26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Have the several petitions presented to Parliament last year calling on the Government to increase substantially its contribution to non-military overseas aid received serious consideration? If so, is any action in progress or contemplated which could satisfy the pleadings of the petitioners? Is the member or senator who presents a petition to Parliament on behalf of petitioners subsequently informed of the Government’s intention in relation to the subject matter of the petition? If not, what other means, if any, are employed to ensure that the information reaches the petitioners concerned?
– I think all honourable members are aware that the Australian Government’s contribution to civil aid overseas has been on a steadily rising curve. Although Australia is a developing country and a capital importing country, per capita our contribution in terms of overseas aid ranks us amongst the first four or five of all countries. As to the details, these are revealed from time to time by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, in statements which come before the Parliament, when the estimates for his Department are before the Parliament, and in discussions which occur in the Parliament on those matters. I am sure that he would be happy to give to the honourable gentleman or any other honourable gentleman who is similarly interested a good deal of detail as to what Australia is currently doing. We can feel, as our expenditures mount, that we are making a useful contribution. Those of us who have had an opportunity to see some of this aid given practical effect in the countries which receive it feel that it has been well selected and that we are getting the best results for the outlay that this small country can afford in this respect.
– I ask a question of you, Mr Acting Speaker. Is it true that the
Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party is currently meeting in the precincts of this House? Is it true that the Federal Executive issues orders to members of this House and that members of the House acknowledge the Executive’s authority to issue orders to them? If so, does this constitute a breach of the privileges of this House?
– I am not aware that the committee rooms of this House are being used by personsother than members of the Parliament.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Health a question. Will he say whether the Government is likely to vary its present policy relating to the means test applied to the issue of pensioner medical entitlement cards? Is it possible that the newgroup of pensioners attracting entitlement under the recent legislation may receive a medical card entitling them to hospital and pharmaceutical benefits but not medical benefits? If so, has this situation been forced upon the Government by the doctors refusing to co-operate fully with the Government in its declared policy, or is the powerful Australian Medical Association withholding its full approval of Government policy as it would normally apply to this new group of pensioners?
– Arrangements for medical service under the pensioner medical scheme are made by agreement between the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Australian Medical Association. This matter is considered at the Congress of the Association each year if and when the subject is brought forward. With regard to the question of change in government policy, this obviously is a policy matter and cannot be discussed at question time. However, the points which have been brought up by the honourable member will be considered carefully when the Budget is formulated.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the circumstances relating to Gnangara land in Western Australia which has been sold by the Department of the Interior and rebought by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for a wireless project at a substantial loss of Commonwealth funds on a transaction which took place within three or four months only? As a statutory authority is a creation of the Parliament and is subject to Commonwealth audit, will he take steps to ensure that statutory authorities in future negotiate their land acquisition requirements through the Department of the Interior to obviate a repetition of lack of knowledge of the availability of Commonwealth-owned land as applied in this case?
– The honourable member will be aware and the House will understand that the normal procedure in the sale of Commonwealth land is through the Department of the Interior which virtually acts as an estate agent for -the Commonwealth, in regard to both the purchase and sale of freehold property. In addition the Department of the Interior acts in negotiations in relation to leases. I understand the procedure is that surplus land is notified to other departments by the Department of the Interior and the other departments say whether they would have a use for the particular site. If no Commonwealth department has an interest in it then an indication is given to the State governments that the land is available.
I presume that the same principles apply in regard to Commonwealth statutory authorities. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for the Interior to see whether statutory authorities are notified. If they are not notified I am sure he will include them on the list with government departments in the broad category which should be advised so that we can avoid any difficulties. I do not know the details of the situation in regard to the land mentioned by the honourable member. All I know is that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission has bought land in this area as a substitute for the Applecross land which it held near Perth.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. On Sth April I asked, upon notice, question No. 169 inquiring as to what action was being taken in reference to alleged widespread frauds whereby firms converting price computing scales and other accounting equipment te the requirements of decimal currency were claiming and being paid compensation over and over again in connection with the conversion of one machine. I was told that the Decimal Currency Board would consider the alleged frauds at a meeting on 4th May. I now ask: Have frauds been perpetrated? If so, what are their extent and what action will be taken?
– There has been delay, but not unreasonable delay, in furnishing a reply to the question asked by the honourable gentleman. I do not know whether there have been frauds.. Until this moment I have not received the report from the Decimal Currency Board. The Board promised to let me have the report yesterday, but it is not yet available. I hope that it will be available some time today or, at the’ latest, tomorrow. As soon as I get that reply I shall let the honourable member know and will answer the question in the ordinary way.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The announcement by the Minister that the Government will increase its contribution to $14m per annum for wool research and promotion is indeed pleasing. Do the current promotion and research now operative have as their aim an increase in” sales of woollen garments, blankets, etc., at better prices and, if this is so and the’ result is achieved, what guarantee is there that it will be reflected in better prices at wool sales?
– The $14m that the Government proposes’ to make as a maximum contribution for promotion and research to the wool industry is designed to help that industry. The Government will be contributing dollar for dollar up to that figure with the industry itself. So, in effect, double that amount will be avail. able. Research is having a good effect on the industry in many ways. The honourable gentleman’s question pertains mostly to promotion. He asks whether the effect of promotion will be reflected in the price of wool - in the payments made to woolgrowers. I would hope so. However, I must say that there is really a revolution occurring in the synthetics industry. Patent rights are expiring and there is greater competition.
The manufacturers of synthetics are striving to get more and more of the world markets. If the promotion that is undertaken by the International Wool Secretariat does no more than hold present markets it will have achieved something. The wool industry would have been in a chaotic situation had it not undertaken promotion work and been ready, as it has been ready in the last two years, to meet the onslaughts of the synthetics industry. I hope that as a result of increased promotion - and the industry is gradually building up its programme to the desired level - it will achieve even the effect that the honourable member wants of having the improvement reflected in increased prices to growers.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that no allowance is payable to a widow who has the custody, care and control of children under sixteen years of age unless the children were in her custody on the day she became a widow. If so, does this rule apply whether or not the widow is receiving child endowment payments for the children? Is it also a fact that, persons in receipt of the age pension can receive a child allowance whenever they assume the custody, care and control of children? If so, what are the reasons for this injustice to widows? Will the Minister take immediate action to rectify the anomaly?
– The position is substantially as has been explained by the honourable member with the exception that, as I recollect, if a widow should give birth to a child immediately after the decease of her husband she would receive a child’s allowance in respect of that child. As far as age pensioners are concerned, they are entitled to a child allowance. The purpose of the child allowance is to provide for the person responsible for the care of an infant an additional income to help meet the cost of outgoings. It is expected that the only children a widow would have in her custody, care and control would be her own.
– What about grandchildren?
– With an age pensioner it is usually grandchildren who come into the eligibility, but I will look at the implications of the honourable member’s question and reply to him in writing in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is he aware of the unique role of the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories in the field of practical mineral research in Australia? Will the Minister seek a conference with the South Australian Government for the purpose of reviewing the support given to AMDEL from Government sources and varying the method of that support so that it will, firstly, provide AMDEL with funds that will enable it to keep up with the needs of the industry; secondly, enable it to support advanced research; and, thirdly, enable it to take up ideas generated by its staff as a consequence of specific research in the fulfilment of its contract assignments?
– I am very well aware of the excellent work that is being done by the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories in South Australia. The Commonwealth Government supports this work in two ways. Firstly, it is represented on the council, together with representatives of industry and of the State Government. Secondly, the Commonwealth guarantees that a certain amount of work will be available to the organisation, to which we pay every year. The honourable gentleman asked whether further assistance would be given by the Commonwealth Government. This is a matter of policy and is being considered by the Government at the present moment.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell the House whether regulations are in force to prevent unnecessary low flying by aircraft in Australia? Is he aware that on Sunday last an Ansett-ANA Viscount aircraft, which left Sydney at 11.5 a.m. for Canberra with passengers aboard, flew very low over Sydney Harbour to enable a photographer travelling in the front of the aircraft to take photographs of the two yachts commonly known as ‘Gretel’ and ‘Dame Pattie’? This incident caused great concern to the passengers. Can the Minister tell the House whether any permission was given by the Department of Civil Aviation for such a venture? In view of the air safety factor involved, will the Minister ensure that aircraft do not in any circumstances ignore air navigation regulations?
– Whilst the sight on Sydney Harbour would certainly have been worth photographing, I can assure the House that the air navigation regulations administered by my Department must be adhered to. I do not know of any circumstances in which special permission could be given for an aircraft operating in the regular public transport system to disregard the regulations. There are special circumstances in which light aircraft can be given authority to fly at low altitudes, if this does not pose a danger to the community generally. However, I will make some inquiries regarding the incident to which the honourable member has referred and I will let him know the result.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Health a question. I refer to the absence abroad of the Minister for Health and the Director-General of Health, Sir William Refshauge, and the forthcoming visit of the Assistant Director-General in charge of the Animal Quarantine Branch, Mr K. S. Mcintosh. Can the Acting Minister contact them and ask them to examine ways of removing any quarantine barriers that prevent the import of British cattle semen into Australia for the purpose of improving herd productivity?
– Certain restrictions were placed on the importation of cattle semen from the United Kingdom. I discussed this matter myself with the British authorities a couple of years ago. To my knowledge, some restrictions still apply. However, there are two aspects that must be considered. The first is the development of the Australian industry and the improvement of herds. The second is the protection of the Australian industry. As far as I am concerned, priority is given to the second point. However, I will investigate the points which have been raised and look at the situation to see whether some changes have been made.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral confer with representatives of industry before announcing increases hi postal and telephone charges? Has he seen reports of strong criticism of the increases from business leaders? Does he agree that the higher charges will produce a substantial increase in the overall cost structure of the economy? Does he not find it ironical that to ensure efficient and cheaper services private firms will themselves have to do much of the work df his Department?
– It appears that the honourable member wants to discuss this matter before we debate the relevant legislation. I have not been consulted by nor did I consult industry. The Government is quite able to make up its own mind in such matters. The Government has done nothing more than industry normally does. When costs reach a point at which industry does not obtain a profit, it increases charges. I cannot see any difference between that approach and the Government’s approach in this case, except that a mere decline in profit is not the reason for the increased charges. We have reached a loss situation. The increases are designed to obviate losses in the future and at the same time to transfer the increased charges from the general body of taxpayers to the users of the facilities.
– I refer the Minister for the Navy to the concentrated, though ineffectual, questions that were directed to the Minister for Air last week about the reported variable cost of the Fill aircraft. Has the honourable gentleman received any telephone calls, questions, telegrams, letters or general inquiries from the Leader of the Opposition or his colleagues complimenting him or the Government on the reported saving of SI 2.8m in the cost of the guided missile destroyers ‘Perth’ and ‘Hobart’ ?
– I regret that I must disappoint the honourable member by saying that I have had no telephone calls or communications from our friends of the Opposition. However, I can confirm the statement made by the Minister for Defence last Thursday that there has been a saving of $1Om on the cost of the first two guided missile destroyers, HMAS ‘Perth’ and HMAS ‘Hobart’. I believe the honourable member has done a service to this House by showing the benefit which can accrue to Australia under our arrangement with America, details of which most honourable members understand.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Has he received representations from the Federal Executive of the Australian Journalists Association expressing concern about extensive delays in the hearing, before the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, of the Association’s case seeking substantial salary increases for members employed on metropolitan daily newspapers? Does he realise that the case opened in Sydney on 25th October last year and that since then the Bench has had only eighteen sitting days on which it could address itself to the hearing of the case? Has the AJA suggested the appointment of additional judges and commissioners to avoid delays such as those experienced in this case? Does the Attorney-General recognise that the Association is traditionally bound to conciliation but has suffered interruption and sometimes cancellation of hearings because the Bench has been called upon to deal with disputes arising from industrial action taken by other unions? Can he now indicate what action is being taken to ensure that the Association’s case will proceed without further delays, which must cause financial loss to AJA members employed on metropolitan dailies?
– I have received representations. The reasons for delay in relation to this hearing are various. I am having inquiries made into the matter, and when I receive the result of those inquiries 1 will inform the honourable member.
– M r Acting Speaker, I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I ask: Has he received a request from the New South Wales Premier for a sympathetic review of the higher charges for trunk telephone calls? Has he seen the Premier’s claim that the higher charges will hinder communications with country areas and hamper rural development and decentralisation? If so, will he consider giving relief to country residents hard hit by the higher telephone charges?
– I did receive a telegram from the Premier of New South Wales in which he expressed the concern of his Government over the effect of increased charges for trunk telephone calls on his decentralisation policies. The Premier said he trusted that it would be possible to review this aspect. I have made some inquiries into this question. Indeed, I was conscious of this aspect in the broad when the matters were under discussion, but I have a little more detail on the matter now. I am advised that rentals in country towns and rural areas are already considerably lower than in capital cities. They are in fact only 40% or 60% of city levels, depending on the size of the country network. On the other hand, costs of country telephone services to the Post Office are in general higher than the costs of metropolitan services. This is the average situation. In individual services, in very remote areas, the costs are very much higher. The price of a local telephone call to the user is uniform in the country and the city, despite the fact that the costs are considerably higher in the country than in the city. So it will be seen that already involved in the system in operation is concern and a good deal of attention for the needs of the country dweller, and it will be a matter of policy to decide just how far this process should be carried.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, refers to the undertaking by the Commonwealth Government to make available to the States $50m over the next five years for water conservation. Is it a fact that this money must be used for works over and above the normal expenditure by the States? When does the Minister expect to be in a position to announce the full details of the Commonwealth Government’s proposal?
– I hope the Commonwealth will be in a position very shortly - in fact, in the next few days - to make an approach to the State governments concerning certain details of this scheme of water conservation and the implementation of the Commonwealth’s policy of increasing the amount of water conservation in Australia. All the departmental work has now been concluded, and I hope that very shortly the Cabinet will get an opportunity to look at this matter. It was implicit in the announcement made by the Commonwealth Government that its support for water conservation would be over and above the normal amount which the States would be spending themselves. Therefore, we will be seeking from the States details of their present and proposed future schemes so that we can see that the Commonwealth contribution is something which does not merely replace money the States would have made available but which is available over and above what the States would normally expend themselves.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Firstly, may I say that there is nothing worse than an egg on the nose. Will he consider the exemption from sales tax of commercial refrigerators and cool rooms installed on poultry farms to ensure that eggs are delivered to the consumer in a fresh condition and thus reduce the wastage that now occurs?
– The honourable member, as usual, has made a constructive suggestion. I think he will know that this is a matter I will have to examine in the Budget context. He will get the answer on Budget night.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. It is based on answers he gave in a television interview a month ago; namely:
I am not a high taxation nian, lt will take a lot of persuasion to get me to indulge in increased taxation.
And later: . . taxes are as high as I would like them to go. It depends on how far Government expenditure has to expand as to what I will be compelled to do in the Budget.
I ask the Treasurer whether he had postal and telephone rates and charges in mind when he gave the answers I have quoted.
– The question asked by the honourable gentleman contains part - and only a very small part - of the answer that I gave. To that extent it is not an honest question. That is not unusual. I have in my office a complete record of what I said on taxation. I was asked whether I would reduce taxation. I said: ‘Please do not ask rae that question because it is much too early now to make a forecast’. I pointed out that I had not yet received the accounts for this year. I have not received any of the estimates, of what is likely to happen next year. I went on to point out that I was not a high taxation man and that 1 wanted to keep taxation as low as I could. I went on to say: ‘Look, I cannot give you an answer to this because I do not have the figures. What I do say to you is that it will take a lot of persuading for me to increase taxation.’ That was the answer. I could not give a specific answer because I did not have the figures before me. Like every Treasurer 1 like to keep taxation as low as I can.
– How low can the Treasurer get?
– The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith should ask his colleague how low he can get; then he will have the answer. I have to come down to his’ level. At the time I was asked this question on television I was not considering in any way at all increases in postal or telephone charges. I was merely answering the question whether I would be increasing or reducing taxation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National
Development. Is the Commonwealth working on plans to build two atomic power stations as reported in the ‘Australian Newsletter’ published by the Victoria Promotion Committee? Where will they be sited? Who will operate them? In what year Wi they require uranium as fuel? Is this proposal the reason for freezing existing reserves of uranium and restricting exports of new discoveries to an uneconomic 50%? Does the Minister still believe that this action is desirable?
– The construction of atomic energy reactors to generate electricity does not come within the sphere of the Commonwealth’s power; it comes within the sphere of the electricity authorities of the various States. Those authorities will decide when atomic energy will become more economic to use to generate power than the conventional means. My Department, through the Atomic Energy Commission, has done its utmost’ to ensure that all the State authorities have access to the latest information on the use of atomic energy. In fact a number of members from various electricity authorities do visit the Atomic Energy Commission and obtain details. Also, of course, they go overseas to see what is happening so that they will be in a position to make an assessment of when atomic energy plants should be built and brought into operation in Australia. My Department believes that there is a possibility that from about the year 1975 onwards the operation in Australia of atomic energy plants will possibly be at least equal, or even superior, to some other forms of power generation.
However, to answer the last part of the honourable member’s question, I am afraid that he, like a number of other people, still misconstrues the Commonwealth Government’s policy on uranium. Since 1948 there has been a complete restriction on the export of uranium. It is listed under the special Customs Exports Prohibition Act, which provides for a complete export bar except with the permission of the Minister. The recent relaxation of this policy - it was a relaxation - now entitles people who make new discoveries of uranium to export, as of right, a percentage of it. They can apply to the Minister for National Development for permission to export a larger quantity. Obviously it would be foolish for us to per mit anyone who made a new discovery of uranium to export all of it, for v.e might find ourselves in the position of having an inadequate supply for our own needs. If no restriction were imposed, large quantities could be discovered and exported in toto. For this reason, I am sure that the Commonwealth was very wise in deciding that a portion of any new discovery could be exported but that the remainder should be in the hands of the Minister so he could decide whether it should be exported.
– 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will order a thorough review of the efficiency of his Department to reveal why costs are rising as postal services deteriorate and telephone installations lag badly. Alternatively, will he consider a fullscale inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the operations of his Department?
– The postal services are not deteriorating and telephone installations are not lagging. 1 suggest that there is not within the Post Office at the present time any indication of the lack of efficiency that the honourable member has suggested. I should like honourable members opposite to contemplate how many business organisations in Australia with prices that have been fixed since 1959, as has occurred in regard to postal services, have not increased their charges in any way but have reduced them. Charges for postal services have been reduced over a period of eight years since 1959.
– Yes, I can quote one. What about the bookmakers? They have not increased their prices.
– I am afraid that die honourable member for Watson is dealing with something about which I know little or nothing. As I have intimated, having regard to general cost increases and rises in turnover, the maximum amount of increase in the basic wage related to postal services has been 65c per annum. If the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission adds $2 per annum to the basic wage, it will be impossible for us to maintain our charges at their present levels.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a Press report which indicated that the Government would not consider requests by the wool industry for any marketing reform for at least three years? Is this report correct? Does the right honourable gentleman agree that marketing techniques should always be open to review?
– I saw the report but there is no information in my possession which would confirm it.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Why has the Government imposed higher postal charges now rather than when the last Budget was introduced? Was it apparent long before the last election that the revenues of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department were falling behind costs? Was .the election the reason why charges were not increased in the last Budget? Is it the aim of the Treasurer to convert the Postmaster-General’s Department into a general taxing agency? How does the Government justify such sweeping charges while warning the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which is hearing an application for a wage increase, of the dangers of inflation?
– As I understand the position, there is a Bill before this House dealing with the increase of postal and telegraph charges. Every member of the Opposition will have an opportunity to participate in the debate on that Bill if he wishes to do so. I do not think it is my responsibility to answer at question time specific questions that may anticipate the debate on the Bill.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. It concerns the forthcoming referendum, and I will be grateful for your indulgence, Mr Acting Speaker, if you will allow me to say that the underlying assumption of those who supported the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives during the convention debates on the Constitution was that new States would be created, thus enlarging the Senate in line with the House of Repre sentatives. For example, Sir Edmund Barton envisaged eight States by the end of 1940, and Mr O’Connor expressed the view that the Senate would be increased probably only by the creation of new States. I ask the right honourable gentleman: In view of the result of the recent referendum in New South Wales on the creation of a new State, has the Government concluded that there are no prospects for the creation of new States? If this is so, would the Prime Minister agree that new States offer no scope, at least in the foreseeable future, for adjusting the size of the House of Representatives?
– The honourable member has conducted his research very thoroughly into the underlying reason behind the establishment of a nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate, and here he has the advantage of me. I personally cannot offer a view about the significance of the recent vote in New South Wales or what should be deduced from it as to the prospect of some other area of the Commonwealth seeking at some future time the creation of a new State. But there are powerful, and I believe, compelling reasons why in the interests of the good government of this nation the nexus between the size of the House of Representatives and the size of the Senate should be removed. Such removal, as I recall the position, is in accordance with the unanimous judgment of the members of this House and the judgment of an overwhelming majority of members of the Senate. I hope that once the reasons for the removal of the nexus can be made patently clear to the Australian public there will be an overwhelming majority in support of our referendum proposals.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Are negotiations under way for the establishment of a joint Japanese-Australian fishing industry in Papua and New Guinea? If they are, and if agreement is reached, will the Minister encourage Papuans and New Guineans to take part in this operation?
– I can inform the honourable member for Batman that an agreement has been concluded between the
Territory Administration and the company, representing Australian and Japanese interests, for the grant of permission to conduct research in the fishing areas more or less to the north and the east of the area in question. Should the research operation provide satisfactory results the company will then engage in a fishing enterprise. One of the terms of the agreement is that the local people must be taught how to use the best skills possible in this operation because, after all, the indications are that there are great potentials for a fishing industry around the coastal areas of Papua and New Guinea. This is our policy in all of our operations in the Territories. After all, the b:st way to develop the economic situation of the people of the area is to give them economic opportunities. There is potential in the Territories for the development of fishing, forestry and other things. In all of the agreements which we approve for the development of the resources of the Territories we include a covenant that skills must be taught to the local people. In my opinion this is the best way to encourage capital investment in the Territories and to bring knowhow into these important industries.
PURCHASE OF Fill AIRCRAFT
– by leave - Last week I promised the House that when I had further information about the cost of the Fill programme I would lose no opportunity to pass it on to the House. I am now in a position to make a statement about the cost of this programme and about the results of discussions last week with representatives of the United States Government. I hope that this information will serve to dispel some of the confusion caused by statements made outside the House last week.
Honourable members will recall that the Fill aircraft is being procured by us pursuant to arrangements made between the then Minister for Defence and the United States Secretary of Defence in October 1963. This arrangement, as has been stated many times in the House, provided for the procurement of twenty-four of the aircraft on a priority basis equal to that accorded to the United States armed forces. Indeed, under today’s delivery schedule we shall be receiving, commencing in July next year, every second aircraft produced by the manufacturer until our order is satisfied. The cost was to be equal to the average estimated unit cost of development and production, based on the total production run rather than the actual cost associated with the production learning curve at the time of delivery of these aircraft. The final determination of the average estimated unit cost is, under this arrangement, to be made at the time of delivery of the twenty-fourth aircraft. At that time the order of cost estimated by the United States authorities - I should add that every cost estimate that appears in the statement has been prepared by the United States authorities - of the aircraft, its reconnaissance and ground support equipment, training and training devices and initial year’s spares, based on a production run of 1,500 aircraft, was approximately $US125m. This estimate did not include any special weapons that may be required for the aircraft. The costs to which I shall subsequently refer also do not include any costs for new weapons for the aircraft. We shall be purchasing new weapons so as to achieve maximum effectiveness for the aircraft.
Most of us have had experience with research and development programmes of one sort or another, and honourable members will appreciate that in October 1963, which was some fourteen months before the first research aircraft flew, there was a very limited amount of information upon which to base costs. It was then and it must today still be recognised that the original estimate of $US125m was an order of magnitude estimate prepared during the relatively early stages of a research and development programme.
The aircraft flew for the first time on schedule in December 1964, and from then on, more definite information upon which to calculate the cost of the aircraft has been emerging and, of course, we have been pursuing inquiries about the cost of the aircraft and, in particular, the possibility of putting a ceiling upon the cost of the aircraft. This has been our aim all along and will continue to be the aim of this Government. In early 1966 we received advice from the United States authorities that the estimated cost of our Fill programme was $US205m, including approximately $US142.8m for the aircraft and $US62.5m for supporting equipment. 1 announced this revised cost in February 1966. The basic aircraft cost of $US142.8m is based upon a cost of $US5.95m per aircraft in what is called, in the language of the experts, flyaway condition. This is the condition of the aircraft as honourable members will see it on the tarmac of an Air Force base equipped in every respect and ready for operation, but without its weapons. This estimate, as we knew at the time, was the estimate which had been provided to the United Kingdom when it negotiated its agreement for the purchase of Fill aircraft. In April 1966 during the discussions in Washington between representatives of the United States and the Australian Government about our logistics arrangement we raised with the United States representatives again the possibility of applying a ceiling price to the aircraft. The United States representatives, during the discussions last week in Canberra, were able to advise us that they would apply to us the same conditions governing the cost of the basic aircraft as they had applied to the United Kingdom aircraft. These are a ceiling price of $US5.95m, subject firstly to escalation of labour and materials from a base date of 5th April 1965, and the cost of major engineering changes made to the aircraft.
The effect of the ceiling price of $US5.95m per aircraft is firstly that regardless of the production run we shall pay no more than £US5.95m per aircraft except to the extent that prices in the United States may escalate or to the extent to which we may modify the aircraft. We could, on the other hand, pay less than this amount if the actual cost proves to be less than the cost allowances included at present in the estimate. lt was reported late last week that the United States representatives on departure from Australia had referred to a figure of 4% to 5% as representing the likely escalation of prices in the (United States under this arrangement. During the discussions with them in Canberra last week this matter was raised by our representatives and we were informed that the provision already allowed in the estimate of $US5.95m ought to be sufficient to absorb escalation of the prices of labour and material and we were advised that it was unnecessary to add any provision to the basic $US5.95m figure for this element. Similarly, we were advised that no special provision needed to be made for modifications of the aircraft except those relating to major changes such as the extension of the wing tips and strengthening of the undercarriage of the aircraft which I have mentioned already.
The House will recall that in July 1966 [ announced that our aircraft would bc fitted with an extension to the wings of the aircraft and a stronger undercarriage which would significantly improve the performance of the aircraft, and that six of our aircraft would bc fitted with special reconnaissance equipment. These modifications, including the costs of the special pallets in which the reconnaissance equipment is fitted, were then estimated to cost approximately $US10.5m bringing the cost of the basic aircraft to $US153.3m and the total cost to approximately $US2 i 6m
So much for the cost of the aircraft itself. 1 would now like to deal with the other element of the cost of this project, namely the equipment and the services required to introduce and to support the aircraft in its operations in this country. These are the items of cost to which the figure of $US62.5m relates. They arc the spare units including engines required, the spare parts needed for the first year of operation, the special test and other ground equipment needed, the training equipment including flight simulators, the training of the crews in the United States and a variety of other charges relating to technical data, publications, aircraft inspection and packing charges. As I said last week in the House, a complete estimate for these services and equipment will not be known until the team which is in the United States at the present time assessing our requirements completes its work.
As honourable members who are familiar with the complexities of a modern aircraft will know, assessment of the supporting equipment requires a very detailed examination of almost every part of the aircraft. I had expected that these assessments would have been completed before now, but with an aircraft which is still to some extent under development it has not been possible to obtain all of the technical data necessary and I do not expect that they will be complete for some time yet. These assessments will be affected, amongst other things, by the manner in which we propose to employ the aircraft and the extent to which we wish to enable the aircraft to operate away from their own base.
It was reported on the departure of the United States representatives last week that we are planning to station these aircraft at two places in Australia. This is not, of course, correct and I thought this was well understood by the United States representatives. We are planning to base the twenty-four Fills at Amberley in Queensland. This will be the home base and the only, home base in Australia for the aircraft. We are planning also to be able to support the aircraft when they are used during exercises or during operations away from their home base. This is exactly the basis upon which we have provided support equipment for the Canberras and other operational aircraft and the basis upon which we are providing support equipment for the Mirage aircraft. Indeed, I suggest it would be negligent if we were planning on any other basis. We will be able to deploy the aircraft to any area of strategic ‘ interest to us or to any part of Australia to confront any threat that may arise.
We are also planning to be able to maintain the aircraft in this country with the support of the Australian aircraft industry. This means the purchase of equipment which, in the case of the United States Air Force, would be available in the factories of the manufacturers. We could avoid this expense if we wished to by relying upon the test and overhaul facilities in the United States. This would, on the one hand, reduce the quantities of test and overhaul equipment which we could require, but on the other hand, it would also tend to increase the spares requirement in this country in order to offset the longer pipeline which would be involved. It would also be expensive to return the equipment to the United States. The most important thing of course, would be our entire dependence upon the United States in terms of the need to return aircraft and the majority of its equipment for overhaul and repair. We do not believe that this alternative is an acceptable one and we propose to continue to plan on the basis that we will support the aircraft to the maximum extent in our own country.
These matters were frankly discussed with the United States representatives in Canberra last week who had sent to us just before their departure, advice that whilst the basic aircraft cost of $US5.95m had not changed the costs of supporting equipment and services had increased by approximately $US21m, bringing the costs of supporting equipment and services to $US84m approximately and the total estimated cost at this time to $US237m. These increases are due principally to three factors - a very substantial increase of about 40% in the price of the engine, increases in the test equipment resulting from assessments which have already been made by our provisioning team, and the inclusion of special equipment which will be necessary to support the six reconnaissance aircraft.
I think it is now clear that there will be even further increases in the cost of this project but I repeat again that we shall be unable to say, until our assessments .are complete, what the final estimate is. The increasing costs of the Fill continue to be a matter of very considerable concern to the Government. We arranged therefore with the United States representatives last week to continue these discussions in late June or early July of this year in Washington, and at those discussions we shall review our operational and support policies. T am determined to do everything I can to limit the cost of this project We have at last succeeded in getting a ceiling on the cost of the aircraft. We desire to do the same with the support equipment. Whilst the cost information we have received is depressing 1 am pleased to be able to inform the House that the United States representatives reported favourably on the development and production of the aircraft. It was also interesting that Mr Healey, the Minister for Defence in the United Kingdom Government, stated that his Government was satisfied with the range, speed and weapon carrying capacity of the aircraft. The United States authorities are confident that the performance required of the aircraft will be satisfactorily achieved and that the aircraft will be delivered on schedule.
I hope that the information I have given the House in this statement will clarify the position with the Fill project and will dispose of some of the confusion caused by statements made outside the House during the course of last week. I present the following paper:
Cost of Fill Aircraft Programme - Ministerial Statement, 9 May 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Sinclar and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in the Budget speech last year with the announcement that the Government had decided to provide up to $6m a year for a scheme of grants for the purpose of encouraging Australian industry to undertake more research and development work on its own. Further details were announced in April by the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). The purpose of the proposed Bill is to encourage increased industrial research and development in Australian manufacturing and mining industries. As honourable members know, it has been the consistent policy of this Government to encourage the growth of efficient secondary industry in Australia. This is fundamental to the attainment of our national objectives of continued economic growth, full employment for an expanding population, rising standards of living and the achievement and maintenance of national security.
The Government in proposing this scheme recognises that increased efforts in industrial research and development in Australia will lead, inevitably, to a more efficient use of Australian raw materials and natural resources. There are also other advantages which I will outline shortly. Already a number of manufacturers have shown great inititative and enterprise in developing new products and processes to meet the special requirements of the growing Australian domestic market and for export. Some Australian manufacturers, without the encouragement of grants, such as the Government proposes in this Bill, have shown that Australian scientists, engineers and technologists, working together, have qualities of resourcefulness of a high order. Their capacity to adapt, modify and improvise has resulted in developing a number of significant new products. But in too many cases these skills have not been properly utilised.
The reasons are not hard to find. In its rapid development, much of Australian industry has had ready access to the results of industrial research and development of overseas associated companies. In this situation a wide sector of Australian management has become accustomed to looking abroad for new products and new processes. Some Australian firms have been hesitant to undertake industrial research and development, often for a number of valid reasons. Some consider it a gamble. They prefer to import technological developments after their worth has been proven elsewhere. This means that we are in danger of becoming copyists in a wide area of industry with an undue reliance on overseas technological development.
To alter this the Government believes that it is necessary now to alter the attitude of Australian management toward industrial research and development. We are therefore proposing the introduction of a system of grants to Australian industry to encourage firms to undertake additional industrial research and development work. The Government considers that a number of significant benefits arising from a research and development grants scheme of the kind proposed will, when taken together, provide a substantial incentive to industrial expansion and economic growth.
The main benefit will be the introduction into Australian industry of new products and processes particularly suited to Australian raw materials and conditions and to Australian demands. This will mean in the long run greater industrial efficiency with the consequent reduction in costs of production. This in turn will lead to a greater ability to compete with imports and to increase exports. New products resulting from Australian research and development will be free of overseas royalty and licensing payments and of the restrictive export franchises often associated with products made under licence from abroad. Being available for export, the products and processes so developed with the encouragement of this scheme may earn Australia additional foreign exchange. All of these matters, of course, have important implications for our balance of payments.
Another benefit will be the greater ability of Australian industry to service and manufacture the increasingly complex requirements of modern defence. The scheme is also designed to encourage the greater development of Australia’s natural and human resources. It will assist in achieving the maximum benefits from professionally and technically trained Australians. Additional benefits can also be expected from the research now carried out in government financed institutions. In addition it will assist in attracting top-class industrial research and development staff from overseas and will also reduce the drift abroad of our own top graduates.
Having explained the purpose of the Bill and its general objectives, I shall now turn to the main details of the scheme. To ensure that the benefits of the scheme will be confined to Australian industry, firms eligible for grants must be companies incorporated in Australia which, in the relevant grant year, are engaged in Australia in the manufacture of goods or in mining operations. Similarly, the expenditure on research and development which will be regarded as eligible expenditure for the purpose of grants to these companies must be on industrial research and development directly related to the manufacture or the proposed manufacture of goods in Australia or to mining operations or proposed mining operations in Australia.
A basic element of the scheme is that grants will be made only for new research and development expenditure - that is to say, the scheme will apply only to companies which increase their research and develop ment efforts in Australia over those of a base period. For this purpose the base year will be the financial year 1965-66. In the case of a firm starting research and development after 1965-66, the base year adjustment will not apply because there will have been no research and development expenditure in the base year.
As the scheme aims to provide firms with an incentive to invest in additional research and development staff and facilities, the Government recognises the need for the incentive to have a reasonable and certain continuity. Otherwise firms might well be hesitant to incur expenditure commitments. It is therefore proposed that the scheme will operate for an initial period of five years from 1st July 196V to 30th June 1972 with a review to be conducted in about the fourth year.
Grants in respect of eligible expenditure on additional industrial research and development will fall into two categories. In the first category, eligible firms will automatically qualify for grants of 50% of their eligible expenditure up to $50,000 in respect of a grant year. These grants of up to $25,000 will be termed general grants. In the second category, eligible firms may qualify on a selective basis for grants on eligible expenditure beyond $50,000 in respect of a grant year. These will be termed selective grants.
The Government, in coming to its decision that there should be a general grant, placed considerable emphasis on business attitudes, lt took the view that the whole purpose of the proposed incentive was to encourage industry to break with established practice and to do something it was previously disinclined to do. If an incentive is to be really effective it must succeed in changing basic attitudes. In the case in point, if existing attitudes on the part of Australian management to research and development are to be changed, the need is for an incentive which is widely and predictably available and which retains within individual companies the decisions on the research and development projects to be pursued. The general grant will fulfil this need.
At the same time, however, the Government considers it desirable that automatic grants should not be unlimited in size. It has decided therefore that the eligible expenditure in excess of $50,000 will be subject to approval in each individual case. This will permit, in the larger areas of eligible research and development expenditure, the funds available for grants to be apportioned by the Government according to broad national interest criteria such as the development and use of Australian physical resources, the expansion of exports, import saving, the ability to compete with imports, productivity and cost reduction, and defence capability.
In regard to both general and selective grants the Government has been concerned to ensure that the scheme will exclude activities which are superficial or only peripheral to industrial research and development. For this, reason the Bill provides specifically for the exclusion from the scheme of certain activities. These include methods engineering, operational research, routine quality control, routine materials testing, exploration or prospecting for minerals, and design work for a particular customer, or where research and development is directed mainly to style as distinct from functional characteristics. The Bill also defines industrial research and development so that other activities - including market research, sales promotion, feasibility studies, management’ studies, labour efficiency surveys, investigations into incentive wage systems and technical services to customers - necessary though these are to industry, do not fall within the scope of the definition. Hence they will not qualify for grants. This will ensure that only research and development work aimed at new products and processes in Australian industry will qualify for grants.
Three types of expenditure by firms on research and development will be eligible for grants. The first is increased expenditure on professional and technical salaries and wages in respect pf a grant year compared with the base year, 1965-66, but not including those increases which are attributable merely to salary and wage inflation. In a grant year, expenditure of this kind will qualify only if professional and technical staff are wholly engaged in research and development, In the base year, the salaries and wages of both full time and part time research staff will be taken into account. The base year is treated differently because it is recognised that in the past some com panies may have deployed their research staff on other duties from time to time.
The second type of qualifying expenditure is increased expenditure in respect of industrial research and development work which has been done for the company concerned by an approved outside research and development organisation. The eligible expenditure in the two areas I have just mentioned, that is salary expenditure and contract expenditure, is to be termed work expenditure. The third type of eligible expenditure is net expenditure on plant and equipment intended solely for use for industrial research and development by the company concerned. Net plant expenditure in relation to the grant year means plant expenditure in respect of that year less any considerations received by the firm in regard to the disposal of existing research and development plant and equipment.
It will be noted that plant expenditure does not need to be additional to expenditure in the base year. By its nature, plant expenditure by a firm tends to follow a cyclical pattern over a number of years. But once plant is installed a firm can maintain and extend its total effort in subsequent years with little further expenditure on plant. Therefore, the Government considers that any net expenditure on plant and equipment for research and development purposes in a grant year adds to the research capabilities of the company concerned.
The Government has considered it desirable that grants should not cover large expenditure on plant and equipment where there has been little or no increase in work expenditure. Otherwise some firms may be encouraged by the grants to invest in plant without making the commensurate efforts necessary to increase their industrial research and development effort. For this reason the scheme provides that the aggregate amount of grants in respect of plant expenditure shall not exceed at any time after the inception of the scheme the aggregate amount of grants paid in respect of work expenditure. To ensure, further, that firms seeking grants will maintain their work expenditure, the scheme provides that no plant expenditure will be eligible for grants in respect of any grant year in which work expenditure is less than that of the base year. The scheme will safeguard firms in that for general grants the firm’s work expenditure will always qualify ahead of plant expenditure. As the amount of work expenditure sets the limit for qualifying plant expenditure, this means that firms will be able to qualify for as much plant expenditure as possible.
So far, I have outlined in broad terms what the scheme is designed to do and the eligibility of companies for grants under the scheme. 1 shall now outline the proposed administration of the scheme. A Board named the Commonwealth Industrial Research and Development Grants Board will be established for a term of five years. The Board will consist of three members, including a full time chairman and two part time members, appointed by the Governor-General. The Board will be assisted by a part time Advisory Committee not exceeding eight members to be appointed by the Minister for Trade and Industry: The conditions of office of Board members and the procedures to be followed by the Board are covered in some detail in the Bill. These are routine matters and need little further amplification at this time.
A company seeking a grant will need to apply to the Board. To qualify for a grant, whether general or selective, a firm must provide details of its research and development activities as required by the Board and this information will, of course, be treated as confidential. Appropriate provisions to safeguard the interests of applicant companies in this regard are contained in the Bill.
The Board may not authorise a grant unless it is satisfied as to all aspects of the eligibility of the company for a grant. When the Board is satisfied of the eligibility of a company for a general grant, the Board must authorise that grant at the rate of 50% of all eligible expenditure up to the $50,000 limit. However, under the proposed Act the Minister will be empowered to vary downwards from 50% the rate of general grants. The Minister will be able to do this by issuing a direction to the Board. Any direction of this kind shall, however, apply only to grant years following the grant year in which the direction is given. For selective grants the Board will exercise its discretion, subject to ministerial directions, as to whether eligible expenditures shall qualify for grants. It may also vary the rate of grants from case to case provided that the rate does not exceed 50%.
The Government is concerned also to ensure that Commonwealth funds are properly safeguarded. Firms shall not be able to qualify for grants by artificially adjusting their affairs. For example, a company with a large base year expenditure may attempt to rid itself of base year expenditure by changing its structure; or firms may attempt to come to arrangements with other parties to pay more by way of salaries, or for plant and equipment than the circumstances and normal commercial practice would justify with a view to increasing the amount of ‘ expenditure eligible for grants. In such cases the Board will disallow or adjust the amount of the company’s eligible expenditure as it thinks necessary, to prevent any abuse of the scheme. The Board may give prior approval to a firm for selective grants research projects but it is not essential for a firm to obtain such prior approval. The Board may also, in its discretion, authorise an advance to a company iri respect of either a general of a selective grant.
The Board is required. under the proposed Act to report annually to the Minister on the operation of the scheme, listing the names of companies receiving grants and the amounts concerned. Subject to confidentiality requirements, the areas of manufacturing and mining operations covered by grants will also be included in the reports, which will be tabled annually in this Parliament. Honourable members will appreciate that the Government has sought to provide a scheme which will meet two major objectives. The scheme will provide eligible companies with room for a high degree of initiative and flexibility, as well as with reasonable assurance about the eligibility of research and development expenditure for grants. At the same time the scheme will have the necessary safeguards to ensure that Commonwealth funds are utilised to the best effect from the viewpoint of the overall national interest.
The Government is confident that the scheme as outlined will meet these objectives and that it will reach eligible companies of all sizes with a positive stimulus which the businessman himself can evaluate and use. Importantly, the Government will encourage, through this measure, the additional use of Australian physical and human resources. It will enable firms to compete more freely on export markets and also become more competitive in the home market against import competition. Industry’s .contribution to the defence effort will bc strengthened. For these reasons, Mr Deputy Speaker, I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 11 48), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this measure is simple enough in itself. Its aim is to remove the application of sales tax on seat belt assemblies designed for the protection of persons in motor vehicles. This is a laudable enough objective in itself, but to may mind it is an indication of how silly a tax can get unless we look carefully at the tax system as it operates over a period of years. I suppose that in Australia today about 400,000 new motor cars are sold every year if the motor car industry is prosperous. These motor cars are sold for something like $1,500 each for the smallest models. The most popular model, the Holden car, costs over $2,000, and certain other more extravagant models can cost as much as $5,000 or $6,000.
In this Budget year the sales tax as it is collected in Australia is expected to yield in aggregate about $400m. Nearly one half of the total sales tax is collected in respect of motor cars. I took some trouble to find out what these seat belt assemblies cost. I find that they vary in price from about $8 for a single assembly to as little as $2 in some instances. I will say something later about these safety belts as they are called, because sometimes they appear to be anything but safe in their actual application. In a motor car that may have two seat belts attached to it, or even four, the additional cost would be somewhere in the region of $30, and the amount of tax avoided by nol taxing the scat belt assembly would be about $7 to S8. being 25% of the seat belt component.
I repeat again that the minimum sale price of smaller cars - ‘mini’ is the popular word these days - is somewhere in the region of SI, 500 to $1,600, and for popular models it is up to $2,300 and $2,400. Yet we are told by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his second reading speech that because the seat belt assemblies if included initially when manufactured would bear tax - and I repeat that the difference in the total cost would be about $8 in a sale that could vary from $1,500 up to $3,000- this has deterred Australian vehicle manufacturers from fitting seat belts to vehicles on their factory assembly lines. I would suggest that if that statement is made seriously it is surely a grave indictment of the motor car industry to start with. On the other hand, in terms of a sale that can be as high as $2,000 to $3,000, to say that whether or not seat belts are fixed depends on whether you sever the seat belt assembly as a separate item from the total sale, seems to me to be ridiculous.
In any event, the question of whether seat belts in essence are safe is one that is arguable. I am not suggesting that safety belts ought not to be fitted to motor cars, but I am seriously questioning the assumption that they have not before been fitted at assembly point because of the cost. As I have said, the cost in some instances could be as low as $2 or $3, with a maximum of $8. Surely that has not been a deterrent to having safety belts fitted on assembly. I still think that from an economic point of view it would be cheaper to fit safety belts on assembly subject to tax than to make it necessary for people who buy motor cars to take their cars along afterwards and have safety belts fitted. I think I know enough about mass production to know that if all such things were done in the factory at the point of assembly the difference in cost would be far more than the tax that is saved by doing it one way rather than another.
I put that question on one side. How silly is it that apparently we deter people from doing a certain thing because they save a few dollars when tax is imposed at one point rather than another. If the safety belt had been worth S500, for instance, I could have seen some force in the argument; but the assemblies range in price from S8 down to as little as $2. One can have two assemblies or four assemblies, and they can be of a lap type or a sash type. To assert seriously as the Minister has asserted, that this has been a deterrent to Australian vehicle manufacturers fitting seat belts to vehicles on their factory assembly lines is either an exaggeration on the part of the Minister or a grave indictment of the industry as a whole. If we accept that it has been a deterrent, would it not make us inclined to look more closely at vehicle safety if safety features are fitted at the whim of a manufacturer, according to whether they are taxed?
I have heard it said that in the terms of modern engineering practice the motor car as currently designed is probably the worst piece of engineering in the world. Apparently this is because its basic design has never been changed. Honourable members will find that that statement is made in a very humorous book, written by an American, called ‘The Insolent Chariot’. The author points out that whilst there may have been some reasons back in the early 1900s to design motor cars in the way they are designed, because of limited knowledge and so on, if modern engineering skills and technology had been able to outweigh vested interests the motor car today would probably be a quite different vehicle. Perhaps motor cars are not as safe as they could be because the manufacturers are able to dictate the way they are to be built.
Some time ago an issue of the Current Affairs Bulletin was devoted to car insurance. The publication, which is dated 13th September 1965, states:
Motor vehicle insurance is a burden on the insurer and the insured alike for two obvious reasons, frequency of accidents and costs of accidents.
I repeat that this matter is related to road safety.
In a moment or two I will refer to how much is spent annually in Australia on motor car insurance and contrast that with the rather piffling attempt made by this Bill, to enforce safety by making minor amendments to sales tax legislation. The article continues:
It is not within the scope of this CAB to discuss the first reason - although the temptation to do so is very strong. For the second, the design of the modern car is the largest factor in the cost of repairing it. The modern car is virtually one piece and repair of a damaged section may require that the care be taken apart.
It seems to me that part of the cost of insurance is involved in the way the motor vehicle is constructed. If the vehicle were constructed differently insurance premiums could be a lot less. Perhaps the Government could give sales tax concessions if motor vehicles were constructed somewhat differently.
When the Government introduces measures of this nature I sometimes wish that the Treasury would give an estimate of what they will mean in loss to the revenue. About 400.000 motor vehicles are made in Australia each year. At this stage I shall not concern myself with how many vehicles there are already in use which do not have safety belts. But if, as a result of this legislation, each new vehicle were fitted with safety belts initially, presumably we might reduce the yield to the revenue by about $5 per motor car. That seems to me to be a reasonable assumption. If the Treasurer has more accurate figures I would be interested to hear them. I have taken some trouble to find out what seat belts cost. They cost between $20 and $30 a set. The cost varies from one type to another. The tax saving brought about by this Bill will amount to about a quarter of that cost. If the figure of $5 were applied to the 400,000 new motor vehicles each year it would result in a loss to the revenue of about $2m. I am not arguing that the money would not be well spent if that $2m did reduce the rate of accidents in the community. But it pales into insignificance compared with the amount currently spent on insuring motor vehicles, both against accident to the vehicle itself and against injury to people.
I received today the ‘Annual Bulletin No. 14 - 1965-66’ prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics which contains Australian fire, marine and general insurance statistics. The Bulletin shows that for the year ended June 1966 motor vehicle insurance, excluding motor cycles, cost the users of vehicles $166m.
On top of that, compulsory third party insurance cost $8 lm. In other words, motor vehicle insurance against accident to the vehicles or to people involved in accidents cost $247m. Claims paid out for the same year amounted to 3118m for motor vehicles and $77m for third party injury - a total of $194m. That is near enough to $200m. This is a further cost facing the Australian community because of lack of safety. I repeat the suggestion made in the Current Affairs Bulletin that the way in which the motor vehicle is designed is one of the reasons why insurance premiums have to be as heavy as they are. If the vehicles were constructed differently they would cost less to repair. Better construction might not reduce injuries but it would certainly alter the resultant destruction’ of motor vehicles in accidents^ It has become popular to say that motor vehicles would be safer if safety belts were fitted to them. 1 am not disputing that. What I am saying is to suggest that an added cost of $5 or $7 for a motor car costing anything from $1,500 to $3,000 as a’ deterrent to installing safety belts is to fly in the face of reality. It shows how silly some people can get in their attitude to tax systems.
J noticed in the ‘Economist’ of 25th February that Australia ranks second in the world for car ownership. The United States of America leads the field with an ownership of thirty-eight vehicles per 100 people. Australia comes next with twenty-eight vehicles and Sweden is third with twentythree vehicles. So, roughly speaking, there are a quarter as many motor vehicles in Australia as there are people. I understand also that motor cars are increasing at about twice the rate of our population increase. The yearly population increase is about 2% or 2i% compared with an increase of approximately 5% to 6% in the number of motor vehicles. The more vehicles you get on the road the more likely it is that accidents will occur, unless the number of roads is increased. At least I think that follows fairly mathematically. Whether saving $2m on sales tax by exempting seat belt assemblies is a very practical approach to the problem I leave to the imagination of honourable members.
The other point that disturbs me is whether safety belts are in essence safe.
Conveniently enough on Wednesday, 3rd May 1967, the ‘Daily Mirror*, a Sydney newspaper, contained a two-page accidents survey called ‘Danger in Your Car’. Among other things the article deals with safety belts. Indeed, it begins with ‘ “Safety belts save lives” says the slogan’; but it goes on to note:
A car safety harness is only as good as the material1 and skill that go into it, and the manufacturer’s sense of responsibility.
Apparently this enterprising newspaper sent some members of its staff to various places to buy seat belts. I can find no restriction whatever in this legislation on the quality of seat belts. Apparently any seat belt is to be exempt from sales tax. I suggest that a provision ought to be written into the. legislation that such seat belts be included in motor vehicles only if they have the approval of the Standards Association of Australia. The representatives of the ‘Daily Mirror’ purchased five of its nine samples in Sydney and tested them at the Institute of Highway and Traffic Research at the University of New South Wales, which is directed by Professor W.. R. Blunden. Four of the belts were on sale in a city departmental store. The fifth was sold by a seat belt manufacturer of Marrickville. Apparently things other than margarine are manufactured at Marrickville, including a type of seat belt; but I hope that the margarine is better than the seat belt. The belts tested ranged in price from $6.95 to as low as $2. I repeat that a 25% deduction from $6.95 would reduce the price of the motor car in which this particular seat belt was fitted by 81.75. If one seat belt costs nearly $7 and another $2, either one manufacturer is charging more than his product is worth or die second belt is probably very inferior to the first one. The press article states that One belt was manufactured in 1961 and was currently on sale in a shop in New South Wales. Another one had been made in 1965 and a third one in 1966. The two remaining belts did not have their date of manufacture stamped on them. 1 do not claim to be an engineer. I do not own a motor car; I do not drive one and I do not even want to drive one. Nevertheless I know that most people do not agree with my assessment of the use of motor vehicles. As 1 have pointed out, about 400,000 of them are manufactured every year and there are a quarter as many motor cars in Australia as there are people. The percentage of cars is growing at an appalling rate - indeed, twice as fast as the population increase. The following alarming fact was disclosed in the ‘Daily Mirror’ article on scat belts:
Not one came up to the requirements of (he Standards Association of Australia. fixe ‘Daily Mirror’ .uncovered some disturbing facts during the testing of the harness. All were proved to be inefficient.
Each harness was tested on a special $14,000 static testing apparatus at the Institute’s research department at Randwick.
Three seat belt experts attended the test.
Their bona fides seem very good to me, for the article states:
They were Mr H. J. Turner, Senior Lecturer in Traffic Engineering, University of NSW. Mr A. Crouch, Professional Officer, IHTR-
These letters stand for Institute of Highway and Traffic Research - and Mr J. H. James, engineer-secretary of the Standards Association of Australia Committee on cur seat belts.
One by one the belts were strapped i round a 250 lb dummy - a torso made of hard wood.
That would represent a solid sort of motor driver, for 250 lb is in the region of 17 stone - nearly 18 stone. The article continues -
The torso was pointed towards the ground.
Slowly the dummy was forced down until the webbing (the fabric that holds a person in a car) was us stiff as a board.
The load increased . . . the pressure gauge reached 1.000 lb . . . 2,000 . . . 2,500 . . 3,000. lt was a frightening scene as. one by one in separate trials, four- belts ripped, snapped and catapulted buckles and fittings into the air or against the protecting wire with tremendous force.
Three lap sashes and two lap belts (like plane safety belts) were put on trial.
Recently I have travelled in aircraft of both major air companies, and I am not discriminating between them. 1 wish someone would determine whether their safety belts are deficient in any respect. However, the safety belts purchased by the representatives of the ‘Daily Mirror’ were put on trial. The newspaper report continues:
A requirement by the SAA in regard to load on a harness states that each complete assembly harness shall withstand without fracture a load of 4,000 lb force for thirty seconds
This load represents a man weighing 200 lb (14 st 4 lb) being ‘arrested’ by a force of 200 (twenty times his own weight).
Four harnesses failed the test.
Two were lap sashes and two were lap belts.
So both sorts of belt did not come up to the scrutiny. The article continues:
The third lap sash passed the load test, but under SAA requirements would fail a visual inspection because the webbing could be detached from the buckle.
The SAA says the webbing shall be permanently attached to, but need not be fixed in position on, each fitting. The four harnesses, if not bought by the “Daily Mirror’, would most likely be in cars by now.
I could continue quoting other details from the survey, but 1 do not intend to do so as I do not think it is appropriate for me to name the good ones and the bad ones. However, Mr Crouch of the University of New South Wales put it well when he said:
This test demonstrates that the purchaser of a harness is completely at the mercy of the manufacturer.
If manufacturers of both safety belts and motor cars think that this revenue should be foregone because a certain item is to be put into a motor car, some guarantee should be given that the commodity, a safety belt in this instance, is not just something in name; it should be subject to tests. From the findings of these tests it would seem that there is nothing wrong with most of the webbing. The fittings are the weak items. I should say that unfortunately this sort of thing is true of other Austraiian industries. They spoil a commodity for the proverbial ha’p’orth of tar. To save a few cents in the final cost of a more effective seat belt the manufacturer prejudices the efficient functioning of the whole unit. If revenue is to be foregone to the extent of about $2m a year, at least there should be written into the legislation a provision that these items will not be exempt unless they come up to approved standards.
It seems to me that the Standards Association has made a reasonable assessment of what these things can stand. An assessment of a pressure of 4,000 lb over a relatively short space of time seems to me reasonable enough. As Mr Crouch has said, most people accept the blandishments of the manufacturers of these items, or of motor cars, that the things are safe, and it seems to me that there should be some guarantee that they are in fact safe. I suggest that before concessions of the kind envisaged by this legislation are granted, the manufacturer should at least give a guarantee that the thing that is called a safety belt is in fact safe.
I understand from people engaged in the motor car industry that one can fit to a motor car a special kind of windscreen which will tend to lessen the effects of accidents, but again the question whether such a windscreen is or is not fitted depends on whether or not the glass from which it is made is subject to sales tax. This is the kind of consideration on which manufacturers determine to do one thing rather than another; then they blame the taxing system for any harmful results.
I am quite willing to concede that it would not be easy for the Government suddenly to forego the $200m or so of revenue that it raises on motor car sales, but I do suggest that there should at least be some kind of relation between tax practice and safety standards. It appals me when I see on television an advertisement sponsored by the Road Safety Council urging people not to drive fast, followed almost immediately by an advertisement for a brand of petrol containing alcohol- which I had not previously realised was a constituent of petrol - which will give the user so much more power, the whole advertisement being designed to show a car travelling faster than the previous advertisement had suggested it was wise for anybody to drive.
I hope that some day a foundation will be established to award Oscars for the worst commercial television advertisements. It seems to me we are getting into an appalling situation when we have advertisements openly encouraging people to go faster in motor cars. This particular advertisement for Amoco petrol actually shows a motor vehicle passing a heavily laden truck in a way which I would have thought one was not supposed to pass. I for one have no hesitation in showing up that kind of advertisement on the floor of this House, because to my mind anything that encourages people to go faster in more powerful motor cars is doing something diametrically opposed to what this legislation aims to do. Even the best safety belts in the world will not save a person in a motor car if it is being driven too fast or if the driver is attempting to pass another vehicle unwisely or unsafely.
In any case I doubt very much that very objective tests have been made of these different petrols to determine whether they differ from one another to any significant extent. It seems to me that if people unconnected with the existing petrol companies could obtain import licences for petrol and sell it without brand names they could retail it for five or six cents a gallon less than is being charged for the Shells, Amocos, Ampols and ethers that are urged upon the buying public through television advertisements. As my friend from Stirling (Mr Webb) said in a debate earlier, the only things that are not interrupted on television are the advertisements. I for one reached the stage long ago of deciding that when an advertisement came on I would either note the product and determine not to buy it or else go outside and do something else during the minute or so the advertisement lasted. If those who spend the money on these advertisements regard it as good business I think they should occasionally conduct tests somewhat different from the presently accepted rating tests. Instead of finding out what programmes are being shown on what proportion of television screens they should ask viewers: ‘What do you do when the advertisements come on?’ Unfortunately one cannot turn off an advertisement without turning off the station through which it is being shown, but one can go outside while the advertisement is on. I think it is time something was said and done about these clever gentlemen who foist themselves and their products on us in our homes. I hope that somebody will give prizes monthly or even weekly for the worst television commercials, because this may quickly bring some of these people to heel.
What I am suggesting in this case is that the Government is at least attempting to use the taxing device to enforce safety in a particular direction, but I should think it is a rather piffling exercise in itself. 1 am not suggesting that it ought not to be done, but I suggest we look at the whole question and particularly at the accident toll week by week. I think that in Victoria this week there were about thirty fatalities in two or three days. Well, I suppose a couple of million dollars granted in the form of concessions provided in this Bill may in the long run turn out to be money well spent, but if the money is to be provided for safety belts to be fitted in motor cars, then at least there ought to be a guarantee that the belts are in fact safe. It seems ;hat the survey objectively conducted by the Daily Mirror’ indicates that in most cases these safety belts are anything but safe at the time when they are needed most, which is when the vehicle is in fact involved in an accident.
– It appears that for some years safety belts when purchased as separate items have been exempt from sales tax, but when bought already fitted to a motor vehicle sales tax has had to be paid on them at the rate applicable to the vehicle itself. The Bill before us makes safety belts free of sales tax in all circumstances, and this is a very good thing. However, I want to comment on one or two of the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and to support him fully. He spoke about television programmes and how they affect people buying motor cars. I have on occasions seen advertisements for a particular brand of soft drink, which show about eight people travelling together in great glee in a mini car. This is the kind of conduct that will probably come to be thought of as the right thing to do. The point I want to make is that safety belts are of value only after the event, and the event is the accident. It appears to me from what T have read in the newspapers lately that most accidents now occur on open roads. They take the form of straight headon collisions. I do not give the reason for these things happening, or say that they are things that happen only to somebody else, because I concede that this kind of thing may happen to me next week or even this week. I well remember having lunch at a certain hotel on one occasion and hearing a man say how ridiculous it was to be caught by a train at a level crossing. He said that people who get caught in that way must be maniacs. That very afternoon a train hit his vehicle at a crossing and he was killed. I realise only too well that one cannot be too sure when one is driving a motor vehicle. No matter how experienced a driver is, if he is inattentive for only a second he may become involved in a very serious accident before he knows what has happened.
I must admit that on one or two occasions things have happened to me which have been an object lesson. I have been driving along a road, thinking that nothing could happen to me, when suddenly I have realised that I have been inattentive and although on the right side have been off the bitumen. In the last three weeks I have nearly had three head-on collisions when travelling as a passenger in cars. Two of the incidents occurred in Canberra when driving from Parliament House to the Hotel Kurrajong. On one occasion a car travelling towards the car in which I was a passenger pulled out to overtake a truck and was heading straight for the car in which I was travelling. The driver of the car approaching us went so close to the vehicle he overtook that it is a wonder he did not hit the front of that vehicle with the rear of his car, just as it is a wonder that he did not hit the car in which I was a passenger. Another incident occurred quite close to Parliament House.
Recently when driving from Melbourne to Bendigo I was on my correct side of the road when a car came right across the white centre line on a straight stretch of road. I thought he was sure to hit the back of my car, but by some miracle, for which I must thank God, he missed my car. We know that there are many accidents these days but we know also that there are many so-called near misses. I wonder how many people just miss being in an accident compared with the number who have accidents. I think sometimes we can liken accidents and near misses to the man who embezzles money from a bank, goes to the races, loses the lot, embezzles more, has a last fling on the horses and says that his fancy was beaten in a photo finish and he has lost all the money. He is then arrested. I think that sometimes the horse on which he has his final fling is not beaten in a photo finish; it wins and the man puts his winnings back into the bank. This happens in life and, as far as motor cars are concerned, it happens in a different way. Anything we can do to increase safety on the roads and to encourage people to use safety belts should be done. But safelty belts are only a small part of the story. It is not really on record yet that safety belts cannot cause casualties. I read recently of two men who lost their lives in an accident. If they had not been wearing safety belts they may have been thrown clear of the. car and not killed. But the odds favouring the use of safety belts are very impressive and so this Bill has my full support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Kelly) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 April (vide page 1241), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr BRYANT (Wills) [4.331 - The National Library, now rising from the ground near the foreshores of. Lake. Burley Griffin, is one of Canberra’s most significant buildings. The National Library is one of Australia’s most significant cultural institutions. The small Bill .before the House is designed to help to place some of the affairs of the Library in order.
The Library is conducted by a council. The Parliamentary Librarian is, for the time being, also the National Librarian. Out of this situation some difficulties have arisen. The provision in the original Act, which this Bill seeks to amend, was that the Librarian should be appointed under the Public Service Act. If honourable members, care to look at the Public Service Act they will see listed in the schedule the permanent heads of departments. Five First Division permanent heads are members of the staff of this Parliament.. They are the Clerk of the Senate, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of the Joint House Department. This in effect means that the Parliamentary Librarian is equal in status to the head of any other department, be it a defence department, the Treasury or what’ have you. It was deemed inadvisable to add to the list of permanent heads the position of National Librarian because if this were done, in effect you would have to do the same thing in respect of many other statutory bodies. So, after some consideration of the matter, Cabinet decided that the position of National Librarian should be a statutory one and that the holder of the position should be appointed outside the Public Service Act. The National Library Act of seven or eight years ago provided that the ordinary procedures relating to audit which applied to other government departments should apply to the National Library. It may be said that the financial procedures of the National Library should be simple to audit, but the assets of the National Library are indeterminate. Nobody can say what is the true value of the private papers that we have acquired from Prime Ministers and literary figures or the great collections that we have obtained from overseas. The Bill now before us is designed to remedy this situation and to bring it moire into line with reality.
I represent this House on the National Library Council so I propose this afternoon to take the opportunity of placing before the House a report of the Library as it is at present working, in the hope that honourable members will place before me any matters which they would like to have raised in the National Library Council.
The National Library has grown out of the Parliamentary Library. As originally conceived our system was to be like that which exists in the Library of the United States Congress, where the Library of Congress is the national library for the United States. In 19S3 the Government decided to examine the situation and appointed a committee, headed by Sir George Paton, who is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) also was a member of the committee. The committee’ recommended that the National Library and the Parliamentary Library be separated one from the other. So over the last six or seven years we have seen the gradual separation of the National Library from the Parliamentary Library.
At present the National Library has no home. In the past its collections have been scattered around numerous buildings. It has had continual battles with government departments to get space. Sometimes it is at the end of the queue; sometimes it manages to make the running and gets in first. It has been a continual struggle to house properly the Library’s Australian collections. At present most of the collections are at least properly protected, but they are inadequately housed. They cannot be housed satisfactorily until the National Library is in its own building.
The important thing as far as honourable members are concerned is the relationship between the National Library and this Parliament. All honourable members and any observer would know that a great problem exists so far as our Parliamentary Library is concerned. There are 184 members of the Parliament. They all have an immediate interest in legislation and even long term interests. This is one of the besetting problems for our Parliamentary Library, because the Government produces legislation sometimes with not undue notice and we may want to proceed with it forthwith or in the immediate future. Matters of great urgency come up suddenly and large numbers of people descend on the Parliamentary Library seeking information about something that may not have been touched on for eight or ten years. There is little opportunity to keep in the Parliamentary Library stacks of books which can cope with such emergencies. So the most important thing as far as we in this House are immediately concerned is the relationship between the Parliamentary Library and the National Library. This is something thien is now being worked out. It is not a matter of personal relationship, where there are very few difficulties; it is a matter of geographical relationship. Many of the collections of the National Library are housed at Kingston and other places. If the House is sitting at 2 o’clock in the morning the greatest difficulty is experienced in obtaining material from premises whose doors have been closed since a reasonable hour. When the Library takes its place in its new home beside Lake Burley Griffin at least the geographical problems will be easier of solution. We know that between the Library of Congress and Congress itself there is a tunnel so that there may be a continuous flow of material as required, ft may be that we will have to consider something of this kind between the National Library and this Parliament House.
The National Library is Australia’s widest ranging international operation. Although this Government’s Department of External Affairs is inhibited - there are many people in the world to whom it does not speak; there is a number of nations, some of great numbers, to which we do not speak, which we do not recognise and which, technically speaking, do not exist - the gathering in to the National Library of Australian collections must not be inhibited. Operations of the Library, even unofficial ones of collection and so on, operate across borders which so far are not recognised by the other governmental agencies. This, of course, is something that should be continuously recognised and protected. It is vitally important that no current interpretation of international affairs should be allowed to interfere with the international nature of our collection.
The second point is that the National Library is probably one of Australia’s most important cultural institutions. I suppose, in a sense, because of its singular nature, its national nature and in other ways, it is even more significant in a cultural way than the National University because there are other bodies competing in the same field with the National University. But the concept is much the same and so here in this capital we hope that we are launching upon a major national cultural institution, a major international operation in which we break the barriers between humanity and we gather in material, no matter what the politics, the religion or the colour of the people who produce it. But I must say that we have only just started.
It has been my privilege to represent this House on the Council for the last three years. I followed on from my friend and colleague, the former member for Parkes, Mr Leslie Haylen, who represented this House very favourably upon it. We have a big task before us. At the moment I believe we have about one million volumes. Probably there are many libraries in the world with more than one million volumes. I think the Library of the University of Sydney is larger than that, but we are reaching the stage where I believe that in a few years time we will be recognised as one of the great national libraries of the world. I suppose that at the present moment the library of Congress, the British Museum, the one ir. Paris, the Lenin Library in Moscow and a number of others have very large collections which they have acquired, in some cases over the centuries. But in Australia we have some significant advantages.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has just pointed out in his remarks on the Sales Tax Bill, we are one of the world’s greatest owners of motor cars. This is one of the symbols of the prosperity of a nation. It means that when we are looking for collections we can compete with the best. Honourable members can rest assured, however, that the National Library Council when gathering in collections acts with a proper regard for the purposes for which they are acquired and with respect for the finance of the nation. The National Library’s functions are listed in section 6 of the Act which states:
Then there are listed in (c) the ways in which the library will assist other parts of the Commonwealth’s functions by cooperating through departmental libraries, and then we see in (d): to co-operate in library matters (including the advancement of library science) with authorities or persons, whether in Australia or elsewhere, concerned with library matters.
The library goes about this matter in a pretty effective way, in my view. But it needs more resources - I am certain that it does - and it needs more trained librarians. We have not much to complain of at the moment about the financial resources placed at our disposal from year to year. The only inhibiting factor has been the capacity to control or to place anything that we gather in. This is why the building across the way is so important. At the present moment we are probably getting in for the Library about 65,000 new volumes each year. But a library collection is not just a formal matter of putting down a name at a bookshop and having a book sent along; it is not a matter of reading book reviews and saying: ‘Let us get this one’.
One of the ways in which we have acquired a great bulk of material is by obtaining formal collections. For instance, the Clifford family in Britain placed on the market their very famous historical collection which goes back almost 1,000 years. One of them was, one could almost say, a continuing census of the. locality conducted by one of the local abbeys and going back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This is a tremendous source of material. Then there is the Nankivell collection which was collected by Mr Rex Nankivell in Great Britain. I believe that in the first instance he was a New Zealander. But in Britain after the First War he settled down as an art dealer and art collector. He acquired the world’s greatest collection of Australiana and material associated with the Pacific. Some seven, eight or nine years ago we started negotiating with him and we acquired this collection. At the point of acquisition we had some 1,200 crates of material - written material, pictorial matter and so on - which is still on display around the House. This collection is unrivalled. We could not place a value upon it. It is to the great advantage of Australia that Mr Nankivell continues to expand his collection. Although the original agreement with him has probably been fulfilled, it is being fulfilled many times over by the way in which he is continuing to add to it.
For the interest of honourable members I should add that we have had collections like those from Senator Donald Cameron, for instance. We acquired that. I only hope that honourable members who have made collections of material which they have acquired during their life in this Parliament will realise that this is a valuable repository of national information which ought not be destroyed. I think that any person who has taken his place in this Parliament should, no matter how humble he thinks the material is, allow the National Library to have first look and first option on it. Although we do not want to compete with the great libraries in the States - I suppose the Mitchell Library is the greatest acquirer - none of these can be national collections. But the relationship between the libraries of Australia is developing to such a level that it is not a competitive matter anyhow. In fact, much material is finally placed geographically m the most suitable place, regardless of who acquires it.
In recent times the Deakin papers were acquired. It was from those that a very fine biography of Deakin was produced. In recent times notable political collections were those of Bavin, Glynn, Groom, Quick, Symon, Fisher, Hughes, Pearce, Page, Higgins,’ Latham, and the GovernorsGeneral Tennyson, Denman, Novar, and Isaacs. We do not confine ourselves only to political figures. There are manuscripts of almost all the works of Henry Handel Richardson and the papers of Vance and Nettie Palmer, Brady, Brennan, Furphy, Gilmore, Davison, C. J. Dennis, Prichard, Neilson, and an excellent series of tape recordings and so on. I place this on the record so that honourable members will realise what is going on and know that for the moment we are inhibited in giving people access to this material. For the time being it is difficult for people to realise that this is happening, that one of the world’s significant national collections is gathering here in Canberra under the auspices of the National Library.
Honourable members may be interested in the magnitude of some of the Library’s tasks. It is not concerned only with the collection of books. The functions of the Library have been spelt out. They are to expand library services, to co-operate in library matters and so on. We have a National Library training school. Of a total of 106 at the National Library training school, 32 are from the staff of the National Library, 23 are from other departments, 20 are from the staff of the Australian National University and there are 32 others. I think it is time we gave a little more encouragement to young people who are graduating through the universities to join the library services. It has been a Cinderella service, but that is not so at the moment. There is now pretty tall competition, particularly from universities, where I believe librarians have been placed on the level of professorial and senior lecturer positions. But there are not enough people entering the library services. I believe the task is imposed on us all to encourage people to look at the library profession as one of the most valuable careers that they could enter.
The national bibliography is one of our tasks. Of course this is the system by which all Australian material is documented and made readily available. We issue the ‘Australian National Bibliography’ and other works of that nature. We started publishing a list of Australian books in 1936. This comes out four times a month and it includes books, films, maps and so forth published in Australia as well as material of Australian interest published overseas. We have a close liaison with the Library of Congress in the United States of America. The Americans have contributed much to human understanding and international cooperation in the field of library work. By pouring resources into the Library of Congress that Library has become almost the standard reference centre for the whole world of books. The classification system of the Library of Congress is becoming internationally recognised. Despite cold wars and all the rest of it librarians are able to gather together across these borders through the instrumentality of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and Australia is playing a significant part in this activity.
The National Library has the largest Oriental collection in Australia. Our collection on Indonesia is one of the largest outside Holland. Of course, Asia is our most important neighbourhood and we have to be continually on the qui vive to acquire collections. I place on record the role that Mr White, the Parliamentary Librarian, has played in this regard. I should think that he is one of the world’s greatest acquisition experts. Some people find out; Mr White seems to know. So Australian tentacles reach out across the planet. At this moment our principal competitors are the Americans. It is interesting that in most cases we are able to place ourselves in a position to compete on the market. We acquire articles from around the world.
I have heard recently that a very significant collection on Brazil will soon be available. This will probably cost a fair sum of money. Most of the collection is in Portuguese. We have to decide whether to acquire it. I would appreciate the opinions of honourable members on whether the collection should be acquired. After all, I sp;ak for them on the Council of the National Library. I believe money would be well spent in acquiring the collection. We ought to secure formal collections of this type. It is true to say that Australia is one of the world’s largest collectors of governmental publications. At the moment it is our function to acquire for Australia the sura total of human knowledge in every field. So we have acquired personal papers and other records. At present we have 150,000 maps and 400.000 aerial photographs. Honourable members can imagine the task simply of storing such material and of making it available to people. Our pictorial collection is not exactly in its infancy, but here again we are faced with the problem of what is to be done with the material. My hope is that we will not only store material from the past but that we will take steps to initiate a pictorial record of the present.
Books are not the only means of recording material these days. We should do something about gathering and maintaining a collection of television programmes. T suppose (hat television is the largest consumer of film at present, lt is the largest means of recording actual events. Up to the present we have not progressed very far in this field but in the near future we expect consideration of this to come up. Possibly we should have done something about it already. The documentary film collection in the National Library is one of the world’s largest collections. However, 1 believe it is somewhat restricted in respect of eastern Europe. When I was overseas three years ago I took steps to interview people in various parts of eastern Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia, Russia and Yugoslavia. I was impressed with the way the Yugoslavs are making films of their own governmental activities. One of the strange things in my view was that they seemed far more liberal minded about the films they produce about themselves than they permit anybody to be in what that person writes about Yugoslavia.
I believe that a film collection is the most: fruitful way of getting information across and of keeping readily accessible records. Of course, it can be an expensive business. Honourable members can rest assured that work in this field is proceeding constantly, although I believe that our activities have been inhibited by our own attitudes in foreign affairs. I am not seeking to intrude foreign affairs into the field of debate, but the National Library has been restricted in this regard. Some of our operations run across boundaries that have been created in the last twenty years, but we do have overseas exchanges in all sorts of places. We have about 1,500 agreements with institutions all around the world. For instance, we send some of our governmental publications to some universities and they send us some of their governmental publications. This is a most valuable contribution to India, for instance - to its cultural and financial advantage. India has strict limitations upon overseas purchases and if we can send it a box of publications and in exchange receive a box of its publications this is a kind of international agreement whereby both countries can keep clear of the clutches of Treasuries and officials. This is a most fruitful way in which we can extend our operations in Asian countries whose facilities for direct purchase are limited. My view is that we should do more by way of donations to these countries.
Last year when 1 was in Cambodia I visited the National Library at Phnom Penh. I suppose that Cambodia is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Asia. lt is an oasis compared with almost any other place in Asia. I strolled across to the National Library and in my meagre French explained who I was and what I was about. Finally I convinced the authorities that I wanted to sec their catalogue and to ascertain what material they had on Australia. I found they had six books; one printed in 1919. another printed in France in 1932, a couple of UNESCO publications, another publication from France and Bialoguski’s account of the Petrov inquiry. It would help us to make substantial donations of Australian literature to these people. I know that our officers in the Embassy in Cambodia are making a great impact on the community, but we have much to offer.
Even in the National Library of Bangkok, with which we have close relationships, there is a limited quantity of English material, particularly about Australia. Library officers from Bangkok have trained in Australia. 1 do not know how many libraries there are of significance in that part of the world, but in India there are about forty university libraries. What would it cost us to send them boxes of Australian publications every year? For instance, we could send them reports of the Joint Coal Board and the year books of the various States.
– Yes. Copies of Hansard would be particularly interesting documents for them, especially a copy of today’s Hansard. I make this proposition seriously because in nearly all of these countries English is the second language. We are becoming, in a sense, the metropolitan community for many of these countries. When I asked the Librarian of the University of Jaipur in Rajasthan about his Australian collection he said: ‘If I showed it to you I would be ashamed and so would you be.’ I believe it would be little enough for us to supply Australian publications to such libraries. Although our National Library has established lines of communication much could be done to extend an understanding of Australian culture throughout the world and - to assist us in acquiring some understanding of the cultures of other countries.
Some of the agreements that we have are formal agreements others are informal. In some instances we have blanket orders. How are we getting information from North Vietnam at present? I understand that we are getting very little. I am not sure of this, but T have the feeling that the inhibitions that flow from our foreign policy prevent us from getting such information. But a firm in Hong Kong does acquire material from around that part of the world, and we deal with it. We have blanket orders with this firm. Can honourable members find easily in Australia material that is published currently in Hanoi? I think not. Of course, some of these inhibitions do not apply in some situations.’ For instance, we do not recognise East Germany. It is beyond the pale. But it happens that the Staatsbibliothek the national library of Germany, is on the wrong side of the wall. I called there some three years ago and I found that arrangements we had made before the Second World War still existed and were operating to their advantage and to ours. Library work is an international operation.
Before I close, I would like to remind honourable members of the purpose for which a building is being constructed beside the lake in Canberra. This is the largest undertaking of the National Capital Development Commission so far, and will be the National Library. It will cost between S7m and S8m, which is a good deal more than the cost of the lake. It will cover 368,000 square feet, which is about eight acres. The building is 340 feet leng by 149 feet wide. It will have five storeys above ground level and two or three below ground level. It will be one of the most significant pieces of architecture in Australia. It will not cause the same confusion and trouble as the Opera House in Sydney has, and it will possibly give more comfort and be of more advantage to many more people than will be the Opera House. The building that honourable members see being constructed will have a capacity of 1,250,000 volumes when it is finished and will provide space for all the services that are necessary in a library. It will be possible to develop the basement so that it will hold another 1,250,000 volumes. This building will have space for some 2,500,000 volumes and will be part of a complex that will eventually house about 1 1 million volumes. One of the significant features of the building will be the art work in it. Two or three major works of art will be associated with it. For instance, the foyer will contain a tapestry that is being produced in France by Mategot in the Aubusson school of tapestry.
– Will there be any Australian works there?
– There are four or five works of art to go into the building. The tapestry’ is the only one that will not be produced by Australian artists. The reason for this is that tapestry is not so far an Australian art form, although one or two people in Australia are developing it. I would hope that any extension of the Library in the future will include the tapestry work of Australians, who should then be able to compete with people overseas. It just happens that the Aubusson school in France is recognised internationally as the leader in this field. However, all . the other art works are being produced by Australians. The coloured glass windows in the ground floor exhibition area are by Leonard French. Without being chauvinistic, I can say that they have been chosen not because they are Australian but because they are the best that we can get. Honourable members can rest assured that the art work in the building will be the best that is available and that 80% of it will be Australian designed and Australian produced. For instance, the decorative screens dividing the foyer from the exhibition areas will be Australian.
– How much did the honourable member say this will cost?
– The building itself will cost S8m. It will stand for perhaps a thousand years. No money is being wasted on it at all. All the material is permanent. The marble facing has been imported from Italy, lt has been imported because that marble will last longer than any other. Most of the major stone work will come from areas in Australia. Some of it will come from Bowral. The architect is an Australian, Mr Walter Bunning, with his associates. The workmanship, as far as one can tell, is first class. It has been supervised at every stage in such a way that we can be sure that every penny spent on it is a penny well spent. One of the problems facing Australia in undertakings of this nature is that everything so far has been of a temporary nature. We have not been here for very long. We are not accustomed to erecting buildings that will stand for a thousand years. I do not know how long the British Museum has been standing but I do know that major buildings around the world, even functional ones, have been standing for centuries. Parts of the Houses of Parliament in London, St Paul’s Cathedral and others have been standing for centuries. Some of the major buildings in other parts of the world have been there for a thousand years and are still functioning. The National Library building in Canberra will be such a building. Everything put into it, I would hope, is likely to be there at the end of a thousand years. Honourable members will have to view that from some other prospect than the one with which we are endowed in politics.
We are considering today the statutory arrangements for the appointment of the National Librarian. He will have a staff of about 400 at his disposal. We spend about $2m a year in the total running operations of the Library, and about $300,000 of this is spent on books. As I say, this is the largest library undertaking in Australia. It is one of the most richly endowed. I hope that we will do a great deal to extend some of its services. I believe that Australia is in a unique position in this part of the world and can expand its library collections so that they are available in a stable community to scholars. I hope that in the near future we will be able to expand our library training system and be able to offer more places to students from overseas. I discussed this matter with people in Indonesia. If we can find the resources, we should offer places to more Indonesian students in some of our library training centres. I know that it is difficult to make arrangements with some countries because of their administrative difficulties.
I commend the Bill to honourable members, not because it is really soul shaking in its nature, but because the National Library is a creation of this Parliament, as indeed Canberra is. I hope that all honourable members will take the opportunity as soon as possible, putting aside all questions such as meetings called at inconvenient times, to inspect the magnificent building beside the lake. I believe that it will house one of the most significant library collections in the world and will be one of Australia’s most significant architectural masterpieces.
– This Bill, apart from minor amendments, provides the final act of separation of the National Library from the Parliamentary Library. 1 would like to pay a tribute to the Council of the National Library and in particular to the National Librarian, Mr Harold White. In his time as National Librarian - undoubtedly he will continue in this office - he has done a great deal for libraries and librarians throughout Australia. I would also like to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Library, which has over the last few years grown under the leadership of Mr White as National Librarian and Parliamentary Librarian. One significant development in recent years is the improved and enlarged research and reference sections of the Parliamentary Library. They have helped honourable members on both sides of the House in recent months. I give my personal thanks to the officers in the research and reference sections of the Parliamentary Library. Undoubtedly both the National Library and the Parliamentary Library, though going their separate ways, will remain closely linked. We have nothing to fear for the future of both Libraries from the Bill now before us, but I believe that we have much to fear from the trends that are becoming apparent in the library system of Australia.
The first trend is that, although the number of books, periodicals, other publications and microfilms in Australia is growing, the position of our resources relative to the increased amount of knowledge and material published throughout the world is declining. I will show that the amount of stored knowledge in Australia relative to the amount that is available in the world is less now than it was a few years ago. In this regard Professor Tauber, who earlier in this decade made a survey of the resources of Australian libraries, said:
In comparison with large city, country or State libraries of the US or similar libraries of other countries, the State reference libraries of Australia are relatively small in terms of holdings.
The Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services, in the introduction to a Statement on the Deficiencies in Public Library Services and a plea for Commonwealth Financial Support, which it made in May 1966, said:
It is submitted that all these library services are not only vital to the maintenance of a high level of community awareness and that they constitute an important supplement to formal education in equipping Australian citizens for intelligent participation in the democratic way of life, but also that they provide scientific, technological and economic information that is necessary for the development of the nation.
The Council then reviewed Australia’s resources and needs and went on to say:
These facts must not be allowed to conceal the serious deficiencies in both the extent and the scale of the provision of these services. There is further the vital fact that, as will be shown, an increasing proportion of the present financial support is having to be diverted, of necessity, to the maintenance of existing services at not more than their present levels, so rendering the more remote any chance of the improvement which the nation urgently needs.
The second trend which is becoming apparent and which we should examine is the move towards automation in libraries and library services. This in itself is most exciting for it opens up to Australian teachers, research workers, professions, professional men and, indeed, to every citizen the possibility of being able to obtain information on any subject immediately. This, of course, is in the future; but already in the United States of America the National Library of Medicine, for instance, prepares an Index Medicus through the Medlar indexing system and the Grace print-out system and on demand can provide for any research worker or doctor references and abstracts on virtually any subject. An Australian doctor who .s doing some research work has lent ms an example of the print-outs of the Medlar-Grace system, which are a full cover of the abstracts and references of virtually all the research work done in the world in a particular narrow field, which were sent to him.
In the field of law, I believe that in New York a private enterprise organisation will provide on demand, through automation in the libraries and the storing and indexing of information, a legal reference covering all the points of law required by lawyers. A tremendous amount of work in the research field is being done by the Library of Congress and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology towards the objective of being able to provide by retrieval and dissemination all the information which is stored either in the library or within the library system. They envisage that in time inquirers will almost be able to have a dialogue with a computer and by dialling from a point in a library obtain within seconds a print-out.
Australia has some advantages because it is behind in this field. Doctor G. W. Hill, in a paper which he read to the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Library Association of Australia in 1965 entitled ‘Application of Computers to Library Work’, said in the introduction:
Lagging some years behind major countries in investment in technology, Australia is currently in a phase of rapidly expanding its installation of computing equipment. The time lag has the advantage that mistakes of pioneers or other countries need not be repeated . . .
However, he went on to say: but carries the disadvantage that a comparable body of local experience has not been built up to support development, and both factors are relevant to the application of computers to library work in Australia.
It is this, as I see it, which is the master with which we should be greatly concerned as we move into a period of automation where computers and other technological advances can be used for the retrieval and dissemination of knowledge stored within Australia. Under the terms of the legislation under which it operates, the National Library must play a leading part. The Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services, in a report that it presented in 1965 through its Book Resources Committee and headed ‘The Development of National Book Resources’, said in regard to automation:
The Committee would not have commented upon this more or less natural adoption of new methods, except for one thing. There is a danger that libraries may enter this important but expensive Held without sufficient reference to the possibilities of common services, lt appears to the Committee that there is scope for the provision of common services and co-ordinated activity in this field and that at least some effort should be taken to ensure comparability of system; wherever this is possible and advantageous.
The Committee went on to recommend that AACOBS take steps to secure the establishment of a communications subcommittee. This sub-committee has already met, and its first report has been mad; to AACOBS. The report makes two or three initial recommendations. The first is that libraries should use the common facilities of the Post Office. The second is that an effort should bc made as soon as possible to introduce Telex to connect the library systems of Australia, which is now happening and a number of libraries have become interconnected. In addition, after sending a circular to the libraries of Australia, tha sub-committee produced a directory of current Australian projects in mechanisation and/or automation of library functions. It is here that I see some dangers, because this directory indicates that a large number of libraries, whether they be State libraries, the National Library, university libraries, government department libraries or libraries of agencies of the Government such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, are starting to use automation and equipment for their indexing so that information can be placed on a computer to be printed out. But there is no common denominator, because so far little work has been done in this field, and the computers which the libraries are using are those which are owned or used by the parent body. For instance, the CSIRO library uses the main computer service of that Organisation. The same applies to the Department of Supply. The Public Library of New South Wales is using the State computer. These computers are of different types, and the libraries are purchasing and installing equipment to suit the computer used by their parent organisations.
I believe there is a fairly urgent need to look at this because of the expenditures that will be incurred over the next few years, particularly if a library grows sufficiently large to install a full computer system. The AACOBS sub-committee is making an examination or this matter. That is the second trend which I believe we should watch closely, because there is a need for common facilities so that magnetic tapes of indexes of material stored in libraries will be common and capable of being used by any library in Australia, the print-out and other equipment being compatible. Once automation comes in it will be immaterial where the material is stored. lt is hoped that ultimately it will not matter where information is stored so long as it is known where it is stored, because electronic systems wilt provide, the information to the user at the point of use.
The third trend is one which is occurring overseas. I refer to subject libraries, or special libraries. I refer in particular to the very large National Library of Agriculture and to the National Library of Medicine in the United States of America, where it has been found necessary to build libraries for a special subject. This is a matter which I think we in Australia should also be looking at very closely, because some of our libraries now are becoming large. If the National Library has not already acquired 1,000,000 volumes, I think it will do so very shortly. The Fisher Library of the University of Sydney received its millionth volume earlier this year.
This raises the question of the creation of special subject libraries within Australia. To my knowledge the only attempt in this field has been that of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in providing a library of science and technology. To my mind there are disadvantages in a research organisation or even a university providing a special subject library. To me. that is essentially a matter that should come under a body not directly connected with the research work, such as the National Library, or national libraries, if we ultimately create a national library system in Australia. This is something that we should be looking at, because it hits at the core of duplication of purchases and of resources and the need for rationalisation. I shall examine this aspect in more detail later.
There is a fourth trend, which is the building up of special libraries within Australia. In this regard one can see some fairly distinct developments occurring. The universities, through the very valuable financial assistance of the Commonwealth Government primarily, have built up very rapidly their book resources. This, of course, is of the utmost importance for the universities, for the training of professional people in Australia and for the special research work that is undertaken within the universities. Since 1961 the collections of the universities as a whole have risen from 2.4 million volumes to 2.9 million in 1963, to 3.3 million in 1964, and to 3.676 million this year. This is a very rapid increase. However, when one sees what has happened in the State reference libraries one realises that there has been no similar increase, because the rate of increase in the finance available has not nearly matched that of the university libraries. The annual rate of expenditure for the university libraries is running at, I think, $2.4.m a year for collections alone, yet the State reference libraries are receiving only about $306,000 annually. When we add the $340,000 for the National Library of Australia, this makes only about $650,000 as against the $2.4m for the universities.
This is a trend which I think needs examination and possible reversal, because the universities have special purposes in training but their grants should not be reduced. The public or State libraries and the National Library serve the whole community, and their resources, as I said when I discussed the very first trend, are running down in relation to the world store of knowledge. When we review all the library systems, we see that we, as a nation, are progressing but slowly. Our relative position in terms of our store of knowledge is falling. There are some separate moves being made within the library system of Australia towards automation. There is a great need for co-ordination in this field, particularly for the future when more expensive hardware, as it is called, will be bought and used. The ultimate object of the use of the store of knowledge that is being produced within Australia by public funds is that it should be freely available to any citizen on demand or request.
Also, there is a need to examine the subject of special libraries. There is a constitutional problem here regarding the financing of them and where they should be built. As I mentioned, there is also this imbalance occurring in the finance that is being made available to the different library systems - the State system on the one hand, for which finance is drying up, and the universities and the National Library on the other. These seem to have greater funds, although the National Library undoubtedly could use far more. In this regard there are some rather horrifying statistics in relation to the actual expenditure in some States. For instance, the State Library of Tasmania spends only $22,000 or $23,000 a year on book collections, and this is- for Tasmania’s main library. The Public Library of South Australia spends under $20,000 annually. The only library in the Commonwealth that has endeavoured to meet the problem is the Public Library of New South Wales, which has had a vast increase of some 218% in the last six or seven years.
These trends have occurred for a number of reasons, including an increase in the price of books. As the 1965 Bowker Annual showed, there is an increase of about 5% in the price of books. Mr Richardson, the Librarian of the New South Wales Public Library, in a very fine paper presented to the Royal Institute of Public Administration in May 1966, showed that there has been in some subjects an enormous increase, and up to 33% per annum in special subjects. There has also been an increase in the number of books being produced. This has been clearly shown, and I do not intend to give the figures, although Mr Richardson shows an average increase of 12.7% in many subjects. The Martin report, Mr Richardson’s paper, the report of AACOBS and the reports of other bodies that have dealt with libraries and library services have referred to this. There has also been an increase in subjects that have been studied, and material has been published on them. The publications are more expensive because the subjects are new. As Professor Tauber showed, there are very great gaps in the resources of Australian libraries. There is also in addition the growth of microfilming, and this in itself is a very expensive matter. It requires something between a 10% and 20% increase in finance per annum just to meet the rise in the price of publications, together with the growth in the number of volumes, let alone what is needed to make up for past deficiencies. I quote the very first recommendation by AACOBS to the Government:
That Australian library authorities accept as a general objective: Within a period of ten years, to aise Australian book resources to a level at which they will be adequate to meet the need for information, education and advanced reading, and so establish a foundation for the continuing development of research.
The libraries are our store of knowledge and are the basis of cultural and technical advance. This need for technical advance h?.., been recognised. The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Sinclair) in introducing a Bill dealing with research for secondary industries this afternoon, stated most eloquently our needs in this regard for technological advance, yet the very basis for this is the library system of Australia. The very basis is the store of knowledge that we have. I believe that there are some major gaps in this that need recognising.
The Government has recognised our need for advances in technology. One needs only to look at what we have done in the last ten or fifteen years in the universities. We have doubled the number of universities, and the number of students attending them has trebled. There is a new tier in the education system with the advanced colleges and a whole new research structure for this country, with the Australian Universities Commission, the Research Grants Committee, and the increased expenditure in the field for organisations such as the CSIRO. In this sessional period we are introducing two new Bills - the one I mentioned a moment ago and one to provide for a very great increase in expenditure on research in the wool industry, to give just two examples. But successful research cannot go ahead without an examination of previous knowledge. When introducing this legislation in I960, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, highlighted this when he said:
We have, we think, done a good deal - and so have governments over a long time - to intensify research and inquiry through universities and through a variety of research bodies and agencies of government. The development of library resources is a necessary and natural corollary.
It is my belief that we must do something because Australia’s store of information is not sufficient at the moment; nor, under the present financing methods, is it likely to catch up. There are dangers, as I mentioned, of an unco-ordinated entry into the period of automation. There is a need to put more money into the library system to define responsibilities for financing and to coordinate the whole system. One cannot but commend very highly the work of AACOBS in this field but it does not have the necessary power.
The Commonwealth has acted in regard to libraries in the universities. I believe that there is a precedent for it in the State systems. I refer to research in general and in the universities. But the Commonwealth cannot act without the approval or cooperation of the States. What should we do? There are three or four things that we could do. We could leave it to AACOBS, which has produced a series of reports and has made a series of recommendations; but the very core of those recommendations - increased finance - has been rejected. AACOBS is an advisory body. It is doing a very fine job. But it is comprised of people who make recommendations, not people who make decisions. Its members represent the government which makes the decisions. It is comprised of a whole range of people covering the major systems. It is not the sort of body that could make definite recommendations upon which governments could act and upon which they could hold discussions. Essentially this is once again a Federal problem because we live in a Federal system.
Again, we could leave AACOBS to make recommendations, perhaps giving it some additional money to speed up its research on the communications committee, research and other work and even giving its resources committee more people to assist it. Then we could have a regular ministerial conference, as happens in the field of agriculture with the Australian Agricultural Council, in the field of health and in other fields. This would have some disadvantages because our libraries usually form a very small part of a department. For instance the National Library comes under the Prime Minister’s Department and assistance to university libraries comes under the control of the Minister for Education and Science. In the States there are different Ministers who have some responsibility in this field.
Alternatively, we could establish a Murray type commission, as happened with the universities in the 1950’s and led to the Australian Universities Commission. This is the course I favour because it could define our needs more clearly and objectively and produce a document which could be used as a basis on which governments could meet and act. There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for action to be taken. In addition, such a committee or commission could examine - particularly so far as automation is concerned - the relationship of the archives system of Australia and also the patents office, another body whose great store of knowledge could be used by Australian industry.
Our need is great and I believe we should act. As Vannevar Bush said in 1948 in his book ‘Endless Horizons’, which became the basis for a modern structure of the research systems in the United States:
Today it is truer than ever that basic research is the pacemaker of technological progress. In the nineteenth century, Yankee mechanical ingenuity, building largely upon the basic discoveries of European scientists, could greatly advance its technical arts. Now the situation is different.
A nation which depends upon others for its new basic scientific knowledge will be slow in its industrial progress and weak in its competitive position in world trade, regardless of its mechanical skill.
I submit that, as AACOBS said in its report, the very foundation of basic research is the library system and the store of knowledge that we have in Australia. I go one stage further and agree with the final statement by Vice-Admiral Rickover in a paper which he presented to the Academy of Science in Britain in 1965. The paper was headed A Humanistic Technology’. He said:
A free society centres on men. lt gives paramount consideration to human rights, interests and needs. But, once ordinary citizens come to feel that public issues are beyond their comprehension, a pattern of life may develop where technology, not man, would become central to the purpose of society. If we permit this to happen, the human liberties for which mankind has fought, at so great a cost of effort and sacrifice, will be extinguished.
Once again I submit that the public library system which provides the references for the ordinary citizen, as well as providing the key for the research workers in industry, is the one which is lacking in Australia. This is the system in which a precedent has been set and on which the Government could act. 1 ask it to act.
– I thought I was to speak at a later stage in this debate but I will not delay the House for long. This Bill provides for a further stage in the separation of our National and Parliamentary libraries. I listened with great attention to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). I thought his remarks were well timed and should engage the attention of the Government. Firstly, 1 want to say something about the two sides of this library system, beginning with the less important side, the Parliamentary Library. Perhaps this has an undue weight in our opinion. But it is important that the Parliament should have at its disposal a proper instrument of reference. I believe that the Parliamentary Library is starting to perform that function and that it will perform that function better because of the separation. In the United States of America, the Library of Congress performs the functions both of a national library and a parliamentary library. It has, perhaps, the greatest collection of books in the world. As well as its national functions, the Library of Congress maintains a reference section of formidable proportions which is adapted to the needs of Congress itself. I am not suggesting that Australia need go as far as that, but I think the House might congratulate itself on the strides made in the development of the present Parliamentary Library. It provides for honourable members a means of reference which can make debaters - in the words of Lord Birkenhead - if not wiser, at least better informed.
One of the things we should think about is the involvement of members of the Parliament in the Parliamentary Library system. The Parliamentary Library is meant to serve their needs. If they will make available to the Library Committee or to the officers of the Library a clearer definition of what their needs are, then it will be the task of the Committee and the Library staff to see that those needs are more accurately met. Here we have an advantage because we have a very close liaison with the National Library. Hence members can obtain information from a much wider source than is available to them through the parliamentary reference staff - that is, from the far greater resources of the National Library. It would be good if honourable members helped the Library Committee by indicating to it ways in which they think that services could be improved for their benefit as members of Parliament so as to give to them the knowledge that would improve the quality of our debates. At present Ministers and ministerial staffs have available to them great resources, and the private member sometimes feels himself to be at a disadvantage because he cannot measure up to that standard in his private capacity. If this disadvantage cannot be entirely bridged, at least it can be lessened by proper use of the Library services.
I shall not say anything more about our Parliamentary Library for it represents, as I have intimated, the less important side of the measure before us. The honourable member for Robertson was, of course, quite right in calling attention to the needs for fashioning a National Library service in the light of changes that are occurring in technology. I believe that these changes may alter the whole concept of the way in which we think a bibliographical service and a collection of material should operate. Present techniques of microfilming, which enable a large amount of material to be stored in small volume, are somewhat inadequate in that they do not allow for quick retrieval of material; but they are becoming better as they are married to computers and other automatic indexing systems that the honourable member for Robertson mentioned a few moments ago. It is not hoping for too much to hope that we will have in Australia, perhaps at the National
Library, a comprehensive reference service which itself will have immediate access to reference services overseas. We cannot hope to have in Australia a complete system of scientific reference, but what we can hope for and what we should have is a system that enables us to get immediate access to the more comprehensive indexing overseas.
Closed circuit television and other media will enable librarians to consult a central index and to use a central stack of filed material. This system will enable specialised services to be given in a way that is not possible at present. However, I emphasise that the new techniques which are now available but which are not yet operative anywhere in the world in full, although they are coming into operation, will mean a complete revolution of our concept of a central reference library. 1 suppose that when the codex took the place of the roll in the ancient world there was some such revolution as that now occurring. Written material became easier to consult and retrieval became much easier when pages were assembled in a codex of material. Something much more fundamental is happening now. The possibility of retrieval of information through a computer is becoming quite momentous. Of course, this is occurring at a time when human knowledge is so extensive that no one person can hope to master even a single branch of it.
As the compilation of facts becomes more massive, as the compilation of theories and material becoming more formidable, it becomes increasingly necessary that this mechanism of retrieval should be properly developed so that information can be accessible. I hope that our National Library will not simply be a collection of books in the way in which an old library has been. I hope that as well as being a collection of books it will include also the mechanism that will make accessible to scholars the reference materials that they need. No doubt there will be specialised, satellite libraries - institutions specialising in one or more particular disciplines. I wonder whether we are being sufficiently selective in regard to the small, peripheral libraries - not the specialised libraries but those to which the honourable member for Robertson referred in his speech.
One of the important points about these peripheral libraries is that they should be small. I do not mean that they should have only 2.000 volumes; I mean that in general they should have a few tens of thousands of volumes or perhaps 100,000 volumes. If these libraries are to be effective they must be constantly purged. The material in them must be discarded as it becomes obsolete so that the material which is retained in them will not be made inaccessible through the weight of obsolete material. This is one of the great troubles connected with a library or indeed any filing system. If it is not sufficiently selective it becomes useless. If you have a central bibliographical service and a few large central repositories where specialised information including, of course, obsolete material, is available for researchers in specialised fields, it is then possible to have the peripheral libraries reasonably small with information accessible to the ordinary man and woman who seek reading material and not overladen by a collection of obsolete material. The purging of a library, the reduction of obsolete books in it, is one of the main functions of a librarian.
I do not know whether honourable members will turn their minds back to the School of Arts movement that existed throughout New South Wales, and perhaps in other States too. Many of these libraries lost momentum because they retained too much old and obsolete material. They became mines where one had to dig through a lot of overburden in order to get to the productive content. It is important, therefore, that we keep our peripheral libraries small and up to date. Also it is important that we maintain a link with the best libraries overseas, especially with those containing scientific literature. As the honourable member for Robertson intimated, it is important also that our computer systems should be compatible one with the other and linked with the best library practices overseas. It may well be that we are seeing here the foundation of a service in Canberra which will not take over in the historical sense the functions of, for example, the Mitchell Library in Sydney, but which will for many things be the central reference point for all Australia, a point which can be made accessible to other libraries by modern techniques, by modern methods of retrieval, by the use of closed circuit television and by the linking of the various library services. It may be that by the use of microfilm and other devices we can store a great deal more in a given space than any librarian has thought possible in the past. These are very exciting vistas which open out before the National Librarian. I conclude by congratulating him and his staff on what has been dene and wishing them all fortune when they set out into these new fields.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bil) (on motion by Mr Snedden) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I wish to inform the House of the following appointments of senators and members to be members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory: Senators Branson, Morris and Wood have been appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and Senators Devitt and Toohey have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in that House. Mr England and Mr Fox have been appointed by the Prime Minister and Mr Daly and Mr J. R. Fraser have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
Debate resumed from 20th April (vide page 1494), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the Bill. We welcome the Commonwealth’s prompt attention in this instance, as I am sure do the people of Tasmania. The financial assistance which the Commonwealth Government has made available to those who have suffered in Tasmania from last February’s fire disaster is most generous. The Government acted promptly, particularly in making available a Minister to consult with the Tasmanian Government and assess for himself the extent of the disaster.
There has been a series of national disasters in Australia in recent years, but none has been more severe than the Tasmanian disaster. The response by the Commonwealth Government, the people of Tasmania, the people of the rest of the Commonwealth, and by many organisations and persons overseas, has been most gratifying.
Under the terms of this legislation the Commonwealth will make available a total of $14.5m. The amount will be made available over the next three years. The money will be made available in the form of grants and loans. The Tasmanian Governor’s Relief Fund has reached the sum of $4m. The insurance companies have accepted their responsibilities and have paid out generous amounts to those who suffered in the disaster. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out in his second reading speech that in all probability a total of $35m will be made available to Tasmania by way of loans, grants and other contributions to assist those people who need to rebuild as a result of the fire.
Soon after the fire, together with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), 1 had the opportunity to see for myself the devastation in the southern part of Tasmania. Seeing the carnage I felt that despite the prompt and commendable action of the Commonwealth and State governments to ensure a ready flow of finance to assist those who had suffered, it would be many years before the State fully recovered from this national tragedy. I felt then, as I do now, that it would be difficult to assess the number of personal disasters. I felt that although governments might be able to legislate to assist those who had lost homes and rural properties, it would be very difficult to legislate to assist everyone who had been affected by the fire.
Each person affected by such a disaster has a different problem. While it is possible to legislate to provide new accommodation for those who lost homes and to assist those who lost rural properties, it is not possible to deal with each case individually. There will be some people who suffered in the fire who will not be able to recover fully or as much as we would like to see them recover from their losses. These are some of the difficulties that legislation of this kind is jot able to overcome.
In his second reading speech the Treasurer told us that the Bill authorises the payment of up to $ 14.5m to assist Tasmania. The assistance will be provided by way of grants and loans for various purposes. For a relief fund a grant of $750,000 will be made. A total of $5,700,000 by way of grants and loans will be provided to assist those who lost homes in the fire. To assist those whose business or industry suffered in the fire a loan of Sim will be made available. To assist those who suffered damage to their rural properties a loan of $5m will be made available. To replace public assets an amount of $1,250,000 has been set aside. In addition, an emergency grant of $800,000 has been made. The total of $14.5m is made up of grants of $6. 8m and loans of $7.7m.
There has been some criticism of the way in which the legislation for bushfire relief has been introduced, and particularly legislation introduced by the State Labor Government. I believe that the Tasmanian Government had a responsibility to act swiftly on this occasion and it did this. I think it should be clearly understood by those who have criticised the State legislation that the Bill which is now before us is the result of an agreement between the Commonwealth and State authorities. There was agreement between the Governments. If the State Government had not thought it necessary to act swiftly on this occasion the legislation may not have been in the form that we now have before us.
The Tasmanian Government had a responsibility and a duty, which it accepted, to act quickly to give to those people who had been affected by the fire some encouragement for the future. The State Government did this. It wanted to ensure that those in the small townships in the southern part of Tasmania who had lost their homes should be encouraged to build again in those areas. It was necessary for the Tasmanian Government to make known as soon as possible that those who had lost homes would receive sufficient finance to erect a home of minimum standard on the block previously occupied by them. This attitude was adopted by the State Government to retain the identity of the townships. In the circumstances the State Government had a responsibility and it accepted that responsibility.
There has been some criticism of the ways in which the money that the State Government has received from the Commonwealth and money donated to it is to be spent. This criticism applies mainly in the case of those primary producers who lost the whole of their properties or whose properties were partially damaged by the disastrous fire. The fire occurred in February. The decision of the State Government and the agreement which it had reached with the Commonwealth Government were announced soon after. As I said earlier, probably upon more mature consideration the problems of the primary producers may have been tackled differently. I acknowledge at once that there is a special case for the primary producer who lost part of his property, his home and livestock, or whose pastures were damaged by the fire.
Under the terms of this legislation loans only are available to the primary producer for this purpose. A primary producer who lost his home as a result of the fire would, of course, be entitled to apply for relief under the special provisions of the Bill. But for his full rehabilitation loans only will be available. This is one of the points raised by those who have criticised the legislation. Perhaps there is some justification for the criticism. Because of the losses some primary producers have suffered, and because of the present drought, the primary producer has to meet special problems. However, the Government has made its decision. Loans will be available to assist in the rehabilitation of primary producers. I have no doubt that they will at least be assisted to the extent that they will face the future with optimism. I should think that if difficulties arise, further consideration will be given by the Government.
I have mentioned already that under the terms of the legislation the money is to be made available over a three year period. I hope that if anomalies are found in the Bill an opportunity will be given for the legislation to be considered further and for amending legislation to be introduced, if necessary. I return to the terms of the measure now before us and repeat that the Opposition believes the Commonwealth Government’s decision to be a commendable one. It acted with alacrity and I believe that all Australians appreciate this prompt action. On behalf of those stricken by the bushfires and those living in devastated areas, I thank the Treasurer for his generosity and sympathy to those afflicted in the terrible disaster. I thank also the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) for his immediate response to the plight of my State in this dire emergency. I should like also to pay a tribute to the role played by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) on behalf of the Commonwealth.
The financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth is most generous and, as the Treasurer said in his second reading speech, is unparalleled in the history of the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Tasmanian Government and every citizen of that State would agree that the Commonwealth’s response in this unprecedented catastrophe has been magnificent.
I think the Treasurer did a commendable service by his clear outline of the various components of Commonwealth assistance. Before his exposition rumours had been circulating that the State Government would appropriate the bulk of the Commonwealth assistance for the restoration of public assets at the expense of private rebuilding. The Premier and the Tasmanian Government came under considerable attack on this account. The Treasurer’s specific statement of how Commonwealth assistance was to be applied dispelled the unwarranted criticisms of the State Government. The generous response by the Treasurer in this respect, and his outline of the terms of the legislation, came from an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. The Treasurer was most anxious to indicate that he and the Premier had agreed on the specific details and terms of the legislation. The assistance provided by the Commonwealth Government is the utmost that Tasmania could have expected in the circumstances. It is the smallest State in the Commonwealth and it is the State which is most heavily dependent on Commonwealth finance. In this respect I am sure every Tasmanian is grateful
I should like to speak briefly on the provision of Federal assistance in the event of national disasters. For too long in this country governments, both State and Federal, have suffered unjustly from criticism when major disasters have occurred. National disasters should be beyond political considerations. I do not say this merely because the Tasmanian Government, which happens to be a Labour Government, came under severe and, I believe, unwarranted criticism concerning the administration of bush fire relief. In recent weeks the Queensland Government has been severely criticised for its handling of relief following severe flooding in north Queensland. The situation that arose in Tasmania is not peculiar to that State. When relief for national disaster has to be distributed the State government concerned invariably comes under criticism. My point is that assistance to areas stricken by disaster should be above petty political consideration. There is an urgent need for coordination of relief on a national level in the wake of great national disaster. The dedication and sincerity of all agencies providing relief in catastrophes such as the Tasmanian fires are beyond question, but I feel that our whole approach to national disaster is piecemeal. There are misunderstandings and anomalies under the present system. I have already referred to one of these anomalies.
Today the bulk of the relief funds flows from the Federal Government when a national disaster occurs. Because of this the Federal Government should assume responsibility for the co-ordination and administration of emergency relief in the event of disasters. At present when a national disaster occurs special legislation must be passed by this House to grant assistance. This consumes the time of the House. It also prolongs the delay in granting desperately needed assistance to the State. For example, by the time this legislation passes through the Parliament it will be three months since the Tasmanian bush fires occurred. I emphasise again that in this respect I am not being critical of the Government. Under our present system there is simply no alternative, but I think we should work to eliminate the critical time lag between the occurrence of a disaster and the flow of Federal assistance to the victims. This can be done only by national disaster legislation and some form of permanent machinery to channel Federal funds immediately to the source of the disasters. There have been a series of disasters in recent years in Australia and each time the Government has had to initiate special legislation. Australia is a country very similar to the United States of America.
-Order! I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the sole purpose of this legislation is to provide finance for Tasmanian bush fire relief. While there may be points to bring in to illustrate the need for general assistance I do not want the debate to develop into a general debate on national disaster insurance.
– I accept your ruling, Sir. I thank you for referring to this point. I had taken the opportunity to refer to this because when the Treasurer introduced the legislation he indicated that the type of assistance being provided to Tasmania could not be regarded as a precedent. If this is not to be a precedent for future occasions when disasters occur and money has to be made available for relief to a State, then other legislation will be required. I was pointing out to the House that, in view of the Treasurer’s statement, this might be a logical time for the Government to consider establishing some organisation to deal with emergencies on a national basis. I should think that this is legitimate criticism.
I have already dealt fully with the Opposition’s attitude to the Government’s provision of these funds. I feel that the Government might have taken the opportunity to refer to matters that have been raised in the House on the formation of an organisation to deal with disasters on a national basis. The disasters I have referred to have required extensive financial assistance from the Federal Government. There has been unnecessary delay. I have already mentioned that with the bush fire disaster in Tasmania a not insignificant period will have elapsed from me date of the disaster to the date of the finance becoming available to Tasmania.
I wanted to take the opportunity to tell the House that in the opinion of the Opposition the Government should establish a national organisation of the kind that I have mentioned. I do not wish to transgress your ruling, Sir, but let me refer to the disaster in Tasmania and the inability of the Civil Defence Corps to deal with the disaster. The organisation in Tasmania, especially in the southern part of the State, acknowledged that it could not handle a disaster of this magnitude. On the one hand there is a lack of an organisation to prevent a disaster occurring and on the other there is a lack of an organisation to provide the relief that is necessary after a disaster has occurred. The United States of America has such an organisation. Between 1961 and 1965, the President of the United States dealt with more than 100 national disasters and the national disaster organisation in that country was able to handle the problems effectively.
But, Sir, since you have ruled that this is not relevant to a discussion of the legislation that we now have before us, I again return to a consideration of the financial assistance that has been given to Tasmania by the Commonwealth Government. We think that the Commonwealth assistance will certainly provide the kind of relief that is needed by those who were stricken by the fire. Undoubtedly some criticisms will be levelled - some have already been levelled - at the State Government for the way in which the money is to be distributed. However, it will provide assistance to those who have lost homes and to those who have been affected by the fire. It will provide assistance for those who live or have primary interests in that part of the State. It will also provide assistance to those who were in business and who lost either their business establishments or part of their industry. Whether assistance to those with rural properties devastated by the fire should be in the form of a loan or a grant similar to the assistance that is being given to those who lost homes is a matter that will be determined not under the terms of this legislation but by the Tasmanian Government. I believe that some special consideration should be given to this problem. I have no doubt that other honourable members from Tasmania will have something to say on this subject.
I am sure the people of Tasmania appreciate the assistance of the Government for the people in Tasmania who suffered from the disastrous fires.
– I appreciate that the main point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is that the Opposition welcomes the action of the Commonwealth in making the money available to the State Government of Tasmania. However, I am at a loss to understand why he should think that our debating the Bill here after the State House has passed its own legislation and some thirteen weeks after the occurrence of the fire should in any way handicap the State Government in the distribution of the money. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had looked at clause 4 (2.) of the Bill that we are discussing in this House he would have seen that already the sum of $250,000 has been made available to the State. In addition, the State Government, as a result of its liaison with the Commonwealth Government, would have known in detail of the amounts that would be made available for its use.
The 7th February of this year, which is now known in Tasmania as Black Tuesday, was the day on which Tasmania’s greatest natural disaster occurred. In the south most of us were stunned by the enormousness of the losses of both life and property. Indeed, that was my experience when, shortly after the fire, I went around with the Premier of Tasmania and the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) who represented, the Commonwealth. Two days after the fire, we were given great encouragement in Tasmania by the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) direct from his tour of New Zealand. When he arrived he said:
I am here to assure Tasmanians and their fellow Australians that we will not let the heart be taken out of this State.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleague’s have been as good as their word.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on more than one occasion, this Bill authorises the payment of up to $ 14.5m to assist Tasmania in financing fire relief measures. These measures are unprecedented in the history of Commonwealth assistance to State governments and the provision of relief following natural disasters. The reasons why the Commonwealth Government has agreed to provide assistance considerably beyond the assistance it has given in the past and without a requirement of matching assistance from the State Government were clearly stated by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his second reading speech. I propose to refer directly to his words, because they state more aptly than 1 could the excellent reasons for this special assistance. He said:
The Government has also had regard to the special position of Tasmania as the smallest State in the Commonwealth, the State most heavily dependent on the Commonwealth for financial assistance, and the State whose economy could least bear the impact of a disaster of this type and magnitude. It also recognises that Tasmania, as a claimant State, does not have available independent financial resources to enable it to bear more than a small share of the financial burden of the measures necessary to meet the situation. Consequently, the Commonwealth has indicated that it is prepared to meet by far the greater part of the cost of rehabilitation measures, and this Bill will authorise the payment of up to $14. 5m foi this purpose. Because it has no independent financial resources, the State’s contribution is expected to be limited to the $750,000 it will be making available for the relief of personal hardship and distress.
I have referred to the exact words of the Treasurer because I think it is important to bear in mind the relative amounts contributed to the rehabilitation of Tasmanians - $750,000 by their own State Government and $14. 5m by the Commonwealth Government. I would like to place on record that the amount of $ 14.5m was the Reece Government’s own assessment of the amount needed. I do this because some of Mr Reece’s many statements on fire relief have dealt less than fairly with the role played by the Commonwealth Government. As an example, I refer to the following report of a statement by Mr Reece in the ‘Mercury’ of 4th April:
People who criticise the method of assistance are people who have little regard for the fact that it was necessary to negotiate with the Commonwealth. The money we got was a result of these negotiations.
The report further stated:
This is as far as we were able to get them to go.
This attitude of Mr Reece reminds me of little Jack Horner who put in his thumb, pulled out a plum and said: ‘What a good boy am I’. This $14.5m was not gouged from an unwilling Commonwealth Government by this brave little Jack Horner. In effect, the Commonwealth Government gave the State Government a blank cheque, and the State Government filled in the cheque. It is therefore grossly unfair to try to shift the blame for unpopular measures on to the Commonwealth Government.
The Tasmanian Government’s handling of the rehabilitation scheme has in my opinion rightly attracted a great deal of criticism - I believe constructive criticism - but it has been rejected brusquely by Mr Reece and his colleagues. After thirty-three years of Labor rule it is easy for them to ignore popular concern in the hope that, given time, it will blow over. I therefore congratulate the Hobart ‘Mercury’ for its unrelenting pressure on the Premier and his Ministers to ascertain facts which in the public interest ought to have been made known. I give as an example of this the front page of the ‘Mercury’ of Wednesday 8th March:
People want to know facts. When and how much . . . Burning question.
Where will 1 go now?’ wept a lonely old widow as her home burned . . .
Who is going to help me get going again?’ asked a sawmill boss as he walked through the ruins . . .
How am I going to feed them?’ asked a farmer watching his sheep nose through the black paddocks . . .
They were asking these questions the day of the fires.
Four weeks and a day later they still have no answer.
State Parliament meets today.
I have in my hand a brochure on fire damage relief which was issued under the authority of the Premier of Tasmania for the guidance of those who suffered loss or damage from the disastrous fires in southern Tasmania in the month of February 1967. It sets out the general principles to be applied in regard to financial assistance and reproduces in a convenient form the substance of public statements, which had already been made by the Government. I pause for thought when I note that this brochure is dated 14th April 1967 - over nine weeks after the actual fire. One is entitled to ask why there has been this secrecy and why the Tasmanian people who were affected were not given the confidence one would have hoped the Government would give them. I also draw attention to a statement by a responsible Minister of the State Government, the Chief Secretary, who was reported in the ‘Mercury’ of Monday 10th April as follows:
Mr Miller said the arrangements between the State and the Commonwealth were confidential and would not be revealed when the Bill came before the Federal House.
They have been revealed by the Treasurer in his second reading speech, and it was in the public interest that they should have been revealed.
– What do they have to hide?
– As my honourable friend on my right asks, what do they have to hide? That is a question that may fairly be asked. 1 turn now to the Tasmanian Government’s rehousing scheme, which has been properly criticised as penalising the prudent. By far the greater proportion of victims were rendered homeless, but the homeless fall into three categories - firstly, those who were completely insured; secondly, those who were partially insured; and thirdly, those who were not insured. I am concerned here only with the last two categories. Contrary to Mr Reece’s earlier statement, householders who were partially insured are not getting a fair deal. 1 will give two examples. In the first case the value of the property was $8000. There was a mortgage of $1,000, which left an equity of $7,000. The owner of this property had a small insurance cover of $1,500. Therefore his initial real loss was $6,500, and under Mr Reece’s rehousing scheme he would receive a Government grant of $6,500. So his loss would be nil. The second case involves a property valued at $15,000 with a mortgage of $8,000, which leaves an equity of $7,000. The owner had a quite heavy insurance cover of $8,500. This, as in the first case, gives an excess of insurance over mortgage of $500. This man’s initial real loss was also $6,500, ,but under the terms of Mr Reece’s scheme there would be no grant to this man and his family, whose final loss would be $6,500. This gives chapter and verse to my contention that those who have insured have been penalised.
As a Liberal I believe in the encouragement of home ownership, not in the Socialist regimentation of people into Housing Commission homes. The many partially insured householders who have come to see me are quite frank in admitting that had it been possible they should have insured their properties fully. But where is the justice when under the Reece scheme a person who owned a $4,000 house in the country and had no insurance receives, in effect, a gift of $4,000 when his house is replaced free of charge by the $8,000 Housing Commission standard house, whereas a person who had a $16,000 home with an $8,000 mortgage and insurance cover for $9,000 gets no assistance, by either grant or loan, and all he has left is $1,000?
It is to be remembered that the Commonwealth is making available all the money for rehousing. Therefore, the Commonwealth is in a position to urge that Mr Reece reconsider his present unjust rehousing scheme. Many constituents have approached me because under the limitations of the Reece scheme they will get no government assistance although they have been rendered homeless. It is only just that they should be given some share of the government assistance. Although Mr Reece described his scheme as the most generous ever devised, in my opinion it does not go far enough. The ceiling for a grant is fixed at’ $8,000, and the loan ceiling is $15,000. Under this scheme a victim with a house valued at $15,000 and with an insurance cover as high as $10,000 would get no grant. Such a person would get only a loan of $5,000 at 5t% interest. There is a clear case for widening the field for a grant. I I suggest raising the grant’ ceiling from $8,000 to $17,000. Then the grant, to the extent that the total value of the house was not covered by insurance, would be increased from $8,000 to $12,500 on a sliding scale. To take the example I used earlier of a house valued at $15,000 with an insurance cover of $10,000, under this proposal the grant would be increased from $8,000 to $12,000, leaving $2,800 instead of $5,000 to borrow from the State Agricultural Bank at 5i% interest. This would have the effect of reducing capital repayments and interest repayments, because the amount to be borrowed would be reduced proportionately to the increasing of the grant.
In conclusion, on behalf of the people of Hobart I would like to thank our fellow Australians for their magnificent response to the Governor’s Fire Relief Fund. This has been overwhelming. All in all we have not lost heart; we have gained heart.
– I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in thanking the Government and especially the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who spearheaded the negotiations with the Tasmanian Government for providing such a generous grant and loan programme to help Tasmania recover from the greatest disaster it has ever experienced. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) explained quite clearly the anomaly in relation to mortgage’s and those who had their homes insured. I feel that this deserves another examination. At the very beginning after the fire the Premier made the statement that all homes that were not insured would be rebuilt free of charge to the victim, but that those who had homes insured would receive only the difference between the insurance and the $8,000 limit of assistance. Therefore, those folk whose homes were insured suffer some kind of disability compared with those whose homes were not insured.
The Premier had made this generous offer right at the beginning to try to keep Tasmanians in Tasmania. When one sees the effect of that fire, which left nothing by blackened land, one suddenly realises that people with nothing at all left could easily decide to leave the State. In an endeavour to encourage the people to stay, the Premier made this statement to which I have just referred; but in the carrying out of that promise there are anomalies, for difficulties have arisen that were not foreseen then. However, overall the housing problem is being tackled now with vigour and, in my opinion, with sympathy.
Of course, the problem is that 1,400 homes were destroyed, and we cannot resettle 1,400 families in a fortnight, in six months, or even in a year. Who are to get the first homes? This is the greatest problem of all that has to be decided by the housing people. It is really the sixty-four dollar question. Contracts have been let for 140 homes, but how are the authorities to decide who is to go into them? The first to go into the homes are going to be lucky. However, some will not get into their new homes for another year or more; they will have to wait. They will have to accept the accommodation they have now, whether it is temporary accommodation such as that down at Snug, relief accommodation provided by relatives or friends, or accommodation wherever they choose to spend this tragic twelve months’ wait.
It is not as easy as just standing up and saying that these people ought to be housed, for it is a physical impossibility to house all those folk again within twelve months. 1 say that quite deliberately. I feel very sorry indeed, and so do all of us, for the folk who may have to be at the end of the line and be the last housed. The effects on housing in the south of Tasmania have been staggering, and the effects on primary production have been quite disastrous. Some 1,900 rural properties were affected, and some were devastated. Some people lost everything but their home; some lost their home and had sheds saved, but all their fences and all their machinery went, and many of their sheep and cattle were destroyed in the fire. Also, some industries were destroyed entirely. Public utilities, including thirteen churches, were devastated, and a dozen bridges were burned. All these have recently been rebuilt by the Public Works Department - a magnificent performance in any country. The organisation of assistance has been absolutely fantastic, considering the fact that this entire tragedy happened in the space of four hours. It was enough to stun anybody. I would like any of these self-appointed critics sitting on the sidelines to have been the Premier when this tragedy hit our State in four hours of horror, and to have had to look at all these homeless people in that State and wonder how to keep them there.
– He was not there.
– That is the kind of smart statement I would expect the honourable member for Franklin to make.
– He was in Sydney when it happened.
– He was in Tasmania within a few hours. The honourable member gave the impression that he was not there for a week after the fires. 1 feel that in the circumstances the Premier and his Cabinet and all those people who were recruited to assist in this tragic incident have done a wonderful job. There have been human mistakes and miscalculations, of course, just as there would be in any country hit in that way. If there had been a Liberal Premier in Tasmania he would have had the same problems as Eric Reece has had.
The Governor’s Relief Fund, as the member for Denison (Mr Gibson) has said, is a magnificent tribute to the generosity of people throughout Australia and overseas. The total is now $4,416,592, which is a world record for contributions to any single disaster. The previous highest figure was that reached in the Welsh disaster last year when a slag heap fell over a school and killed 126 children. The sum of $4m was contributed for relief in respect of that disaster in Wales, and that amount has now been exceeded by the Tasmanian fund. The Governor of Tasmania deserves our utmost thanks for his sympathy and understanding and for the work he has performed in connection with the disaster. He has twelve ewes and Iambs in a small paddock next to Government House in an endeavour to help those who have no fodder at all. I am sure that he would also have been prepared to keep cows there. This is one of his ways of helping in this crisis.
The Housing Department has been working night and day for over nine weeks on the great problem of getting people re-housed, in getting contracts let and in obtaining equipment and supplies. The Department of Agriculture has been assessing the problem on the farms and now has all the details it needs. Most of the relief is being handled satisfactorily from the Department, the officers of which have also worked day and night in the devastated areas checking details of losses. The Fodder Committee has also done a magnificent job getting in the fodder from the northern, north-eastern and north-western parts of the State, as well as from areas of the Derwent Valley which were not hit by the fire. This Committee is distributing fodder to the starving stock that survived the fire. The work that has been done would make a chapter in a book of which all of us would be proud. I might mention that the fodder was put on the free rail, and it was carted to the railhead by volunteer transport men who made their trucks available. Farmers donated hundreds of bales until in aggregate it became thousands of bales. I do not know what the honourable member for Franklin would say about this statement, but I say that up to the present nearly 300,000 bales of hay have been delivered to the fire-stricken farmers. This is a magnificent contribution from men who themselves are now facing drought and trouble in the other parts of the State.
The method of assessing the need has been to interview people or to write to them individually and get their stories on paper. Nearly every story varies from the previous one, so a lot of time has been lost in arriving at an assessment of the needs in each individual case and deciding the category of need in which the case comes. The Governor’s Relief Fund up to 9th May has authorised the payment of nearly $1.5m, made up of $730,000 for furniture; $334,000 for boundary fences - about 2,700 miles of boundary and other fences were destroyed - $250,000 for emergency relief; $82,000 for tools of trade for the self-employed; and $33,000 for sustenance for the self-employed. There were 2,150 applications received for assistance and of those 1,495 have been dealt with. Primary producers so far have received $lm from the State Bushfire Relief Committee, whose acting chairman is Mr A. K. Wertheimer This included $450,000 for boundary fences and $600,000 for assistance. He said a decision was made recently to make a lump sum available for the rehabilitation of rural producers and this would average out at about $1,000 each.
I want to mention the value and nature of volunteer help. I have referred to the distribution of fodder. This will have to be continued as there is no grass. There has been no rain and we now are faced with a drought. I will mention this again in a moment. The distribution of fodder will have to continue. Supplies of fodder are trickling through from the north western and northern parts of the State but these supplies will not meet the emergency for much longer. We must pay a tribute to men working in transport organisations for the work they did, day and night, in the early stages after the fire. Great lines of transports went from the north west to Hobart at all hours of the night carrying fodder. Volunteer fencing teams went to the area from the north and north west. I pay a tribute to members of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation for the magnificent job they did on the fencing. Members of Rotary, Apex and Lions clubs voluntarily went to the area at weekends to help with fencing. It is planned to continue this voluntary aid throughout the winter months. We also had volunteer post splitting teams who prepared thousands of posts for this great project. They saved the farmers much expense. In one area of my electorate, Mole Creek, the Tasmanian Farmers Federation organised 230 farmers to work on a post splitting project in the forests. Over a period of several weeks 10,000 posts will be cut for the southern districts of the State. These men are giving up their weekends to do this difficult work and we pay a tribute to them. The State Housing Department’s rehousing programme is now getting under way. Temporary homes have been established in various parts of the south. We only hope that they will be in use for as short a- time as possible. If the winter is severe the people in them will suffer a lot of inconvenience and hardship. This temporary housing had to be erected quickly and it is not elaborate, by any means.
A drought has come on top of the fire. This has compounded the disaster into frightening proportions, especially for the farmers. The first four months of this year have been the driest in Tasmania since 1840. The records from the Bureau of Meteorology show that the northern part of Tasmania has had only 25% of its normal rainfall in the period up to April. The eastern coast of Tasmania has had only 7% of its normal rainfall. In the midlands the figure is 10% and in the south east, where most of the stricken area is located, only 37% of the normal rain has fallen. At King Island and at Flinders Island the figures are 26% and 20% respectively. So honourable members will see that Tasmania is running into one of the worst droughts in its history - and this is coming after the disastrous fire. One could not think of two worse evils for our primary producers.
Tasmania has already cancelled space in overseas ships for 900,000 cases of apples. Because of the drought the apples are below the standard required. Thousands and thousands of apples have been piled up in the orchards in southern Tasmania, including many in the electorate of my friend, the honourable member from Franklin (Mr Pearsall). The processing factories are chock-a-block and will not take any more damaged or undersize fruit. Apples have deteriorated and have had to be destroyed. This is another of the tragedies caused by the fire and the drought. Stock is being sold because there is not enough fodder at cheap prices. Lambs are being killed at birth so that the ewes can survive. There is no new grass growing on the pastures; they are still blackened. In southern Tasmania we are faced with a possible standstill in production for the next nine months. In some places it will last two years. Breeding stock is being destroyed.
Undoubtedly farmers have been hit hardest. Their livelihood has been destroyed. Some homes in Hobart were burnt to the ground but the owners still had their jobs. The farmer who has lost half of his stock and has no fodder or grass has lost his means of livelihood. He has lost his capacity to produce cattle, sheep and dairy products. As I said earlier, 2,700 miles of fencing has been destroyed, plus essential equipment and mobile vehicles, including tractors. There has been criticism because farm employee homes have not been included in the housing grants. But the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is in charge of this legislation, and who is the co-ordinator of assistance from this Government and the Tasmanian Government, made clear in a statement which appeared in the Hobart ‘Mercury’ of 12th April why this was so, though we may not agree with him. The newspaper article stated:
He said a farm was a business and would be treated in the same way as assistance to rehabilitate other businesses.
The only people who were getting straight-out grants were those getting money for houses.
There had been no request from the State Government to extend the allocation of grants.
All secondary industry and small businesses, such as groceries and garages, were getting loans and not grants.
One tries to find some form of consistency, he said.
Grants would not be made for farm employees’ houses.
For years, primary producers had asked for employees’ houses to be regarded as farm assets so they could be depreciated in the same way as other assets.
This had been approved under the Income Tax Act.
By making a grant for this form of housing, it could mean that one farmer would be getting money for four free homes.
That, according to the Minister, is the reason why the farm employee houses were not included in the normal housing grants.
I want to make some suggestions about what we can do to relieve the situation now and in the future in this fire and drought disaster aTea. We have to import wheat and oats from the mainland within the next month at least. We will have to use Government relief funds for this purpose. I do not think there is any way out of this if the surviving animals in southern Tasmania are to live. We will have to make up our minds in Tasmania whether we are going to save the animals that still live or sell them to the abattoirs and thus wipe out all the stock in this fire stricken area. How can the stock be kept alive? Wc have no feed in Tasmania. Therefore it will have to come from the mainland, as it did in 1947 when Tasmania had its last serious drought. We brought feed, particularly hay, from the mainland by sea and that helped us out. I believe that this will have to be done again if the livelihood of the farmers is to be saved. Our own supplies of fodder are nearly exhausted.
In times of drought Tasmania is at a great disadvantage because sea transport is required to get fodder from the mainland. Droughts on the mainland can be minimised by obtaining relief from non-affected areas by road and rail. However, we have to bring it by sea. The means of transport employed by other States is quicker, cheaper and easier than that employed by Tasmania. I agree with what the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) said recently about the Australian Wheat Board coming to our assistance. We should charter a ship. If we cannot get one in any other way, we should use the Australian National Line to come to our assistance with a ship to carry 60,000 bushels of wheat, if you like, or three ships full of grain. It does not matter what is is; we must have enough food for our stock. We must get wheat or oats to feed the stock in the southern part of the island. As there has been no rain in the area, there is now no grass there for the stock. Indeed it will be months before there will be any grass for animals in the area. The only way we can get food to them is by importing it. The Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government should ensure that fooder is brought in without cost to the farmer as a deliberate, planned attempt to save stock and to keep the farmer on the land. His stock should be kept alive until grass is ready for them to eat.
The next suggestion I have to make is that we should use mainland supplies of barley to feed the cattle in the south of the island. This practice is being followed extensively in England where in recent years barley has become one of the best cattle foods. As already it has been used in Tasmania, I believe we could use Australian mainland supplies of barley for this purpose. Unfortunately it is not possible to obtain a large enough supply of it in Tasmania now; so barley should be added to oats and wheat brought in from the mainland.
A further suggestion I have is that some stricken animals be agisted out to farmers and graziers elsewhere in Tasmania, even if it means diverting the sheep and cattle of one farmer to different farms. Already this practice has been followed in some instances. Some farmers helped their less fortunate colleagues by taking their stock immediately after the fire. Unfortunately they have been returned to farms where virtually there is nothing for them to eat; so they have come back to starve. As there are many large-hearted farmers and graziers in my State, I believe that if this scheme were organised these men would take stock in small quantities and hold them until the grass grows again in the south and the farmer there is able to look after his stock.
I should like to mention also a remarkable adoption plan that has been put forward by branches of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation in the north and north west of the island. The plan involves branches of the TFF in the north adopting branches in the south by providing them with fodder or by helping them by working on properties doing labouring work including the building of fences. A friend and constituent of mine from Moriarty in the north west of Tasmania, Mr Allan Brown, who is secretary of a branch of the TFF is present in the chamber tonight. His branch has adopted a branch of the organisation in the Rokeby area in the south. As an example of what is being done, last weekend five members of my friend’s branch went to their adopted branch area for the second time and erected miles of fencing for two farmers. This is a wonderful scheme, and it is spreading throughout the State. Many farmers from the north are travelling to the south to help their stricken colleagues with fencing and other building work. I emphasise that this labour is done voluntarily weekend after weekend.
Another scheme that the Tasmanian Farmers Federation is organising involves rearing in the north a calf or a lamb to the weaning stage. It is then donated to the southern farmer so that he will have stock coming on for the spring. This is a wonderfully practical way of helping farmers in the south who will lose stock during this drought. Such a donation could mean the difference between survival or not for these southern farmers. I congratulate the northern branches of the TFF who are putting into effect both the adoption scheme and the plan for rearing a lamb or a calf, or both, for a southern farmer.
The Commonwealth could assist stricken Tasmanian farmers by postponing income tax payments for this financial year for at least twelve months. If necessary, it could permit them then to pay their tax in easy instalments so that they might’ be helped to recover financially from these disasters. After all, it is up to the Commonwealth to help in some way, for if these farmers do not recover financially and they have to leave the land the level of income tax from this source will decline. Surely the Commonwealth could assist by postponing for twelve months the payment of income tax for this financial year and thus give the farmers a chance to get on their feet again.
Where does the fire relief end and drought relief begin? This question is being asked down there at this moment. How can one sensibly distinguish between these two aspects? One merges with the other. The fires have made the drought much worse in southern Tasmania. Surely some of the Federal grant money should be allocated specifically for drought relief, especially for purchasing fodder in the form of hay, wheat, oats or barley, as I suggested earlier. The Commonwealth Government helped the people of New South Wales in their time of drought. Tasmania has a combination of two disasters. To my knowledge, this sort of thing has not happened previously anywhere in the Commonwealth. I do not know of a disastrous fire being followed by an equally disastrous drought. Therefore, we must handle this situation on the basis, as it were, of a drought superimposed upon a fire.
I have several long range suggestions to make. This great tragedy has taught us that there must be more fodder conservation in Tasmania. Even though the farmers already have virtually worked miracles in this field, they must increase their efforts by growing as much hay as it is physically possible for them to cut every year so that they might preserve it and store it for the bad years. Surely we have learned from the lesson that Pharaoh learned from Joseph back in Old Testament days. Joseph told Pharaoh that in the seven good years to come the Egyptians would have to store enough grain to feed the people for the following seven years when the country would be droughtstricken and conditions would be tragic. Pharaoh followed his advice and saved the Egyptians. The lesson to be learned from the Bible is to save in good times to provide for the bad times. The Tasmanian farmer has been taught that he must cut as much meadow hay as possible and store it for the future lest things turn out to be bad.
A second long range suggestion is that irrigation at farm level be speeded up by giving more tax deductions for money spent by farmers on this tremendously important work. Irrigation lessens the danger of fire and can defeat drought. Some farms in southern Tasmania with scarcely a dam on them were hard hit by fire and now are suffering from the ravages of drought. Irrigation should be installed on every farm, and this work should be encouraged by giving farmers tax deductions on a more generous scale for money spent specifically for this purpose. Irrigation works will be the greatest national project for this nation to .undertake over the next ten to twenty years. We in Tasmania should learn- the value of it from the recent disastrous fires.
My final long range suggestion is that insurance of homes and buildings should be made compulsory. A law should be introduced to provide that everybody should insure for everything that they can lay their hands on. I am sure the insurance companies will regard this suggestion as good policy, but the recent disasters have shown how necessary it is. In Tasmania the insurance companies have paid out $15m, which is the largest pay-out of this kind in Australian history.
– Paid out by the Government Insurance Office?
– That is so. Naturally we like to receive it from the State Government Insurance Office. We should encourage this form of insurance. I conclude by thanking the Government on behalf of the Tasmanians of the 400-odd square miles that were devastated in my electorate.
– In reply to the statements of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) I must say that the Government of his State did not extend very much consideration to the people who were prudent enough to insure their properties. Had the Premier of Tasmania given them due consideration they would have been very much better off.
The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) delivered the most peculiar address that I have heard. He showed a certain amount of gratitude to this Government for what it has done, but he expressed a fear that there would be criticism of the administration of the fund provided in part by. the people of Australia and provided by this Government through the legislation now before us to the extent of $ 14.5m. This fear of possible criticism was evident throughout his speech. He made some remarkable statements to the effect that the Commonwealth should accept some responsibility for co-ordination of these matters. We all know that from time to time disasters and catastrophes occur in greater or lesser degree, and his suggestion was that there should be some overall legislation to provide for immediate relief whenever any kind of disaster or catastrophe occurs. When one considers this suggestion carefully, having regard to the different positions of the various States, one realises that such legislation would be impossible. It is because this catastrophe has occurred in Tasmania that special provision has had to be made, and here I read some remarks of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his second reading speech:
The measures being undertaken by the Tasmanian Government towards which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide assistance go considerably beyond those which the Commonwealth supported in the case of the drought and no matching requirement is attached to the Commonwealth assistance. In adopting this approach, the Government has been actuated by the very special circumstances of the Tasmanian disaster. I want to make it very clear that the scope and level of Commonwealth assistance in this case must not be taken as a precedent to be followed in the event of natural disasters occurring in other States, as undoubtedly they will. This applies particularly to the scheme for housing assistance. In all, over 1,300 houses were destroyed in the fires as a result of which some thousands were made homeless in the space of a few hours. A disaster of this magnitude in a comparatively small community called for extraordinary measures, and it is for this reason that the Commonwealth has agreed to support the proposals of re-housing that were announced by the Premier shortly after 7th February.
– Who said this?
– The Treasurer. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is apparent that we could not have overall .legislation to permit immediate action in the case of all such disasters; every case must be judged on the degree of severity of the disaster and the circumstances of the State in which the disaster occurs. The Tasmanian fire disaster has again brought home to us the necessity for national disaster insurance. I have spoken on this matter previously, and again I urge the Government to consider the establishment of a national disaster scheme.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of up to $14. 5m to assist the State of Tasmania in financing the cost of measures designed to alleviate the effects of the disastrous fires which occurred in that State during February of this year by way of grants and loans. Although we deplore the fact that the fire occurred, and although we appreciate the great response from people all over Australia and in other parts of the world, I believe we should not let this occasion pass without pointing out to the Tasmanian Government its lack of foresight, even after a previous warning, in failing to have adequate fire fighting equipment and properly co-ordinated civil defence services to cope with such a disaster. If such a fire had occurred in my locality the civil defence organisation would have been able to render a great deal of assistance to the victims, but evidently this was not the case in Tasmania. The fire fighting equipment, I understand, was quite inadequate and there was practically no co-ordination of civil defence services.
Looking at the classes of people who are being assisted by this legislation it seems to me that primary producers have been treated shockingly. Because a farmer is allowed as an income tax deduction 20% of the cost of cottages that he builds for his workmen, it seems that by some queer turn of mathematics people in Tasmania and in other States calculate that within a few years these cottages are paid for. Actually all that the man receives is the right to make a deduction from his assessable income, and this is a very minor saving. So why these people are not being adequately assisted is beyond my comprehension. Certainly they are getting a sustenance payment of, I think, $17 a week and they are being given a loan to enable them to renew their boundary fences, but I believe they should have been given not a loan but a grant to assist them to restore the accommodation that they had built for their workmen. I trust that amending legislation will be brought in to provide for such a grant.
It appears that certain industrial concerns that will benefit under this legislation are expected to provide security for any loan that they require. Naturally the fire destroyed most of the buildings of these concerns and it has been necessary for them to mortgage their properties in order to replace their buildings and provide themselves with enough money to continue operations. I do not think that the Tasmanian Government should demand security against loans made to these industrial concerns, because they in turn will help to rehabilitate those people who depend upon them for work. This is something that should be taken into account when considering loans to industry. I do not think it is fair to penalise those people who carried insurance against fire damage. They were provident and showed good business acumen. But, as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) said, they have been cruelly victimised in the treatment they have received.
In his second reading speech the Treasurer said:
Under the terms of the agreement, Commonwealth assistance will be provided by way of grant and loans for the following categories of estimated expenditure by the State:
Relief payments from the Government Fund including payments to primary producers, commerce and industry to meet debts; assistance to primary producers left without income; payments to non-profit organisations, to persons who in certain circumstances lost motor vehicles or tractors while fighting the fires and miscellaneous emergency payments.
Grants $750,000; Loans Nil; Total $750,000.
Grants to enable the State to provide minimum standard housing and to meet the cost in excess of insurance recoveries. Loans to finance loans by the States for re-mortgaging, where mortgages have been paid off from insurance and funds are no longer available, and to enable the State Agricultural Bank to provide loans to those wishing to build slightly higherstandard houses.
Grants $4,000,000; Loans $1,700,000; Total $5,700,000.
Businesses and Industry
Loans to enable the State to make advances to businesses and industry destroyed or affected by the fires.
Grants Nil; Loans $1,000,000; Total $1,000,000.
Loans to enable the State to make advances to primary producers for the rehabilitation of fire-damaged farms.
Grants Nil; Loans $5,000,000; Total $5,000,000.
Assistance by way of grants for the restoration of public assets - including some betterment where appropriate.
Grants $1,250,000; Loans Nil; Total $1,250,000.
Other Emergency Expenditure
In addition to relief payments financed from the Government Fund, the Commonwealth is to provide grant assistance to recoup the State for emergency expenditures arising from the fires.
Grants $800,000; Loans Nil; Total $800,000.
Grand Total: Grants $6,800,000; Loans $7,700,000; Total $14,500,000.
For the speed with which it went to the assistance of Tasmanians who suffered in the fire this Government is deserving of the gratitude not only of honourable members but of all citizens of Australia.
– The House is considering a Bill to provide up to 514.5m by way of assistance to Tasmania in respect of the tragic fire of last February. I think it is recognised by honourable members on this side of the House and by some of our colleagues opposite that I have more than a passing interest in this matter. Because of this I would like to make one or two observations regarding the Bill. I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the problem that faces Tasmania. I went into the fire area as soon as I could get across the roadway. I stayed in the area working for some two weeks until this Parliament reassembled. I have taken a very active interest in the problems that have arisen since the fire, particularly as they affect primary producers in the Huon Valley.
The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) criticised the fire fighting equipment in the area and the civil defence organisation. I refute completely his allegations. People who were in Tasmania on this fateful day are convinced that nothing could have stopped the inferno. We had had an excellent season, with wonderful growth which was drying off. There had not been much rain, particularly in the Huon Valley, since December. We were confronted on this day with winds of 50 and 60 miles an hour, with gusts up to 70 miles an hour; temperatures of over 100 degrees; and the lowest humidity reading for many years. Nobody could have stopped the fire.
Let me tell the honourable member for Mitchell of some of the fires that sprang up in seemingly impossible places. For example, some people from one of the television stations went into the fire threatened area and absolutely soaked a house with water. When the fire came over the hill that house was the first to go. Going through the Huon Valley after the fire, for hundreds of yards there was no sign of the fire’s having passed over the ground, yet the telegraph poles had been burned from the tops down. The fire travelled by air. It seemed as though there had been an explosion of gas in the air. There were cases of houses that had burned from the roof down. People recounted how they had seen the fire burning on the top of pergolas and ornamental fences and travelling downwards. I repeat that nobody could have stopped the fire on that day. The criticism of die honourable member for
Mitchell is unwarranted. It may be 100 years - we hope never - before we have a combination of climatic conditions such as we experienced in Tasmania on Tuesday, 7th February.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) referred to primary producers. The honourable gentleman is a very responsible person. He is not only Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this place but also Vice-President of the Labor Party in Tasmania. I listened to him with a great deal of interest. He said that there has been some reason for criticism of the measures adopted to help primary producers. He said that there was some hope for the future. In some respects I disagree with him. He said that amending legislation could be introduced later if it were found necessary. I appeal to the Government tonight seriously to consider bringing down amending legislation soon, because the plight of these people has worsened since the agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and the State. I ask honourable members to consider the measures which are outlined in the booklet on fire damage relief referred to by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) and to consider also the allowance of $200 per mile given to primary producers for the repair of boundary fences and the grant of $200, according to the individual loss incurred, for replacement of such things as small tools, stores, hammers, spades and fencing tools. Those grants are very necessary.
It is a terrible thing for a primary producer when he has to go out to fell a few logs in the bush in order to get poles with which to restore power and telephone lines over his orchard or farming property to find suddenly that all the sheds on the place have been burnt down, that all the tools have gone and that he has nothing left. The grant to which I have referred was necessary. But is an amount of up to $200, according to the individual loss incurred, sufficient for the service? The booklet refers also to a subsistence allowance. I pay tribute to the Department of Social Services for the wonderful work performed by its officers. They were in the disaster areas within a couple of days and worked right through the weekend. I suppose that one would expect people to do that, but these officers did it quite willingly. They went about the area to investigate the needs of the people. Farm employees were immediately given one week’s wages on the spot.
Officers from the Department of Social Services searched out the producers who had lost their means of earning a living to find out how they could be assisted. Honourable members will appreciate that employees were entitled to unemployment relief, but a man who owned a property could get nothing under the Commonwealth Act. So the State Department of Social Services by agreement came in and made available to them a subsistence allowance of about $7 per person per week. This was a great help, but shortly it is to cease and a cash grant is to be given to those people according to their needs as assessed by the Department of Social Services. Further, primary producers will be eligible for grants for basic householder furniture, just as if they were occupants of a house in a township. If a farmer’s house is burnt down he is eligible for a house on the same conditions as a person who had been living in a town.
We come now to the next part and this is where I ask for due consideration which I hope will be given soon. This is a matter which concerns me greatly. I refer to the question of assistance for farm employees. I recall the tremendous enthusiasm among these people and the great boost they received when they heard within a day or two of the fire that everyone was to get a house. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who went to Tasmania, told them that everyone was to be given a house. I know what effect that had on the farm employees. 1 tried to persuade several of them to move to the Army camp at Brighton because 1 realised that if they were accommodated there a wave of public sympathy would erupt and they would quickly be taken out and put into Housing Commission homes in Hobart. I realise also that they would be given employment somewhere in Hobart because the Chamber of Commerce and all other bodies were interested in getting jobs for these people.
When the farm employees were told that everyone would get a house with no strings attached to the offer they stayed on the properties. I know this because we brought in caravans and tents in order to accommodate them on the properties. They stayed there because they thought they were doing a loyal job of work for the employers, for the people who owned the properties. They have stayed there and have worked long hours in an attempt to rehabilitate the properties. They have worked more hours per week and at more weekends than they could ever hope to be recompensed for by an employer. They did this in an endeavour to help those whose properties had been affected. But after eight weeks they were told that farm employees would not be entitled to the benefits under the Bill. I liken the action of the Minister for Air, who went down to Tasmania, made that statement and fooled the people, to the attitude of the Government when, under pressure of an election in November, it said it would make a grant of £250 to all young people to help them set up house and then, some eight months later, in July of the following year, brought in legislation with all sorts of strings attached to it. It deliberately tried to force people out of the scheme and introduced provisions which made it practically impossible for many young people to comply. Back in November they had been told that they would be eligible for the grant, but eight months later they found that they would not be entitled to it. Exactly the same sort of treatment was handed out to the farm employees in Tasmania.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that there was some reason to criticise the legislation. If Government supporters who have said the same thing are sincere then possibly they will be able to exert some influence or pressure on the Government to see that the legislation is amended so that people who within a few days of the fire were promised a house will now qualify for that benefit. I know that the Minister for Air has come up with some story of depreciation of allowances and all sorts of things. This is all very well, but it means nothing to the person who is affected. Winter is coming on. If we are to be humanitarian and carry out the Christian and social principles that we advocate as a government or as members of a Parliament which controls the purse strings and has access to this country’s funds, surely to goodness we can go a little further and say that although we should not have promised houses to these people for whom I plead tonight, housing will be provided for them.
Those who have lived in the Huon Valley, as some of us have, know only too well what conditions can be like with winter coming on. Some of these people are living in caravans, in annexes and in tents. Some of them went into small two room cabins - pickers’ huts - and I know of many cases where young children are involved. The novelty of living in a caravan is all right for a week or two - it may have been wonderful - but with the approach of winter the novelty is fast wearing off. I feel very sorry not only for the youngsters concerned but also for the parents who will have to see the winter through. It is all very well to say that the owner of a property is all right and can apply for a loan, but what hope has the person who owns the property of obtaining a loan in order to re-house his employees in that area? I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that some of them have no hope whatever. Last year they had the worst season on record. Growers were receiving between $1 and $3 per bushel for apples in England when it was costing them S4 to put them on the English market. They needed a return pf $4.70 in order to get only the 70c which the people who sold the consignment were getting. We were unable to sell on the English market because of increased competition and many other factors. Receiving only between $1 and $3 per case the growers faced a very bad season.
These people are great fighters and always fight back. Despite their great adversity, despite their losses and the fact that they had gone into overdraft, they began preparing the ground with manure and fertiliser and sprayed their trees in order to get crops back on the trees for this season. They found, when they were about to pick in February, that the crop was destroyed. They are already working on overdrafts so what hope have they of applying for another loan to build houses for their employees? They have no hope whatever. This problem confronts many people today. It is all right to say that a person can raise a loan, but it is not as simple as that. Most primary producers work on overdrafts. Here, incidentally, I have a word of criticism of insurance companies. Most primary producers under-insure their houses. I can recall before the war when £400 was considered a reasonable cover for a cottage. Later a reasonable cover was regarded as £500 to £1,000. I think the insurance companies have done an injustice to primary producers by not advising them of the increase in property values as a result of inflation so that the producers could increase their covers. Although some employees’ dwellings carried some insurance, in most instances they were heavily underinsured. The gap between the insurance and the cost of re-housing will be far too great for many producers.
I have a great personal interest in the Huon Valley and for this reason I should like the position reconsidered as soon as possible. I feel sorry for the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) and the honourable member for Denison whose electorates were so badly affected by the bush fires. They must be continually worried by representations and by the problems they must examine and raise in this House. I do not apologise for mentioning specific cases because I do not think the situation is fully appreciated by some people. In one orchard of 2,000 trees 1,200 were destroyed. In the most highly productive part of that orchard where 800 choice trees were growing, 700 were completely destroyed. How can a person get back on his feet when this happens and when he is confronted with bills for sprays and manures used last year? How can he get a loan to re-establish himself? Farm employees’ homes should be regarded the same as the homes of anyone else living in Hobart. The problem is acute.
An honourable member must have a knowledge of the industry in order to appreciate the problems facing the people. Abnormal heat generated on this day caused the trees to come into bud again. They have blossomed and already they are bearing next season’s applies the size of small marbles. These trees will not bear at all next year. The people have no hope of a crop from the trees that have survived. This is a matter of great concern. I do not think the Premier of Tasmania had a hand in the decision that is adversely affecting the re-housing of farm employees. On the front page of the ‘Tasmanian Farmer’ of Thursday, 6th April 1967, an article states that the State Government is in full agreement with the request of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation that farm employees’ housing ought to be restored on the same basis as other housing but that the Commonwealth Government is opposed to it. Unless I can be assured otherwise I will continue to believe that the whole blame lies with the Commonwealth Government which has definitely hoodwinked the people of this area the same as it hoodwinked young people when it introduced the homes savings grant.
I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I should like to go on record, as I did in the Address-in-Reply debate, as expressing my appreciation to those farmers in the northern, north-western and Circular Head areas of Tasmania for their wonderful and generous support in providing fodder for people in the fire damaged areas of southern Tasmania. A tremendous effort went into assembling the fodder at rail sidings and in getting it to the railheads where the Tasmanian Government made trucks available to transport the fodder free of cost to the afflicted areas. This was indicative of the great spirit of co-operation engendered among farming people. I join with other Tasmanian members in thanking the people of Tasmania, the people of Australia and people from overseas for the magnificent response they made to the Governor’s Fire Relief Fund. It was spontaneous, and money came in from most unexpected quarters. This was most appreciated by the people. Much has been done with the money that was provided. I thank the Red Cross for the work of its members. They went into the fire affected areas and outfitted people with clothing, fed them and sheltered them. The Salvation Army, too, did a magnificent job as did officers from various Government departments.
In conclusion I urge that consideration be given to the plight of the people I have mentioned. The people thought they were to be helped when it was announced that everyone was to get a house. I ask the Minister for Air, who is at the Table, to give further consideration to the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that amending legislation should, if necessary, be introduced, because there has been some reason for criticism in this matter.
– I agree with many of the sentiments that have been expressed in support of the legislation. I hasten to add, however, that I disagree entirely with the contentions of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I sincerely trust that the time at my disposal will enable me to come back to the important subject of housing rural employees. Important matters are at stake here. Firstly I must congratulate the Commonwealth Government for its superlative generosity in this case and thank it most sincerely for the prompt manner in which assistance was given in Tasmania’s hour of plight. It would appear - and it has been said and there has been no argument about it - that mutual agreement was reached between officers of the Commonwealth Government and the State Government in respect not only of the aid that has been given but of the terms and conditions under which it would be granted or loaned for fire relief. My first objection is against the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the whole of this transaction and the complete refusal of elected representatives to give the fullest information to the general public. Only credit would have accrued to any government that took the victims of the disaster into its confidence completely in this time of crisis.
The Tasmanian Parliament was called together expressly for the purpose of discussing fire relief. Yet at no time during the debate was any detailed information given to it by the Premier of Tasmania. Despite most earnest efforts to have the allocation of $14.5m dissected into categories, and despite the most trenchant criticism, this was not done. As a result, only the broadest priciples of the Bill were discussed and expenditure under various headings was not objectively debated. Even today, three months after the catastrophe and after the time allowed for lodging applications for relief has closed, the Tasmanian Government has not released any figures showing the nature of the losses incurred. The figures now available to the Commonwealth Parliament are of considerable interest. They have been released at the request of a deputation of Tasmanian members of the Parliament and have been released despite the statement of the Chief Secretary of Tasmania that they would not be made available to the Tasmanian Parliament and would not be made available to the Commonwealth Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). I am pleased that the figures have now been made available and have been dissected into categories. However, some difficulties still lie in the way of a sensible debate of this legislation.
We do not know how many businesses and industries have been lost. We do not know who will estimate or guess whether Sim of loan money will be sufficient for the rehabilitation of industry. Without knowing bow many houses have been destroyed, it is difficult to decide whether a grant of $4 or a loan of $1.7m will be sufficient to re-house all the victims. How many houses were owner occupied? How many were tenanted? How many were weekend cottages? How many were cottages for rural employees? We should have all this information if we are to discuss the Bill intelligently. How many primary producers have applied for loans so far? Will the $5m be sufficient for them to refence, restock and re-equip their properties? What of the public assets that have been destroyed? Why is there a heading ‘Other emergency expenditure’ in the Treasurer’s second reading speech? Why is it that betterment can be considered under the heading ‘Public assets’ when some farmers who have lost almost everything qualify only for a loan on the most discriminatory basis after a strict means test has been applied? The loans to farmers are at varying rates of interest.
Because we have not been given figures for the various categories, we can do no more than make an intelligent guess and debate the measure only on the basis of the information supplied by the Treasurer in his second reading speech. This information was studiously withheld by the Government of Tasmania when legislation was being debated in the Tasmanian Parliament. The immediate relief fund of $750,000 is the only matching grant that has been made. This allows only $1.5m for the many commitments that must be met from the grant. Primary producers will receive relief payments from the fund. Their sustenance is $14.25 a week. This places them on the bread line and will have a marked detrimental effect on family life. The education of children must be neglected. As a result, many farmers have a feeling of hopelessness and frustration.
Churches also will be assisted from this grant. I believe they have been told that they can expect only a token payment. People belonging to various churches throughout Australia have been most generous and I would hope that more than a token grant will be made and that loans free of interest will be offered so that the churches may be rebuilt as soon as possible. There is a real need for the influence, comfort and guidance of the churches in many of the devastated areas. The relief fund will fall far short of the demands that will fairly and justly be made upon it.
The sum of $4m has been granted and SI. 7m loaned for rehousing the victims of the tragedy, in this instance, as with other funds, it may be said that the principles of Marx have triumphed over the concept of Magna Carta. The grant made by the Commonwealth Government is most generous. However, as a result of an impetuous statement made by the Premier of Tasmania on the day after the fires, some people will receive handsome gratuities from the fund while others will receive loans at 4i% or 5i% and some will’ receive nothing, although in every instance they have lost everything they possessed The prudent insurer gains no benefit whatever from his precaution and judgment. This penalty is causing concern and resentment amongst many of the victims who believe that some reward should be conceded to those who paid premiums for years and who now see the advantage of their thrift enjoyed by the imprudent. I express the earnest hope that even at this late stage some assistance will be given to this group of responsible citizens.
All the loan moneys made available by the Commonwealth are interest free. The Tasmanian Parliament was told by the Premier that the Commonwealth had insisted that interest be charged on the free loan at the rate that is charged under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That is 4.25%. I understand from the Treasurer that this stipulation was never made. The Commonwealth has, as with other interest free loans, allowed the State to charge interest for administrative costs and for the contingency of bad debts. The State borrows from the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement at 4.25% and lends at 5.75%. It provides for the same risk of bad debts and pays administrative costs out of its margin of 1.5%. Why can it not make loans to fire victims at this same rate of 1.5%? As an inducement to borrowers to repay the loan in fifteen years, the money should be provided free of interest, subject to the principal instalments being met. Repayments should commence three years after the loan is made and interest should be charged only to those who default, unless the default is due to circumstances over which the home owner has no control.
The Press of Australia originally said that the housing loan would be $2m. Why has it been reduced by $300,000? At whose request was this done and for what purpose? Is it a fact that the Premier of Tasmania sought this alteration, converted a loan to a grant and will use this money, with an additional $500,000, to recoup the Hydroelectric Commission for its losses? I consider that the Commission, which is a trading concern, is no more entitled to have its losses recouped than is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Why should the Commission receive a grant while all other industries will be given only a loan? I believe it was said that the interest free loans could not be converted to grants for primary producers. How can the rules be bent to suit a Government instrumentality? Business and industry will be granted a loan of $lm for their re-establishment. I point out here that originally it was stated that industry would be re-established partly by grant and partly by loan. This assurance is not being honoured and this gives me a cause for regret. Unless the position can be rectified at feast the businesses with the soundest reputations should receive interest free loans.
The primary producer, with few exceptions, is the hardest hit of all the victims. It sounds rather convincing to say that he will receive sustenance if his livelihood is denied to him, that he receives a boundary fence allowance, a tool allowance and the chance to recoup the cost of replacement of workmen’s cottages from taxation deductions. He may under certain conditions qualify for a loan. I mentioned previously that his sustenance is $14.25 a week. This is only a pittance. In some cases children have had to be taken from public schools, and innumerable other problems have arisen. The primary producer receives a boundary fence allowance of $200 a mile, which he immediately has to share with his neighbour; but this is not half the cost of reconstruction. The tool allowance, where tools are considered essential to carry on his business, is $200. The cost of replacement of workmen’s cottages is a tax deduction only from his net income. That point ought to be emphasised. In these circumstances many years will elapse before farmers will be able to qualify for this doubtful benefit, and many good rural employees will inevitably drift away from country areas.
In this field of assistance, as in so many others, loans are the subject of a pernicious means test. The farmer who has substance and creditworthiness is forced to exhaust all available avenues of borrowing before being eligible for a loan; so those in this category will receive no rehabilitation assistance whatever. A farmer in another category will be granted a loan but the interest rate will vary in accordance with his estimated ability to pay. Yet another will qualify for a loan at a low interest rate. This form of means test and character test discrimination is causing the gravest concern to many people. All these people have lost. Why should not they all be given an equal opportunity to rehabilitate themselves? If the precedent of loans to other States for drought and flood relief is to be used as a guide, may I say that I have been informed that no more than 3% has been charged, by those States which have received the benefit, to offset bad debts and administration costs. I would be glad to have this point clarified. If my information is correct, it should be made a condition of any loan that a ceiling interest rate of 3% be charged. In any event, I disagree that Tasmania’s plight should in any way be viewed as having a parallel in any other disaster which has occurred in this Commonwealth. We have passed through floods and droughts before, but we have never experienced a situation which has been so devastating as these fires were. Some properties are bare. They are completely burnt out, desolate wastes, and even the top soil has burned. No other catastrophe in our living memory has ever left such a trail of ruin.
Public assets are to be assisted to the extent of §1,250,000, including some betterment where appropriate. Already there are indications that appropriate betterment is considered fair and reasonable, since some amenities which are being built into schools were not in existence in the burned property. This is a bitter pill for the people to swallow, particularly when undertaken by the Education Department, because over the years pressure has been brought to bear on this Department to insure its buildings but it has constantly refused to do so. The State Government has almost boasted of its business prudence in not insuring its property. Because it is now the loser it claims the right to take unto itself a gift from moneys now stated to be limited, and even to profit by building better than the standard and quality of what was lost. This action should stand to its eternal discredit. How can the Government justify these actions when it has failed to give any concession to prudent people who have taken the precaution of insuring their property? This is a studied insult to them.
According to the manner in which these figures are presented,” the final heading of emergency expenditure would now appear to be a Hydro-Electric Commission benefit. In the press statement that was released by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) on 6th April four negotiated headings were mentioned. There are now six. The Press reported - it has not been denied - that the original loan for housing would be $2m. This has now been reduced to $1.7m and the sum saved - ‘filched’ may be a better word - has been converted to a grant which now appears under this additional heading. In short, this means that of the total Commonwealth grant of $6,800,000 the Tasmanian Government is to receive the lion’s share of $2,050,000 to replace its own losses. Since its original contribution was $750,000, it appears that one of the few beneficiaries will be the Tasmanian Govern ment, despite its continued reluctance to insure and its constant boast that it insists on carrying its own risks on its own public assets. One may ask whether the gangs which came from Victoria and New South Wales and did such magnificent work are to receive any payment for their contribution to our relief. Does the Army propose to claim for the thousands of man-hours and food it contributed? It would appear from the whole of this unfortunate experience that the Government of Tasmania will recoup much, if not all, of its losses. Those who had little or nothing will come out of this tragedy with a handsome gratuity. The many hundreds in between - the small and large businessmen, the whole of the range of primary producers and the prudent who insured for more than $8,000 - will receive little tangible assistance in their rehabilitation. I believe I have fairly and accurately represented the feelings of many of the victims with whom I have been so closely associated during these strenuous and trying times.
Now perhaps I should turn to the contribution which was so generously made by the Commonwealth Government. It would not be unreasonable if we took into account the Army’s contribution, which I have already mentioned. Army personnel worked long hours to get the Brighton camp ready for the intake of these destitute people, and the cooks went to ‘great pains to ensure that food was provided. They contributed a great deal to the welfare of these unfortunate people, and they deserve the highest compliment for what they did. Apart from this, they stayed side by side with the personnel of the naval ship which was sent to Hobart when our position was so desperate that it appeared that communications with the mainland would be cut. The personnel of this ship stood side by side with the soldiers, and contributed materially to the saving of properties which at that time were still burning. In addition, the Commonwealth has made another contribution by allowing as a tax deduction the sum of $4.5m which the thousands of generous Australians contributed to the Governor’s relief fund. This contribution was a magnificent gesture, and the granting of this concession by the Commonwealth Government was appreciated.
Since I became a member of this House the Australian Labor Party has criticised this Government for applying a social service means test. It has used all sorts of unkind words about the means test, yet there is no greater illustration of a pernicious means test than that being applied to the fire victims in Tasmania. It is unfair and unreasonable. It would not bc unreasonable to point out that’ to the best of my knowledge, in every negotiation which has been undertaken by either departmental officers or the Premier there has been no rejection of any appeal. Admittedly there have been articles in the Farmer’, but they appeared only as a result of a deputation that waited on the Premier, which made no public statement in the Press. He was reported accurately as having laid the blame for the lack of workmen’s cottages at the door of the Commonwealth Government. He was unreasonable. If the Premier of Tasmania had said: ‘Give me this sum of $300,000 that I now ask to be taken away from interest free loans for housing and allow me to use it for workmen’s cottages’, would the Commonwealth have refused to do so? I doubt it, because apparently it has agreed to allow him to convert it to his own use for the Hydro-Electric Commission. If an approach had been made and a reasonable proposition had been put forward, I am sure this Government would not have been unsympathetic in its attitude to the Premier of Tasmania. I agree with honourable members who say that there should be some assistance or we will lose some very valuable employees. 1 agree with what honourable members have said concerning the situation in which we now find ourselves because of the drought. Before passing to that and to the question which it poses, I should like to mention one thing in relation to the rehabilitation of industry. One of the urgent needs appears to be that if Snug was to be rebuilt immediately following the disaster the carbide works would have to be rebuilt as well. In respect of some of those industries, which were administered by the most responsible people, a statement was made that they would be rehabilitated partly by grant and partly by loan, but it now appears possible that the assistance will be in the form of a loan only.
Not only that, but security is being sought in some cases from these industries. In view of the fact that they have carried on in some instances the employment of their staff, which has cost them a tremendous amount without any return being forthcoming, I urge that consideration should be given to allowing these firms access to interest-free money, or low interest rate money at least, for the purpose of their rehabilitation. They will need their assess for the purpose of mortgage to carry on the conduct of their own business and their ordinary trading procedures. I feel that the Government is perfectly safeguarded and well covered in that obviously any loan would be repayable before any of the shareholders were to draw out from the wreck in the event of the worst happening.
I do not think we ought to be pessimistic about this. I do not think this is likely to happen, and therefore I feel that there is no risk whatever in this loan money being made available. On the general question of loan money, I feel very strongly that a figure of 4i% for one farmer, li% for another farmer and 5i% for another farmer for rehabilitation is grossly unfair. I feel that if there is sufficient in the fund that is made available the opportunity should be given to them all to rehabilitate and to save what little they can from the wrecks that once were good and flourishing farms in these areas.
The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has rightly said that we now have compounded upon our fire losses the most severe drought in history. He said it was the most severe drought since 1840, but it could be even worse than that because it was only in 1840 that we commenced to keep meteorological records of our rainfall. Therefore, it well could be the worst drought in the history of the State of Tasmania. Already the drought is such that there has not been a scrap of growth over the whole of this burnt out area. Honourable members who go there will see an attempt only for the green to struggle through, and in many cases this is only rubbish. Where there is a blade of grass there are four sheep waiting to get it. It is a pitiful situation, and it is a desperate situation.
I agree with the honourable member for Wilmot that something ought to be done and done quickly. Here I am not being carpingly critical of what has taken place, but I offer my idea as a constructive suggestion. I realised months ago that this position would develop, so I went to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) and discussed the matter with him. I then discussed it with the Wheat Board in Victoria as I returned home one day. I have found out the quantity of wheat which the ‘South Esk’ will carry, and I have established that the grain elevators in Tasmania will be able to handle this wheat. I have informed the Premier of these things and suggested that it would perhaps be better to negotiate on a government basis to purchase sufficient fodder rather than to pay out cheques, as is being done now, to the farmers themselves in the hope that they may be able to get the best bargain possible in terms of fodder for their starving flocks.
I think that is the logical approach to make. I have subsequently written an article for friends of mine in New South Wales, where there is currently an appeal for grass hay, which usually it is uneconomical to carry. I have also approached the Australian National Line. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) will give me some assistance here in the hope that when the Line has ships plying between Sydney and Hobart and there is vacant space they will carry bales of hay which I hope the people of New South Wales will be generous enough to contribute for our welfare. There are at least encouraging signs that this in fact may happen. The Line has already been kind enough to freight for us at no cost donations of building material. There are lots of building materials which have been offered by various firms and the Line will, as an additional contribution by this Government, undertake to freight that to Tasmania at no cost. I believe that with this type of co-operation we may be able to save something from this terrific wreck.
I would point out, however, that once more the Commonwealth Government came to the party most generously in its reply to the State Government. Not so very long ago, in fact on 3rd May, the following article appeared in the ‘Sun’:
The State Government has asked the Commonwealth to approve cash grants for fire and drought devastated farm properties in southern Tasmania. The Premier, Mr Reece, said today the Commonwealth was providing $14.5m in relief for victims of the 7th February bush fires. The Commonwealth has allocated $5m of this for long-term low interest loans to primary producers but no cash grants. Mr Reece said he wanted some of this money reallocated on a dollar for dollar basis . . .
Again, there is a veil of secrecy drawn over the whole of this transaction. We do not know how much the Premier asked for, and we have no idea of the negotiations. We only know that the Treasurer again has been kind enough to say: ‘We will agree with you.’ I believe the approach is the wrong one. We have sustained a serious bush fire, the worst in our history and the worst in the history of this Commonwealth, as a result of which we have already qualified for Sl4.5m in terms of grant and interestfree loan as contained within this Bill. Now I believe on top of this we have sustained the worst drought in our living memory. Why should we appropriate money which was granted by the Commonwealth within the terms and conditions of this Bill and which was designed to assist fire victims? It is already agreed that the money is insufficient for the purpose for which it is intended, so why should we now dip into that meagre fund for the purpose of assisting with the drought? I believe the approach at government level was in fact a letter written by the Under-Treasurer of Tasmania on behalf of the Premier to the Commonwealth Treasurer. That is not the manner in which one would expect a negotiation of this type ordinarily to be carried out. I believe a mistake has been made in that the approach was not made purely for drought relief but rather with the object that we allocate funds initially earmarked for fire relief. Now that the approach has been made in this way, I hope the relief will be generous enough to serve the purpose for which it has been sought.
In the last few days I have been attempting to establish the quantity of feed oats available in Victoria in the hope that we may come to some arrangement about its bulk carriage. However, I fee] that while Tasmanians are given cheques to attempt to make the best bargain possible for the meagre supplies of fodder that are in the island at the moment, it will only have the effect of lifting the price and this in turn will mean they will not get value for the money that has generously been given to them. This matter must be elevated from an individual attempt by people to overcome their own personal problems. It must be elevated to the stage where we as a Commonwealth do all we can in an attempt to find fodder wherever it happens to be throughout Australia, despite the fact that portions of the southern States are facing a similar drought situation. Having done that, we must attempt between us all to find the manner in which it can be most economically transported to the State and equitably distributed for the purpose of saving our stock. This must be done if we are to have any possibility of an economic recovery from this dreadful tragedy which has befallen this small but very important and usually very fertile State of Tasmania.
We are grateful for all that has happened. We are grateful for this Bill and for the assistance given to us financially by the people of Australia, and we express our gratitude in the most glowing terms. We are sorry that as yet we still have to lean on somebody for help, but one day, as inevitably happens in a nation of our size, another part of the Commonwealth will need our help and Tasmania will never let this great Commonwealth down.
– in reply - I would like to thank the House for the co-operation that has been given by members on both sides in the passage of this Bill, and for the generous things that have been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) tonight regarding the work that has been undertaken by this Parliament towards helping the people of Tasmania. I think a number of useful suggestions have been made from both sides of the House. There will be opportunity while the Bil! is dealt with in the other place for consideration to be given once again to some of the points raised. I think I should conclude by reminding the House of the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his second reading speech. He said: . . the assistant:- being afforded to individuals, businesses and primary producers on this occasion goes far beyond that provided in any similar instance in the past. In particular, there is no precedent to the assistance being provided for what can be described as insurable risks.
On this occasion the Government certainly has broken new ground. 1 think honourable members on both sides of the House realise the enormous tragedy which befell the people of Tasmania. I believe all honourable members agree that the Commonwealth has acted extremely generously. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) made some castigations tonight but I believe that when he considers the matter in the whole and realises the task that has been undertaken by the Government he will be a little less stringent. I do not believe that honourable members on either side of the House thought that his criticisms were completely justified. Concerning the other matters that have been raised tonight, I hope that we will have the opportunity of looking at them before the Bill finally passes both Houses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation reported.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Howson) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Before this Bill is read a third time there are three matters which I would like the Government to reconsider in respect of the money made available under the Commonwealth-State agreement for the Tasmanian bush fire relief fund. The first relates to the grants to rehouse people whose homes were insured. If I understood correctly the speeches made tonight by honourable members on both sides of the House, there is no quarrel about the money being made available to build new homes for those people whose homes were not insured; but there is some concern about those people who will not receive any benefit or help because their homes were insured. There are many such people. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) gave a few illustrations. My colleagues, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), are also concerned about this point. The limit of the assistance that can be given under the terms of the agreement is $8,000. Therefore, if a house worth $12,000 was insured for only $8,000, there will be no money available from the relief fund for the owner. We believe that this question should be looked at again because injustices appear to be occurring.
– I said in my reply that certain matters that were raised tonight would be considered.
– Yes. My second point concerns the farm employee homes. These are not covered in the terms of the agreement. There will be no money available for the reconstruction of homes occupied by farm employees which were destroyed by the fire. I would like the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) to reconsider this matter also. Only a” few homes are involved although many farms were damaged by the fires. Not many farm employees live on properties these days. Homes are not provided for them and they are forced to live in the towns. I have been trying to get work on farms for some boys but there are no homes available for them. They have to live in the towns and go out to work each day. This is something new in primary industry in Tasmania. So not many farm employee homes are involved but they are omitted altogether from assistance under the agreement. Because so few homes are involved I feel that the Government should consider again putting them on the same footing as other dwellings whose owners will receive grants to enable them to build again.
There should be a conference - perhaps at the highest level, between the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) - with a view to bringing in amending legislation to iron out these anomalies. Anomalies were bound to arise in the administration of this legislation. No Act is perfect although in the beginning it may be thought to be perfect. Governments may make agreements and decisions but a few anomalies will always crop up. The Opposition merely asks that the Government look at this legislation again.
Finally, I believe that the loans should be granted at no higher interest than 3%. Anything above that rate will be a burden on some of the people who will be assisted by loans only and not by grants. Money is being given to the State free of interest so I believe that there should be a low rate of interest at the other end. The interest should be sufficient only to cover the administrative charges and any bad debts that may occur. The honourable member for Franklin referred to this matter also and I think that all honourable members will be in agreement that the money should be made available at a low rate of interest.
I again thank the Minister for Air for all he has done in his capacity as coordinator between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government, and for the intense interest he has shown in the disaster. I also thank the Government for its generosity and the way in which it has handled the relief given by way of loans and grants in this Bill. I trust that the .. Minister will do what he has promised and have a really good look at some of the suggestions that have been made during this debate before the Bill goes to another place.
– It is surprising that members of the Opposition did not speak earlier about the situation confronting those people whose homes were only partially insured and about farm workers’ homes. After hearing the honourable members for Denison (Mr Gibson), Franklin (Mr Pearsall) and myself speaking on these matters, we find that the Opposition is jumping on to the band wagon. The exclusion of farm workers’ homes is based on a false conception of the taxation depreciation allowance. Some people seem to assume that because a property owner can deduct 20% of the value of an employee’s home for taxation purposes each year, this in some way means that the home is paid for him. However, in some way they have reasoned that the farm home was paid for by the Taxation Branch - a most remarkable state of affairs. I take umbrage at members of the Opposition passing over the facts that we brought out in debate and trying to jump on the band wagon and take credit for them.
– I want to pass a remark to my learned friend opposite. For years we have been asking: ‘Why cannot we get together? Why cannot we see one another’s point of view?’ However, now that a suggestion has been made by one side and accepted by the other side, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) says that we are jumping on the band wagon.
He should be thinking that at long last his Party has been able to produce some ideas that are worthy of note.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate insists upon its amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from 20 April (vide page 1496), on motion by Mr Howson:
That the Bill now be read a second time.
– At this rather late hour it is somewhat difficult to move from a debate on bush fires to a consideration of superannuation funds. However, each measure that comes before this Parliament, no matter at what crazy time it comes up, deserves adequate consideration. Therefore, I hope I shall be excused for making some brief remarks at this hour on superannuation. Although the title of the Bill is wide enough - the purpose is to amend the Superannuation Act 1922- 1966 - the specific clauses of the Bill cover only one aspect of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. They are consequent upon a recent decision that recognises that married women have some economic rights after marriage. Until some months ago a lady who worked with the Commonwealth Public Service would have to conclude her engagement with the Service on the day she married. I suppose this principle goes back to the time when jobs were regarded as being scarce, when society was not thought to be as affluent as it now is, and that if she continued in employment she was keeping somebody else off the labour market. Rather belatedly we have recognised that those days have gone and that marriage should be no more a disruption to the economic activity of one party to the marriage contract than to the other.
Recently the Commonwealth decided to permit continuity of employment by a lady after marriage. Accordingly it has been found necessary to amend the Superannuation Act to permit a married woman to continue to contribute to the Superannuation Fund after marriage and to have the same rights as she had prior to marriage, or to have the same superannuation rights as a married man has. Broadly, this is what is being done in this legislation, and we offer no objection to it in principle. However, I think this measure affords the House an opportunity to look at superannuation as a whole. T shall not go into the question as fully as I might have done had the hour been a little earlier. It is high time that the community realised the rather queer situation that we are getting into in regard to government superannuation funds covering government employees, private superannuation funds covering private employees and also, approaching the question from the other end, the demand that is being made by the community at large for the abolition of the means test.
Many superannuation schemes are running contrary to the objective Qf the abolition of the means test. Unless this situation is faced up to fairly soon - I would suggest that the time to do so is now when perhaps this matter could be considered as part of a social and economic problem - it will get out of hand. Recently the Commonwealth Statistician has published statistics in regard to government pensions and superannuation schemes including, not only the Commonwealth scheme, but also State schemes and semi-government schemes. They show that at the end of 1965 about 472,000 people were contributing to these superannuation schemes, approximately 62,000 people were drawing pensions from them, and that about 30,000 widows and children were beneficiaries under these schemes. In the aggregate well over half a million people are involved, and the aggregate funds of the various schemes exceed $ 1,000m. Annual contributions at the end of 1965 were of the order of $115m. This figure will now be exceeded. Moreover, funds of some magnitude exist in what are called selected private pension funds. The statistics, which are by no means exclusive - it is rather difficult to get a complete picture of the pension schemes - show that aggregate funds of private as distinct from government pension schemes are of the order of $708m. Thus the investment in funds represents a sizable accumulation, and a considerable number of contributors are involved. I am sorry that I do not have with me figures setting out the number of contributors to private funds, but from my memory of another debate, it is certainly well over 300,000. In the aggregate there are in the order of 1,000,000 people of a total workforce of about 4,000,000 who are contributing to superannuation funds of one kind or another and who are accumulating benefits, as it were, for the future.
Then there is a demand by sections of the community for the abolition of the means test. Of course if the means test is abolished all males at the age of sixty-five and all females at the age of sixty years will automatically become entitled to a payment from the State or, if you like, from the rest of the community. At the moment this payment is about $700 per annum for each individual entitled to it, but the means test operates so that of every eleven persons qualified in terms of age only six draw the pension, either in part or in full, while the other five are excluded. In other words, the means test removes from the area of eligibility, on economic grounds, almost half of those in the community eligible by reason of age. This, naturally enough, causes a great deal of resentment on the part of those who are excluded. It also poses a problem for the community as a whole because if we were, at the stroke of a pen as it were, to abolish the means test we would have to pay immediately to some half a million people a pension at the rate of about $700 per annum. The total cost could be in the region of $350m per annum.
I do not propose this evening to present any solution to this problem. I do not think there is any simple solution to it. I do not think any equitable solution to this problem can be found until a comprehensive survey is made of the various superannuation funds in existence. I repeat that in many respects the original idea of superanuation funds ran contrary to the ideas behind the suggestions for abolition of the means test. When the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, for instance, had its origin some forty odd years ago the age pension was very small in amount and was regarded as a charity for indigents rather than as a right on the part of any person. The Superanuation Fund was designed to give people in retirement a standard of living somewhat comparable to that which they enjoyed while they were working. Ideas of this kind are still held, of course, but because we have been cursed by the effects of inflation in recent times we are faced with the harsh reality that when a person starts at, say, the age of twenty years or even less to make contributions towards superannuation payments to commence at the age of sixty or sixty-five years of age, it is simple enough to work out actuarily what amount will be payable but there are no means of determining what the purchasing power of that amount of money will be.
To show the kinds of changes that can take place, and also to show the areas in which pondering on this subject is taking place, I refer the House to an article in ‘Vestes’, which is the Australian universities’ review, for March 1967, which is the issue currently available in the Library. The title of the article is ‘Superannuation Reform’ and it was written by Associate Professor B. L. Johns of the University of Newcastle. He is a member of the Superannuation Committee of the Associated Universities of Australia, the other members of the Committee being Professor R. D. Wright of Melbourne and Mr H. M. Finucane of Queensland. The author of the article suggests the kind of thing that may happen if we can ignore the. effects of inflation. He said:
Suppose that the annual superannuation contributions made on behalf of a member of the academic staff total IS per cent of his salary (usually 10 per cent is paid by the university and 5 per cent by the staff member himself). These contributions are used to pay premiums on a pure endowment policy of the F.S.S.U. type maturing at age 60.
That is the Federation of Australia University Staff Associations. The article continued:
Consider the case of a Lecturer first appointed to the university at 30 years of age with a salary of $5,240 - equivalent to the third step on the present lecturers’ scale. After steady progression he reaches the top of the senior lecturers’ range at 41, and remains there until his retirement at 60. If there was no change in the level of university salaries during the whole period from his first appointment until retirement, this person could expect to receive at 60 a lump sum of about $68,000, which would provide an annual pension equal to 90 per cent of his final salary.
Now assume that, other things being unchanged, university salaries are increased by 10 per cent at the end of every three year period - an increase of just over 3 per cent per annum. (Incidentally an increase of this magnitude would barely match the probable increase in the general level of prices.) Under these circumstances the lump sum payable at retirement would be almost $100,000, but this would only provide a pension of 64 per cent of the annual salary during the final three years of service. Evidently this proportion would be reduced Still further if there was a faster rate of increase in the level of salaries than I have allowed, if the staff member in question was promoted above the rank of Senior Lecturer, or if he had a slower rate of progression during the early stages of his academic career.
The only point to be noted from this is the kind of mockery, in essence, that can be made of superannuation funds by such events as alterations in salary, which are largely the consequences of price increases, or the inroads of inflation as an economic phenomenon. AH these things have to be faced by the community from time to time. I attended yesterday a congress in Melbourne called the Congress for Human Relations, which is being attended by distinguished speakers from America, from Great Britain, from Japan and from other countries. One of the things pointed out by Mr Silverman, a lecturer from the United States of America, is that what we call economic growth in the ultimate depends on the maximum use of skilled manpower, and immobility of a labour force can be a factor in reducing total growth. In many respects some of the superannuation funds as they exist at the moment - and this is more strictly true of private funds than of public funds - operate so as to make labour immobile because there is no machinery for carrying a person through from one job covered by a superannuation fund to another one. This is another of the factors that I think call for some attention. There are somewhat similar difficulties in transferring, say, from public employment to private employment as there are in transferring from one form of private employment to another. Also, there is difficulty where there should not be any in transferring from one form of public employment to another. Interestingly enough, Mr Johns makes the suggestion that what is required is a joint university superannuation fund or perhaps a wider fund embracing academic staff, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Commonwealth Public Service. In other words he suggests that there should be integration between the university funds, the CSIRO, which is not a government department in the accepted sense, and the Commonwealth Public Service.
– It is possible for some.
– I do not deny that. For instance, it is possible for persons to come from State employment to Commonwealth employment and vice versa.
– And from universities.
– In some circumstances, but not in all circumstances. I suggest that there is not as much flexibility as there should be; there is too much rigidity. These are quite serious problems in a community. It seems that the only time the matter of the means test comes up for consideration is in the hurly-burly of an election. I will not at this stage even commit myself to what I think about the means test and its priority.
– The Labor Party wants to abolish it.
– I do not think it should be abolished unless a lot of other things are done. For instance, I do not think we can sensibly contemplate the equity of what is called a national superannuation scheme or a contributory scheme unless we take into account the whole incidence of taxation, because if we are not careful we may think we are doing equity when instead we are creating an inequity that we have not contemplated. This is one of those matters which occasionally calls for examination over a considerable period of time and by quite a wide variety of opinion. It may require a commission of two or three people taking evidence from hundreds of people over a period of time during which the cases for and against abolition should be considered; during which the pros and cons of a contributory scheme could be considered; during which the rights of existing funds could be considered; during which consideration might bc given as to how best those funds could be integrated; and during which the whole matter of immobility of labour could be considered.
After having listened tonight to the tragic story of the ravages of the bush fire in Tasmania - I do not detract in any sense from the importance of that debate or its human aspects - the subject of superannuation seems to be too wide to be contemplated, but I urge the Government seriously to consider embarking on if not a nonpolitical then at least an objective survey of the problems involved in this vast social question. It may well be that when the pros and cons have been weighed, people may not be as enthusiastic as they first were about abolishing the means test. Sometimes we have to weigh the interests of people in retirement against those of people just coming out of the cradle. Not everything can always be done at once. You must match your manifest demands with the scarcity of available resources. That is a perpetual problem in economics and social endeavour as a whole, but at least it should be contemplated occasionally. 1 suggest that the Government might give consideration to it.
Finally I refer to clause 3 of the Bill, which amends section 44 of the original Act. The clause perpetuates an injustice which the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association of the Commonwealth Public Service feels exists. The Association submits that superannuation is actuarially determined. It objects to the fact that if an officer continues in employment beyond the age at which he is entitled to draw a pension, his pension is, as it were, deferred, but when he does draw the pension he draws a slightly higher pension than he would have drawn had he retired at the earlier age. The Association’s objection is that what it calls the loading is applied only to the employee’s contribution and not to the Government’s. The Association has raised this objection from time to time. In a letter to me dated 5th May 1967 the Federal Secretary of the Association writes:
The point which we object to is the fact that the loading is on that portion of the pension which is. directly attributable to the officer’s contributions, and not on the whole pension.
In effect, this means that a percentage is added to 50c of each unit, the unit being valued at $1.75. To give a practical example, the most common circumstances in which an officer remains after the age on which he can retire on a pension is the officer who, having elected as early as 15 years of age to contribute to superannuation based on age 60, when he attains the age of 60 years decides to work on until he is 65 years old. When he commences to receive his pension after retiring at age 65, each unit is loaded by .408 of 50c which is equal to approximately 20c.
For the additional 5 years service, the Government’s portion of his pension is not increased at all. It can be said that he has been receiving salary during the additional 5 years service, but against that had the right of entitlement to retire at 60 on full pension. Indeed, the Government benefits by his continued service as he could exercise the choice, as many do, of retiring at age 60, receiving his pension, and working elsewhere for a salary.
This matter has been represented to the Government on a number of occasions without success.
I again bring it to the attention of the Government for consideration. This is regarded as a right which to some extent is negated. I ask the Government to consider the matter, perhaps later in the year when more general amendments to the Superannuation Fund are contemplated.
– in reply - As always, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has made a thoughtful contribution to the debate. 1 remind him of the announcement made some months ago by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that investigations were taking place into the possibility of increasing the portability of pension rights. These investigations are being carried out by Sir Leslie Melville in conjunction with officers of the Treasury. As for the last point raised by the honourable member, I will bring it up when next this matter is being discussed and provide him with an answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Dairying Industry Bill 1967
Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill 1967
Debate resumed from 20 April (vide page 1559), on motion by Mr Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the Bill but expresses its concern at past delays and their cumulative effects on the freedom of Australian internal and external trade and the continued exploitation of the Australian consuming public and industry by uncontrolled restrictive trade practices. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the original Act to Tasmania, following a reference of powers by the Tasmanian Parliament, and to give effect to a minor drafting amendment to section 4 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act. As explained by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), the various Australian States can either by complementary legislation under section 8 of the Trade Practices Act or by reference of the necessary power to the Commonwealth Parliament under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution extend the operation of the Trade Practices Act to their area. Tasmania has chosen the latter course. Under a Labor administration Tasmania, following on the report of its royal commissioner on prices and restrictive trade practices of 1965, has been eager to accept the obvious benefits of even the present limited legislation. It is a matter for regret that Western Australia, which in 19.57 under a Labor administration set up a similar inquiry, with a like report, has failed to follow Tasmania’s example. The Bill, of course, does not in any way extend the definition of restrictive practices. The original Act now applies fully by reference in Tasmania and under plenary constitutional powers in the various Commonwealth territories. The operation of the Act has yet to be proclaimed.
Whilst a Trade Practices Commissioner, Mr Bannerman, has been appointed and recruitment of staff has been proceeding, together with, it is understood, the drafting of regulations, there has yet been no appointment of a deputy commissioner. May I ask whether in fact a clerk of shipping agreements has yet been appointed? The Opposition is particularly concerned with the delay in bringing into operation the powers of control of overseas cargo shipping contained in Part Xa as enacted by amendment in September 1966. The prime objective of the Trade Practices Act is contained in section 8 (1) which says that its purpose ‘is the achievement of the orderly and convenient concurrent operation of this Act and complementary laws of the States, by means of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States’. Comprehensive provisions for co-operation are contained within the remainder of that section.
What is the present situation in terms of co-operation? How have the States reacted? Let us consider first the case of Victoria where there was prior legislation on collusive bidding and tendering before the enactment of the Commonwealth legislation. This has been followed by calculated obmutescence. The limited Victorian legislation was deliberately designed to serve notice on the Commonwealth as to the limits of its co-operation and to place New South Wales, the other key State of the Commonwealth in both population and industry, in a position of economic disadvantage vis-a-vis Victoria, if it were to enact fully complementary legislation. However, there are pangs of political conscience even in the sovereign State of Victoria, as evidenced by a resolution of the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party on 2nd March last ‘calling for State legislation to complement the Federal Trade Practices Act’. This was made despite a protest by the Secretary of Cabinet to the Liberal State Council that ‘the State Government believed it would be inappropriate to enact complementary legislation before it knew how effective the Federal Act would be’.
In South Australia the present Labor administration on 23rd March last, after passing reference legislation through the Assembly, was met by organised opposition from the South Australian ‘establishment’ which amended the Bill to provide that it would not come into force until all other Australian States had passed similar legislation and placed a time limit on the reference of power to the Commonwealth. In the case of New South Wales the Government - a Liberal administration - is still temporising. Having set up a committee of investigation under the chairmanship of its Chief Secretary, proceedings are protracted and apparently without any sense of urgency. To quote the answer of the Attorney-General in reply to a question without notice by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the 5th ultimo, he feels that he cannot hold out very much hope that either Queensland or Western Australia will refer the necessary powers or enact complementary legislation. In his answer to the same question the AttorneyGeneral said he was reconciled to the Commonwealth having to operate alone. He further stated that he would be content with the Act operating under the powers that the Commonwealth Parliament now has.
The question therefore arises as to just what are the powers on which the Government relies with the current negative results in terms of co-operation following nearly seven years of lengthy discussion with the respective States. The wording of section 7 of the Act, therefore, becomes of the utmost importance. The range and limits of its operation in the future depend on the interpretation to be placed by the High Court on the undoubted challenge which will be made by affected parties. The Government obviously has sought to write into the Act to the utmost the constitutional powers and legislative procedures which its former legal advisers, including the present Chief Justice 0? the High Court, thought were available to it. These are obviously, firstly, powers over trade and commerce with other countries and among the States conferred by section 51 (i) of the Constitution; secondly, the corporations power contained in section 51 (xx), and in that case power to legislate as conferred on the Federal Parliament in respect of foreign companies and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. The third power available is reference by the States of their respective powers under section 51 (xxxvii) to which I have already referred. Then follows, fourthly, the plenary powers in respect of Commonwealth Territories under section 122 of the Constitution. Finally there is the complementary State legislation sought unavailingly under the present Act.
The comment of Sir Garfield Barwick during his address to the legal convention at Hobart in 1963 is of the greatest significance. He said on that occasion:
There are no doubt great constitutional questions to be kept in mind. . . there are matters about which there is a need for a great deal of exploration. We are, in truth, dealing with constitutional powers which have not been very much explored in Australia.
The present Attorney-General in the debate on the Trade Practices Bill on 25th November 1965 said: . . the power, with respect to corporations, appears to be used in an endeavour to enable the Commonwealth to control the operations of those corporations in purely intrastate trade and commerce. Certainly alt corporations would be covered already without reference to that head of power in relation to interstate activities.
After dealing with the case of Huddart Parker v. Moorehead in 1909 the AttorneyGeneral referred to that decision as a matter that caused some concern. He went on to say that there was a risk that persons whose agreements and restraints were intended to be reached by the Act might seek to organise their agreements and restraints on a purely intrastate basis and so escape its operations. Section 7 of the principal Act obviously is intended, by subsection (l)(b), to deal, as far as possible, with this situation. This particular section, in addition to making normal use of the Federal trade and commerce power by making the measure applicable to restrictions and practices in the course of trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, goes a step further and extends the coverage of the Bill to restrictions and practices in connection with the production, supply and acquisition of goods or services required for the purposes of interstate or overseas trade or commerce. The Government undoubtedly is relying on decisions in such cases as those in 1964 of Redfern v. Dunlop Rubber and Airlines of New South Wales v. the State of New South Wales. The corporations’ power has been virtually disregarded since the Moorehead case of 1909 and the two cases I have mentioned.
As major targets of the Act are horizontal or collective restrictive agreements registrable under section 35, section 7 (2) extends the coverage of that class of agreement to which a foreign corporation, or a trade or financial corporation formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, is a party, irrespective of whether the agreement relates to interstate or overseas trade or not. As a substantial proportion of wholesale and retail trading is still intrastate, such an extension of section 35 to trading and finance corporations will considerably extend the area of operation if the extension is within the Commonwealth’s constitutional competence. To the dedicated obstructionists who will attempt to rely on the celebrated section 92 of the Constitution as their palladium, it can very reasonably be argued that in passing legislation to prohibit or confine restrictive trade practices within reasonable bounds the Commonwealth would be implementing - that is, facilitating, preserving, encouraging and promoting - the freedom guaranteed by section 92. In this sense restrictive practices as defined are clearly obstructions to freedom of trade under section 92, and the comment to this effect in the 1959 report of the Joint Committee of Constitutional Review was encouraging.
The Trade Practices Commissioner is to be commended for his introductory contact with various sectors of Australian business in which he explained the operation of the legislation and sought the co-operation of such interests. The Opposition notes with approbation the reports of discussions with Mr Bannerman in which firms engaged in intrastate trade have been told that they should consider themselves bound by the Federal legislation even in the absence of complementary State law. Unless successfully challenged in the High Court, business has been informed that the Act is to be administered on the basis that all trading or finance corporations come within its ambit.
At the present time there are many dark clouds on Australia’s economic horizon. In addition to Britain’s application for entry into the European Common Market and the difficulties of reducing protective tariffs under the Kennedy Round, Australia’s search for new export markets for manufactured goods is obviously being seriously hampered by the inefficiency and profiteering of present rampant restrictive trade practices. Australian industry will need to be streamlined in costs and efficiency before it can enter into the world export market on a fully competitive basis. Apart from the evolution of internal Australian restrictive practices are the artificial restraints imposed by the 1,100 franchise agreements between Australian industrial firms and overseas affiliates. The sooner the Act is applied to these the better. They are a major obstacle to Australia’s export trade even after internal restrictive trade practices have been brought under control.
It is not without significance that, under the Treaty of Rome, in the European Economic Community special provision is made for the control of restrictive trade practices. Added to the possible loss of major export markets for primary produce is the ever present threat of further increases in overseas shipping freights by the conference lines with their further burdens on Australia’s primary producers. Australia today as a nation is having its development and integration retarded by the activities of the little Australians who have used the High Court, and the cumulative effect of its successive interpretations of the present Constitution, to a point where one High Court judge considered them to be ‘artificial and unsuitable for modern times’. To quote the words of Professor Hunter of the Australian National University:
One is forced to the conclusion that the High Court has placed itself in the position of applying a simple and highly restrictive ruling to this question (the distinction between interstate and intrastate); that a Federal Constitution may unite a number of States for certain specified purposes but they are, and pending constitutional amendment must remain, independent economic entities.
In a word, Australia is being divided instead of united by the interpretation of the present Constitution at the instigation of little Australians. The proclamation of the operation of this Act and subsequent developments will be of major constitutional and economic significance and will have a profound effect on Australia’s future welfare.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Freeth) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The following table lists the banks operating in Australia which have interests in finance companies conducting hire purchase business. Published figures of net profit and dividends for 1965-66 for the trading banks from the whole of their activities, and for their associated finance companies are shown in the table. Separate figures relating purely to banking operations of the trading banks are not available. The finance companies are listed in the same order as the banks with which they are associated.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
With which countries has Australia inherited most favoured nation treaties from Britain?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Argentina, Ethiopia, Morocco and Venezuela.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied me with the following answers:
Uniform homes (i.e. cottage) building regulations represent only a relatively small section of building regulations. The Standing Officers’ Committee has, however, appointed a sub-committee of its members to discuss with officers of the Commonwealth Department of Housing our suggestions for uniform home building regulations, and these discussions have commenced. A committee, including the Chief Architect of my Department in each State, has started work on the preparation of such suggestions for consideration by the sub-committee of the State Officers’ Standing Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
What are the reasons for the periodical review of the rate of pension paid for war-caused disabilities?
– - The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
Rates of war pension are fixed by law and vary only with amendments to the Repatriation legislation. I take it, therefore, that the question relates to the assessment of the degree of incapacity arising from disablement attributable to war service.
The degree of incapacity arising from a particular disability may fluctuate over a long period and reviews are therefore conducted at intervals to ensure that the pension payable is commensurate with the assessed degree of incapacity.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
Commonwealth Railways Ore Wagons (Question No. 186)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many university students who were given a deferment in 1965-66 are expected to be called up in the February national service intake?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
February intakes include a high proportion of students (including university students), apprentices and trainees undergoing other forms of formal training who complete their studies at the end of the previous calendar year and become available for call-up. They comprised approximately 55% of those called up in February 1967. A detailed breakdown of particular classes of students, apprentices and trainees is not available.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Technological Changes in Industries (Question No. 242)
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 add 2. Employers are not required to advise my Department of proposed technological changes. However, in practice, employers often give notice to the Department, and more especially where significant variations in employment are involved. The Department, also receives advice of significant instances of change through other channels. Several New South Wales awards contain provisions requiring that advance notice of proposed technological changes be given to union officers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice-.
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670509_reps_26_hor55/>.