26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) will leave Australia today to lead the Australian delegation to the Pacific Conference on Urban Growth to be held in Honolulu. This Conference is being attended by representatives from fifteen countries in the area as well as by delegates from the United States of America and Australia, and will study the complex problems associated with urban growth in the countries of the Asian and the Pacific area. The Australian delegation will include the Victorian Minister for Local Government, Mr Hamer. During Mr Anthony’s absence the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) will act as Minister for the Interior. Mr Anthony expects to return on 1 5th May.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. We note the alacrity with which Australia recognised the new Fascist Government of Greece. Why does the Minister not apply the principles which he enunciated on Tuesday when he said:
We do not pass a judgment on the political events in a country . . . We continue to deal with the constitutional government of that country, whatever it might be.
Why does he not apply these principles, which seem reasonable enough, to Australia’s relationship with China, especially in view of the importance of China’s wheat purchases to Australian primary industry? Will he explain the seeming contradiction?
– I can fully understand the honourable gentleman’s eagerness that we should show some sort of special preference towards Communist China.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to order. The Minister has said that I want to show special preference to China. I point out that I want the same treatment for China as he applies to Greece.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I rise to order, Mr Acting Speaker. I agree with your ruling, Sir. The honourable member for Wills said that-
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The position in respect of Greece is that we are in full diplomatic relations with Greece. We have an Ambassador en poste in Athens. After a change of government takes place, if it has been made quite clear that that government is in effective control of the country and is recognised as the constitutional government of that country, we authorise our Ambassador to enter into communication with it. In the case of China, we are not in diplomatic relations.
– The Government was.
– We are still in diplomatic relations with the Republic of China but not with the Peoples Republic of China centred on Peking. That is the country which I understand the honourable member for Wills wishes us to recognise.
– That is right.
– We are not in diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China centred on Peking. If any change of government takes place there the action that would be required of us would not be simply to authorise our Ambassador, already en poste, to communicate with the new government; it would involve a change of policy to enter into relations with a government with which we were not previously in relations. The honourable member, in drawing a completely false analogy, does seem to have shown a fondness for Communist China which he has not shown for other countries.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of some doubts which have been cast on this matter in a number of publications, I ask: Do we have a national fuels policy? If so, what is it?
– I am always amazed at people who allege that the present Commonwealth Government does not have a fuels policy. Not only has it a national fuels policy but also it has one which has proved to be remarkably successful. The policy is based on the discovery of resources, on their assessment and on their development. If one looks at all the fuel in use in Australia today it can be seen that the policy has been remarkably successful. In the case of coal, for example, when this Government came to power it discovered that the previous Labor administration had been importing coal from overseas. Today we are not only producing probably the cheapest coal in the world, with the possible exception of the United States of America, but also we are able to export at least 8 million tons of coal per annum. We have, because of our policy, discovered vast resources of natural gas and crude oil. This is because of the assistance which has been given in the search for petroleum. Today we are almost at the stage where we are self-sufficient in natural gas.
We have resources of crude oil which are conservatively estimated at 150 million barrels proved, and possibly we have resources far in excess of that. We have developed our hydro-electric power, particularly in the Snowy Mountains area, where at the moment work is under way on peak load preparation in Tumut 3 station, which will contain by far the largest turbines and pumps in the world for pump storage. But in addition to all this we have set up the Atomic Energy Commission. Many people who ask about a national fuels policy do not want a policy of assessing and us.ing the most economical fuel; what they want is a direction which would force people to use a fuel which is not the most economical. To these people I would point out, firstly, that we have no constitutional power to force State authorities to use a fuel which they do not believe is the most economical; and secondly, if we had that power and used it I believe it would be a very poor thing.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I gather that the right honourable gentleman has had his attention directed in the last couple of days and months to the nature of the evidence before the ‘Voyager’ royal commission. I therefore hope that he will now be able to answer the question which I put without notice tb the former Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Perth, on 9th December 1965, and which that honourable gentleman was then unable to answer. The question I put then, and now, is in these terms:
I presume that the honourable gentleman has now perused Vice-Admiral Hickling’s book on the ‘Voyager1 royal commission and will have noted the assertion that two professionally qualified witnesses were interviewed in the chambers of counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner and were told that they would be called to give evidence but in fact were not so called. Will the Minister state the names and qualifications of those witnesses, the nature of the evidence they would have been able to give, and the reason for not calling them?
– The Leader of the Opposition makes the comment that this matter has been under discussion over recent days. I confirm mat The parties which support the Government have the same opportunities, as I understand exist in the Caucus of the Labor Party, to raise matters in respect of which they require some discussion or information. The principal difference between honourable members on this side and those on the other side of the House is that Government supporters can raise these matters without inhibiting their capacity to state their views inside the House, quite apart from what they say in the Party room.
As to the question which the honourable gentleman has asked, these are matters which he now directs to me, although I should have thought they would more properly have been directed to the Minister responsible for these matters.
– He was unable to supply an answer when the honourable member for Bradfield asked him.
– When the honourable gentleman says that the Minister was unable to supply an answer I remind him that it is a matter for the judgment of the Minister administering a particular department to decide how far he would be justified in giving publicly information which comes to him in his ministerial capacity. Before I address myself to the question as to whether this information should be supplied I would need to confer with my colleague to gather from him the circumstances and the desirability of, or the justification for, making it available.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. As a high proportion of the costs of decentralised industries is represented by telephone charges, which put these industries at a severe disadvantage compared with similar businesses in metropolitan areas, will the Minister say whether consideration can be given to granting concessions in this direction in the same way as freight concessions have already been granted to some decentralised industries?
– I appreciate that telephone charges can be of some significance to businesses in country areas, but this does not mean that they are not of significance to many businesses in the metropolitan areas. Trunk calls are made by country businesses to the city or other country towns, but there is a very high incidence of trunk calls from capital cities to country areas throughout Australia. This matter has received the attention of the Government over the years. Eight or nine years ago a substantial reduction of up to 331/3%was made in the highest level of trunk charges. This indicates the Government’s desire to keep charges at what might be regarded as a reasonable economic level from the user’s point of view. In 1960-61 the Extended Local Service Area system was introduced by the Government. This system extended the local call area from an average of 80 square miles to 800 square miles, and resulted in a loss at that time of approximately $1.5m per annum in trunk calls. Expanded into the present period, it represents a revenue loss of about$5m per annum. It can therefore be said that the Government has in mind the interests of those who live away from capital cities. But, of course, it has a responsibility to recognise all interests. Any further concessions could be made only at the expense of other telephone subscribers. That is to say, a reduction in one area would require increased charges in another. The Government would have to look closely at this matter before any further adjustments were suggested.
– Does the Prime Minister recollect advising me in a letter dated 12th October 1964, when he was the Treasurer, that an amendment had been devised that wouldafford relief by way of long service leave entitlement under the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act to persons who retire from Commonwealth employment but who subsequently become restored to health and return to the Service after a break of one year? Does he remember also that this matter was the subject of an agreement between the Public Service Board and the High Council of the Public Service Associations? Will he now undertake to insist that the necessary legislation, for which we have been waiting for three years, will come before this House before the end of this sessional period on 18th May?
– I regret that 1 do not recollect the details of this matter. At that time I was speaking in a different capacity from that which I now occupy. I shall investigate the matter promptly and I hope to give the honourable member a speedy answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. If a registrant for national service training is not balloted in for service and subsequently, subject to medical and other requirements, is accepted as a volunteer for national service, is he entitled to the same benefits on completion of his service as trainees arbitrarily balloted in for service?
– Yes. A young man who volunteers for national service is entitled to precisely the same benefits as the person who is balloted in for service. There is a fairly strict age limit for persons who volunteer for national service. Roughly speaking, that limit is from eighteen and a half years to the time that the group with which the person registered goes into the Army. In other words people who register in the first part of this year will go with the two intakes in the last part of the year. As long as the volunteer applies in time to go in with the members of his age group who are balloted in he will be accepted.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether his attention has been drawn to several prominent daily newspapers which carried headlines yesterday claiming that the Government opposed any increase in the basic wage. Is this an accurate assessment of the Government’s attitude? If not, does the Government intend to make its attitude clear to the Australian people?
– We are prepared to make our attitude crystal clear. A brief summary of the submission appearing in the Press naturally cannot do justice to the arguments and various nuances involved. Any honourable member who is interested - and I hope a number will be - is welcome to read the text of our submission. I have already sent copies to members whom I thought would be particularly interested. I am sure that anyone who reads it will get a much better understanding of the issues. In the meantime, as I have said before on similar occasions in this House, this matter is before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and 1 w’ill not canvass the issues.
– The Minister will not say whether he is in favour of or against the increase?
– The honourable member should read the submission; whether he will understand it, however, is doubtful.
– I would like to ask the Acting Minister for Health a question concerning the problem of mentally retarded children. Has the Minister access to sources of information which would enable him to appraise the needs of parents with mentally retarded children? Could he throw some light on the reason why large numbers of handicapped children in Australia are awaiting entry to residential training centres?
– Mental health is principally within the jurisdiction of State governments, except in the Commonwealth Territories where it is our responsibility. In the Australian Capital Territory and the other Territories certain facilities are provided for the treatment of mentally retarded children. Assistance is given by the Commonwealth to the States under legislation which provides for annual grants. That assistance will continue during the present period. In addition to this, there is some further degree of co-operation between the Common wealth and the States in this field because the National Health and Medical Research Council has recently set up a special mental health committee which will advise both the Commonwealth and the States in relation to this problem. That committee has not yet submitted its first report but I understand it will be available shortly, and when it is, I hope to be able to provide the honourable member with a copy for perusal. The report will contain a lot of the information that he wishes to obtain.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the attitude of the Australian Government towards British migrants is being assailed in parts of Britain and is being described as greedy and avaricious, allegedly because it is applying drastic rates of duty on second-hand cars which form part of migrants’ personal possessions? Will the Minister say in what way these duties can assist Australian industry when applied to cars four years old? Will he express a view as to whether duty of $300, plus $100 port handling charges on a car costing £475 sterling less £200 trade-in would be justifiable in the circumstances? Will the honourable gentleman take action to ensure that in future no migrant will be encouraged to bring to Australia any type of belonging which calls for such drastic rates of duty, without being made thoroughly aware of the costs involved before he or she leaves the United Kingdom?
– I have heard no such claims of avariciousness on the part of the Australian Government, unless the fact that we want as many migrants from the United Kingdom as we can get can be construed in that way. I assure the House that we shall do everything possible to maintain the flow of these magnificent migrants. As to the general matters raised by the honourable gentleman, essentially I shall have to discuss them with my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise. Having done so, I shall give the honourable member an answer.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, relates to Commonwealth electoral rolls. I refer the Minister to the master roll kept at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer and to the fact that except in very special circumstances, access to this roll, which records the names and addresses of all electors of the Commonwealth, is not permitted. I ask the Minister whether this roll could be made available to the public, or at least made accessible by a procedure whereby the staff of the Electoral Office would, on application by an interested person, search the roll?
– Ever since there have been permanent electoral rolls and permanent electoral offices, it has been the principle of my predecessors and myself not to make master rolls available to the public, though they are made available in necessitous circumstances when there is a family bereavement or other particular circumstance. The rolls are made available to Commonwealth and State instrumentalities. I would have a strong objection to making them publicly available to such people as debt collectors or people concerned with wife desertion, or for other reasons. If a system of compulsory enrolment is to be effective, people must be prepared to give their names and other required information to the Electoral Office. If they have reasons for not wanting this information made public, that is their affair.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it will be necessary for pensioners now in receipt of a part pension because they have property of a value exceeding $4,040 in the case of a single pensioner and $8,080 in the case of a married pensioner couple, to apply for the increase in pension arising from the recent amendments to the Social Services Act.
– It may not be necessary for persons receiving a part pension to apply for their increased entitlement resulting from the extension of the means test. However, any person who is not at present entitled to any pension and who feels that as a result of the extension of the means test he may be entitled to a pension should collect a form from the nearest post office, complete it and lodge it with the Department of Social Services at the nearest office of that Department, so that entitlement may be ascertained.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to the fact that there are Communist countries which are members of the United Nations Organisation and which habitually violate their obligations under the United Nations Charter, particularly with respect to political prisoners. Are there any means available to the Australian Government by .which it might attempt to alleviate the plight of political prisoners? I have in mind particularly the case I brought to the notice of my right honourable friend of a Czechoslovakian relative of a family now living in Australia.
– I would preface my reply to the main question asked by the honourable member by saying that the United Nations, through its appropriate organs, is responsible for the observance of the Charter and for any action that might be necessary as a consequence of nonobservance of the Charter. Some matters of a kind similar to that referred to by the honourable member are the subject of conventions that have been drawn up, and compliance with those conventions would not, of course, be a matter over which the Australian Government, alone and singly, could exercise control. The action open to the Australian Government individually and separately is to make representafions to governments with which we have relationship and to try to persuade them to act as we might wish to have them act. I will examine further the particular case the honourable member has in mind to see whether there is any action which the Australian Government can take. But I hope the House will realise that the action that this Government can take singly would be purely in communication with another Government which has its own responsibilities and jurisdiction within its own borders.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and it is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. When the Prime Minister says that his followers are not inhibited from bringing before the House what they raise in a Party meeting, does this mean that the Government intends to provide an opportunity for further debate on the
Voyager’ royal commission or that Government members have indicated their intention of ventilating the matter in the House?
– The programme for the remainder of this sessional period has at this stage no provision for the matter to which the honourable member has referred, but that is something which the Government could take into consideration. I repeat that there are forms of the House available to members if they wish to raise matters on the floor of the House. In the Parties supporting the Government we rely upon the sense of responsibility of individual members, and their sense of fairness to people in the community outside the House, to guide them in deciding the course of action they should pursue. But I welcome the question asked by the honourable member because it enables me to supplement the reply I gave earlier to the Leader of the Opposition by pointing out that as a Queen’s Counsel the Leader of the Opposition would be aware that counsel assisting a royal commission also led by a Queen’s Counsel would be expected to behave quite responsibly in relation to the terms of reference of the commission and in determining the evidence that should be brought before the commission. This, I think, was really inherent in the question asked by the honourable gentleman. He asked whether persons had been in the chambers of counsel assisting the commission and he asked why their evidence had not been brought forward. I simply state that as a general observation. This would be a common practice in royal commissions. We would expect counsel assisting the commission to determine in a responsible way the evidence which should be brought forward relevant to the terms of inquiry in order to assist the commission.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. I remind the Minister that in many instances electors, through sudden illness or other emergency, often find themselves in the embarrassing position of not being able to secure, because of lack of time, a postal vote prior to an election. This inability to obtain a postal vote is often caused by delays experienced in forwarding an application and in returning a ballot paper. Will the Minister consult with officers of his Department with a view to having postal votes issued at a sub-divisional level where necessary rather than through the present system whereby all applications must go direct to the divisional returning officer for the electorate?
– It is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to see that every elector is given the opportunity to record his vote. If circumstances prevent his getting to the poll on polling day he may apply for a postal vote. Postal votes are available up to some five weeks before polling day. We make changes to the system as we see ways of improving it. At one time a postal vote had to be in the hands of the divisional returning officer by 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding polling day. At present if an elector becomes ill close to polling day he can apply to the divisional returning office on polling day for a postal vote. It is very difficult to provide for all contingencies. I would not like to have in charge of postal votes people who are not permanent electoral officers. The only permanent officer is the divisional returning officer. His clerk in the divisional returning office and subdivisional officers or presiding officers are not permanent Commonwealth officers. There is one exception, and that is at Kalgoorlie, where we have three or four regional registrars to whom people may apply for postal votes.
– The Minister for the Interior will be aware that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer is now sending out to electors the arguments for and against alterations to the Constitution. While those authorising the Yes case are named, those authorising the No case are not named. What is the reason for the reticence of those who have authorised the No case and who are they?
– I am not aware of the matter raised by the honourable member. I will look into it. I think the identity of those authorising the No case is well known. Seven senators oppose the breaking of the nexus between the two Houses. The leader of the group is Senator Gair. His principal offsider is Senator Wright from Tasmania. I will look into this matter and see why their names are not shown on the No case.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question about the proposed Army depot to be built at Sutherland near Loftus. Have contracts yet been let? When is it anticipated that the depot will be completed? What stage depot will it be?
-The contracts for the construction of the new depot at Sutherland have not yet been let. It is anticipated that the depot will be completed in the 1968-69 financial year. It will be occupied in the first instance by a platoon of the Fourth New South Wales Regiment which at the moment is using part of a high school at Narrandera. I am sure that the new depot, when it is completed, will greatly assist this unit. The depot will be large enough to cater for a full company of the Citizen Military Forces, but I do not think it will be occupied initially by a company.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that copper wire bars are being shipped from Australia? Have special export licences been issued for copper bearing material? If so, will the Minister state the materials and the quantities for which licences have been issued? Does he consider that there is no longer a shortage of copper in Australia? If so, when will the present ban on the export of copper bearing scrap be lifted?
– As mentioned before, the question of copper exports is being looked at very closely by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of National Development. I think it is true to say that the acute shortage that necessitated certain restrictions being placed on the export of copper has now been relieved and, as the price overseas is falling, this tends to make the copper position easier. Iti the light of this, the Government is looking at its policy. I will give the honourable member a full written reply to his question at the earliest possible moment.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Navy in his capacity as Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. I refer to the singing group known as The Seekers and a film recently made by the group under the title ‘The Seekers Down Under’. I understand the film ls to be used overseas to attract tourists to Australia. As the reports following its recent showing on television have highly commended the film, I ask the Minister whether he will try to arrange a private screening of it in Parliament House before this sessional period ends so that honourable members may judge its value.
– I have met these charming young people who have had, as I am sure honourable members are pleased to hear, astonishing success overseas. I have not seen the film, but I have heard several reports on it and they support the remarks of the honourable member for Maribyrnong. It is not only a tribute to these fine young people but it is ato a tribute to Australian technique in film making. I will certainly be very pleased to see to his request and I will make inquiries to ascertain whether it can be met.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration, refers to the recent disturbance in Greece following the colonels’ coup, which the Government has condoned, and to an announcement that was made over the radio, in newspapers and elsewhere that people born in Greece who have since acquired Australian citizenship and who are now in Greece will not be permitted by the colonels to return to Australia. I would like the Minister to give the House an assurance, if he can, that these unfortunate people of Greek birth but of Australian citizenship who are now in Greece will be allowed to return to Australia when they want to do so.
– I regret that I can give no such guarantee. The fact is that when a Greek national takes Australian citizenship he is, as far as Australia is concerned, an Australian citizen but he is still, as far as the Government of Greece is concerned, a Greek subject. In other words, by taking Australian citizenship he has a dual citizenship in the eyes of the Government of Greece. Then the principle of master citizenship applies and such a person will be subject to the laws of the country in which he is for the time being. If he takes Australian citizenship and then returns to Greece, he will, in the terms of Greek law, become subject to Greek law as a citizen of Greece.
– Or if he travels on a Greek ship.
– Yes. The consequence is that I cannot, very regrettably, give the undertaking which the honourable gentleman would like. However, I can say that so far as Greek migrants and Australian citizens who were formerly Greek citizens are concerned, I am very anxious that there should be a continuing and growing flow of people from Greece to this country to make their homes here. I hope that we will be able, because of our special interest in them, to persuade the governing body of Greece, whatever it should be at any time, to allow the free flow of people from Greece to Australia if those people have opted to make their permanent homes here.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Will he consider issuing a 4c stamp to commemorate the opening later this year of the satellite communications station at Moree?
– I have informed many members of the House that the preparation of a special stamp requires some eighteen months notice. The matter must go to the Stamps Advisory Committee and a design must be prepared. Also, arrangements must be made with the Note Printing Branch. As a result, it would be impossible now to add anything to the programme for this year which was determined, in fact, some six to twelve months ago. However, if it is possible at some future time to recognise this particular type of communications, I will be pleased to have a look at the matter.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. I ask: Who is responsible for the declaration of Australia Day as a public holiday? As Australians regard this day as our national day - and I hope it is as important to us as 4th July is to citizens of the United States of America - will the Prime Minister give his support to the proposal that Australia Day be cele brated on 26th January irrespective of the day of the week on which 26th January falls?
– I would need to make some inquiry as to the legal basis, if any, for the declaration of a day which has come to be generally observed throughout Australia as Australia Day. The celebration of the holiday, occurring as it does in the summer months, for the convenience of people generally is held at the weekend. I do not claim to be well informed on the matter. 1 shall see what information I can get for the honourable member and convey it to him.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen criticism of the operations of the Australian National Line in relation to Queensland ports and, if so, can he say whether those criticisms are correct? Could he also indicate what plans, if any, the Line has in relation to its future operations in Queensland?
– I understand that the Leader of the Opposition had some comment to make on this matter in a large and general way. It is not unusual for him to make comments in a large and general way, but they do not always relate to facts. The Australian National Line has been providing a regular service on the coast of Queensland since some time in 1966, operating between Melbourne, Sydney and the four ports of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay and Cairns. The best service provided previously was a three-weekly service, whereas the Australian National Line has been providing a regular two and a half weekly service. During that time there has been no cargo offering which has not been taken by the Line. For the future, the Line has on order three roll on, roll off ships, one of which by the end of 1968 will be providing a fortnightly service for the ports on the north Queensland coast, that is, between Melbourne, Sydney and the Queensland ports. This service will be followed up by the addition of another roll on, roll off ship if the cargo offering justifies an increase in the service. T should say that since the Australian National Line has been serving those ports it has been able to offer special freight rates and reductions in freight rates to clients who have been able to offer unitised or palletised cargo, and by the use of improved techniques it has considerably speeded up the turn-round of ships in the various ports. At the moment it is negotiating with the port authorities for proper terminals for the roll on, roll off ships and, in some cases, it is agreeing to bear part of the expense of providing those terminals.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a supplementary question. What attempts have been made to secure agreement with the Queensland Government for the Australian National Line to operate voyages beginning and ending at ports in Queensland in the same way as arrangements were made many years ago for the Queensland Government to permit Trans-Australia Airlines to operate flights commencing and ending at airports in that State? Specifically, will the Minister be able to arrange for the Australian National Line to carry bauxite in its own right between Weipa and Gladstone, an intrastate voyage, as freely as the Australian National Line carries bauxite on the interstate voyage between Weipa and Bell Bay?
– I should think that the Leader of the Opposition would understand very well that there is a constitutional limitation on the powers of the Australian National Line. This would, I think I am correct in saying, require at least a reference of power by the Queensland Government to the Commonwealth or, at the most, a constitutional amendment.
– Was it not done for TAA?
– I am not aware of the situation relating to that, but I think I am correct in saying that strictly speaking it would require a reference of power, because if the Commonwealth Government or any of its instrumentalities acted in any unconstitutional way - without a reference of power, in other words - then people other than the Queensland Government would be able to protest the action of the Commonwealth and challenge it. I think it is correct also to say that so far we have had no approach by the Queensland Government. As far as I am aware shipping services on the coast of Queensland have been adequately provided for in connection with the carriage of bauxite. The Australian National Line has been able to make a ship available on charter for cargoes when it has been proved to be necessary. At the moment I see no need to interfere with the constitutional rights of the Queensland Government to arrange its own transport systems.
– by leave - I promised in the House yesterday that I would ‘comment on the announcement made by the Prime Minister of Britain, Mr Wilson, in the House of Commons on Tuesday to the effect that Britain proposes to make an application to join the European Economic Community. We know the British Government has given much thought to the course it should follow and honourable members will recall the attempt to join the European Economic Community which failed in 1963. That was during the prime ministership of Mr Harold Macmillan. Mr Wilson has now said - and I quote this sentence from his statement to the House of Commons yesterday:
All of us realise that this is an historic decision which could well determine the future of Britain, Europe and indeed of the world for decades to come.
Each nation is entitled to make decisions in what it conceives to be its own national interest. But equally, it is to be expected that when major decisions are taken which will affect countries of such historic relationship as Britain and Australia, then the interests of the countries affected will be considered, and the decisions influenced. -‘Now that the British Government has decided that an application to join the Common Market should go forward, we will be looking to the Government and people of Britain to ensure that the terms of entry take full consideration of the interests of Commonwealth countries, which include, of course, Australia. In the longer term, it is in all our interests that Britain should remain strong and, indeed, grow stronger. Only a strong Britain can remain a power of significance in the world, and we all wish this to be so.
During recent months we have been aware that Britain has been contemplating further approaches to the European Economic Community. Throughout this period the British Government has kept us advised about the essential nature of the discussions at ministerial level with the individual member Governments of the European Economic Community. More recently the British Government has kept us informed of the development of its own thinking and, as recently as last week, my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), discussed the matter with British Ministers in London. We have no doubt that, as matters proceed, the British Government will continue to keep us informed of essential developments. We would hope, however, that we would also have the opportunity for meaningful consultations.
Both publicly and privately the British Government has continually emphasised that entry into the European Economic Community would be subject to adequate safeguards to protect ‘the essential interests of the Commonwealth’. I note that in making his announcement. Mr Wilson referred specifically to the special problems of New Zealand. We certainly have a full appreciation of those problems. Mr Wilson referred also to Commonwealth sugar producers, and we welcome this reference. But our important interests, of course, go very much wider, and we would expect that, in seeking measures to safeguard the essential interests of the Commonwealth, Britain would take full account of her contractual obligations to Australia and of the heavy dependence of a number of our export industries on the British market.
Because there appears to be some conflict between the essential interests of the Commonwealth and the present European Economic Community regime, and because at this stage we do not know what safeguards Britain will be able to negotiate, it is not practicable for us to make any firm judgment on the extent to which Australia’s exports are likely to be affected by Britain’s eventual entry into the European Economic Community. The impact of British membership of the European Economic Community upon Australian trading interests would depend upon the extent to which our preferential entry to the British market is affected. At the present time we sell to Britain under preferential conditions products to the value of approximately $400m. This $400m of trade is concentrated in a relatively few products, and in some cases represents a substantial share of the total export market for the industries concerned. There are also whole communities whose basic industries have geared themselves to the British market. We must recognise that their future could be affected, perhaps seriously, if the British market is lost or substantially reduced. The Government will, of course, be watching this aspect of the problem with particular care.
In recent years there appears to have developed, both in Britain and in Europe, a belief that there may be no great need to take special measures to protect Australia’s export position because we have been diversifying our export trade and have been building up markets in other areas. Over the past five years the share of our total exports going to Britain has declined from about 24% to 171%. But the total value of exports - preferential and other - to Britain has actually increased slightly and last year amounted to about $47 5m in total.
In certain agricultural products recent increases in production and availability have enabled us to expand our exports to the world and to develop some new markets. As a consequence, the proportion of total exports going to Britain has declined somewhat. Nevertheless, the absolute volume of shipments to Britain has increased. I refer particularly to beef, butter, fresh fruit, canned fruit and sugar. In the case of these key products our dependence on the British market has, in fact, increased. There are some other products, such as wheat, flour, dried fruits and canned meat, where the British market is of prime importance.
During earlier British negotiations to join the European Economic Community it was suggested, in both Britain and Europe, that the problems of countries such as Australia could be met through the establishment of effective world commodity agreements which would lead to improved access and remunerative prices for agricultural products. From the early stages of the Kennedy Round it was agreed by the more important participants that effective commodity agreements were essential to the success of these negotiations. The concluding stages of the Kennedy Round are now being reached in Geneva. The final result will not be known until the negotiations have formally been completed, but the prospects of a successful outcome are far from bright. It appears possible that there may be a Ministerial meeting in Geneva next week. The success of this meeting, if held, in opening up new prospects for world trade in agricultural products will affect to a significant degree the extent to which our export trade could still find opportunities, following a successful British application to join the European Economic Community.
I turn now to the financial and economic implications of British membership of the European Economic Community. Australia has had a long history of close financial co-operation with Britain, and no doubt there will be changes in some of these relationships if Britain joins the Common Market. There is little point in speculation at this time as to all the possible financial ramifications, but we cannot ignore the possibility that there may be difficulties for us. Much will depend on terms and conditions of British membership. However, I feel I should mention one issue which will be of considerable interest to us - namely, the future level of capital flows from Britain to Australia.
At the present time Britain is imposing some restraints on the outflow of investment to developed countries of the sterling area such as Australia. Nevertheless, our position is still better than that of developed countries outside the sterling area. If Britain were to join the European Economic Community in the near future, it seems likely that it would have to alter its current policies on the control of outward private capital flows. In that event, whatever preferences we may have now in respect of British investments abroad could be quickly abridged.
I do not need to emphasise here the extent to which the growth of the Australian economy has been assisted in recent years by the strong inflow of capital from abroad. Most of this is private capital, and almost half has come from Britain. In 1965-66 private overseas investment in Australian companies from Britain amounted to some $250m. We are thus talking about one of the more important elements in our balance of payments and one of the more important factors contributing to a higher rate of growth in the Australian economy.
Rather similar considerations apply in the case of official capital transactions abroad. Australia, as a member of the sterling area, has had greater access to the London capital market than non-sterling area countries. If Britain joins the European Economic Community, we may be faced with a reduction of borrowing opportunities in London. As we have about $250m of official debt maturing in London over the next five years and some S500m maturing over the next ten years, the question of access to the London capital market is of considerable importance to us. It is, of course, difficult to make an informed judgment on these matters now. Indeed, pending clarification of the terms and conditions of membership, it is virtually impossible to make a precise assessment of the financial and economic implications for Australia. We shall certainly be doing our best to ensure that Australia’s interests are taken into account.
In conclusion, it seems fitting to observe that the British approach to the European Economic Community is still at a very early stage. Indeed the application, although foreshadowed, has not yet been made. Substantial discussions are ahead, and only from these will we be able to gauge the likely consequences, and thus determine what action can be taken to safeguard the interests which are important to us. As I have said, we look to a process of continuing consultation and discussion. We shall, as we can, keep honourable members informed of developments.
– by leave- I desire at this stage to make a short statement on this very important matter so that the House will know the position which the Opposition takes. I want to do this now without too much criticism of what has been done or has not been done and to reserve an examination of that kind for some later period. At the same time I think it is necessary to draw to the attention of the House and the people some aspects of the failures of the Government. Britain’s entry to the European Economic Community, if it comes about, will create difficulties for Australia. It will not be a disaster but there will be serious problems. The Opposition will assist in every way it can to overcome these problems. Some weeks ago I gave the same assurance to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) after he spoke in the House about his proposed visit to Geneva to take part in the Kennedy Round negotiations. The Opposition takes this position because Australia and Australians are involved.
About 10,000 Australian families engaged in the production of commodities will be seriously affected if Britain enters the Common Market without preserving something like the present conditions of entry of those products to the United Kingdom. But many more people will be adversely affected. The Opposition will assist in whatever way it can because all over the world the terms of trade have turned very unfairly against primary products in the last fifteen years. This is because of the relative degree of monopolisation, if I may use that term, that is found in the production and sale of manufactured products as against primary products. Simply, there is a great deal more competition in the sale of primary products than there is in the production and sale of manufactured products. It is fair and reasonable to support any action which will increase relatively the strength of those engaged in the production and marketing of primary products. This is not a world in which all producers and sellers are in the same position. The assumption that sometimes underlies the thinking of members of the Government and of others wholook at economics from the Liberal point of view is that all producers and sellers are in a similar position. They are not. Therefore, for these main reasons the Opposition is concerned to assist in whatever can be done.
The position today is strikingly different from what it was in 1962. The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) this morning was very mild compared with those we heard in this House in 1962. At that time, the then Prime Minister told us that we faced a situation which was very serious for this country. I recall that on 9th August 1962 he created in the House an atmosphere of crisis. He said that we were involved in a most serious situation. Discussions had been proceeding for along time and Britain had actually applied to enter the Common Market. She had accepted the conditions that the rest of the Community were willing to grant under the Rome Treaty, and was ready to go in. Our Prime Minister of that time said that the position was grievously unsatisfactory. I would like to know whether the position now is less ‘grievously unsatisfactory’ than it was at the corresponding stage in 1962. The Prime Minister today has not given us any indication of whether the situation is less or more grievously unsatisfactory than it was on 9th August 1962. His statement has been very mild indeed.
Perhaps the Government takes a different view about the degree of crisis involved now compared to the position in 1962. At that time the Minister for Trade and Industry agreed with Sir Robert Menzies, then Prime Minister, that the situation was indeed serious, not only because of what might happen to our preferences but also because of what might happen on a wider canvas. I wonder if anything that the Minister for Trade and Industry can now achieve in Geneva on the wider canvas of the Kennedy Round negotiations will change the position from what it was when he described it in 1962. At that time he said:
For us, a very great deal depends on the policies of the new European group. It is not too farfetched to foresee the possibility that outside countries like Australia could be faced with a situation where the three greater trading blocs dictate to us the terms on which they will trade with us or where they will decide to buy only certain items from us. This is not an exaggeration. It will be realised that it is not an exaggeration when I point out that under the European Economic Community system of import levies on grains, which has just come into operation, our wheat today can enter Germany only on payment of a levy or duty of about £22 a ton, which is equal to about 100 per cent of our f.o.b. price. This is the first stark glimpse for our trade of the Common Market policy in operation.
Is the position any different today?
– The matter has not been determined yet.
– Of course it has not been determined. But it was not determined when the Minister for Trade and Industry spoke in 1962. Negotiations were still going on and the possibilities were similar. The attitude of the European Economic Community and particularly of Germany to the importation of wheat is exactly the same now as it was then. That is the point I was referring to. The Minister for Trade and Industry had more to say a little later, in December 1962, after he had seen a good deal more of the picture about which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is concerned. The Minister,’ quoting Mr Freeman, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, said:
The actions the Community is now taking are going to be the largest single factor in determining whether the agricultural systems of the world are mindful of the need for international harmony or whether agriculture retreats into a shell of nationalism . . . We hare been sharply troubled by the mounting evidence . . . that the E.E.C., instead of moving toward a liberal trade policy for agriculture, actually is moving backward with regressive policies that could impair existing trade arrangements.
Has the position become more regressive, if anything, since 1962? Is it not a fact that the European Economic Community is less liberal in these respects than it was four years ago? In August 1962, if the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was justified in giving to the House the impression, as he did, that we were facing a serious crisis, has there been any change of events in Europe in the last four and a half years to justify the much milder attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) today? I do not think that changed conditions in Europe or elsewhere have caused the Prime Minister’s change in attitude today. I think it has been caused by a change in the strength of the parties in this Parliament, with a serious decline in the strength of the Country Party and an increase in the strength of what may be called the McMahon line in recent times. We know the McMahon line is obsolete in Asia, but apparently it is dominant in Australia. I suggest that the change in the Prime Minister’s speech this morning, a mild speech compared with what we heard in 1962, is not because the problems posed for Australia by Britain’s possible entry into the European Economic Community are any less than they were in 1962 - ‘indeed, they are greater - but because of a change in the political strength of the two Parties in this House.
Honourable members will recall that in 1962 the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who was so careless of the balance of power in his own Cabinet as to criticise the opinions of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), had to resign from the Cabinet. Now, with a new attitude prevailing, the Minister for Labour and National Service confidently sits on the front bench, backed by the new Treasurer who agrees with his point of view. The situation has changed. The Government has two faces. It has the face of the Country Party and also the face of the city man. I suppose there is not a better example of the city man than the Treasurer, who, having nothing in common with the gentlemen who sit on the cross benches, looks at Australia and her economic problems with the eyes of a King’s Cross flat dweller. This is in sharp contrast to the position taken by the Minister for Trade and Industry. The press, if it concerned itself with investigating the relationship between the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Treasurer, would get a much more interesting story than it ever got about the differences on this side of the House. There are, of course, differences on this side, as there are on the Government side, but Government differences, though not relevant news for the gentlemen who write stories from Canberra, are of great significance because they illustrate the fundamental difference in policy between the Country Party and the city men in this Government.
The Opposition believes that Britain’s entry into the Common Market would have a very marked effect on at least eight Australian products. We believe that Government action is needed. We believe that machinery must be designed to ensure that any losses suffered by producers of these commodities are shared among the nation and not allowed to fall upon only the groups concerned. We believe it is time for an independent policy on this, a policy designed for Australian conditions - not one that depends on something that happens overseas. In 1962 we faced this great crisis in the House. Nothing happened. Britain was not permitted to enter the Common Market. When reading the 1962 debate I noted that the late honourable member for East Sydney was the only speaker who predicted that Britain would not enter the Common Market in 1962. He was proved right in saying that Britain would not get into the Common Market in 1962, that De Gaulle would keep her out. What has happened since Britain failed to enter the Common Market in 1962? There was a great sigh of relief throughout Australia and we returned to business as usual. No member on the Government side has thought about the Common Market since 1962.
Government supporters - Oh!
– Tell us what you have thought about it and decided to do. The Prime Minister did not tell us today of any action that had been taken. Apparently the Government favours a policy based not on Australian interests but on changes in international trade or dependent on the actions of some other country, whether it be Britain or the United States of America. Australia today responds to almost anything that is done by Britain or the United States. We seem to have no capacity for taking independent action. Let us look at the position. I said that at least eight products were significant.
– Exports have gone up by 60%.
– As the right honourable gentleman admits, these things have grown more significant in the last few years. I shall emphasise these points. I noticed yesterday that the Press is giving out the story that the situation today is not as serious as it was in 1962. The Press, in the interests of the people it represents - the Government - will try to play down the consequences. Yesterday the Press gave the impression that since 1962 the problem has become less significant. Let us look at the facts. In 1962 the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), gave some export figures to the House. They showed that in 1962, 10% of Australian wheat exports went to the United Kingdom, but today the figure is 12.3%. In 1962, 12% of beef and veal exports went to the United Kingdom, but these exports have now increased to 29.4%. In 1962, 5% of lamb and mutton exports went to the United Kingdom, but now the figure is 12.9%. For canned meat, the percentages are 50 and 44.4, apples 24 and 49.2, pears 18 and 46.7.
– Are the values the same?
– I shall tell the honourable member something about values in a minute. Does he find it difficult to realise the significance of these percentages? In 1962, 55% of our exports of canned fruit went to the United Kingdom, but now the figure is 64%. For dried fruits, the percentages are 40 and 41.4; butter 30 and 81.9 - a significant increase in which I am sure the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) will be interested; cheese 27 and 35.2; sugar 24 and 36.6; and there was a slight fall for lead, from 50% in 1962 to 48.3% now. All of these significant commodities will be affected if Britain enters the Common Market on the only conditions open to her. The problem today is vastly more serious for us than it was in 1962. The Government, having had plenty of warning that Britain might enter the Common Market, has in the last four and a half years permitted a situation to develop that will have a critical effect on the exports to Britain that I have mentioned. In all the vulnerable areas we have become more and more dependent on Britain since 1962, and the Government has supervised the rapid change towards greater dependency during this period. Now all it is able to say as a kind of offset is, as the right honourable gentleman said this morning: ‘Oh, yes, Australia’s overall trade was 24% six or seven years ago and it is 17i% today’. Yes, that is so; Australia’s exports to Britain represented 19% of our overall exports in 1962, compared with 17+% last year. But it was 19% in 1965. It is true that for the Australian economy as a whole the conditions on which Britain would be expected to enter the Common Market are not likely to mean disaster, but it is a fact that they are likely to cause serious losses for the producers of most of the commodities I have mentioned and for the areas of Australia in which they are produced.
There are a number of things that the Government could have done, and I refer to them only briefly. The then Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out in 1962 the problem of excessive shipping freight rates. Australia continues to labour under a considerable burden of freight charges in doing business overseas. The cost of delivering steel, for example, to overseas markets in Asia is considerably greater than from Europe. The honourable member gave some examples of these rates. He quoted some remarks of an officer of the Department of Trade and Industry, Mr McClintock, who said:
The simple facts are that it costs too much to deliver our products to Asian markets. Australian manufacturers face a herculian task if they are to be expected to manufacture at a price which will carry freights which are often 60% higher than the freights paid by their competitors.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) told us once that he had been discussing this matter with shippers. Has there been any progress in the attempts to cut freight rates down? Has any action been taken to strengthen the dairying, fruit and sugar Industries during this time? Is it not a fact that the capacity of these industries has been allowed to grow at the same time as they have become more and more dependent upon uncertain markets overseas? Has the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) recommended any plan for reserve funds for future adjustments that might have to be made in these industries? Has any consideration been given to equipping the Australian produce boards so that they may buy at stabilised prices over a period of three, four or five years on a long term financial basis? Has any consideration been given to alternative production by farmers, say, in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria, by the apple growers in other parts of the country, or by dairymen in marginal areas? The Government has not given us any indication that these matters are being looked at in a practical way.
It seems to me that the attitude of the Government can be summed up in two ways. First of all there is the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Industry and of the Country Party. They say that the entry of Britain into the Common Market could be a disaster. If anything, they exaggerate considerably the consequences of such entry. They say it could be a disaster and they oppose it. The Minister for Trade and Industry goes overseas and makes speeches as dramatic as the ones he makes here. His attitude is that this terrible thing is coming and that we have to do our best to keep it away. He evidently believes that in some way this attitude may be successful. But of course it will not succeed. What the Minister for Trade and Industry has been trying to keep away from Australia for the last twenty years is approaching us relentlessly, and obviously he cannot succeed. But he does not say to himself: ‘If this happens what can we do?’ He has no plans for alleviating any harmful results that might occur if this thing does happen. He adopts an emotional attitude, saying that we must keep it at bay. He does not consider the possibility of failure to keep it at bay.
Then there is the attitude of the Government. It is the attitude of city men such as the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who look at life through the eyes of big business and high finance. What is their attitude? They consider that the entry of Britain into the European Economic Community will have little effect on Australia. The Treasurer believes, in fact, that the possibility of Britain ever getting into the Common Market is pretty remote, or at least he said so in a television interview on 7th April of this year. He was asked:
What is Britain’s chance of getting into the Common Market?
His reply was:
Well, you’d ask me to speculate here and you have to accept my answer on the basis of speculation, not being a member of the British Government.
Of course he is not a member of the French Government either, which is perhaps more important if he wants to know whether Britain will get in. However, the Treasurer said: ‘I think it is pretty remote.’ Does he still think it is pretty remote?
– I would be speculating again, and so would you. You have no idea of what de Gaulle is likely to do, and only this morning he sounded a cautionary note - that this could take a long time. Do not jump to conclusions. If you had read your newspaper you would not have asked the question.
– Thank you. Apparently the Treasurer does not know; he is still speculating and he has nol denied that the possibility is pretty remote. At any rate this is exactly what I have been suggesting is the attitude of the city gentleman and he has now given it to me in his own words. The other part of his attitude is this: the possibility being remote we need not do anything about it, and if Britain does happen to go in it will not have much effect on Australia, and that effect will pretty soon wear off. A few hundred dairy farmers will go broke, a few hundred apple producers and a few hundred sugar producers will go broke, but it will soon pass over. Two or three years and these people will have got over their problems and everything will be all right. That is the view of the honourable gentleman. In other words, leave all this to the markets, leave it all to free enterprise, leave it all to the forces of supply and demand. This is the policy to which the Government has committed itself. The Government says it is not necesary to make any plans. Whether we accept the point of view of the Country Party or that of the city men we arrive at the same conclusion - that no plans are needed, that we need not do anything about this.
This is the position in which the Prime Minister has left us this morning. But the fact is that this is still a matter that may significantly affect the lives of 10,000 Australians and their families; that may significantly affect the people who are producing dairy commodities, fruits, sugar and in some cases meat. Yet the Government is leaving us, as it has left us before, with no assurance that it has in mind any practical steps to take.It cannot claim to be adopting a practical attitude to this question. I have to tell the House at this stage that the Opposition is quite unsatisfied with the speech made by the right honourable gentleman.
There is only one other matter to which I shall refer. I have been saying that the Government, as far as it has indicated to us, proposes to do little of a practical nature to meet the problems that will’ arise should Britain go into the Community. What I want to know is this: what does the Government propose to do of a practical nature in respect of the present situation? The Prime Minister told us: ‘We have no doubt that as matters proceed the British Government will continue to keep us informed of essential developments. We would hope, however, that we would also have the opportunity for meaningful consultations.’ We would hope - that is all. The Government has hopes’. Discussions are proceeding and the Australian Government has hopes that it might be included in them. I want to know, if the Prime Minister will tell me, what steps have been taken to see that Australia will be included in meaningful consultations. Has the right honourable gentleman asked for any meaningful consultations? He did not tell us. He said : ‘We have hopes that we will be included.’ The initiative is left to Mr Harold Wilson or President de Gaulle. Is that so?
– I pointed out that the Minister for Trade and Industry was having talks last week and the honourable member knows that I will be discussing the matter in June.
– The Prime Minister has said that he has hopes that Australia will be included in meaningful consultations. What are his proposals for these consul tations? Will the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) discuss them now? Will the Prime Minister discuss them in June? What other arrangements, if any, have been made with respect to these meaningful consultations?
The House is entitled to a great deal more information than the Prime Minister has given to us this morning. The Australian Government in recent years has been on more and more occasions telling this House and the people of Australia less and less. The Opposition is not satisfied with the statement that has been made today. I wish I had more time to exhibit the deficiencies of the position taken by the Government. I wish I had more time to go into greater detail on every aspect of the position reported to the Housethis morning by the Prime Minister.
– by leave - On 18th April, in reply to a question without notice from the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), I indicated that I hoped to be in a position by this week to give honourable members further information about the new $5 note and the arrangements for its issue. I am now able to announce that the date for the first issue of $5 Australian notes has been fixed as Monday, 29th May. Arrangements for the production of the notes at the Reserve Bank’s Note Printing Branch are proceeding according to plan. Adequate supplies of the new notes will be in hand.
Arrangements for the distribution and issue of the notes are now in train and, as with previous issues of dollar notes, the $5 issue will be made available to the public on the first issue date at bank branches throughout Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Arrangements have also been made to enable the public to become as familiar as possible with the new note prior to the first issue date. For security reasons full descriptions of new note issues are made available only shortly before the first issue date. The note will be midway in size between the $2 and $10 notes, its dimensions being 150mm by 75mm, and will have its own distinctive colour. It will include portraits of Sir Joseph Banks and Caroline Chisholm.
Sir Joseph Banks, 1743 to 1820, was a botanist and is sometimes called The Father of Australia’. He accompanied Captain James Cook on his voyage to Australia in 1770, personally meeting the cost of the scientific equipment and staff that were with him. He was a strong advocate of establishing the original settlement in this country and remained in contact with developments in the colony through correspondence with the early Governors. He assisted continually the development of the colony’s agriculture and trade. He collected and wrote about Australian flora and, over a long period, enthusiastically encouraged and financed others to carry out scientific investigations in Australia in a variety of fields.
Caroline Chisholm, 1808-1877, was a pioneer in encouraging the migration of women and families from England to Australia. She first arrived in Australia in 1838 and in 1841 established the female immigrants home in which girls could live until they found employment. She encouraged migrants to seek work in country districts and made many journeys through country areas with groups of girls, arranging employment for them. In 1846 she returned to England and was instrumental in having conditions on migrant ships substantially improved, and in the foundation of the Family Colonisation Loan Society, which made loans to assist families to migrate to Australia. She came back to Australia in 1854 and worked strenuously for the improvement of social conditions. Ill-health caused her to return to England in 1866.
I have arranged for the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Coombs, to make available a full description of the new note, together with photographs, through the widest range of Press and other media about two weeks before the actual issue date. This will take place at Press conferences to be held on Monday 15th May. To give the public opportunity to see the actual notes prior to their issue it has been arranged that they will be displayed at all bank branches for a period prior to and immediately following 29th May.
The design of the new note has been carried through by leading members of the design industry in Australia and incorporates the highest standards of security printing in order to secure it as far as possible against attempts at forgery. The issue of this denomination was planned to take place at about this time as a logical step in the introduction of decimal currency in Australia. The extent of the issue will, of course, depend on the use which the public makes of it.
I present the following paper:
Five Dollar Note - Ministerial Statement, 4 May 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) what is in my opinion a very disturbing article which appeared in the ‘Australian Coin Review’ of February J 967. Notwithstanding its title the publication is devoted to all matters numismatic - not only coins but also notes. The article reads:
Coin Review has always attempted to remain as coldly factual in numismatic matters as it is possible to be.
But it has taken us just twelve months to announce our belief that the entire range of Australian decimal notes, from one dollar to twenty dollars, is just about the easiest to forge range of notes of value in the entire world.
The principal weakness in the decimal notes is the use of four colours rather than one, and the use of rotagravure plates in the printing. This leaves a flat impression. Engraved notes, on the other hand, leave the ink raised up from the paper. Much harder to forge.
But in a situation in which printers throughout Australia say that they could produce excellent copies of Australian notes, given forty-eight hours and any one of six extremely common duplicating machines, some action must be taken.
Those are very serious charges. As we know, there is some dilemma at the moment about our $10 note. Now it is proposed to print another note in the series, which the Australian Coin Review’ claims contains the most easily forged notes in the world. A statement such as that demands serious examination and, if called for, rebuttal. I urge the Treasurer to give some assurance that not only the new note but all existing notes are not as easily forged as the ‘Australian Coin Review’ claims. Perhaps the Treasurer will read the full text of the article to which I have referred and make arrangements for a public denial of the charges made in it. The charges seem to me to be seriously made by people who claim to know what they are talking about. I feel that I have some responsibility to air the matter in this place.
– I will have investigations made.
– Whilst I think the Government is to be commended for introducing a $5 note, I would at this stage appeal to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to consider withdrawing the 50c piece.
– If the honourable member wants to say something, he should stand up and say it. He wants to interject whenever other honourable members are speaking; he wants to make a dozen speeches a day. I make a strong appeal to the Treasurer to withdraw the 50c piece. It is a most unpopular coin. 1 would say that the only people interested in it are coin collectors and those who want to keep it to give to their grandchildren when they are born. Speaking for myself, whenever a bank officer offers me a 50c coin I refuse to accept it and hand it back to him. This is the general trend in the community today. I have written to the Treasurer on previous occasions and expressed my disapproval of the coin. I am confident that both the Treasurer and his predecessor have received numerous complaints about the coin.
– 1 have not.
– Possibly the Treasurer has not but his predecessor would have received complaints. If I remember rightly the Treasurer did not hold this portfolio when the new coins were introduced. I have received numerous letters complaining about the 50c piece. Only at the weekend I was surprised to find that I had a 50c piece amongst the money in my pocket. The Treasurer can believe that I very speedily passed it on. It was all very well for his predecessor to describe the coins and to tell us that the 20c coin would be of a certain diameter and that the 50c coin would be
Toughly one eighth of an inch bigger. But I can assure the Treasurer that the similarity of the two coins confuses thousands of people, especially the elderly. I have spoken to businessmen about the coins. Business people who handle the currency and deal directly with people have told me that elderly people are very much concerned about the 50c coin. I cannot see any special need for it. We had the previous form of currency for many years. The Treasurer will recall, though I cannot give him the exact date, that we had a 5s. coin for some time. It was commonly referred to as a cartwheel. It was unpopular and it was withdrawn.
The 50c and the 20c coins are very similar in design and size. This is a matter for the Government, but I suggest that the 50c coin should be made more distinctive and more easily recognisable. If this cannot be done it should be withdrawn from the currency completely. I cannot see any need for it. For many years we managed with a 6d., ls. and 2s. and then notes. Nobody was greatly inconvenienced with this range, but now the Government thinks that we need a 50c coin. All I can say is that this coin is causing a great deal of concern, particularly to elderly people. The two coins, the 50c and the 20c, are too similar in design and size. There are good grounds for withdrawing the 50c coin and allowing it to become a museum piece.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - The purpose of this statement is to make it known that the Government has decided to introduce a withholding tax on interest paid to persons, including companies, who are not residents of Australia. For some time it has been becoming increasingly clear that the special basis on which Australian income tax is imposed on interest paid by companies to non-residents is unsatisfactory. There are two main difficulties. The first is that the rate of tax applied to gross interest - the prevailing company rate, at present 42.5% - is high in itself, and is also high in comparison with rates imposed in other countries. The other is that it is possible for overseas lenders to make arrangements which avoid any liability to Australian tax on interest payable to them with the result that large amounts of income earned in Australia bear no Australian tax whatever. The high rate of tax obviously provides an incentive to such arrangements.
The Government has reviewed this whole matter carefully. In doing so, it has paid close regard to the effects which any changes in the law to remedy its present defects might have on the availability and cost of overseas capital to Australian borrowers. It nas decided that the present method of taxing interest paid to non-residents should be replaced by a withholding tax system. This will have distinct advantages over the present method. In particular, it will provide greater simplicity and certainty for overseas investors. As withholding tax systems are widely employed overseas, especially in the more advanced countries, it will also be the kind of system with which overseas lenders are generally familiar.
As regards the rate of withholding tax, the Government has decided that a flat rate of 10% should be imposed. This rate will provide a reasonable contribution to Australian revenue and, at the same time, avoid the adverse effects which higher rates of tax could have on the terms on which overseas lenders are prepared to lend to Australian borrowers. In most cases, the overseas lender would be able to obtain credit, against his tax liability in his own country, for part if not all of an Australian withholding tax of 10%. The withholding tax will be imposed upon interest derived by non-residents on or after 1st January 1968. It will be a final tax and collection procedures will be similar to those now used for the dividend withholding tax. Liability to deduct the tax will be placed on the Australian borrower but the legislation will make clear that the tax is imposed on the overseas lender.
In broad terms, the withholding tax will apply to interest paid by a resident of Australia, whether an individual or a company, to a non-resident except where the interest relates to a business not carried on in Australia by the payer of the interest. It will also apply to interest paid by a non-resident to another non-resident where the interest is an expense of a business carried on in Australia by the non-resident borrower. Subject to some exceptions, it will apply to interest on governmental and semigovernmental loans.
It is proposed to repeal the existing special provisions of the income tax law that apply to interest paid by companies to non-residents. Generally speaking, however, the repeal will not affect interest paid in pursuance of contracts which have taken the protection of these existing provisions and which were entered into by today. Nor will the repeal affect interest paid in pursuance of contracts in respect of which negotiations between the parties had commenced by today on the basis that, under the terms of the contract, the overseas lenders would have the protection of these provisions. The object here is to avoid disturbing the basis of contracts that have already been made or which are presently being negotiated.
There will be some other exclusions from the scope of the withholding tax. The more important of these are:
Ordinary assessment processes will continue to apply, where appropriate, to interest excluded from the scope of the withholding tax. There will also be some exemptions from Australian tax on interest derived by non-residents. The more important of these are:
It is proposed that legislation to impose the withholding tax will be introduced later this year. Full details of the withholding scheme will be given when the legislation is introduced into Parliament. I present the following paper:
Withholding Tax - Ministerial Statement, 4 May 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Notice No. 1, General Business, being continued until 3 p.m.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson [12.21]- I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– Today is probably the last opportunity the Opposition will have to ask the Government to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority as an active and driving force in the progressive development of Australia’s water resources. Already the writing is on the wall for this great Authority. It is becoming increasingly clear that this Government has at last shed all evidence of self respect and dignity, not only in the eyes of Australians but in the eyes of overseas people, in taking the decision to abandon the Snowy Mountains Authority. The recent statements made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) clearly point to this act of what might be called political cowardice. But when we realise its dislike of planning and its love of ad hoc decisions made only as a result of political expediency of the day, it is of course no surprise to most people that the Government would refuse to accept its responsibility to the nation in water development; and when the first chance comes to abolish the Snowy Mountains Authority it appears in fact to be taking this action.
In the 60-odd years since federation only one Australian Prime Minister has had the imagination and courage to take the initiative to accept and to act on the indisputable belief that the progressive harnessing of Australia’s water resources for power, irrigation and flood control is a national responsibility, that is, a responsibility of the central government. This Prime Minister was Ben Chifley. By his action in committing the national government to the progressive development of the water resources of the Snowy Mountains, he laid the solid foundations of the future role of the Commonwealth as a developer of the water resources of this nation. Labor clearly recognised that water conservation was of vital importance to the future welfare of this country.
This action of the Federal Labor Government in committing the nation to the Snowy Mountains project was somewhat bitterly criticised by members of the present Government. As I have said before, they in fact boycotted the opening of this great project. I understand, however, with respect, that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) did attend, and I give him due credit for it. The Minister for National Development denied that there was any boycott. He stated in this House on 19th April last that the reason for the non-attendance of members of the Liberal and Country Parties was that petrol rationing was in force. I make no further comment on such a pathetic excuse, for it needs no comment. It illustrates the Government’s irresponsible and negative approach to water conservation at that time, and this negative approach has been clearly evident during the last seventeen years of inactivity in the field of water development.
Apart from the Snowy Mountains complex committed by the Labor Government, the Commonwealth Government’s entire contribution to water conservation projects in Australia in that period has been the Chowilla dam, the piping of water in the south west of Western Australia, the Ord diversion dam, and flood mitigation in the New South Wales coastal rivers. In terms of money, this has amounted to $28m in non-repayable grants. This is over a period of seventeen years, and this is the Government’s record of water conservation in the field of national development. It is a lamentable record and one of which no government could be proud. In fact, the Government should hide its head in shame. It has taken this Liberal-Country Party Government seventeen years finally to realise that water conservation in this, the driest continent in the world, is urgently required. Only last year in his election policy speech did the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) finally grasp the fact that water was a most precious commodity to Australia. It is indeed the most precious of all natural resources in Australia. The Prime Minister announced that $50m would be made available to the States over five years for water conservation projects. Despite the existence of long established urgent priorities established by State governments,, this Parliament and the people, anxiously waiting for positive action, have heard nothing constructive. They have experienced only delaying negative tactics. The Minister for National Development last week talked about the fact that it was 163 days since the decision was taken to make this promise, but I remind him that the Government has had seventeen years to do something with respect to water conservation, for example, in Queensland. On 19th April last in this House the Minister issued a challenge to me. He said:
I challenge the honourable member for Dawson and anybody else to say that we have not honoured an election promise.
That was with regard to water conservation. I have much pleasure in accepting that challenge. The Government’s poor role in water development has degenerated to such a degree that the Minister for National Development does not know which water conservation projects have been presented by the State governments to the Commonwealth for financial assistance over the last seventeen years. The Minister stated in this House:
The reason why the Commonwealth has not advanced money for the Burdekin scheme is that during my period of office no-one has asked for money for that scheme. The scheme has not been tested or assessed.
In other words, it seems that the criterion for getting money over the last seventeen years has been confined to the period in which the Minister has occupied the portfolio of National Development, which is less than three years. This remarkable statement shows how little the Minister knows about
State requests for Commonwealth financial assistance for water conservation projects. Let me refresh the Minister’s memory. Not only was the Burdekin River proposal put before this Liberal-Country Party Government, but I remind the Minister of the famous statement made by the leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Arthur Fadden, as he then was, on 17th November 1949 in the Government’s election policy speech in Queensland. He said:
We will proceed with the Burdekin scheme immediately and not keep it in a pigeonhole as a blueprint for depression.
That was seventeen years ago and the Government’s contribution to the Burdekin in that period has been the princely sum of nothing. Perhaps the Minister has also forgotten a special Commonwealth committee which investigated the Burdekin scheme and recommended financial assistance for the capital cost of the project conditional, of course, upon satisfactory agreement being reached on basic agricultural matters between the Commonwealth and the State.
I do not intend to waste the time of the House, nor my own time, in quoting further examples of broken promises in the field of national development. If the Minister is anxious to secure more, I suggest that he reads his predecessor’s speech on the creation of the Northern Development Division which, as we all know now, was one of the greatest confidence tricks ever perpetrated by a Federal government on the States of Queensland and Western Australia and on the Northern Territory. Now we see further evidence of this Government’s negative approach to water conservation. Despite pleas from responsible organisations throughout the length and breadth of Australia the Government’s abhorrence of the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is shown by its miserably cold and calculating actions deliberately designed over the last few years with the object of disintegrating this world famous authority which, until his retirement, was guided by Sir William Hudson. Only last week this guiding force, Sir William Hudson, retired. His name will be remembered with pride by future Australians. On behalf of the Opposition I would say that Sir William
Hudson will go down in history as being, above all, a great Australian. This Government will be remembered also - as the Government which refused to allow this great organisation to continue its work of national development in a country screaming out for water conservation.
The Government’s action in its abandonment of the Snowy Mountains Authority will leave a legacy which future generations will condemn. Is it any wonder that international engineers and conservation experts who visit this country are appalled and shocked at the defeatist and negative approach and short-sighted policies of the Government in relation to water conservation as a federal matter? Is it any wonder, for example, that men of the calibre of Sir Ronald East, formerly Chairman of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria - in fact, a Victorian - have condemned this Government for its approach to water conservation in Australia. Sir Ronald East said that Australia was the only country in the world in which the central government did not provide all or a substantial part of the finance required for the construction of large water storages necessary for irrigation and flood control. He said also that the financing of great water developments in Australia was beyond the resources of the States which were trussed in a straightjacket and unable to raise more funds either by income taxation or by borrowing. He said that to say thai such matters were, under the Constitution, matters for the States was to speak with tongue in cheek and both eyes shut, because a section of the Constitution specifically provided that the Commonwealth could make grants for any purpose whatsoever. These were the words of Sir Ronald East in condemning this Government in August 1966.
We have suspected for some time now that the Government’s objective has been to abolish the Snowy Mountains Authority as soon as it had the chance. One need dwell only on the remarks of the Minister for National Development published in the Canberra Times’ of 25th April under the heading ‘S.M.A.’s Future Looks Bleak’. The report states:
The Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, said last night he could see no water conservation scheme in northern Australia to which Snowy Mountains Authority employees could be transferred at the end of the project.
I can conclude only that this was a statement by the Minister. If it were, it is a scandalous statement. In fact it is quite contrary and opposite to statements made in the last few years by Sir William -Hudson himself, and I think Sir William Hudson would know something about water conservation in northern Australia.
The key to water conservation is organisation and funds. We have the organisation in Australia. It is admitted, and I admit it, that we have organisations in the States. There is no doubt that when the Commonwealth Government approaches the States most Premiers or State departmental heads argue that they would rather have funds than the Snowy Mountains Authority. This, of course, is human psychology. It is well known that if a person is running an organisation he likes to build an empire. Whether this is right or not is up to the Government to decide, but Australia does have the organisation. We have the great Snowy Mountains Authority. The Opposition maintains that water conservation is a national responsibility and to argue that there is no project in northern Australia to which the Snowy Mountains Authority could be transferred is absolutely nonsensical.
– Will the honourable member suggest one?
– The Fitzroy, Burdekin, Pioneer and Burnett complex is a region that has been assessed and reassessed many times, lt is an ideal situation in which the Snowy Mountains Authority could work. This project was, in fact, recommended by Sir William Hudson himself. The Government’s attitude is one of defeatism. It says: Water conservation is the responsibility of the States’. This, of course, is the famous catchcry of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). I am sad and surprised that this is the argument that is so often used by the Minister for National Development, because he knows the problems of Australia and the problems of water conservation. He appreciates the great difficulties confronting the States in getting sufficient funds for water conservation.
The late Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, did not let constitutional problems defeat the Federal Government when he decided that water conservation was in almost the same category of priority as defence. He had imagination, faith and courage. He had something that the leaders of this Government do not possess. They would prefer to sell or to give away our vast assets in northern Australia. However, it is impossible for them to give away our water. We must have some progressive action in respect of water conservation to minimise the devastation and misery in some of our areas that are “ periodically affected by drought. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said that one aspect of national development is vivid in our minds from the recent drought - the conservation of water. If he examined the records of Queensland he would find that there have been at least three major droughts since the 1944-46 drought. In the coastal areas commanded by the waters of the Burdekin, Pioneer, Fitzroy and Burnett rivers it is estimated that production losses alone have been about $400m. Australia possesses the brains, skills and, above all, a proven organisation to tackle regions such as the Burdekin and the Fitzroy. These areas are extremely large. If a wall were constructed above the Burdekin Dam on the Burdekin River at the Burdekin Falls we could store sixteen times as much water as is contained in Sydney Harbour, and still there would not be enough room to hold all the water available. These are not my figures; they came from the Co-ordinator-General for Queensland and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, which is now the Department of Primary Industries.
If the Federal Government refuses to accept water conservation as a national responsibility we will see a continuance of the pathetic experience of Queensland where, for the last seventeen years, not one cent has been received from the Commonwealth for water conservation. On the last occasion that I made that remark the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) challenged what I had said. I asked him to name one water conservation scheme in Queensland during that period, but he could not name one. He is to follow me in the debate, so again I ask him to name one water conservation project that the Commonwealth Government has financed in Queensland during the last seventeen years, either by way of loan or by grant. Of course the answer must be that there has not been one. Of the S850m to $900m committed by the Federal Government for water conservation, including work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, not one cent has gone to Queensland in that period, notwithstanding that it is in the proven and established areas of the central coast that we have the greatest potential for water conservation in Australia. To argue that Australia has not the finance for water conservation project’s is wrong.
I refer now to the work of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. It has been estimated that within the next five years a total of $40m annually will be received by the Treasury in repayments in connection with that scheme. A strong case must exist to earmark some of these funds for progressive water development programmes before they are lost in the maze of Consolidated Revenue commitments. The Snowy Mountains Authority is geared to undertake nationally important work immediately. Although staff employed in the construction fields will be kept busy for a number of years to come, the work load with respect to detailed investigations and design is rapidly falling off. The uncertainty associated with the Government’s refusal over the last three years to give a positive decision on the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority is detrimental to the morale of the men. Already th<? resignation and transfer rate is high. Let the Australian Government display some imagination and development courage by immediately throwing overboard its apparent policy of abandonment of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Before it is too late let the flags of this great and proud organisation fly from the mastheads located in the vast Burdekin-Fitzroy basin of Queensland. The Australian nation will hail the decision as one worthy of a government genuinely interested in the nation’s welfare, not just for the present generation but also for the benefit of our sons and grandsons to come. But if we turn our backs on the fundamental problem of conserving our water, we do so at’ our own risk. We shall certainly get no bouquets from future generations for having done so.
There is one bright spot on the horizon. Perhaps the Australian Government does not intend to abandon the Snowy Mountains Authority. I base that remark on no less an authority than the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) who is perhaps qualified to speak on the subject. He said on 25th November last that the $50m which the Federal Government had promised towards developing water conservation would be the start of a national conservation authority. He said he was quite sure that the conservation scheme would be undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Authority. Of course when the Minister said this he was speaking in an electorate, but he is a responsible Minister and is now a member of the Cabinet. As a Minister of the Crown he said he was quite sure that the conservation scheme would be undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Authority. Let us hope that the Minister for National Development’ will comment on that suggestion.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– In conclusion, I ask the Minister for National Development whether the statement made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), who is now the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, that the sum of $50m represents the start of a water conservation authority embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and that the Snowy Mountains Authority will be used as a planning, consultative and sometimes constructional organisation, is a correct or an irresponsible statement. If the Government intends to retain a portion of the design, planning and investigation sections of the Snowy Mountains Authority as a nucleus, will that body have a budget? The Minister knows full well that any body or organisation whose main functions are simply to advise and plan is toothless and clawless unless it has some type of budget.
There was a great fanfare of trumpets when the Bureau of Roads was formed, but I do not think anyone hears or talks about it any more. Just what does that Bureau do? lt was said that it would solve all sorts of problems, but I have not heard anything about it for at least twelve months. There was a similar fanfare of trumpets when the Northern Division of the Department of National Development was created. The greatest problem facing both these bodies is that they have no plan to work upon, simply because they have no budget. If the Government is to retain a nucleus of officers whose main duties will be to advise and plan, they will be a completely innocuous body. This nucleus will be a sad reminder of this great organisation, the Snowy Mountains Authority.
– This motion is the latest in a series of exercises by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in woolly thinking about national development. Unfortunately, all that he has said today is a tedious repetition of what he said last week. I intended to apologise to the House for repeating many of the things I said last week, which apparently the honourable member did not take in, but it will be necessary to apologise only to those honourable members who are left in the chamber after the honourable member finished his remarks.
The honourable member for Dawson seeks only to achieve two things: firstly, to obtain publicity in his own electorate and, secondly, to waste the time of the House. He has been asking about the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority, but he knows perfectly well that he would have only to ask me and I would tell him the position. The Government announced some time ago mat, because it believed that insufficient work was available in the Northern Territory, Papua and New Guinea and the Australian Capital Territory to employ the Snowy Mountains Authority fully or to occupy any reasonable proportion of its officers in those three areas, it would approach the States and seek their views on how the Authority could be used. Unfortunately, one of the States did not reply until very recently. We now have all replies, the last one of which was most satisfactory. We are now able to assess the States’ likely requirements.
My Department has finished preparing all the documents on this matter for the Cabinet. These will be looked at this week by various other departments which are interested and will then be ready to go to the Government for decision. It is all very well to have this woolly approach and to say: ‘Water running to waste in the north. Why do you not put the Snowy Mountains Authority on to it?’ This is a broad brush outlook which ignores the fact that the Authority is not a conservation authority like the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in New South Wales or similar commissions in other States. The State authorities do not just build dams, but the Snowy Mountains Authority is a construction authority only. It was set up to carry out a plan which was designed for it before it moved into the area. The design was basically that of Sir Louis Loder, although admittedly the Authority, as a result of research and investigations in the area, altered parts of the original basic plan. However, the basic concept was set out, and the Authority was the constructing authority. It carried out the job magnificently. I have the highest regard for the way in which the Authority carried out the work that it was set up to undertake.
We should not blind ourselves to the fact that there are other organisations which can carry out water conservation work in Australia. We hear very little of the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission, yet until very recently there was a greater amount of installed hydro-electric power in Tasmania than that covered by the Snowy Mountains Authority. I appreciate that the Authority performs some work better than does any other authority in Australia. I am referring to work particularly associated with research and to the investigation and design of dams. However, there are great difficulties in setting up an authority. To set up an authority and then to ask what it can do is rather putting the cart before the horse. This is not the answer. We must discover what is necessary and then set up an organisation to undertake the work.
One might ask: Is there any work for which money is available which cannot be carried out because of lack of suitable construction authorities? The answer is that every State which receives money for water conservation is perfectly able to carry out that work. There may be occasions when there is a peak requirement for certain types of engineers. There may be some difficulties if some project suddenly expands, but basically all States are competent to carry out water conservation work provided they receive the money. I know that the honourable member for Dawson and various other honourable members think that, if the Snowy Mountains Authority is available to the States, the States will get something for nothing - that they will get money over and above what they are now getting. But the States realise they will have to pay for this work out of their own budgets, except for the additional sums which the Commonwealth in its good offices sees fit to grant them. A very considerable amount of water conservation is being undertaken today in a number of ways. Such projects are being carried out by the States partly with loan moneys. Let us not forget that the States have adequate loan moneys which are supplemented very considerably by the Commonwealth, partly through tax reimbursements and partly through special grants. It is interesting to see listed in the booklet produced recently by my Department the major conservation or development projects in Australia which have a value of more than $lm. There are seventy-four of these under construction in Australia at present. Does this show that this Government lacks sympathy for the State governments or has failed to respond to any approach from them to assist in water conservation? Of course it does not. In New South Wales there are twenty-five different projects, each costing Sim or more, now under way.
The honourable member for Dawson, for political reasons, seeks to draw attention to the one success to which the Labor Party can draw attention - that it was a Labor Government which made the final decision to proceed with the Snowy Mountains scheme. We pay the Labor Party full credit for having done so. But all I can say is: Thank God the Labor Party did not have to carry out that work. We have seen results, particularly in New South Wales, of the ineptitude of Labor governments in projects of this sort. It would make one weep. A Labor Government started one dam in 1946 and finished it in 1958. It was estimated to cost £1.5m but the final cost was £13m. Another dam, started in 1946 at an estimated cost of £2m, was finished in 1958 at a cost of £18.5m. I am not certain I have given the right date for the completion of that dam. The time seems a little short for the Labor Party to finish something commenced in 1946 - it was finished in 1966. That is what would have happened in the Snowy Mountains. Honourable members know perfectly well that a Labor government would have used day labour. A Labor government would not have achieved the great efficiency which comes from the use of contracts, close supervision and the provision of adequate finance. Those things have made the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority one of the best organisations ever to undertake major constructional work in Australia. After eighteen years the Authority is still on target and still on time. It has done a magnificent job.
Honourable members opposite should not think that an organisation such as the Authority can be moved easily merely because water is running to waste somewhere in Queensland. One cannot say: ‘Here is $100m. Go up there and when you finish spending this sum we will give you more.’ This is not the way to undertake water conservation. First there has to be a plan and plans are not produced by a constructing authority.
Having said that a Labor government had started the major water conservation work in the Snowy Mountains, the honourable member for Dawson tried to show that this Government is not water conscious. How absurd that is. I do not want to bore the House again with a list of what this Government has done but it has some great achievements in water conservation. I will repeat one thing I told honourable members: When this Government came into office the capacity of major storage dams in Australia was 7.000,000 acre feet. Today the capacity is 26,000,000 acre feet. When all work now under construction is finished it will be 36,000,000 acre feet. This is the result of deeds, not words, it is easy to paint with a broad brush a picture of schemes for the north. The Labor Party says that water is running to waste in the north and that the Commonwealth should move in. But never, so far as I know, has the Labor Party came forward and said: Here is a specific scheme. This is what we ought to do.’ The Labor Party does not know what it wants to do.
The Prime Minister announced in his policy speech that his Government would provide $50m over a five year period for water conservation over and above what the States were doing. But what did the Labor Party say? Of course it promised the Ord River project because it wanted a few votes in the west. Apart from that, all it said was that what was happening in the north where water was running to waste was a tragedy. Then it went on to refer to forestry. It is ludicrous for members of a party to say that the Government should do things if they themselves are not prepared to put forward some concrete scheme.
The honourable member for Dawson mentioned one plan put to the Commonwealth for investigation. That was the plan for the construction of a big dam in Queensland. The Commonwealth refused this request’ - this was about twelve years ago - and since then it has not been brought up again. I do not know the grounds for the refusal because I was not a Minister then. But surely the fact that the representations have not been renewed shows that there is not a great deal of interest in that scheme. The only other request made by the Queensland Government to the Commonwealth since I have been Minister relates to the proposed Emerald dam. But the Government cannot just go ahead immediately and say: ‘Righto, it will be right’. A clear assessment has to be made of what can be grown in the area concerned, whether the produce can be sold, whether the soil is suitable for those crops and where the actual dam site will be. An assessment has to be made of the run off and every other matter relating to the project. Therefore the Commonwealth did what one would expect it to do; it referred the matter to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and asked it for a report on the project.
– How many years ago?
– I will come to that if the honourable member will keep quiet. The initial report received was rather unfavourable. The Bureau said that it did not want to throw the matter out but wanted to refer it back again to the Queensland Government to see whether there was any way in which the scheme could be improved. I can give one example of the investigation that the Commonwealth has to do. For the dam on the Nogoa River, in order to get a minimum annual flow of 120,000 acre feet, it would be necessary to build a dam at least ten times that size - a dam with a capacity of about 1,200,000 acre feet. Obviously this would be expensive water. The reason for this is that the area has only a rather marginal rainfall. It is a little too far to the west. Nevertheless, although there is every possibility that a closer investigation of the scheme would show that the water would be more expensive than we would like, or more expensive than the water which could be provided in the Ord River area where the cost per acre foot of water stored in the major dam would be reasonably favourable, undoubtedly some costs associated with the Emerald project would be lower than those at the Ord River. The Emerald dam would be in a settled area where there are roads and schools and telephone and other facilities. Many of the facilities available in central Queensland are not available in the Ord River area.
The Commonwealth and the State governments do not make hasty decisions on these things. There have been further discussions, and they are still going on. I hope to visit this area myself during the recess in order to have a close look at it. But this is the one project for which the Queensland Government has sought funds over and above what it is prepared to provide itself. Apparently the honourable member for Dawson thinks that all that has to be done is to set up an authority and move it into the State concerned, whether the State wants it or not, although he does suggest that there should be consultation with the States. I stress again that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is a constructing authority. It does not know rainfall run offs and does not plan the development of water resources in the way that any of the State organisations do. Unlike the Australian Water Resources Council, it would not know the facts and figures of Australian rainfall.
The honourable member for Dawson almost gave the impression that he had come forward for the first time with this plan that there should be consultation between the States and the Commonwealth. This is ludicrous. To my knowledge consultation has been going on between the
Commonwealth and the State governments ever since 1916 when the River Murray Commission was established. The Commonwealth has been in touch with the States on numerous occasions and has assisted them with water conservation projects such as the Blowering Dam, the Chowilla Dam, and the Ord River diversion dam. On the Snowy project the Commonwealth has spent $600m and has to spend another $200m. Over and above that, we have got together with the States on the Water Resources Council and evolved a ten-year stepped up programme of assessing water resources throughout Australia. I said in answer to a question in the House yesterday that this programme has proved remarkably successful. New points are being established for surface water run-off assessment at a very much faster rate than we had hoped. It is planned under the programme to increase the number of measurement points from 1,300 to about 2,800 and to step up the search for underground water. This is going ahead so fast that after the first three years we have been asked to increase our contribution to the States for this work. We have agreed to increase the allocation from $2,750,000, which was provided for the first three years, to $4,500,000 in the next three years. I do not want to take up any more time as I know that some of my colleagues want to speak in this debate. I listed many points when listening to the honourable member for Dawson. He spoke of the vastly increased rate of resignations from the Snowy Mountains Authority. My figures show that resignations in the year ended 30th June 1965 were 16.23% of the work force, and 17.98% in the year ended 30th June 1966. Surely that is not a vast increase in the rate of resignations. 1 repeat that the Commonwealth will shortly make a decision in the light of every known factor. The Commonwealth will consider the position both from its own point of view and from the point of view of likely work available to the Snowy Mountains Authority from the States, and I am sure it is in the best position to make a decision.
– Once again we have heard the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) r eli a story of what has happened in the past, but he has not given any definite information of what is likely to take place in the future. He carefully avoided the question of the use of the work force of the Snowy Mountains Authority. His remarks about the lack of projects and plans prove clearly that the motion moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) should receive the support of every member in this House. It should have particular appeal to members representing country electorates. We should be able to look forward to receiving full support from Country Party members.
A very important part of the motion is that which calls for the Snowy Mountains Authority to be included in the proposed Water Conservation and Constructing Authority. The soundness of this suggestion is obvious when we think of the skill and knowledge gained by members of the Snowy Mountains Authority from their experience on the Snowy project. The point is that the Snowy Mountains Authority should have a continuing role in Australia’s national development, in which, of course, water supplies will play an important part, if not the most important part.
Honourable members will recall the continual efforts of the former member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Allan Fraser, who by way of question and otherwise, suggested retention of the experts on the Snowy Mountains Authority. That is a completely different attitude from that adopted by the sitting member for the area. Though the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and other Ministers have implied in this House that the technical men of the Snowy Mountains Authority should not be lost to Australia, they have failed to take positive action to ensure their retention. In April 1963, just over four years ago, Sir Robert Menzies said:
You do not want to see a great technical organisation like the Snowy scheme fade away.
I am not contemplating that it will take years to evolve any scheme for the future. You can take it we are interested in getting full future benefit from the Snowy Mountains set-up.
I do not know what priority the former Prime Minister had in mind when he said that it should not take years to evolve a further scheme. Four years after that statement was made we do not appear to be any closer to a scheme of any size, or to retention of the staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is common knowledge that many of the senior experts have since sought and found other positions. We are further behind today than we were four years ago in the matter of retaining the skill and knowledge of these experienced men. If Government members are serious in saying that it is important to retain the technical organisation of the Snowy Mountains Authority, surely an announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) or the Minister for National Development is well and truly overdue.
Personally, I thought the Minister was interested in some aspects of water conservation, and I still think he is. 1 believe, however, that he is being hamstrung to some extent in his efforts. It would be interesting to know how much support he receives from members of the Country Party. I am led to believe that he receives very little. I understand that several months ago the Minister for National Development submitted certain recommendations to Cabinet on how the Snowy Mountains Authority could be used. Those recommendations were brushed aside, largely through lack of support by Country Party Ministers. I would be interested to hear where the Country Party stands on this matter.
Government members when discussing matters of this nature in the House put up all sorts of stories of what has happened in the past, but they never adduce concrete statements of what is likely to happen in the future. A firm declaration of the Government’s intention in relation to the men of the Snowy Mountains Authority is long overdue and there can be no good reason at this late stage why a full explanation should not be given, with full information on what the Government has in mind, if anything. If that information is not forthcoming we are entitled to conclude that the Government has no plans, is not interested in retaining these skilled men, or considers that the systematic development of water conservation works is not a subject in which it is vitally interested. In 1965, in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme and the necessity of retaining the skill and experience of the Authority’s senior experts, the Minister for National Development implied that the Government did not need to retain them because there were plenty of other men in Australia with equal knowledge and experience. He said: ‘We cannot honestly say that without the Snowy Mountains Authority great works of this nature could not be undertaken’. I do not deny we have other engineers and men with technical knowledge in Australia, but in a country like ours that should be progressing at a rapid rate, but sadly is not, we cannot afford to lose any people of experience with a good knowledge in development work, whether it be in the field of water, mining, power or construction. These officers must, if possible, be retained. If this Government were pursuing the development programme that it should be, we would still be well and truly short of skilled men, though we have a fair number in Australia at present
At the beginning of the Snowy Mountains scheme, very few Australian engineers had the qualifications needed to cope with work on the Snowy project. As a result of the lack of qualified people a special training scheme was put into operation, involving both oversea training and what is termed as ‘in service’ training. As a result of that training, together with experience gained on the job, no-one can deny that the Authority has over the years built up in Australia a team of professional and subprofessional officers with the knowledge, qualifications and experience to make them completely competent to undertake any development work, regardless of its size, complexity or situation. Surely no-one will suggest that we can afford to lose people such as this.
Another important part of the motion takes cognisance of the fact that State governments would be associated with the Commonwealth in establishing a conservation and constructing authority. This is. in effect, a form of joint representation. This should and would mean, if done properly, that State governments, particularly those in which particular projects should be investigated or carried out, would not be subjected to delays and frustration that beset them under the present method. There would be a co-ordinated move in all respects to obviate unnecessary expenditure and duplication. They would be able to arrive at a common estimate. This is important. Noone will suggest that any .State government would offer resistance in such a favourable situation. In 1965 both the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for National
Development expressed doubt as to whether enough work could be found to keep the Snowy Mountains Authority occupied. This demonstrates rather queer thinking on the part of Ministers in the Government of a country such as this. I thought we would all agree that there will be an increasing need for water conservation in Australia for several years to come.
As I said a few weeks ago in a debate on water conservation, more than 600 million acre feet of water flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Timor Sea every year from our northern rivers system, and I point out now that from the south eastern rivers systems, which include virtually all the other river systems of Australia, more than 220 million acre feet of water flows into the sea. This comes from the south eastern slopes and from the Murray system east of the Darling. So here we have a total of more than 800 million acre feet of water escaping into the sea by rivers which could be dammed and in which a large proportion of this 800 million acre feet could be stored. Yet we have Ministers telling us that a national authority on water could not be gainfully employed. This must mean simply that the Government does not want to employ or even to establish such an authority.
If an authority were established along the lines we suggest, with the State Governments being associated with it, the Commonwealth would find itself compelled to do much more than it is doing to satisfy the demands of the States. It would need to become actively interested in water conservation in several places. This in turn would mean it would be obliged to make more money available and this, of course, is what the Government does not want to do. This is one of the things that we are up against, as was pretty clearly indicated by the developments in connection with the Ord River scheme.
Early last year when this country was suffering a very severe drought, which must surely have caused concern to every honourable member and every other person with a knowledge of the suffering that drought entails, the honourable member for Dawson, with his usual awareness of situations involving water conservation and development, moved a motion in this House calling on the Government to provide the
States with additional funds for the immediate construction of practical water storages. During the debate one Government supporter, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is now a Minister of the Government, was very critical of any suggestion that storage of water would have any value in combating droughts. He tried to ridicule the honourable member for Dawson by implying that he was arguing for dams to be constructed to combat the drought from which we were suffering at that very time. This approach to such a serious problem by a member who has now become a Minister gives a pretty clear indication of the Government’s attitude to water conservation. No matter what proposal is made and no matter what resolution follows the proposal, if it has anything to do with water conservation Government supporters, including those of the Country Party, can always find an excuse for rejecting the proposal. If there is any suggestion that the Snowy Mountains Authority might become involved the Government opposes it even before hearing any argument.
Last year it was too late to do anything in the way of water conservation to solve th. problem of the drought which was ravaging this country, but what has happened since to try to avert the possibility of a similar future tragedy? Absolutely nothing - and the Government becomes critical because the Labor Party is trying to do something to force the issue. And does the Labor Party receive any assistance or encouragement from the Country Party in its attempt to help the people most concerned, the people whom the Country Party claims to represent, the farmers, the pastoralists, the orchardists and so on? Not likely. As a matter of fact the Country Party has resisted every one of our proposals and has come down completely on the side of the Liberal Party. The Labor Party is waging a lone fight with regard to water supplies but we will win through eventually because water is the lifeblood of this country, and its conservation and proper distribution are matters of national importance and necessity.
We hear Government members professing support of decentralisation, but we do not see them doing anything to bring it about. How can we expect to decentralise our population if we are not prepared to ensure plentiful and permanent water supplies wherever it is possible to do so? The future development of some 75% of Australia will depend almost entirely on whether or not a proper water conservation scheme is established, and this can be done only through an authority working with the States in a systematic manner. This is what we are asking the Government to do. Surely the Government does not claim that our proposition is impossible. Surely it does not say that it is unwise. Certainly it could not say that it is opposed to the best interests of Australia. If the Government does make any of these claims it should substantiate them - and so far it has not been able to do so. If it does not make these claims it should come down in support of our resolution. This applies with even greater force in the case of members of the Country Party.
Water, in sufficient quantities and readily available, is our most urgent requirement, and unless this requirement is fulfilled we can never develop properly. The present state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue for much longer, and there is no reason why it should continue. In most areas where water is most urgently required there are huge quantities of it going to waste, and it is in those areas that conservation could be carried out by systematic methods. No one suggests that the job can be done overnight. It is not suggested that it can all be done in a matter of a few years. But it can be done and it must be done systematically and as quickly as possible. At the moment there is no system and no planning. It could not be suggested, by any stretch of the imagination, that the States and the Commonwealth are working in any kind of co-ordination. In fact the opposite applies. Whenever a scheme is proposed by one of the States the Commonwealth looks for ways not of supporting the proposal but of knocking it over.
The Minister has told us on more than one occasion that any proposal for the future employment of the Snowy Mountains Authority or any part of it will have to come from the States, but the Commonwealth gives the States no encouragement to make approaches and we hear constant howls about the lack of finance for development. How could Western Australia, for instance, expect any sympathetic understanding from the Commonwealth with regard to its water conservation requirements after the treatment it received in connection with the Ord River project? The Minister has frequently told us what a great future the Ord project has, but the fact is that we can never induce the Government to go ahead with the project. It always finds some excuse for failing to do so.
I should imagine that the States are heartily sick and tired of coming cap in hand to a Government which not only rejects their proposals but also ridicules their assessments and then invites them to come back again and receive similar treatment. The Liberal Party in Western Australia directed its members in this Parliament, just before the last election, to support the Ord River project and water conservation generally. Where are those members today? Where do they stand on this proposal of ours? Are they going to support it? Or was the direction given by the Liberal Party in Western Australia meant only for immediate electioneering purposes? Where were those members a few weeks ago when we proposed a resolution regarding water supplies in the north of Australia? Again they were conspicuous by their silence. Yet the Minister suggests that it is up to the States to approach the Commonwealth and to make their own determinations as to how they would use the experts of the Snowy Mountains Authority. How can Liberal Governments in the various States expect any consideration when members of their own Party and of their own States will not even support a proposal of the kind we are putting forward today?
The results that have been achieved by the Snowy Mountains Authority have proved beyond all doubt that we have the skills, the knowledge and the people to carry out water conservation and power schemes wherever sufficient water is available and wherever we decide that those schemes should be carried out. All that is lacking is the approval of this Government and its willingness to make sufficient finance available, to establish a proper authority to estimate the work, estimate its cost and put it into operation. As I said a few minutes ago, we cannot expect to do all this in the short term, but for heaven’s sake let’s get cracking. Let us at least set up the authority; let us at least get it working on the first necessary essentials of the more important projects.
It is almost eighteen years since the Labor Party commenced the Snowy Mountains scheme. The major work in connection with that scheme is now nearing completion. Labor’s approach to water conservation and power supplies has been proved successful, and there is no reason why similar work, even if narrower in scope, should not also be successful. The establishment of an authority which would include the existing Snowy Mountains Authority would be the first major step towards the carrying out of works of this kind, but the Minister claims that there is no purpose in establishing an authority until we have determined what work it would perform. If that is the correct approach - and I do not accept that it is - and if this Government remains in office, we will never have an authority of this kind because the Government has no plans, and apparently never will have any, for a national programme of water conservation or other major development in which the skills of the Snowy Mountains Authority would be necessary. At least it has not told us of any. The fact is that the skill and experience of the experts of the Snowy Mountains Authority could be gainfully used in determining what should be done and how it could be done. This would be of great value. It is hard to understand how an Australian government could be so unconcerned at the probability of losing such skill and experience as exists in the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is harder still to understand how Liberal Party and Country Party members from Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory could fail to support our proposition. Apparently they are not concerned with water supply or the almost certain ravages of future drought in parts of their States and Territory. They are concerned only with supporting a government or holding a portfolio in a government. They have no concern for the people whom they are supposed to represent. When we on this side of the House have argued that the Snowy Mountains Authority could be gainfully used in the northern parts of Australia the Government has replied that little can bs grown in those areas that may be exported and sold on the world’s markets and that the local market would not be sufficient to warrant the type of large scale irrigation projects in which one could expect a national authority to become engaged.
Last year the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr lan Allan) advanced a proposal affecting his own electorate. What happened? What happened on other occasions when water conservation schemes were suggested? The Minister for National Development told us that irrigation was not the means by which to resolve the problem of droughts. He said that the major responsibility for action rested on farmers themselves. I agree that there is a responsibility on farmers, pastoralists and orchardists to provide some protection against droughts. This they can do when the drought is of short duration, but they cannot do much about a prolonged drought. Surely there is some responsibility on the Federal Government to ensure that when water is available it is conserved so that it may be used when required.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– -If words were water we would not have any trouble about irrigation in Australia after listening to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). What is frightening to anybody from a rural area is to hear the ideas and suggestions advanced by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie as to the proper approach to water conservation. Theirs is an academic approach. I maintain that the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority would not provide one acre foot of extra water in Australia. The limiting factor in water conservation in this country is finance.
MrJ. R.Fraser - And rain.
– That is right, but that has nothing to do with the Snowy Mountains Authority. All States have their own organisations for carrying out water conservation work. Their activities are limited only by the availability of finance. When we undertake irrigation projects we want to be sure that they are located in the areas where they will be of the greatest use to the people. The honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie spoke of the ravages of drought. In almost the next breath they said that tens of thousands of acre feet of water were flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Timor Sea. They want to store this water. But for what purpose would they use the water if it were stored in the far north? We as rural people are concerned with water conservation in the closely settled areas of Australia.
– Does the Minister read the newspapers?
– I have listened to the honourable member. These are the important things to which I refer. I am aware that without a dam having been erected, 300,000 acre feet of water is available in the Daly River in the Northern Territory, but nobody is using that water. Goodness knows how many acre feet of water are available in the Victoria River. There are tremendous amounts of water in the Roper River, the Gilbert River and the Mitchell River, but nobody uses it. I know these areas well. I know that cattle are raised in the areas. But nobody is using the water of those rivers. The water is there for the taking.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the motion has expired. The Minister for Territories will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be an order of the day under general business for the next sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1962-66 so as to give effect to new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion. The proposed arrangements envisage an increase in the total Government contributions for these activities, as outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech last November. In addition, some amendments are proposed to facilitate the administration of the Act.
Recent years have witnessed a very considerable expansion in wool promotion activities and in wool research. The organisational basis for this expansion was laid by the passage of the Wool Industry Act in 1962, which reconstituted the Australian Wool Board and widened its functions. To the Board’s traditional function of promoting wool was added, among other things, the responsibility for recommending to the Minister for Primary Industry expenditure on wool research and for administering the annual research budgets. The stepping up of wool promotion to its current scale was initiated in 1964, following the adoption by wool growers of a plan to launch a greatly expanded promotion campaign for wool throughout the world. This plan was prepared by the International Wool Secretariat, which is the joint promotional agency of the Wool Boards of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The funds required to finance the plan were so substantial that Australian wool growers asked the Government to assist them in providing Australia’s share This assistance was granted for a three year period ending June 1967, with provision for review at the end of that period.
The Wool Industry Act was amended in May 1964 to implement this measure which committed the Government to match, for the three year period in question, all grower contributions for promotion after the first $1 per bale. In practice this commitment meant that the Government, which had previously not contributed for wool promotion, undertook to provide funds equal to those contributed by wool growers over and above their former levy of $1 per bale.
Concurrently with the amendment of the Wool Industry Act, new Wool Tax Acts were passed to change the levy on wool growers for research and promotion from a flat rate per bale to a percentage deduction from the gross value of wool sold. This change had been requested by the industry to achieve greater equity in the incidence of the levy. The Acts provided that the levy for research and promotion must not exceed 2% per annum.
However, the research component of the levy, payable into the Wool Research Trust Fund under the Wool Industry Act, was left unaltered at the equivalent of 20c per bale from growers while the Government continued its contribution of 40c per bale.
On the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the combined levy payable for research and promotion by wool growers was fixed at 11% for 1964-65 and at 2% for 1965-66 and 1966-67. A levy of this order represents an appreciable deduction from the producer’s cheque. Many wool growers, however, regard it not only as money well spent but as the price to be paid for the well being of their industry. They are mindful of the substantial benefits already reaped by the industry from research discoveries and conscious that without promotion their product may not be able to withstand the competition from synthetic fibres.
The discoveries which have been made to date from research activities have benefited the wool grower in two ways. Firstly, developments such as improved methods of sheep husbandry, control of diseases and pests, pasture improvement and development of new grasses, have helped him to increase productivity. Secondly, the discoveries made to improve the methods of processing wool and improve its performance characteristics, such as permanent pleating, shrinkproofng and easy care properties, have all assisted greatly to enhance wool’s competitive ability. However, a good deal still remains to be done in the field of wool production, particularly in regional research and especially in the application of research findings. There is also large scope for further research work into wool processing; into ways of overcoming the few remaining shortcomings of wool; and in finding new uses for wool.
Those who think that the competition facing wool is being exaggerated do not seem to realise that something approaching a revolution has happened in the field of textiles over the last two decades. Where only fifteen years ago such items as sweaters, suits or blankets were synonymous with wool, this is no longer the case. Today the consumer wishing to buy these items in wool would be well advised to look at the label. An increasing range of synthetic and blended products is appearing in stores and shop windows, and their quality is improving. A generation is growing up which has no particular allegiance to wool. Unless these young people - and many of thenelders - are made aware that wool still offers the best all round value, their choice may increasingly fall on substitutes which are frequently cheaper and invariably represented as superior. This is where an effective promotion campaign can yield dividends. The need to take all action possible to assure the future of our great wool growing industry is a matter for concern not only to wool growers but to all Australians. Wool is still Australia’s most important export commodity, providing not less than 30% of our foreign exchange earnings and often a great deal more. These earnings have played and must continue to play a key role in the development of our economy. Vast areas of inland Australia are dependent on wool growing as the only source of livelihood, and the future of these areas is, for better or worse, bound up with the future of wool. It was these considerations that led the Government three years ago to grant the request for help by this industry, which was trying to help itself to the limit of its capacity. It is also these considerations that we must bear in mind when considering the Bill before us.
I have already mentioned that the Government contribution for wool promotion expires in June next. This is not the case with the Government contribution for wool research but here a different problem arises. The Government’s contribution of 40c per bale, together with the 20c per bale contributed by wool growers, have long been inadequate to meet the cost of the research programme. Thus for some years an increasing proportion of this programme has been financed out of reserves in the Wool Research Trust Fund. By June next, the reserves will be depleted to the minimum working level and unless additional income is provided for the next and succeeding years, the programme will have to be heavily reduced.
The need to find new revenue to finance wool research and the question of a Government contribution for promotion after June 1967 were considered by the Executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Executive, with the assistance of the Australian Wool Board, conducted a detailed review of the funds required to finance research and promotion over the five years commencing 1st July 1967. The assessment of the funds required was subsequently endorsed by the full Wool Industry Conference.
In considering the ways in which the finance should be provided, the Conference concluded that wool growers were not in a position to increase their annual levy for research and promotion above 2% because the situation of many growers had been adversely affected by the recent drought as well as by lower returns due to increased costs which have not been accompanied by increased wool prices. Accordingly, the Conference requested the Government to renew and increase its contribution for research and promotion by matching dollar for dollar all funds contributed by woolgrowers by way of levy for these activities over the three-year period 1967-68 to 1969-70. The position would be reviewed at the end of the threeyear period. This suggestion involved the replacement of the present system, under which the Government and wool growers contribute at different rates, by one of equal contributions. The Conference also suggested that the apportionment of wool grower and Government contributions between research and promotion should be made annually by the Minister for Primary Industry after considering the recommendations of the Conference. Finally, the Conference suggested that the reserves at present held by the Wool Board for promotion could be used, if necessary, to meet any shortfall between funds contributed by growers and the Government and the total requirement for promotion.
The Government examined the proposals of the Wool Industry Conference in the light of estimated future financial requirements for wool research and promotion and other relevant factors. It came to the conclusion that the basis suggested by the Conference was, on the whole, justified by circumstances but decided that its annual contribution for research and promotion during the next three financial years should be subject to a maximum of $14m per annum. This ceiling on the Government contribution is, in the Government’s view, not unreasonable. Even on a conservative assessment of the future wool production and price prospects, the amount obtained from a levy on growers of not more than 2% per annum should be such that with reasonable use of the promotion reserves now held by the Wool Board, a Government contribution not exceeding $14m should suffice to make up the total amount required for research and promotion over the next three years. While the ceiling of $14m per annum on the Government’s contribution is considered capable of meeting all reasonable contingencies, it is recognised that it may not be sufficient in the event of abnormal or exceptional circumstances such as a drastic fall in wool production or prices. In such an event the Government would be prepared to review the position before the end of the three-year period.
In clause 12 of the Bill effect is given to the Government’s decision to renew and increase its financial assistance for wool research and promotion. This clause provides that during the next three financial years - that is, 1967-68 to 1969-70 - the Government will contribute for wool research and promotion on the basis of matching, dollar for dollar, moneys paid by wool growers for these activities by way of levy on wool sold in this period, subject to the Government’s contribution not exceeding $14m in any one year. No change is proposed to the Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 to 5) 1964, which provide for the payment by wool growers of a levy at a rate not exceeding 2% per annum. At present the Government’s contribution for wool research and promotion ranges between $10m and $llm annually. So the proposed arrangements mean an increase of from $3m to $4m per annum in these contributions.
Clause 12 further provides that the levy paid by wool growers under the Wool Tax Acts and the Government’s matching grant will be apportioned annually by the Minister for Primary Industry between wool research and promotion, after considering the recommendations made in this this regard by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The method used will be that the Minister, after considering the recom mendations of the Conference, will determine the total sum that will be paid from wool fax collections into the Wool Research Trust Fund for research. This determination will automatically allocate the balance of wool tax collections to the Wool Board - that is, for promotion. The Government will match the respective amounts paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund and to the Wool Board subject to these amounts together not exceeding $14m per annum.
The rate of expenditure on wool research and promotion during the course or a year differs, and at certain times a greater proportion of the industry and the Government contribution may be required foi monthly payments for research than for promotion, or vice versa. Accordingly, some flexibility is desirable to regulate the flow of payments as required. This is provided in clause 12, which authorises the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry to determine, within the overall determination made by the Minister, the rate of payments to the Wool Research Trust Fund and to the Wool Board respectively. The Bill also contains appropriate provisions which terminate as from 30th June 1967 the present arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion. However, these provisions have been drafted in such a way as to enable any contributions which become due under the existing arrangements after 30th June 1967 to be paid to the Wool Research Trust Fund or to the Wool Board.
I now turn to the other amendments to the Wool Industry Act which are proposed in the Bill in order to facilitate administration of the Act. It is considered that, as a general principle, income derived by recipients of grants from the Wool Research Trust Fund by the sale of assets, goods, livestock, etc. bought or produced from grants made from the Fund, as well as income earned from royalties on inventions resulting from projects financed from the Fund should, as far as possible, revert to the Fund or be used in some other way for the benefit of the wool industry. There is some doubt, however, as to whether the present provisions of the Wool Industry Act are adequate to achieve this end. In order to remove this doubt, clause 11 proposes to replace section 69 of the Act, which enables agreements to be entered into with recipients of grants from the Fund, by a new section. The new section strengthens the existing provisions by specifying the more important aspects relating to wool research which can be covered by agreements. Specifically, the new section provides that agreements may state the purposes for which research grants may be used; that income derived from property acquired with grants from the Fund or from the sale of such property must revert to the Fund; and that income earned from patents arising from inventions resulting from projects financed from the Fund must ‘ be paid to the Fund.
In determining the proportion of income which should revert to the Fund, the main consideration will be the extent to which the research project was financed from the Fund. However, in some cases the decision could be influenced by factors other than the level of financial contributions. In these cases, in the Bill discretion is given to the Minister to vary the proportion of income payable to the Fund as circumstances may warrant. Provision is also made in the new section for the Minister to authorise a member or officer of the Australian Wool Board to enter into agreements with recipients of grants from the Fund. As the Wool Board has a large measure of responsibility for the administration of the wool research programme, it would be convenient if the Minister could empower the Board to enter into agreements in those cases where he considers this desirable.
Lastly, the new section provides that property acquired with grants from the Fund and patent rights resulting from work financed from the Fund may be assigned by agreement to the Commonwealth or to the Wool Board. Such assignments would take place where the parties to the agreement mutually agreed that this would be the most appropriate course to follow. Provision is also made in the new section and elsewhere in the Bill requiring the Commonwealth and the Wool Board to pay income received from property and patents assigned to them, or the proceeds from the sale of assigned property, into the Fund. Again, as the Wool Board is largely responsible for the administration of wool research, it would simplify matters administratively if authority could be delegated to the Board to make small increases in grants which had been approved by the Minister from the Wool Research Trust Fund for research projects, scholarships, etc., on the basis of estimated expenditure but which had proved to be inadequate. The extent to which the Board would be able to increase the grants, and the types of cases where it would be permitted to do so, would be prescribed by regulation. An amendment to this effect is proposed in clause 10.
Finally, the Bill proposes an amendment of section 27 of the Wool Industry Act which specifies that the Wool Board may not pay its employees a salary in excess of $7,500 per annum unless the Minister approves. In accordance with normal practice, the Minister’s approval to pay such higher salaries is given only with the concurrence of the Higher Salaries Committee of the Cabinet. Since the Wool Industry Act was passed by Parliament in 1962, the salary level above which the approval of the Higher Salaries Committee is required has been increased to $8,400 per annum. The proposed amendment would bring this particular section of the Act up to date and would also provide for a higher rate to be prescribed by regulation should the sum of $8,400 per annum be increased by the Higher Salaries Committee in the future.
The introduction of this Bill marks another phase in the co-operation of the woolgrowing industry and the Government in taking measures to assist in safeguarding the future of an industry that is very important to the Australian economy. The new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion should ensure, firstly, that sufficient funds are available to carry on the research effort designed to assist growers in the field of wool production and to improve the performance characteristics of their product, and secondly, it will be possible to continue unabated the present world-wide promotion campaign aimed to stimulate the demand for wool. Moreover, the Bill demonstrates the readiness of the Government to back an industry which has long shown a willingness to help itself. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to make certain desirable adjustments in the provisions relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to take account of recent changes in social services legislation insofar as the granting of concessional broadcast listeners and television viewers licences is concerned. I will deal firstly with the matters pertaining to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The Act’ as it stands at present provides that there shall be seven commissioners. Since this number was determined in 1948 the Commission’s services have been greatly expanded, not only in the broadcasting field, but also in the field of television - a new service which has grown from nothing to an almost nationwide coverage of population in ten years. It has been recommended from time to time that the size of the Commission should be increased. In particular I refer to the reports of the Royal Commission on Television and a Committee of the Senate. The Government realises that the Commission is faced with many and varied problems in fulfilling the range of its responsibilities to the community, and therefore, to bring the best spread of experience to these problems as well as to ensure that the national service is not’ employed in the interests of any particular group, it is proposed to increase the number of commissioners from seven to nine.
The Bill does not seek to make any inroads on the independence of the Commission. It is, I think, desirable that the independent role of the Commission be clearly stated. Basically there are two elements to be considered. Firstly, there is the provision of resources both physical and financial for the establishment and operation of the national services. These resources are provided from public funds voted by Parliament. As such the resources are public property for which the government of the day is responsible to the Parliament. The second element relates to the programme responsibilities which for good reasons are quite distinct in the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Commission is virtually vested with a public trust for the provision of national broadcasting and television programmes. The Government believes that, subject only to the provisions of the Act, the Commission should be free and independent to make its own programme judgments within the limits of the resources that it has available. I can assure the Parliament that the Government has not sought to change this situation.
The Bill seeks to make a number of minor amendments which, in the main, are related to administration within the Commission. Provision is sought for an increase in the salary level beyond which the Minister’s authority is required before payment can be authorised. To facilitate management in the future it is intended that at the appropriate time a higher amount may be prescribed by regulation. In common with most large undertakings, the Commission has a constant and increasing need for trained staff in specialised fields. There persons are trained at the Commission’s expense and expect to be promoted on the satisfactory completion of their training. Provision is being sought for the Commission to advance these officers automatically to the positions for which they have been trained. Such positions will be prescribed by regulation. Clause 7 of the Bill removes the present restrictions on the Commission in the permanent employment of married women. The recent social services legislation raised the permissible limit of income for pensioners and introduced a new allowance to be paid to incapacitated persons who undertook sheltered employment.
The Bill is also designed to include a recipient of the sheltered employment allowance in the group of pensioners who qualify for concessional broadcast listeners and television viewers licences and to take cognisance of the increased income limit for pensioners insofar as residential qualification of licence holders is concerned. The object of the sheltered employment allowance is to encourage disabled persons to seek gainful employment within their capabilities. Such persons normally would be invalid pensioners and thus qualify for consideration for a concessional licence. The Bill therefore provides for the amendment of section 128 to include in the definition of pensioner, a person in receipt of an allowance - that is, sheltered employment allowance - under Part VIIa of the Social Services Act. The amendment will also mean that any other approved pensioner, living with a recipient of a sheltered employment allowance, will retain his rights to a concessional licence.
Section 128 (3) of the Broadcasting and Television Act provides that concessional licences be granted only to those pensioners who live alone, with another pensioner or with another person or persons each of whom has a total income not exceeding that permitted for a pensioner. The total income is determined as being the total of pension plus permissible income for a single age pensioner. The recent social services legislation has raised this limit which is now derived by the addition of the amounts specified in section 28 (1a) (a) and section 28 (2) (a), of the Social Services Act. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That Notice No. 3, Government business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
– Can the Minister inform me briefly the reason for this motion? Surely to goodness the Government knows its own mind about what business it wants discussed. Should honourable members be treated in this way? On the face of it this seems to be a simple notice of motion and while I disapprove of it appearing on the notice paper, its consideration is being deferred. Why should a simple matter like this be held over? Does not the Government know its own mind? Is the Government bringing to this Parliament the same sort of procedures as it brings to other matters? It seems to me that there is complete thoughtlessness in the Minister’s motion to defer consideration of this matter. No regard is being shown for those honourable members who are preparing for debates. Colleagues of mine from both sides of the House have been sitting here waiting to take part in debates on various matters on the notice paper, yet simple procedures are being treated in this fashion by the Government. If the Government is not ready to proceed with Notice No. 3, Government business, well and good, but if it is ready to proceed why does it not get on with it?
– in reply - I might explain that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who is Leader of the House, is chairing meetings for the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and accordingly cannot be in the House at this point of time. All that I have proposed is that Notice No. 3, Government business, be held over until a later hour this day. This is not causing inconvenience to the honourable member or to the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker–
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Clark)Order! The Minister has replied and has closed the debate on the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the definition of “eligible organization” and inserting in its stead the following definitions: - “ ‘ eligible organization ‘ means -
After paragraph (b) in the definition of “ eligible organization “ insert “ and (ba) a trade union registered under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State,”.
– I move:
– Did the Minister say ‘That the amendment be disagreed to’?
– What is the meaning of that?
– I am about to tell the honourable member. The substance of the amendment was, in fact, proposed by honourable members from the Opposition during the debate in the Committee stages of the Bill. The amendment inserted by the Senate is identical to that moved in this chamber, and the reasons I gave during the debate at the Committee stage are sufficient reason for our rejecting the amendment. I would submit that those reasons remain valid. Where its constitution permits and if it is not carried on for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members, a trade union may now be approved by the Governor-General under part (iv) of paragraph (a) of the definition of ‘eligible organisation’ in clause 3 of the Bill. On the other hand, if its constitution permits, it would be open to a trade union to establish a trust for charitable or benevolent purposes and that trust could be approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of the Act. The trustee or trustees of the trust would then be an eligible organisation under paragraph (e) of the definition. I need hardly mention that the conduct of an aged person’s home would be accepted as a charitable or benevolent purpose.
It may be of interest to the Committee to know that twenty-eight organisations have become eligible by the use of one or other of these methods. They include such organisations as country women’s associations in various States, various lodges, Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in various States, various Service clubs, including Rotary, Lions and Apex, various independent trusts set up through the executives of varying estates, and a number of other charitable or benevolent organisations. There is no reason whatever for excluding trade unions from this definition. This means that trade unions are equally as entitled as any other organisation in the community for acceptance in either of these two categories. I do not think there is any particular reason for including one body as distinct from any other of the innumerable eligible bodies in the community specifically by definition. Other organisations, including those of employers and other groups, could, if this were done, assert that they also required specific reference.
I might say also that the Government joins with the Opposition in the view that trade unions are most appropriate bodies to establish and conduct homes for the aged. I and the Government would welcome their participation in this activity. But as I have explained, there is nothing at this stage which excludes them from operating these bornes. There is every reason why, within the range of services and benefits that they provide for their members, they should in future participate. Accordingly, we would welcome interest from them. I only regret that to date there has been no direct approach by a trade union for a subsidy. It would be a happy day indeed if I could announce that a grant had been made to a trade union for this purpose. On both sides of the chamber honourable members are fully aware of the work that is done by trade unions, both in the industrial fields and in the community generally, and as I have explained it is only unfortunate that to date there has been no application from a trade union for acceptance on an aged persons’ home project, nor for its acceptance as an eligible organisation.
Should a trade union seek a grant under the Act its application would indeed be welcome. I hope that in future trade unions will take advantage of the subsidy assistance which is available under the Aged Persons Homes Act and., accordingly, test their ability to provide this very worthwhile service for their members. It is for this reason, therefore, that the Government submits that there is no necessity for the inclusion of the amendment which has been proposed by another place and, consequently, the Government does not propose to accept the amendment.
– The amendment which the Government now refuses to accept is one which was proposed in this House when the legislation was before us. Subsequently the amendment was carried in another place. The Opposition then believed, and apparently honourable senators in another place believed, that there ought to be a special reference because of the importance of the trade union organisations to the scheme. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) has not convinced me, and he certainly has not convinced other honourable members on this side df the chamber, that there is any valid reason why the Government should not accept an amendment of this nature. A few moments ago he submitted that trade unions were already eligible under the Act. If a trade union is eligible and if it applies as an organisation, the Minister would have power either to grant or reject the application, but if he believes, as he has asserted, that a trade union is already eligible under the Act, then what is his great objection to having trade unions specifically included as one of the organisations accepted under the terms of this legislation? The Minister merely dismisses the trade unions out of hand.
Some years ago when we believed that local governments should be included in the Act the Government refused to accept our recommendation. Recently the Government moved to provide this benefit to local governments. We submit that since the Government has decided to accept local governments, surely there is no reason why it should not accept trade unions.
– Local governments were not eligible previously.
– Local governments could have been eligible.
– ‘But they were not.
– I submit that local governments could have been eligible if they had applied for a grant through one or other of the specified organisations. I suggest that if in the past local governments had been prepared to make a sum of money available to an organisation which was eligible under the Act, the Minister would not have refused its application. We submit that there is very good reason why trade unions should be specifically named in the Act and that there is no reason - the Minister has offered none - why the Government should not accept the amendment. This matter was discussed fully in another place. Surely if what the Minister has submitted is a valid reason for rejecting an amendment of this nature, this reason would have been acceptable to the Senate, but the Senate accepted the amendment.
– But we did not accept it in this place.
– The Minister disagrees with the action which has been adopted in the Senate, but he has not been able to explain to us why trade unions should not be specifically named in the Act to enable them to receive this benefit, other than to say that the trade unions may be eligible or are eligible if they apply to the Minister as a separate organisation. If they can apply and if they would be accepted by the Minister, surely this is one further reason why the Government should not hesitate to write trade unions into the Act. Therefore we submit that the Minister on this occasion should accept the amendment. As I have already mentioned to the Committee, he has no objection to the amendment. He merely says that he believes that trade unions could apply through the normal channels.
The Opposition believes that trade unions should be written into the Act. I believe that this would encourage them to become more active in providing homes for the aged. I think that one reason why trade unions have not in the past taken advantage of the provisions of the Act is that they have never been encouraged as organisations on a national basis to provide this kind of assistance.
– But neither has any of these other organisations.
– Yes, they have. The Act has been amended from time to time to include other kinds of organisations.
– But not those that 1 have specifically referred to.
– The Government has already moved to include local governments.
– But they were completely excluded previously.
– I believe that local governments could have received assistance in the past if they had sought assistance.
– Not in the same sense.
– I am sure that the Minister would have to concede that if local government bodies had made direct application to the Minister he may have reiused their request. However, they could have participated in the scheme by making money available through one of the organisations which were acceptable to the Minister under the terms of the legislation. There is no reason why the Minister should reject an amendment which has been carefully considered in this place and which was carefully considered and accepted in another place. In these circumstances we believe that the Government should accept the amendment.
– The spokesmen for the Opposition are really struggling to convince anyone of the need for the amendment which has come to us from the Senate. It does not stand in its own right or need to be substantiated and carried here. So I support the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) in rejecting it. Too many of the spokesmen opposite have not got their facts correct. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has just shown that he is in a false position in regard to local government. He indicated in his last few words that a contribution from local government funds to any of the approved organisations would attract a subsidy. Those who are intimately associated with homes or organisations which are sub.sidisable know only too well that any money from local government, lotteries commissions, or quasi-government organisations does not attract a subsidy. So the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition shows that he has had no personal experience in this matter and that his facts are faulty.
It should also be put on record that even though the Bill provides that churches, charitable and benevolent organisations, and now local government authorities, are recognisable, most of these organisations have no ready-made framework to enter into the building of homes for the aged. Most of us have found that new constitutions have had to be written. New regulations are advisable. In many cases incorporation under State legislation is highly desirable because, notwithstanding the criticism in another place most genuine people in this field want the members of any board of management to be completely protected. They are not afraid of coming in under the umbrella of any State legislation, which is a most desirable move.
The trade unions were just as free as were any other organisations in this country, if they were genuinely interested, to draw up a foundation, trust or constitution or to take steps to obtain incorporation, and then, sponsored by their members, to say: ‘We are developing this home knowing that it is a most desirable thing to do and we are taking some pleasure in helping the aged people of the district’. But the trade unions, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, need the encouragement of having their name inserted in the legislation. There is no justification for this.
Every church, charitable body or benevolent institution worth its salt has seen the value of this legislation since it came into force in 1954. This is just a pathetic move on the part of the Opposition. Notwithstanding the debate in this House when the amendment was rejected, we find that by a quirk of circumstances the amendment is returned to us from the other chamber. It does not stand in its own right as deserving of support. I am glad to support the Minister, who rejects the amendment.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and his fellow traveller, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), are straining at gnats. They have not considered the principles that have been placed before them from this side of the House and which have been supported by the Senate. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who is interjecting, could never follow anything. He is always going around in circles. Let us examine the proposal. The Bill provides that certain bodies may receive the grant, in the following terms:
a religious organisation;
– In other words, they are all broad general terms.
– That is correct. We suggest that to this catalogue of significant national institutions there be added the largest single group - the trade unions.
– But a particular movement.
– We are not claiming any particular movement. In many respects the trade union movement represents the largest single, disciplined and organised group in this country. It has attracted more attention from this Parliament than has any other single group of people. We have passed piece after piece of legislation that has imposed singular duties on the movement. We just want trade unions to be nominated so that not only will they attract duties but will at least get some of the privileges.
If the Minister for Social Services knows anything about his duties and about the English language - I am confident he does - he will realise that we do not need paragraphs (i), (if) and (iii) of proposed new sub-section (a). There is enough power in paragraph (iv), which is in those terms: an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of this Act.
Every other paragraph is redundant. It is a quibble to suggest that adding the trade union movement is a singular difference. Paragraph (iii), which refers to former members of the Defence Force, relates to between 300,000 and 400,000 persons. The trade union movement has attracted to its membership between two million and two and a half million people. It is therefore different in its objectives, structure and history from any other single group of individuals, and is entitled to be considered now. I would sympathise with the Minister if he had to apply this principle and redundancy of language right from the beginning and say: We will give it to anyone who applies for it provided that they satisfy me.’ We are asking - we are supported by the Senate - that the trade union movement be included in the same way as other national organisations, religious and ex-servicemen’s organisations, and sick and benevolent institutions are included. The trade union movement is not a benevolent institution. This was not what it was set up to be, and there is no doubt in my mind, after speaking to members of the trade union movement, that they believe that they have been and will continue to be excluded from the benefit of this legislation unless they change their rules.
– They have never asked us.
– Why should they ask you?
– Surely that is what the Department of Social Services is for.
– Why should anyone governing this country think that the trade union movement should be excluded if he thinks that returned servicemen’s organisations, churches and charitable organisations should be included? I ask the Minister to name any body on which this Government imposes more duties, or any organisation that has more national significance, more history, more discipline or more people than has the trade union movement.
Let him name one. Let him stand and do it. Government members are running along with conservative institutions in this country. When they sit down to think they do not think in a social context; they think in a conservative political context. If we had a catalogue of nationally significant institutions, I claim that the trade union movement would be included. If trade unions are not included in this legislation, why should the others be included? Paragraph (iv) includes them all. I shall be happy if none are mentioned and the matter is left for the Minister to decide. Local government could then have been included, if the Minister had adopted a rational attitude.
Time and time again legislation is introduced in this House which in the public interest imposes on the trade union movement - waterside workers and others - many duties. Let us acknowledge trade unions as a significant national institution and include them. To do so would cost only a few cents for the printing. Why are we not doing it? We are not doing so simply because some members of the Government parties, hidebound by the power and arrogance they have asserted in this place for so long, are treating the Parliament and the people as though they were private property. We have placed before this House something that has been supported by the Senate - a body which, if we wanted to abolish it, honourable members opposite would do everything possible to protect. Why does not the Government acknowledge some of its own misdeeds and include trade unions? It would not cost much to do so.
– I did not think for one moment that this amendment would be pressed so I did not expect to speak on it. I am disappointed to think that honourable members opposite would press a matter of this kind in the way the honourable member for Wills ‘Mr Bryant), in particular, has done. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) have said, quite properly, there is no real reason why the trade union movement should be picked out to be identified in this Bill. The Minister explained that if the trade union movement liked to set up a trust to establish aged persons homes there was nothing in this legislation which would prevent it from doing so.
All I can conclude is that the Opposition is using this Bill, which amends the Aged Persons Homes Act, purely for political purposes. Realising that many trade unions are closely associated with their own party, Opposition members have come into this House prepared to deal with this matter on a purely party political basis. This is wrong. A matter such as this should not be used for political purposes. One cannot avoid the conclusion that this is a thinly disguised attempt to gain some political advantage from this legislation by seeking to specifically include the trade union movement. To my way of thinking, this discredits the Opposition. After all, I could argue that we should include the Real Estate Institute of New
South Wales in the legislation. And why not include employers federations? I have been a Rotarian for about thirty-six years; why not include the Rotary Club?
Where is the real argument that the trade union movement should be specifically included in this Bill? It does not refer to any specific organisation. Local government is mentioned but this merely indicates a broad concept of public support in a domestic sense. It was desirable to include local government organisations, as the Minister explained in his second reading speech. The move to include trade unions is not only unnecessary but shows clearly and plainly to what length the Opposition will go in order to gain some paltry political advantage from a matter which relates to our aged people.
– I have listened with very great interest to some of the comments emanating from the Government side of the chamber. The motion moved by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) is what might be termed an act of political recidivism. In other words it is a reversion to type, not necessarily on the part of the Minister but on the part of the Party he represents; a reversion to its thinking and its reflexes over the whole history of the struggle for the recognition of the trade union movement. This matter is of paramount importance to the Labor Party. We do not speak here merely for electorates; we speak also for the largest public body in Australia and the largest group of organisations in the industrialised world today - the trade union movement.
– It has over two and a half million members.
– Yes. Membership is multiplying rapidly. I want to refer to the exact legal definitions involved in this Bill.
– Why doesn’t the honourable member-
– The honourable member for Gippsland will have his chance later. We know how reactionary his contribution will be. Section 3 of the Bill defines eligible organisations. It says that they shall include four categories; firstly, a religious organisation; secondly, an organisation whose objectives are charitable or benevolent; thirdly, an organisation of former members of the defence forces; and fourthly, an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral. Surely the last is the main point of distinction. Organisations that can show that they are religious, charitable or benevolent, and organisations of former members of defence forces, can, as of right, apply for Government grants. But - and this is the crux of the whole issue - the trade union is subjected to the discretionary powers of the Governor-General - a euphemism for the discretion or whim of the Government. This Government’s pattern of behaviour over the years has been consistent.
– Has the Government ever turned down any application from the trade union movement?
– That is not the point at issue. This Bill will become the law of the country. The Labor Party trusts no one, with its knowledge of the struggle for legal recognition of the trade union movement going back to the days when to be a member of a trade union was to be a party to a conspiracy - an offence indictable under common law. The same thinking prevails to this day. The Government is grudgingly refusing to yield the last vestige of its power and control. Anything that can be done by this Government is being done to try to keep some vestige of control over the trade union movement so that it can discriminate against the unions in contradistinction to the rest of the community. The Government will fight to the last ditch to secure and to retain any control.
The Government is being stiff-necked in this matter. This is a time when it might yield, and yield gracefully. If it chooses to take a reactionary and retrogressive course of this nature it will have only itself to blame for the ultimate political consequence. I say advisedly and with all the emphasis that I can command that to reject the amendment that was made in another place would be a supreme insult to the trade union movement of Australia and that the Government will answer for this accordingly.
– I do not wish to delay the Committee very long but I must express my complete and utter astonishment at the strange view taken by the Opposition as expressed by the honour able member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). One would gather the impression that we were living in an age not far removed from that of the Tolpuddle martyrs. Indeed, as I listened to the honourable member this afternoon, he reminded me not of the nineteenth century but of the eighteenth century. The struggle for the recognition of the trade union movement in Australia is over.
– 1 did not expect the honourable member for Wills to agree with me. He is living in the atmosphere of forty or fifty years ago. 1 say that the struggle for recognition of the trade union movement is finished. In Australia today the trade union movement is recognised as readily by honourable members on this side of the House as by honourable members on the Opposition side. The fact that thousands and thousands of trade unionists vote for members on this side of the House is very eloquent testimony as to where the trade union movement stands.
I thought the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) spoke with great succinctness and clarity. He asked: Where does this end?’ He pointed out that the Rotary organisation, for instance, could claim to be recognised in this Bill in the same way that the Opposition claims the trade union movement should be recognised. Where would one stop?
I submit that the Bill is eminently sensible in its approach to this problem. I think the honourable member for Bennelong pointed the finger unerringly at the honourable member for Cunningham who spoke about political recidivism when he said that here is an organisation, the Australian Labor Party, which is seeking to make political capital out of a Bill which has no political content whatsoever. This Bill has generally commanded the support of all members, yet this afternoon a decided political content has been injected into the debate. This is a gross reflection on members of the Opposition. I have no doubt that the Committee will reject the amendment - a fate it richly deserves.
– We have at last found the Minister’s blind spot. He has achieved a lot in his short time in the Ministry and earned the respect of all members, but on this simple amendment to an important measure that was debated fully here, we have at last found his Achilles heel. We put the amendment forward, but it was defeated because the Government has the numbers. Then the Bill went to the Senate. I prefer to call it that rather than the old-fashioned term ‘another place’, which could mean anywhere and should have been removed from our Standing Orders long ago. The Bill went to the Senate, which is now a responsible section of this Parliament, and having debated it, the Senate came to the conclusion that this amendment should be accepted.
– They had the numbers.
– Yes. The point is that three members of the Senate who normally vote for the Government, voted against it. The Senate accepted this amendment but the Government and this Minister have decided to have nothing to do with it. So we are setting ourselves above the Senate. The Government has decided not to accept the Senate’s amendment. The Government has taken a silly attitude to what I regard as a simple amendment to the Bill. The Senate recognises the relevance and correctness of this amendment. Why cannot the Government do likewise? The reason is that this Government does not want to be dictated to by the Senate. It intends to show the Senate who is boss in this Parliament. This is the simple reason for non-acceptance of the amendment. The Government is so intent upon standing the Senate up that it will not listen to all the relevant arguments. What will happen when the upper House sticks to its amendment and the Bill comes back here again? The Bill will continue to go backwards and forwards until someone runs out of breath or patience. Sheer unadulterated stubbornness has caused the Government to reject this amendment.
I feel that deep down in the Government ranks there is a prejudice against the trade union movement. This can be deduced from the Government’s reaction to the Senate’s amendment. We have seen evidence of it from time to time. Regardless of what the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said wilh great gusto, that the trade union fight has been won, there is still a deep-rooted antipathy to trade unions by supporters of the Government. Trade unions are universally accepted throughout Australia and officially recognised by this Government, so why does it not do the sane and sensible thing by permitting them to build homes for aged persons?
– They already have that right. We are not denying them that at all.
– This Bill is confusing on that point, as the honourable member for Wills said. One part of the Bill gives the Minister power to approve any organisation’s coming within the Act, yet another part of it names eligible establishments. Clause 3 names them. It reads: “ ‘ eligible organization ‘ means -
a religious organization;
There are two main divisions, (a) and (b); (a) is split into four parts. It is most confusing. There is an escape clause that enables the Minister to bring in any organisation that he approves, but another clause specifically names the organisations. We submit that if the organisations are named, the trade unions should also be named. The trade union movement is a worthy and responsible body of men these days.
– These days?
– I was here in 1949 when certain things happened that we had never before experienced in the history of this country. I say deliberately that the trade union movement is a responsible body of men. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, with which the Australian Workers Union is now affiliated, is stronger than it has ever been in this century. The trade union movement, despite certain actions of the Seamen’s Union, is stronger and more disciplined now than it has been at any other time in its history. Why not recognise responsible union leaders as a body of men capable of handling a situation like this. It may seem to some people that building homes is an irrelevant exercise for a union, but I think it would inspire the trade union movement to set up a trust to take on this work as part of its overall humanitarian tasks. I feel that the unions are worthy, and should be admitted for this reason alone. It would widen the scope of home building if unions were given a guarantee of assistance under this Bill.
The Government intends to show the Senate who is the boss of this Parliament. That is all it amounts to. I fervently hope that the members of the Senate who voted for the amendment yesterday will be there to vote on it again when the Bill is next before them, and will put the amendment back in the measure. Let us have this twoway traffic until the Government accepts the amendment.
– The purpose of clause 3 is quite specific. Subparagraph (iv) of clause 3 (a) prescribes an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of this Act’. It is obvious that the Labor Party is guilty of not informing the trade unions of what they are able to do. I have never seen the Deputy Leader of the Opposition looking so ill at ease as when he was standing at the table today trying to defend the amendment. The simple fact is that trade unions are eligible to obtain money under sub-paragraph (iv) of clause 3. It is a simple fact that the Australian Labor Party has not done its homework on the Bill, and was not aware of this fact. It has not informed the trade unions that they are eligible to claim the subsidy. Instead, it has gone through the process of moving an amendment and trying to justify the unjustifiable. The simple fact, as pointed out by the Minister and the honourable members for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and Swan (Mr Cleaver), is that the trade union movement can claim the subsidy. There is no reason or purpose for naming unions in the Act.
No wonder the Deputy Leader of the Opposition felt ill at ease. He was in error also on another point, and here again he showed how little homework he has done. I would like to know whether he is responsible for suggesting this amendment in the first place. He said that before the introduction of this Bill local councils were eligible to claim the subsidy. It is quite obvious that he has not done his work on the Bill, because local government authorities were originally specifically excluded. In fact no organisation was able to obtain finance from a local council and claim the subsidy.
It seems to me that the Labor Party is trying to defend the indefensible, and it is failing in its task. It has not informed the trade unions of their right to obtain the subsidy under clause 3 (a) (iv) of the Bill. The Opposition is completely on the defensive and has been protesting too much. I submit that the Minister is perfectly justified in rejecting the amendment.
– I strongly object to the refusal of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) to specify trade unions as approved organisations despite the fact that this was agreed to in the Senate. Is the Minister merely displaying the gall and bitterness with which members of the Liberal Party become consumed when they contemplate the trade union movement? I am an old trade unionist of fifty years standing. I am still a full member of the Boilermakers Society, a union that is perfectly disciplined and financially responsible and capable of administering any scheme envisaged by legislation passed through this Federal Parliament. As the Minister knows full well, the trade union movement would put to shame, on questions of administrative ability and financial ability and strength, any of the organisations he is prepared to have specified in the Bill. I have great respect for the large body of two and a half million trade unionists in Australia. When I look round this chamber I must admire the skill of the trade unionists who built and furnished it. Ye we find here a lot of Liberals - or so-called liberals, lawyers and people of other professions - condemning the trade union movement in the strongest terms.
– We do not condemn the trade unions in any way.
– Why should you criticise the great body of men whose members provided even the seat on which you are sitting in this chamber? The skills of the trade union movement are things to be looked up to, and things that should be perpetuated.
Let me get back to the Bill itself. The Minister has deliberately brought into this debate all the gall and bitterness at his command. As one of the leaders of the Government he has decided that the Government cannot allow the words ‘trade unions’ to appear in the Bill. Why? Trade unionists form a responsible body of 24 million people. Over the years, through their great organisations they have worked to make this nation what it is today. They have brought Australia to the peak of perfection that we now see. Yet we find a minor taking this stand against them. lt seems to me that the Minister must be a minor in mind to show himself so intractable as to refuse to allow the words trade unions’ to appear in the Bill. I strongly resent this attitude, as one of the great body of trade unionists in Australia, and I will report it to my union.
We found another man, a member of the lawyers’ profession - and that is another profession which, of course, has done nothing for the betterment of Australia - talking about the trade unionists who voted for the Liberal Party. I want to give his suggestion the lie direct. No trade unionist would be stupid enough to vote for any member on that side of the House.
As I have already pointed out, the Minister steadfastly refuses to allow trade unions to appear in the Bill amongst the specified organisations, but let us have a look at some of the organisations to which he does not object. Mention was made of the Housewives Association. Just think of the people who make up the Housewives Association. Just imagine the financial stability of the Housewives Association.
– Are you against the women?
– I said nothing about the women at all. I love all women, and I think some members of the Housewives Association are very lovely people. But we all know that the leaders of the Housewives Association are red-hot Liberal supporters, and that is why their organisation may be specified in this Bill, while the trade unions with their two and a half million members, most of whom have wives, mothers and sisters, are barred from specification in the Bill.
The Minister excuses himself by saying that the trade unions have power, under the Regulations at any rate, to run these establishments if they wish to, to establish the kinds of homes referred to in the Bill. I believe the Minister should show his confidence in this great body of Australians, many of whom have sons and daughters in the Services, and some of whom have sons in Vietnam fighting the fight for Australia. Despite all this the Minister is not prepared to specify trade unions in the Bill. I am ashamed of the Minister. 1 think the words trade unions’ should appear in the Bill and that trade unionists should he given the credit they fully deserve.
Mr PEARSALL (Franklin) [4.231 - I wonder why this truckling and eulogistic attitude has been adopted by members of the Opposition. A glance at the membership of this Parliament makes it obvious that there must be a great deal of trade union support for honourable members on this side of the House. What right has any honourable member, simply because he espouses Labour Party principles, to assume that he and his colleagues have a mortgage on the votes of all trade unionists?
– Are you a trade unionist?
– I have one in my family, my friend, and I am proud of him. He joined his union on my advice and with my wholehearted support. I can also say [or the benefit of the honourable member that he happens to be financial. But what is the need for all this argument? I am perfectly prepared to accept the assurance given by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair.). I have heard the Minister’s speeches and I cannot understand how the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) can suggest that he showed signs of gall and bitterness. The manner and the charm with which he delivers these addresses to the Parliament do him credit, and in this respect he was complimented by at least one member of the Opposition, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I believe the Minister has handled this matter perfectly logically. He has told the Opposition that already the legislation contains an entitlement for the trade union movement to participate. I am satisfied to accept the Minister’s assurance, particularly since I have heard some of the rubbish put forward in opposition to what the Minister has stated in the House. Why write it in when it is not necessary? Why clutter up the statute with unnecessary verbiage? I see no necessity to do this. I would think that the proper course of action - a very sensible and tactical course of action - on the part of a sensible Opposition would be to put a test case to the Minister if the trade union movement is in fact ready to proceed. What is wrong with doing that? In the event of the Minister refusing with all the gall and bitterness that he is said to exhibit towards the trade union movement, the Opposition would have a wonderful stick with which to beat him. This seems to me to be the best practical and tactical move for the Opposition to adopt. Until this matter is tested why not accept the Minister’s word? I am prepared to do so.
– The situation is Gilbertian. I would like to restore some clarity. As I see the position, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) agrees that under certain circumstances trade unions are or could be eligible under the legislation, but he refuses to allow the words ‘trade unions’ to be written into the Bill. When we speak of trade unions we think not only of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, of which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) is a member; we think of all those trade unions which embrace 2.5 million members. The Bill makes provision for religious organisations to function under this legislation. There are all sorts of religious organisations. Some of them might not be acceptable. At times some religious organisations have been declared illegal in this country, notwithstanding our much vaunted broadmindedness. In my opinion the Government has been guilty of discrimination against trade unions.
The Senate has amended the Bill to bring within its scope trade unions registered under the laws of the Commonwealth or a State. If a trade union is recognised in law as a responsible organisation, why should it not be permitted to come within the scope of the legislation? The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) pointed out that organisations such as Apex, Rotary and service organisations are recognised in the Bill. Government supporters are pleased to claim that they have on their campaign committees trade unionists. They claim that trade unionists vote for them. The honourable member for Moreton must have had some Communist trade unionists supporting him in the 1961 elections because it was his election by Communist preferences which saved the day for the Government. If for no other reason than this the Government should recognise the value of trade unions and include them within the Bill. If the Government fails to do this the only conclusion to be drawn is that the Government is discriminating against this section of the community. Trade unionists may belong to service organisations or Rotary. If honourable members opposite claim that trade unions are covered by the reference in paragraph (iv) of clause 3 to organisations approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of the Act, I cannot see any reason why we should not agree to the Senate’s amendment. If we fail to accept the amendment we are discriminating against trade unions.
– I was amazed to hear some honourable members opposite refer to arguments advanced from this side of the chamber as rubbish. The Senate is purported to be a House of review. I remind honourable members that at this stage the Labor Party does not have a majority of members in the other place. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) said that we on this side were talking rubbish. Apparently the two Australian Democratic Labor Party senators deemed the amendment to be a wise one, because they voted for it. So far no criticism has been levelled at the people who were responsible for bringing trade unions within the scope of the Bill. Why is this? Are Government supporters afraid of treading on the toes of the DLP for fear of losing some of its preferences? There are fifteen or twenty honourable members opposite who would not be here but for DLP preferences. Why do they not criticise the men who were responsible for passing this amendment? How ridiculous it is to claim that we on this side have been talking rubbish. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said that Rotary was not included in the Bill. I concede that organisations such as Rotary and Lions have done yeoman service for the people of Australia but compare the number of Rotarians in Australia with the number of trade unionists. Other speakers from this side have pointed out that there are about 2.5 million trade unionists in Australia. No doubt the inclusion of trade unions in the Bill would serve as an encouragement to the trade union movement.
I challenge any Government supporter to criticise the two senators responsible for passing this amendment. Let us hear from honourable members opposite. They have criticised the Opposition for its attitude. The two DLP senators support the Labor Party in this matter, so let us hear Government supporters criticise them. Honourable members opposite are not game to do this.
– I support Opposition speakers in their condemnation of the Government for not accepting the Senate’s amendment. We should give this matter a great deal of thought. I know that not many Government supporters have been able to give it any thought because without doubt the matter was discussed by Cabinet and not in the Party room. Honourable members opposite have not had an opportunity to say anything on the matter. They have been forced to accept the decision reached by Cabinet. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) was probably outvoted in Cabinet when he advanced his own proposition in relation to this matter. He has had to support in this place Cabinet’s decision. No other Minister has come into the chamber to support the Minister for Social Services. Admittedly some Government supporters have claimed that under certain circumstances trade unions could come within the provisions of the Bill. But it is for the Minister to say whether trade unions will be allowed to come within the scope of the legislation. This is discrimination. The Minister should not have this power. Provision for trade unions to come within the scope of the Bill should be written into the legislation. The Bill should provide specically that trade unions shall receive any benefits applicable under the legislation if they are prepared to do something for the aged people in the community.
We do not know what kind of decisions the Minister will reach. How do we know whether he will approve certain radical trade unions as being eligible under the legislation? Has the Government or the Minister given any assurance that these trade unions will be accepted? Their acceptance is at the Minister’s discretion and must be proclaimed by the GovernorGeneral. lt is left to the Minister of the day to say whether a trade union is a benevolent society eligible to receive the benefits provided in the legislation. It is not right that this power should be given to the Minister. Eligibility should be written into the statute for everybody to see and understand. Then those organisations which wished to do so could apply for the benefits provided in the legislation. That is why I say that the Minister should accept the amendment.
The Senate has discussed this matter. Clearly, the senators are not happy wilh the situation. They do not think the terms of the Bill are clear enough. The Australian Labor Party does not have sufficient numbers in the Senate to compel the Government to accept an amendment; we must depend on the support of the Democratic Labor Party and the Independents. When this amendment was proposed, it received the support it needed. When the Independent senators and the members of the DLP see the justice in an amendment and support the Labor Party, the amendment is sent back to Cabinet but Cabinet arrogantly refuses to accept it. This is the sort of justice that would come only from this Government. For this reason tha provision in the Bill should be amended as we have suggested and its terms made clear. I do not think the Minister should be given any discretion. We know how this Government acts and we know that some trade unions would be immediately excluded from the benefits of the legislation. There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to recognise a trade union would not be made by the Minister but would be made by the Government. The Minister would be required to put the proposition before Cabinet. We still have some radical trade unions today. They are willing to fight the battles of the people who need better conditions and better pay. But these trade unions could be denied the benefits of the legislation. Cabinet is being very narrow minded in deciding not to accept the amendment. It seeks to do no more than make the position clear. I do not think any trade union should be refused the benefits of the legislation.
Some Government supporters claim that trade unionists vote for them. We know that this is so. The trade unions support them, but do they support the trade unions? These honourable members say that they belong to trade unions or that members of their families belong to trade unions. But they are now letting the trade unions down. They are letting the Minister oppose the amendment. If they were sincere they would get up now and criticise the Government for not stating clearly in the Bill that trade unions will be recognised as eligible organisations. I support the amendment and I sincerely hope that it is carried.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) f4.38] - I am one of those people who occasionally are gulled into accepting assurances given by a Minister, especially one with the reputation of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). When he assures us in the Parliament that the law is as he states it, I am inclined to believe him. When I spoke during the second reading debate a few weeks ago I said that the Bill as it stood then was probably wide enough to include trade unions but we were pressing the amendment so that we would be absolutely certain that trade unions would be covered and we would not have to rely upon the whim of a Minister to decide whether a trade union that erected homes for the aged was an eligible organisation. But the more I listened to the debate and the more I have read of the opinions expressed by Ministers and senators in another place, the more convinced I have become that the Government has refused to accept the Senate amendment so that trade unions generally can be excluded from the provisions of the Bill.
I read of a conversation between Senator McKellar and Senator Toohey. I think it is rather significant. It seems to support the attitude of the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who said quite openly in his speech during the second reading debate that he was opposed to trade unions being recognised as eligible organisations. Like other honourable members, he has the right to correct his speech before it appears in ‘Hansard’. Somehow or other this part of his speech does not appear in the daily ‘Hansard’. I do not know whether this is the result of a correction by the honourable member or an omission by the Hansard’ reporters, and I do not believe that they omit anything. However, what does appear quite clearly in Hansard is the printed report of a conversation between Senator Toohey and Senator McKellar. Senator McKellar made the position perfectly clear. He told Senator Toohey in no uncertain manner that he would not allow any trade union that was under Communist control to be recognised as an eligible organisation within the terms of the Act.
– Which senator said that?
– This was said by Senator McKellar, a Liberal Party senator.
– Country Party, thank you.
– Yes. That makes his remark more significant. He is a Country Party senator and we can be sure that his remark represents more than merely his own view; it represents as well the view of the Country Party Minister who administers the Act.
– He was speaking for himself.
– I often see the Minister talking with his Country Party colleague in the Senate. The other day I saw the rather guilty expression on the face of the Minister for Social Services when I caught him talking to Senator McKellar. I realise now that they were discussing this matter and that is why he looked so guilty and embarrassed.
– When was this?
– This was a fortnight ago just outside the Country Party room. He was then telling Senator McKellar: ‘Do not take any notice of the assurance I have given to the Parliament. Do not take any notice of Cameron’s satisfaction with the assurance I have given. Between you and me there will be no recognition of trade unions.’ This seemed to satisfy Senator McKellar. Senator Toohey asked Senator McKellar whether he would wipe out other charitable organisations that had already been recognised if they came under the control of the Communist Party. Senator McKellar was quite frank. He said: Of course’. This means that political tests could be placed on local governing bodies. If by any chance the day should ever come when a local government body is under the influence of the Communist Party, presumably it will not be recognised as an eligible organisation. It seems to me that what the Government wants to do is to be able to hand pick the trade unions that it will accept. If any of them receive the benefits of this legislation, they will be only the tame cat unions, the unions that offer their support to the campaign committees of candidates like the honourable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). If they vote for Liberal Party candidates at elections, they will be recognised as eligible organisations. This is not good enough. We want the terms of the provisions spelled out so that it is beyond political skulduggery and everybody knows exactly where he stands.
If the Government were to pay a little more attention to some of the organisations that already receive assistance, it would do much more for aged people than it is now. I want to refer, if I may, to an organisation known as the Elderly Citizens Homes Inc. in South Australia. I had something to say about this organisation previously. A lady was told that if she paid $3,900 as a donation to this organisation-
– Is this relevant to the matter now before the Committee?
– Yes. I am showing the distinction that is made by the Government between trade unions and other organisations. The Government is going to prevent trade unions from being recognised, yet at the same time it is prepared to hand over hundreds of thousands of pounds to some of these other organisations whose dealings with the old people who happen to go to them for help have, to say the very least, a rather bad smell about them. If the Minister would listen to what I have to say here he would agree with me. This lady was told: ‘You have to pay $3,900 now; if you don’t pay it now - ‘ - and remember that she was not going into the home then; she had to wait another six months before she occupied the home-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Failes) - Order! I suggest to the honourable member that this is not relative to the amendment regarding the introduction of trade unions. The honourable member must relate his remarks to the amendment.
– Yes, Sir. The amendment, as I understand it, relates to the trade union movement. One might as well say that the Returned Services League could apply and be recognised, and in fact I suppose it could. Would the Minister answer that?
– Certainly; it says here: ‘an organisation of former members of the Defence Force established in every State or a State branch of such an organisation’.
– Would the Minister mind spelling out in as much detail the question of the trade union movement? That is what we want. We are not at all certain that we can trust the Minister now to do what he promised to do. We do not want trade unions going to the trouble and the expense of setting up specially registered organisations for this purpose only to be told that they would not be approved. We want it spelt out in the Act so that they can get it as a right; and they are entitled to it as a right. I wish I could talk about the conspiracy of prices between the building contractors and the secretaries of some of these organisations.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I suggest that that would be out of order.
– Well, I have that much in anyhow. It seems that you, Mr Deputy Chairman, have belatedly - and perhaps not contrary to the Standing Orders - decided that from now on everybody has to stick very closely indeed to the three or four words that are under discussion, whereas the previous remarks by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) would almost certainly have been out of order if they had been uttered after this new turn of ruling. However, in view of your strictness of interpretation of how far we can debate this matter, Mr Deputy Chairman, I will have to content myself with the remarks I have just made. We want the matter spelt out, and if the Government is fair dinkum it will not object to its being spelt out.
– I am rather alarmed at the apparent trend in the Labor Party to think that honourable members from the Government benches are in fact in some way prejudiced against the trade union movement. When I suggested to honourable members before that the trade union movement itself was already completely eligible for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act I also explained that I felt a tremendous amount had been achieved through the trade union movement. Indeed, in my mind I think the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) commented only too aptly on the unfortunate eighteenth century attitude of so many members of the Opposition in speaking to this matter, in that they related the status of the trade unions to a quite unrealistic social attitude which fortunately no longer exists in Australia today.
Accordingly, Mr Deputy Chairman, I frankly can see no substance in any of the arguments put forward by the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) raised one particular matter which 1 feel I should correct before this House. He said that in his. opinion contributions received from local government bodies were eligible for subsidy under the existing provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. You will recall, Mr Deputy Chairman, that he used this as an argument to the effect that as previously local government bodies had been eligible the Opposition had recommended that they should be included, and now that the Government was including them he said that therefore trade unions, which are in a similar category, are now eligible, and that the Government should accept the Opposition’s amendment. However, trade unions are in an entirely d ffcre.it category Local government bodies contributions previously were not eligible for subsidy. Certainly another organisation acceptable under the Act could receive a -if t of land or a gift of a building or even a cash donation, but this contribution did not receive a two for one subsidy, lt was for this reason the Government decided it would be worth while introducing them specifically as an extension of the acceptable organisations within the Act.
As I have explained, the trade union movement is not in the same category. It has been suggested by honourable members opposite that in fact while the trade union movement is eligible there is some qualification on its eligibility. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) referred specifically to the fact that whether or not it was acceptable as an eligible organisation under clause 3 (a) - that is, that it was an organisation carried on otherwise than for profit or gain to its individual members, and its constitution fitted within that category - it could come within the category of an organisation approved by the Governor-General; and likewise if it were to be a trust constituted by the organisation, again it would be necessary for it to be approved by the Governor-General.
To my mind it has been a most disappointing debate. The honourable member for Cunningham himself implied that perhaps if there were another government, presumably a government from the Opposition, it would be inclined to interpret this as meaning that it could direct the approval or disapproval according to political ends. This, of course, is not the way this Government operates. If an application is received from an organisation which otherwise meets the requirements of the Act then it naturally receives approval, and it is towards that end and with that purpose that this exemption has been framed. It exists so that organisations that would otherwise be reasonably eligible may receive the benefits of this two for one subsidy.
In addition, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) this afternoon referred to a debate or to a conversation in the other place, as a result of which I gather that he is in fact presenting an argument which suggests that the only reason he really wants this included is that he feels that the administration of this Government would be inclined to exclude Communist dominated unions. In other words, I gather that he is prepared to accept the fact that our Administration would grant all the trade union applications and give them the benefits of this subsidy except in cases where a trade union was dominated by the Communist Party. In other words, he himself is in fact putting a case which is primarily in support of that section of the trade union movement. As I have explained, this Administration does not distinguish between the political flavour of an applicant organisation provided its constitution falls within the eligibility stipulated in clause 3 (a) of this Bill, that is, that it is carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members. It is then an organisation that can reasonably be approved by the Governor-General and can receive that approval.
I am thinking of the sorts of generic categories to which I referred, namely, service clubs, country women’s associations, and employers and employees associations. All these are very acceptable organisations and organisations which we would welcome entering into the field of aged persons homes. Accordingly, I submit to this Committee that there is no advantage to be served by the inclusion of this specific addition within the ambit of eligible organisations for the purposes of this subsidy. Indeed, I think that all I would like to see come out of this debate is perhaps a re-awakening in the trade union movement of the advantages that already exist within this legislation. I trust that as a result of this debate it will not be very long before we will have trade unions applying for subsidy assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Accordingly, I ask for the Committee’s support in rejecting the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I feel I have been misrepresented and I wish to make a personal explanation. Before you stopped me, Sir, I had got as far as saying that my chief concern about having the Bill left in its original form was that it would allow the Government to use political motives for rejecting applications from certain trade unions. I quoted, merely to illustrate that point, a conversation between a Country Party senator and Senator Toohey during which the Country Party senator said that that, indeed, is what he would do. I was pointing out that if it is right to exclude organisations which are controlled by Communists then it would be equally right to exclude trade unions which are controlled by members of the Labor Party or by members of the Democratic Labor Party, or of any other political organisation.
The fact that the Minister, who is a barrister of no mean achievement and who is normally scrupulously fair in debate, should have chosen to misinterpret and twist what I have said indicates to me that he is in real trouble, lt only heightens the suspicion I hold - gained from the remarks of his colleagues, Senator McKellar, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and other Government supporters - that they are really at heart basically opposed to trade unions and that they will start off by excluding those unions that are Communist, or those that in their opinion are Communist, and then they will tackle the Labor unions and ultimately the only unions that will be accepted will be those that are the tame cat unions which either go on to Liberal Party campaign committees or which are, in effect, prisoners and creatures of the Liberal Party and Country Party.
That the amendment be disagreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr L. J. Failes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported; report adopted. Ordered:
That Mr Fox, Mr Pettitt and Mr Sinclair be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate.
– On behalf of the committee I present the reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate. (Thereupon the Clerk read the reasons as follows):
A trade union is in no different position to any other organisation that does not fall within paragraph (a) of the definition of eligible organisation. There is no more reason why a trade union should be selected for specific mention in a separate paragraph than there is for other organisations such as the Country Women’s Association, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Apex Clubs or associations of employers. It would be open to any of these organisations including a trade union to establish a trust for charitable or benevolent purposes such as the conduct of an aged persons home, and have that trust approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of the Act. The trustee or trustees of the trust would then be an eligible organisation under paragraph (e) of the definition.
Alternatively a trade union could be approved by the Governor-General under sub-paragraph (iv) of paragraph (a) if it was not carried on for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members.
– This is simply another canvassing of the specious reasons which have been put before honourable members over the last hour or so by
Government supporters. The suggestion that a trade union is in no different position from any other organisation is no acknowledgment of the situation. The trade union movement is not the same as a religious organisation; it is not the same as returned soldiers’ bodies; it is not the same as charitable organisations; nor is it the same as local government bodies. The trade union movement in Australia has been one of the most significant socially directed organisations for well over half a century. Not only is this action by the Government flying in the face of fact but also I believe it does not represent the true opinion of a majority of the people of Australia of whom very large numbers are members of the trade union movement. Therefore the House should reject these reasons. The people who were appointed to write them are quite incompetent to present reasons. Therefore, the House should turn its very close scrutiny upon the reasons and reject them. Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 move:
That standing order 103 (II o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this month.
This course has been taken for very many years by successive Leaders of the House. I think that probably one has to be cast in the role of a Whip or Leader of the House to realise just how essential it is to suspend standing order 103 as the end of the session approaches. We cannot sit beyond 18th May. We have been sitting now for the normal period for which we sit in the autumn session and, as all honourable members know, a referendum is to be held in the week following the week ending on Thursday, 18th May. When I say that the session will end on 18th May I do not rule out the possibility of sitting on Friday the 19th.
The purpose of this motion is to facilitate the business of the House. Legislation has been before the House in a continuing stream over the period of the sittings. All honourable members will be aware that some important pieces of legislation have been before the House for long periods in which all honourable members have been able to express their views, without limitation, except insofar as the rules of debate contained in the Standing Orders limit them. A great amount of time has been given to those important matters, and it is proper that these important matters should be given that time. I am able to say that there has been no closure in this session. The gag has not been moved once in relation to the business of the House. The only time on which I moved “That the question be put’ was one night after midnight in relation to the debate on the adjournment. On that occasion the motion was acceded to by the House without division. That is the only time on which the closure motion has been put.
I think it is worth pointing out to the House that it is the wish of everybody that matters coming before the House should be given proper consideration in the correct manner. I believe that this is the wish of my friend and colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who is my colleague in the sense of arranging the business of the House. For all these reasons I do what has been done in the past; in the interests of facilitating the business of the House I move that standing order 103 be suspended for the remainder of this month. I should explain that, as I understand the position, Tuesday night is the night upon which honourable members are generally rather tired after activity in their electorate on the Monday and, often, a meeting on Monday night. They have to rise early on Tuesday mornings. I know that in my own case I have to get up at the unenviable hour of 5.30 a.m. on Tuesday to come here. No doubt every honourable member is in a similar situation and does not want to sit late on Tuesday night. After the Thursday night sitting many honourable members have early morning planes to catch. The first flights from Canberra on Friday morning to take honourable members back to their electorates leave at about 7.35 a.m. So nobody wants to sit very late on Thursday night. However, I fear that Wednesday nights are likely to be rather late.
Although I have moved for the suspension of the standing order I should add that it is not my intention that new business of what one might describe as a major character should be introduced after 11 o’clock. I do not mean by that statement that debate on a major matter will not continue after 1 1 o’clock, but that I do not expect major matters of legislation to be introduced after 11 o’clock.
– The Opposition opposes the motion. It believes that the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, that is, standing order 103, is neither necessary nor desirable. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) in moving the motion said that he was following a precedent which was established many years ago in this House. I remind the honourable gentleman that I, as one member of the Opposition, have never been committed, nor have any of the Opposition front bench members. The Opposition believes that the House ought not suspend standing order 103. In my view the Minister gave a very good reason why this kind of action should not be taken. He said that honourable members should have full opportunities to consider legislation which is introduced into the Parliament. He said this should not occur in the early hours of the morning and that honourable members should be able to consider all aspects of legislation in reasonable circumstances.
Every honourable member on this side of the House knows what will happen next week. The Government will move for late sittings. I repeat that it is not necessary to suspend standing order 103. Its’ suspension would enable the Government to introduce new legislation after 11 p.m. The Government can now, if it wishes, continue to debate beyond that time legislation which was introduced before 11 p.m. It can continue to sit into the early hours of the morning if it wishes. The Opposition maintains that it is not necessary to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. On other occasions when the Government has deemed it necessary to get important legislation through this Parliament, it has continued to sit into the early hours of the morning. It could do the same next week and the week after.
Originally it was expected that the House would rise on 12th May, but we are now told that the session will continue until 18th May and possibly 19th May. The attitude of this Government, not only during this session but also in previous sessions, reflects on those responsible for the administration of Government business in this House. Yesterday several Bills were introduced and today several more have been introduced. I understand that more Bills will be introduced tonight and possibly next week. This means that the Parliament will be expected to debate possibly twentyfive or more Bills before the end of the session on 18th May. Is there any reason why the Parliament cannot continue in session? The Minister for Immigration has suggested that we must adjourn because of the referendum. The Government has already decided to extend the session from 12th May to 18th May. So is there any reason why the Parliament should not adjourn for the referendum and resume after it?
This motion is not acceptable to members on this side of the House. I do not hesitate to agree with the Minister when he says that in the main we have been able to consider these matters rationally. I believe we have endeavoured to assist the flow of business in a way that has met with the agreement of all honourable members, and I pay a tribute to the Minister in this respect. I know he is not wholly responsible for leaving more than twenty-five Bills to be debated by this Parliament within the next two weeks, but this unfortunate state of affairs ought not to exist. In these circumstances, the Opposition does not believe that the Government ought to move to suspend standing order 103. I have already pointed out that if the Government wishes it can continue to debate legislation previously introduced both before and after 11 o’clock. So what is the reason for suspending this standing order? We submit that there is no valid reason. We oppose the motion and hope that the House will reject it.
– This motion demonstrates the dilatory way in which the Government produces its legislative programme, the unplanned way in which it is handling the affairs of the nation and the thoughtless manner in which it is treating the people who belong to and work in this Parliament. This is the twenty-third sitting day of this session, yet about 150 days have elapsed since the election in November last.
We did not meet for the first eighty days. By the end of 115 days after the election we had met on only twelve. The Government now says we must rush, but what urgency did it show when we met on 21st February? In the first four weeks of sitting, representing twelve sitting days, only eighteen Bills were introduced. What a great legislative programme. One Bill was the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill, which was one of the token or routine measures. Another was the Ministers of State Bill, and the debate on that was restricted. Another was the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Bill, which was restricted in regard to both content and debate. A significant measure was the Nationality and Citizenship Bill; another was the Tasmanian Grant (Gordon River Road) Bill. However, the debate on the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill was restricted, as was the debate on the Constitutional Alteration (Aboriginals) Bill and the Constitutional Alteration (Parliament) Bill. Of the eighteen Bills, six dealt with diplomatic privileges, one was significant, and five were supporting measures.
To the end of March we had met for 114 hours, and now, 150 days after the election, we have met for 224 hours. Yet the Minister says he is hard pressed and wants the Parliament to facilitate the Government’s business. What has the Government been doing? This afternoon we had a significant demonstration of the way the Government handles its business. The business paper shows that the Minister intended at a certain time to move the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, but he was not here at that time; he was chairing a meeting somewhere. He seemed to think that was much more important than being in his place in the House. There are many more things to do than worrying about how this Parliament gets its business done and caring about its 124 members. Are we of no account? We are not rubber stamps or symbols of ministerial authority. Each honourable member is equal and should be treated in the same way. The current of thoughtlessness has been consistent in the twelve years I have been in this Parliament. This is one of the important considerations today.
The Minister said we will sit late on Wednesdays but that we should not sit late on Tuesdays because he has to get up at 5 o’clock next morning. What a sinful thing! He is calling out thousands of boys at 6 o’clock every morning to train them for overseas service, but if he has to get up at 5 o’clock we have to finish our sitting early on the previous day. What about Wednesday night?
– You are the first to complain if we sit late on Tuesday nights.
– The Minister is the man who is organising this. He says we must rise early on Tuesday nights because he has to get up early the following morning, but does he consider the staff? I am interested in the freedom fighters opposite - the men who write articles to the newspapers about the great institution of Parliament and about how it is being ill treated. Where are the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) now? They are not rubber stamps or even ink on the stamps; they are just ciphers behind the Minister, who happens to be in the Cabinet. What about the staff? What about the members of the Hansard staff who have to stay behind and prepare their report after honourable members have gone to bed? What about the car pool, whose drivers sit around night after night while we fool around waiting for legislation to be introduced in this dilatory and fanciful way? What about the people in the refreshment rooms, the bar, and the Library? What about the Press and the people throughout Australia who are waiting on legislation? What about the Government Printing Office? This is all arrant nonsense and humbug.
Government members have demonstrated that they have no capacity to handle the affairs of this Parliament, let alone the nation. The lack of planning is inconvenience and is inflicting a disservice upon the whole community. What is wrong with sitting a little longer, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested. In 1961 we sat on fifty-live days, in 1962 on sixtysix days, in 1963 on fifty-three days, and on fifty-five days last year. In 1947 and 1948, before this Government assumed office, we sat for ninety-two and ninety days respectively. At the beginning of federation, when our population was four million and our annual Budget was about $10m or $15m, Parliament sat on 113 days. Honour able members opposite like to appear on television, speak on the radio, and write articles for learned journals about the way they say the Parliament has declined; but not one of them will have the nerve to vote with the Opposition or the moral fibre to stand against the Minister on this issue. There are many words one could use about people like that. Let them stand up and be counted for all the things they have said. They are just rubber stamps and ciphers.
The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) made a good point I hope the referendum will be passed. If honourable members are dinkum we will be back here in Canberra early in June to do something about it. A few weeks ago there was a great outcry about migrant housing. The Government leaped into action. It only took ten years for the Government to do so. If the Government is fair dinkum about the referendum on 27 May, particularly with all the effort that has been put into it, every honourable member will want to get back here in the following week or so to take some parliamentary action to show that we mean business. Honourable members are soft if they say we cannot meet in June. What is wrong with Canberra in June? Have honourable members opposite ever tried it? The sparkling winter air might do them more good than the air at the holiday areas they are going off to. It is a monumental aberration. Honourable members opposite will go home, sink back into their torpor and wait for the Ministry to call us to Canberra again. Honourable members on this side of the House mean business. This is a very important national business and ought not be handled like a third rate progress association. This is unbecoming to the nation as well as to the institution of parliament.
– I must protest also, Mr Acting Speaker, about this resolution now before the House. The purpose of the resolution is to enable the Government to introduce new business after 11 o’clock at night. At the moment, any business introduced before 11 o’clock at night can be debated until it is disposed of, even if the debate continues until 11 o’clock the next morning. An example of how the Government is already using the Standing Orders to bring in Bills and continue debates until very lat: hours is the time of night when the second reading debate on the Australian Tourist Commission Bill was brought on last week. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) commenced his second reading speech at 10.59i p.m. He beat the gun by half a minute. If some honourable member had sneezed or blown bis nose the honourable member for Dawson would not have been permitted to commence. He spoke until 11.43. That debate could have been continued until the next morning if it were necessary to do so.
Opposition members are here to work and to serve the people of Australia. We have been elected to serve Australia and our plea to the Government is that it should allow us to do so. Let us represent our constituents as we wish to do. Let us serve our country. Do not compel us to go away by closing the Parliament down so that government of the country can be carried on by the Executive Council in our absence. This is the elected Parliament of the people of the Commonwealth of Australia. Honourable members are sent here by the electors to represent them and to discuss properly the business which is put before the Parliament. This is our duty and for Opposition members at least it is a privilege.
I have had a look at the business paper and I see that item 27 contains no less than eight separate proposals dealing with customs. What could be more important to Australia than legislation dealing with customs? Tariff has a vital bearing not only on the welfare of people who buy goods affected by customs duty but also upon the welfare of those who seek to reap benefit from the imposition of the customs duties. The Opposition is entitled, before the Parliament rises for the winter recess, to put its thoughts about these various pieces of legislation. But I am informed that we are not likely to resume the debate on this important legislation until we come back here in August.
– Which legislation is that?
– I am referring to item 27 on the notice paper which relates to customs tariff proposals. It is not good enough for the people of Australia that a well paid Parliament should be forced against its will - at least it is against the will of honourable members on this side of the House - to go into recess, leaving members to cool their heels hundreds of miles away from Parliament House. There is a lot of justification for the criticism expressed by some honourable members on the Government side of the way the country is governed. There is too much executive government. Parliament is treated as a rubber stamp, as the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and the conservative member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) have so often said.
It is true that this Government is turning its supporters, who were elected by the people to represent them and to represent Australia, into yes men. Its supporters know that if they protest against the Government’s cavalier treatment of this Parliament and of the people of Australia they will lose any chance of becoming ministers in the Government. The twenty-six ministers are equally as beholden to the Prime Minister as are those honourable members who want to become ministers. Even the ministers know that their chances of promotion and of getting into the Cabinet - if they are not already in it - depend on how slavishly and how cravenly they accept the decisions of the Government on all matters. But there is one point beyond which the craven attitude of some people ought not to go. They ought to baulk and to rebel when they see their Parliament, the people’s Parliament, being treated like a rubber stamp.
When we come into this Parliament we are entitled to a proper opportunity to debate every piece of legislation that comes before it. This cannot be done if debates are not called on until after 11 o’clock at night. It is the old story of legislation by attrition - getting legislation through by driving everybody into the ground; by driving everybody to a point of mental and physical exhaustion.
I appeal to every back bencher on the Government side to stand up and say whether he is prepared to see Parliament treated as the rubber stamp of the Executive or whether he is prepared to vote as the people who elected him would expect him to vote. Why can we not sit for another two or three weeks, or, if need be, another two months? Why must we go into recess for three or four months at Christmas time and at least three months during the winter? Honourable members on the Opposition side are prepared to come to the Parliament every week of the year if necessary. If there is work to be done we want to be here to do it. We cannot have proper democratic government unless we have a parliament comprised 100% of men who are prepared to do the job they are paid to do. No honourable member can say that we are not paid a good salary for what we do here. Look around this Parliament. It amazes me that some honourable members opposite can accept the enormous salary they get for their work. They treat the Parliament as a kind of hobby mixed in between their other activities.
– The Opposition had better get a speaker who can see straight.
– The honourable member who has interjected is a leading Queen’s Counsel. According to the newspapers he had a rather important case not very long ago. I imagine that the fee he received was the usual substantial legal fee. I look around and I see the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). He is smiling. I suppose he has every reason to smile because-
– ‘I did not lose 20,000 votes at the last election.
– I did not gain about $20,000 on the stock exchange either. It is no wonder the honourable member is smiling. I too had a look at oil share prices this morning and saw how much they had increased since the honourable member threw away bis bible and bought oil shares. Then there is the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). I am not being personal but I cannot but reflect on the fact that he has a very substantial furniture business in Adelaide. Whilst it may be very convenient for the business and beneficial to its finances for him to be in Adelaide for three or four months during the winter and again at Christmas time, what is happening to the Parliament while the honourable member is selling carpets? I turn to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). Of course it is important to the business of which he is a leading or senior partner that he be in his legal office during the three or four months recess at Christmas and again during the winter break. Of course this will help to clean up-
– I rise on a point of order. The House has business to do, and I submit that the remarks of the honourable member are absolutely irrelevant. I believe that he should get back to the point.
– - Order! There is no point of order involved in the matter raised by the honourable member for Evans. However, I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that he links his remarks with the subject matter before the Chair.
– I want to pinpoint why people on the other side of the House are sitting back and so gleefully supporting the proposal to close down the Parliament of which they are members. I look at the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and cannot help mentioning his delight. We know that it must be of tremendous value to his real estate business for him to be able to devote his whole time to it during the winter break. We know, too, that the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) must be able to give a great deal more attention to his pharmacy business during the winter recess than he normally can. As I look round to my handsome and honourable friend from Tasmania, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson), I know it would be tremendously important to him and highly profitable for his legal firm for him to be home for three months in winter, and again during the Christmas break, enabling him to gain some added income from his legal practice. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) is scratching his head and wondering whether he is next. He is. He will, of course, gain considerably by the fact that his professional business in Port Augusta will benefit a good deal by his being there instead of here.
Sir, I have said enough to indicate that many members on the other side have much to gain by not doing their parliamentary duty for six months of the year. It is high time we elected to Parliament people who will treat service in the Parliament as a full-time job. I cannot help supporting my friend, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who drew attention to the plight of the Clerks of the House, the Hansard reporters, the messengers and the catering staff. I am sure of the Opposition has suggested? In 1961 Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) would forgive me for mentioning the staff in charge of the bar. We must think of these people as their position is infinitely worse than ours. Whereas Liberal members can stretch themselves out in the Library for long periods and have rests between the commencement and end of the daily sittings, these poor unfortunate officers cannot do so. The Clerk cannot stretch himself out on the front bench of the chamber and have a sleep. The messengers cannot do so. They would be dismissed if they did. Members of the Hansard staff cannot stretch out and have a good snore when they feel like it. Of course not. I think all these things should be looked at.
Sir, you will have guessed by now that I am completely and irrevocably opposed to this motion. Every member of the Labor Party in this Parliament is opposed to the Parliament being treated as a rubber stamp by a Government that prevents the elected representatives of the people from serving their constituents and the people of Australia generally, in the way that we want to serve them.
– in reply - We have become accustomed to the speeches of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). We treat them as they ought to be treated, with mirth and amusement. That is all they are worth. The honourable gentleman does not understand that the Government parties are composed of men of ability who retain their independence. Not one man on the other side of the House can at any moment exercise the independence that a parliamentarian should possess. Not one member on this side fails to exercise that independence. On the honourable gentleman’s side of the House a man who chooses to exercise his independence will very likely be expelled from, the Labor Party. We all remember Cyril Chambers, and the man who represented Kalgoorlie. We recall that those people were expelled from the Party for showing independence. Every member named by the honourable member for Hindmarsh has preserved his spirit of independence and the loss of his seat is not a catastrophe, as unfortunately it is to so many members of the Opposition. It is a catastrophe that they cannot be independent and that they cannot be a great party.
I want to discuss one other matter raised by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who said that I was not here when, in accordance with the business on the notice paper, this matter should have come on. I want him to understand that if an apology is needed for my absence I apologise, not merely to him, but to the House. I shall leave it to him and the House to judge whether an apology is necessary. Apart from my duties as Minister for Immigration and Leader of the House, I have undertaken certain duties in the Prime Minister’s departmental area, at the Prime Minister’s request. One of the duties I have undertaken as from today is that of Chairman of the Commonwealth Literary Fund Committee.
You, Mr Acting Speaker, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) also serve on that Committee. Some time ago an appointment was made for a meeting of that Committee at 2.30 p.m. today. It was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) who, having spoken as chairman of the meeting, left it for me to chair, as arranged. That meeting was arranged a long while in advance. I did what I could to be here to comply with the forms of the House and the business on the notice paper. I remind honourable members that general business was on the notice paper for this morning. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) was given leave to make a short statement, but took thirtyone minutes to do so. At the conclusion of that statement, in order that honourable members would not be deprived of the opportunity to discuss general business - in particular the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who had properly given notice of motion in accordance with the rules of the House - I moved for an extension of the discussion of general business into this afternoon. Had I not done so, the honourable member for Dawson would virtually have missed out on his motion. For this reason the programme was moved back. One member of the Opposition had taken up a big part of the time allotted for general business in the morning and I moved for an extension of general business into the afternoon in an attempt to give honourable members ample opportunity for discussion. For that reason I was not here when this matter came on, and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) moved that it be deferred. If an apology is necessary, I offer it.
Question put -
That Standing order 103 be suspended for the remainder of the month.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move:
That (a) on every occasion when the committee reports to the Minister on any matter pursuant to his request the committee shall inform the Parliament of the fact that it has so reported, otherwise the proceedings of the committee shall not be reported to either House;
The establishment of a Foreign Affairs Committee was first proposed by Mr R. G. Menzies in his policy speech for the general elections of December 1949 and, after the return to office of a new government, the Governor-General’s Speech of February 19S0 announced the intention to form a Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to give opportunities for full study and to serve as a source of information to Parliament’.
A period of informal discussion between the leaders of the Government and of the Opposition concerning the terms of reference of the proposed committee delayed until 18th October 1951 the introduction by the then Minister for External Affairs of a resolution on the subject, but on that day the House agreed to appoint a joint committee and to seek the concurrence of another place. For various reasons, which were stated at the time by the then Leader of the Opposition and which are available to the historian by reference to Hansard, the Opposition did not appoint members to the committee.
The Opposition also did not appoint members to the joint committees established in subsequent Parliaments and the custom grew up of appointing additional members from the Government side of Parliament to fill the vacancies. Thus, with a membership formed wholly from appointments made by the Government, the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee functioned in successive parliaments from October 1951 until the expiration of the 25th Parliament towards the end of last year.
All that is in the past and I do not want to traverse any past discussions or to revive any old differences. It has always been the hope of the Government that the committee would become representative of the whole Parliament. The purpose of setting up the committee was that it would assist the whole Parliament - both chambers and both political sides - to discharge better the responsibilities of Parliament in respect of foreign affairs. While appreciating very much the good work done by what had become virtually a committee of government members I set myself the aim of making the committee more widely representative of Parliament.
Shortly after the 26th Parliament assembled last February, I approached the Leader of the Opposition and inquired whether the Opposition would be prepared to appoint members to a new committee. The starting point of our discussion was the text of the resolution under which the Committee functioned in the 25th Parliament. Subsequently each of us consulted with our own parties and the outcome of that consultation is the happy event that I am able to present this resolution today in the expectation that it will be acceptable to both sides of the House and that the Opposition will participate in the Committee’s work. The Leader of the Opposition will, of course, speak for himself and his Party later in this debate and I certainly do not want to attempt to speak for him. I would in passing like to express appreciation of the readiness with which he has discussed this matter with me and the clearness with which he has presented the views of his Party. I need only say that it will be a gratifying outcome of our discussion if the committee is now constituted, as was originally hoped, with representation from both sides of Parliament. The Government welcomes this response by the Opposition to the invitation to join the committee.
As a result of the discussions we have had, an alteration has been made in the text of the 1964 resolution. What was designated sub-paragraph 4 (k) of the 1964 resolution provided that, if a member of the Committee dissented from any report made by the Committee to the Minister, the Chairman of the Committee might record the fact of the member’s dissent and append a summary of the member’s reasons for dissent, the words of this summary having been agreed upon between the Chairman and the member. This has been replaced by a new paragraph, (14). This paragraph, basing itself on a formula used in other resolutions of this House setting up committees, simply says:
That any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report, but the protest or dissent may not introduce new matter not referred to in the main report.
In other respects, the terms of the resolution are the same as in the motion agreed to in 1964.
The Government believes that a Committee on Foreign Affairs can be of considerable value to this Parliament in helping the Parliament to discharge, with knowledge and understanding, its functions in respect of foreign affairs. The functions of this Parliament in respect of foreign affairs are, of course, parliamentary functions. Under our parliamentary system the Executive is responsible to Parliament and the Executive is formed from the majority in Parliament. But Parliament itself does not have executive functions. Consequently, this Committee of Parliament does not have functions in respect of foreign policy for which the Executive must bear the responsibility, but it has functions arising from the parliamentary role of review, discussion, and debate. It provides opportunity for members appointed to the Committee to inform themselves more fully, to study more deeply and to consider more thoughtfully the matters involved in the conduct of foreign affairs.
The Committee also has the function of reporting to the Minister for External Affairs on matters referred to it by the Minister. I trust that, through the cooperation of all its members with one another and their mutual tolerance of differences of outlook, those who are appointed to the Committee will find an opportunity to do good for themselves and, in turn, do good to Parliament by bringing a clearer view of Australian needs and interests in the world and the way in which they can best be served.
– This is the third occasion on which I have spoken on behalf of the Australian Labor Party on a motion to reappoint the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The first occasion was on 14th March 1962. I then stated the Party’s objections to joining the Committee under its then terms of reference. I next spoke on 22nd April 1964. On that second occasion the then Minister for External Affairs had met about two-thirds of the objections I had expressed two years earlier, but I reiterated the remaining reasons why we could not join the Committee. On this third occasion the remaining objections, as I had expressed them on behalf of the Party on those two former occasions, have been met. I am therefore happy to be able to say that we support the motion.
Perhaps 1 could quote to the House from a letter sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and me by the Australian Council of Churches, forwarding a decision made at the Council’s annual meeting in February last. I would adopt the decision as expressing my view of what this Committee can and should do for the Parliament and the community. The letter reads:
The Council expressed concern at the lack of informed public debate and at the absence of any system whereby knowledgeable private individuals can give evidence that would be of assistance not only to the Government but also to the public in helping it make up its mind on important matters having to do with external affairs….. The purpose of this letter is rather to stress that the Australian Council of Churches regards it as very important for an inter-party parliamentary committee on external affairs to operate effectively. We feel that without it there is a serious barrier presented to informed public opinion on external affairs. We also believe that considerable knowledge of private individuals is being lost to the Government in consideration of matters of external affairs. The Council believes that to make it effective again concessions will probably need to be made on both sides but we would ask both parties to consider primarily the high importance of establishing within the governmental system a system providing opportunity for informed public debate and bringing to the Government the evidence of knowledgeable Australian citizens.
I thank the Minister for his reference to the attitude which I brought to a full but firm discussion between us on this motion. T reciprocate his remarks and join with him in his hopes for what this Committee can achieve.
Sifting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– I would like the House to pause for a while and examine the basis upon which the Foreign Affairs Committee is established. The Australian Labor Party has, of course, offered to join it. I gather that the terms we suggested have been accepted by the Government and therefore the operation will commence with good faith on both sides. However, I should like to place on record some of the doubts I have about the way that the Government has gone about establishing the Committee and about the principles upon which it is established. I doubt whether it will fulfil the functions that a parliamentary committee ought to fulfil.
When the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) moved the motion for the reappointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee just before the suspension of the sitting, he said that there were abstract differences between the Australian parliamentary system and, say, the presidential or executive system. I presume he had in mind the position in the United States of America. He said that the Australian Parliament is not an executive system and therefore any committees that operate within our system have a different function from those that operate in an executive system. This Parliament is both a legislative forum and a source from which the Executive is drawn. Every Minister is the creature of this Parliament. His status flows from his membership of this Parliament. No matter how exalted a Minister is for the rime being, no matter how many VIP aircraft he has at his disposal or how many red carpets are laid for him wherever he goes, he is first of all a member of this Parliament. The Minister for External Affairs, the Treasurer and all other Ministers hold their offices only as long as they are members of this Parliament.
Some elements in the way in which this Committee has been established throw some doubts on the general integrity of the parliamentary body and I would like to have them cleared up. I would hope that in the development of co-operation between the members from all Parties who form the Committee these doubts will be cleared up. I hope that the rather mistrustful approach will go by the board and that all members of the Committee will be mutually trusted. However, I would like to place on record my doubt that this will be so. I understand that the House of Representatives in New Zealand has parliamentary committees. 1 understand also that the committee system there does not work very effectively. However, it exists there and has much the same functions of our own parliamentary committees, such as the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I understand that the position in Canada is much the same. The position in the United States, of course, is different. The Senate and House Committees are the creation of those bodies, are answerable to them and have very great powers. They can call witnesses and so on.
I believe that we are being unduly inhibited in our approach to the Foreign Affairs Committee. I know that some honourable members on the other side of the House have doubts about the loyalty and integrity of honourable members on this side. Those doubts are quite unmerited. As far as I can tell, Australia has never had a traitor; no-one has ever been basically disloyal to the country and no-one has ever sold Australia’s secrets to the enemy. But for some reason we have brought into this section of public interest an aura of secrecy that inhibits the dissemination of public information. Most of the information associated with foreign affairs is a matter of public knowledge, if an interested person can find it. It is very difficult to conceal what is happening on the borders of Mongolia, Cambodia or Tibet. Events there eventually will out. I think it is to our advantage - to the advantage of the community and to the advantage of the Parliament - that these matters become public knowledge.
The structure of the Foreign Affairs Committee is what I would call the obverse of the coin. It would be better if the phraseology were the other way about. I must say that I have some doubts myself because of the tone in which the Minister addresses us. He gave an example of this today when he answered a question I asked about the recognition of Greece and the recognition of China. He did not give a straight answer. He did not say: There is logic in this position but there is no logic in that position’. Instead he imputed motives to me. He said: ‘The honourable member, of course, prefers China’. I do not happen to prefer either. I like both the Chinese and the Greeks. But I dislike dictatorships of any sort. The imputation of motives was, I think, unworthy of the Minister and failed to recognise the position of the Parliament. As 1 examined the structure of the Committee and its responsibilities to the Minister and the Parliament, I wondered whether that is the way the Minister will treat the members of the Committee. I want to place on record my concern at his approach to us. As far as I am concerned, honourable members opposite mostly have unchallenged personal integrity and the capacity to be Australians. I differ from them on the interpretation of policy. I lay my record on the line with the Minister’s or with the record of anyone else. I have no doubt about the Minister’s integrity, but I think his action in imputing motives to a member of this side of the House is unworthy of his office. I place that comment on record now. I hope that this will not be his approach to the members of the Committee.
This is a Parliament, but the Foreign Affairs Committee is not a parliamentary committee. It is not parliamentary in the sense that the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are parliamentary. I think membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee can be valuable to those who serve on it. But will the Committee be valuable to the Parliament? Many articles have been written about the Committee. Leader writers and others have said that the world and Australia will be very much better now that the Committee is being established, because we will know what is happening and the people will be better informed. But let us examine for a moment the terms of reference of the Committee. I am confident that the Minister could put our minds at rest if he cared to place enough trust in the Parliament. I am confident that in the long term we could resolve the difficulties and doubts that lie between us. But I am also confident that this will not be done unless we have from the other side of the House the regard for our integrity that we have for the integrity of honourable members opposite.
Let us examine this Committee. I make the point again that other committees are parliamentary committees, answerable to the Parliament. They lay reports on the table. They have special rights. They have the power to call for documents and to call witnesses. But this is not so with the Foreign Affairs Committee. I cannot quite understand why the Committee has been framed in this way. The people who conceived it in the first instance gave their versions of the functions of the Committee. Sir Robert Gordon Menzies in his supplementary statement on the joint Opposition policy in 1949 had this to say:
We renew our proposal that there should be an all-Party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to act, not as the creator of policy (which is the privilege and responsibility of the Government of the day) but as a source of information to Parliament and therefore to public opinion.
One would think from that statement that the right honourable gentleman meant this to be a parliamentary committee; and he had moments when he was a parliamentarian. One would think from his statement that the Committee would have been designed so that it would be responsible in the first instance to the Parliament. But unfortunately foreign affairs has become the private preserve of the Minister for External Affairs and his staff. He treats the members of the Parliament in a cavalier fashion. He makes reports on occasions. They are not often reports on foreign affairs; more frequently they are discreet travelogues phrased in very good language. This Committee will not be an instrument of the Parliamen
– The honourable member will not be a member of it.
– This is a matter for discussion and debate. It is not a matter of deciding whether I will be a member of it If I am a member of it, I will find out about foreign affairs. If I am not, I will not find out. That is the point I am explaining. Paragraph 4 of the motion states:
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the Committee . information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
I have a great respect for the intellectual capacity of the Minister. I disagree with many of his judgments and many of his evaluations of foreign affairs. The fact that he may consider it desirable to place information before the Committee does not fill me with awe and it does not satisfy me that information will always be available to the Committee. It is this air of secrecy and proprietorship to which I object. I hope that in the short term we will be able to remove this area of doubt. Paragraph 8 states:
That the Committee and its sub-committees shall sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the Committee otherwise directs.
I should think that it would be desirable in many instances for the Committee to sit in camera. I understand that some of the other Committees do this on occasion. But I should think as a general principle that the provision should be written the other way round. It should provide that the Committee may sit in camera rather than it shall sit in camera. How can we determine whether information should come into the public domain? I recall that on a previous occasion the Minister had some comments to make about this. I think at some stage we will have to place before Mr Speaker the question of the rights and duties of the members of the Committee and their responsibilities while they are members of the Committee. If we do not, they may in some inadvertent way commit a breach of this confidence. The Minister said:
But it must be clear, firstly, that the member cannot by any means induce the information into the public domain and secondly that he cannot expressly or by implication reveal that the information which is in the public domain was vouched to him - and thus as it were confirmed - in the proceedings of the Committee.
At what point can one become not in camera on these terms? This causes a large doubt to arise in my mind concerning the efficiency of the Committee in establishing relationship with the Parties and the Parliament and its membership. I wonder whether in fact it will be a valuable personal experience for the members of the Committee.
Then we come to paragraph (10) (b), which states that the Minister shall forward a copy of any such report as he has requested to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information. He may not, I take it, confide in those people who have placed their confidence, and rightly so, in the Leader of the Opposition. Most of us have learned to be discreet over large areas of public and private affairs. I believe we have to find some instrument by which we can place more confidence in the membership of this Parliament. As I have said, I have complete confidence in what I would call the intellectual capacity of the Minister, but I do not have any confidence in the decisions of people about what should be treated in secrecy and with what sort of confidence they can rely on the others. Again, 1 am not confident that many of the matters that are under discussion are in fact so secret and so necessary to Australia’s security.
We note that paragraph (12), states that with the consent of the Minister for External Affairs the Committee shall have the power to call for official papers or records. Every member of this Committee is a potential Minister; every member of this Committee can become Prime Minister; and every member of this Committee must be a member of this Parliament. He has been endowed with the faith of the community which put him here. Why should any such member have to ask the Minister for External Affairs before he looks at official papers? If we do not have faith in the confidence, discretion and trust of members, we ought not to have the Committee or to have those members on it. If we are going to put a number of members of this Parliament on this Committee, in them we must put our trust. I would like to think they could call for anything and see it. The members of my Party who sit on the Committee will have my absolute faith in their judgment. As I say, I think this is a serious disability, and I am speaking here tonight in the hope that we will face this and do something about it. So much has been spoken and written in leading articles and so on in Australia that the whole basis on which this Committee is built has been misinterpreted and misunderstood.
Paragraph (14) deals with the question of dissent or protest. I think this is reasonable enough. Whether there is any point in dessenting or protesting if nobody knows what one is protesting about and nobody is to hear about it at all, I do not know, but I warn honourable members that this is a serious departure from what I would call parliamentary practice and what I would regard as the reasonable development of Australia’s parliamentary government. I believe it shows a degree of lack of faith in and distrust of the membership of this Parliament which will not forward parliamentary democracy. I know that the Minister is charged with duties which are important to the life of the nation. I know that the decisions he has to make, whether I agree with them or not, are made on a basis of intellectual capacity which probably is second to none. But that is not the question. The question is that if we are going to have an elected parliamentary body, which is to be answerable and responsible, in some way or another we have to design a system of confidence which fits that concept.
I realise the difficulties. However, I do not think the difficulties are as great as people opposite say. I do not think there is so much need for security, confidence and secrecy in this field as people say. We live in an open society. We live in a community that is used to trust, in which courts are generally open to the people, and in which most public administration ought to be carried on in the light of day. Three years ago I visited Switzerland; I spoke to people about tha defence system. One person said to me: ‘I will show you everything’. He said they had two or three very secret cantonments, or caisson ports, I think he called them, but that apart from that they had no secrets. Indeed, it would be very difficult to keep secrets in that community. I believe that here tonight the Opposition has made a great concession to the Government and to the Government Parties. I realise that I am speaking to people who just do not understand what I am talking about. I realise that
I serve here in a system in which the majority of the members have no sense of the spirit or principle of parliamentary government or democracy itself, and I say to the Minister who is trying to interject that any member on this side of the House is equal to him and just as worthy, and that at any turn of the electoral wheel he will be in Opposition and we will be Ministers. I give him my personal guarantee that I will demonstrate a lot more faith in him than he has ever demonstrated to us.
I remind the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), the reverend gentleman who brings into this House all the benefits of his past, of what the Minister said to ms this morning. As far as I was concerned it was an insult. I have made my position absolutely clear on all questions of foreign affairs. I have stood against anybody who stands for evil or dictatorship or suppression. I have said these things against Russians, against Britons, against French, against Americans and against Australians, and I will stand and say them without fear or favour and with malice towards none. I know this Committee cannot work if the Minister brings that kind of thinking to the membership of it. This, too, I say to the House tonight: do not hope for too much, but let us perhaps, if we make this move, make some concession to each other and have some faith in each other, and let us see if we can make this thing work.
– This is a historic decision we are making tonight, because since 19S1 we on this side of the House have refrained from joining the Foreign Affairs Committee. I might say that we on this side at least had a wide and deep rational discussion on whether we should join the Committee, and after discussing the matter it was decided by a majority in our Caucus that we would join the Foreign Affairs Committee under certain conditions. Yet we find the type of article we saw in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ this morning under the heading: ‘Government Agrees to Let Labor Join the Committee.’ It was the Labor Party that set down certain minimum conditions under which it would join, and it is under the Labor Party’s minimum conditions that there will be any joining of such a Committee.
The Leader of the Labor Party in the parliamentary sphere said in Townsville at the weekend that this did not mean that there would be bi-partisan foreign policy. There is a wide gulf in regard to foreign policy between the Government and the Opposition Parties. We know that we on this side of the House oppose the sending of Australian troops, both regular troops and conscripts, to Vietnam. We pledged that we would work to reverse that decision. We have advocated a peace settlement by negotiations in Vietnam. We have striven for positive proposals; we have advocated a holding position. We have expressed opposition to the escalation of the war in Vietnam. Members on the Government side have supported escalation, so there are strong differences between the Government Parties and the Opposition in this matter.
I rise to speak on this matter mainly because of the article in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ this morning to which I have referred. The honourable gentleman concerned in the article may have been misquoted, but this is what the article said:
Mr Wentworth (Liberal NSW) said that if certain individuals on the Labor side were elected as Labor’s representatives on the Committee he would consider questioning in the House of Representatives their suitability to act on such a vital committee.
That is what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is reported to have said. Of course, we know that for weeks in the lobbies there have been smears and innuendos to the effect that if certain members were in fact elected to the Foreign Affairs Committee from this side there would be questions regarding whether they were acceptable. My reply to this smear is that members on this side of the House have served this country in peace and war just as honourably as have members on the Government side, and I emphasise this for the benefit of the honourable member for Mackellar who is a well known smearer. Were we to place the records of members of the Opposition alongside the records of the Government and their supporters during the time of crisis it would be found that members on this side acted far more rationally and perhaps more courageously.
It has been decided that the Labor Party will join the Foreign Affairs Committee under certain conditions. At this stage in our history there are some members on the Government side, as there are on this side of the House, who will refrain from nominating for such a committee. Honourable members may feel reluctant to be associated with a government that supports the use by Australian bombers of napalm bombs on civilians and others in Vietnam. We know that the Australian Government supports the Government of the United States of America which is permitting the dropping of bombs on Vietnam to the extent of over one and a half tons every minute for twenty-four hours a day. It has been disclosed that in March 77,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam. This almost equals the 80,000 tons of bombs that were being dropped each month at the peak of bombing in Europe in the Second World War. I witnessed the bombing of Japan by the Allies and I saw cities being demolished by only 29,000 tons of bombs a month. At the peak of the Korean war about 17,000 tons of bombs a month were being dropped.
The Australian Government supports the escalation of the war in Vietnam. Is it any wonder, therefore, that some members of this Parliament will refrain from nominating for the Foreign Affairs Committee? They have every right on moral grounds to refrain from associating with a government that supports such barbaric action against a peasant economy. Some members have strong feelings about being associated with the Foreign Affairs Committee, but when democratic decisions are made within its party they loyally support those decisions. If any honourable member opposite besmirches or besmears any honourable member in this House and questions his right to sit on any committee it lowers his dignity and the dignity of everybody else in the House.
– For once I find myself in some agreement with the remarks of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I think the House should follow them through to a logical conclusion. The honourable member believes that more publicity should be available to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Perhaps he is right. After all, the only reason for not having publicity is that matters of confidence are placed before this Committee and they should not be revealed publicly. Foreign affairs is different from most other things; not merely because the critical interests of the country are involved but because the Government is dealing with information that is not exclusively its possession, in that it comes from our allies overseas and relates to secrets that are not entirely the Government’s own secrets. Under those conditions what is to be said of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I speak as one who served for many years on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I will not say anything about the proceedings of that Committee - I shall preserve those confidences - but I will let the House know that I am aware of the kind of thing that goes on in that Committee. If the Committee is merely to have matters before it that are unclassified, then I agree with my honourable friend from Wills that the provisions about publication and reporting to this House are too stringent. But, after all, what is the position if before this Committee is put information which should not be given publicly to this House? The Minister has to make up his mind from time to time what information of a classified nature will be given to the Committee. I have no doubt that he will make up his mind having regard to the people on the Committee.
I regret very much the phrasing of the second part of the resolution, because by it we are giving authority to put people on this Committee without knowing their names. This is true as much of the Government side as it is of the Opposition side. This is a kind of anonymous clause and we do not know who is going to be involved. May I say that in respect of most members of the Opposition I would have no more doubts about the way in which they would preserve confidences than I would have about members on the Government side. I do not want it to be taken that anything I am saying applies to that majority of the members of the Opposition, but there are members of the Opposition - I refer to them perhaps as the red belt in the Opposition, and I am going to avoid names because I do not think it is fair to mention them - to whom it would be unwise to entrust classified information if that information related to affairs-
– Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable member has just said that there are members on this side of the House to whom it would be unwise to submit classified information. This, in my view, is a charge of treachery levelled at the body of the Opposition and it ought not to be tolerated. I ask for its withdrawal.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! 1 would suggest to the honourable member for Mackellar that if he used the words referred to by the honourable member for Wills he should withdraw them. May I say that I am not reflecting on the honourable member for Wills because I was discussing a matter with the Clerk and did not hear what was said. I suggest that the honourable member for Mackellar withdraw the words.
– May I perhaps clarify what I was saying. I think I would satisfy the honourable member for Wills in so doing.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Mackellar first withdraw the words referred to by the honourable member for Wills.
– Very well, Sir, I withdraw those words. I was saying that there are members of the Opposition whose open association with members of the Communist Party is of such a character that perhaps their unwitting indiscretions would make them unfit to receive classified information.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I find the honourable member’s words offensive and I require them to be withdrawn.
– What are the words the honourable members wants withdrawn?
– Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting.
– Mr Acting Speaker, let me illustrate the position that can arise. If I were to say that every member of the Ministry received bribes I would quits properly be required to withdraw the remark. If I were to say that outside the House I would quite properly be subject to a suit for damages for defamation. If I were to say in the House that a certain named Minister had received bribes, or if
I were to say outside the House that a certain Minister had received bribes, I would be subject to similar discipline. If I say that some Ministers receive bribes I should be made to withdraw the remark. Because I had deliberately spoken obscurely, I should be able to avoid any punishment in the courts. The honourable member for Mackellar has developed this technique of never specifying any particular person who can require a withdrawal and never applying his remarks to the whole body, in which case every member of that body could require the withdrawal of the remark.
I suggest, Mr Acting Speaker, that you should, straight away in the lifetime of this Parliament, put an end to this technique. If the honourable member believes what he says about any honourable member in this place, if he believes that the conduct or character of any honourable member justifies the remarks he made, he should specify the member, who can then ask for a withdrawal. If the honourable gentleman were to be similarly direct, frank and honest outside the House then action could be taken through the courts.
– Speaking to the point of order-
-Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition has made his point of order.
- Mr Acting Speaker, on the point of order-
– Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat while I am on my feet and speaking to the Leader of the Opposition. I think the Leader of the Opposition has made his point and I suggest that in regard to that point of order-
– May I speak to the point of order?
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. In regard to the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition I suggest that I would agree with the subject matter raised by him, not only in the circumstances referred to relating to the honourable member for Mackellar but also in regard to some other remarks that have been made in this place today. I suggest to the honourable member for Mackellar that he take into consideration standing order 76. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– Mr Acting Speaker-
– Are you going to require the withdrawal of the remark?
– May I speak to the point of order?
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Mackellar that he withdraw the remarks referred to, and I suggest-
– I would like to speak to the point of order, if I may. The Leader of the Opposition spoke at length on the point of order.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Mackellar that I upheld the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition and have asked the honourable member to withdraw the remarks.
- Sir, might I be allowed to remind you-
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will withdraw the remarks to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw them, Sir. I now say that before you ruled on that I asked to be heard on the point of order and I was not heard. I do not think the Chair behaved quite properly in that regard.
-Order! The honourable member will also take reflection.
– I make no reflection on the Chair, Sir, but I have the right to be heard on a point of order before a ruling is given, if I stand up.
-Order! The honourable member has no right in regard to the withdrawal of words in respect of which either an honourable member or the Chair has asked for a withdrawal. I suggested that to the honourable member when he rose to his feet on the first occasion.
– Very good, Sir. 1 withdraw those words. In view of the fact that the security of the country is at stake it is important that classified information be not given to those people who may, unwittingly perhaps, through their association with Communists - unwittingly - give away secrets. This is a matter which is of some importance and I am proposing-
– Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to order. I take the point of order that the honourable gentleman has again infringed the ruling which you have given. He is saying that this Parliament may elect to a Committee persons who will not carry out their duty, who will be forsworn. This could reflect on any person in this House who is elected to that Committee.
-Order! On the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition I suggest that so far the words which have been used by the honourable member for Mackellar have been general words in which there has been no mention of the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. To this degree-
– He has referred to an association with Communists.
-Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the honourable member for Mackellar has made a general statement in which he has not referred to the particular circumstances under discussion.
– Speaking to the point of order, the honourable member’s remarks are completely irrelevant unless he is asserting that there are persons in this House who unwittingly or unreliably associate with Communists. His remarks must be based on a belief that there may be such persons in this House. Otherwise they would be completely irrelevant. If the honourable member for Mackellar is asserting that there are such persons in this House then these are personal imputations which he should withdraw. If the remarks are irrelevant they should be brought to an end.
– On the point of order-
– Mr Acting Speaker, on the point of order-
-Order! I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– Surely it is in order in this debate, when the security of the country may be at stake, to point out the facts. I am not inclined to retreat from the facts. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to press me in regard to them I shall be happy to oblige him and go a little further.
– Then we can have a withdrawal?
– All I am saying at the present moment is that there are persons in this House who, outside the House, have associations with Communists. This is well known. It is on the public record. Because they have these associations then unwittingly - I do not suggest that they are forsworn - they are bad security risks.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that the ruling which I gave previously also stands if he is making a reflection upon any member of this House in relation to the responsibilities that he may have on the Committee. To that degree I would say to the honourable member for Mackellar that if there is a reflection then the reflection is contrary to Standing Orders.
- Sir, this is not a reflection on members of the House. I am simply endeavouring to preserve national security.
-Order! I suggest also that the honourable member for Mackellar at the moment is canvassing the ruling of the Chair. I would say without any hesitation that in the light of this debate and in regard to its subject matter the remarks made by the honourable member for Mackellar are reflections upon members of the House. I have given that ruling and I would suggest that the honourable member for Mackellar continue his remarks without going into this sphere.
– Should he withdraw the remarks?
– I must respect your ruling, Sir.
– I rise to order. I take the point that the honourable member for Mackellar has not withdrawn the words that unwittingly a member may give away secrets to a Communist or foreign power.
– He has already done that.
– He has not. If the remarks had been withdrawn I would not be on my feet. I happen to know something about this position because, after all, I have been through an historic struggle-
-Order! In regard to the point of order taken by the honourable member for Reid I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the words. I understood that he had withdrawn them.
– He has not.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the phrase referred to.
– I withdraw the word ‘unwittingly’, Sir.
– That was not the point of order.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the words which he used and to which exception was taken by the Leader of the Opposition. I understood that the honourable member for Mackellar had withdrawn the phrase.
– I withdraw the phrase if I am required to do so. May I say that there are members of this House who in their speeches in this House have shown that their hearts and minds are with our Communist enemies?
-Order! I have asked the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw certain remarks and phrases. I suggest to the honourable member that he should not continue in this vein, implying the same things that he has been asked to withdraw. I suggest to the honourable member that he speak to the motion before the House.
– Has the honourable member withdrawn that sentence, Mr Acting Speaker?
– I turn now-
– Mr Acting Speaker, I require a withdrawal of the last sentence uttered by the honourable member.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will withdraw the remark that he made previously.
– I withdraw such phrases as you require me to withdraw, Mr Acting Speaker. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), I think with some substance, spoke of the undesirability of preserving secrecy. If no classified information is given to the Committee, then there will be no secrecy to preserve. I know that the Minister is very jealous of the security of his Department and that he would not like to give classified information to those people who have got their hearts and minds on the other side.
– In accordance with your repeated ruling, Mr Acting Speaker, I require the withdrawal of the last sentence.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar has ignored requests made by the Chair on two occasions when it was suggested that the honourable member should not continue in the same vein. I suggest that the honourable member now withdraw 4he concluding words that he used in his speech.
– Yes, indeed, Sir. I hope the Minister will preserve in every way the security which should be preserved in regard to classified information which comes into his possession.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege under standing order 96. It seems to me that in the course of this debate the honourable member for Mackellar has cast serious reflections on members of this House in such a way that he has transcended the very spirit in which we sit here. I seek your advice, Sir, on the procedure one should take to lay a charge of breach of privilege against the honourable member.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Wills that it is not the responsibility of the Chair to work out for honourable members what steps should be taken in regard to this matter.
– Mr Acting Speaker-
– I rise to a point of order.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to: That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Talks have been taking place in Canberra this week between the Government and representatives of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. The Government was represented at these talks by the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes), the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), and the Minister for Works (Mr C. R. Kelly). Messrs H. Chan, M.L.C., R. J. Withnall, M.L.C., and F. W. Drysdale, M.L.C., who are elected members, and Mr B. Kilgariff, M.L.C., a nominated non-official member, represented the Legislative Council. These talks were held at the request of the Legislative Council which, among other things, had sought clarification of the Government’s attitude to the functioning of the Legislative Council and the Administrator’s Council for the Northern Territory. The talks provided an opportunity for a full exchange of views on both sides.
The Legislative Councillors amplified their view that the Commonwealth was exercising unduly detailed supervision over ordinances passed by the Legislative Council, and was unreasonably denying a legitimate extension of the scope of the Legislative Council and the Administrator’s Council. The Ministers pointed out that of 390 ordi nances passed by the Legislative Council between 1960 and 1966 there had been only nine substantive cases of rejection of whole ordinances, or 2.3% of the total, and one case of disallowance of a single section.
The general attitude of the Commonwealth Government is that the Legislative Council and the Administrator’s Council are intended to provide the means by which the representatives of the Northern Territory community have the greatest possible opportunity to participate in the government of the Territory. At the same time, because of the dependence of the Northern Territory on financial provisions made by the Commonwealth Parliament, because of the smallness of the population and because of its importance in the future development of Australia, matters would arise from time to time on which, in order to discharge the responsibilities resting upon it, the Commonwealth Government needed to retain the right of final decision.
In the Government’s view, whatever arrangements were adopted for the government of the Northern Territory, they would need to be consistent with the following principles:
Final authority of government has to be related to financial autonomy.
The- responsibility for taking executive decisions cannot be separated from the responsibility for carrying out those decisions.
Other than in areas of special concern to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will not normally intervene in decisions of the Legislative Council or the acceptance of advice of the Administrator’s Council. So long as the financial, administrative and political resources of the Territory provide an insufficient basis for effective government, the Commonwealth cannot divest itself of final authority in areas of special concern to it. Within those special areas it will give full weight to the views of the Legislative Council and of the Administrator’s Council in its consultative role.
In the present stage of Territory development, executive and legislative power, if exercised by Northern Territory institutions without Commonwealth surveillance, must be defined on a very limited scale to accord with the practical situation. On the other hand, participation in government by Territory elected representatives need not be so narrowly limited if that participation takes place with recognition that a measure of surveillance by the Commonwealth is part of the basic constitutional and practical position.
There are no barriers to the extension of local government.
The Legislative Councillors stressed that their approach was a responsible one and maintained that on many issues they would be the best judges of which course would best serve the Territory’s interests. It was agreed that there was scope, without statutory change, for extension of consultation in the Administrator’s Council on a variety of matters of Northern Territory concern. The Ministers agreed that ways of putting this into practical effect would be examined. The following comments apply to specific matters raised by Legislative Councillors:
The Ministers would give further consideration to representations for the replacement of the three nominated nonofficial members of the Legislative Council by elected members. The Ministers pointed out that the present structure of the Legislative Council provided a careful balance between the eight elected members, the six official members, and the three non-official members. Any change which disturbed that balance would need to provide means by which there would be reasonable opportunity for the Executive to secure passage of necessary official legislation.
Continuation of membership of the Administrator’s Council of a nominated nonofficial member was linked with the question of continuation of nominated non-official membership of the Legislative Council.
Ordinances which may be passed by the Legislative Council to enlarge the statutory range of matters referred to the Administrator’s Council would be considered sympathetically. There had in the last few years been a substantial enlargement of that range. Nevertheless, there were matters on which the Commonwealth could be expected to maintain its full executive authority.
In the light of present opportunities for elected and non-official members of the Administrator’s Council to have -matters discussed by that Council, no alteration in present statutory arrangements was considered by Ministers to be warranted. As stated above, it was intended that an extension of consultation in the Administrator’s Council under existing statutory provisions would be arranged.
The Legislative Councillors maintained that there was particular injustice in denial of full voting rights to the Member for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives in the light of the Government’s insistence on retention of ultimate authority on Territory matters and the withholding from the Legislative Council of powers of appropriation. The Ministers agreed to recommend that full voting rights be accorded to the Member for the Northern Territory after the next Federal election. The Ministers reiterated that the Government attached importance to the extension and growth of local government in tha Territory.
The Legislative Councillors stated that they noted with satisfaction the proposal to recommend that the Member for the Northern Territory should have an unlimited voting right in the House of Representatives. As to the Minister’s expressed intention to consider the representations for the abolition of the offices of nominated non-official members, Councillors noted this intention but did not accept that any such action should be accompanied by any subtraction from the present authority of the Legislative Council. As to the other proposals brought forward for discussion, Councillors expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of the Ministers that no extension of the statutory authority of the Legislative Council and Administrator’s Council in the administration of government in the Northern Territory will be considered. They agreed that consultation can be useful but is no substitute for direct participation in the affairs of local concern. They considered that the Ministers in these talks had shown little, if any, intention to relax the tight control over the details of administration, and forecast that continuance in this attitude will result in increasing dissatisfaction amongst the people of the Territory. The Legislative Councillors expressed regret that the Ministers had shown so little understanding of the situation in the Northern Territory as to meet their proposals for legislative reform of the organs of government in the Territory with little more than an elaborate refusal.
The Ministers considered that the views expressed by the Legislative Councillors did not sufficiently acknowledge the extent of real influence they have on the government of the Territory under present arrangements, which, in the view of the Ministers, are working reasonably well. The Ministers considered it fundamental that the Commonwealth must have the final responsibility at this stage of the Territory’s development, but they expressed the hope that the people of the Territory would have an increasing voice and influence.
I present the following paper:
Ministerial Statement, 4 May 1967 - and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time. ‘
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Acting Speaker, the purpose of the Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act in order to vary the charges for certain postal and telegraph services. Simultaneously, some other postal and telecommunication tariffs not included in the Act are being altered and I shall take the opportunity to explain these also. The postal and telecommunications services are accepted by the Government as being vital in a developing community. The Government believes therefore that it must do everything that is reasonably possible to meet the needs of the Australian public in the expansion and efficiency of those services. There are undoubted problems, not the least of which is the raising of appropriate revenues having regard to increasing cost factors and the provision year by year of substantial capital funds.
I have said before in this House that the role of the Post Office is one of a national business which should pay its way, although I am not unmindful of its obligations to the community as a whole, especially in the outback and developing areas. The regular delivery of mail to scattered communities and the provision of telephone and telegraph services over great distances to serve relatively few people are very expensive. In many cases those services are provided on terms well below cost. However, the Post Office accepts this as being inevitable and, indeed, regards it as a contribution to development generally.
But if overall charges made by the Post Office are inadequate to meet costs properly chargeable against its revenues, then the difference must be made good from another source - and the only other source is the taxpayer. I believe, and I am sure that honourable members will agree, that it would be wrong to expect taxpayers generally to bear these costs in the form of increased taxation. Rather, I believe that they should be borne by those who use the services. It is proposed, therefore, to increase certain postal and telecommunication tariffs, to take effect from 1st July this year.
My proposals on the postal services are by no means limited to increases in rates but form part of a planned and integrated approach designed to improve postal services to business and the community generally. Several new features are proposed. There have been no overall increases in postal rates for almost eight years, since the basic postage rate of 5 pence was introduced in 1959. In fact, the only significant change has been the reduction in the basic postage rate to 4c at the time of the changeover to decimal currency last year. This has so far cost the Postal Service $750,000 in lower revenue. This stability in postal rates is to be compared with changes for most other consumer services in Australia which have risen by 22% since 1959. In the period countries such as New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States of America have increased charges for postal services.
Indeed, at the present time, the U.S. Postal Administration, faced with a $600m deficit, after subsidising uneconomic services by more than $500m, is also proposing general postal increases to operate from 1st July.
To keep costs, and consequently charges, to a minimum my Department is continuing its efforts to improve efficiency through better methods and the development and introduction of the most modern mail handling machinery. The improvement in productivity which has already been achieved is shown by the fact that between 1959 and 1966 the postal staff rOse by only 10% in order to handle a 31% increase in traffic. The Postal Service was able to maintain a break even financial position over the five year period from 1959-60 to 1963-64, averaging a profit of about $0.9m annually. In 1964-65, however, a loss of $2.6m was incurred and this was followed in 1965-66 by a loss of $10.3m.
With current postal tariffs and allowing for continuation of recent cost trends, losses of $18m this financial year and $25m next year are likely. These losses, by 1970-71, could rise to $40m or $45m. In recent years, it has not been possible to absorb the increases in wage rates which have been granted to postal staff. Last financial year, for example, the increase in postal earnings of about $4.5m was equalled by the extra wages payable as a result of variations to awards. Although a 4.1% increase in postal business was handled with a 1.8% increase in staff, the costs of the additional labour together with unavoidable extra costs associated largely with the transport of mails, contributed materially to the increase of $7.7m in the loss on the Postal Services. During the period between 1959-60 and 1965-66, the wage rates of postmen and mail sorters rose by about 40% and postal clerks by over 50% .
I wish to make the point here that the Arbitration Commission, in granting wage increases on an overall basis does not - indeed it could not - take into account the effect such increases could have on the financial operations of an organisation such as the Post Office with its variety of staff categories, awards and so on. Public utilities such as the Post Office, not being able to recover all such increased costs from in creased turnover, have no alternative but to recover at least part of the increased costs from the user who principally is the recipient of increased wages. Considerable expenditure has been necessary to extend postal services and facilities to meet growing community needs. For example, in the last eight years, nearly 400 new official and non-official post offices have been opened, postmen’s delivery points have been increased by 25% to more than 3 million, and private boxes installed at post offices have been increased by 45% to about 200,000.
The following revision of postal rates is proposed. For letters and postcards the existing rate of 4c for the first ounce will be increased to 5c. The charge for each additional ounce up to 4 ounces will be raised from 3c to 4c. Above four ounces and up to sixteen ounces the rate will be 4c for each additional four ounces. Over sixteen ounces the charge will be 33c or the parcel rate, whichever is the higher.
For other articles including business and printed papers and merchandise, the existing rates for the first and successive weight steps of 4c and 3c will be increased to 5c and 4c, respectively. In addition, the first weight step of four ounces will be divided into two twoounce weight units. Over sixteen ounces the charge will be 25c or the parcel rate, whichever is the higher.
For publications registered at the General Post Office the existing general rate for registered Australian books, newspapers and periodicals of 4c for each eight ounces will become 5c for the first six ounces and 4c for each additional six ounces. The rate for these publications, except books, when posted in bulk, will be increased from 4c for each twelve ounces to 5c for each twelve ounces, on the total weight of the consignment. In addition, the following minimum charge for each postal article will be made: ic in the case of postal articles weighing one ounce or less; lc on postal articles weighing between one and one and a half ounces, and lc on postal articles weighing more than one and a half ounces.
The postal rates proposed for letters and other articles are a further step towards a price structure based more upon handling costs than upon the nature of the contents. The handling costs of letters and other articles of the same weight are similar because in many cases these items are handled and conveyed together; in addition, the cost does not rise proportionately with weight. The proposed rate structure reflects these factors and is simplified by considerably reducing overlapping scales. One consequence will be to reduce the charge for very large letters.
It is also proposed to introduce into the postal rates structure an important new principle of benefit to many businesses. I refer to discounts on postage of up to 25% for large users who reduce Post Office handling costs by pre-sorting their mail and by meeting certain other posting conditions concerning make-up and transmission. This discount will vary according to the size of the consignment and the amount of pre-sorting by the customer. It is expected that many large users will use the Post Office’s system of numeric code addresses to facilitate pre-sorting of their mail. Details of these codes, called Postcodes, are now available and will be fully publicised shortly. From 1st July 1968, the inclusion of Postcodes in the addresses on discount mail will be a requirement. Details of the discount conditions are contained in the statements which I am presenting.
The Standards Association of Australia has recently issued a specification covering the size of envelopes suitable for machine handling by the Post Office. It is proposed that from 1st July 1967, enveloped mail must satisfy these size conditions to be eligible for conveyance by air free of airmail fees within Australia and its Territories under Operation Post Haste. There is a slight reduction on the present maximum size from 10 inches x 5 inches to 9i inches x 4f inches.
The Householder Mail Service, by which articles addressed to ‘The Householder’ or similar title are delivered to each point in a designated area, has increased very considerably in usage since the 30% discount on postage was introduced on 1st October 1964. Although it is proposed to raise the prime charge for this type of article, the percentage> discount will also be raised - to 40%- so that the rate to be paid on light-weight items is only slightly greater than at present.
A substantial concession is being retained for registered Australian publications. At the present time the cost of handling the average newspaper or periodical posted in bulk is 7c, and the average revenue derived is about 1.75c. The average subsidy is more than 5c for each individually addressed newspaper and periodical. This subsidy will be reduced by less than 15% under the proposed rates. The concession rates applying to the 140 million registered publications posted in bulk annually is a major factor in the extent of the postal service’s increasing financial loss. It is therefore essential that the bulk rate be increased, and the extent of the increase proposed, 25%, is very moderate when compared to the proposed rates and fees for other services.
The bulk postage concession rates permit all individually addressed newspapers and periodicals, posted at the same time by publishers and newsagents, to be paid for on the total weight, as if they collectively constituted one postal article only. Many small publications - nearly thirty million annually in fact - weigh less than one ounce. Thirty or more papers to the pound are common so that the Post Office processes and delivers as many as six individually addressed items for a return of only lc. The minimum charges proposed will ensure that these small publications make a more reasonable contribution towards their handling costs. A one ounce registered publication will cost only ic, onetenth of the proposed other articles rate which normally applies to printed matter; a two ounce publication will cost only lc, one-fifth of the corresponding other articles rate. Many bulk mailers of registered publications already co-operate with the Post Office by preparing and pre-sorting their postings in such a way as to reduce postal handling costs. It is proposed that from 1st July 1968, all individually addressed copies of registered publications, posted in bulk, must be pre-sorted by the customer into a number of separations, as determined by the Post Office after collaboration with the customer, and be enclosed in an envelope or wrapper containing a ‘postage paid’ imprint. Mailers will find that the use of Postcodes in addresses will be of considerable assistance in pre-sorting.
It is important to observe that, so far as is known, there are only two major postal administrations in the world, besides Australia, which continue to offer a bulk rate for newspapers and periodicals in their domestic service. These are Canada and the United States of America, both of which report annual losses of millions of dollars on this category of mail. The bulk rate in Australia is cheap compared with the charges applicable in Britain and New Zealand for the posting of newspapers. A British publisher distributing 1,000 separately addressed papers, each weighing one ounce, would pay postage equivalent to $ A3 1.25. At the bulk rate in Australia, a publisher would pay §3.33 for the same service at present, and $5 at the proposed rate.
The British postal rates do provide for bags of newspapers for overseas to be despatched under certain conditions at a bulk rate equivalent to about 13 cents (Aust.) per lb. This is still well in excess of the present Australian domestic bulk rate of 4 cents for each 12 oz or the 5 cents for each 12 oz proposed.
The conditions for registration for eligibility for the newspaper postage rate are more generous in Australia than in Britain, where periodicals and newspapers published less frequently than weekly are not entitled to concession rates. This means that the postage, as printed matter, on a magazine weighing about 6 oz would be equivalent to approximately 4i cents (Aust.), whereas in Australia at the bulk rate the equivalent charge would be 2 cents at present and 2i cents at the proposed rate. A small monthly church paper weighing, say, twenty to the lb would cost about 3 cents (Aust.) each to post in Britain, as compared with 4/ 15th cent in Australia at the present bulk rate and i cent at the proposed rate. There is no bulk rate in New Zealand, the minimum charge being approximately 2 cents (Aust.) for each registered publication. Using the example of a publisher distributing 1,000 separately addressed papers, each weighing one ounce, the postage payable in New Zealand would be equivalent to SA20.83, compared with the Australian charge of $3.33 at present, and $5 at the proposed rate.
Turning to postal charges not covered by the Bill, Mr Speaker, I would like to invite the attention of honourable members to certain variations which it is proposed to effect through amendment of regulations or executive action and which will also apply from 1st July 1967. These are set out in full in the statements. These variations include the commission on money orders and the fees on some postal orders, the charges for late fee and for philatelic services. It will be necessary for the increases in domestic rates to ‘be applied to several international (rates for surface mail. The price for aerogrammes will also be increased from 9 cents to 10 cents.
In concluding my remarks on the postal services, I wish to announce the introduction from 1st July 1967, of a new special mail despatch service for highly urgent mail between the business areas of interstate capital cities. This service will allow mail posted soon after the close of business to be available for collection or be delivered early the following morning in all except the most distant capitals. A special mail despatch service, such as the one proposed, will meet, the need for a highly reliable overnight mail service for urgent items which cannot be posted until after normal mail closing time. Because of the extra cost involved in providing this service, the postage payable is proposed to be double the ordinary postage rates applicable to letters, other articles or parcels, depending on the category of mail concerned. Where appropriate, the present airmail fee of 3 cents per ounce would also be payable.
As experience is gained with the demand for the special mail despatch service, the service’s extension to cover other posting and delivery areas will be considered. Full details of posting points, closing times, and other necessary information in respect of the new special mail despatch .service, will be advertised through the usual media.
The variation in postal charges which I have outlined will, if introduced on 1st July 1967, bring in additional earnings of approximately $30 million in 1967-68, which should put the postal service in a position where its trading results break even, taking one year with another over the next few years.
I turn now to telegram rates. The public telegraph service is at present operating at a loss, estimated at about $2m yearly. The current rates for telegrams are 30 cents for the first twelve words and 5 cents for each additional two words. Double these rates are charged for urgent telegrams. With the exception of a minor adjustment in 1964, these charges have remained unaltered since 1956. An increase in the telegram rates making the charges for ordinary rate message 36 cents for the first twelve words and 3 cents for each additional word is proposed. The revised rates will bring in additional earnings of about $lm in 1967-68 - still leaving the public telegraph service in a loss position.
Telecommunication costs in recent years have been affected greatly by higher wage rates and by capital charges associated with the heavy and rapidly growing expenditure on new facilities. The growing dependence of the business community and the public generally on the Post Office for adequate and effective communication services places a heavy responsibility on the Post Office. With these growing needs is associated a heavy and rapidly rising demand for capital, and it is primarily for this reason that increases in some telecommunications tariffs are proposed.
The Budget appropriation for Post Office capital works in 1966-67 was $202.7m and about 95% of this is being spent on telecommunications facilities. Future capital works programmes will impose heavy and growing demands on the Commonwealth Budget. Having regard to growing Government commitments in other areas, it becomes necessary in the national interest to find ways and means of minimising the budgetary problems associated with Post Office capital funding. An important factor, therefore, in telecommunications charges for the future is the extent to which telephone subscribers may reasonably be expected to contribute something extra, over and above the overall operating costs of the service, to help in meeting the costs of developing and expanding the service, especially as much of the new capital will be required for the facilities needed to give effective and economic service to the existing 2,200,000 subscribers.
The demand for telephone services has risen by well over 10% this year and, with local telephone calls and trunk traffic also increasing sharply, the capital needs for telecommunications will show a sharp rise in 1967-68 and subsequent years. The major pressure on capital funds is the need to cope adequately and economically with growing traffic from existing subscribers. Any serious curtailment of expenditure on increased traffic capacity would inevitably lead to loss of revenue, deterioration in the quality of service to the business community and the public generally and heavy uneconomic expenditure on expedients.
Extension to local network plant as well as to trunk network plant is involved, with major pressures developing on the trunk line side where the network is deficient by about 10,000 circuits, equivalent to nearly twice the current annual growth. An expanded programme of automatic trunk switching exchanges is essential to the effective expansion of subscriber trunk dialling facilities to provide a greatly improved service to the business community and the public generally. Substantial expenditure will also be involved next year and in subsequent years on major trunk line routes, including the Adelaide-Perth broadband system.
The capital works programme for 1967- 68 and succeeding years should be at a level adequate to enable the interests of existing subscribers to be taken care of and also provide for extension of the network to cater for new business in the form of new subscribers and for a reduction of the waiting applicant list as speedily as possible. In addition, it is necessary to take heed of the current trend in the operating results of the telecommunications services. As a whole, the services showed a profit of $10.2 million in 1965-66, most of the expenditure and revenues being associated with telephone facilities. Higher wage rates and heavy and growing capital charges are expected to reduce this profit by more than half in 1966-67 and a loss of some millions of dollars is expected in 1967-68.
Rising costs and consequent movement to heavy deficits which impose substantial additional burdens on the Commonwealth Budget are, in the Government’s view, to be avoided and it is therefore proposed that there should be some increases in telephone charges. These also will take effect from 1st July 1967. The major proposal will be an increase in the local call charge from 3ic to 4c with corresponding adjustments in trunk rates. This is the first increase in such charges made since 1959, apart from a few minor adjustments in trunk line charges for the introduction of decimal currency. No changes are proposed in rentals for telephone exchange services nor in the telephone connection fee.
In the case of miscellaneous telecommunications facilities and services, a selective adjustment to increase overall earnings by approximately 20% is proposed; adjustments will include a reduction, however, in the charges for longer distance private telegraph lines. The proposed increases in charges for telecommunications services, including the public telegraph service, should bring in additional earnings of about $37m in 1967-68.
With regard to the increase in call charges, I should like to remind honourable members that under the Extended Local Service Area scheme which has operated since 1959, many calls that previously were trunk calls are now available at local call rates. Moreover, the average size of local call areas is now 800 square miles compared with an average eighty square miles previously. During the currency of the ELSA scheme, therefore, the cost to subscribers of calls within these areas has been reduced considerably.
I am presenting statements showing in detail the proposed adjustments in postal and telecommunications charges. These include not only those covered by the legislation now before the House but also other adjustments which will be made by regulations or administrative action. The Post Office is an efficient organisation which has on many occasions proved its ability to absorb quite substantial cost increases without an adjustment to charges but this situation cannot continue indefinitely. The adjustments now proposed have been considered carefully and the proposed rates represent reasonable charges for the services provided. I commend the Bill to honourable members and, with their concurrence, incorporate in Hansard the following statements:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670504_reps_26_hor55/>.