25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by saying that I am receiving at my office many complaints from dissatisfied constituents in the KingsfordSmith electorate about the exorbitant charges imposed by the Postmaster-General’s Department for rental and installation of telephones. Will the Minister have these charges thoroughly investigated with a view to making worthwhile reductions? Will he also direct that rental charges be discontinued since it is claimed that the cost of a telephone is covered by the original installation charge?
– Installation charges and rentals for telephones were inquired into during the preparation of the last Budget and the charges currently made were decided on by the Government at that time. I have intimated quite clearly to honorable members that at the time the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was incurring an annual loss on telephone services because revenue from charges was not enough to meet capital costs and depreciation plus the cost of maintenance. If I remember correctly, a telephone was costing something like £57 annually and the average return was £50, leaving the Department with a loss of £7 on every telephone, both business and private, being installed. I do not hold out any hope of a reduction in telephone charges.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I ask: Has he seen a suggestion made in a letter to the “Australian Medical Journal “ that the names of antidotes for poisons be listed on poison containers? Will he consider implementing legislation to make this compulsory? If this is not within the Minister’s power, will he endeavour to persuade each of the State Governments to take this action at the earliest possible moment, as such a procedure could be the means of saving many lives that would otherwise be lost?
– I saw the letter to which the honorable member has referred. The labelling of containers of poisonous substances is within the jurisdiction of the Stale Governments, and the States enact their own laws on the subject. At present, all have in force regulations that have been introduced to ensure that the antidotes for certain poisons, at least, if there are any specific antidotes, are stated on the labels of containers, together with advice that a victim of poisoning be taken to a doctor for treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. All poisons are not covered in this direction and in most cases there are not specific antidotes. However, I will see that further investigations are made into this matter to ascertain whether the suggestions made by the honorable member can be carried out.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that the United States Ambassador in South Vietnam, General Maxwell Taylor, said: “ There is no limit to the escalation of the war in North Vietnam “? Has the Australian Government been consulted on the unlimited escalation of the war in North Vietnam? If so, has the Australian Government opposed such a decision? If not, why not?
– The Australian Government is in the happy position of enjoying such a state of confidence with the United States Government that it enables us to be in close and constant communication with it. I do not propose to talk about the details of private communications, but I can assure the honorable member and the House that in every phase of the operations of South Vietnam we do have the opportunity to express a view and we are in constant communication with the United States.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is there any truth in suggestions being made in some quarters that Tasmania has been ignored in the provision of facilities for technical colleges? Can the Prime Minister indicate whether the State Government matches the Commonwealth contribution for the development of technical education in Tasmania?
– I do not want to make this look like a Dorothy Dixer, but the honorable member was courteous enough yesterday to tell me that this matter was exercising his mind. The answer is this: The Commonwealth has not discriminated against Tasmania in any way in its grants for technical colleges. Tasmania is receiving equal treatment with the other States in the grants for technical facilities in schools which were announced at the 1963 election and were subsequently given legislative form. During this financial year, under this scheme the Commonwealth has paid to Tasmania £167,100 towards the total construction programme estimated by the State to cost £285,000. I do not know how much of this money has actually been spent, but clearly the Commonwealth has more than matched what the State itself is doing in the way of capital facilities in technical colleges this year. The Commonwealth will provide the same amount of money for this purpose in each of the next two financial years.
As to the proposals I announced to the House last week for the development of tertiary colleges based on technical colleges, the Commonwealth is prepared to assist Tasmania in exactly the same way as any other State. However, it is true that no Tasmanian technical college was included in the list of colleges recommended by the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia for interim capital grants during 1965 and 1966. Presumably the Committee did not have before it any specific proposals for capital works in technical education at the tertiary level in Tasmania, which could be put to construction quickly.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Department of Civil Aviation made any plans for replacing the present airport building at Townsville with a new one so that the present one can be put to what would be its proper use - a fowl house, second class?
– I have not had any recent experience of the so-called Townsville fowl house, second class, but I can assure the honorable member that there are other airport buildings of the same stan dards which are considered adequate and some which are a good deal better. However, I shall refer his question to the Minister for Civil Aviation and obtain a reply for him.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. I refer to the recent decision to increase bank interest rates. In the past it has been the policy of the Government to request that interest rates affecting export industries should not alter. Is the Treasurer aware that bank interest for new loans to rural and export industries can now be 7t per cent.? Did he make representations to keep those interest charges down? If so, what happened to these representations?
– It has been explained from time to time in this place that the Government gives priority of consideration to the export industries. The Government’s views are conveyed to the banking system through the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. I had an analysis taken out of the loans made to various categories of borrowers. It showed that the rural borrower stands in a preferred position. That does not mean that all rural borrowers borrow at the same rate of interest or that there is no movement in rates as the general rates move up or down. The purposes for which rural people borrow vary, too. Those variations are reflected in the rates. Broadly speaking, the policy of the Government continues to be one of preference for borrowings by people on the land for export purposes.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. During the recent Senate election, particularly in Victoria, there was much criticism of the long delay in finalising the count and the calculations involved. In this modern age, where computers are being used for all types of counting and calculations, will the Government consider introducing computers into our electoral system?
– I have noted some of the comments that have appeared in the newspapers and I have asked the Commonwealth Electoral Office to keep me informed on trends in the use of computers. It would not be impossible to use computers in a Senate count, but I doubt whether there is much advantage to be gained from their use. We might be able to clip two or three days off the time that is taken. To use computers, first of all one has to transfer the preferences of the voters from the ballot papers to punch cards. The punch cards are then used to transfer that information on to tapes. Then the tapes are fed into the computers, which do the calculations. The Commonwealth Electoral Office has made studies of this subject. It has been calculated that about 4,000 girl-days would be needed to transfer the preferences from the ballot papers on to the punch cards. So one can see that quite a lot is involved in getting the information into the computer.
If it were possible to have voting machines, we could short-circuit the operation by not needing to have girls put the information on to punch cards. The information would go on to the punch cards automatically, straightaway. However, the countries in which voting machines are used do not use the preferential voting system; they use the first past the post system. Even if we were to use voting machines, I point out that there are 10,000 polling places throughout Australia and many of them would need to have more than one machine. So we can see that a large number of machines would be needed and a great deal of money would have to be spent on installing all of the machines.
However, I do not think that we should just let the matter go at that. Sooner or later we probably will have some form of voting machine, some form of calculator or some form of computer. I might add that if we did use a computer in a Senate election we could use the Hare-Clark system of voting, and then we could do the calculations to the nth degree. My Department is looking into this matter further and is getting all the available information for me. In a few years’ time, or maybe many years hence, we might have voting machines and computers.
– Last year when the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assesment Bill was before the House I understood the Treasurer to say that early this year he would have a further look at some of the far reaching changes made in the legislation after some experience had been gained of their operation. Is he now in a position to indicate whether he proposes to deal with these matters in any way in this current session?
– The honorable member correctly cites the facts when he says that I gave an assurance during the course of the discussion of the legislation last year that opportunity would be provided to interested or affected persons to make their views known to the Government in the interval between last year’s session and this session so that we could consider any further amendment of the legislation which experience might show to be desirableMuch work has been done in relation to representations which have reached us from a variety of organizations and individuals. Quite recently I received a very representative deputation from taxpayer organizations and accountancy bodies, and I have received, as has the Commissioner of Taxation, representations from various organizations from all parts of Australia. The representations have been sifted through and weighed by the Commissioner and will shortly be in a form which can be considered by a committee of the Cabinet and later, of course, by Cabinet as a whole. Following that, no doubt there will be some amending legislation to come before the Parliament. I question whether it will be possible to introduce amendments before the end of this session. I am working towards that goal, but I utter the cautionary word that we may have to wait until the Budget session to deal with the matter finally. However, I can assure the honorable member that the process is well advanced. If any further representations are to reach us I hope they will do so speedily.
– Has the Minister for the Army given any consideration to the proposal that the Army should erect Army staff dwellings on the foreshores of a section of Middle Harbour, Sydney? Does he know that this proposal has met with widespread disapproval from many residents of the area concerned? Is it also a fact that various local government bodies, as well as citizens from other areas, are concerned with the disfigurement of the natural beauty of Sydney Harbour involved in the proposal? Does the Minister intend to ignore the indignant protests and the deep resentment of the organizations and residents who are opposed to the erection of Army dwellings there? Will he consider - and this is the most important part of the question - the desirability and feasibility of transferring all Army installations and establishments from all capital cities to places far removed from the over-populated capital cities?
– The answer to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “. There is a definite requirement for many Army installations in capital cities, not only for local defence purposes but also to meet the needs of armed forces personnel who must of necessity be from, and be stationed, in our capital cities. The other part of the honorable gentleman’s question relates specifically to a proposal to build some Army houses at Middle Head and other places. Careful consideration has been given to the views of the bodies mentioned by the honorable gentleman. In particular, attention has been given to the view that building on these parts of Sydney Harbour detract from what might be regarded as the beauty of the area and a national heritage. On that point I might say that it is precisely because these areas have been reserved so long for defence purposes that they have been retained in their present state. As to the specific matter in question, it is proposed to build on Middle Head no more than 27 houses in three separate groups. One group will replace some extremely unsightly temporary houses that have been there for a long time. After carefully considering the situation I am convinced that the building of these houses will have little, if any, effect on the overall appearance of the foreshore of Sydney Harbour in that area. The houses are part of an overall programme agreed upon by the Government last year to eliminate the waiting list for houses for Service personnel. The particular contract contemplates the building of 80 houses to meet the needs of Army personnel serving in units located north of the Harbour. It will meet the needs of people in this category for some time to come. I do not contemplate any substantial, if any, further building of houses in that area. In addition, I make this point in relation to Middle Head and the adjoining area: The prospects of finding sites for further economic building of houses, after completion of the houses envisaged in the current programme, are extremely small. That information should give an additional assurance to the people who are worried about preserving these areas in their natural state.
(Mr. Giles having addressed a question to the Minister for the Army and the Minister proceeding to answer it>-
– If the question on the notice-paper deals fully with the subject matter of the question asked by the honorable member for Angas, his question is out of order.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that the Governor of South Australia, Sir Edric Bastyan, in opening a conference on Monday last of Rotary International, said, among other things -
Australia needs more capital of her own. Investment from outside has been, and is, essential, but surely the time has come when more of the cost of future development should come from our own capital.
Is the Treasurer working on any policy plans which would coincide with the sound policy expressed by the Governor of South Australia?
– I find nothing inconsistent between the remarks attributed by the honorable gentleman to the Governor and the views I hold. The Government is pursuing policies designed to achieve the aim mentioned by the Governor. I am glad to say that there is a very high rate of saving in this country and that four-fifths of the investment in the development of Australia comes from Australian sources.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. It follows the question I asked the Treasurer yesterday. Will the Minister examine the present position to see whether there is any way in which his Department could help farmers whose incomes have, if not ceased, become practically non-existent?
– As the honorable member will be aware, the basis upon which the unemployment benefit is paid is prescribed in the Social Services Act. In the present circumstances, I doubt whether the unemployment benefit would normally be payable to persons engaged in primary production. However, I will look into the matter and, if it is possible for the unemployment benefit to be paid within the terms of the Act, I will advise the honorable member separately.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. A national service conscript, who is not restored to his former position by his employer at the completion of his military service and who is compelled to take court action, could be faced with considerable legal expenses, especially if appeals are made to higher courts. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Government will meet these expenses or whether the trainee will be responsible for them?
– The normal course is for the national service trainee to approach officers of my Department and inform them that his former employer has failed to reinstate him. In the past, we have had little trouble in inducing the employer to reinstate the trainee, but in one or two instances we have been compelled to take action. Unless special circumstances exist, the Department accepts responsibility for the payment of the fees.
AUSTRALIAN WOOL BOARD. Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES.- I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. I might say in advance that on 4th March I wrote a letter to him on this subject and I also raised it in- the House last week. I trust that the Minister can now give an answer to my question. Has the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board informed the Minister that the New China News Agency world Press release of 31st December last was wrong when it stated that the Board had protested against the arrest of the nine Chinese Communist spies in Brazil? Did the Board send any reply to the cable from Peking asking it to protest? If so, will the Minister place on the table of the Library the reply to the cable sent to the Board? If the Board did not send any reply, will it take action against the New China News Agency which is now established in Queens Road, Melbourne?
– 1 must confess that I carry no memory of the incident to which the honorable member refers, other than that he wrote me a letter. The Chairman of the Australian Wool Board operates within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. It may be that I remitted the question to him. I frankly do not remember, but I will bring myself up to date promptly and inform the honorable member for Chisholm.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Will he prepare a statement setting out in layman’s language what he thinks can be the role in the economy of the new bills dealers? Will he explain in that statement, or in a separate statement, the role of what is now being described as merchant banking and, as some of these concerns are foreign owned, set out the limitations under which they operate and the guarantees of financial solidarity required of them?
– I shall be glad to look into the question asked by the honorable gentleman and to see just how much information can be supplied in a form which will be readily digestible.
– My question to the Postmaster-General refers to the introduction of colour television into Australia. Has the Minister noted a statement by a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the Board will recommend to him whichever system of colour television is chosen for use in Britain? Will the Minister avoid repetition of the lack of planning that has resulted in such inept use of the frequency spectrum as to deprive Australians of the joy of frequency modulation broadcasting and has constricted available channels? Will he try to infuse new life into the Board and require it to discharge its obligations properly by making its own full investigation and recommending whichever system is best suited to Australian conditions? These may well be vastly different from those of Britain.
Mr. HULME__ I understand that a statement was made by Mr. Mair, who until Monday last was a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. No recommendation has come to me from the Board on the introduction of colour television, and from conversations that I have had with the Chairman of the Board from time to time I do not expect to receive any advice on the introduction of colour television for a long while in the future. In relation to frequency modulation broadcasting I inform the honorable member that two or three years ago the Government set up an advisory committee under the chairmanship of Professor Huxley. That committee made its report and the Government accepted its recommendations. A statement setting out the decision of the Government was made by my predecessor, Sir Charles Davidson, early in 1963, and during the latter part of last year I again made a statement on this matter. A copy of both statements would be available to the honorable member, or to any honorable member, if he cared to call at my office.
– My question is also directed to the Postmaster-General. What complaint, if any, has the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or the Minister, received regarding the “ Mavis Bramston Show “ on television? Will the Minister state the nature of the protests received and what action, if any, he or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has taken, or intends to take, regarding the programme?
– Protests about this programme have been directed to me, and in two or three cases to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but I believe that more particularly they have been directed to the stations which telecast the programme and to the sponsors of the programme. The matter has been under consideration by the Board which has offered no advice to me at this stage. It is, I think, substantially a Board responsibility, or more particularly, a responsibility of the stations concerned. I might make the comment that the programme is telecast in Melbourne on an abridged basis compared with the telecast which goes out in Sydney and Brisbane and perhaps other places.
– Do you watch it?
– The station itself has taken its own action in relation to the deletion of certain parts of the programme in Melbourne. My responsibilities have prevented me from seeing the programme at any time.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the Commonwealth Government yet received any request from the Victorian State Government for assistance for losses suffered during the bushfire which occurred in January at Longwood, in Victoria? If there has been a request, can the Prime Minister say what action the Federal Government has taken?
– The Premier of Victoria has requested that the Commonwealth Government should, following the usual practice, match £1 for £1 the cost of relief of personal distress and hardship. That request will be accepted, of course, by the Commonwealth. The Premier of Victoria has requested assistance in some other directions also, including damage to culverts and bridges. Those requests are under consideration. I will be happy to tell the honorable member that I have just signed a letter to him saying all that.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the growing complexity and variety of fuels in Australia, and also in view of the uncertainty about the future of imports of oil from Indonesia following the recent decision of that country with respect to American oil interests, has the Government considered formulating a national fuel policy as a firm guide to decision, action and priorities in the future? If 20 per cent, of Australia’s oil supplies comes from Indonesia as statistics indicate, has the Government investigated alternative sources of oil if supplies should happen to be cut from that country in the near or distant future?
– I suggest that, by very definition, this is a question of policy.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, refers to the fact that the bomb exploded yesterday from a car parked outside the United States Embassy in Saigon was not of a nuclear type. Is the Minister aware of any good reason why this bomb was not of a nuclear type other than the very cogent reason that Communist China does not yet have a nuclear bomb available for its agents in various countries?
– I think the honorable member will appreciate that any answer to his question would be, to some extern, speculative. I would assume that, in this act of terrorism against civilians, the enemy would have chosen a weapon that would be sufficient for the purpose that it had in mind and which also was readily available to it. The enemy chose a bomb which has caused loss of life and suffering to a number of civilians. I take it that the meaning of the honorable member’s question is this: If mainland China had developed nuclear weapons and had a portable nuclear bomb, it would have been possible for that country to have made such a bomb available, and it would also have been possible for the bomb to be transported to the spot and exploded in which case, of course, the damage, the loss of life and the serious consequences would have been much more widespread than they would be if a conventional bomb was used.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that the salary being paid by the Commonwealth Government to the New South Wales members of the United Nations police peace keeping force in Cyprus is below the rate that they would be receiving had they remained here, and that the New South Wales Government is subsidising their wages to bring them up to their former level?
– When the States of the Commonwealth made available individual policemen from their respective forces to form the Commonwealth element of the United Nations peace keeping force in Cyprus, it was agreed between the Commonwealth and all States that all the policemen would be given leave from’ their forces for 12 months, and that they would be enlisted as special Commonwealth policemen. Upon enlistment as special Commonwealth policemen they became entitled to the rates of pay and conditions of service to which a Commonwealth policeman is entitled. There are special arrangements for them in relation to terms and conditions while they serve in Cyprus.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen a newspaper report alleging that Italian bom Raffaele Vartuli, who some years ago was being sought by the police, had recently been seen in the Sydney district of Villawood, the assumption being that he had returned to Australia from Italy? Is the Minister able to give the House any information in this matter?
– As it was a newspaper comment concerning a migrant, naturally I had inquiries made. In the meantime, however, another newspaper published a report, saying that the previous report was a complete fabrication. The second report quoted Detective Inspector Freeman of the special murder squad of the Criminal Investigation Branch. I would not so describe the first report, but I would say that the second report was much closer to the facts than was the first one.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is Mr. R. W. Miller negotiating for the sale of his three oil tankers to the American owned shipping company National Bulk Carriers? Has Mr. Miller been forced to take this action because of the skulduggery indulged in by the foreign owned oil refineries in Australia, which deliberately withheld cargoes when Miller’s tankers were available and offered cargoes when his tankers were fully occupied? Is this policy similar to that which was pursued in the United States of America by Standard Oil some years ago, when that company owned or controlled almost all of the rail cars in that country? Did that policy finally result in the Standard Oil organisation having substantial fines imposed on it by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which controls restrictive trade practices in the United States? What action does the Government propose to take to protect Australian coastal tankers against unfair tactics? In the event of Miller’s tankers being sold and being withdrawn from the Australian coastal trade, will the Minister instruct the Australian National Line to purchase tankers for this trade and in that way protect Australia’s overseas balances, ensure employment for Australian seamen and remove the previous unfair competition between coal and oil?
– The honorable member for Newcastle has used some highly emotional words which are not in accordance with the facts. I am not privy to any negotiations which Miller may have entered into with anyone else. The honorable member for Newcastle is interjecting. If he would like me to answer some of the questions he has raised, I shall be happy to try to do so if he will let me. The honorable gentleman, who accuses the oil companies of unfair tactics, will be interested to know that R. W. Miller and Co. Pty. Ltd. made a very handsome profit from its tankers, which enabled it to increase its dividends. That is shown in the balance sheet which was published in the “ Financial Review “ today.
I would remind the House that the Department of Shipping and Transport recently
appeared in conciliation proceedings before
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. It was reported in the “ Canberra Times “ recently that, when speaking at an annual convention, the Minister for Supply hinted that the Government might be prepared to give financial aid to Australian industry to speed research and development. If this is true, can the Minister enlarge on the subject? I have in mind secondary industries in decentralised areas which at present are producing industrial components with skill and efficiency. Would an application to the Government for financial assistance for such secondary industries to extend their production of equipment required for defence and for Australian development be given sympathetic consideration?
– The honorable gentleman reports me as hinting that the Government might be prepared to do something. I do not think he would ask me to be very specific after doing that. As with primary industry, I am sure the Government would give careful consideration to any proposal to assist industrial research of various kinds. The honorable gentleman has referred to an occasion when I was dealing with the state of the electronics industry in particular. Modern electronic techniques do not find very much application in civilian equipment, but they are needed for military equipment. If we are to develop these kinds of techniques, we must issue either developmental contracts or contracts for equipment embodying these principles. However, support for secondary industries in country areas depends not so much on research and development as on product development and production expansion. These are not appropriate subjects for action by the Government.
– For the information of honorable members, I present the following papers -
Third Commonwealth Education Conference held at Ottawa, August-September 1964 -
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The two reports 1 am tabling emanate from the Third Commonwealth Education Conference, held in Ottawa from 21st August to 4th September 1964. The first is the official report of the Conference proceedings, as approved by the delegates of member nations represented. The second is the report of the Australian delegation which was led by Sir Allen Brown, Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Honorable members may recall that the first Commonwealh Education Conference - the foundational one - was held at Oxford in 1959 and the second at New Delhi in 1962. The fourth Conference will be held in Nigeria late in 1967 or early in 1968. We have hopes that the fifth Conference will be held in Australia. The Conferences are of course not just isolated meetings. They are the periodic points of review of the Commonwealth Co-operation in Education Scheme. Essentially the principle behind the Scheme is the sharing of education facilities among Commonwealth countries for the purpose of strengthening Commonwealth ties and improving educational standards. One aspect of it - the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan - provides opportunities for good students to study in an interesting variety of Commonwealth countries, as it has attracted not only the older members, but also many of the newer ones in Asia, Africa and the West Indies to offer awards. The number of scholarships available amounts to over 1,000 altogether. The greater part of the Scheme, however, concerns help from the older countries to the new and to promote the development of education. As Australian assistance of this kind is available to Commonwealth countries in Asia under the broader provisions of the Colombo Plan, this Scheme, as far as Australia is concerned, is directed towards non-Asian, principally African, members.
Australian assistance under this Scheme is of three main types. First, provision is made for the supply of a small number of Australian educationalists to fill key posts in the education systems of developing countries. There are 15 of these serving overseas at present in positions involving teacher training, inspection and supervision, the establishment of new technical courses, the introduction of correspondence courses and the like. Second, arrangements are made for educationalists holding positions of responsibility in developing countries to visit Australia for a few months to study Australian educational institutions and practices in fields related to their own responsibilities. Thirteen such people are at present visiting Australia. Third, awards are provided to enable teachers and other educationalists from developing countries to undertake short courses, mainly a year in length, which will equip them to specialise in a particular field of education or increase their competence in a field in which they have already specialised to some extent. In the past few weeks 60 teachers have arrived in Australia to commence courses of the kind and a further 15 are expected in May.
The training needs of these teachers are often very different from those of the normal Australian teacher trainee, because of differences in their background of experience and previous training. Frequently special programmes have to be designed for them, either individually or in groups. One such programme is the course for the Certificate in Education for Overseas Teachers which commenced last year at the University of Queensland and provided concentrated training for people who are or will be teachers’ college staff in developing Commonwealth countries. Another, which has been designed by the Western Australian Education Department and begins in May, will give training in the principles and techniques of school inspection. In addition, a special course mainly in infant teaching method is at present being conducted in Sydney at the request of the Uganda Government for 30 primary teachers. The expenses of this course are being met jointly by the Uganda Government and the Australian Government. Honorable members will realise that such activities cannot be carried out without the co-operation of the State Departments of Education and the universities and I am happy to say that their support has at all times been most generously given.
I might now say a few words about the main points of interest for Australia at the Ottawa Education Conference. Australia promised a 50 per cent, increase in its activities under the Scheme, principally, as
I have explained, on teacher training activities. It was thus gratifying that the Conference found teacher training to be an area in which the greatest need lay. While for a time many of the teachers needed by developing countries will have to be recruited from overseas, the Conference emphasised that every country should aim to reach as soon as possible the point where it could recruit and train enough teachers for its entire teaching force from among its own people.
Other matters regarded by the Conference a$ of major importance were cooperative action aimed at reducing illiteracy among adults, and the development of technical education, especially the training of technicians. No expansion in the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan was recommended but it was agreed that the Plan was working well and had achieved a high prestige. Some thought was given, however, to ways in which the plan might be used to stimulate university growth amongst the less developed countries.
In conclusion, Sir, I would point out that Commonwealth Co-operation in Education is not the only education aid Australia gives to developing countries. Besides the Colombo Plan there is also the scheme known as the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan, and the system of Australian International Awards provides scholarships to countries not covered by other schemes.
I present the following paper -
Third Commonwealth Education Conference 1964 - Ministerial Statement, 31st March 1965- and move -
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 69), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition does not in any way oppose this Bill, which is very specialised and very narrow in scope. It will merely extend the bounty year in which bounty can be paid on the production of raw cotton in Australia beyond the calendar year, as at present provided, to 28th February. This is to be done because the annual season within which cotton is grown, ginned and sold does not end conveniently at the conclusion of the calendar year so as to allow the bounty to be paid by the end of the calendar year. I suppose that we could have some kind of debate on the technical and geographic reasons for the spreading of the cotton season beyond the end of the calendar year, but I think that there would be little or no profit for the House in such a discussion. As the Bill is so narrow and so restricted in its scope I will not endeavour to be irrelevant by discussing the cotton industry as a whole in Australia. Had the Government desired the House to discuss these matters, undoubtedly the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who represents the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), would have told us something about the development of the cotton industry in Australia. The Minister might have spoken about the Ord River scheme and he might have given us some indication of the progress and development of cotton in this country, but he has not done so. Therefore, I propose to follow his lead, and I shall not be irrelevant to the extent of discussing the industry. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
.- I support this measure, which tidies up the arrangement for paying a bounty to cotton growers. However, unlike the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), I do not think that this is a measure that can be dismissed in a few words. The cotton industry in Australia is an extremely valuable primary industry. This piece of legislation is small in scope, certainly, but it is the forerunner of many other pieces of legislation dealing with an industry which is destined to develop in Australia as time goes by.
The cotton industry, as we know it now in Australia, is only four years old. It is true that we grew cotton as far back as the American civil war when we had 12,000 acres of cotton under cultivation, but between that time and the early 1960’s very little progress was made with the growing of cotton. Certainly some cotton was grown in isolated parts - in the Dawson Valley and in various other parts of Australia under dry farming conditions - but we never achieved a very great yield and we never had a properly co-ordinated and fully operated cotton industry. In 1961 two American growers came to Wee Waa, a town which is in north-western New South Wales and in my electorate. The American growers, who were experienced and competent men, came there as a result of work which was done by two residents of that area. The first was a Hungarian agronomist who conducted extensive experiments on cotton growing in the Wee Waa district and produced some quite remarkable results. The second was the editor of the local newspaper, the “North Western Courier” at Narrabri, who publicised the results of those experiments.
As a result of the publicity the Americans, who lived in the cotton growing district
of California, heard about the work done by
I expect that within very few years the Narrabri-Wee Waa area will supply at least half of that amount of cotton and that it will be grown under ideal conditions. It is true that before we can achieve that desirable end many hurdles must be overcome. For example, we must develop a perfect seed and a perfect variety of cotton for the district, and we must know more about the requirements of the soil. We must know what trace elements are needed, what amount of nitrogen is needed and various technical matters of that kind. These matters, I am quite sure, will be overcome. They have been overcome successfully up to date because we have seen a progressive increase not only of acreage but of yield from this area.
It is also true to say that other parts of Australia can produce cotton quite successfully. We see it being grown in the Ord River district, in the Murrumbidgee area of New South Wales and more extensively nowadays under irrigation in Queensland. But of the districts that can grow cotton, not all can grow it as economically or efficiently as the northern parts of New South Wales. For example, the cost of production on the Ord River must be many times the cost of production in northern New South Wales and costs will always be a handicap to growers in north western Australia. But wherever cotton is grown in Australia, it is plain that sooner or later we will have an exportable surplus of this commodity. That will provide a very welcome change from the present time when we have to spend about £50 million of very precious capital on importing cotton from overseas.
The story of cotton, especially in northern New South Wales, would not be complete if I did not mention one particular feature of development in that area. Following the success of the independent farmers, Messrs. Kahl and Hadley, who came here from California in 1961, more Americans have come to Australia and established themselves as independent farmers. In addition, more Australian farmers have settled in the district. There are now about 30 American and several Australian farmers in that area, and this flow of individual and independent farmers into the district has continued and has increased in tempo. About a year ago the Government of New South Wales allowed a big American company, one of the largest in the world, to establish a branch on an estate in the Narrabri area. This large concern holds some 7,500 acres in that area. The company has worked its holding as one estate and has had accorded to it by the Government of New South Wales water rights for the whole of that area, which means that it can hold three times as much land and still farm effectively and efficiently.
The arrangement that the New South Wales Government has entered into with this concern is a very unusual one, to say the least. I do not propose to probe it very extensively other than to say that, at some unspecified time in the future, Mr. Renshaw, the Premier of New South Wales who made this arrangement, proposes that the American proprietors will grant rights to working lessees for the area. These working lessees, Mr. Renshaw said, will be given an assured annual income, irrespective of results, plus a percentage of the profit on the working lessees’ land. In other words, these working lessees will be nothing more than employees of the American company; they will not even be tenants. This is a remarkable thing for a Labour government to do.
In this House the week before last we heard members of the Opposition make accusations that the Federal Government was encouraging American capital to come to Australia to buy out Australian resources. Yet in New South Wales, under a Labour Government, we see exactly that situation. Labour’s deeds and Labour’s words do not coincide. In New South Wales Labour has sold a large tract of country and a large area of valuable resources to an American concern. The profits from that undertaking will be remitted to the United States. About 20 Australian or American farmers will be denied an opportunity to settle independently in the area. The progress of the district will be handicapped.
It is an axiom that foreign or absentee ownership of property is not a desirable pattern. Over the years we have worked to achieve the settlement of individual farmers - men who will live permanently on the land, men who will spend their money locally, men who will sink their savings back into the land in order to develop it. But in the Narrabri-Wee Waa area of New South Wales we have a complete contradiction of that. Americans have been granted valuable water rights for 7,500 acres of land. I am informed that they will have rights to one-eighth of the water available from the Keepit Dam storage. They will not develop the area in the way that private ownership of that land would allow. As I have said, the profits will be remitted to the United States. If the land is ever sold to Australians for settlement, it will be sold at a very handsome profit as a fully developed and going concern.
This matter should be brought out into the open. It puts the truth about Labour’s stand in perspective. Members of the Opposition attack the Commonwealth Govern ment for selling Australian resources, whereas their own colleagues in New South Wales do even worse than that; they do great damage to the principle of decentralisation. That is the position in relation to the settlement of the American company in the Narrabri area. The position is misunderstood by many people because many red herrings have been drawn across the trail. It is unfortunate - in fact, it is deplorable - that the quiet development of the Narrabri-Wee Waa area, by independent farmers settling and working their own land, should have been halted or interfered with by this action of the New South Wales Government.
I support this measure. As I said, it is a machinery measure which is destined to be the forerunner of many other measures associated with the establishment of a large and prosperous cotton industry in Australia. If the cotton industry can be soundly based on the results of co-operative effort by independent farmers, that will be so much the better for Australia as a whole and for the principle of decentralisation, to which some political parties pay lip service but which they do nothing to encourage.
.- I wish to address a few remarks to this Bill, particularly as it affects Queensland and my electorate of Dawson. Until just recently, Queensland was the major, if not the only, producer of cotton in Australia, and 85 per cent, of the cotton produced in Queensland is produced in the Dawson and Callide Valleys, in my electorate. The Raw Cotton Bounty Bill 1963 was introduced for the purpose of extending assistance to the Australian cotton industry for a period of five years. Previously the Cotton Bounty Act guaranteed an average price of 14d. per lb. on seed cotton until 31st December 1963. The 1963 Bill, which was introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), made some very important changes in the manner in which assistance was provided. Instead of the bounty being based on seed cotton, it was based on raw cotton according to quality, with a rate of a little more than 16d. per lb. as a basic rate and consequential adjustments depending on whether the quality of the cotton was higher or lower than average.
In my opinion, this is a good, common sense approach to improving the production of cotton of high quality with a long staple length, which is the primary requirement of the Australian spinners. This quality approach has been the fundamental basis of most primary industries in Australia. It is the reason for the remarkable success of the industry with which I am so closely associated - the raw sugar industry. That industry has bought and sold both cane and sugar on that basis for many decades. There is no doubt that that has been the major reason for the tremendous leap forward in efficiency which has occurred in this leading home and export industry, the sugar industry.
Until recent years most of the cotton produced in Australia was produced in Queensland, and particularly in my electorate of Dawson. The centre of the cotton growing industry is a small town called Biloela. At the moment it is also the home town of the great Moura coal field and of the great Calcap power station and the Callide Dam, which are now in the course of construction. However, cotton is still one of the most important enterprises based on Biloela. Production in that area and other areas in the Dawson and Callide Valleys in my electorate comprises approximately 85 per cent, of the Queensland output.
There is no doubt in my mind - 1 do not think there is any doubt in the minds of all the technical advisers - that the future of cotton is based on adequate irrigation facilities. In my electorate a start has been made already in this field, although only on a comparatively small scale. In the shire of Banana, surrounding Biloela, about 3,000 acres are under irrigation at present. In addition, about 20,000 acres are being used to grow cotton by dry farming methods. That area is being irrigated progressively, with the help of underground water; but construction of large surface dams is also required. This can occur only with the help of the State and Commonwealth Governments. A large irrigation scheme should be established on the Dawson River to keep this prosperous industry going. I recommend that the Commonwealth Government in particular should go forward with the provision of more surface irrigation schemes in this area. I have been informed that one of the future projects which the Snowy Mountains Authority will tackle is the irrigation potential of the Dawson Valley.
A further important step to be taken is the establishment of a ginnery close to the cotton growing areas. This must be done, because the value of such a provision has been proven wherever cotton has been grown. So it is pleasing to note that the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board has purchased land close to Biloela as a site for a cotton ginnery. However, it is important that the bounty be continued until the industry gets properly under way and well on its feet. It gives me great heart, as it might do to all cotton growers in my electorate, that the Bill indicates that the Government intends to press forward with its policy of helping cotton growers until the end of the five-year period and beyond it to February of the following year.
Although other parts of Australia have become cotton producing areas, the Dawson and Callide Valleys still rank high as cotton producers, and many of the residents depend on this important crop for their livelihood. The last official figures I could obtain relating to cotton production are contained in the Queensland “ Hand Book “ for 1964. They disclose that the acreage sown to cotton in Australia in 1962-63 totalled 37,700, of which 35,300 acres were in Queensland and 2,400 acres in New South Wales. Figures of the acreages in Victoria and Western Australia were not available for publication. In that year New South Wales cotton production totalled 3 million lb. and Queensland production 13 million lb. I quote these figures to show the important place Queensland occupies in the growing cotton world and what the continued strength of the cotton industry means to that State’s economy and particularly to the Dawson electorate.
I fully realise that there have been dramatic increases in the acreages planted to
cotton since then, particularly in New South Wales, but I have no official figures. I
merely wish to impress upon the House the importance of cotton growing to Queensland
generally and to my electorate particularly. This is why I have quoted figures to show
that Queensland still ranks as a leading cotton grower in Australia. I appreciate that
this is primarily a machinery bill, but it does indicate the Government’s continuing
support for an expanding industry. I sincerely hope that that support will continue well
into the future. This Government’s help, together with planned irrigation - again
with Government help - and intensified research, which must come from the industry
itself, will enable us to become a world leader in the production of this crop. 1 hope -
along with my colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir
.- 1 suppose that some members of the Australian Country Party may think it odd that a representative of a city constituency embracing such important places as Woollongabba and Bulimba would rise to support this Bill, but I am a tolerant Australian who is desirous of assisting anybody who is playing a role in developing Australia. It is pleasing to find members of the Australian Country Party departing from their traditional policy and supporting what is, in effect, a policy of protection. It is proposed to maintain a bounty, which is a form of protection, for this important industry. Cotton is a commodity which is playing an increasingly important role in the economic and industrial life of Australia. It is a commodity which provides a big field for development in our primary industry.
I listened most attentively to the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw), who was no doubt actuated by two motives - first, the desire to see this industry advanced and, secondly, to speak to the constituents of Dawson about its importance. But I can divorce myself from the accusation of merely speaking to my electors on this matter. I take the role of an Australian wanting to see the development of an important industry. The cotton we use in Australia is primarily imported, coming principally from the United Arab Republic - Egypt in the main - the Sudan and the United States of America. It is a costly commodity for us to import. Figures supplied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics indicate that for the seven months ended January 1965 raw cotton cost Australia over £5 million and in piecegoods - cotton and linen - over £23 million. These are large figures in anybody’s language - approaching £29 million - so honorable members can see how important it is for Australian producers to supply this commodity for internal consumption. The demand is very great. Queensland, as the honorable member for Dawson pointed out, is the principal Australian producer of cotton, but other parts of Australia lend themselves to great development in this regard. Cotton growing is being attempted in northern New South Wales. I hope that the project in that region will be successful. Pilot farms for the growing of cotton have been established in the Ord River district of Western Australia. The results from those plantings, aided by irrigation, have been most encouraging. If I were a Western Australian I would say that fantastic returns are being obtained from cotton growing on the pilot farms in the Ord River district.
A grand opportunity exists in various parts of Australia for the development of a cotton growing industry. The industry need not be confined to any one State. I know that Australians are most generous people at heart. Recently, we decided to spend millions of pounds in the Indian sub-continent to help develop the Indus basin dam, which will enable India and Pakistan to develop their cotton growing industries. I agree with the honorable member for Dawson that greater consideration should be given to the construction of dams on rivers in northern New South Wales and in the divisions of Dawson and Capricornia in order to develop the cotton growing industry. Discussions about the use for irrigation of the waters of rivers in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland have been held over a long period between the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I hope that finality will be reached soon in those discussions and that construction of the dams will proceed.
The measure is a commendable one. I do not offer any opposition to it. I hope that it will promote the development of this important industry. For too long Australia has been dependent on the export of its primary products in order to stabilise its economy. This is a costly matter to Australia because we are suffering at the moment, as I am sure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will agree, from a recession in prices obtained for the important primary products that we export. We should do all we can to supply the demand of the Australian public for primary products. Here is an opportunity for the primary producer to produce a commodity that is sought by manufacturing industries in this country. All that is needed to establish on a firm basis the cotton growing industry in this country is for the Commonwealth to make money available. I hope that more measures of this kind will come before the Parliament.
Mr. TURNBULL (Mallee) [3.58J.- As honorable members are aware we are discussing the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill which is a bill for an act relating to the granting of a bounty on the production of certain raw cotton sold for use in Australia. The Bill was introduced on 17th March last. Today is 31st March. Some time has elapsed since the Bill was introduced. This is usual with bills of this nature. “Hansard” of 17th March contains the second reading speech made by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), in which he explained the Bill. Speeches made on the Bill by honorable members some weeks later will appear in another edition of “ Hansard “. I propose to read to the House a part of the Minister’s speech. He said -
The effect of this proposed legislation would be to bring the commencement of the bounty year more into line with the ginning year and allow an additional two months in which to dispose of the season’s crop. It would also extend the terms of the Act for a further period of two months; that is, the present Act will cease on 28th February 1969 in lieu of 31st December 1968.
That is something that may give a little more encouragement to people who produce cotton or who are contemplating its production. Anything that will make the way easier for the people who are pioneering this industry in Australia is, I am sure, appreciated by all honorable members.
T listened with great interest to two of my Australian Country Party colleagues - the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) and the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw) - and to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts). They all seemed to be in agreement that more cotton should be produced in Australia and they gave valid reasons for holding that view. From the honorable member for Dawson, we heard about the great Dawson Valley. We heard about the Gwydir River. The honorable member for Griffith, coming as he does from a metropolitan electorate, spoke about the great potentialities of Queensland generally.
– I was unbiased.
– Quite unbiased. I have noticed that so far in this debate speeches have been made by members from New South Wales and Queensland. I do not desire to be parochial or biased but I remind the House of the great Murray Valley through which runs Australia’s greatest river, the Murray, into which a great deal more water has flowed recently as a result of continuation of work on the Snowy Mountains project The stage has now been reached where, if the Murray should fall to only 20 per cent, of its normal flow, water from Lake Eucumbene will be diverted into the Murray to bring the river’s flow back to normal. I mention this because in the Murray Valley are men who have been experimenting - some have got beyond that experimental stage - with cotton growing. Many have learned the hard way. Now some have mechanised cotton pickers. The industry in that area seems to have a bright future.
In the House, recently, I advocated that water should be carried by pipeline to where it is needed. Cotton must have irrigation and if we can supply the necessary irrigation by means of such projects as the Snowy Mountains scheme or the Chowilla Dam, or by piping water to areas that grow cotton prolifically, we will overcome our present disadvantage of having to import so much cotton. On a number of occasions I have advocated that we should develop certain primary industries - cotton growing is one - for which we have a home market, because generally speaking the home market is the best of all markets. If we had a well established cotton growing industry not only would we be able to supply our home market but we would not be forced to spend many millions of pounds on importing such large quantities, thereby reducing our overseas balances. If you export goods you build up your overseas balances and if you grow in this country products that formerly you imported you do not draw to the same extent on your overseas balances. So by producing for our home market and at the same time reducing the drain on our overseas balances we obtain a dual advantage. Although the Bill does not embrace all the matters that have been raised by honorable members it has given them an opportunity to place their views before the Parliament. I am glad that the Bill has the support of every honorable member of this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 83), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- On several occasions, the most recent being 15 days ago, I have had cause to lament the tardiness of the Department of Shipping and Transport in carrying out obligations which the Australian Government has undertaken with other countries under international conventions. On this occasion I am happy to note and to applaud the relative speed with which the Department is carrying out its obligations. In fact, it appears that the Commonwealth will be in a position to benefit from the Convention once the necessary number of countries has ratified it.
When the principal Act was before us in April 1960, I pointed out that it sought to implement, as far as the Commonwealth thought it could do so itself, the terms of an international convention drawn up in 1954. The convention had come into operation in July 1958. The Government took the first steps to investigate the posi tion as it affected Australia in 1959. The Commonwealth Act was passed through both Houses in May 1960. The Commonwealth then adopted the attitude, as it still does, that it was necessary to have complementary acts passed by the six States. The States passed acts between November 1960, when Western Australia and New South Wales did so, and November 1961, when South Australia did so. I have not checked whether the Commonwealth had ordinances made in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. At all events, the Commonwealth deposited its acceptance in August 1962 and was able to derive the benefits of the convention three months later. After a lapse extending from July 1958 until November 1962, the Commonwealth at last, by this cumbersome procedure of complementary legislation, was able to secure the benefits of the convention.
On this occasion, the Parliament is being asked to pass a law to implement the 1962 amendments to the 1954 convention. The amendments will come into force when 20 countries have ratified them. At the moment 13 countries have ratified them. Accordingly, we are well in time to obtain the benefits of the convention if the States pass their complementary legislation as quickly as they did on the last occasion.
Perhaps I might go into some further detail on the necessity for complementary legislation, because the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) referred to my remarks of 15 days ago in his second reading speech on this Bill. He pointed out that there had been and always should be harmony and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in policing regulations on the pollution of the sea. I think we need to look at this proposition a little more closely. Is it necessary for the Commonwealth and the States all to pass laws in order to carry out international obligations? My own predilection is, I frankly confess, for the Commonwealth to carry out the international obligations by itself, if it can. The powers of the Commonwealth Parliament can be greatly augmented under the external affairs power in the Constitution. If the Commonwealth enters into an international treaty or convention, usually it has the power to implement that treaty or convention itself. When the principal Act was before us five years ago I expressed the view that the Government was being too timid in carrying out its obligations and taking advantage of its opportunities under the Constitution. In view of the two civil aviation decisions given by the High Court in the -last 12 months, I am convinced that the Commonwealth Government is too timid in carrying out these obligations.
The Commonwealth has the opportunity and it has the responsibility. Only the Commonwealth can be represented at an international conference. Only the Commonwealth can deal with other nations at a conference or in correspondence. State Governments cannot do so. They have no international standing. They are not recognised by other national governments. So, even if one believes it is desirable that the States should pass complementary legislation, the fact is that they cannot participate in the international legislative process; only the Commonwealth Government can speak on behalf of Australia.
The Minister’s attitude seems to infer a doubt whether States will carry out their obligations under the law unless they participate in passing the acts in Australia. I do not think we should make that aspersion about the State Governments. If the Commonwealth Parliament, using its authority under the external affairs provision, makes” a law, we should assume that the States will carry out that law. Federalism already involves too much procrastination and duplication. We should not promote that process unnecessarily.
This convention well illustrates how the Commonwealth and the States between them could not obtain the benefits which the Commonwealth, and only the Commonwealth, can obtain by an international arrangement. Wherever one may believe that Commonwealth and State jurisdictions may overlap, dovetail or end along our coast, nobody has suggested that any of the Governments, singly or jointly, could exercise jurisdiction 50 or 150 miles oft the coast. Under this Convention Australia can have benefits for 150 miles off her coast. We can see that ships do not befoul Australian waters, not just for the 50 miles which applies off most coasts, but, except from Thursday Island west to Port Hedland, for 150 miles. Accordingly, it is very greatly to Australia’s advantage to ratify this Convention. This is a splendid illustration of the advantages which a country can obtain only by an international convention. The Commonwealth can obtain promptly and fully secure these benefits by itself passing laws under the external affairs power. We should assume that the States would be perfectly willing to cooperate with the Commonwealth in implementing a law which the Commonwealth - so the High Court now reaffirms - is entitled to make by itself.
I referred 15 days ago to another convention on which the Minister and his colleagues have taken the attitude that complementary legislation should be passed. It is the 1957 International Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships. If we adopt the attitude that the States should share in the legislation necessary to implement this Convention, then we must recognise that State laws on its subject matter will not take effect until the British Government has given its approval to them. The Constitutional Review Committee referred to this general problem in its report of November 1959. I have referred, on the last occasion in debating the Seamen’s Compensation Bill in November last, to the precise position which had arisen in Australia in the “ Birchgrove Park “ tragedy. The liability of owners for compensation or damages to the relatives of persons who lose their lives at sea, or to persons who are injured at sea, is calculated on the basis of a certain number of pounds per ton of the ship. The sum so calculated is then divided by the victims, and the amount they can get is subject to the dividend so resulting. The State Parliaments are limited by the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. It is possible for the State Parliaments to pass laws giving better rights to a person bereaved or injured in an accident at sea, but the laws which they pass have no effect until the British Government confirms them under section 735 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.
From an answer which the Prime Minister
If the Government persists in the attitude it has adopted, that complementary State legislation is necessary to implement this 1957 Convention, then we must face the situation that we require, first, a Commonwealth act, secondly, six State acts, and thirdly, British confirmation of those six State acts. It is true that the British Parliament in 1958 applied the 1957 scale. That is to say, it increased the amount for personal loss from £15 to £73 and for property loss from £8 to £24. But it applied the increase to ships in Britain. The British Government can make orders applying the scale to any British colonies such as the Australian States; it has not done so. The Australian States can pass laws which will take effect if the British Government confirms them under the 1894 Act. They have not done so. Accordingly, I suggest that this other international convention in the maritime field, on which the Government believes it must have complementary legislation, should be looked at afresh.
It is true that this Convention is not yet in force. It comes into force when it is ratified by ten States of which at least five have a tonnage equal or superior to one million gross tons. The Convention so far has been ratified by France, Britain, Spain, Ghana, Sweden, Algeria and Finland. That information was given to me last November. There may have been some subsequent ratifications. I imagine that of those nations France, Britain and Sweden, at all events, and maybe Spain, own ships with a tonnage equal or superior to one million gross tons. Australia cannot secure the benefit of this Convention until it has been ratified by a sufficient number of countries, but I hope that the Minister will have another look at the position under this Convention to see whether it is not possible for the Commonwealth itself - in the light of the High Court decisions in the civil aviation field in the last year - to pass the necessary legislation, and promptly. Otherwise I believe there can be no justification for waiting for the passage of State legislation and for British confirmation, which has not been obtained hitherto. I thank the House for forbearing with my excursus on this subject. I was encouraged to make it by the Minister’s reference to my remarks 15 days ago.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the Bill,
which seeks to amend the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act 1960. The Bill itself is not
a long one, but the amendments mark another important step forward in effecting the
control so essential to bring about what is known in shipping parlance as’ clean
water. The legislation itself has quite a human impact’ I take this opportunity to
congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport
As one who has spent almost a lifetime in shipping and who now represents an electorate which is blessed with magnificent waterways such as Middle Harbour which I feel certain honorable members know well, and fine beaches, especially Balmoral Beach-
– And a submarine base.
– Yes, we have a submarine base, too. Because of the waterways and fine beaches in the electorate, I am interested in the Bill itself. I am indeed overjoyed that the 1954 Convention which seeks to bring into line the legislation of the 32 signatory nations to this Convention is so designed to bring water pollution under control. This Bill deals with a subject which has caused considerable concern to many interests for a number of years. I refer here to that much maligned but august body, the shipowners, and also to small craft owners, whether they be owners of yachts, motor propelled craft, port authorities, those who go down to the sea or down to the beach to swim, fishermen and others. So. 1 reiterate that this is a very important piece of legislation, simple though it may seem.
I am very pleased to be able to say in this chamber that the New South Wales Maritime Services Board, over a number of years, has taken a very keen interest in ensuring that Sydney Harbour and the territorial waters outside it are kept clear of oil pollution. The Board has been most zealous in ensuring that this cleanliness is observed, lt will be of interest to honorable members, I feel sure, to learn just how masters of foreign going vessels before the 1954 Convention was ever hinted at were notified of what the authorities of the Maritime Services Board required them to do when they brought their ships into the port of Sydney. The notification of the masters was carried out very effectively but very easily. A pilot coming aboard a vessel within the three mile territorial limit of the Sydney Harbour Heads would take with him, and does still, the “Port of Sydney Regulations “ which fully advised the master of the vessel as to his responsibilities in ensuring that there could be no spillage of oil from his ship while the vessel was within the territorial waters and especially while it was lying at berth in Sydney Harbour. In addition to this notification to the master himself, a very large notice was placed on board appropriately situated in the ship so that all members of the crew could make themselves fully aware of the stringent regulations which apply to the port of Sydney.
I have no doubt that other main ports of Australia carry out the same rigid regulations as are carried out in the port of Sydney so as to ensure the same cleanliness of water in other main ports as there is in Sydney. The regulations were designed to ensure not only that oil would not be spilled into the Harbour and territorial waters of Sydney, and to prevent pollution, but also that a danger element such as a fire hazard would not be created as the result of oil, be it a white spirit or black oil - that is, bunker oil - which could catch fire and cause damage. As I understand the situation, the principal Act which we have as a Commonwealth document has already been adapted by the State Governments, especially the Government of New South Wales.
– All of them?
– I will not answer for all the State Governments. All I can do is answer for the Government of New South Wales, whose Act is based on the 1954 Convention. I understand that the port authorities are in the course of bringing up to date the necessary regulations which, in due course, will fully prescribe all of the things which are required to be introduced in order to safeguard our territorial waters and harbour reaches with which, of course, the State Governments are concerned.
An interesting article in the principal Act, which is to be amended to a slight extent by the present Bill, is article VIII. This article deals with the necessity for main ports to provide reception facilities. The article in the principal Act reads as follows -
As from a date three years after the present Convention comes into force in respect of any of the territories of a contracting Government, that Government shall ensure the provision in each main port in that territory of facilities adequate for the reception, without causing undue delay to ships, of such residues from oily ballast water and tank washings as would remain for disposal by ships, other than tankers, using the port . . .
The important thing is that provision is made for these oil receptacles. I was of the opinion that these were provided, but on making inquiries I have found that the main ports have not oil receptacles readily “ available. Apparently further inquiries have to be made before a suitable type of receptacle can be made available into which merchant ships can discharge their residual oil. This applies to the main ports. I am informed that the oil port of Botany Bay already has oil receptacles for the use of tankers. So that port, and no doubt other oil ports, have facilities which comply fully with what is required by the 1954 Convention. It would seem to me that there is an urgent need for equipping all ports with these receptacles. Most modern ships have their own separating, refining and distilling systems with which they are able to separate oil from bilge water. If oil receptacles are available in the main ports, these ships, knowing that they will be able to effect the necessary discharge into suitable receptacles, will have no excuse whatsoever for dumping residual oil at any point outside territorial waters. The residual oil which is left after the refining process by modern separators has about the same consistency as butter.
As I have already mentioned, the Maritime Services Board in Sydney has had in operation laws designed to ensure that the harbour and territorial waters shall remain free from pollution by oil. Those laws provide for very heavy penalties, and the masters of the various ships, knowing of these penalties, have substantially complied with the laws. I should mention also that the laws administered by the Maritime Services Board are designed not only to prevent the pollution of the waters through the discharge or the spillage of oil by ships but also by the depositing of rubbish and debris from factories and refineries situated around the foreshores. As it has to police not only the laws relating to spillage of oil from ships but also the laws relating to the dumping of rubbish and debris from factories and refineries, the Maritime Services Board has a fairly large staff of inspectors. I believe I am correct in saying that, by strict policing of its own regulations, the Maritime Services Board has done a good job in ensuring that there is little or no pollution of Sydney Harbour.
As honorable members are no doubt aware, those charged with the responsibility of dispersing or breaking up spillages of bunker oil have a difficult task, in that this bunker oil is a very heavy, tarry substance which floats on the water. The method adopted for disposing of spilled oil is to put a boom around the concentration, so as to keep it from spreading, and then attempt to break up the oil by directing strong jets of water on to it. In these more modern times, an appropriate detergent is used to emulsify and break up the oil.
Fortunately, from my perusal of the records, it would seem that in Sydney Harbour there are not many occasions when oil is spilled in substantial quantities. As honorable members will appreciate, tankers lend themselves to this type of offence. For many years, they did create a problem, but now there are so many regulations relating to the discharge of oil to shore refineries - regulations relating to the manner in which they connect their pipes and the times at which their pipes can be connected - that they are very well controlled indeed and cause little or no oil pollution. There was an occasion some years ago when a merchant vessel was being loaded with bunker oil from an oil barge and when the watchman whose duty it was to ensure that the oil was pumped aboard correctly fell asleep, with the result that some tons of oil spilled into the water, a great deal of trouble was caused in effectively dealing with the spillage. The method used was as I have described. A boom was put around it and strong jets of water were played on it in order to break up the oil.
So far as I can ascertain from the records, in recent years there has only been one fire of any consequence resulting from oil spillage. On that occasion, a quantity of white oil - petrol in this instance - was spilled from a tanker at the Caltex wharf. The oil then flowed around Ballast Point and into Morts Bay, where it came into contact with sparks from welding that was being down on a vessel under repair. Although this caused a fire, the fire did not cause much damage, nor was anyone seriously injured. I pay full tribute to the work of the Maritime Services Board in keeping Sydney Harbour free from oil spillage and water pollution. I have no doubt that the Board will continue to do a very fine job with its up to date port facilities.
The major problem connected with policing the oil pollution laws is to catch the culprit in the act. In this case, of course, the culprit would be the master of the vessel from which oil was spilled. There are so many ways in which the offence can be covered up that the spilling has to be seen in progress before the person held to be responsible can be arrested. Unfortunately, as I read the Bill, the wording will provide the master of a vessel with so many avenues for claiming mitigating circumstances that successful prosecution will be extremely difficult. No doubt the wording will receive further consideration, because it is essential that every possible assistance be given to the authorities to enable their officers to make an arrest whenever an offence of this kind is committed.
Speaking again of Sydney Harbour, I say that oil pollution, even in small measure, is a very serious nuisance, for the consequences can be extremely costly. As anyone knows, a film of oil on the surface of the water is very damaging to small craft, both sailing yachts and motor driven vessels. The seriousness of any pollution of Sydney Harbour by oil can be gauged from the fact that there are on that stretch of water 1,300 yachts in addition to many other craft, including numerous motor driven vessels. Oil clings to the topsides of small craft, necessitating washing down completely and, invariably, repainting. All this, as I have already said, is costly. If it can be established that the oil on the water had spilled from a particular vessel, the master of that vessel has to meet the cost of cleaning and repainting. In such circumstances, no cost is incurred by the owner of a yacht or other small craft. However, establishing the vessel from which the spillage took place presents difficulties for the harbour authorities. One can say quite properly that oil pollution would be a very much more serious menace to all those who use our territorial and harbour waters if authorities such as the Maritime Services Board, which functions in New South Wales, did not take strict measures to control spillage and enforce laws designed to prevent pollution.
Oil pollution also seriously affects beaches, as is well known to all honorable members. I recall that a few years ago I had occasion to recommend to friends that they visit Balmoral Beach in Sydney. I told them that this was a very good surfing beach that they would find to be clean and free of rubbish. A few days later, my friends told me that never again would they go to that beach. On the Sunday when they had gone there, they found it covered with a film of oil which, unfortunately, had spilled from submarines moored nearby. This is the only occasion that I can recall on which this delightful beach was so affected. If any honorable member wishes to visit this beach - it is a magnificent one that is worthy of a visit by anybody - he need not be deterred by the fear that he will find it polluted by oil. On the occasion that I have mentioned, the oil had to be cleared from the beach by the local council, which was put to considerable cost.
Here is an interesting sidelight,
Bearing in mind the problems associated with the prevention of pollution of our territorial and harbour waters by the spillage of oil, I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill wholeheartedly as a very progressive measure. It is in no way controversial and I am sure that it will meet with no opposition.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to commend the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) and the officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport on the introduction of this measure, which relates to a matter that we must keep in the forefront of our minds from now on. The problem to which the Bill relates results from our modern way of life. It is a sign of the times. Before the Second World War, pollution of the sea by oil was of far less magnitude than now. In those days, most of the ships plying the ocean trade routes burned coal, and the residual ashes were pumped or shovelled over the side. For this reason, the seaways of the world were not contaminated by oil sludge as they are now. This contamination comes about in many ways and it will be very hard to prevent, as I shall explain more fully later.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, referring to the amendments to the principal Act proposed in this measure, said -
They extend the prohibited zones and they place a total prohibition on the discharge of persistent oil in respect of new ships of over 20,000 tons gross tonnage.
That is very good, I take it that the intention is to see that such vessels are fitted with separators and other machinery necessary to clean the oil fuel and to remove oil from waste before it is discharged. That kind of equipment will be very difficult to put into ships already constructed, because sufficient space is not available in the engine rooms of vessels already in service. However it will be a good thing if new vessels of more than 20,000 tons gross are required to have this kind of machinery fitted. I suppose it will be only a matter of time before we have operating on the Australian coast oil tankers of up to 20,000 gross registered tons. The tankers at present plying on our coast are of no more than about 12,000 gross registered tons. Vessels such as the “Caltex Liverpool “ and the “ Hemigypta “, to name ships owned by competing companies, and the tankers operated by R. W. Miller & Co. Pty. Ltd. are about 12,000 gross registered tons and carry between 15,000 and 18,000 tons of cargo. It would be very difficult to fit cleaning machinery of the kind that I have mentioned into those ships, because, as I have said, the space available in the engine room is not sufficient. But such machinery can be fitted in new vessels. There is a trend in the world today towards vessels of greater size, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some ships plying to Australia and elsewhere throughout the world carry up to 130,000 tons, and one vessel at present under construction will carry up to 150,000 tons. A number of ships carrying as much as 90,000 tons of cargo come to Australia and enter Port Phillip or Sydney Harbour.
Let me explain what happens when a tanker discharges its cargo of oil. The ship becomes very unstable as it rises out of the water with the lightening of the load. Indeed, it becomes just like a big steel balloon floating on the water. So, as soon as the oil cargo is discharged, salt water is pumped in quickly to take its place and restore the vessel to a stable condition. This means that a ship that entered port with a cargo of 90,000 tons of oil may leave carrying 50,000 tons of salt water and oil mixed. Of course, when the ship reaches the port where it is to be reloaded it must get rid of the mixture of salt water and oil, so this is pumped overboard. If the weather is fine, before a ship comes within the 300 mile limit, or whatever it may be, from the loading port, it starts to pump the oil overboard. Honorable members doubtless realise that the whole 50,000 tons cannot be pumped overboard, and that some of the water and oil mixture has to be pumped ashore into settling tanks so that new oil can be loaded. In the main, when there is a continual filling of holds, tanks or compartments with oil, the remaining oil is removed by pumping salt water into the tanks and then pumping it out. When that happens an oil sludge is left on the ocean surface.
The same thing occurs with cargo ships which have double bottoms in which the oil is carried. Honorable members can visualise a migrant ship, for example, bound from Europe to Australia, making Suez the last port of call and travelling direct to Fremantle. It is burning oil all the time and, consequently the trim of the ship is altered. If it is burning oil from the after end the ship goes down at the head, and if it burning oil from the other end there is the reverse effect. In order to counteract that, salt water is pumped into the double bottom tanks. However, when the ship needs to load more oil to take it home for bunkers or whatever it is the salt water mixed with oil has to be removed. I suggest that in Australia we need tank cleaning ships at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne-
– And Newcastle?
– Yes, Newcastle if you like, but that port hardly warrants one because of its size. Particularly in Sydney and Melbourne a tank cleaning ship is needed in each port. The big ports of the world have these tank cleaning ships.. They are not ships that go to sea but are ones that have spent their lives at sea and have come back. To save them going through a big overhaul they are confined to smoother waters. Such a ship is capable of going alongside the ship that wants to get rid of the oil sludge and of sucking it out of the ship into its own hold, leaving the other vessel ready to load clean oil. I have been asked on several occasions: “ Why is there not a tank cleaning ship in any port in Australia?” If a ship has to go into dry dock or needs to get rid of oil there should be a vessel which can come alongside it, take the oil out and, if necessary, clean the tank so that the ship can go into dock. In the main that is how the tanks are emptied in overseas ports.
– Who would provide the ship?
– I should think that in Australia it would be provided by private enterprise. That is the way it is done in most ports, although I do not know what is done in Russia. In London and New York tank cleaning ships operate and do a very good job - a job that is most necessary.
I should like to pay tribute to the Department of Shipping and Transport for what may be termed the stringency of its regulations. I believe that regulations cannot be too stringent. The Australian regulations, especially those relating to cargo, are among the finest in the world. I know that on the Australian coast we have accidents with shackles carrying away and that sort of thing, but the laws laid down by Australia are very good. I believe that laws should be laid down with respect to fittings, pipelines and other equipment on the tankers and ships that load oil. Perhaps the Department could ensure that such equipment is maintained to a certain standard. Such a requirement would minimise the spills which occasionally take place. There is always an argument about whose section of the pipe carried away. Those on the ship will maintain that the pipe belonging to the oil company on the wharf was at fault. To those on the tanker or ship loading the oil it is always the other fellow’s fault. I suggest that that aspect should be investigated to reduce the number of spillages that take place in Australia.
As the honorable member for Warringah
A few nights ago, when speaking on a bill, I mentioned ships flying the flag of convenience. I did not mean to upset the Minister for Shipping and Transport, but evidently I did. It was unintentional. All I was trying to do was to agree with the honorable member for Warringah and to point out what Hags of convenience are and their purpose. In matters such as the discharge of oil it is hard to police ships that are flying flags of convenience as they are not bound to the strict code of ethics to which ships from other countries conform. In many respects it is not their fault. I do not want to say too much about this subject, but I believe that the operators of ships flying the flag of convenience do not follow out the same high standards in their profession as do people from other nations. If I had any say in the matter I would not deal with a ship that flew the flag of convenience because if the owners were not proud enough to fly down their own flag they would certainly need investigation.
I commend the Government for bringing in this legislation. It will have a far reaching effect on several things - not only the pollution of the sea. When oil is discharged on to the sea it affects many people, and, in addition, the bird life and fish life. When heavy detergents are used and there is a spill the oil sinks to the bottom and the marine life inhabiting the bottom of the ocean is affected. I heard the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) speak about that, and I am sure that he will say something about it in this debate. I wish the Bill speedy success. I hope that its provisions will be looked at from time to time and that Australia will keep its slate clean in relation to the carriage of oil and the pollution of the sea by oil.
I remind honorable members that the sea can become polluted by oil that has not been discharged from ships. As honorable members know, at the present time drilling operations are being undertaken 18 miles off the Victorian coast. It will be interesting to see what happens if the drills strike oil. I dare say that some oil must escape into the sea before the flow is stopped. I understand that the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) is discussing this subject with the State Governments to see whether this aspect will be policed by the Commonwealth or the States. 1 know that the States are just as earnest in this matter as the Commonwealth is. I know that something good for Australia will come from this drilling, but I dare say that if the Commonwealth becomes the authority to administer this area the royalties will come to the Commonwealth rather than to the States. I do not know what the position will be, but that is something for the States to consider. I merely want to point out that the sea can be polluted by offshore drilling and that it will be necessary for the laws to be tightened up to ensure that there is no pollution. Again I commend the Minister and his Department for bringing this measure before the House.
.- I have much pleasure in rising to support this Bill, which amends the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act 1960. At this stage in the development of Australia it is important for us to sit up and take notice of what is happening as a result of the tremendous increase in the use of oil in and around Australia. It is important that we protect the wonderful asset that we have in Australia in our beaches. It is also important that we protect our ports which have been or are being established at tremendous expense. If all concerned with the problem of the pollution of the sea by oil - governments, both Commonwealth and State, port authorities and the shipping interests - accept their share of the responsibility, we will make progress.
Over the years we have seen the tremendous amount of damage and expense that can occur as a result of pollution. Recently in the port of Fremantle in Western Australia there was a major spill age of oil. Many thousands of gallons of oil were ejected into the inner port of Fremantle. That posed many problems. In addition to the damage that was done, the cost of absorbing or picking up the oil was tremendous. Of course, the authorities would recover the cost from the shipping company if it were proved, as it was in this case, that one of the company’s employees was responsible for the spillage of oil.
There are many aspects of this matter. I have referred to damage to our beaches. In Western Australia, as in other parts of Australia, there are many beaches which are very important and which we want to retain in their present form. There is some erosion of beaches as a result of industry. That is happening at present in the Kwinana area of my electorate. We know that industry has to advance. We have to accept the consequences of that. But oil pollution is a different matter altogether. By means of legislation such as this, careful policing and a little care on the part of the shipowners, we can overcome much of the pollution. There are dangers to the ports and the ships. In this field the shipping companies should show a sense of responsibility. In the case that I mentioned, one ship was responsible for ejecting thousands of gallons of oil into the port of Fremantle before the trouble was detected. The oil itself was a tremendous hazard. It could have caught fire and caused complete chaos in the port.
I notice that clause 7 of the Bill refers to the inspection of machinery. This is very important. I believe that port authorities in Australia will have to look into this problem and the extent to which human factors enter into the matter. The question may be whether an officer of a ship, who is responsible for doing a certain thing, such as turning on the correct tap, does it. I believe that if the shipping companies will not accept a greater responsibility in this field the port authorities will have to accept responsibility for ensuring that personnel are placed on ships, as pilots are, to see that the sort of thing that happened in Fremantle does not happen again. At the moment the responsibility is on the shipowner. The case in Fremantle is not the only one that has occurred. In Western Australia we have had evidence of oil being spilt from many sources, particularly close to the refinery at Kwinana.
Separation units have been mentioned. We recognise that they are expensive pieces of machinery, but I believe that the oil industry is sufficiently financial to do something about this matter. As I have said, the oil companies and the shipping companies, which are largely responsible for this problem, should take a greater interest in it and should be responsible, to a large extent, for supplying the necessary equipment in ports. I do not think it is always the responsibility of the port authorities or governments to supply this equipment. The refineries and bunkering facilities are part of the oil industry. It is a tremendous industry in the world today. It is growing every day. That is certainly the position in this country. We have struck a little oil in Australia. I hope that we will strike more. As we progress, huge quantities of oil will be either coming to our shores or leaving our shores.
Because of the relative isolation of Australia, particularly the southern ports, and the long leads across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, a tremendous amount of bunkering will be done in Australia. Fremantle is one of the largest, if not the largest, bunkering port in the southern hemisphere, because of the long leads in all directions. This oil trade in our Australian ports will continue to grow. The bunkering service at Fremantle is a splendid one. But whatever machinery the oil companies or the port authorities have installed or may instal, without the correct policing of that machinery we will still have this problem.
I support the Bill and call upon all people who are active in fields in which oil pollution may occur to do everything that they can to accept their responsibilities and to overcome this problem. We cannot afford to lose our beaches. There is no need for us to lose them if this matter is policed correctly. We cannot afford to take any risks at all in our ports. We can imagine what would happen in some of our ports if we had a major catastrophe in the form of a fire. In addition to the tremendous material losses and the possible loss of life, our trade would be bottled up to a large extent. We cannot afford to have that happen. I believe in correct policing and stringent controls in this field. I noticed that, although there is a maximum fine of £1,000, a lesser fine was imposed in respect of the recent incident in the port of Fremantle, to which I have referred. I believe that in certain circumstances a fine of even £1,000 is a little light, compared with the damage and inconvenience which may be caused. I support the Bill and I am sure that every other member will support it, too.
.- I wish to add a few words to this very interesting debate. I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I might not be able to congratulate him on other occasions, but on this occasion I congratulate him sincerely. It is good to be able to say that the Government is honoring its obligations arising from the international conference on ways and means of increasing the safety of bird and fish life by preventing pollution of the sea. However, one paragraph in the Minister’s second reading speech indicates that it will be a long time before the provisions of this Bill become operative. The Minister said -
Certain amendments to the original Convention were agreed to at a conference in London in 1962, but they will not come into force until 12 months after two-thirds of the number of countries which accepted the original Convention have signified acceptance of these amendments.
The Minister made the understatement of the month when he said: “This will not be for some time yet”. Of course this will delay for some time the implementation of the provisions of the Bill, but we will have played our part and will not have delayed the passage of this fine legislation. I was wondering whether it would be possible to continue the action of pouring oil on troubled waters. I thought that the Bill might wipe out our opportunities of doing this, and that would be a bad feature of the legislation, but when I read the Bill carefully I found this was covered in clause 4, sub-section (4.) paragraph (b) which provides that it is a defence if a person charged with an offence proves -
That the discharge of the oil or of the oily mixture from the ship was for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship, preventing damage to a ship or cargo or saving life at sea.
So we can continue to pour oil on troubled waters.
I should like to stress some of the dangers of pollution of the sea, but rather than get bogged down with technicalities I shall give some practical illustrations of what happens when oil or sludge is poured into the sea in any part of the world. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) has handed me an interesting document relating to a hearing before the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce of the United States Senate, 87th Congress. It supplies valuable information on this important topic, and in relation to fisheries states -
Oil pollution destroys fisheries and other marine life resources, according to Hawkes’ careful survey, in five principal ways: (1) The tainting of fish and shell fish, thus rendering them inedible; (2) the fatal poisoning of animal life through ingestion; (3) upsetting food chains; (4) the mechanical fouling of animals, as in the case of birds tha! invariably die when their feathers become oiled; and (3) through repellent effects.
The document supplies three or four examples and further states -
The quahog or hardshelled clam supports an industry in Rhode Island that grosses over 2 million dollars annually for commercial diggers. Quahogs are an animal that can survive in the midst of considerable oil pollution, but they take on a taste and odor “which would make the strongest stomach turn.”
Hawkes cited the work of Dr. Paul Galtsott biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who found that oil pollution destroys oysters directly by poisoning and indirectly by inhibiting the growth of microscopic plants upon which oysters feed.
I interpolate here to indicate that presently I will refer to the type of work that will proceed along the New South Wales coastline in connection with the search for oil. We have oyster beds on several parts of this coastline and these oyster beds could bc affected by undue pollution of the sea. The document continues - “The most obvious and spectacular loss of animal life due to oil pollution of the sea,” Hawkes continued, “is the enormous toll taken of marine birds. Reports from many sources indicate the kill of birds by oil has been getting progressively worse over the past few years. Mr. I. M. Tuck of the Canadian Wildlife Service in Newfoundland has estimated that one nesting colony of auks in his area has been decimated by nearly a quarter million birds within the last two years and that it cannot survive comparable losses for more than another two or three years. “ Mr. Lester Giles, director of the American Humane Education Society, counted approximately 4,000 oiled birds on Nantucket Island in December and January of 1960 and 1961, and this is a time of year when currents are carrying oil away from this area.”
As another illustration the document states -
In Narragansett Bay approximately 4,000 ducks, nearly one-fifth of the entire wintering flock, were killed by an oil spill in early February. Mr. Oliver Beckley, supervisor of game management in Connecticut, estimates a kill of 4,000 more ducks as the result of an oil spill in Long Island Sound in mid-December 1960.
So this rather tragic story of the loss of wildlife continued. Mr. Hawkes appealed to biologists and conservationists to make the public aware of the disastrous proportions of the menace. He concluded that there were three basic reasons for oil pollution of the sea: First, economic expediency; secondly, carelessness and negligence; and, thirdly, inadequate regulation and enforcement.
– Would not a government shipping line obviate many of the difficulties?
– I have heard many reasons for the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping
line, but I have never heard that one before. I think it is a good angle. I might
remind the honorable member for Hunter
– That ship could be built straight away.
– All it needs is for the Government to provide the money and then the A.N.L. could do the job. This would be a practical way of reducing the menace. I have been referring to the effect of oil pollution on fish life and bird life; now I want specifically to refer to mutton birds, which constitute an important food and supply an important oil. They are caught and treated primarily in the Bass Strait area, mainly around northern Tasmania and on the four islands of the Furneaux group. The mutton bird is a member of the petrel family, and there are some 35 species situated in and around Australia. The Tasmanian species makes transcontinental flights to the North Pacific and from the
North Pacific to Tasmania. Coming south from off the coasts of Siberia and Japan they can be seen as dense flocks at the end of September and during October and November along the Australian coastline.
– They darken the sun.
– Yes, in some areas. Experts claim that the number on the four islands of the Furneaux group would exceed 2,600,000 birds every season. This species nests in south-eastern Australia, around Tasmania and from Gabo Island in Victoria to Saint Francis Island in South Australia. Another species nests in islands off south-western Australia. It is an important bird, and I want to stress the dangers to it of oil pollution. If pollution spreads in this area the industry could be seriously affected. On the flight south along the coast of Asia many of these birds settle on water at night to rest and continue their journey in the morning. Many die on the way down because they settle on oil polluted water. The industry could be greatly damaged if the waters are polluted as a result of increased activity in the search for oil off the continental shelf or through increased negligence on the part of shipping and the adoption of the expediency of tipping sludge overboard from ships. Scores of people make a living from mutton birds in the season. The industry is of considerable economic importance to Tasmania.
– As the population increases more people will depend on the industry.
– That is so. I thought 1 should mention this matter in view of the dangers referred to in the document from which I have quoted. I want to stress, now, another danger. The honorable member for Batman referred to the effect on fish deep down in the water of oil sunk as sediment. The scallop industry and the crayfish industry on the Tasmanian coast could be affected if oil sludge were sunk as sediment. Some people may use this method of removing oil from the surface. It is of no use removing oil from the surface if it will kill fish under the surface. The fishing industry is worth £15 million a year - £885,000 of it from Tasmania- and 14,149 people are dependent on it.
Finally I want to refer to the danger of pollution resulting from increased activity in the search for oil. This pollution could come, not from oil discharged from ships, but from oil brought up from the depths of the earth. In the last five months there has been fantastic development in the search for oil offshore. We are glad to see this increased activity and we hope that the search is successful but at this stage I think we should take cognisance of the fact that this search offshore could lead to pollution of the sea. Another danger is that a light thrown from a ship - it may be a cigarette -could ignite the surface of the sea in the vicinity of drilling rigs. Only one drill is working at the moment off the Australian coastline but I prophesy that within 12 months many will be working.
Haematite Exploration Pty. Ltd. has rights to explore 35,325 square miles around Tasmania. Tasmania is virtually only a dot in the area. The company is supposed to finish its preliminary search by October this year. The 5,800 ton floating rig “ Glomar III “ is drilling Australia’s first offshore well in the continental shelf area of the Gippsland Basin in eastern Bass Strait - off Ninety Mile Beach. The drill is located 16 miles from Ninety Mile Beach and is programmed to a depth of 10,000 feet. The Esso organisation has chartered the drilling rig from Global Marine (Australasia) Pty. Ltd. for its work. Where else may we expect offshore drilling? The interest in this new search for oil is increasing at a great rate. Shell Development (Australia) Pty. Ltd. has completed a large marine seismic survey in a 4,910 square miles area off the coast of New South Wales. We may expect drilling operations to commence there in the next six months. The American company, Gulf Oil Corporation, by arrangement with the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Ltd., is exploring offshore areas on the north Queensland coast extending an average of 150 miles out to the Barrier Reef and beyond. Offshore drilling will later take place off Geraldton in Western Australia, where seismic surveys have been made. Similar surveys have been made in the St. Vincent’s Gulf area of South Australia on behalf of Beach Petroleum N.L.
Shell Development (Australia) Pty. Ltd. this month began a new survey in Queensland waters in the Hervey Bay area, which will be known to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), where the Shell organisation and Pacific American Oil Co. jointly own an authority to prospect, embracing an area of 6,590 square miles. In association with Burmah Oil Co. of Australia Ltd. a seismic survey was completed of an area of more than 2,000 square miles off the north-west coast of Australia and in the Timor Sea. The survey, which was completed last October, cost £250,000.
I have given these figures, taken from the latest issue of a document dealing with the search for petroleum, to show what a tremendous amount of work is being done in marine seismic surveys and what we may expect in drilling operations within the next 12 months. I have given this information in order to draw the Minister’s attention to the need to face up to the danger of pollution that may result from offshore oil search as distinct from oil sludge from ships. I concede that the Bill does not refer to oil pollution from wells. Perhaps the Minister may see fit to draft legislation to deal with the problem of offshore drilling as it affects Australia. I support the Bill.
.- In my opinion this Bill is the most important piece of legislation on the
notice-paper. It is appropriate that such an important piece of legislation should be
discussed at length. The importance of this legislation has been emphasised by the
variety of speakers, in the professional sense, whom we have heard- We have heard
members of the legal profession - the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition
(Mr. Whitlam). The old salts on each side of the
House have risen to the occasion. The primary producers of Western Australia have been
represented by the honorable member for Canning
– I have never heard of it.
– Poor chap- living in ignorance. We are indebted to the Minister for going to so much trouble to prepare such a lengthy statement to explain the purposes of the Bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done a lot of research into the ramifications of the Bill and the conventions involved. The Minister has told us that the Bill deals with the effect of the discharge of oil and oily mixtures on fishing operations, beaches, bird life and the like. The honorable member for Wilmot has dealt quite effectively with the effect of oil on bird life. I do not want to follow that line because the honorable member spoke in a most delightfully clear and explanatory way. But the effect on fishing operations of the discharge of oil should be of major concern to all Australian Parliaments involved. Many attempts have been made to promote the fishing industry in this country. It is of importance to Australia, not only because it is a means of conserving our overseas reserves but also because it provides an edible diet which contrasts with the diet of meat that the Austraiian people seem to prefer. Unfortunately, the Australian fishing industry cannot meet the demands that are made on it and we are compelled to import enormous quantities of fish. I think that in a 12-month period we import about £12,000,000 worth of fish. This amounts to about £1 per head of population. This is a considerable sum and would be materially increased if our fishing grounds were polluted by the discharge of oil and oily mixtures. So it is good to have a Bill of this nature introduced into the Parliament. I do not want to commend the Minister, because I might be accused -of being too kind and I do not want to speak in such kindly terms of a member of the Government. I merely say that this is a worthwhile piece of legislation and, in co-operation with the States, can have a good effect on the Australian economy and on the fishing industry.
As the Minister has said, the Bill deals with the discharge of oil and oily mixtures off the Australian coast. The Third Schedule, which is contained in this Bill, deals with the effect of the legislation on various coast lines around the world. I am sure that all honorable members have completely informed themselves as to the coasts of the maritime world that are dealt with in the Schedule. However, I will repeat that portion which relates to Australia. The Australian zone extends to 150 miles from the nearest land along the coasts of Australia, except off the north and west coasts of the Australian mainland between the point opposite Thursday Island and the point on the west coast at 20 degrees south latitude. The Queensland coast comes within the provisions of the Bill. That is very important from my point of view and I want to refer to the troubles that beset some of the beaches around the Brisbane area. We have a pest called hyacinth which grows in enormous quantities in the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. During the wet season, which should occur in January and February but which unfortunately did not occur this year, it comes down in huge quantities, covers the Brisbane River and eventually is swept out into the bay. It then comes back on the tide into the very pleasant watering resorts around Sandgate and Redcliffe. It causes considerable worry to the municipal authorities who have to dispose of it. We can imagine the problem that would be created if this pest became contaminated with oily substances discharged from vessels. It would create a fire hazard in these well populated areas.
I now go further down the coast to the Gold Coast. My friend from Wilmot described the flight of birds from the northern hemisphere to Tasmania in such numbers that they darken the sun. I want to refer to the movement of birds, very delightful ones, from the southern parts of Australia to Surfers Paradise, where the sun darkens them.
– They would be the little chickies,
– Perhaps I may say, in response to that considered interjection by the honorable member for Wills, they are very delightful chickies too. It is very pleasant to lie on the broad expanse of white sand on the beach at Surfers Paradise and survey the rollers coming in from the Pacific Ocean and also anything that is between the seaboard and the beach. But how disastrous and unpleasant it would be if, having applied an oily substance to one’s body Whilst lying on the beach to defeat the evil effects of the sun’s rays on the skin, one entered the surf only to be covered by an oily substance that had been discharged into the sea by ships. This would be disgraceful and I can assure honorable members that it would be a most unpleasant experience.
The tourist industry in Surfers Paradise is worth many millions of pounds in foreign currency. Tourists also bring many millions of pounds to Queensland from the southern parts of Australia. The people who have invested large sums of money in promoting the tourist industry on the Gold Coast and who have provided the means of entertaining visitors have a large investment that could easily be damaged by the pollution of the sea by oil. The rollers of the blue Pacific and the white sands of the beaches provide a marvellous playground for the less fortunate people of Australia who live in the southern States. I speak not merely in the interests of the people of Surfers Paradise but also in the interests of those people in the southern States who go to the Gold Coast to enjoy their holidays at various times. I hope that this Bill will help to preserve this glorious playground of the Pacific as it is now. I hope that the operation of the Bill will be simplified and that the shipping industry will co-operate to ensure that its purpose is fulfilled. The Bill provides very severe penalties for offences committed under it.
As my friend from Wilmot remarked, although the Minister hopes that the Bill will come into operation soon, there are indications that this will not be for some time yet. I hope that it will come into operation in the very near future. Australia has much to gain from the implementation of the Bill and much to lose by the pollution of the waterways and the sea, of the beaches and the fishing grounds which provide a livelihood for many people and a sporting venue for thousands of others. I wish the Bill a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 67), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt - That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this Bill will apply, as far as the Constitution allows, the provision of a British act of 1832 to your own situation and that of the Presiding Officer in another place. I am credibly informed that if a Presiding Officer contests an election for either House and is re-elected to that House, his salary is paid until he or his successor is elected as Presiding Officer. Up until now you and your colleague in another place have had the glory of your respective positions until you were re-elected, but you have not had any continuing power. This Bill will give you the same power as the Speaker of the House of Commons has had since the year of the first Reform Act. It is clear that legislation of this character has. had ample trial in the British Parliament. One would concede that this Parliament should avail itself of similar legislation.
I said that the Bill purports to do all that the Constitution permits, because under section 35 of the Constitution the Speaker ceases to hold office when he ceases to be a member. He ceases to be a member if the House is dissolved. Nevertheless, this Bill and other legislation merely permit a person who has been the Speaker to continue to receive the emoluments of that position and now to carry out the functions of his position. The Opposition believes that this is, if no longer an urgent piece of legislation, still a worthy piece of legislation. We support the measure.
– I do not want to detain the House unnecessarily, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), during the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who introduced the Bill, intervened and asked by way of interjection: “Have you satisfied yourselves that there is a constitutional basis for this? “ That matter has not been referred to this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I have just referred to it.
– As to whether the Government had satisfied itself on the constitutional basis?
– I accepted that it had. I thought the Treasurer said so.
– He said it had and he also said that if the honorable member had any doubt about the matter I would, at an appropriate time, say that the Government was satisfied that it did have this power. To put the matter in short compass, I think it is desirable to say so now, because the interjection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might give rise to some constitutional doubt, whereas in my opinion there is no room for doubt at all.
Perhaps the position can be simply stated by saying that there is no constitutional reason why the statutory powers need have been conferred on a Presiding Officer in the first place, and there is equally no constitutional reason why provision should not be made for such powers to be exercisable in certain circumstances by a person who ceases to be a Presiding Officer or who is the Chairman of Committees. All that this Bill does is to pick up the constitutional power of the antecedent bill, as section 204 of the Electoral Act, section 9 of the Public Service Act and Regulation 49 of the Treasury Regulations, for instance, do. Taking the first illustration, the power for section 204 of the Electoral Act, resides in section 47 and section 51, placitum (xxxvi), of the Constitution. If the antecedent legislation is within power, quite clearly this Bill is within power. There has never been any doubt about the constitutional validity of the antecedent bill. Equally there is no doubt about this.
I thought it necessary to say these things as the matter was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and as the Bill does relate to acts which will be taken perhaps by yourself, Mr. Speaker, or in any event by somebody else at some other time. At that future point of time somebody might refer to “ Hansard “ and say that at the time of the introduction of the Bill the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition had some doubt about the constitutional authority and that there had been no statement made to contradict his doubt. I, in that sense, contradict it now.
Mr. WHITLAM (Werriwa) - by leave- I thank the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) for his comments, and I accept his views. I did express the same views in my speech when I said, “as far as the Constitution allowed”. Having seen the Bill since the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) introduced it, I note that it purports to do no more than is perfectly permissible under the Constitution. For that reason it uses the word “ deemed “ in so many places. I accept what the Attorney-General has said. I hold the same view and I thank him for his comments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil] read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Snedden) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
(Higgins- Treasurer) [8.0.] - I move -
That the report of the Standing Orders Committee brought up on 21st October 1964 be adopted and that the Standing Orders of the House be amended as recommended by that Committee, to come into operation at the next sitting.
The House will recall that, during the course of the debate on the motion for the adoption of revised Standing Orders in May 1963 it was generally agreed and understood that the Standing Orders Committee would meet every year to consider further changes which events may have shown to be necessary and also any proposals which honorable members may wish to place before the Committee. The Committee met later that year and on the 24th October 1963 reported on certain matters which had been referred to it by the House during the course of the debate in May. Unfortunately time did not permit consideration of the Committee’s report which lapsed on the dissolution of the House on 1st November 1963.
The Committee of the new House met in September 1964, and included in its consideration the matters dealt with by the previous Committee. The report of the 1964 Committee is the one now before the House. Honorable members will see that the report has attached to it a schedule of proposed amendments. The explanations given alongside each proposed amendment make it unnecessary for me to discuss the proposals in detail. Many of the proposed amendments are of a formal nature designed to give effect to practice or to make alterations found necessary in the light of events since 1963. There are, however, some matters to which I should draw attention.
In addition to the proposed amendments, the Committee has recommended that proposals to fix a time beyond which the House should not sit each day and to reduce speaking times, be deferred for the time being in order that the subjects may be discussed by the parties. In paragraph (6) of the report the Committee supports proposals for the establishment of a rule to govern the seeking and obtaining of leave to incorporate material in “ Hansard “ but is of opinion that this is inappropriate for inclusion in Standing Orders and can well be left for arrangement through party channels. The Committee suggests that a Minister or member seeking leave to incorporate material should first show the matter to the member leading for the Opposition or to the Minister at the Table, as the case may be. It would be understood of course that any arrangements in this way would be subject to the principles stated by the Chair on 17th September 1964 namely, that the final decision as to the practicability of incorporating material such as graphs, maps, blocks etc., and incorporating matter of a libellous or improper nature or which is irrelevant, is a matter for the Presiding Officer.
Turning to the Schedule, the House will see that it is proposed to omit Standing Order No. 62 which states that “ A member shall not read his speech “. The Committee states that parliamentary practice recognises and accepts that, wherever there is reason for precision of statement such as on the second reading of a bill, particularly one of a complex or technical nature, or in ministerial or other statements, it is reasonable to allow the reading of speeches. As, in other cases, it is difficult to apply the rule, for example, “Reference to Copious Notes “, it is proposed to omit the Standing Order.
The amendment of Standing Order No. 110 will allow the precedence provision which now applies to a censure or want of confidence motion which is accepted by the Government as such to apply, as well, to a censure or want of confidence amendment which is similarly accepted. Typical examples of censure amendments which would come under the amended rule would be those moved to the Address-in-Reply or to the Budget.
The Committee recommends an amendment of Standing Order No. 144 which is defective in that it does not make it clear that although a Minister may not be asked to announce the Government’s policy, questions seeking an explanation to clarify policy and its application, and questions to ascertain whether a Minister’s statement in the House expresses policy, are in order. The other amendments recommended by the Committee are of a formal or drafting nature.
Standing Order No. 14 provides that when the House is informed by the Clerk of the absence of the Speaker, the Chairman of Committees shall, as Deputy Speaker, perform the duties of the Speaker. The amendment proposes that on these’ occasions the Chairman of Committees should have the title of Acting Speaker instead of Deputy Speaker in order to provide a distinction between the Chairman and the Temporary Chairmen who relieve him in the Speaker’s chair and are also referred to as Deputy Speaker.
Standing Order No. 15 provides that when the House is informed by the Clerk of the absence of both the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, the House may elect a member to,, act as Speaker for that day only. The Standing Order has been re-drafted to clarify the procedure which is followed and, in addition, the limitation in the existing order that the member elected shall act “ for that day only “ is omitted as serving no useful purpose. Instead, it is proposed that the member elected should act, subject to any other order of the House, for the whole period of the absence of the Speaker and the Chairman.
Standing Orders Nos. 14, 133, 148, 150 and 211 are proposed to be amended by omitting the many references to “ the Clerk at the Table “ and inserting the words “ the Clerk”. The reference to “the Clerk at the Table “ is inconsistent with practice, as on. occasions, questions, answers to questions, and notices are delivered to the Clerk when he is not at the Table. Standing Orders Nos. 23 and 24 provide that in the absence of the Clerk his duties shall be performed by the Clerk Assistant or by the Second Clerk Assistant, and that, during any vacancy in the office of Clerk, his duties shall be carried out by the Clerk-Assistant. Following the re-organisation of the Department of the House of Representatives the titles of these other officers have been changed from Clerk-Assistant to Deputy Clerk and from Second Clerk-Assistant to Clerk-Assistant. The amendments proposed give effect to these altered designations.
Standing Orders Nos. 81, 220, 226, 291 and 292 refer to annual Appropriation and Supply Bills in terms which derived from the long titles of these Bills which were in use at the time of the adoption of the revised Standing Orders in 1963 - for example, “ a Bill to grant and apply a sum for the service of a year “. As the long titles have since been changed and could perhaps be subject to further change it is proposed to use the short titles such tas “ Appropriation Bill “ or “ Supply Bill “. Other amendments are consequential. Standing Order No. 91 deals with speech and other time limits. One of the proposed amendments is a formal insertion in the Standing Order of the provision in Standing Order No. 1.3 that no member may speak for more than five minutes during the debate on the election of Chairman. Another is a formal amendment of a subject heading to make it consistent with the words used in Standing Order No. 110 dealing with censure or want of confidence motions. As the Standing Order is defective in that, in effect, it does not fully cover speech time limits on the second reading of a bill introduced by a private member as distinct from a Government bill, the third amendment expresses the practice which has been followed and prescribes times which »re the same as those now applying to Government bills.
Standing Orders Nos. 104 and 106 provide, amongst other things, for the alternation of General Business and Grievance Days. The formal amendments proposed make it clear that, in accordance with practice over the last two years, this alternation is determined in respect of sitting Thursdays and not by the calendar. The amendments proposed to Standing Orders Nos. 133 and 211 provide that the formal duty of reporting to the House notices received by the Clerk shall be transferred from the Speaker to the Clerk.
Standing Orders Nos. 138 and 139 allow a member who has given notice of a motion to change the day for moving the motion to a later day, or to alter its terms, by notifying the Clerk. It is proposed to insert in Standing Order No. 138 a requirement that a change of day shall he reported to the House by the Clerk at the first convenient opportunity and to insert in Standing Order No. 139 a requirement that an alteration of terms shall be similarly reported by the Clerk and that, unless so reported the alteration shall not be made in the notice paper. These changes are consistent with the existing requirements in Standing Orders Nos. 133 and 211 in relation to notices which are given by delivering a copy to the Clerk.
The provision in Standing Order No. 220 that second reading amendments shall be relevant to the “ subject-matter of the Bill “ is inconsistent with long established practice allowing an amendment which is relevant to the whole Bill - that is, matter within the title, clauses, and schedules - and appears to impose a restriction which does not in fact apply. It is proposed to clarify the Standing Order by providing that second reading amendments shall be “relevant to the Bill “.
The effect of Standing Order No. 333 is that committees may not sit during sittings or over an adjournment without the consent of the House. As consent is now generally included in the resolution appointing a committee, or is freely given later, it is proposed to omit the restriction as being no longer of consequence. Standing Order No. 370 provides for the delivery of messages to the Senate by a Clerk at the Table or by the Serjeant-at-Arms. As for very many years messages have been delivered by the SerjeantatArms only, the reference to a Clerk at the Table is proposed to be omitted as unnecessary.
Mr. Speaker, it is I think a tribute to the Standing Orders Committee which carried out the major review adopted in 1963 that the amendments now proposed are not far reaching and are primarily of a tidying up nature. I commend the Committee’s recommendations to the House for adoption.
. I think that the House will generally welcome the statement by the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), and especially will it welcome his statement with regard to periodical reviews of the Standing Orders. Whatever we may say in our wisdom or in our unwisdom, there will be times when we will wish to review a matter. As you know, Sir, the Standing Orders Committee has, unhappily, met very infrequently in the past, and I hope it will meet more frequently in the future.
There are three matters to which I wish to refer. Two of them were referred to a moment ago by the Treasurer. The first relates to the length of speeches. I feel that we speak at far too great a length now. Our speeches would be more effective if they were shorter, and the business of the House would be got through better. I know there are times when every honorable member would like to speak at length. If a member has a topic which interests him particularly, he should be entitled to speak on it at length. But we find very often that members who have no particular interest in a topic are told by their Whips to speak for the full period. This, I think, is an abominable practice. It should be possible for the House to shorten the length of speeches. I shall not move an amendment in relation to this matter. It is one that touches all members fairly nearly, and the Standing Orders Committee considers that it is something which should be decided by the members themselves after due consultation. I would therefore ask the Standing Orders Committee to convene meetings and to invite private members to attend those meetings and express their views on this matter.
The same principle obtains with regard to the second matter to which I wish to refer. I think that the sittings of this House are not arranged in the best interests of either the House or the country. We spend far too much time travelling in relation to the time we spend here in Canberra. If we sat for two weeks, perhaps for a full two weeks, and then got up for a week, travelling time would be reduced, the strain on members would be reduced, the debates would be better and members would have more time in their constituencies. This again is a matter which I believe touches the individual member. I have no intention of pressing it at this point. Here again, I think the Standing Orders Committee should convene meetings and invite private members to express their views.
There is, however, a third small matter which I intend to press in the House tonight. It relates to private members’ business and Grievance Day, which normally occurs on Thursday morning. As we know from bitter experience, this time, which should be reserved for private members, is very often cut into by special debates which occur under Standing Order No. 107. As honorable members know, Standing Order No. 107 provides that, if a given number of members rise in their places, their colleagues can take up the time of the House which should be reserved for private members. 1 propose moving an amendment to the Committee’s report in this connection. That amendment is designed to provide that on Thursday mornings private members’ business shall be sacrosanct and that if anybody wants to raise a special matter for urgent discussion, that shall be done outside of private members’ time. I think that is a reasonable proposition. It relates only to Thursday mornings. The amendment which I propose to move reads -
Omit “ as recommended by that Committee “, insert “(a) as recommended by that Committee and (b) by adding to the first paragraph of Standing Order 107 the words ‘ Provided that, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 101, on Thursdays the Speaker shall not read such statement until precedence to’ general business under Standing Order 104 has expired or the “ Grievance” debate question under Standing Order 106 has been disposed of, as the case may be.’”.
The effect of incorporating those words would be to amend the Standing Orders, and that amendment would have the effect of preserving to private members their rights on Thursday mornings. It would always be competent for the House, in a case of genuine emergency, to suspend the Standing Orders so that on a Thursday morning any special matter could be proceeded with; or it would be competent for the House to allow that special matter to be proceeded with on Thursday afternoon. Therefore, what I am proposing does not really affect the routine of the House. But it is important, I think, to preserve to private members their rights on Thursday mornings, rights which have, in the past, been invaded by what 1 think can be described as an abuse of the Standing Orders. I therefore move the following amendment -
Omit “ as recommended by that Committee “, insert “(a) as recommended by that Committee and (b) by adding to the first paragraph of Standing Order 107 the words ‘Provided that, notwith standing the provisions of Standing Order 101, on Thursdays the Speaker shall not read such statement until precedence to general business under Standing Order 104 has expired or the “Grievance” debate question under Standing Order 106 has been disposed of, as the case may be.’ “.
.- I second the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I think it is very reasonable. It does not impose on the House any great strain. It recognises the singular position of the private member in this House. I would hope that nobody would gainsay that this is not an Establishment consideration. The Standing Orders are the rules whereby this House conducts its business, and they are open to abuse. I hesitate to give examples of the abuses that I have known since I have been here. It is possible for an Opposition, under certain circumstances, to prevent a private member’s motion from being discussed. I am bound to say that I have no personal complaint to make in this respect. It is again possible for a private member to so tie up General Business that no private member’s motion can be discussed until the business spelt out by the private member in his motion has been dispensed with.
I think the right honorable member for Higgins
.- Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment. In so doing, I want to say something about Grievance Day itself. I spoke on this subject some nine years ago and I propose to say something further about it now. The Grievance Day procedure affords private members an opportunity to speak in this House on behalf of their electors, individually or collectively, in an endeavour to have rectified any troubles they may have. Since World War II, Grievance Day has been called on with the following frequency - 1943-44, three times; 1944-45, twice; 1945- 46, five times; 1946-48, six times; 1948-49, six times; 1950-51, once; 1951-53, five times; 1953-54, once; 1954-55, twice; 1956, four times; 1957, twice; 1958, twice; 1959, three times; 1960, six times; 1961, three times; 1962, five dmes; 1963, once; 1964, once; and 1965, to the present date, once. I cite these figures to illustrate that Grievance Day is not called on very frequently. I believe that it is not called on as often as was intended by those who framed the present Standing Orders.
– Has the honorable member the corresponding figures for General Business?
– I have not those readily available, unfortunately. I wish I had been able to obtain them and give them to the House. Unfortunately, the figures that I have given are the only ones that I have at present. it has long been recognised in the House of Commons and other Commonwealth assemblies that the major part of parliamentary time must be devoted to Government business. I think all of us in this House recognise that. But, in principle, control of the business rests with the House itself. In practice, of course, the House has by standing order delegated control to the Government with a saving provision for private members’ business and with other minor reservations. As a result the Government is given very far reaching control over the time of the House. However, when the Government considers that the need arises and has party support even the time allotted to private members’ business can be devoted to Government business by a vote of the House suspending the relevant standing order.
I do not wish to belabour this point unduly,
Mir. TURNER (Bradfield) [8.24].-
I put the situation quite simply: The time of private members may be taken up in discussing a matter of public importance that may affect the Opposition and be in the interests of the Opposition as such. The Opposition has the right to raise such matters of public importance for discussion, Sir, and the Government concedes that it has this right. But I believe that the time for the discussion of such matters should not be taken at the expense of private members on either side of the House. Therefore, I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar. The time needed for private members’ business should not be taken by the Opposition, but the amendment will not circumscribe the time to which the Opposition is legitimately entitled for the discussion of matters of public importance.
– Mr. Speaker, my inclination also at this
stage is to support the amendment. I believe that anyone who has a basic belief in and
regard for the proper functioning of the Parlia- ment must look very carefully to the
preservation of trie rights of private members. I have no complaint at all to make
about the Government’s attitude. Indeed, perhaps I should not be on my feet now,
being, shall we say, rather new in this place; but I have had parliamentary experience
elsewhere. I believe that the Parliament as a whole must take care of the rights of
private members. As the honorable member for Bradfield
At this stage, the amendment appears to me to be quite mild and reasonable. It seems designed to protect the rights of backbenchers and to assure them of a reasonable measure of time in which to raise matters that are troubling them and their constituents. I do not know whether I should signify at this stage that I do or do not definitely support the amendment. Indeed, I do not yet know whether I do support it. I should like to hear something from the Government about it. I heard only in the last few minutes that this matter was to occur and I have not had time to study the amendment. However, I say as sincerely as I can that I believe it is proper for the Parliament carefully to watch the rights of private members. I do not consider that the amendment, if accepted, will make much difference to the effective dispatch of Government business, and my inclination at this stage is to support the proposal made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth).
– In calling the Leader of the House, I point out that he is speaking to the amendment.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has raised three matters. Concerning two, he apparently thought that the proper course, having regard to the manner in which the rights of members would be affected, would be for the Standing Orders Committee to study his proposals carefully in the time normally available to the Committee. I would have thought that, to be consistent, he would have adopted the same course with the third matter. Frankly, I do not think it is one to which the House should react quickly or on which it should make a snap judgment.
– Why? .
– I will explain why, if you will wait. First, I want to deal with the implications which came very strongly in the speech of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) when he cited some cycle of the Grievance Days which had been available for private members’ discussion over a long period of years. The figures can leave an entirely misleading impression, not only with the public, but even with newer members of this Parliament. I think one would have to go a long way to find any parliament anywhere in the world where more time is available to the private member than occurs in this Parliament. I shall proceed to establish that.
We have the general business set down on alternate Thursdays and we have Grievance Day on -the other Thursday in the series.
– Did the Treasurer say that those figures were misleading?-
– I said that the figures could give a misleading impression of the time available for private members to put to the House matters relating to their constituents, because in most years we have had two large debates in which private members have been able to speak on any matter on which it has seemed fitting for them to speak. There has been each year, of course, the Budget debate which has beer followed by a long Committee discussion which has enabled the private member to cover almost any topic that he has chosen to speak about. There has been the AddressinReply debate which has occurred in most years. In addition, in recent years we have had the well established practice that time is available on the motion for the adjournment two nights a week for discussion by private members.
– At 11.30 o’clock.
– In other parliaments, as the honorable gentleman is aware, conditions are even less favorable than that. Even the House of Commons has just sat through a 28-hour session, I understand, on one matter that was before it.
– That ls unusual.
– It is unusual, perhaps, but I am glad to say that in this Parliament we have managed to get away from some of the less desirable practices of the past which made for bad discussion and certainly resulted in a great deal of inconvenience for members of the Parliament - private members and members of the Government as well.
We have in this Parliament a question time practice which is almost unique. Certainly nothing like it occurs in the House of Commons. This Parliament is modelled on the Parliament at Westminster. Private members of this Parliament have very many more opportunities to make their own viewpoints known to the public through the Parliament and to the Ministers of the Government by a direct personal access to Ministers, which certainly does not occur in many other parts of the world. I do not say this with other than a commendation and an appreciation of the fact that these circumstances in this country do enable a private member of the Parliament to make his viewpoint known and to look after the affairs of his constituency. But, of course, we cannot concede to the member, any more than can be conceded to a government or an opposition, everything that he wants to do in a parliament. We are limited by time and we are limited by circumstance. But, by and large, this Parliament has given a very faithful, democratic expression to the views held inside this country by those chosen to represent the people in the Parliament, and I do not think we want lightly to change existing practices.
I have said that to counter any impression which may be held that we are regardless or unmindful of the very proper desires - indeed the rights - of private members to express themselves in this place. I am a parliamentarian before I am a member of a cabinet and, so far as I am concerned after a very long membership of this Parliament, this is the institution which must be supreme and which, in the final analysis, will determine the fate of governments. Unless a government so conducts itself that its own private supporters feel that they have been reasonably dealt with it will not hold the treasury bench for any longer than its private supporters think it deserves to do so.
Having said that, may I come back to the amendment? On the face of it ths amendment seems to be relatively innocuous. I do not argue that it is a matter of such fundamental importance that the nation would shake or governments should fall if the amendment were to be carried, but I do feel that it deserves more careful study than we have given it so far. The amendment, if carried, would affect the timing of urgency debates which an opposition or, for that matter, a body of government supporters may wish to bring before the House at a particular time. A matter which is deemed by the Parliament to be one of sufficient urgency to justify an interruption to other business hardly carries that character about it if the Parliament has previously decided that private members’ business is to occupy supremacy of place in relation to it. After all, it is only a decision of the Parliament which can decide whether or not the matter of urgency is to be debated. Should that right of the House be either negated or in some other way reduced by a standing order of this kind? I, for one, wish to have much more time to study the implications of it than occurs readily to me in the short period that the amendment has been in front of us and I, for my part, ask the honorable member for Mackellar not to press his amendment to a vote at this point but to have the Standing Orders Committee study the matter and report back to the Parliament. It will be time enough then for the Parliament to indicate by vote how it reacts to whatever view the Standing Orders Committee may take of the amendment.
.- The Opposition supports the report of the Standing Orders Committee in every
feature. It has considered and rejected the amendment which the honorable member for
Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has moved. The
Opposition members on the Standing Orders Committee are the honorable members for
Darling (Mr. Clark), Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), Leichhardt
– I think this one differs in a material respect from what was put before, which really confirms my point that honorable members who are not completely familiar with it should have more opportunity to study it.
– The Opposition supports the attitude taken by the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) on this amendment. My recollection was that the honorable member for Mackellar had put this point to the Standing Orders Committee of the last Parliament and also to the Standing Orders Committee of this Parliament which is reporting now. However, he has expressed his view on earlier occasions and the Standing Orders Committee has unanimously rejected it in whatever form it has come.
The honorable member has put his proposal in a seductive form by asserting that it is in the interest of private members. He asserts that in some fashion urgency debates are not in the interests of private members. Every debate on a matter of urgency has been initiated by a private member. I cannot remember an urgency proposal ever having been raised by a Minister. The reason that the general business day has been displaced on a few occasions in the last couple of years is that some members, including ones who have spoken this evening, have abused the process. If we like to be smart, we can tie up the general business days for the whole of a session. Successive members, or even one member, can give notices of motion for the second, third, fourth and fifth days on which general business is called on. If he is smart, any private member can sew up general business for the life of a whole Parliament, and he can do that on the first day on which the Parliament sits.
When the Twenty-fourth Parliament first sat just over three years ago, two members of the Government parties - one not yet a Minister and one who had long ceased to be a Minister - put two notices of motion on the notice paper for general business.
– I acknowledge the soft impeachment.
– The honorable member identifies himself. Without consulting their colleagues, and to their colleagues* grave displeasure, as expressed in their caucus the following day, the honorable member and the present Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) put on the notice paper for general business notices of motion which would have sewn up general business for many months ahead. That was not fair to all the other private members in this chamber.
What has happened in the last two years is that general business days have been sewn up by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). He has had on the notice paper for general business three notices of motion concerning fluoridation of the Canberra water supply. There have been three debates on that matter. It ceases to be urgent after a certain period of time. It has been debated on three occasions after ample notice has been given.
– Why did the honorable member vote for his motion?
– We voted to get rid of it, to get it off the notice paper. For 12 months no general business, except the fluoridation of the Canberra water supply, could be debated in this House. That is an abuse of the processes of the House. Two honorable members precluded every other private member from debating any other matter. Can this matter be said to be urgent after all this time?
Let me give chapter and verse. The first notice was given on 19th September 1963, for 10th October of that year. A debate was held, and no vote was taken. On 19 th March 1964 another notice was given. The motion was debated on 16th April of that year and no vote on the substance of the motion was taken. On 19 th May of last year a notice was given in a form which precluded any other general business being debated until there was a vote on the motion. So, at last, the House voted on it on 18th March of this year.
The honorable members who plead for the rights of private members should not complain when the great bulk of private members in this House - those in the Opposition - take the opportunity to submit what are ordinarily called urgency motions; - proposals to discuss matters of public importance. At least eight people have to support any such proposal before the subject can be debated by the House. It is not a matter of just one person, on his own account, putting a motion on the notice paper and preventing any other general business from being debated. Eight people have to rise in the House and support any of these urgency debates. All the members who have so risen have been private members. If honorable members do not think that the matter is important, they can quell the debate. The truth is that no honorable member can say that any of these urgency debates were not supported by private members. In fact, they were spoken to by private members on both sides of the House. Every one of the matters raised in those debates was more urgent and more important than the reiterated question of fluoridation.
The honorable member for Mackellar has put his proposal, in one form or another, for some time. The Standing Orders Committee has rejected it unanimously. My party has considered the report of the Standing Orders Committee on each occasion. Each report has been given plenty of notice in the Caucus and before it has come before the Parliament. We believe that in this respect the honorable member for Mackellar is serving the interests not of private members in general but of a handful of dissidents like himself.
.- Mr. Speaker, if I speak to this amendment, can I speak later on other amendments to the Standing Orders?
– If the honorable member addresses his remarks specifically to the amendment, he does not exhaust his right to speak to the motion.
– As a member of the Parliament for a good many years, both as a member of the Opposition and as a supporter of the Government, I have steadfastly advocated that there should be more time for private members’ speeches and advocacies in this chamber. So I think I should say a few words on this subject now. I do not want to go into the finer details that have been put forward by the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I agree with most of what they have said. As a matter of fact, the mover of this amendment told me that he was moving it in order to get more time for private members. I said that I believed that private members should have more time. Therefore, I feel that I should state my case clearly now.
As has been stated, mainly private members take part in urgency debates. I want to make only one point. Actually, it has been highlighted already by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). He said that matters covered by the amendment do not take the proceedings of the House out of the hands of the Government, and that if the Government suspended the Standing Orders when it became necessary, it could then bring on whatever business it liked on days listed as Grievance Days. However, if the members who will now support the amendment voted against the suspension of the Standing Orders, it is possible that the proceedings of the House would be taken out of the hands of the Government. As a Government supporter and as one who appreciates that the Government should be in charge of the proceedings of the House, I believe that that would not be in the best interests of the Parliament. I believe that private members should have more time and also believe that we should advocate that continually in this chamber. To the best of my ability, 1 have been doing that and impressing on the Leader of the House and the Government the fact that private members have important matters to bring forward. However, I do not think that a responsible member pf this Parliament - I hope that I am such and I hope that everyone else is, too - can say that after a government has been elected with a majority the proceedings of the House and the running of the Parliament should be taken out of its hands through a vote on a subject which is not vital national policy.
– In about 38 years of parliamentary experience, I have never heard a more hypocritical, silly and stupid argument than the one that was put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He concentrated all of it on the matter that was raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), namely, fluoridation. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Opposition voted in favour of the motion moved by the honorable member for Moreton, yet tonight he uses that as an argument for saying that private members should not have their rights in this Parliament. After all, this involves one and a half hours on Thursdays. I am one member of this House who has been frustrated because the Labour Party - the Opposition - ‘has felt embarrassed at a motion I have put on the notice paper and has introduced a matter of urgency for discussion in order to try to prevent my motion being debated. This has been done several times, not only to me but to other honorable members.
I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) does not think it is very important; he has left the chamber. I feel that in this House private members’ rights have been abrogated to such an extent that if we do not stick up for them soon none of them will be left. We have had a cataclysmic period when we have been unemployed, and have met a month later than in the ordinary course of events. We have ordered troops into the front line in Borneo and yet have met a month later. I feel that we are in danger of losing our rights as private members and therefore I support what I believe is a very sensible amendment, moved by the honorable member for Mackellar, that private members - for only one and a half hours on Thursdays - should have their rights preserved.
It is all very well to say that we can discuss matters during the Budget debate or during a Supply debate, but everybody knows that subjects of more importance arc introduced generally on Grievance Day or as motions by private members. We have been told we can discuss matters on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Wednesday or Thursday night, but every honorable member knows that this motion is rarely moved before 10.30 p.m. It would be much better if private members had their rights on Thursday mornings for one and a half hours. This would not stop an urgency debate being initiated after that period has elapsed. I hope the private members in this House, and the Minister too, will see the sense, reason and logic in the amendment and will see that private members are not reduced in this House to just a voting peg on which to hang a hat.
.- I want to get the record straight: I did not vote for the motion introduced by
the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen)
about fluoridation, just to get it off the notice paper. I voted for it because I
believed in it. I am against fluoridation, and I do not care who knows it. Honorable
members are confused by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mackellar
(Mr. Wentworth). It is bound up with
parliamentary tactics. Sometimes when the Opposition seeks to introduce matters of
urgency for debate the Government is reluctant to make time available on a
broadcasting day but does so on private members’ day. Because I am in opposition I
am happy to have the debate on that day. I believe an urgency debate is important and
probably paramount over anything a private member might want to raise. I say this only
in respect of Opposition proposals. We look upon the time for such debates as extra
time. It may be that the Parliament will decide that there should be no urgency
debates on private members’ day, and perhaps we will all be satisfied with that. I
think sufficient time could be found during the sittings of the Parliament for urgency
debates to be held on other days. However, the general principle behind what the
honorable member for Mackellar says is quite right. The same applies to what the
honorable member for Chisholm
I am a member of the Standing Orders Committee and I am not happy about the
situation. I believe that the Treasurer
We should not indiscriminately dash the hopes of private members in this House. The Government has ridden roughshod over private members on occasions. When we on this side were in government, we did the same thing. All governments get the idea that they are all-powerful and that the private member is just a nameless unit in a great mass. I oppose this growing tendency in this and other parliaments. The amendment pinpoints what I would call the sacredness of private members’ time. We have private members’ day, question time and the motion for the adjournment of the House when we can raise matters affecting our electorates, but although the Parliament is growing constantly, more time is not being made available to private members. We must watch this situation and must not permit any more erosion of private members’ time. This debate may serve as a warning to the Government to keep private members’ day inviolate.
.- I think that the honorable member for Mackellar
From the remarks and pleas of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the Treasurer one would think that this was the most free-flowing parliament in existence. What happened last year? During 12 months there were nine occasions on which General Business could be called on. It was called on three times and superseded on six occasions. None of this was brought about by actions of members on this side of the House. Of the six occasions on which General Business was superseded, on one occasion it was due to a debate on a matter of urgent public importance and on five occasions due to Government Business being dealt with.
This matter should be deferred and sent back to the Standing Orders Committee for further consideration. The matter should then be referred to the parties for consideration of the contingent measures necessary to ensure that private members’ business can be brought on as frequently as possible.
One of the things that concerns the people of Australia as much as this Parliament itself is the way the Parliament meets. Today is the eighth day on which the Parliament has met this year. Prior to Parliament’s meeting on 16th March it last met in November last year. I am not aware of efforts by honorable members opposite to call the Parliament together earlier than March of this year. The honorable member for Chisholm may have been attempting to have the Parliament called together earlier. It may be worth while amending the Standing Orders to provide that Parliament shall be summoned if 75 per cent, of members wish it, despite the feelings of the Government on the subject.
– The honorable member for Chisholm said that he would sit on the cross benches when Parliament resumed.
– That is so. Apart from the consideration of matters such as the one now before the House, which is incidental to the running of Parliament, there are many measures we could consider which would give to the Parliament greater control over the times at which it meets and the occasions on which it meets, and which might prevent the long and detrimental recesses which have become a feature of this Government’s term of office.
.- I am thoroughly in agreement with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He has spoken a lot of sense tonight, as he often does. Much of the time of this Parliament is wasted. I refer first to the length of speeches. This is governed somewhat by the batting order and whether you can obtain the best time. Another matter which influences speeches is whether the proceedings of the House are being broadcast. When this happens honorable members wish to make the most of their opportunity to be heard on the air. Time is wasted, also, in travelling. Some of us can return to our electorates at week-ends, but others cannot. Those who can return to their electorates work here for three days and go home to their electorates for four days. But those who cannot return to their electorates work here for three days and then have virtually four days holiday in Canberra.
It is alleged that a private member can have his say on Grievance Day but the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who is a great friend of mine, has given four reasons why private members should not have their little say on Grievance Day. First, he said that we have an opportunity to air our grievances during the debate on the Budget. Now, the Budget debate takes place in August. If we wish to air a matter affecting our constituents which happened in September we must wait until the following August in order to do so. By then, of course, the matter probably is stale. The Treasurer has said that we may raise matters during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Well, supposing a matter cropped up in July last. There being no Address-in-Reply debate this year, almost two years at least would elapse before the opportunity arose to raise the matter in this way.
Then we have the debate on the motion to adjourn the House. The honorable member for
Chisholm said that this usually takes place at about 10.30 p.m., but I think he was
looking on the bright side. As far as I am concerned the debate usually takes place at
11.30 p.m. or after midnight, and that is not a reasonable opportunity for raising
matters. At such times not many members are present in the chamber and, quite likely,
the Minister concerned with the matter will not be present. In those circumstances a
member does not have much redress. The Treasurer said, also, that we could air our
grievances during question time. I think you,
So we get back to the subject of what has been taking up members’ time on Grievance Day. Generally speaking it has been debates on matters of urgent public importance. I submit that such debates do not involve the airing of grievances of our constituents but of party grievances and that one person is selected by the Opposition to raise a matter just to waste time. The honorable member for Mackellar proposed an amendment to provide that matters of urgent public importance could be debated after grievance time and that if the matter is of sufficient importance, which it seldom is, the debate could continue into the afternoon. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was naturally opposed to the amendment because as things now stand he and his party may waste the time of the Parliament by bringing up something of a semipolitical nature.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a great point about eight members being required to support a debate on a matter of urgent public importance. I would like to see the day when one of these debates is supported by only eight members. Opposition members are so well regimented to waste our time that every one of them, except one who may be asleep, supports these debates when they come before the House. It is not much to ask that private members be allowed 10 minutes each on every second Thursday to raise matters affecting their constituents. Every member would deal with a different subject. Many subjects would be before the Parliament instead of the one subject that hitherto has been brought up simply for political purposes in the way of a debate on a matter of urgent public importance.
.- As I am reminded by a colleague, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) is the only member of the Parliament who
can sleep during question time. It is said on this side of the House that the good
Grenadier Major, who is a friend of mine, has
never been the same since the Grenadier Guards staged a mutiny in Singapore. It is
interesting to see tonight a full line-up of what we might call the “ Government
rebels “, in full flight and rebellion on this great issue of the Standing Orders.
What a contrast this is to what took place in the last Parliament, when a rebellion of
this kind would have brought a good government to the country. But tonight rebels like
the honorable member for Chisholm
Let us look at the honorable members who have spoken. The honorable member for
Chisholm has spoken on this issue. He has forgotten the rebellion that should have taken
him to the cross benches. After all, aid to Indonesia evidently is not nearly as
important as the Standing Orders are, so he is back with the Liberal Party again. Other
honorable members who have spoken are the honorable members for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), Moreton
But they cannot expect our support on these issues. The Opposition believes in the rights of private members, and sees behind this proposal a sinister move further to whittle away the rights of members on this side of the House who seek to express their views in their capacity as private members.
As the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant)
said, one would have thought tonight that the Treasurer
I agree with those who say that private members are restricted. The Government allows a debate on the adjournment only when it cannot possibly avoid such a debate. Honorable members should be given the right to speak on the adjournment every night of the week, if they wish to do so. The Treasurer, in his most generous way, said that members can speak on the adjournment of the House twice a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. How jolly decent of him! It is really good of him to make that suggestion. On two nights a week, for about half an hour, members of the Parliament, including those on this side of the House who represent roughly 50 per cent, of the electors, can make a couple of speeches, and the Treasurer says he is generous. The motion that the House adjourn should be moved not later than about 9.30 or 10 on certain nights and any member who wishes to do so should be permitted to speak on issues confronting the nation and of interest to his electorate. There can be no justification at all for keeping us here until the dead of night so that we may be restricted and our rights as private members whittled away.
Honorable members on the opposite side of the House, who are trying to get us tosupport proposals that have been pushed into the Parliament hurriedly, would be doing a greater service to the Parliament if they spoke up at meetings of their parties and insisted on the rights of members being preserved. This is supposed to be a democracy. From time to time we read in the newspapers that members of the Liberal Party can do as they like. They would be acting for the good of the Parliament and for the good of their own party if they insisted upon the rights of private members being observed, particularly during adjournment debates and on Grievance Day. In the report to which I have referred, the Clerk of the House said that last year Grievance Day was called on only one day. No doubt this was because the Government did not wish us to discuss some matters and because the honorable members for Moreton and Chisholm and others sought to tie up the notice paper with matters that the Government did not support, that the Opposition did not support and that only a few honorable members wanted to debate. When the rebels are put on the spot they find that the picture is not as rosy as they have painted it.
I mention these matters so that the Parliament and the people will know that
tonight, under the guise of doing justice to private members and providing more
opportunities for honorable members to speak, these honorable members have made certain
proposals which have behind them the sinister motive of gaining special benefits for a
few selected members on the other side of the House at the expense of Opposition
members. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition
– You do not mind being hypocritical.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order if he uses that expression in a personal way.
– I withdraw it.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler
– On Grievance Day.
– I would point out to the House that primarily all honorable members, as private members or as members ©f Government parties or of the Opposition, have as their major purpose in coming here the application of their minds to great national issues. The Opposition and the
Government are organised on party lines for the purpose of debating these great national issues. Of necessity, the hobby horses that all of us have and would like to ride at times must take second place in the National Parliament. Every private member in this place has a fundamental duty, as a private member, to have views, to express them and to vote according to his views on the great national issues which the Government or the Opposition choose to raise.
As the Treasurer pointed out, if a private member feels strongly on some point, he has the opportunity to raise it at question time every day that the House meets. He has the opportunity to raise it during general debates, such as those on the Budget and on the Address in Reply, and on other occasions, such as during debates on ministerial statements on a variety of subjects when a very wide field is open to honorable members. The recent debate on foreign affairs opened the whole field of foreign affairs the world over. On many occasions a private member has opportunity to introduce into debate or questions he may ask in this House matters on which he has strong personal views. I suggest that it is only the commonsense and tradition of this House that has established this pattern under which an important priority is given to Government business and the great national issues - some of which may, indeed, be raised by the Opposition. If the views expressed by any one member on any of these occasions are expressed with sufficient conviction, persuasion or force they will be taken up by one party or another - by the Opposition or the Government - and will become an issue which concerns every member of the House. Those are things which it does not require a Grievance Day debate, or a private member’s motion, to bring up. They are things which become issues for the whole House.
I suggest that this aspect has been considered by the Standing Orders Committee - an all party committee of this Houseand that the Standing Orders Committee has realised that the Government and Opposition have vital interests. Private members should have a fundamental interest in seeing that the important business of the nation is carried on and is not unnecessarily or unduly interfered with by our giving an undue proportion to the kind of things that some individual members might be obsessed with in their own little way. Private members, of course, should not be denied the right to express themselves on matters that they consider important, but they should have a due sense of proportion in relation to them.
I fully support the suggestion by the Treasurer
.- I think the point made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) is very important. The deficiencies of this
House lie much more in the deficiencies in its debating of important national
questions than in the deficiencies that I admit do exist in the debating of things
that are of personal importance to some member or other. I recognise the significance
of the participation of the individual member in the affairs of this House, and of the
importance of the individual member in the whole tradition of democracy and democratic
debate as we know it. I am not understressing that. I recognise that a Parliament of
this kind must provide good and adequate opportunities for the individual member to
submit matters that are of importance to him. I think that the opportunities could be
greater than they are in this House. Rather than take up time on this amendment moved
by the honorable member for Mackellar
The Minister mentioned that we had a debate last week and during part of this week on foreign affairs. The striking thing about that debate was that the House hardly communicated with itself on the matters that were raised. Honorable members tended to come into the House and put forward the views that they held. They were largely party views. There was hardly any exchange of ideas or influence across the House. The characteristic feature of that debate was almost a complete lack of communication between members. This is something we ought seriously to consider. I suppose that one of the most important features in that debate last week was whether or not, and the extent to which, there was aggression from North Vietnam. The great events that were disturbing us and the world at that time were taking place because of the submission of a White Paper by the United States, which stated that there was aggression from the North.
– I rise to a point of order. Has aggression in Vietnam anything to do with the Standing Orders of this House?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– As far as I know this matter was not considered by anybody in that debate. There was no examination, either critical examination or examination of approval, by anybody on the other side of the House of this basic document which had been submitted. I have a suggestion to make to the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) - & member whom we very rarely hear - which they could follow if they are really concerned to find a way for the individual member to make submissions, initiate realistic debate, exchange influences and communicate with other members. The two honorable members, and some others on the other side, sometimes join in some pointless, ineffective, sham revolt from the other side of the House. In doing that, they no doubt satisfy themselves and compensate themselves for the fact that they have to remain rather dumbly in line for the rest of the year. If they were really concerned to find a way of constructive expression, instead of this expedient of private members’ motions on a Thursday morning, when an individual member here and there may deal with matters for which he gets publicity in his local newspaper and some personal publicity, they would be concerned, as the Minister mentioned a few moments ago, and which I emphasise now, to find a way of constructive expression.
I think that the honorable members who have spoken from the other side of the House are, with one or two exceptions, simply following the old line that they follow every now and again of trying to give the impression that they are freethinkers and radicals and are willing to speak out, as they have done this evening, but with very little effect indeed. We have had a revolt on the other side that is going to fizzle very ingloriously before the evening is out.
.- At the commencement of the debate I really thought, and I still think, that
there is an enormous amount of merit in what the honorable member for Mackellar
(Mr. Wentworth) has said. In fact, I think there
was a good deal in what the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) said also. After hearing the contributions from members on
the other side of the House, and realising their insincerity - naked and unashamed -
especially that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition
We all know that the party line over there is very strict, and that once an urgency proposal for discussion has been concocted in the party room - and obviously in haste, because the Opposition’s urgency debates are usually ill conceived - honorable members opposite pop up one after the other like jacks-in-the-box as soon as the latch is pulled back, and they have their say in accordance with the party line. Usually urgency debates are simply a manoeuvre used by the Opposition to stifle the business of the House.
While I strongly believe that every effort should be made to accord honorable members every opportunity to record their grievances and have them debated, I believe also that there is already little enough time available for the business of this House for us to be able to occupy further time with grievance matters. The amount of time given to them is fair. An honorable member interjects to ask about my grievances. I have not any grievances. I am so proud of the record of this House that I believe that occasions for grievances are very rare indeed. As I say, I am confirmed in my views by the utter insincerity of some who have taken part in this debate. In fact, as I observed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I was very strongly reminded of the chameleon and its ability to change its colours. I was reminded, too of Austin Dobson’s poem “ The Ladies of St. James’s “ which says, amongst other things -
But Phyllida, my Phyllida Her colour comes and goes, It trembles to a lily, lt wavers to a rose.
At the moment, this rosy hue, I believe, is burgeoning into a full flowered parlour pink. This simply underlines the fact that urgency debates which occupy the time of the House are subterfuges to obstruct Government business. Therefore, I think that if we vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mackellar, we are going to obstruct still further the business of the House. But I do urge that the recommendation of the Treasurer be given effect and that this matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee in order that something can be done to circumvent this wilful obstruction of the business of the House by honorable members opposite.
– Mr. Speaker, I would not have risen to
take any part in this debate were it not for the idle and wilful misuse of the word
“ sincerity “ by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). Let me remind the honorable member who throws that word about
so blandly that even if he is new in this place he has been here long enough to know
what has been the normal procedure in considering proposed amendments to the Standing
Orders of this House. Nobody knows that better than the honorable member for Mackellar
(Mr. Wentworth) who, I feel I can say quite
honestly, has submitted more propositions to the Committee than any other honorable
member of this House. The honorable member for Mackellar knows full well the procedure
that is followed by the Committee. He knows that any proposed amendment that is
submitted is well considered by the Committee, the members of which are appointed by
this House. When the honorable member for Bowman talks about sin cerity, he should
remember that the Prime Minister
This debate has drifted far away from the actual matter under consideration which is the work of the Standing Orders Committee. After all, what have we before us? We have before us a report of the Standing Orders Committee which considers all the matters that any honorable member of the House cares to submit to it. If, in point of fact, the honorable member for Bowman does not believe in the sincerity of the Prime Minister and the people who belong to this Committee-
– I did not impute insincerity to the Prime Minister.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is a member of this Committee, has come into this House and has spoken in support of the work of the Committee. The honorable member for Bowman has attacked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition merely because he has indicated clearly what the point of view of the Opposition is. If we consider the question of sincerity, I believe that the Opposition, in relation to this matter, shows greater sincerity than any member on the Government side of the House who at this stage seeks an extension beyond the limits that have already been decided by the Standing Orders Committee. This is the basis which honorabe members opposite are attacking at the present moment. The Standing Orders Committee is not something that is led by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to a point of order. As I understood your earlier ruling, Mr. Speaker, it required honorable members to speak to the amendment. I suggest that the honorable member is not addressing himself to the amendment.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member for Blaxland is speaking to the motion before the Chair.
– We have heard a lot concerning the rights of members and the wasting of time in this House. I have never seen such an example of the wasting of time as what has taken place tonight. There is machinery to deal with every kind of subject matter of this character. Let me repeat what I said earlier: There is nobody who knows this better than the honorable member who has moved this amendment. He knows that consistently year in and year out he has submitted matters, many of which have been accepted, to the Standing Orders Committee. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) does this, too. He is happy about the adoption by the Standing Orders Committee of a proposal which suits his point of view.
The Standing Orders Committee, in view of the composition of it, is in a better
position to consider what is in the best interests of all members of this Parliament
than is Parliament itself when it engages in a debate of the kind we have witnessed
tonight. I say to the honorable member for Mackellar that I agree entirely with what has
been put by my friend, the honorable member for Yarra
I say to the honorable member for Mackellar that he knew full well, when he was having this amendment circulated, that there is a proper procedure to be followed. He knows that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the rank and file members of this Parliament believe that the Standing Orders Committee will do the best that can be done if some change in the Standing Orders is necessary. We are dealing with the report of the Committee now. The proper course for this Parliament to adopt is to allow the suggestion of the honorable member for Mackellar to go to the Standing Orders Committee. Let the matter then be considered at the party level and be returned to the Parliament, if it is adopted at the party level, for endorsement. We should follow that course instead of indulging in the kind of debate that we have had tonight. If we want to get the best out of parliamentary procedure and the Standing Orders Committee which we have appointed, all the suggestions which rightly come from the members of that Committee should be properly- considered. Finally, I say that some of the words that have been uttered in this debate about the need for national thinking should sink into the minds of most of us, and we should try, if we can, to lift the level of this Parliament and its debates much higher in the opinion of the people than we have done over the last decade.
.- Mr. Speaker, honorable members who have supported this amendment have been variously branded as rebels or scatterbrains. I do not consider myself to be a rebel and if one has to be a scatterbrain to support the amendment, I have joined the ranks of the scatterbrains tonight. I am doing so on a matter of principle. It is not because I have any chip on my shoulder. It is not because I have wanted to make much use of the Grievance Day debates on Thursday mornings. I think most honorable members recognise that T do not speak a great deal in this House, nor do I think that anybody can say that I consistently join the handful of members who might vote against the Government with any regularity. I do believe that we should preserve that hour and a half on Thursday morning for private members. I am a great believer in the philosophy that the wheel turns. One of these days - it will probably not be in my time - the people who are sitting on this side of the House will be in Opposition and those who are now in Opposition will be on the Government side. I believe that urgency debates, which frequently take up the time of private members on Thursday mornings, have been highly organised. I am not criticising the Opposition for that because we would probably do the same thing under similar circumstances. I am not accusing honorable members opposite of insincerity; they are merely using the forms of the House to get across their own particular philosophy. As I said, I do not blame them, but the wheel turns and I believe that the day will come when many honorable members opposite who are now wanting to retain the right to move debates on matters of urgency on Thursday mornings will be on this side of the House and will be crying out for the freedom of private members’ day. If the day ever comes when I am sitting in Opposition then, if I should want to speak on Thursday morning - on Grievance Day - I do not want to feel myself frustrated by a motion for a debate on a matter of urgency from the other side of the House.
Unfortunately, I understand that we have not the right to vote on the question of referring the matter back to the Standing Orders Committee. I understand that we express our wish by standing up to be counted and, whether I am a rebel or a scatterbrain, I believe in the preservation of private members’ rights, and, for that reason,I intend to support the amendment.
– May I speak in reply?
– Order! The honorable member has no right to do so. He will resume his seat.
– I wish to raise a point of order.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I wish to submit a point of order.
– Order! The honorable member has no right.
– I am trying to bring a point of order before you.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I ask that my point of order be heard.
– Order! If the honorable member will keep quiet, he will get on better, and so will I.
– I have a right to be heard on a point of order.
– Order! The honorable member has no right. The question is: “ That the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mackellar be agreed to.” Those of that opinion say: “ Aye “, to the contrary: “ No “. I think the Noes have it.
– The Ayes have it.
– Is a division required?
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Wentworth’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . .81
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Mr. Speaker-
- Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– I draw your attention to Standing Order No. 98 which states -
Any Member may at any time raise a point of order which shall, until disposed of, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question.
A few moments ago I endeavoured to raise a point of order but you, Mr. Speaker, did not allow me to state it. I believe that this was a violation of the rights of every honorable member of this House.
– The honorable member for Mallee.
– I wish to refer to Standing Order No. 62, which states - A Member shall not read his speech.
The recommendation contained in the report of the Standing Orders Committee is that Standing Order No. 62 be omitted. As honorable members know, for quite a long time I conducted a lone campaign in this House for this Standing Order to be recognised so that honorable members would not be allowed to read their speeches.
– The honorable member would go better if he read his speeches.
– I was not successful in my campaign. Although every honorable member knew that
some members - in fact, quite a number of them - were reading every word of their
speeches, when the matter was referred to
Although I advocated for a number of years that Standing Order No. 62 should be complied with, I found that I had no support from any quarter. I suggested that even if it were necessary in introducing a bill for a Minister to be allowed to read his speech, other members who engaged in the debate should make their speeches without reading them. The stage was reached in this place that when I wanted to quote from a report members of the Opposition would rise and say: “The honorable member is reading his speech “. This attitude has been exhibited already tonight by honorable members. When I quoted from the report of the Standing Orders Committee a few moments ago some honorable member said: “You are reading your speech “. I came to realise, as honorable members must admit is the position, that if a member can read his speech when the Standing Orders state that he shall not read it, there is no sincerity in the House. If there is one thing that we require from this House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth it is sincerity.
At that stage I immediately took the view that if 1 could not have this Standnig Order adhered to it should be eliminated. Consequently, I made a special report to the Standing Orders Committee asking that it be eliminated. Tonight the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that I should be pleased because the Standing Orders Committee had accepted a submission from me. But the acceptance by the Committee of the submission was only a second best. What I wanted was the observance of this Standing Order. When I could not get that, it became a matter of whether members wanted to go on reading their speeches, with everyone knowing all the time that they were reading them, and nothing would be done about the practice.
My campaign began years ago when I still travelled to Melbourne by train. Passengers would say to me, “ That was a splendid speech in the House of Representatives last night by “ - and they would name a certain member. I knew all the time that it might have been good reading, because the honorable member had read this speech. Yet if I were to say to people that a number of the speeches made in Canberra by Ministers or even by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) were read they would be amazed. If they have not visited Canberra and have not seen what happens they are of the opinion that a member stands up and speaks his mind - not the mind of someone else. It is not his own speech and an expression of his own mind; it is the mind and words of someone in some other part of the country in a speech that has been brought to Canberra.
What is the present position? The suggestion in the report of the Standing Orders Committee, which is now before the House, states -
As Parliamentary practice recognises and accepts that, whenever there is reason for precision of statement such as on the second reading of a bill, particularly those of a complex or technical nature or in ministerial or other statements, it is reasonable to allow the reading of speeches and, as the difficulty of applying the rule against the reading of speeches is obvious, e.g. “reference to copious notes “, it is proposed to omit the Standing Order.
What of the future? I think the House will accept that suggestion and support the Standing Orders Committee. Although over the years in this House I have strongly advocated that this Standing Order prohibiting the reading of speeches be adhered to, what will happen now if my suggestion that the Standing Order be eliminated is accepted? It will mean that any honorable member can read a speech. Surely, after all this, even I will be able to read a speech without any honorable member saying that I am reading it.
A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), with whom I have crossed swords on many occasions in this place, interjected: “The honorable member for Mallee would go better if he did read his speech “. The interjection suggests that he thinks that I would make a better speech if I read it. There is one thing about this matter; when I make a speech in this House it is my speech and it is sincere. But when a member comes to what he thinks is the end of a sentence and stops, suddenly realises that it is not the end of a sentence and has to continue because someone has written the speech for himhe does not know when a. sentence begins and ends - he is not expressing his own view on a subject. All honorable members should now be satisfied. I felt miserable about the Standing Order not being adhered to. Now I take the other view and say: “ Let us have sincerity “. I think every one of us wants sincerity, so I ask every honorable member to support the Standing Orders Committee and eliminate this Standing Order that brought only insincerity to the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make only a few comments
regarding the honorable member for Mallee
– Do not be too personal.
– I will not be too personal; that is not in character with my mode of speaking.
– Order! I think that when the honorable member rose earlier he spoke to the motion before the Chair.
– No. Mr. Speaker, I spoke to the amendment.
– The honorable member indicated that and a point of order was taken. He was upheld because he was speaking to the motion before the Chair.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: No point of order was taken against me.
– Yes, a point of order was taken by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay).
– Not against me.
– Yes, by the honorable member for Flinders.
– No. I am sorry to differ, Mr. Speaker, but nobody interrupted me at any stage.
– It was I, I believe, whom the honorable member for Flinders interrupted.
– I will need the assurance of the honorable member for Grayndler that he was speaking to the amendment when he spoke before.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker- well, I thought I was. I thank you for your tolerance. I wish to make just a few remarks in reference to what the honorable member for Mallee has said. It is true that that honorable member has conducted a campaign against the reading of speeches, but it is also true that, although he may not have read his own speeches, time and time again he reads at great length passages from speeches reported in “ Hansard “. He has done so for many years, and most of his speeches have been taken up with long and tedious extracts from “ Hansard “. To all intents and purposes, under the guise of making speeches that are not read, he reads other speeches from “ Hansard “ to supplement his remarks.
Rarely have I heard such a glaring indictment of the Liberal Party’s research
group than that made tonight by the honorable member for Mallee. It is known that all
the information given in the read speeches that he quotes is provided by research groups
outside the Parliament. Practically every member of the Liberal Party, and members of
the Country Party to a great extent, have used this material in the speeches they have
read in this Parliament from time to time. Honorable members on this side of the
Parliament are fully informed on the matters of the day. Practically without exception,
we have made speeches which have not been read, although we certainly have copious
notes. However, time and again, on banking legislation, international affairs and
intricate economic matters, we have heard speeches read word for word by honorable
members opposite from the honorable member for Moreton
Tonight the attack made by the honorable member for Mallee was not levelled at the Opposition, and it was not levelled at the reading of speeches. It was a sinister attack by the Country Party on the prepared speeches which are presented in this Parliament by members of the Liberal Party.
– A lone attack.
– The honorable member may excuse himself as much as he likes. But we have seen the research men around. It is understood that in New South Wales alone many people are employed by the Liberal Party to provide speeches for Liberal members of the Parliament. They are engaged at great expense for that purpose. Some of the prepared speeches have some substance in them, although many that are read in this Parliament are read very poorly, but that does not alter the fact that they are read. There is no doubt that members of the Liberal Party, who have sought to have this provision removed from the Standing Orders, will find that many of their highly paid research men will be wasted unless members are able to read their speeches.
I do not want to say any more. I rose merely to put the honorable member for Mallee right and to show that he reads his speeches to a large extent by quoting from “ Hansard “ and other reports of what has been said. I say in all sincerity that his speeches would be much better if they were read carefully after being prepared carefully, even by someone else. That is not a personal remark. It is just an observation about something that would help to improve his standing in his electorate. I hope that I have brought him up to date and that he now knows the position in regard to read speeches.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Grayndler
.- Mr. Speaker, 1 wish to refer to a very small matter. I am not speaking to the amendment which has been disposed of.
– The honorable member spoke to the amendment when he rose previously, did he?
– Yes. I spoke to the amendment previously. 1 now propose to speak to the motion. I refer to one small standing order, namely Standing Order No. 193. It reads -
A division shall not be proceeded with unless more than one Member has called for a division.
There was a time when one man stood against the whole world. He had
twelve disciples. One of them betrayed him and the other eleven denied him. Probably, in
the House of Commons, there were times when
I am raising this matter because I believe that the individual should not be steamrollered by any party, whether it is a party on this side of the House or on the other side of the House, or a conspiracy between two parties. An individual has his rights, and I stand for those rights. It is not enough simply to say that a division shall not be proceeded with unless more than one member has called for a division. It is true that, a few minutes ago, it was difficult for more than 90 members to sit on one side of the House. Indeed, it was rather an amusing sight to see such friends. Of course, it would be even more difficult for one member to sit on one side of the House and the other 121 to sit on the other. So, for mechanical reasons, naturally I would agree that, if only one member wanted a division, the division should not be taken in the ordinary way. The mechanics would forbid that being done. But a member should have the right, although he be the one person against the motion, to have his dissent recorded.
It may be said that, if he calls for a division and he cannot find a single other person to support him, from the very fact that he has called for that division it may be inferred that had there been a division he would have been opposed to the motion. But that is an inference. I say that such a member is being brushed aside by this Standing Order. In dignity, he has the right to be allowed to dissent, and I believe that his dissent should be recorded in the record of the proceedings of the House and in “ Hansard “. He should be given the right and dignity of having his dissent recorded.
I do not propose to bring forward any amendment at this stage. I commend this matter for consideration by that august body, the Standing Orders Committee, which is said to be so representative of all members of this House. It may be representative of the Government’s point of view and of the Opposition’s point of view. But I am speaking for individuals. I know that the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), for example, has no time for individual expressions of opinion. He favours the steam roller methods.
– lt could be called collectivism. I draw attention to this matter by protesting against the suggestion that because an individual has an opinion he must be a screwball of some sort, he must be moved by some improper motive or he must be a rebel or a disgruntled person. There are some people, even in this chamber, who take a view because they believe in it, and not for the kinds of reasons that have been thrown up in the course of this debate, such as because of reflections that have been cast upon them. I say that, when the Standing Orders are reviewed again, an individual should be given the right to have his dissent properly recorded in the record of the proceedings of this House.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak only very briefly in the general debate. My reason for rising will be understood clearly when I say that the first thing I wish to do is congratulate the Standing Orders Committee on its action in respect of the limitation of speeches. I believe that we are all only too well aware that on too many occasions members of this Parliament speak purely for the sake of speaking. Unfortunately, the Whips frequently ask members - sometimes of necessity, perhaps - to take their allotted time. That is a most regrettable practice.
Another feature of parliamentary debate which I believe is very tiresome to members themselves, and must be even more so to the listening public, is the inconceivable amount of padding that is put into various speeches that we have to suffer. I recall that a few years ago I spoke on the Japanese Peace Treaty. I spoke for between 10 and 15 minutes and said what I wished to say in that time. The honorable member who followed me - he is no longer a member of the Parliament - spent about 20 minutes castigating me for speaking for such a short time. That shows the absurd limits to which this kind of thing can go. I believe - I think other members of this Parliament also believe this - that members should attempt to finish their speeches before the expiration of the time allotted to them. Frequently, half of a speech could be omitted and it would still be a reasonable presentation, much more easily assimilated by members of the Parliament, the “ Hansard “ staff and the unfortunate people who have to listen to parliamentary debates. 1 wish to refer to only one other small matter which I think is important, namely, the title “Temporary Chairman of Committees “. I hold a view on this, not because I happen to be one of the honorable members who is a Temporary Chairman of Committees but because I have always believed that the title “ Temporary Chairman of Committees “ is a misnomer. It is probably sufficiently understood by members of the Parliament, but I think that the public and people outside who are interested in the Parliament should not be misled. From a public point of view this is clearly a title without a clear or proper meaning. So I suggest to the Standing Orders Committee - and I have in writing so suggested - that it might well consider adopting the very simple and correct title, “Deputy Chairman of Committees”. It is a title easily understood and it explains the actual position. I think it would be acceptable to the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Aircraft - National Service Training - International Affairs - Army Housing - Television - Unemployment Benefit - Foreign Affairs Committee
Motion (by Mr. Bury) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Very briefly and without detaining the House, I wish to bring to the notice of
the Parliament the number of questions on the notice paper which have been there for
some considerable time without being answered. I refer first to a question which has
been on notice, in my name, since 4th March 1964. That is the best part of 13 months
ago. It was addressed to the Prime Minister
As if that were not bad enough - and I cite other examples because my colleagues are involved - on 15th September 1964 Question No. 544 in the name of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). It, too, remains unanswered. The question was put on the notice paper over six months ago. That is a fair time for the Minister for Labour and National Service, slow thinking as he is, to take to work out an answer. It would appear from the question that it is extremely important to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and 1 wonder why there has been such a delay in answering it.
On 21st October 1964 the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) addressed Question No. 707 to the Prime Minister. It remains
unanswered. Notice was given of Question No. 728 by the honorable member for Hindmarsh
(Mr. Clyde Cameron) on 27th October 1964. It was
addressed to the Prime Minister and it remains unanswered. Question No. 754 was placed
on the notice paper by the honorable member for Oxley
The Government prides itself on the skill and speed with which it can deal with the business of the country, but tonight I cite questions for which we have been seeking answers since as long ago as 4th Mardi 1964. I am reasonably generous. I have not referred to questions put on . notice since 31st December 1964, which is three months ago. I should like to know why the Government will not answer these questions. Has it not the answers? Have the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues some information about the matters dealt wilh in these questions which they do not want to reveal to the Parliament?
Having listened tonight to speeches about the rights of private members I do not think it unreasonable to ask why our rights are not preserved by our getting answers to questions within a reasonable time, instead of waiting for 13 months in one instance and several months in other instances. I ask the Minister at the table, the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), to convey to the Ministers concerned that the members of the Opposition would like their questions answered. Some of the questions are not easy to answer, but with the facilities available departmentally and otherwise it should be possible for the Government to obtain the answers. 1 do not think anything is more unfair to members of the Parliament who are writing for replies to questions in the interests of their constituents than to be kept waiting for such long periods. The fact that no effort has been made to answer the questions further aggravates the position so far as we are concerned. I would suggest, therefore, that the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for Territories give immediate replies to these questions in order that members, even if not satisfied with the replies, will at least be informed of the Government’s intentions. As I have said, the questions I am concerned about are those asked last year. I think that a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 13 months of waiting for replies to questions shows tolerance in the extreme. The Government has an obligation to answer these questions, to discharge their from the notice paper and to give satisfaction to the honorable members who have asked them.
I bring this matter to the attention of the Parliament and I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, in your wisdom will see that something is done to have these questions answered, because members cannot wait much longer for replies to questions on which they want information urgently.
.- The matter I raise concerns the Department of Civil Aviation. The House will know that at Tullamarine airport construction operations are proceeding. I understand that a large Australian-American company has the contract for the reconstruction of the runway. The company has had to open a very large quarry in the vicinity of the aerodrome to obtain its metal requirements. I have received complaints from three residents in the vicinity of the aerodrome that the company’s blasting operations are such that the structure of their homes has been seriously affected. We all know that an essential feature of contracting for any public utility, from the point of view of profits to the contractor, is the time factor, and that if time can be saved by inserting excessive quantities of explosives and bringing down large quantities of stone with one shot it will be done by the contractor. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) in another place will take some steps to stop this nuisance. 1 quote now from the three letters I have received. The first states - 1 am writing to complain about the severe charges that the people at the jet port are putting in when they are blasting. Our house is solid bluestone and very old, but new cracks are appearing since the blasting. We have recently had the walls plastered and painted and cracks are appearing everywhere. The blasts shake the building dreadfully and I fear some drastic damage will be done unless these severe blasts are stopped. “The second letter states - I feel I must write to see if something can be done to lessen the blasting at the jet port. I know it’s got to be done and what a good thing it is to have a development so close to our township, but the walls in my house are getting .further apart. The whole place is affected by it. As I am a widow and haven’t the means to have any repairs done I feel something will have to be done somewhere along the line. The other day everything fell off the kitchen mantelpiece, breaking a clock and several ornaments. The place shudders before the blast goes off. The bluestone walls are in a very bad way. We seem to have taken the brunt of the blasting in the district.
Another letter reads -
I am greatly disturbed by damage being caused to ray home and other properties in the district by blasting associated with the quarrying operations at the Tullamarine airport.
The writer states that he owns a property which adjoins the land acquired for the airport and that his property - is a very large home of great historical interest, which has been classified by the National Trust. It has already been damaged by the blasting and I :m very fearful that if the blasting continues at its present level the safety of the property will be seriously threatened. I understand that other homes in the district have been damaged and the residents are greatly perturbed. I would be very grateful if you could make representations to the appropriate authorities . . .
I wish to raise another matter that concerns the Department of Civil Aviation. Recently several residents of my electorate, which adjoins the airport, complained that Boeing 727 aircraft were causing damage and breakage to windows in their homes. I promptly made written representations to the Director-General of Civil Aviation and suggested that something be done to alleviate this nuisance. I suggested also that the persons concerned should be compensated for the damage they had sustained to their homes. After all, the compensation would not be very costly. It would be a matter of only a few windows. I received from the Director-General a communication informing me that endeavours would be made to alleviate the nuisance but disclaiming any responsibility for the payment of damages. If public transport authorities were responsible for doing damage to homes, they would reasonably assess the damages and make compensation. I know that this may set a precedent, but I request the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) to contact the Director-General and indicate to him that he is expected to compensate these citizens for the damage they have sustained. We are committed to using 727’s, but the airport is unsuitable for them. In these circumstances they constitute a danger to homes in the area and have caused damage and created a nuisance.
The Government has been prompt in placing new aircraft at the disposal of Australian travellers. I do not disapprove of that, but if these aircraft cause damage and create a nuisance, some attempt at least should be made to alleviate the nuisance and to compensate the people for damages sustained. I ask the Minister to endeavour to have these matters promptly attended to and to see that something is done for these unfortunate people. These people do not quarrel with the establishment of the airport. They realise that some nuisance must be borne, but anybody who has had anything to do with blasting operations will know that the attitude usually is: Push it in; blow it up; knock it over, no matter who is hurt in the process. There is a responsibility on the authority concerned to exercise some supervision and to see that in this case the regulations of the Victorian Mines Department governing the use of explosives are applied. It is true that Commonwealth authorities are not obliged to observe State regulations, but there is a general understanding between Commonwealth and State authorities that in circumstances such as these State regulations will be observed.
– I rise to bring before the House a .matter which concerns all of us. I refer to the attitude of individual Ministers and of the Ministry in general towards this House. This attitude has been brought to my attention by a series of answers to questions which I placed on the notice paper directed to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). I have been a member of this House for 9 or 10 years-
– Too long.
– Despite efforts by reactionary elements in this country to put an end to my attendance here, large numbers of people in my electorate continue to send me here. It is my duty to represent their interests and to be treated as befits the representative of 40,000 decent dinkum Australians. I regard the answers given to my questions by the Minister as discourteous in the extreme. I am not surprised that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) has not read the questions and answers or does not realise their significance. I asked a question about Australia’s representation in North Vietnam. In his answer the Minister was misleading to the point of prevarication. In answering my question about Australia’s recognition of Mongolia the Minister was completely discourteous. He did not attempt to answer the question. The Minister’s answer to my question about recognition of East Germany begs the question. I asked -
The Minister - this is a Minister of the Crown - replied -
What is the position in relation to Hanoi in North Vietnam? The British Government has established there a post - call it what you will - staffed by a consul-general, a consul and a vice-consul. I do not know what the Minister thinks he is doing in this place. If he wants to play with semantics let him join the appropriate faculty of the Australian National University but I suggest that as a responsible Minister of the Crown he has a responsibility to answer in this House questions of vital importance to the people of this country.
The Minister has said in the House that we follow British and American policies. British policy is to have a representative in North Vietnam. So I think the Minister should be able to tell me why we are not represented there and why we have not considered establishing a post there. Let us examine the Minister’s answer. He said -
Diplomatic - of, pertaining to, or concerned with the management of international relations; of or belonging to diplomacy.
Post - the appointed place, the place of duty.
The British Government has seen fit to appoint one of the senior career officers in its foreign service to this post in Hanoi but the Minister for External Affairs has the hide, the cheek and the impertinence to say that this representation is nonexistent. The Minister may be playing with words, but no Minister has the right to play with Parliament or to be discourteous to the most humble member of the Opposition. The Minister is skirting around the question. He is obscuring the facts from anybody who cares to read “Hansard”, which is the official record of the Parliament. Nobody has the right to tinker with it.
In another question relating to Mongolia I asked -
The Minister replied -
Australia does not recognise the Government of the Mongolian People’s Republic. This is a question of policy which is kept under constant review.
I consider that a member who has been in this Parliament for nine or ten years, who has shown a constant interest in these subjects, who has visited the place and its people, who is aware that the country is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations, is entitled to have all the facts placed before him.
– Who is that?
– The honorable member for Wills. 1 did not place these questions on the notice-paper simply to harass the Minister. I placed the questions on the notice-paper in order to ascertain, if possible, the Government’s attitude towards Australian representation overseas. Mongolia, which Australia does not recognise, is a member of the United Nations. Surely that is a matter of significance. Surely it would not be difficult to provide three or four sentences in which to explain why Australia does not recognise Mongolia. The
Australian people, through this Parliament or the Government, has invited members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to Australia next year to a council meeting. It would be a simple courtesy to extend official recognition to this small country.
Mongolia is a country of about 500,000 square miles, with a population of about li million people. It is a small nation sandwiched between two large nations. As far as I can tell, it has retained as much independence as one would expect under those circumstances. It has been admitted to membership of the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Honorable members are entitled to receive considered answers to their questions. Although the Minister has held his present portfolio for about 12 months he has seen fit to make only one statement to the House- about international affairs. The least he can do is give full answers to questions asked of him and not try to skirt around them.
The third question referred to East Germany. The problem of East Germany, of course, bedevils all questions of international affairs. I realise that, because of differences between the East and the West in its creation, it is in a special position. 1 asked -
Why has Australia established relations with the Federal Republic of Germany but not with the German Democratic Republic?
I am interested in the reasons. The fact that this Government does not recognise the German Democratic Republic is not a reason. There must be reasons behind our not recognising this country. I had hoped that the Minister, who has numerous senior officers behind him to advise and inform him, would have been able to place on record in “ Hansard “ an explanation of this difficult position. I am not criticising in any way the non-recognition of East Germany. But I believe, as a member of this House, that I am entitled to a considered answer to a question such as this. On such an important policy matter, it is not good enough for a Minister to hide behind the Standing Order that deals with the asking of questions relating to policy matters. I asked simple and direct questions. I hoped that I would be given simple and direct answers. The fact is that East Germany is a separate nation. I believe that it has become a separate nation in its own right. There are 17 million Germans there and there are some 60 million or 70 million Germans on the other side of the wall, as it were. But East Germany poses one of the questions that face the world and one of the questions that we will have to resolve. It is fair enough to ask to be given the information that we need to consider the problem.
On the whole question of Australian representation overseas, I suggest that honorable members consider the implications of the questions on the notice paper. They should ask why we have no representation in Poland, Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, although we are intimately concerned with these countries because thousands upon thousands of people born there are now resident in Australia. Honorable members should then obtain the list of countries in which we are represented and in which we have strong representation. They should then try to work out the logic or principle behind the arrangement of our representation overseas.
My main reason for rising tonight was to support the contention of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that questions on the notice paper be treated as important and significant public documents. Answers to questions should be full and complete and should pay a proper and courteous regard to the needs of members of the Parliament. Lack of this is, 1 am afraid, one of the symptoms of the continuing and increasing arrogance of the Ministry. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has chosen to ignore a recommendation of a Select Committee of which he was a member that a Standing Committee of this House be appointed to consider the conditions of the people of Yirrkala and the Northern Territory. Nearly every honorable member could give chapter and verse, line by line, of case after case in which Ministers have treated the Parliament in the way I have said. I believe that this must cease. I am deeply disappointed in the Minister for External Affairs. He brought to his office a long history of diplomacy but he has chosen to treat me and the House in the way I have outlined.
.- On 10th November last, the Prime Minister
Some hundreds of these men will come from all over Australia to Puckapunyal. Some of them are single but many of them are married men with families who, in the present circumstances, have no prospect of obtaining accommodation for their families and who face a long period of separation, unless urgent action is taken by the Government. This is the matter that I bring before the Parliament tonight. Prior to the announcement by the Prime Minister, there was already an acute shortage of accommodation in the area. There was a shortage both of houses built specially for Army personnel under the Army housing programme and of normal civilian accommodation in the nearby town of Seymour. Many members of the Army were and are renting flats or rooms at exorbitant rents so that they may live with their families. Many of the rooms and flats are substandard. The Victorian Housing Commission in the last few weeks has condemned and ordered the demolition of 14 homes in the area. There is virtually no prospect of any married soldier who comes to the area obtaining a satisfactory home, flat or rooms to rent.
I have had correspondence about this situation with the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) over a period of several months. I have pointed out the urgency of the problem and have expressed my concern, the concern of the Shire Council of Seymour and the concern of the citizens of Seymour and Puckapunyal at the situation, and no doubt I have also expressed the concern of serving soldiers who have suffered or will suffer from the shortcomings of the Government’s Army housing policy. I want to refer briefly to the correspondence that 1 have had with the Minister for the Army. In reply to the first representa tions I made, the Minister, among other things, said -
The accommodation position in the Seymour/ Puckapunyal area is particularly disturbing . . .
I emphasise those two words. He continued - and is being closely watched by my Department. At present 65 houses are being constructed at Seymour under the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement.
He went on to say that in addition his Department was negotiating for the construction of a further- SI houses at Puckapunyal. He said -
The measures I have mentioned were designed to satisfy the housing requirements of all married members on the waiting list in the Seymour/Puckapunyal area at that time.
This was before the announcement regarding selective national service training. He went on to say -
However, with the introduction of Selective Service Training and the projected raising of a Recruit Training Battalion at Puckapunyal the housing requirement in this area is being re-assessed in the light of these further commitments, and urgent action will be taken to provide such additional houses as may be found necessary.
I was disappointed that no action had been taken to formulate a plan to meet this urgent situation and I wrote again to the Minister. I said -
While appreciating your assessment of the situation as “ particularly disturbing “ I hasten to express my dissatisfaction and that of municipalities and other organisations in the district, that no immediate and additional plan has been announced to meet this urgent problem.
I concluded my letter by saying -
On behalf of those servicemen who may be separated from their families or housed, at great cost, in unsatisfactory accommodation, 1 earnestly request urgent action to meet a crisis so rapidly approaching.
On 19th March, the Minister wrote to me and said - . I informed you that the housing requirement in this area is being re-assessed in the light of further commitments as a result of the introduction of Selective Service Training and the projected raising of a Recruit Training Battalion at Puckapunyal. I also informed you that urgent action will be taken to provide such additional houses as may be found necessary.
I am therefore disappointed that you should consider it necessary so soon after my advice to you to express your dissatisfaction and that of municipalities and other organisations in the district on the grounds that no immediate and additional plan has been announced to meet this urgent problem.
He added that he appreciated my interest and concern in the housing shortage in the Sevmour-Puckapunyal area.
In two separate letters, the Minister said that urgent action would be taken to provide such additional houses as may be necessary. But I and the soldiers and their families would like to know when this action will be taken. Apparently the Government and the Minister have a definition for the word “ urgent “ that is different from my definition. Already four and a half months have passed since the announcement was made regarding selective service training, but the only housing programme that we have is expected to be completed at the end of this year or early next year and will only meet the needs that were apparent before the introduction of selective service training was announced. Hundreds of instructors will be coming to the Seymour-Puckapunyal area. Undoubtedly many of them will be married and will have families. Many of these men have already arrived, but their families are not with them because they cannot find accommodation. They face the prospect of separation from their families for a long, long time. The Seymour “Telegraph”, a newspaper which is published in the area, recently printed a very powerful editorial. It was moved entirely by the very human problem that confronts these soldiers and their families. I have not time to quote it all, but referring to a woman who had approached the newspaper seeking a flat or a house, the editorial made the following comment -
An ordinary decent woman with kids like yours and mine who naively, but reasonably, expected that she had a right to live with her husband and to bring up her children in a full family environment. Even if her husband did suffer the disadvantage of wearing the Queen’s uniform and to have taken an Oath of Loyalty that obliged him to be prepared to die for this country if the occasion required.
By our book, that makes him a first class citizen, but judged by the present attitude of Mr. Bury, Dr. Forbes and Mr. Thompson-
That is the Minister for Housing in Victoria - he and his wife and children are also-rans when it comes to the basic right of every Australian family - the right to live together as a family with the type of roof over their heads that can reasonably be called a home.
They won’t find that borne in Seymour and they won’t find it in Puckapunyal.
This is a matter of grave concern. In time of war I, along with hundreds of thousands of others - some of them honorable members - lived in tents. We accepted this as1 necessary in those times. But this is peacetime, and the single soldier rightly gets a better deal than did a soldier during wartime. Surely the serving married soldier in the Regular Army is entitled to have his wife and family near by? Surely he should not be faced with years of separation, leaving his wife to cope with all the family problems that may arise? Surely wives of Army personnel, already encountering difficulties which civilian wives do not face, are entitled to some home life?
This is a matter of grave concern to the citizens of the Seymour area and to the soldiers and their families. I appeal to the Minister and to the Government. I believe that the Minister needs the backing of the Government in this matter. Something urgent should be done. Two letters have been received from the Minister saying that urgent action will be taken, but a considerable amount of time has passed and no plan has been announced. So far as the soldiers are concerned, they have no bright prospects. There is no light on the hill for them so far as housing is concerned. They face the prospect of many months, and perhaps years, with their families living away from them, perhaps in other States. In many cases their families are living with their parents or other relatives, and these servicemen are able to visit the families perhaps only once a month or once every couple of months. That is not good enough.
Something urgent has to be done and I ask the Minister and the Government to take urgent action. These soldiers and their wives need assistance. They need homes in which they can engage in normal family life just as any other Australian family can. They are entitled to this. They are not second class citizens; they are first class citizens. Surely in endeavouring to encourage young men to join the Army the Government should see that those who have joined the Regular Army have the normal facilities that every Australian outside the Army enjoys.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Beaton · Barker · LP</small>
I would observe that in the last few days I seem to be in a position where some people are abusing me for building houses for Service personnel and others are abusing me equally for not doing so. In relation to the main and general point made by the honorable member for Bendigo I remind the House that the Government has recognised, and specifically did so by its announcement in June of last year, the principal point that he has made in supporting his representations tonight and those made in correspondence to me previously. A deliberate decision has been made by the Government to undertake an accelerated housing programme for the Services. The object of this programme was to eliminate the waiting list for houses in all three Services throughout Australia as it stood at that time. This is clear recognition by the Government that it regards housing as an extremely important factor in attracting and retaining servicemen and in providing facilities that are the serviceman’s due in view of the disabilities he faces in Service life. No quarrel exists between the honorable member for Bendigo and the Government on that score. The Government has made its intention perfectly clear.
I come now to the matter that the honorable member raised in relation to the Puckapunyal and Seymour areas. As he knows, and as other honorable members will agree, this has always been a difficult area from the point of view of accommodation, mainly because of its isolation. I notice that the honorable member for Bendigo is nodding his head in agreement. I hope, therefore, that he will plead with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in view of the extraordinary suggestion that that honorable gentleman addressed to me in a question. He asked me whether I would arrange to transport all Army establishments away from the capital cities into areas like Puckapunyal. Were the Army to do this it would create all round Australia exactly the same sort of problems that we have now at Puckapunyal.
I am astonished too because I understood the Leader of the Opposition to say, towards the end of last year, when attacking the Government on the introduction of compulsory service, that he believed that there was no necessity for compulsory national service because the Army could obtain its soldiers by voluntary means. Although he suggested that it should obtain its soldiers by voluntary means he has, in effect, advocated taking all Army establishments away from the capital cities and putting them in isolated places. I want to say to him and to the honorable member for Bendigo that soldiers and their families are as much entitled to the amenities to be found in our larger cities as are anybody else.
I come back now to the question of Puckapunyal, although I believe that the point I have just made is extremely relevant. I should not like it to be thought that the Army has not provided any married quarters at all in the Puckapunyal-Seymour area. We have currently 552 married quarters in this area. In June last year we let contracts for the construction of 65 houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Those houses have been becoming available and I expect the last of them will be available before June of this year. In addition, as the honorable member mentioned, provision has been made for the Commonwealth Department of Works to build 81 houses in Puckapunyal itself. Tenders are at present being called for the building of those. Although it is true that they are being built to meet the situation that existed prior to the Government’s decision to expand the Army, the construction of these 65 additional houses in Seymour and 81 in Puckapuyal will improve the present position considerably.
As the honorable member said, the Government made a decision in November to expand the Army, and in the process of that expansion it is proposed to put one of the recruit training battalions for national servicemen at Puckapunyal. It is proposed also to place there an additional battalion that will be created as the result of national servicemen becoming available. As a result of that decision, we therefore have an additional requirement for houses. I do not deny that. I told the honorable gentleman so in my letter to him. I told him also that steps are being taken as a matter of urgency to provide the additional houses. I do not see what greater assurance I can give than that. I told the honorable gentleman that, and all he did was write back to me and say that he was not satisfied with what was being done. What more can you do in relation to this situation than to give an assurance that steps will be taken to provide these additional houses as a matter of urgency?
I have directed my Department that, within the overall army housing programme, Puckapunyal will be given the highest priority in recognition not only of the expansion there but also of the difficulties involved in the isolation of Puckapunyal. Nevertheless, I will not hide the fact that we will be short of quarters in that area in the immediate future. In that situation, to tide over the period until all the married quarters we require become available at Puckapunyal, I propose to take two steps which will help to alleviate the position. The first step is to extend the operation of temporary accommodation allowances, a means by which a soldier who is not able to obtain an Army house can obtain private accommodation and have the rental of that house subsidised so that he will not pay a rent greater or much greater than the rent he would pay if he was in an Army house. This will be extended, in relation to soldiers who are posted to Puckapunyal, to the Melbourne area. This is not entirely satisfactory because it does mean separation of the soldiers from their families. But it is better than nothing, and it will help to some extent to alleviate the situation.
The other step that I am taking in this respect is to provide, as far as possible, that single men are posted to fill these particular positions at Puckapunyal until houses become available. This should again reduce the strain on the available accommodation. The honorable gentleman suggests that you can conjure houses out of the air almost overnight. He directed some of his specific criticisms to the situation which prevailed after the decision was taken to expand the Army. That was only three or four months ago. The way the honorable gentleman spoke suggested that he thought the houses should be there now. This is not real life, particularly in a situation of great strain on the overall position in the building iudustry. What I hope is that because we have a substantial work force already on the spot at Puckapunyal building for the recruit training battalion, and the accommodation for this additional battalion, its availability will assist us to make these homes available much more quickly than they otherwise would have become available in view of the prevailing state of the building industry.
.- Mr. Speaker, there are two matters that I desire
to mention in the adjournment debate this evening. The first is that already
introduced by the honorable member for Wills
I think the Minister in respect of his portfolio has been a very great disappointment to us. I do not know whether he believes in the tradition that appears to have been established by Ministers for External Affairs in this Parliament, that external affairs and the facts of our external relationships are not matters which should be the subject for public debate. One of his right honorable predecessors - Lord Casey, as he now is - on one occasion publicly expressed the theory that these matters were too sensitive, too difficult to understand and too important for ordinary people to be able to participate in a debate or discussion about them. The honorable gentleman’s predecessor was not noted for being willing to give this House or the Australian people much information in respect of his portfolio. I wonder, therefore, whether the present Minister for External Affairs is accepting the theory that these matters are too sensitive, too vital and too important for ordinary people to be trusted with them.
I do not think that this attitude is good enough. I believe that the Minister’s performance is consistent with that theory. If it were not that in some respects he treated his earlier portfolio in a similar way, I would think that this attitude was something that he had perhaps recently acquired. When we are asking the nation to take a stand which may well lead it into war in which its very survival could be at stake, I consider it is most important that on matters on which the nation has to make up its mind it be given official information.
Take the very important question of Communist China. The Minister in his speech on international affairs - his one main speech in 12 months - ‘asked the Australian nation to accept the assumption that mainland China was aggressive and was dedicated almost to our destruction. Neither the Minister nor anyone else has given us any factual information of the military structure of mainland China. The Minister does not pretend to supply us with evidence to support the proposition. I would like to direct his attention to an article published in “Newsweek” on 15th March 1965, just a couple of weeks ago. The article is similar to articles which have been published recently in such papers as the “ New York Times”, the “Washington Post” and the London “Times”. The frequency of the currency of articles of this type seems to indicate, first, that they are based on official information and, secondly, that that information is pretty well established.
The article in “ Newsweek “ contains a map showing the placings of the 35 field armies possessed by mainland China, its air bases and its naval bases. The article contains also a summary of detailed information about the structure of these three forces and tells us that they - . . despite Peking’s efforts to hide them, are reasonably well known to the West thanks to espionage and frequent U-2 fly-overs. “ Red China is not the walled-off society people think,” says one Pentagon official.
This information, as the article tells us, is coming from officials all the time. The article continues - “There isn’t that much that is hidden.”
The article goes on to deal with things that are not hidden, and gives details of the three armed forces of China - the army, the air force and the navy. Certain conclusions are drawn about these forces, such as -
The Chinese Navy is purely a defensive unit geared to operate in shallow coastal waters.
The article comes to the conclusion that China is a formidable military power. It then continues -
However that may be, one of the most suiting facts about China’s military establishment is that it is organised almost exclusively for defence rather than attack.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know - and I think it is time we demanded to know - whether this kind of information is true or not. Are the Chinese military forces organised for defence rather than attack? Do they conform to the pattern illustrated here or not? When the Government expresses the view that was expressed last week by the Minister for External Affairsthat we are in imminent danger and are facing a great threat from an aggressive China - it should prove its case if it can do so. I have submitted clear evidence to the House. I have quoted from “Newsweek” for convenience, but similar evidence is contained in other authoritative British and American newspapers. The Minister now has a clear responsibility to give us some information. He should stop treating us as members of a junior class in some girls’ school, as he has been doing ever since he took over his present portfolio.
I come now to the second matter to which I wish to refer. Television was introduced into this country in 1956. Almost immediately after it was introduced, people in many parts of the country stated that it would be necessary to do something to ensure that television programmes would have a high Australian content. Slowly, as we began to see the kind of programmes we were getting - mostly imported, and imported at cheap dumping rates - the demand for a higher Australian content became more extensive and more persistent. When new television licences were being granted and companies were formed to apply for them, almost every applicant company stated: “We will guarantee to provide programmes with a very high Australian content”. The Government refused to take up any position, and finally its own supporters in another place moved for the appointment of ti select committee to investigate the question. Eventually a Senate select committee was formed. It conducted its inquiries during 1963 and submitted a report at the end of that year. Briefly, that committee came to the conclusion, first, that a film industry could not be established in Australia without Government assistance, and secondly, that it was impossible to increase the Australian content, particularly of drama programmes, unless some Government assistance were given. Only last week, at a television congress held in Sydney, which was attended by 430 delegates from various parts of Australia, many of them experienced in the production of television and other programmes, there was general agreement with the report submitted by the Senate select committee, which identified the things most necessary to be done to solve this problem.
Last year, when several amendments to a Bill seeking to increase the licence fees for television stations were being considered in this House, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated that at last the Government was prepared to consider some means of encouraging the production of Australian programmes, some means of solving the problem which existed despite an understanding between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the stations that between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent, of the programmes televised would be Australian productions. The present undefined quota permits of anything in which Australians participate being classified as a part of the quota. News sessions, football telecasts, cricket telecasts, cooking demonstrations, quiz programmes, indeed everything under the sun, are included as a part of the Australian quota, although they add nothing to the standard of the programmes. The real objective of a quota should be to improve the standard of programmes, but our quota system has failed completely to achieve this up to date.
The Postmaster-General looked at the situation last week, when I asked him a question. He said that the Government was studying the situation. I want to know how long it will be necessary for the Government to study it. Am I to ask questions next week, in two months’ time, or even in six months’ time to discover whether the
Government has completed its study? Tha matter has been studied already by the select committee which was appointed at the request of the Government’s own supporters. The Committee studied the matter for a year and submitted its report in October 1963. I ask the Minister, who is now in the House, whether he will give us a clear indication as to how much more study he considers it will be necessary to give to this matter and how much more delay we must suffer before a decision is announced.
.- Earlier this evening the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) questioned the accuracy of some information I had given to the House in answer to questions which he had put on notice. He also suggested that I had been in some way discourteous to him personally because the answers I gave were not as full as he wished them to be. I want to say - I say this not to the honorable member but to you, Mr. Speaker and to the House - that when I tabled those answers they were, to the best of my knowledge and belief, correct. When I heard that the honorable member for Wills was dissatisfied with them, I checked them again. I wish to say that I am sure that they were accurate, and that I have not in any way misled the House or given any information that was not correct in every respect.
The second remark I wish to make concerns the wish of the honorable member that the answers might be fuller. I would submit that an answer to a question on notice is not an appropriate medium for conducting a debate. Indeed, if we were dealing not with questions on notice but with questions asked in the House, you, Mr. Speaker, would intervene to prevent debate from taking place in answers to questions. I want to say principally that when a Minister answers a question he is not supplying information personally to the member who performs a service to the Parliament by posing the question; he is giving information to the whole of the Parliament. Beyond the Parliament, he is giving information as a statement by a Minister on behalf of the Government. That information is then available to, and is read as a Government statement by many persons outside the House.
With one exception, the questions asked by the honorable member concerned the relations of Australia with the governments of other countries, so that anything said by a Minister in answer to such questions would be just as interesting to the governments of those foreign countries as it would be to the honorable member himself or to other members of this House. Because the questions did concern our relations with other countries, as indeed so many statements made by a Minister for External Affairs must do, and having regard to the interests of Australia and the Australian people, it was necessary to phrase the answers with exceptional care and discretion, knowing that they would be read by the governments of other countries and that they did concern our relations with other countries. If the answers seemed guarded, that was certainly not because we wished to palm off the curiosity of the honorable member for Wills but because, in our sense of what it was discreet and proper to say about our relations with other countries, we thought that the answers should be brief.
The honorable member for Wills and the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) also developed the theme that they and other members of the House were being denied information. I am sorry that they should feel that way. Apart from what takes place in the House, there is a wealth of information that is readily available to all members from my Department, and which will be made available to them on request. We have our regular publications, which I think are distributed to members. If they are not, then I shall be pleased to make sure that they are distributed to all members. In addition to that, any member with experience knows that if there is a particular question on which he would like further information he has only to approach either myself or the head of my Department and, if no question of the security of documents or of the classified nature of documents is involved, the information will be supplied.
Although this is not the place to canvass this particular subject, I would also remind honorable members of the Opposition that, by their own decision - which, of course, it was proper for them to make - they have denied themselves access to the information which is available to all members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Honorable members on the Government side of the House, having chosen to join the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, enjoy the benefits and advantages to be derived from frequent meetings and discussions with persons in possession of information on particular subjects. They also enjoy the advantages of discussions among themselves on matters pertaining to foreign affairs. That opportunity is still open to honorable members of the Opposition if they wish to avail themseslves of it.
– Mr. Speaker, the Opposition is prepared to avail itself of the offer by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) and to consider joining his Foreign Affairs Committee if he will establish it on terms similar to those adopted for the Foreign Affairs Committees in Canada and New Zealand. If he has not those terms, I can let him have them. I have them because I asked the Clerk of the House to obtain them for me. Once the Government is prepared to consider the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the terms adopted for a number of years in the two sister Dominions that I have mentioned, we shall have another look at the matter.
– Why does the Leader of the Opposition say that?
– We are entitled to say it. We are entitled to say that we will not join except on those terms. I ask the Minister to have another look at the matter.
– For how long have those been the Opposition’s terms for joining the Foreign Affairs Committee?
– For about six years, but the Government will not consider the matter favorably in the light of the experiences of the other Dominions. We have never said that we will not join the Committee. We have said that we will join it if it is established on terms as good as those adopted in the other two Dominions mentioned.
I turn now to another matter, Sir. A little while ago, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) saw fit to misrepresent the implications of a question that I asked today about the use of certain Army land adjacent to Middle Harbour in Sydney. My view of the current situation in Australia is that every defence establishment ought to be removed from our capital cities. About 60 per cent, of our people live in six capital cities. I believe that the Navy should not have shore stations on Middle Harbour or at Neutral Bay. I think that establishments such as these should be in the Nowra area on the South Coast of New South Wales. All the headlands in the Middle Harbour area and elsewhere about Sydney Harbour, and particularly Middle Head, North Head and South Head, should be converted into reserves except for areas required by the Army for essential purposes. I do not want any of this land to be handed over to speculators, developers or any people who may think that there is a lot of money to be made out of it. I think it ought to be preserved as natural reserves and part of our national heritage, and I believe that this could be done. I do not consider that the Army should hold much of this land.
I do not believe that the headquarters of the Army in New South Wales should be in Sydney at all. It ought to be at Ingleburn or even farther out. In World War I, the Army headquarters and the nerve centres Of the Army in Victoria, apart from Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, were at Broadmeadows, which is 12 miles from Melbourne. In World War II, they were at Puckapunyal, 60 miles from Melbourne. I believe that they should now be up near Bandiana on the Murray River. If I had my way, I would put important Army units there, because those who served in the Army would then have an opportunity to send their children to school in Albury, which is a big city and which will one day be a university centre. This would afford the children of Army personnel the advantages of a better education. It is true that from Puckapunyal children may go to Bendigo where, one day, a university college may be established.
I want to ensure that every person who serves Australia in the armed forces has rights at least equal to those afforded to others. Indeed, serving personnel in the armed forces, because they are sent to serve at points all over Australia, should perhaps have special rights in this respect. I believe that we ought to move all units of the armed forces out of our capital cities if possible, because the capital cities are vulnerable to attack. We should move Service units to smaller cities where there are available all the educational facilities required for the children of serving personnel. I believe that this is in accordance with present practice throughout the world. I do not want to deny anybody the opportunities of superior education, and I certainly do not want to deny to those who are dedicated enough and patriotic enough to want to spend their lives serving in the armed forces the advantages that other people have.
We live in a grossly materialistic age today, and it is shocking that people who simply pursue wealth have great advantages over others who want to serve their country. I recall something that Adlai Stevenson wrote recently. I think it was brilliantly expressed. He wrote: “ We try to oppose the godless materialism of the Russians with a more godly materialism of our own “. That expresses the spirit of the age. I hope that I have put the position right, Sir, bearing in mind that the Air Force nerve centres in Victoria are at Point Cook and Avalon and not right in the heart of Melbourne. Where they are situated, they are close to Geelong, a centre where additional educational facilities will be provided very soon.
I now wish to refer to a letter that I received recently from Mr. R. D. Williams, Federal Secretary of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. It is in these terms -
Approximately 100 members of the Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia (Central Queensland Branch), were dismissed by the Mr Isa Company although they were not in any way involved in the present dispute.
Representations were made seeking the payment of social service benefits to these employees, now unemployed, and not a party to the dispute.
Mr. Roberton, the then Minister for Social Services, decided that no payment would be made to these persons.
On 21st January, A.C.S.P.A. Federal Executive telegraphed the then Acting Prime Minister, urging him to give consideration to setting aside the decision of Mr. Roberton and allow the payment to these persons. This telegram was acknowledged by the Acting Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department on the 26th January.
In spite of two further letters to the Government dated 18th February and the 12th March, we have heard nothing more at all.
Would you consider raising this matter in the House and asking for the Government to determine its attitude to Mr. Roberton’s decision.
Having read that letter into “ Hansard “, Sir, 1 hope that the Government will quickly make a decision on the rights of employees, not parties to the Mount Isa dispute, to unemployment benefit during the period for which they have remained unemployed.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has raised the question of government assistance to promote the use of Australian programmes on television. Last week, he asked me a question about the matter. 1 intimated in reply that I had had a good deal of research done on the problem, that more was being done and that I hoped to receive a report in the not too distant future. I did not say that the matter was before the Government. I merely stated that I was seeking this information. It will require reading and sorting out before I am in a position to present to the Government any of my thinking on the subject. About November of last year, I intimated that I hoped, within six months or so, to inform the Parliament whether the Government might be able to do something. I am now moving in that direction, but I cannot guarantee that I shall be able to make a pronouncement exactly six months from the time when I expressed my earlier hope. However, I am doing my best in relation to something that is a very great problem. The honorable member for Yarra suggests government assistance in this area and that, but at present I am not prepared to accept the proposition that greater government assistance represents the total solution to the problems involved.
I have refrained from commenting on the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television- the Vincent Committee - and I shall refrain from commenting on that report, except to say that it indicated the tremendous problems associated with the television industry. I would not make a judgment on any of that Committe’s recommendations until I have had an opportunity to make my own inquiries in a fairly broad basis. I cannot avoid the honorable member for Yarra asking me questions each day or each week, but I assure him that I am not at present in a position to state anything definite. The matter is being investigated actively and considerable research is being undertaken. That investigation and research, for my part, will be completed at the earliest possible moment, but a decision is still some time away.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Is it still the primary duty of the fire fighting service at aerodromes to look after the buildings around the airport, as stated by his predecessor on 20th September 1955?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
It is the primary duty of the Department’s fire and rescue service to rescue persons from an aircraft that has crashed on or in the vicinity of an airport. In addition the service endeavours to prevent or limit aircraftor building fires. Since a predecessor, some ten years ago, made the statement that the primary duty of the airport fire service was to look after buildings,the whole question of the aims of the service has been reviewed. Towards the end of 1956 it was decided to adopt the present policy and the re-equipment programme of the Department’s fire and rescue service was modified accordingly. By the time the International Civil Aviation Organisation, in 1958, recommended the universal adoption of a similar line of thinking, the Department’s fire and rescue service re-equipment programme was well under way.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
There are no other plans for an extension into Botany Bay in the immediate future, apart from those of the project now under construction. The airport is, however, planned so that a future extension can be added at a later date if and when needed, and provision has also been made for the construction of duplicate runways at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. parallel to the existing runways, when increasing traffic requires them.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Will he supply details of the old and new (a) weekly tariffs charged by and (b) subsidies paid to each of the Commonwealth hostels operating in the Northern Territory, New Guinea, Woomera, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Because it was not possible to obtain all the information before the end of the last sessional period the details sought were conveyed to the honorable member in a letter dated 14th December 1964 from the Acting Minister for Labour and National Service. They were as follows -
Commonwealth Hostels Limited operates a number of hostels on behalf of the Department of Territories:
The subsidy in the financial year 1963/64 amounted to £2,012.
Commonwealth Hostels Limited operates a number of hostels on behalf of Department of Works as follows:
Because the Works and Services (Northern Territory) Award fixes a maximum charge of £4 per week for employees of the Department of Works, the Department makes good the tariff deficiency. The amount paid by the Department in the financial year 1963/64 was £31,474.
Commonwealth Hostels Limited operates a number of guest houses and hostels in the Australian Capital Territory for administration personnel and other specified categories of persons as follows:
No subsidy is paid in respect of guest houses or hostels in the Australian Capital Territory.
There are various similar facilities operated by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of works who have supplied the following information:
The Department of Works - Construction and Maintenance - Supply Establishments (Remote Areas) Award fixes the maximum charge for employees covered by it as £3 5s. The amount of subsidy paid in the financial year 1963/64 was £119,000.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
If so, will the Commonwealth or the wheat growers extend the concessions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The attached statement sets out the details of persons or companies with direct shareholding interests of S per cent, or more in more than one television licensee or prospective licensee company, together with the issued capital of each of the licensee or prospective licensee companies and the number of shares held by each of the persons or companies concerned. The statement also shows the percentage of shares held by these persons or companies to the total issued capital of the licensee or prospective licensee companies.
The statement does not include details of any indirect interests held as a result of shareholdings in companies which have, in turn, interests in licensee companies.
b asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he consider giving to war widows the same concession in relation to television and radio licences as applies to age pensioners?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The question of granting the licence concessions to war widows has been considered on a number of occasions. The Government feels, however, that extension of the concessions to further classes of pensioners outside the means test category would not be justified in view of the detrimental effects this would have on the revenue collected from licence fees which already falls far short of the amount required to finance the operation of the National Broadcasting and Television services.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows -
An order has been placed for 10,000 multi-coin attachments of modern design to replace existing non multi-coin attachments on public telephones and to meet future development. These should be available during 1966.
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many telephone applications are outstanding in each of the suburbs of Newtown, Marrickville, Erskineville, Petersham, Stanmore, Dulwich Hill and Lewisham?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650331_reps_25_hor45/>.