25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government will reverse its decision to send conscripts to serve beyond the Commonwealth and its Territories.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minis ter a question. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in its report presented in the Parliament two days ago, recommended the use of atomic energy for power, water desalination and the production of nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Government has any policy or plan for the development of our power resources?
– I am sure that all honorable members will have been very interested in the absorbing report that has just been presented by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The Government, throughout its period in office, has shown a keen interest in this subject. Honorable gentlemen will be aware that we established not only the Commission but also the Lucas Heights complex as a centre at which research could be conducted and experience gained by staff applying their skill to the study of atomic energy and its uses, against the day when we may decide to construct an atomic plant in Australia. It will be recalled that we appointed General Sir Jack Stevens as the first Chairman of the Commission. The Lucas Heights establishment has been highly successful in the work that it has done on isotopes. I am told that it is one of the most efficient sources for the supply of isotopes to be found anywhere in the world. It has provided isotopes for use in Japan and New Zealand as well as for extensive use throughout
Australia. I can assure the honorable gentleman that this Government is fully aware of the importance of the general subject of atomic energy. The Commission’s report is being carefully studied. Indeed, I am told that a member of the Commission is in Canberra today to confer with the Secretary of the Department of National Development. So the House can be assured that, as may be seen from these facts, we are directing close attention and a good deal of activity to the subject.
– When the Minister for Trade and Industry returned from overseas earlier this year he said that progress had been slow in the Kennedy Round negotiations and that if greater progress were not made there would be widespread disillusionment with the ideals of multilateralism for world trade and a trend towards various groups of countries forming highly protective trading blocs. I ask: What progress, if any, has since been made towards achieving the Kennedy Round objectives of substantially reducing existing barriers to world trade?
– I did speak a few months ago along the lines indicated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is too early yet for me to say what will be the outcome of the Kennedy Round, and yet the hour is very late so far as the Kennedy Round negotiations are concerned. The whole operation is based on the American Administration having been given authority by Congress to reduce American tariffs by 50 per cent. This has triggered off the whole discussion. But that authority to the Administration expires in June next year. I do not think anybody doubts that if the Kennedy Round is not brought to the point of success within the next three or four months it will fail. So all I can say is that there is little specific progress at the present time.
There has been some progress in negotiations with respect to industrial goods but, so far, none in respect of agricultural items. The Kennedy Round involved a stipulation by the American Administration that unless world trade were freed in agricultural items, the Administration would not go along with reducing tariffs on industrial items. So the outcome in respect of the agricultural discussions is quite critical to the whole business. This has resulted in a revival of interest and concentration so far as agricultural items are concerned. At present, conferences are proceeding in Geneva in a series of groups, the principal one being the cereals group, where a real endeavour is being made to see whether world agreement can be reached within the Kennedy Round for freer trade and at predictable prices and, I would hope, remunerative prices for cereal products. If this fails I would see little progress in the whole Kennedy Round and little prospect for other agricultural items. On the other hand, I believe that if negotiations on this great item of cereals succeed, the whole Kennedy Round will have a new prospect.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. May any person obtain a transcript of a statement made on radio or television by another person? If so, may I obtain a transcript of the statement which I saw and heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition make in which he said that if a Labour Government is elected the troops would begin to be returned from Vietnam in March 1967? If the answer is “ Yes “, is there any opportunity when it is being obtained of . editing or denying me statement?
– Mr. Speaker, in your absence this report was corrected by the newspaper that ran it. I shall be very happy if the transcript–
– I take a point of order.
– Order! Is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raising a point of order?
– Then the honorable member for Mitchell will resume his seat.
– I shall be very glad if the transcript of this programme, which was shown in “ Fighting Words “ both in Sydney and Melbourne, were made availableto honorable members in the Library. I do not have a copy of it, but I should imagine that various departments have taped it, as they ordinarily do with statements of this kind.
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting into a debate now.
– This is an opportunity to confront Government supporters who constantly refer to statements in a newspaper report which the newspaper itself has admitted were incorrect. I was quoting the Government’s own programme as told to me by its diplomatic and military representatives in Vietnam.
– Order! I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken a point of order. Possibly he used the forms of the House to go a little wide of a point of order. The circumstances are that the honorable member for Macarthur directed a question to the Postmaster-General seeking information, and his question is in order.
– The Broadcasting and Television Act contains a provision which does not require commercial stations to make available scripts of statements made over radio or television.
– I have no objection.
– It is not a matter of whether the honorable member has an objection or not. I am telling him what is in the Act. I have advised many honorable members and members of the public that if they want a transcript of a statement broadcast or televised by commercial stations, they must use the normal processes of law to obtain it. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has always courteously made available copies of scripts of commentaries and so on made over its stations. I believe that in this case it would be possible for me to obtain a copy of the statement from the Commission. If necessary, I can make a copy available to every honorable member.
(Mr. Fox having directed a question to the Minister for Health) -
– What is the number? Mr. Mortimer. - It is question No. 2106.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Henty that the information he seeks can be supplied under question No. 2106 appearing on the notice paper.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In the light of the obvious expansive programme of railway rolling stock construction needs that will develop from now onwards in the full national use of railroads at the standard gauge level, will he take the same lively interest in this matter as he is obviously taking in the development of Australian coastal shipping needs and use his influence in seeing that all contracts for future standard gauge rolling stock construction are let to Australian manufacturers so that this industry can be uniformly geared to meet Australia’s future requirements? Further, if he finds that the need arises, will he turn his mind towards recommending to the Government the advisability of extending some form of subsidy payment in this field similar to the subsidy assistance that is now extended to ship building in Australia so that Australian manufacturers can measure up to overseas contract figures?
– I am happy to be able to inform the honorable gentleman that although the Commonwealth Railways does call tenders on a public basis overseas and in Australia, by far the greater bulk of orders placed for rolling stock is placed in Australia. Occasionally there are some imported components, but the assembly of the stock is usually carried out in Australia. I think, from memory, that the last order placed with an overseas company was for some Japanese ore wagons for the Francis Creek railway in 1965. The honorable gentleman will have noticed in this morning’s Press a report of an order for $5 million for diesel locomotives for the standard gauge railway in Western Australia. Since the Francis Creek order there have been orders placed for various types of rolling-stock, including locomotives. I am happy to tell the honorable gentleman that by and large the Australian engineering industry is able to compete on even terms with overseas engineering, and there is no present need for a subsidy. However, the position is under observation.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation will recollect that 1 recently drew his attention to a complaint that Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. had discontinued the Sydney-Coolah-Goodooga air service. As there are reports of EastWest Airlines Ltd. also discontinuing one of its country services, can the Minister inform the House whether this is in keeping with the rationalisation plan recently agreed upon between the airlines and representatives of the State and Commonwealth Governments?
– The honorable member has raised this matter with me on a couple of occasions recently and I know there are some problems associated with it. I have had discussions with the New South Wales Minister for Transport in Sydney and we have agreed that we will reestablish the committee which dealt with rationalisation matters a little over a year ago when another problem arises within New South Wales. The committee will be re-established in the very near future and a full investigation will be made of this and a number of other problems that are current.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that it is claimed that a huge United States combine named Alcoa - the Aluminium Company of America - which has extensive business interests in Australia, paid SUS2.489 under the counter for a dinner welcoming him to New York? Is the Prime Minister aware that an Alcoa spokesman at the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters has confirmed the payments for the dinner and reception? Is the Prime Minister aware that the disclosure followed an investigation into the practice of big business concerns paying for civic welcomes to overseas visitors in New York? Does the Prime Minister approve this practice of duchessing Australian Ministers and Ministers of other countries by American tycoons?
– I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition chose to couch his question in terms which imply some son of irregularity in the arrangements that were made for the dinner I attended.
– Is this the regular thing as far as the right honorable gentleman is concerned?
– 1 certainly was not aware of the fact if it was, and 1 doubt whether the honorable gentleman was either.
– This is not a reflection on :he right honorable gentleman.
– I am glad the honorable gentleman now concedes that because-
– The Prime Minister knows very well I did not reflect on him.
– The way in which the question opened up and developed, I thought, lent itself to that interpretation and I just wanted to have this matter clear. From where I stand what occurred was this: I was given to understand that the Mayor of New York, Mayor Lindsay, had very courteously and graciously invited my wife and myself to be official guests of the mayoralty and his colleagues in New York at an official function which was held in the Metropolitan Gallery of Art. Although, in a very crowded programme, it was not easy for me to attend such a function, I thought it fitted appropriately into the- general desire and policy of this Government to build as strongly as we can friendly and cordial relations with the people of the United States. How the Mayor financed his hospitality is not, I would hope, a matter with which I have to concern myself. So far as I was concerned, it was a very delightful function held in this most impressive surrounding. I saw some very highly reputable and respected people around me - fellow guests - to whom I was introduced and with whom I had some very stimulating discussion. The practices of this particular mayoralty, and of others in the United States, are matters for themselves alone.
– This is an after dinner speech.
– If this is an after dinner speech, let me say that the speech I made at the function was rather shorter than the explanation which has been required of me by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a recent report attributing to the honorable member for Wills an assertion that Australian troops, by their presence in South Vietnam, are “ slowly wearing away the goodwill image of Australia in the eyes of Asians “? Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether, at the recently concluded Prime Ministers’ Conference in London, some of the Asian delegates made public statements tending to give the lie to that assertion in as much as they expressed appreciation that Australia is showing such an interest and playing such an active part in Asian affairs?
– I would not be free to quote in any direct or specific terms what was said inside the conference chamber, but there was a practice approved at the conference of a regular Press briefing after the sessions. The heads of delegations were given to understand that they would be free to express publicly outside the conference the views which they had been putting on behalf of their own country, provided that they did not purport to quote what others had said. To the best of my knowledge there were instances in which some representatives of Asian countries expressed appreciation for the assistance which was being given by Australia and by other countries in combating Communist incursion into South East Asia.
But if the honorable gentleman wants confirmation that Australia’s participation in South Vietnam has not incurred any hostility from it or from the great majority of Asian and South East Asian countries, I would refer to the latest developments in which the Asian and Pacific Council Organisation, consisting of nine countries, welcomed Australia and New Zealand to its membership. Of course, the conference which is now being summoned in Manila of countries including Australia and New Zealand reflects again the appreciation of those countries which are closer to the threat which has developed and which welcome very warmly the support which Australia and New Zealand are able to bring.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. In view of complaints still being recorded in the Press concerning delays in mail deliveries to the troops in Vietnam, I ask: Is it possible for the Royal Australian Air Force to organise a shuttle service between Singapore and Saigon as several commercial flights from Australia pass through Singapore daily? Has the R.A.A.F. enough aircraft for this purpose? If not, could one be obtained? In the meantime, to help out, could one of the V.I.P. aircraft be spared, if necessary?
– I am sure that although the honorable member is most interested in the subject, he is aware that the question of getting mail to the forces in Vietnam is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for the Army, who has just made a full report to the House on this subject. He has announced the measures that are now being taken to ensure that the mail gets up there as rapidly as possible. I do not feel that at the moment any further action is required
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that there is a very big buildup of applications for patent rights which were lodged in some cases up to as long as three or four years ago, and which have not yet been dealt with? As this is delaying use by the public of many inventions which I understand are of great importance, can the Minister take action to speed up consideration of these deferred applications?
– It is true that there is a very substantial buildup of applications for patents which have not yet been examined. This experience is not confined to Australia but indeed is worldwide. There has been a very big buildup of applications all over the world. I think the honorable gentlemen does not put the matter correctly when he says that the public is being denied the right to the use of inventions. The person making the application can certainly use the invention. What is denied to the public is the opportunity to look at the published description of the patent. I am hoping that before the House rises I will be able to make a statement to it indicating the steps which I propose should be taken in order to relieve the load upon the Patent Office staff in the examination of these applications. I believe that what we propose will receive very wide support. I think it will have the effect of reducing very substantially the time which elapses before the examination of the patent application. The proposal is now being considered by the Cabinet and as soon as this consideration is concluded I hope to make the statement I have foreshadowed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is he aware that last month one of the leading vegetable processors in Tasmania attempted to reduce the acreage of green peas by about 900 acres? Is he aware that the growers concerned sought legal advice and found that the contracts they had signed earlier this year were valid and binding, although some growers did reduce their acreage voluntarily? Finally, has the Minister been acquainted with the fact that the tonnage for carrots has also been reduced recently in Tasmania?
– I should be glad if the honorable member would furnish me with particulars of this matter. I want no politics to enter into this but simply to know the facts and to concern myself with the well-being of the industry and of the growers. I cited some figures in the House yesterday which were given to me by my colleague, the Minister for Supply, who as a Tasmanian had concerned himself with the matter. He told me that one processing company in Tasmania had made it a practice to contract for a quantity or an acreage - I forget which it was - which might normally, result in a volume of production in excess of the processor’s requirements. This I took to be a contingency against seasonal circumstances. I was also told that this one company had this year decided to tailor its contracts to its actual requirements rather than to something in excess of its requirements. I do not vouch for this but merely recount what I have been told. If the honorable member will furnish me with the particulars I will be very glad to examine the position, free of any political considerations and with the interests of the industry in mind.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is there a proposal for the British and Australian Governments jointly to provide a 150-inch reflector for use in Australia in a bid to retain our young doctors of philosophy in astronomy in this country and to satisfy the demands of radio astronomers at Parkes, Sydney and Hoskinstown? Have financial, administrative and technical proposals yet been submitted to the United Kingdom Government by the Royal Society and to the Australian Government by the Australian Academy of Science? What is the latest position regarding this joint venture?.
– I fortified myself wilh some authoritative information on this matter. 1 can tell the House that the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Society have each presented to their respective Governments a proposal prepared jointly by them for the erection of a large optical telescope in Australia. There has also been an approach from the University of California seeking a partnership with the Australian National University in such a venture. There is no doubt that Australia is in a unique position in optical astronomy not only because of our geographical position but also because of the high standard of our optical and radio astronomers and our proven technological capacity. Officials and scientists have been discussing technical questions such as the choice of site and design and construction arrangements with the other interested parties but as yet the Government itself has not taken any policy decisions. The total construction costs associated with the provision of the telescope would be about $10 million.
-r-My question is to the right honorable the Prime Minister. A couple of years ago I asked his predecessor whether the Government was acting to deter the South African Embassy from sending to Australian newspapers letters in defence of the policies of apartheid over names and addresses which do not appear in the telephone directories or on the electoral rolls. His predecessor said he would be glad to have that charge investigated. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether his attention has been drawn to the allegation made by the newly selected candidate for his party for the electorate of Warringah at next month’s election, that in the course of the preselection campaign, in an attempt to damage this candidate, a document was circulated bearing every mark of having emanated from the South African security police. I want to assure honorable members that the learned gentleman who is the candidate holds this view. I also would think, from the fact that quotations appear at length in the Liberal organ, the “ Daily Telegraph “, and subsequent letters to its editor bear upon it, that this is an authentic report. In any event, I can verify that the learned gentleman who is the candidate holds this view. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will investigate this charge, made by the learned gentleman who has been selected as the candidate for his party for the electorate of Warringah, that a document from the South African security police has been made available for political purposes in this country.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, at the commencement of his question, referred to some assurance which my predecessor had given. I have not come in contact with this matter but I shall see what information I can secure for him following the earlier inquiry addressed to Sir Robert Menzies. None of the statements by the selected Liberal Party candidate for Warringah has so far come under my notice. I must confess I have been rather more busily engaged in reading the somewhat more exciting statements which have been published by endorsed Labour candidates for the next election.
– Will the right honorable gentleman investigate this matter?
– I will study the question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. By way of background information I refer to the Bureau of Meteorology radar station on top of the Commonwealth Building in Sydney which frequently signals warnings to Mascot airport of impending dangerous storms. Is it correct that two blind spots have occurred in this radar system because of the construction of the Australia Square project and the
New South Wales Government office building? If this is true, what arrangements are in hand to overcome this difficulty?
– It is true that two blind spots have developed in our radar system which operates on top of the Commonwealth Offices in Sydney. This, as the honorable member said, is due to the New South Wales State Offices and the Australia Square tower. But I can assure the honorable member that there is no blind spot in our organisation. We have a programme under way at the moment to construct at Mascot airport a new meteorology office, where we hope to install one of the most modern radar units in the world. I am pleased to say that I took the first of these machines over last Monday from Electronic Industries Ltd., in Melbourne. We hope to have a similar unit fitted at Mascot possibly about November or December this year. This unit has been obtained as a result of evidence given at the inquiry into the crash that took place at Botany Bay. It was quite clear from that inquiry that there was insufficient knowledge of air turbulence around the airport. A system was devised by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Bureau of Meteorology conjointly, known as Jacmas - Joint Approach Control and Meteorological Advisory Service - to try to make conditions safe for aircraft approaching and departing from Mascot. I can assure the honorable gentleman that this matter is well in hand and that we hope to be giving Sydney better forecasts in the future.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the recently issued report of the Commissioner of Taxation discloses a progressive continuance of wilful and knowledgeable frauds by wealthy people upon the Taxation Branch, will some consideration be given to imposing penalties of a more deterrent nature, as is frequently done in other types of fraud? I might add that not one elector of Darebin is in the list of those who have been caught.
– We on this side of the House believe in the complete independence of the Commissioner of Taxation. We believe that he should administer the law of the land and that no-one should interfere with his right to operate under the law. What the honorable gentleman is obviously suggesting is that there should be political interference. That would be intolerable to us. The first thing to be said is that these people have been penalised under the law and, where it was considered necessary by the Commissioner, have been required to pay penalty amounts. Their names have also been made public in the report of the Commissioner. As I see the position, this is in conformity with the law of the land and I personally do not intend to take further action.
– I ask a question supplementary to that asked a moment ago by the Leader of the Opposition about a certain dinner in New York. It is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman read the biography of that very distinguished Indian statesman, Mr. Nehru, by the noted Australian diplomat, Mr. W. R. Crocker, and does he recall the account in that book of Mr. Nehru’s embarrassment when he discovered that his ticker tape welcome in New York was organised by a commercial undertaking trading under the style and title of “Welcomes Inc.”? Is it a fact that the Americans have a more practical and direct approach to many matters that we would handle rather differently?
– There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Americans are most hospitable people. They like to make visitors to their shores feel welcome and at home with them. How they go about it is their business, not ours.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has any decision yet been made on the provision of an airstrip on Lord Howe Island? If so, when is work expected to start on the construction of this vital facility?
– The present service is being provided to Lord Howe Island by flying boats, as the honorable member knows, but I believe that the life of this kind of service is limited. I am not quite sure for how long it will be continued. It has therefore become important for a decision to be made in relation to airport facilities on the island. However, as I think the honorable member knows, this is a matter for the Government of New South Wales. I understand that some reference was made to it fairly recently. 1 shall see whether I can obtain some further information and let the honorable member know.
– 1 ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Can he inform the House whether the containers used by the Australian National Line vary in size from the containers used by overseas shipping lines? Will the Minister ensure that any ships constructed for containers, and also the containers themselves, are built to a size conforming to standards set by the common users of containers on international lines?
– I think it is correct to say that there is a difference between the sizes of the containers used. The containers used by the Australian National Line are 16 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 ft. The size commonly settled as a unit internationally is 20 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 ft. However, I point out to the honorable gentleman that the Australian National Line was first in this business. Considerable capital expenditure on reconstruction would be involved in changing the roll on roll off ships and the bulk vessel of Associated Steamships Pty. Ltd. The matter is being looked at. I agree with the honorable member that it is highly desirable that containers be completely interchangeable.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Eighty-fourth Report - Expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund - Financial Year 1965-66.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This report relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the financial year 1965-66 and, as I indicated on Tuesday, covers the remaining 20 items which were examined in a combined inquiry which related also to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer. Over the years, your Committee has paid particular attention to the estimates and related expenditure of the various departments, since a poor standard of estimating has wide ramifications. One feature of the evidence submitted in the present inquiry to which your Committee desires to draw particular attention is that relating to the failure of some departments to seek out their creditors. Your Committee believes that where departments find that accounts for payment are not being rendered promptly by their creditors and, as a result, funds provided to meet such expenses are likely to remain unspent, those departments have a direct responsibility to ensure that they take early positive action in order that such accounts are obtained for settlement. Allied to this, your Committee would emphasise the need for departments to maintain their Liabilities Registers in an efficient manner, for, without the protection of this device, the financial position of departments becomes obscured, to the detriment of sound financial management. From these observations it follows that any department which charges other departments for the services it renders has a clear responsibility to ensure that it submits accounts for payment to debtor departments as soon as possible after the provision of the service concerned. Where the service provided is of a continuous nature, the department rendering the service should, in your Committee’s view, arrange for the submission of accounts at such intervals as will ensure that debtor departments are given the opportunity to effect regular payments. I commend the report to honorable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, leave be granted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during the sittings of the House of Representatives on Friday, Nth October 1966.
By way of explanation, I wish to say that the Public Works Committee has arranged to make an inspection and conduct public hearings tomorrow relating to the proposed construction of a migrant hostel at Springvale, in Victoria. The terms of the Public Works Committee Act prevent the Committee from meeting during the sittings of either House unless the approval of that House is obtained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I wish to make a brief statement to provide the factual basis of the question that I directed to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) yesterday. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) stated yesterday in this House - this was reported in the Press - that he would not believe a word that I said. In parliamentary language, he called me a liar. In my question, I stated that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) proposed two things - to withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam and to send civilian workers to that country. The honorable member rose and challenged me to substantiate the first of those statements. My assertion was based on matters of fact for which I vouch to the House. 1 vouch that the honorable member for Werriwa is at present Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I vouch that as such he is heir apparent to the leadership of the alternative government of Australia. I vouch that the Opposition has just pledged itself to withdraw all Australian troops from Vietnam if it gets into office at the coming general election. Thus, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is proposing to the nation that it elect him and his party to office on the understanding that they intend to withdraw all our troops from Vietnam.
Secondly, in a television interview I saw and heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition make a statement, trying to avoid a precise form of words on this matter, but clearly conveying to viewers, first, that national servicemen would be withdrawn speedily and, secondly, that Regular Army troops would be withdrawn as their tour of duty was completed. If 1 am wrong and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not agree with his leader and his party, and if that was not the intention behind his choice of words on television, let him so assert to the House and I shall withdraw my imputation. Meanwhile, I believe that it is not I but the honorable gentleman who will have difficulty in establishing credence with the nation.
– by leave - lt is no wonder that the honorable gentleman has been unfrocked.
Mr. SPEAKER__ Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The term that he has just used is unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I rise to order, Sir.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I withdraw the statement and say that I was misled by the honorable gentleman’s long ago having given up the divine for the divining rod.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. 1 direct attention to the fact that not only today but also at question time yesterday-
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order if he proceeds on that line. There is no substance in his point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has withdrawn the remark that he made.
- Mr. Speaker, earlier today I said that I had no objection to the tabling in the Parliament of the complete text of the telecast which I made some weeks ago in the programme “ Fighting Words “. In fact, I invited the tabling of the complete text of the telecast. I would be quite happy to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “. This programme was shown on both Channel Seven in Sydney and Channel Seven in Melbourne. The subject of the telecast was civilian aid in Vietnam. It is quite clear that what I said in the Melbourne telecast was inaccurately reported by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. On the following morning the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ expressed regret for the inaccuracy of its report. On this matter the correct statement appeared in the “ Courier-Mail “. This was in answer to a question-
– I rise to order. The honorable gentleman’s remarks are irrelevant in that he has referred-
– Order! I point out to the House that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is enjoying the same right as was enjoyed by the honorable member for Evans. The Deputy Leader has leave to make a statement. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I am aware of the danger than can arise for men. in public life where summaries of what they have said in other countries or in other media appear in newspapers. For this reason, on my recent visit to Vietnam when I gave a Press conference to Reuters I asked for the complete text of the cable to Australia to be given to me. It was, and I have it. At the airport when I was leaving I gave another Press conference. Our Embassy offered to tape it for me. I accepted the offer. The Embassy kept one spool for itself, which was sent to the Department of External Affairs in Canberra, which in turn has made a copy and given it to me. The Embassy gave another spool to me, which I had transcribed in Manila.
In Australia I do not arrange for my telecasts to be taped. Some government departments, however, do tape my telecasts. This will appear from the proceedings of Parliament in 1960 during the debate on the Crimes Bill and on the legislation dealing with the tapping of telephones. It is quite clear that if any honorable member really wants to know what I have said at a Press conference overseas or in a telecast in Australia, this information is available. Where the matters are in my possession I am prepared to table them in the Parliament or incorporate them in “ Hansard “. Where they are in the possession of government departments I will certainly give my leave for them to be tabled in the Library or incorporated in “ Hansard “.
This is about the fifth occasion on which reference has been made, during question time or in personal explanations afterwards, to a telecast which was inaccurately reported in one newspaper. The subject of the telecast was civilian aid in Vietnam. There has been a constant effort by honorable gentlemen opposite to cover up the fact that this year’s Budget has reduced appropriations for refugee relief and for economic rehabilitation in Vietnam. Efforts have even been made to suggest that civilian workers there are a waste of money and a nuisance. If any Minister wants a debate with me on television regarding our plans if we are elected to government or his party’s plans if the Government is re-elected concerning the military aspects - the only substantial commitment we have at the moment - I am very happy to have it. But as honorable members know, for years the Australian Broadcasting Commission has followed the practice of preserving a balance in “ Four Corners “ and other programmes. When an approach has been made to the Leader or Deputy Leader or other front bench spokesmen of my party to appear on programmes dealing with controversial subjects which are uncomfortable for the Government, Ministers have refused to appear and the subject has therefore been dropped. Accordingly the A.B.C. is denied to Labour leaders because Ministers refuse to debate matters relating to civilian or military commitments in Vietnam or in South East Asia in general. The only opportunities available to us are those made available by the commercial stations.
I was told by the producers that a Minister was asked to participate on this very subject, but no Minister was ready to appear. On any aspect of our commitment in Vietnam I am prepared to appear at a public meeting, in a radio discussion or in a telecast with corresponding members of the present Government parties. I will debate with Ministers on this subject. I cannot be expected to debate with members who do not have the confidence of the Prime Minister sufficiently to be put into a ministry, inner or outer, but I will debate with Ministers on this subject. I would be very happy if we could have the opportunity to have a full debate on all aspects in which Australia can and should be committed in our neighbouring countries. I resist the suggestion that the military commitment is the only one we can or should make; that it is the only one we should be encouraging our great and powerful allies to make. I believe there will be security in our part of the world only when Australia itself makes and encourages its allies and associates to make a full and comprehensive commitment-
– I rise to order. The honorable member is debating a matter that is quite outside the scope of the subject raised by the honorable member for Evans.
– Order! I point out that the House extends a very sacred privilege to all honorable members. Any one honorable member may object to another honorable member making a statement by leave. No honorable member objected to the honorable member for Evans making a statement and no honorable member objected to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition making a statement. The matter is now as wide as the skies as far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is concerned.
– I rise to order. Would it be too much to ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to explain the discrepancies between his present-
– Order! There is no substance in the point taken.
– 1 appreciate the opportunity that the House has given me, as it gave to the man who made the unsubstantiated allegation yesterday, to make explanations to the House and to people who follow the proceedings of the House. I repeat that I would be very happy if the Prime Minister and the Government were to lift the ban which has been placed on Ministers taking part in A.B.C. debates on this subject and the restriction that has been placed on them taking part in commercial telecasts on this subject. I will debate this matter with any member of the Government who can bind the Government, as I have to bind the Labour Party when I appear on this medium.
I repeat that I would welcome any opportunity to put to the Australian public at a public meeting, on radio or on television, in confrontation with any Minister, the case for Australia making a comprehensive contribution and urging its allies and associates to make a similarly comprehensive contribution in all the terms listed, for instance, by the South East Asia Treaty Organisation - military, economic, social, political and technical - not only in Vietnam but also in Indonesia and all the other countries with whose future we must be concerned.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been.
– I point out to honorable members that they have certain rights in making a personal explanation. There has been a tendency to exceed those rights. If the honorable member for Evans wants to make a personal explanation, he may deal only with the misrepresentation. He must confine himself to that point and cannot engage in any wider debate.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who substituted for his words that I had been unfrocked the claim that I had foresaken the divine for the divining rod, implying that I am no longer a minister of the Presbyterian Church. I am a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in full standing. I have been regularly appointed to various offices and responsibilities in the Church by the General Assembly in recent years including this year, 1966. I have in this year been elected an elder of my own parish church and I have been elected to the council of the school of which the Deputy Leader’s sister is principal. These facts are known to him and he is simply smearing.
– I ask leave of the House to make a very brief statement.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition members. - No.
– The honorable member will resume his seat; leave is not granted.
– What is it he wishes to speak about?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, so that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) may reconsider his attitude, may I say that I want to reply very briefly and very specifically to the statement of my honorable and learned friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), to the effect that Ministers of the Crown have refused to appear against him in debate on commercial channels.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he has the right to state briefly the subject matter on which he is seeking leave to make a statement; but he cannot use or abuse the forms of the House to debate the substance of the matter.
– I am not seeking to do so. I have delineated the subject matter and I seek leave to make a statement on that subject.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I ask for leave of the House to say about three sentences to correct something said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
– The Minister seeks leave to make a correction. Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– IfI understood the Deputy Leader of the Opposition correctly, he said that no Ministers of the Government had debated with him the problem of Vietnam and our commitments there.
– No, I did not say that.
– The Deputy Leader seems to be changing his ground. This was the impression that he gave. All I wanted to say was that I have twice debated this matter with him. One occasion was on a programme that lasted for two hours called “The White Paper on Conscription “. It was recorded in Sydney. The other occasion was more recent. It was on a programme that was telecast live on Channel 0 in Melbourne and it lasted for an hour. The impression that the honorable member deliberately sought to give is not correct.
– Mr. Speaker, I have been misrepresented.
– Order! If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wishes to make a personal explanation I suggest that he confine his remarks to the misrepresentation and not continue the debate that has arisen. In the interests of the House and all honorable members, I say that the sooner we get on with the business of the House the better.
– I said that there was a ban on Ministers appearing on television programmes on stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that there were restrictions on Ministers appearing on commercial television. There have been two occasions on which a Minister has debated this subject with me on commercial television. On each occasion the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) was the best that was available from the Ministry.
– Mr. Speaker, to clear up the matter finally, I suggest the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) make another application for leave to make a statement.
– The honorable member for Parkes is given an opportunity to seek leave to make a statement.
– I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for his solicitude. I do not want leave–
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat if he does not want leave.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Canned Fruits Export Charges Act 1926-1965 imposes charges on certain varieties of canned fruits exported for the purpose of providing funds for the administration and activities of the Australian Canned Fruits Board. The purpose of this Bill is three-fold. First, in order to simplify the present requirement that the exporter pay the charge on or before the entry of the canned fruit for export, the proposed amendment will permit payment covering all exports in each month to be made by one remittance within thirty days after the expiration of the month of export. This is designed to save administrative costs for both the exporter and the collecting authorities by replacing a requirement which demands a series of payments of charge as each shipment is decided on by one which permits a single transaction after all shipments for the month have been made.
Secondly, it is proposed to vary the method of expression of the maximum rate of charge that the Act imposes. The present maximum rate of change was imposed in 1965 at one-fourth of a penny per thirty ounces of canned fruit exported. With the conversion to decimal currency, the rate became two-tenths of a cent per thirty ounces. An operative rate less than this maximum may be and is prescribed by regulations under the Act, and neither the maximum rate nor the operative rate as now expressed lend themselves to application to the export cartons most in use without involving calculations to decimal places of a cent. The expression of the rate as in the Schedule to the Bill will mean that for almost all the export cartons now in use the charge per carton will be an exact number of cents without decimal places. The new form of expression does result in a nominal rise in the maximum rate, but this would easily be outweighed by the administrative advantages accruing from the simpler calculations. Furthermore, the maximum rate does not apply while the regulations prescribe the lower operative rate.
Finally, the present method of expression of the rate of charge as two-tenths of a cent per thirty ounces has led to differing interpretations. The expression can be variously interpreted for example as relating to volume fill of the can or to its actual net contents. The new form of expression of the rate and the definition of “ pack “ now to be included will eliminate this ambiguity. The proposed amendments have the support of the industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairhall, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that in my statement made on 29th September 1966 I foreshadowed the Government’s intention to introduce legislation to enable national serviceman to contest Federal elections. This Bill gives effect to the Government’s intention and will enable a national serviceman who wishes to stand as a candidate at Federal parlimentary elections to be discharged - or in the case of a national service officer to be transferred to the Regular Army Reserve - if the Military Board is satisfied that he intends to become a candidate. This legislation is necessary because section 44 of the Constitution provides that any person who holds an office of profit tinder the Crown shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Legal opinion is that this disqualification applies to servicemen serving on a full time basis. Existing legislation enables members of the permanent forces other than national servicemen to be discharged for the purpose of contesting elections but the provisions of the National Service Act do not permit national servicemen to be discharged for this purpose.
The Bill provides that a national serviceman who has been discharged to contest an election can be required to complete his period of national service if he does not nominate or if he fails to be elected. Appropriate provisions are made in relation to a national service officer who is unsuccessful or does not nominate. He is required to make application for transfer back to the Regular Army Supplement and if he does not make such an application his appointment as an officer may be terminated. In this case he will be liable to complete his period of service as a national serviceman in the ranks. Under the Bill national servicemen or national service officers discharged or transferred to the Reserve to enable them to contest elections will be entitled to travel at public expense to their former places of residence or to some other place agreed upon with the Military Board. Where a national serviceman is discharged he acquires rights of reinstatement in employment under the Defence (Re-Establishments) Act 1965. Provision is made in the Bill for the preservation of these rights in the event of his being called upon to complete his period of national service. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1966-67. In Committee.
Consideration resumed from 12th October (vide page 1682).
Total proposed expenditure, $875,747,000, of which $300,000,000 is chargeable to Loan Fund.
Department of Defence.
Proposed.expenditure, $ 1 7,765,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed expenditure, $193,673,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed expenditure, $328,498,000.
Department of Air.
Proposed expanditure, $253,739,000.
Department of Supply.
Proposed expenditure, $78,052,000.
Proposed expenditure, $3,747,000.
.- The excellent Defence Report 1966 is a credit to those responsible for producing it, inducing the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall). On a cursory examination it would appear to be a complete catalogue of our defence ability, but on closer examination it appears to be not so much a list of defence stores as of what one might call a sample room. Looking at the illustrations in it we could imagine that we have a complete store of up to date military equipment, including naval and Air Force equipment, but when we look at the figures we might be rather surprised to notice that the quantities available are totally inadequate to the task that could be imposed on our defence organisation. It is worth noting that our Defence Forces at the moment total 122,188, some 20,000-odd fewer than in 1954. The number of men has dropped while the annual expenditure has increased from $396 million to $1,000 million.
One might think that this publication was aimed, in its apparent completeness, at embarrassing members of the espionage union, if there is such an institution. One would imagine from this publication that we have everything. Of course, there are secrets, and the most obvious secret is: Where does the money go? It is proposed that our expenditure on defence should be some $600 million more than in I960 while at the same time we have some 20,000 fewer men. Is it a fact that in the last six years the cost of equipment has risen by this amount? What quantity of equipment do we have? I have been reliably informed that Citizen Military Forces camps in Victoria have been postponed or abandoned because some of the equipment has been transferred to Shoalwater Bay in Queensland for exercise Barra Winga. Apparently we have not sufficient equipment to carry out a major exercise in one part of the country and,, at the same time, carry out the normal training of C.M.F. personnel in another part of the country.
We are told that the complexity and sophistication of equipment involves extensive training. The word “ sophistication “ as applied to defence equipment is rather intriguing. A “ sophist “ as I learned at school - unless they have changed this, too, since my school days - is an insidious reasoner, “ sophism “ is a fallacious argument, “ sophisticate “ is usually taken to mean “ adulterate “ or “ corrupt “, and “ sophistication” is merely a quibble. It is rather difficult to see how this word has been twisted around to mean something up to date and something desirable, yet here we have it. There is no doubt that whatever term we apply to it. the complications attached to modern military equipment are such that we cannot train people overnight in its use.
Quantity is absolutely essential to effective defence. Whether we buy something off the shelf in another country or whether we produce it in Australia ourselves, this is a very pertinent point. We must have sufficient equipment. Even if my very good friend, the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) were able to convince me that his Fill bomber is a good aeroplane, I would be hopelessly at odds with him that 24 of them constitute an air force, or constitute that portion of an air force for whose purposes these bombers are required. This is perfectly obvious to everyone who reads this publication. No doubt some of the equipment is excellent, but what of the quantity? There is no doubt that one cannot cast any aspersions on the personnel or the people responsible for organising these things. No doubt they do their very best.
– And they get votes too.
– Yes. Another of my good friends, the Minister for the Navy, has interjected. My quarrel is not with the quality, my quarrel is with the quantity. This must lead, in many cases, to a quarrel about the price. I am not satisfied that these prices could not be beaten in this country and, in conversation with people who are engaged in the manufacture of this type of equipment - or could be so engaged, or say they could be so engaged - I have been assured that they could beat the present prices.
If we are to defend this country adequately two things are essential. First, the strength of the defence forces must be adequate to any task with which they may be confronted, and secondly, our logistics organisation must be such that we can supply our defence forces from inside our own economic and industrial structure with all the replacements that may be required to keep the equipment in operation. It :een,: to me to be rather foolish to rely upon anyone else to supply these things in case of emergency. We had this demonstrated very clearly in the matter of the Karl Gustav missile launcher. This, no doubt, is a very good item and I would not doubt for a moment that its selection was well warranted, but the point is that we have become engaged in this incident, shall we say, in Vietnam and, irrespective of our attitude to this incident, the fact remains that the nation supplying the projectile objects to the war and is reported in the Press as saying that it will not supply the projectile. Here we are, engaged in a minor war, if we can call it that, relying upon an item to be supplied by another nation and finding that the supply has been cut off or could be cut off. This could not occur, of course, if the item were entirely produced domestically.
Who will say that this position cannot arise again? In the case of the Mirgae aircraft, not entirely produced in this country, we are to some extent reliant upon France for certain supplies. Who will guarantee to this House and to this country that in an emergency the Government of France will not say: “ We disagree with this military activity. You cannot have the parts “? Is the Government prepared to say that it already has parts in sufficient quantity to maintain these aircraft through any military activity in which we may become engaged? I think that is a fair question. The same remarks apply to the three destroyers constructed abroad, equipped abroad and the crews for which very largely were trained abroad. We are faced with this very same problem. Can anyone guarantee that the spares will be forthcoming and that we will be able to maintain these ships in fighting trim? What happens if the United States is engaged elsewhere and is unable or unwilling to supply them? America herself has ships of this class.
The national security of this country depends upon it being able to sustain its own defence forces. There can be no doubt about that. The economy of this country depends on its citizens being given the opportunity of the employment involved in the production of these items. We have the industry and we have the ability. It has been stated by honorable members on the Government side on numerous occasions that the cost would not be too great, yet the Government commits itself to purchase equipment of which it does not know the cost when it places the order, so how can it maintain its attitude that the cost abroad is less than it would be in Australia? The Government does not yet know the cost of the Fill aircraft. We are told it will be $9 million or $10 million. I will not argue that we can tool up here and produce these planes but remember - this we have been reminded about continuously - that we have to pay for the experimental activity which has taken place in the United States to produce this aircraft. We are paying our share of that, and that is what has escalated the price to nearly $10 million each.
It is useless to argue that we cannot produce some of these things, that a country of the population of Australia cannot establish and sustain this type of industry when we have before us the example of Sweden which does it yet has only two thirds of the population of Australia, a little over 8 million people. Sweden produces aircraft of the nature of the Mirage. In fact, she is producing 600 for her own defence. We are purchasing 120. The Government’s argument cannot be sustained. When we think of other types of military equipment we have only to look at Switzerland. That country which has less than half our population not only can but does produce her own military equipment at a satisfactory price.
Of course, it is said that if you want to do this you have to submit to additional taxation to pay for it. We are submitting to additional taxation to pay for other people’s experiments. When we order these items off the drawing board we take the risk that they may not be successful. It seems to me and to my colleagues on this side of the chamber that the sensible and essential thing to do in relation to defence - this is essential more than any other factor in our national economy - is to establish and maintain our own defence industry. This must be done by the Government. We will not then have to rely on the capriciousness of private enterprise abroad which experience has shown cannot even be controlled by its own government. Legal action is being taken in America at present against electronic companies for overcharging and for straight out fraud. Yet we order aircraft from America without knowing the price.
– Please do not repeat this.
– This has been reported in the newspapers.
– And you believe it.
– We have been told at some length what newspapers will do. Nevertheless, if it is not true the Government should say so.
– The honorable member was told last year and also given the information in writing.
– All the Government did last year when I pressed it on this aspect was to inform me that it had appointed the United States Navy as its agent. It admitted that we had no control whatever over the accounting that went into these items. The only interest we have in what goes on is that we pay the bill. I conclude by urging the Government to give more and more of its defence orders to Australian industry to build up the relevant industries, to provide employment and, above all, to give the nation a much more secure framework for defence. If we ever need defence industries they must be complete and self reliant. We hope that we do not need them but we say that if we do we must ensure that they will be completely Australian with Australian personnel and equipment and with every nut and bolt manufactured right here in this Commonwealth.
.- Mr. Chairman - [Quorum formed]. In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Defence I desire to continue along the lines on which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) finished, that is, the need for Australian manufacturers to obtain a better share of the manufacture of our defence needs. In recent times we have heard complaints from manufacturers’ representatives that the Department of Defence purchasers have overlooked the possibility of obtaining our needs from Australian manufacturers but have developed what could almost be called a habit of buying the equipment from America without much concern about whether the goods could have been manufactured in Australia. I believe we have reached the stage where the Government should consider setting up a committee, perhaps composed of officers of the Department of Defence and, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, together with certain manufacturers’ representatives, to begin research and planning to supply our defence needs. We should not be waiting until there is an urgent call for defence equipment.
Even if Australian industry is not taking the initiative in supplying our defence requirements, the Government should be seeking out industries which can supply many of our needs. One industry which comes immediately to mind is the motor industry which in recent times has gone through a quite lean period in which its full productive resources have not been utilised. During the war years the motor industry played a major part in supplying our defence needs. In our hour of need that industry switched to defence production. One could almost say the change was made overnight. Almost all vehicle manufacturers established aircraft annexes at their factories. They proved that Australian manufacturers and Australian tradesmen and workmen could supply the country with its needs. I believe that we have not made full use of our resources. We should have a twofold objective. We should be ensuring that Australian industry is kept at its maximum rate of production and that there is no lag. For example, if the motor industry is feeling the pinch the Government, in its own interests and in the interests of the Australian people, should see what work the industry can be given to supply our needs. I feel sure that these companies must be able to supply much of our defence equipment. The same could be said of the electronic industry to which reference has already been made. A real shakeup is needed. 1 appreciate that the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) has recently attempted to start things moving much more smoothly and is trying to overcome some problems in supplying our defence requirements. Nevertheless, I believe we should begin to plan and to ascertain what industry can do in this field. Whether industry is doing its job or not, let the Government take the initiative and plan for the future. As has been said many times, in our hour of need the greatest asset is in being able to purchase as near as possible to home. We should try to build up so far as possible the Australian content of our defence equipment. I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia that it is not possible to buy much of the equipment in Australia, but I believe that we could be doing much more to obtain our defence needs from Australian industry. This would also have the effect of keeping the Australian economy running at a better level than it is at the present time.
I now propose to mention a matter that has become an issue in Australia. I refer to the training of school cadets and the methods that are now used. Rear-Admiral Becher was quoted in this morning’s Press as saying that school cadets no longer divide into goodies and baddies in their training; they are now the Australians versus the Vietcong. By commenting on whether this is a good or bad practice this naval officer has joined in the political fray and has entered a discussion on political affairs. By stating that we have discarded the goodies and the baddies in favour of Australians versus Vietcong in cadet training, he must be prepared to take whatever criticism might come in the political field. Clearly the campaign to indoctrinate schoolboy cadets on a political issue is completely wrong. It is apparent that the Government is permeating this idea right through the defence forces. What is the objective? Why must schoolboys be trained to fight? What is the objective in telling them that they are going into a search and destroy operation in which the enemy is the Vietcong? Why is the enemy being dressed up in imitation Vietcong uniforms? What would be wrong in calling a project a search and destroy operation against the enemy? Why refer to that enemy as the Vietcong? Why are the school cadets being trained to shoot down and kill Vietcong who try to escape while under interrogation?
The Government is brainwashing these lads on a political issue and is doing exactly the same as is done in Communist countries. The Government is adopting Communist techniques. Probably it is doing so because it is well aware, as has been stated by Air Vice-Marshal Ky of Vietnam, that the war in Vietnam could well continue for 20 years or more and that many boys who are yet unborn will be fighting in Vietnam. I suppose the Government visualises that the schoolboys who are today training in their cadet units will be, if this Government remains in office, in a matter of a few years - perhaps within a year or in no more than four or five years - fighting in Vietnam. But does the Government have to be so low that it tries to capture their minds so that they see the Vietcong as the great enemy? Let them mature. Let them decide for themselves on this great issue of our involvement in Vietnam. The Government knows that the people of Australia are divided on this issue. They are almost equally divided on the question whether the Government should be conscripting national service boys to fight in Vietnam. But the Government is tackling this problem by attempting to get inside the minds of schoolboys.
The decision to involve Australia in the Vietnam conflict was a political one. It was not taken on the advice of military advisers; it was a political decision of the Menzies and Holt Governments, and now the Government is forcing its propaganda through the officers of the Services right down to the schoolboys of today. 1 deplore this action. There is nothing wrong with the school cadet system. There is nothing wrong with training boys to equip themselves for the future defence of this country if that becomes necessary. But I say it is wrong to train them in the way that they are now being trained, in exercises that are described as being exercises to search for and destroy the Vietcong. Why can they not be exercises simply to search for and destroy the enemy?
In the last few minutes of my time I shall mention the excellent report prepared by the Minister for Defence. Once again he points out that we are involved in South East Asia, in Vietnam and other places, and he mentions Communist China. I repeat what I have said many times previously. It is remarkable that while we are in a fight against Communist China - the country that we are told is going to press down and destroy us - we are selling that country our wheat and our wool; we are supplying it with the wherewithal to equip and feed the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, the people whose mission is to search for and destroy Australian servicemen. There is something seriously wrong with this situation. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said many times, when Liberal Party members talk about China they speak of Communist China, the enemy, the country that is going to come down and destroy us; but when Country Party members talk about China they speak of mainland China, the country that is purchasing so much of our wheat and wool. If China is the enemy of this country then we are acting as traitors by supplying it with the goods that will eventually in a substantial degree go to North Vietnam.
I hope the Government will reconsider its policy of indoctrination of our school cadets. I hope it will set its face against the practice of naming enemies when school cadets are being trained, and that it will adopt a more reasonable approach and have school cadets trained merely to fight the enemy. We should be aiming to build up adequate defence forces in this country. We should be aiming to use to the maximum the resources of our nation, particularly our industrial resources, so that we can manufacture to meet the needs of the nation. We have the industries; we have the tradesmen; we have the technical know-how. We need these things marshalled. We need research projects to be carried out so that we can tackle the necessary tasks and not be dependent entirely on overseas sources. Our best source of supply is Australia itself and we should be in a position to meet any urgent needs that may arise.
.- When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) spoke in this debate he said many things with which L agreed. He also said other things with which I disagreed in respect of detail. When the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) commenced to speak I also was in agreement with much of what he said. 1 realise that perhaps he was unprepared to speak because of a difficulty which may have involved the Whips on both sides. But it became rather obvious that he was unprepared to speak when he got on to the question of cadet training. I do not think the Army lays down, in specifying exercises for cadet training, that the Vietcong should be named as the enemy. From my experience of cadet training corps, the two opposing sides have always been the “ goodies “ and the “ baddies “, and at times when particular incidents of importance to Australia were occurring, the “ baddies “ have always been the ones engaged in hostilities against us.
I think it is wrong to make this a political matter, as some of the newspapers have tried to do, and as some of the members of the Opposition have tried to do. I would like to see the Army absolved from blame in this respect because I am quite sure that all the Army is doing is specifying the training for the type of warfare that Australia is most likely to be involved in on some future occasion. We must realise that our defence area is in South East Asia. There is no point in training for desert warfare or for a skiing campaign such as that carried out in Syria, during the Second World War. The cadets are simply being trained in the type of warfare in which Australia is most likely to be involved.
In speaking about the defence estimates I would like to make my usual comment that we are allotted 15 minutes each to discuss the numerous departments, and one cannot in that time adequately discuss even one department. First let me say that I appreciate very much what the three Services have done since last year. I realise the difficulties they have had to face and I congratulate them all for the magnificent task they have carried out in the expansion of their forces. I congratulate particularly the Army for its handling of the national service intake and the way in which it has made a success of the national service scheme. I think everybody realises that all members of the Army, both officers and other ranks, have had to work overtime and have been under severe strain. I have no criticism at all of the way in which the defence services themselves are carrying out their job. I would like to compliment the 4,500 men in Vietnam. Whatever the political argument in Australia may be, I am sure nobody in this House would deny that the men in Vietnam are doing a magnificent job as ambassadors for this country. They realise that the political decision is not one for them and they accept the fact that their behaviour is establishing a reputation for Australia. That reputation is second to none. I think they are efficient, and from all that I can learn their performance in the field is in the finest traditions of the Australian Army and has rarely been equalled on any previous occasion.
As to the general defence position, I believe that much of our increased expenditure on defence has arisen because in the period between, say, 1955 and 1962 we did not spend enough on defence. We allowed a backlag to develop throughout our whole defence system. I think it should be realised in all fairness that our increased defence expenditure now is to a great extent merely taking up a good deal of the backlag. As a matter of fact I wonder whether we are doing enough at this time. I know that at various times we have had to spend a good deal of money on developing the country and that this caused us to curtail defence expenditure. I know also that our development has had a very important defence content. But I wonder whether we are still not going at too slow a pace to place our forces in a properly balanced state of readiness.
The Government has - and perhaps quite rightly - made much of the fact that defence expenditure has been increased very considerably this year, but I was concerned at a report that the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Holt) said that this increase could not be expected to continue. It is my opinion that it should continue and, indeed, the people will expect it to continue and will expect our defence forces to be brought up to maximum efficiency and readiness. Let us look at the position fairly. The amount actually expended on defence last year was something more than £188 million less than the amount appropriated. This is about the same amount which is now stated to be an increase in defence expenditure for this year. Whether this was because the Services could not spend the money, perhaps could not bring the procurement into that financial year, or whether there was some persuasive pressure put on them not to spend this money, I do not know. But it is something which I think we should keep in balance and in perspective. I do not think we are spending an increase quite as large as that portrayed.
Another point I would like to make In the very brief period available to me, and it is one that concerns me, to a certain extent, is the co-ordination of the three Services in Australia at this time. I do not have the answers to this problem. I know that the United Kingdom has endeavoured to work out a system of integration for advice and decisions affecting the three Services in that area of operation. Whether this has been successful I am not able to assess now. I know that in Canada there has been a reorganisation to introduce integration of the Services. What worries me at the moment in Australia is that we have an Army which, according to all the experts and according to the Defence Report, is organised as a mobile force. This matter has been mentioned throughout statements on the Army for many years - that it will be a force ready to move and easily moved to any area at a moment’s notice. This is fine. This is how the Army’s role was assessed, and I agree with it. But the point is: Have we the necessary aircraft available in the Royal Australian Air Force to move the Army if this should be required at a moment’s notice? I suggest that at this moment we certainly have not.
The R.A.A.F., perhaps on the advice of its experts, has decided that it should concentrate on the fighter and strike aircraft and bomber aircraft, and on the antisubmarine role. But what happens to the mobility of the Army during this period? Perhaps we would be fighting alongside the United States of America. Perhaps the U.S. would be able to provide us with the helicopters and other aircraft necessary to move our Army quickly. But there is a considerable query, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia, that the United States may under certain circumstances not be able to provide those aircraft at the right time. We could find ourselves involved in some area in the Malaysian sphere where the Americans may not be operating. Is our Army not to be able to move in and do the job that it may be called upon to do because the R.A.A.F. has only six or nine helicopters? Most of them may be in Vietnam or somewhere else and our mobility would be impeded.
My next point relates to the Sabre aircraft. The Sabres, I understand, are to be phased out somewhere about 1971 or 1972. I think that the Sabre is the most effective ground support aircraft that is now available in this part of the world or to the allies. It is a good close support aircraft for the Army. What will happen if it goes out of service? Has the Government made any plans as to what close support aircraft will be provided by the R.A.A.F.? I do not think that the Mirage will be able to give this close support to the Army because of the speed at which it flies. I would like to know whether some decisions have been made in respect to this point. Perhaps we could keep on producing the Sabre because it is so effective. I would like to hear some statement from the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) as to whether this point has been taken into account; to hear that we will continue manufacturing Sabres in Australia, because they certainly have a role to play.
I now turn to the Navy. I think the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) announced some weeks ago, that the Government had decided to implement the recommendations of a committee sent overseas to investigate training establishments and the setting up of simulators for our new destroyers. This committee went abroad, so far as I know - I am subject to correction - about two years ago. I understand that Captain Robertson, former Captain of H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “, was put on this task while he was excommunicado, or whatever his position was, at that time. He produced a report on the subject and a committee was sent away to investigate. But about 18 months or two years has gone by since that committee returned to Australia. Perhaps many of the things that that committee recommended have now altered. 1 know it was said to me at one particular time that unless early decisions were made it might be necessary to send another committee abroad to become conversant with the more modern methods being used in other parts of the world. I suggest that at times there is too long a delay in making decisions. These matters are of great urgency as far as the efficiency of our forces is concerned. Perhaps these decisions are delayed by the Treasury, perhaps by the Government. I am not blaming the junior Ministers. I know that there have to be priorities, but decisions such as this should be implemented fairly early.
Another matter I would like to raise is the movement of the flying training school to Pearce in Western Australia. I would like to know who made this decision. The station operated adequately at Point Cook and now it is to be moved to Pearce. Western Australia is a magnificent place, and this would be a very attractive area for a flying training school. But what is going to happen about the servicing of the machines and aircraft when they have to be maintained, and the other things that are necessary at a flying training school? Will aircraft and machines be moved back to the east for servicing or are service facilities to be established in Western Australia? I would like to know why such things are done. Has this decision been made on the advice of the R.A.A.F. experts or is it a political decision? I do not know. I would like to know a lot more about it.
I agree with the honorable members for Capricornia and Kingston that it is necessary now, and not when an emergency comes upon us, to have some review of, and research into, the capabilities of the industries of Australia to produce defence equipment. I was speaking on this subject only last week to a director of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd. He expressed amazement that his company one of the largest motor car industries, one of the greatest industries in Australia, did not know what it would be called upon to do in the event of a defence emergency, or what it may be called upon to do even at this time. He told me that in the United States of America the Ford motor company knew what it would be expected to switch over to immediately, should there be an emergency. The Government in that country knew exactly what the industry could do. Although we have industrial seminars in Australia, industrial mobilisation is not rated high enough today. We should have plans for such industrial mobilisation, and we should consider having a manpower register. We may have so many men in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, but in the event of a general mobilisation I wonder how many would be taken out of active service, particularly how many members of the Citizen Military Forces would be prevented from giving service because they were in reserved occupations esential to the defence of the country.
Now is the time to prepare for all these things, not when an emergency arises. I am of the opinion that we will not have the time we had in the last two wars. Our organisation and capability should be ascertained at this time.
.- When concerned with the Defence estimates we are concerned primarily with defence policy and performance, and this means that we must begin with the kind of assumption that underlies this policy and performance. The assumption, of course, must relate to the threat that the nation is assumed to be meeting. I think the threat assumed by the Government in its defence policy and performance is that it is facing a short term threat, something that will happen certainly in less than 10 years, something less than five years. There is a considerable amount of urgency expressed by honorable members on the Government side in public. This may only be for political reasons because the performance of the Government is not con sistent with the urgency of this short term threat. It leaves us with the conclusion that in all probability the Government has placed emphasis upon urgency and upon the short term threat solely for political reasons. At any rate, I think the assumption is urgency - a short term threat of something less than five or ten years.
The first point I want to make for the consideration of the Committee is that this assumption is in conflict with the conclusions drawn by those who have studied this subject, one might say, academically or objectively. For instance, it is in conflict with the conclusions drawn by T. B. Millar in his book “Australia’s Defence 1965 “. Millar considers the threat that might be presented to Australia from Japan, China and Indonesia. He reaches the conclusion that there is no short term threat from Japan because of her present close political alignment with the United States of America. He also considers that there is no short term threat from China because of the present military weakness of that country compared to her enemies. He identifies the possibility of a small scale short term threat from Indonesia but dismisses this as having no substance because of the inability of Indonesia to maintain any major attack. Of course, whatever may have been Millar’s view about Indonesia some months ago, the possibility of Indonesia being a threat to Australia has now receded considerably as a result of the change of government there; the establishment in Indonesia of a military government which is likely to be much more closely aligned with the United States in the future. So the tendency is for Millar to see no short term threat.
– Who is Millar?
– He is a professor in the Australian National University who wrote the book “ Australia’s Defence, 1965 “. A threat could, of course, eventuate from any of these sources - from Japan, China or Indonesia - but the reasonable conclusion is that it will be a long term threat of 10 or 20 years at least.
There is another possibility that we have to consider when thinking of any threat. It is what is known loosely as the domino theory - the theory that there can be a transfer of insurrection from one country to another. There is a great deal of literature on this subject and, of course, everybody has to make up his own mind. I have studied it and endeavoured to have a look, on the spot, at what is happening. I think there is a possibility of a short term threat in Laos. The Pathet Lao is in a strong position and may pose a short term threat, but in my view there is no short term threat in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia or Singapore. There is now none in Indonesia. Therefore the domino theory does not change the general proposition that there really is no short term defence threat to Australia. Any threat that might emerge would take from 10 to 20 years to do so.
There is possibly one exception to this. We are assuming all the time that the threat will come as the result of action taken by some potential enemy. But there is the possibility that a short term threat will arise directly out of the escalation of the war in Vietnam although not as a- result of something China does or the Vietcong does. There could be a wider and more general war, which might involve Australia in a short term threat, as a result of the escalation of the war by the United States alone.
I want to point out also that Australia has very considerable commitments. She has the commitments that arise out of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty; she has world commitments that arise out of the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty and she has commitments that arise out of the presence in the north western part of Australia of the United States radio station which controls nuclear submarines and which must become the immediate target of any attack in the event of war breaking out. These commitments are extremely large. In his book “War Without Honour” Gerald L. Stone makes this vividly clear when he says -
In the world of power politics, Australia is a small country playing for very large stakes. Its armed forces are committed to three fronts in South East Asia: Malaysia, Thailand and South Vietnam. Yet the combined strength of its regular army, navy and air force stood in 1965 at about 55,000 men, one-third the size of the Viet Cong. Such widespread military involvement in the affairs of Asian nations thousands of miles away can only be described as extraordinary for a people who so far have found it difficult to maintain a sphere of influence over their own Northern Territory.
That quotation should make Australian defence planners, and the Government, have second thoughts about expanding our commitments in the world today. Clearly this would be well beyond our capacity, well beyond our means and well beyond our willingness to pay for, and this disproportion is something that has to be brought into line. As 1 see the position, the only immediate threat is the possibility of an escalation of the war in Vietnam and the usual proposition that we are involved in Vietnam because our long term security is threatened. Perhaps the sentence: “We are involved in Vietnam because our long term security is threatened “ should read: “Because Australia is involved in Vietnam our long term security is threatened “.
Involved in this long term security is the possibility of a nuclear attack. Therefore, the reaction of Australia to the possibility of a nuclear attack has to be considered. The first reaction could be one of deterrence. We could rely upon the United States nuclear umbrella for this; but the question that has to be raised quite seriously and answered here is the one that the French have raised seriously and answered. It is: “Will America risk 100 million casualties in the United States either to protect Australia or to retaliate if Australia is attacked? “ The answer that has been reached critically and fundamentally is that deterrence by some other power from bases on its own territory or from bases on Australian territory would be an extremely unreliable method of protecting ourselves from nuclear attack. Therefore, the possibility of Australia establishing her own nuclear system has been raised. Arthur Burns, another writer at the Australian National University pointed out recently that if we did this it would cost us each year $1,600 million including the cost of our ordinary conventional defence for a space of 1 1 years. This would be an extremely high bill to have to pay even if there were no increase in costs. Putting aside altogether the question whether we should be the first nation in South East Asia to move towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons, I hope the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and his followers will adhere to the view taken by the former Prime Minister, the right honorable Sir Robert Menzies, that we should not be the first nation to do this.
Suppose we departed from that view; what would be the effect of paying this $1,600 million for a period of 11 years? If Australia undertook this kind of responsibility it would mean that we would have to put aside any real prospects of developing social welfare in Australia, any real prospects of overcoming the education crisis and any real prospects of developing the country. Further, if we had to justify nuclear weapons in Australia, we would also have to embark upon a propaganda campaign based upon fear and suspicion which, in the end, would have to rule the nation. We would be living on political McCarthyism in such circumstances. I think the development of this kind of offensive security system, which is a characteristic feature of the Government’s policy, should lead us to conclude that Australia’s present security system promotes, if it does not itself constitute, a great threat to Australia’s security. Not only does it not provide security for Australia but it makes an appreciable contribution towards decreasing the long term security of the area of South East Asia as a whole.
In those circumstances, how can Australia maintain her security? Broadly speaking, she has two alternatives. She can turn to isolationism; she can bury her head in the sand hoping that anything that will happen in South East Asia will pass over her head. To my mind, that alternative is completely unacceptable. On the other hand, she must have an appropriate foreign policy which would be very different from the existing one, and about which I will not talk at this stage. Beyond this, she must have non-offensive armed forces. I have argued, and I hope I have adduced some evidence to support me, that our present defence policy is offensive, not defensive. I think we must have a defensive policy based upon the concept of keeping peace in the area.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, Mr. Chairman, I put it to the Committee that the Australian Government has a defence policy that is offensive in nature. It is one designed not to defend Australia but to take offensive action well outside Australia. 1 also argued that this offensive policy is not fully or adequately provided for. Though we are committed to it, the Government is not prepared to provide the necessary resources, consistent with what Australia can provide, for an offensive policy of this kind. We are overcommitted. We are more committed probably than is any other country, with the exception of the United States of America. We have not the capacity to meet our commitments. We are like a small boy who acts tough not because he is big enough to deliver the goods but because he is in the company of his big brother who has everyone bluffed. I suppose that big brother will arrive next week. What we need, I suggest, is a nonoffensive policy. I submit to the Committee that the Australian Labour Party has one. This is a policy committed to the adequate defence of Australia. I want to put the Labour Party’s defence policy on record. It appears in the Federal Platform, Constitution and Rules of the Party as approved in 1965. Honorable members opposite have frequently asked for the Labour Party’s defence policy. I shall give it to the Committee now word for word as it comes from the Federal Platform, Constitution and Rules. Clause XX, at page 25, under the heading “ Defence “, reads -
Provision of voluntary defence forces - (r.) Properly equipped and provided with modern weapons of war.
Provision of supply industries and equipment including -
Regular consultation between the Common wealth and States -
Those ten provisions represent the defence policy of the Australian Labour Party as laid down in its Federal Platform, Constitution and Rules. I hope that honorable members will make themselves familiar with Labour’s defence policy. In recent weeks and months, there has been on the Government side of the Parliament evidence of very great ignorance of this policy. That ignorance either is deliberately professed or genuinely exists. I hope that reference to “ Hansard “ will now show that there is no longer any justification for this ignorance on the part of Government supporters.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock)__ Order!
The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I want to deal primarily, during the few minutes at my disposal, with the FI IIA aircraft. Before I do so, I want to take up several points in the speech just made by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). I appreciate the last point that he made by referring to - or shall I say, ducking for cover, almost, behind - the Australian Labour Party’s Federal Platform. Constitution and Rules and behind the defence policy laid down there.
– The honorable member need not be offensive.
– I certainly shall be. That is not the least of my intentions.
– He is now making matters worse.
– That may be so. I do not apologise for it. I do not blame the honorable member-
– We have to remember that the honorable member for Angas is president of a bull society.
– We have heard a lot of that, mainly from the opposite side of the chamber. But we shall ignore it. The point that the honorable member for Yarra made was that he believed that it was necessary for him to quote the Labour Party’s policy on defence. Explaining why he believed this was necessary, he said that quite a lot of confusion exists over Labour’s policy on defence. My word, Mr. Chairman; this must be the understatement of the century. Not only are we on this side of the Parliament completely confused. The people outside the Parliament, who have not the opportunity to follow the many aspects of the defence policy put forward by various Opposition members, are even more confused. I readily see the difficulty in which the honorable member finds himself. I thought that he tried to the best of his ability to describe what evidently applies in relation to Labour’s defence policy.
The honorable member for Yarra said another thing that rather intrigued me. He stated that this Government’s policy, in terms of South East Asian affairs, is in his opinion an offensive and not a defensive one. I hate to weary the Committee with a repetition of something that I said on Tuesday evening. Authority after authority can be found in South East Asia to prove exactly the opposite of the contention made by the honorable member. I presume that he has talked with th; leaders of Cambodia and Laos, for example, with Lee Kuan Yew and with many other people and heard what chey have to say about whether the policy of the free nations in South Vietnam today amounts to an offensive one or whether it is defensive. I have not time to give chapter and verse, as I did the other evening, of the opinions of people in South East Asia. May I, by way of explanation, however, once again mention the opinions of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. When I went through Singapore not long ago, university students were asking: “ Is it right to be involved in stopping the advance of Communism in South Vietnam? “ They were asking this and similar nicely theoretical and academic questions. What did Lee Kuan Yew say in reply? In effect, he said: “ Let us make no mistake about this. We in Singapore have been given 10 years for the establishment of our economy that we might not have had if it had not been for the involvement of the United States of America in South Vietnam.” This was said by Lee Kuan Yew, the man who invited members of the Australian Labour Party to Singapore because he was worried about that Party’s thinking on South East Asian affairs. Obviously, it is wrong for the honorable member for Yarra to talk as though this Government’s policy were offensive. That sort of talk is offensive to me. No doubt it is offensive to the Government. However, one does not hear opinions similar to those expressed by the honorable member when one talks to a range of indigenous people in the areas concerned.
– What did Lee Kuan Yew say about the United States Central Intelligence Agency?
– I do not know, Mr. Chairman. If the honorable member has had trouble with it, that is his business. 1 shall not enter into that matter. Perhaps we should consider another aspect of the remark of the honorable member for Yarra. If our policy is offensive, to whom is it offensive? It is not offensive to Australia, to Malaysia or to Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. It is certainly not offensive to Indonesia because there is a well documented opinion throughout South East Asia today that the success of the Army coup in Indo- nesia and the failure of the attempted Communist coup were due in some measure to the fact that some country had put its foot down on the advance of Communism in South Vietnam. I do not altogether go along with that opinion, but more intelligent people than I credit this as being significant in the stabilisation of Indonesian affairs today. So I think we can ignore the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra on this matter as easily as we can ignore his suggestion the other night that Australians are capable of giving agricultural extension advice on the growing of rice under paddy field conditions. His claims today are as wide of the mark as is that suggestion.
Australia is interested in the long term peace of South East Asia. We are interested in the rights of the people of South East Asia. We are interested in their being able to express their opinions through the ballot box. There will be no possibility of any of these things coming to pass if we pull out of this area. We believe in helping and encouraging the economies of these countries. If they become viable economies and worthwhile neighbours, we as neighbours in the area must be more capable of living and trading with them in South East Asia.
The honorable member for Yarra said that Australia is over committed in terms of its resources if we consider defence expenditure and civilian aid. I was pleased to hear the honorable member say this because I have heard a contrary argument advanced by other honorable members opposite. Let us get the facts straight. We are at present devoting 2 per cent, of our expenditure towards civilian aid. My understanding is that this sum does not include donations to the Asian Development Bank and certainly does not include defence items that we have supplied to India and Malaysia.
Let me refer now to the FI I IA aircraft. When we get this aircraft, to my knowledge it will be the first time that the Royal Australian Air Force has ever been completely up to date with the best and most modern aircraft of its type in the world. We are already very close to this situation in terms of strategic fighters with the French Mirage. When we get the FI IIA we will be for the first time completely up to date. It will not be a case of having the leftovers, as occurred in years gone by with aircraft like Airacobras and Vultee Vengeances, which were of no use elsewhere and mighty little use here when we got them. This is not the case with the FI IIA. From now on the Air Force will be able to hold up its head with pride, because it will be up to date. Not only will it be up to date but there will be nice rationalisation in the use of the FI 1 1A because the same aircraft will be used by the United Kingdom and by the United States in the various arms of its defence forces.
Because many influences have come to bear in the bad reporting on the FI 1 1 A in recent months perhaps I should deal briefly with the reasons for some of these reports. All honorable members will be aware that pressure is being exerted in the United States of America today for contracts to build both the engines and the airframe for the first United States supersonic passenger aircraft. I am afraid that one good method of attacking an opponent’s design has been to attack all sweep wing aircraft. Some firms have been applying pressure and looking for faults in the design of the FI IIA. In addition, it is well known that there has been a delay in development of the Phoenix missile for the United Stai.es Naval Forces. Frankly I do not believe there is a great deal of scope for the FI 1 1 A until it can be appropriately armed. Great credit is due to Mr. McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defense, for attempting to achieve something that has never benn achieved before - for attempting to produce an aircraft of colossal range, capable of landing at slow speeds on restricted runways and capable of a speed of mach 2.5. He has endeavoured to have produced an aircraft which will meet the needs of the major arms of the American defence forces. So he may be expected to run into trouble.
Perhaps the Press report which offended me most was the one which said that the FI IIA took half the State of Florida in which to turn around. Half the State of Florida would measure 42 miles and at a speed of mach 2.5 or nearly 1,800 miles an hour it is questionable whether the human frame could take anything much more mobile. Let me refer to some of ‘he things that have been said in opposition to the FI IIA. There was the hackneyed claim that it could not match the performance of the MIG21. All I can say is that aircraft five and six years old are successfully dealing today with the MIG21 as they have done for some years. Let me go through the points that have been raised in the United States Congress relating to criticism of the FI IIA programme. In a news release dated 9th September 1966 the General Dynamics organisation said that the following points should be made -
The reference there, of course, is to the United States Air Force. There is no secret about this information. It appeared in the United States Congressional Record, which is the equivalent of our “ Hansard “. The news release continues -
FI IIA will be close to the evaluations made during the 1962 competition. The more than 1,200 hours of actual flight test experience to date confirm that in some cases these performance forecasts of four years ago will be exceeded.
I was in the United States at the time of the third flight. It was on this occasion, as I recall, that, for the first time, air intake problems were experienced. This is one of the teething problems to be expected with any totally new and radical design. These problems have been met and the programme is proceeding according to schedule. All this reflects great credit on the staff of General Dynamics. The news release continues -
So far, the United States Navy has placed very few firm orders for this aircraft. But
Australia has been quoted a firm basic price. If, after solving its problems with the Pheonix air to air missile, the United States Navy increases its orders for the F111A, I would anticipate that the basic price could be less than the price we have been given. 1 have no doubt whatever that the Australian Government was wise and far-sighted in ordering this aircraft. I have every faith that it will have a very big deterrent effect and will find an important place in the defence structure of the Royal Australian Air Force and indeed in the whole of our defence programme. I support the Government’s action and certainly wish everyone who flies in the F111A good fortune.
.- In the debate on the estimates for these Departments last year, I urged that the Government should use the increase in Australian defence expenditure to ensure that there was a similar increase in Australia’s industrial strength. To illustrate. I pointed out that 80 per cent, of our expenditure on the import of electronic equipment was for the armed forces and that 5 per cent, of the money we spent on imported electronic equipment was set aside by overseas suppliers for their own research and development. I suggested that orders should now be placed with our electronics industry to build it up as greatly as it had been built up by orders from the Curtin Labour Government in World War II and that the Government and local companies should between them provide 5 per cent, of the cost of overseas purchases to encourage research and development in Australia. The position since then has not improved. It appears that in the financial year before last we spent $69 million on imported defence equipment and $120 million on equipment obtained from local sources. The Library is unable to obtain for me the respective amounts spent in the last financial year.
– I thought the Minister had given those.
– They may be in the document which was tabled yesterday, but I must confess that I have not been able to look right through it. The Australian Labour Party accepts that the function of the Department of Supply should be, in the words of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) last May, “to make sure that in time of need Australian industry can undertake the production of the whole of our defence requirements”. The Minister for Defence is very free with his advice ou matters coming within the responsibility of other departments. For instance, in March of last year he publicly criticised the Postmaster-General’s Department on its radio services and urged it to reform its administration of our telecommunications and to develop a new and imaginative philsophy. Over the last month he has busied himself at question time in rubbishing the belated and indirect efforts of the Department of External Affairs to restore cuts in this year’s budgetary allocations for relief, rehabilitation and development in Vietnam. Last May, he was bolder in enunciating the role of the Department of Supply than he had been in fulfilling that role during the three years immediately before, when he had been Minister for Supply. Nevertheless, in our view he now correctly states the proper function of the Department of Supply.
There is no question that Australian industry can supply the Services with aircraft, electronic equipment, shipping, earthmoving equipment, transport vehicles and artillery. One of our largest electronic companies, Pye Industries Ltd., has complained that manufacturers who have built excess capacity to cater for defence needs have been left without orders and their defence capacity has been left unused. The “Australian Financial Review “ has run a series of articles on the crisis in the defence industries. Manufacturers are quoted in the articles as having said that they did nol know what the Services wanted and there was no suitable machinery for finding out; that there has been a complete breakdown in the policy of “ Buy Australian “, and that the massive defence capacity built up during the Second World War and the Korean War has been allowed to rot away. There are three main reasons for this. They are, first, the Government’s defence delay and then its sudden need for a quick buildup; secondly, the Government’s need to button in to the United States production programmes to receive delivery on time and then modification and replacement parts; and, thirdly, the Government’s desire to buy the cheapest goods and to pay for them by loans.
By 1960, Australia had a very small army, no modern fighter or bomber aircraft and no modern naval ships. Then the Government turned to overseas markets to acquire equipment quickly. It bought American equipment, on terms, off the hook. Because there had been no continuous development of Australian defence industries, we could not produce these major items quickly. One manufacturer even claimed that specifications were framed by the departments around overseas products. Having decided to purchase our defence equipment overseas, we had the problem of guaranteed early delivery of the original models and early delivery of subsequent modifications and spare parts. The only way this could be done was by placing orders in advance, accepting the early models, subsequent modifications and spares and whatever cost increases went with them. The FI IIA illustrates this problem. We have taken an option on the early delivery of the FI IIA and undertaken the obligation to purchase subsequent modifications and spares. We have undertaken to pay whatever is charged. In the Defence Report, released yesterday, we are told that an additional $80 million has been borrowed to meet increased costs which followed a price review at the end of last year.
Many disadvantages flow from this overwhelming and continuous purchase of defence equipment overseas. Such purchase affects our general trade position and our overseas balances. It ties us permanently to United States sources and policies and could leave us defenceless if America discontinued a weapons system which we had purchased or could leave us stranded if America vetoed a particular use of the equipment we had obtained from sources in that country or for which we required United States spares or servicing. Again, Australia sends money overseas for weapons research, as I illustrated with electronics a year ago, and the results of this research can be used to produce civilian goods which may compete with our goods in world markets. That money could pay for basic Australian research which could help in other Australian industries as well as in defence. Lastly, some overseas firms place restrictions on our access to or knowledge of their processes. The whole position of the Tartar missile discloses this. This is not a government restriction; it is a restriction imposed by an overseas corporation.
I will illustrate the position this year in the aeronautical field as last year I did in the electronics field. The research necessary for defence production is at two levels. There is basic research into fundamental problems that may have no immediate relevance to defence projects and there is the second tier of research which seeks to apply fundamental research to a particular defence need. Until recently, the Aeronautical Research Laboratories carried out fundamental research into the humanmechanical relationship to be considered in providing landing approach aids. This is not research into the mechanical problem of how to use an instrument landing system; it is research into the psychological and physiological factors of landing an aircraft. This group did work of a high world standing, but it has been dispersed. Its leader is now at the University of Melbourne and another officer is with Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. The Aeronautical Research Laboratories are now turning their efforts more and more towards developmental work and are subjecting research increasingly to factor cost analysis. 1 ask: How would Einstein’s researches which led to the development of the atomic bomb have been costed? At any rate, the Department of Supply has put its policy into effect so well at the Laboratories that many of its scientists are leaving. From an answer I received yesterday it appears that nine scientific officers have left in the last year and that there are now 24 vacancies in an establishment of 72. Professor Bird, of the Chair of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Sydney, has pointed out that major and fundamental improvements are being made possible in all types of aircraft and it is possible for all countries to participate, as long as they show sufficient enterprise. The Minister for Defence very properly pointed to the Jindivik project as an example of the success of defence research and development. This, however, is as old as the Government itself. It resulted from an initiative by the Chifley Labour Government in the 1940’s. The other matters that the Government Aircraft Factory has looked at, so Professor Bird states, are an all weather fighter, a supersonic target aircraft, a jet trainer and a turbo-prop short take off: and landing aircraft for agriculture. The first three have been abandoned and the last still awaits a decision.
The most serious planning and policy failure - and the Minister for Defence takes responsibility for this - was associated with the jet trainer requirement. This is now to be filled by the Macchi trainer under licence. According to Professor Bird, the Royal Australian Air Force wrote its specifications to exclude designs already well advanced in the Government Aircraft Factory.
We have borrowed $450 million from America in the form of loans to pay for our defence equipment. First, in February last year we borrowed $350 million, the repayment to be over seven years at 4i per cent.; then in April of this year we borrowed a further $20 million to be repaid over five years at 5i per cent.; and yesterday it was revealed that we have borrowed another $80 million for the increased cost of the Fill’s, the details of repayment and interest not yet being revealed. It may be that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) regards it as good politics to go all the way with L.B.J. It can scarcely be said to be good economics to go all the way with L.B.J. Certainly all the persons interested in the industries which were built up during the last war to supply our defence forces do not regard it as good economics, and they are saying so today.
The expenditure of the Department is extraordinarily unbalanced as regards the individual States. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) tells me that last year his Department spent in Australia $165-8 million. In Western Australia, however, the purchases were only $3.5 million, in Queensland $2.8 million, and in Tasmania $269,000. We are not using our defence expenditure at present to build up our industries or to help in the general development of our country. South Australia became the industrial State it is because during the last war, being the most inaccessible and therefore most secure part of Australia, investment went there. It has benefited ever since. The Department is clearly not pursuing any such policy now.
We have also the general question of what we can do with our transport and communications. We cannot defend Australia without decent roads, ports, railways and shipping services. Our allies and associates constantly press us to see that our ports and airports and our weapon systems in those places are adequate for use by the weapons they have and which they would, in certain eventualities - in, for instance, meeting United Nations or treaty commitments - want to use from Australia. We could in the aeronautical industry encourage Trans-Australia Airlines, for instance, to service defence equipment so that in time of emergency we would have all the skills we would require in this respect. We should build up our shipping. The first overseas voyage by any Australian flag ship for three and a half years took place in April last year, when a 10,000 ton Australian National Line ship took steel to China, lt left 14 days before the first conscripts left Australia to go to the country which the Government says is under Chinese threat.
It is because the Government failed to plan for defence in the I950’s, and decided to purchase off the hook equipment to make up these deficiencies, that Australian defence industries have not been expanded. We are losing basic skills. We are missing out on research and technological knowhow. We are suffering in our balance of payments. We are losing our industrial and defence initiatives. We shall find it difficult and expensive if we ever want to get off the overseas equipment bandwagon, and difficult and expensive if we have to stay on it. One of the great issues at this year’s election will be to see that Australia as a whole, and Australian industries in particular, benefit from the vast infusion of defence expenditure.
.- In the estimates we are now considering reference is made to pay, allowances and conditions for the Services. This includes superannuation for the Services. As honorable members know, superannuation for the Services is controlled by a series of Acts known as the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Acts, lt is to the delay in introducing new legislation that I wish to refer, and also to the delay in respect of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund itself in bringing down the actuarial quinquennial report to 30th June 1964. In his second reading speech the then Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), in introducing the
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1965 on 21st May 1965, said-
Several other proposals made by the Services and the Government members Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee are being considered by the Government and a further amending bill will be introduced in the Budget session.
He went on -
The Government has also decided that the existing defence forces retirement benefits legislation should be simplified by replacing the present legislation with two separate acts. One will deal solely with the scheme as it applies to the post- 1959 Act entrants. The other, which will apply to the pre-1959 Act entrants, will contain much of the existing complexities in the legislation.
He concluded by saying -
However, the necessary redrafting will take a considerable time.
In speaking on the second reading debate on 24th May 1965 I said-
I am quite satisfied that the Government has shown a willingness to clear up all the anomalies that now exist in the Act. The Minister said in his second reading speech that the drafting of the final legislation will take a considerable time. This may well be, and this we accept. But I hope that the drafting of the new legislation will be considered a matter of some urgency so that we may expect to have it introduced into this Parliament early next year.
Now, nearly 18 months later, we are still awaiting this new legislation which was first recommended to the Government by the Government members Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Committee in June 1964. While we congratulate the Government on the amendments it has already introduced, I feel it will be a great pity if it now rests on its oars and merely coasts along. There are still so many anomalies in the present legislation that inhibit the equitable operation of the Act, even with the recent amendments, that I feel that any further delay by the Government would be absolutely unconscionable. It cannot be said with any justification that the amendments that have already been brought in have removed the most serious difficulties from which the members of the Forces presently suffer.
When one discusses pay, allowances, services and conditions it is superannuation benefits which finally assume the greatest proportion. This is the thing which undoubtedly has the greatest impact on the member and his family. Even when the promised new legislation is introduced I believe quite a number of difficulties will still arise particularly in respect of members who enlisted prior to 1959. One realises, as the Minister has said, that there are drafting problems. We know that the Parliamentary Draftsman has been under stress in preparing particularly heavy pieces of legislation. We need only cast our minds back to the Trade Practices Bill as a case in point, but that was in the oven for many years by design before it finally came out. We do not know at this stage whether this particular defence forces retirement benefits legislation has even left the departmental officer’s table on its way to the Parliamentary Draftsman. This leads us to suspect a tendency to shelve the new legislation. That would be most unfortunate because there was a great clamour from members of the Services about the difficulties in the present Act. They were dissatisfied and most unhappy about it but when the Government promised in May last year - this promise was contained in the Minister’s second reading speech - that the legislation would be introduced the clamour stilled. But it is now nearly 18 months since May 1965 and there is no doubt that if something is not done soon the lid will come off and the clamour and dissatisfaction which has been dammed up by the Government’s promise to do something will gather momentum. I urge the Government to get moving on this matter. It should carry out the promise made so long ago and introduce this new legislation early in the autumn session of the new Parliament.
I wish to refer to another matter, namely, the delay in bringing down the quinquennial report of the fund. I will try to explain to the Committee why the presentation of this report is so important and why there should be no further delay in this regard. The first report of the fund which commenced operations in 1948 was due on 30th June 1954 but was not rendered until 23rd August 1955. It covered the six years from 1948 to 1954. The second report covering the period to 30th June 1959 was not presented until 13th November 1962, nearly three and one-half years after the critical date. The report covering the period to 30th June 1964 is still unsighted by this Parliament after 27 months. The first quinquennial report showed a total of 664 retirement pensioners and 195 widows, 251 children and a total of 436 invalidity pensioners. It also disclosed a surplus in the pension account of £135,696. I shall deal in the old currency because it was in use at that time. The report recommended that this surplus be used to reduce the liabilities in the pensioner account by increasing the rate of interest paid to the general account from 3 per cent., as was originally intended, to 3i per cent, retrospectively to the commencement of the fund six years earlier so that it took up the whole of the surplus of £135,696. At that time the effective rate of interest of the fund for the year 1953-54 was shown as £3 17s. 10d. per cent. As at that date, 30th June 1954, which was six years after the fund commenced operations, the fund’s investments totalled - I ask the Committee to note this amount - £6,093,401.
The second quinquennial report showed as al 30th June 1959 almost double the number of pensioners. There were 1.194 retirement pensioners and 426 widows, 620 children and 873 invalidity pensioners. The actuarial surplus disclosed in the pension account was £156,228 and the effective rate of interest for the year .1958-59 had risen to £4 8s. lid. per cent. However, the investment fund- - I ask the Committee to note this also - as at 30th June 1959 had grown to £11.165,795 which was almost double the amount mentioned in the earlier report.
– Order! I think the honorable member is discussing a matter which really relates to the Department of the Treasury. I do not think it comes within the present group of estimates before the Committee.
– I am dealing with pay and conditions of service.
– I thought the honorable member was talking about superannuation.
– I am dealing with conditions of service and pay and allowances covered by the particular section of the estimates we are now discussing. The 17th annual report of the Board for the year ended 30th June 1965 shows a remarkable change even in these figures. This stresses the importance of tabling the quinquennial report covering the five yean ended 30th June 1964. By way of comparison I point out that this report shows that there were 2,399 retirement pensioners and 882 widows, 895 children and a total of 1,291 invalidity pensioners while the effective rate of interest on investments in that year had increased to £5 6s. 6d. per cent. However, the point I wish to make is that total investments in the intervening five years had increased from £11,165,795 to £32,007,842. almost three times as much as the amount in 1959. Further, the great increase in this scheme is reflected in the fact that the total pension payments made in 1948-49 were £12,544; for the year ended 30th June 1954 this had increased to £377.156; for the year ended 30th June 1959 this had increased to £915,346, and for the year ended 30th June 1964, the closing date for the presently overdue actuarial report, this had increased to £2,432,578. There was a further increase in the following year to £2,991,627 or almost £3 million. It can be seen there has been a terrific growth in this fund. We have now been waiting 27 months for the quinquennial report which was due on 30th June 1964. I realise that a great deal of work was placed on Commonwealth actuaries when the reassessment of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund was made. 1 also know of the Government’s efforts to attract, by overseas advertising, experienced actuarial staff, but in the present emergency I think some us? could be made of statisticians and accountants already within the Public Service. We could make use of electronic data computing units which could compile and produce the data for final analysis by experienced actuaries. By this means we could cut down a lot of their work. I have tried to stress as strongly as I can the importance of completing this report which is so long overdue and which is so vitally necessary. Although the Government has promised that every effort will be made to complete this investigation with a minimum of delay, I feel the Government means that every usual effort will be made. I should like to see some unusual effort made because, as I have tried to suggest to the Committee, these circumstances are most unusual. We are in the unique position of having a fund administered by the Government mushrooming in growth. In a matter of 12 years it has increased from £6 million to nearly £33 million. I think it is time this fund was investigated by an actuary. We should not have to wait 27 months for a report. This matter should not be delayed any further. I hope the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) who is at the table will refer my comments to the Department concerned. If, as the Chairman has pointed out, this matter rightly belongs to the Department of the Treasury, I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) will take due note of my remarks.
– I do not want to join in the debate, but if the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) will allow me a few seconds I should like to say to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) that it is true that this was a matter that should have been discussed on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury. But I want to say to the honorable member, who, I know, has made a particular study of this rather difficult piece of legislation, that his remarks will be brought to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). I am quite certain that my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), who is also Minister assisting the Treasurer, will see whether anything can be done about what the honorable member requests. I say this because the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) may at a later date be replying. Because this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Treasurer, we will take that course of action.
.- I wish to begin my remarks by dealing briefly with the comments made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles). It is interesting that to the Conservative parties in Australia the Socialist Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, has become their defence and foreign policy oracle. 1 know that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is a redoubtable, very capable and very competent man. I know that he has carried out his exercise of taking Singapore forward to a democratic and Socialist state and that it has been carried out in singular difficulty, but I believe that he overstresses the position in which he finds himself with regard to his neighbours some 1,000 or 2,000 miles from where his original ancestry sprung. I am interested that he does not take his despair and decision about their danger so far that he introduced compulsory military service or anything so farsighted or so far-reaching as that for the people of Singapore. The honorable member for Angas quoted also the Prime Minister of Laos. Like the honorable member for Angas, a few months ago I visited Laos and called on that honorable gentleman. Although Prince Souvanna Phouma has no deep regard for the Chinese, neither did we get the impression that he felt that they were going to descend like wolves on the fold. As for Thailand, I believe it is making quite a good run out of this antiCommunist gimmick. A country of 30 million people which says it is going to be assailed by the people of Vietnam, which has two countries as buffers between them, has something wrong with it.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has pointed to the disastrous dissipation of our intellectual resources through the failure of Australia to develop its own defence capacity. I think this is much more important than the single question of the production of items of defence equipment. I believe it goes deeper than that. I believe it is part of the national morale and the national reserves that we build up, that we give the people who have the cultural and intellectual capacity to do these things the continual chance to do them. I am one of those who believe that in the foreseeable future there is no direct threat to Australia. I believe I am supported in this by a logical analysis of the situation by most commentators. But for some odd reason, which I rather believe is principally political, my colleagues on the other side of the chamber seem to spend their time building up an atmosphere of fear and playing down the capacity of this nation. I believe that in the long term this can be very serious for the way in which the nation looks at problems. This must be one of the few political groups in the world which make a political gimmick out of national self-insufficiency.
My proposal in this debate is that members should turn themselves to the point of view that Australia has a very large defence capacity which is unused and that the country itself could play a much more important role in the production of its own equipment and of its own military and defence philosophy. We are faced now with the largest defence expenditure for many years relative to our national income. An amount of $1,000 million is a tremendous sum of money. Why have we come to this? I believe also that honorable members opposite, and particularly the Government, although it says on the one hand that we have this immediate threat to our north from the surging hordes of Asia which have seemed to flow down through Australian history ever since the time of Lambing Flat, has known full well that for the time being Australia is unassailable by any of its neighbours. For this reason in the past it has not felt the need to re-equip with bombers; it has not felt the need to re-equip with fighters and it has not felt the need to reequip with capital ships. And so by an exercise in economic procrastination they have been able to avoid this expenditure and keep our military expenditure at a relatively low level. But now those ships and planes and so on are quite old and they must be refurbished. Consequently, we do not do it now because it was a logical exercise in the past; we do it now because there are tremendous threats developing to our north. It would be better if we faced the logic of the world in which we live and if we faced with some sense of reality and with some common sense Australia’s own capacity, with a great deal of reliance on the common sense and resolution of this country.
If honorable members opposite would only apply this logic to the question, and place all the cards on the table, we could examine the situation as a piece of logical military appreciation. So we have the domino theory. I have not time to debate that theory this afternoon, but there are a few things which are based historically on mere common sense, which are based in the present political scene in Asia on less reality than the domino theory. I refer to the surge of Communism and all the other things such as the inevitable collapse of ordinary societies when they are faced with the Communist threat. There is a sort of mystical approach to it all. What sort of world do we live in? There are half a dozen nations in this part of the world in Asia larger than we are to such an extent that within the foreseeable future we could say that if they set about it they would have the kind of capacity, to put it in the vernacular, to knock us off. I cite as an example India, Pakistan, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Indonesia and Japan. No-one suggests that India and Pakistan are in the business at all. One has only to sit down and consider the tremendous task that would face them if they wanted to invade Australia.
Japan seems to have turned to the paths of peace. It is my view from reading the political programmes of the major political parties that the Japanese are sincere in their view of the world at large and that peace and peaceful commerce is their path for the future. Indonesia, as has been pointed out, has no capacity to invade Australia or to attack us in any way. The Indonesians have had erratic foreign policies. I discussed the question with Indonesians of high estate some seven or eight weeks ago. When I said that some Australians were afraid of the possibility of invasion by the Indonesians they threw their hands in the air, laughed and said: “ With what?”. It is true that that country has no automotive industry, no shipbuilding industry, no shipping capacity and no electronics industry, lt is deplorably lacking in administrative capacity. I admit that Australians had a reasonably uneasy view of Indonesia, but the facts of life would make it impossible for Indonesia to be anything more than unneighbourly and certainly not a danger to a country such as we are.
This brings us to the U.S.S.R. 1 think it is generally agreed that that is not on either. This brings us finally to China. We do not have to have any deep regard for the Chinese Government. I have a soft spot in my heart for many Chinese people whom I know. Some live in mainland China, some live in Formosa and some live in places like Australia. But all governments are much the same. They are all capable of error; they are all fallible. We have only to sit down and examine the position of a country 3,500 miles from us with the kind of capacity that the Chinese have to see that in the foreseeable future they also are no direct threat to Australia. Neither do I think there is much logic in much of the mysticism preached about China and its neighbours. It is not a fact that its neighbours have become Communist because China became Communist. China became an effective Communist Government the last of all. I think the order was Mongolia, North Vietnam, North Korea and then China; all preceded of course by Russia. If people would bring a little historical common sense to the problem and examine it as a piece of logical military appreciation, we would get much further. But if we are concerned with Australia’s needs I think we have committed a strategic folly in placing one set of our forces in Malaysia and another set in Vietnam. Our military history shows that whenever we have done this sort of thing we have lost the lot. This was particularly true in World War II.
– That is not quite true.
– It is pretty close to true. If the Minister wants a debate on military history we can get on with it, but it is a fact that in Singapore, in Java, in Timor, in Ambon, in Rabaul, in Greece, or whereever we have left people out on a limb in this way, we were done over very quickly. This is shown in the records. I repeat that if the Minister wants a debate on military history I am ready to take him on. There is plenty of room in my electorate and we can easily get a platform. The fact is, of course, that in Malaysia we have put the Air Force in one area and 200 miles away we have put the Army. We did not do this because of any strategic demands but because of the economic necessity of the Malacca States.
It is time Australia started to look at where it stands in this matter. Are we the only people who have soldiers who are expendable? Where are the British now when we are in Vietnam? Where were the Americans when we were in Malaysia? 1 believe it is time that we tightened up our whole approach to Australia’s commitments. Logically what do we require? I think that first we need military forces of about 100,000, of probably the same structure that we have at the moment. We certainly need morale and national resolution, and we need some appreciation of what this nation is. with H million men of military age and therefore with a mobilisation capacity much larger than that of Sweden or Israel or
Switzerland. We have the ninth largest automotive industry in the world and the seventeenth largest steel industry. We are the ninth or tenth largest trading nation.
It has become a gimmick of honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who is trying to interject, to write us down in world affairs. We have a large mobilisation capacity. We have, I think, inadequate internal transport capacity and we have neglected our industrial and scientific support for Australia’s defence forces. 1 am putting the view that we should start to look at our own capacity, and we should give more attention to the opinions expressed by people on this side of the chamber, such as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). Why are we not producing our own armoured fighting vehicles when we have the ninth largest automotive industry in the world? I have taken the trouble to look at the automotive industry and discuss this matter with people in the industry. It is not a question whether we need these vehicles tomorrow or the next day; if we do need them in live years’ time and if we have not taken the steps to carry out planning and research then we are not going to be able to produce them.
The same considerations apply in respect of aircraft. If Sweden can build its own aircraft then we should be able to build ours. Perhaps I shall be called idealistic but 1 believe it is more important to produce the aircraft ourselves and develop the intellectual, scientific and technological resources necessary to do so than it is to be concerned about the price of the aircraft. 1 know honorable senators opposite will regard that view as erratic, but I believe that in the total evaluation of the nation’s strength its greatest capacity is its intellectual and human capacity, and the second most important consideration is its morale and national resolve. A similar argument, of course, applies in respect of ships. Then we can come to things like rocketry. We are not babies in this field either. I suppose we have the best rocket complex south of the Equator, so we are not a helpless nation.
I briefly wanted to bring to the attention of the Committee the capacity of citizen forces to work inside the nation’s defence forces. 1 personally hold the view that the virtual dismantling of Australia’s citizen force structure has been one of the most serious errors of this Government. Before 1939 we had a large number of combatant units. This is the basis upon which we build our capacity to expand. I believe that the over-professionalisation of the Services has demolished the opportunity to expand. There has been a tendency to disregard the capacity of ordinary civilians to do things defencewise. I refer honorable members opposite to the United States of America in this regard and to that country’s Air National Guard and the National Guard itself. There are reports on this subject in the Library. I have before me a copy of “ Air Force and Space Digest “, a magazine published by the Air Force Association. The Americans find that ordinary parttimers can do all sorts of things. They fly C97 transports and C124 transports and also KC97 air refuelling aircraft. For air defence they use the FI 02 and they are re-equipping with the FI 05. This is what the magazine says -
We have a total of 512 airlift, 575 fighters, 209 reconnaissance, 55 tanker, and 56 special air warfare aircraft for a total of something over 1,400.
I have not the time to expound this fully, but I can tell the Committee that the Americans use in their aircraft and their warning systems at weekends people on part-time duty. Men on weekend duty are flying aircraft into Vietnam. I understand that they have even visited Australia.
The total capacity of a nation to defend itself will rest a good deal upon its mobilisation capacity and its internal organisation. A large measure of this will rely in the end, in the event of emergency, upon the civilians who will build the forces themselves. The citizen forces represent a way in which we can expand, but we cannot do this unless, first, we agree that this is an article of our faith, and, secondly, we provide adequate equipment for the training programmes of the citizen forces. I spent a long time in the citizen forces of this country. Very rarely did we train with first class equipment. Very rarely could one step into equipment thinking: “Now you are up with the leaders”. But now in America and also in Switzerland, where of course the defence system is basically civilian, the citizen forces are equipped with the most sophisticated - if that is the word - equipment that they can lay their hands on.
The Labour Party believes that Australia should bend all its efforts towards keeping out of wars, but it equally believes that no young Australian who goes into war should be equipped with anything less than the best that the world can endow him with. I say that emphatically out of my study of our history and out of my own personal attitude which I know is the same as that of my colleagues. This is a most serious question. Honorable members opposite continually decry our attitudes. We have our different strategic appreciations and we have our different political views, but Australia can rely as completely on the people on this side of the chamber as it can on any other group of people. I would be the last one to say that honorable members opposite would sell Australia out except by error, and I think it is nearly time that honorable members opposite paid us the same sort of compliment.
.- Every year since I came to this place I have complained about the lack of defence facilities in north Queensland, and these complaints have merely reflected the general thinking of the people living in that area. They have always felt isolated and ignored by the powers that be in Brisbane and Canberra. It is only recently that we have had anything of a decentralised nature in north Queensland. Previously everything connected with any department had to go to Brisbane if it was a State matter and to Canberra if it was a Federal matter, but in late years we have achieved a little bit of autonomy in north Queensland and things are changing. But amongst the people in the area there is a hangover from the years when we were isolated and ignored by the Brisbane bunch and the Canberra people as we called them. It is only in the last 40 years that north Queensland has been connected by rail to Brisbane and it is only in the last 20 years that we have had regular air services between the north of the State and the south. So the feeling of having been neglected is justified.
During the 1939-45 war, until the Americans came in 1942, we had no defence in the area at all. A Royal Australian Air Force squadron was established in 1939, but of course when the war came all the aeroplanes and personnel were taken to Rabaul and Darwin and we did not see them again. All these manifestations of neglect have left their mark in the psychological makeup of the people who live in the area. They have tended to become overcritical of and generally sour with governments, of whatever political persuasion, especially where defence is concerned.
Today we are happy to see that the Government has taken some notice of the defence position. As everyone knows, it is establishing an Army base of considerable size at Townsville. This, together with the Air Force base which has been there for a long time at Garbutt, will make a defence complex of significant value. No doubt there will be some problems in the initial stages until the city of Townsville and the people there adjust themselves to the influx of the Army personnel. There will be overcrowding of schools and roads, and generally speaking there will be problems. The previous Minister for the Army told me last year that the public relations officers and the amenities that would be provided on the base to cater for the people stationed there would help to solve many of these problems, but I believe that the integration of these 4,000-odd soldiers will need careful handling. This is something that should be remembered by the Minister for the Army and his staff. Most of us who live up there remember quite vividly the establishment of training stations during the last war in all sorts of places. Army battalions were located in little country towns when there had been practically no prior planning. Public relations had just never been heard of. We all remember very nasty incidents in certain towns. I remember quite well when I was doing air crew training at Maryborough. There were quite a lot of Air Force personnel there and the Army brought a couple of battalions to the same town. This resulted in quite a performance. I sincerely hope we do not see a repetition of that sort of thing in north Queensland. Of course, that was in wartime and we must also remember that there were then no public relations facilities. We saw how the Service personnel crowded out the hotels, cafes and everything else. Even though Townsville is a fairly big city by Australian standards - it has about 60,000 people now - I hope the Army will take a very responsible view. We had a lot of bother there in 1939 when the Royal Australian Air Force first came to the area. That is long forgotten now and the R.A.A.F. personnel today are highly regarded and respected members of the community and valuable contributors to the economy of the city and district.
I mention this matter because, although 1 have had very little to do with the Army up there, I can say its public relations do not compare favorably with those of the R.A.A.F. I say that in all sincerity, and it is something which the Minister for the Army should examine. I am not criticising anybody in a strong sense, but it is true that the public relations of the R.A.A.F. are so far ahead of that of the Army in Townsville that it is just not funny. This has come under notice on several occasions. The R.A.A.F. permits people to go to the base at Townsville to see their relatives going to Vietnam on these Boeing aircraft which drop into Townsville, often at unearthly hours, to refuel. I hope the failure in Army public relations will be overcome by the powers that be in the Army and that they will keep an eye on the Army base there as it nears completion.
This year we are spending a lot of money on defence - $1,000 million. In my opinion it is imperative that we receive value for our money irrespective of how or where it is spent, because a lot of this money is being spent at the expense of other quite important sectors of our society. In some of those sectors the shortage of money is quite critical, as in education, social service, repatriation, and other activities which could do with a lot more money. If we are to spend ali this money I hope we get value for it. It is no good spending huge sums on sophisticated equipment, as we are doing, if we do not go the whole distance and buy the associated materials and gear that make the equipment effective and enables us to get the best out of what we buy.
Today we have the Mirage fighter which is probably equal to any in the world, at present any way, although I suppose that by the time the fighter complex is finished we will have to start thinking about something to take the place of the Mirage. I hope the Government is making arrangements to provide the equipment needed for the efficient operation of Mirage fighters. It has been said in newspapers in Australia that we do not have the radar facilities to enable us to get the best out of these aircraft. If we do not get this radar, sophisticated as the fighters are, we may as well have no fighters. We all know that even in the last war, because of the small range and endurance of fighter aircraft, radar was necessary to get the maximum effect from the Spitfires and Hurricanes. Radar enabled the Battle of Britain to be won by the small defending forces. This is equally true today, because the Mirage fighter is not something which can just be sent up to look for something. It has to be told where to go and how long it is to be there, and ability to do this depends largely on the associated equipment. I hope that in the not too distant future we can not only say that we have 100 Mirage fighters operational but that we have the necessary radar and personnel to make them effective. Bearing in mind the size of Australia, this is no small job. I suppose the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) and his officers also realise this.
These remarks also apply to the Fill aircraft, not yet delivered, which is even more sophisticated than the Mirage. I only hope that these aircraft do not end up being as effective, or perhaps I should say as ineffective, as the Centurion tanks which the Army has. We have waited a long time for a replacement bomber for the Canberra. The Canberra is almost in the vintage class now - those that are left. It seems to be a long time since the American B52 bomber flew around Australia just before the last election. That was quite a clever move on the part of the Government. One arrived in Townsville the same day as Arthur Calwell. We thought we were getting a new aircraft. In my electorate a lot of the electors took the hint and did hot vote so strongly for me as they had. But we did not get the aircraft which the Government promised. It did not turn up. I suppose that these tricks are all right in politics, and we all play them. We have been treated to three years now of the Government blowing hot and blowing cold with regard to the Fill. It is about time we had something more definite about the price of this rather elusive and controversial aircraft, which is becoming more expensive every time we hear of it. If it gets much dearer we will be in financial bother trying to pay for our order.
I spoke last year about something which we will be hard put to avoid some time in the future; that is, the integration, to a major extent, of our defence forces. With a nation of 11 million people and a huge area to defend we cannot afford waste - and duplication is waste. We have three transport setups in our Services, one each for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. We have three stores setups and we have three separate communications setups. Sometimes they are all in the one area. To me this is ridiculous. It costs a lot and wastes our defence allocation. We cannot afford to have this money wasted. This year defence is going to cost the people of Australia $1,000 million in taxation and it is up to someone to see that we get value for this money. We also have the same staff structure for the three forces and this entails a lot more top brass and whatever goes with them - and there is a good deal that goes with them. I fail to see why there is no move made to see that at certain levels the three individual arms of our forces are integrated. Why should we have three separate telecommunication setups when one could do the job? Why do we need three transport services and three stores depots? Why cannot the personnel be interchangeable? To me a radar operator, technician, helicopter pilot or mechanic would be the same in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force except for the different uniform. Because of this duplication we have more personnel than we need for these jobs. This costs more, and thus less money is available for equipment.
Canada has had a programme of integration in operation for some years and has effected considerable savings in money which has been used to buy equipment. I believe Australia should at least examine this problem and see whether something could be done on those lines. The only problem in Canada so far as this was concerned came from the attitude adopted by the admirals and others who were redundant as a result. 1 remember that we had this same problem when Australia built an amphibious tank during the last war. The admirals said it was no good because it had no rudder. That is the general approach found to a certain extent in the Services. This is the ultra-conservative approach adopted to many things in this country of which we are all guilty to a point and which is slowing the nation down. This ever ready willingness to wait and ?ee happens also in the business world. There are those businesses where managements refuse to change their layout or system of accounting and find that with ever increasing costs they become less efficient and finally everything gums up and they go broke. Unfortunately, as I see it, our approach to defence in Australia is the same.
The capital costs of equipment today compared to the cost 20 years ago is amazing. During the last war the bombers I flew cost £25,000 each. A fighter cost about £10,000. Today we talk of aircraft costing up to $6 million or $8 million each. Ships of the Charles F. Adams Class which the Navy has acquired cost about $40 million each. H.M.A.S. “Melbourne”, purchased in 1948, cost $6 million. So it goes on. Today a soldier receives probably ten times as much as he did 20 years ago. lt is against this background that we cannot drag along obtaining minimum value for the money spent, because the nation cannot afford it. I hope that someone looks at the whole of our defence complex in a national and not a selfish one eyed way. While the Minister for the Navy is sitting in the chamber looking so happy with life I would like to say that we would like to have one of the proposed patrol boats stationed in north Queensland. I think this would be useful, because wc have a lot of fishing boats in Queensland waters. Over the years there are many intrusions in Barrier Reef waters by Japanese fishing boats. I have seen them myself while out fishing. This was before I came to this Parliament, as I have not had much time to do any fishing since then. Quite often we would see Japanese trawlers and then as soon as they saw us they would buzz off. I think it would be useful to have a Navy patrol boat stationed in those waters. This would be appreciated by the people of Townsville and north Queensland, and it would be a part of the general defence setup.
In conclusion, I think that our civil defence allocation is a pathetic amount. It is only §700,000. I think that this is a matter which the Government should examine really closely because it concerns every citizen in Australia. Civil defence is virtually non-existent. 1 think the time might come when it will be very important for us to have an efficient civil defence service.
.- I listened with interest to the constructive contribution that was made to this debate by my honorable friend from Herbert (Mr. Harding) and I do not want particularly to take issue with anything that he said. But I would like to analyse the main trend which this debate appears to me to have taken, having listened to all of it.
Two main themes have been reiterated by the Opposition. The first, which is a very important proposition from the point of view of this country’s future security, is that Australia is in no potential danger from Communist subversion and revolutionary wars in the countries of South East Asia. This was the idea propagated today, as it has been so consistently in the past, by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). There is a strange inconsistency in today’s statement by the honorable member for Yarra that Australia is facing no threat to its security by reason of the events which have been and are now taking place in South East Asia. The Committee will recall that in March of this year the honorable member for Yarra said that if the Australian people could be persuaded that what is happening in South Vietnam is, in substantial measure, aggression from the north, they could reasonably be expected to support the Government’s defence policy. At that time, of course, he maintained vigorously that there was no significant element of aggression from the north in South Vietnam. Since going on his trip to South East Asia during the parliamentary recess that preceded the Budget, he seems to have changed his view on this important point because he has come back and said in this House that in his judgment, as he sees the position now, there has been significant aggression from North Vietnam since 1964. He has said that aggression was stepped up significantly to the point of total war in 196S.
This is a strange sea of inconsistent statements when we view them all together. On the one hand he says today that there is no threat to Australia in what is happening in South East Asia now. “Yet only seven months ago he said that if we as a people could be convinced that there was aggression from North Vietnam then the Government’s defence policy should be supported and could be expected to be supported by the electors. One has only to put the two statements side by side to see the fundamental inconsistencies in them. Of course there is a threat today arising from the sort of war that is being fought in South Vietnam because, if the aggressors are allowed to get away with what they are trying to get away with in South Vietnam, the whole of South East Asia will be imperilled, and if South East Asia is imperilled, so are we.
Another mild criticism I would like to make of the honorable member for Yarra - 1 am sorry I find it necessary so often to engage in mild criticism of what he says - is this: He read from his Party’s present - I emphasise “ present “ - defence policy. I am forced to concede with gruding admiration that he is a master of selective quotation - selective, of course, in the sense that he leaves out the bits that are uncomfortable to him because they show up the essential weakness in the Labour Party’s defence posture. The 1965 defence policy of the Australian Labour Party, which he read, is in some respects quite impressive when considered out of context. What he omitted to tell the Committee was that the 1963 policy, which is the policy upon which his Party went to the poll the last time there was a general election for the House of Representatives, contained this promise under the heading “ defence “ -
Labour will honour and support Australia’s treaty and defence alliances.
That is significant. One would have hoped that in a responsible party there would be no occasion for the removal of that rather important proposition from the defence platform. However, when we compare the 1963 policy with the 1965 policy from which the honorable member for Yarra read today, we find in the latter document no reference to any honouring by Labour - in the unlikely event of its forming a government - of this country’s treaties and defence alliances.
– I agree that it is a shame and the people of the nation have to be told of it. In the 1965 statement of the Australian Labour Party’s policy, we find a very watered down and indeed fundamentally different statement about Australia’s defence treaties and alliances. All the 1965 platform of the Australian Labour Party says is -
Australia must periodically review defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.
That is a pretty sorry watering down of what might be thought to be, and what certainly will be thought by the electors at large to be, the policy of the Labour Party on a question that is fundamental to this country’s future security and indeed to its present security.
There is a curious, almost witless logic in the Australian Labour Party’s ideas as they have come forward in the debate today. The Labour Party says on the one hand that this country faces no threat to its security, in the long term or short term, by reason of what is happening in our near north. Of course, this is a policy, or a viewpoint, which is blind to the facts. Lee Kuan Yew, Labour’s Socialist friend in Singapore - perhaps I shall say “ Labour’s Socialist fellow politician “ over-stating the position in suggesting that Lee Kuan Yew would be a friend of the ruling junta of the Australian Labour Party - takes a view of the security of the region in which we live which is precisely the view taken unanimously by the Government Parties in this House.
– He said you should recognise China, too.
– Let us keep to the defence policy. I know that the honorable member for Grayndler is very toey when it comes to a discussion of any question relating to defence because, unlike many of the other members of his Party, he knows - and he has to live with this - that the policy of his Party is threadbare and worthless. Lee Kuan Yew says unequivocally that the events which are taking place in South Vietnam at the present time are of vital significance to the security of his nation - Singapore. He unequivocally supports the American military intervention in support of South Vietnam. A team of Labour politicians visited Singapore in, 1 think, July of last year. I think my honorable friend from East Sydney (Mr. Devine) was one of that team.
– You are wrong.
– If he was not, then I am wrong, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was one of the team. Lee Kuan Yew told that party of politicians his view about the significance of events in South Vietnam. None of them except the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) had the courage on returning to Australia to tell their party branches what Lee Kuan Yew had said. This is a pretty poor reflection on the frankness of at least some members of the Australian Labour Party. I say with great pleasure that the honorable member foi: Batman is to be excepted. We all know that when he came back to Australia he alone told the truth.
The other theme that Opposition members have sought to develop today is that we should concentrate more on building up the Australian component in defence production and the purchasing of equipment for our defence forces. As I. have said, there is a curious - almost witless, I suggest - consistency in the two themes that have been pressed by Opposition speakers. If the first theme - that there is no threat to us in South East Asia - is followed through to its logical conclusion, we as a nation shall inevitably lose the benefit of our very valuable defence treaties with the United States of America and also, possibly, with Great Britain. We shall then be in a position in which, in the acquisition of defence supplies, we shall have to go it alone. If we do have to go it alone, this country will find itself paying very much more than it pays now and has paid in the past for a measure of defence security, if any measure of defence security can be obtained should we have to go it alone - a proposition the validity of which I very seriously doubt.
So the Australian Labour Party, in effect, embarks on a policy that would commit us to going it alone and doing the best we can without friends. Opposition members then say: “ We must buy more locally produced equipment. We are buying too much overseas.” This approach overlooks several very important facts. I heard it suggested earlier today by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) that it was quite wrong for this Government to buy sophisticated electronic equipment from the United States for the guided missile destroyers, which are known in the Navy as D.D.G.’s. I thought that by now even he would realise that if this country had to tool up to make this sort of equipment for three destroyers the cost would be enormously greater than it is. Such a course would involve an altogether undesirable diversion of our economic resources. Instead of paying $8 million a set for that electronic equipment, we would be committed to probably four or five times that expenditure. Is the policy proposed by the honorable member realistic? It seems to me to be one that emanates from cloud cuckoo land.
A few other facts are somewhat overlooked or ignored by Opposition members who press for greater expenditure on Australian production for defence. The total expenditure on capital equipment items last financial year was $272 million, of which $1.18 million was spent on items that could not possibly be produced in this country at present or in the foreseeable future. This included the guided missile destroyers and the down payment on the Fill aircraft. All this was part of the total expenditure of $272 million on capital items. Out of that total expenditure, approximately $140 million was spent locally. So a very substantial part of our expenditure on capital equipment for defence was directed to the local market for the purchase of goods of local manufacture. As was pointed out by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) the other day, in answer to a question asked in this chamber, there was a twilight zone, involving no more than about Si 5 million, in which there was a viable choice one way or the other in determining whether we would buy locally or overseas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Drury). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) has just given us another of the sort of speeches that he usually makes. He tried to castigate the Australian Labour Party on its policy for the defence of Australia. I make no apology for Labour’s policy. It is an independent one. It is a policy formulated by Australians who can think for themselves. It is not made by people overseas. We of the Labour Party are independent and have independent minds. We would not run to any other country for decisions on these matters. I believe that one factor that this Government neglects all (he time is the need to be independent. It prefers instead to depend on other people. We recall the statement made recently by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) when he was in the United States of America. He criticised the Government of that country for sending billions of dollars worth of aid to South Vietnam. Then he added: “ We cannot get any money for Australia “. Does this suggest that the Minister is sincere and that we have a sincere government? All it means is that he was in the United States trying to get dollars. Most likely he was attempting to trade an Australian battalion for them, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) tried to do when he was last in America.
– Speak up.
– If the honorable member cannot hear me, I suggest that he go outside and get his ears washed out. If he does, he may then be able to hear properly.
– He eats butter.
– Probably he does. He certainly gains no benefit from it. The matter that I wish particularly to mention concerns the School Cadet Corps. Recently in this chamber, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) read part of a security file and castigated an honorable citizen of Australia who had no redress and no means of defending herself. I believe that the Minister’s handling of the matter has met with resentment in all sections of the community. The Prime Minister should have reprimanded him for even bringing the security file into the chamber. 1 suggest that no Minister should bring any security files into this place unless he has the permission of the Prime Minister who, after all, administers the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, or the Security
Service, as it is usually known. I believe that all Australians greatly resent the Minister’s action. If this sort of thing is to happen, we shall find that this country has been turned into a police state and that security files on people who oppose the Government’s policy will be read in the Parliament. I personally resent the Minister’s handling of the matter and I know that many other Australians resent it. I am sure that on 26th November they will demonstrate this by the way in which they vote.
We know that there are Cadet Corps at many schools and that they do a good job. A lot of time is given by their officers to training lads, many of whom go into camp every year for training. I think all Australians were hostile towards the sort of thing that was revealed by the incident concerning a lad attending the Sydney Grammar School. It came out that these young kids in the school cadets were being indoctrinated with hatred against the Vietcong - against the Communists. We frequently hear from the Government loud outcries about the Corns. But we never hear any outcry when they pay for wheat, wool or whatever else the supporters of this Government sell to them. Their money is pretty good, and that is all the Government is after. But the Government does not hesitate to indoctrinate our young fellows with hatred for the Communists.
I would like to refer to the case of a young fellow who was a member of the St. Joseph’s College Cadet Corps. In August 1959 he was in camp in Singleton with his school’s Cadet Corps. His spine was injured when a bomb exploded. As a result he must now permanently wear a brace on his back. Since 1959, through his solicitors, he has been attempting to obtain from the Army compensation for his disability. But he was getting nowhere, so this year he asked me to make representations on his behalf. I contacted the Army, but was told that no decision in the matter had been reached. I was told that I would be contacted within a few days and informed of the position. The Department of the Army contacted me and told me that the matter had been referred to the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s office in Sydney. 1 wrote to the Deputy Crown Solicitor, who replied informing me that he had made certain recommendations and these had been forwarded to the Department of the Army. On 15th September this year I received a letter from the Department of the Army. Honorable members will see that it took from 1959 to 1966 for the Army to reach a decision in this matter. The young man concerned was injured in an explosion at Singleton Army camp on 22nd August 1959. He sought a lump sum payment as compensation. In his letter to me the Secretary of the Department said -
The matter of a lump sum payment was referred to the Department of the Treasury by my Department, and the subsequent advice has now been received.
I have been informed that the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act were extended to Mr. Fazio on an ex-gratia basis and that there is no entitlement under that Act for a lump sum payment in respect of Mr. Fazio’s injuries. In 1964 Mr. Fazio’s solicitor’s indicated an intention of pursuing on his behalf a common law claim against the Commonwealth for negligence. The solicitors suggested that the Commonwealth might be prepared to effect a lump sum settlement of the claim.
The advice I have received reveals that it is open to Mr. Fazio to initiate action at common law, but on the present advice of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers, any such action would be defended by the Commonwealth.
Here we have a young man who was at a cadet camp in Singleton. He was injured in an explosion, necessitating his wearing a brace for the rest of his life. When he makes representations to the Commonwealth it says, in effect: “ If you want to take action against us at common law we will defend it in the courts “.
I hope that many mothers are listening to this. The people of Australia will get some idea of what this Government does when young cadets in training are injured. Nothwithstanding all its resources and the amount of money it spends on war, the Commonwealth tells this young man: “ Take us to court and we will defend the action”. Imagine how much would be involved in taking this action to court. This young fellow would have to pay for legal representation. He would have to win his case if he were not to be badly out of pocket. These young fellows who train in cadet camps are not even covered by workers compensation. What incentive is there for parents to put their children into Cadet Corps when they know that if they are maimed the Commonwealth will not compensate them? Is this the Government’s idea of justice? We all know that in Vietnam young Australian conscripts are being killed. If the parents of deceased servicemen in Vietnam are not dependent on them, all they get is their son’s body. Their son is buried and they get a letter of condolence from the Government saying how sorry it is for their son’s death. But the parents do not receive any compensation from the Government. Insurance companies will not insure servicemen fighting in Vietnam but the Government is not doing anything about this. Why should we not be concerned about these things? If these cadets are prepared to be taught soldiering the Government has a responsibility to look after them if they are injured. I feel it is important to raise this matter in the Parliament so that the people of Aus.ralia may know what happens to school cadets who meet with an accident while in training camp. The cadet of whom I spoke has been done an injustice. The Minister for the Army should look further into this matter and give some compensation to this young chap for the disability that he must bear for the rest of his life. He tried to join the Air Force but was rejected because of the disability he received while a member of the Cadet Corps.
For a few weeks we have heard many people talk about defending Australia. We should defend Australia. If we study our history we will see that when the Australian Labour Party was in power it did a mighty job of defending Australia. This is something of which we all should be proud. We have heard about certain people who have formed themselves into a group called the Defend Australia Committee. We know who they are. I would like to know whether the Minister for Defence would take any notice of some of these frustrated backbench political ratbags who are members of these committees, or would he take more notice of the official defence committees that operate in Australia? We have committees whose duty it is to advise the Minister on the defence of Australia. A great many of the men who are on these committees are professional men and experts. They are aware of the changing situation as far as defence is concerned. They are on the ball in matters of defence.
We have the Defence Committee, the Chairman of which in 1965 was Sir Edwin Hicks, Secretary of the Department of Defence. Members of the Committee included Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Scherger, Lieutenant-General Sir John Wilton, Sir Roland Wilson and ViceAdmiral A. W. R. McNicoll. It was the responsibility of these men to advise the Minister on defence policy as a whole and the co-ordination of the military, strategic, economic, financial and external affairs aspects of the defence policy. It was their function to advise the Minister also on matters of policy or principle and important questions having a joint Service or interdepartmental defence aspect. It was their function also to advise on such matters having a defence aspect as are referred to the Committee by or on behalf of the Minister,
In addition, the Chiefs of Staff advise the Minister through a committee. These are the people who are responsible for the defence of Australia. I am sure that many sections of the community agree that these are the people to whom we will look when it comes to the defence of Australia. 1 am sure that I do not want to listen to any other committee that has no responsibility to the Parliament or to the Government telling us how we should run Australia. 1 want to hear the opinions of the experts, the people who know. I am sure that many other Australians feel as I do. With all respect to all other committees. I believe they should be ignored and we should look for advice only to the responsible people who have been appointed by the Government. They are the people who will defend Australia if ever the need arises.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I had to leave the chamber for a few minutes and have just returned. While I was outside. I heard a few minutes of the broadcast of the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine). He said that a lot of people talk about why we should defend Australia and he made a remark that seems to me to be a strange remark for an Australian to make. He said: “ I am one who thinks we should defend Australia “.
– Of course we should.
– Surely that is obvious. There is no need for members of the Parliament to say in this place that we should defend Australia. Any man who held the opposite opinion should not be here; he could not be called an Australian. I know that the honorable member for East Sydney is genuine in making this remark, but hearing it in a broadcast I thought it was strange. People outside the Parliament listen to the broadcast. In the few minutes I listened, I heard that remark. No doubt people all over Australia could say that the honorable member for East Sydney at least is one who thinks we should defend Australia. Surely there is no person in this country who does not believe that we should defend Australia. The only people who would not hold this view are the few who support the Communist cause. Therefore, I think it is quite unnecessary to make this statement.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) said that certain statements had been reiterated today. I have listened to the whole of the debate, with the exception of the few minutes I was outside tha chamber, and I have not heard any fresh view expressed. Details of some individual cases have been given, but nothing new has been said on the broad questions of how we should defend Australia and whether the way it is now being defended is correct. The Ministers who represent the Services must be very happy because they will not be called upon to answer any serious allegations. It seems that everything is going very well. The speeches of Opposition members were completely devoid of any serious criticism of the actions of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) and the Service Ministers. 1 listened very carefully to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding). He said that we should have more defence in Queensland. Was he asking for this for economic reasons, so that more money would be spent in Queensland or was he seeking the defence of that part of Australia? This is sound logic, for if a foreign foe could occupy Queensland, most of Australia could be invaded within an hour and a half. Our foe could reach Sydney, Melbourne, the southern States and all parts of Australia. It is not a matter of defending one part of Australia; it is a matter of defending the whole Australian nation. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) usually interjects. What did he have to say? He said: “The honorable member for Mallee has some sort of gimmick about defence.” This is the first time I have been accused in that way. I have not had the advantage that he has had of having served for years in the Citizen Military Forces, but I served for a long number of years in the Australian Imperial Force. There was no gimmick about that. I can say that in Malaya and other places there was no gimmick about our service. But I do not speak about these matters in the Parliament because they are personal. However, I do resent an honorable member who has been in the C.M.F. for some years saying that I have some gimmick about defence. It is unworthy of the man and it is unworthy of the Parliament.
The honorable member for Wills went on to say that Australia is in no danger at all at present. This has been the theme of the Australian Labour Party for years now. But this statement contains two strange elements. The honorable member for Wills says that we should build up our defence forces because it may be that in five years we will need them. We will need them much sooner than that if Labour succeeds in getting America out of South Vietnam and recalls the Australian troops that are there now. The very fact that Australia is co-operating with America in Vietnam make our shores much safer from an invading force. The honorable member for Wills says that we may need our defence forces in five years’ time. Five yeaTS is not very long. I do not want to misquote him or misinterpret his statement; if I do, he can say so. His idea is that we should fight the enemy in this country.
– Which enemy?
– Any enemy that invades us. The honorable member asks: “Which enemy?” I would say that an enemy is any force that seeks to invade Australia in lawless conquest. Any foe that does this is the enemy, and I do not need to name any country. His contention is that we should build up our defence forces because in five years we may have to fight an enemy in this country. I believe that we are now serving a dual purpose. We are trying to bring independence and a democratic government to South Vietnam and to stop the overthrow of South Vietnam by North Vietnam. At the same time, we are helping to keep invasion away from our shores for much longer than the term of five years that is envisaged by the honorable member for Wills. This is what we are doing at present and I support the Government’s efforts wholeheartedly. The cheapest thing that can be spent in a war is money.
– What about lives?
– Unfortunately, in two world wars we have lost many lives. The honorable member asks: “ What about lives?” That is the very point I am making. The cheapest thing that can be spent in a war is money; the dearest is lives. The honorable member does not need to suggest that I think that lives do not matter. I hold the very opposite opinion. We should see that our forces are well equipped in every way. This will save lives. This is much the same as providing cars with safety equipment so that the lives of people who use the roads will be saved. If a force is well equipped, lives are saved on the battlefield. I have seen this happen. So I say that the cheapest thing that can be spent in a war is money. In the years that I have been a member of the Parliament, I have on many occasions heard members of the Australian Labour Party advocate that defence expenditure should be reduced. Although expenditure this year is higher than it has ever been in peace time, I have not heard the Opposition make that plea on this occasion. I wonder why. Surely to goodness someone in the Opposition realises that we are living in real danger and that the money we are spending and the action we are taking is in the best interests of this great continent.
– It is business as usual.
– The honorable member for Scullin makes one of his characteristic interjections. If we put in a small, token force with the American forces and play our part, that great nation will help us in times of peril. Surely that is good business. It has a dual advantage. I appreciate interjections of that kind. If I can get a few more I can add bright spots to my speech. The honorable member for East Sydney said that certain people have the responsibility of defending Australia. Everybody has the responsibility of defending this country. Surely everyone in this country must want to protect it in every possible way. Unfortunately one is forced to say, in debates like this, things that have been said before in the Parliament. I do not want to be critical of any honorable member, because I have the greatest good will for all honorable members, but I think some have the wrong idea about defending the country. Others are overwhelmed by the power of their political machine and do what the machine dictates. When a member does not do what is dictated, it is not difficult to realise what happens to him. Even the former Minister for the Army, Mr. Cyril Chambers, found out to his sorrow what happens if one goes against the opinion of the ruling authorities of the Australian Labour Party. Mr. H. V. Johnson’s position was the same. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who is my personal friend when outside this chamber - and with whom I had pleasant times on a trip - knows that this is true. If a member finds fault with the Labour Party Executive he ceases to be a member, because his endorsement is withdrawn. I cannot see how anyone can argue about this.
I said that it sometimes becomes necessary for an honorable member to repeat statements he has made in the Parliament. A member has a limited field of debate unless he seeks information from the Parliamentary Library and quotes what people, in America and China perhaps, have said. However those persons honorable members may regard as authorities may well be regarded in their own countries as what the boys would call “ ratbags “. How do honorable members know, when they quote what someone has said, whether that person is an authority and whether his logic is sound. Frequently they do not know whether he is experienced in the subject on which he speaks. I have referred before to what Sir George Reid said in Egypt to the Australian troops before they went to Gallipoli, but it is worth repeating. He said -
Are you on a quest in search of gain such as led your fathers to the Austral shore? Are you preparing to invade and outrage weaker nationalities in lawless rage of conquest? Thank God your mission is as pure and as noble as any soldiers undertook to rid the world of would-be tyrants.
Can anybody point to any war in which Australian troops have participated with any objective other than to rid the world of would-be tyrants? Examine the whole gamut of our participation in conflicts and this stands out like a star. Australian troops have not gone in search of gain or to outrage weaker nationalities in lawless rage of conquest. They have gone to play a part for humanity and to make life for others worthliving. One poet said -
While there is one untrodden track
For intellect and will,
And men are free to think and act
Life is worth living still.
Life is worth living for the people in South Vietnam only while they can be kept from the yoke of the Communists. Australia, in a very small way, is playing its part with the great American nation in this conflict. This is another reason whyI am so pleased that the President of the United States of America will be in Australia soon. Let us give him the greatest possible welcome. Let us realise that his nation stands for the same principles which made the British people great and for which we in Australia stand and without which no country can long endure.
– I think that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is one of the few members on the Government side who really believes in what he says in this important debate. He impressed himself.
– I hope I impressed the honorable member a bit.
– The honorable member impressed me only when he referred to the extensive reading undertaken by members on this side of the chamber. He said that he had heard nothing new in this debate. I hope I will be able to submit some new facts to him and to other honorable members opposite in the short time available to me. As I promised one of my constituents, I want to raise a personal case. It is one of the glories of our democratic system that the humblest person in the community, if he considers an injustice has been donehim, can have his case raised in the National Parliament. For that reason I congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for
East Sydney (Mr. Devine), on his remarks. However, I will try to dispose of this personal case as quickly as I can so that I can touch on other equally or more important matters.
The case concerns a Mr. Stan Andrews who had a contract with the Department of the Army to cart away the refuse from the Army camp at Singleton to feed to a few pigs that he had. Mr. Andrews is a war pensioner receiving half the maximum war pension. He was induced to apply for the contract by the camp commandant at Singleton when there were very few Army personnel stationed there. This was the reason why, if I may use the vernacular, the sharks would not be in it, as there were only two drums of refuse daily from the mess. However, when national service training built up, the number of Army personnel grew as did the amount of refuse from the kitchen. Mr. Andrews found himself being pestered by representatives of the Department of Agriculture. A pig farmer in New South Wales has to meet local council requirements. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell), who undertook some studies on agriculture prior to his coming into this Parliament, can correct me if I am wrong on this point. The Cessnock Council had no complaint about the manner in which Mr. Andrews cooked and disposed of the pig food to his animals. However, an influential person named Bailey - a member of the Bailey firm of stock and station agents - who lives in Singleton in the heart of the electorate represented by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), came into it. Mr. Andrews was found to have committed a petty breach of requirements in that he was not cooking the refuse sufficiently, and his contract was taken away and handed to Bailey. There was no re-calling of tenders, which I understand is the normal thing with the Department of the Army, and which procedure was followed by the authorities at Williamtown air base when a person lost the contract for carting refuse away from that station because he did not comply with the conditions of the contract. I am reliably informed that Mr. Bailey had made no provision to have the necessary equipment for cooking the pig food when it became his turn to “handle it. I think the situation reeks with suspicion.
I should like a further matter investigated by the responsible Minister. After I made normal representations on behalf of Mr. Andrews he, a World War II pensioner, received a summons to appear at the court in relation to this minor breach. So astute are the people who launched the prosecution that they have had the case remanded until 8th December, which of course is after the 26th November election, in case something should flow from the evidence which would militate against the Government’s prospects.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. The important litigation to which the honorable member has referred is sub judice and therefore I suggest he should not comment on it. His statements rather seem to be a breach of the Standing Orders.
– This is a Parliament which permits free speech by an honorable member, and as long as I am in this Parliament-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Stewart). - Order! I am afraid a legitimate point of order has been raised by the honorable member for Parkes. As the case in question has been before the court and has been remanded, the honorable member for Hunter will have to refrain from mentioning it.
– I submit to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman. Anyhow, I have no more to add on that point. Now I will turn to the estimates before the Committee. The defence estimates being debated cover a Government expenditure of approximately $875 million which includes $300 million chargeable to loan funds. Honorable members on this side of the chamber by logic, commonsense and fact have completely annihilated the Government in this debate. The submissions made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) were wise and worthy. He stated that the Government makes no provision for the continued supply or the storing up in Australia of parts for our essential war machines. Honorable members on the Government side referred to the submission but would not concede that it was a most important factor in relation to defence. It was referred to by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
When I heard the submissions I was reminded of an article in the American magazine “ Newsweek “ of 15th March 1965 which pointed to the plight of the Chinese defence forces as a result of buying their aircraft from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when relations between the two nations were more friendly than they are today. “ Newsweek “ pointed out that the Chinese Air Force is suffering severely from a lack of high octane fuel and spare parts. We, as an independent nation, must develop an independent foreign policy. We may not always be as friendly with the United States as we are today and what has happened to the Chinese Air Force could happen to us. I hope it never does but everything depends on political trends.
– What about Labour’s own independent foreign policy?
– If I told it to the honorable member he would not be able to absorb it. He would forget it by the time he walked out of the chamber. I will write a letter to him or to his wife who will be able to explain it to him. However, as I was saying, it could well happen that the United States would not be as friendly towards us in the future as she is today. We recall that when the Government of the United Kingdom, our mother country, was in political controversy over the Suez crisis the United States told her that she could not depend on the United States to support her should the war escalate. I think all Government members must concede that point. We know that the Australian Government has been going along hand in glove with United States foreign policy. I sometimes feel sorry for President Johnson because of the great pressure on him by the war hawks who are forcing him along the path he pursues. 1 believe that deep in his heart he does not want to follow the policies he is following at present because the overwhelming opinion of the people of the world is against United States involvement in Vietnam.
Much has been said in the Parliament about China and trade with China. In a recent edition of the Hong Kong publication the “ Far Eastern Economic Review “ - a most independent and, I think, rather truthful and forthright magazine which I regret is not more often referred to in the National Parliament by honorable members on the
Government side - the following statement appears on page 614 -
France, still behind Britain and West Germany in two way trade and in exports to China, nevertheless managed a sizeable increase in the first half of this year. Her imports from China more than doubled, partly the result of the removal of all quota restrictions at the end of last year on all imports from China.
That indicates the attitude of other countries towards China. It is totally different from the present Australian Government’s attitude. The article goes on -
Italy, of all the major European trading partners appears this year to be the one least likely to succeed. Exports to China are running at very little above last year’s level … In May, however . . . she signed a three year (1966- 1968) accord for the supply of fertiliser.
Japan is the trade partner which has done best, with an increase in the first six months of some 41 per cent, over the January-June period last year.
We know of the statement made by Sir William Gunn some time ago that there is a golden opportunity for a market for our wool in China. It will be seen from the extracts from the “ Far Eastern Economic Review “ I have just cited that European countries are increasing their trade with China, so much so that Japan is becoming afraid of them. We are the only European people in the southern hemisphere who have whipped up this feeling about China’s territorial claims. In this the Australian Government is inspired by the war hawks of the United States. I advise honorable members to read the article from which I have quoted because I would have liked to read more of it. If China is the threat to the world that we have been led to believe she is, it is a wonder that the countries I have mentioned, which follow political principles similar to our own, are doing so much trade with her. I might inform the Committee that Malaysia has sold about £15 million worth of raw rubber to Communist China in 1965.
In conclusion, I want to read to the Committee the final remarks in a book titled “ Hope of a Hemisphere “. They are -
As a product of the American public school system, it was not so long ago that earnest teachers taught me the glories of the American Revolution, taught me to revere the memory of the Founding Fathers, who too, suffered calumny and worse when they sought independence and economic freedom from the tyrannical restraints of the British crown. I can never be untaught
Reverence remains forever for Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Abraham Lincoln who said that the strongest bond between working men of the world is that of fraternal understanding and solidarity. It is too late to persuade me to repudiate that, even though the highest placed men of our Government would have an entire people reject the teachings of our own sages, our own patriots.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Stewart). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to congratulate the people responsible for bringing up this very fine defence report. It is a record of what has been done over the past 12 months and it is something that can be referred to in the future as all other defence reports have been referred to. I wish to refer to the remarks of speakers who have said it is a great pity that more was not done during the 1950’s so that we would not now need to hurry so much to bring our defences up to date. One can look at this question in several ways. No matter what we do about defence, we must pay for it. I suppose that if things had been hurried along in the 1950’s we would then have been paying out more money which is very hard to get from the people’s pockets. I remember being in England in 1938 at the time of the Munich crisis when the situation was crucial. Nobody then could persuade people that they had to fork out a lot of money to put Britain’s defences in order. It is very hard to get people to understand that if they want something in life they must pay for it. This is especially so with defence equipment which is very expensive.
I, with other people, have been fortunate in that I have been able to inspect most of our defence establishments. I was remarkably surprised to find how hard they were working and how forthright were the people in charge in pointing out what was happening and what they hoped to achieve. I was also very pleased to be able to speak with the people who were training in those areas. Like other speakers, I found them to be very good Australians and I am proud of them. So today I want to make a plea for those who are serving in the permanent service of the Australian Regular Army, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. This morning I heard it stated on the wireless that next year some $2 million will be spent on recruitment in advertising. I do not know what station that was. I should like the Government to think about this subject. At the moment we have approximately 41,000 people in the permanent Army, 20,150 in the Air Force and 16,130 in the Navy, making a total of 77,280. I went to the records department of the Parliamentary Library and escertained the average amount of income tax that had been paid over the last 12 months. I found that it was $88.60. If we multiply that sum by 77,280, which is the number of personnel serving in the permanent forces, we find that members of the defence forces would pay approximately $6.8 million each year into the common purse. I make the plea that all members of the permanent Army, Navy and Air Force be exempt from income tax. All this would cost the Government would be $6.8 million per annum. I think this would be a very good inducement to bring recruits into our armed forces. But it should not be looked upon only as an inducement. Any man who comes forward and says that he will serve when and where required should be recognised for what he is prepared to do for us. This income tax exemption would be an act of appreciation.
Not so long ago when speaking in this place I made a plea also that an insurance scheme be introduced for servicemen. I pointed out that if a serviceman happened to be travelling from, say, Melbourne to Sydney on his way to Vietnam and the aircraft on which he was travelling crashed he would automatically be insured for $15,000, but if the same aircraft crashed in Vietnam, or it happened to be a service aircraft, he would get nothing. I pointed out that in the case of a sergeant whose wages would be in about the middle bracket, by the time his wife received the pension, child endowment and other allowances the family’s income would be reduced by approximately two-thirds. This is not good enough. It is too much to expect a young mother to look after herself and, perhaps, two children on such a reduced income. Consequently, I make this plea on then* behalf.
I know that this matter has been raised in another place where it was suggested that something should be done to insure servicemen. This matter has been taken up also by the Press. I do not know who was the first to raise the subject - perhaps I was, but I do not claim that distinction - and I do not care who it was, but I believe the first person to raise the matter in this place was the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). I recalled that he asked the Prime Minister a question about it. His request was slightly different from mine, but it had the same purport.
– I believe his suggestion was for normal insurance policies.
– Yes, I believe it was. If the Government would look into these matters they would give much comfort to people who are serving overseas. All of us who have been in the Services, especially in wartime, have wondered: “ If anything happens to me, what is going to happen to Mum and the kids? “ I am sure that these thoughts have gone through everybody’s mind, and I am sure that every exserviceman in this place will say that he has had that thought at some time.
Servicemen are entitled to this benefit. If they were civilians they would find that the law makes provision for them. If a person dies while going to or from work in New South Wales his estate would receive $8,600 plus $460 for each child under 16 years of age; in Victoria the estate would receive $4,480 plus $160 for each, child; in Queensland it is $660 plus $220 for each child; in South Australia it is $6,500 plus $220 for each child; in Western Australia it is $6,672 plus $180 for each child; and in Tasmania it is $8,350 plus $206 for each child. So it can be seen that a civilian is far better provided for than a serviceman is. We have heard of cases where a man on his way to work or on his way home from work has died from a heart attack. In that situation there is an automatic cover. I believe it is wrong that when a man dies while fighting for his country there should not be the same cover. This situation is rather like the old law relating to shipwreck: As soon as a ship was wrecked the crew’s pay was stopped. In effect that is what is happening in the Services today. Emoluments and compensation for civilians have been fought for in the Parliament. I know that much has been done in this place for servicemen, and
I hope that we will do a lot more, but I make the plea that the Government consider both subjects that I have raised: Tax free income for serving personnel, which on my calculations would cost $6.8 million, and an insurance scheme brought in for them.
I should like now to say something about the Navy, the Service with which I was happily associated for some 30 years. I started as a national serviceman, as they are now called. In my time it was called universal military training. Looking through some of my records I happened to find my universal military training book. I found that I was in the 1909 quota, that being the year in which I was born. I had to register, or my parents had to see that I was registered, by February of the year in which I became 14 years of age. 1 and many other people were duly registered. I was medically examined to ensure that I was fit to become either a soldier or a sailor - there was no air force of any size at that time. I have the book here if anybody wants to have a look at it.
Listening to all the controversy that has taken place about the calling up of 20-year- olds, I look back to those days and I wonder what would happen at the present time if the Government, or anybody else, were to say: “All 14-year-olds will register”. However, that is more or less beside the point. I can remember how we 14-year- olds went up to be medically examined. Honorable members know what goes on. You stand in line and a doctor comes along with a stethoscope and you bare your chest. Then the examination continues. We were all medically examined and two years later we did our training. I just want to make this remark about national service: I think it did a lot towards developing the character of Australians. Before World War I, rich and poor shared tents and did their training together. Again after World War I the same applied. People got to know one another and they got to know what was expected of them, and of course when the time came they did what was expected of them. Today there is a lot of controversy. We seem to speak more about these things now. But I am glad to see that Australians are coming forward and doing what is expected of them, because these are very grave times. 1 wanted to say a few words about the Navy and to say how pleased I. am that the Government intends to establish a naval base in Western Australia. This is a very good thing. It was something that was thought of in 1910 by the Labour Government of the time. An expert came out from Britain and said there were two places where naval bases should be established. One was at Westernport, in Victoria, but the principal base, Admiral Henderson said, should be established in Western Australia. One is now going to be established there and I think it is the proper place for it. lt is the part of Australia nearest to Asia, which is so troubled. But when the base is being established I hope the Government will provide the necessary money to build a huge modern dry dock capable of taking the biggest ships in the world, because eventually they will come to Western Australia. A dock just a little bigger than the Captain Cook dock will be necessary. It will not be a waste of money because Western Australia is growing. There is a big oil port there through which huge bulk carriers will operate. So if the Navy looks upon this as a defence need it should remember that nol only naval vessels but also merchant ships will be able to use the dock. After all. part of the duty of the Navy is to protect merchant ships.
I also wanted to make a plea for the upgrading of our top Service officers. I believe we should promote them to the ranks of Admiral, General and Air Chief Marshal. We are a big enough country now to bring our senior officers up to these ranks. I think they are entitled to ranks higher than those of Vice-Admiral, Lieutenant-General and Air Marshal. It is a little embarrassing to them when they have to deal with people in nearby countries who hold these higher ranks, and I hope the Minister will give consideration to this suggestion.
– I want to give the Committee some account of the career of a national service man. This lad was conscripted in the first call-up in June 1965. He proceeded to do his recruit training at Kapooka and then he was sent to Queensland where he continued to serve as a section rifleman. His civilian career had been interrupted but he accepted quite cheerfully the fate that had befallen him and he was prepared to go on to Vietnam with his mates. However, on the eve of departure for Vietnam a pre-departure medical examination was held and he was medically downgraded to a classification of “ forward non-tropical “. This meant, I understand, that he was not to serve north of Cooktown. When’ his fellow trainees had gone lo Vietnam he was left behind with no very important task left to perform in the Army.
He directed attention to the condition of his father’s health and made a plea on compassionate grounds for discharge, but the Army in its wisdom decided that there were not sufficient grounds for granting the application, and he was transferred to other duties. In fact he has been placed at the Royal Military College at Duntroon where he does the work of a gardener’s labourer, sweeping the gutters, raking the leaves and trimming the hedges. That is all the work he gets to do and according to his father’s account to me the lad is utterly fed up with it.
I cannot imagine what this lad was conscripted for and I cannot imagine why the Army, if it had no further useful military work for him to do, does not allow him to return to useful civilian work and to the pursuit of his career. He was in quite a useful and essential job in the New South Wales Department of Railways. Furthermore, so far as my investigations have indicated, he will continue to be employed on the kind of work he is now doing until he completes his two years of national service. Not only is the lad’s opportunity of advancing his career and obtaining promotion being denied to him; the Army is also being put to unnecessary expense. The work that he is doing is work that could be done by any elderly civilian who might be at present unemployed in Canberra. As I have said, the work consists merely of sweeping gutters, raking leaves and trimming hedges at the Royal Military College.
I took this case to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) with some confidence. The Minister gave me a fair and courteous hearing and promised to have the matter investigated. I went back believing that common sense would prevail and that this lad would be discharged from an Army which no longer had any useful military work for him to do. The minor health condition from which he suffered - I think it was a condition of acne on his back - prevented him from performing the service for which he was conscripted and which he was quite willing to perform. I have within the last day or two received a letter from the Minister for the Army saying that it is not possible to discharge this man. The lad apparently will have to stay where he is, and the reason given by the Minister for the Army is that there is no provision under the National Service Act whereby a national serviceman may be released from his Army obligation in order to return to his civilian employment, and that is the law, whether the civilian employment is considered essential or not. If this is the law, then the law is an ass.
I cannot believe that there is in fact no way, if the Army had the will to do it, by which this lad might be discharged. I cannot see why, if there is this defect in the law, it could not be very promptly amended. I bring the matter under particular attention because my inquiries show that this is not an isolated case. There are quite a number of other fellows in a simliar position. For some minor health reason, after being enlisted they have been found unfit to perform military combat duty in the sphere in which they were enlisted, and they are being driven slowly mad by having to perform utterly unskilled work of no military significance or military kind whatever, work in which they can obtain no satisfaction. Apparently they are to be held to this by the process of conscription instead of being allowed to return to the civilian careers which were interrupted by their being called up for national service.
If the Army really had an important and useful task for them to do then, irrespective of the merits of conscription, there might be some argument for retaining them in the Army. But when there is absolutely no military task left, when the Army has really no use for them, when being kept on strength is merely a matter of annoyance to the lads, is a useless expense to the Army and means the loss of a useful civilian in essential employment, then I think it is certainly time that the Army made an arrangement to discharge such lads back to useful civilian employment.
I ask the Minister for the Army how many such lads there are? I understand that in Canberra alone there are at the Royal Military College at Duntroon probably half a dozen and that there are quite a number scattered through other Army depots, institutions and establishments in Australia. This lad, as it happens, has ability at shorthand and typing. It might have been thought therefore that if he cannot be discharged he would have been given some employment which would be in keeping with the skills he possesses. But not so. As I have said, he has been set to this task that I think is officially described in the Army as maintenance duty man. But it is in fact that of gardener’s unskilled labourer. It may be that this is typical in some ways of the Army. Very often it seems to go out of its way to give a man work which is entirely different from that for which his skills would be thought to fit him. But the Minister for the Army, in his letter to me on this matter, told me that these abilities of shorthand and typing were noted immediately the lad went to Duntroon and that if and when a posting where his skills could be used became available he would be transferred to it. Then the Minister went on to say -
I feel I must assure you that, in posting national servicemen to the various units, the Army endeavours to make the maximum use of their civilian qualifications and, while this allocation must have every regard to the Army’s requirements, every effort is made to satisfy the soldier’s preference.
I do not understand how the Minister is able to give me that assurance when in the same letter he admits that this skilled lad is being employed in an utterly unskilled, dead-end task. I do not know how long the Minister could have stood it if he had had his career interrupted by being put on such a dead-end, stupid and unnecessary occupation as trundling a barrow round the grounds of the Royal Military College, raking up the leaves, trimming hedges and sweeping the gutters and similar things. I make this request to him not only on behalf of this lad whose case has been brought to me by his father but on behalf of all lads who are similarly employed. Will he have a look at this matter and ensure that, where circumstances have arisen where a conscript is no longer of any real use to the Army for the purpose for which he was conscripted, an endeavour will be made to enable him to return to the useful civilian employment which he was forced to give up.
– I will not interrupt the Committee for long, but there are one or two points I would like to add to the story told by the honorable member lor Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), because he has not given the complete picture. I had some expectation that the honorable member would raise this matter either on the adjournment or during the debate on the estimates, because he spoke to me about it in my office and then indicated quite clearly that if his request were not granted he would take the matter further. That is his right, of course, and he has now done so.
I can well understand the disappointment of this particular soldier, because he was with a unit going to Vietnam. As I understand it, he wanted to remain in a combat unit. When he did not go with his original unit to Vietnam he applied for posting to another unit. He could not be posted to it because it also was a field force unit which could have gone, and may go, to a tropical area. This unit was in the Holsworthy region. Part of his reason for applying for posting to this region was the fact that his parents were living in, I think, the Goulburn area. It was found that it was not possible to post him to the unit which I mentioned because it also was a field force unit. He was, however, posted to Duntroon, which is closer to Goulburn and to his elderly parents than the posting he would have had had he gone to Holsworthy. In private life he is a railway clerk. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the soldier concerned both have been told that as soon as a vacancy is available in the Duntroon area for somebody possessing his particular skills he will be posted to it.
What the honorable member for EdenMonaro does not seem to understand is that the Army has within its ranks a need for people of a great many different qualities and occupations. There are Army camps where civilian labour cannot be employed and therefore all the things which might be done by a civilian maintenance man have at times to be done by Army per sonnel. This is one of the reasons why the Army adopts the necessary practice of doing many of these things for itself instead of employing civilian labour more widely. Very often Army establishments are in areas where civilian labour is just not available.
The Army does indeed go to considerable lengths to use the skills of national servicemen and other soldiers but, quite obviously, the needs of the Service must come first. If there are too many people of one particular occupation or one particular skill, then there will be some people in that category who will not be able to practice their normal civilian occupations in the Army.
Perhaps a few words should have been inserted in the second last paragraph of my letter to the honorable member for EdenMonaro to make the sentence a little more easily understood. Perhaps it should have read -
There is no provision under the National Service Act. whereby a national serviceman may be released from his Army obligations for the purpose of returning to his civilian employment-
– That is not as it reads.
– I am not saying that it is. I am saying that 1 think the words “ for the purpose of returning “ should have been included in the original draft to make the passage read: “ for the purpose of returning to civilian employment “. The sentence continues - whether or not that employment might be considered essential.
The honorable member knows that it is a cardinal principle of the National Service Act that people should not be excluded from their obligations under the Act by virtue of their occupation, or by the nature of their job. I say again what I have already said to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro: As soon as there is a suitable vacancy, this lad will be posted to a job which will require the use of his particular abilities. I imagine that he would sooner stay in this area than be posted to somewhere a good deal further away from his parents, which might make it difficult for him to get home as often as he can from this particular posting.
– Would you look at the possibilty of amending the law?
– That is a matter for discussion when we are dealing with the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service as the National Service Act is administered by that Department.
While I am on my feet I should like to make brief reference to another point. I think the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) said earlier that the Citizen Military Forces camps had been postponed in Victoria because of the necessity to move equipment from Victoria to the area where operation Barra Winga is being carried out. He said that this had left insufficient equipment in Victoria for the holding of the normal C.M.F. camps there. I do not know where that information came from, but it is incorrect. AH the C.M.F. camps have taken place at the normal times. The only exception is that the date of one weekend bivouac was altered to suit the personal convenience of the members of the unit concerned.
.- 1 should like to refer briefly to two points. First 1 commend the Government upon its decision to establish a naval base in Western Australia. I hope that this project will be carried to its logical conclusion and that a shipbuilding industry will be established in conjunction with it. This may sound a crazy suggestion to come from a member who represents a shipbuilding electorate, but I firmly believe that Australia can afford and certainly needs additional shipbuilding facilities. They are needed not only for the maintenance of the Australian merchant shipping fleet but also to supply Australia’s own defence requirements. We do not want a repetition of the situation in which we have had to buy Charles F. Adams class destroyers from the United States of America and minesweepers from the United Kingdom. For that reason, I support the action being taken by the Government. The time is long overdue when an attempt should be made to expand the Australian shipbuilding industry and to spread it over a much wider area than at present.
I believe also that a thorough examination of docking facilities by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) and possibly the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) is long overdue. On numerous occasions members of the Opposition have asked the Government to do something about this. I know that my predecessor in this House, as well as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) have frequently raised the question of the floating dock at Newcastle. There is a new trend in shipbuilding today. Only a few years ago a 10,000-ton dead weight merchant ship was considered to be a quite substantial ship. When we moved up to the building of ships of 12,500, 19,000 and 24,000 tons deadweight, we considered that we were really building ships of a substantial size. But the trend now is to build 47,000 tonners such as “ Darling River” which was completed recently. Some 55,000 tonners are at present under construction, and there are only two docks in Australia where ships of this size can be docked. One is the Cairncross dock at Brisbane and the other the Captain Cook dock at Sydney. Therefore, I feel that the time has arrived when we should consider including in defence expenditure provision for the construction of shipyards and docking facilities not only for our naval ships but also for the newer types of merchant vessels operating on the Australian coast. I hope the Minister will give this matter serious consideration.
The dock at Newcastle is a floating dock. It is very old. Indeed, it is almost worn out. One could fairly say that it has almost completed its useful life. It has now reached the stage where its maintenance is uneconomic. It is owned by the Commonwealth Government. Therefore I feel that the Government should give second thoughts to replacing this floating dock with a graving dock big enough to accommodate bulk carriers of the size being built at Whyalla and ships of up to 80,000 tons. In the event of a war, it could be used for the docking of naval vessels-
– The Navy is not responsible for civilian ships.
– That is so, but the Minister will recall that it has been emphasised at every Tariff Board inquiry that it is essential for the defence of Australia that we have our own shipbuilding industry and that adequate docking facilities also be provided.
Therefore I feel that the Government should come to the party and provide the necessary docks.
I clearly remember the strong moves that were made in 1942, 1943 and 1944 by the then Minister for the Army and the then Minister for the Navy to have the floating dock removed from Newcastle and taken to some other part of Australia so that ships could be repaired there. I come back to my original point that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to ensure that adequate docking facilities are available for the defence of this country. I agree that in times of peace private enterprise has a responsibility to provide docking facilities for merchant shipping, but I remind the Minister of the number of ships that were sunk or damaged off the Australian coast - mostly the east coast - during the last war. Therefore it is essential that docking facilities be provided so that in time of war Australia will not be faced with the necessity of taking ships to Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan to be docked and repaired.
So much for ships and docks. In the few minutes left to me I should like to refer to a matter about which I have spoken on a number of occasions in this chamber and on which I have been supported by my colleagues the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Shortland. I refer to the question of the discontinuance of the use of the air base at Williamtown for training fighter pilots. I do not advocate the removal of the base. What 1 advocate is the transfer away from a heavily populated centre of the training of pilots, whether for fighters or for other types of aircraft. Up to date, we in Newcastle have been fortunate that there has been no fatality in the accidents that have occurred except for the deaths of some of the unfortunate pilots. We need not go back too far to compile a list of accidents. I see that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) is at present in the chamber. He knows full well that what I have to say is true and that it is correct to say that Newcastle has so far been fortunate. A Sabre aircraft crashed in the Myall Lake district in the late 1950’s. On 10th February 1960, an aircraft crashed on the Newcastle end of Stockton Beach. On 7th March 1960 there was another crash. I. do not want to give particulars of the pilots who were flying these aircraft. There was another crash on 12th April 1960. So, in 1960, crashes occurred in February, March and April. Three pilots met their deaths in these accidents. Admittedly, only one of these three was a trainee pilot.
On 12th November 1963, another aircraft crashed at Mayfield in my electorate. On 3rd December 1963, the Newcastle City Council carried a resolution that the Royal Australian Air Force be asked to ensure that Service pilots kept clear of Newcastle when on training or operational flights. I would like to read to the Committee the relevants parts of a letter concerning the crash on 12th November 1963 that I received from the present Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), who was then Minister for Air. In a letter dated 18th December 1963, the Minister stated -
The flight was planned to take place in a height area between 25,000 feet and 35,000 feet south east of Williamtown. Because of the relatively short endurance of this type of aircraft, it was planned to carry out the interception phase close to Williamtown so that the maximum time could be spent performing the tactical exercise.
The formation took off from the R.A.A.F. base at Williamtown and climbed in a south easterly direction. At 20,000 feet the eight aircraft split into two formations and were turned northwards, under the direction of the control and reporting unit at Brookvale. The formations were vectored by the radar unit on converging courses with instructions to carry out simulated attacks once a sighting was made.
This is the point that I want to emphasise -
Contact was made when the formations were to seaward of Newcastle. The pilot then commenced a turn that brought his aircraft over Newcastle. At this time the aircraft was flying at an altitude of approximately seven miles and the turn required a radius of some six miles. In these conditions it is sometimes difficult-
I emphasise this, Mr. Chairman - for trainee pilots to be certain that they are not over populated areas.
In this instance the pilot did not realise that he was over Newcastle nor did he expect to be faced with a situation when he would have to abandon his aircraft. It was during this turn that the Sabre entered a spin. The pilot was unable to recover control and he was forced to eject from the spinning aircraft.
Every precaution is taken to ensure that this type of air accident does not occur. However, despite any precautions that may be taken, an aircraft in a spin or otherwise out of control can cover a vast amount of space in a short time and present problems that human agencies may be powerless to overcome.
In this accident, fortunately, no-one met his death. One woman’s home was destroyed and houses adjacent to it were damaged, but nobody in the dwellings was injured. A poor little budgerigar was the only fatality. The pilot, fortunately, was able to parachute to safety. I emphasise the points made in the Minister’s reply on 18th December 1963 to representations that I had made after the accident occurred on 12 th November of that year. He stated quite clearly that trainee pilots, because of the speed of their aircraft and the nature of the exercises in which they take part, do not always know just where they are and cannot be certain that they are not over populated areas. This is an example of an instance in which an aircraft flown by a trainee pilot could have caused a serious accident and a number of fatalities in Newcastle.
I would like very quickly in the time left to me to mention other accidents that have occurred. A Mirage jet aircraft was involved in an accident in February of this year. This is one of the latest aircraft in service with the Royal Australian Air Force, which has a couple of squadrons of Mirages. The pilot of the plane in question was told to bail out, but he elected to attempt to land the machine. He put it down on a wartime emergency strip near Newcastle. He was not supposed to attempt to land the aircraft. Indeed, I understand from Press reports that the manufacturers said it could not be done - that it is impossible to land a Mirage when the engine has flamed out. Nevertheless, the pilot of this machine was able to bring it down. We do not know what would have happened had he abandoned the aircraft, as he was directed to do by control at Williamtown. Where would the aircraft have come down? We must remember that this was a machine capable of flying at 1,500 miles an hour. I leave honorable members to imagine what could have happened.
I now turn to the last accident that took place - the unfortunate crash that occurred on 16th August of this year, when a Sabre jet blew up in mid-air and caused the death of the pilot. I emphasise that this, too, was a trainee pilot. Let us for a moment consider how many trainee pilots have been involved in accidents in the Newcastle area. Crashes involving trainees occurred on 12th April 1960, 12th November 1963 and 16th August 1966. I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) and the Department of Air seriously to consider transferring the activities of the fighter training base at Williamtown elsewhere. The Air Force ought to establish a base at a place remote from thickly populated centres such as Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong and the other capital cities. Surely there are enough open spaces in Australia for the establishment of fighter and bomber training bases in areas where there will be no danger of serious fatalities in thickly populated centres should pilots lose control of their aircraft.
.- Mr. Chairman, having spoken earlier on the Defence estimates, I seek the indulgence of the Committee while I discuss for a few minutes the purchase of imported defence equipment. On 10th May of this year, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), in answer to a question upon notice asked by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) about defence equipment purchased in the financial year 1964-65, said -
The value of supplies obtained for defence purposes from local sources … is approximately SI 20 million.
In reply to another question upon notice asked by the honorable member for Fremantle, which was answered on the same day, the Minister said that in 1964-65 a total of 369,353,000 worth of defence equipment was imported. On 28th September 1966, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), the Minister said that in 1965-66 defence equipment worth some $140 million was bought from Australian industry. He went on to say that the equipment purchased overseas was “ what might be called the big ticket items, such as sophisticated aircraft, warships and electronic equipment”. He said that Si 18 million worth of this equipment had been purchased overseas and that perhaps another $15 million worth was optional and could have been purchased overseas or obtained from Australian industry. So about $140 million worth of the equipment purchased in 1965-66 was Australian made and about $133 million worth was imported. The figures show that the position is deteriorating. In round figures, in 1964-65 $120 million worth was Australian made and $69 million worth was imported, whereas in 1965-66 S 140 million worth was manufactured locally and $133 million worth was imported. As the Minister has said, much of this equipment was for big ticket goods which are not produced here, including electronic equipment.
Recently there has been a good deal of talk about the Government’s lack of support for our telecommunications industry. A great deal of the criticism levelled at the Government in this regard has been more than justified. The Service Departments have said and keep on saying that the bulk of their electronic equipment is purchased overseas because local industry does not have the design engineering capacity or the production capacity to meet their requirements in time. Moreover they say that the local industry is too expensive. But let me tell the Committee about the largest government purchaser of telecommunications equipment and what it has done. I refer to the Post Office.
Before 1939 the Post Office told the same story as the armed Services are telling today. But that was 27 years ago. Up to 1939 the Post Office imported more than 80 per cent, of its requirements of telecommunications equipment and cable. During World War 11 supplies dried up, for obvious reasons, and great difficulty was experienced in keeping essential services going. It was during that period, at the direction of the Curtin Government, that the Post Office began to make plans to encourage local industry to manufacture its requirements so as to avoid any possibility of repetition of the difficult situation encountered during the war years. Under the Chifley Government in the immediate postwar years these plans were put into effect. Industries were set up to manufacture automatic telephone exchange equipment, line transmission equipment, telephones, cables and a host of other items of a highly sophisticated nature. The result of all this is that today the Post Office procures 90 per cent, of its requirements of equipment and cable from the local telecommunications industry compared with 20 per cent, in the prewar years. Moreover - this is tremendously important - in 1965-66 one unit of the Australian telecommunications industry was the third largest exporter of manufactured goods.
These achievements are the direct result of the policy laid down by the Post Office during World War II when a Labour Government controlled the destiny of this country. If the Post Office can do these things, why can the Defence Services not do them also? Why have they not attempted to do so? About 80 per cent, of our telecommunications equipment for defence purposes is purchased overseas. Australian manufacturers claim that they could supply at least 50 per cent, of this equipment. The Government should give the electronics industry an opportunity to meet our defence needs in the same way as this important industry meets the needs of the Post Office.
.- I would like to say a few things about the Defence estimates. I wish to advance arguments on the same lines as those advanced by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). These are important matters, particularly in view of the fact that we are at present discussing the defence of this country. Recently in this chamber I referred to the important matters of the transport of fuel and shipbuilding. I return to these subjects in a discussion of the Defence estimates because they are important.
Over the years we have had governments of various political complexions. In general they shared, or were supposed to share, one objective. Whatever their policies, they were supposed to stand for Australia and Australians. Their policies were designed to encourage Australians to believe that they had a stake in their own country and that any Australian or group of Australians willing to build or develop industries in this country could look forward to practical assistance or, at the very least, encouragement, which, after all, costs little or nothing, irrespective of the politics of the government of the day.
It has been left to the Liberal-Country Party Government to make Australians in industry wonder where they stand, unless they happen to be members of pressure groups or special friends of the Government. This is the case in the matter of securing a share of the huge expenditure on defence. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) denies this, but spokesmen for industry say that they are not receiving a fair deal in tenders. The honorable member for Kingston referred to this aspect.
There is little doubt in my mind that the spokesmen for industry are stating the facts and that the Minister is trying to cover up what is really a scandalous situation as far as defence orders are concerned.
The true policy of this Government and its attitude towards Australians trying to build Australian industry are shown quite vividly by the recent history of oil tanker operations on the Australian coast. Item 05 of Division No. 670 shows that this year the Navy expects to spend almost S3 million on oil fuel. Australian owned oil tankers are vital to our defence supplies, particularly in time of war. Until 1963 the transportation of fuel and petroleum products around the coast was entirely in the hands of foreign oil monopoly interests. This in itself was a defence risk. Their ships were manned by cheap labour - by foreign crews. They contributed nothing to the Australian economy. The profits from their operations went overseas. The ships were built overseas. They were even repaired overseas. In one case a ship was towed to Singapore for repairs. Even routine maintenance on the ships was carried out overseas. For more than 50 years Australian governments had followed a policy of encouraging Australians to enter the coastal shipping trade. The principal instrument for this encouragement was the Navigation Act, which laid down that an Australian ship operating on the coast must be given cargoes in preference to foreign ships. The Act has been amended a number of times since 1949, but the section giving preference to Australian ships has never been changed. Australians and Australian interests were entitled to think that this remained Government policy. They were entitled to think that it was the Government’s policy to encourage Australian interests by giving them a share in defence orders and a share of cargoes.
In 1963 the Australian firm of R. W. Miller & Co. decided to risk capital and put oil tankers on the coast, thus giving Australians some share in the coastal tanker trade. One would have expected the move to have received strong support and encouragement from the Government. The company asked for nothing else. It did not ask for a subsidy or for protection. It did not seek any financial assistance. In October 1963 the first Australian owned and manned tanker went into service. It provided employment for Australians in a number of industries. The profits from its operations remained in Australia. Two more tankers followed during the next year. By October 1964 Australians had a reasonable share of the coastal trade so vital to our defence. The Government should have been pleased with this development. What happened? From the beginning R. W. Miller was harrassed by the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Customs and Excise. The firm was forced to put up a bond of $ 1 1 million as a guarantee that it would place an order in Australia to build replacement vessels immediately.
– What has this to do with the estimates before the Committee?
– My remarks are related to the expenditure of almost S3 million on oil fuel. They have a bearing on the provision of docks and such facilities. The Miller organisation was ordered to re-export the ships it had brought to the coast or pay a great amount of duty. So far as I am aware no such conditions had ever been imposed on companies operating foreign vessels in the trade. Evidently it had never been suggested that they should build here or employ Australians.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member may have made his point about the relationship of shipping to the defence of this country.
– I thank you for your tolerance, Mr. Chairman, but 1 point out that I relate my remarks to a number of matters in the Estimates. In Division No. 668 provision is made for expenditure on freight and cartage and on fuel, light, power, water supply and sanitation. Reference is made also in Item 15 to Cockatoo Island Dockyard trading agreement. This concerns repairs to ships. In Division No. 670 there is a provision of almost $3 million for oil fuel. In Division No. 675 the sum of $60,188,000 is sought to be appropriated for naval construction. Will any honorable member on the Government side say that the questions of shipping, shipbuilding and the transport of fuel do not come within these estimates? I realise, Mr. Chairman, that you may not have noticed the number of items with which I am dealing, and for that reason I have made my point.
The Opposition admits, and has a proud record to prove it, that the Australian shipbuilding industry, which deals with naval construction also, deserves and demands encouragement. Who should have provided that encouragement with the building of tankers? Should it have been left to foreign interests who make millions of pounds out of the trade over the years or to an Australian company which had strained its resources to carry out Government policy? These are matters of shipbuilding that are vital. The Liberal-Australian Country Party Government evidently decided that the Australian company should be made to carry the baby. This, of course, is no novelty. Demands were made on the company that it should build immediately. No such demands were made on the foreign interests even when questions of defence and naval establishments arose. In July 1964, realisation dawned on the Government that it was giving Australians a poor deal when compared with foreigners, and this could not be hidden even in the $3 million allocated for Navy shipbuilding. Subsequently, after a conference in Canberra presided over by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), it was announced that for a period of four years until 1968 tonnage on the coast would be limited to 204,000 tons, with a total of 12 oil tankers. Now I understand that this policy is to be thrown overboard after 1968.
What effect will that have on the naval construction programme, especially if the shipbuilding yards go out of business? What effect will that have when the Government wants fuel carried around the coast in times of war or times of crisis; it will then be dependent on foreign ships and our shipbuilding capacity will have been destroyed. It has been apparent since 1964 that the figure of 204,000 tons was in excess of the real needs of the trade and that by working together the oil monopoly interests were able to deprive the Australian tankers of anything like full employment. What will be the position in this country if we do not have any Australian owned tankers with Australian crews when we need oil and the tankers owned by foreign interests are denied to us? What good will this huge expenditure on the items I have mentioned be if we cannot keep the ordinary sinews of war intact because of a shortage of fuel? We should have our own coastal tankers so that our needs can be met if foreign interests withdraw their support. I mention this because it is very important at this time when even the Government admits tha’t Red China may invade us. Men are now being conscripted to defend us against Red China. But our defence forces will be left to be supplied with fuel carried by foreign vessels, unless we do something in these estimates to bring the Government’s policy to the light of day.
I understand that the Government has informed the company concerned that in the circumstances it will not require the company to build replacement vessels in Australia and it has offered to release the Australian company from its obligations, although this is a question of defence. The Government knows very well that after 1968 there will be no work for the vessels of the Australian company on the coast. Where will that leave us in a crisis? The Government is not doing R. W. Miller and Co. Pty. Ltd. a favour. If the company proceeds with plans to build tankers, the Government must carry out its promise to subsidise the cost of building the vessels. The Government is saving money and at the same time helping its foreign supporters and friends. The latest move of limiting the tonnage gets the Government off the hook. It also restores the situation exactly to the position it was in before an Australian company was unwise enough to trust the word of the Australian Government and proceed in the belief that no Australian Government would repudiate a promise and support foreign interests against Australians and against the best interests of Australia. What a difference between the treatment handed out to R. W. Miller and the Government’s attitude in the margarine and butter controversy.
– Order! The honorable member is getting away from the estimates.
– I knew I was touching a soft spot.
– Order! The honorable member will not canvass my ruling.
– All 1 say is that the Government’s attitude towards primary industries is totally different from its attitude towards this Australian shipping company. This is very important when we are dealing with the transport of fuel for the Navy and generally with the question of naval dockyards and defence. I am sorry that I am not allowed to expand my point, Mr. Chairman, as you say it is a little wide of the scope of these estimates. I summarise my attitude on the question of fuel and defence by saying that it appears that the Government has no settled policy beyond helping its friends and supporters, particularly in the shipping area and the transport of fuel on the Australian coast. This is a very poor substitute for a policy of encouraging Australians in all fields of industry. In this case, helping its friends and supporters takes the form of helping foreign interests against an Australian firm to the extent of repudiating a policy that is only two years old. How can the Government expect Australians to risk capital, even for defence, when they cannot trust the Government to keep its word?
As the honorable member for Kingston has said, how can Australians, especially those engaged in shipping, be expected to take any action at all to build up industry if they cannot get the orders that are so necessary for this purpose? I hope the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), who is now at the table, will tell us what contracts are being given to Australian industrialists. 1 hope he will answer the charge I have made that discrimination is being shown against Australian shipping interests and industries seeking defence projects. Foreign owned companies are receiving orders at the expense of Australian companies and Australian industries. The Government has the opportunity now to explain its attitude. It is destroying the business of Australian tankers with Australian crews on the Australian coast and it is giving preference to foreign owned vessels. Must we turn back the clock, Mr. Chairman? I am sure that you will agree that we should not, for the simple reason that the days are gone when foreign owned ships should control our coast. This is an age when even the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) is talking about an Australian national shipping line. Yet the Government will not allow Australian tankers with Australian crews to compete with foreign owned vessels on a fair basis off the Australian coast. I felt an obligation to raise this matter in the Parliament, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for your tolerance and understanding of a great national problem.
– 1 am delighted that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should have seen fit to thank you, Mi. Chairman, for your generosity in allowing him to trespass so far beyond the estimates now before us and to deal with a matter that was the subject of his carefully prepared statement. While dealing with the subject, there are some figures that ought to be quoted. He spoke about Government orders on our own shipbuilding capacity. 1 have here a list of a dozen orders going through. They are the “ Torrens “, a Type 12 ship, the “ Stalwart “, launched only last week, the “ Swan “, 20 patrol boats, harbour and fleet boats, fleet fitting of the Ikara and extended refits. These cover Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Evans Deakin & Co. Pty. Ltd. in Brisbane, Walkers Ltd. in Maryborough, Garden Island and so on. Almost every shipyard in Australia has orders at this present moment for naval tonnage or naval work associated with refitting and so on. During the present year, 1966-67, §33 million will be spent with Australian shipyards out of the defence orders. This gives the lie to the kind of comments that have been passed this afternoon, that the Government is neglecting Australia’s productive resources.
Time does not permit me to go through the whole gambit of the matters brought forward this afternoon. Some have already been dealt with; some will be dealt with in other contexts. But for two reasons I am rather delighted that honorable members should have dealt, I think not in constructive fashion, with the question of developing Australian industrial capacity. One is that the Government bows to nobody in its desire to see that our Australian defence is as firmly based as it can practicably be - I underline “ practicably “ - on Australian industry. The other is that it gives me an opportunity to bring to the attention of honorable members who contributed to the debate one or two matters about which I am sure they are completely ignorant or which they have overlooked in their enthusiasm. I am being charitable.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out that the great growth in our defence expenditure should have shown a comparable increase in orders to our defence industries. This is a popular mistake to make. The fact is that the increase in our defence buying in the current year has been brought about by the maturing of orders for what I call the big ticket items. These are the things that cannot reasonably be produced in Australia either because of the level of our technological competence or because of the timetable, or for other quite legitimate reasons. Consequently if the vast increase in Australian defence -expenditure this year arises out of items which cannot reasonably be built in Australia then this, of course, explains the point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition apparently overlooked.
He also wanted us to encourage research and development as a component of expanded defence production in Australia. There are some very quaint ideas about research and development, because the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) put down a form of words which led us to believe that he thought we could have done our own research, development and production for our requirements of the FI 1 1 A aircraft or a replacement. 1 wonder whether anybody really knows what is involved in the enormous research and development programme on an aircraft like the Fill A. My colleague the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) may refer to it. The cost of research and development on a project of this kind might well run into $500 million or $600 million. Overseas, this amount can be spread over a great number of aircraft - 500 or 600. However, if we were to attempt to do our own research and development and then apply that research and development and the necessary tooling for production to our requirement of 50 or perhaps 100 aircraft the costs would be so completely out of line that we would be laughed at by other governments and by every industry round the world. The honorable gentleman said that figures were not available about how much we had bought locally and how much overseas, but I did quote last year’s figures in this chamber. Indeed, they were referred to in the closing remarks of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). He, of course, was suffering from something like the same kind of difficulty in understanding what is involved in research and development and in understanding the basic economics of quantity production. The real fact is that most of our orders are quite small in number. Once again if we were to write off the cost of our own research and development and our own tooling for out own modest requirements, the price would be completely fantastic.
Last year there was the question of buying some equipment for the Army. It was an item which was available from the United States of America. We looked carefully at the prospect of building this equipment in Australia. The price from the Australian factory would have been three times what it was from the United States source, and no new technology was involved in the item. In other words, where does one find the justification for buying for £1,000 - and I am plucking a figure out of the air - something that can be bought for one third of that price from overseas, when there “s no benefit in terms of industrial gain? This becomes a purely budgetary and purely economic proposition. Unless we are to devote ourselves to a doctrine of economic nationalism then quite clearly we cannot follow that particular line of argument. Of last year’s figure of $272 million spent on defence equipment $118 million was for items which cannot reasonably be produced in Australia at this stage. As time goes on, and our defence grows, our orders will increase and we will be able to reach more and more into this amount and build these items for ourselves in Australia. This is the aim of the Government, but it would be quite impracticable to solve industry’s problem, or the problem industry fancies it has, by saying that we will buy all we want from Australian industry. Then, of course, industry would walk away, its problem solved, and the Government would be left to struggle with the problem of explaining to the taxpayers why it was charging them 10 times as much as was necessary to provide them with the defence equipment they needed. I readily admit that in the range of these industrial products for defence, particularly in the electronics range, there may well be items that we ought to produce in Australia regardless of cost. This matter is the subject of a very intensive survey at this very moment.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the fact that we tend to tie ourselves to American sources of supply. There are offsetting advantages that have to be considered here. It is quite true there exists with the United States a logistics agreement under which there are enormous advantages to Australia in terms of access to maintenance, spare parts and things of that kind, and these must offset whatever economic disadvantage comes out of the apparent tying of our needs to the United States. In the electronics industry, as in the engineering industry in this country today, a vast number of projects are under development. We have only to look at the Ikara weapon, which is now being fitted as a system into the Navy. This project was developed from the beginning in Australia. We have developed all manner of new calculations, new techniques, new components and new processes out of this one particular weapon project.
One honorable member spoke about the aircraft industry. We want to maintain a viable aircraft industry in this country, but it will be done in the face of great difficulties because of the small number of aircraft we want. We must pay heed to the economics of aircraft production. In the current issue of the monthly aircraft journal - I have forgotten its name for the moment - is a list of the number of aircraft that have been designed and built in Australia over the last 20 or 30 years. It is an interesting document, because one can read of any number of aircraft designed and built in Australia with the legend “ one off “. It is completely crazy to think we can go ahead in Australia with our very light demand and build aircraft of specialised types “ one off “. This is not the way it will be done. Regarding the aircraft that we are assembling and part building in Australia - the Mirage - no doubt we could build it in Australia if we were put to it. Already we are building over 85 per cent, of the intricate Atar engine, which is perhaps one of the most advanced turbines in the aircraft world. We could undertake the rest of the work if we were put to it but it simply would not pay us to do it in view of our guaranteed sources of supply. The Macchi aircraft, which is being assembled and built for the Royal Australian Air Force as a jet trainer, could, if necessary, be built in its entirety in Australia. We will build the engine and a considerable part of the fuselage here, but the economics of production make it unnecessary and inadvisable that we should build it in its entirety.
The Government keeps under constant review the strategic position, and at the basis of this strategic position is whom are we likely to be engaged with and the need for compatibility if not uniformity of our equipment and theirs, and the availability of supplies, the opening of routes of supply and questions of this nature. All of these bases make up our programme of defence production. Wherever possible, even in the face of increased costs, our defence programme will be slanted towards the Australian manufacturer. When we talk about the electronics industry I think we ought to have regard to the fact that once again we need only small quantities of highly technical equipment for our defence purposes. It is completely crazy that we should set out to do our own research and development and our own tooling to produce a handful of calculations, perhaps 50 or 100. But there is another factor to be considered. When we buy equipment overseas - like the FI I IA or the Mirage - the original producers give us guarantees of performance. Who is going to underwrite the guarantees of performance if we say: “ Give us only the air frame and we will subcontract the other parts far and wide “?
This is not the way to get performance out of the highly important equipment Australia wants in its defence forces. I can only say that every opportunity is given to Australian industry. There is no panic. There is no strain between the Government and industry at this stage. Indeed, 1 have had half a dozen quite detailed excursions into this problem with leaders of industry, including the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council, the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and so on. At present we are busy working out a project to make sure not only that justice is done but also that justice appears to be done. Obviously, when these matters get into the Press they are distorted. They are written up into good journalistic stories but those stories are not always based on the facts. Industry knows far more about what is going on in defence buying than would appear from the articles appearing in the popular Press.
Industry’s concern is the Government’s concern. Whatever can be taken out of the defence programme and built in Australia should be built here, but I must remind honorable members that we have put several quite advanced projects into Australian industry in times gone by and have had our share of abject failures with them. The prime responsibility of the Government is to provide workable defence equipment when and where wanted. Nothing will be allowed to interfere with that demand. If there is a doubt that Australian industry can produce it within the time dictated, very often by strategic considerations, the Government must exercise the prime demand and ensure that the equipment is available for the Services when they need it. But this does not alter the fact that we will extend the greatest possible co-operation to industry. This we are doing. Time does not permit me to mention the many other matters which have been raised but I am sure that in the course of time as this story unfolds, the House, the people, and manufacturing industry, will be satisfied that the Government is now giving and will in the future give it a completely fair trial.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Although the rates of pension payable under the Superannuation Act for the children of deceased contributors and pensioners have been increased from time to time, the circumstances of those who suffer the loss of both parents have continued to be a source of concern to all contributors with young families. The main purpose of this Bill is to establish a new basis of pension for orphan children. The present provision for orphan children is$ 10 per week payable until the age of 16 years or, where the child is in fulltime education, until the age of 21 years. However, unlike the pension payable to a contributor on his retirement, or to his widow, which is directly related to the salary of the position he last occupied, the orphan’s pension is a fixed rate which bears no relationship to the father’s salary or pension entitlement. Thus while the total income of a fairly large family would not be significantly lower after the death of the mother, a single orphan child could suffer a serious reduction in his previous standard of living.
Whilst money cannot compensate the children for the loss of both their parents, lack of money can certainly add to their misfortunte. The Government has therefore decided to establish a new basis for these orphan pensions by relating them to the father’s former salary and pension entitlement. This will enable the orphan children, like the widow, to maintain a standard of living and education which will bear some reasonable relationship to that which they enjoyed prior to the death of their parents. Under the amendments contained in this Bill a family of four or more orphan children will be provided with the same family income that would have been paid if the mother had not died. It would be unlikely that such a number could be absorbed into the household of a considerate relative, and the new provision might permit the children to continue to live together in the family home, perhaps in the care of a close relative, without imposing a financial burden upon the one who accepts the not inconsiderable responsibility of looking after the children. For a smaller family of orphan children each child will receive the standard $4 per week child’s pension currently payable to a widow plus one-quarter of the pension that would have been payable for the widow herself.
The new basis will apply to all new orphans’ pensions as they become payable, and also to all existing pensions. However, the existing pension of $10 per week for each orphan child will be retained as the minimum benefit. The increases will be payable as from the first fortnightly payment of pensions made after the Bill receives the Royal Assent. Two minor amendments to the Act are also included in the Bill - one to ensure that orphans’ benefits are payable to the children of a deceased pensioner’s first marriage if the father married again after retirement and is survived by a widow who is not entitled to pension; and the other, to permit members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to retain their superannuation rights if they move to any other fulltime employment with the Commonwealth, or an approved authority of the Commonwealth, on the same basis that now applies to employees of approved authorities. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a companion measure to the Superannuation Bill whichI have just introduced and is designed to extend to the children of serving members of the permanent forces and pensioners under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965 the new basis of pension entitlement that is proposed for the orphan children of contributors and pensioners under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have already introduced legislation to establish a new basis for orphans’ pensions under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965. This Bill makes similar provision for orphans’ pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1965 and corrects a defect in the present related wording of the Act. The Bill also seeks to make minor drafting alterations to the Act. It is proposed that the existing rate of orphans’ pension of $6 a week will be increased to a minimum of $10 a week and that this may be increased to an amount calculated by dividing the pension that would otherwise have been payable to the widow by the number of eligible children in the family or by four, whichever is the greater number. The pension for orphans will thus be related to the pension for the widow.
Orphans’ pensions under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965 were increased from $6 to $10 a week with effect from 24th September 1965. A corresponding increase in orphans’ pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1965 was deferred as there were then no orphans’ pensions being paid. There are now, regrettably, three orphans entitled to pension and it is proposed that the increased pension should be made effective from 1st January 1966 to grant increases to the orphans concerned. The new basis for calculation of orphans’ pensions will have effect from the date of Royal Assent to this Bill. The maximum age for orphans’ pensions will also be raised from 16 to 21 years for children undergoing fulltime education, with effect from 1st January 1966, to correspond with amendments already made to the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965.
The Act now provides that if an exmember remarries after retirement and subsequently dies, and is survived by a widow and also by eligible children of his former marriage, those orphan children are not eligible for pensions until after the death of the widow even though she has no pension or benefit entitlement in her own right. It is proposed that these orphan children should be eligible for pensions upon the death of their father and that this provision also should take effect from 1st January 1966. On the death of a member or ex-member who is not survived by a widow or eligible dependent children, a lump sum is paid to his personal representative of an amount equal to his contributions, plus any Commonwealth supplement, less any pension paid or due to him during his lifetime. The Bill corrects a defect in the drafting of the Act by providing for the payment of a similarly calculated lump sum to the personal representative of a deceased ex-member who is survived by a widow who has no pension or other benefit entitlement. Finally, the opportunity is being taken to change various provisions in the Act now expressed in pounds, shillings and pence to their equivalent in dollars and cents. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Public Service Act 1922-1964. Broadly speaking, the proposed amendments are considered necessary by the Government in order, first, to introduce appropriate special provisions concerning Commonwealth public servants required to undergo compulsory defence service and to recognise certain service in operational areas as warranting returned soldier status under the Public Service Act; secondly, to provide statutory authorisation for a number of improvements in employment conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service; and thirdly, to remove difficulties and anomalies in existing legislative provisions, and to meet developments in Public Service administration. Thus, certain of the amendments involve new benefits and entitlements, whilst others are designed to correct technicalities which have arisen in the administration of existing provisions.
I shall refer several times during this speech to proposals made by the Joint Council. This is an employer/employee body, comprising representatives of the staff associations, the departments and the Public Service Board, which advises the Board on matters of general interest referred to the Council. As a result of its twice-yearly meetings and the work of its sub-committees, a considerable contribution has been made.
Before dealing with the main provisions of this Bill I should mention that, in accordance with the announcement made in this House by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), on 25th August 1966, the Public Service Act is also to be amended in relation to the permanent employment of married women. The drafting of the relevant legislation is in train, and a Bill covering this aspect will be introduced as soon as possible.
As honorable members are aware, provisions were enacted in 1965 to protect the interests of, and to provide certain benefits for, national servicemen. Those provisions apply irrespective of the vocations of individuals. Because the legislative framework which governs conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service is particularised in the Public Service Act, certain special provisions are necessary to ensure that staff are appropriately covered and protected during absences on compulsory defence service. These particular provisions will have retrospective effect to 30th June 1965 - the date on which national service recommenced - in order to give statutory backing to the relevant administrative policies which have been adopted.
Clause 19 provides for the automatic granting of leave from the Public Service for periods of absence on compulsory defence service. Entitlements of staff during their absence have been approved by the Public Service Board and notified to departments and staff associations; they will be reviewed as and when changes appear desirable. I should emphasise that the terms and conditions during leave are not less favourable than the provisions of the Defence (Re-establishment) Act 1965, which relates to all national servicemen. Under clause 20 of the present Bill the period of absence will be recognised for such Public Service purposes as furlough and date of future salary increments. Pay and leave conditions during defence service will be the same as for other national servicemen.
The amendments in clause 13 (b) and (c) are designed to protect the promotion appeal rights of officers absent on compulsory defence service. These provisions are essential if such officers are not to suffer career disadvantages. This protection has been operating administratively since the reintroduction of national service.
Clause 12 will remove technical difficulties which would otherwise prevent the permanent appointment of an officer who is on compulsory defence service when the appointment is made from becoming effective and from being confirmed upon expiration of his probationary period. The Government considers that it would be unfair to delay confirmation of appointment, with its attendant full superannuation benefits and security of tenure, in such cases.
The purpose of clause 3 (b) is to bring certain operational service within the requirements for granting of returned soldier status under the Public Service Act. Persons to whom the Public Service Act definition of “returned soldier “ applies now have certain special entitlements under that Act. The intention is that these entitlements will be extended to persons who have special service under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act, including those with operational service in Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Public Service Act provides for the granting of furlough, in specified circumstances, to permanent officers, and also for payment in lieu of such furlough entitlements on leaving the Service. Several additional concessions relating to furlough are provided in this Bill.
There are existing provisions in the Public Service Act for payment in lieu of furlough prior to completion of 15 years service to the dependants of deceased officers and in certain cases of retirement. Clause 22(l)(d) of this Bill provides authority for payment in lieu of furlough in the future where the Public Service Board is satisfied that an officer with at least 10 but less than 15 years continuous service is ceasing duty on account of domestic or other pressing necessity. In agreeing to this new benefit, the Government had particular regard to the somewhat similar provisions now embodied in some State legislation and to decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Com mission, including those in respect of the metal trades and graphic arts industries. There is also a similar provision in the Stevedoring Industry Act. Practices adopted under those provisions will provide useful guidance to the Public Service Board in administering this provision. It is intended that a complementary amendment will be made to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act - which relates to Commonwealth staff who are not permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service - when next that Act is before the Parliament.
Introduction of this new concession rendered desirable some slight adjustment of the existing scale of entitlements in order that all officers who in future enter the 10 to 15 years’ service group will have precisely the same furlough entitlements; clause 22 (I) (b) and clause 22(2) refer to this. I should emphasise that the amendments contained in clause 22 have been concurred in by the Joint Council.
The provisions in clause 21 include authority for the Public Service Board to decide whether or not any payment in lieu of furlough should be made to an officer who is dismissed after at least 15 years of qualifying service. At present, a dismissed officer automatically loses the whole of his furlough credit - often involving a considerable sum of money - even though he may have completed many years of satisfactory service prior to the commission of the offence which results in dismissal. This matter was the subject of proposals by the High Council of Public Service Organisations and of a recommendation by the Joint Council. The Government is satisfied that a discretionary power is essential to avoid total penalties which are. in the light of modern practice, unduly harsh in some cases.
In 1941 certain officers of the Public Service of the Northern Territory were taken into the Commonwealth Public Service. The then existing furlough entitlements of these officers, which at that stage were more favorable than those provided in the Public Service Act, were preserved by inserting a special provision, section 75a, in the Public Service Act. The Government has now decided that these officers should have recourse to furlough provisions which have accrued to other officers of the Commonwealth Public Service because of subsequent amendments to the general furlough provisions of the Public Service Act, where such general provisions are more favorable. This is the purpose of clause 23.
The Public Service Act does not at present provide for payment in lieu of recreation leave to a permanent officer who is leaving the Commonwealth Public Service. On the other hand, temporary employees are entitled to such payments under an arbitration determination. Clause 17 stems from the desire of the Government thai payments be made to a permanent officer on cessation - or, on death, to his dependants - similar to those which are made to temporary employees.
To permit me inclusion in the Act of this concession - which was recommended by a sub-committee of the Joint Council - it has been necessary to spell out in the Act the system for accrual of recreation leave; this system hitherto has been covered by regulations made under the Public Service Act, and by administrative instructions. As also recommended by the sub-committee of the Joint Council, some changes have been made in the accrual system and related provisions. These changes aTe designed to provide a more equitable, and administratively suitable, system for determining entitlements, bv relating them more precisely to actual periods of service.
Certain of the provisions on recreation leave will operate from 1st January 1967 to provide an appropriate forewarning of the changes involved, but the payment in lieu provision will operate from the date of royal assent.
I turn now to a number of other amendments which have been found necessary for the effective administration of the Commonwealth Public Service. Action taken following recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Systems of Promotions and Temporary Transfers, known as the Bailey Committee, in 1944. included the introduction of appeal rights for officers against other officers selected for temporary transfer to higher positions. Staff associations, departments, and the Public Service Board all attach considerable importance to these provisions, but doubts have arisen as to their legality. Clause 14 is designed to resolve these technical difficulties and so ensure that the rights of officers are adequately protected. Clause 8 is a related amendment dealing with salary increments.
Clause 25 arises from the need to overcome a problem which virtually prevents the employment of United States nationals in Commonwealth departments. Under the Public Service Act all temporary employees, except those employed overseas, must, like permanent officers, take an oath or affimation in which they swear or declare allegiance to the Queen and to uphold the Constitution; but if an American citizen does so he loses his U.S. nationality. As the professional and technical skills required on certain Commonwealth projects of national importance are sometimes most readily available by the use of limited numbers of U.S. personnel, it is desirable to permit temporary employment, without requiring the taking of the oath or affirmation, in appropriate cases. This attitude is consistent with that adopted in legislation relating to a number of Commonwealth statutory authorities - for example, in subsection (4.) of section 21 of the Science and Industry Research Act, relating to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which was enacted in J 949.
I should mention that the waiving of the oath in these circumstances will not affect the normal administrative processes of employment, including appropriate warnings regarding disclosure of official information. Before exercising his discretion to waive the need to take the oath or affirmation the Governor-General is to satisfy himself that the proposed employment will not be prejudicial to the national interests. I should also emphasise that there will be no provision for waiving of the requirement that appointees to the permanent staff must take the oath or affirmation.
The purpose of clauses 9 and 10 is to give the Public Service Board a discretion to appoint a person who has special skills or qualifications without requiring him to serve a probationary period, where the Board considers that circumstances in his particular case make this desirable. This is, in effect, an extension of a principle already embodied in several sections of the Act in relation to certain appointments. It will permit, in a relatively small number of appropriate cases, offers of appointment carrying immediate security of tenure, without which some appointees would be loath to leave similar employment elsewhere.
The opportunity has also been taken to include several other amendments of a machinery nature.I should mention that clauses 6 and 29 (b) are merely to cover a technicality in existing legislative provisions and will remove any possible legal doubt that the person appointed as Chairman of the Repatriation Commission under the Repatriation Act is able to function also as permanent head of the Repatriation Department for the purposes of the Public Service Act. Clause 7 provides permanent head powers for the Commissioner of Trade Practices in relation to the organisation under his control, while clause 16 clarifies the requirements in relation to acting appointments in the First Division, which consists almost entirely of permanent heads of departments.
Ministers responsible for areas of Commonwealth employment not coming under the Public Service Act will examine the best methods of extending the provisions of this Bill to such areas of employment. It is essential that the legislative provisions under which the Commonwealth Public Service operates should regularly be reviewed in the light of current conditions and developments.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Consideration resumed (vide page 1752).
Proposed expenditure $302,680,000.
– I should like to refer to one or two matters in particular. One relates to the internal workings of the Postmaster-General’s Department and what I consider to be a serious breach of Regulation No. 111. Under the Post and Telegraph Act I propose to refer also to a number of complaints about the poor deliveries of mail experienced by not only myself but also a number of constituents in the Newcastle electorate. The serious breach of Regulation No.111 arose as the result of the posting of a letter by Sulphide Corporation Pty. Ltd. of Boolaroo, near Newcastle, containing an order form for the supply of a certain quantity of paper needed to meet the requirements of its drawing office. The letter enclosing the order form was posted on 11th March this year. It was addressed to Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. whose normal postal address is Box 28, Tighes Hill Post Office. This article was inadvertently addressed to Box 28, Islington Post Office. The distance between the two post offices is about half a mile.
The staff at the Islington Post Office unfortunately placed this letter in the postal box of another company engaged in the same trade - that of supplying drawing paper. This company is Harding and Halden Pty. Ltd., and its head office is 121 Clarence Street, Sydney. This confidential article was opened and retained by an agent of this company whose postal address is Box 32, Islington, and forwarded to the head office in Sydney. The contents were subsequently discussed at a meeting of the Sensitised Paper Association in Sydney and used in an effort to restrict the marketing of certain products by Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. and to deny supplies to that company. The Sensitised Paper Association is a restrictive trade practices association. Various manufacturers and suppliers of drawing paper of the type required by Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. are members of this association. They meet periodically to decide what prices they will quote in the tenders they submit to various companies and other users of this type of paper.
The letter which was addressed to Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. was used by the agent of Harding and Halden Pty. Ltd. in an endeavour to have supplies of paper withheld from Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. At the meeting at which the matter was dealt with, a member of the association, Mr. J. Harrison of Diazo Papers Pty. Ltd., of Alexandria, on being advised to take disciplinary action against Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd., was refused possession of the article. I have a photostat copy of that article. It is just an ordinary order form made out by Sulphide Corporation Pty. Ltd., and was enclosed in an ordinary window pane envelope and addressed to Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. The representative of Diazo Papers Pty. Ltd., Mr. Harrison, was handed, not the original article which had been illegally taken from the PostmasterGeneral’s mail, but a photostat copy of the article.
Mr. Harrison then made an approach to Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. He asked why this company had quoted a price which Harrison alleged was less than the regulation price. Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. is not a member of this restrictive trade practices association. It is a company founded by a group of young people who have set up in business in an endeavour to make their way in this line of commerce. The restrictive trade practices combine is trying to put this group of young people out of business. It has made several attempts to do this.
The Postmaster-General is fully aware of the facts. I must say that the PostmasterGeneral has been most courteous in his numerous replies in which he has advised me that the matter is still proceeding. But what I want to now is why no prosecution has been launched. I want honorable members to appreciate that the original article was seized by an officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on 26th April - nearly six months ago. He went to the office of Harding and Halden Pty. Ltd. in Clarence Street, Sydney, and seized the original letter that was posted by Sulphide Corporation Pty. Ltd. I have a photostat copy of that letter. I want to know why there has been no prosecution by the Postmaster-General’s Department since its officer seized the article.
Regulation No. 1 1 1 is quite clear. So that honorable members will know what I am talking about, I shall read it -
Any person who wilfully retains secretes keeps or detains any mail or postal article -
found by the person secreting keeping or detaining the same; or
wrongfully delivered to the person keep ing or detaining the same, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and on conviction thereof shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding two years.
It will be appreciated, therefore, that the offence about which 1 speak is not looked upon by the Postmaster-General’s Department as a minor matter. The fact that the penalty prescribed is imprisonment for two years, with or without hard labour, clearly indicates that it is looked upon as something of great magnitude.
The first that Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. knew about the matter was when the representative of Diazo Papers Pty. Ltd. inquired what was happening. Even at this point Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd did not know that its mail had been interfered wilh and that the order had been deliberately placed before this restrictive trade practices association. No attempt had been made to return the letter and the order to the sender after the mail had been opened. Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. could have lost an important order from a very big concern in the Newcastle district as a result of the illegal action taken by the agent of Harding and Halden Pty. Ltd. 1 should like now to state the number of times upon which the PostmasterGeneral has answered my correspondence and advised me that inquiries were still going on. Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. came to me on 2nd May. I wrote to the Postmaster-General on the same date. On the 5th May, the PostmasterGeneral acknowledged receipt of my letter. Somewhere about 30th May, I got an undated letter telling me that the matter was still proceeding and no finality had been reached as yet. On the 20th June, the Postmaster-General advised me, amongst other things, that, unfortunately the person with whom the interview was being sought had not been available. Then, on the 12th July, he advised me that investigations were still proceeding.
By this time the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Newcastle Drawing Office Supplies Pty. Ltd. was greatly concerned about the fact that nothing was happening. He and another member of the Board came to see me again and expressed their great concern. My only regret is that I cannot read the whole of the letter they wrote to me telling me about the transaction. Everything has been put down in black and white. I am prepared to table a photostat copy of the letter or even to produce the original letter if need be. Mr. McDonald, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, told me how pressure was being brought to bear on him and the company to withdraw the complaint. Mr. Harrison, whom I mentioned earlier, a representative of Diazo Papers Pty. Ltd., approached him and asked him to drop the matter. Then Mr. Cooper, of the firm of Harding and Halden Pty. Ltd., approached Newcastle D.O.S. Pty. Ltd. and asked that firm to withdraw the complaint. Mr. Cooper intimated that an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department had called on him and that he had denied any knowledge of the complaint that Harding and Halden had withheld mail addressed to the D.O.S. company at Tighe’s Hill. Later, he admitted that he had retained one letter but said that he had explained it away and that everybody was happy “about it. Mr. McDonald, in his letter, states -
Cooper asked if we’d withdraw the complaint and let them off the hook.
Cooper spoke to a representative of the D.O.S. company on the telephone and was told that the matter would be referred to the Board of Directors. The directors considered the matter and unanimously resolved that they would not let anyone off the hook, because of the seriousness of the complaint. This is the sort of exchange that has been going on for some time between these people and the Postmaster-General’s Department. Mr. McDonald, referring to what he had to say to Mr. Skillon, the regional manager for the Department in Newcastle, writes -
T pointed out to Mr. Skillon again that if 1 were to address the Postmaster-General and ask that my questions be disregarded the PostmasterGeneral might very well ask why I should have behaved like an irresponsible humbug, wasting the time, energy and resources of his Department for two months, causing concern and inconvenience, then suddenly decide that the matter was unimportant. He might well conclude that either I was insincere and mischievous in the first instance or had withdrawn my interest in the matter to procure a private advantage.
This man wants none of these things. He is not a mischievous humbug. He does not want to gain any private advantage by withdrawing from the matter. He has asked me to raise it in the Parliament so that it will at least be ventilated and so that the Postmaster-General may have an oppor tunity to tender some explanation as to why a prosecution has not been launched against Harding and Halden. Mr. McDonald was asked by the representative of the Department whether he wished to withdraw his complaint. He said: “ No “. He was asked whether he would proceed if the Department did not proceed. He said: “ Yes “. The point is that there has been a breach of the Post and Telegraph Act. This is an obvious breach. So why does not the Department take the necessary action to prosecute the firm that deliberately - I emphasise the word “ deliberately “ - withheld mail that it knew was not addressed to it, though that mail had inadvertently been placed in its box. I do not know whether Mr. McDonald does any star gazing. In his letter of 1st July, he forecast that two months later there would still have been no action taken by the Department. As honorable members know, two months from 1st July is 1st September - more than a month ago.
Though Mr. McDonald’s letter was dated 1st July, I did not receive it until 26th July. One the -very same day that I received it, I phoned the office of the Minister to advise him of the matter through his secretary. His secretary was not in at the time. I phoned again, I think on the next day, to advise the Minister that I had received a long hand written letter from Mr. McDonald and that he had asked me to bring to the notice of the Minister the fact that pressure was being applied to him to get him to drop the complaint. This is the particular matter that he asked me to bring to the Minister’s notice. I advised his secretary, Miss Murray, on 27th July, the day after Mr. McDonald called on me. I received from the Minister’s office a letter, dated 28th July, confirming the receipt of my complaint. On 3 1st August, T received a letter from the Minister’s private secretary, which stated - lt is most unfortunate that the investigation has been protracted to such an extent but it has been necessary to very closely examine a number of aspects, and you may be assured that everything possible is being done to bring the matter to finality with a minimum of delay.
I sincerely hope that the matter is brought to finality with a minimum of delay, Mr. Chairman, as seven months have already elapsed. This is an obvious case of the withholding of mail. The firm that withheld it attempted to use it against a group of young businessmen who were trying to make their way in a particular field and to put them out of business. 1 hope that the Postmaster-General, under section 111 of the Post and Telegraph Act, will prosecute those responsible. They have indulged not only in restrictive trade practices but also in a most reprehensible form of business activity.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, the Postmaster-General’s Department employs almost 95,000 persons. Its activities range throughout the Commonwealth and reach into all sorts of nooks and crannies, lt is the biggest business undertaking in Australia. When suggestions for improvements in services are made, one of the statements most frequently made in setting out what are said to be the barriers in the way of further improvements is that there is not enough money to go round, that only a certain sum is available. I want to make some suggestions related to this matter. First, 1 want to deal briefly with the annual financial report on the commercial accounts of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. We have only just received the latest report. I propose to show that in fact there is no shortage of money - that the shortage is much more apparent than real. It is really only a matter of a bookkeeping entry.
What I am about to say has been emphasised many times, but it will not hurt for me to say it again. The latest financial report shows that last financial year there was a loss of $124,000. One of the reasons for this is the peculiar system of charging interest on money which, after all, comes largely from Consolidated Revenue. It is merely moved across from the Treasury to the Postmaster-General’s Department as the Government instrumentality that undertakes the necessary public works to enable the services to be provided. For this money, which largely has been raised by taxes, an interest charge is imposed on the Department. I am indebted to my colleague, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), for the report of an answer that he recently received from the Postmaster-General (Mr.
Hulme) in reply to a question that he had asked. The Minister, in his answer, states that interest charges from 1st July 1912 to 30th June 1966 on the commercial accounts of the Post Office have amounted to more than $448 million. This sounds a large sum and, indeed, it is. The impression given is that this has been a steady accumulation. But let us recollect that this sort of thing has developed only since about 1959 when interest was suddenly imposed on the accumulated debt of the Department because a new business enterprise system was applied to its accounts. Last financial year, the interest charge amounted to $64 million. The rate of interest was about 5.25 per cent. Incidentally, up to 30th June 1965 the average rate had been 4.885 per cent. These figures are contained in the latest financial report of the Department. They demonstrate how ludicrous is the system of juggling figures under the system of double entry bookkeeping that is employed. They show that there was actually a profit.
In some ways, what is done reminds me of the activities of the Social Credit Governments in British Columbia and Alberta. The perennial claim of those who espouse social credit is that it eliminates deficits. The sort of bookkeeping double entries that are being made in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was done particularly by Bennett, the Social Credit Premier of British Columbia, in attempting to create a system of bookkeeping entries to provide for the state debt under another name. He put the records showing the debt for the period up to the time at which he took office on a raft in a river and ceremoniously and flamboyantly shot a fiery arrow into them and burnt them. All that has actually happened since is that, by means of bookkeeping transactions, the debt that existed when he took office has been steadily run down by shuffling figures about and under his administration it has been accumulating under another name. This is deceitful, of course. This is just the sort of thing that is happening with the Post Office. We see a somewhat similar sort of double entry bookkeeping being practised.
Since the Postmaster-General’s Department is the biggest business enterprise in Australia, it is about time it was given the same sort of independence as has been given to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. I recall that not long ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked a question about the possibility of placing the Post Office under a commission, in much the same way as the United Kingdom Post Office operates. Indeed, there seem to be many virtues which would commend this course, not the least of them being to get the Postmaster-General’s Department away from the stultifying influence of Public Service control and to diminish considerably the equally stultifying effect of the regulations and control of the Treasury. Then we might get some action on complaints such as those lodged by the Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association in relation to the installation by private organisations of private automatic box exchanges, known as P.A.B.X.’s. One of the arguments advanced by the Government for allowing private contractors to install P.A.B.X. equipment is that there is a limited amount of capital provided for expenditure, so it has to be careful how this capital is apportioned.
Let us get into perspective this practice of giving to private contractors the work of installing P.A.B.X.’s. After all, this type of work was, until 1957, traditionally carried out by employees of the Postal Department. In 1957, when this practice of giving the work to private enterprise was established, the Postal Department indicated fairly clearly that this work would be carried out by private contractors on a very narrow field or exchange equipment only. But as the years have passed this field has expanded. Automatic exchanges are being installed in private enterprise establishments by private contractors. In addition, private enterprise is being engaged to install the wiring in new buildings such as motels and offices. This is work which was previously carried out by staff members of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
What the Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association is concerned about is the insidious encroachment on their field of work which is occurring all the time. They are particularly worried, that they may eventually become nothing more than maintenance men at large exchanges. This is the kind of development they see. A little of their work area is being whittled away as each year passes and they object strongly to this practice. A rather strange aspect of this practice is that there is a shortage of technical staff at present within the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Speaking as a Queenslander, this shortage is more pronounced in the south, according to my advice. Where will private enterprise obtain the technicians to carry out the kind of work it is now gaining by encroaching on traditional fields of activity in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? It will attract them from the Department. This is a silly situation. I understand that officials of the Postal Department argue that this is a good thing. They say that, there being a staff shortage within the Department, if private enterprise carries out this work it will relieve the strain on the Department’s staff. But this argument goes in circles. We already have the staff shortage and it will be aggravated because private enterprise will attract staff away from the Postal Department.
Another aspect that greatly concerns the technicians and which cuts across the traditional and justifiable pride that they have in the high standard of their work is that private enterprise has a tendency to rush a job to cut costs. It is claimed that, as a result, standards suffer. Of course, it has been argued in correspondence between the Association and representatives of the Department that private enterprise is doing the work at a lower rate than the estimates provided by the Department. First, let me again emphasise that private enterprise is rushing a lot of this work. It is not doing it as neatly as it was done by Postal Department technicians. Another factor that is not taken into consideration should be added as a cost to the tender price by private enterprise. 1 refer to the amount of technical advice which private enterprise is obtaining from the Postmaster-General’s Department when it undertakes work of this kind. There is also some evidence that private enterprise is receiving preferential treatment in the way it obtains this type of installation. This is a matter which the Committee might view with interest. It might encourage from the Postmaster-General an explanation. For instance, private enterprise installed at the Edison Exchange in Brisbane an Ericson trunk switching exchange. It was a big job - a plum job. Why were quotes and not tenders called for this work? This is a strange procedure. I would like the PostmasterGeneral to let me know whether this is the procedure usually resorted to. If so, why? Why were tenders not called? Did the people who installed this switching exchange at the Edison Exchange in Brisbane exceed the estimated time of finalisation? The Minister might also say whether departmental staff would have been available to carry out this work had it not been that something urgent cropped up. There was sudden ministerial pressure, quite unexpectedly, for a rush job at Gladstone. I am not suggesting that Gladstone should not have had work carried out on an automatic exchange. What I query is the sudden rush which diverted the technicians from Brisbane, allowing private enterprise to move in and pick up this plum.
The P.A.B.X. equipment is the type of thing we have in this building, providing for inter-office dialling as well as outgoing and incoming calls. This type of exchange has been installed in a number of places under circumstances which give me cause for a great deal of concern. It has been installed at Mount Isa, Bribie Island, Zillmere and probably other places. This equipment has been installed by private enterprise and I understand it is maintained by private enterprise at these places. If my information is correct - it comes from an extremely reliable source - the Crimes Act insofar as it relates to the use of telephones, does not apply to anything that may take place in a building in which a P.A.B.X. is in operation. Recently there was a big industrial dispute at Mount Isa. The use of the P.A.B.X. at Mount Isa mines raises all sorts of queries in my mind. What could have happened? I am not suggesting that anything happened or that anything would have happened, but let us suppose that workers involved in the industrial dispute had made calls on this P.A.B.X. equipment. Supposing their conversations had been overheard. Would the eavesdropper have been immune from action under the Crimes Act? If the Minister claims that the Crimes Act did in fact apply in these circumstances, why was an urgent circular issued by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland advising technicians in Mount Isa that they were not to discuss the fact that the exchange at Mount Isa mines was privately installed, privately operated and privately maintained and the Postmaster-General’s Department apparently had no control over it? Perhaps the Minister will give us some advice on this matter.
The Minister has recently had some correspondence concerning the installation of P.A.B.X. equipment in the premises of C. A. Pearce Ltd., Brisbane. Certainly one of the Minister’s Directors has had correspondence on this subject. This equipment was operated privately for some months. This practice is diminishing the work area available to the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. They are worried that they will eventually become nothing more than maintenance staff. For many years, the members of the installing staffs have not only installed the exchange equipment efficiently but have installed it at times in buildings under most unfavorable conditions and have had to meet many seemingly impossible cutover dates. On no occasion have they created any embarrassment to the Department or the public by not meeting the cutover dates. The decision to have telephone exchanges installed by private contractors will generally be regarded as a decision of the Department to avoid its traditional responsibilities to the public in the interests of private contractors.
.- It was not my intention to speak on these estimates, but, having listened to the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden), I thought that I should say a few words. I compliment the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), the Department as a whole and all those who work in it. from the top to the bottom, on the job that they have done throughout Australia in providing telephone services of the standing that we now have. Listening to the honorable member, I formed the impression that frankly he did not have much to complain about and thought he would occupy his IS minutes by scratching around and speaking about some matter.
He commenced by referring to the accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department and he raised the question of interest on loan moneys and so on. Then he seemed to get rather involved and implied that, if the activities of the Department were taken away from civil servants, as he said, and given to private enterprise or an organisation such as Qantas Empire
Airways Ltd., the service would be quite different. I ask the honorable member to contemplate for a while the situation that would arise if all the ramifications of the Department were handed over to private enterprise. Would private enterprise, for instance, be willing to spend large amounts of money on research, development and the provision of services in underdeveloped and frequently unprofitable areas in country districts as the Department does now? If we make inquiries as to the charges in other countries for services similar to those provided by the Postal Department, we find that the services in Australia are provided at a most economical rate. I do not say that many of the charges do not appear to be high and most of us object to paying some of them, but I think that this is quite normal. But if we go to other countries and find what we must pay there for a telephone and associated services, we will return to Australia very satisfied with the deal that we are getting there.
Having used the suggestion that the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department should be handed over to private enterprise to suit his first argument, the honorable member then complained that certain parts of the work of the Department had been handed over to private enterprise. It seemed to me that he was confused about his complete argument. I would say that the people of La Trobe, the area that I have the honour to represent, have been well served by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department during the time that I have been a member of the Parliament. I say this quite genuinely. When I came here, one of the major problems of my electorate, which was a fast developing area and which now has an enrolment of about 87,000 people, was the shortage of telephones. The need for telephone exchanges so that telephones could be installed presented an urgent problem. But now I am happy to say that most of the difficulties have been overcome. I thank the Postmaster-General and his predecessor, the Honorable Charles Davidson of the Australian Country Party, for the job they have done in improving the services of the Department.
I am delighted to find that most of the areas in my electorate are changing over to the new trunk dialling system. It will give an improved service to people in country districts and this is appreciated by all my constituents. I do not suggest that I do not have a few complaints that I could lay at the door of the Postmaster-General. One small matter relates to the Upper Ferntree Gully post office. I think it should be in the main street, but the PostmasterGeneral will not put it there. I will continue to take this up with him for some time to come. However, I can say that we have at all times had courtesy from all his officers. We have had proper attention and we are most grateful for the job thai has been done.
.- I must agree that a good deal of improvement has been effected in some spheres of the activities of the Post Office over the past five years. Even as recently as last year, I had to make rather bitter complaints about the long waiting period for the installation of telephones in my electorate and in adjoining electorates. I am grateful to be able to say that 1 no longer need to make such complaints. This is not to deny that some people in some pockets in my electorate still must wait for 12 months or longer before a telephone is installed. However, the number of people affected in this way is not as large as it was. I am glad that this improvement has been effected and that people now have the service. I know that some honorable members would not have the same cause for satisfaction. In other electorates in the metropolitan area of Sydney long delays still occur.
In a moment I will come to some points that cause concern; I do not want honorable members to think that I have only pleasantries to hand out. Some areas of Sydney are still sorely in need of telephone services, and these are not all in Labour electorates. I think the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is in an area that is subject to one of the longest delays for telephone services. I think the services in the electorate of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) are still a long way from satisfactory. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), in the electorate of Werriwa, still has cause to complain of the delay in the installation of telephones. I hope that I will not receive too many complaining letters from constituents who have been listening to me tonight. I know that some people still must wait for 12 months or longer for a service, but in all fairness I must say that not as many people are affected now as were a few years ago.
I want to mention a number of matters in a fairly quick way, if I may. When I have the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) I would especially like to mention the quality of the service. Not so many people must wait for a telephone, but the quality of the service is not as good as it was. We were told that when the Post Office introduced what is called the cross bar equipment, we would have a much more efficient telephone system. At the time I expressed some doubt, based on information given to me by quite prominent technicians in the Department 12 months ago. I was told that the cross bar equipment being used in Australia is not as good as it is represented to be. I am sure that many people would agree that the equipment has given cause for concern at times. The incidence of wrong numbers on dialling is quite large. Frequently a caller has a noisy line, particularly with a trunk line call, and this is far from satisfactory. I have mentioned only a few points. I was told that the upkeep of the cross bar equipment is quite high when compared with other kinds of equipment installed in other parts of the world. As I recall now, my technician informant told me 12 months ago that the cross bar equipment we have installed in Australia has been rejected by most other countries. I recall that the Minister in replying to me said that there had been carried out quite an amount of modification on this system - a Swedish system I think it is. He said about 100 modifications were made to the equipment. If that is so, I suggest another 20 to 30 modifications still need to be made so that people are no longer involved in wrong numbers and noisy line problems.
Mr. Chairman, I am wondering how long it will be before I can attract the Minister’s attention. Possibly I shall have to ring him up. While he has had his back turned I have been handing him some bouquets.
– I heard them.
– The Minister has returned in time to collect one or two brickbats. I have an immediate complaint. This is something that has happened without any forewarning, namely, the removal of public telephone services within my electorate. I want to know whether or not this is a widespread incident. This week I have received complaints from a number of people about the removal of at least three public telephone services in my electorate. I rang the Department and asked why this had happened. I was told that it was probably because the services were uneconomic and had not received the required patronage to enable them to be permitted to continue. I asked what the criterion of economics was. I must confess there was some evasion but finally it was tentatively suggested that $150 a year was generally the requirement for a public telephone booth to warrant its existence. I suggest to the Minister that other factors than the revenue obtained from a public telephone booth need to be examined.
In the areas affected in my electorate live a number of elderly people who are not in particularly good health and who could be in need of handy telephone services in order to communicate with doctors, hospitals or ambulances. These people are not able to afford private telephones. It is as simple as that. In Kogarah Bay two adjacent public telephone services were removed. What kind of inquiry was made before that action was taken? It has always been the practice - and I am grateful for it - whenever a public telephone is to be installed in a member’s electorate for the Department to inform the Federal member. More often than not the Department has sought the approval and sanction of the local government body - the municipal council or shire council - for its installation. However, this courtesy does not apply when a service is to be removed. The first I know of the removal of a public telephone is when somebody comes to me in great haste and anguish, complaining bitterly of its removal and recounting the problems this is causing to the people round about who have no forewarning of the removal. If they are desperately in need of a telephone service it may well be that if they know a service is to be removed they will try to get a private telephone connection. However, they are not given any forewarning. I am not going to speak unduly about the services that have been removed in my electorate, because I wrote to the Minister a few days ago on this subject, and there is a letter in the mail to him tonight about another service that has been removed in the Hurstville Grove area concerning which I have received bitter complaints.
I think my colleague the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) was entitled to raise a matter which I, and other honorable members, have complained about for a number of years, namely, this comparatively new bookkeeping device by which the Postal Department, is charged interest on its capital expenditure. This year the interest bill amounts to $64,401,139. This is a new device the Government hit upon back in 1959. However, it had a pretty narrow scrape in getting a committee to recommend this so called new commercial system of running the postal services. It was a three to two decision, and the Government was glad enough to get the majority decision which gave it a new avenue of taxation. I have said before in this Parliament that this is no more than another means of taxation. It is a sectional levy on telephone users whether they be rich or poor and whether they use a telephone service for business purposes or, in the case of a pensioner, perhaps for summoning urgent medical attention or for keeping in communication with relatives and friends. All telephone users participate in meeting this interest bill; but on what are we paying $64.4 million interest? As the honorable member for Oxley said, we are paying it on our own taxation money. This is the most ludicrous proposition I have ever heard of. It is sheer robbery as far as I am concerned. The taxpayer pays money into the Treasury, then the Treasury lends the money - it is not a commercial practice at all - to the Post Office for its capital investment and the Post Office, meaning the taxpayer telephone users, pays interest on that money. 1 do not know whether the public of Australia has woken up to this yet. The fact is that the Post Office this year made $64 million profit, but that profit has been concealed by the imposition of this phoney item of $64 million interest. In other words, we are all paying higher telephone charges, telecommunication charges and postal charges than would be needed ordinarily to meet the costs of running the postal services. The Govern ment cannot have it both ways. I hope that the Minister will pay me some attention.
– I have been hearing about this interest problem for years.
– If the Minister asserts that he wants to run the Post Office as an ordinary commercial activity and charge interest on capital I ask him: Does the Post Office, like any other trading organisation in the community, pay municipal rates or shire rates to local governing bodies? Not on your life. It does not. The Post Office owns a huge amount of real estate in local government areas but does not pay a whit of rates to the local councils. In other words, the ordinary ratepayers have to make up for what the Post Office is not paying. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Bank, which is a trading organisation, pays the equivalent of what its ordinary rate liability would be. The Post Office does not do so.
I agree with what the honorable member for Oxley said concerning another matter. 1 think the Post Office would be much better run not by private enterprise but as a statutory authority, just as the Commonwealth Bank and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority are operated - not subject to all the rigmarole of Public Service regulations. This is the essence of a statutory authority - this kind of freedom, inside public responsibility, to operate as a business enterprise. However, we have this half-way business. The Post Office is not a statutory authority run as a business enterprise, yet in selective aspects where taxation in the form of increased charges to pay interest is involved it is run as a so called commercial enterprise. I do not think this is fair. The Post Office would be a much more efficient organisation and would provide a higher level of service if it were given the same treatment as the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Snowy Mountains Authority. I think the Post Office would then become more efficient and. there would be a greater spirit of enterprise and a better service to the public generally. I am not decrying the services rendered by the ordinary member of the Post Office staff. He cannot be blamed for all the red tape he is subjected to by way of Public Service regulations, but this does mitigate against the kind of morale, efficiency and satisfaction that one sees as soon as one walks into the Commonwealth Bank, the Snowy Mountains Authority or any part of the C.S.I.R.O. This is the essence of a statutory authority, and for my part I should like to see the Post Office run in this way.
Finally I join again with the honorable member for Oxley in complaining about the inefficient letter delivery service that we have today. The managers of several businesses have written to me complaining about the long delay in mail deliveries. One firm - I will not mention its name - has written -
In the meantime-
Meaning because of this inefficient service? - we are forced to, resort to road transport for a reliable mail service. Of course, this is unnecessarily ‘expensive.
It is expensive not only for the business. The business will pass on the cost of having to send mail by some special delivery service so that it will be delivered on time. It is expensive also for the consumer public because the cost involved will be passed on in the form of higher prices for goods.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Give the workers a go.
– That is precisely what I intended to do. I had not intended speaking to the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I was moved to do so-
– We will not be disappointed if the honorable gentleman does not speak.
– I think the honorable member might be if he listens to the words which will flow. I was moved to participate in this debate because of what was said by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). Although the honorable member for Barton said he would give a few bouquets - I am sure they were welcome - he then proceeded to hand out the brickbats. These were in relation to telephone services. They are the motivating factor in my participation in the debate. I was able to obtain a few figures relating to telephone connections. I think they will interest the Committee. Connections of telephone services, excluding services transferred from one subscriber to another, increased from 156,500 in 1961-62 to 203,000 in 1965-66. That gives an indication of the improvement that has taken place. Now let me compare the amount of capital provided for this expansion. In 1961-62 some $77.3 million was provided. This year, 19615-67, the amount will be $167.3 million. Those amounts speak for themselves.
While on this aspect let me mention also that over two years ago the number of deferred applications stood at 50,340. This number has been reduced to 16,243 at 30th June this year. The position is placed in even better perspective by considering that in 1966-67 the Post Office expects to receive 195,000 applications, apart ‘ altogether from another 1 10,000 applications for the transfer of services. I am sure this must place a tremendous strain on the resources of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The figures I have cited place the workings of the Department, particularly in regard to this aspect of its services, in proper perspective. On the subject of telephone services let me remind honorable members of the efficiency created for business enterprises, as well as for ordinary citizens, by the extension of the subscriber trunk dialling service to certain capital cities and country centres. One can now pick up the telephone and dial numbers in these places without the necessity of going through the exchange. Not only is this faster in that one can dial straight through to the point of contact but it is also a great deal cheaper in many instances than the cost, for example, of a particular person call. If one wishes to transmit only et short message one can get to it without any unnecessary delay. This inevitably leads to a great deal of efficiency.
We have heard some remarks by honorable members opposite relating to the inefficiency of the Postmaster-General’s Department in certain spheres of activity. The particular aspect of its activities to which I am now referring is leading to a greater degree of efficiency in business enterprises by reducing the cost of calls and the delay involved by the exchange obtaining one’s number. All this takes a great deal of planning. It indicates the steady development of telephone services throughout Australia. I was pleased to be able to inform my constituents recently of the extension of the subscriber trunk dialling service to certain people on a particular exchange in one part of my electorate. I know, from the reaction it brought when mentioned in the local newspapers, that this additional service was well received. Before leaving the subject of telephones let me mention the steadily increasing number of services provided by way of recorded information, sporting news, weather information, daily news and medical and psychological help. 1 have never had to seek such help but I am sure if it became necessary for me to do so I could get it simply by picking up the telephone and dialling the required number.
– It is used fairly extensively by honorable members opposite.
– That would not surprise me. I was disappointed to hear the honorable member for Oxley blandly state, first of all, that there was no shortage of money and that the reported loss on operations was a deception, and secondly, that this result was obtained simply by the Department juggling the figures. He said the loss was a bookkeeping fiction achieved by accountancy procedures. He brought forward no facts to substantiate his argument. Rather, he supported his argument by analogy to British Colombia where the same situation is alleged to have occurred. This was not only illogical and irrelevant but, I think, particularly invalid.
I have received the greatest degree of co-operation in my dealings with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on a wide variety of matters. At present I am receiving further co-operation from the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs in relation to moving a number of letter boxes in my electorate. I am sure other honorable members have experienced similar cooperation. I could not have allowed the debate to continue without saying that I am tremendously impressed by the manner in which the Department is run and with the improvement that we have seen in both postal and telegraphic services within
Australia. I think the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) should be congratulated, not castigated.
.- I am happy to take part in the debate on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. My remarks will be directed mainly to telephone services and particularly to lack of mercy exhibited by the Department in disconnecting a service when there are what I call extenuating circumstances. I read with no regret in one of the Sydney evening newspapers today that half a dozen or more telephones which had been used exclusively for the use of S.P. bookmakers in an office in Sydney had been disconnected. This should have been done long ago.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) is well aware of the facts of the case I want to mention. He has stated that he is bound by the law. I think this is a case in which the Minister should be able to exercise the royal prerogative or the prerogative of mercy. He should have the authority to say that the merits of this case are such that the extreme action of disconnecting the telephone is not warranted. Like all members of my Party, I am not nor ever have been under the influence of S.P. bookmakers. But I come from the electorate of Hunter which includes the City of Cessnock and you would know, Mr. Minister, what industrial areas are like. Before the Totalisator Agency Board commenced operations S.P. betting was nearly as common amongst the industrial workers and particularly the coal miners as was beer drinking. At the Hotel Cessnock where the premises are conducted by a very reputable licensee whom I believe has not incurred a conviction for a breach of the law for many years, while the licensee was resting in his upstairs bedroom one Saturday, an S.P. bookmaker obtained the key to the telephone from the barmaid, as is done by many of the customers and residents of the hotel. Apparently he used the telephone for the purposes of transacting an S.P. bet. He was seen by the police to do this and the matter was reported to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, as a result of which the telephone was disconnected. The S.P. bookmaker appeared in court and was fined £25. But at the same time the telephone service to the hotel was about to be disconnected.
I believe it would be difficult to measure the extent of economic loss which would be incurred by the publican as a result of travellers declining to stay at a hotel which had no telephone, particularly if they wanted to talk, perhaps to a sick wife in Sydney where their home may be. We find in that case that the hotelkeeper who was innocent as to the use to which the telephone was put was more severely punished than the bookmaker. We know that under the Customs laws of the Commonwealth the Department of Customs and Excise has the right to impose fines, and I believe the Taxation Branch has the right to impose penalties. If the Postmaster-General does not already have this power I would like to see the law amended so that a penalty can be imposed on a publican who has infringed the law in circumstances similar to those in which Mr. Tinkler was alleged to have breached the law. That would ensure that the penalty would not be more severe on the publican than it is on the principal who committed the offence of S.P. bookmaking I would like the Minister to express an opinion on this matter which has caused great embarrassment to the publican.
Mr. Tinkler fervently proclaims his innocence in allowing the use of the telephone which was used to commit an offence. This matter is additionally embarrassing because of the integrity of his son who plays an important part in running the business, due to the age of the father who holds the licence. The son is one of the senior officers in the Cessnock civil defence organisation and in that capacity performs an important public duty for no monetary gain. The son is also held to be a respectable person by the whole of the community with which he comes in contact. He is a very prominent Apexian. I would like the Minister to find a way out of imposing severe penalties which result from the disconnection of the telephone when a person is in circumstances such as those which exist in the case of Mr. Tinkler of the Cessnock Hotel. We know from our worldly knowledge that call girls have telephones. I do not suppose that Mr. H. G. Palmer who was committed for trial the other day has had his telephone disconnected. I suppose in those cases if a report came to the Minister he would take action similar to that taken against my constituent in Cessnock.
What I am about to say I do not say recklessly, because I realise the danger of acting under the privilege of Parliament, but I want to refer to a woman at Bondi. 1 am going to name her because 1 am conscious of the positiveness of my information. A woman named Matron Colburne, the owner and occupier of Heatherbrae Clinic at 124 Curlewis Street, Bondi, is operating extensively as an abortionist and has been under observation by investigation officers. It is anticipated that 10 unfortunate women a day are involved. Her telephone would be practically exclusively used to carry out this nefarious practice. This woman defies investigation officers when they go there and threatens to make allegations against them which I am assured are unfounded. She has two doctors who are in constant contact and have been questioned. They were questioned recently by senior investigation officers when they were looking for a missing girl whose parents were gravely concerned about her whereabouts. This woman, in a most arrogant manner, defied investigation officers.
– These are not investigation officers from the Post Office about whom the honorable member is speaking?
– No, not from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, from the Criminal Investigation Branch. Her place has been under observation and it is positive that she is conducting an extensive business of the type I have referred to. The Minister should draw comparisons with what one woman can get away with because of the lucrative income which would be derived from practising this increasing moral depravity, if I may so term it, with two prominent doctors.
I feel inclined, due to the positiveness of my information, to mention their names. They are prominent doctors, one of whom has been questioned at the premises. They are Doctor Wald of the Medical Centre at Bondi Junction, and Dr. Thomas Wall of Queen Street, Woollahra. I do not apologise because these are pillars of society and this telephone would be used for the purpose of these three persons carrying on this extensive business. One is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. This sort of thing is going on with the use of a telephone provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Yet we find with a humble publican in the country that when his telephone was used without his knowledge it was disconnected. I hope that a report will be coming to the Minister from a responsible State Government department in connection with the allegations that I have made about these premises at Bondi so that this growing social evil might be frustrated by the disconnection of a telephone which would be more justified than the disconnection of the telephone of my constituent, the facts about which I have reiterated to the Committee tonight. I hope the Minister will find a way out of taking extreme action against persons who are reported to be infringing the law when the circumstances are such as I have pointed out in the Tinkler case at the Cessnock Hotel.
.- Over the years I have taken part in debates on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department on very many occasions, and on every occasion 1 have stressed the need for rural areas to have up to date telephone services. Tonight I want to pay a tribute to the district telephone managers with whom I deal at Mildura, Bendigo and, to a lesser extent, Ararat. I shall not mention their names because I sometimes deal with their staff whom I find to be very efficient, very courteous and most helpful every time I go to them. When someone comes to me regarding his telephone, perhaps wanting a telephone line extended or a telephone installed, I always follow the procedure of going to the district telephone manager. I give him a reasonable time to say whether or not the work can be done. There may be reasons why the telephone cannot be connected at that time. Of course, people must be reasonable and wait a while until the cables are provided or some other equipment is available. Then the service is put into operation. I never go to Mr. G. N. Smith, who is the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Victoria, until the District Telephone Manager has said: “ This is all I can do under the general regulations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department”. He may tell me that what I am asking involves a matter of policy, and then I go to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs. I have found Mr. Smith to be an excellent officer in every way. Of course if my representations involved a matter of policy that he could not handle, I would then have to go to the Postmaster-General, or perhaps bring the matter up in a debate such as the one in which we are now engaged. I pay a very high tribute to these officers of the Department. On every occasion on which I have spoken to them about something affecting my constituents I have received every possible attention.
I want to say something about the automatic telephone system that is being introduced. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) and the previous one, Sir Charles Davidson, explained this system on many occasions. They explained that the automatic services that are available are part of the overall automatic system that will be installed during the next 8, 10 or even 15 years. 1 was very pleased with the display arranged by the Department some time ago in King’s Hall in this building. It included instruments showing how these automatic exchanges would operate. I had the opportunity to speak on one of these instruments in King’s Hall. The figures that I now give may not be quite correct but they are near enough. I understand that a call from Brisbane to Perth costs 15s. The officer conducting the display said to me: “ Just imagine that you are in Brisbane and are ringing somebody in Perth. We want you to give your message as quickly as possible and we will tell you how much it costs.” Under the automatic system that will one day be in operation the subscriber pays only for the time that he uses. At present if a person makes a call which lasts only half a minute he is still charged 15s., which is the standard charge for three minutes or part thereof. But when the automatic system is in operation throughout Australia a subscriber making a trunk call will be charged only for the amount of time that is used. I made my call and said: “ I have arrived safely. Everything is all right. I will return home tomorrow. Goodnight.” I think the charge for that was 2s. 3d., which is a good deal less than the present standard charge of 15s.
Automatic telephones of this kind would be of great value to people in the country. A farmer in the districts around Mildura, Hopetoun or Boort, where I live, for instance, might have to ring Melbourne urgently for a part of a machine which broke down during harvesting. The standard charge for such a call would be about 80 cents, varying according to distance. The farmer might get on to the dealer in Melbourne readily enough but then might have to wait until the dealer ascertained whether the part was in stock. He might have to make an extension, doubling the cost of the call, just before the dealer returned to tell him the part would be sent immediately. In such a case he would have to pay 80c for the use of the telephone for only a few seconds additional time.
I have on numerous occasions asked the Postmaster-General why more R.A.X. equipment is not forthcoming. I have asked whether it is because the Department has not enough money to buy the equipment or because production is not sufficient to meet the demands in this country. Primary producers find it most necessary for the efficient management of their pastoral and agricultural activities to .have satisfactory telephone services. I have on many occasions said that this is more important than the provision of a television service. I have expressed this view to many country people, some of whom may be listening to me tonight. I still say that efficient telephonic communication is more important than television in country areas. It is important not merely for business and agricultural reasons. A person might want to contact a doctor in the middle of the night. That prompts me to suggest again that we need as many continuous services as possible. 1 have been informed recently of difficulties in connection with one or two telephone exchanges that operate for only a certain number of hours each day or on Sunday only from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Without going into great detail about this matter I would ask the Postmaster-General to consider providing as many continuous services as possible at exchanges which cater for a sufficient number of subscribers. Automatic exchanges will give such continuous service, which is very important in country districts.
In certain parts of the Mallee the State Electricity Commission of Victoria is extending its service to rural areas, and with the extension of this service party lines that have served primary producers for many years have to be brought up to a certain standard when they run somewhere near the S.E.C. line. This is said to be necessary if a good service is to be provided. Many primary producers are being put to fairly heavy expense in improving the efficiency of the lines. Many of them have said to me: “ We can put in the cable for much less than the price charged by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department “. In such circumstances I would like the Department to give these people as much opportunity as possible of using their own equipment, such as tractors and other machinery, so that the cost can be brought down to the irreducible minimum.
With regard to telephone services generally I am always pleased to receive letters on this subject from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I have two such letters before me at the moment, and this is by no means unusual because they are sent to me every week or perhaps every fortnight. One of these is dated 1 1 th October and the other is dated 12th October. One reads -
You will be pleased to learn that following the installation of carrier wave equipment four additional circuits will be provided between Hopetoun and Beulah on 28th October 1966. As a result an improved telephone service will bc available between these centres.
The other letter is to the same effect except that it refers to two additional channels between Mildura and Koorlong, both of which are in the electorate of Mallee. I receive many of these letters, and I am pleased to get them because every time another channel is made available the time spent in waiting for a call is reduced. I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that it is most pleasing to receive these letters and know the extra services are being provided. May he continue to extend these services to people who really require them in the country areas of Victoria and of Australia generally.
I also want to speak briefly about mail services. There is a tendency to close down country post offices and in some cases this is justified. In other cases it is most unjustified to close post offices or to change rural mail delivery arrangements. At the present time there is a case in the Mallee electorate which is being attended to with great efficiency by the District Postal Manager. L will not give the name of the post office because I do not like to do this until I find that the District Postal Manager cannot make satisfactory arrangements. What has been decided, however, is that a certain post office shall be closed and that certain rural deliveries will be made by a different route. It is said that this would save some money and give the people on the mail route a better service. The people of the area are quite satisfied with the present arrangements and they say they do not want them changed. They have said: “ We have had the same mailman for years. He does a very efficient job and we do not want a change “. On this occasion I am adopting a rather unusual role, because usually I approach the District Telephone Manager or the District Postal Manager or the PostmasterGeneral on behalf of people complaining about existing arrangements and wanting them changed. I say that when people are satisfied the Department should not interfere. Although the Department may save a few dollars, perhaps a couple of hundred dollars a year even, I do not want those economies to be made in the Mallee electorate while the people are perfectly satisfied with the service they are getting. I would like the Postmaster-General to take note of that; where people are perfectly satisfied, and when the services have been proved over the years, let the situation continue. After all, if the Department wishes to make economies it has plenty of opportunities in the vast cities of the Commonwealth.
Regarding mail services, rarely do letters go astray. 1 often marvel that so many letters get delivered so efficiently and so quickly. I once received a letter and when I opened it found that it was not signed. So 1 looked at the post mark and addressed a letter to the postmaster or postmistress at that place - it is now in the electorate of the honorable member for Wimmera, a place called Blackheath - and I stated “ I have received this letter in this envelope. Can you tell who wrote it, by the writing? “ I received a reply almost immediately and was told that the letter was written by a Mr. Crafter. So I wrote to Mr. Grafter straight away and told him that his unsigned letter of a certain date was to hand. I told this story once at an election meeting and at question time a certain clergyman stood up and said: “ I do not want to ask a question, but I want to make a statement”. I said: “Go on”. He said: “The honorable member for Mallee is talking about how he receives unsigned letters. Do you know that some of my parishioners send me unsigned cheques? “ The point is that I did not do too badly after all.
I would like to compliment the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on another matter. This story concerns a certain lady who is a relative of mine. I had nothing to do with her case but I know that she is continually getting bogus telephone calls day and night and when she answers, whoever is ringing immediately hangs up. I understand that she spoke to the local postmaster about it. I do not know what the details are as I had nothing to do with the case; but I do know that I have had cause to ring her about five or six times in the past few months, and every time some person in the Department says to me: “What number is ringing; what is your name and address? “ This person takes all the particulars in an endeavour to ascertain who is causing this nuisance. One cannot help but appreciate services like that. This is a very good service, for which the Department must be complimented. As another honorable member said tonight, T do not want anybody to think that I am perfectly satisfied with what the Department is doing. I am not dissatisfied, although I may be unsatisfied.
.- It is pleasing to hear the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) say that he is satisfied with the service provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Naturally he would say so because he belongs to the Country Party. As far as I can understand, you have to be a Liberal or a Country Party man to get anything at all from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme). For the past five years I have repeatedly brought before this House the inadequate service rendered by the Glebe Post Office. This post office is located in the middle of West Sydney. Every post office in that electorate, whether it be on the Redfern side, the Glebe side or the Pyrmont side is only one mile from the Sydney G.P.O. There are up to 20,000 people living in the Glebe area and there are some 1 3,000 on the roll. There are several people also who are from overseas and who are not on the roll.
I have described the scandalous state of affairs concerning this post office before. On pension days pensioners have no chance of getting paid at this post office; they have to go across the tramline, up the road, climb seven or eight stone steps and go into an unused barn to get paid. The same thing applies to young women with children in prams who go there for endowment payments. Unless they take their children up those seven or eight stone steps they have no chance of getting their money. This happens every two weeks. I think it is a downright shame that the PostmasterGeneral should sit here and hear this complaint time and time again and not do something about it. I know that at present he is busy watching affairs in Petrie up in Queensland. 1 hope and trust that before the Christmas holidays he will visit the Glebe Post Office and see the position for himself. Pensioners and other people have to travel over a mile to the post office in order to buy a stamp. I appeal io the Government to allow stamps to be sold at a shop down the road from the post office. The shopkeeper is prepared to sell them at a very small cost to the Department.
I have a petition from 2,000 people wanting the Department to open a branch down at the end of Glebe. I and others travelled round Glebe taking those names and addresses and I do not know why we did not get a result from the petition. I personally went to the Glebe Post Office and saw the man in charge there on two occasions. He shook his head as if to say” It is no good me trying to do it “. 1 hope and trust that in the very near future something will be done because it is impossible for those good people to carry on. In another week or two closer to Christmas there will be thousands of people in that post office to send parcels overseas and there will be 23 or 24 people scrambling about and trying to work in three or four rooms.
When I put this matter to the Minister and the House previously the Department was building a telephone exchange, an addition to the post office. Admittedly this was a move in the right direction. The
Department eventually pulled down four or five houses. They stood empty for a while at a time when some people in the Glebe area did not have a room in which to sleep. Now the Department has started building this addition to the post office one would naturally think it would follow up with the next step and build a new post office. As late as last Monday I called at the post office and made a few inquiries as to whether anything was doing about it. The man there said: “1 am new here. I have been here only a week and I have not heard anything. If you cannot do anything about it, how can IT’. Evidently the two of us cannot do anything because this area is not getting the assistance from the Department that I sought. If the Minister will send a man to that area I will meet him and show him the post office that is situated over a mile from the building I am talking about. There are about 28,000 people living in the area.
At Glebe Point, about one mile from the post office, 128 flats have been built. There are two or three people in each flat and naturally they make a big demand on the services of the post office. Why could not a branch be put in one of the shops in that area? There are three new shops there which are empty. If there were a branch post office in the area it would help these people. They would not have to take a bus. Those people are faced with having to pay bus fares to go to the post office and the Liberal Government in New South Wales has raised fares twice in the last 10 months. That is not bad going. This makes it all the dearer for people who have to go to the post office. The people at Glebe are between the devil and the deep sea. I cannot get anything done for the people who deserve it most; either from the Minister Postmaster-General, or from Ministers in the State Government, I cannot get anything done whichever way 1 go. 1 appeal to the Minster to examine the position down there before Christmas. If he cannot do it before Christmas then I ask that he do it immediately after the election. If he does, he will see people staggering up stone steps and entering a disused barn to receive their pension payments every fortnight. Why this place is not robbed, I do not know. Thieves walk into banks and take money from the tellers, then walk out into the main street. In this instance, the pay office is at the end of a lane and to rob it would be easy. I remind the Minister again that women with young babies in prams are required to go to this office for their child endowment. The last time I was down that way I saw at least a dozen of them waiting until they could get somebody to stand by the prams while they walked up the stone steps to receive their money. That is not just treatment for these people.
I take the matter no further than that but I do hope the Minister will give t serious consideration. After all, 20,000 people are clamouring for an improvement in the service. The fact that so many ask for it is clear evidence that it is badly needed. If the Minister will promise me tonight that he will pay a visit to the area or at least send an officer there before Christmas to see the shocking conditions obtaining there, I shall be satisfied because 1 know very well that any human being who sees such conditions will improve matters without delay.
– I should like to spend a few moments looking at the commercial accounting figures of the Post Office.
– Then take them outside and have a look at them.
– The honorable member who interjects apparently supports some colleagues who have been critical during the debate of the commercial results of the Post Office. I think it only proper that some of those erroneous criticisms be corrected. This, I shall endeavour to do.
First of all, in passing, let me deal with several general matters relating to the activities of the Post Office. Earlier in the debate tonight the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) expressed some concern about the disconnection of telephones. I think we ought to place it on record that the policy of the Post Office is undoubtedly sound. When the normal period allowed for the payment of accounts has elapsed surely some collection effort, and if necessary the eventual disconnection of the service, are fully justified. Insistence on the collection of amounts due is in the interests of the taxpayers of Australia for, if there is laxity in this commercial Department, if accounts due for payment are not collected, the taxpayers must make up the deficiency.
I find that there is remarkable achievement here in the activities of the Post Office. When we turn to the financial report, which, of course, deals with the commercial aspect of the Department’s figures, we find on page 12 clear reference to a provision for doubtful debts. In item 8 on that page we see that provision is made in the current period for telephone doubtful debts at a rate equivalent to only 2.5 per cent, of the total accounts rendered. It is quite openly disclosed here that this year there has been an increase in this provision as against the amount provided last year. This, of course, is justified when the Post Office, as a commercial undertaking, compares its provision for the collection of doubtful debts against the normal experience of a commercial enterprise. Evidently, in the wisdom of the Department’s finance officers, the provision should be a little higher this year. But it is rather significant that the value of debts actually written off in the last financial year and charged against this provision was only $47 1.320 whereas the amount provided was $625,000. This is a very low figure indeed and it reflects the efficiency of the Department in its collection of the very substantial number of accounts which it has rendered.
It so happens that in recent years the Joint Committee of Public Accounts has found it possible to look at the procedures within the Taxation Branch to see whether there was any laxity by way of non-collection of difficult accounts due by taxpayers. We have reported to the Parliament that in this connection there was no laxity and that every effort is made to track down the evading taxpayer. In like fashion, the same Committee has looked at difficult telephone accounts which have fallen perhaps into the area of doubtful debts or bad debts. I can give an assurance that the Committee’s reports to the Parliament have been commendatory towards the Post Office.
In passing, I would like to refer also to a Public Accounts Committee report tabled in this House only today which points out that there is a responsibility upon a department such as the Postmaster-General’s Department to see that its efficiency in rendering accounts quickly to private and commercial subscribers is matched by similar efficiency in rendering accounts to Government departments. If this is not done a department might find difficulty in employing funds for which provision has been made. So we draw the attention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to this point and trust that no Government department will be left looking for an account that it is only too willing to pay.
In the financial year just closed, a simple comparison of the revenue and the expenditure of the Postmaster-General’s Department throws up an apparent surplus of $122 million. I am interested to note that in the Postmaster-General’s own city of Brisbane, not many weeks ago, one of the Press editorials, quite unfairly, raised the point whether the Post Office is greedy. The basis of the editorial was a comparison of estimated revenue and expenditure for the current year. This, of course, is most erroneous and unfair. It is a very specious presentation of the position.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), very properly, replied to the charge and I trust that his reply was given wide publicity, not only in his own city of Brisbane but throughout the Commonwealth because the commercial accounts document to which I have already referred shows that when all aspects of commercial accounting arc applied, instead of an apparent surplus, there is actually a loss of $124,117 for the trading period. Of course, editorials have a habit of being very superficial, and very often unfair. I trust that this is recognised by the general public and that such editorials will be given scant attention.
May 1 emphasise that the Department’s report is based upon the philosophy of commercial accounting and, so far as is practicable, its methods are identical with the commercial accounting methods of the country’s largest business undertakings. Noone can deny that the Post Office is virtually the country’s largest business undertaking. The current system of additional commercial accounting was introduced in 1961 and was based upon the report of an ad hoc committee which inquired into the matter.
– Why does it not pay rates?
– The honorable member who interjects is supported in his think ing, no doubt, by his colleague the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) who, earlier tonight, dealt with the subject of interest on capital expenditure. The honorable member for Oxley was grossly unfair when he suggested that interest charges have been unduly loaded in recent years. He infers that this is so because he has noted that whereas the total interest charged over a 54-year period was $448 million, the figure for last year was $64 million. This, of course, takes no cognisance of the very small beginnings or of the different basis of provision of funds for the Post Office in the early years of its life. On the other hand, it accentuates the very rapid development of the Post Office under this Government’s administration. As the result of the provision of funds for modern telephonic and telecommunications equipment the services available to taxpayers have been completely transformed in recent years. Naturally, developments in recent years have demanded a substantial increase in the interest provision.
I noted with approval that the PostmasterGeneral, in replying to the critical editorial that was published in Queensland, directed attention to some other fundamental points. There is no better opportunity than is provided by this discussion on the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department to direct public attention to these points. In accordance with business practice, Mr. Deputy Chairman, the net profit of the Post Office can be determined only after bringing to account at the end of each financial year a number of items that are never disclosed in any normal presentation of the revenue and expenditure of a government department in the Budget papers. These items are moneys owing by the Post Office to sundry creditors, moneys owing to it by sundry debtors and the liability incurred for superannuation and furlough payments to retired officers and staff. Provision for depreciation of the assets used in this very extensive business and for interest on money borrowed is now made, of course. Provision for these two items represents two of the significant amendments to the method of presentation of the commercial accounts that were adopted as a result of the report made in 1961 by the committee that I have mentioned. It is the opinion not only of the Postmaster-General but also of students who follow with interest this development that each of these items should be accepted as a reasonable debit or charge against annual revenue. Concerning depreciation, let me put on record the fact that the Minister himself, as a private member of this Parliament, some years ago was given responsibility for the functioning of a parliamentary committee on depreciation. His leadership in this field led to the laying down of some longstanding principles relative to depreciation. lt is significant that he now administers a department that has taken note of and applied these fundamental principles.
What are the alternatives to making provision for depreciation? The Minister, in his article, rightly pointed out that alarming fluctuations would be encountered if provision were not made. The method at present adopted is followed by all business enterprises because it represents a stable, regular provision. In the context of the Post Office, it enables both the Post Office and the Treasury effectively to budget for requirements year by year. If this provision for depreciation were not made, budgeting would be difficult and haphazard, as the Public Accounts Committee rightly emphasises from time to time. Simply, the basic philosophy is that the people who use the services provided by the Post Office are now required to pay for them. This is normal business practice, of course. If this principle were not adopted, the taxpayers of Australia as a whole would be called on, unfairly, to meet the deficit that would undoubtedly be shown in the commercial accounts of this vast business enterprise. It is significant that people who use public telephones pay a higher call charge than is paid by a subscriber. A subscriber pays rental for his telephone. Under the current system, users of public telephones pay a higher call charge so that, as near as possible, the commercial accounts can disclose that the correct charge is imposed to cover all related expenses. The extra money that is paid by the users of public telephones is applied to meeting the additional costs of depreciation and maintenance on the public installations.
So I would emphasise in this discussion how erroneous it is for people simply to take the figures disclosed in the normal Budget documents and say: “ Here is a tremendous surplus “. If we are to be real istic and apply normal accounting principles, it is fundamental to any assessment of the situation to turn to the annual financial report of the Post Office, for it is here that we see disclosed the commercial accounts. I add my words of praise for a department that today is using all the modern facilities available, including automatic data processing equipment, and endeavouring to give the taxpayers adequate services in return for the financial contribution that they make.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, I wish to discuss telephone services for the blind. At the outset, I state that on 28th February of this year Mr. H. G. Wilston, President of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee, wrote to all members of the Parliament as follows -
Re TELEPHONES FOR THE BLIND.
The fundamental loss in blindness is the loss of sight - the loss of that which has been regarded as the chief sense - and the loss of one’s coordinating sense. This involves psychological upsets, loss of mobility, difficulties in daily living, loss of money and, arising from all these aspects, even more psychological effects on the personality.
With the aid of a telephone, a new confidence and personality mature, and the person who, so understandably, felt helpless and hopeless becomes keen to face the challenge of life.
In asking for a further 17 per cent, reduction on telephone rental for the blind, such provision should take into account the fact that all blind persons, by reason of their blindness, have needs which are additional to those of a seeing person.
In all the constituencies that you represent there are blind people asking that you do all in your power to persuade the Government to grant this request to further the humanities concerned in this small concession,
Mr. Wilston, on 30th May, wrote another letter to all members of the Parliament, stating -
Re telephones for the blind.
Referring to our letter 28th February 1966, the above Committee is very appreciative of your acknowledgements and your keen interest in its contents. You have made representations and asked questions in both Houses of Parliament, for which we thank you.
The Postmaster-General has replied to many of you and of course we have received these replies. The Committee rs quite familiar with such replies, as we have been receiving them since 1946, they are all of the same phraseology and do not give a solution to our problem, furthermore, the letter from the Postmaster-General is contradictory, in the first paragraph it points out that the blind have been granted more leniency with regard to the reduced telephone rental than others in receipt of u pension. In the last paragraph it states that to grant any extra to the blind would give rise to claims from others on the grounds of equal justification. In our experience over the years there h-.ss never been any public outcry from any se.-tion of the community to concessions granted blind people.
In asking for a further 17 per cent, to bring telephone rental for the blind to S20.00 per annum we irc not trying to embarrass the Government, the cost of granting this small but important amenity would be infinitesimal.
Wc do not want you to take us across the road, give up your seat in crowded transport, convey sympathy or pity, we plead for all you have to give to gain for us a measure of independence to help us live not exist in the world of today.
That letter was received by all honorable members, and most of us acknowledged it. What surprised me was the reply sent by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who spoke on this subject a few das ago. Honorable members will recall his plaintive appeals for the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) to do something about helping blind persons to obtain telephones. Under date 7th June 1966 the honorable member for Mallee wrote to Mr. Wilston, President of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee. The honorable member’s words are worth repeating. He said -
Dear Mr. Wilston,
I have received your letter of the 30lh May regarding telephones for the blind. 1 am most sympathetic towards people who have lost their sight, but you will realise there are difficulties regarding your request. You state that I have asked questions in both Houses of Parliament on this subject, but this is not correct. 1 have not asked any such questions in the House of Representatives and, of course, not being a Senator, could not ask a question in the Senate.
That is a very intelligent remark. The letter continued -
The difficulty in granting your request appears to be that so many other people could use the telephone besides the blind person. I believe that if it could be established beyond doubt that no-one else would use the telephone then the request would be granted, but of course this is really an impossibility.
Winton G. Turnbull.
In other words, if this concession were granted to blind persons and if the honorable member for Newcastle were ir. the home of a blind person when the telephone rang, he could not answer it without the blind person running the risk of losing his concession. Did you ever hear of anything so silly? Does the honorable member for
Mallee suggest that blind people should not allow anybody else to pick up their telephones? Does he insist that no blind person should pick up the telephone of another blind person? Does he insist that if I were in a house with a blind parent I could not pick up the telephone without infringing my parent’s right to the concession? The letter sent to me by Mrs. Joy, Honorary Secretary of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee, on 18th June, referring to the letter sent to the Committee by the honorable member for Mallee, was, in my opinion, appropriate. Mrs. Joy wrote -
Dear Mr. Daly,
Attached is a copy of letter received from a Member of the House of Representatives whom I consider to be a supercilious ass to have written in such a manner to a blind person.
– How did the honorable member get hold of somebody else’s private letter?
– The Secretary wrote to me. I am a great advocate of the blind. The Secretary of the Committee sent me a copy of the letter sent by the honorable member for Mallee. Her letter to me continued -
Also attached is my reply which I trust you will be able to bring to the notice of other Members.
She described the honorable member for Mallee as a supercilious ass. On 1 8th June the President of the Committee wrote to the honorable member for Mallee in these terms -
Dear Mr. Turnbull,
We are sorry we overrated your efforts. Nevertheless we thank you for your privately expressed sympathy.
To reply to your 4th paragraph of letter dated 7th June 1966, the Government does nol object to a sighted person viewing a television programme on a blind person’s free licence.
Does the honorable member for Mallee object to that? The letter continued -
We have no objection to all disabled people receiving the same concessions as the blind, but it so happens we only represent one organisation.
There are innumerable cases of blind people living in homes where there are others who could benefit from the concession and we would bc happy to have them receive it.
Your sympathy towards people who have lost their sight seems to be shared by all Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It might also extend to the public at the next election.
I answered Mrs. Joy’s letter. After all, you must acknowledge correspondence. On 22nd June I wrote to Mrs. Joy in these terms -
Dear Mrs. Joy,
Thank you very much for your letter of the 18th inst. enclosing copies of correspondence between the Committee and Mr. W. G. Turnbull, M.H.R.
Mr. Turnbull, as you are probably aware, ii a member of the Country Party in Victoria, and whilst somewhat startled at the nature of his reply I am not really surprised. I am quite in agreement with the sentiments you have expressed in regard to his attitude and, subject to your approval, at some appropriate time will make use of the correspondence in the course of debate on the subject in the Parliament.
Assuring you again of my co-operation in your worthy activities, and with kindest personal regards,
Tonight I keep my promise to bring to the notice of this Committee the manner in which the honorable member for Mallee dealt with a request from a blind person. I cannot recall another occasion when an official of an organisation making requests to the Government has described a member of this Parliament as a supercilious ass. While not using that expression myself, which is quite unparliamentary, I must agree that, when a person writes to a blind person and says that he approves of a concession being given in respect of telephones only if no sighted person uses the telephone held in the name of a blind person, there are reasonable grounds for using the term which you, Sir, under the Standing Orders, do not allow me to use.
– You must give the honorable member credit for being sympathetic.
– Yes, at least he was sympathetic. How would you police the concession granted to a blind person to see that no sighted person ever picked up the telephone? How do you police the concessions granted to invalid and age pensioners? If the concessions granted to age and invalid pensioners are not policed, why single out for special attention the most disabled section of the community, namely those who are blind? While other honorable members may be sympathetic towards the blind, to say the least the reply given by the hono- able member for Mallee to this very deserving section of the community was most unsympathetic. I imagine that some honorable members have not acknowledged the letter sent to them by the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee. Others have. I know that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has led deputations on this subject to the PostmasterGeneral. The Minister himself nas not been unsympathetic in this matter. I think the honorable member for Mallee should consider doing something to compensate these people for the letter that he sent, which so startled them that they contacted me.
I do not want to deal further with this matter. 1 have written to the PostmasterGeneral. I am aware of the numerous requests that are made for concessions. I am aware of the excuses that he has advanced in the past for not granting this concession. He has adverted to the cost of granting the concession to blind persons, but surely it would be small compared with the overall expenditure of this Department.
Tonight I merely refer to the attitude of the honorable member for Mallee in this matter. I know that his opinions are not shared by all honorable members. Not all honorable members insist that a sighted person should not use a telephone in a blind person’s home. I ask the Minister to consider granting the concessions requested by these blind people. They comprise a worthy section of the community. They have visited this Parliament in deputations. They have been courteously received by the Minister. I know that they have had everything except the result they want. Tonight, on behalf of a worthy cause I ask the Minister to give consideration to the further requests for the granting of this concession. As has been pointed out in correspondence to the Minister, if he were to grant the concession it would not cost the Department much money but would bring a great deal of comfort to a most deserving section of the community.
I could not conclude my remarks without expressing my regret at having to bring to the notice of the Committee the attitude of the honorable member for Mallee which I feel is quite out of keeping with the sentiments expressed by other members of the
Parliament who have expressed sympathy and understanding for the people who are affected by this problem. I am sorry that the harshness in the soul of the honorable member has come to the fore in the case of a very deserving section of the community.
.- I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). Running through my mind, as it will be, of course, through the minds of honorable members who have been here a long time, is the thought of other days when so often in this place 1 thrashed the honorable member for Grayndler. The honorable member knows this to be true. On many occasions he has resorted to tactics similar to those to which he resorted tonight and on as many occasions I have thrashed him for his misrepresentation. Although some of these things happened a good few years ago he has never forgotten. Ever since he has sought to get something out of “ Hansard “ or a letter with which to attack me. Some honorable members opposite are laughing. 1 do not know why. Let me take the letter which I wrote to the President of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee. 1 stand 100 per cent, behind the letter that I wrote. First, the secretary of the organisation had written to me. I would like to know whether she is a blind person. The honorable member for Grayndler has said that I wrote a letter to a blind person. I think this is erroneous, for a start.
– So you did. She is blind.
– If the secretary of the association is a blind person, I did. I did not know that. I thought 1 was writing to the secretary of the organisation. In her letter she thanked me for bringing up the matter in questions in both Houses of the Parliament. I was honest enough to say I had not done that. I said I had not brought the matter up in questions in the House of Representatives and I certainly could not do so in the Senate for the simple reason that I was not a member of that place. The honorable member for Grayndler received the same letter. Did he reply and say that he had not raised this matter in questions in both Houses? No, certainly not.
He basked in the sunlight of this deception, as it were. Although it means nothing, to some people, I went on in my letter to express my sympathy for blind people. If this were not so personal to me, I could explain my feelings to all honorable members. I will do so privately if they like. The cause of blind people hits home harder to me than it does perhaps to any other honorable member. I can explain this privately, but I do not want to do so publicly in this place. I have a great feeling for blind people and I have expressed it.
I did not say that I did not want anybody to use the telephone. I was merely answering the letter. I said that it was my considered opinion that, if it could be established in any way that the blind person was the only one to use the telephone, the concession perhaps could be granted. I said in the letter, however, that it would be almost impossible to establish this requirement. This was the straight out reply 1 gave. It would be hard to know how to express the opinion of the general public to a person who tried to make out a case against me on the basis of that letter. I would say that such a person would be pretty low down. I could use stronger words than that.
Anybody who disregarded the superfluous remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler and read the letter that I wrote would agree that no case could be made against me as being unsympathetic. I merely stated what had been happening and what I thought would happen. I repeated the reason that I have given here on many occasions for the refusal to grant this concession. It is just as well that the honorable member for Grayndler is moving out of the chamber; things in this place may be getting a bit hot for him. Perhaps I should not take this allegation seriously. Everybody in the Parliament and throughout Australia knows the kind of man who attacked me. But does any honorable member think that I am of an unsympathetic nature? Does any Opposition member think that? Does any Opposition member think I am the kind of a fellow who would not want blind people to have every possible concession? Of course I would want them to have concessions, and every member of the Opposition knows it.
– You were not quite clear there. Do you mean you would not want to have the concession?
– Does any Opposition member think I am the type of man who would not want the blind to get concessions?
– You wrote suggesting-
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Oxley cease interjecting and that the honorable member for Mallee address the Chair.
– The letter does not support the contention that I would not grant concessions and everybody knows that. Opposition members know that and 1 would guess that, if we could get right down to bedrock, we would find that the honorable member for Grayndler, in bringing up this suggestion, does not have one supporter.
– Mr. Chairman-
– ls the Minister closing the debate?
– I probably will close it. ] would like to reply to some of the remarks made by honorable members tonight. I will take the complaints in the order in which they were made. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) referred to a particular case and suggested that a prosecution should be launched. I am not prepared, of course, to accept the statements he made as necessarily justifying a prosecution. I think a person of responsibility would seek legal advice before he embarked upon such a process and in fact we are doing that now. What the result of that advice will be, I do not know, but I give the honorable member that information.
The next honorable member to speak was the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden). I do not want to cover the ground he traversed in speaking about interest charges. This has been very adequately covered by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver). The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) also dealt with this subject. Both honorable members suggested that the Post Office should be established on a basis similar to Qantas
Empire Airways Ltd. or, as the honorable member for Oxley put it, a commission such as they have in Great Britain. Bott honorable members were criticising the fact that interest is charged and suggesting in their remarks, I think, that by using the methods they suggested interest would be avoided. Qantas is expected to pay a dividend on the capital made available to it. Most of the business operations of the Government - the Australian National Line and others - are required to pay interest on the money advanced either in the nature of share capital or borrowed capital.
– That does not come out of taxation.
– The capital comes out of the same source from the Government as any other money spent for capital purposes does. In the 17 years that this Government has been in office, it has come out of revenue. The principle is the same. Let us look at the situation in Great Britain. The post office there is required to return 8 per cent, on its turnover so that it can supply some of its own capital from its own revenue. So the problems that have been mentioned by the honorable members for Oxley and Barton are not solved by adopting the suggestions that they have made.
– Interest does not have to be charged. Money can be provided without it.
– Of course it can, but if the Treasury does not receive interest amounting to $64 million from the Post Office, taxation must be increased to return another $64 million to that the total amount of money will be available to the Government to meet the cost of the services it provides. Who should pay for the telephone services? Should it be the general body of taxpayers, many of whom may not have a telephone, or should it be the person who enjoys the convenience of a telephone in his home? The honorable member may have a philosophy that the person who does not have a telephone should pay some of the cost of his telephone. But that is not my philosophy. My philosophy is that the user of the telephone shall pay the total cost, including the charge on the capital that is used and must be provided year by year.
– This may be the Minister’s philosophy.
– This was approved by members of the honorable member’s party who served on the Public Accounts Committee some years ago, including the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). He and I were together on the Public Accounts Committee which made the reference in the report that caused the Government to set up the committee that investigated this subject.
The honorable member for Oxley also said that some of the work that had been done by technicians is now being done by private enterprise. He referred to the installation of the private automatic branch exchanges. Into this category also goes wiring in new buildings. I point out to him that in some countries the whole of the telephone exchange installations are done by private enterprise. We find within the Post Office that, if the manufacturer of the equipment makes the installation, he sees pretty quickly some of the bugs that arise in the initial stages. We feel that the quantity of work which is being done by private enterprise as a percentage of the total work effort in relation to the Post Office is almost infinitesimal and I believe there is no real criticism in this regard.
The honorable member for Oxley spoke of rushing technicians to Gladstone. I will not have to justify myself in Gladstone, although he might have to justify himself. To completely install the automatic exchange in Gladstone will require 32 technicians. Having regard to the number employed in the Post Office I do not believe that there can be any great criticism of our making 32 technicians available for an installation in an area in Queensland which is advancing tremendously in relation to the services required from the Post Office and from local councils and for water supplies, electricity supplies and other services. The honorable member for Barton referred to the removal of three public telephones in his electorate. I am not aware that the Post Office does, on economic grounds, remove public telephones. It does remove public telephones on occasions when it suits the greater number of people within a particular area to do so and to place them elsewhere. I am quite happy to examine the cases men tioned by the honorable member. I do not think any honorable member would expect me to know exactly what is happening in relation to each of the tens of thousands of public telephones throughout Australia. If the honorable member supplies me with the addresses where these telephones were located I will make inquiries about their removal.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to starting price betting and the disconnection of telephones. This procedure is covered by the postal regulations which require the automatic disconnection of a telephone if a person is convicted of S.P. betting or of permitting S.P. betting on his premises. Furthermore, he must wait six months before he can reapply for a telephone connection.
– How does he get on if he rings the Totalisator Agency Board in New South Wales?
– The regulation applies when his premises are being used for S.P. betting and he is convicted. In those circumstances his telephone is automatically removed. No discretion rests in me or in anybody else in relation to this. The difference between this and the other case to which the honorable member for Hunter referred is that in one case there is a conviction and in the other case it is not the responsibility of the Post Office but of the police authorities of New South Wales to obtain a conviction. The situation he mentioned is not covered by postal regulations, but starting price betting is.
– If I ring the T.A.B. on Saturday to have a pound on a horse and I am caught, can my telephone be removed?
– That would not be S.P. betting.
– What would the Minister rail it?
– The T.A.B. is a recognised State operation and there is a substantial difference between it and S.P. betting.
– Why is the Post Office so moral about S.P. betting?
– It is not a question of the Post Office being moral; it is an absolute requirement that was in existence when the Australian Labour Party was in power, so any criticism levelled at it can be levelled at a former Labour Postmaster-General. I have no intention of altering this particular regulation, and the Post Office will continue to operate under its terms. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) asked a question about the Glebe Post Office. I shall be pleased to have inquiries made concerning this matter. I was not terribly impressed with his reference to pensioners because my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), made it fairly clear that most pensioners receive their pension by cheque rather than over post office counters.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made one comment that is quite unacceptable to me. He suggested that if people are satisfied with a service, that service should not bc changed even if we can secure greater economy in its operation. Mail services are the subject of public tender. We are obliged to accept the lowest tender if we are satisfied that the person concerned can give the necessary service. This applies to the generality of services related to a tender operation. If an economy can be achieved I am not going to forgo it to satisfy the contentment within a particular community. That is not my responsibility.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed expenditure, $43,747,000.
, - I am still far from satisfied with the attitude adopted by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and some of the commercial television stations towards the presentation of Australian, television programmes. In the Broadcasting Control Board’s reports over many years this topic has been the subject of comment. The same can be said of the 1966 annual report in which, when referring to the renewal of television licences for the 10 capital city stations, it is stated that their technical work and programmes arc adequate and comprehensive but that only two of the 10 stations - TVW in Perth and
TVT in Hoban - have complied with the Minister’s requirement concerning television programmes of Australian origin. The Minister on this occasion, as on previous occasions, has warned the television stations that they are not measuring up to requirements. This has been the position since the inception of television in Australia. Pressure has been applied to the Government from the Opposition for a greater Australian component in television programmes, and on some occasions the Minister has agreed reluctantly to extend the Australian content required in television programmes.
Last year an inquiry was undertaken by two members of the Broadcasting Control Board and a new policy has now been ‘aid down by the Minister. However, this new policy could be described as not having any teeth. The Australian content in television programmes deserves to be examined because, constantly, more and more television stations are operating. Almost every month a new station commences broadcasting. The Broadcasting Control Board’s latest report .shows that in the first half of 1966 the number of hours devoted to the presentation of Australian programmes dropped in comparison with 1965. In 1965, 31.3 hours a week were devoted to Australian programmes whereas in 1966 only 30.6 hours have been so devoted.
The new policy raises the amount of credit which will be given for programmes of Australian content but it will not come into operation until 3rd July 1967. lt will apply to all commercial television stations in the metropolitan areas which were in operation at the date of the announcement of the new policy and will apply to all country television stations after they have been in operation for three years. Those which now have been in operation for three years will come under it immediately. Those which have not, will come under it when they reach the date on which they have been in operation for three years.
There is no mention in the new policy, however, of the attitude the Minister or the Board will adopt if the commercial television stations do not live up to the requirements laid down. In adopting this new policy the Minister has taken a step in the right direction. Indigenous drama productions, that is, plays written in Australia or by Australians and performed by Australians will be credited with twice their actual duration. Other Australian drama productions will be credited with one and a half times their actual duration. Programmes for children designed and produced in Australia will receive credit for twice their actual duration, and programmes from British Commonwealth countries will receive credit for one-half of their actual duration with a maximum credit of 5 per cent, in any period of 28 days. There is also a provision that an aggregate of not less than two hours shall consist of Australian productions in the form of drama, and an aggregate of not less than two hours of Australian programmes shall be televised each week between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Any Australian programme scheduled to commence not later than 9 p.m. will receive credit for its full duration. This seems to me to be a step in the right direction. It will encourage some television stations to go into the production of Australian drama and Australian presentations.
At present one or two commercial television stations in Australia are making some attempt in this direction. Certainly one of them is ATN in Sydney with its new programme called “ My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours? “ I have seen three episodes of this production and whilst 1 can find fault with it I think that it is certainly an improvement on certain other Australian presentations that have come before us previously, and is a long way in front of many overseas presentations that we see on our television screens. What does the Minister intend to do if the commercial television stations do not measure up to the requirements which will come into operation on 3rd July 1967? All the commercial television stations have been given 12 months warning of these new requirements. They have had warnings previously about the requirements relating to SO per cent. Australian content and that two hours of Australian television productions shall be presented between certain times, but we notice in report after report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that these requirements have not been met.
– The stations defy the Government.
– That is correct. There has been defiance by the commercial television stations of the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Surely the Minister appreciates that unless he takes firm action against them they will not meet these new requirements. They will have 12 months to meet them.
It is interesting to note the figures contained in the Board’s report for the year ended 30th June 1966. In Sydney TCN televised the greatest duration of Australian programmes in peak viewing times. It televised a weekly average of 2 hours 23 minutes. HSV Melbourne televised 2 hours 58 minutes and BTQ Brisbane, NWS Adelaide, TVW Perth and TVT Hobart exceeded 2 hours. Only two stations, TVW Perth and TVT Hobart presented more than 50 per cent. Australian productions. But neither the Minister nor the Government took any action against the stations which did not meet the requirements. The Minister issued a warning that the requirements were regarded as being important and any breach would be viewed seriously, but that was all that was done.
In the next 12 months some television stations will spend a deal of money extending their studios so that they will be able to meet these requirements. Surely those which spend this money are entitled to expect that every other commercial television station will make a similar effort. If the other stations do not, we will find all of them silting back waiting for one another to move forward, all of them hoping that at the end of the first period commencing on 3rd July 1967 the Minister and the Board will adopt exactly the same attitude as they have adopted previously and take no definite action against the stations. I understand there is no provision in the Act for fines to be levied against commercial television stations which do not meet these requirements, but there is a provision relating to the Board’s authority to renew the licences of television stations, particularly those in the metropolitan areas, every 12 months. If the Minister and the Government are being defied by the commercial television stations, it is up to them to lake much harsher action against the licensees than they have taken in the past.
– Would the honorable member cancel the licences?
– If I were in your position. Mr. Minister, I would certainly consider saying to any television station which did not measure up to the requirements: If you do not measure up to the requirements laid down I will take much harsher action against you than has been taken in the past “. If you do not intend the stations to abide by the requirements, why lay them down? If you want your requirements carried out by the commercial television stations, you will have to take determined action. If I were in your position, Mr. Minister, I would renew .he licence for perhaps three months and give the station three months to come up to the required standard.
– A licence cannot be renewed for only three months. The Act provides that a licence shall be renewed for 12 months.
– All right, but it has not been difficult for the Minister to bring down amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act in the past and it should not be difficult for him to do so in the future. If he does not want to take away a licence from a commercial television station, then the Act should be amended to provide a system of fines so thai if a station does not present the 50 per cent. Australian content or if it does not have the required two and a half hours in the peak viewing time or if it does not measure up to the Minister’s requirements in any other way, he can fine the licensee a certain amount for the infringement. A line of action has been open to the Minister, the Government and the Board, but nothing has been done.
We have talked for years now about increasing the Australian component in television programmes but many commercial stations throughout Australia Iri ve virtually ignored the requirements. The Minister must admit that repeatedly he has warned the television stations that he regards this matter seriously. Eventually some commercial television stations will come to the conclusion, if they have not already done so, that he is only crying wolf and is not prepared to do anything about their breaches. If the Minister does not have authority under the Act to do it, then it is a simple thing to amend the legislation. There is a proposed amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act at present on the notice paper but that Bill might not apply in this instance. In any case, if the Minister does not have the power presently in the Act, the Act can and should be amended. Those commercial television stations which are endeavouring to produce quality Australian programmes are entitled to expect that every other commercial television station in Australia will be required to do the same thing. Otherwise it will be found that they will all be playing ducks and drakes with each other waiting to sec who is going to make the attempt and whether other stations will live up to the Board’s requirements or will continue to ignore them as they have clone in the past.
Stations such as ATN7 with its current affairs programmes are doing excellent work to enlarge the Australian content of programmes. One programme that comes to my mind immediately was the “ White Paper on Conscription “. A series called “ My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours? “ is a definite attempt by station ATN7 to foster the Australian content of programmes, Australian artists and Australian writers. If that station is prepared to do that, some of the other stations which have been operating for just as long and which have been making profits just as large should also be compelled to do so. If there is no compulsion provided in the Act for this requirement to be put into effect it is up to the Government and the Minister to see that the Act is amended so that the provisions will be included, lt is up to the Australian Government to show that when it talks about Australian content and fostering the employment of Australians in the television field it can put its words into action and see that the requirements which have been laid down - the new requirements in particular - are carried into effect by every commercial television station in Australia.
.- I wish to join very briefly with other honorable members who have spoken to the previous line of the Estimates in congratulating the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) and his Department for their excellent work in many fields throughout Australia during the last 12 months. In particular tonight I should like to talk on what I regard as stage 6 of the development of television services, although it has not yet been designated as such. Page 43 of the excellent report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board sets out the first five stages. Honorable members will know of the details of them. Summing them up I would say that the record of the Government in this field has been excellent in that with the completion of stage 4 approximately 95 per cent, of the people of Australia will be within an effective range of a national television station. This, as I think I said last year, unfortunately does not make the other 5 per cent, extremely happy. Whereas they would no doubt appreciate the good work and the good record of the Government in this field, the fact remains that 5 per cent., although it does not sound very much, includes some major areas in Australia. I refer, for instance, to the upper Murray towns in my electorate of Angas.
In this area there are towns such as Waikerie, Barmera, Berri, Loxton, Renmark and many other smaller ones in a densely populated agricultural area. This is not an area in which the population is spread over a wide area of country. These are fairly major towns which have, immediately surrounding them, a dense agricultural population based on irrigation. This produces several interesting thoughts, not the least of which is that it would seem to me to be a ready made situation for the use of a translator system for relaying a signal from a parent station. I do not know the exact distance as the crow flies from Adelaide, but it would be in the region of, I imagine, 110 miles. My reading on this situation reveals that it would require two translators or two microwave links. Alternatively, a third method of connecting this sort of area to a parent station would be by coaxial cable, but if a coaxial cable led nowhere other than to these areas I would suggest that probably we could dismiss that alternative as being not a practical reality.
For two and one-half years I have been in fairly constant contact, either by letter or personally, with the Minister at the table. I immediately compliment him for his patience and tolerance in view of the repetitious nature of my demands on him in this respect. I feel that he has many problems to put up with and receives many requests for the implementation of television in areas which are left within the 5 per cent, to which I have referred. But, on the other hand, I do not quite know whether the Minister, or indeed the Broadcasting Control Board, fully realises the position that the upper Murray areas has found itself in. People in that area were told some years ago that within so many years they would get television. I believe this was said before the line of demarcation was drawn at 30,000 people within a 70 mile radius. When this line of demarcation was drawn it was discovered that this upper Murray area had only 28,000 or 29,000 people. This was some years ago. So in one respect they have been led up the garden path and m another, when they were not included in stage 4, they were filled with disappointment.
Probably there is another aspect to the attitude of people in this area over the lack of a television service. It should be borne in mind that this is one of the really large areas which was not included in stage 4, yet today is probably large enough to conform with the minimum of 30,000 people which was laid down some time ago. Although individual districts in Australia may have 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 people, the fact remains that today this area must have almost 30,000 people, if the population has not already reached that mark. For this reason I request once again the utmost consideration for people in the area. Reception in the area is bad. I was there last week and on several nights I went into private houses where I viewed private sets and saw for myself the state of the reception, at that point of time and during that week. It was hoped some time ago that when the commercial and national stations were brought into working order in Mildura the reception would improve, but unfortunately mis is not the case. The reception from one of the Mildura stations is such that its programmes are not received in central areas such as Berri, and the reception from the national station is worse than that from the Adelaide stations which are 110 miles away. So in that central area they are caught in a pocket between the good viewing areas which branch out from Adelaide, one of the only two country stations in South Australia at Port Pirie and one of the many country stations which are operating in Victoria, namely, the one at Mildura.
I do not know and I am not qualified to advise on the method or the line of thinking that should be applied in due course to this area. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is expert in this field. I hope that it will complete its report on the area in due course and forward it to the Minister. I know that it has completed a survey of the area to which I am referring. 1 should add that subsequent to the visit to the area by the Board’s officers I have received many ideas which were purported to have come from the officers as they went through the area. One report I heard was that obviously it would be worth while having their own station in the area instead of relying on a signal from Adelaide. I would dismiss this suggestion as being rather impractical. Another report suggested that it would be no use people in that area making a fuss because obviously they would not get television for many years. If possible 1 should like from the Minister at the table some denial of this suggestion. 1 would like also to have another rumour scotched or nipped in the bud. That is the rumour that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has no intention of completing its survey throughout Australia for many years to come. I do not treat these comments very seriously but they are abroad in this area and they will bc abroad in areas in the circumstances that I have explained, in which a country town or a series of country towns have been under the impression that they would get television in stage 4 and still have nol got it. 1 might say that the area I am speaking of is completely separate from the rest of the populated areas of South Australia. It is nol joined by a series of towns to any other area. As a result it has a type of community life that is perhaps unique in Australia today, a very close and cohesive group of people. Surely it must bc the aim of the Government to bring facilities to such areas as rapidly as possible.
There is one other matter that frankly makes me a little cross. We have seen repeated requests for colour television in the newspapers. We have heard comments about this facility from people who in some cases hold responsible positions. I would like to declare here and now that I am dead against the introduction of colour television while there are isolated areas con taining 30.000 people or so that have not television facilities. I hope 1 hear no more mention of colour television while ordinary television facilities are denied to many people of the kind I refer to.
Let me return to the question of the proper method for the connection of these areas to a parent station, in other words for the relaying of a signal. I go back to what 1 regard as the problem of translator facilities to send on the signal. 1 believe there is a loss in power output as a translator repeals. One would imagine that if this occurs in the case of the particular area 1 have spoken of three translators might bc needed, or alternatively a microwave link. Furthermore, while speaking of these projected moves I would point out that there are hills on the way through from Adelaide to this area. There is, for instance, an area in the Barossa Valley which is blanketed out by hills. I make the suggestion, hoping that someone will go and look at the problem, that it might well be that a microwave link or indeed a translator could be so located in the Barossa hills as to overcome the shadowing effect on the Adelaide signal at that point, which, by the way. would not be more than about 30 miles from the broadcasting point al Mount Lofty, above Adelaide.
I just bring forward these rather parochial ideas that affect my own electorate and obviously affect the people in it. I beseech the Minister to do all in his power to provide these television facilities as soon as possible. 1 hope he will not confuse my request with the many others that he gets from areas in which there are 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 people. I hope that in due course the people in such areas will get television facilities, but I am not taking up their case tonight. 1 will leave that for other honorable members. 1 am taking up the case for the area of 30,000 people, or near enough to 30,000, many of whom have already taken advantage of television facilities provided in stage 4 for other communities, but which are quite unsatisfactory for these people.
.- Tonight I want to speak about the Australian Broadcasting Commission and a perennial problem which gives pause to so many liberal thinkers in the community - and 1. mean the true liberal thinkers, not the conservatives or reactionaries on the other side of this Parliament. I refer to the problem of continual Government interference in the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for purely political purposes.. There has been a shocking record of Government interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It really distresses me that we have this situation in which Big Brother, the Government, ;s censoring the material for some of our most important thought, to help us think correctly. It wants to keep us pure and simple and clean. It is a shocking state of affairs. 1 like to see challenging, stimulating controversy through the various mass media, and surely these mass media have a responsibility to give us this sort of thing. After all, how will the general public discover what the issues are, nationally or internationally, unless they get a clear and objective presentation of them through the mass media, television, radio and the Press - the most powerful, of course, being television. I think the obvious body to ensure this, the one with the greatest influence or the capacity to make the best contribution, is the Government body, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly when we have the argument perennially brought forward by the commercial broadcasting and television stations that they have to produce for profit and therefore they must chase the mass audiences. There are also minority groups in the community which must be considered. There is a responsibility on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to seek to serve them with much more constructive, controversial and stimulating issues than have been presented up to the present time.
I am thinking at the moment of that poor, battle scarred, weary show, “ Four Corners “. It has had quite a battering in its short history. It has become so restrained by Government meddling and interference that it can scarcely call itself a controversial programme any more. Yet the people of this country wanted something controversial. This is one of the reasons why the programme achieved high ratings. “ Four Corners “ was an unexceptional programme, except in one regard, and it is strange that it should be exceptional in this regard in Australia - it went beyond the banalities and superficial pleasantries which seem to regulate the tempo of our life. For this It was a breath of fresh air. But should we not have been concerned that on this very ordinary standard of seeking objectivity the programme established its claim to being outstanding? Should we not have been alarmed that other programmes failed to measure up to this fundamental standard? Unfortunately after skirmishes with a few holy cows “ Four Corners “ is now limping pretty badly.
The history of interference by the Government with this programme is a bad one. I would like to sketch an outline of the damnable interference in our rights - because that is what this interference amounts to. In 1956 Rohan Rivett produced a documentary on the Suez issue, but after the A.B.C. had trenchantly slashed and wrongly presented his production he withdrew it. He withdrew it because the final version was such an incorrect presentation of the issue. It is little comfort to us now to know that the Suez affair was one in which we should not have got involved, and that the criticism at the time was justified. Of course that large gentleman, the former Prime Minister, went across to the Suez area to mediate. It is not quite clear who told who what or who sent who packing, but the Prime Minister came back here and Nasser got the canal. This may be one of the reasons why an objective documentary on the Suez issue was not allowed to be broadcast.
In 1961 the A.B.C. was not allowed to enter Intertel with Britain. Canada and two United States organisations. Apparently it was thought that a feature called “ Living with a Giant “ might be offensive to our ally, the United States. Canada, however, which had more to be concerned about because it was much closer to the United States than Australia is and has much closer ties with that country than we have, persevered - and not only Canada but also the two United States organisations. The result was a high quality international programme regularly produced, and the only body concerned about, it was the Australian Government. In April 1961, Dr. Peter Russo was caught in a maelstrom which looked like swamping him at one stage. His heinous offence? Speaking objectively on political issues on the A.B.C. In 1961, of course, we had Sir Philip
McBride. We all know Sir Philip McBride. He is an official of the Liberal Party. He applied the screws on the A.B.C., either directly or indirectly. This arose over the programme “ Meet the Candidates “. Honorable members will remember that that was a programme run in 1961. It was quite a good programme. It has not been run since. It was objected to by the then Prime Minister, by his Cabinet members, and most of all by Sir Philip McBride. So that programme died prematurely.
– I wonder if it will come back again?
– -Ob, no. The honorable member for Barton has introduced an interesting sidelight here. Some Government rebels appeared on this programme and strangely enough some of them were defeated at the election. So maybe the Government was wiser than we give it credit for when it wanted to slop its members from appearing on that programme. In 1.962 the then Minister for Territories was prepared, at question time in this House, to damn a “ Four Corners “ programme on Papua and New Guinea, although he conceded that he had not seen the show. Is not that typical of this Government’s attitude? It does not matter that its members have not seen a programme; they are prepared to damn it and to relegate it on hearsay. In 1962, at 7 p.m. one night in April, an A. B.C. news telecast referred to criticism by the then Bishop Strong of New Guinea of Government response to the takeover of West New Guinea by Indonesia. The statement was absent at 9 p.m. when the newscast was repeated. It was later alleged in this Parliament that the Treasurer, now the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), telephoned the A.B.C. with a complaint after that 7 p.m. telecast. His denials about this were waffly. They were most unimpressive and certainly most unconvincing.
In 1962 there was obvious interference to prevent the dispatch of an A.B.C. crew to cover the Indonesian takeover of West New Guinea. Surely Australians want to see film of such a thing. This was a big event - an event of great international importance. We are adults in this country, mature people, and surely we are entitled to know what is going on. We do not want a censorship screen of this sort put up by people in the Government. After all, they are or dinary people; they are not selected by some sort of divine right for some outstanding and unique quality. They are ordinary people. As a matter of fact I do not think much of their taste, certainly when they interfere with this censorship level.
In 1963, for the first time we had a statement of Government policy for action in interference with television programmes. This related to Monsieur Bidault. He was the O.A.S. leader in France and the British Broadcasting Corporation had presented a television programme in which he had been interviewed. But the Australian people were not mature enough to see this programme. We were too tender. Our virtue had to be kept intact. So television stations in Australia were advised somehow or other from the Government that this programme was not to be presented. The “ Courier Mail “ in Brisbane referred to this matter. 1 have with me a photo copy of the article which appeared. Here is that Bidault interview, and it is the most innocuous sort of thing one could imagine. But it was too rich, too stimulating for Australians. This is the sort of censorship, political censorship, that the Government applies. A little later I will quote for honorable members the statement from the then Prime Minister of the Government’s policy for interference in mass media programmes in Australia. His statement was based on his argument that France was an ally - an ally through our association with the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. France does not seem to be greatly worried at present about the fact that she is our ally under S.E.A.T.O. and America’s ally under S.E.A.T.O., while both America and this Government are claiming, wrongly of course, that their presence in Vietnam is mandatory under S.E.A.T.O. This shows the ridiculous inconsistency and lack of logic in the arguments put up by the Government.
Then, more recently poor Alan Ashbolt felt the crunch because be collided with part of the Establishment over a quite ordinary presentation in “Four Corners”. He was assured that he would be kept in his position as editor of the programme, but a few days later he was relieved after some of the heads of the body concerned had bypassed the A.B.C. and gone direct with their complaints to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister called for a script of the programme. Soon after this Mr. Ashbolt was bowed out. He had to be sacrificed to an outraged holy cow which was embarrassed about its own officials’ deficient presentation in the programme. Michael Charlton was another casualty. He is an expatriate now. He was a very effective T.V. documentary commentator and producer on “ Four Corners “. The poor man made a brief visit to Australia recently. He had another crash. He tried to present a documentary on Vietnam, and we know the controversy that followed then.
Let us get back to an honest and objective assessment of this subject. The thing that distresses me is that on this occasion, without even having seen the television film, the appropriate Minister was prepared to have the presentation delayed before the Australian public could sec it. In fact, it was obvious that the people were not going to see it until public pressure became so significant that it could not be ignored. J I seems that the Government wishes to blindfold our eyes and plug our ears to save our innocent consciences from the sordidness of the outside world, from the buffetings of reality. We do not want this. Most of all we should be appalled at the former Prime Minister’s principle, which I mentioned before, of acting to muzzle the A.B.C. I will quote from page 144 of the report of Parliamentary Debates of the House of Representatives of the 28th March 1963. The former Prime Minister, who is now in charge of the Cinque Ports, then said this -
If there were power in one stroke to prevent the presentation of a matter offensive to an allied power - nol merely offensive, but a matter which involved pulling forward and giving publicity to a man wanted for treason - then I hope 1 would have enough firmness, whenever it cropped up, to do everything I could to prevent it.
Honorable members can imagine the rolling, dramatic oratory that went on when he said this, ft did not matter that Britain, only 25 miles from France across the Channel, and involved much more closely in relations with France, was prepared to show the public this very ordinary programme. But once again it seemed, as in the case of book censorship and in so many other things, that the Government of Australia feels that the Australian people are not mature enough and must be protected. Let me give one more quotation, just for the record, from the former Prime Minister’s extensive repertoire. It is from a recent publication called “The Wit of Sir Robert Menzies” and all here will have to hold on to their seats, and hold their sides, because this is a crackerjack. He said -
I’m not allowed an argument in public with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1 have plenty, but we conduct them in private, with a smile on our faces and clenched teeth.
That is the quotation from this book of so-called humour.
– Who said this?
– The former Prime Minister. The honorable member knows that gentleman who used to be here. I wonder how often it is. when these arguments are taking place, that the chairman of the A.B.C. has to bite his tongue? I wonder, indeed, if on the occasions of interference enumerated by me there was any argument and if the orders were really presented as orders from the Government to its servants.
All in all, the independence of the A.B.C. is pretty sick. Some people even speak of it as being under the Ministry of Fear, referring, of course, to the regular Government harassment which leaves its employees in such a fear-ridden state that initiative and enterprise are being destroyed and the cautious, unimaginative and unexperimental is becoming the safe prop of its activities. There is no justification for this type of censorship in peace time. People in a democracy should expect that they will be given every opportunity to form their own conclusions on public issues from a free flow of objective material on the subject concerned. We are not getting this opportunity because of the interference and intimidation which the A.B.C. experiences at the hands of this Government with its system of political censorship.
– I should like to refer briefly to what I consider to be an unwarranted delay in the provision of television services for the people of Mackay and the surrounding district. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) knows only too well the feelings of the people in the area. I have asked him a number of questions on notice about the schedule of construction and the reasons for the delay in completing this station. Let me say here that I have no complaint now because I am told by the technicians to whom I have spoken and who have been most courteous and helpful that the construction of the station is ahead of schedule.
My difficulty is to understand why this station is being erected so late in stage 4 of the programme. I understand that when stage 4 is completed there will be 33 stations in operation. I point out that on page 4 of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board there appears a footnote to the effect that both a national station and a commercial station are to be established in the Mackay area. Apparently when stage 4 was being planned, it was proposed that the national television station for Mackay would be completed by the end of 1966. In the various reports submitted by the Broadcasting Control Board, mention was made of the access road to the station. Apparently difficulty over the construction of this road has been the principal reason for the delay in erecting the station. In fact, the problem of the access road was stated in the last report to be the major reason for the delay.
It has been proved that the actual construction work has offered no problems. Indeed, the contractors are well ahead of schedule. They did not meet with the problems which they expected would confront them initially. This access road passes through the National Park to Mount Blackwood, and the difficulties that have been experienced have resulted from the attitude adopted by the National Park Authority. It was considered by the Government that an access road of something lower than the standard of a tourist road was all that was needed to service the facilities connected with the television station. The National Park Authority, however, refused permission to build the road until it was agreed that a road of the standard of a tourist road would be constructed. This, of course, meant the expenditure of a far greater amount of money than was planned originally. It involved the expenditure of an amount above that which exempted, proposals from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. This attitude on the part of the National Park Authority led to delay in the construction of the road.
In my view the delay which occurred in arriving at a decision to go ahead with the project after the National Parks Association had adopted the attitude that it did was unduly long. In 1965 the then Minister for Works adopted a proposal which had the effect of removing this project from examination by the Public Works Committee. The then Chairman of the Public Works Committee, the honorable member for Maranoa, Mr. Brimblecombe, discussed this problem and mildly, at any rate, criticised the Minister for not submitting it to the Public Works Committee. The Minister explained that as the commercial station would be sharing the cost of the access road, the provision of power and the buildings, the probable cost of the project would be below the £250,000 limit, and therefore the project would be exempted from examination by the Committee. The Chairman accepted that explanation. But all this has resulted in a delay of 12 months. Now, instead of being completed by the end of 1966, the station is scheduled for completion in the second half of 1967.
I am puzzled to know why it took 12 months to arrive at a decision on this matter. Nobody has yet been able to explain this. Certainly nobody in Mackay has been able to tell me why it took such a long time to solve the problem raised by the National Park Authority in connection with the access road. But it is no good crying over spilt milk. The main thing is to have the television station at Mackay completed as quickly as possible, and, as I said before, the work is running ahead of schedule and the technicians and contractors are doing an excellent job. I sympathise with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) because his problem is similar to the one experienced in the Mackay area.
I remind the Minister that in reply to a question asked by me on 17th August 1966 he stated that the total population within a radius of 25 miles of Mackay was 24,581. I do not know how he arrived at the odd 581, but I point out to him that in the city of Mackay and the area of north Mackay alone there are 23,000 people. The correct figure for the area within a 25 mile radius of the television station would be from 37,000 to 39,000. If we take in the areas of Mirani, Pioneer and Proserpine, the actual number of people involved would probably be 50,000. The two nearest stations to that area now are the one at Rockhampton in the south and the one at Townsville in the north.
The people of Mackay and the surrounding area have been denied a television station for too long. I suggest that a population of 50,000 people should have been sufficient to warrant giving this project a higher priority. Some special effort should have been made to avoid a delay of 12 months. I cannot stress enough the advantages of television in country areas, especially in North Queensland, which is isolated to a degree in the wet season. Anyone who has been in this area in the wet season knows full well the great disadvantages which the people there suffer. I suggest that no area in Queensland has worse roads than the Dawson electorate. In fact, as 1 have said on another occasion, one of the roads in that electorate is so rough that it was used in the Redex motor trial. In the wet season, there are many areas within 20 or 30 miles of Mackay to which access is impossible by motor traffic. Horse traffic might get through. The people of those areas are deserving of the utmost consideration in the provision of a television service. They are just as entitled to this amenity as are the people in the cities. Indeed, I suggest they are more entitled to it because of the limited amount of entertainment available to them and the fact that they are forced to stay at home, especially during the wet season. I am very grateful that the construction of this station is now ahead of schedule. What puzzles me is why it took almost 12 months to solve this problem that arose concerning the National Parks Association, the cost involved and the terms of the reference to the Public Works Committee. I would like to find out why it took so long to resolve these matters. One certainly cannot find out by reference to “ Hansard “. Nor can one get the information in Mackay. Therefore, the reason must rest with the Postmaster-General or the Department itself.
In conclusion, I can only say to the Minister that I hope that nothing else will go wrong. It seems to me that the calling of tenders for the mast and the buildings is well under way. I believe that there will be no holdup in the provision of a power supply. I hope that it may even be possible to have television in the Mackay area earlier than the expected time - the end of 1967.
– Mr. Chairman, I do not want to detain the Committee long, but 1 wish to deal with some comments that have been made by three Opposition speakers. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) wanted to know what action might be taken against television stations that do not meet the new requirements relating to the Australian content of programmes. This matter is currently receiving my attention. I hope that in the new Parliament I may be able to give honorable members a little more information than I. can give at present. I believe it is fair to say that there are at present deficiencies in the Broadcasting and Television Act in this respect. A certain section makes provision for prosecutions in relation to breaches of the Act, but I am not satisfied that this is the appropriate section in this instance or that it is the only one that could apply in these matters.
I believe that it would be wrong for me to try to anticipate what decisions might be made in several months’ time after the matter has been fully and properly considered. All I want to say is that the television stations have intimated to me as well as to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board their satisfaction with the new proposals set down by the Board. They believe that these are reasonable at the present stage of efforts to try to obtain a higher percentage of Australian programmes. I believe that the stations are quite honest in their expression of views concerning what is required and their belief that it can be achieved within the time stipulated. Admittedly, the new requirements will not operate until July of next year. However. I think all honorable members will appreciate that a gearing up process will be necessary if they are to be met. Long term contracts with advertisers covering certain times in the evening viewing hours have to be dealt with. All these matters have to be sorted out by the stations in gearing themselves to programming with the sort of productions that they want to include in the evening viewing hours. I assure the honorable member for Lang that everything possible will be done to make the new arrangements operate more satisfactorily than the arrangements existing up to the present time have operated.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) alleged that there was Government interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He should know that there is in the Broadcasting and Television Act a section that provides that any direction given to the Commission must be indicated in its annual report to the Parliament. He may be ignorant of that provision, for he appears to be ignorant of quite a number of things, if one is to judge by the statements that he made earlier this evening. It is noticeable, however, that he did not mention any comment in the Commission’s annual reports over the last few years relating to any direction given to it. Perhaps it would not concern the honorable member, of course. He spoke of the Government’s virtue. I can only conclude from his comments that he has no virtue. He indulged in a disgusting exhibition in blaming the Government for adjustments that might be made within the Commission. His complete ignorance of the facts is shown by his allegation that Michael Charlton has been sacked by the Commission and pushed off to some place where he is forgotten. Mr. Charlton is still a member of the staff of the Commission. He just happens to be on loan to the British Broadcasting Corporation. I believe that there is little need for me to comment on the honorable member’s remarks beyond pointing out inaccuracies of this sort. His speech was typical of the sort of address that we are used to hearing from him. I am sure that most honorable members regret his making some of the statements that we heard him utter.
The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) discussed the provision of television services in the Mackay district. He may be concerned about the situation. Let me assure him that it has given me a good deal of concern over the last three years. When provision is made for expenditure of $100,000 on road works for a television installation and it is suddenly discovered that the cost will be three times as great, it is not possible just to sit down and write out a cheque and, hey presto, have everything done automatically. Deep consideration is required and delays are occasioned by the normal Treasury procedures and consideration. I am sure that most honorable members will agree that when it is suddenly found that the bill will be approximately $300,000 instead of $100,000 inquiries have to be made. Because of the demands made on the Postmaster-General’s Department, it has to see whether this figure can be reduced before it proceeds.
The delay in relation to the television service for Mackay was brought about by the attitude of the National Parks Association. There was no delay occasioned by the Queensland Government, which was willing for us to use the Mount Blackwood site. The site, however, was under the control of a national parks trust, which required that the road to be constructed be a tourist road. This meant that it had to be wider than it need otherwise have been, that a hardstanding area had to be provided at the top of the mountain for the parking of cars, and the like. This is the only occasion, in the implementation of the Government’s plans for television throughout Australia, on which such a demand has been made on the Commonwealth in relation to road works. Let me indicate what the cost of a television service for Mackay will be compared with costs in other areas. The service for Mackay will cost $20 per head of the population in the area that will be served. Die average cost in relation to stations in stage 4 of the television programme was $9 a head and in relation to stage 3 $4.40 a head. I believe that honorable members will understand that when a substantial cost increase of this magnitude is revealed, the Department is entitled to take some time in making inquiries to see whether it is possible to reduce the cost.
– If the Minister is using the same population figures that he gave me, I can tell him that they are wrong. They are understated.
– I have not all the details. These figures are taken from a statement that was given to a resident of Mackay approximately 12 months ago. I believe that they give a reliable comparison between the cost per head in the Mackay area and elsewhere.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) raised the question of television services at Renmark in the upper Murray area
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 2, Government Business, being called on.
Consideration resumed from 16th August (vide page 64), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) a question. I asked -
Is he aware that the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd., in its latest economic survey, states that the unemployment situation in Australia is even worse than is shown by the latest official figures? Is he aware also that the woollen and worsted section of the textile trade in Australia is suffering from a severe recession, and that boot trade manufacturers have recently been forced to dispense with the services of hundreds of employees, while thousands are threatened with almost immediate unemployment? Can the Minister state when the Tariff Board is likely to present its report on the footwear industry? Will he initiate measures to assist the woollen and worsted section of the textile trade?
The Minister replied that he was guided by the Government’s official figures relating to unemployment and that he was ready to refer to the Tariff Board any request made by any industry. That was not a reply to the question I asked. It was merely a series of evasions.
I now give the Minister some official Government figures. In 1962-63 Australian production of woollen and worsted goods amounted to 28,227.000 square yards; for 1963-64, it amounted to 23,714,000 square yards; for 1964-65. to 24.630,000 square yards; and for 1965-66, to 23,347,000 square yards. Honorable members will see that between 1962-63 and 1965-66 Australian production of woollen and worsted goods declined by about five million square yards.
Imports of these goods amounted to 2,241,326 square yards in 1962-63. In 1963- 64 they amounted to 2,050,576 square yards; in 1964-65, to 2,687,145 square yards; and in 1965-66, to 2,903,956 square yards. In the period 1962-63 to 1965-66, when Australian production dropped by about 5 million square yards, imports of woollen and worsted goods increased by about 700,000 square yards. Expressed as a percentage of Australian production, imports in 1962-63 represented 7.9 per cent. In 1963-64 they represented 8.6 per cent. In 1964-65 they represented 10.9 per cent, and in 1965-66 they represented 12.4 per cent. The increase is more than 4 per cent, in that period of a few years. In 1962-63, 21,131 people were employed in the wool carding section and the weaving section. In 1964- 65, 20,397 people were employed in these sections. No information is available for 1965-66, but the decrease in the number of employees in the industry is evident. Official figures from the Commonwealth Statistician show that total production of footwear in 1964-65 was 42,759,000 and in 1965- 66, 41,208,000. The overall drop in production in 1966 was 1,551,000.
Hundreds of employees in the footwear trade have been dismissed or stood down. Others are on short time and thousands are threatened with very early unemployment. The “ Australian Financial Review “ of 3rd October told the story of the ailing town, as it called it, of Castlemaine in Victoria. It said that a receiver had been appointed to the Castlemaine woollen mills. This decentralised industry was the main employer of females in the town. Other factories are suffering similarly. Even Government supporters have said that Australia must increase exports or create import replacement industries. Yet the Government takes no action to preserve the existing essential industries. The production of our footwear and textile industries is decreasing while the population is rapidly increasing. This, of course, is one of the reasons why the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd. said that the Government’s unemployment figures are misleading. Unemployment in the textile industry exists not merely in Castlemaine.
It exists also in Geelong, in the suburbs of Sydney and wherever the worsted and woollen sections of the textile industry are established. The unemployment and short time employment in the footwear industry do not exist merely in Collingwood and the suburbs of Melbourne; they also exist in Sydney and in other parts of Australia. Decentralised industries are being destroyed as a result of the sins of omission or commission of this Government. It is either not doing what it should do or doing what it should not do, and so does not protect and promote our industries.
I saw the representative of the Minister for Trade and Industry before raising this matter so that he might come into the chamber. After he replied to my question, I asked him to give a definite answer and to tell the people who are interested in the footwear industry when the Tariff Board will present its report. If the report of the Tariff Board is to be delayed for any lengthy period, the Government, in the interests of employment and the preservation of an essential industry, should use the emergency tariff powers. It should give temporary protection to the industry so that it will not suffer from the vast flood of imports of footwear. They are coming from China, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and the United States of America. The goods that are coming in are not better than the goods that are made in Australian factories. In many cases they are not cheaper. In many cases there is a bigger margin of profit to the retailer on goods that come from overseas than on goods that are manufactured here. Those who promote the sale of the imported article do so to the disadvantage of the Australian commodity. This is occurring not merely in the footwear industry and the section of the textile industry to which I referred but in many other sections of Australian manufacturing industry. The people of this nation should see that the Government gives adequate and proper protection to Australian industries and that it safeguards the consumers of Australia against exploitation.
.- I draw the attention of the House to a confidential report of some importance which one is inclined to suspect must have been leaked to the Press by some quite prominent person in the Australian Labour Party. That report is dealt with in the “ Australian “ of Monday, 10th October 1966, at page 11. The article in question is headed “ Killing Calwell’s hopes for a miracle “. The article deals with the electoral prospects of the Australian Labour Party in terms which could only bring a chill of gloom to the heart of any honorable member opposite.
– What newspaper is thai?
– It is a newspaper called “ The Australian “. I do not know whether the honorable member ever reads it. It is a newspaper that is not noted for the ardour with which it supports the Government.
– Who would want to buy the rag, anyhow?
– Probably the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith would not do so. He would not read it.
– That is right. I am waiting for the honorable member to read it to me.
– The article states-
Whatever else Mr. Calwell, the Federal
Opposition Leader, may be, he is an irrepressible optimist.
For months he has refused to believe that the Labor Party cannot win next month’s Federal elections; in face of all the evidence to the contrary his splendid defiance of reality has remained unshaken.
But now even Mr. Calwell’s faith in himself must be seriously in doubt.
The reason for this is a remarkable document commissioned by the Victorian State A.L.P. executive in planning its campaign for the election. In eight closely-typed pages, the document sets out in irrefutable detail the enormity of Labor’s task. And it does not spare the feelings of Mr. Calwell.
Before 1 read the conclusions set out in the report, may I explain that the report, according to Mr. Alan Ramsey, the political correspondent of the “ Australian “, who wrote the article in question, was compiled by four of Melbourne’s leading advertising men who are named in the body of ‘he article. The article continues -
The report’s conclusions are these: “THIS is going to be one of the most difficult elections the A.L.P. has had to face. “ EVEN among traditional Labor voters, the party is held in distressingly low regard. “ THE nation’s economic buoyancy prevents the A.L.P. mounting a traditional-style campaign on economic factors.
That is despite the latest effort at scaremongering that we heard a few moments ago from the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). The article continues - “ TI-IE electorate by and large does nol approve of the party leader. “THE D.L.I* - with remarkable and mysterious financial resources - will continue to wreak havoc.
Mr. Ramsey’s article continues ; “THE sub committee
That is, the sub-committee of advertising experts who were called in to see whether they could throw some light on Calwell’s prospects - recommends that the Federal Leader should nol be personally projected in advertising material,” the report says.
That might be thought by the Leader of the Opposition to be a bit unfair to him, and if the recommendation is carried out we on this side of the House will be quite distressed. The report says the electorate should be asked to vote for the Party and not for its Leader. Another interesting aspect of this carefully compiled report by these advertising experts who were called in to see whether they could do something for the Labour Party at the forthcoming election is that they employed a body called the Australian Sales Research Bureau to carry out what is known as a pilot survey, of 400 people. Those interviewed were asked their opinion of both the A.L.P. and Mr. Calwell. I read now from the body of the article -
A total 75 per cent, were critical of the party.
Meaning the A.L.P. -
Eleven per cent, considered it “ too socialist “, 22 per cent, said it was “ old fashioned “, and 24 per cent, said it was “small minded “. Only II per cent, said they thought the party was “ patriotic “.
I can imagine that members of the Opposition choked over their toast if they read this at the breakfast table. The report points out that support for the Government’s foreign policy is increasing and it deals with the question of Labour’s policy on Vietnam, if one can call it a policy; it is more an attitude, and the confusion in it is growing week by week. The report refers to the question of Vietnam and states -
We would remind you of the extremely low score the A.L.P. received for patriotism in the pilot survey. Thus the commercials must be implicitly patriotic.
This was a reference to television commercials. The report continued -
This can best be done by associating the A.L.P. ‘s signature with the Australian flag.
A strange suggestion, in view of what has happened in Canberra in the last few days. The report continued -
This is the so-called “ umbrella campaign “
Apparently to bring the Labour Party in from the wet they are going to erect an umbrella consisting of the Australian flag and try to get in under it. When members of the Victorian Executive of the A.L.P. read that idea as expounded in the report of the advertising experts they probably recalled to themselves with some feeling a statement that I think was made by Samuel Johnson: “ Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel “ - and. in this case, also apparently of the Australian Labour Party for electoral purposes.
The other matter of interest that arises from this report by the advertising men, and apparently directed at the Victorian Executive’s hard core left wingers, is the reference to the campaign that the A.L.P. will have to wage in Batman to try to win the seat from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) who adorns the back bench opposite near the Serjeant at Arms. The article refers to that campaign thus -
The sub-committee is clear cut in its attitude as to huw the campaign should bc handled in the delicate electorate of Batman.
This is being contested by Mr. Benson as an Independent, a move seen as certain to split the Labour vote and return the vote to the Liberal candidate. “ We specifically recommend that no personality campaign be conducted in Batman,” the report urges. “ In our estimation, Mr. Benson has received such an overwhelming barrage of favorable publicity in recent weeks that any speciaified campaign for this area would only assist him.
That report is of peculiar interest, lt seems to have been steadfastly and obstinately ignored by the Leader of the Opposition. In the very same edition of the “ Australian “ on page 3 there is quite a long report which starts with this sub-headline -
Mr. Calwell, the Federal Leader of the Australian Labour Party, bitterly attacked Mr. S. J. Benson yesterday for the refusal to resign from the Defend Australia Committee which led to his expulsion from the party.
Not only is the Leader of the Opposition a man of irrepressible optimism, he is also a man of stubborn obstinacy. I suppose when my honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition read that Press report of the advertising men, the thought crossed his mind, as it must have done many times in recent months: “ Which of my loyal lieutenants has stabbed me in the back this time by leaking this confidential document to the Press? “ The Leader of the Opposition has many crosses to bear. I wonder whether he thought that his loyal lieutenant from New South Wales leaked it, or whether it was one of his loyal lieutenants from Victoria. The left wing might have leaked it in the hope that anything that would damage the electoral prospects of the Australian Labour Party might enhance the left wing’s prospects of gaining leadership of the Party.
When the Leader of the Opposition refused - as is evidenced by the Press report of his attack on the honorable member for Batman - to accept that advice, he might also have pondered on a statement made by a famous Englishwoman in 1914. I think. She said -
I realise that patriotism is not enough. I mt,S/ have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.
The Leader of the Opposition might have pondered those words and spared the honorable member for Batman.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think the remarks of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) tonight deserve the attention of this Parliament. He dealt particularly with what is happening to the textile trade. He outlined the unemployment that is occurring and the effect of imports on Australia’s textile trade. I think the House should be indebted to the honorable member for Scullin for bringing to the attention of this Parliament the fact that the policy of the present administration is nol only destroying our great textile industry but is also causing unemployment amongst Australians. I hope that all honorable members will take notice of his remarks, which were documented and delivered with great wisdom, lt is to be hoped that the Minister for Trade and Industry will take note of the fact that 700,000 yards have been imported, imports have increased by 4 per cent, and Australian production has decreased by 5 million square yards. They are very important matters of which I hope Parliament will take notice. 1 also hope that the Government will take effective steps to overcome the difficulties.
I listened with interest tonight to one of the final speeches in this Parliament of the future ex-member for Parkes. As I listened, I could not help but think how difficult it was to listen to him when one was not paying him, and how expensive he would be at the price he charges in the courts if he produced tonight the best advocacy he can put forward. I thought that the report on the Labour Party read by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) from the “ Australian “ was taken from what might have been a good article, but it was spoilt by his comments. Whilst it read well, his comments did not improve it and I think they destroyed the real purport of what might have been included in the article.
When all is said and done, do not honorable members think that the Liberal Party and the Country Party have enough worries without picking on the Labour Party? Only yesterday we read that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) faced his most important party meeting for many years. In fact, it was so important to him that the Country Party was excluded, because its members could not be trusted in that environment to deliberate on the matter in question. What was this matter? The rebels including the malcontent who spoke tonight had not been selected for the Ministry by his almighty, the Prime Minister. What Prime Minister with any common sense would choose the honorable member for Parkes for the Ministry after listening to the honorable member tonight? The rebels wanted to- change the method of selection, not of the Cabinet, but of the Ministry. The Prime Minister faced this challenge. He excluded the intelligent members of the Country Party and he faced alone these fiery rebels whom we see opposite.
The sleeping member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) rose in his place yesterday and attacked the honorable member for Parkes. And what about the discredited member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) who, with all his brains, thought he should have been acknowledged and chosen for the Ministry? They sought to have an election of the Ministry by the rank and file of his party, but in any democratic society why should a govern ment which prides itself on being democratic have a democratic process for the election of Ministers? They sought by secret ballot, so we are told, to elect the Ministry. Well, the Prime Minister’s point of view survived. He is now allowed to choose his Ministry. By secret ballot yesterday the Government decided that it would adhere to the present system.
Three-quarters of the members of the Liberal Party were present at the meeting yesterday as, of course, were all the Ministers who owe their selection to the favour and benevolence of the Prime Minister, so they voted diligently and intelligently, as they thought, for the present system. When we look at them today we wonder who else would put them in a Ministry other than one man who wanted sycophants to support him in this Parliament. Why should they not vote for that kind of system? That is why tonight the intelligent member for Parkes rose in his place. He wanted to prove that he was more intelligent than those who have been selected by the Prime Minister. I do not wonder at the honorable member’s concern because anyone who cannot get into this Ministry is a long way down the line. The Ministry voted for the system, and the Whips - all honorable members have seen them in action in this Parliament - also voted for the system. How else could they be selected unless someone outside the Party selected them? No intelligent party could possibly select some of them. I exclude the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). He is a reasonably intelligent selection, but a good one has to be picked now and again.
There is the situation. Most of the backbenchers voted for the right to select the Ministry because under the present system they have no hope of getting into it. When we look at the ballot, it was nothing more or less than a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister. The Ministry voted for him - about 25 of them - and so did the two Whips. He did not have enough votes so he had to get a couple of ragtag and bobtail camp followers to support him, and he won the ballot. At the Liberal Party meeting yesterday this honorable member who now attacks us was what we might call a malcontent. He voted against his Prime Minister then and tonight he is trying to make his mark against the Labour Part?.
If the truth were known and honorable members opposite were game to stand up and be counted, they would select their Cabinet in a democratic way. The fact they do not is the reason why the Liberal Party members opposite have to launch attacks like this on so-called deficiencies in the Labour Party. They have to cover up their own inefficiencies.
Why do they not look at a few of their own problems? What is wrong in Tasmania with the Country Party forming a centre Party with Mr. Lyons of the Liberal Party to get rid of those Liberal Party members opposite from that State? Why do not honorable members opposite read what Mr. Lyons said about their own Party and see how good he thinks the Country Parly is? Why does not the honorable member for Parkes have a chat to Mr. McEwen and lind out why he is forming a Country Party centre group in Tasmania? What is wrong with the breakaway Liberal Party in Western Australia? The Liberals think we have troubles; why, they have them in every Stale of the Commonwealth. What about Victoria where the Country Party will shortly vote out the Liberal Parly? And good luck to it. I congratulate members of the Country Party opposite on their intelligence because the Liberal Party in Victoria deserves to be voted out. Let us have a look at Queensland. There has just been a rebellion in that State in relation to threecornered contests. The fact is that in every State of the Commonwealth the Liberals are split to ribbons. By trying to charge the Labour Party with disunity they are only showing how false they are. They have only to look at their own situation. Even here in Canberra we have seen how the honorable member for Bradfield and others have been viciously attacking the Country Party supporters for their integrity, their honesty and qualities of that kind. We have seen the performance of Government supporters in this Parliament on the subject of redistributions. They have had differences with each other and have refused to put through a redistribution. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia the Government parlies are split to ribbons. For that reason they endeavour to turn on the Australian Labour Party. You will know, Mr. Speaker, wilh your tolerance and understanding, that evert in your own State the supporters of the Liberal Party are not as one with the supporters of the Country Party.
Why do not honorable members opposite tell us about the breakaway party that has been formed in Western Australia? Are these not matters of importance to the nation which looks for a united government to lead the country? Only yesterday in the Prime Minister’s own circle the discontent beneath the surface, which had been held off during the regime of the previous Prime Minister, came to the fore. Sitting opposite me tonight in this chamber are disgruntled malcontents. They are discontented people. The honorable member for Parkes is one of them. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), one of the Prime Minister’s choices, has just come into the chamber. Looking at him, I think: Who else would choose him but one man? He was one of those who voted yesterday for the retention of the present system of choosing the Ministry. He knows that he could not win in a ballot in which the rank and file participated.
As I have said, the honorable member for Parkes spoilt by his comments what was probably a good article in the “ Australian “. I have made those few observations in order that the people may know that all is not well with the parties opposite. If the thoughts of those who sit in the corner of this House could be read they would prove to be unprintable. They certainly would not be considered parliamentary language. As we look at honorable members opposite tonight, I suppose they are as united as they can be. I would like to repeat to this Parliament many of the things that I know supporters of the Country Party think about members of the Liberal Party and vice versa. When all is said and done, I suppose they have to hang together. I have no doubt that if things go on as they are at present, that is how they will end up. I advise the honorable member for Parkes to look into his own cupboard. 1 enjoyed one of his final speeches in this Parliament and T have made those few remarks in order to remind him that all is not well with the gloomy collection of colleagues which he shortly will be leaving for all time.
Mr. STEWART (Lang) 112.28 a.m.]. - I wish to raise what I think is a harsh and unjust interpretation of the long service leave provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act. The case I have in mind isthat of a man by the name of James Doyle, of Punchbowl, who has been on the waterfront since 1938. His record of service on the waterfront shows that be joined the Waterside Workers Federation in July 1938. He left on medical grounds on 21st May 1948. He applied for and obtained re-registration on 6th December 1948. He was employed as a permanent crane driver at D.I.S. for some 13 months from 12th January 1952. He joined the Foremen Stevedores Association on 23rd May 1960 and resigned in January 1961. He rejoined the Federation from the mechanical branch in January 1961.
Therefore, from 1938, with two short breaks, he has had continuous service on the waterfront. He has found, on making inquiries through the union, that he is not entitled to long service leave. In response to representations made by the union to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority be was told that no long service leave would be granted to him because he was ineligible for it, having gone from the Waterside Workers Federation to the Foremen Stevedores Association, and that this break precluded him from being re-granted continuity of service as a waterside worker. In a letter dated 4th October 1963, from the Secretary of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the following statement appears -
A certificate under section 45c (2) (e) (i) in respect of a break in the continuity of a waterside worker’s registration cannot be issued unless, at the outset, the cancellation of registration was intended to be temporary and was in the interests of the industry, etc. You will note that subparagraph (i) of section 45c (2) (e) expressly requires that the cancellation was for the purpose of relieving him “ temporarily “ from his obligations as a waterside worker.
The section of the Act referred to states, and I read only portionof it -
This man went from the Waterside Workers Federation to a position which made him eligible to join the Foremen Stevedores Association. He was in that position for approximately eight months and then rejoined the Waterside Workers Federation. Had he remained a foreman stevedore his service on the waterfront would have carried on and his entitlement to long service leave would have been retained for so long as he continued to work as a foreman stevedore. But because he found that he was unsuited to the position of foreman stevedore and asked to go back into the Waterside Workers Federation, the break in his service as a waterside worker is regarded as being a permanent break and he is not entitled to regard his service as continuous for long service leave purposes. If he had applied for leave from the Federation in order to take a trip overseas as a union delegate to visit some other country, that break would not have been regarded as a permanent one. This seems to me to be a most unjust and harsh interpretation of the Act.
Surely a man who has worked on the waterfront almost continuously since 1938, simply because he goes to a higher position, finds that he is unsuited for that posi tion and comes back into the Waterside Workers Federation, should be regarded by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority as being continuously engaged in the waterfront industry. I believe that this provision in the Act and this interpretation of the Act should be looked at by the Minister and by the Government. 1 understand that within the next week or so amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act will be introduced. I raise this topic tonight to ascertain whether the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) will consider including in the amendments a provision which states that so long as a man works on the waterfront, whether as a foreman stevedore or as a waterside worker, his continuity of employment will be retained. If an employee moves from a State Department to a Commonwealth Department, or vice versa, his service under the Crown is carried forward for purposes of the long service leave provisions. In this case a man who has given a number of years service in the waterfront industry is not entitled to the benefit of the long service leave provisions merely because he happened to move up to the position of foreman stevedore.I ask the Minister in charge of the stevedoring industry to consider this matter and to see whether a new interpretation cannot be placed on the relevant section of the Act.
The other matter that I wish to raise this evening also deals with the interpretation of an act. In this case it is the Homes Savings Grant Act and it deals with a man named Gakavian who is also from Punchbowl. Mr. Gakavian came to Australia in January 1963. He applied for a home savings grant in 1966. In a letter dated 4th August1 966 he was told by the regional director in Sydney -
Your grant under the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-65 will amount to $400 and will be paid by cheque within the next few days.
In determining this amount, we found it necessary to make certain adjustments, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, to the amount of savings shown in your application.
The reason why the Department of Housing declined to take account of the amount that had been saved after 31st January 1964 was because this man, in opening an account at the Bank of New South Wales, Circular Quay had, under advice from a bank officer, labelled his account a house account and not a homes savings account.
In a declaration which was made by the bank manager and which was forwarded to the Department of Housing, the manager said -
At the request of Mr. Gavakian, we write in connection with the above savings account, after our perusal of your letters to him dated 4th and 23rd August 1966.
Mr. Gavakian was introduced to us on 10.9.64 by a relative of his who was a constituent of this branch. He enquired as to the degree of assistance he might reasonably expect to obtain from the Bank in the event of his acquiring a home. The outcome of this discussion was that he opened the above Savings Bank Account in which he would deposit funds to be used solely at a later date for home purchase. Deposits proceeded regularly (you will note there were no withdrawals from the account) until 27.7.66 when he withdrew $2,131.00 which was applied together with a housing loan of $8,200 from the Bank to purchase his home - settlement for which was effected on 29.7.66.
This man went to the bank after the Homes Savings Grant Bill had been introduced and after the Minister had made his second reading speech in this House on 5th May 1964, in which he stipulated that new savings would have to be put in an account called a homes savings account. This man went to the bank and told the bank officers exactly what he wanted to do. The bank labelled his account a house account and not a homes savings account. It was a mistake on the part of the bank. It was undoubtedly the intention of this man to have a homes savings account opened in his name. Because the bank made a mistake he is now prevented from getting the full amount under the Homes Savings Grant Act. I have made representations to the Secretary of the Department of Housing, who informed me that the Attorney-General had given him this interpretation.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House Adjourned at 12.38 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Before approval is granted for any item to be included in the schedule a careful assessment is made by appropriate Departmental officers, as to whether the unserviceability can be permitted without affecting safety standards, and if it is permitted the conditions which must be complied with and the location at which rectification must be carried out are specified. In the case of some items, operation is only permitted provided the weather is clear over the route and at the destination. The decision and prescribed conditions are influenced to a large extent by the amount of equipment carried in the particular aircraft type.
The permissive unserviceability schedule of each operating manual clearly states that the operation of a flight with an unserviceable item is at all times subject to the discretion of the pilotincommand, and his decision over-rides all other considerations.
An aircraft is not permitted to operate beyond the provisions of the unserviceability schedule which, in most cases specifies that rectification must be made at the next overnight stop at a major depot. In some cases, rectification must be effected at the next airport at which a major depot or servicing base is located.
Major depots are located at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and servicing bases are located in addition to the airports named, at Perth, Darwin, Cairns and Hobart airports.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The pattern of Ansett-A.N.A. services does not involve regular overnighting of aircraft other than the twice weekly Mount Isa-Brisbane Viscount, i.e. this port is not an Ansett-A.N.A. base and there are no company engineers stationed there. The company can and does call on the services of the T.A.A. engineers when necessary for the rectification of any faults that may occur. Alternatively, Ansett-A.N.A. may send a suitable person to Mount Isa from another airport.
Aircraft do not deteriorate simply because it is dark. The significant factor is the number of hours flown by the aircraft between inspections. Airline maintenance is based on a set program of airworthiness inspections laid down for each aircraft and these are carried out by the airlines within the specified intervals of flight lime. These inspections arc planned to be done between scheduled flights, and this is often during the night.
The situation is, of course, different if faults arc found in the aircraft, either in flight or on the ground. If the pilot is not satisfied with the airworthiness of the aircraft, he is not permitted to fly it until the faults have been rectified and certified by a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer or other person specifically authorised for the purpose. This system is the normal practice throughout the world.
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What is the approximate time taken by a pilot, prior to the departure of a commercial aircraft on its first operational flight of a day, to carry out checks according to instructions laid down in the aircraft manuals?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The time taken to complete pre-departure checks varies considerably due to several factors.
The type of aircraft concerned will significantly affect the amount of time required. For example, more items require checking with a Boeing 727 than with a DC3 aircraft. Certain prc-flight inspection checks are delegated to the flight engineer on aircraft which are crewed in this manner, and of course the actual time, spent on inspection of various individual items, varies with individual pilots.
Because of these variables, it is only possible to assess an average time, which is estimated to be in the order of 20 to 25 minutes.
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What interest has been paid by his Department since the commencement of commercial accounting?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The commercial accounts of the Post Office have been in operation since 1st July 1912, and interest charges recorded to 30th June 1966 amount to $448,342,685. Part of this is interest paid on advances made from Consolidated Revenue; tha remainder is interest paid on Loan Funds.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
Some of these applications could be for dwellings provided by other than State Housing Authorities. (4). Advances under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement in 1965-66. and the amounts expected to be advanced in 1966-67 are:
These figures have been advised by the States. South Australia, which is a party to the 1945 Agreement, provides concessional rentals in necessitous cases, but not according to any given formula.
b asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Whilst it was not necessary to obtain the consent of the soldiers concerned it was, however done in this particular instance.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Available taxation statistics do not disclose the information sought by the honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19661013_reps_25_hor53/>.