25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. COURTNAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government immediately grant a basic pension rate of £8 10s. per week, formulate a national housing plan for low rental homes for pensioners and provide ail pensioners within the permissible income with the medical entitlement card.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr. Stewart, Mr. Coutts, Mr. Daly and Mr. Curtin.
Petitions severally received.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation state what are the minimum requirements laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation to determine the airworthiness of aircraft operated on Australia’s internal airlines? What additional maintenance is carried out by the operators? In the light of the statement by Mr. R. M. Ansett that a private investigation will be carried out by his airline officials into yesterday’s incident in Melbourne which involved the safety of 65 passengers and crew, does the Department of Civil Aviation intend to carry out its own investigation to establish the reasons for the near disaster?
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that an investigation will be carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation. I can also tell him that the Minister for Civil Aviation will be making a statement in another place immediately after question-time this afternoon.
– Can we have a statement made here, too?
– I will see that the statement is distributed to the members of this House.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. I am informed that passengers in transit from New Zealand by air and proceeding overseas are required to comply with all customs formalities at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport. Although their stay at the airport might be quite short, they might have no access to their baggage and might have no opportunity to leave the airport. Could not a more simple system be devised for passengers in transit?
– As I understand it, New Zealand passengers in transit through Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport are not required to make a baggage declaration if they are travelling on by the same aircraft in which they arrived. The only formality might be a check of hand baggage at the discretion of the customs officer in the customs hall on disembarkation. Passengers going on by ano’.her flight are required to make customs declarations because their baggage is off-loaded and displayed in the same place as baggage waiting to be claimed by passengers terminating their journey at Sydney. This has been found to be the most expeditious means of dealing with the problem, particularly in view of the fact that overseas flights might be delayed and passengers consequently might want access to their baggage.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry about the future of country wool-selling centres. Would he amplify his statement of yesterday about the Wool Industry Conference having the final power to determine whether selling is to continue at Gc ulburn, Albury, Albany, Ballarat and Portland? In his statement yesterday the Minister said that the Wool Industry Conference will make the determination in the matter. Is this so, or will the final power rest with the Minister himself or with the marketing authority contemplated under the 1962 legislation? If the power is to rest with the Minister, will he give the House an assurance that he will exercise it to maintain these country centres?
– The Wool Industry Conference will make the final recommendation concerning the wool marketing scheme. However, the wool selling sheds or depots, such as at Portland and Goulburn, are entirely within the jurisdiction of the State Governments. 1 have no function at all in relation to them.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman will recall that I made available to him the illustrated supplement from the “ Australian Jewish Herald and Jewish Post “ on the book “ Judaism Without Embellishment “. In view of the continued anti-Jewish propaganda in Russia which this book clearly illustrates, will the Prime Minister direct that Australian representatives in the United Nations again raise this matter and endeavour to enlist the aid of other nations to bring pressure to bear on Russia to cease this grave infringement of human rights?
– The honorable gentleman was good enough to send a copy of this wretched publication to me. This matter was not reached at the end of the last session of the General Assembly, but it will be listed in the nineteenth session, which is due to begin later this year. The honorable member may bc assured that when the issue is debated the Australian delegation will express in the most forceful terms the attitude of the Australian Government towards both racial and religious intolerance. We will speak up and, I hope, be heard with some effect.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a recent report that good market opportunities that now exist in Malaysian countries for carrots grown on the north-west coast of Tasmania could be lost because of a shipping regulation imposed by the Department of Primary Industry? Is the Minister aware that this regulation requires carrots to be shipped in wooden crates instead of bags, and that this would make the cost of shipping them in refrigerated vessels to Singapore and other Malaysian countries uneconomic? One grower alone has 250 tons of carrots ready in anticipation of this export market. Will the Minister take steps to amend the regulation and give permission for the use of bags for export purposes?
– Regulations are issued by the Department of Primary Industry in relation to carrots and other primary products that are exported. I understand that at the moment there is a demand for carrots in Malaya. No carrots have been exported from Tasmania during the last five years. The export of carrots is something new, and I hope we will succeed in securing markets for them. The regulations provide for the shipment of carrots in crates. Experience has shown that if carrots are shipped in bags they arrive at their destinations in a dilapidated condition, unfit for marketing. The question of which method of packaging is more economical is one for the growers to decide. They can either send their product abroad in bags and find that it is not marketable on arrival, as has been the experience, or they can send it in such a way that it is marketable on arrival.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has taken a decision not to allow any free television or radio time to the Tasmanian Country Party for the State election on 2nd May? Is it true that the Liberal, Labour and Democratic Labour Parties are being granted free time on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television and radio networks totalling eight and three-quarter hours? Does this decision mean that a virtual gag is being imposed on the Tasmanian Country Party, so far as viewers of and listeners to the national network in Tasmania are concerned?
– Section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act gives complete autonomy to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in making decisions in relation to this matter. I did discuss the matter with the chairman of the commission, who mentioned this situation. I indicated to him that the Country Party is represented in this Parliament and in the parliaments of the States, where it has been active up to this time. He indicated that this was a decision of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and was not his personal decision. He also indicated that since the commission had made the decision it was unlikely that there would be any alteration to it. I am afraid that I, as Minister in charge of administration of the Broadcasting and Television Act, have no authority whatsoever to interfere with this decision of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I ask: What financial support does the Government propose to give to the World Fight Cancer campaign? Is it a fact that approaches made by the Australian organizer of the campaign, Councillor W. J. Kilpatrick of Melbourne, have been turned down by the Government? If so, why?
– I have no knowledge of the Government’s refusal referred to in the latter part of the honorable member’s question. I shall convey the question to my colleague in another place and see that a proper answer is provided for him. A tremendous amount of work is being done by the Commonwealth and State governments, the medical profession and other interested organizations in the community in the fight against cancer. Quite a lot of information can be provided on that subject.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has seen a report in a publication called “ Newsweek “, on 13th April, that cattlemen fighting beef imports into the United States of America are keeping one argument to themselves - that they had sent agents to Australia to talk with cattle-growers. It is stated that the information which they have received and which they propose to spring on Congress, is that the Australian producers were astonished at the quotas assigned to Australia and would have settled for far less. Is the Minister aware of whether the visit occurred? Will he investigate the reported statement and inform the House of the result?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable member refers. It is true that Australia certainly did the best it could to get the best possible quota, having regard to the attitude of the Americans generally to imports from other countries and to their advocacy in the Kennedy Round for full access for their exports to the European markets. Naturally, Australia will claim the same right for our exports to the United States. It is on that basis that we negotiated our agreement with the United States. We certainly felt that because of the quantities of Australian beef previously supplied to the United States market, we were entitled to the quota. I would say that there is no truth in a sta’ ement that suggests we would have settled for less.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question supplementary to that asked him by the honorable member for Indi. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission has refused to give free television time to the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Country Party to campaign for the Tasmanian House of Assembly election on the ground that the party has no members in the House, will the honorable gentleman ask the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission why the commission is making free television time available to candidates of the Australian Democratic Labour Party when that party also has no members of the House of Assembly?
– I indicated in my reply to the honorable member for Indi that I had said to the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that Australian Country Party members held seats in this Parliament and in State Parliaments where they were active. I did not indicate - and I hope I did not convey the meaning - that necessarily this was the only factor taken into account by the commission. In fact, the chairman indicated to me that the commission has a formula which has not been made public and which it did not even desire to let me have although I am the Minister in charge of the administration of the Broadcasting and Television Act.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, by saying that I understand that the organization undertakes elaborate experiments with and tests of all sorts of drugs, poisons and antidotes. Can the Minister inform me whether fluoride has been tested by the organization to ascertain its benefits and possible harmful effects? If it has, can he tell me where and when the tests were carried out?
– I think it most unlikely that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has undertaken tests of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. Such tests are not within the function of that body, which, as its name suggests, deals with the products of industry, both primary and secondary. Tests of the kind that the honorable member envisages would be more properly carried out by the Department of Health.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is he aware that there are 100,000 mentally-retarded children in Australia requiring medical treatment? Will he give immediate attention to the restoration of the drug Largactil to the free list so that it can be used for the treatment of these unfortunate children?
– A special committee has been established to make recommendations to the Government concerning the inclusion of drugs in, or the removal of drugs from, the list of free medicines provided under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I shall certainly submit the proposal to my colleague in another place and let the honorable member have a reply at an early date.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question. Is he aware that the formula that the Australian Broadcasting Commission purports to use in deciding not to allow any television or radio time to the Australian Country Party in Tasmania is based on the assertion that that party had not the endorsement of significant public support, as evidenced at an immediately preceding election held in Tasmania? Is this the only way of measuring significant public support? Does not the fact that the present membership of the Country Party in Tasmania, which numbers more than 6,000 and is reputedly the largest political party membership in Tasmania, indicate to the commission that the Country Party has far more than a significant measure of public support? Is the Minister aware that the Country Party in Tasmania has endorsed more than twenty candidates for the forthcoming State general election? Is not the Australian Country Party a national political party, its leader being the Deputy Prime Minister? Will the Postmaster-General request the Australian Broadcasting Commission to reconsider its decision and to give the Country Party in Tasmania a fair go?
– I pointed out a little earlier that this Parliament had given complete autonomy to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Taking that factor into consideration, I believe that there would be no justification in my approaching the commission on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Why were complete details of the March unemployment figures made available last Friday to the “ Daily Telegraph “, although hitherto monthly unemployment statistics had been kept strictly secret until the second Monday of each month - the second Monday of this month being last Monday, 13th April - and although, by the custom established by the Department of Labour and National Service, this month’s figures should have been made available first to the evening newspapers on the second Monday of the month?
– It is true that one part of the details of my monthly report on unemployment was made available to the “ Daily Telegraph “, although I do not know how. It was published last Saturday morning. It is true, too, that, as the honorable member has suggested, the full news release would have been made available first to the evening newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. The document was in fact released in the normal way, after having been approved by me in the usual way. I say frankly that I do not know how some of the details came into the possession of the “ Daily Telegraph “.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. To what extent is Australia engaged in the fight against cancer and are its efforts in this field being co-ordinated with similar efforts in other countries?
– A considerable amount of work is being done in this field, as I intimated a moment ago in answer to another question. There is a degree of cooperation at present among the Commonwealth Department of Health and the State Departments of Health, the medical profession and various organizations of a public character which have been set up in all States to carry out the fight against cancer, which is of a very significant nature. In fact, I think over £1,000,000 has already been spent on research of a scientific nature that would assist in the fight. In addition to this, of course, there are many other ways in which encouragement is being given to the medical profession and to other organizations that pursue this fight. However, I think the subject is so complex that I would prefer this question to be placed on notice. I will see that a full reply is supplied.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy and concerns fast inshore patrol boats. Has the Minister read a speech by Mr. Orr-Ewing in the House of Commons on 11th March at the opening of the debate on the Naval Estimates, in which he said that Russia is supplying Indonesia with fast missile-armed patrol boats which have a striking power out of all proportion to that normally carried by vessels of similar types. Will the Minister reconsider his decision not to acquire such patrol boats for Australia? Are vessels of this type suitable for use in Australian waters, especially in our north, where reefs abound?
– The equipping of the Royal Australian Navy with certain types of vessels is a policy matter and the honorable member will be aware of the restrictions that apply to questions relating to policy matters. However, previous questions seeking to ascertain why we have not obtained certain types of boats have been answered. I ask honorable members to bear in mind that the requirements of the Royal Australian Navy for vessels to perform naval functions are slightly different from those of other navies. I have not seen the speech referred to by the honorable member. I will obtain of copy of it and have the officers of my department give me some sort of a precis of it. I will later let the honorable member have this precis.
– I should like to direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. He will recall that a few days ago I asked him about a strike in Victoria at the works of C1G (Victoria) Proprietary Limited, an industrial gases firm. I believe that since I asked my question his department has been helpful in negotiations on this matter. Can the Minister give the House any further information?
– The strike at CIG (Victoria) Proprietary Limited had gone on for such a long time that it seemed probable it would cause severe industrial dislocation in Victoria. I had some discussions with the management of the company and my department also had discussions with the leaders of the Victorian Trades Hall Council. It was agreed yesterday by the council, after discussions with the management, that the men would be instructed to resume work. I am hopeful that, as a result of this instruction, work will have been resumed to-day.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is there a serious shortage of some items of equipment necessary for the installation of automatic telephone systems? If so, what are the items and where are they manufactured? Is the installation of automatic systems being delayed in many country areas for as long as three or four years because of the shortage of equipment? If so, what action is being taken to overcome the delay and when does the Minister expect to overcome it?
– It would be almost impossible for me to indicate when we might overcome the delay in the installation of telephones or automatic exchanges. Installations of new telephones and automatic exchanges are taking place all the time.
Full use is being made of the funds made available to the Post Office by the Parliament. 1 point out to honorable members, and particularly to the honorable member who has raised this matter, that it would be most uneconomic just to scrap old but still very useful material in order to make way for automatic equipment, which admittedly would give better service to the public, at a time when tremendous demands are being made on the Post Office for installations of telephones and exchange equipment. I am sorry that I cannot be optimistic about this problem. Year after year the Post Office increases the number of automatic exchanges in operation and installs many new telephones, but those installations are not keeping pace with the considerable number of new applications.
– Further to the questions asked by the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for New England, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that Alderman Edwards, the State representative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Tasmania, refused the courtesy of an interview to a representative of the Tasmanian Country Party to discuss the inability of the Country Party to obtain broadcasting time for its election campaign in Tasmania. Is the Minister aware that the manager of the A.B.C. has invited the Country Party to send a representative to attend a television survey on the night of the election? No doubt this will be after the Country Party has obtained a number of seats in the House of Assembly. Finally, have the commercial stations recognized the importance of the Country Party in Tasmania and given free time to the party? If the answers to the questions I have posed are in the affirmative, does the Postmaster-General agree that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is engaging in a form of discrimination which is contrary to our democratic rights?
– What is done by the commercial broadcasting stations is purely a matter of their own decision. What is done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a matter for the decision of the commission. It is a matter, not for the officers of the commission, but for the indi vidual members of the commission. Whether Mrs. Edwards was in fact approached about an interview by the Country Party in Tasmania I do not know. I suggest that it may have been more appropriate if the approach had been made to the chairman of the commission. I can add nothing more to what I have already said. This is a matter in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission has autonomy. It alone is responsible for its actions and it alone must answer for those actions.
– I direct a further question to the Postmaster-General. Will the honorable gentleman go through the files of his department relating to the days of the Chifley Government, when, if my memory serves me rightly, the Australian Broadcasting Commission recommended that if the Communist Party fielded candidates in an election it should have free time on the national network? Will the PostmasterGeneral also investigate his files to ascertain whether the Chifley Government did not tell the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the Government would not allow free time on national stations to the Communist Party because it had no members in Parliament? If the Postmaster-General discovers that the Chifley Government did intervene through its responsible Minister and instruct the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to what it should do in the matter of granting time or not granting time to the Communist Party, will he now take action under the same powers and instruct the commission to grant time to the Tasmanian branch of the Country Party so that it may put its case in the Tasmanian elections?
– I am prepared to have a look at the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition, but first I would like to be sure that the act to-day is similar to the act that was in force at the time to which he referred. I will not undertake under any circumstance to take unto myself an authority which this Parliament has given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of explanation, I refer to the decision to establish an alumina smelter at Gladstone, which will be widely welcomed.
However, although the establishment of that industry will be most beneficial to Queensland and Australia as a whole, some problems will be created. Therefore, I ask the Minister: First, will it be necessary for the Queensland Government to provide housing for the extra work force? Secondly, what labour problems are expected, and how might they be solved? Thirdly, where will the Commonwealth Government stand in these matters?
– It was announced yesterday that the company which is to install the alumina factory at Gladstone had decided to increase the capacity of the factory to 600,000 tons per annum. That is but a part of the work that will be undertaken in Gladstone. The other work will include harbour works, the . provision of electric power, the reconstruction of the Gladstone-Moura railway line and many other projects which will lead to extensive development in that area. This work will be done largely by the company itself and the Queensland Government.
In reply to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I understand that, for the alumina factory alone, the Commonwealth Employment Service has to provide men to build up to 250 houses; that for the alumina factory alone the construction work force will be 1,500; and that the alumina factory will require a factory staff of about 600 or 700. My department has the responsibility of attempting to get the men who are needed. The House will see that the number of men needed will develop progressively to 2,000 and that about 700 men will be permanently required at the works. This matter is now in the hands of the Commonwealth Employment Service. 1 hope that we will be able on time to find the number of employees required by the company.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, relates to licensing agreements between Australian manufacturers and the overseas proprietors of patents, special processes, machinery and the like. Did a survey made early last year by the Department of Trade disclose that more than 1,100 such agreements were then operative? Did about 700 such agreements impose restrictive franchises with geographical limits on the export activities of such Australian manufacturers? Will the Minister give full details of the Australian industries so affected and outline what remedial action is proposed?
– I am not conversant with the particulars of the question that the honorable member has raised. I will obtain the relevant information and supply him with an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. From time to time there is a shortage of marine engineers in Australia. We have marine engineers with high credentials issued by foreign countries, but these men are unable to obtain employment on ships sailing under Australian registration, because of restrictions imposed by the Navigation Act. Having regard to the many brilliant men in other professions who have been forced to seek domicile overseas, mainly in the United States of America-
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he is not allowed to give information. I suggest that he now ask his question.
– Will the Minister look into this matter and see whether the Navigation Act can be amended so that, paying due regard to the efficiency of the Australian mercantile marine, these marine engineers will be recognized in Australia and granted a status that will enable them to gain employment within Australia, and thus prevent the loss of very valuable manpower?
– The honorable member has raised a matter which has caused quite a deal of concern to the Commonwealth, not only in respect of marine engineers but also in respect of other professional migrants who have come to this country, such as doctors and lawyers.
It is true that there may be many engineers who have high qualifications in their countries of origin. The great difficulty is to establish what the standards are to-day in those countries, how they compare with Australian standards and what they were at the time when these people qualified, because standards change from time to time. It would be a formidable task for my department to establish the position. The best that I can suggest, as we have suggested to most of the engineers who have claimed to have certain qualifications from their own countries, is that they should sit to take the examinations that are available to them in Australia. If they do not wish to do so, the only other course is for them to take employment as uncertificated engineers in cases where no engineers holding the necessary qualifications are available. I am afraid that I cannot offer the honorable member much hope that we shall agree to recognize the qualifications of engineers from foreign countries.
– Are the Minister for the Interior and his Australian Country Party colleagues now as sure as they were recently that it is more important to control the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the re-distribution processes than it is to control the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– I do not think that that question needs answering.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the complaint made by the honorable member for West Sydney about a month ago, that the air service from Sydney to Lord Howe Island is unreliable and generally most unsatisfactory, been investigated? Will the Minister endeavour to secure a report on this subject and submit it to the House, as the attractive holiday resort of Lord Howe Island appears at present to be under a cloud?
– The question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney was referred to the Minister for Civil Aviation who, I understand, has taken up the matter and has had some discussions with the New South Wales Government. I point out that Lord Howe Island is part of that State. This matter has been under consideration for a considerable time. The difficulty is to provide a land-based aerodrome of sufficient length at Lord Howe Island. I am informed that the cost of providing a runway would be between £900,000 and £1,000,000. Having regard to the very small number of inhabitants on the island, this would seem to be a rather excessive expenditure, although I realize that there are tourist possibilities which might make this expenditure worth while. The Minister for Civil Aviation has informed me that when he has concluded his negotiations with the New South Wales Government he will inform me, the House and the honorable member for West Sydney.
– What about me?
– Yes, you too.
– How many Mirage fighters does the Minister for Air expect to be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force this year? Will he consider stationing a squadron of these fighters permanently at Townsville, seeing that it is more likely that they will be used in operations in tropical areas than around the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne?
– The question of the production and delivery of the Mirage fighters is, of course, in the hands of my colleague the Minister for Supply. He has informed me that he expects to be able to deliver twelve Mirage fighters by the end of this year and from then on to be able to deliver two aircraft a month until the order of 100 is filled. There is a possibility later in the production schedule that the department will be able to deliver three a month. This aspect is being investigated.
Regarding the request to station these aircraft at Townsville, I point out that we have plans at present to set up an operational training and conversion unit at Williamtown, which is the ideal site for this because all the necessary buildings associated with the servicing of the Mirage are in that area, which is also handy to the control and reporting unit. The squadron will be undertaking interceptions in that locality. Eventually the Mirage will replace the Sabre. I presume that when this happens, if we are still stationing aircraft in Malaya, Mirage fighters will replace the Sabres there, but no decision of any kind has yet been made. However, I can assure the honorable r member that the placement of Mirage fighters at Townsville would not be advocated by the Royal Australian Air Force.
– by leave - I should like to inform the House of further details concerning the incident involving a DC-6B aircraft at Melbourne yesterday. I point out that this statement is identical with the statement that is to be made by my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in another place this afternoon, lt might be useful, before giving further details of to-day’s happenings, if I give the House some details about the events of yesterday afternoon.
The airliner was a DC-6B carrying 59 passengers and six crew. It took off from Melbourne Airport at 1.21± p.m. bound for Adelaide. At 1.22i one of the Department of Civil Aviation controllers in the airport control tower, who was following the aircraft’s take-off through binoculars, saw parts of the propeller fall from the aircraft. He immediately instituted a distress phase. This action immediately sets in operation the department’s emergency procedures. Some 30 seconds later the co-pilot radioed the control tower notifying it of trouble in the aircraft’s No. 3 engine, which is the right inner engine. I think honorable members will agree that the tower controller who alerted the department’s emergency procedures so quickly acted with commendable promptitude.
A series of messages between the aircraft and ground control indicated the extent of the damage and the aircraft was cleared to fly out over Port Phillip Bay and hold some fifteen miles south of the airport. The captain decided this was the best course as the aircraft was fully controllable, but at this stage the No. 3 engine was drooping. The pilot captain, Keith Hants, considered that the drooping engine might foul the aircraft’s undercarriage if he attempted an immediate landing. The airport air traffic control centre alerted police who, in accordance with a well-established emergency plan, in turn alerted all necessary civil emergency and medical services. All these organizations responded immediately. Police were sent to block all the major roads leading to the airport and clear paths for emergency vehicles such as ambulances, a medical team, and additional civil fire fighting units which were sent to the airport to assist the department’s fire and rescue service. Air traffic control kept a radio frequency clear to remain in continuous contact with the airliner as it circled over Port Philip Bay.
An immediate conference was held to assess the best way of bringing the aircraft down safely. The possibility of using Avalon or Laverton aerodromes was considered but it was decided that facilities were better at Melbourne Airport. A DC-3 aircraft with specialist engineers on board was sent up to make an external visual inspection of the damage. An R.A.A.F. Canberra flying in the Laverton area also volunteered to make a visual inspection and an R.A.A.F. crash launch was positioned out in the bay. Air traffic control plotted a return course for the airliner to bring it back to the airport along the Maribyrnong River and other lightly populated areas. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was also asked to boost water pressure to the airport to give the maximum supply in case it was needed.
At 2.14 p.m. the aircraft dumped fuel into the bay retaining about 50 minutes endurance. At 2.43 Melbourne Airport was closed to all operations and at 2.44 Captain Hants reported that he had managed to shake off the drooping No. 3 engine and was returning to the airport. At 2.53 he reported that the aircraft’s undercarriage was down and locked with three green lights showing, which must have been a very welcome sight for Captain Hants and his crew. At 2.55 with all emergency services of the Department of Civil Aviation and civil emergency and medical services standing by, Captain Hants and his crew brought their aircraft into a perfect landing. I think every member will agree with me when I say it was a very commendable example of the highest qualities of Australian airmanship.
The department’s civil aviation accident investigation organization commenced its investigation even before the airliner landed. This full-scale investigation is continuing
All the relevant parts of the propellor and those parts of the engine that have been recovered have been taken into custody.
A fix on the position where the engine dropped from the aircraft was established by radar and a departmental aircraft and a Royal Australian Air Force crash launch later located an oil slick, the position of which corresponds with the radar position. This position was marked with a buoy last night and this afternoon a Melbourne Harbour Trust diver is going down to locate the engine and see if it can be salvaged.
Indications are that the initial failure occurred in one propellor blade. After this blade separated, the resulting vibration could be expected to tear away the remainder of the propeller and partially dislodge the engine. Preliminary inspection of the propeller indicates that this was an isolated type of blade failure. However, the blade will be subjected to scientific examination at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories at Fishermen’s Bend. It will be several days before the scientific tests can firmly establish the cause of the blade failure.
This is the first known blade failure in Australia in the long experience of the operation of not only DC-6B aircraft but also in the operation of DC-6 and Convair aircraft, which have the same propeller and engine combination.
The Department of Civil Aviation also knows of no other instance anywhere else in the world where this type of failure has occurred with this type of engine-propeller combination. Because of the isolated nature of the blade failure there is no immediate concern about the airworthiness of DC-6B aircraft.
I present the following paper: -
DC-6B Airliner Incident, Melbourne - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the House take note of the paper. Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The Minister’s invitation to pastoral lessees in the Northern Territory to apply for the conversion of their leasehold titles to freehold title.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– Mr. Speaker, I want to protest at the action of the Government in limiting this debate to two speakers - one from each side of the House - because it is an important matter. Early last week I asked the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) if he had been correctly reported when he said in a public statement that he would sympathetically consider representations from the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association for conversion of present leasehold title to freehold title, on the basis that it would encourage investment in the Northern Territory. This question was asked because I doubted the accuracy of the reported comment. I could not credit that in this day and age any responsible Minister would seek to impose a system of freehold tenure in pastoral areas when other parts of Australia were discarding such a system. The Minister’s admission in reply, that he was correctly reported, shocked me as it did every member of the Opposition, and, I would venture to say, many Government members and Ministers as well.
As I briefly pointed out to the Minister in the question I asked, the reported change would serve no useful purpose and would, in fact, set the Territory back untold numbers of years. It would not result in the added production of one beast. It would not result in the taking up of additional pastoral areas because, in fact, there is none to be taken up. It would not encourage fresh investment because the existing tenure is attractive enough to have brought into the country American capital, and also substantial Chinese capital, in a take-over of Tipperary-Burnside station and Elsey station in the northern part of the Territory. There is still plenty of capital awaiting investment for similar sources for land in the Northern Territory as it becomes available. So the fact is that there is no land available for new investment at the present time and no amount of concessions will conjure any up. Further, the very few blocks of country available - made up in the main of parts of existing areas - have attracted dozens of applicants, so numerous in fact that the court has had to resort to the balloting of applicants. So it cannot be said that land thrown open under existing leasehold conditions does not attract applicants. There is an acute land hunger, both for pastoral and agricultural land.
It is an indisputable fact that the great pastoral industry of Queensland, which has half of Australia’s beef cattle, raises them chiefly under leasehold conditions, and on conditions which are much less attractive than those of the Northern Territory. In the case of Queensland, the tenure is a 30-year one. In the case of Western Australia, the tenure is of 40 years, and in the case of the Northern Territory the tenure is based on 50 years, and, as recent conversions in the Northern Territory indicate, the tenure virtually carries the right of renewal. So that from the point of view of leasehold conditions, those of the Northern Territory are much more attractive than those that are provided by the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia.
There is another title already available in the Northern Territory to pastoralists, and that is one of perpetual leasehold. It is available to family lessees and calls for residential qualifications on an area capable of supporting a herd which would provide a comfortable income to the lessees. A living area varies from one that will support 9,000 head of cattle in the north, where there is a dearth of profitable markets, to one that supports 3,000 head of cattle in the south of the Territory, which has the advantage of rail transport to markets in southern States. Pastoralists have this perpetual leasehold title available to them if they want complete security of tenure. It is a significant fact that only five pastoralists in the whole of the Northern Territory have converted to this title.
The remarkable thing about the Minister’s invitation, is that Liberal governments in the past have never accepted the proposition that a pastoral freehold title is essential to, or even encourages, investment and development. Conservative parties have been in government in this country most of the time since federation, yet until now they have always supported leasehold as against freehold titles for pastoral land in the Northern Territory. It is also well to remark that in covering the period of fourteen years of this Liberal-Country Party Government’s present term of office, no fewer than three Ministers have rejected the proposition of freehold title. The first of these was Sir Philip McBride, who is widely experienced in pastoral affairs, both on the business side and on the production side, having large pastoral interests himself. The second was the Honorable L. Anthony, who before his death was the member for Richmond and a member of the Country Party, and who had extensive farming interests. The third was the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Hasluck), who for a record number of years held the portfolio of Minister for Territories. All of these Ministers were at some time or other under pressure for the granting of this type of title, but as the records show, apparently all approaches of this nature were rejected.
I appreciate that the prospect of a freehold title could be very attractive, and I appreciate that pastoralists in the Northern Territory might want to convert their existing titles to freehold titles. If such a conversion were possible, it might benefit some, as it would boost the values of their properties over-night, but it would not result in the raising of an extra beast, nor would it in any way benefit the country. Its effect would be immediately to inflate land values. It would encourage company investment for taking over small properties at inflated values and, as conditions cannot easily be attached to freehold titles, those companies would be at liberty to work the properties in any manner they deemed fit. The companies would not need to develop the properties to the utmost until they felt that the time was opportune and it was convenient for them to do so. Another inducement to buy at inflated values would be taxation advantages to set off against other operations, and in the long term the effect would be that the Government would have to buy back land at exorbitant prices for any future development of a closer settlement nature upon which it wanted to embark. The Government is at present spending substantial sums of money on research into agricultural and pastoral problems so as to upgrade the productive capacity of the land in the Northern Territory. If freehold titles were granted, this money would be spent not for the benefit of a large number of individual lessees but for the benefit of a few very big pastoral interests. In other words, the taxpayer would foot the bill and the big companies would reap the reward.
Further, the development of atomic power and the discovery of oil and gas deposits could revolutionize the carrying capacity of pastoral land in the north by making possible large-scale irrigation from the rivers in the higher rainfall areas in that part of Australia, the waters of which at present run to waste. In case anybody thinks that this is a pipe dream, let me say that already there have been discovered in central Australia substantial quantities of natural gas, and further development will inevitably increase the supplies available. Here we could have the cheap fuel which is so necessary for primary and secondary industry development.
If the Government is really serious in its attempts to encourage the pastoral industry, it can do so not by disturbing the existing system of leasehold titles but by providing finance for those individuals in the north who are trying to develop their holdings on a shockingly under-capitalized basis. The Government could give instructions to the Development Bank to provide finance wherever it is required for pastoral development. I appreciate that already some individuals have been given this assistance, but all too many cannot meet banking requirements in this regard. By underwriting the losses of the bank, the Commonwealth could stimulate development much faster than could be done under orthodox methods of bank finance, and certainly much more effectively than under the method it intends to adopt. Although this method of attack would inevitably cost the Commonwealth Government some money, it would be far cheaper than having to expend hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions of pounds to resume freehold land at inflated values when eventually that land was required for developmental purposes. The only attempt that this Government has made by legislation to provide finance for pastoralists is the abortive attempt of 1954. So effective was that piece of legislation, known as the Northern Territory Lessee Loans Guarantee Act, that in its ten years of existence I do not think one loan has been issued under its provisions.
Another step of a positive nature that the Government can take is to assist with transport and transport charges. It can build all-weather sealed roads into areas that are now without access facilities. Such roads, of course, will allow the movement of stock in fat condition, in contrast to having to travel them out on the hoof, selling them at store stock rates. Store stock rates would be some 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, below the fat rate. The same consideration applies to railway construction and the standardization of existing lines. The Government at this very moment is creating, or has already created, a committee to inquire into the effect that freight rates are having on development.
Would not all, or nearly all, the problems be solved if freights and fares were made comparable, or nearly so, with those of the southern States? Freight adjustments could be made on developmental materials, such as fencing materials, water equipment, building supplies and foodstuffs. In that way, a dramatic change in the economy of individual pastoralists could be brought about over-night. If the Government made long-term development loans available under special conditions, and not under the conditions which banks to-day treat as normal, the shackles that are strangling development would be swept aside. Let the Government then set out on developing our markets, both internally and externally. What has it really done about finding and consolidating markets in Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China?
If these points were acted upon, the economy of the industry would receive such a boost that it would be sent rocketing forward without the need for tenure changes. The Minister cannot dodge the fact that in his statement he has in fact invited the pastoralists of northern Australia, who in the main comprise large company interests, to submit proposals for a freehold pastoral title. Remember, the Minister has not just invited the pastoralists to put up suggestions for his consideration; he has, to quote his own words, assured them that he will “ favourably consider any proposals that they might care to make “. He has in fact given them the green light on freehold titles, and honorable members can rest assured that they will go for the maximum. They would be indeed foolish if they did not accept the Minister’s invitation. He might now seek to qualify that statement by explaining that he does not intend to tie up large areas of the country, but that would be so much eye wash because the Minister knows that at the present time pastoral activities in the Northern Territory must be conducted on a larger scale than may be necessary in the more highly developed States. Even to suggest freehold titles for a restricted area, but one that would allow the industry to operate profitably, would require the tying up of more than 100,000 square miles of land.
My party has given its blessings to freehold titles to agricultural and town land in the Northern Territory, because it realizes that a case can be made out for individuals who wish to acquire land upon which to build homes - or to acquire agricultural blocks so as to provide a means of livelihood for themselves and their families. Areas tied up under those conditions are comparatively small in the aggregate, but to tie up large pastoral areas under conditions of freehold title is a proposition which my party emphatically rejects. The history of this industry throughout Australia is such that it is inevitable that, with the march of development, large pastoral holdings will be broken up and become the closer settled areas of a prosperous community. The action that the Minister proposes to adopt reverses this historic trend.
Finally, I ask the House not to accept my word for the views that I put forward, but to read the comments of Mr. J. H. Kelly, who is now a rural industry consultant but who was the top pastoral adviser of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. His views are recorded at page 75 of the printed minutes of the Public Works Committee inquiry into the proposed Wave HillTop Springs beef road in the Northern Territory. His attitude to the development of the areas which large companies now wish to turn into freehold areas is given in that report. I commend the report to honorable members.
The positive way to bring about the stated objective of the Minister, which is to place the pastoral industry on a prosperous basis, is to find development capital for the under-capitalized settlers of the north and to provide markets for their production and means of access to those markets. If the Minister tackles the problem of pastoral development in this way he will make a positive contribution to northern development. If he continues on the course that he has set out upon, I warn the honorable gentleman that his action will have the opposite effect and that untold damage to the development of the north will result.
. He based his speech on the completely false notion that I had invited leaseholders to convert their holdings to freehold titles. That is completely false. For another thing, I have not the power to do that. All I have done is to state to a deputation that I would consider its request for freehold tenure.
– -That is what it amounts to. I will consider the requests because I have the responsibility to consider what is said by representative bodies. If that body can put to me a reasonable case for this sort of thing, it. will be placed before Cabinet, because obviously it will require a decision of Cabinet. It is a matter of government policy and, therefore, there would be no purpose in my pursuing this debate. Obviously, it concerns a matter that has not been decided and on which government policy has yet to be considered. It seems to me that to pursue the debate, as the honorable member has suggested, would be as rewarding as chasing a mirage to get a drink of water. I therefore move -
That business of the day be called on. [A division having been called for, and the bells being rung] -
– Mr. Speaker, as the result of this division is so important to the people of the Northern Territory, may I be permitted to vote?
– The answer is, “ No “.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.) Ayes . . . . . . 64
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 914), on motion by Mr. Freeth - That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before us is an interesting one and in many ways it is an important one. Under the Commonwealth Constitution this Parliament is empowered to legislate with respect to weights and measures. So far it has taken very little action. The first legislative action that was taken under Commonwealth powers was for the establishment of what is now the principal act, which the bill before the House seeks to amend. The Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 and the regulations made under it established a system of weights and measures under which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, through its National Standards Laboratory, almost alone, has been concerned with national standards. That has been the full extent of Commonwealth action up to now.
The need for uniformity in this and so many other fields is becoming apparent. Especially in the measurement, of electric power, viscosity, temperature and other things, there is need for uniformity, and recognition of that need has come about. So far, weights and measures have been largely a matter for activity by the States through the State departments concerned. In 1962, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held and, as a result, this bill has emerged. We are told that one of the problems referred to the ministerial conference was that of obtaining Australiawide uniformity in respect of appliances such as scales in grocers’ shops and petrol pumps. Compliance with requirements has so far been a matter for each State acting independently and there have been differences of some importance between States. As a result of the ministerial conference, Ministers requested the Commonwealth to establish a central body to fix standards for measuring instruments of the kind that I have just mentioned which are used in trade. The conference suggested that the National Standards Commission and not the National Standards Laboratory of the C.S.I.R.O., which had discharged the function previously, be given responsibility for this activity. This will be the most substantial result of the enactment of this measure.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), in his second-reading speech, touched fairly lightly on the fact that the National Standards Commission is now to become quite a substantial body, in contrast to its previous standing. The net effect of this bill will be to give the commission a budget, staff and powers for the job and, for the first time, we shall have a special Commonwealth body laying down standards and applying them.
One would have thought that when an amendment of this kind to the principal act was b:ing considered, attention would have been given to the adoption of a metric system. Apparently, it is considered desirable for the Commonwealth to establish a system of decimal coinage, and arrangements are being made for the introduction of such a system. I should think that all the arguments in favour of decimal coinage apply also to weights and measures, and that conversion to a metric system would have been considered. The lack of initiative somewhere, resulting in failure to consider such a proposal, cannot pass without notice. The main purpose of the enactment of this amending bill is the recognition and application of uniform standards in weights and measures. I should have thought that the consideration of such a matter would have brought to the attention of the Government the need to promote uniformity by basing weights and measures as well as coinage on a decimal or metric system. I should like to know whether the Government and the State departments concerned have considered the matter.
If a metric system of weights were adopted, we could perhaps choose a system giving us 10 ounces to 1 lb., 10 lb. to 1 quarter, 10 quarters to 1 cwt. and 10 cwts. to 1 ton. We could adopt a system of lineal measurement giving us 10 in. to 1 ft., 10 ft. to I yard, 10 yards to 1 chain and 10 chains to 1 mile. On the other hand, we might have to depart altogether from that kind of scale and adopt the kind of metric scale that has been adopted in Europe. At any rate, the question is important and we would have expected the Government to have considered these matters.
The bill provides in the usual way for the appointment of staff to the National Standards Commission. Provision is made, as in other Commonwealth legislation, concerning permanent and temporary employees in the Public Service. I believe that I would be wrong and that the House would be wrong if legislation of this kind were let pass, since provision is made relating to temporary employees of the Public Service, without it being said that something should be done in relation to such employees. We have, in the Public Service temporary employees who have been temporary for ten, fifteen or as long as twenty years in some instances. They have demonstrated their capacity to do the jobs for which they were appointed. I believe that we have a right to expect that, sooner or later - sooner. I should think - the Government will take action to make temporary employees permanent employees if they have been employed in a temporary capacity for more than a specified period. I do not suggest that the necessary kind of provision should appear for the first time in a measure such as this, which relates only to the National Standards Commission - a body that is a very small part of a Commonwealth department. But I would not allow a bill such as this to pass without saying that I believe that the Government must soon consider the position of temporary employees in the Public Service who have demonstrated their ability, over a sufficiently long period, to perform the functions of the jobs to which they have been appointed. After a specified period in a temporary capacity - perhaps five years - they could be allowed to become permanent employees of the Public Service.
I welcome the presentation to the House of a bill of this kind. The Australian Labour Party stands for uniformity of standards throughout Australia. We are not State-righters in respect to standards or measures, or in fact anything. We believe that the Commonwealth should have the initiative in matters of this kind and that uniformity is most necessary and desirable in weights and measures as it is in quite a number of other matters. It will be only in the conditions of uniformity that individual differences of region, personality and characteristic can work themselves out. To-day the opportunities that exist in different parts of Australia are considerably limited by the fact that some States have very seriously lagged behind others in some important respects. We therefore welcome the amendment of the Weights and
Measures (National Standards) Act of 1960 as an example of the development of the type of uniformity that is very necessary to the Commonwealth of Australia. The Opposition supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. In committee: The bill.
– I refer to proposed new section 19a (3.) which reads as follows: -
The Commission, the department of Stale of the Commonwealth, the body corporate so established or other person acting on behalf of the Commonwealth (as the case may be), may charge such fees as the Commission determines, having regard to the work and labour necessary, in respect of the examination and certification of patterns of instruments.
I move -
Omit “ Commonwealth “, second occurring, insert “ Commission “.
This is to correct a misprint which was picked up after the bill came down from the Senate.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19th March (vide page 665), on motion by Mr. Fairhall -
That the bills be now read a second time.
.- Yesterday we disposed of the first Customs Tariff Bill. During the second reading debate on that bill I made some comments which provoked replies. I would like to take the opportunity now to deal with the replies. I intend to confine myself to the principles of tariff making and the tariff system as we know it. I understand that I will be able to debate individual items during the committee stage.
The two significant replies made to me on the first Customs Tariff Bill came from the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) and Mr. Anderson, the Federal Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. These mild and courteous criticisms should be looked at with some care. Mr. Anderson felt that the Tariff Board had indeed been using for many years the “ economic and efficient” measuring stick which I had pressed for in my speech. He said that there is no sign yet of this policy being abandoned. It is my concern that this position shall continue. There are signs, and rather ominous signs, that this principle is being departed from. It has always been the Government’s policy and the Tariff Board has always used this measuring stick. The statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) - I have mentioned this so many times it is hardly fitting to mention it again - that the Tariff Board is expected to keep within its sights policy statements made from time to time by Cabinet Ministers to me means only one thing and that is that the Tariff Board is expected to change to other policies if the Government issues instructions or statements to that effect. If it does not mean that, I do not know what it does mean.. No one has told me clearly that I am wrong in this.
When we reach the committee stage and deal with man-made fibre piece goods, I will spell out with painful exactitude the reasons why I feel this concern. I think that if this principle is departed from we will strike right at the basis of our protective system. My whole concern in this exercise is that the Tariff Board should have freedom to make an economic assessment as to the economy and efficiency of an industry and to do this free from political considerations. When we come to manmade fibres, I will give rather a grim example of the necessity for so doing.
There is another point of principle that should be mentioned here. It was mentioned in the March issue of the periodical put out by the Associated Chambers of Commerce. When the
Minister refers an industry to the Tariff Board, the reference usually runs like this -
The Minister for Trade has referred the following question to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report - whether assistance should be accorded to production in Australia of copper and brass strip- or some other material - and. if so found, the nature and extent of such assistance.
There have been two cases recently in which there has been a significant difference in the way the matter has been referred to the board. One was the case of industrial chemicals and synthetic resins and the other was the case of automotive spare parts. I think a clear statement of policy from the Government is warranted. In the case of industrial chemicals and synthetic resins, the reference runs like this - 1, John McEwen, Minister of Slate for Trade, in pursuance of the powers conferred upon me by the Tariff Board Act 1921-1962, do hereby refer to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, in accordance with Section 15 of the aforesaid Act, the following questions in relation to the economic and efficient production in Australia of industrial chemicals and synthetic resins in competition with imported products: -
In the interests of achieving -
I will give only the salient facts of the reference -
A careful study of the references wiil reveal two very important changes. First, the Government has obviously decided that the chemical industry is to be protected and the Tariff Board is to devote itself to the question of how much protection should be given and in what form. The board is not asked to decide whether the industry is worthy of protection - whether it is economic or efficient. That decision has been made by the Government, not by the board. This is a serious departure in principle and should be recognized as such.
The second important alteration is that the Tariff Board is told to look at the industry in the interest of achieving four basic aims, to which I have already referred, although to some extent I summarized them. But no mention is made of the impact on the consumer of the chemicals. For instance, weedicides and pesticides, which we discussed yesterday, are an important product of the Australian chemical in -. yet the board is not asked to examine the effect of protection on the agricultural industry, which uses so much of these products. The decision has obviously been made that pro*,tection should be granted regardless of its effect on industries using the products. I have always recognized that the chemical industry should be looked at as a whole. I am pleased to see that this is to be done, but what I am unhappy about is the way it is to be done. The same comments could be made about the automotive spare parts and components reference, which is couched in the same terms, but in this case the Minister for Trade and Industry, in a statement in the House on 5th March last, made it clear that the Government was determined to foster the automotive parts industry whatever the cost to the consumer, whether it be excessive or not.
These matters may not seem important to many people but they seem important to me and they seem to be grave issues of policy. On our side of politics we have always prided ourselves on the fact that we are a free enterprise government, and that decisions whether to risk capital in an industry were made by the industry and not by the government. We have always believed also that the decision as to whether an industry should be protected is for the Tariff Board to make, unless questions of defence make establishment of the industry obligatory. It may be that defence considerations are important in this case, but if they were they should have been stated as such. To use the Tariff Board system in this way is to make a very grave departure from established practice and principle and surely demands from the Government a clear statement as to what it really means.
It is not fair to the Parliament, the Tariff Board or industries concerned, and certainly not fair to the exporting sector of the economy, which eventually will have to pay for the unduly high protection, if it is granted, not to make a statement of some kind. The country, and the Parliament in particular, are entitled to a statement as to what new principles are being invoked in these two references. I am not at this stage being critical of them. I am fearful of them but I have not examined them yet with sufficient care to be critical of them. However, I say that at this stage some clear definitions of Government policy should be given.
The second courteous criticism of Mr. Anderson, federal director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia - all of his criticisms were courteous - is that I have exaggerated the effect of the Special Advisory Authority system. In a letter circulated to all honorable members he said -
Mr. Kelly has overlooked that both the responsible Minister and his officers and the Special Advisory Authority have always stoutly maintained that the emergency tariff system will noi’ be used as an appeal against unfavourable Tariff Board decisions.
He said also that I do not cite cases to support my contention that this is happening. It is true that I did not cite cases on the last occasion. The reason for that is that I was afraid of wearying the House, because in the last eighteen months I seem to have done little else but cite such cases. But I am now unable to resist Mr. Anderson’s invitation and I invite him to study the grim examples of what I have in mind. 1 refer him to the cases of manmade fibre piece goods, furnishing fabrics, P.V.C. resins, rubber belting fabric, polyethylene, plastic-coated fibre yarn, terylenenylon yarn, conveyor belting, ceramic tiles and air-cooled petrol engines. I could go further, but I think those are sufficient examples.
If Mr. Anderson or any other person thinks that the present shuttle service between the board and the Special Advisory Authority does not affect the morale and the status of the board, he is wrong. Put yourself in the board’s place. Take the case of man-made fibres. The board reports in 1958 and again in 1960. The matter is referred to the Special Advisory Authority in June and September of 1960, then goes back to the board for report in 1962. The matter goes to the Special
Advisory Authority in 1963 and now goes back to the board again. Imagine yourself as a member of the Tariff Board dealing with the case this time. Would you not feel that it was hopeless to make a clear economic assessment as to the economy and efficiency of the industry, knowing all the while that as soon as this was done the matter would be referred once more to the Special Advisory Authority and the whole case would have to be heard yet again by the board? Do you not think that this kind of action would affect your thinking? Does not this kind of process reduce the status of the board and reduce the board to a mockery of the independent authority that it used to be?
The third mild criticism by Mr. Anderson concerned the impact of our present protective policy on our international obligations. Mr. Anderson made the point that because we are members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and because we have encouraged overseas interests to give evidence to the Tariff Board, our hands are clean. It is true that some nations behave even worse than we do, but that is hardly an argument to excuse our actions. After all, we have more at stake than most nations - for two reasons. First, we are a country that lives by exporting. Almost all of our exports are primary products and the percentage of primary products in our exports continues to increase. Any unwise action on our part that prevents the importation of manufactured goods from other countries and so invites retaliatory action against us by others is a most serious matter, not only for the primary industries concerned but chiefly for the whole economy. We have more at risk than most countries so we should be more than usually careful.
We have more at risk than other countries in another way. We live on the edge of Asia. The gaps between our standard of living and those of our neighbours continue to widen. We have also learnt that we cannot close those gaps by aid alone. We know that trade is more important than aid. We pay lip service to this principle, yet we put barriers in the way of other countries trading with us. For the sake of our survival we must take another look at a policy that aggravates a position already perilous.
There is one particular appeal 1 want to make to Mr. Anderson as federal director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. One of the refreshing aspects of my lonely crusade for a more clear-eyed approach to our policy of protection is the encouragement that 1 have received from many manufacturing industries which have found that their raw materials are made more expensive by high duties at the base of production processes. I can quickly call to mind many such examples. There are the garment manufacturers who complain about the increased cost of cotton textiles, the processor of P.V.C. who finds that P.V.C. granules are getting too dear and the machinery manufacturer who finds that the small engine attached to his machine is too dear. The man who makes synthetic rubber car mats cannot afford to pay very much for his raw synthetic rubber. Even our old friend, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, which has been most assiduous in asking for protection, has found itself disadvantaged by the proposed increases in duties on cotton textiles. So it is clear that the argument for increased protection is not as one-sided as the Associated Chambers of Manufactures would have us believe, if we listen to its official pronouncements. If its official pronouncements were to give recognition to the adverse effect of high tariffs on second.dary industry as well as to their beneficial effects, its submissions would carry even more weight and command even more public respect than they do now.
I turn for a minute to the reply made to me by the Minister for Supply. First, I pay a tribute to his unfailing courtesy and mildness, often under severe provocation - mainly from me, I suppose. I am almost excited to hear that the Government intends to take up a suggestion made by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), which I thought was a very sensible one. The Government is considering some way of helping us to digest the spate of Tariff Board reports that continually are being placed before us. No one knows better than I the intolerable boredom and the back-breaking work that are necessary if one is to digest the reports. But they have to be digested if our democratic processes are to succeed and we are not to bow down to bureaucracy. This work has to be done. Anything that the Government can do to help us to do the work will certainly be gratefully accepted by me.
If we cannot have a standing commitee on this subject, although I would like to see one appointed, perhaps a departmental summary, setting out in brief the effect of the action proposed, could accompany each Tariff Board report. A summary of each report would be a start. I understand that departmental summaries accompany all Tariff Board reports when they go before Cabinet for consideration. It may be that we cannot expect to receive a statement of that kind, but a statement of some kind would help us to get a clearer picture and to do our job as members of this Parliament.
The Minister for Supply mentioned the necessity for Australian industry to have a large share of a market in order to gain from economies of scale. That is economic sense. That is the excuse or reason that is always advanced. Sometimes it is fundamentally a good reason. But when duties are unnecessarily high - as they arc sometimes - they encourage other companies to enter the field, and then there is an unnecessarily large number of companies or an extra amount of plant for which the Australian market cannot find an economic use. So the matter is not as simple as it sounds. I know that the Minister realizes that. Although it is true that in some cases the problem can be solved by having economies of scale, that procedure leads to the tendency for other companies to enter the field and double the capacity. That is not economic sense in regard to the distribution of the resources of Australian industries throughout the community.
The Minister also stated that in some situations we must make a deliberate choice to encourage a secondary industry by tariffs, even if that costs Australia something. That is sensible. That is something that we have always done. We make a deliberate choice to add costs to the community because we believe that it is worth while to encourage secondary industry. But someone has to draw the line somewhere. I do not think that decision can be left to members of the Parliament. Drawing that line is a skilled operation. This is where my belief in the independence of the Tariff
Board is important. If the board has to make a decision, it should make that decision free of political considerations. The Minister, as the political head, is quite free to disagree or agree with the board’s report, and he should state his reasons if he disagrees.
In the committee stage of this debate I will make a plea for the consumers’ associations to have an opportunity to put their point of view as consumers at Tariff Board hearings. At this stage I want to press very strongly indeed for better representations to be made at Tariff Board hearings by the primary industry groups. I realize that it is not easy for them to do that in their present state of disunity, lt may be that they make their representations to the best of their ability, as they are now constituted. I believe that one of the chief functions of a unified primary industry group would be to give effective evidence at Tariff Board hearings. Speaking for myself - perhaps my opinion may be a biased one - I would welcome the help of a thinking, hard-working primary industry secretariat, which would help to prepare cases for presentation to the Tariff Board and help primary industries to make their cases generally known in this Parliament. In my opinion, at present our primary industries are greatly in need of such a unified organization for many reasons, including being able to speak with a unified voice at wage hearings. I believe that such an organization would have a very fruitful field of work.
I wish to make one complaint in conclusion. To me it always seems wrong that customs tariff bills are introduced in this chamber by the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. I have no objection at all to the Minister for Supply, who represents the Minister for Customs and Excise in this chamber. The changes in the schedules are based on Tariff Board reports. The Minister for Trade and Industry asks for those reports and they are made to him. It is true that the Department of Customs and Excise is charged with the duty of implementing the decisions made on those reports. I also admit that that department is not above twisting policies, as I will show later. But the fact remains that the policy under which the Government works is chiefly the responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 believe that we would have more effective tariff debates if he could be present. I do not expect him to be any more polite and considerate than the Minister for Supply is. I am not objecting to that Minister’s handling of tariff debates. I believe that an important point of principle arises here. In my opinion, it would lead to a clearer understanding of the situation if the Minister for Trade and Industry introduced his own legislation into this House.
.- As usual, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has raised a number of interesting points in relation to tariff matters. Perhaps I can begin by treating his last point with some levity. 1 thought the honorable member for Wakefield might prefer the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise to handle these bills rather than the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) in view of what has happened on other occasions. Seriously, however, 1 believe that it is far more logical for the Minister for Trade and Industry to handle these maters. On behalf of the Opposition, I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wakefield, namely, that the handling of customs tariff bills is quite clearly a job that the Department of Trade and Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry should be doing, because of their close association with the Tariff Board.
Having the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise; - or the Minister for Customs and Excise, if he were in this chamber - doing this job is just an historical anachronism. Until a few years ago he was the only Minister who could have handled this, because he was the only Minister whose ministerial responsibilities were at all relevant to it. But Australia has made great changes since then. We now have a Minister for Trade and Industry, and the Department of Trade is far more important than the Department of Customs and Excise. I think it is time that this matter was handled in this House by the Minister for Trade and Industry.
The point that emerges very frequently in discussions of tariffs - the independence of the Tariff Board - has more theoretical than practical importance. When I hear honorable members speaking about the necessity for the independence of the Tariff Board I believe they have in mind a very theoretical kind of proposition. I think that neither to-day nor at any time could the Tariff Board operate completely in isolation from government policy. The honorable member for Wakefield does not suggest that it should. He recognizes that in certain respects the Tariff Board must be made clearly aware of government policy.
Frequently, criticisms could be made more justly on the ground that the Government has not made the board clearly aware of its policy. At least, it has not publicly made the board aware of its policy. If the Government wants the board to bear government policy in mind - and of course it must want the board to bear in mind government policy in many respects - I point out that it is now leaving the board either to discover that policy in private discussions or by drawing inferences from other statements.
The Opposition does not consider that it would be right to attempt to separate the Tariff Board completely from the Government. We believe that the Tariff Board must necessarily bear government policy in mind. The board is not only a group of people, attempting, in some technical kind of way, to discover the facts or the supposed facts relating to a particular industry; it is also a body which makes decisions affecting the development of Australia and the line of development of Australia, the kinds of industries that we shall have, and the interrelation of industries.
I claim that the Tariff Board, is, in fact, making those decisions, because, in present circumstances, in 99 cases out of 100 this Parliament accepts what comes to it by way of recommendation from the board. We do that because, as the honorable member for Wakefield has pointed out, and as we all recognize, we ourselves are not able to examine sufficiently clearly the details of the industrial situations reported by the board to enable us to form an independent judgment. That is why I suggested some weeks ago that some skilled service should be available to honorable members on both sides of the House so that we would be better informed on matters relating to legislation that have been considered by the board and which are then before us.
Even if that system were working effectively, the board would still be left to make decisions which, in effect, are closely related to government policy and will remain so. It is unrealistic to think that the board will be left in some sheltered sphere of independence. When a Minister endeavours to have his own way with the board by referring matters back to it again and again, that is something that can rightly be questioned. I do not see why the desired result cannot be obtained by a simple statement of what the Government wants. In recent years the fault has been in an unwillingness on the Government’s part to make a frank statement or an admission that it wants a particular result, and an unwillingness to recognize that this procedure is necessary and proper. Instead, the roundabout method of referring matters back to the board seems to have been adopted.
Another very important matter that has to be considered by the House is the evidence submitted to a board of inquiry. When all is said and done, what happens at an inquiry has a very large bearing upon the decisions made by the board and, eventually, those made by the Parliament. If we can be satisfied that the conflicting interests affected by a decision on whether protection is to be granted to an industry or to part of an industry may be present and give evidence at the board’s inquiries, this at least will be one important safeguard. To date, one of the deficiencies of the situation is that this has not always been effective, even in the few matters that are before us to-day.
Looking through the reports it appears that no evidence was submitted by any one in opposition to the case made for protection for glycerine and fatty acids. I have noticed recently that, significantly, this seems to be the position with the chemical industry. The evidence submitted in a number of cases appears to be more than a little onesided. This seems to have been the case with bisphenol A and epoxy resins, and with ceramic flooring and wall tiles. I do not think a strong case against the application was presented in those instances.
It would be an important and interesting exercise to discover why in some cases almost no negative case has been presented to the board whereas in others a very effective negative case has been presented. At any rate, whatever we discovered, it would’ be common sense for this Parliament to encourage the presentation of a negative case. From time to time we encourage the applicant’s presentation, but on the whole the applicant does not need much encouragement, because he recognizes his economic interest in relation to the competition that his own industry or section of industry is encountering, and he is able to see realistically that it would be clearly in his own interest to muster a case and take it to the Tariff Board. But this is not always the position in the case of people who are adversely affected by the tariff, particularly the consumers.
Sooner or later this Parliament must consider another development in this sphere. Not only should we wish to see the consumers of this country represented at tariff inquiries by, say, an official of consumers’ associations, but we should as well be ready to subsidize such associations to help them present a case. Of all the people in Australia the members of those associations are probably most vitally affected by tariffs. They are affected not only as workers but also as consumers. Sometimes it would be difficult to work out whether a person was affected more as a worker than as a producer. In conditions of full employment and alternative available employment, it would be difficult to decide whether the benefit a person receives from getting a job in a particular place as a result of the imposition of a certain tariff outweighed the disadvantage of having to meet increased costs, as a consumer, resulting from that tariff. I think, therefore, that we should be prepared to subsidize consumer associations in the presentation of their cases before the Tariff Board.
It is strange that the primary industry groups have not been more active in this field. The greater part of what these groups do in this regard seems to be confined to words printed or spoken. Not often do they go to the trouble of formally and properly presenting their cases at Tariff Board inquiries. Perhaps, here again, some assistance and encouragement on the part of the Government might be necessary.
Tariff-making in this country has now reached the stage where it is almost completely bogged down by detail. We must realize that we are now not in the nineteenth century or the early part of the twentieth century. We are living in a very complicated economy, in which the Tariff Board, and the people working in association with it, have a very complicated and difficult job to do. We must recognize that we cannot go much further with methods and techniques which were established in the main quite a number of years ago. The whole job of tariff-making has to be modernized. We have to recognize the importance of pressure and conflicting pressures, and representations and conflicting representations. The Tariff Board is not nearly alive enough. I do not know what happens at its hearings, and whether they are as dead as the reception of the results of those hearings in this Parliament, but if they are we can only regard the situation with considerable foreboding. The subject is so difficult and so complicated that we cannot expect representatives in this House to show any keenness or enthusiasm about any but a few cases in which they might be particularly interested.
I would conclude at this stage on the point that I have been making in recent weeks, that we need to keep a very close scrutiny on what we are doing regarding Tariff Board matters. The point does not involve a submission that protection is an unsound or bad system. It simply means that protection or some form of assistance is necessary for the development of Australian industry. We agree with that proposition, but having agreed with it, we should be prepared to scrutinize what is done regarding tariffs and we should be prepared to modernize the techniques by means of which tariffs are introduced into the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– This is rather an unusual procedure because normally, when these bills reach the committee stage, various items to be discussed are in the form of schedules to the bill. Because these bills have a number of customs proposals that were validated prior to the present sessional period of Parliament, the items appear in this bill in only one schedule. This, of course, would normally prohibit honorable members from dealing individually with items with which they might be particularly interested. I have looked at the procedure to see how this matter might be dealt with. There has been circulated through the chamber a reneoed list of items to the schedule prepared by the Department of Supply, showing the main tariff items involved in the changes.
I suggest it might suit the convenience of the committee if the schedules to the bill were dealt with by calling on the items in the order shown in that list and designated by the appropriate tariff item which appears in the column on the right. When the items on the list have been dealt with, 1 suggest that the remainder of the schedule might be put to the committee to allow debate, if necessary, on the balance of the items in the schedule which cover changes of an administrative nature, or are complementary to changes in the main tariff items set out in the reneoed list. After we have disposed of these items themselves there are some consequential amendments which are concerned with part of the tariff, and these amendments might be dealt with in the manner I have suggested.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1964
Items 43(a)(1), 51(c), 94, 118 and 175 (c) agreed to.
Item 175 (f) (Portable Electric Hand Tools).
.- There is just one point I desire to make in connexion with portable electric hand tools and other portable electric tools. We have some very efficient production of these tools in Australia, and there is a provision somewhere in the legislation that imported tools should be labelled with the name of the country of origin. This is for the purpose of allowing the purchaser of the tools to have a chance of seeing for himself where the particular item has, in fact, been produced, because very often there are similar tools at the same price. This labelling allows him to give a preference to the Australian product, if he so desires. The way it works out in practice is that the requirement of the relevant act is met if the electric tool in question is labelled on the package. But the electric tool can be taken out of the package, the package can be thrown away and the tool put on view for the customer who then has no idea where the item was made. This seems to defeat completely the purpose of the legislation. This matter ought to be considered not, of course, when the tariff is being imposed, but in some other context. I make that submission at this stage so that members on the Government side, when the matter is brought to their notice in the future, may give it further attention.
Item agreed to.
Items 176(c)(1), 180(h), 181 (b)(5). 181(e) and (l), 211, 232 (e)(4), 240 (a)(1) and 264 (c) agreed to.
Item 280 (h) (Phthalic Anhydride).
.- The way we are getting through these items is almost too good to be true, but from the look of my list I do not think it will last much longer. The report on which the phthalic anhydride duty is based is particularly interesting. The Tariff Board in its report which came out in May of last year, recommended a duty of 6id. per lb. on phthalic anhydride. There are two manufacturers of phthalic anhydride. One is Newcastle Chemical Company Proprietary Limited, which is jointly owned by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the other is Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated (Australia) Proprietary Limited. Both manufacturers use naphthalene to make phthalic anhydride. The Newcastle Chemical Company gets its naphthalene from its joint owner, B.H.P., and goodness only knows on what basis it is charged for the product.
Naphthalene is essentially a by-product of the steel-making process. It is interesting to find that in all other industrial countries which produce naphthalene - obviously it would not be produced in a non-industrial country - the price is related directly to the price that can be got for phthalic anhydride, and if the price of phthalic anhydride falls, the price of the by-product from which it is made also falls. But that is not so in Australia. The price of naphthalene in Australia is kept up, and this necessitates keeping up the price of phthalic anhydride. That imposes a grievous burden on those who use phthalic anhydride in the manufacture of paints, plasticizers or plastics. One would have thought that a combination of B.H.P. and I.C.I, would have been able to afford a lower price for naphthalene, which is a by-product of steel making. Reichhold brings in most of its naphthalene duty-free from overseas, although in some cases it gets some of its requirements from Union Carbide Australia Limited. It is also interesting to see that Reichhold sells practically no phthalic anhydride at all but uses it in various processes on which the company receives protection further down the line.
The Tariff Board has assessed that the industry needs a duty of 6id. per lb., with the proviso that if the overseas price falls below 12id. per lb. the duty should be increased by id. per lb. for each id. by which the overseas price is less than 12id. per lb. You might ask what that means or why I am worried about this matter. As I have already said, phthalic anhydride is an important ingredient in the manufacture of paint, plasticizers and plastics, and an increase in the cost of phthalic anhydride increases the production costs of many other materials. In a recent customs tariff debate we passed emergency duties for the phthalic plasticizer industry, which found that iis costs had increased because of the high cost of phthalic anhydride. Users of phthalic esters, in their turn, will feel the screw tightening. This is not merely my opinion. Evidence was given at the Tariff Board inquiry on behalf of Moulded Products (N.S.W.) Proprietary Limited, a firm which uses phthalic anhydride. In the course of that evidence it was stated -
Under normal circumstances it could perhaps bc assumed that we could secure our future by tariff protection, following the course which the Australian suppliers of the raw material phthalic anhydride have done.
Unfortunately this would not be easy because of classification difficulties, but even if this increased protection was possible the industries to whom we supply component parts would then be faced with the necessity to have their protection increased.
The position is further complicated by the fact that we use a number of basic raw materials and changes in the tariff structure of every one of these affects competitive position with imports.
The evidence continued -
For every tariff revision on each of our raw materials we should be requesting additional protection for our thousands of products.
Those are not my comments, but unsupported, I have been making similar com ments in this chamber for some time. I have said that the additional cost is passed down to other secondary industries, which, in many cases, find them hard to bear. Moulded Products was finding that the shoe pinched. This is the kind of thing that I have continually asked this Parliament to bear in mind.
There is another important point which is hidden away in this report. The justification for the higher duties is that these will give most of the market to the Australian producer, so that he will receive the benefits of economies of scale and a better distribution of overhead costs. This is the kind of statement that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who is now at the table, made in reply to me in the secondreading debate. That is a sensible argument if in fact the procedure works, but in many cases it does not work at all. In this instance we have two companies doing what could be done by one. One company is using a very diversified plant with very small individual units, and the other company is receiving protection on a product which it does not sell. It would be much better to have one large efficient company making phthalic anhydride, with the threat, if you like, of imports coming in to keep prices down. But we do not do things in that way in Australia. We over-protect the industry and encourage two companies to do what could be properly done by one company. The effect on production costs is passed on to other industries, as I have shown.
Let us consider another aspect. It is refreshing to see the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) taking an intelligent interest in this question. He picked me up on something that I said last night. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) also did so, and said that I should not expect the argument about the cost per man employed to be regarded as important. I have never pretended that it has been overwhelmingly important, but every time that this subject has been discussed in the past, as I think the honorable member for Yarra will admit, the argument about increased employment has been used in this chamber. When that argument is used I think I am justified in countering it with the kind of argument that I have used. The Labour Party argued, until we saw the new and rather refreshing look at the problem by the honorable member for Yarra, that this kind of protection increased employment. Let us consider the problem along those lines and accept that although the cost per man employed is not very important, it is important enough to be mentioned. How many men are employed in the industry? Reichhold employs fifteen. Newcastle- Chemicals did not give a figure in this inquiry, but it did give one at a previous inquiry. Its representative said that it was employing seventeen men. That makes a total of 32 men employed in this industry. Let us be generous and say that 40 men are employed. What is the extra cost to the user of phthalic anhydride for these people to be employed? It is estimated by the Tariff Board - and these are not my figures - that the yearly demand for phthalic anhydride in 1964 will be about 9,000 tons. Let us assume that the sliding scale is not operating and, to make the arithmetic easy, that the duty is 6d. and not 6 Id. I do not have the mental equipment pf the honorable member for McMillan to cope with calculations. If 9,000 tons of phthalic anhydride were imported duty-free it would cost £504,000 less than if it were manufactured in Australia. So the extra cost to employ 40 men making phthalic anhydride is £12,600 for every man employed. If employment is the object of the exercise - in deference to the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) I say “ if “ - it would pay the users of phthalic anhydride to get together in an association and pay each man employed in the industry £12,000 to sit in the south of France with his feet in a bucket of champagne.
The last paragraph of the board’s report makes it clear that it had doubts about its recommendation. The report states -
The Board is conscious of the effect that longterm protection of phthalic anhydride at the level currently being recommended would have on the costs of user industries, and on their competitive position in relation to imported products incorporating phthalic anhydride obtained at low prices overseas.
In other words, the competitive position of the Australian industry would be more difficult. The report states -
If the competitive position of the Australian industry does not improve, or if it deteriorates, within two years, the Board would have doubts about the value of the industry to the national economy.
I endorse the board’s remarks, particularly in view of the uncertainty as to the genuineness of the costs of the Newcastle Chemical
Company Proprietary Limited for the byproduct naphthalene.
I have two comments to offer on what I term the board’s excessive leniency. It may arise from the shuttle service between the board and the Special Advisory Authority, which I have mentioned before. It is worth, remembering that this matter came back from the Special Advisory Authority to the board through the process to which I have often referred. Secondly, there may have been a statement from a Cabinet Minister that the Tariff Board should keep this industry in its sights. I do not know whether that is so. The difficulty I shall experience from now on is that I cannot examine a Tariff Board report - as I used to do - and rely on it as an assessment of an industry’s economic efficiency. I do not know whether riding instructions have been offered to the board. I can say only that I regard the report with a certain amount of suspicion and that I protest yet again at the imposition of a duty near the base of a process of production which makes the position of the user of that product even more difficult.
.- We are dealing with another tariff which concerns one of our basic industries. The tariff is imposed to give protection to the iron and steel chemical complex which is at the foundation of the industry. I do not want honorable members to think that I have a specially adverse regard or that I am specially critical of the basic industrial complex of this country. My criticism is that it is not sufficiently controlled by the people. It is not sufficiently responsive to the needs or requirements of the people in a number of important directions. In every other way it is desirable that our industrial chemical complex should be big and should be integrated, because its size and integration are essential if we are to reduce costs and prices. This reduction is the objective of the exercise from beginning to end.
It seems to me that the case we are dealing with concerns yet another of the many marginal manufacturing industries to which we are asked to give protection where a closer examination is necessary than has been given on this and every other occasion that bills of this nature have come before the House. It is clear from page 4 of the Tariff Board’s report that the main motive in giving protection in this instance stems from the belief that if it is given, the scale of production of phthalic anhydride will reach before very long a level where it will be sufficiently large for costs to fall so that it can be produced at something like a competitive level. I believe that situation will be long-delayed by the industrial structure used in the production of phthalic anhydride. Two companies are making the product, and each of them apparently is producing about 50 per cent, of the present requirements of the market. We know that each company employs about the same number of men on production - about twenty each. Presumably, the existing market is about equally divided between the companies. In itself that is a fairly sinister situation which suggests a division of the market.
It seems to me beyond any question that there is an agreement between the two companies about operation. Not only is it almost certain that there is an agreement between the Newcastle Chemical Company and Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated (Australia) Proprietary Limited to share the market, but the agreement is likely to continue into the future. Other things being equal, it will take us twice as long to develop a market appropriate to the size of cither of the producers than it would take if there were only one producer. It is extremely unlikely that there will ever be only one enterprise because standing behind each manufacturer like a great supervising parent body is the company from which it originated - Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited on the one hand and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited on the other hand. Is it not fantastic that we have two children with their two enormous parent bodies behind them and inside each child company we have a little section producing phthalic anhydride, supposedly uneconomically? Therefore, we are to give protection to the little uneconomic sections, whereas in fact wo arc dealing with the little finger of an enormous industrial and chemical complex. lt is pretty certain that even if the Newcastle Chemical Company and Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated were prepared to compete with one another - and nobody is suggesting that they ever will - the com petition would not take place unless it suited the two giant parent companies.
It seems that the Tariff Board and this Parliament, when dealing with a situation of this kind, are almost completely impotent to influence the situation. If a more adequate consideration of these circumstances showed what I suggest now to be a fact, I would oppose the giving of protection as required in this bill. I believe that the board ought to be in a position to say to these two producers, “ If the argument in your favour is that the market in Australia has to expand sufficiently to allow your production to become economic, the sooner there is one producer the quicker that objective will be reached “. Is it not unreasonable and artificial to try to maintain two producers when the basic justification for any number of producers is that we expect a market to grow large enough to make production economic? If we try to maintain two producers, we must assume that it will take roughly twice as long for production to become economic as it would take if there were one producer only.
The Parliament has to be concerned with these developments and the Tariff Board itself has to be even more concerned with them. It is not enough merely to be able to say that we shall continue to afford protection to two companies like the Newcastle Chemical Company Proprietary Limited and Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated (Australia) Proprietary Limited and allow them to do what they like. They will have to be told to adopt a policy designed to make the industry producing phthalic anhydride more competitive more quickly than the kind of proposal now before us will do the job.
I want to make one other point: The Tariff Board, in its report, tells us that direct labour costs constitute only a small part of the total costs of making and selling for both companies and that both firms pay over-award wages and productivity bonuses. Despite the payment of over-award wages and productivity bonuses, direct labour costs constitute only a small part of total costs. Undoubtedly, the greater part of costs is attributable to the raw material - naphthalene - which is supplied to one company by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and to the other by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. Is there any competition whatever in the supply of naphthalene to these concerns? What is the difference, if any, between the price of naphthalene supplied by B.H.P. to one company and the price of naphthalene supplied by I.C.I.A.N.Z. to the other? I wager that there is not the slightest degree of competition between the two supplying companies and that they have agreed between themselves on the price at which this commodity is to be supplied, just as there is an agreement between the Newcastle Chemical Company and Reichhold Chemicals determining the price at which they will supply phthalic anhydride. This sort of thing makes a complete fantasy of tariff protection, because, by tariff protection, we hope to produce efficiency. Yet we are prepared to give protection to a firm that, no doubt, has entered into a price agreement designed to prevent the very situation that we are trying to achieve. I do not believe that the Government can long expect the Parliament to assent to tariff protection of this kind.
Item agreed to.
Item 321 agreed to.
Item 335 (g) (Coated paper and paperboard).
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the duties on paper under this item were said to be a refinement of the existing item in the schedule and to be based on the Tariff Board’s report on paper and paperboards. We discussed that report in some detail last year, and I remember at that time stating that Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited was receiving from Australian consumers of paper a subsidy totalling more than £7,000,000 a year. I challenged the company to prove me wrong. I have since heard rumours that computers are whirring and that an answer to my challenge is being earnestly sought. But it is quite noticeable that no figures have yet been produced. The rate of subsidy is probably even more now, because the tonnage of this company’s output is increasing rapidly and the company has also been able to increase the effective rate of duty passed on to the consumer. This has been done by processes that I shall now describe in some detail. The company does not seem to be exactly withering on the vine. Its last financial statement shows a profit of £2,791,506. a return of 12.2 per cent, on capital invested. The latest half-yearly report points out the company is expected to do even better in the current year. Its output is running at more than 95 per cent, of capacity. So one would expect it to do better, particularly since it is assisted by the Department of Customs and Excise in the way that I shall describe.
We are now asked to approve an increase in the duties on paper and paperboards What is the use of discussing them in this chamber? Last year, we discussed here, and approved, duties that seemed to me to be dangerously high. But, in some cases, the manufacturers believed that they ought to have even more protection, and they obtained it with the help of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). I shall explain how this has been done, Sir. I believe that the methods should be pointed out here. The Tariff Board, in its report on paper and paperboards, stated that dumping of certain kinds of paper from particular countries was taking place. It found that, in some cases, paper was being bought at dumping prices, but that this was not harming the Australian industry. This is not surprising, because the importer was Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. The board found that dumping was taking place in a limited field. But the Minister for Customs and Excise issued dumping and subsidies notice No. 10, which proclaimed all classes of paper and paperboard as coming within the scope of the dumping legislation, including those classes of paper that the board had found were not subject to dumping here. The Department of Customs and Excise then proceeded to fix “ normal values “ for 100 or more kinds of papers, and even for classes of paper that the board had found were not being dumped here.
The authority of the Minister for Customs and Excise springs from the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act 1961, section 7 of which provides that the Minister may, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, take action similar to that which I have outlined. For my purpose, the operative words of this section are “ after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board “. This sounds fair enough: The Tariff Board is to inquire into the question of dumping and, if it finds that dumping is taking place, is to recommend accordingly. That is just as it should be. The Minister for Customs and Excise, in his second-reading speech on the 1961 measure, discussed this very question, and said -
The imposition of dumping duties will continue to be subject to inquiry and report by the Tariff Board.
So, at that time, the Minister’s attitude clearly was that dumping duties were to be imposed only after an inquiry by the board. The wording of the 1961 measure was lifted directly from the old Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. Action under the terms of that act was taken only after a report by the Tariff Board. It now appears that a different legal interpretation is being placed on the phrase “ after report by the Tariff Board “. Evidently, the Minister now claims that it is legal for him to impose dumping duties as long as this action is preceded by an inquiry by the board, regardless of what the board may state in its report, and even if the board found that dumping of particular goods was not taking place. It is true that the Minister has not yet gone quite so far as his newly discovered legal limits allow. He has not imposed dumping duties in instances in which no mention of these has been made by the Tariff Board in its report, but he has imposed dumping duties on goods that are imported from countries that the board has found are not dumping goods in this country, and on goods that the board has found arc not being dumped here by any country.
Let me give an illustration of this, Sir. The Tariff Board, at page 38 of its last report on paper and paperboards, which was dated 19th December, 1962, discussed the dumping of kraft papers and stated -
The Board received no evidence which would indicate that there have been exports to Australia from European sources other than Sweden at export prices less than fair market values.
In spite of the board’s clear and unequivocal recommendation, the Minister is now imposing dumping duties on kraft paper imported from Austria. The legal justification relied on is the fact that the action has been taken after a report by the Tariff Board, even though the board found that paper from Austria was not being dumped here. This action may be legally right, but it is certainly morally wrong. The Minister should be ashamed to use these methods. I find it sardonically amusing that the Minister for Customs and Excise, who is clothed with a certain moral status under his power to prohibit the import of questionable literature, in other matters is prepared to adopt the kind of procedure that 1 have described and to twist the plain meaning of words. In effect, the Minister has reversed the decision of the Tariff Board. Of course, this is well within his rights, but certainly if he intends to do this he should say that he does not agree with the report of the Tariff Board. To do it in the way he has is very serious indeed.
I know that dumping problems can suddenly arise making it necessary for the Minister to take quick action. But surely the correct procedure would be to collect cash deposits, as has always been done. If after the Tariff Board has examined the position dumping is found not to be occurring, the cash deposits could be returned. This would safeguard the local manufacturer and would be a perfectly proper way to behave. But to twist the plain meaning of the words of the Tariff Board’s report in this way is simply scandalous. It is furthermore incredible that despite the fact that the normal values were fixed tentatively on 18th September, they have not yet been confirmed. Almost seven months later, duty has been collected on paper although dumping has not been shown to have taken place. In many cases no pretence is made that dumping is taking place. In my opinion this is just a device for raising the effective rate of duty.
What does it matter anyhow? Let us assume that paper is being sold at £100 a ton in Sweden or anywhere. The duty on this kind of paper is about £32 a ton. The effect of the Minister’s action is to raise the effective duty from £32 to £52 a ton, and this is done without reference to the Parliament and certainly in direct contradiction of the decisions of the Tariff Board. The use of the Minister’s power to fix tariffs and normal values for all classes of paper from all countries in this way makes nonsense of the debate and nonsense of the Minister’s second-reading speech on the legislation. Let us look at this more closely. Norway, Sweden and Finland have what they call a Scanfin Convention which fixes prices for classes of paper. This is the kind of trade practice that makes many of us very anxious and determined to do something. When the Minister fixes the price of paper in Austria, what does he do? He goes to the price list of the Scanfin Convention and says: “The price here is so much. Therefore the price in Austria shall be so much.” He then lets the matter rest for seven months. What kind of a debate is this? Last year we debated this subject with some heat. The action of the Minister has certainly circumvented any action taken by the Parliament. in my opinion, the officers of the Customs Department are dedicated to the protection of Australian industry and they pride themselves on this. They see it as their duty to collect the maximum duty. All their training is to this end. But this is surely wrong. They should administer the level of duty recommended by the Tariff Board and not try to increase it as they have certainly done in this case. There is an aura of secrecy about the whole business that is positively frightening. When I wrote to the Minister expressing my concern about what is going on and asking to bc informed of the effect of the action taken. I was told that the information was confidential. What kind of democracy is this? We debate these duties here in a desultory kind of way and pass them. Then they are altered by a stroke of the pen by the Minister. Yet when an interested member asks for information, he is told that the information is confidential.
This aura of secrecy appears again when by-laws are being discussed. In a debate last year, I quoted from a letter in which the department refused by-law entry for a certain class of paper simply on the grounds that this would be detrimental to Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. Evidently no inquiry was made as to whether this company made the product. The reply simply came back that Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited would be disadvantaged. Yet this company imports a lot of paper. Does it apply to the Customs Department for by-law entry of the paper it imports? Does it apply for by-law admission of a class of paper on which its competitors pay full duty rates? Other importers do not know whether this is happening, but there is a lot of suspicion in the trade.
It is true that a notice appears in the “ Commonwealth of Australia Gazette “ but it goes in such a form that it gives no clue as to who is the importer. Why cannot the name of the importer and the amount of goods imported be printed in the “ Commonwealth of Australia Gazette “ for all to see? Surely this would help to dispel the veil of secrecy and suspicion that surrounds the subject. Surely the present system favours the big operator who can afford to keep in Canberra an officer who would get to know the ropes and who to see. What chance does the small man operating in the country have? How does he get to know the procedure for getting by-law entry? Sometimes such a person comes to me and I do what I can with my limited knowledge. The department is helpful in the cases I take up with it. But what chance does a man have on his own?
In New Zealand, the Government has appointed an Ombudsman who is charged with the responsibility of seeing that the ordinary citizen gets a fair go, is not entangled with red tape and confused with Civil Service jargon. If we had an Ombudsman appointed in Australia. I would hope that he would start his operations in the Customs Department. He would probably find that he would never get out of the building.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has again launched an attack on the paper industry and on the protection given by the Tariff Board to this very valuable industry. The section of the schedule he has been discussing refers to coated papers and paper board. The appropriate number is 335(G). It is quite true that the Minister has power under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act to place a declared price on certain imports. I consider here that the department and the Minister have acted wisely and I sincerely hope that they go further in this field.
I speak for a giant paper industry, the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, as I did last year. The industry employs some 2,500 people in the town of Burnie on the north-west coast of Tasmania. There is a subsidiary industry in Ballarat in Victoria. The total number of people employed in the bush, in the mill in Burnie and in Ballarat is some 3,500. These people are at present in difficulties. As the honorable member for Wakefield said, we debated last year the tariff legislation that gave added protection to this industry.
With all due respect to the honorable member for Wakefield, I want to point to the position that has arisen in this industry. Since 1956 there has been no increase whatever in the price to consumers of this type of paper. Recently, Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited was in difficulty because of imports of Japanese bank and bond paper. The company sought the protection of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) and his department, but only after it had attempted to rectify the position by reducing by Id. per lb. the cost to consumers in Australia of this particular line of paper. That action was taken about four months ago, in an attempt to compete with increased imports. But as soon as the company took that action, Japanese exporters reduced the price of their paper by Id. per lb. These moves and counter moves inevitably would have led to a price war, which the company in Burnie could not have stood. So the company submitted a case to the Minister and the department, seeking a declared price. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to this matter. I am delighted that the department did place a declared price on Japanese bank paper and on Chinese greaseproof paper.
I pay a tribute at this stage to Australia’s trade representatives overseas. It is only through the actions of those representatives that we have any way of ascertaining the overseas costs of production of the papers imported into Australia. Our trade representatives do an excellent job in this regard. lt will be appreciated that they could not possibly ascertain costs of production in a country such as continental China, so, wisely, the department decided to fix the price of greaseproof paper originating from continental China at the same price as applied to paper originating from Japan. The department put a declared price on Japanese bank paper and on imports of greaseproof paper from continental China.
What happened following this action? Immediately the volume of bank paper coming into this country from Japan was reduced. The latest figures available of imports of paper into Australia show that in December, 1963, 343 tons of coated paper were imported, but in January, 1964, the quantity had jumped to 680 tons. 1 am sorry to see that the honorable member for Wakefield has now left the chamber, because these figures are important to me and have a vital bearing on the employment situation in this industry with which I am deeply concerned. The figures show that imports of bank and bond paper mainly from Scandinavian countries increased from 294 tons in December, 1963, to 500 tons in January, 1964. The honorable member may be interested to know that total imports of fine papers, which are in direct competition with papers manufactured by Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, increased from 2,345 tons in December, 1963, to more than 3,000 tons in January, 1964. The effect of this increase is that at the present time Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited has on hand 3,000 tons of paper worth about £250,000. That paper has been paid for in wages, materials and so forth. The company is stuck with the paper until it can get rid of it.
Because of this situation, last week the company was forced to dismiss 50 men and 10 women. I appeal to the Government to continue to give protection to this industry. I do not think the Minister should wait until there has been another inquiry into this industry before granting it protection. The Minister should invoke the powers that he possesses and give immediate protection to the industry. I think the Minister was right in invoking his powers and fixing a declared price for Japanese bank paper and Chinese greaseproof paper and I appeal to the Minister immediately to invoke his power, irrespective of the arguments advanced from the opposite side of the chamber, and fix a declared price for Scandinavian bank and bond paper entering Australia. As I have already pointed out, imports of fine papers increased from 2.345 tons in December, 1963, to more than 3,000 tons in January, 1964. The increase in imports has resulted in 50 men and 10 women being dismissed from the industry last week in Burnie. Who knows where this will end? This is a vital industry, lt is the life-blood of the north-west coast of Tasmania. Not only is Burnie dependent on the industry, but practically the entire economy of Tasmania is geared to the industry. People all the way from Devonport to Deloraine and right along the coast from Penguin to Wynyard, and Smithton in the far north-west are directly or indirectly employed in this great industry. It is up to the Government to see that every atom of protection possible is given to the industry.
The timid aproach thai the honorable member for Wakefield would make to the problems confronting this very important industry is not good enough. As I have said, the entire economy of places like Burnie depend on the industry. We know what happened when 450 people there were sacked a couple of years ago and more than 1,000 were placed on short time because of this Government’s action in allowing imports to come in completely unrestricted. The people who live in this area are only too aware of the great damage that was done on that occasion to the economy of this part of Tasmania. Bear in mind that any misfortunes that befall the paper industry in Tasmania affect not only the economy of Tasmania but the entire economy of Australia.
This is a great industry. As I told honorable members last year, it was started with the help of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but to-day its share capital is completely Australian-owned. Employer and employee relations in the company are so admirable that they must be seen to be believed. No better employer and employee relations than exist in this industry in Burnie can be seen anywhere in Australia. I appeal to the Government to disregard the critics on the other side of the chamber and immediately conduct an investigation into the industry and fix a declared price on imports of Scandinavian bank and bond paper so that the situation in the industry at Burnie will not worsen but rather will improve.
We on this side of the chamber believe in protection. We firmly believe that if Australian industries are not protected they will go down the drain. What would happen then? The honorable member for Wakefield represents a rural electorate. We saw what happened when Associated Pulp and Paper Mills at Burnie was affected by imports on another occasion. Some butcher shops on the north-west coast of Tasmania were forced to close. If the workers are not taking home a full pay packet they cannot afford to spend as much as usual on the week-end joints of meat and other farm produce. So anything that affects the paper industry ultimately affects the returns to the farmers. There is a great interdependence between rural industry and secondary industry. I speak to-day for the benefit of not only the workers in this industry and shareholders in Associated Pulp and Paper Mills but also the people on the farms. I urge the Government to take the action that I have suggested, despite what the honorable member for Wakefield may say about it. I pay a tribute to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills and sincerely hope that the Minister will fix a declared price immediately on Scandinavian bank and bond paper, just as he did in relation to Japanese bank paper and Chinese greaseproof paper, in an attempt to protect the industry and to see that the position in which it finds itself at present does not deteriorate.
I point out to the honorable member for Wakefield that the Tariff Board recognizes that protection should be given to industries that are found to be efficient. As I did last year, I invite him to come to my area, particularly to Burnie, and go on a tour of inspection of the great forest areas of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited and of the mill itself. No matter at what time of the day or during what shift he wishes to go through the mill, he will find that it is a highly efficient and well organized industry. When he speaks to the men and women employed there and sees the amenities that are provided, he will realize that the industry is a credit to the people who run it, to the members of the employees’ council who, in consultation with the management, iron out various problems associated with the mill, and to every one concerned with the industry.
As I have said, there has been no increase in the price of the company’s products from 1956. Only last year, the company negotiated with the men an industrial agreement which costs it £140,000 a year, and shortly an increase in the basic wage will be announced and the company will also have to meet the cost of that. As I pointed out, the company attempted to meet the threat of imports by reducing the price of its paper by Id. per lb., but it failed to meet the threat. The only way open to it now is to seek the support of the Government for a declared price to be put on imports - the method to which the honorable member for Wakefield objects so much. 1 pay a tribute to the people in the overseas posts of the Department of Trade and Industry. Industry cannot afford to send representatives to many overseas countries. When it sends representatives overseas, they meet with objections, criticisms and passingoff from very smooth operators, such as the Japanese, who say: “This kind of paper is made wholly and solely for the Australian trade. No comparable paper is made in Japan. So we cannot give you a costofproduction figure for it.” The people who represent us overseas have done a very good job in providing the assistance that industry requires in order to find out the cost of production of various kinds of paper which are in competition with our papers in various parts of Australia.
.- This debate has gone right away from the item that should be under discussion. I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that all we are doing at the present time is making some administrative changes that have been agreed upon after lengthy discussions between the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Customs and Excise, the paper wholesalers, manufacturers and importers, and everybody else concerned with the paper industry. When the previous rates of duty were arrived at and put into operation, this industry was found to be a very complex one, because of the many different sizes, qualities and thicknesses of paper and because of technicalities that we cannot be expected to keep up with. Changes in the rates were found to be warranted. There have been changes up and down. In fact, this committee should merely be discussing the results of inter-departmental and industry decisions on bringing the tariffs decided upon on to a more reasonable basis, considering the classifications.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) once again has taken advantage of the fact that we have tariff proposals before us to launch an attack on the Tariff Board and its personnel. He made dis paraging remarks about the Department of Customs and Excise. He said that it was doing its utmost to see that secondary industry received more than it was entitled to receive. That is not the outlook of the officers of that department at all. That may be what the honorable member for Wakefield reads into their actions, but that certainly is not their outlook. His attack on the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is unforgiveable. What he said to-day was derogatory in form, character and everything else. I am really ashamed of him. I am ashamed to think that he would impute such motives to a Minister who has given an admirable exhibition of handling, with fairness and the utmost thoroughness, inquiries that have been directed to him on this matter of dumping.
I come into this debate because, unfortunately, one of the companies that come under the wrath of the honorable member for Wakefield is Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. That company has a mill within the electorate of McMillan. It employs thousands of people, lt has mills not only in my electorate but all over Australia. It is an important company. t support the remarks of the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) about the paper mill in his electorate. These mills make important contributions to Australia.
Why the honorable member for Wakefield brings forward a whole lot of inaccuracies and half-truths based on certain information - I cannot conceive where he could have obtained his information - is just beyond my comprehension. We discussed the paper industry last year. We went into it very thoroughly then. He adopted the same attitude then as he has adopted to-day. The whole paper industry was the subject of a searching examination by the Tariff Board under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Melville, for whom I thought the honorable member would have had some respect. The inquiry was one of the longest and most thorough inquiries on record.
A full disclosure was made to the board - not to the honorable member for Wakefield - on all aspects of the business and activities of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. Naturally, much of the information was confidential. The honorable member complained that he asked for some information on dumping and was told that it was confidential. Of course it was. It would not do for very exhaustive information on conditions overseas and other matters to be made public, because we would be disclosing where we obtain our information on overseas matters.
Following the inquiry, the board took about fifteen or sixteen months to analyse the evidence that the parties presented and the supplementary data that was provided by the various companies at the request of officers of the board. The board signed its report on 19th December, 1962. It is completely clear from the report that the board considers the industry, including Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, to be efficient, economic, desirable and deserving of tariff protection.
If the nature of the company was such that it would indulge in the malpractices which the honorable member for Wakefield alleges, surely it would have taken advantage of the long period when import restrictions were in operation to increase its prices and made hay while the sun shone. But, in fact, the company’s prices remained unchanged from 1956 until towards the end of last year. In fact, it is very proud of the stable prices that it maintained during a period when the Australian level of costs and prices was rising. Now that the Australian level of costs and prices has been stabilized, this industry is keeping its prices within the ordinary limit of day to day changes that might mean a few pence here or there because of some difference in quantity or total output.
The honorable member for Braddon suggested that the honorable member for Wakefield might have a look at the industry to which he referred. I should like to point out that I know that previous statements by the honorable member for Wakefield, similar to that which he made to-day, have not been checked, and certainly have not been referred to A.P.M. Sometimes when his errors have been pointed out to him by letter he has not acknowledged that he has been in error. I know also that he has been invited to visit the company’s mills and forests that he has criticized so freely. It would do him the world of good to go and meet these people and to see what is going on that applies to A.P.M.’s mills and forests too.
Dumping is really outside the ambit of the subject before us but, since it has been mentioned, let us consider it. The importing trade receives ample notice of intention to impose restrictions on dumping. These restrictions follow only after full inquiry by the Tariff Board. The board made an inquiry into the dumping of paper and dumping was proved to have occurred. Surely the honorable member for Wakefield would not suggest, because we have received a complaint about the dumping of one particular type of paper, that that is the only type on which duty should be imposed. Surely this would mean that the Tariff Board would spend all of its available time dealing with this particular item. If a tariff were imposed upon one particular type of paper the technical boys overseas would get to work and produce something slightly different or, as the honorable member for Braddon suggested, they would make a particular line of paper for Australia alone and put up some finicky argument on that ground. It would be impossible to refer every individual item to the Tariff Board, but the board does state its view after examination of the evidence submitted to it over the whole range of the industry.
The notice that paper and paper boards were gazetted under the act was dated 19th April, 1963. Then it was decided that the proposal would operate on shipments dispatched after 18th September, 1963. This was essential to ensure that the Australian industry received the protection that was intended by the Tariff Board. I point out that dumping was first brought to the department’s notice in 1960. I have some knowledge of this matter, because I have had certain discussions with the Minister about it, and I presented certain information to him between 1960 and 1963. That is how long it takes if individual items are to be considered by the board. In that period the department had to make inquiries all over the world. The honorable member for Wakefield has mentioned various countries to show how extremely complex the matter is, and there can be no question that under the sophisticated methods of international trade to-day there are so many devices by which countries can hide dumping that it is extremely hard to make out a prima facie case of dumping in a strict definitional sense.
What is the difference between dumping and an unfair trade practice? What is the difference between dumping and selling something at a price which is known to be unreal? They have the same effect. The goods are supplied by one country which has sufficient production to meet the requirements of its home market and, because it wants to keep down its costs of production, it looks to Australia as a possible market. It tempts Australian importers to forsake for a few pounds the great manufacturing industries that have been built up to serve them. The importers take this bait, which cannot be offset by the ordinary normal processes of imposing a duty.
I am very sorry that this particular matter has arisen in the form in which it has arisen, because 1 did not expect the question of dumping as such to enter into this debate. lt was not obviously part of the subject before us, but as it has intruded into the debate I can only say that it is to be deplored that the kind of irresponsible and illinformed statements on tariffs and related matters which we have come to identify with the honorable member for Wakefield should bc heard from this side or, indeed, from either side of the House.
Item agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Item 352 (b)(1) (Cycle Saddles).
.- The item covers cycle saddles. The cycle saddle industry may be small, but it certainly cannot claim to be neglected. There was a Tariff Board inquiry in 1957 and another one in 1960. There was an inquiry by a Special Advisory Authority in 1962, a Tariff Board inquiry in 1963, and another inquiry has been recommended for 1965. As there is only one company supporting the case for increased duties and as only eight men are employed by it, it seems that the Tariff Board has, at least, been generous with its time if it has not been generous with its recommendations.
The Australian company making these cycle saddles seemed to have had a good grip on the Australian market while the demand for saddles was strong and while people wanted leather saddles and not saddles made from polyvinyl chloride. But in our present-day affluent society the number of cycles used in Australia is falling rapidly and motor cars are becoming more common. There is also a trend towards P.V.C. saddles instead of leather saddles. As the Australian manufacturer who gave evidence concentrated on leather saddles, he is really having a tough time, and it is not going to help him much to change over to making P.V.C. saddles, because we have made locally produced P.V.C. material too dear to use in competition with imported material, by putting high duties on the granules.
The majority of members of the Tariff Board recognized that there was no sense in trying to stop the trend towards P.V.C. saddles, but it left the previous duty on, although it removed the temporary duty imposed by the Special Advisory Authority. Mr. Cossar wrote a minority report which I thought showed commendable clarity of thought and independence of mind. His point was that the existing duties would not effectively protect the local manufacturer, and that all they would do would be to make cycle saddles dearer. On the 1961-62 figures, the duties would add £10.209 to imported saddles and tops, and as in that year it would appear that about half the Australian demand was made locally, we are justified in assuming that the locallymade saddles were dearer by that amount also, particularly as there was, at that time, a temporary inquiry going on as a result of a request for higher duties.
So if you add the two figures together you get the total extra cost to the Australian user of £20,418 - say £20,000 for easy reckoning. As there are only eight men making saddles in the main factory, we would be generous in saying that there were sixteen men employed altogether. So the subsidy paid by the cycle user works out at £1,250 for each man employed in making cycle saddles. I think we are justified in assuming that the people who ride bikes would not represent the most affluent sector of the community. To ask them to pay a subsidy of approximately £24 10s. per week for every one employed in making cycle saddles seems a little unreasonable.
Item agreed to. Item 363 (g) (3) agreed to. Item 367 (b) (2) (Plastic Sheets, Strip and Plates).
.- There are one or two points in respect of this item to which the committee should give some attention. The report deals with plastic sheets, strips and plates. The main item concerned is polyester sheeting. The main argument for a duty is stated in the report. It is that, at the existing levels of duty, the local industry cannot compete against imports from Japan where material costs are lower and manufacturers enjoy the economies of a much larger scale of production than is possible in Australia. Basically, this is the classic argument in disguise. At present the Australian market is not large enough to maintain at an economic level the firms in the industry. There are three firms in the industry - Alsynite (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Wonderglass (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Plastiglass Proprietary Limited. Each of these three firms is a subsidiary of another larger firm standing behind it. Alsynite is jointly owned by W. J. Manufacturing Company Limited and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. Wonderglass is a subsidiary of Australian Consolidated Industries and Plastiglass is a subsidiary of Henry Brooks Company Proprietary Limited. I think that the latter firm has a link also with another company further behind it.
Here we have another of the very many cases that come before this Parliament in which it is argued that the market is not big enough to support the firms in the industry economically. Here we are dealing with two firms which are subsidiaries of Australian Consolidated Industries, and a third firm which is a subsidiary of another firm.
It is pretty clear that in the manufacture of polyester sheeting we would be able to achieve equilibrium between the size of the firm and the size of the market much more quickly if the firm setting up for the manufacture of polyester sheeting were able to do it on a competitive basis. If a firm came into the industry as a single firm and not as a subsidiary of another it is pretty clear that if it were reasonably efficient it would obtain a greater part or even the whole of the market for itself. The fact is that we have firms beginning as subsidiaries of larger ones in a limited field and their capacity to stay in the field is determined not by their efficiency, but by the strength of the companies that stand behind them. So we have an artificial division of the market.
If the Tariff Board and this Parliament are to be concerned with the efficient development of industries of this kind, the structure of the industry is something that we cannot ignore. This inter-relationship between firms within the structure of an industry is something upon which the Tariff Board never seeks to express an opinion. Is it concerned only with the pure narrow economics of industrial operation? If so, why is that the case? It is not only simple accounting or the economic procedures of an industry that determine whether it is going to be efficient or not. Very often the most important item is the structure of the industry itself. Yet at no time does the board seem to be concerned with the structure of the industry. This might be regarded as something that is political or that would involve embarrassing statements about certain private concerns in relation to others, but I do not believe that the work of effective tariffmaking can be carried on unless these matters are looked at. I would say that, on the face of the evidence, it is extremely unlikely that each of these three firms will be able to maintain itself and to develop itself efficiently and competitively. But they are not maintained in the industry because of their efficiency; they are maintained substantially because of the links they hold with other concerns, of which they are subsidiaries. It simply is not enough just to let this pass by.
Item agreed to.
Items 368 (a)(1), 382 and 459 (c)(3) agreed to.
Item 460 (c) (Man-made fibre piece goods).
.- I wish to deal with the increased temporary duty on man-made fibre piece goods, and I shall deal with this industry in some detail. This is a part of the complex of artificial fibres, of which another important part is artificial fibre furnishing fabrics. I dealt with furnishing fabrics in a speech last year and pointed out how the matter had gone backwards and forwards between the Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board.
I will concern myself only with manmade fibre piece goods in this debate. This item, too, has had a remarkable history, with a continual spate of inquiries. Let me run briefly through that history. There was a full Tariff Board inquiry in 1958 and another in 1960. Then in June, 1961, the Minister referred the industry to the Deputy Chairman for advice regarding emergency protection, and the report was in the negative. The Minister immediately asked for another report and this time increased protection was given. There was a full board report in October, 1962, which removed the emergency protection. Then the matter was referred to the Special Advisory Authority and the emergency duties we are now considering were imposed. The industry is now before the full board again.
It is unlikely that the report of the full Tariff Board, which must follow this temporary protection, will be in the Minister’s hands before August, 1964. If that is so, since 1961 temporary duties will have been in operation for 30 months, while the permanent duties will have been in operation for only thirteen months. Perhaps we should think of another word to use instead of “ temporary “. In its last report in 1962 the full board was quite definite that it would be wrong to try to protect the full range of the industry. Let me quote from the report. The board stated -
The board believes that, with their level of protection, the industry can hold a reasonable share of the market. To raise the level could add an increased burden of cost to other manufacturing industries and consumers, and lead the weaving industry into the less economical production of short-run fabrics. The board is not prepared to recommend duties of the magnitude necessary to protect production in this field.
This is a crystal-clear recommendation by the Tariff Board against protecting the fashion end of the industry.
In the bread and butter lines, where considerable quantities of one pattern and colour are made, the industry is competitive. It is only in the fashion lines that trouble arises. The companies that are making the bread and butter lines are not in trouble. James Nelson (Australia) Proprietary Limited in Tasmania, which specializes in these lines, is running at over 20 per cent, profit, I understand. Silk and Textile Printers Limited, another manufacturer, shows a 21.9 per cent, profit rate. The position with another producer, Burlington Mills (Australia) Proprietary Limited, is clouded because it factors its debts with the parent company, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited. The one company feeling the pinch is Bruck
Mills (Australia) Limited at Wangaratta, which has been trying for years to make fashion lines. This is not just my opinion. I quote from the Special Advisory Authority’s report, which states -
The information given to me shows that, while some manufacturers are in a reasonably good position, the principal manufacturer of higherpriced fabrics is at present operating at a loss.
The manufacturer referred to by Sir Frank Meere is, without doubt, Bruck Mills of Wangaratta. Indeed, Bruck Mills, in its recently issued annual report, which discloses an 8 per cent, dividend, admits that it concentrates on the fashion lines. The sworn evidence given the other day to the Tariff Board by Mr. Colin Baird made it quite clear that when interviewing the applicant the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere, referred to a certain industry which was in trouble and identified it as Bruck Mills.
To show that the industry as a whole is not suffering I give the following figures: From January to May, 1962, it produced 14,860,000 yards of cloth. From January to May, 1963, it produced 16,870,000 yards of cloth. So there has been an increase in production of over 12 per cent., even over the period that included the last bout of emergency protection. The reason given for the necessity for the emergency inquiry is that imports are causing damage to the local industry. Let us look at the figures. In 1958-59, the local industry was supplying 41 per cent, of the market. In 1959-60 this had risen to 43 per cent. In 1960-61 it had risen to 52 per cent, of the market, and in 1961-62 to 63 per cent. In 1962-63 the percentage dropped a little, but local industry was still supplying 60.56 per cent, of the market. So it is clear that the percentage of imports has not been increased.
That imports are not arriving in increasing quantities is quite clear. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) now says that there are factors besides imports which should be considered. I would like him to tell me what they are. Is this system designed to ensure that reasonable profits are made? Bruck Mills showed an 8 per cent, dividend this year. Is that not enough? Does the Government feel impelled to ensure wool-growers a similar profit rate? If not, why not? What special attributes have the manufacturers of man-made fibres that wool-growers have not? I now refer to another set of figures. The impact of high prices caused by high tariffs on consumption of man-made fibre piece goods is interesting. The latest figures available show that consumption per head of these materials was 4.6 square yards in Australia, 10.6 square yards in the United Kingdom and 10.15 square yards in the United States of America.
To me the case seems to be crystal clear. The Tariff Board recommended in October, 1962, that effective protection be given only to the bread and butter lines, where Australian production is economic. The figures show that imports make up a smaller percentage of the consumption than they did ten years ago. The figures show, and the Special Advisory Authority confirms it, that is only the one producer - the one who concentrates on fashion lines - who is in trouble. That there have been many efforts to get this section of the industry Out of trouble is shown by the history of the Tariff Board reports that I gave earlier. Since 1958 there have been five references on furnishing fabrics and seven on piece goods - twelve inquiries altogether.
When the Special Advisory Authority system was introduced I expressed alarm that shuttling references backwards and forwards between the Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board would weaken the morale and effectiveness of the board. Then the Minister used in this place the famous words which he says I delight to roll round my tongue -
The Tariff Board is expected to keep within its sights policy statements as made from time to time. . . .
I again expressed my alarm then. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his John Storey Memorial Lecture, seemed to be speaking personally to me when he said, speaking of the Tariff Board -
For a long time it has acted on the principle that it should recommend tariff protection only to “ economic and efficient industries “. But that principle was, and is, itself an expression of government policy. Of late, indications have been given on behalf of my own Government that the principle needs extension, and that the Tariff Board should have in its mind the national economic policy, meaning by that the national economic objectives, as a whole.
I accepted from him the statement that the Tariff Board should be aware of national policies of growth. I think it has always been so aware, but I will not argue this now. The kind of action that I have illustrated in the case of man-made fibre piece goods does not seem to me to come within this category. It does not seem to be a matter of broad national policy at all, but seems to be an attempt to help a certain section of an industry for a particular purpose. As honorable members know by now, I am cursed with a one-track mind. I just keep plodding along in a furrow. It is not an interesting furrow but I cannot seem to get out of it. I worried away at the problem of why a certain section of the industry was receiving particularly favorable tariff treatment. Then I read in a Wangaratta newspaper of 5th December, 1961 - just before a general election - a report of a speech by the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). The report, under the headline “McEwen: Til look after Bruck’. Trade Minister”, stated -
Mr. McEwen, today pledged himself to ‘ look after ‘ Bruck Mills. He made the promise at a lunch-hour address to 300 employees at the mill. He said, “ As long as I am Minister for Trade, this factory will be safe. I’m not saying it won’t be safe under anybody else. Let the other bloke talk for himself. But as long as I am Minister for. Trade, I will look after this industry as I have today.”
If the report accurately stated what the Minister said, I think I am justified in saying that my previous fears of threats to the true independence of the Tariff Board system were well founded. Is this one of the statements which the board is expected to keep within its sights? If not, why not? fs the board not to keep within its sights statements made at election time, as was the statement I have quoted?
I know that the Government can defend itself by saying that any administrator, at election time or at any other time, must have regard to the problems of particular groups of people and that the Government must be aware of the need for decentralization in order to keep country towns and districts happy and healthy. I have a lot of sympathy for that point of view. But if the Government is concerned about these factors, as it may well be, surely it should have tabled the Tariff Board report recommending the reduction of duty in 1962 when it came to hand. A statement could then have been made on behalf of the Government that because of the particular problems involved at Wangaratta it did not intend to accept the board’s recommendations. Then we would have known where we stood and why the decisions were made. We may not have agreed with the decisions but at least they would have been in the open. To use the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority in this way does not seem to me to be proper. This kind of action makes nonsense of the Prime Minister’s Storey lecture theme.
I have spoken ad nauseam on this subject many times. I have often expressed my fears in a general way to the House. I do not seem to have made much impact. Again this evening I have spoken on the subject and I suppose that again there will hardly be a ripple in the pool of complacency that surrounds it. However, I promise honorable members that I shall keep on trying, not because of any personal animosity to anybody nor because of any obscure political motive, but simply because I dread that our tariff system may again become a pawn in the political game, as it was before the Tariff Board system was instituted.
.- I wish to refer to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), principally those related to Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, a textile company which operates a factory at Wangaratta, in my electorate. I am reluctant to enter into debate with the honorable member. I have sat here for about five years and during that time I have heard him make speeches on tariff proposals on exactly the same lines as his speech this evening. I have also heard speeches by people who are far more experienced both in politics and in the general sphere of statesmanship. The honorable member for Wakefield has heard those speeches but has never changed his speeches by a single word. Although he has heard men of great experience and wisdom speaking on tariff problems he continues to make the speech written long before hearing their words of wisdom.
The honorable member has launched an attack on Bruck Mills in Wangaratta. Many times he has been invited to visit the Bruck Mills factory but has never seen fit to accept. When people from the textile world engage in conversation with the honorable member, he does not seem to appreciate their points of view. Surely they must have one good idea; there must be in their remarks one factor to affect the sensibilities of the honorable member for Wakefield. Although he has declined previous invitations I once again invite him to visit the Bruck Mills factory in Wangaratta. Perhaps the honorable member could talk to executives of the factory and take notes of the conversation. He may then agree or disagree with their remarks on the spot.
The honorable member recently had an opportunity to listen to one of the top men in the Australian textile industry. He was asked whether he wished to question the speaker and stated that he did not. In my opinion, the honorable member does not have the authority to speak on the textile industry generally or on a particular textile mill. When he refers to the Bruck Mills factory one would think from his remarks that it is the only textile mill in the world producing textile fabrics of high quality, at high-price standards. The production of the Bruck Mills factory is mainly of fabrics at high-price standards’, I believe it is about 63 per cent. The other 37 per cent, of its production is of lower-quality fabrics. Surely we need in Australia a mill producing high quality materials. We do not want to produce only the cheaper materials of lower quality. If we do, it will not be very long before we are massacred by overseas companies producing lower quality fabrics.
The honorable member for Wakefield referred to a report of a speech by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen) at the Bruck Mills factory. I have the report but I cannot call it to mind. My recollection is that the report was longer. I say that the report quoted by the honorable member is either incomplete or incorrect. Can any honorable member, irrespective of his political sympathies, imagine the Minister for Trade and Industry saying that he will look after an industry when included in his portfolio is the administration of the Tariff Board? Can any honorable member believe that a Minister who has so strongly supported the principle of Tariff Board procedure and the implementation of its recommendations to the Government would say, “ I will look after the industry “, irrespective of whether it is election time? The Minister for Trade and Industry did not say what the honorable member for Wakefield has attributed to him. I suggest that proof of this is found in the fact that since the 1961 general election the Tariff Board has recommended removal of the emergency duty of 25 per cent, ad valorem that was proposed by the Special Advisory Authority. The Government accepted the board’s recommendation.
Can any one really believe that the Minister would make a statement so foolish as that attributed to him? I cannot believe that he would. Let us not forget, too, that at the time when the decision to introduce the emergency tariff was made in about October, 1961, the 750 people who earn their living at Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited at Wangaratta - a decentralized industry - had for seven months been working only four days a week. For seven months, through no fault of their own, they had been losing one-fifth of their normal pay. I remind the honorable member for Wakefield that the people who work at this factory have not a wide knowledge of intricate financial dealings throughout the world and of the real meaning of highsounding phrases about tariff protection that is afforded to either a secondary industry or a primary industry. Quite a number of those people were born and bred in Wangaratta and they went to work at the Bruck Mills factory confident in the knowledge that the stated policy of all parties and all governments favoured support for industries established outside the metropolitan areas of Australia.
The honorable member for Wakefield, in his addresses on tariffs, never mentions many important matters that apparently are unimportant to him. For example, he never mentions the need for a continually increasing intake of immigrants, the need to provide employment or the fact that employment must be provided mainly by secondary industries. He never talks about the vital matter of defence and the need to increase our population so that we shall be better able to defend this country. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that his arguments are always one-sided, because he never mentions these other important factors that affect the national economy generally and are related to the encouragement of industry.
– I think that the honorable member for Indi is crooked on the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I can assure the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith that I am not at all crooked on the honorable member for Wakefield. I merely say that he does not take a national outlook and advances one-sided arguments all the time in debates on tariffs.
The honorable member for Wakefield commented on the independence of the Tariff Board and said that pressure is put on it. Any member of the board, when he accepts appointment to it, must realize that he will be subject to constant pressure. I have always had the feeling, indeed, that the honorable member for Wakefield himself attempts to put pressure on the board from his stand-point. So I do not think he is quite fair when he criticizes any one else who may be a little inclined to put pressure on the board. It seems to me that one of the main objects of the honorable member is to maintain pressure on the board and to instil into its members a feeling that they must be careful, for fear of what the honorable member may say about them if they present a report with which he does not agree.
Whenever tariffs on textiles are discussed in this chamber, I get the impression that some honorable members who are opposed to tariff protection for the textile industry think that the Australian industry is the only one in the world that receives no protection. This is not so at all. We are dealing here not only with man-made fibres but also with woollen fibres. The Japanese are recognized as great producers of textiles. They have imposed very tight import restrictions on textiles, by means not only of tariffs but also of quantitative restrictions based on quotas. This is done also by the United States of America, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.
– And we should do it.
– As the honorable member says, we also should do it. Australia is the greatest wool-producing country. Wool is the backbone of our national economy. Would any one in his right mind suggest that we should not have a textile industry when we rely so much on wool, which is one of the greatest textile fibres? I have said before in this chamber, and I repeat: In the man-made fibre industry men are constantly being trained to perform useful jobs throughout the whole textile industry. I know one man in particular who was trained at the establishment of Bruck Mills in Wangaratta from a very early age for about ten years in the manmade fibre industry. He is now one of the chief technical officers of the Australian Wool Board. This is just one example that highlights the fact that a general training in the textile industry fits a man or a woman for service in the production of the whole range of textiles.
I conclude, Mr. Chairman, by reiterating remarks that I made earlier. I invite the honorable member for Wakefield to go to Wangaratta with me and to talk to executives of the textile mill there and of the textile industry generally, and to take notes of the talks. I invite him to agree or disagree there and then with the statements and propositions put forward by the people to whom he talks. If I subsequently hear him in a speech in this chamber agree on more than one point with those engaged in the textile industry, I shall admit that he is worth listening to.
.- Mr. Chairman, the industry that is the subject of the item that we are now discussing is an old one. Certain sections of it have been established in this country for about half a century. This is a well-established industry and not one that has recently developed here. Eight firms are engaged in the production of man-made fibres. All are fairly large and most have been established in Australia for a long time. The one that has been mainly the subject of discussion this evening, Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, is in Wangaratta. I think the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) would be able to answer several of the points made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), and 1 would leave that to him. I think it would be possible for him to defend himself quite effectively against most of the criticism made of him by the honorable member for Indi.
I want to say something about an important point. lt has become clear during the course of our discussion of these measures to-day that criticism has been made of the Minister and the Government for not making their intentions clear to the Tariff Board. They should be willing to say, “ We want to preserve Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited because it is vital to the city of Wangaratta “. Instead of being honestly and straightforwardly prepared to say that, the Minister and the Government go through this shuttle service sending the inquiry back to the Tariff Board for reconsideration. I cannot understand why it is not possible for the Minister to say straight out to the board, “We want this industry preserved “.
The honorable member for Indi seemed to take some offence at a report that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) a few days before an election said to the staff and management of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited in Wangaratta that he would look after the industry. If the Minister for Trade and Industry is not prepared to say that, he has no right to be the Minister. He has a right and a responsibility to look after such an important industry as this and the honorable member for Indi should not seek to explain away a report to that effect in a newspaper or to say that it is a misrepresentation.
I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister for Trade and Industry did say this, because he would not be a responsible Minister if he did not. But what he has a right to do is to get rid of this stupid humbug that is pervading the debates on this subject. I refer to the suggestion that the Tariff Board is in some way independent or inviolate and should not be touched. Of course, it should be allowed to produce its reports to the Parliament as it thinks they should be produced, and if it thinks that Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited does not deserve protection it should say so. But the Minister for Trade and Industry should then say: “ I am not going to accept that report, and I have good reasons for not accepting it. My reasons are that this industry is vital to the north-western part of Victoria and to the 300 or 400 people and their families who work in the industry around Wangaratta.” He should also be able to say this about the paper mills near Burnie, which we were discussing before dinner. If they were in danger of being closed, he would be entitled to say, “ I am going to protect them so that unemployment will not be caused “.
We should get rid of this humbug. If the Minister for Trade and Industry was not prepared to go to Wangaratta three days before an election and say, “ I will see that this industry is not closed down “, the people of Australia and the people of Wangaratta would be entitled to vote against him. But let us be a little more straightforward about it. If the Minister for Trade and Industry and other honorable members opposite are a bit more straightforward, they will not earn as much legitimate criticism from the honorable member for Wakefield as they have earned to-day.
I think the history of this matter deserves a little attention, lt has been before the Tariff Board on five or six occasions in the last few years. It went there in 1961 and on 11th August, 1961, there was a report which led to the imposition of a temporary duty of 25 per cent. The temporary duty was imposed a couple of months before an election. Who would suggest that there was not a connexion between these two events? There should be a connexion. We should not permit an industry like this one at Wangaratta to be closed, and we should not permit it even if this happened even two months after an election. Then in 1962, following a Tariff Board report in June of that year, the temporary duty was removed. Then the matter went back to the Tariff Board again. Why did it go back? Obviously for sound political reasons. It has gone back and now the Tariff Board has examined it again and has decided that it is necessary that urgent action be taken to protect the Australian man-made fibre piece goods industry, including Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited at Wangaratta. So we are back where we were before.
Would it not have been sensible to have retained the duty all the time instead of chopping about in this silly pretence that is supposed to be responsible administration by the Minister for Trade and Industry? I do not think the honorable member for Indi needs to bother about defending the Minister for Trade and Industry for saying that he would look after Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited. I think he would have had to defend him if he had not said that. I am surprised that the honorable member for Indi thinks it is necessary to say here that he does not believe the newspaper report that the Minister said he would look after this industry. So let us have a little bit of straightforward thinking about this. Then there will not be so much confusion about tariffs.
.- I will be brief. I think far too much has been made out of this debate. It was completely unnecessary but it was brought about by the peculiar theories put forward by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). I was perturbed to hear him say that he will continue to grind out the same old gramophone record. I am compelled to speak because of a statement made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten). This confirmed my belief that concern has been aroused by the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield about these very important industries. To-day we have had evidence that at least three large manufacturers - I am quite sure there would be many more - ‘have invited the honorable member for Wakefield to go to their works to investigate the matters about which he has complained and to inform himself. These manufacturers are Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd. and Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited. The honorable member has not made any attempt to take advantage of these offers. If he is sincere in his desire to protect the Australian public against exploitation, he has a duty to ensure that the accusations he makes under the privilege of Parliament can be substantiated.
The companies I have mentioned are not concerned if the statements are correct, but they are concerned because these completely unfair accusations are causing wanton injury to their reputations and businesses. All of this reacts to the detriment of the Australian public and often has a very bad effect on the shareholders. The honorable member has had support from the “ Australian Financial Review”, which has relished being able to print such spicy bits that appear to be to the detriment of the Government. The honorable member would be the first to complain if certain overseas companies were permitted to dump their cheap food surpluses on the Australian market to the detriment of Australian primary producers. Surely he must concede that a practice that is objectionable in the field of primary products, about which he knows something, is equally to be condemned if it damages our secondary industries, about which he has demonstrated that he knows very little.
I express the hope that the honorable member will realize that his immoderate and uninformed attacks are contrary to the best interests of Australia. His attacks are unjustified. They are an unwarranted slur on large, efficient, Australian-owned companies that are doing a magnificent job in the development of Australia - companies of which all of us, including the honorable member, should be proud. Those industries have brought employment and prosperity not only to my electorate but also to the electorates of other honorable members who have been affected by the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– It is an enormous pity that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) should have spent so much time down on the farm. It is a great pity that he had not spent a little time in industry and perhaps also in commerce, acquainting himself with some of the problems involved in marketing to-day. If he had, I do not think honorable members would have been regaled with some of the extraordinary statements that he has made during the course of this debate.
Let me deal first as an example with the man-made fibre piecegoods industry. Earlier reports covering the Australian manmade fibre piecegoods industry brought a report from the Tariff Board that the industry was established on efficient lines and therefore should be preserved. In quantitative terms, the industry has the capacity to provide the whole of Australia’s requirements in its field. When one looks at the enormous volume of types of materials, patterns, end use of products and so on, it would be foolish to believe that we in Australia should or even could attempt to provide the whole of our requirements of these highly specialized items. Therefore, the industry splits into these two sections, and this has led to the references to-night in this debate to Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited. We can look after ourselves in the lower-priced goods but not when it comes to the higher-priced goods which have been the subject of the award of tariff protection by the Special Advisory Authority, to which the honorable member objects. This is brought about by the fact that there is inevitably a smaller market for the higher-priced goods. Anybody who understands the economics of quantity production - heaven knows, we have been trying to instil this simple economic lesson into the mind of the honorable member during this whole series of tariff debates - may very well understand why this tariff award should apply to goods having a value for duty exceeding 60d. a square yard only. When in 1961 a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board examined the case of the manmade fibre piecegoods industry he found that in general the industry was not in need of increased protection. But is August of that same year, his report was confined to such piecegoods as I have referred to - those in the higher-priced bracket - and he found for a very good reason that this section of the industry definitely was in need of further assistance. Hence this award.
I regret that the name of Bruck Mills has been introduced into the debate to-night, because this has tended to distort the whole tenor of the debate. The ideas of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) are quite quaint. He claims that the Tariff Board should prostitute its authority to protect individual units of an industry because they happen to be decentralized or for some other reason. I hope that those quaint ideas are never adopted by the Tariff Board. If they are, I hope that this Parliament will roundly reject them.
– Apparently you cannot listen as well as argue.
– I listened very closely to the honorable member and I am quite aware of what he said. Throughout this series of tariff debates to-night the honorable member has suggested that the Tariff Board should use its authority to withhold tariff protection if two people dare to enter an industry in Australia. In other words, the honorable gentleman would use the power of the board to enforce his delight - the planned economy. He would say to people: “ You must rationalize your industry. Two people must not divide a market that is already too small, otherwise the board will not listen to your request for assistance.”
– You are right there, anyway.
– The honorable member is good enough to say that I am right in that proposition. The honorable member is on record as having advocated the use of the Tariff Board to produce the socialist planned economy. However, that is an argument for another time.
It is true that the Government is in favour of having decentralized industry of the kind established at Wangaratta, and wants to see such industry preserved and profitable. The important thing is that we should preserve for this country the growing textile industry. Nobody has any doubt about the difficulties faced by the textile industry. We know that Australia is a high cost-of-production country. I thought that honorable gentlemen opposite would be pleased to support the board in rendering protection of this kind because it is only this kind of tariff screen which allows the Labour Party or anybody else interested continually to advocate that wage standards in Australia should continue to rise. One thing leads to the other. If we are to have high wage standards, inevitably we will be a high cost-of-production country. If we are to be a high cost-of-production country we must settle down to buy all of our goods overseas - sometimes I believe the honorable member for Wakefield would have us do so - or else protect our own young industries. If they need something more than the ordinary level of protection it is because we have become a high costofproduction country. As far as I am concerned the Tariff Board is doing a particularly sound job in its recommendations for this industry.
The honorable member for Yarra tonight asked why a report, having been to a special advisory authority, would have to go back to the board. I appreciate that the honorable member has only recently taken charge of tariff debates for the Opposition, but surely he knows that the whole machinery of the Special Advisory Authority was put into operation because we needed to take quick action on those occasions when a local industry was threatened by a quick and unexpected movement in overseas price levels. We live in a pretty sophisticated, and competitive world of trade. Overseas firms have their ears to the ground, either personally, through their trade representatives or through trade channels of information. They are well aware of the movement in Australian prices and costs. They know very well when they may scoop the Australian market, unloading some of their goods at a price which does not attract dumping duties but at the same time is very low in terms of profit margin for them. When this happens they may very quickly leave an Australian industry floundering for some considerable time. To make sure that our Australian industries would not suffer these recurring periods of completely unprofitable production, the Government established this procedure of setting up a special advisory authority to give temporary protection but only until the Tariff Board could have an opportunity to have a good look at the industry. So, inevitably, if a matter is referred to a special advisory authority, for very good reason only temporary protection will be earned, if anything is earned, and the matter must again be referred to the board.
Apparently one must continue to repeat the stories behind the tariff set-up. The honorable member for Wakefield has become tediously repetitious in pursuit of a point that he seems to think is a principle. If this is his belief, I imagine that repetition is the only way to impress it on the minds of Australian listeners. I regret that I must be equally repetitious and say that industries which are worthy of protection must have this machinery if we are to have a Tariff Board which does not over-protect our industries. In my opinion, the constant movement of a reference between a Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board is brought about very largely because of the unwillingness of the board to over-protect an Australian industry. Over-protection is as bad as under-protection in a country such as Australia, in which many industries are merely beginning to develop. I hope that the honorable member for Wakefield will exercise a little patience in this matter and will not be so extraordinarily worried about the constant re-reference of matters between a Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board.
I also hope that he will accept many of the invitations, which I heard offered freely to him this afternoon, to look into the plants and to meet the people who are responsible for the various kinds of production which have been the subject of the Tariff Board reports with which we have been dealing this afternoon and to-night. The honorable gentleman might bring h;mself up to date on the whole machinery of production. For instance, in the chemical industry there is a drop-off in a Jong, continuing series of industrial actions which produce new products.
At this stage, I cannot refrain from saying another word about the honorable member for Yarra. As I have understood his references to many of the tariff matters that have come before us, he is suggesting that some of the big firms should be able and willing to carry uneconomic, and therefore unprofitable, production for some time during the formative stages. If the honorable gentleman will do me the honour of reading through his offerings in this chamber over some considerable time past, he will find that in respect of some of the big companies - I quote Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited as one that comes readily to mind - he has urged that on any one of ten or twelve products of that company, it should be prepared to stand a long period of uneconomic production and therefore loss.
It may be right and proper to say that a firm might reasonably put up with a little loss in the early stages of production of a new product, until it really settles down in its cost of production. But if one aggregates the losses which would accrue to such a company over a whole series of productive operations, one sees that the company, in toto, would become thoroughly unprofitable and therefore would not be in existence to establish and to develop Australian production.
– What was the total profit of I.C.1. last year?
– I am not concerned about its overall profit last year. It was a reasonable profit on the enormous capital involved in the company. If these firms are profitable in to-day’s Australian economy, it is because they have had the goodness of heart, the bigness of heart and the faith in this country’s future to come in and attract an enormous amount of capital in order to establish and develop Australian industries. It is all very well to criticize these companies after they have become profitable. But if the honorable gentleman will look at the statistics of the number of firms which begin production in this country and then go out of business, he might have respect for the firms which are capable enough to stay in business, only by virtue of making a profit.
This kind of argument does not entice me to my feet too often, because too many ill-informed offerings are presented in this chamber. When I do get to my feet, I am afraid I am persuaded to talk for too long.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman says, “ Hear, hear! “ I hope that he will take the lesson to heart in respect of the next tariff item to come before the committee.
.- I have been abused by almost every one. I do not know where to start. I shall reply first to the smear made by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), namely, that because I have a farming background I ought to confine myself to farming.
– I said nothing of the sort. I said that it was a pity your experience was not a little wider.
– I am sorry. I thought I quoted you correctly.
– Farming is a very good beginning, but you should add something to it.
– I have endeavoured to add something to it. Everybody says that I do not do my homework. I probably do not do it as well as the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) and other people do theirs; but I do the best I can.
Secondly, I have been criticized by everybody because I do not visit factories. I visit factories continually. This cheap advice to the effect that I would be better off if I understood the position more clearly is easy to give. I merely say that I suppose I have seen more factories than most people have seen.
– You do not go to the ones that you criticize.
– Recently I went to one that I had criticized, and afterwards it was said that I used in this chamber some of the information that I gained at that factory. Actually, I did not do that. I had prepared my speech before I went to the factory. It was said that I was gaining information by going to a factory and using it against a company which gave me a perfectly splendid lunch. That is one of the reasons why I do not go to some factories. Do people think - obviously they do - that because I go and have a look at a factory, I am beholden to its owner because I have had the privilege of seeing inside the factory and eating a magnificent meal? We are talking about principles, not occasional visits to factories.
No one can blame the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) for being angry with me. If he had attacked an industry in my electorate I probably would have been angry with him. I bear him no personal animosity for being angry with me. I happen to think that I am right and he is wrong; but, of course, that is open to some argument. There is one point on which I think we have to be clear in our minds. The honorable member for McMillan has said that I should not name particular companies in this chamber.
– I did not say that.
– He said that I should not criticize particular companies. These decisions are based on Tariff Board reports, which themselves discuss and criticize particular companies. If we do not discuss particular companies, we cannot discuss the Tariff Board reports fruitfully.
In addition, let us recognize that a tariff is a subsidy paid by the consumers to the owners of a factory. What kind of a democracy is this if we are not to discuss the effect of subsidies paid by the consumers to certain factories? I do not say that we ought to discuss the matter in a nasty way, but we ought to discuss it critically. I refuse to be intimidated by this kind of criticism. If a company is receiving a subsidy from the Australian consumers and it can justify receipt of that subsidy, it has nothing to be ashamed of. That is the basis of the whole protective system. In my opinion, this ridiculous attitude that we must not discuss companies in this chamber is not worthy of the honorable members who adopt it.
I turn now to the defence made by the Minister for Supply. He says that the emergency protection system was set up to take fire-brigade action, to provide emergency protection. Of course it was. That is why I did not oppose it when it was proposed. But let me refresh the Minister’s mind on the way it is operating now. He seems to have forgotten that the Tariff Board made a report and recommendation on man-made fibre piece goods in 1961, I think. The matter went back to the Special Advisory Authority; then it went back again to the Tariff Board, which said that a certain sector of the industry was uneconomic; and then, in spite of that clear finding and of the fact that imports were not increasing, back it went to the Special Advisory Authority again. No eloquence will rub out those facts. They are printed in the reports of the Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board for all to see. What is worrying me is that the system which we have built up and which the Minister for Supply has defended to-night inevitably has weakened the effectiveness and ability of the Tariff Board to make clear recommendations. Even when clear recommendations are made, they are altered. I am disappointed that the Minister will not respond to the challenge.
I am not criticizing emergency protection as a principle. I am criticizing the way in which it operates in some cases. I have said in the House previously that if I were to speak on every tariff item - I think there are sixteen before us now - I would be even more repetitious than the Minister says I have been. If I were to speak on each one of those items, some of which, as I mentioned yesterday, would justify discussion, and so occupy the time of the House, the debate would go on to eternity. But because I say that I agree with certain items and then pick out others that I think could be dangerous or should be looked at again, I am accused of being repetitious. Well, repetitious I may be, but I shall continue to be repetitious in speaking up for the principles for which I stand and for which I took it my party stood.
.- I do not feel that I should allow the remarks of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), to pass without comment. Although for the moment the honorable member for Wakefield has not been critical of members of the Opposition party, I want to remind him that the establishment of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited at Wangaratta was due entirely to the present Opposition party when in government. Bruck Mills were part of the war effort of the then Government of Australia. They were erected for the purpose of processing aluminium products. After the war, in order to foster, sponsor and encourage Australian industry, the then government determined to make factories equivalent to the magnificent factory at Wangaratta available to Australian industry at what might be termed very nominal cost. For that reason, and because of the encouragement we offered people to set up industries in Australia with both local and overseas capital, I have always been interested in the welfare of such industries and have always been prepared to support in this Parliament any measure of protection to which I believed they were justly entitled and in the main, as I think honorable members will accept, to support the recommendations of the Tariff Board with a view to protecting them from unfair overseas competition.
Because of the reference that was made to-night to the Special Advisory Authority I shall direct some remarks along that line. Rightly or wrongly, during the discussion in this Parliament on the granting of the powers now vested in the Special Advisory Authority I was very critical on the ground that I did not consider that any authority should be set up in this country with the right to impose, behind the back of the Parliament, what was the equivalent of taxation.
The powers given to the Special Advisory Authority are such that if the Parliament is not in session he may take an action which imposes a protective duty on a product for the benefit of an Australian industry. The effect of the imposition of that tariff is an almost immediate increase in the price of the product to the Australian people and an increase in the price of the product to the Australian people is, of course, equivalent to the imposition of a tax. I considered that to be morally, economically and in every other way wrong. I think I stated at the time that, pending the Parliament meeting, the Government, in the event of an emergency, should be prepared to take its courage in its hands and impose import restrictions wherever necessary. That is not to say that the mere imposition of import restrictions would not also result in increased prices; but that would not necessarily be so to the extent that the imposition of an increased tariff rate behind the back of the Parliament would, without any shadow of doubt, result in increased prices and in a form of taxation. Let us have that very clearly on the record. I have no doubt that the continual utilization of the power vested in the Special Advisory Authority to whip an additional tariff on a wide range of Australian products has had the effect of inflating prices to the Australian consumer - maybe justified, maybe not. But to my mind the machinery has been used wrongfully.
My colleague the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has been criticized in this chamber because, I understand, he made some comment critical of the very large Australian manufacturing industries which at the first show of adversity or the first blow of an adverse wind run to the Special Advisory Authority or to the Tariff Board for protection. Am I right?
– Very well. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) is all in favour of it. 1 am an ardent protectionist. As the honorable member for Wakefield well knows, I have always said that I would rather have an Australian exploiter than an overseas exploiter, because I can get at the Australian exploiter. I can insist on the wages and the labour conditions that he should grant to his employees, and I can impose a rate of taxation upon him that 1 think is adequate to the particular circumstances of the Commonwealth. But the thing that has always irked me and worried and upset me is that honorable members on the Government side are so apt to point out the beneficial effects of these big concerns on the Australian economy and on the Australian people - they do have beneficial effects - but those honorable members are never very articulate about the small man, the one-man industry, the little bloke down the side street who has a small engineering shop, ‘the delicatessen man, the garage owner.
– They are being put in gaol in New South Wales.
– When people do not observe the labour conditions of the State, gaol is the right place for them. In my youth I stood on the streets of Melbourne and listened to the Labour orators of the day advocate a boycott of the shops that did not close their doors at 6 o’clock and allow their employees to go home, and the emporiums which did not close on Saturdays and allow their employees to enjoy the weekend. Those Labour men won the day, not only for the employees but also for people like you. I am not making any apologies for what is happening in New South Wales.
Now let me return to the subject. In my opinion there has always been an overemphasis on the need to save these big fellows. I have been a party to helping to save them on occasions, because I would rather save them than push them out of the country or not encourage them to come to Australia. But we should not refrain from criticism. Look at Imperial Chemical Industries which I think my colleagues mentioned - a magnificent organization, efficient, world-wide. It does not matter whether you are in Germany, the United States of America, Britain or Australia, you will find some manifestation of this immense amalgamation of capital.
Let us look at what has happened in Australia. About 25 or 30 years ago there were three artificial manure manufacturers in Australia, Wishart and Company, CummingSmith and Company and, I think, Federated Manures. In the interests of the producer and of the Australian economy - they claimed - they decided overnight that they should become one. They became Commonwealth Fertilizers Limited. But I know from inside information that before those three companies became Commonwealth Fertilizers Limited they had a trade arrangement among themselves that none of them would cut prices to the farmers for their artificial fertilizers and none of them would alter the commission rate paid to country agents, which at that time was 5s. a ton on superphosphate. They all decided that they would play the game together under a mutual arrangement that any breach of the agreement would incur a fine of £500. That arrangement has had effect for a long time. Recently, lo and behold, I.C.I., that immense worldwide chemical combine which is actually operating in my constituency and employing a good many of my electors, got together with this amalgam of three - Commonwealth Fertilizers Limited - and has now merged with it. Now LCL and Commonwealth Fertilizers have the whole game stiched up. Then at the first blow of an adverse wind this immensely powerful combine says that it wants more protection. If I came here and said that the little grocers of Glenroy or Broadmeadows were in danger because of unfair competition and that they wanted protection, I would be laughed out of court.
We must watch this situation very carefully. When we do grant increased protection we must see that not only do we give a fair deal to the particular concern that is protected but that we also give a fair deal to the people who purchase the products of that concern. In the case of Imperial Chemical Industries we should ensure that we give a fair deal to the farming community which buys fertilizers from that company. Of course this firm produces an immensely wide range of products, including almost every known form of chemical, and we must ensure that the consumers of those chemicals are also protected. This is where I quarrel with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), whom I admire very much personally for his political pluck and courage, as well a; for the immense research work that he does on the subject of tariffs. I point out, however, that the honorable member never says, “ Whilst we do not mind giving ‘these people increased protection, let us vest in some one the power to see that the increased protection per lb., per cwt. or per bottle - whatever the correct measure is - does not exceed an amount which would result in a price to the community as a whole that would be more than could be considered a fair thing “. Never a word do we get from him along those lines - never a squeak.
When the three artificial fertilizer manufacturing concerns that I have mentioned merged it was, of course, all in the interests of the farmers. Oh, yes! When that particular amalgam in turn merged with Imperial Chemical Industries, again it was all in the interests of the farmers. You’re telling me! What damn nonsense! Please excuse the French. It was all in the interests of Imperial Chemical Industries and its shareholders. What do you think the chairman and the board of directors of that firm exist for? Is it not for the purpose of extracting the maximum possible profit from the community and in due course going before the shareholders and saying, “ We have made a handsome profit “.
– It was a record this year.
– Yes, a record this year. So we look to the Tariff Board to continue to give this Parliament the extensive information that it has given us in the past. Let me say at this juncture that the only thing that has kept Imperial Chemical Industries, and also Commonwealth Fertilizers Limited before it merged with Imperial Chemical Industries, in their place-
– Order! I would like to remind the honorable member that the committee is considering man-made fibre piecegoods, not fertilizers.
– I think you are right but the honorable member for Wakefield spoke of general principles in connexion with the application of tariffs, and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who is now at the table, spoke of a broad basic principle for which I commend him. I am following the excellent example of these gentlemen, but I realize that you may well be right, Mr. Temporary Chairman, so I shall come back to the subject. But before doing so I would point out that the only thing that keeps a certain instrumentality in order - that does not necessarily mean a firm dealing with fertilizers, but you may draw your own conclusion - is that there is in Victoria a co-operative fertilizer organization known as Pivot. If it hsst not been for the existence of that farmers’ co-operative organization in Victoria, God only knows what the poor unfortunate farmers of Australia would now be paying for fertilizers.
But there is another unfortunate aspect of this situation. For a long time a particular firm - I do not want to evade your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman - has been in the habit of putting up some forms of fertilizers in paper bags. If you left any of those bags of fertilizer containing potash on the barn floor for more than three weeks and then tried to put the contents into the superphosphate or potash spreader the bags would fall to pieces, and you would then have to go through the tedious process of transferring the contents into jute bags. Now consider the advantage that these great monopolies have, with the patent processes that are at their disposal. There is a particular firm, known by a particular set of initials, that will now pack a particular product in a polythene bag, and you can take bags of that product out to the paddock, straight off the railway trucks, and leave them there, even though you do not intend to use them for six months. Now the competing co-operative firm has to adopt the same kind of container or else be dependent on I.C.I, for the product.
The honorable member for Wakefield must agree that there are storms ahead. I hope the honorable member will let the Tariff Board know of these things although I suppose it will read what I have said. I would ask the board to keep a watch on the tendency of some of these firms to imagine that whenever an adverse wind blows in their direction they have a claim on the community for protection, while the small shop-keeper or other small businessman cannot get such protection against adverse winds.
Item agreed to.
Item 463 (c) (5) agreed to.
Item 464 (c) (Bed sheeting and pillow cases).
.- We are now coming to the end of a long list, as everybody will be glad to know. I want to discuss the emergency duty on cotton sheeting. The recently imposed emergency duties on cotton sheeting are yet another example of the shuttle service that I have so often mentioned, with duties climbing higher and higher and with the industry getting no further ahead, and with the poor old consumer denied the advantage of being able to buy cheap sheets.
The first inquiry on cotton sheeting was held in 1953, and protective rates were recommended for plain sheeting weighing between four oz. and seven oz. a square yard. This weight of sheeting was the only weight made by the local industry, in which, at that time, there was only one factory - the Actil factory. Later, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited came into the field. So now both Actil and Bradford make the same types and they both cater for the same demand which springs from only those who are fortunate enough to be able to buy better quality and therefore more expensive sheets.
In 1956 there was another inquiry and the protected range was widened to include twill sheeting as well as plain but the weight range was left the same. I hope that these details will satisfy the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). I am doing the best I can. In 1957 there was another inquiry and this time a sliding scale of duty was imposed - which was difficult for most people to understand, including me - to try to stop cheap bleached sheeting coming in from Asian countries, but the protected range remained the same. In 1963 there was yet another inquiry. The rate of duty was lowered slightly on the four to seven oz. range, and the range was widened because it was found that under four oz. sheeting was being imported at non-protective rates, so sheeting weighing between three and a half and four oz. a square yard was made dutiable at still another rate of duty.
There matters stood until May last year when the industry again approached the Minister and asked for emergency protection. This was refused, but the case was referred to the full Tariff Board for yet another report. In July the industry again came up with a request for emergency protection and this time the request was granted. The duties we are now discussing are the result of the Special Advisory Authority’s report. Summed up, the Special Advisory Authority increased the duties on the old protective range - three and a half to seven oz. - and again widened the range, protecting sheeting weighing between three and three and a half oz. and also sheeting over seven oz. per square yard.
The reasons for the Special Advisory Authority’s decision are briefly that imports in the protected range, that is three and a half to seven oz., are not increasing. In fact, they are quite small, but the authority found that, if sheeting were not coming in over the tariff wall, it was coming in around it, so to speak. The importers were avoiding the duty by bringing in sheeting that was outside the protected range. This was stopped by widening the range and raising the duty. So the Special Advisory Authority now thinks, as do the Government and the industry itself, that that is the end of that, and that the industry can settle down to enjoy the fruits of its enterprise in asking so insistently for protection. But it is not the end of the story.
There are still some unfortunate people in Australia who cannot afford to buy the better quality dear sheets. What will they try to do now? First, they will try to import under 3 oz. sheeting, which is of very low quality and is very cheap sheeting. There is already evidence that there has been a considerable increase in the imports of very light sheeting since this duty was imposed. If this is stopped, the next thing the people will do will be to buy printed sheeting, which is not protected at the moment. What a picture this conjures up. You can imagine twin beds coyly standing alongside one another, with one tucked down sheet proclaiming “ His “ and the other “ Hers “, or perhaps a double bed with “ Ours “ printed more boldly. Perhaps in the corner of the room is a crib with a sheet hopefully labelled “ Its “. I understand they have even gone further than that and have pillow cases labelled “ Yes “ on one side and “No” on the other. I do not understand the implication of that.
The most interesting part of all this is that the printed sheets will probably be cheaper than if they were plain. No doubt the customs authorities will stop printed sheeting from coming in at low rates of duty. If they do it by fair means - that is, by means of a Tariff Board report - that will take some time. But they may use another method and issue a tariff circular memorandum, which does not have to be ratified by the Parliament, stating that from now on printed sheeting shall be regarded as being the same as bleached or dyed sheeting. No one except the person in the trade will know anything about it and the poor person, still trying to buy cheap sheets, will not understand why printed sheets have become dearer.
What will happen then? The people who still need cheap sheets will start buying unbleached sheets, which are not protected. There is nothing wrong with unbleached sheets except that they do not look too good hanging on the line, I understand. Apparently there is a snob value about bleached sheets. I am told that unbleached sheets are used more frequently in the country than in the city, where the eagle eye of Mrs. Jones is likely to overlook her neighbour’s washing on the line. But if the unbleached sheeting becomes still cheaper in relation to bleached, then it is likely that the snob appeal of bleached sheets will be forgotten. Or perhaps some bright chemist will invent a powder that bleaches sheets even quicker than at present.
Something will have to be done about this. I do not know how it will be done - perhaps by a Tariff Board report or tariff circular memorandum. What will happen when this avenue of getting cheap sheets is closed? People will always be trying to buy cheap sheets. They will then use flannelette sheets - which are protected - all the year round. They will buy them at the beginning of winter when their extra warmth will be appreciated. After being well washed during the winter the nap will have disappeared and they will resemble ordinary sheets. So something will have to be done about these - and it will be done, somehow.
– They will use plastic sheeting.
– I do not pretend to know what will happen. You can buy sheets made from a mixture of cotton and linen very cheaply now. These may very well be cheaper than the protected Australian sheets. Perhaps we will be able to buy bonded fibre sheets, where weaving is not necessary, or perhaps plastic sheets. I think an honorable member mentioned that he uses them. I can well imagine why. Perhaps people will stop using sheets at all. But we can be certain of one thing, Mr. Chairman. There will always be a considerable group of people desperately trying to buy cheap sheets, not because they have a preference for lower quality bed linen but for the very simple and also very sound reason that that is all they can afford.
The queer part of this exercise is that the Australian industry only makes, in any quantity, sheeting that weighs between 4 ozs. and 7 ozs. per square yard. If this duty does what it is designed to do, the people of Australia will be able to buy only one kind of sheeting, that is, white, unprinted bleached or dyed sheeting weighing between 4 ozs. and 7 ozs. per square yard. This seems a pretty severe exercise in authority by a government that, in its policy speech, prided itself on being a free enterprise government and on giving its citizens a freedom of choice. Evidently we are free to choose whether we smoke cigarettes or not, gamble or not, or drink beer or not. But when it comes to sleeping, the edict has gone forth that, from now on, the citizens of Australia will sleep between unprinted, bleached sheets weighing between 4 and 7 ozs. per square yard. The Government makes the bed and we have to lie on it, and the only choice we will have is lying between sheets of this weight or between no sheets at all.
I shall stop looking into the future and come back to the present. What will all this protection cost Australia? In its report of 1956 - this is not my comment - the Tariff Board stated -
The total cost to users based on the duly asked for of 18d. per square yard, and on the assumption that the local mill would take full advantage of the duly, would be approximately £2,000,000 per annum. This annual cost is twice as much as the whole of the capital employed by Actil. In other words, it would cost the consumer less to purchase and scrap the whole of the assets of Actil than to carry the excess cost of only one year’s requirements on this basis.
If the necessary duty were, in fact, lower than that requested, and the excess cost’s were only half the estimated figure of £2,000,000 it would, in the opinion of the Board, be still too high a cost for any advantages arising from having half of Australia’s requirements made in Australia.
Since then Bradford Cotton Mills Limited has joined Australian Cotton Textile Industries Limited in making sheeting, and together they have a capacity to make about 20.000,000 square yards of sheeting. This duty is designed to protect the market for this amount of sheeting. If the duty does what it is designed to do, it will mean that 20,000,000 yards of sheeting will cost at least ls. per square yard over and above what we could import it for duty free. In other words, the sheet consumer or user will pay an annual subsidy to Bradford and Actil of at least £1,000.000 a year. By the time the wholesaler and retailer have added their percentage mark up, the consumer will be paying £1,000,000 to the manufacturer and an extra £1,000,000 to the distributing section. As it appears that about 1,600 people are employed in the industry, the consumer will be paying a subsidy of £625 for every person employed in the industry.
If the sheeting manufacturers get the duty they are asking for at the current inquiry, by the time this passes through the hands of the various merchants and retailers it will cost the purchasers of the sheets an extra £ 10,000,000. The tragedy is that the position will not get any better. In a capital intensive industry there is always the chance that economics of scale will give some hope that the industry’s competitive position will improve as its output increases or as its machinery cost is written off, but in a labour intensive industry such as the textile industry, where we are competing with the products of cheap labour countries, it is clear that our competitive position will not improve. So the whole exercise has an air of hopelessness.
I have been over the Actil mill and, although I do not pretend to understand the processes, to my unpractised eye it seems reasonably efficient. However, I do not pretend to know. I do not have the advantages that the honorable member for McMillan has. At the current textile inquiry very grave doubts have been raised about its efficiency, but I must say that to my unpractised eye it seemed to be efficient. But even if this mill is efficient, it is still uneconomic, lt is uneconomic because other people in other lands can make sheets much cheaper than we can, because the industry is labour intensive. This industry is a grim example of the danger of departing from the old economic and efficient measuring stick which used to be the basis of the policy of the Government when granting tariff protection. It is a great pity that the voice of the consumer or user of sheets is not heard more loudly when she is denied access to cheap sheets. The trouble is that she mostly does not know what is going on. She buys only a few sheets a year and, in any event, she does not have any one to advise her. The retailers are not always concerned, although some very good submissions were made recently to the Tariff Board by a sector of the retail trade. Generally, retailers know that the higher the price they pay for sheets the greater will be their mark-up and profit. Individual importers are concerned and they fight as well as they can, but it is hard to get the Chamber of Commerce to speak with a loud clear voice on this subject. Its tones are somewhat muted because some of its members are also makers of sheets; at least one sheet manufacturer operates a pretty closely controlled selling organization.
One would expect the Department of Trade to represent the consumers to some extent in this contest, but it docs not seem to be interested in consumers. 1 suppose it is because consumers are not well organized and do not give banquets at which politicians and officials can make eloquent speeches. If the Department of Trade will not watch the interests of the consumers, perhaps the Department of the Treasury could be asked to hold a watching brief for them. The gradual increase in the cost of living and the creeping inflation which is caused must greatly concern Treasury officials. They go to considerable trouble and make themselves very unpopular in trying to keep costs stable, only to see their work undone by the slow, insidious and irreversible increase in costs which they know must be borne, in the last resort, by the export industries. It is the health of the export industries which decides the health of the economy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As no other honorable member has risen, 1 will take my second period now. Surely the Treasury officials must be interested. If they will not speak for consumers, perhaps the Australian Consumers Association will accept the responsibility. This point was raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). I appreciate that it is asking a lot of the association because it would not be an easy exercise. A great deal of work would be entailed and it would mean presenting carefully prepared evidence to the Tariff Board, a procedure for which the association is not organized, lt would involve accepting the responsibility of being critical of the Government when consumers are not getting a fair go. 1 repeat that it is asking a lot of the association, but some one must do it.
One would expect the Labour Party to be interested in the fate of consumers, but obviously until now it has not been greatly concerned. If the Australian Consumers Association cannot present a case for consumers because of lack of resources and staff and if the Treasury is not willing to shoulder the responsibility, perhaps a system can be worked out whereby the Government subsidizes the association so that it may perform this vitally important work. After all, the Government helps the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council by providing staff and resources for them. It seems to me that there is no good reason why the Australian Consumers Association should not be so subsidized. There are a lot of consumers in Australia, all with votes and all with problems. Surely these consumers should be encouraged to express their views. For them not to be heard at all is a grave omission.
Another grave question of principle is involved in the imposition of this duty. It will be justified in some people’s eyes because it prevents competition from undeveloped countries. Yet the people holding this view are always very vocal in demanding that we play our part in helping to raise the standards of undeveloped countries. It is worth remembering that the main impact of the emergency duties will fall on India. We should realize our dreadful responsibility in this matter. We beat our breasts in public and make eloquent speeches about our determination to help. We say in ringing tones that trade is more important than aid. It is correct, but I have seen at first-hand the results of trying to help the undeveloped countries by aid alone. It is not easy. When the Indians, for example, start to do what we are always telling them to do by making their cheap cotton into sheets, using their own plentiful supply of labour in order to earn the foreign exchange so desperately needed to buy capital goods or our wheat, we soon put a stop to that by slapping on a sliding scale of duty which prevents them supplying us with goods more cheaply than we can make them. At international trade conferences we make the plea that the undeveloped countries are entitled to special consideration and we attempt to have ourselves branded as undeveloped when we have a greater percentage of our workforce employed in secondary industry than has the United States of America. Surely it is time we woke up to ourselves and realized that eloquence is not a substitute for action. Do we think that the Indians will sleep forever in the streets of Calcutta? For the sake of our survival we will have to do something soon.
Because of the serious effect that the imposition of the emergency duties must have on our relationships with India and other undeveloped countries, I am sur prised that officers from the Department of External Affairs have not given evidence at the current Tariff Board inquiry into cotton textiles. I have heard an argument for increased duties on cotton sheeting as a method of supplying a market for our developing cotton growing industry. This is about as quaint an argument as one would hear anywhere. Evidently the Australian taxpayers are to be asked to find considerable amounts of money to pay a bounty on Australian-grown cotton so that it may be bought by manufacturers at world parity prices. Consumers are then to be asked to subsidize the manufacture of the cotton into sheeting. This seems to me to be about the queerest way to develop Australia that one could imagine.
The bounty on cotton is paid to make it possible for Australian cotton to be sold at world parity prices so that the local users will not suffer by having to pay a higher price than their overseas competitors. The Australian growers are likely to sell more cotton if the price of cotton textiles is not too high, as a considerable amount of substitution is possible between cotton fibre and wool or synthetic fibres if cotton textiles become too dear. It is in the interests of the Australian cotton-growers to see that the prices of Australian cotton textiles are kept as low as possible and not jacked up by high rates of duty such as those being imposed at present.
The evidence of Mr. P. D. Kahl at the recent Tariff Board inquiry into cotton textiles is very interesting. Mr. Kahl is an experienced American cotton-grower who has settled in the Namoi district to make a living by growing cotton. The transcript of his evidence to the Tariff Board states -
Deputy Chairman: Is it your opinion that given this expansion in cotton growing, cotton can be produced at reasonably near world parity price?
Mr. Kahl: My answer to that can be a little fuller than “ yes “ and “ no “. The answer is yes ‘. We would not have come over here and invested the money we did with only one year of the bounty scheme to go and no guarantee of a new bounty scheme if we had not thought this was so. .
When referring to production in the United
Slates of America Mr. Kahl said -
The reason for their glut is because they are pricing themselves out of the market and giving it to synthetics. They simply put the price too high. lt is clear that there is a reasonable chance that we can produce cotton at world prices. Representatives of the Indian cotton textile industry have said that they are prepared to buy our cotton if we will buy it back from them as textiles. As we would buy more cotton textiles if they were cheaper, the Australian cotton-growers would benefit.
In the second-reading debate on the Customs Tariff Bill 1964, I was critical of the Government because I did not think that it had a real policy of protection. It seemed to me that it did not have a policy which clearly demonstrated its intentions but had only a desire to be loved by all. The temporary duty on cotton sheeting illustrates my point. It is easy to court the favour of two large and powerful countries by imposing the high rates of duly for which they ask. But the consumers pay, and the tragedy is that they do npt know they are pitying. If they were to find out, one rather populous sector of the electorate would cease to love the Government in the way it so obviously desires to be loved.
I believe that if the Japanese buyers retaliate by operating less strongly on our wool market as a result of this kind of action - and I have heard it is a possibility - the wool-growers will have a word or two to say. The whole economy will suffer if the Japanese retaliate. This, if it happens, will be due to our desperate efforts to protect an industry that is simply not economic, because it is labour-intensive. One could understand our jeopardizing our economy if we had something to gain. But, in this instance, we know before we start that the best that we can hope is that cotton textiles will cost only twice as much as before. Running the risk of seriously prejudicing our wool market for this result would seem to me to be fundamentally wrong.
.- Mr. Chairman, it is just as well that the proceedings are not being broadcast. ] believe that, had they been broadcast, the millions of Australian citizens who listen to the parliamentary broadcasts would have hud severe nightmares after listening to the frightening speech just made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). Rather appropriately, the last item that is to be debated is an item relating to bed sheeting and pillow cases. The appeal made by the honorable member appears to have been made principally in the interests of the producers of cotton and of the manufacturers of cotton products in the Republic of India. I, as an Australian, sleep very well in the modern and comfortable beds provided at Hotel Kurrajong. The able local management of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, which conducts that hotel, provides on the beds there Australianmade Actil sheets of excellent quality, and honorable members, after strenuous days and evenings spent in the precincts of the Parliament, are able to retire to Hotel Kurrajong and sleep in great comfort. I am grateful for the solicitude displayed by the management of the hotel in supplying bed linen of such excellent quality for the comfort of honorable members.
I believe that we should be very grateful also for the censorship imposed by this Government on printed bed sheeting and pillow cases. I would be very embarrassed if the management had purchased printed bed sheets and pillow cases and if, after a heavy day and evening in this chamber, I retired to my room and found the pillow slip on my bed displaying the word “ Yes “. So I am very grateful to the Government for the censorship that it imposes, as we realize now, not merely on books and other literary works but also on bedding materials.
I believe wholeheartedly in support for Australian industries and I am as one with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who spoke so eloquently on behalf of the Australian textile industry. I know that primary producers in Australia are struggling to promote the production of cotton. The cotton industry in this country has received many set-backs over the years. In Queensland, my own State, the industry has sometimes struggled, sometimes flourished and at other times almost gone out of existence. At present, the cotton industry generally is struggling, but I hope that it will blossom into a most progressive an,d prosperous industry, particularly in Queensland and northern
New South Wales. That will happen only if there is a demand by the Australian people for cotton goods manufactured in Australia from cotton grown in this country.
I conclude my brief bed-time story, Mr. Chairman, by expressing the hope that the Australian people will become more and more enthusiastic supporters of the Australian textile industry and will buy increasing quantities of the excellent bed sheeting and pillow cases manufactured here. These goods are of very high quality and will satisfactorily meet the needs of the Australian people. I believe that a far better night’s rest is assured if one uses good Australia-made bed sheets and pillow cases and declines to run the risk of imported printed sheets and pillow cases causing a bad nightmare.
Item agreed to.
Remainder of Schedule agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964 and Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964- by leave - taken as a whole together, and agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) together read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
Thai the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to put in a word this evening for a very small section of the Australian people - our musical composers. We need a little harmony in this place and this may be a good subject with which to induce it. In the debate on tariff measures that we have just concluded, there was very little harmony on the Government side of the chamber, but perhaps we can introduce some now. An organization known as the Fellowship of Australian Composers has sponsored a move for a Commonwealth music fund similar to the Commonwealth Literary Fund, which has earned the respect and support of many governments down the years by its work in the literary field. The secretary of the fellowship is Mr. George English, of Sydney. This is a very worth while and very dignified body of people who are trying to bring together composers of music throughout the Commonwealth. They are to be congratulated on sponsoring a project so worth while as is the proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth music fund. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has been officially approached. The first submission to him was made, I think, in March, 1962 - just over two years ago. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) supported the original move. I believe that the members of this Parliament could very well stand behind both these gentlemen, one a Labour man and the other a Liberal, in an effort to obtain Government assistance for the proposed Commonwealth music fund.
The original proposal was made to the Prime Minister about two years ago. It has been supported by all the musical people in the Commonwealth, including the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the directors of the conservatoriums and other people interested in the composition of music. Although no honorable member may ever write the lyrics of a song, let alone the music, movements such as this must start here amongst men like us who may listen to the works of composers but never join their ranks. That is one of the strange features of a democracy; people who may never compose music may be responsible for establishing a fund to help those who do. I hope that the Parliament will in the near future be guilty of approving of such a fund through the instrumentality of the Prime Minister, who really must make the first move.
On 18th September, 1962, the Prime Minister said that he was not in a position at that time to offer any specialized assistance in the field of musical composition. His reason was that assistance to the various art forms should continue to be channelled through the existing organizations, which in the main were the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Art Advisory Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. The Prime Minister pushed the proposal right out of the arena in making this statement, because Mr. English has said in a communication that none of these organizations or bodies is responsible for the creative musician in this country.
I have taken from the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department the amounts that are spent on the Commonwealth Literary Fund and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. In the last three years, the Commonwealth has found £25,000 a year for the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the purposes of which are well known to honorable members. The grant for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust has risen from £75,000 in 1962-63 to £200,000 in 1963-64. That is a remarkable and generous gift to the trust, which is doing a wonderful job on the theatre level in Australia. We now ask that the Commonwealth start a Commonwealth music fund to have very much the same ideals and purposes as the Commonwealth Literary Fund has. The fund could be started with, say, £10,000 for the first two or three years and in later years, as its activities grew and it proved its worth, the grant could be increased. This would be a tremendous encouragement and stimulus to young composers in this country. Television is hammering away at us night after night with canned music and films from other countries. American films Hood the Australian television screen until we talk and think Yankee all day and all night.
– What do you think of the Beatles?
– I have a photograph of them in my office. We should do something through a fund such as I have suggested to encourage Australian music by Australian composers. Why can we not become a little more Australian in this wonderful field of music? We have so much imported music that the Prime Minister and the Government would be doing a great service for Australia if they created a Commonwealth music fund to act in the same way as the Commonwealth Literary Fund acts. The fund would provide for the commissioning of works by Australian composers and the publication and recording of the works in the same manner as fellowships are awarded by the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Every year, a grant would bc made to the composers of music. Generally the provisions of the Commonwealth Literary Fund could be applied to the suggested music fund.
At a seminar of composers held in Hobart last year under the auspices of the Tasmanian Government, which believes in promoting music, it was recommended by Sir Stanley Burbury, the Administrator of our State at that time, that composers should seek State aid. Subsequently, it was resolved that every endeavour should be made to have a Commonwealth music fund established and that this should be done through the offices of the Fellowship of Australian Composers. In other words, the fellowship should sponsor the project by approaching the Prime Minister and honorable members individually. I do not think that any one in this Parliament would not support such a fund. The Commonwealth Literary Fund and the proposed Commonwealth music fund would not be strangers to each other; they would be first cousins. We would be helping the family by assisting these bodies.
I suggest to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Hasluck), who is now sitting at the table and who perhaps represents the Prime Minister now and then, that this proposal should be given further consideration. After all, it is two years since the Prime Minister was approached about it and he has done nothing more. In a submission to the Prime Minister dated 1st November, 1962, it was pointed out that assistance to the composer was not available through the organizations I mentioned earlier. At the same time it was requested that a deputation of composer members of the fellowship be met for the purpose of expressing the claim in detail, but nothing further has been done.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The matter I desire to raise to-night relates to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
However, before I come to it, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) and those who were associated with him on the restoration of the clock at the Sydney General Post Office. It is good to know that his perseverance has been rewarded and that the ehime; will soon ring out over Sydney again. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) and his officers will give as much consideration to the provision of telephones for people who are urgently waiting for them but cannot get them at this time.
It is significant that, while unlimited funds are spent by the Postmaster-General’s Department on television and other developments, it is practically impossible in some areas within four miles of the Sydney General Post Office to get a telephone without a wait of some years. People requiring telephones for various purposes, including businesses and industry, in Newtown and Marrickville in my electorate, which is one of the most heavily industrialized and populated areas in the Commonwealth, are told now that they cannot possibly get them until work has commenced next year, even if they have already been waiting for several years.
I raise this matter in the Parliament to-night with the request that the Postmaster-General approach his officers about it. At the same time as he grants television licences and approves of the expenditure of unlimited funds for other forms of development, he should consider providing a telephone service for people in close proximity to the Sydney General Post Office. In one case about which I made representations to the department the man concerned applied for a telephone in 1960. In a letter dated 13th March, 1964, replying to my representations on that man’s behalf, the Postmaster-General’s Department stated -
As indicated in my letter ot 12th February, 1964, the engineering project required to relieve this area cannot be completed before the 1964-65 financial year.
The original application was lodged in 1960. . . .
The inconvenience caused by the absence of a telephone service in Mr. . . . premises is fully appreciated.
Here is a man who urgently needs a tele- phone in his business. He has been waiting for years to get one, but he must wait until the Postmaster-General’s Department undertakes this work for next year. Then, in the Kathleen Mavourneen stage, he may get a telephone. Something should be done in cases of this nature.
In another case about which I made representations the applicant urgently needed a telephone for medical reasons. The department stated that the telephone could not be installed before early 1965. There is no doubt about the situation in Australia under this Government. Even twenty years after the war you must be patient if you want a telephone. I notice that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) has come into the chamber. I hope that he will give consideration to the cases that are dealt with in the correspondence that I have here.
In another case, the department states that the service cannot be provided because the exchange is not expected to be completed until early next year. The exchange will not be completed until next year, so Lord knows when the telephone will arrive.
Those are just a few cases selected at random from those in my files and they indicate the nature of the delay in obtaining a telephone. One applicant sought a telephone nineteen months ago. In its reply to my representations the department stated -
It is not anticipated that this work will be completed before the 1964-65 financial year.
Next year will be a busy year in Sydney for the Postmaster-General’s Department, judging by the amount of work that it states it will commence next year.
I have made representations to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department about an application by a newspaper office for a telephone. The department states that the position will be reviewed in June, 1964, but does not say when the newspaper office may expect to obtain a telephone. How can you operate a newspaper office without a telephone? That is something even the Postmaster-General cannot explain.
In another case a man urgently needs a telephone on medical grounds, but the answer from the department is always the same. It is impossible to get a telephone, even though it may be urgently required on medical grounds or for business reasons. Some time ago a company erecting a factory in my electorate applied for a telephone service even before the foundations were laid. After the factory had been built, the telephone service had not been installed and the factory was committed to additional expenditure in using a messenger service.
Although many applicants for telephones have an urgent and1 pressing need for a telephone service, I am very concerned with the delay because of the fact that I am aware that the New South Wales Totalisator Agency Board will be operating in the notfardistant future. An article in the “ SunHerald “ of 22nd March, 1964, under the heading “Mr. TAB’s 400 Phone Quest” states -
Mr. TAB of N.S.W. stepped out this week to look for at least 400 telephones.
You cannot say that he plays around. He goes for the jackpot. He wants 400 telephones for his purposes. I do not criticize the Totalisator Agency Board. Nor do I deny that the board wants these telephones, but I will say more on that point later. Mr. Garbutt has been appointed to administer the operations of the board. He is reported to have said -
I’ve seen the P.M.G. about the phones. They have been very co-operative and have given me certain information I am acting on.
They assure me that wilh joint co-operation we will get the telephones.
And I think I have found a TAB head-quarters site to suit our purposes. . . .
I would like the Postmaster-General to tell me why priority is to be given to the Totalisator Agency Board, if this is the case, over the claims of some of my constituents who have been waiting for four to five years for telephones. Is it considered that the Totalisator Agency Board is more important than a woman whose life depends on getting a doctor quickly? Have assurances been given by the PostmasterGeneral to the chairman of the New South Wales Totalisator Agency Board that his organization will get priority in telephones over people in my electorate and elsewhere throughout the country who have been waiting for years for a telephone? These are important matters. I do not know whether Mr. Garbutt has been told that his organization will receive priority, but he is a most reputable public servant and I do not think he would make statements idly. Whatever our views may be on the merits of the Totalisator Agency Board, it will be very difficult for members of this Parliament to justify providing telephones to the board when they are denied to our constituents who urgently require them.
In another Sydney newspaper the following article appeared: -
A P.M.G. spokesman said yesterday that the system of priorities puts Government offices, Cabinet Ministers, and doctors at the top. . . . and housewives at the bottom.
In between come the business applicants and that will include TAB, he said.
In N.S.W., 20,000 applicants are waiting for phones. And the list is growing longer.
This Government prides itself on its efficiency in being able to give the people what they want. It constantly boasts in this Parliament that after it was elected to office it removed shortages. It claims that if it had not been elected to office in 1949 the shortages that were then being experienced would still be with us. How can the Government to-day justify the fact that 20,000 people in New South Wales alone, with the number increasing daily, are unable to obtain a telephone fifteen years after the Government was put in power? No matter how you look at it, in this day and age there is no excuse for denying the immediate provision of a telephone service to any person who wants it. The manpower is available. Funds should be available. A little of the allocation that is made to provide certain other benefits to the community at great cost should be set aside in order to provide telephone services to the sick, the needy, businesses and others. I do not criticize the Totalisator Agency Board in New South Wales. I wish it success. The only point I make is that I cannot see any reason why priority should be given to that organization over those persons who need telephones for the reasons I have mentioned.
I ask the Postmaster-General to consider these matters. I do not blame the officers of his department for the situation that exists in Australia to-day. They have a strange Government to put up with. There has been no planning of Post Office facilities by the Government. Everything has been left entirely to the Post Office. I do not blame officials of the department. What they really needed was a change of government so that they might get a Postmaster-General and a government which would administer and plan the extension of telephone facilities for the people of Australia. I suggest that the Minister should take my remarks to-night, not as criticism of his officers, but rather as
Criticism of the incompetence of the Government and its inability to provide telephones for people who urgently need them.
.-! feel I should reply to the comments made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) concerning telephones. I admit that there is a substantial back-log in the provision of telephones, not only in New South Wales but in other parts of Australia. I think honorable members will appreciate, as I have suggested on one or two occasions in answering questions, that the Post Office has available to it only the money that is made available by this Parliament in the Estimates.
– Why do you give £22,000,000 back to the Treasury by way of interest payments?
– That is not my decision. It is a matter that has been determined as a result of the report of an independent committee which was set up to look into the accounts of the Post Office - and to have regard to commercial accounts on the one hand as against mere Treasury statements on the other. The committee recommended that there should be an interest charge against the Post Office. The Government accepted that recommendation. That is why there is a charge of this nature.
Independent of the matter of interest, over the past few years - particularly in the last three years - an increasing amount has been made available to the Post Office for capital works. Not in any year has there been a carry-over in these amounts. The total amount available has been spent.
The increasing demand for telephones in Australia is an indication, first, of the prosperity of the Australian people. The demand stems from the prosperous conditions in which Australians find themselves. Secondly, it reflects the very low charge for the provision of telephones in this country compared with that in many other countries. There is a connexion fee of £10. There is also a rental which varies in accordance with the number of people whom an individual subscriber can call on a unit basis. Of course, in Melbourne and Sydney the rentals are higher than they are in other capital cities or in country areas. The total income received from domestic telephone services is less than the amount required to meet the interest charge and the cost of maintenance of telephone services. The average unit call rate on domestic telephones is Hd. a day. That represents an income of approximately £9 per annum per unit. When we add that amount to the rental, we arrive at an income of not more than £25 per annum per unit.
The cost of installing a telephone is between £450 and £500. Looking at the set that is put on the table, people may say, “ That is the telephone and the cost is only £6 or £8 “. But I remind the House that the principal cost associated with the installation of a telephone is, first, in the exchange building; secondly, in the exchange equipment; and thirdly, in the cables which must be run from the exchange to the subscriber’s home. It is necessary to provide two wires from the exchange to the home. It is also necessary for the local exchange to be connected with the trunk exchange so that overall facilities are available. That adds up to a cost of between £450 and £500. On an average, the Post Office is losing money in relation to domestic telephone services. Honorable members may divide the annual amount that is available to the Telephone Service Branch by 500 to find out how many telephones can be installed each year.
I believe that the performance of the Post Office in this regard is a pretty good one. In the period from 30th June last to 31st January last, the total number of connexions was 170,768. In that period the unsatisfied demand increased by 8,731. But if we realize that the connexions figure I have given is a considerable increase on the figure for the corresponding period of the previous year, we come to the conclusion that the Post Office is doing an excellent job, having regard to the resources that are available to it and to the fact that every additional domestic service that is provided is a charge on the Post Office to the extent of the loss that is incurred year by year in relation to the operation of that service.
We receive many requests for concessions. We receive the type of representation of which the honorable member for Grayndler has spoken this evening, namely, on behalf of people who want a telephone on account of illness. Many of these people would not use a telephone, except on odd occasions. The provision of services for such people costs no more than does the provision of services for people who make quite substantial use of telephones and so provide the Post Office with income which enables us to install additional telephones for people who want them.
I know that in the Sydney area there is a very difficult problem. At 31st January last the unsatisfied demand was 46,683. That figure takes into consideration services for which quotations had been given, services for which orders for installation had been issued, and deferred applications. New South Wales is the worst off of all of the States. In the period of seven months from 30th June, 1963, to 31st January, 1964, the unsatisfied demand in that State increased by no fewer than 4,374. I forget how many exchanges there are in the Sydney metropolitan area. I think the number is about 70 or 80. Forty-nine of those exchanges are completely full. The Post Office has its programme for additional services in order to provide telephones for people in those areas. There is a question of equipment. There is also a question of manpower. I assure honorable members that within the Public Service, because we are not allowed to pay over-award wages, lack of manpower becomes an increasing difficulty in a situation of full employment such as we have at the present time. I believe that we in the Post Office will do very well if we can maintain the installations rate at a level which will not allow the unsatisfied demand to increase unnecessarily. I am concerned about the people who desire telephone services.
– What about the Totalisator Agency Board?
– I believe that it is impossible for the Post Office to do any more than it is doing, having regard to the broad picture that 1 have presented this evening. The honorable member for Grayndler raises the question of priorities in relation to the Totalisator Agency Board in New South
Wales. That board is an instrumentality set up by the New South Wales Government. As with other businesses, a priority attaches to it. The priority attached to it is priority No. 3. If a betting shop is set up in an area in which telephones are available - I have given the number of exchanges that are full - and there are not people with a higher priority in that area, the board will get telephones.
This matter is the responsibility of the New South Wales Government - not of the Federal Government - because had the State Government not set up the board there would not be a demand for telephones to service its operations. I can only say that we will give the New South Wales Totalisator Agency Board the sort of consideration that is given to such boards, wherever they may be established - in Queensland or in any of the other States. The priority given to the board certainly is not the highest business priority. As I said, it is priority No. 3.
Finally, I say that I hope the Parliament will be reasonably patient with the Post Office in relation to this problem. [Extension of time granted.] I will not detain the House for much longer. I wish to mention two facts. I understand that in Japan it is necessary for a person to take out a bond worth between £120 and £180 before a telephone is made available to him. I also understand that in the United States of America the rental payable is approximately 24 dollars a month. When some one suggested that it would be a good idea for Australia to adopt that, I agreed with him. That would represent about £10 a month or £120 a year, compared with the average rental and income from calls on a domestic service in Australia of about £25 a year. I am sure that the people of Australia would not want such a situation to prevail here. However, unless we adopt a similar approach - in fact, unless there is a substantial increase in the appropriation made by the Parliament for this purpose - it will be impossible to provide for the increasing number of applications for telephones throughout Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian and Indonesian Students. (Question No. 158.) Mr. Jones asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
How many Indonesians are at present resident in Australia, and how many are students?
What portion of the cost of instruction of these students is borne by the Commonwealth?
Does the Commonwealth contribute to the cost of board and residence of these students; if so, what was the cost for the year 1962-63 or for the latest year for which information is available?
How many Australians are at present resident in Indonesia?
How many of these Australians are students, and how much did Indonesia contribute to their education and upkeep during the year 1962-63?
What financial assistance did Indonesia receive from Australia under the Colombo Plan during the year 1962-63?
How much did (a) Indonesia spend on imports from Australia; (b) Australia spend on imports from Indonesia, during the same year?
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:-
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows:-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
To what extent are Commonwealth public servants covered by insurance when driving either (a) Commonwealth vehicles or (b) their own private vehicles while on duty?
– It has been assumed that the honorable member’s question relates to third party claims for personal injury or property damage arising from the negligence of the driver. The answers are -
The benefits of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1962 are, of course, applicable to the employee who suffers injury while on duty.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Government has received a number of suggestions for the observance of the jubilee of Anzac, and has taken decisions on some of these suggestions. Others are still under consideration. At the request of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the
Government decided last November to mark the jubilee of Anzac by the inauguration of a ceremonial way in Canberra from a point near Lake Burley Griffin to the Australian National War Memorial. The estimated cost of this work, now well advanced, is £225,000. The Government has also authorized the Australian News and Information Bureau to make a documentary film to show how the spirit of Anzac has influenced the nation over the last fifty years. The estimated cost of the production of this film is £14,000. Work on this film is proceeding and it will be available for exhibition next year. The Government has also agreed to the issue a special stamp or stamps by the Post Office to mark the jubilee. My colleague, the Postmaster-General, is giving consideration at present to suitable designs. Should the Government decide that the jubilee of Anzac should be celebrated in any additional fashion, appropriate announcements will be made when the decisions have been taken.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Could we, at the present very high level of taxation and social service expenditure, produce a practical scheme under which the Means Test was completely abolished (at an added cost of £100,000,000, per annum, even at present rates of pension) and a new tax in the form of a contribution created?
Whatever the position before the war, when the Social Services bill was £15,000,000, a year, we do not believe that the Australian people could now be asked to accept increased taxation on such a scale. Nor would we be guilty of pretending that £100,000,000 can be found without either increased taxes or inflationary finance. Without increased production the earning groups just cannot go on carrying the enormous burden of age benefits which accrue to an increasing proportion of our population every year.
We have therefore decided that it is not practicable completely to abolish the means test, but that we will continue vigorously the work of modifying it, having in mind tho majority of hard cases.”
ser asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government has collective responsibility for its decisions, and details of the steps in reaching decisions are confidential to the Government.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
Yes. 2. (a) and (b). Because of the large number of brands, forms and strengths involved, it is not practicable to supply all the information requested. The following list shows the drugs (and the form of major usage) which have been reduced in price since 1st July, 1963, and the price the Commonwealth will be paying for a particular brand of that preparation at 1st May, 1964, compared with prices paid on 1st May, 1962, and 1963.
Laboratories Pty. Ltd., H. F. Harvey Pty. Ltd., Hoechst Pharmaceuticals Pty. Ltd., The Icquin Company, Knoll Laboratories (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., Lederle Laboratories, Lepetit (Pharmaceuticals) Pty. Ltd., J. McGloin Pty. Ltd., Merck, Sharp & Dohme (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., Parke Davis & Co. Ltd., Pfizer Pty. Ltd., Prosana Laboratories Pty. Ltd., Protea Pharmaceuticals Pty. Ltd., Queensland Ethicals, Rotary Tableting Corpn, Pty. Ltd., Roussel Laboratories Pty. Ltd., Sandoz Ltd., Schering Corpn., A. G. Schering, Sigma Co. Ltd., Soul Pattinson (Laboratories) Pty. Ltd., E. R. Squibb & Sons (Pty.) Ltd., R. D. Toppin & Sons Pty. Ltd., Upjohn Pty. Ltd., Virax Ethicals Ltd., Winthrop Laboratories, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Pty. Ltd.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: - . Yes.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640415_reps_25_hor41/>.