon as they are available.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Is it a fact that, as a result of a vote of this House, two “Hansard” reporters gave evidence yesterday in a libel action in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory? Also, is it a fact that these officers, by their appearance, placed themselves and their evidence outside the privilege of this House? Is it a fact, further, that they were liable to crossexamination on the accuracy of the proceedings and records of this Parliament? Was action . taken to provide these officers and the Parliament with legal representation at this hearing? If not, why not? Furthermore, will you state whether the Australian Journalists Association was consulted about this unusual and unfortunate infringement of the privilege of the Parliament and its officers?
– Let me assure the honorable member that there was nothing irregular in the procedure. A decision was made by the House, and I suggest that he should not reflect on that decision.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the disastrous floods now affecting the whole of the eastern part of New South Wales north of Sydney. By way of introduction, I refer to the very exhaustive proposals that were drafted by the late right honorable member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page, and, I understand, submitted to the New South Wales Government, but without success. As the representative of a constituency that embraces pari of the area concerned, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the additional clearance of land has probably contributed to the extreme severity of the present flooding, which, in some parts, is of record proportions, he will confer with the Minister for National Development in order to ascertain whether staff no longer wanted for the Snowy Mountains scheme can be used to implement measures for the control of ‘.he rivers on the north coast of New South Wales so that the water flowing down those streams may be a benefit and not a curse to the local people.
– The honorable gentleman has raised a matter of very great importance and great complexity on which I would need to make considerable inquiries. I will be very happy to do that.
I should add, while I am on my feet that yesterday reference was made to a request received by me from the Acting Premier of New South Wales submitting proposals for the relief of hardship occasioned by these unhappy floods. I have this morning answered accepting all of the Acting Premier’s proposals.
– I wish to direct a question to the Treasurer. I ask: Has he seen a statement by Mr. Crane, chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, expressing concern at the increasing degree of overseas ownership of Australian industry, which gives local capital little chance to find long-term investments? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that on 2nd April, at a Country Party conference, the Deputy Prime Minister stated that Australia was selling its heritage to overseas investors? Will the Treasurer introduce legislation that will compel overseas companies to make available for purchase by Australian investors a reasonable percentage of their shares?
– I have seen some published reports of a statement attributed to Mr. Crane. I have not had the advantage of reading the full text of his statement. I confess to being somewhat wary about accepting at face value what is clearly an abbreviated account of an obviously fairly lengthy statement by the person concerned. As I interpreted what I did read, Mr. Crane was recommending that there should be a greater Australian equity participation in overseas investment. I did not interpret Mr. Crane as saying that overseas investment was not a good thing for Australia.
If the honorable member wants a useful debate on this matter there are forms of the House available by means of which such a debate could be initiated. For my part I would welcome a discussion by the House on overseas investment and its implications, and I would welcome a clear expression by the Labour Party of where it stands on this matter. I have had occasion before to refer to the fact that whilst at least certain members of the Labour Party speak in highly critical terms in this place about overseas investment, the policy of State governments,including Labour governments, is to pursue as actively as they can opportunities which they see for attracting overseas investment to their States. The Premier of New South Wales is currently on a very lengthy journey overseas the prime purpose of which is to attract to New South Wales new investment from overseas. I understand that he spent some time in Japan negotiating arrangements for the establishment in New South Wales of new industries from Japan and for greater investment of Japanese capital in his State. Yet only a little while ago the Labour Party was bitterly attacking the Japanese Trade Agreement as a betrayal of the interests of Australian trade unions. Let us have this matter clearly settled. It is an important matter for the Australian people. Honorable members opposite would form the alternative government. Let the Australian public know just where Labour stands on this question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to an assurance given to the honorable member for Wannon by the Treasurer that a subsidy on superphosphate will be considered when the Budget is being prepared. I ask the Minister whether he, in turn, will give an assurance that he will inform his colleagues in the Cabinet of the very strong case that can be made for a subsidy, on economic grounds because of its effect on our export income, and on grounds of equity because it would assist those sections of primary industry whose costs are greatest. May I add that if details of the need for a subsidy are not readily available in his department he may obtain them from his own files from letters written to him by me.
– My department is well able to supply any information desired by the Cabinet when it is considering this very important matter because it already has available a considerable body of information and opinion. However, I appreciate the interest shown by the honorable member and the information he has supplied.
– On 17th April last, I directed to the Prime Minister a question seeking information as to the exact nature of the negotiations entered into with the Government of the United States of America by the Minister for the Navy on his recent visit to that country. The Prime Minister informed me on that occasion that he would investigate the matter and provide me with an answer in due course. I now ask the right honorable gentleman when I may expect to receive an answer to my question.
– I did not realize that the honorable member had not received an answer to his question. I concede that he has a very proper interest in this matter. I shall at once make inquiries to find out when he may expect an answer. In other words, I will have the answer expedited if it has been held up in some way.
Motion (by Mr. Allan Fraser) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make available to disabled persons the benefits provided for aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act
– Mr. Speaker, I propose to speak to the motion. The first question for the House to resolve is whether it should give leave in the circumstances as we know them for the introduction of a private member’s bill of this character. I suggest that the House should ponder and debate whether it should give leave in the present circumstances.
Let me remind the House that early in the life of this Parliament the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) placed on the noticepaper a private member’s motion directed to this very objective and expressed broadly in terms similar to those used in the motion proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I do not think it is unfair to state that the motion by the honorable member for EdenMonaro was a manoeuvre on the part of the Labour Party to displace from its position on the noticepaper the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Mackellar. Indeed, in order to ensure that result the honorable member for EdenMonaro moved at a subsequent point of time to set a specific date for his motion so that his motion, which at that time was standing, as I recall it, below the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar, should be raised in priority above the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar.
– I give you an assurance that no such consideration was in my mind.
– The honorable gentleman says that no such consideration was in his mind. We on this side of the House may have suspicious minds, but if the matter to which he has directed his attention and in which he is interested was to be discussed in this House as a result of the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar, why should the honorable member for Eden-Monaro find it necessary to adopt the process that has now come before us? That is the first question which the House might usefully have answered.
The second question is: Is this an appropriate kind of bill to be introduced by a private member? Clearly the bill has budgetary implications and it is for the Government to resolve policies on matters that have budgetary implications. The Government must accept responsibility for the Budget and what flows from it. I am not saying that it is not entirely proper for honorable members from both sides of the House to make to the Government proposals which would have budgetary implications, but that is not what is suggested here. Here is a proposal for a bill to come forward and be adopted by the Parliament -a bill with budgetary implications.
If the Government were so minded it could say: “ Of course, yet, introduce your bill. We favour it and we are prepared to support it and adopt it with its budgetary implications.” But, Sir, I suggest that that would be an undesirable precedent for the future workings of the Government and the Parliament of this country.
– But the Government does not stand above the Parliament.
– Of course the Government does not stand above the Parliament. The budgetary proposals of the Government come finally to the Parliament for its determination and it is the Parliament which is supreme in the final resort. But it lies with the Government, as the honorable gentleman, who was Speaker in this House for some years, knows only too well, to accept the final responsibility for its Budget, to invite the support of the House for its Budget. When it does not have that support the Government is out. If it gets that support then it carries the responsibility for its own financial proposals.
I, for one, question the bona fides of this motion, having regard to all that has gone before and the fact that there was on the notice-paper the notice of motion by the member for Mackellar. Further, even if it were put forward with the most unimpeachable of motives, I say to the House that this is not the appropriate way for the House to go about the adoption of policies which have budgetary implications.
Let me, having said that, make it clear that I do not adopt this stand on any ground of hostility to an extension of social welfare proposals in this Parliament. I support that statement by the record of this Government, which stands unparalleled in the history of the Australian federation. Since this Government came into office the total expenditure on social welfare has grown from the sum of £81,000,000 provided in the last Budget - the 1949-50 Budget - of the Labour Government to £387,000,000 in the Budget of 1962-63.
– What about the effects of inflation?
– The honorable member for East Sydney talks about inflation. He ought to know something about it, because the government of which he was a member left us with a legacy of 10 per cent, inflation when we took over in 1949. But, Sir, even his wild charge cannot get over the fact that we have had an increase of almost five times the amount expended on the social welfare programme -from £81,000,000 to £387,000,000.
Every member of the Parliament is aware that the range of social service items provided by the Parliament has grown. New provisions have been adopted. The very item to which this proposal would be linked - the provision on a basis of £2 for £1 for homes for aged persons - was a new policy item initiated by this Government. My colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), informs me that in the life of this Government the total provision we have made under the scheme has now reached almost £17,000,000 - a very valuable scheme, as all honorable gentlement will agree. So valuable is it that it has attracted the present proposal. When you take into account the increase in the total provision for social welfare, the widening of the range of matters comprehended in our social services programme and the widening of eligibility for people who can take advantage of these things it can be fairly claimed that this Government has given proper recognition to the place which provision for social welfare should occupy in the Budgets of the Commonwealth.
We have a great multitude of claims on the Budget, Mr. Speaker, and social welfare - important though it is - must be measured against these many other claims such as defence, provision for the States and the great variety of items which come before as each year as we survey the Budget field. So I repeat that we have given sympathetic consideration to social welfare matters and have magnified our provision for them to the remarkable degree that I have stated.
Coming to this particular proposal, I know that the honorable member for Mackellar will be among the first to acknowledge that this is not a novel proposal so far as he is concerned.
– It is not a novel proposal to any of us.
– Of course it is not. Members on both sides of the House have from time to time made representations to the Government for action along these lines.
– Your own social services committee has recommended it.
– I am coming to that. We have in the Government ranks a social services committee, which is a very valuable committee. My esteemed colleague the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) is chairman of that committee, and the zeal and interest he brings to social welfare questions is widely known. We regard it on the Government side as a very valuable committee which makes practical and constructive proposals to the Government from time to time. Each year before the Budget is prepared the social services committee presents a report to the Government in which it indicates the matters which it thinks we should consider at Budget time. It sets its own order of priority in relation to those matters. I am able to tell the House that in the last two reports - back to 1961-62 - this proposal was featured, with reasons why the Government should give favorable consideration to it.
We consider these proposals, as well as others which reach us from inside and outside the Parliament. My colleague, the Minister for Social Services, despite all the quite unjustified criticisms which are levelled against him, is known for the devotion he brings to the work of his department. He comes forward at every Budget time to Cabinet with the proposals which he thinks are worth consideration by the Cabinet at that time. So, Sir, there is no shortage of representation on these matters. Can it be argued that we have been unsympathetic to the disabled persons? I think there are many members of the House who have had some personal acquaintance with Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin and who have learned to admire the wonderful work that they have been doing for the disabled people of Australia. We have admired their courage, as we have admired the courage and enterprise of those disabled persons who are taking rehabilitation courses or who have secured for themselves employment within their limited capacities.
Not only has the Government recognized this and expressed its sympathy for what they are seeking to do, but we have demonstrated that in a practical way in this Parliament during my administration as Treasurer by exempting from sales tax the motor cars which disabled persons - medically qualified to be so described - purchase in order that they may proceed to their places of employment. So it cannot be said that we have not shown some practical sympathy. And indeed the objective which this proposal seeks to serve - to facilitate the means by which disabled people can secure employment - was assisted in that practical way which I have just mentioned.
Now, I come to the present proposal. The Government as I said earlier, had the proposal brought before it by its own social services committee in the last two reports. Each year our consideration ranges over a very wide field. Each year the Government makes a determination on social services, which relates social service requirements to the total budgetary programme. It is a matter for Cabinet judgment at that stage, as to what items can appropriately be included in the social service programme for the year.
I can assure the House that this matter, in company with many others, will receive appropriate consideration by the Government at Budget time. It is because I believe that that is the proper and traditionally constitutional way for this Parliament to go about these matters that I invite the House to reject the motion proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I say that the matter is under consideration. It will receive that further consideration at Budget time. The Government will accept its own responsibility for what happens in that matter.
I say, Sir, that government budgeting and, indeed, parliamentary processes, would be completely dislocated if action along the lines proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro were to serve as a precedent for further legislation of a comparable kind in future years. So, because this action is unsuitable and because I am by no means convinced that it is a bona fide move on the part of the Opposition, I remain convinced that it was designed to displace the motion by the honorable member for Mackellar on the notice-paper and, overwhelmingly, it is contrary to the practice and traditions of this Parliament to go about its financial business in this way. I, therefore, recommend to the House that it reject the motion.
– Is the motion seconded?
.- Mr. Speaker, I second the motion. I am amazed to find the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) trying to block consideration by this House of a motion proposed by a member of the House. The Government has the numbers and can terminate the debate at any time it wishes to do so. It can postpone further consideration of the debate at any given time. There is no reason in the world, from what the Treasurer has said, why the House should not proceed to discuss the merits of the proposal which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) wishes to put forward. The argument about budgetary considerations is of secondary importance. The major and important factor is whether the old people of this country are being properly housed.
If some honorable members, one of whom is on this side of the House and the other on the opposite side, think that the old people are not being properly housed, they have the right to discuss a bill and give the whole House the benefit of their views. In essence there is no difference between what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro wishes to put before the House and what the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) wishes to put before the House.
– Do not be silly. You have not read it.
– Anybody who can read - I presume that the honorable member for Swan can read - will recognize that what the honorable member for Mackellar proposes to do is precisely the same as what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro proposes to do.
– It is not so.
– The honorable member for Mackellar knows his own mind, and he nods assent.
– Does he’
– Yes, he does, so the honorable member for Swan can have his argument with the honorable member for Mackellar in private, afterwards. If the honorable member for Mackellar had put this proposition forward the Government would not be arguing against his having the right to advance his views.
– He has put forward not a bill, but a motion.
– Yes, but the essence is the same, because the House will have the opportunity to express its views. It is merely a technicality to say that one honorable member wants to put his proposal forward through the medium of a bill and the other wants to put his forward through the medium of a motion. Why should not the House hear their views? In any case, why should not the Treasurer keep his agreement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam)? The arrangement was that this bill should come on for discussion to-day and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was astounded to find that the Treasurer had gone back on the agreement. How can the House be expected to transact its business if, when an agreement is made for the conduct of business and honorable members on this side of the House go to the trouble of preparing their arguments, the Treasurer comes in and upsets everything in the way he has to-day?
– That is a misrepresentation of the position.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will give chapter and verse in support of what I have said. I think the Treasurer has panicked over this matter. He took up a great deal of time - not arguing why the House should be protected against its members or why the Government should be protected against the back bench members of the Parliament - advancing arguments in favour of the Government’s allegedly magnificent record in regard to homes for the aged. Why cannot the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who seeks leave to bring in his bill, be allowed to do that in a proper way? The people who are listening in and those who will read the press will wonder why the Government wants to stifle debate in this Parliament on this or any other question. This is general business day and if it is to be made a farce - the Government is making a farce of it - why have general business day at all? If the Government wants general business brought on only when the debate will help it, we might as well forget the pretence and abolish the general business day.
I think the Treasurer has behaved disgracefully in the way he has treated the House. He should apologize to it and allow the honorable member for EdenMonaro to bring in his bill. I was given leave to introduce two bills of importance, one to give a vote to the honorable member for the Northern Territory and the other to give a vote to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. The House debated those bills and honorable members on both sides expressed their views. That was a courtesy to which I was entitled, because the Standing Orders make provision for honorable members of the Opposition to bring forward private bills. If the Government has its way no private member of the Opposition will ever have that right - while this Government lasts. Thank heaven it will not last much longer!
.- There is no section in the community, Mr. Speaker, which needs our help more than do the disabled people who, through their own efforts, are trying to make themselves independent by performing work in sheltered workshops. I very much regret that these splendid people, who are trying to make themselves independent, are being made a political football. It is well known that over two years ago I had the privilege of inspecting the magnificent work done in the sheltered workshop of the Phoenix Society of South Australia. Members of that society impressed upon me the need for the establishment of hostels so that the disabled workers could get to work more easily.
It is also well known that a number of us on this side of the House had conferences with Mrs. Bedwin, who is herself a disabled person and has a disabled husband. We had explained to us the needs of the sheltered workshop in New South Wales. After thorough investigation and research we agreed to make certain representations in relation to this matter. We discussed it openly in this House, at times in the presence of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). He knew that this matter was being actively put forward by Government members of the social services committee. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is a member of that committee. He represents a New South Wales electorate and is in close touch with Mrs. Bedwin. He was able to give expert knowledge and advice with regard to this matter, and on the first day of this sessional period he moved a motion calling the attention of the Government to recommendations which had been made, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has stated in two reports, requesting the Government to do something in relation to this important matter. Last year the Government gave most urgent consideration to this matter, but as it then had an estimated deficit of £118,000,000, it did not feel justified in introducing a new social service at that time. This made it all the more necessary to repeat the representations and the honorable member for Mackellar took the earliest possible opportunity to place this matter on the notice paper so that it could be discussed. Why not let it be discussed? Why does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro want to block discussion of this matter, using extraordinary measures to get on the band-wagon himself? This may be a matter on which he had some ideas but because we had been putting it up he wanted to get on the band-waggon and claimed the credit. That kind of action will not be appreciated by the disabled people of Australia.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro knows perfectly well that asking leave to introduce this measure is pure and utter humbug. He knows section 56 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
He knows perfectly well that his proposal would require the expenditure of government moneys. He knows perfectly well that the bill would be a complete nullity, that nothing could happen in relation to it unless the Government made the money available for the purpose for which it was required. He knows, therefore, that this is not an appropriate way of achieving the objective that he pretends he wants to achieve.
We on this side of the House who believe that these disabled people should be helped have moved in the right direction. We have made approaches to the only people who can recommend that the money be made available for the required purpose. We have made our approaches to the Government. We have gone and inspected these workshops. We know what is required. We have placed our views and impressions before the Government in appropriate form so that the Government can, at the appropriate time, give consideration to the proposals we have made.
I want to take this opportunity of saying how important we believe it to be that action should be taken in this direction. Disabled persons are unable, as a rule, to accept the normal employment available to people who are physically fit. But there are kinds of work that they can do and the sheltered workshops find out the kinds of work suitable for disabled people. It has been proved that these disabled people, when given the kind of work they can do, having regard to their disabilities, work as well as, and in many cases better than, people who are physically fit. But the difficulty with workshops such as that run by the Bedwins in New South Wales and the workshop run by the Phoenix Society in South Australia -
– I take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member seems to be discussing the purpose of a measure that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is seeking leave to introduce. I suggest he is out of order in doing so.
– Order! The honorable member is in order.
– Although these workshops can provide the right kinds of work for the people who are physically handicapped, their greatest difficulty is in finding ways to get the people from their homes to the workshops. Very often they are unable to walk. Transport by taxi or other means is expensive. Therefore what is necessary is a hostel in close proximity to a sheltered workshop, so that disabled people, either from the country areas or the metropolitan area, may live close to their work for the five working days of the week, and may work the same hours as do the physically fit.
I feel very strongly on this matter, and with everything in my power I urge the Government to give it serious consideration. I ask it to recommend to the GovernorGeneral that an appropriation of money be made to enable these hostels to be built. I suggest that the scheme under the Aged Persons Homes Act is an appropriate scheme, because the principle behind that act is that you enlist the help of churches and charitable organizations, in which there are people with human understanding who will give voluntary service and who, themselves, will raise a certain amount of money. Therefore I believe that a new measure should be enacted, not that there should be an amendment of the Aged Persons Homes Act, because we aret dealing with a different subject. The Aged Persons Homes Act was designed to provide homes for aged people. It has done that job superbly. No act in the history of the Commonwealth has done so much good with the same allocation of funds as as the Aged Persons Homes Act. I believe that act should not be cluttered up with matters which, although perhaps related, are not directly within the subject matter of the act. There should be an act - call it the disabled persons act or whatever you like - with provisions that the Government undertakes to pay a £2 for £1 subsidy in respect of all workshops for disabled people, and particularly for hostels and homes for disabled people to enable them to live close to the workshops and, as nearly as is possible, to carry on the normal occupations of life.
The country is deeply indebted to such magnificent people as the officers of the Phoenix Society and Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin who are devoting their lives to the service and help of people less fortunate than ourselves.
I would feel extremely happy if the Government acceded to the requests that have been made. I apreciate that at this late hour the honorable member for EdenMonaro has come in behind us and now supports the suggestions that a number of us have been advancing for the last two years. I would feel extremely happy also if, prior to or during the next Budget session, a bill were introduced of the kind which I have suggested, to give the same tremendous help to disabled persons as the Aged Persons Homes Act, introduced by the Menzies Government, has given to aged people.
– I do not propose to make a political football out of this.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order. He has already used his right to speak.
– I am speaking in reply, no other honorable member having risen.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will resume bis seat. The honorable member for Mackellar is on his feet and I give him the call.
– He rose after I had commenced to speak.
– The honorable member for Mackellar has the call.
– Mr. Speaker, are you calling two succeeding speakers from the one side?
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member-
– The honorable member for Mackellar did not rise until after I had risen.
– Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. If there is a doubt in any one’s mind about who rose first, that doubt was raised by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. The honorable member for Barton was on his feet ten seconds before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rose.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now representing the Opposition and has the call.
- Mr. Speaker, the Government has never wanted a vote either on the notice of motion given by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) on 20th February last year, the first day of this Parliament, or on the bill which the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) sought leave to introduce on 28th March last year because it has known that at least one of its supporters is morally committed to vote with the Opposition in support of both motions. It is impossible to think that all other Government members would in fact line up to vote against either of those motions.
On this occasion the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has taken steps to ensure that neither the honorable member for Mackellar nor the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will speak. Let me recall to you, Mr. Speaker, that on the first day this Parliament met-
– That is a little ungenerous considering that I yielded the floor to you.
– I do not want to be ungenerous. I shall state the facts. If I mis-state them I ask you to correct me. It will be recalled that on the first day on which the House met after the last election the honorable member for Mackellar gave notice of motion on this matter, and immediately before him the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) gave notice of motion on two other matters - relating to national service training and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Newspaper reports at the time stated that at the meeting of Government parties on the following day the honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Mackellar were hauled over the coals for having introduced policy and embarrassing matters without having consulted the Cabinet.
The notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Mackellar has been on the notice-paper for more than fourteen months. On other general business days - that is, alternate Thursday mornings - the Government has ensured that this matter has been displaced. When the Opposition has not proposed for discussion a matter of urgent public importance on general business days the Government has ensured that the matters raised by its own dissident private members have been displaced.
A fortnight ago the honorable member for Eden-Monaro determined that the House would be given an opportunity to vote on this matter. He informed the House that he was transferring his notice to to-day and he thus ensured that it headed to-days notice paper. The same method was available to the honorable member for Mackellar, but he did not take it. Presumably he was overborne. Any motion of which an honorable member has given notice and which has been listed for general business day and not reached can be set down in this way for some specific general business day in the future.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that when the honorable member for Mackellar rose for the first time the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) also rose. The honorable member for Sturt was called and he refused to yield to the honorable member for Mackellar. Then the Leader of the House spoke to the honorable member for Mackellar to pacify him.
– Do you know that to be true?
– I saw it. Don’t you keep your eyes open?
– Order! The honorable member for Moreton will remain silent. He is out of his place.
– The technique which the Leader of the House adopted on this occasion so that the other honorable member who has given notice of motion - the honorable member for Eden-Monaro - cannot speak, is this. Last week I consulted with the Leader of the House as to the procedure to be followed on this bill to-day. It was agreed that the same procedure would apply on this occasion as applied over twelve months ago when the two bills proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) were mentioned.
– That is not true.
– When the Leader of the Opposition stated that a quarter of an hour ago you did not deny it.
– I am waiting to make a personal explanation when you resume your seat. If you care to make allegations I shall deal with them.
– I wish you would do so truthfully. You have broken the arrangement which was made. The arrangement was the same as the arrangement which was made a year ago - seeking leave would be a mere formality, leave would be granted, the second-reading stage of the debate would proceed and the matters of substance then would be discussed and determined. That is the arrangement which was made when the only other private member’s bills that we have had in the life of this Parliament were introduced, and that is the arrangement which was made on this occasion. When I have spoken to the Leader of the House subsequently he has given no indication that he had changed his mind.
On this occasion the honorable member for Eden-Monaro formally moved that he have leave to bring in the bill. Then the Leader of the House spoke against leave being granted. We had relied on his assurance and on his honour in this matter. If he had said earlier that he had changed his mind obviously the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would have spoken and stated his case when he moved that he have leave to bring in the bill. Now his case cannot be stated. You, Mr. Speaker, will call everyone else who rises, because the debate will conclude once the honorable member for Eden-Monaro speaks. The Government will ensure that its own supporters will continue to rise until the time allotted to-day for general business has expired. The Government does not want a vote on this matter, nor does it want a vote on the motion of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Mackellar. It is no use to say that that motion would not have embarrassed the Government if it were carried. It was on some such motion - the operative words were the same - that age and invalid pensions were first introduced into the Parliament. They were introduced by the Deakin Government when the Australian Labour Party moved a similar motion and that Government, realizing that the motion would be carried and that it could not defy the wishes of the House, talked the motion out and brought in a bill.
There is no question that if the motion, notice of which has been given by the honorable member for Mackellar, were brought to a vote the Government would have to bring in a bill or go to the polls. For more than a year the Leader of the House has seen that the House has not been able to debate this matter. To-day he has taken every step to see that the two men who have had these motions on this notice-paper for fourteen and thirteen months respectively are unable to speak on them. He has done that by breaking an arrangement and by changing his mind; thus depriving both of them of the oppor tunity to speak and depriving us all of the opportunity to say where we stand on this matter and to vote on both of these motions. It would seem from the speech made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that it rankles with him that he is in the dilemma of having to vote for an Opposition motion or having to speak and vote on the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar. He is sour about the honorable member for Mackellar having given notice of this motion, instead of himself.
It is a matter of indifference to the Opposition which motion is voted on. It is quite plain from the speech made by the Leader of the House this morning that he is resolved that no vote will be taken on either motion. If he were to say that he would allow a vote to-day on the motion, notice of which has been given by the honorable member for Mackellar, we would facilitate such a vote. But he will not have a vote on that motion either. That means that there will be no vote on the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar, which the honorable member for Sturt now suggests would be the proper course since the honorable member for Mackellar put his motion on the notice-paper first. There will be no vote on either motion. Everybody in the country ought to realize that for more than fourteen months the Government has manoeuvred to see that neither of these motions will go to a vote, and that on this occasion both honorable members who gave notices of motion have been prevented from speaking.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented in debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who at least can claim that he received his information from the Deputy Leader. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated quite inaccurately the discussion that took place between himself and myself. It is true that I told him that to-day the business before the House would be the motion of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) - the matter standing at the head of the notice-paper.
– You said that leave would be given.
– 1 made no such statement that leave would be given, because all along the view that I have taken on this matter is that this motion was an inappropriate form for the consideration of the matters before us. The matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition were in an entirely different category. They did not raise budgetary considerations. They related to the position of private members of this Parliament and were appropriate to a private member’s bill-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– You have had your say.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The Treasurer is not refuting or purporting to refute anything that I have said. The right honorable gentleman is recapitulating what he said earlier. I did not refer to that. He has not said that he stated this to me in any conversation. Therefore, it is completely irrelevant to any personal explanation.
– I will conclude. I do not want to deprive the honorable member for Mackellar of time to speak on the matter.
– That is very touching.
– I am not touchy about it.
– I said “touching”, not “ touchy “.
– From the outset 1 regarded this as an inappropriate method. I considered that the substantial debate should occur on the request for leave to bring in a bill. That is the matter of substance before this House. Having regard to all the circumstances that I mentioned earlier, it was open to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to make his substantial speech, giving reasons why he should have such leave, at the time when he asked for it.
– You twisted. I relied on your word.
– I repudiate that. I am prepared to put my record for honesty in this Parliament down against that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition any time the public cares to look at it.
– I am’ a little distressed at the turn that this debate has taken. It is fairly obvious that the Opposition is not interested in the real subject and is interested only in trying to make capital out of it. I regret that, because when the debate started I did not believe that that was the position; but un orTtunately that has become clear to me as the debate has proceeded, and I have had to change my mind a little in regard to this matter. I am not saying that 1 think the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has been entirely Machiavellian in this matter. I take a little more generous view of him than the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) takes. He has been a little clumsy and perhaps a little inconsiderate. The effect of what he has done has been simply this: My motion, which otherwise would have been debated to-day and which was placed on the notice-paper very considerably before his motion was placed on it, has been displaced because of a technicality. If he really wants a vote, he has gone about it by the last way of getting it. He has been a little clumsy and a little inconsiderate, but I would not say that he has been Machiavellian.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has not been Machiavellian, but that is not for the Tack of trying. He was not content with apparently misremembering the conversation between himself and the Treasurer at which he was present. He went a little further than that and invented a conversation between the Treasurer and myself at which he was not present. He gave an entirely misleading account of the substance of that conversation. It is true that the Government, through the Treasurer, had arranged that I should speak on this motion. The allegation that there was an arrangement that I should not speak is contrary to the facts. Through some misunderstanding, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) was called before I was called. That was what the Treasurer was saying to me - exactly the opposite of the words that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was endeavouring to put into the Treasurer’* mouth. That is the measure of how political this debate has been made by honorable gentlemen opposite.
Let me leave the distasteful political considerations and come to the substance of this matter, which is something that I and other members of the government members social services committee, which is led by its chairman the honorable member for Sturt, have had in mind for a very long time. It is many years now since I, in company with the late Sir Herbert Schlink, first went to the workshop that the Bedwins have not very far from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Sir Herbert told me what the Bedwins were doing. I admired, and have since endeavoured to support, what they were doing. In 1960 or perhaps early in 1961, shortly before this matter was raised here for the first time, I paid another visit to the Bedwins at their house. I discussed with them what should be done and came to the conclusion that the motion that I put on the notice-paper could appropriately be moved in this House. This, as I have said, has been a matter that the social services committee has supported and has endeavoured to further for a long time. We are not the only ones trying to do this. What we want to do is to help those concerned and we are not trying to make political capital out of doing so.
As has been said in the House, there is little difference in substance between my motion and the imitation of it that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro subsequently put on the notice-paper. But there is some difference in form. My motion was designed to be the more effective one and the one more likely to get action. The honorable member for Sturt mentioned the provisions of the Constitution. It is obvious that a bill cannot be effective and mandatory without a Governor-General’s message. If it is not an effectual bill it gets us no further forward at all. However, an expression of opinion from this House might have taken us a little further forward. It might not have been mandatory on the Government, it is true, but it would have been a step forward. It would not have involved the Government in any serious electoral consequences, because there is a difference between the pensions case cited, I think, by the honorable member for Werriwa and this case. In the pensions case, payments are made, but under the homes scheme payments are made only if subsequently approved by the Minister. This may be a technical difference, but it is a big difference.
Let me leave this aspect and come to the question of doing something for disabled persons. One of the best things introduced by this Government during its period of office is the aged persons homes scheme. Honorable members on both sides of the House would agree that this is a really magnificent concept and a really momentous piece of legislation. Speaking of New South Wales rather than of other States, I for one am a little disappointed at the smallness of the response of other bodies to the Government’s really magnificent offer. I understand that in New South Wales the response has been a little less than that in other States. I believe that we can, and should, extend the scheme.
When this matter of disabled persons’ homes came in front of me the first thing I did was to get in touch with the Minister and ask whether the money allocated for disabled persons’ homes would in any way cut into or reduce the money available for aged persons’ homes. The answer was clearly, “ No “, because the answer was that in no case had an aged persons’ homes application been refused because of shortage of funds. So it is not a matter of taking something away from the aged people who, I believe, should have at least what they now receive and should have more; it is rather a matter of conferring the same kind of benefit on another very deserving class of person.
Many honorable members will have seen the case prepared by the organizations concerned. The organizations give information about costs. They talk about a cost of £500 a year to maintain a person in an institution. They say further that if such a person is placed in a workshop the cost can be reduced to £30 a year. Money may not be the most important feature; a more important feature is the human value. More important than the money is the fact that the person in the workshop is better off. He feels he is a member of the community and he has satisfactions which he cannot ever have in an institution, however well run the institution may be. These human values are very much more important than the financial cost.
But let us look for a moment at the financial cost. We are told that the cost is £500 a year or more in an institution and £30 or less in a workshop. If by providing a home one person can be taken out of an institution and made self-supporting, that person is not only better off, which is most important, but in addition there is a saving of money. It has been calculated that in two years or less the money paid out would come back. So there is not really an expenditure of funds; there is a saving of funds. I do not know whether all honorable members are familiar with what happens in a workshop or of the magnificent work that the workshops are doing. Many of these handicapped people find it very difficult to get about by public or private transport. Gathering them causes great trouble to the organizers. If they are living in groups reasonably adjacent to the workshop the scope of the workshop would be very much extended and improved.
There is a case for adopting the scheme. There is also a case for providing more specialized accommodation. These disabled people are not always capable of living in the houses that are built for normal adults. A small child finds it hard to live in an adult house. A small child finds it hard to reach the door knob, and so on. Disabled persons have an analogous difficulty. They find that a special type of house with special fittings is necessary for them. Not much money is involved, and indeed there would be a net saving of money on the whole. So surely this is a case for the Government to extend to disabled persons the truly excellent principles of the Aged Persons Homes Act I think not by an amendment to the act but by a new and parallel act.
The House might well consider the points I have put. I may be wrong, but I am confident that the Government will see its way clear in the next Budget to do something for disabled people. It will not place a great cost burden on the Budget. In fact, it may well result in a net saving. But the great feature is not really the cost or the saving; it is that these people who still have some worth-while effort to contribute to the community will have the satisfaction of making this worth-while effort. They should be taken from useless and thwarted lives in institutions and placed under proper conditions in the magnificent workshops where they could not only do something for other people but do something to make their own lives better and happier. I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
-I call the Minister for Social Services.
– What about a speaker from our side of the House. Give us a fair go.
– The practice has been that if a Minister insists on speaking he is called.
– I do not insist.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have seen quite a number of Machiavellian machinations on the part of the Government this morning in an effort to waylay the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and prevent him from bringing in the bill that he wants to introduce. This Government has not at heart the welfare of disabled people, and I am sure that Australians who have been listening this morning to the broadcast of these proceedings feel utter horror at the treatment that the Government proposes to mete out to people who suffer from disabilities. The Government is recreant to its trust. Last evening, I spoke to people who are interested in helping disabled persons. I spoke to the Bedwins and to the Reverend Dr. Harold Hawkins, who conducts in a place very close to my electorate, homes for disabled people. Dr. Hawkins told me that there is a very urgent need for such homes, and he applauded the Australian Labour Party for taking the initiative in this matter. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), by his intrigue this morning, has attempted to take that initiative away from us.
I do not go along with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who spoke of hostels for disabled persons. We want these people to be provided with home units such as are provided for aged people under the Aged Persons Homes Act. A future Labour government will provide self-contained units in reasonable proximity to places of employment. Dr. Hawkins told me last evening that in the past fortnight he has had to refuse jobs to four disabled persons for the simple reason that no accommodation is available for them. He conducts a sheltered workshop, but he cannot employ those people because suitable accommodation is not available. The kind of accommodation required would be provided by any government that had at heart the dignity of man. Many men and women who are disabled are as competent mentally as is anybody in this House and, indeed, more competent mentally than are some honorable members on the Government side. These disabled people require home units, but nothing will be done by this Government, which has no regard for the dignity of man except when it is egged on a little by the Opposition. Even then, only in a hypocritical way does it agree to try to make provision in the next budget.
The Government, by its tactics this morning, has tried to prevent all discussion of this matter, and has denied the honorable member for Eden-Monaro all the rights of free discussion on a subject such as this. I know that the Australian Labour Party has the backing of organizations of disabled persons in attempting to bring before the Parliament the bill that is the subject of the motion that we are now considering. There are in Australia about 50,000 disabled persons, 25,000 of whom require suitable accommodation close to their places of employment. We must bear in mind that one-third of the money needed for the provision of the accommodation envisaged in the bill would be provided by the organizations themselves and that, in due course, after suitable accommodation in home units is available, many disabled persons would become self-supporting members of the community and would no longer have to draw invalid pensions as they are doing now. If the Government only realized it, legislation such as that envisaged by the Labour Party would relieve the Commonwealth, and particularly the Department of Social Services, of a financial burden. In the long term, that department would have to pay out much less than it is paying out now, for the numbers of disabled persons in the com munity are not likely to increase in the way in which the numbers of aged persons are likely to increase.
I reiterate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the key to the problem is the provision of suitable home units adjacent to places of employment. We have heard quite a lot of cant spoken about the Bedwins this morning by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), the honorable member for Mackellar and the Treasurer. If I am not mistaken, the present Government recommended both Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin for the honour of membership of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of their work for disabled persons. Yet this morning, this Government refuses to do anything to assist Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin and the other disabled people for whom they work! These stalwarts of the community and the disabled people whom they represent intend to provide one-third of the money and thereby assist themselves. But this Government, by sleight of hand, as it were, and by refusing this morning to keep an agreement made with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), seeks to deny the honorable member for Eden-Monaro an opportunity to bring before the House a measure designed to help people who are disabled.
We must bear in mind that many of these disabled persons will make good in life. I mention just one really famous personality as an illustration - Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was disabled in a sense similar to that in which many of the people of whom I am speaking are disabled. Yet he attained the top-most heights of United States politics, being elected President of the United States of America on three occasions. It is a pity that this Government has no policy designed, as are policies in other countries, to help disabled people.
I have done some research in this matter. Although I do not believe in denigrating anybody, I do believe in giving credit where it is due. The Mount Wilga home administered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) does a good job. The only trouble is that there are not enough homes, institutions or training centres - describe them as you will - of this kind to provide for the mental as well as the medical aspects of rehabilitation and to go even a little further. This Government refuses to take into acount the social and industrial aspects of rehabilitation. I commend to the Government the advisability of doing so.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I say that this Government stands condemned for not having at heart this morning the welfare of people in our community who, though mentally competent, are physically disabled. The Government denies them social justice and has no respect for their dignity as human beings. I repeat that this Government is recreant to its trust in this matter.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, no one knows better than does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that his manoeuvre this morning cannot advance this proposal by a single hair’s breadth. No one knows better than he does that this proposal was considered when the Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced in 1954 in the first place and that the matter has been constantly under consideration ever since, as is every aspect of social services. I know that whenever this Government inaugurates something, such as extending social services into new fields, the common practice for some honorable members on both sides of the House is to say-
– Order! As the time allotted for this debate has expired, the discussion is interrupted. The Minister for Social Services will have leave to continue bis speech when the debate is resumed. Resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next day of sitting.
Suspension, of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Eden-Monaro making a statement not exceeding fifteen minutes on the subject of homes for disabled persons.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for this unexpected opportunity to speak. Nobody in this House can regret more than I do the course which events have taken this morning. [ assure the Treasurer that those events were completely unforeseen by me. The
Treasurer has declared that my action this morning in seeking leave to introduce a bill was not bona fide. He declined to accept my assurance that my action was bona fide and I would like now to give that assurance to the House. All I had hoped for was that we would have a useful discussion on this subject, which is of such immense importance to disabled members of the community. I did not go so far as to hope that the Government would allow a vote on my bill. I did not seek to embarrass the Government. I did hope that a useful discussion might enhance the prospect that the Government would make provision in its Budget legislation for this very necessary amendment to the Aged Persons Homes Act.
It is my habit when proposing to speak to the House on a matter of some importance to prepare carefully in advance everything that I intend to say. If anybody cares to examine the speech that I have prepared this morning he will see that nowhere did I seek to take from the Government or from any Government supporter any credit in this matter. On the contrary, I was prepared to acknowledge the very valuable recommendations which I know the Government members social services committee has made - that a £2-for-£l subsidy should be provided for this very purpose, at an estimated cost of £250,000. I was prepared to acknowledge also the great interest taken in this matter by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and by many other members on both sides of the House. But as the chairman of the Government members social services committee will know, a recommendation from that committee is not automatically translated into legislation. As there seemed no likelihood that the matter would otherwise come before the House, I set down my motion for debate to-day as a useful exercise and in order to provide a useful opportunity for the House generally to debate the very great value of this social reform.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has said that I have behaved in this matter as a humbug and that I am seeking to make a political football of the issue. I can only assure the honorable member that that has been far from my thoughts. What distresses me most of all is that Mr. and Mrs. Bedwin and many other people interested in this project, who would be listening to the debate this morning because they knew this matter was coming before the House, must have been greatly disturbed not to hear the matter discussed on its merits - something on which the House probably would have been unanimous - but instead discussed in a spirit of resentment and bitterness with Government supporters - J. say this without reproach - rising in apparent indignation that some political credit was to be taken from them for their good intentions. This was deplorable. I regret the result which flowed from an action that I took with all good intentions.
I did not speak to my motion for leave to introduce the bill, as I had the right to do, because I had been assured by the Opposition Whip and by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that the Government would not oppose the formal stages and would allow the bill to be debated at the second-reading stage. If there was a mistake in understanding as between the Government and the Opposition it is perfectly clear that the Opposition Whip and my Deputy Leader were not deceiving me. They had that clear understanding of the Government’s intention. If a mistake has been made, precipitating this very bitter and unfortunate debate, all I can do is hope that nothing that has occurred will prejudice the prospect of this very valuable reform being introduced into the Budget, which will be brought down, I suppose, in August next.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton has said that nobody knows better than I that my manoeuvre this morning could not advance the cause that I pretend to have at heart. I am very sorry that he has seen fit to say so because that was certainly not my intention. I have said that my interjection was purely to precipitate a useful debate on this subject. I say now - honorable members will note that I am using now the notes that I had prepared for my speech - that sometimes we all may be sympathetic with a proposed extension of social services in some direction but we are deterred by the inevitable consideration of finance. But, as other honorable members have stated in the debate this morning, the enactment of this proposal to make avail able to disabled persons the benefits now provided for elderly people under the Aged Persons Homes Act is free of any such financial impediment. If it were given effect, this proposal would not only contribute towards enabling many disabled persons to begin or to resume useful careers in industry but would also reduce expenditure on invalid pensions, on institutions and on nursing and other services. This has been very clearly demonstrated in the magnificent case which the organization of which Mrs. Bedwin, M.B.E., is honorary secretary has circulated to every honorable member.
The Aged Persons Homes Act has already contributed to the happiness and well-being of many elderly people. The operation of that act has inevitably disclosed some ways in which the legislation could be improved by amendment, but that aspect of the matter is not germane to the proposal that is before the House to-day. When I see old people living happily, healthily and in full dignity in homes provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act, the legislation for which was introduced by this Government - I see them in Goulburn, in my electorate, and I know that they may be seen in hundreds of other centres - I am sure it must be a source of great satisfaction to the person who inspired the original legislation and whose enthusiasm led to its enactment. I think everybody who is acquainted with the origins of the legislation will agree that it was due, not to any Minister, any member of this Parliament or any expert departmental adviser, but to the happy inspiration of Dame Pattie Menzies.
– Outside influence.
– Yes, outside influence. Dame Pattie exercised her special influence to ensure that the value of the idea was appreciated by the head of the Government. It was for the general good that she did so. I think that she must feel considerable satisfaction in the knowledge of the result of her idea, of its successful presentation to the Government and its adoption by this Parliament, because it has contributed very greatly to the happiness of so many elderly couples who otherwise would be separated in institutions or paying exorbitant rents while living in overcrowded and unpleasant conditions.
I submit to the House that the present proposal is a logical extension of the Aged Persons Homes Act, in the terms in which it was originally conceived and inspired by Dame Pattie Menzies, because, when the Aged Persons Homes Act came into being for the purpose of helping aged persons to get accommodation within their means it replaced a most vital provision which had formerly guaranteed lowrent housing for both aged and invalid persons. That provision was introduced by the Chifley Government the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which enabled the States to operate a rental rebate system so as to let both aged and invalid pensioners have homes at onesixth of their pensions as rental. That was the position under the Chifley legislation both categories, the aged and invalid persons, could have under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement homes at a rental of onesixth of their pensions.
That right was taken away when the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was renewed in 1955. But the aged persons were compensated by the Aged Persons Homes Act. The invalid people have never been compensated. The right that they enjoyed for so many years and which they lost in 1955 has never been restored to them. That is why I say that the inclusion of this amendment in the act would be a logical extension of the idea in which the original act was conceived and would restore something which the invalid people of this country formerly enjoyed. I am sure that every member of this House would like to see them once again enjoy that right.
I pay tribute to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for his very keen interest in this proposal. I know that if he had had his wayhis motion, seeking exactly the same object as my bill would have had, would have already been before the House. I know that he has consulted with the officials of these organizations, as has the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). I hope that no particular section of the House will be able to claim special credit when this reform finally comes into operation. If there is any credit to be given I am certain that every member of the Opposition will be quite content to allow any one on the Government side who is anxious to claim and preserve his special right to credit in this matter to have all the credit for it, so long as the action is taken and ‘these disabled people are given this minimum housing right.
In the few moments left to me I should like to stress what must be known to many members of the House that under the sheltered workshop system you can bring back into the community of people living useful, dignified and industrious lives a large number of disabled persons who are at present living frustrated and futile lives in idleness on the pension. But because of difficulties of transport they cannot work in these sheltered workshops unless low rent housing can be provided for them close to the workshops. This can be done if this simple amendment is made to this law.
– Order! As the time allowed for presentation of general business has expired Government business will be called on.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 960), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before the House is a technical one, to amend the Insurance Act the legislation dealing with general insurance as distinct from life assurance. The measure deals with the guarantee fund established under the act, section 11 of which makes it obligatory for any firm engaging in general insurance to deposit with the Commonwealth £1,000 in respect of each £5,000 of its annual premium income. This provision is subject to a ceiling which is placed at £80,000. No firm has to deposit more than £80,000 with the Commonwealth.
When introducing this measure the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) hinted that later in the life of this Parliament I presume he probably means in the August,September, October period it is proposed to make more extensive alterations to the Insurance Act. I would like to make one or two reflections about that, with the hope that they might be taken into consideration when the Treasurer is contemplating amendments to that law.
I do not think members of the community appreciate altogether just how important the business of general insurance is in the aggregate. We have plenty of regulatory laws with respect to life assurance, but in many respects the controls, that are exercised on general insurance are much vaguer and much looser than the social controls which have inevitably been imposed Upon life assurance. The latest information available from the Commonwealth Statistician dealing with Australian fire, marine and general insurance was issued in February, 1963. It is recent enough for the purposes of this debate and shows that in the aggregate a total of £209,000,000 was derived from this business by general insurance companies during the year ended 30th June, 1962. Of this sum, in round figures, £35,000,000 was derived from fire insurance; £12,000,000 from what is called householders’ comprehensive insurance; £8,500,000 from marine insurance; £56,000,000 from motor vehicle insurance; and nearly £26,000,000 from compulsory third party motor vehicle insurance. Workers’ compensation accounted, in the aggregate, for £43,600,000. Those were the major components in the insurance field and they show how significant this insurance activity is.
– Is that the premium income?
– Yes, that is the total amount of the premiums paid during the year. I will explain, a little later, what happens to these premiums afterwards. Before doing so I wish to point out how inadequate this so-called guarantee fund is, in the light of present-day circumstances, in relation to a total of premium income of the magnitude of £210,000,000 in the course of a year. This act was written as far back as 1932 and I doubt whether, in essence, there has been a great deal of alteration made to it since then. Unfortunately I have not statistics as to the number of insurance companies in the community, but at least some of them must be transacting business which exceeds many millions of pounds a year.
While it is true, fortunately, that no major insurance company has had to default in recent times, it is very doubtful, if default did take place, whether a reserve fund with a maximum of £80,000 would be satisfactory. The reason why we are contemplating this legislation to-day is that apparently there is some doubt about the way in which the terms of section 1 1 of the act are drawn at the moment. There is some doubt whether, technically, the guarantee fund, if it ever has to be distributed, has not to be distributed among all persons who happen to be policy-holders with the company during the year. If, as there well could be, there are many thousands of them, it is obvious that £80,000 would not go very far. Presumably the purpose of the fund was to reimburse, if called upon, some person whose insured risk crystallized during the year.
– You said there was some doubt about it. Would you not think it was a certainty?
– I am getting at the purpose of the amendment. As you suggest, it is a certainty rather than a doubt, but at least this is not what the purpose of the act was and it is proposed, by means of this measure, to correct that. If you distribute £80,000 amongst thousands of premiumholders the amount each receives does not matter a great deal to him. But there may be a dozen or a few dozen people who have claims amounting to some thousands of pounds arising from motor accidents. They have paid their premiums and have suffered the injury against which the insurance was entered into. I can see no objection to that amendment, in principle. But I am also pointing out the inadequacy of setting a limit of £80,000 on the guarantee fund in view of the magnitude of this field of general insurance to-day. The Treasurer said that it is proposed to legislate in regard to this matter later. I suggest that a commissioner should be appointed to deal with general insurance in the same terms as is done in respect to life assurance. Honorable members know that each year there come before this House for examination, if not for open scrutiny - at least the paper is there and is available for members to look at - the transactions of life assurance companies operating in Australia.
When one compares the annual premium income of life assurance companies with that of general insurance companies, one finds that the annual income from general insurance is greater than the annual premium income from life insurance. But you cannot get as much statistical information about general insurance as you can about life insurance. I doubt whether the policy-holders under general insurance have the same redress as those under life insurance. If a life insurance policy-holder feels aggrieved about some matter connected with the insurance he has the right to approach the official person concerned, the Insurance Commissioner, about it.
General insurance is of great social significance. Premiums for this type of insurance amount to £200,000,000 a year, which is 2 to 3 per cent, of the gross national product. I suggest that this is too important a matter to be left entirely to the insurance companies themselves. A lot of mystery still attaches to premiums for, let us say, fire insurance or motor car insurance. What kinds of bodies determine what are equitable rates for these risks? At the moment, of course, if one company raises its rates the tendency is for all others to follow suit. This would imply that there is some sort of organization among the insurance companies in a particular field. I suggest that when you find organization amongst institutions of this kind, then it is in the public interest that there be counter-organization to protect the person who buys insurance from those institutions. There is a great deficiency at the moment in this field.
I do not think there is any constitutional impediment in connexion with this matter. Insurance is one of the subjects that fall within the province of the Commonwealth, which can legislate constitutionally to control it. But it seems that nobody has bothered to exercise the same sort of scrutiny in the field of what is called general insurance which social progress has recognized as being necessary in the field of life insurance. After all, we know of the undesirable practices that grew up in life assurance around what was called industrial assurance, as opposed to endowment assurance. As a result of public outcry, industrial assurance is not nearly as significant now, in the total, as it was previously. The law has given certain protection to policyholders which they did not have before, and I suggest that some sort of scrutiny is just as necessary over the activities of those who operate in the field of general insurance.
I leave it at that. We offer no objection to this measure as such. I repeat that we consider the amount of the guarantee fund to be no longer adequate, in the light of the turnover of some of these firms, and in the light of the present-day value of money. The maximum contribution by the companies of £80,000 does not seem to be adequate. My second point is that if the Treasurer is contemplating, as he says he is, amendment of this law, he should consider appointing in this field the same sort of organization as exists with respect to life insurance. In other words, there should be an insurance commissioner, with adequate staff, and he should begin to publish some of the statistics that ought to be published. Aggrieved premium payers should, in the event of disputes with companies, have access to some arbitral body other than the courts of the land. After all, it is a very expensive process, from the point of view of the small insurer, to appeal to the courts. Lastly, we suggest that because the amount involved is of such a magnitude, about £210,000,000 a year, this is too important a field to be left entirely to the companies themselves to regulate.
.- This piece of legislation is of great importance to the community of Australia, because it is true that almost every Australian, or almost every family in Australia, has a policy of general insurance. As the number of motor cars in our community increases, so the number of people with general insurance policies increases.
Within the field of insurance companies there are two distinct types. There are those which are good and solid and which can be absolutely relied upon. Then there are those which concern themselves with practices which we regard as being at least very questionable morally. As for the solid type of companies, I am quite certain that a maximum contribution of £80,000 to the guarantee fund is quite adequate. As to the other companies, no matter what figure was set for the maximum contribution, you would be likely to have difficulties. I do not want to name any companies. I think that would be wrong of me in the present circumstances. But I have in mind two or three that have engaged in activities that the genuine companies would never dream of engaging in.
Within this group of companies that involve themselves in questionable practices there are two sub-divisions. First, there are those that have gone bust. When they go bust and finish up without funds, the people who hold policies with them find their persona] finances in very grave danger. But it is not only the policy-holder who is in difficulties; the person who has suffered some injury is also in trouble.
Let me put this to the House in a graphic form. Imagine that a man has insured his car under a general policy of insurance, including a comprehensive policy for personal injury to any other person. Then the insurance company goes broke. Assume an accident occurs and a passenger is injured The person injured will sue the driver of the car. The driver then reports the matter to the insurance company and in the normal course the company takes over the conduct of the case. It would be entitled to run the case, decide who would be called or, if a settlement were to be made out of court, the amount of the settlement, and so on. In the case of solid insurance companies this works admirably, but in the case of this fringe group a particular company might say, “ We are not going to have anything to do with this, because we will plead the honour clause “.
The honour clause is something that has not sunk sufficiently into the minds of the Australian people, but it constitutes a tremendous danger to every one of us who own a motor car. Let us assume in our hypothetical case that the owner of the car is called Bill Smith. He insures his car on a comprehensive basis. The policy of insurance will normally say that if somebody else is driving the car with the consent of the insured person, the policy of insurance will cover that other person who is driving. This is known as the honour clause. It is completely unenforceable. Let me illustrate by taking the case of Bill Smith, who insures a car and allows his wife to drive it. His wife has an accident and injures some passenger. The injured person then sues Bill Smith’s wife and recovers a judgment against her. She then goes to the insurance company and says, “ We want you to indemnify me against this liability I have suffered “. The insurance company replies in effect: “ We are terribly sorry, but we are not being honorable to-day. We will not indemnify you. There is no legal liability on us to do so.” The consequence is that the injured person who has obtained the judgment executes it against Mrs. Smith. It may well be that the family home is in her name. The home then would have to be sold to satisfy the judgment. Bill Smith, who has believed that he is indemnified against an action when a person is driving his car with his authority, to wit, his wife, finds that he has no indemnity at all. His life savings could be dissipated as a result of a collision. The other aspect is that if the person driving with the authority of the insured person has himself or herself no money, the injured person has no one against whom he can recover.
This is known as the honour clause, so called because it is not binding in law.
– Is that clause found in the policies issued by all insurance companies?
– It is, but let me emphasize that the great majority of insurance companies are honorable and always comply with the honour clause. It is the fringe companies which are likely to say to the person approaching them, “ Sorry, we are not being honorable to-day “.
I shall not break any secret to the House when I reveal that I am involved in a legal practice. Let me cite a specific example. It is a case which occurred recently. A woman owned and insured a motor car. Under the terms of the insurance policy the insurance applied while some one was driving the car with the owner’s authority and consent. The woman had an adult son aged 21 or 22 years. This boy borrowed his mother’s car with her consent and drove it. He had a passenger at the time. There was a collision and the passenger was injured, so the passenger sued the son who was driving the car. The passenger obtained a judgment in the Supreme Court for about £2,000. Then the driver approached the insurance company and said: “ I have a judgment against me for £2,000. Will you pay it?” The insurance company replied, “No, we will not pay it”. The boy’s mother who owned the motor car said to the insurance company: “But you must. The insurance policy states that if any person is driving the car with my consent the indemnity applies”. The response of the insurance company was: “ We are sorry, but we are just not being honorable to-day. You may sue us if you wish”.
I do not want to take the House into a point of law. but the reality is that the mother who is insured is the only person who can sue because she has what is called in law the privity of contract. There is no privity of contract between the son who Was driving the car with his mother’s consent and the insurance company, so the son against whom the judgment was given cannot sue the company. The mother cannot sue the company because she suffered no damage and there is no judgment against her. As a consequence, the insurance company can avoid meeting the amount of the judgment. The injured party who obtained the judgment for £2,000 found that it was not worth two bob to him because the judgment was against the son, who is an invalid pensioner and has nothing against which the injured person could recover. In this case the fringe insurance company involved evaded its responsibilities. True it is that any insurance company can do so, but it is only the fringe companies which actually do.
One might reasonably ask, “ Is this proper, because two people are at risk? “ Let me illustrate the position in this way: Suppose two members of this House decide to campaign in a country area and, instead of each travelling in his own car, decide to travel in one car and share the driving. Let us suppose also that the person who is not the owner has an accident while he is driving. He may injure a person very seriously and suffer a judgment against himself of £10,000 or £15,000. He would then look to the insurance company, which could say, “ We will not be honorable to-day and indemnify you “. Let me emphasize again that the respectable insurance companies in Australia, which are in the vast majority, do a fine job. They would never adopt the attitude which I have mentioned. It is the fringe companies which do so.
A person taking out a general insurance policy often is unable to learn the quality of the insurance company with which he is doing business. He may be unlucky enough to choose a fringe company. Let me emphasize that under certain hirepurchase agreements for the purchase of a car the person who is hiring out the car on hire purchase - the finance company - often nominates the insurance company with which the car will be insured. Sometimes the nominated company is a subsidiary of the finance company. If the finance company collapses the insurance company collapses and the whole pack of cards falls, leaving the insurance company’s customers in a very invidious position. It is a far more invidious position in relation to damages than it is in relation to the return of part of the premium.
The importance of this legislation is that it will permit the £80,000 deposit to be a priority payment of a judgment, but it still does not answer the question I have raised. Even though it requires the £80,000 deposit to be used first in satisfaction of any judgment it still does not deal with the honour clause.
– It applies only to a legal claim.
– That is right, whereas in the events which I have stated there would not be a legal claim. I understand that there is legislation in England which provides that when a particular clause appears in an insurance contract what the contract sets out will have effect notwithstanding any rule of law to the contrary. In other words, it approaches this very problem of the person who suffers damages, that is, the parson driving a car with consent but without privity of contract to sue.
I think there is some merit in the same provision applying in Australia. I have raised this matter at this stage because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his secondreading speech indicated that the Government is reviewing the provisions of the Insurance Act as a whole. Perhaps the Government will have the opportunity to consider the aspect I have mentioned.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said that he believes that a commissioner in relation to general insurance should be appointed to operate along lines similar to those followed by the commissioner who deals with life insurance. I am afraid that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on this matter. It is an error to say that there is any association between what is now life insurance and what is general insurance, in terms of their operation.
– I was not suggesting that. I recognize that they are two distinct fields. But I think we need some public scrutiny of general insurance, such as we have of life insurance.
– That is the very point on which we differ, because this position may arise: A person comes along and says: “I suffered a judgment. I believed that a clause in my insurance policy said that I would be covered, but I am not.” That question could not be taken to an arbitrator. Equally, if a person has his life insured for £10,000 and there is some question about whether the proceeds of the policy should be paid, the only place in which that should be determined, in my opinion, is in a court. I do not believe that we should erect some sort of arbitrary machinery or non-judicial procedure to determine such questions. In my opinion they must be determined only in the courts.
In relation to the life insurance part of the act, under which there is a commissioner who can settle disputes, that machinery is important. On policies that mothers take out on their children’s lives almost as soon as they are born - policies for £200 or £300 to mature at, say, 21 years of age - the mothers could not afford to undertake Supreme Court actions to determine matters in dispute. An arbitrator, in the form of the commissioner, fills a very definite gap in that respect.
However, in my opinion, if a person who is killed in a motor car accident has a life insurance policy for £10,000 payable in the event of his death, and a question arises as to whether or not the insurance policy was valid at the time of his death, or whether or not any fraud was involved, those questions can be determined only by a court.
– But consider the present practice in Victoria under which one company insures nearly every child at school against all sorts of risks. Who knows whether the premiums paid are reasonable and whether the claims against the company are anything like in consonance with the premiums? Who determines what is fair and just in those circumstances?
– I appreciate the point. I was thinking on a much bigger scale. I confess that I may be at fault. Children are covered by an insurance policy. That is something that I overlooked when I was being so definite about not seeing a place for a commissioner of general insurance. There may be some purpose in doing this; I should like to reconsider my position on that matter.
I have put to the House some general considerations. I now return to particular considerations. This legislation is designed to make available for the satisfaction of judgments that have been suffered the companies’ deposits that are held. I believe that the satisfaction of those judgments is a far more essential social requirement than returning some portion of a premium that has been paid by a person against a nsk which has not eventuated.
I may have appeared to be speaking very critically of certain insurance companies. I want to make sure that I am not misunderstood. The companies that I am criticizing are a very small section-
– Don’t spoil a good speech.
– I want to make this point clear because it is important: The insurance companies that I have been criticizing are a very small section of tho insurance field. That can be demonstrated in two ways. First, I know of no respectable insurance company that has ever pleaded the honour clause. Secondly, when a few insurance companies went bust recently the other insurance companies put in contributions, and from that pool the judgments that had been obtained by people who were insured with the few insurance companies that failed were satisfied. The great bulk of insurance companies put in the money to satisfy those judgments.
– Why did they do that?
– That is a fair question. I think they did it because they were most anxious that the reputation of insurance companies should not suffer as a result of these marginal companies bringing the reputation of insurance companies into jeopardy. They felt that it was much better to retain the confidence and trust of the public generally in the insurance institution than to allow this episode involving two or three companies to affect the whole social attitude to the insurance institution. The second reason might have been that under the compulsory third party insurance system an incorporated nominal defendant is created and all the insurance companies meet to conduct the matters. As I remember the insurance act in Victoria, they are all obliged to contribute percentages which have a direct relationship to their premium incomes. Very little has been said about the role of the respectable, insurance companies in meeting these claims which they did not need to meet.
– That has not happened in all cases.
– I am speaking about Victoria and cases that I know of. I certainly do not allege that it has happened in every case.
– It has not happened in New South Wales.
– It has certainty happened in a great number of cases, and it has certainly happened in a great number of cases in Victoria. I would not say that it has happened in every case. I wanted to emphasize that point because when one criticizes one must specify the area of criticism. Also, when there is something complimentary to be said, I believe it ought to be said. I hope that I will not be taken to have intruded politics into this matter, because I have wound up by saying something to the credit of insurance companies and that I will not therefore be accused of being at their beck and call and that the Liberal Party will not be accused of being responsible to big business, or anything like that. I support the bill.
.– I will be very brief. Like the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), I am prompted to make some comment on this bill by the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that the Government is reviewing the provisions of the Insurance Act as a whole. I thank the honorable member for Bruce for raising the very question that I proposed to raise, namely, the honour clause in connexion with motor vehicle insurance. I have had the misfortune to have a couple of very sorry experiences in this field. I am not prepared to say whether the insurance company concerned was respectable of not. Perhaps the remarks of the honorable member for Bruce in this connexion can be taken as coming from me, too, because I endorse them wholeheartedly.
I go so far as to agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) who referred to the necessity for an insurance commissioner to handle general insurance. I believe that a general insurance commissioner is necessary if for no other reason than to overhaul the conditions set out in the average insurance policy. The average person who buys insurance rarely reads the conditions of the policy.
– People do not read them.
– I agree. If people do read them, they do not understand them. In view of the saving clauses and saving phrases contained in policies, it is remarkable to me that any insurance company of the type to which the honorable member for Bruce referred to as fringe insurance companies ever meets a claim at all. Insurance companies could get out of payment of every claim if they wanted to.
Let me take the case of motor car insurance. If a vehicle is deemed to be unroadworthy an insurance company can refuse to pay a claim that is made in respect of an accident in which it is involved. But there is no definition of what a roadworthy vehicle is. Who decides what a roadworthy vehicle is?
– In New South Wales there is.
– We do not have a definition. I am speaking generally.
– The car is registered every twelve months.
– That does not mean that the vehicle is roadworthy. Do not make any mistake about that. There is no stipulation as to what a roadworthy vehicle is or is not.
– In New South Wales the owner has to get a certificate.
– And a week after the certificate is issued the vehicle may be unroadworthy. I am speaking of Western
Australia; you put your own case. The insurance policies may have escape clauses favouring the companies. It does not matter whether the policy covers fire, burglary or other happenings; it may contain a clause which provides that unless the insured person carries out certain conditions his claim may not be met. I believe that the conditions attaching to general insurance policies need examination. Such an examination could be undertaken only by a commissioner or similar officer who could educate the people as to what features are desirable in an insurance policy. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the beneficial effect that the Insurance Commissioner had had in relation to industrial policies of life insurance. These policies have virtually gone out of existence, but some of the life insurance companies literally fattened themselves on this sort of business. Industrial policies have now been replaced by endowment policies and insured persons need not fear that they will lose their policies.
The honorable member for Bruce eventually had to concede a point to-day. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I believe that the Insurance Commissioner should be charged with the responsibility of relating rates to the liability of the insurance company. No one to-day can say that the rates generally charged by insurance companies are reasonable having regard to the liability of the company. I am not against insurance companies, but I believe that the people will have more confidence in a company if they know that some one is making sure that insured persons are protected on highly legal points. Insured persons cannot always protect themselves. They trust that they are dealing with honorable companies. The company with which they have a policy may be honorable and they may go through life without any troubles. On the other hand, they may have bought insurance in good faith only to find that because of some legal phrase in the policy, about which they were not informed and about which they could not inform themselves without taking legal advice, the insurance is of no benefit to them.
I ask the Treasurer to consider providing for the appointment of an insurance commissioner to deal with this matter when he is examining the whole question of insurance and the provisions of the Insurance Act, as he promised to do when he introduced the bill. I suggest that the insurance commissioner would have responsibilities and duties similar to those of the commissioner dealing with life insurance. The commissioner should be required to bring to the notice of the Government and the people undesirable features in general insurance policies and, by whatever means are available to him, to ensure that undesirable features are removed from, and that desirable features are inserted in, insurance policies. He should also act as an arbitrator when the insured person is not in a position to take a case to court.
I am inclined to disagree with the honorable member for Bruce who suggested that many of these matters can be resolved only by a court. Once a person takes a case to court he is tied up in a mass of legal technicalities in which the facts of life are frequently forgotten. These legal technicalities may be facts of law, but facts of law are not facts of life. Some cases are lost merely because a word is in one place rather than in another place in a document. The judgment may be sound on the facts of law, but often the decision would have gone the other way if the facts of life had been considered.
I should hate to think that people who buy as much insurance as the returns show is bought would continue to be left entirely unprotected by any one. As the Government has accepted the responsibility for life and general insurance the responsibility rests squarely on its shoulders now to ensure that adequate protection is afforded to every insured person and at the same time that the insurance companies also have a measure of protection. I am sure that insurance companies can secure protection far more easily than an insured person can. I hope that the Treasurer will consider the matters raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the honorable member for Bruce and myself.
.- I would like to make a few observations before this debate concludes. We are dealing to-day with a distinct general insurance measure. It is an amendment to an act that covers only general insurance companies and has no relation whatsoever to life insurance companies and the commissioner appointed by the Commonwealth. I am sorry that I must disagree violently with my honorable friend from Moore (Mr. Leslie). I am afraid that he has been out in the country and has lost touch with a lot of the intimate associations with insurance companies of this kind that I thought he would have retained.
There are now approximately 350 general insurance companies in Australia. With so many companies in competitive business - a matter about which I will speak later - it is natural in this field as in other fields of business that there should be some companies which unfortunately do not make the grade as to integrity. I admit that this is a field in which we would like to find that no company that has undertaken a responsibility to its customers would collapse. But it would be strange if in this field as in other fields this did not happen on occasions. In recent years there have unfortunately been one or two large, nationally known companies operating in every State, and perhaps linked with New Zealand, that have had this experience. We have been concerned to find that hundreds of people have been affected. Without a shadow of doubt, this experience was in mind when the measure was framed. The specific provision of the bill dealing with this matter is very fair and will be in the interests of those who are hurt the most. I will return to this aspect later.
I want to underline a point made by my honorable friend from Bruce (Mr. Snedden). There is, of course, such a distinct difference between life insurance companies and general insurance companies that we would find it difficult to sustain the recommendation of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I want to amplify what my colleague from Bruce said. Because of the basis of life cover a life company is subject to a calculation of its liability to policy-holders for a forward period of 50 years.
All of us, if we are wise, have made some provision for life insurance for ourselves and our dependants. Life insurance is an investment spread over many years indeed. The very fact that life companies are held responsible to the Insurance Commissioner under the Life Insurance Act and that substantial deposits are held in the Commonwealth Treasury and controlled by the commissioner indicates that the National Parliament has said, “ You cannot expect people; without some protection, to pay out their savings on a contract that, in many instances, continues for almost a lifetime “. Here is the distinct difference between the liability of life companies and that of general insurance companies. We know that as our contracts for general insurance fall due annually, we have the right to discontinue or to renew. Only to-day, the premium for a general insurance cover that I have fell due. I know that although I may have been hurt had I overlooked paying the premium, basically the fault would have been mine, because it is my responsibility to enter again into a contract that will run for twelve months and twelve months only.
My friends, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Moore, have tried to convince the House this afternoon that there is equality between the general insurance companies and the life companies, although the deposit required of a life company is based on liability for 50 years, whereas a general insurance company has a responsibility to honour its contracts for twelve months and no more in each instance. The control recommended by these two honorable members would take no cognizance at all of the terrific competition in the general insurance field between some 350 companies. In those circumstances, where is the need for control? I remind my friend from Moore that these companies observe high standards like those mentioned by the honorable member for Bruce. They have a high standard of ethics. They have their underwriters’ associations and members of their staffs undertake examinations conducted by the Incorporated Australian Insurance Institute. I do not doubt that on many occasions a group of companies has done the right thing by those who have faced loss of the claims they had made on a company that had unfortunately collapsed. That is the sort of attitude that my experience of the general insurance companies leads me to expect at all times.
Having made those comments, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 emphasize that the measure before us relates to general insurance companies, which lodge a deposit relatively much lower than that required of life companies. The deposit required of a general insurance company is held in a different fashion. Certainly it is held by the the Commonwealth Treasury, but, for the reasons that I have mentioned, it is not controlled by the Insurance Commissioner. It is held as security against the very thing that we have been discussing - unfortunate collapse of the company and consequent inability to meet the liabilities that have fallen due as a result of claims. I ask: What group of people should primarily be protected in these circumstances? Is there any comparison between the refund of an annual premium and the payment of a substantial amount legitimately claimed under the provisions of an existing policy?
The purpose of this measure is simply to provide a procedure based on justice rather than on the good fortune of a premium p’ayer whose premium is refunded. Up to the present time, the person to whom a premium is to be refunded has been treated on exactly the same basis as the person or organization that has a claim currently under consideration. When a company fails, those who are most embarrassed are those who, having suffered loss by fire, accident or burglary giving rise to a claim under any of the many and varied provisions under which these companies afford protection, and having lodged a claim, find that the company with which they are insured is no longer in business. These are the people who are really aggrieved. We know, if not from our own active experience in this field, at least from our reading of the newspapers day by day, of the very substantial claims that are made on these general insurance companies. I emphasize that refunds of premiums must take second place to the primary consideration that should be given to claims for loss sustained.
Having stated without any qualification my support for the measure, I, too, would say that there is very good reason for having periodically a general review of insurance. I do not shudder at that idea. I think that many aspects of life insurance and general insurance could well be reviewed, and the experience of the Insurance Commissioner would be invaluable in such a review.
In conclusion, I say that in the general insurance field we should be prepared to depend on competition. I ask my honorable friend from Moore: Do we ask for control in other fields of business? I have not heard his voice raised in a request for control by a commissioner over some other form of competitive business. I have not heard him denounce those who sell their wares in other fields. Why pick on the general insurance companies which enter into contracts only for twelve months at a time? I cannot follow my friend’s reasoning. As he carries on his conversation with one of his colleagues, perhaps he feels some embarrassment at having fallen into the trap of agreeing with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, being a member of the socialist Opposition, which has announced again and again that it would nationalize insurance, can be expected to say: “We must have control by a commissioner. We must keep our thumb on all this.” However, I would not expect that sort of view to be stated by my honorable friend from Moore. I give him higher marks because I would expect him to think this matter through a little more and to say, “There is no comparison between the general insurance companies and the life companies “.
I do not argue about a review from time to time of the adequate procedures provided under the principal act, but I would have expected the honorable member for Moore to see, as I do, the extreme danger of agreeing with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Indeed, I am not afraid to look the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in the eye and say: “ General insurance is a competitive field. The general public will always be best protected by competition in this field.” I heartily disagree with the views expressed by the honorable member and suggest that there can be no sustainment of his recommendation that general insurance companies be dealt with similarly to the life insurance companies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1065), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated in his second-reading speech, the amendments have two main objectives. First, it will become possible for subscribers to special bonds and treasury-notes to take advantage of the facilities for inscription of securities which are provided by the Inscribed Stock Act for investors in Commonwealth loans. Secondly, it will be possible for larger amounts of inscribed stock to be transmitted following the death of a stockholder, without the need to produce probate or letters of administration.
The act at present contains a provision to the effect that the Treasurer may dispense with production of probate or letters of administration when a person dies leaving stock of an amount not exceeding £100. The amendment proposed in this bill will enable the amount to be increased from time to time by regulation.
Dealing with the first objective of the bill, I think it is necessary to note that the amendment is contemplated because we now have two types of securities that were not envisaged when the act was first passed in 1911. In many ways the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act is a peculiar piece of legislation. In some respects it is a curiosity and an anachronism. In the act section 32 is followed by a series of dots and the next section to appear is section 43. Sections 33 to 42 have been dropped. Apparently this act has not been consolidated since 1943. After section 44a the next section appearing is section 48. I submit that it is high time the act was consolidated.
I doubt whether many people to-day refer to the Commonwealth debt as the Commonwealth inscribed stock. Of course, technically it is inscribed. There is a register, but for the most part people refer to Commonwealth loans and Commonwealth bonds. When this act was passed in 1911 there was not the present-day degree of sophistication in the types of security that could be made available, nor was the public debt at anything like to-day’s level. For those who may be interested I point out that at 30th June, 1962, the total debt of the Commonwealth stood at £3,829,000,000. That debt was covered by various securities. First we had treasury-bills, which are of two kinds. Public treasury-bills accounted for £208,000,000 and internal treasury-bills accounted for £241,000,000. In addition, the value of Commonwealth debentures was £31,500,000. Instalment stock was another variety of security and its value was £72,000,000. War savings certificates and savings certificates - a relic of the Second World War and now gradually being eliminated- amounted to £2,500,000. A new type of security in force since 1958 and known as special bonds accounted for £124,000,000. The omnibus type of inscribed stock and bonds accounted for £3,127,000,000 and the value of a number of miscellaneous securities totalled £21,000,000.
The purpose of this bill is to bring the special bonds and the treasury-bills, which are known also as treasury deposit notes and seasonal securities, within the scope of the legislation and no longer to deal with them by regulation. The special bond is a security tailor-made for the comparatively small investor who wants to invest, say, £500 or- £1,000. In fact, I think a limit of £5,000 is set on the amount that any individual may invest in special bonds. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer said that since 1958 there have been more than 300,000 individual subscriptions to special bonds. Bearing that figure in mind, and the fact that the value of special bonds held at 30th June, 1962, was £124,000,000, it will be seen that the average holding of special bonds is only about £400. I doubt whether this avenue of investment has been tapped as systematically as it might be. Of course, we must remember also that when the Treasurer says that there have been 300,000 individual subscriptions to special bonds he means that there have been 300,000 separate subscriptions, but some people may have invested in all issues of special bonds, and I think there have been about half a dozen issues so far. If the
Treasurer is attempting to draw the conclusion that he has been able to encourage a vast number of new subscribers to Commonwealth securities we must first clear up the mystery that is to be found in the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “. Honorable members will recall that the “ Treasury Information Bulletin” is issued four times a year. In the issue of October, 1962, there is a detailed analysis of government securities redeemable in Australia. It lists the kind of people holding that vast sum of £3,829,000,000. You find this is the picture: The Reserve Bank, which is a government instrumentality - just another pocket of the Commonwealth - is the creature of the Government. If it belongs to anybody it belongs to the public as a whole, and it holds £463,000,000 worth of the Commonwealth’s debt. The trading banks, other very significant institutions in the community, own £385,000,000 worth. The savings banks which, for the most part in Australia, are government institutions, hold an aggregate amount of £837,000,000. Life insurance offices, which are means of mobilizing the small savings of the community, are investing those savings in rather large dobs in mortgages, government securities and the like. Life insurance offices hold £259,000,000. Other insurance offices hold £81,000,000. Then we find a new breed of operators known as the money market dealers. These people hold £123,000,000, and they are largely concerned with the other matter I want to look at in a moment - treasury-bills. Pension and provident funds own £101,000,000 of the nation’s debt, other financial institutions own £125,000,000, and Commonwealth and State governments - another pocket of government - in trust funds and the like own £725,000,000, or approximately one-fifth of the total Commonwealth debt. Local and semi-governmental bodies own £75,000,000; companies not elsewhere included, £70,000,000. Then we find this odd category at the end - “ all other “. That is the category within which the individual subscriber falls.
At 30th June, 1962, the holdings of individual subscribers in the Commonwealth debt were £585,000,000; but over the years the figure has been progressively falling. For instance, at 30th’ June, 1961, the figure was £599,000,!00, or £14,000,000 greater.
I think the question that needs to be asked, if at one end you bring in a lot of new subscribers via the special bond - and they would be aggregated in that sum - and at the other end of the scale you have individuals who own inscribed stock in other forms, whose total subscriptions have been progressively falling from the fairly recent figure of £650,000,000, is: What is the answer? This is especially true as, at the same time, the Treasurer is trying to claim credit for bringing in to the market a lot more investors, although in aggregate the total held by individuals has declined. A government which claims that it is encouraging savings should furnish an answer to this question. Is it that the saving of the community is being done for it by proxy rather than by investment directly in bonds, to avoid all the complications attendant upon bond investment? Perhaps people prefer to put their money in the savings banks or other institutions and let those bodies do the investing for them. That may be part of the explanation. I do not know, but at least, if the aggregate position is looked at, the Government cannot take credit for the fact that people are investing more in Government bonds in 1962 than they were previously, despite the fact that this year we had a record subscription to the loan market.
Of course, the fact is that the majority of that investment - something like £3,300,000,000 out of a total of £3,800,000,000 - is done either by large institutions or by various manifestations of the banking system, such as the Reserve Bank, the trading banks or the savings banks. This rather poses the question whether far too much mystery surrounds the public debt so far as the public is concerned. The public debt is not something that millions of individuals own. For the most part it is owned by various financial institutions or some manifestations of the Government at one level or another - the Reserve Bank level, the savings bank level or indirectly through such institutions as life insurance offices.
In other parts of the world me management of the public debt has been regarded as a matter of critical significance so far as monetary and credit controls are concerned. But in Australia it seems to be left to chance. I suggest that in a modern community you cannot leave the loan market to chance. Despite what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) might say, how the money market is manipulated is something in which the Government ought to be the prime mover. The honorable member is disposed not to like words such as “ control “ or “ manipulate “. No government, including the one he supports, can get very far in 1963 if it does not exercise some social control and if it does not do a certain amount of manipulation as far as concerns the nation’s finances. Rather than chide members on this side of the House for being socialistic the honorable member ought to look to what is being done by this Government in 1963. It may be that as well as being a backbencher he is a back-woodsman as far as the necessities of 1963 are concerned.
– How would you influence individuals to invest?
– I may have a little to say about that in a moment. I am suggesting that the Treasurer drew specific attention in his speech to the fact that there were 300,000 individual subscribers in special bonds. I rather took it that he wanted the inference drawn that that was a good thing. I have simply pointed to the aggregate of figures, including those for special bonds, and have shown that individual holdings, rather than rising in aggregate, are actually declining in number. I say that some sort of answer needs to be given. I have suggested that one answer may be that because of the complications of investment, and despite what people sometimes like to mouth about “people’s capitalism”, to many people the buying of a bond or a share is still a mysterious sort of experience. At least special bonds could be easily bought - through a bank - or at least did not have to be bought through the Stock Exchange, which mainly is true of other forms of government securities at the moment. Perhaps there could be a lot more simplification in relation to small savings. During the war one could simply buy stamps at 2s. or 5s. When £10 worth had been acquired they could be taken to a bank and cashed or deposited and a war savings certificate to the face value of £10 was issued. I suggest that that sort of security could be tried a little more systematically in 1963 than apparently it is.
The point I wish to make is that individual investment in total has declined, not increased, despite the special bonds. One of the purposes of this legislation is to enable the special bonds to fall within the confines of the legislation. The legislation, as written at present, refers to bonds in terms of par value. The mechanism with respect to the special bond is that it starts with a minimum value and its face value increases the longer you hold it. There is a defect in the act as at present written.
The second aspect with which I wish to deal is that this legislation also brings within the confines of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act the type of security generally known as the treasury-bill. The treasurybill is simply a transaction or a manipulation - if you like to put it that way and in this instance it is a very good use of the word - of the credit structure by the government of the day. It is simply an I O U from the Reserve Bank of Australia to the government. The government could carry out this transaction as freely itself as by recourse to the Reserve Bank. I have always regarded it as one of the merits of the Australian financial system that for a long time we have been able to keep the treasury-bill rate at a nominal 1 per cent. Of course that is not the sort of return which the gentlemen who call themselves money market dealers like. They like a rate of from 3 per cent, to 7 per cent., according to the degree of risk they undertake.
The treasury-bill is essentially a loan by the government bank in the first instance and latterly there has been a tendency, instead of leaving the treasury-bills to lie with the Reserve Bank, to farm them out, firstly, to the trading banks. Latterly we (have had this mysterious money market, and I think “ mysterious “ needs to be used in its most sinister meaning in this regard. 1 have never heard any satisfactory explanation of the Tole which the short term money market should exercise in the Australian economy. The statistics show that something which scarcely existed a few years ago now has assets totalling £125,000,000. The total profits of this circle, which is reserved for a few very select people, were in the vicinity of £1,000,000 last year. This group had a very good year.
I state categorically, on behalf of the Opposition, that every £1 which the shortterm money market makes is filched from the pockets of the Government. The Government is allowing somebody else to carry out a transaction which it ought to have done for itself. The people who operate the short-term money market claim that it gives flexibility to the total money market. They claim that it gives the mysterious body called “ the authorities “ - the government behind the scenes - greater mobility in organizing the total credit in the community. The argument is that it gives the authorities more power. As I said elsewhere a few nights ago, the only evidence is that it does not give power to the authorities, but gives a lot of glory to the few people who indulge in that sort of financial jiggery-pokery.
It is time that the Treasurer gave in this House - not just in some outside document - justification for the existence of the body known as the short-term money market- a body which has special access to the Reserve Bank for reserve lines of credit, which nobody else has. This circle has been in existence long enough now to have to justify its existence, and so far that has not been done. The treasury-bill ought to be a manifestation of the credit of the government and when you refer to its liquidity you refer to the fiat of the government behind it.
When the government wants to issue credit directly rather than indirectly, there are all sorts of false accusations made about resorting to the printing press. Every one is happy so long as he can get something printed by the government printing press. Some people object when the government wants to issue credit directly instead of through the banking system or through some of these institutions that have been allowed to be created. I believe the Australian economy would have run very much better than it has without the short-term money market. The financial record of this Government is not a very proud one since the short-term money market came into existence, although it is rather a magnificent one for these institutions, in view of the short time they have been in existence.
This amendment to the Inscribed Stock Act is necessary because the kind of security which the treasury-bill now comprises does not come within the confines of the act, which was written in 1911. One of the difficulties in regard to the Inscribed Stock Act is that it refers to securities having interest payable at intervals of six months. The treasury-bill is a rather peculiar instrument, the value of which increases daily up to a period of 91 days. That applies to the sort of treasury-bill which is now in operation. You pay perhaps £99 5s. 4d. for it and if you redeem it 91 days afterwards you receive £100, so the yield is in the region of 3 per cent, instead of the 1 per cent, which applied to the old treasury-bills.
Australia got along very well when the treasury-bill stood at 1 per cent. Some other people are getting along very well now that the rate has risen to 3 per cent. It is time a lot more scrutiny was given to the transactions which go on in the Australian loan market. As I tried to show earlier, the amount of individual subscriptions to government loans is so insignificant that we should ask what sort of people invest in this kind of security. We should also ask what is meant when we read, in financial journals, of flurries in the activities of the bond market. Between whom are the transactions taking place? Are they not taking place between the Government - which ought to maintain the value of the security at a certain point - and other large institutions which want either to buy or sell the securities according to the heat of the money market? That is not an adequate way to handle, in 1963, one of the instruments which ought to determine the total activity between the public and private sectors of the economy.
I am one who believes - and again I think I speak for this side of the House - that there ought to be more public expenditure in Australia in 1963. If you look at the fact that public expenditure builds schools and hospitals, equips your educational system, improves your irrigation and your power and your transport, and then look at the obvious deficiencies that exist in Australia in every one of those fields, you cannot say that public expenditure is too great. If public expenditure has to become greater, as we believe it should, then a government has to be able to take the initiative in this process. The whole history of this Government over recent years has shown that the initiative that ought to have been in public hands has been allowed to slip out into private and often socially irresponsible hands. This is not confined only to the legitimate money markets; it has been evident in higher and higher spheres.
You gentlemen on the other side of the House who claim to believe in what my friend called competition should ask yourselves the question that I tried to ask a leading Minister in this House the other day: Why has a leading warehouse firm in Australia that has been successful to the extent of making an annual profit of about £100,000 on a capital of £1,250,000, suddenly been rendered extinct because of the transactions of one of these finance companies? Somebody took the organization over and gave no indication when taking it over that the intention was to dismember it. When it had been taken over the property was sold to one of the leading monopoly newspapers and the stock was distributed to another of the merchandisers in Melbourne. What warrant was there for the extinction of that private enterprise? Whose duty is it to look after the more than 100 employees of the old firm who find themselves without jobs as a result of this transaction? They are not wanted by the newspaper and they are not wanted by the firm that has taken the stock. . Whose concern is it that the livelihood of these people has been cut off by a financial transaction?
I suggest that too many transactions are being completed in terms of cold, calculating financial power, and that this Government and the community should look at these transactions in terms of the welfare of the people. Here, in the rather drab confines of the inscribed stock legislation, you are talking about something that determines the balance of an economy, whether the economy produces more of the things that the people as a whole want, or more of the things that some private individuals decide on, which may or may not serve the public interest.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) goes to almost fantastic lengths in blowing up what is virtually a simple machinery matter concerning bonds so that he can explore the whole ambit of government finance. I do not propose to follow him in such exercises.
This is a very simple bill. It extends certain advantages to holders of treasurynotes and the special bonds which have been introduced in the last few years to encourage small individual investors to go into the bond market without substantial risk of capital loss. It enables them, instead of holding bearer bonds, to take advantage of the inscribed stock provisions which have always applied in the normal course to subscribers to Commonwealth loans. Another provision, as explained by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) increases the amounts to bc passed on in the event of death without going through probate and other formalities.
It is a very simple bill. It is designed in part to extend still further the advantages of special bonds. To introduce into this discussion all the considerations of the annual credit money market and to talk about the increase of interest on treasury-notes, which was once nicely kept at 1 per cent., is rather futile. This interest has been increased, of course, for a very obvious reason. There has been a basic change in the way treasurynotes are dealt with. The 1 per cent, obtained when these transactions were all kept cosily within the banking system. It was a kind of charge or interest payment affecting the banks and the Reserve Bank of a fairly nominal character. The big step forward came because treasury-notes are now held more widely by the market, and the market has been attracted to them, quite naturally, by putting up the rate of interest so that it bears some kind of relationship to the return that could be obtained by investing money in other ways. This development has undoubtedly meant that the amount of funds, directly and indirectly, which the Government has been able to draw away from the private sector has been increased.
The last thing I would have done would have been to refer to developments in the bond market and to the things responsible for them. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, of course, made strong reference to the gradual reduction of interest on the part of individual investors in the bond market. Again I do not wish to be provocative, but the honorable member did say a number of things which suggested that the Government was making a mess of it, or was benefiting small groups at the expense of the community. It is important, therefore, to remind honorable members of some of the reasons why the bond market has been so difficult for so long. Many factors have contributed to this state of affairs.
This is a world-wide phenomenon. It has followed in the aftermath of a big war, when inflationary forces would have been rife in any case. But in the case of the Australian bond market one very great difficulty has been added. That was the legacy left by the Labour Government which, at one stage, forced down the long-term rate of interest on government bonds to 34 per cent. It did this at a time when it was able to exercise controls over the economy in many directions. It introduced, for instance, capital issues control. There was nothing else in which investors could put their money. At that time, also, there was the extra patriotic motive for putting money into government bonds, because people realized they were helping to finance the war effort. Above all, however, the longterm rate of interest on government bonds was forced down to 34 per cent., because there was no real alternative for savings and investment.
In addition to these factors, by the time the Labour Government went out of office the price level was rising, because of inflationary movements, at the rate of about 10 per cent, per annum. Obviously, a rate of 34 per cent, could have been held for so long, in a fast-developing economy like ours, only when clamped down by allembracing controls over the economy.
Australia is a country in which, for the most part, the supply of capital is limited and inducement must be offered to hold it. Let us consider the position between 1949 and 1950. We had price levels rising at about 10 per cent, per annum and a bond interest rate of 34 per cent. Even when the rate became higher, it was quite impossible for the ordinary man, with his savings, to keep pace. At the end of the year the purchasing power of his bond, even after adding the 31 per cent, that he received as interest, would have been less than it had been at the beginning of the year. If you have a rate of 3i per cent, it is inevitable that when rates eventually return, as they must, to the more realistic levels of 44 or 5 per cent. - the levels which historically have prevailed over the years - there will be a very serious fall in the capital value of those bonds. Large numbers of small investors were, in a sense - you might say almost wickedly - robbed of their savings. Small changes over a period in the price of bonds do not matter much because people can adjust their position, but with the revival of economic activity there was bound to be a heavy fall in the capital value of bonds. That made many small investors very sour. At the other end of the scale the continuing increase in prices and inflationary pressure meant that fixed incomes and fixed money values were being constantly eroded.
After the enormous damage which was caused by the legacy of the 34 per cent, interest rate and the inflation which were left by the Labour Government, at last, recently, the bond market was restored to a much higher level of health. The stability of prices which has been brought about in the last few years means that government bonds have once again become a good sound investment. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports read a long list of the large institutional holdings in Commonwealth loans. But institutions are bound to be major holders of Commonwealth loans and are likely to be increasingly so.
Reverting to this measure, it is notable that since about 1958 special bonds have been taken out by 300,000 individual subscribers. Apart from treasury-notes, this measure is related in particular to the special bonds which have been issued. These represent a very considerable come-back of government paper from the viewpoint of the small individual investor. I am sorry to have diverged a little from the main purpose of the bill which really is a relatively small machinery measure and one which certainly, in a debate like this, does not warant encompassing the whole ambit of the money market and associated matters.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cairns) adjourned.
– I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 75).]
The resolutions which I have just introduced relate to proposed amendments to the customs tariff. Details of these amendments are now being distributed to honorable members.
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 75 cover tariff changes arising from the Government’s consideration of the Tariff Board’s reports on chicory and textile handkerchiefs. In its report on chicory the board recommended that the industry be accorded continued tariff assistance. Local producers have the capacity to supply the Australian demand, but their production, sales and share of the market have declined sharply since 1958-59. The board has recommended that the normal protective duty on fresh or kiln-dried chicory should be increased to 5d. per lb. on imports from all sources. This is id. per lb. lower than the present combined normal and temporary duties and is intended to ensure reasonable returns to growers.
Under the present ad valorem rates of duty on handkerchiefs the industry has been able to maintain its position against competition from the traditional sources of supply which export good quality handkerchiefs. In the case of cheap imports from mainland China and Japan, however, the present fixed-rate duties come into operation and these have proved to be inadequate. The board has therefore recommended increased fixed-rate duties on low-cost finished handkerchiefs of cotton and/ or linen and no change in the effective duties for the other goods under reference. In general, the proposed duties will be slightly higher on the low-cost handkerchiefs than the present combined ordinary and temporary duties. 1 commend the proposals to honorable members.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the House reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Ordered to be printed.
– For the information of honorable members, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Agreement between Australia and the United States of America concerning the Status of United States Forces in Australia, signed 9th May, 1963.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the United States of America relating to the establishment of a United States naval communication station in Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill now be read a second time.
This morning the American Ambassador and I, on behalf of our respective governments, signed an agreement for the establishment of a naval communication station in Western Australia. The agreement was made subject to approval by the two governments and is to enter into force on the date on which the governments exchange instruments notifying such approval.
Although the Australian Government has constitutional capacity to sign the agreement without further parliamentary authority, the Government, as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced some weeks ago, has decided to submit the agreement to the Parliament for approval before exchanging with the American Government its instrument of approval. This bill therefore seeks the approval of this House of the agreement which is set out in the schedule to the bill.
By the agreement, the Australian Government permits the American Government to establish, maintain and operate for a minimum period of 25 years a naval communication station at North West Cape in Western Australia. The North West Cape is the north-westernmost point of Australia seaward of the Exmouth Gulf. The station will be a United States communication station under, the sole control of the United States Government.
There is little need for me to speak at any length on the nature of the station or of its capacities. The Prime Minister, on 17th May, 1962, in this House, described the project, and on 26th March, 1963, reiterated earlier statements with respect to the station. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) also made a statement on the same matter on 6th March, 1963. By way of broad description, the proposed station will consist of a number of wireless masts, some of considerable height, and of wireless aerials, with buildings to house the gear associated with the transmission and receiving of wireless messages. The establishment will include the plant and buildings to generate electricity in a conventional manner by diesel power and the necessary administrative buildings and facilities. Included in the station’s capacity to transmit and receive wireless messages will be a capacity to emit a signal of considerable strength of a very low frequency capable of being received by submerged naval vessels as well as by surface naval vessels. It will have no other capability of any kind than the capacity to transmit and receive wireless messages. It will be as described in the agreement - a naval communication station, a wireless station - nothing more and nothing less.
But this naval communication station will provide a very significant link in the command and deployment of naval vessels, both submerged in, and on the surface of, the oceans and seas around and adjacent to Australia and to South and South-East Asia.
It is common knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that the deterrence of aggression in those parts of the world of greatest immediate significance to Australia, namely, the western Pacific region and South-East Asia - stretching from the Soviet Far East southwards through Korea and the islands off the east coast of Asia and westwards into South-East Asia - depends to a great extent upon the capacity of the United States Navy to react against aggression. Naval units, whether surface vessels such as aircraft carriers, or submerged vessels, submarines, derive from their mobility not only a great measure of their immunity from attack but also a great measure of their capacity for solo or co-ordinated action. The wireless station at North West Cape will give an added flexibility and efficiency to the massive naval forces which have done and which are doing so much to deter aggression in the areas to which I have referred.
No one - certainly no one viewing the world scene with any sense of reality - can deny the vital necessity for effective systems of communication in war-time. Only those who live in a world of fantasy can deny the vital importance in peace-time of such a system of communication as an item of defence preparation and preparedness. Indeed, its very existence is a significant element in the deterrence of aggression. Those who are interested in peace may well set much store by this aspect of the establishment of this station.
Mr. Speaker, Australia with New Zealand is an ally of the United States in the collective security pact, commonly known as Anzus. The importance to Australia of this alliance cannot be exaggerated. Not merely its existence but the mutual performance of its obligations, both in the letter and in the spirit, are of critical significance to the security of this country - to the possibility of its continued growth. This is particularly true as of this time when the effort involved in developing its natural and industrial resources produces such a significant effect on this country’s capacity to expand and maintain its own military defensive capacity.
By Article II. of the Anzus Treaty, the allies - the United States, New Zealand and Australia - agree separately and jointly to develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
The establishment of the proposed naval communication station will significantly increase the capacity of the United States to perform its part of the Anzus pact, and as well to play its part in the maintenance of peace in the world generally.
Use by Australian forces of the facilities of the station will significantly increase their effectiveness both in training and wartime operations. It would enable Australia the better to perform its obligations as an Anzus ally.
The provision by Australia of the site for the naval communication station and the permission this agreement gives to its establishment, maintenance and operation in Australia, constitute a most important contribution by Australia to the mutual purposes of the Anzus pact and beyond that to the security of the free world generally.
Mr. Speaker, I have said that this naval communication station, both in its very existence and in its use for the purposes of defence communications, will contribute to the security of the free world generally. Let me say something of this.
The mastery of flight, the successful uncovering of atomic secrets, the development to a high degree of submarine movement and navigation and the emergence of almost incredible means of quick and effective communications, not to mention the many other advances of science and technology, have so contracted the world that it is no longer possible to live - or for that matter to contemplate survival - in isolation. Nor can it be denied that the threat to freedom - not even thinly disguised but loudly and confidently proclaimed - is global - however much pressures may be concentrated from time to time in one place or another. The pattern of the defence of the free world must be global, because no significant part can be abandoned without jeopardy to all the parts, either immediately or in an inevitably due course.
The relevance, Mr. Speaker, of these observations to the matter on hand is this. The efficiency of the defence capacity of Anzus to which this wireless station will contribute adds security to areas of the world outside the ambit of the pact just as the efficiency of the Nato defences adds security to Australia and New Zealand as members of Anzus as well as to the United States of America which is a member of both collective security pacts.
Thus, whilst I have emphasized the importance of the proposed station to the Anzus partners, I do not pretend that its communication capability has no significance for the United States as a member of Nato. But that significance is important also for Australia which cannot hope to isolate itself from the effects of aggression in respect of Communist aggression in Treaty.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, we have accepted and share with the United States obligations in respect of Communist aggression in South-East Asia. For the deterrence of aggression in that area and the performance of the obligations of the United States and ourselves in relation to that treaty area, this naval communication station has undeniable significance.
As I leave this discussion of general considerations touching the making of this agreement, may I say that in all our relationships with the United States, in Anzus and in Seato, there is mutual respect and confidence as well as a community of interest and of purpose. This agreement is itself at the one moment the result of and an expression of that mutuality of confidence and of community of interest and purpose.
Before turning to an explanation of the detailed provisions of the agreement, let me say something of the broad principles which each government has recognized in the course of negotiation. They are -
First, that the agreement and the obligations h creates should respect the sovereignty of each.
Secondly, that the control of the station should rest with the United States.
Thirdly, that when desired by either there should be consultation between the two Governments as to matters connected with the station and its use.
Fourthly, that the Australian armed forces should have the use of the communication services of the station.
Fifthly, that the Australian Government should not seek to make a revenue profit out of the American establishment, maintenance or operation of the station and that, where possible, it should assist to minimize the cost of the station to the American Government.
Sixthly, that in the establishment, operation and maintenance of the station, the maximum practicable use of Australian resources should be made.
Seventhly, that, without submitting to the jurisdiction of Australian courts, or compromising its sovereignty, the United States would conform to Australian law and its personnel would observe it.
The agreement does carry out these principles and’ to its particular provisions I now turn.
The Agreement, which is in the schedule to the bill, consists of some preambular paragraphs and sixteen articles. It is to be read in conjunction with a somewhat longer agreement which I have laid on the table of the House of which copies are available to honorable members dealing with the status of members of the United States forces in Australia. I shall make a more specific but brief reference to the contents of this other agreement a little later.
The preambular paragraphs of the agreement call attention to the Anzus Treaty and reflect in their brevity these considerations to which I have already made reference and which I will not repeat.
The first article in the agreement records the Government’s decision that the station may be established and maintained and operated by the United States and it so provides in terms.
Article 2 provides for the Australian Government to make available the site of the station and to grant to the United States Government all necessary rights of access to and of exclusive use or occupancy of it. The land on which the station will be built has already been acquired by the Commonwealth under the Lands Acquisition Act for defence purposes. The title to the land will remain with the Australian Government. The rights of the United States Government which we have agreed to grant will include a right to designate specific areas of the land as exclusive, controlled or restricted areas. In due course these arrangements will be spelled out in a land-use agreement. The status of the United States under this agreement will be that of a lessee. A token rental in the traditional form of a peppercorn will be reserved to emphasize that relationship.
Let me now say something about Article 3, which performs two functions. It provides for consultation between the two Governments and it limits the use to which the station may be put. To deal with this latter function first, the article ensures that, without Australian consent, the station cannot be used for any purpose other than purposes of defence communication. Ancillary to this limitation on the use of the station is an Australian right of access to the station at all times - a right which can be used to verify that the station is not used for any other than the agreed purpose. Nothing more need be said at this stage as to the limitation or use which is to be found in clause 2 of the article. It is clear and unambiguous. Without qualification, it restricts the use of the station to purposes of defence communication except with Australian consent.
But more needs to be said of the first clause of the article which reads, and I quote it in full -
The two Governments will consult from time to time at the request of either Government on any matters connected with the station and its use.
I have already indicated that a basic principle of the agreement is that the station shall be in the sole control of the United States. When the nature of this station as it has been publicly described is understood, I am sure it will be obvious that, unless it was desired to create unilateral right of veto on the use of the station - and i£ is not - joint operation is in fact impracticable. But apart from all questions of practicability, the Government has agreed that its ally standing in the relationship to this country which I have mentioned and filling the position in relation to the defence of the free world which the United States undoubtedly does fill, shall have the right to establish and to maintain and to operate the naval communication station, which means as a sole operator.
Article 3 is not intended to establish control over the use of the station. In particular it is not intended to give Australia control of or access to the content of messages transmitted over the station. But Article 3 stipulates a right in the Australian Government to consultation as to the effect of the station’s use on any Australian interests, national or international. But the right of consultation is not limited to this aspect of the station’s use. The article means what it says, that there is a right to consultation on any matters connected with the station and its use. But the width of the area of possible consultation does not imply any right of control over the station.
Article 4 provides for use by Australian forces of the communication services of the station. Bearing in mind that this agreement has a currency of 25 years, this right is important in itself, avoiding as it may, substantial Australian expenditures to pro: vide any equivalent service for the Aus; tralian armed forces. But in addition, as I have pointed out, this right has significance for the potential of our defence forces in relation to Anzus, Seato and otherwise.
Article 5 provides for the maximum practicable use of Australian resources in the establishment, maintenance and operation of the station. It is evident that to apply such a general phrase to the circumstances of so vast a project, some arrangements will need to be made from time to time by the two governments. Accordingly this article so provides. We have already had some discussions with the United States regarding the means by which this article will be given practical effect. Nothing but Australian or United States resources will be used. The prime contract for the initial construction phase may be awarded only to a joint venture of Australian and United States interests. Practically all the constructional steel within the capacity of Australian industry and all the cement and hardwood for the entire construction will come from Australia. Air conditioning and ventilating materials as well as piping, electrical material, paints, and many other building and other materials will be purchased in Australia. As has been said in earlier statements, large sums of money will be involved in the construction, sums estimated to exceed £A30,000,000, and of course, further sums in its maintenance will be needed during the years of its operation.
By Article 7 the United States agrees that it will conform to the provisions of applicable Commonwealth and State laws, including quarantine laws and industrial awards and determinations and that its personnel will observe such laws and regulations. The language of this clause is designed to ensure that the United States does not compromise its sovereignty or submit itself as a government to the jurisdiction of Australian courts. It agrees to conduct its activities in conformity with Australian law, that is to say as if it were, though as a government it may not be, bound by such laws and regulations. Of course, all its contractors and their personnel will be bound by the relevant Australian law. Its personnel, including members of its forces and their dependants and contractors working for the United States and civilians accompanying the forces will observe such laws.
I come now to Article 8. It is a general principle of our law that, if a person builds anything which becomes a fixture on another man’s land, title to the fixture passes to the owner of the land. Australia has no wish to acquire title to anything that is brought or built on the land for the purpose of establishing the station. It does not wish to profit by the technical consideration that such things may be fixtures. Article 8 makes this situation clear. It also makes clear the intention of the two governments that if, when the station is no longer needed, the United States does not want any particular item of property, it shall not dispose of that item within Australia except under conditions to be agreed upon between the two governments. The purpose of this provision is to guard against the possibility that United States disposals might have adverse effects on orderly Australian commercial transactions.
With respect to Articles 9 and 10 of the agreement, Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that the Australian Government has no desire to make a revenue profit out of the activities of the United States Government in establishing and operating the station. I mentioned also that the Australian Government desires to play its part in minimizing the cost to the United States of the establishment, maintenance and operation of the station. Articles 9 and 10 are directed to these matters. Article 9 exempts from Australian taxation the income of people who come to Australia solely to work in the establishment, maintenance or operation of this station where the income is derived from that work, provided that that income, in short, is taxed in America. This exemption is not to relieve the individual of any liability to be taxed, but is designed to prevent a reduction in the tax recovery of the American Government from the incomes of its citizens - a recovery which in the long term works a reduction in the net cost to the American Government of the work done on the station.
Article 10, dealing with customs duties and sales tax, is directed towards ensuring that no revenue profit is made out of the United States Government and that the cost of the work is not increased by duties and taxes. No duties or taxes will be collected on property of the United States Government itself. In order to maintain the competitive position of Australian suppliers of such goods and commodities, duties and taxes will be exacted on contractors’ plant used and consumables used up in the construction of the station. But a refund will be made direct to the United States Government not to the contractor equal in amount to the duty and tax charged on such items as are wholly employed or consumed on the site in the construction of the station. There is no need, I feel, Mr. Speaker, to enter into the highly technical details of these provisions. It is the broad intent and result that are significant. That result is as I have stated.
For the rest, Mr. Speaker, the agreement provides for the hiring by the United States of communication services in Australia, for technical matters connected with the operation of the station and for subsidiary technical arrangements to give effect to the agreement. The station is to be established, maintained and operated without cost to Australia, except that we will reimburse the United States Government sums to be agreed for use of the station by our own armed forces. Our flag is to be flown when the American flag is flown at the station.
It will be observed from the preambular paragraphs of the agreement that a status offorces agreement is to be read with the present one. That agreement will regulate the status of American forces at any time in Australia in connexion with some agreed activity. The provisions of that agreement will apply to the members of the American forces who are in Australia from time to time in connexion with the establishment, maintenance and operation of the station. The statusofforces agreement will become operative immediately, but subsequently legislation in connexion with it will be introduced into this House. As I have said, in the meantime I have laid it on the table. There is a protocol to that agreement by which each of the parties agrees to enter into negotiations to make a mutual agreement to regulate the status of its forces in the other’s country. It is hoped that a mutual agreement substantially in the terms of the present agreement will replace that agreement before long.
This short explanation of what is in truth a very brief and straightforward agreement should suffice for the present purposes of the House, which are to consider the bill for the approval of the agreement. What I have proposed for acceptance or rejection by the House is that Australia should offer to the United States, in the terms of the agreement, the use of an area of Australian land to facilitate communication between units of that country’s armed forces. The purpose is in that way to assist the armed forces of the United States.
This agreement, Mr. Speaker, is another’ notable event in the accumulating history of co-operation between our two democratic and freedomloving countries. To-day, as always, the great maritime and air power) of the United States is deployed in the wide Pacific and the other waters around Australia. Let us consider how much Australia has owed to this protective shield in the years of peril twenty years ago and through the subsequent years when new movements plainly and declaredly bent upon expansion, have been astir in the countries to Australia’s north and north-west. Has there been a single year in the past generation when armed force has not been in action in this region, subverting, raiding, intimidating, killing? Save for the tragic miscalculation by North Korea and China, in 1950, and the still recent attack on Indian border regions, the enemies of freedom and independence have desisted from open armed attack, and certainly from massive attack. But there has been erosion and intimidation and much for the Western world to deplore. Tibet has disappeared. But the majority of the small militarily weak countries on the periphery of Communist China to-day are still independent. Does any one suppose that this is by the grace of mainland China’s respect for the independence of her neighbours, or for their people, or due to her desire to respect their right to govern themselves in their own way? The Australian Government believes that the sense of safety and freedom from anxiety that Australians enjoy is the direct product of the presence of American retaliatory power in the In do Pacific area, supported by the approval of the group of independent nations allied with the United States.
Who is so blind as to fail to foresee the continuance, indeed, the expansion, of the Communist threat, and who so foolish as to imagine that we shall not continue to need that shield which American retaliatory power provides? It should by now be common knowledge that American capacity to deter aggression derives in no small part from its possession of nuclear power, which more than counterbalances the superiority in conventional strength of the Communist powers - a nuclear strength which in large part has been deployed hitherto in surface ships but which will increasingly be deployed in submerged vessels. That this American shield should continue to be available in the context of that mutual respect and confidence of which I have spoken is in truth indispensable to our future, as it is to that of the world.
I have stressed our alliances with the United States - alliances of which we are proud and for which we are appreciative. An alliance for joint defence is not real unless each side contributes and does so in a spirit of mutual trust. This agreement, Sir, is a notable Australian-American contribution to that joint defence. It is with this overriding purpose that I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 1221).
.- As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) said a few minutes ago, this is a very simple bill. The bill contains two simple proposals, but they indicate, as was pointed out by the honorable member, a desire and an intention on the part of the Government to extend still further the advantages of special bonds and treasury-notes gained by those people who subscribe to them. This proposal by the Government to extend the advantages of special bonds and treasurynotes broadly conflicts with the policy of the Opposition in this Parliament. Therefore, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has said, we must examine fairly fully the implications of a bill of this kind.
In order to do this I can take up some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Wentworth. He said that some years ago, when treasury-notes carried an interest rate of about 1 per cent., most of them were held by the banking systems, but now that they carry a higher interest rate they are widely held in the market. What factors were necessary to bring about this stale of affairs? First, the economy had to be organized and be freed in certain directions so as to create increasing inequality among the people. Those people who possessed wealth were able to possess more wealth and if it suited them to lend their money to the government in greater amounts and at increasing rates of interest. Such a situation collides directly with the policy of the Opposition. We believe that the economy should not be organized so that a particularly fortunate section of the people may be made more wealthy so that they in turn may lend to the government. Instead, the government should draw increasingly on its own resources. At a time like the present, when there is need for increased government expenditure and no danger of inflation, but, on the contrary, we have a problem of unemployment and an admitted deficiency of expenditure generally, and in particular fields, the Opposition believes that it is not necessary or desirable to encourage borrowing from private lenders. We believe that the Government should draw primarily upon its own resources. Such a policy would result in lower costs in the immediate present and a lower burden for posterity to carry. The honorable member for Wentworth admitted that few individuals subscribe to Commonwealth stock and that the great majority of subscriptions - perhaps 80 per cent, or more- comes from what are called institutional lenders. Later I will deal with the ways in which the institutional lenders make these subscriptions.
The honorable member for Wentworth asked why individuals subscribe such a small percentage of the money that is put into Commonwealth stock. The honorable member gave a very inadequate answer to his query. He said that it was because Labour governments had forced down the long-term rate of interest on Commonwealth bonds and, in order to maintain this position, had clamped controls on all sectors of the economy. The honorable member said that this meant that the money that individuals would put into Commonwealth stock would have a purchasing power at the end of the year, even with interest added, less than it had at the beginning of the year. The honorable member tried to create the impression that it was only during the administration of Labour governments that individuals were unwilling to subscribe to Commonwealth bonds, but the truth of the matter is that this has been a long-term trend which reached rock bottom in respect of the contributions of individual subscribers to Commonwealth stock during the inflationary years of office of the Menzies Government. Whatever may have occurred to discourage individual lenders when the bond rate of interest was low, nothing occurred at that time to discourage them from the point of view of the depreciation of the capital value of the money that they had put in. Prices did increase before 1949, but from the end of the war until 1949 there was an increase in prices of between 12 per cent, and IS per cent. When did prices really increase in this country? They increased only after the Menzies Government came to office. In 1950.-51 there was a 25 per cent, increase. In a couple of other years during this Government’s term of office the increase was in excess of 20 per cent.
– Do you mean a 25 per cent, increase in subscriptions to bonds?
– I mean a 25 per cent, increase in retail prices in 1950-51. I am surprised that the honorable member for Higinbotham should have to inquire about such a simple fact of economic history. Of course, many supporters of the Government have now conveniently forgotten the inflation over which they presided for so many years. It was that inflation which struck such a significant blow at the tendency for individuals to subscribe to Commonwealth stock, because the stock carried a low rate of interest compared with the return from investment in booming and, in some cases, quite dishonest private enterprises. One need not run through the names of those companies. There have been the Reid Murray and Testro organizations. Liberal Premiers attended the launchings of those concerns and said what magnificent examples they set by returning 8 per cent, and 10 per cent, on relatively short-term investment. This happened at a time when the Commonwealth stock market received its most severe blow in Australian history. It did not happen during the reign of a Labour government, when a reasonably fair and balanced distribution of interest rates was maintained throughout the economy. Is the honorable member for Wentworth unaware of these things? The very high alternative rates of return that investors could earn during this period of inflation, plus the capital losses as a result of the depreciation of the purchasing power of their money so invested presented investors in Commonwealth bonds with the most difficult situation they had to meet. The honorable member for Wentworth says that all these things have gone. He says that at last the Commonwealth stock market is restored - at last!
– At what a price!
– Yes, at what a price. Here we have the advocates for the rentier section of the community. I am not going to run through the list of the honorable members opposite who have the distinction of speaking here for those who have plenty of money to lend, as we all know who they are. We have in the voice of the honorable member for Wentworth a voice for the rentier section of the community - the people who are sufficiently comfortably off to have a good deal of money to lend. At last, he says, a wonderful state of affairs has been restored for them. To-day they can put their money into government bonds. They feel there is not going to be much of an increase in prices and they can be confident that the still relatively low rate of interest they are receiving will be returned upon their bonds. This, and the stability that the honorable member is so pleased to see established, are almost the end of the economic road of progressive development as far as he is concerned.
The cost of this, however, cannot be ignored. In this period of relative stability, which is very attractive for the investors, we have also certain other economic conditions that should not be ignored in this debate. We have had during all this time the unemployment of at least 85,000 and up to 132,000 people, which is a great disadvantage for the unemployed and their dependants - a disadvantage which outweighs the advantages obtained by the investors, the rentiers, the money lenders, from whose point of view so many members opposite see the economy. If the ordinary people of Australia want to weigh up the situation in some balance of justice let them think on the one hand of the advantages to the 300,000 who have taken up the special bonds mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth and who can get a few more pounds per year in interest - these already fairly comfortable people whose capital does not depreciate or they would not be in the position of investors - and, on the other hand, of the 100,000 or so people who are unemployed on the average because of this Government’s policy.
These 100,000 people do not stand alone, but in many cases have one, two, three, four, five, six, or in some cases I know of seven, eight, or nine dependants. There must be at least 500,000 Australian people directly affected by unemployment who, from time to time, are required to live on an income which is less than half the basic wage, which is supposed to be the minimum standard for an ordinary human being living in a civilized community. So the advantages to be 300,000 investors on the one side of the scale of justice are outweighed on the other side by the loss to those 500,000 people as a result of unemployment. Any one who believes that the advantages to the 300,000 investors on by the cost to the 500,000 people - including dependants - involved in unemployment has no heart, whatever he may claim to have in the way of a head.
Also involved is the fact that the economy is functioning at a lower rate. There have already been estimates that the amount of production actually lost as a result of this tightening of the economy has been between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000 a year. So that in addition to the disadvantages to the unemployed and their dependants, we have a loss of £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 in goods and services which would not occur if the economy were functioning at full capacity. The view taken by the honorable member for Wentworth is rather narrow and limited. Unfortunately, it seems to be the view accepted not only by the Government but also by its professional advisers.
I make one other point upon this matter before I conclude. The honorable member for Wentworth said that he agreed with us that the overwhelming proportion of money put into Commonwealth stock is put there by the large institutions. He said that the institutions are bound to subscribe. Certainly they are.
– There is nowhere else to invest the money.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) showed, not only how these institutions get their money to subscribe but also the alternatives. We know that most of the institutions are, in one way or another, associated with the kinds of transactions that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports illustrated by the take-over in Melbourne of Sargood Gardiner Limited. We know that even recognized insurance companies - mutual bodies - have entered into this field of fairly safe speculation. We know that a concern with assets and resources sufficient to do so can take over another one and perhaps pay with some portion of its own shareholding. Thus the concern taking over can acquire a structure of assets from which it can borrow or sell in the market in a process which is nothing more nor less than a process of creating new money - new assets - in the way that we have so long recognized as open only to trading banks.
So we have on the one hand a private system of enormously growing capital wealth which has characterized Australia for the last ten or twelve years. An astonishing amount of inequality has been created, which the Government facilitates and draws upon. In turn the Government is putting money into this institutional structure by expenditure on contracts. The Government then borrows money back from the institutions at gradually increasing rates of interest. It is this process which the Labour Party opposes and is in no way willing to encourage. Throughout recent years we have found it to be the deliberate policy of the Government in office in this country to encourage the astonishingly rapid growth of this institutional structure of wealth in Australia on which it has increasingly drawn for funds in order to carry on its own activities.
The Labour Party has no intention of following this course when returned to office and will restore to the economy the degree of balance which is essential if this country is to progress not only at a uniform rate, without depression or inflation, but also with justice and fairness to those who are involved in it. We do not intend to give our support even to the arguments and submissions made in support of a bill of this kind.
.- This is a relatively simple bill, concerned with inscribed stock. I find it extraordinary that the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and Yarra (Mr. Cairns) have seen fit to use it as a vehicle to introduce a general argument on the economy. Some of their charges have been particularly irresponsible and I feel that they should be answered, particularly in view of the assumption I make - which I think is a fair one - that both honorable gentlemen represent the senior thought on economic matters in the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports takes the chair when economic matters are being discussed. The honorable member for Yarra is well known for his interest in economic affairs. So I might well say that their view is the official view of the Australian Labour Party when such matters are being discussed.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, for whom honorable members on this side have great respect, and other members opposite made what seemed to me to be extraordinary statements. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports criticized the existence - I think I interpret him correctly - of a short-term money market in Australia. He gave no reason for this criticism other than the fact that the short-term money market provides an opportunity for some organizations and individuals to make and receive profits. It is a trauma which exists in the minds of honorable members opposite that profit is a dirty word and that nobody should make a profit. Can the honorable member for Melbourne Ports name any community in the world with a sophisticated economy, which does not possess a fairly well organized and firmly established short-term money market? Indeed, the existence of such a market is a sign of sophistication and efficiency in an economy.
I recall that a few years ago, before the short-term money market was established here per se, short-term money negotiations were, in fact, being done by private firms over the telephone. At that time a businessman would ring up a colleague and say: “I want £500,000 for three days. Can you set me?” Matters would be fixed in that way. Does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports want our economy to degenerate to that sort of conduct in the economic sphere? I suggest that he does not. He quoted figures and, unlike him, he quoted only two sets of figures covering a short period, in order to indicate that the number of subscribers to government bonds had fallen. He criticized the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for being proud of the Government’s record in this matter. I do not think he made his case with any conviction. He almost overlooked - he just mentioned it tangentially - that there are reasons for the present position. I remind him that superannuation funds have grown enormously in Australia in the past few years and that the man in the street is contributing to those funds, which in turn are invested in Commonwealth bonds.
Instead of there being a direct contrast between the individual and the Government, the individual now has an intermediary - a highly respectable intermediary, that is, the board of trustees of the fund - who negotiates for him. There has been an enormous growth of unit trusts and of what are known in America as family trusts - people grouping together and investing their funds in trusts which in turn invest in government bonds. Then there are the insurance companies, which are heavy investors in government bonds. For some extraordinary reason the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Yarra criticized institutional lending as though the institution were some mythical and monstrous thing which was earning enormous profits and in whose hands the economic destiny of the country had been mortgaged. Who comprises the institutions and the insurance companies? Of course it is the man in the street - the citizen of Australia. Here again we see development or the sophistication of our economy, just as in America. As an analogy I refer to the person who wants to make a trip interstate or overseas. Years ago he made his own arrangements with the airline, the railway or the hotel at which he intended to stay, but nowadays the tendency is to go through an intermediary, a travel agent. Nobody suggests that this is not a highly respectable course and the use of the services of intermediaries has come about in the financial world as well.
What upset me more than anything in the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Yarra was their lack of appreciation of the present state of the economy. Both of them - I repeat - are leading spokesmen for the Opposition on economic affairs. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that now is the time when we should more heavily invest in the public sector of the economy. The honorable member for Yarra has said that there is no danger of inflation at this time and implies that we should now invest more heavily in government expenditure. I believe neither of those gentlemen is sincere in what he said in this regard. The honorable member for Yarra went further and dwelt on unemployment and the present alleged poor position of the economy. I know something of the honorable member for Yarra. In fact I had the honour to have him as my tutor in economics in my university days sixteen years ago and a jolly good tutor he was. Academically he is a very learned man in this sphere. I can remember him telling me, sixteen years ago, the kindergarten economic theory that when you have an unemployment rate of around or under 2 per cent, the position is satisfactory. He knows that in Melbourne to-day the position is rapidly approaching one of over-full employment. How could he advance the views he did when the price structure has a degree of stability that would make people marvel, the loan market is buoyant and overseas balances are over £600,000,000? Does he suggest that the economy is not in perfect balance at this stage? He said there was no danger of inflation.
I suggest that he should go back to the text-books or to his philosophy of sixteen years ago and consider whether the situation now is not explosive, in the sense that we have a perfectly balanced economy and that an irresponsible government expenditure could trigger off another boom with consequent damage to the economy. He accused the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) of representing the rentier section of the community. If I may, in turn, put a tag on the honorable member for Yarra, he is the selfconfessed champion of the proletariat - I do not think that is offensive to him - in Australia. Here is a man who suggests to us that he wants to champion the proletariat, yet he advocates in this House policies which he knows would send the economy into another upward spiral and completely wipe out the savings of the very people whom he proposes to champion.
I wonder what a boom at this stage would do to people on fixed incomes or to the small shopkeeper who buys a business or house during the boom and tries to sell it at a deflated price after the consequent recession and return to normalcy take place. The honorable member made a statement which I think is completely irresponsible and insincere and which he knows to be untrue. He said - I took the words down - that members opposite him could sit there and do nothing about a situation where you have 100,000 people unemployed. He used that figure, knowing full well that the registrants for employment at the moment number about 80,000. He said that there were not only 100,000 unemployed, but 100,000 unemployed who had up to nine childen each. He is expecting us to believe that all of these 100,000 people are family people with children. He knows full well that a great percentage of them are juniors or unmarried, that some are married women and that the percentage of family men is quite small. This is the sort of statement which, if it were not calculated to do damage and if it were not broadcast, would be beneath our contempt and not worthy of a reply, but he made the statement while probably 15,000 Australians were listening to him on their radios. He said that 100,000 people, with up to nine children each, are unemployed and living on half the basic wage. I attempt to answer in my own way at least some of the criticisms that he has made.
Finally, I mention a most serious matter still proceeding on the premise that these two men are the leaders of economic thought in the Opposition. They know that in the next seven years Australia must increase its export earnings by as much as £300,000,000 a year in order to survive and to preserve our present standard of living. To give the working man a chance to share in the increased productivity which will come in this seven years we must increase our export earnings, but now, when we have the chance of a lifetime of competing in prices with nations such as Germany, Italy and Japan, whose cost structures are rising at a time when we have stabilized our cost structure, these two men of the Labour Party the leaders of that party’s economic thought want us to inject so much more money by way of public expenditure into the economy as to start a price spiral in our own industries. I wonder if those few members of the Labour Party who represent country electorates and have some concern about the primary products of this country will agree with either of those gentlemen at this stage. I suspect that they would regard those statements, as all honorable members on this side of the House do, as being completely irresponsible and very insincere.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member has already spoken.
– Yes, but I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented. I would not have worried if the misrepresentation had not been quite so severe. The honorable member for Higinbotham claimed that I said there were 100,000 unemployed people with nine children each. Of course, I did not say that. I said that in some cases the size of the family went up to nine children. I said the average number of unemployed people in the last twelve months was 100,000. I did not say that was the number to-day. The number of unemployed people went as high as 132,000, and now has come down to 85,000.
– Order! I think the honorable member has made his point.
– Secondly, I said that the average number of dependants was perhaps two or three not nine making a total of perhaps 400,000 or 500,000 people directly affected..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am sorry that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is not in the chamber at the moment. It has not been explained during the course of the debate why it is proposed to amend section 52c of the principal act. I would have liked to ask the Treasurer two questions. First, has that section ever been invoked? It gives the Treasurer the right, upon the death of a person, to accept in lieu of cash Government bonds that are a part of the estate and to redeem them at par. By clause 14 it is proposed to amend section 52c of the principal act, and sub-section (2.) of the amended’ section will read -
The value at which any stock, Treasury Bonds, Debentures or other prescribed securities are so accepted shall be such value as is determined by or under the regulations.
As the Treasurer is not here now, he may arrange for this to be explained in another place, but I should have liked him to tell us whether the Treasury has ever invoked the existing provision. Has the Treasury ever agreed that bonds shall be accepted at par? Further, is it likely that the new section will ever be invoked and that bonds will be redeemed at the market price rather than at par?
I can remember when bonds could be sold only below their par value, because the interest rate structure had risen. That is a difficulty that is experienced by individual investors. Many investors lost as much as 10 per cent of the capital value of their bonds when they sold them. We suggested then that the existing section could have been invoked in some circumstances to allow payment of the par value, or at least to have bonds accepted at par in payment of estate duty. My impression then was that this provision was never invoked in any event. The section is now being amended. Can we presume that if the Treasurer did invoke the new section, bonds would be redeemed only at the then market value?
– I understand that sometimes special bonds have been accepted in payment of Commonwealth estate duty at their full redemption value at any time after the first interest date. These special bonds, of course, increase in capital value in stages throughout their life. They therefore become acceptable for probate duty at prices above par. It is desirable that this proposed amendment should put the authority for their acceptance beyond any doubt. The existing section provides only for their acceptance at par. Clause 14 will revise section 52c of the principal act. At the moment there is no intention to make other Commonwealth securities acceptable for estate duty purposes, but the new section will make it possible for any Commonwealth securities, including special bonds, to be accepted at such value as is determined by regulation. With regard to the other point which the honorable member has raised, as to whether this section has been used at all, I understand that it has been used in the case of special bonds.
– Only special bonds?
– In no other case.
.- I thank the Minister for the explanation. This will still leave about 95 per cent, of securities outside the ambit of the section. Perhaps he will explain later why that is to be so.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests: -
Customs Tariff Bill 1963. Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill 1963. Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 1) 1963.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1963. Australian Antarctic Territory Bill 1963. Christmas Island Bill 1963. Cocos (Keeling) Islands Bill 1963. Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Bill 1963. Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1963.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1066), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bills be now read a second time.
.- The first of these bills, the Acts Interpretation Bill, makes some amendments in the principal act consequent on the amendments to the Standing Orders which the House recently adopted. More importantly, however, the bill amends the provisions of the principal act concerning the disallowance of regulations made under Commonwealth acts in general. The other bills, which we are debating together with the Acts Interpretation Bill deal with the procedures for disallowing ordinances made for the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the seat of government.
The amendments proposed in respect of the disallowance of ordinances and regulations are very salutary ones. If a motion is to be moved in this House for disallowing a regulation or an ordinance, notice of that motion has to be given within fifteen sitting days of the tabling of the regulation or the ordinance. Thereafter, if the House has not dealt with the motion within fifteen sitting days of the notice being given, the regulation or ordinance is automatically disallowed. If, however, the motion has not been dealt with before the House is dissolved or expires, or before the Parliament is prorogued or, in the case of the Senate, before it is dissolved or the Parliament is prorogued, and if, moreover, fifteen sitting days have not elapsed since the notice was given, then the opportunity for disallowance has gone for ever. The bills now provide that where there is a prorogation, expiry or dissolution within fifteen sitting days of the notice for disallowance being given, then the fifteen sitting days will date from the resumption of the Parliament or the first sitting of the new Parliament. This, Sir, is a very considerable improvement in the procedures for the legislature superintending the acts of the executive, and the Opposition not only supports these amendments but also applauds them.
It will be noticed that the associated bills concern out Territory in the Antarctic, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and also the Australian Capital Territory. They do not deal with the Northern Territory and they do not deal with Papua and New Guinea. The Northern Territory (Administration) Act does not contain this salutary provision. We would hope that that act also would be amended to incorporate this provision. Perhaps the Minister will say whether it is proposed to give this Parliament the power to disallow ordinances of the Northern Territory when the Parliament is prorogued or the House expires or is dissolved too soon for it to deal with a disallowance.
The House has already been given a bill to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act. There is no such provision in that act. Perhaps we might take the opportunity of moving to incorporate it when the bill comes before the House. Thirdly, the Norfolk Island Act does not contain this provision. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) might say whether it is proposed to amend that act to give the House the same opportunity of disallowing ordinances of that territory. There is also our Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, as well as our Trust Territory of Nauru. The first is inconsiderable, and the second is in an exceptional position, so I make no comment about them.
The only other thing I would say about the statutes regulating the affairs of our Territories is to express the hope once again that similar co-ordination and modernization will be exercised in respect of the quite diverse judicial procedures and structures in the Territories. I would hope that similar methods of appeals and pooling of judges will soon be applied to all of them.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) referred to the fact that no provision was made in these amending bills for disallowance of ordinances affecting Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory. I am rather surprised to hear that comment from him, because this Parliament has no power to disallow ordinances of Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory. Both those Territories have their own legislatures, and it has been the desire of this Parliament, as I understood it, that they be given an increasing measure of selfgovernment. Indeed the only power to disallow ordinances passed by the legislatures of those two Territories is the residual power of the Crown to veto or reserve assent to legislation. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will readily agree that there is quite a considerable difference between the status of those two Territories and that of the others affected by this amending legislation.
There is a difference, however, in the case of Norfolk Island. It is intended that these provisions shall be applied to Norfolk Island. There will be other legislation produced shortly, it is hoped, to incorporate these provisions. I hope that satisfies the honorable member on the points he has raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).Order! The Standing Orders having been suspended to allow the six bills to be taken as a whole together, the question is, “ That the bills be agreed to “.
.- In the secondreading stage I referred to the provisions of these bills providing for the disallowance of regulations. I thank the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) for the answer he gave. I must concede that there has never been any provision in the Northern Territory legislation of this Parliament or the Papua and New Guinea Act for the disallowance by this Parliament of ordinances of those Territories. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has used the phrase, in papers he has circulated and in speeches he has made, that presumably the Parliament could disallow. I should certainly think that would be so if we chose to go through the performance of introducing and passing a bill to disallow.
I now propose to move an amendment for the purpose of inserting in each of the bills the provisions of sub-section (5.) of section 17 of the Norfolk Island Act 1957, which reads as follows: -
If an Ordinance or part of an Ordinance is disallowed, or is deemed to have been disallowed, under this section, and an Ordinance containing a provision being the same in substance as a provision so disallowed, or deemed to have been disallowed, is made within six months after the date of the disallowance, that provision is void and of no effect, unless -
in the case of an Ordinance, or part of an Ordinance, disallowed by resolution the resolution has been rescinded by the House of the Parliament by which it was passed; of
in the case of an Ordinance, or part of an Ordinace, deemed to have been disallowedthe House of the Parliament in which notice of the resolution to disallow that Ordinance or part was given approves, by resolution, the making of a provision the same in substance as the provision deemed to have been disallowed.
The point of the amendment is to cope with the situation which can arise where a Territory ordinance is disallowed, or a regulation under a Commonwealth act is disallowed, and the same ordinance or regulation is resurrected. It will be appreciated that an ordinance or a regulation has full validity unless and until it is disallowed. In their present form, as these bills have been brought in here, it is possible for a disallowed regulation or a disallowed ordinance to be brought in straight away and once again to have validity until either House has been sitting for fifteen days, and then to remain valid until the House has been sitting another fifteen days after the motion for disallowance has been moved; or, if prorogation, dissolution, or expiry intervenes, until fifteen sitting days after resumption or a new Parliament has begun to sit. I move -
That the following proposed sub-section, viz.: - “ ‘ If an Ordinance or part of an Ordinance is disallowed, or is deemed to have been disallowed, under this section, and an Ordinance containing a provision being the same in substance as a provision so disallowed, or deemed to have been disallowed, is made within six months after the date of the disallowance, that provision is void and of no effect, unless -
in the case of an Ordinance, or part of an Ordinance disallowed by resolution the resolution has been rescinded by the House of Parliament by which it was passed; or
in the case of an Ordinance or part of an Ordinance deemed to have been disallowed the House of the Parliament in which notice of the resolution to disallow that Ordinance or part was given approves, by resolution, the making of a provision the same in substance as the provision deemed to have been disallowed.’.”, be inserted in each of the bills as follows: -
Acts Interpretation Bill, clause 4, at the end of the clause, as sub-section (5b.);
Australian Antarctic Territory Bill, clause 2, at the end of the clause, as sub-section (3b.);
Christmas Island Bill, clause 2, after subsection (3a.) in paragraph (a), as subsection (3b.);
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Bill, clause 2, after sub-section (3a.) in paragraph (a), as subsection (3b.);
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Bill, clause 2, at the end of the clause, as subsection (3b.); and
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill, clause 2, after sub-section (5a.) in paragraph (a), as sub-section (5b.).
– Before the honorable member sits down, would he explain how his proposed amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act differs from the existing section 49 of the act?
– I thank the Minister for pointing the section out.
– What has happened is that some one has put the provision expressly in the Norfolk Island Act.
– Does it apply to Territory ordinances under the associated bills we have here? I can certainly see that it applies to regulations under the Acts Interpretation Act.
– I think we should report progress at this stage so that we can have a look at the other acts in order to see whether this provision is specifically mentioned in them, or whether the Acts Interpretation Act covers the point.
Sitting suspended from 5.32 to 8 p.m.
.- I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment I moved prior to the suspension of the sitting. Since then I have had an opportunity to read the principal acts and have seen that they cover my proposed amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th may (vide page 1069), on motion by Mr. Fairbairn -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Honorable members will be relieved to know that this is one bill relating to civil aviation which is not concerned primarily with underwriting a 10 per cent return on debentures issued by Ansett Transport Industries Limited in respect of its activities in the fields of aviation, road transport, accommodation and television. Thebill concerns only the constitution of the International Civil Aviation Organization and enables Australia to ratify a protocol passed at the assembly of the organization at Rome in September last. The protocol increased, from ten to onefifth of the total membership, the number of contracting States which are required to summon an extraordinary meeting of the assembly. The protocol comes into operation as soon as 66 members of the organization have ratified it. I doubt very much whether 66 others have ratified it and I commend the Department of Civil Aviation on the speed with which it has instituted the necessary action on behalf of Australia.
The department acted with similar promptness in respect of another protocol which was adopted at the assembly at Montreal in June, 1961, the necessary bill being passed by this House in October, 1961. Two previous protocols were adopted at the assembly in Montreal in June, 1954, and the House passed the necessary legislation in May, 1960. It will be noted that the department has accelerated its procedures. I wish that all Commonwealth departments were as prompt in carrying out Australia’s international obligations, particularly the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Health.
This is not in the least a controversial measure but it is being adopted by Australia with commendable speed. No country depends as much as does Australia upon international arrangements in matters of politics, trade and communications. This is a model of the speed with which the Commonwealth Government should act in carrying out engagements into which it has entered.
.- I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that this is one of those bills which do not cover the normal field of civil aviation, but he is becoming a little like some of his colleagues and must wake up screaming in the night with nightmares about Ansett-A.N.A.
– Do not be nasty.
– I am being factual. I happen to stay in the same building as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does. I have not been able to understand the screams in the night that I have heard. They must have been coming from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and have been caused by his nightmares about AnsettA.N.A. because it is a successful enterprise operating in competition with Trans Australia Airlines.
As honorable members know, the bill seeks to amend the Air Navigation Act by carrying into effect an amendment to the Chicago Convention adopted at the fourteenth assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The organization might be regarded as one of those subsidiaries of the United Nations which most people accept and appreciate. There are such bodies as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization and it is a great pity that the United Nations, whose primary purpose was to maintain world peace, has not enjoyed the success which its subsidiaries have had.
I.C.A.O. is one of those subsidiaries, and it has done a great deal for civil aviation throughout the world,
I direct the attention of honorable members to the following extract from the Minister’s second-reading speech which relates to the purposes for which this specialized agency was set up - to develop the principles and techniques of international civil aviation and to foster the planning and development of international air transport.
It is impossible for Australia, as a signatory to these agreements and as a member of I.C.A.O., to carry out adequately her duties as a member unless she has a highly efficient and dependable internal airline system. I believe, as do most honorable members, that the Australian internal airline system makes our country a fit and proper one to be a member of I.C.A.O. An average of over 9,000 people use our internal civil airlines every day. Any one who has been at Melbourne or Sydney airports must realize just how much travelling is done by air. Even at the airports at Perth, which is in my own State, Adelaide and Brisbane, you will see signs of the yearly growth of air travel in Australia.
As a member of I.C.A.O. we have built up a tremendously efficient internal system. As a member of the organization it is important that we not only maintain the very high standard that has been set but also maintain, in the people of Australia, the highest degree of confidence in air travel. I regret very much the efforts which were made in the House last night, either consciously or unconsciously, to destroy the confidence of the people in air travel. I refer, of course, to the adjournment debate during which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) commenced his speech by saying that he proposed to make statements which were unsubstantiated and about which he had not sought proof, but he thought that they should be brought to the notice of honorable members.
I direct the attention of honorable members to a sub-leader in to-night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ in which that aspect is covered. It is not a matter of great concern to me, as a constant air traveller. Like other honorable members who come from Western Australia and northern Queensland,
I do most of my travelling by air and while the House is in session spend about onethird of my time sitting in aircraft. It is a matter of great concern to me when I hear people talking about the lessening of safety factors because I know that we have in this country organizations which see to it that there is no deterioration of safety factors in aviation. I know that organizations such as the pilots’ federation and the Department of Civil Aviation itself have a record equal to anything in the world to-day. Our internal civil aviation system of two airlines with feeder services is not equalled in any other country in the world, and people do a dreadful thing when they make about safety factors statements which they cannot substantiate, or about which they have not sought proof, because such action is detrimental to the interests of flying safety in Australia. I, as a constant air traveller, have no fear. Many of my colleagues have no fear. In any case, I believe that if an air traveller has any fear of losing his life while flying, his fear of losing his life would be one hundred times greater when driving his own motor car. Statistics prove that the standard of safety is high in Australia. Our air safety regulations are excellent and do give the air traveller a feeling of great confidence.
The whole point about the matter is that it is not the air traveller himself but the person waiting for the air traveller who is affected by publication in the press of statements such as those made by the honorable member for Yarra last night. I say that the honorable member did my family no service, and that he did the family of every other honorable member no service by making here statements which were not founded on fact. We are sincere in our efforts to build up the civil aviation organization of the world to a point where there will be complete acceptance of air travel by the public. Statements such as those made by the honorable member for Yarra last night tend to destroy everything that is being done.
If the House would permit it I would be prepared to read the whole of the statement that was made in another place to-day in answer to those allegations. Any one who studies the various points made in the statement by the honorable member for Yarra must agree that last night civil aviation in
Australia was dealt a blow that it little deserved and that the air-travelling public of Australia were done a disservice that they do not deserve. It has taken a long time to induce the public of Australia to accept air travel as a normal means of transport, and I can only classify the honorable member’s action in making the statements he did last night as absolutely stupid. What he said was an insult to the Department of Civil Aviation, an insult to the pilots who fly the aircraft and an insult to the men who service those aircraft. If any honorable member on the opposite side of the House has any doubt at all on his journey home to-morrow, if he feels that he is in grave danger due to the lessening of safety factors following pressures to increase profits, let him read in full the statement made in another place in answer to these charges which cannot be substantiated.
Any honorable member who has been to airports like those of London or New York will have seen that services are so frequent that the air is full of aeroplanes at any given time. Unfortunately, there is an occasional aeroplane disaster; but, as long as aeroplanes fly the skyways, as long as motor cars are driven on our roads, as long as railway trains run on lines, and as long as ships sail the ocean tragedy will strike at some time or other because there will always be the human factor and there will always be other unpredictable things.
It is very easy indeed, when one has no scientific knowledge, to say that tragedy has resulted from this or that. Last night, the honorable member for Yarra made allegations with relation to a specialized engineering field which he cannot support with facts. I want to say now from this side of the House that be was unfair, because he was free at any time to go to the Minister and check his information. If he had done so, he would have been given the answer that was given in another place to-day. We all know that it is unfortunately true that once a statement is published in the daily press the subsequent denial is never as effective. I hope the honorable member for Yarra will accept the explanation that has been given. I hope, too, that he will withdraw his allegations and so remove from the minds of many who do not fly, if not from the minds of those who fly, the fear that must have been engendered by his state ment. I regret very much that the incident happened.
Last night I was very sorry indeed that I did not have the opportunity to follow the honorable member for Yarra and speak as I have spoken to-day. I have taken the opportunity during the debate on this bill which, naturally, we all support, to put the facts before the House.
.- Having listened to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) I feel that the unreasonableness of his remarks indicates an unfortunate attitude in the conduct of the Department of Civil Aviation. The nasty smears that he offered and the aggressive language that he saw fit to use-
– Have you read this statement?
– I have not seen it. I did not even know it was issued. The aggressive language used by the honorable member for Perth indicated the kind of attitude that should not be adopted by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) or any one else in charge of this department. The important thing is to ensure that a high standard of safety prevails in the operation of Australian civil airlines, and nothing should be done at any time to lower that standard.
Last night, I spoke with considerable moderation. I said that a high standard of safety had always prevailed, and I think it still prevails. But I also said there was evidence of pressure to lower those standards. I gave specific examples of that pressure and said they had been conveyed to me by people working in the industry, by people intimately connected with the flying and servicing of aeroplanes. And that is the truth. The honorable member for Perth who apparently was not listening to what I had to say last night, stated that I had not sought the truth. I made inquiries in the industry before I made the statements which I made last night, and I made them with much modification. I said the standard was still high in Australia and that there was no danger, and I made the statements which I did in order to ensure that no policy of this Government or the department would force a lowering of that standard. I have not as yet read what the Minister had to say but the honorable member for Perth has taken the opportunity during the discussion of a bill which has nothing whatever to do with the operation of the internal airlines of Australia, but which relates only to international airlines, to speak in the way that he did. He did not give me any indication that he proposed making that speech. I just happened to hear it, and, without any preparation and without giving any consideration to the facts, I have decided to answer him here and now.
I say now, and I say it with great care, that the investigations I made and the evidence I gathered all indicated that the standard of air safety in Australia to-day is still high. It has been getting lower but it is not anywhere near the point where there is any danger or risk. I said that last night. I have not yet investigated the Minister’s statement, but last night I mentioned four things that I said were happening. As soon as I return to Melbourne I will obtain additional evidence in connexion with those four specific matters. If the evidence I obtain proves to be unsatisfactory I will do what I said last night I would do. I will admit feat the evidence obtained was unsatisfactory, but up to date I have every reason to believe that the evidence which has been submitted to me is satisfactory.
Having obtained that evidence, what is my responsibility in the matter? Is it to go running to a Minister who I know has merely brushed aside such complaints on previous occasions, a Minister who runs his department as a dictator would, a Minister who is concerned with only one side of this equation, that is, the AnsettA.N.A. side of it? I would not go to that Minister feeling confident that he would discharge his responsibility in an objective fashion. My responsibility was to state the position here, in the place that I occupy in this House, as a representative of people using Australia’s airlines, in order to ensure that nothing was done by the Minister, the honorable member for Perth or anybody else which could intimidate successfully a member of this Parliament in carrying out his responsibility. I intend to be intimidated in no way by the nasty remarks pro duced by the Minister or invented by the honorable member for Perth. I am surprised at the honorable member in this respect, because we know that in most cases he has a sense of responsibility. He should have listened to what I said last night.
I made my submissions quite clearly. I stated them carefully so that they would not suggest in any way that at the moment there is any special or undue risk. At all times I made sure that I exercised my influence in the Australian Parliament to ensure that those risks are not taken. We know that, for the reasons I stated, including the making of profits, in airlines in other countries risks are taken. We know that aeroplanes are overloaded and that they are sent off without being properly serviceable. We know that those things happen and that accidents are caused for those reasons. That has not happened in Australia, and we want to make sure that it does not happen in Australia.
In the operation of Australian airways to-day there is a pressure associated with profit and financing that may have an effect of that kind if we do not watch it very carefully. Nothing less than a public statement of this sort can call a halt to the policy and attitude of the Minister. That policy and attitude is well illustrated by the kind of language used by the honorable member for Perth this evening, which is calculated to intimidate me and to make me withdraw in confusion so that I will not press any further in this matter. I tell, the honorable member for Perth that I have no intention of doing that. I will see that this matter is fully investigated and that everything that I can discover in relation to it is brought into the open so that honorable members and the people of Australia can form their opinions on it.
– AH I asked you to do was to read that statement.
– I will read the statement as soon as I have sat down. I know that there are fast-reading courses going on around here, but they are not as fast as all that. At the beginning of my speech last night I said that I understood that in this country it has been, and still is, mandatory to have serviceable on all aircraft two hydraulic systems for braking the aircraft after landing. Whether the Minister has dealt with that I could not say. I do not know what he had to say. I said that the third point was that there has been a tendency to speed up the work of pilots and that pilots were saying that they were required to do a little more than they were capable of doing. Whether or not the Minister has dealt with that I do not know. I made the point about the delimitation of windows and the spread of the area. I also pointed out that it had been understood from the beginning that Viscount aircraft were to be re-skinned after every 20,000 hours of flying, but that there had been a change in that policy. Those were the particular points that I mentioned, and those are the particular points to which I intend to give further attention.
In conclusion I said that the standards had been high and that the standards were still high. I explained clearly last night that nothing I said was calculated to destroy confidence or to create an atmosphere of risk. I said that I considered it my duty and responsibility to put the facts as I discovered them before the House. That I did.
.- This debate on the Air Navigation Bill, which is the bill that the House is supposed to be discussing at the moment, has ranged fairly widely. After listening to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) speaking in reply to the well-considered and, I think, wellchosen remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), I feel that somebody should discuss this matter a little more fully. The honorable member for Yarra took the opportunity to canvass again the points that he raised last night. I thought that he was quite moderate, in that he made quite sure that his remarks could not be taken as meaning that our aircraft are not safe; but at the same time, in the most insidious manner, he introduced into this House propaganda that he knew would go throughout Australia and would leave in the minds of the people a doubt about our air safety requirements.
Having flown quite considerably throughout the world on various airlines, small and large, I say that I have never seen anywhere else services such as those provided by the two major airline companies here, or such high safety requirements, such a magnificent record of service and such regard for the safety of the people. When the honorable member for Yarra says that he has not taken an opportunity to go to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) with this information-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The bill does not deal in any way with Australia’s internal airlines.
– Why did you not tell the honorable member for Yarra that?
– In answer to that interjection, I say that the honorable member for Yarra was answering the speech that was made by the honorable member for Perth. They were both out of order, but at least the honorable member for Yarra was answering something that somebody else had said. The bill does not deal in one respect with Australia’s internal airlines or air safety requirements. The principal act does not deal with those matters in one respect either. These speeches are dealing with completely irrelevant matters however interesting they may be and I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you should rule that debate on those matters is out of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I ask why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should say that although the honorable member for Yarra could reply to something that the honorable member for Perth said, I cannot reply to something that the honorable member for Yarra said. The honorable member for Yarra repeated his charges in their entirety. He took the opportunity provided by the debate on this bill to do that.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). I uphold the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to the subject-matter of this bill. During the speech made by the honorable member for Perth I perused the bill and decided, just as he was concluding his speech, that his speech was out of order. I felt that, as the honorable member for Yarra had been mentioned in the speech made by the honorable member for Perth, it was only right and fair for the Chair to allow the honorable member for Yarra to make comments in reply. Now I will rule that matters relating to the domestic airlines are out of order in the debate on this bill.
– I will accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I suggest that perhaps a quick reading course is needed more in this House than we think it is. The Air Navigation Act 1920-1961 deals, in effect, with airline organizations throughout the world and with endeavours to introduce conformity in airline arrangements and, I think, standards. If it does not state the standards to be applied, it certainly should. Conferences, agreements and acts relating to air navigation are designed basically to make airlines effective, to make them observe certain standards and to agree on certain matters.
– Do not some of the international airlines have Viscount aircraft?
– As my honorable friend from Macarthur says, some international airlines have Viscount aircraft. I remember being in Spain. The aircraft on which I was to travel was a Viscount. It looked as if it had gone through the Battle of Britain. I got on it and got to London. This is something that the Air Navigation Act definitely covers, because that act deals with the safety of aircraft that are used and with the standards that are set. I am getting no help whatsoever, either from the Opposition or from my friends on this side. Perhaps it may be better, if you have finally decided, Mr. Deputy Speaker - as I presume you have - that I cannot reply to the honorable member for Yarra, to say that I support the bill and wish it a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October, 1962 (vide page 1600), on motion by Sir Robert Menzies -
Thai’ the following paper: - Economic Enquiry - Ministerial Statement, 17th October, 1962- be printed.
.- The original statement by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was made on 17th October, 1962. He then indicated that he thought that the matters he mentioned were of some urgency and that he intended to proceed, as expeditiously as possible, to choose the committee of inquiry. In fact, the committee of inquiry was not set up until 13th February, 1963, some four months after the original statement. On that date, the Prime Minister added certain materia] matters to the terms of reference laid down on 17th October, 1962. The matters that were added are of some significance. I do not think that any one should have any regrets that the Government looked more closely, perhaps, at the matters that were involved, and I suggest that the terms of reference laid down on 13th February, 1963, are superior to those that were initially indicated.
What is significant to this House is that the Government has indicated what it regards as its economic objectives; and these are worth repeating, in order that the House, having noted the Government’s objectives, might measure alongside them its performance in certain of those fields. This is what the Prime Minister in his latter statement, in February of this year, said the terms of reference would be -
Having in mind that the objectives of the Government’s economic policy are a high rate of economic and population growth with full employment, increasing productivity, . . .
I might mention that those words “ increasing productivity “ were added to the original terms of reference -
The terms of reference went on to state that the committee would inquire into a number of specific matters lettered (a) to (n). There we have the economic objectives of this Government: High economic growth with full employment, increasing productivity - that is, more per head, year by year - rising standards of living, external viability and stability of costs and prices. I suppose that honorable members on this side of the House would accept them as desirable economic objectives.
When we measure the performance of the Government on these matters and look at the heads of power, as it were, that the Government thinks ought to be contemplated, we ask ourselves what a committee of five people, no matter how high the quality and calibre of its members may be, can do in any reasonable period to get the sort of information that the Government suggests ought to be obtained.
– You know what Colonel Wildman said: When four or five people are gathered together, you may find that they will speak with the voice of God.
– The honorable member may not always speak with the voice of wisdom. On the previous occasion, the Prime Minister said -
More and more as our experience widens, it is borne in upon us that sound courses of action depend on our ability to see ahead and, having seen ahead, to prepare ahead.
What precisely do those words mean? Do not they mean that there ought to be more economic planning in the Australian economy? One honorable gentleman oh the other side of the House took me to task this afternoon by asking what other countries I could point to, in economic circumstances similar to those of Australia, or at a similar stage of economic development, that did not possess a short-term money market. I ask him, in return: To what country can he point as having an economy similar to the Australian economy, and which is faced with the sort of problems that beset the Australian economy? I should think that there is only one example, namely, the United States of America, which is not comparable because, fortunately for itself, it is the richest economic community in the world. What other country at a similar stage of development to our own does not have an economic plan? I suggest that what is wrong with the Australian economy is the lack of such a plan. We cannot achieve the sort of things that we regard as necessary without having far more comprehensive and systematic economic planning. No committee of experts can do aught but secure background information the sort of information that the Government itself ought to possess in 1963 if it wants to achieve the desirable objectives that are set for it.
Again, I want to point to the matters that originally were omitted by the
Government from the terms of reference of the Committee of Economic Enquiry. I think that the omission of these matters originally shows how shallow is the Government’s economic thinking. I have already said that apparently as an afterthought increasing productivity has been added to what are termed the objectives of the Government’s economic policy. Item (a) of the original terms of reference was as follows: -
The trends in population as a whole and in the work force component.
This now reads -
The trends in population as a whole, in the work force, and in the distribution of the latter amongst various sectors.
The significant words “ and in the distribution of the latter amongst various sectors “ have been added. Apparently the Government, belatedly, now recognizes that in 1963 you have to begin to look ahead, say, to 1973, and to try to determine, in terms of existing and future population, how those who come on to the labour market are to be absorbed how many of them will find jobs in government activity, how’ many in manufacturing and how many in what are known as the tertiary industries.
When we look at some of the other terms of reference of the committee we realize! that at last the Government is recognizing that particular industries will have to be encouraged and perhaps others discouraged. Item (c) of the original terms of reference was -
The growth of domestic savings.
This item now reads -
The growth of domestic savings and investment.
The words added seem innocuous enough in themselves until one gets down to the implications of their omission originally. When one considers that now the two forms of investment public and private are to be encouraged in 1963, 1964 and 1965, then one has to bear in mind that the decision will determine economic growth in 1967 1968 and the succeeding years. Yet the words “ and investment “ have been added as an afterthought.
Items (e), (f) and (g) in the latest terms of reference are completely new. They were not in the original terms of reference. Item (e) is -
The availability of credit.
Would not anybody think that that, surely, could not have been overlooked? One must consider how credit is to be allocated and whether deficiencies in credit facilities exist. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) may care to reflect on deficiencies in credit facilities for the promotion of rural development, for he Claims at times to be interested in rural development. I suggest that the availability of credit is one of the most significant features to be contemplated when we are considering full employment, economic growth and increased productivity. However, as I have said, this item was omitted altogether from the original terms of reference.
Item (f) reads -
Trends in costs, prices and wages.
That was not thought of originally. How can the Government do justice to a community in which four out of five people depend on wages for their weekly sustenance when it seeks only to regulate wages and chooses to leave costs, prices and profits out of consideration altogether? That is a completely new item in the terms of reference.
Item (g) is -
Trends in productivity.
This, also, has now been added out of the blue. How many times have we heard speeches by honorable members opposite extolling the virtues of productivity? Yet, apparently, the Government, when it first thought about this economic inquiry, did not think that productivity was significant enough to be mentioned in the terms of reference.
Item (j) in the latest terms of reference reads -
Trends in the standard of living.
This is a new item added between October, 1962, and February, 1963. Perhaps the Government thinks that the standard of living of some people is not as high as it ought to be. Economic growth, if it means anything, means raising the standard of living of the people. Another new item in the terms of reference is item (k), which reads -
The situation with respect to the external balance of payments.
Several of my colleagues later this evening will talk about this important matter of the external balance of payments, with particular reference to overseas investment in Australia. Somebody said in this chamber this afternoon that Australia needs to increase its export earnings by £300,000,000 a year in the next few years. Naming the required figure is easy enough, but one cannot so easily say how the increase is to be achieved unless we make some of these systematic alterations that are envisaged.
Our criticism is not directed at the objectives that are delineated here, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We do not criticize the analysis of what is desirable. What we say is that no government worthy of being described as a responsible government can ask five independent people to determine matters of significant policy that, ultimately, are the responsibility of the government itself. As we have said here often enough before, the time to think about how many schools will be required in 1963 is not 1st January, 1963, only a month before the children begin school about the beginning of February, 1963. If we want more scientists, more doctors or more social workers, we should be planning now to make sure that we shall have them for the years that lie ahead. If we want better railways and public transport facilities we have to begin now to plan for some years ahead and to determine how we shall allocate investment as between the public and the private sectors of the economy. No outside body should tell the government how it is to proceed in those matters. They are matters essentially for governments, and this Government ought to have in the Treasury or in some other department the capacity to mobilize the resources required for the assessment of these problems in advance.
We on this side of the House believe that desirable objectives can be obtained only by means of what is described as economic planning. This afternoon an honorable member chose to try to make a little capita] out of what he described as controls or social responsibility or something of the kind. We say that no government to-day can allow an economy to go uncontrolled in all its aspects. We have controls, by means of the banking system, over the volume of credit. We have other controls over the prices of certain primary products. The fact that the present Government is contemplating introducing legislation to deal with what it describes as restrictive trade practices shows that even honorable members opposite know that socalled big business cannot be allowed to conduct its activities without any sense of social responsibility and that sometimes a government, in order to preserve the sort of freedom that honorable members opposite claim to espouse, has to step in and create social institutions that will exercise social responsibility on behalf of the community as a whole.
We say that there is nothing wrong with the terms of reference of the Committee of Economic Enquiry as a catalogue of desirable objectives. These objectives ought to have, been recognized long ago as desirable for Australia. Despite what the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) has said about the Australian economy being better than that of any other country it is still not good enough for most people. If one looks a little below the surface one still finds plenty of examples of poverty in Australia and plenty of examples of inequity in the distribution of the goods produced within the Australian economy.
The average Australian family is to-day living on what is called the average wage of £22 a week or thereabouts. Will the breadwinner of the family be able in years to come to support a wife and a couple of children in the kind of home that you expect him to have in 1963?
In the next few years Australia will be faced with a crisis in relation to the housing of young married couples. Land prices are at their highest level in our history. They are at that high level because the Government has failed to apply social restraints in that direction. Not only is the price of land high but so also is the cost of building and of building materials. But the most crippling burden of all is the excessive interest rate that is imposed on persons seeking to obtain finance for a home. Is it realized that if the mortgage interest rate is reduced from the present level of 6 per cent, to about 4 per cent., which would be a reasonable figure, the weekly payment of the average family would be reduced by about 30s.? The economic policy pursued by this Government in the past has laid emphasis on raising the interest rate rather than lowering it. 1 submit that if the situation is looked at objectively one must admit that when the bond rate was not much more than 3 per cent, and the mortgage rate was 4i per cent, or 5 per cent. Australia was a better country to live in than it is to-day when the bond rate is 5 per cent, and the mortgage rate is above 7 per cent. The people who suffer in our present situation are the ordinary people in the community. Surely these are the problems with which the Government should grapple. You do not need a committee of experts to tell you what is wrong with the economy to-day. Perhaps valuable information will flow from this committee’s inquiry but I submit that the information could be obtained in other ways. For the sake of the welfare and wellbeing of the majority of Australians that information should have been obtained long ago.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) dealt with the subject of planning and implied that the Government had failed to set down a clear and concise plan and then to bend all of its efforts to conform to that plan. This is, of course, a subject that has been debated more than once in this country. It is a subject that has been debated many times in recent years in overseas countries. I would have hoped that here we might be able to learn from the mistakes that over-emphasis on planning can lead to.
There have been some notorious examples, especially in the United Kingdom, of forecasts of the needs of different industries, the power industries in particular - forecasts of the amount of power that would be used in the form of electricity, the amount of coal that would be required and the amount of oil that would be required - which have proved to be entirely wrong. It is not a matter of speculation; it is a matter of history. Because the plan has been made and because through unforeseen circumstances the forecasts proved entirely wrong, the economy of the United Kingdom was twisted and diverted for a certain time to try to make it conform with the plan that had been laid down in the early postwar years. That, perhaps, was only natural because when planners lay down a plan and say that the electricity industry has to produce so much more power and that the oil industry has to produce so much more refined oil, they can only prove the correctness of their plan by bending every effort of the economy to see that the plan is fulfilled. If, subsequently, it is seen that production of electricity is falling short of the estimate by 20 per cent, and that requirements of fuel oil are 40 per cent, greater than was estimated, clearly the planners are held up to ridicule. I do not want to use the word “ incompetence “ with regard to the planners because I do not think this is a field in which forecasts can be made with such accuracy as to warrant laying down a plan and trying to make an economy conform exactly to that plan. Too many things change. Techniques change. New techniques are developed. Fuel oil may become cheaper to use than electric power. Hydroelectric power may become cheaper than thermal power. Various technical changes and scientific improvements alter the basis and the terms upon which plans are made, making this kind of detailed plan for any country an impossibility. To be able to make such plans may be nice and may lead to a comfortable world. No doubt investors would be delighted to be told that a certain industry would expand by 5 per cent, a year every year for the next ten years. They would then know how much to invest in that industry - not too much and not too little. But if the planners are wrong, as they so often can be, very grave mistakes can result.
By speaking against an overall plan of this kind I do not mean that a government should not plan in a normal ad hoc and sensible manner to use the country’s resources so that it may be developed to the best of the government’s ability. This in fact is, I believe, what the Menzies Government has done over the last ten or twelve years. In the Snowy Mountains scheme it has planned to use some of the water resources of this country. It has planned to standardize railways throughout Australia. The Government is planning and directing its scientific energies towards making better use of the northern areas of this continent. This is sensible ad hoc planning undertaken as it is seen to be necessary. No detailed and definite plan is laid down of what will be done in the north or of what will be done with the water that is to be made available to the irrigation areas, because if you do that you may find that you are producing tobacco where you should be producing some other commodity. It is much better to decide these matters from time to time as the necessity arises.
The members of the Economic Committee of Enquiry have been given a not insignificant task. Many of the terms of reference of the committee overlap in my opinion, and I cannot envisage a conclusive answer to any one of the terms without that answer being reflected in many of the other terms. The fact that the Government is prepared to conduct this inquiry and has appointed a committee with such wide terms of reference indicates the satisfaction that the members of the Government feel - rightly - about its performance in the last few years. In other words, the Government has been quite prepared to give full authority to an impartial committee which will, in large measure, review the Government’s performance. The Government’s record of performance is the foundation and framework for future expansion. So, in making a judgment on the present position as a basis for future development in different fields the committee will necessarily pass some kind of judgment on the work the Government has done. The fact that the Government has been prepared to set up an impartial committee of this kind to undertake the inquiry reveals in no small measure the Government’s confidence that it has performed its task well.
A great many of the terms of reference of the committee apply not exclusively, but certainly very directly to rural industries. The fifth term of reference, for example, refers to the availability of credit. Over the years this has been a point of argument and discussion amongst those people who have advocated and supported the rural sector of the community. It will be recalled that not so long ago the former Industrial Finance Department and Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank were merged in the new Development Bank to make a new form of credit available to rural industries. The Development Bank was formed, as honorable members well know, very largely as the result of constant activity through the parties supporting the Government on this matter.
There is now, I understand, some sort of discussion as to whether the scope of the Development Bank in relation to rural industries should not be widened. The charter of the bank, as it stands at the moment, is mainly to assist in development. It is not designed to assist farmers in purchasing fully-developed farms on which no new developmental work can be undertaken. If a person wants to buy an undeveloped farm and develop it, that is another matter.
I believe there is a suggestion that the Development Bank’s charter should be widened to make available finance which otherwise would not be available for people wishing to buy developed farms. I do not favour this suggested change. I do not believe it is an advance. The institution is called a development bank and I, for one, would like to see the major part of its resources put into loans which will add directly to the production of primary industries. As I understand it, this is the purpose for which the bank was formed and I would not like to see its available finance frittered away on the mere purchase of farms which cannot be developed in order to add to the production of primary industries.
The sixth term of reference refers to the trends in costs, prices and wages. This is of great importance to primary industries. This has been shown by the Government, especially in recent years, because it is the cost-price position of rural industries which has been constantly in the mind of the Government for the last three or four years. It has been largely with the rural exporting industries in mind that the Government has been determined to maintain stability in the cost framework of the country so that the internal pressures on the economy of the primary industries will not make their competitive position worse.
It has been found that other rural economies have turned to largely industrial economies, that the difficulties we have experienced have also been encountered ki the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and probably every country of Europe where there has been a turn from a largely rural or agrarian economy to an industrial economy. It has been found that the pressure of increasing costs in the rural industries has been so great that the countries I have referred to have found it necessary ultimately to institute some kind of price support programme or subsidy programme for their rural industries. If this committee can give some insight as to how the Government can maintain the competitive and profitable position of rural industries without being led into proposals for large subsidy programmes, similar to those in Europe and the United States, that alone would be a very valuable contribution by the committee.
The committee is also charged to examine the trends in standards of living and this is closely related to the term of reference referring to costs, prices and wages. In the United States, for example, in spite of tremendous subsidy and farm support programmes, it is found that the average rural income is about one-third of the average urban or industrial income. Constant difficulty has been found in redressing the balance between the urban and rural sectors. Ways and means have been constantly sought to employ people who have left the land for industrialized’ towns because the United States has experienced the same advances in rural and agricultural techniques that we have. The output per worker achieved has been constantly growing in the rural industries. In fact, the productivity of rural workers is increasing so rapidly that with the same number of people employed on the land, the volume of production has constantly risen. This means that the increasing population must be employed somewhere other than on the land.
One of the other terms of reference relates to whether employment will come largely in secondary industries, as many people have believed to be the case in the past. But it may be more appropriate and more correct to hold that the increasing population in Australia will be employed more and more in the tertiary industries in the next few years. Overseas countries have sought to maintain the standard of living of the rural sector in several ways - by price support programmes or direct subsidies. The subsidies may have been used as a payment to the farmer for his commodity, or to reduce his cost of production. I believe this latter form of subsidy could, in some instances, be examined by the Government with advantage and perhaps used to assist farmers in some of the highcost areas of Australia.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has shown that the high rainfall areas that have gone in for pasture improvement, intensive development and the use of fertilizers are the areas which, by far, show the smallest return on capital. It is in the pastoral areas of western New South Wales and western Queensland, and other States where superphosphate cannot be used and production depends solely upon the seasons and the amount of rain they get that the return on the capital involved has nearly always been reasonably satisfactory. But this is certainly not the case with the high cost of pasture improvement in parts such as the Goulburn area, eastern New South Wales, Victoria, the south-east part of South Australia and the south-west of Western Australia.
I believe that a subsidy on superphosphate would be one of the best ways to help reduce costs and increase profits of farmers in those regions. I hope that the Government will not wait until this committee brings down its report to act in this manner. It is something, I believe with justification, which could be introduced in the next budget. If the Government or the committee is looking at measures to help maintain the balance between the rural sector, with a degree of decreasing standards, and the urban sector, with a degree of improving standards, I hope tests will be applied to subsidies or any other form of assistance that may be considered.
The first test I would like to see is that whatever is done will increase production. The second test is that such assistance will help to reduce the cost of production. A subsidy on superphosphate answers both these tests admirably.
The committee is charged with examining the situation of the external balance of payments. Undoubtedly this must be one of its most important terms of reference, because the development of Australia depends upon the ability to maintain a healthy balance of payments - or a healthy balance of trade, to use the more limited term.
I am not saying something new when I state that by far the greatest part of our production - 80 per cent, or more - comes from the rural sector of the community. In recent years it has been said: “ We have to reduce our dependence on rural industries. We have to increase our exports of manufactures.” It is interesting to note that 25 years ago Canadian people thought the same. They said: “ We depend far too much on the exports of rural industries. We have to increase our exports of manufactures so that our balance of trade is less dependent upon changes in the prices payable for any one commodity.” For 25 years these discussions continued in Canada, but 80 per cent, of Canada’s exports still come from the rural sector. Exports of manufactures have increased very greatly, but exports from the rural sector of the community also have increased remarkably and have maintained their original proportion of the total of Canada’s exports.
Although our manufacturers are starting to turn to export markets a little more than they once did, exports from the rural sector will, as far as any one in this Parliament can see, be the mainstay of Australia’s overseas income and thus the mainstay of her continued progress and development. It is a truism that Australia cannot continue her great developmental policies without an ever-increasing export income. One great advantage of an awareness on the part of the manufacturing industries of the need to export is that it will make manufacturers cost-conscious. They will realize that it is important to keep costs down because they are trying to sell their products on the export market. When the great bulk of manufacturers were supplying only the Australian market they did not mind if their costs went up, because they could put their prices up. People working in the community were getting a larger wage packet and did not mind if the goods they were buying became more expensive. Although that position did not affect the manufacturing industries, it had a grievous effect on our rural industries. It constantly forced up their costs and made their competitive position worse, because the prices obtained for rural products were largely beyond the control of this Government. This is one of the interrelated problems that will obviously involve the attention of this committee in great detail. Members of this House will look forward keenly to seeing the report of the committee. I hope the members of the committee will be able to do their job with such vigour that it will not be too long before we see the results of their work.
.- I am amazed that this Government should consider it necessary to establish an economic committee of inquiry. Down through the years I have heard supporters of the Government allege that this country has never been so prosperous as it is to-day and that everything that is occurring is a result of the determined policy of the Government - a policy which it put before the people and which it claimed made for the progress and development of Australia. Why, then, appoint five people as a committee and ask them what should be done to bring about the economic salvation of Australia? By appointing this committee, the Government is moving, as it were, a vote of no confidence not only in its own members but also in the expert officers in its departments.
Consider the first of the terms of reference, which is -
The trends of population as a whole, in the work force and in the distribution of the latter among various sectors.
If that means anything, it means: What can the population as a whole do and what is the distribution of people of various capacities throughout Australia? The Department of Labour and National Service has within it the most expert people in the community to determine that issue. But the Government neglects to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service and those whom he controls to give this information. Instead, it asks Mr. K. B. Myer, Mr. D. G. Molesworth, Professor P. H. Karmel and others.
The second terms of reference refers to the “ economic availability of known basic physical resources”. How can that be determined? Are the members of the committee to go through the length and breadth of Australia to find out where there is iron ore, aluminium, lead, timber and so on which can be utilized in the promotion of the wealth of the community? Or is the committee to go to the departments concerned and ask whether they have made a survey of the mineral resources of the country - of the iron ore deposits or the potentialities of our forests? The Government’s departmental experts know more about those things than do the members of the committee.
The same position applies to the availability of credit. The officers of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank know more about this subject than would the individuals comprising the committee. Is not their knowledge and expert guidance available? Has it not been available to members of the Government down through the years? Of course it has! But those experts have been neglected and the members of the committee are to decide the issue.
Then we come to the question of trends in productivity. Surely the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) could have summoned officers of his department to inform him of the trends in our productivity. They are experts who have spent most of their lives in the study of these issues. But no! The Government said it was omniscient and that it knew the solutions of all the problems that confronted Australia. Now, when it establishes this committee, the Government not only says it does not know the solutions of these problems but that its public servants do not know them and cannot give the guidance which would enable it to put into operation policies that would be in the best interests of this country. The position is absurd.
The Government is not going to take the results of this investigation into consideration. If an investigation under all the terms of reference from (a) to (n) is to be undertaken by these five men, the time they must give to it, the amount of evidence they must call and the amount of travelling they must do will be so great that when they are old and grey - if they are in the prime of their lives to-day - they will not have been able to complete an adequate survey of all these matters. AH they can possibly do, if they are to put in a report within a reasonable space of time, is to summon the departmental officers who are now available to the Government and have been available down through the years and ask what the committee is to report to the Government. The Government will then have reported to it what its departmental authorities could have reported without the creation and intervention of this committee. I am concerned that the committee might not be able to secure evidence from the Government or its officials.
I asked this question of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) -
What are the industries in Australia in which 73 per cent., 50 per cent., 40 per cent, and 25 per cent, of the ownership is vested in residents of other countries?
The Minister replied -
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that no official statistics are available showing the proportion of Australian industries owned overseas.
When the Minister is asked this question about present overseas investment in Australia he says there is no evidence in that respect and that the Statistician has so advised him. That will not help this committee very much. However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am in a particularly fortunate position. If the committee is constituted and wants to find out about the matter, I can help it because I have an extract from a statement by the Department of Trade which lists the Australian manufacturing industries in which overseas interests have provided 50 per cent, or more of the issued capital of the major firms in such industries. I have here a list of 38 industries - not firms, but complete industries - in which more than 50 per cent, of the capital invested has come from overseas. Apparently members of the Ministry cannot secure that information. Of course, information such as that would be most important to the committee because one of its terms of reference is to investigate -
Overseas investments in Australia (including likely sources and trends and an assessment of its significance to the Australian economy).
There should be no need for an investigation of that matter. Not only members of the Labour Party but also others, not yesterday or last year but down through the years, have pointed out to this Government the extent of overseas investment in Australia. The Labour Party contends that, as with an individual, an industry or a nation must pay its way or bankruptcy will confront it.
In 1952 Australia’s overseas funds were being rapidly dissipated as a result of a vast inflow of overseas goods. So great was that dissipation that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) went to the microphone in March of that year and addressed the nation. He said -
We are in danger of international insolvency. We must radically restrict our importations. This, of course, will have very injurious effects upon members or sections of the community, but they must put up with those things because if we do not restrict the importation of overseas goods then international insolvency faces the nation.
The Prime Minister then went overseas and made a speech in London in which he said -
It is essential that this nation of Australia observes the good old British rote-
I do not know why he implied it was only a good old British rule - of paying your way. You have to live within your means.
From 1952 until now we have spent overseas over £2,000,000,000 more than we have earned. We have secured loans, but most of that expenditure has been incurred in respect of overseas capital investment in this country. In this connexion I should like to use an illustration mentioned by the Deputy Prime Minister recently when he said, “If farmers earn enough annual income they can live comfortably; if they don’t they can still live comfortably by selling a bit of the farm every year.” That is pretty much the situation in Australia. We are not earning enough and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year.
– All too true.
– It is all too true. Every year £300,000,000 worth of our heritage is being sold, and that amount is increasing annually.
– How much is Heffron going to sell?
– The Minister asks how much is Heffron going to sell. Have you ever heard such absurdity? This Government controls the nation; it controls trade between Australia and other nations. Therefore it should determine the type of overseas investment to be permitted in this country. Other nations, such as Japan, restrict and regulate foreign investment in their country. India, Pakistan, Belgium and nations in South America and South Africa have rules and regulations and trade treaties to determine foreign capital investment and limit its dominance in their industries. The government of each of those countries decides whether alien firms will control the industries upon which the defence and security of its nation depends: but there is an unrestricted inflow of overseas funds into Australia.
In to-day’s edition of the “ Daily Telegraph “ is a leading article which states that Mr. C. O. Crane, chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, is worried about the number of overseas companies operating here which do not allow any Australian participation at all. I refer to the General Motors organization and to the Ford organization. Every petrol and oil company in Australia excludes local participation. Many others are 95 per cent, controlled from overseas. Those firms are dominated by foreign capital; but of course it is not only the Labour Party that points out these things. They have been pointed out by Mr. Corrie, who is a member of the stock exchange of Brisbane, Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, who is a member of the stock exchange of Melbourne, and Sir Ian Potter, who is not only high in financial interests in Australia but also is a consultant and adviser - the political godfather, as it were - of the Liberal Party. Sir Ian Potter said -
We can place too much significance on capital imports. Indeed, in terms of corporate control it may have serious dangers. Canada’s position is, I think, a lesson for the future. Her capital imports between 1949 and 1960 averaged about £400,000,000 yearly. In relation to its population, Australia’s capital imports are running at a higher rate than this and it would be wrong to feel that it cannot happen here.
In the 1940’s and the 1950’s Canada had a policy that brought about the position that for the first time in history the Canadian dollar was at a premium against the United States dollar. Canada had no unemployment. Things were booming. Today Canada has 8 per cent, unemployment and early in the 1960’s it had 14 per cent, unemployment. The Diefenbaker Government was destroyed as a result of the depression that resulted from a considerable inflow of foreign capital into Canada. Then there followed manipulation, control and restriction of capital from investors in other parts of the world whose only consideration was, of course, profit and more profit. Honorable members opposite should know what the position is. in Canada.
– You do not know.
– The honorable member for Warringah - the jumping jack of the shipping interests - was put here by these interests, which have no soul and no country. They stand for the exploitation, not only of this nation but of every nation.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this committee will accomplish very little. It will do only what a good government should be able to do with the assistance of the financial and industrial experts who exist in every department of the Commonwealth.
.- Right at the outset, while his words are fresh in our memory, I should like to make some remarks about the speech of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). He dealt with certain of the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry. He referred to terms dealing with the growth of domestic savings and investment, and said that surely the Treasury would know about that? He mentioned trends in productivity, and the availability of credit, and told us that information on those should be known by Commonwealth departments. I will not bore the House by going through the items ‘ with which he dealt. He said that the various departments of the Commonwealth Government should have all that information. That, of course, is quite true. The departments have a wealth of information. The honorable member read through the terms of reference from (a) down to (n). I shall not mention each one, as he did. However, he missed the main point. The document goes on to say -
The committee will report the conclusions reached by it as to the bearing which all or any of the matters so ascertained have upon the achievement of the economic policy objectives above stated.
As long as the inquiry gets the correct information it does not matter where it gets it from. I believe that the wealth of information held by Government departments will assist the committee of inquiry tremendously, but all this information held by each department separately is not what is required. What is needed is that the committee of experts sift this evidence. I am tremendously pleased that on the committee we have Professor Sir John Crawford, who is very well acquainted with primary industry. As I have read in the statement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the duty of this committee is to arrive at conclusions, and that is the very point that the honorable member for Scullin missed. We want this information from different people to be used in reaching conclusions as to what is best for the Commonwealth of Australia.
The honorable member went on to say that it is a strange thing that at the present time Government supporters are saying that this country was never as prosperous as it is to-day. Of course we are saying that, and it is true. Wherever you go people will tell you that this country has great prosperity. In fact, I believe we may be heading for another boom. That is the whole trouble. We may be running into greater inflation, and when you get inflation it immediately affects primary production, the main producer of our national wealth. We should attempt to hold our prosperity. Honorable members opposite should know that history shows that when a country is most prosperous it is in danger of falling. Australia to-day is very prosperous. Even in the farming community many young men have never known a drought. I am told that in the cities teenage wage-earners are the best customers for speedboats, small racing cars and special golf clubs. Many of these people have no thought for the future and no idea at all that what has happened in other countries could happen here, no matter what government may be in office.
I desire to refer again to the terms of reference, as the honorable member for Scullin did. It is important that I do so in answering him. One is -
Hie situation with respect to the external balance of payments.
We have to keep our balance of payments as high as we can in order to import raw materials, without which our secondary industries could not function. Opposition members have given me the impression that they believe that our secondary industries are more or less self-contained. The only way in which they are self-contained is that they buy and sell certain goods in this country, but the raw material they purchase from overseas is made possible only by the sale of the products of our primary industries. I have said it so often in this House that it may sound like tedious repetition, but the primary producer has to buy everything he requires to enable him to produce the primary products so necessary to Australia. He supplies about 80 per cent, of our exports, but he has to buy all the things he needs in the Australian high-cost secondary industry market. The large bulk of his products have to be sold overseas in countries with a lower standard of living, and consequently a lower price level. That is one of the main things that this survey should reveal.
I should like to see a term of reference requiring the committee to ascertain the value of primary industry to the Commonwealth of Australia. That could be inserted as term (o). That is something that needs to be revealed to the people of Australia. It was only last week that I said that there is a tendency to accept the opinion that primary industry is not as valuable to the Australian economy as it was previously.
– Who said that?
– I said that. I said that there was a tendency to accept the opinion that primary industry was not as valuable to this country as it has been. I said that chiefly as a result of an interjection by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld).
– Was not that nice of me?
– When I was speaking about the value of primary industry the honorable member for Phillip said, “But primary industry cannot employ many people”. I do not want to repeat the speech I made on that occasion, but let me say that primary industry is responsible for the employment of such a multitude of people that it is difficult to envisage the number. If we were to have this extra term of reference dealing with the value of primary industry to Australia, it might reveal something that many people are not aware of or do not want to know.
The honorable member who led for the Opposition in this debate, and who is the shadow Treasurer of the Opposition, made certain statements. I took one or two notes of comments made by him. He asked whether we could point to examples to indicate that this country was better off, in similar circumstances, than were certain overseas countries. Of course we can. The fact is that Australia is the most prosperous country in the world. We have a higher standard of living than any country in which the people work the same number of hours. An International Labour Organization survey has shown that Australians spend less time at work than do the people of all the nations covered by the surveys undertaken by the organization. It indicated that, in the United States of America, with all its massive assistance from accumulated capital, the people work 100 hours a year longer than does the average Australian.
Commenting on this position, the Honorable J. M. Carter, M.L.C., of New South Wales, said, that it was made possible only by the money earned abroad by the primary industries. How true that is. It is necessary that we in this country should realize the truth of it. The kind of survey that we want to make is one which will look into such matters as that and let the people throughout Australia know about them. I do not blame people who live in metropolitan areas for lacking knowledge of primary industry, or the value of it. It is not only the people who live in the metropolitan areas who lack such knowledge. There are honorable members who travel to this House every week when the Parliament is sitting to speak in debates, who give no indication of knowing the great value of primary industry.
The Prime Minister made a statement after a meeting subsequent to the meeting about which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) spoke, when the committee met to decide on procedure. The Prime Minister said, after the meeting on the morning of Monday, 7th March -
Although the committee will of course determine its own procedures, I am hoping for its sake that as much information as possible will be put before it in writing and not by oral evidence.
That is where the Prime Minister and I part company.
– Another split in the Government parties?
– On this subject, of course. We do so for the simple reason that, while I believe that as much written evidence as possible should be given, I think that there should be opportunity for oral evidence to be taken from the great organizations which represent primary and secondary industry. I do not mean that every one should come in individually and give evidence, but I do think that organizations which are the accredited representatives of industries should be able to give oral evidence. After all, from oral evidence and the putting of questions the great value of primary industry would be revealed in full measure.
One of the terms of reference of the inquiry refers to -
Questions involved in the production in Australia of goods that would otherwise be imported.
Often in this House we hear Opposition members say, “ Look at General MotorsHolden’s and the money it is making “. I say, “ Look at the money it is saving Australia “. If we had to import all the motor cars which that company and the Ford company produce, think what our overseas balance of payments position would be. Those companies are giving employment to thousands of men. Best of all, they provide employment at Geelong, in an area represented in this Parliament by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), and elsewhere under conditions which I have never heard members of the Opposition find fault with.
– We have never opposed them.
– Of course you have not, because you cannot fault the terms of employment. Those companies provide great employment opportunities and they do so on the very best possible terms. In addition, they save us a tremendous amount of money.
Much has been said about overseas loans. People may ask: “ Why does thi Treasurer try to float loans overseas? Why should we have all this money coming into the country? “ The answer is that if we cannot borrow money from overseas, at the rates of interest we have to pay, and make a payable proposition out of it, then Australians are lacking in initiative and our country has not the fertility and mineral wealth that I have been led to believe it has. All these things can be brought down to the level of individuals. Let us bring this matter down to the level of the individual farmer.
If a man goes on to a farm of 640 acres of which only a portion is productive, while the rest of the land is perhaps timbered or is not producing for some other reason, as a rule he has to borrow money to clear it. He may have an overdraft at the bank, or he may obtain a loan, as the Australian Government obtains loans overseas at present. The moment he brings that land into production, if the seasons are right - and this is of great importance - he begins to produce more and to pay off his overdraft or his loan.
This country of ours has been enabled, by means of the loans we have obtained overseas, to undertake the great Snowy Mountains scheme, and to lend money for such things as the construction of beef roads and the Chowilla Dam. Honorable members from New South Wales should not try to interject now, because the Commonwealth Government has had to pay an amount in respect of the Chowilla Dam which should have been paid by the New South Wales Government. The Commonwealth is lending the money so that New South Wales may pay its share, and the State has up to twenty years to pay back the loan. The money which comes into Australia has been used by this Government to further the opening up of great waterways. By means of loans through the Commonwealth Bank and in other ways, it has been used to assist in our progress.
In reference to the comments that have been made about our overseas balances, there is one point that I want to make. It has been stated, quite truthfully, that 80 per cent, of our exports are the direct result of primary industry. I say “ the direct result” advisedly, because some one may say to me, “A certain amount of canned goods goes overseas, and the cost of canning is included in the price “. Therefore, I say that primary industry is directly responsible for 80 per cent, of our exports. Twenty or 30 years ago, 80 per cent, of our exports were primary products and 20 per cent, the products of secondary industry, as they are to-day. So, in spite of the great expansion of factories and secondary industries throughout this land, there has been no change in the respective percentages of our exports. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) has pointed out, the position may be the same for the next twenty or 30 years.
I think k is very likely that it will be the same, unless secondary industry is able to reduce the prices of its products so that they may be sold on world markets. How often have we heard the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) say, “ Australia must get rid of this cost-plus complex “. Earlier this week the honorable member made a sterling speech on this subject. Recently he pointed out that if costs increased in the secondary industries in the cities all that was necessary was for the additional costs to be added to the prices of the commodities. But the primary producer cannot do that - he is at the end of the line. The matters I have mentioned relate to fundamental things which should be considered by any inquiry that is undertaken. That is why I have suggested an addition to the matters to be considered by the committee.
We have heard the honorable member for Scullin speak on many occasions. He speaks against the policy of the Government, add of course, he does not give this committee his blessing at all. The committee teas been set up to do a certain job and I hope that it is successful. I believe that its findings could be of great value to the Government and to the people of Australa.
The word “planning” was mentioned. Ever since I came into this Parliament many years ago the difference between the parties Dow on this side of the House and the present Opposition has remained unchanged. We stand for free enterprise but the Opposition stands for socialism. That is where we part company. The socialist!) plan for all sorts of things. They plan for increased pensions; they plan for reduced taxation; they plan to build ships in Australia when they know that strikes will pui them out of business. During election campaigns and during debates in this House I have heard the Opposition state on many occasions the huge amount of money that it would spend for the benefit pf the people if it were in office, but I have never heard the socialist planner© tell honorable members or any one else where the money will come from.
The only person I have heard mention that aspect is the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who has said on occasions - I hope I do not misquote him - that those who can pay must pay and that those who earn less than £1,000 a year will be practically free of taxation. I see that he is nodding his head, so apparently I have not misquoted him. He has included primary producers in the group of people who can pay. But he is a city man and does not realize that if the primary producer makes a profit he puts it back into the land to produce more for Australia. We on this side of the chamber plan to build upon those things which in the past have proved to be beneficial to the Australian economy and in the best interests of the welfare and the standard of living of the people of Australia.
.- There has never been a more damning indictment of this Government than the setting up of this committee of inquiry. . After controlling the affairs of this nation for fourteen years the Government has told the people that it is unable to find a cure for the country’s economic ills. It has admitted that it has failed, so it has set up a committee of inquiry. For fourteen years this Government has been telling the people that it will do whatever is necessary to help them. We even had the ridiculous situation of Government supporters telling us that we had never been more prosperous, despite the fact that more than 100,000 people were unemployed. By setting up the committee the Government has admitted that it cannot cope with the problems which confront it. Support for this indictment of the Government was given by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who said that the Government did not believe in planning, and by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who said that there were so many imponderables in long-term planning that the Government had given up the idea of planning at all. The honorable member for Mallee said that the differences between the Government and the Opposition arose from the difference between free enterprise and socialism. We of the Australian Labour Party say unashamedly that we want to plan for the people’s welfare; we want to- plan for the good of Australia; we want to plan things which will redound to
Australia’s credit; we want to plan to do those things which will bring happiness, contentment and peace to the people of Australia. Is that anythting to be ashamed of? If the honorable member for Mallee wants to call that socialism, then we are proud to be socialists. All of our plans are designed to bring happiness to the people. We want to relieve them of the burden of the Government’s immeasurable misunderstanding of the nation’s affairs. We want to do this by planning. After the next election, when we become the government, we will show supporters of the present administration how it is possible to plan for the future.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has set out the many things that he hopes the committee of inquiry will achieve, the many things that it will inspect and the many things it will try to understand which the Government itself does not yet understand. But there is one matter of vital concern to the people of Australia which has received practically no attention from the Government since it has been in office. This matter has two major aspects. First, it constitutes a large and unnecessary drain on Australia’s overseas reserves, and secondly, it seriously limits the expansion of our exports. Many Australian companies operate with licensing agreements with overseas companies to manufacture certain products in Australia. As I shall show, there are few, if any, restrictions on such agreements, yet in many cases they are unnecessary and are increasing. They constitute a serious danger to our economy. It costs Australia at least £60,000,000 a year to manufacture goods here with an overseas trade mark. It constitutes a danger to Australia because of the loss of foreign exchange and because of the restriction on exports inherent in the agreements. Yet most of these goods have to be redesigned in Australia to suit local conditions.
There is an urgent need for an official authority to control such agreements, which entail the payment of royalty and licencefees to overseas manufacturers. Inevitably any authority which is set up must consider special clauses designed to restrict the export of these good9. Under the heading “ Royalties, Copyrights, &c.” the “ Balance of Payments “ publication which is issued by the
Commonwealth Statistician indicates that £10,000,000 was paid overseas in 1957-58; £13,000,000 was paid in 1958-59; £16,000,000 was paid in 1959-60; £13,000,000 was paid in 1960-61, and the preliminary figure for 1961-62 is £15,500,000.
The Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations provide that persons resident in Australia must receive the authority of the Reserve Bank before entering into agreements which provide for the payment of royalties, service fees and so on to persons resident outside the sterling area or in Hong Kong, but similar agreements with persons resident within the sterling area, excluding Hong Kong, may be made without reference to the Reserve Bank. The fact is that such authorization is given by the Reserve Bank without any hesitation. As a result of investigations which covered a considerable period I am satisfied that the real amount paid in this direction, including design fees, is more than £60,000,000. It could be very much more. It is impossible to discover some situations which occur with a number of private companies trading on this basis.
Many companies operate with overseas principals or manufacture on a royalty basis for overseas manufacturers. They pay tremendous sums in the form of exorbitant prices for parts which are imported. These amounts are not shown under the Reserve Bank heading of “ Licence Fees “. In many cases in order that a warranty from the original manufacturing principal can be placed on a product special components not already made in Australia must be imported. This means that special tooling or parts for the completed product must be imported also. In some cases it means that even the simplest items such as nuts and bolts must be imported. A much higher price than the real value of the article must be paid for many of these parts, but that becomes portion of the total cost of the product. This is a vital matter. Even the Reserve Bank has absolutely no say in it. The true value of the nut and bolt could be, say, 3d. but the Australian affiliate might have to pay as much as ls. to its overseas principal and show no licence-fee. This constitutes an unnecessary exaggerated drain on our overseas resources. Hence the Australian consumer must pay a higher price for the article than he should pay and an unneces sarily great amount of money goes overseas in the form of the higher prices that are charged for the parts.
The facts are that any Australian firm can send a representative overseas. If he goes to the sterling area he can make an agreement with any principal to manufacture a product in Australia and to pay licence-fees or royalties without reference to any authority in Australia. It is true that if the representative approaches a manufacturer outside the sterling bloc, authority must be received from the Reserve Bank, but my inquiries show that such authority is given freely. Almost every day men travel overseas and sign agreements to manufacture even the simplest articles merely to obtain an overseas trade mark.
– Who wrote this speech?
– You would not understand anything about this matter, but I am prepared to give you a lesson later.
Some of the overseas trade marks are completely unknown in Australia but there seems to be a predilection for snob value in presenting an article bearing an overseas trade mark. This is a direct attack upon the Australian designer. The whole thing has reached a point of complete absurdity. We have now a situation in which Australian manufacturers are manufacturing shirts with United States, European and British trade marks. In this country men’s clothing manufacturers are making suits and frock manufacturers’ are making ladies’ frocks with overseas trade marks. Even men’s and women’s shoes are being made here with overseas trade marks. And all these manufacturers are paying licence-fees and royalties in overseas currencies. In the electrical appliances field we have an absolutely absurd situation.
Although the Government claims that Australia has a higher productivity record, the fact is that our national productivity staggers along - sometimes up, sometimes down, but never at a really good rate, and certainly well below potential capacity. We are not operating at anything near our full productive capacity. At the same time, tremendous waste is involved in the variety of items that we are producing in this country. An acknowledged expert is tait field, Mr. G. N. Horner, of Associated Industrial Designers Limited, Melbourne, recently said -
On a per capita basis, the variety in individual products made for our own consumption is greater than in any other country in the world.
If we take the electrical appliances field as an example, we find these revealing facts, as disclosed by Mr. Horner: There are in Australia 22 manufacturers making refrigerators. They make 143 varieties of refrigerators, and that figure does not include the number of different colours. Twenty manufacturers make 113 different types of washing machines; 23 manufacturers make 203 different types of stoves, grillers and boilers; 31 manufacturers make 226 different types of fans; eleven manufacturers make 26 different types of electric jugs; and 28 manufacturers make 152 different types of radiators.
Almost every one of these manufacturers either pays royalty or a licence-fee, or imports parts at excessive cost. Perhaps the largest electrical firm in this country with overseas principals shows almost no profit year after year. It has an enormous turnover, makes almost every type of electrical appliance and pays virtually no taxation on income. What would ordinarily be its actual trading profit is paid to its European principal either by way of royalties or licence-fees or by way of excessive prices for the parts it needs to assemble its products. Despite the boast of motor car manufacturers, including even the largest of them, that their product is almost entirely Australian-produced, a very close examination shows that considerable sums of money are paid in Australia to their Australian subsidiaries, or even to some independent companies, for needed parts. Many of these companies in turn import the parts from overseas principals, acting on their own individual royalty agreements, or at higher than normal prices. Therefore, the drain upon our overseas reserves exceeds £15,000,000, the figure reported by the Reserve Bank. At least £40,000,000 is paid overseas by devious methods, including this special arrangement to pay exorbitant prices for parts used in the assembly and manufacture of the completed product.
Additional moneys are paid as design fees in respect of the design of manufacturing plants, and these payments are hidden in the overall cost by being included in plant and equipment charges. This has been the case in connexion with the design and drafting work done in the major oil refineries in Australia. A similar situation exists also in the chemical industry. A tremendous amount of plant and equipment is designed by contract design organizations in the United Kingdom for Australia. Fairly recently, a very large firm paid £800,000 to the United States of America by way of design fees for a chemical plant. This was paid despite the fact that there are in Australia capable designers who can do this work and who were even prepared to arrange for special project engineers to come here to do the work. All this tends to kill the potential of Australian designers who, in their own right, have very great capabilities.
The drain of £60,000,000 upon our overseas resources is not the only serious aspect of this matter. On the one hand we are supposed to be fighting to build up Australia’s export trade, yet on the other hand we are openly approving agreements of the kind to which I have been referring and which, in the great majority of cases, contain restrictive export clauses. One clause which appears in almost every agreement reads -
This licence is available for Australia only.
In 1959, a survey was conducted by the industries division of the Department of Trade. It was in fact an investigation into some of the restrictive export franchises which overseas companies impose on their Australian affiliates. A brief analysis of that investigation shows that about 110 firms operating with United States connexions admitted that they are subject to export restrictions, and that 71 companies with United Kingdom connexions reported that they are subject to similar restrictions. It is quite obvious that this survey was only partial and superficial. Obviously, many companies would have denied an export interest at all in order to avoid disclosing that restrictions are imposed upon them in respect of the export of their products.
In all these cases the overseas principals want to keep the export market for themselves. Whilst they make agreements for manufacturing goods in Australia, and whilst they obtain royalty and licencefees, they want to retain for themselves the opportunities to export their goods to other countries. That is the position. This system, as I have said, costs us millions, yet we still see in almost every agreement a clause which says to the Australian manufacturer who is to pay a royalty or a licencefee, that he is only to be allowed to manufacture and sell the particular goods in Australia.
– It is a method of tax evasion.
– Of course it is. When such companies pay royalty or licencefees, and when they pay exorbitant prices for parts, the money so expended is an ‘allowable tax deduction. Quite obviously such organizations are evading income tax with the approval of ‘this Government, because the Government does nothing about this practice. So, at a time when a growing export market is vital to Australia’s future, and when Australia must export more and more of its secondary production, a very large number of Australian manufacturers, including some of the very biggest in their respective fields, are subject to very serious restrictions which prevent them from entering the export market field. The most important feature of this situation is that most of these firms ‘are enormous in their respective fields in Australia, yet they cannot take part in the export drive; they cannot take part in the effort that Australia must make to increase its sales of secondary products overseas.
The effect of uncontrolled royalty agreements is an unnecessary drain on our overseas resources which constitutes a serious restriction on our export potential. There is also, of course, a serious effect on our capacity to employ Australian workmen. If we could export more of these goods, obviously a greater work force would be needed and used in their production. There is a great need for the setting up of an authority to investigate and approve agreements which are made to manufacture goods in this country on payment of royalty or licencefees. Such an authority should have the right to examine and approve all such agreements in order to ensure that they shall be beneficial to Australia’s economy; and it should also examine the accumulated drain on Australia’s overseas reserves and the deleterious effect that the prohibition on the sale of our goods on the export market will have on our export expansion.
I want now to return to the member for Mallee.
– Order! The proper term is the honorable member for Mallee.
– The honorable member for Mallee. I think he is quite honorable, and I thank you very much for the correction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member set out the other night to prove that every person who works in Australia owes his employment to primary production. Every one in Australia will agree that the primary producer is very important to Australia. Nobody will deny the great importance of primary production to Australia. But the honorable member for Mallee ought to accept the fact that the number of people directly employed in primary production is far smaller than the number directly employed in secondary industries.
– I stated that.
– The other evening the honorable member for Mallee set out to show that every wharf labourer who stacks a ship with goods that come from primary production is employed by the primary producer, that every truck that carries anything connected with primary production is employed by the primary producer. But everybody understands that all industries in Australia, or nearly all of them, are relative to each other. The honorable member for Mallee has a fixation that most of the members of his party have; he and most members of his party are interested only in those primary producers in this country who are big and substantial. They are not concerned about the small primary producers who, unfortunately, have to save and work hard to make a living. They are not the primary producers who interest the honorable member for Mallee.
Not long ago, when he was talking about unemployment in this country, the honorable member referred to men who were put in gaol one night because they had drunk too much when they were grape-picking at Mildura. He said that that was an awful sin; at least the implication was that it was a very terrible thing that Australian men had drunk beer on a week-end. It is part of the Australian way of life to drink beer. I do not suppose that the honorable member for Mallee likes beer at ‘all. If he does not, I do not blame him. If he does not like it he should not drink it. But it is no sin to drink beer. Our soldiers in the First and Second World Wars were hardened men who loved to drink their beer.
If one or two men were picking grapes at Mildura and they happened to go over the fence at the week-end and be gaoled for 24 hours for drinking a little too much beer, does that mean that they should not receive consideration from the Government in regard to employment? The honorable member for Mallee talked on that occasion about the big money that they earned. He said that it was a scandal that they had drunk too much beer and were gaoled at the week-end. The fact is that such men are the cream of Australian’ life, as all workers are. The Australian Labour Party, which is dedicated to the service, welfare and benefit of the workers, will continue to serve them even if that means planning - long-term planning, a term honorable members opposite hate, but which we believe in, because we want to look after the people of Australia and to give them peace, happiness and contentment.
.- I am glad that politics have been left out of this debate. It was very refreshing to hear the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) talk about more basic matters. Unfortunately, I cannot find anything in the terms of reference of the Committee of Economic Enquiry that would entitle it to investigate the effect of beer on grape-pickers. The honorable member for Phillip seemed to have been indulging somewhat himself. There must be some explanation for his excesses. Honorable members will remember .that his opening words were that the appointment of this committee is a damning indictment-
– I never drink beer.
– Don’t you? I am glad to hear that, but there must be some explanation. The honorable member for Phillip suggested that the appointment of this committee is a damning indictment of the ‘Government because it represents an admission that the Government does not know the answers. What <a curious proposition to put to the Parliament. The honorable member for Phillip implied that the Australian Labour Party, if it were in government, would know the answers. Apparently it would learn the answers from sources other than practical men, such as those who constitute this committee. The honorable member for Phillip completely misses the point and purpose of this committee.
Before I come to that, I shall mention another matter that he talked about. He said that he believes in planning and that the Labour Party believes in planning. He said, “ We plan for everything.” He seems to believe that a plan in itself is a panacea and that once we ‘have a plan we have achieved everything we want. That is far from the truth of the matter. I remind him of Mrs. Beeton and her recipe for jugged hare. I hope I quote it correctly. Mrs. Beeton began the recipe with the words, “ First catch your hare “. The same principle applies here. It is quite pointless to have a plan and rely entirely on the plan to do the job.
Another matter to which I think I should direct attention in reply to the honorable member for Phillip is his statement that we in Australia are losing a lot of money through the manufacture of goods under licence. I think he cited a figure of £60,000,000 as the amount of money going out of Australia to pay for the rights to manufacture under licence. I am sure that he - and,, this would apply to the majority of honorable members opposite - does not comprehend what an important part technical knowledge and know-how have played in the development of Australia’s industrial production. It has really been tremendous. There are two major factors that can achieve rapidly an increase in productivity. One is technical know-how and the other is .managerial capacity. The other factor is hard work; but with those two factors tremendous and dramatic results can be achieved in a short time.
The purpose of the appointment of the Committee of Economic Enquiry is best expressed in a few words contained in the statement issued by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in February this year. They are in the preambular paragraph of the terms of reference. They read as follows: -
Having in mind that the objectives of the Government’s economic policy are a high rate of economic and population growth with full employment, increasing productivity, rising standards of living, external viability, and stability of costs and prices, to inquire into and report its findings on the following matters . . .
The reason for the appointment of this committee is a realization within the Government of the need for contact in a wide range of activities with people engaged in industry and the productive processes in Australia. The truth is that to-day there is a great complexity of government and that the range of government responsibilities is very great. The executive decisions that must be taken are ever growing. Alongside the increasing responsibilities of government there has come an ever increasing technical specialization in the Public Service from which advice is tendered to the government. With this growing technical specialization in the Public Service, in my opinion it is very necessary to develop a full comprehension of the problems and the facts upon which decisions must be based. If you have a public service that is ever growing in technical specialization you must have contact elsewhere with practical men who are engaged in industry and the productive processes. There needs to be an association of the practical, the technical and the theoretical areas of advice that are available to the decision-takers. Of course, the decision-takers are the members of the government.
This committee, under the terms of reference, will report on a wide range of subjects not only prospectively but also retrospectively. There is a great deal to be learnt from the retrospective examination of what has happened, especially in the immediate post-war years. However, perhaps the most important part of the committee’s report and recommendations will have a prospective effect. The inquiry will lead to a greater consultation with industry by the Government. I hope that if the Labour Party is ever in government it also will be seised of the necessity for consultation with industry, whether it be primary or secondary. The importance of this inquiry and of continuing consultation is that we should have an opportunity to hear from people engaged in industry what they think should be our objectives and what they think is the way for us to achieve our objectives.
The men who constitute the committee are divorced from politics. Yet, whilst being divorced from politics, they know politics and they know government. They are independent of mind and very capable of mind. For all those reasons the committee is very soundly constituted. I am quite certain that nothing but great benefit will come from its deliberations and report.
It seems that in the last two years we have learnt that, whilst it is simple to bring down arresting policies in a very short time, it is not so easy to bring about incentives to go ahead and develop in the same way as was happening before specific policies interrupted that development. It is not easy to find the incentives that will be effective. This committee has an important function to play. It would be very easy, of course, to succumb to the pressures that are constantly manifesting themselves to take a wide range of budgetary decisions, the purpose of which would be to stimulate artificially our economy. In my opinion, at this stage the economy is in a position of balance in which artificial stimuli could be very dangerous. So the value of this committee may well be in the offering of advice as to incentives which will not in themselves have an inflationary tendency, because if there is anything which must be fundamental to our policy it is to have growth unfettered by inflation. Such a policy can be very greatly assisted by the advice of this technical, practical, experienced committee.
The establishment of a committee, the advice of which will be tendered to government, for it to evaluate and act upon if it chooses, is not a new experience in other countries. The United Kingdom has its National Economic Development Council, which has proved to be a very successful body in offering advice to the Government. In the United Kingdom’s Budget a few months ago there was a very clear indication of advice given by that council to the Government. In France for some years now there have existed the Council of Plans and the Commissariat of Plans. The French believe that a great deal of what they call their economic miracle flowed from the advice which has been tendered by those two bornes. I think it is quite true to say that in both France and the United Kingdom the setting up of bodies which have a generic similarity to this particular committee of inquiry has proved very successful.
I emphasize again my own firm belief that our own policies must always be directed to growth without inflation. We must have growth, as rapidly as it can be achieved, without inflation. Inflation has a most eroding and demoralizing effect, in my view. No better example of its eroding and demoralizing effect can be cited than the circumstances of people on fixed incomes. No better example of the severe damage that it does to a section of the community is available than the primary industry section of our community, in which we get a movement of commodity prices against a product and at the same time internal inflation with rising prices, which bring about a cost-price squeeze which is very damaging. If there is any industry in Australia which has had truly miraculous results in terms of productivity it is primary industry, in which we have seen soaring production figures and constantly declining employment forces engaged. We need a steady economic growth for population and .for defence.
I said some things about what the committee is; let me say that which, in my opinion, the committee is not. It is not a body which ought to stand in place of government decision. It ought to be a committee which offers advice. It ought to be a fact-finding committee which, upon the facts, forms opinions and offers advice, so that the advice may be submitted and associated - integrated, if you like - with advice from other sources. What it must not be, and what there must be no tendency for it to be, is a committee established to take decisions, because this committee is not and can never be a body which is responsible to the electorate. The only body which takes decisions and is responsible to the electorate is the Executive, which is drawn from the Parliament. It is the Government, and not the committee, which must take decisions. No case can be made out for giving to the committee any broader responsibility than that which it has, namely, the responsibility of investigation and report.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Civil Aviation - Employment and Unemployment - Social Services - Army Land at Georges Heights - Coal - Crayfish Industry - Flood Damage and Relief.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) made allegations of a serious nature to the effect that flying safety standards were being reduced in Australia. As Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in this House, I would not otherwise have bothered to reply because, after all, we all know the honorable member for Yarra, but these allegations have been taken up in various newspapers and it is important that we should put the record straight, on this matter.
The honorable member said that he had made a few inquiries. I do not doubt that some one, possibly with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, came to see him and gave him some information of a highly technical nature. He was not able to check it. He himself said that he had not checked it. In fact, he has said that he would not see either the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) or myself. Surely the way to go about checking whether or not these allegations were correct was to go along to see the Minister for Civil Aviation. As Minister representing him, I have never refused to see any one in the House and I know that the Minister whom I represent has never refused to see any one, provided he had reasonable time available. Surely the way to go about these things is not to blow one’s top in the House and get into print, on a matter which affects the travelling public. To take a course such as that does a grave disservice to the travelling public, because it creates in their minds an impression that there is a reduction of safety standards in flying in Australia, which is completely incorrect.
What are the facts? First, we all know that in Australia we have one of the highest records of safety anywhere in the world. In fact, Australian flying has won the admiration of the rest of the world. Some years ago, Trans-Australia Airlines was awarded a special trophy, the Cumberbatch trophy, for flying safety. We know that T.A.A., in its entire history of fifteen or sixteen years has had only one accident in which passengers were killed. The same is true of flying generally in Australia. We fly some 3,000,000 passengers a year in Australia. That means that in the past nine years about 24,000,000 passengers have been flown and in that time only 36 people have been killed in flying accidents.
How does this compare with accidents on the road? In the same period there were 24,000 accidents on the road. Yet last night the honorable member came in here and tended to cast a doubt on the safety regulations. He tried to say that we were reducing the standards. Of course, naturally, those persons who fly, and their relatives, would tend to say, “ Perhaps we should use some other method of transport “. So I say again that he has done a disservice to the travelling public.
– You know that that was not the intention at all.
– We say that it was the intention. I ask the honorable member to look, at least, at two leading articles, one in the Melbourne “ Herald “ and one in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ to-day. The “ Herald “ article starts with the headline, “ Leave no doubt on air safety “. It reads -
Serious allegations of a lowering of airline safety standards in the interests of profits were made in the House of Representatives by Dr. J. F. Cairns, the Labour member for Yarra.
What allegations did the honorable member make? He said that there had been a speeding up of work for pilots. His other allegations related to brakes on aircraft, cockpit windows, and the re-skinning of Viscount aircraft. I find that in every one of the four instances his allegations are completely inaccurate. He referred to the speeding up of work for pilots. In actual fact there has been a reduction in work for pilots. We know that the International Civil Aviation Organization, the international civil aviation authority, lays down the maximum number of hours that a pilot may fly within a given period. In Australia, pilots have always flown shorter times. Indeed, in the last twelve months, pilots’ flying times have been reduced. For example, an Electra pilot used to fly approximately 1,000 hours in a year, and his flying time has now been reduced to 900 hours. So the first of the allegations made by the honorable member for Yarra is completely blown out.
Secondly, the honorable member mentioned the hydraulic systems that operate the brakes. The requirements in this respect have not been altered for many years. As we all know, aircraft with hydraulic brakes have more than one hydraulic pump; so that if one fails there is another to call on. In addition to these two pumps, there is an emergency pump. The practice, not only here but also overseas, for a long time has been that an aircraft, when it can maintain sufficient hydraulic pressure with only one pump working, may fly for a relatively short time until it reaches a place at which it can be fully serviced. Let us not forget that as well as the one pump of the normal system still working perfectly, there is also the emergency pump that can be brought into use at any time, as well as reversible-pitch propellors to aid in braking. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and I have flown for many hundreds of hours aircraft equipped with only one system to operate the brakes. I have never had any trouble. The aircraft operated by our airlines have two normal hydraulic pumps and an emergency pump in addition to reversible-pitch propellors for braking on runways.
The third allegation made by the honorable member for Yarra related to cockpit windows on Viscount aircraft. These windows are made of a sandwich material composed of two sheets of glass with a sheet of plastic between. When what is known as delamination occurs, the sheets tend to separate and some colouring appears. The honorable member stated that the practice originally was that when the delamination extended over an area of 5 square inches, the windows were replaced, and that the permissible limit has since been extended to 6 square inches, with a consequent reduction of the safety factor. In fact, the delamination does not affect airworthiness, because the plastic alone, even without the glass on either side, is strong enough to withstand the pressure to which it may be subjected and to keep the aircraft airworthy. The Department of Civil Aviation did not recommend that the permissible limit of delamination be increased fo 6 square inches. The Vickers company itself made the recommendation after tests carried out over quite a long period. The only reason for the replacement of cockpit windows when delamination occurs is that the colouring may make the window a little more difficult for the pilot to see through. Replacement is not necessary from the safety stand-point. So much for the third allegation made by the honorable member.
Fourthly, the honorable member for Yarra said that the practice of re-skinning Viscount aircraft after 20,000 hours of flying had been abandoned. In fact, the stipulated flying time was not 20,000 hours, but 19,000 flights, although there is not a great deal of difference in Australia, because the average flight here is about one hour or one hour and one-quarter in duration. I have seen tests on aircraft to ensure that they meet pressurization requirements, particularly on some of the early Comets, which were put into test tanks and put through numerous reversals ofl pressure equivalent to very many flights at great heights. Every aircraft is severely tested by the manufacturer. Some units are tested to destruction to see that the aircraft is able to withstand the constant reversals of pressure met with in flying at great heights.
What happened with the Viscounts was that in the early days of these aircraft the manufacturer suggested that they be reskinned after 19,000 reversals. As more work was done with the aircraft and more experience was gained, the British and the Australian civil aviation authorities, in association with the manufacturers, decided that such a requirement was not necessary and that the limit could be extended to 26,000 reversals, or about 30,000 flying hours in this country. However, it has never been decided that the aircraft will not be re-skinned. The civil aviation authorities in both Britain and Australia and the manufacturers have agreed that after 26,000 reversals re-skinning shall be undertaken or the aircraft shall be taken to have ended its safe life.
This sort of procedure is as old as aviation itself. For many years, the practice has been to adopt ultra-conservative limits when an aircraft first comes into service. As more experience with a type is gained and modifications are made, the limits are extended. The useful life of both engines and airframes can be gradually extended by this process.
I repeat that the honorable member for Yarra has done a grave disservice to the travelling public by making the allegations that he voiced in this House last evening.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to discuss the very important matter of employment, with particular reference to certain aspects of it. Let me say immediately that I am very sorry that there are so many willing workers in Australia who are unemployed. Unemployment is about the most terrible social scourge that we have in our midst. The action of this Government in continuing to inflict such misery on so many decent citizens is a standing disgrace. We all know that over the last two years the number of unemployed has ranged between 70,000 and 131,000. The sorry thing is that, as is well known, this Government plans for such a situation, because it believes in a pool of unemployed. It believes that it can achieve its industrial objective of regulating the wages and conditions of the people who are in employment by having a pool of unemployed. It believes that the presence of a number of people outside a factory gate seeking work enables it to regulate the conditions of those who are at work within the factory. It is bad enough that any one is unemployed. But the situation is even worse when a government treats the unemployed so unsympathetically as this Government does.
This Parliament has enacted laws under which those who are unemployed or who cannot work because of illness are paid social service benefits. I believe that the most sympathetic interpretation of those laws should be adopted in dealing with the unfortunate people who are unemployed. I have here a statement of the conditions that must be satisfied in order to qualify for unemployment and sickness benefits. To succeed, an applicant for unemployment benefit must be unemployed, must be capable of undertaking and willing to undertake suitable work, must have taken reasonable steps to obtain work and must have registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment. An applicant for sickness benefit must be temporarily incapacitated for work because of sickness or injury. These conditions are very important in their effects on those who are unemployed and without income.
I wish to mention particularly the case of a young married man aged only 32, with a wife aged 29 and eight children. He was employed” in a paint factory and after a time his lungs were affected by lead in the paint. He applied for compensation and was paid £14 a week for some time pending legal proceedings in the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales. The employing company told him that this was not much for the upkeep of a family of eight children and informed him that if he liked to potter about the factory and earn a little extra to augment his compensation payments he was at liberty to do so. This man did as much work as he could until eventually his compensation was terminated. After several years, his health became so bad as to prevent him from working at all. Then he had to apply for the sickness benefit. When he sought to register he was asked how much he had earned in the previous twelve months. When he gave particulars he revealed that his average earnings in the previous twelve months bad been £2 12s. 6d. a week.
When a person applies for the sickness benefit he must show that he has suffered a loss of income as a result of being sick. In this man’s case the department held that he had suffered a loss of only £2 12s. 6d. a week and it decided that it would pay him a sickness benefit of only that amount. That is the meanest possible interpretation that could be placed on the legislation. It is shocking that the Government should place a married man with eight children in the predicament in which this man has been placed.
I refer now to some other cases about which I have received correspondence. A letter from the Director of Social Services to a young lady who sought unemployment benefit reads -
Your attention is drawn to the fact that unemployment benefit is payable only to a person who is capable of undertaking and willing to accept any employment considered suitable by this department.
I emphasize that the employment is employment considered suitable by the department, not by the person who has to do the work. The department may offer any job to a person and if that person does not accept the job he does not receive the benefit. This is a serious matter. The letter continues -
You may recall that an undertaking embodying those requirements was signed by you in making your claim for benefit, also in completing weekly income statements.
Recently arrangements were made with a view to your placement in suitable employment and it has been reported that you failed, without reasonable cause, to comply with those arrangements.
This young lady was a film examiner, but since the advent of television opportunities for work of this nature have become fewer. I think the department offered her domestic work, but she said that she was not a domestic and she would not take the work. The letter continues -
The department takes the view that your action represented a breach of the conditions attaching to the grant of unemployment benefit and, in the circumstances, it has been decided to suspend payment of your benefit for one week as a penalty and to warn you that failure on your part to accept any further offer of employment may result in the cancellation of your benefit.
The Government has created this situation in which people who cannot get work and who do not comply with all the red tape associated with the obtaining of unemployment benefit are denied the miserable pittance of £4 2s. 6d. a week.
In another case a young lady received a letter from the Department of Social Services in these terms -
The question of your eligibility for continuance of unemployment benefit has recently been reviewed.
The Social Service Act provides that to qualify for unemployment benefit a person must be capable of undertaking and willing to undertake suitable work. The act also provides that reasonable steps must be taken to obtain such work.
Notwithstanding the fact that there are no jobs for the 80,000 persons who are registered for employment, the Government demands that, when applying for the unemployment benefit, they produce some evidence that they have tried to get jobs. The Government has all the evidence that no jobs are available for these people. The letter continues -
It is noted that you have been in receipt or unemployment benefit since 1.8.1962 and, according to the information supplied by you, it does not appear that you have taken adequate steps on your own account to obtain employment. Opportunity is taken, therefore, to remind you of your obligations in this regard.
So that the department may be aware of your efforts to find employment, you are requested to state on the back of future weekly income statements the names and addresses of six prospective employers approached in your search for work . . .
Fancy having to give the names of six persons or firms from whom work was sought! It is serious that anybody should be placed in this terrible predicament of not being able to find work, but the position is made worse when this Government puts such a miserable interpretation on the laws that we, in this place, pass. I cannot believe that any honorable member would uphold an interpretation of the legislation so miserable as to bring about the situations to which I have referred to-night.
.- I wish to raise a matter which I feel certain is not controversial but which will have the acclaim of all honorable members. Honorable members who are proud of Australia want to see historic landmarks preserved. I am referring now to land at George’s Heights in Mosman in the electorate of Warringah which is about to be released by the Army. That land has great historic significance. At this stage I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) for the interest he has shown in this matter and for participating in an inspection of the land with the Mayor of Mosman and myself. I also pay a tribute to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) who has given sympathetic consideration to the requests for the release of this land.
The land in question covers about 30 acres and is located in perhaps the most historically important section of Australia.
The foreshores of the land are washed by the famous Sydney Harbour, or Port Jackson as it is sometimes known. The land runs down to a delightful area known as Clifton Gardens. What is most appropriate from the point of view of historical significance is that the area is almost opposite the famous Sydney Heads, it was these foreshores that Captain Phillip first perceived on 22nd January, 1788, as he entered Sydney Harbour on his journey from Botany Bay. It was these foreshores that Captain Phillip in 1770 passed by, not seeing fit to enter Sydney Harbour because he thought it was only a small area of water. These foreshores form part of the harbour that Captain Cook acclaimed as the most beautiful, most capacious and most convenient in all the world.
Sydney Harbour is 21 square miles in area and has a shoreline of 152 miles. I hope that honorable members from States other than New South Wales will not feel jealous when I speak so enthusiastically about Sydney Harbour because they themselves should feel proud of this beautiful expanse of water.
Port Jackson, as history teaches us, was in Phillip’s time representative of the whole State of New South Wales. In fact, it was representative of the whole continent which we now know as Australia. It was from the settlement on the shores of Port Jackson that much of the energy and initiative associated with the development of Australia emanated. The history that I relate unquestionably supports my claim for the great historical significance of the land about to be released. Perhaps some honorable members are not aware that the land in question commands one of the most magnificent panoramic views of the famous Sydney Harbour. It would do all honorable members good to have a look at this land. It consists of from 8 to 10 acres running along the top of a ridge, part of which is undulating ground with rocky outcrops and the balance steeply sloping timbered ground. According to the Minister for Lands in the New South Wales Government, Mr. Compton, the land could accommodate high density building. I understand that the Minister has publicly stated that if the land were sold it would return a handsome price to the New South
Wales Government. The Minister, however, has indicated that the land will be preserved as natural bushland and a recreational area for the public. I hope that that intention will be carried out, because it will be most unfortunate for posterity if the Labour government of the day does not put its promise into effect but uses the land for other purposes. No doubt the New South Wales Government is greatly tempted to grab this land for sale for housing purposes.
I am pleased to say that the Mosman council, which has taken a very keen interest in the release of this area, would like to develop it, if possible, so that it may be made available for public enjoyment and to provide look-outs from which may be observed the majestic splendour of the harbour and pageants such as the passage of the Queen’s yacht, “Britannia”. From such look-outs, another significant event, the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, could be viewed. If this area is made available and look-outs provided, a great opportunity will be provided for many thousands of people to see the start of that annual race from vantage points which will furnish an ideal view, rather than depend on Bradley’s Head and other points around the harbour which are much less advantageous.
I would like to see all Middle Head, of which Georges Heights is but a part, given back to the public. However, I realize that services demands are such that that is not possible now. I would like also to see all the foreshore area in the vicinity of Sydney Heads, taking in the northern section of the harbour and the Fairlight and Manly area in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), released by the Government to the public. However, as no doubt the Government has in mind a proper use to put the land in question, I hope that the only land to be released will in fact be released at an earlier date so that the Mosman Council or Sydney Council can prepare it for use by the public on the occasion of the start of the next Sydney to Hobart yacht race. In that event this spectacle may be seen by thousands of people from the finest vantage point on the shores of Sydney Harbour.
.- My purpose in rising is to bring again to the notice of the Government the deplorable conditions existing on the northern coal-fields. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) to-night when he dealt with unemployment in his area. However, I challenge any member of this House - and I know that there is large-scale unemployment in Queensland - to point to a greater degree of unemployment per square mile in any part of Australia than there is on the northern coal-fields. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was conscious of this position when a grant was made to the States for the relief of unemployment. At that time he referred to the northern coal-fields. This evening the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) emphasized the necessity for some form of economic planning on the part of the Government. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) seemed to me to indicate that it was impracticable for the Federal Government to apply economic planning to the northern coal-fields.
Before the closure of the mines started there some five or six years ago, I saw that there was no better opportunity for the Government to introduce some economic planning. It was obvious that the introduction of modern coal-mining machinery would bring about large-scale unemployment in that area. Another thing that hit the gas coal industry was the introduction of residual oil in the manufacture of gas. I have some interesting figures, to which I can make only brief reference because of the limited time available to me. The thirteenth annual report of the Joint Coal Board showed the total production of coal for the year ended 30th June, 1960, at 16,340,000 tons. This represented an increase of 578,000 tons on the production in the previous year. Underground mines alone increased their output by 504,000 tons, and at December, 1960, annua] production had increased to 17,736,994 tons. The output per man-shift with modern machinery has been rapidly increasing. Whereas in 1954 in New South Wales it was only 3.19 tons, in 1959 it had increased to 4.65 tons, and in 1960 to 5.17 tons. Since the hearing of the 35-hour week claim made last year, the output per man-shift increased to 6.7 tons. That was in March, 1962. By June, 1961, annual production had increased to 18,165,010 tons, an increase of 1,825,000 tons over the 1960 figure.
The startling feature of this increase per manshift is the fact that 1,000 miners were retrenched during that period. Nevertheless, production of coal has soared. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and myself have frequently urged this Government to implement a modern scheme whereby chemicals and other by-products which are imported from other countries can be produced here. The New South Wales Government is working towards that end, but this is too big a scheme for the States; it must be undertaken on a Federal level. Yesterday’s editions of the “Sydney Morning Herald” and the “ Newcastle Morning Herald “ reported that at the instigation of the New South Wales Government, scientists working at the University of New South Wales have developed a scheme and recommended it to the State Government for the lowcost production of plastics, liquid fuel and chemicals from coal. The scheme envisages large thermal power stations on the coal-fields being integrated with private industries to provide them with lowcost power, steam and other raw materials and services which would benefit the whole industrial structure. I appeal to the Government to give consideration to the implementation of the scheme put forward by this body of scientists at the University of New South Wales so that the troubles of the people in the electorate of Hunter, particularly in the KurrieCessnock area, will be overcome as soon as possible. It seems to be the custom of mineowners in recent years that when they give the miners their Christmas pay dockets they include notices of termination of employment. Just before last Christmas, 250 mineworkers at the Elrington colliery received, along with their Christmas pay dockets, notices of retrenchment. That kind of thing has been going on for many years.
To-day the Hebburn mine is threatened with closure and it is expected that shortly only one or two mines out of about twenty will be working on the South Maitland coal field. Throughout history it has been the custom for mineworkers always to get the first economic kick from big business governments. The French coalminers recently had to take direct action in order to have their just claims met by the French Government. The coalminers are strong trade union men, as they have to be to achieve their just claims in a big business society. The French miners sought an increase of approximately 11 per cent in wages. While they did not receive that much they got almost half of what they had claimed. It has always been the mine workers who have spearheaded industrial action to improve the lot of the working class. It is worth recalling the words of Clarence Darrow in 1903, when he appeared in a Pennsylvania court room to represent striking workers. He said -
It has come to the poor miners to bear this cross, that the human race may be lifted up to a higher and broader plane than it has ever known before.
Those words were brought to my notice In the last day or two and I now remind the House of a statement by Mr. Justice Gallagher of the Coal Industry Tribunal, who has been listening to the claims of the Moura miners in Queensland, who are living in deplorable conditions. Mr. Justice Gallagher said -
The conditions under which the mine workers are living at Moura are nauseating, revolting and degrading.
They are living under shocking conditions there while the coal mine owners are interested only as they have been down through the ages in wrenching this God given asset, coal, out of the ground exclusively for the purpose of making a profit. Governments allow these conditions to exist until the workers take direct action and then the newspapers accuse the miners’ unions of being supermilitant or of being controlled by Communists. But no notice is taken of their protests until they take direct action. I again forcibly urge the Government to implement as soon as possible the suggestion of the University of New South Wales regarding modem uses of coal for the production of by-products.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to bring to the attention of the House and particularly of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) a rather serious situation which has seemingly been suddenly brought to light in Western Australia although it has existed for many years. The Premier of Western Australia - Mr. David Brand, a very excellent man - is currently visiting the United States of America in order to assist Western Australia and the Commonwealth generally in connexion with the development of Western Australia. While there he has discovered the alarming situation that an industry worth from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 annually to Western Australia - and more than that to the Commonwealth - is In jeopardy.
– You mean the crayfishing industry?
– That is right. I am glad to find an honorable member opposite so well informed. The crayfishing industry in Western Australia has been jeopardised because, according to the charge made, that the Australian fishermen are pricing themselves out of the American market. Bear that in mind. The accusation is made that this is due to the fact that the fishermen are receiving too big a proportion of the return from crayfish tails sold in America.
– That is a novel suggestion.
– It is not. I correct the honorable member for Mallee, inasmuch as this suggestion has been made in connexion with all primary industries. When the suggestion is made in connexion with the fishing industry, which is one of extreme hazard, it is pitiful. The crayfishing industry in Western Australia occasions a severe annual loss of ships and lives for the benefit of the Australian economy. The suggestion is that the crayfishermen are getting too much and are jeopardizing their own market. It is suggested that some kind of orderly marketing scheme should be introduced into the industry. I remind the Minister and the House that in about 1955 or 1956, when the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, as the result of efforts I made consequent on representations made to me by the fishermen and processors of crayfish tails, that Minister invited the crayfish marketing interests in Australia to a meeting to discuss an organized marketing scheme for crayfish tails along lines similar to that operating in South Africa. The scheme in South Africa is a simple one. A levy amounting, I think, to Id. per lb. is struck on crayfish tails, which are worth 4s. or 5s. a lb. in our money. The proceeds of the levy are put into a promotion fund. The whole of the South African crayfish catch is sent to America through one major distributing agency. The tails are then sent to smaller distributors and the funds obtained from the levy are used to publicize the industry. A scheme of this kind was suggested in Australia in 1955 or 1956, or perhaps the year before that. The fishermen and the processors of crayfish tails wanted the scheme, but it was rejected by the distributors, who had contracts to supply the American market. At that time crayfish tails were almost a medium of exchange in Western Australia. You could buy a shipload of crayfish tails at a discount when the owner needed money urgently and later on, when you wanted money yourself, you sold them at either a profit or a loss. There was a great trade going on in crayfish tails among people who would not know a crayfish from a herring. Unfortunately, they were the people who influenced the decision not to set up a marketing board.
At that time the price of crayfish tails was rising on the American market. The distributors who were buying the tails and selling them at fancy prices were quite happy as they had nothing to lose under the existing arrangements. An opportunity was lost to establish the industry on a sound basis at that time.
Now what has happened? The Premier of Western Australia has discovered and, quite rightly, has brought to the notice of the industry in his State a situation which has been developed during the last few years in America. This development presents a severe threat to the industry in Western Australia and to Australia as a whole. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to turn up the relevant correspondence of a few years ago, to which I have referred, or to begin a new file if he prefers, and to invite the fishermen, representatives of the fishing organizations, representatives of the crayfish tail processing firms and distributing firms, and the shippers, if you like, to attend a conference to see whether something can be done to establish this industry on a firm basis with an organized marketing scheme.
It is so easy to say that the fisherman is getting too big a part of the retail price. Nothing is said about the processor’s costs, handling charges or the rake-off that the distributor gets for putting an entry in his books without handling a crayfish at all. Nothing is said about storage charges or equipment costs. Many costs are involved, but it is only the poor, helpless fisherman who is attacked, as all primary producers are. The price paid for the products of this industry bears no comparison to the cost that the industry incurs to produce them. The man on the land has to risk bad seasons and is subject to all kinds of hazards, but the man who goes to sea in a small boat-
– He gets it easy?
– Who? The man going to sea? He does not get it easy! That man is required to invest a considerable sum of money. The average crayfish boat would require an investment of about £10,000, and in one night the fisherman could lose perhaps £2,000 worth of gear. He could lose his boat, or even his life. Yet those fishermen are said to be getting too much for their catch! They may go to sea for weeks without catching anything or they may not be able to go out at all.
I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry to look at this matter and make an attempt, as his predecessor did, to get this industry on an organized basis before Australia, and Western Australia in particular, suffer a severe loss.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise two questions to-night. The first deals with flood relief and the assistance given to farmers, householders and others affected so drastically and terribly by the floods which are at present sweeping New South Wales. This morning I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) concerning the setting up of a committee of inquiry to investigate the practicability of establishing a national disaster insurance fund. I received a very comprehensive reply to that question. I express concern now because nothing definite has been done. A definite decision has not been given by the
Prime Minister or any one else associated with the Government on the suggestion to set up a committee to inquire into this matter. There was one ray of hope when the Prime Minister, in answering the question this morning, said -
The honorable member will understand that it is always a difficult kind of problem, but we have certainly taken the problem as such very seriously and it is by no means finally determined yet.
I hope that when he says, “It is by no means finally determined yet”, he means that a committee will be formed to inquire into this question. This scheme is not simply an airy-fairy idea; it is not a new idea; it has already been introduced in other countries. In the United States of America such a scheme was set up by an act of Congress in 1956. The scheme is financed largely by the central government. A similar type of scheme was introduced in New Zealand, and to-day it insures against various national calamities, such as bush-fires, floods and earthquakes. In that country earthquakes are a very serious menace in themselves. I understand that in 1961 this scheme had a balance of about £24,000,000, and that it is financed by a levy of ls. for each £100 of insurance written.
This is quite a reasonable scheme and one which requires investigation, but I think it is of vital importance that this matter should be taken up by members of the Country Party. In saying that I am not trying to have the proverbial shot at the Country Party, but I think it is something that could be taken up by its members. No doubt some of them already have done something about it, but I think if we could join in making an approach to the Government, and to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and Prime Minister in particular, to obtain the appointment of a committee to inquire into this matter, that would be a practical approach to the matter. I feel sure that means can be found to make this a practical proposition, but I think it can be done only if we all join together and insist that the Government take some action.
Many honorable members opposite, not only from electorates such as mine, represent areas which have been vitally affected by the floods occurring throughout Australia. In particular, I think we should look at the complete and utter inadequacy of the flood relief that is given to-day. It does not compensate the farmer, in particular, for the loss of livelihood, crops, or the weeks, and sometimes months, that he will have no living at all. Nor does it compensate for the loss of property.
We must realize that in a matter such as this the Federal Government controls the purse-strings and that the States are limited in the assistance they can give. They have not the same budgetary powers as the Federal Government. Accordingly, I think it is time we looked at this proposal, as I suggested this morning, and decided not to limit assistance on a £1 for £1 basis. We should be prepared to make a contribution far beyond the amounts given by the States. That is the only way to overcome the difficulties caused by the very serious flooding at present in New South Wales and the only way in which we can give the people affected by those floods some adequate form of compensation.
– In the other States, too.
– I agree that it should be for all States. Throughout the country this is a serious problem. I hope to hear some other honorable members on this matter. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) has done a very fine job of work to-day in trying to assist the people affected by floods in his area, and I hope that his efforts will be joined by those of other honorable members whose electorates have suffered flood damage.
I should like to deal now with a matter raised the other night by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) relating to widows’ pensions. He then said he would like to refer to some remarks made by me during the same debate. He said -
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) pleaded for greater assistance for civilian widows. I do not deny that his cause is a deserving one. He made a good plea. However, I say in a kindly way-
I think the honorable member is a kindly gentleman; he has eight children, so he should be - and I hope he and other honorable members will bear this in mind that he made the cardinal and fundamental mistake of comparing the circumstances of war widows with those of civilian widows.
The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) interjected and said, “ He did not say the widow’s pension was unjustified “.
The honorable member for Moore continued -
That sort of argument merely causes unfortunate bitterness and misunderstanding between these two groups of people.
The last thing I wanted to do was to cause bitterness or misunderstanding between any groups of people in this country. What I was endeavouring to do was to show the complete inadequacy of widows’ pensions to-day. I tried to draw a parallel between what one type of widow receives and what another type of widow receives. 1 want to make it quite clear that, as a returned serviceman, my argument is that the pension received by a war widow is completely inadequate to compensate her for the loss she has sustained and to provide for the welfare of herself and her children. I make the point also that the pension granted to a civilian widow is even more inadequate. In fact, it is ridiculously inadequate.
So that the honorable member for Moore will not think that I am trying to create bitterness between groups of people, 1 shall mention the amount that a widow would receive from the Workers’ Compensation Commission of New South Wales for herself and three children. If her husband were killed at work or died as a result of his work, she would receive £4,300 in a lump sum, plus £2 3s. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years. Apparently the commission realizes how inadequate is the amount provided by way of a widow’s pension, and provides adequate compensation. I am not endeavouring to create bitterness between widows who receive workers’ compensation and civilian widows, any more than I was trying to create bitterness between war widows and civilian widows. I say that honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Moore, should join in an approach to the Government in an endeavour to ensure that civilian widows will be granted pensions upon which they can live and bring up their families. In that way, the serious economic and social problems which they face now would be solved.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Convention No. 11 - Right of Association (Agriculture)- Ratified 24th December, 1957.
Convention No. 12 - Workmen’s Compensation (Agriculture) - Ratified 7th June, 1960.
Convention No. 18 - Workmen’s Compensation (Occupational Diseases) - -Ratified 22nd April, 1959.
Convention No. 19 - Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation)- -Ratified 12th June, 1959.
Convention No. 42 - Workmen’s Compensation (Occupational Diseases) (Revised) - Ratified 29th April, 1959.
Convention No. 105 - Abolition of Forced Labour- Ratified 7th June, 1960.
October, 1948- Conventions Nos. 69-76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 87-90.
April, 1949- Conventions Nos. 47, 69-76, 77-79, 81, 87, 88, 89, 90.
April, 1958- Conventions Nos. 18, 19, 42, 62, 81.
April, 1959- Conventions Nos. 32, 62, 81, 105.
April, 1960- Conventions Nos. 1-6, 12-14, 17, 20, 23-25, 30, 32, 43, 46, 47, 49-56, 58-62, 64, 65, 67-75. 77-79, 81-84, 86, 87, 89-92, 94-100, 102-114.
April, 1961, March, 1962, and April, 1963- Conventions Nos. 26, 32, 62, 81.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: -
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Defence has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to both questions is ‘* No “.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: - 1 and 2. There is no generally accepted world price for aluminium. Canada has, over the years, been the major source of supply of aluminium to Australian users. The present landed cost of Canadian aluminium is £A.226 per ton, whilst Australian producers’ current price is £A.251 per ton. Hence the price of Australian metal is £25 per ton higher.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What are the industries in Australia in which - (a) 75 per cent., (b) 50 per cent., (c) 40 per cent, or (d) 25 per cent, of the ownership is vested in residents of other countries?
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that no official statistics are available showing the proportion of Australian industry owned overseas.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: - 1. (a) 21. (b) 33. 2. (a) Trade Commissioners -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
United States Naval Communication Station in Australia.
– On 10th April, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and on 17th April, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) asked in questions without notice whether the Government had ascertained the views of governments in the South-East Asian and Indian Ocean areas about the establishment of a United States Naval Communication Station at North West Cape.
The agreement for the establishment of this station is an arrangement within the scope of the Anzus Treaty, and entirely consistent with our obligations as a member of the United Nations. Accordingly, no special action of the kind the honorable members appear to have in mind has been taken. However, all Australian diplomatic missions have been suitably briefed to explain, if necessary, the nature of the proposals being negotiated.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630509_reps_24_hor38/>.