26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Would the Minister for Social Services consider requesting the management of the Moscow Circus now appearing at Wentworth Park in Sydney to make available cheap admission prices for age pensioners? I think the honourable gentleman would agree that many pensioners would like to see the Circus but the charges are beyond their means.
– I regret this pesudocapitalist exploitation and I feel that social justice might demand that something be done by the Circus itself. Also, I would not like to waste public money. If a Moscow Circus is required, I think I should suggest that honourable members on this side of the chamber look across to the other side of the chamber.
– 1 ask the Acting Minister for the Interior: Has the Government come to any decision with respect to providing assistance by way of fares to enable representatives from the Desert Mounted Corps units to come to Canbera for the unveiling of the memorial on 19th April?
– I recall that a week or two ago the honourable member for Gellibrand asked a question of the Minister for the Interior concerning this matter, and I think the Minister replied that he could not accede to such a request. No doubt he was basing this decision on a precedent which I myself had established when I was Minister for the Interior some 2 years earlier. I had had several requests in relation to representatives attending the unveiling of the memorial at Albany. However, in the meantime the Government has had a second look at the matter, and because of the significance of the holding of the unveiling in Canberra, because the Returned Services League here has agreed to make the necessary arrangements, and because there have been other occasions when assistance has been given to delegates to come to RSL and ex-servicemen’s functions, the Government has decided to pay the first class return air fare for a member of each of the units which made a contribution to the original Desert Mounted Corps memorial which was built at Port Said.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. He will know that more and more people outside the capital cities are coming to resent the inferior reception from the present AM radio transmitters compared with the strength and clarity of the FM transmissions they are now receiving on their television sets. Could many of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial television facilities - towers and so on - in the country be used to provide FM broadcasts? When will he be able to make, as he promised the House last September, as full a statement as he can about FM broadcasting and give Parliament the opportunity to debate the subject?
– I understand that technically the television towers could be used for FM broadcasts. However, the Leader of the Opposition and other people within the Australian community may not understand that an FM transmitter can cover only a very small area.
– ls it any smaller than the area covered by a television transmitter?
– It is smaller even than the coverage of a television transmitter. This is my understanding of the information given to me by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We would, therefore, need a tremendous number of transmitters for FM broadcasts, if this system were introduced. I did promise a few months ago that I would make a statement on this subject. The statement is in course of preparation, but it is not always easy to do what one wants to do. I hope that before this autumn sessional period concludes 1 will be able to make a statement that will enable a debate to take place.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he seen an article in yesterday’s Press headed: ‘36 million eggs in one basket is our problem’? Did he note that the article said it was expected that Australia will have a surplus of 36 million eggs by the end or this financial year? Is it a fact that this will probably mean an increase in the levy per hen? Will this increase the cost of production, and in his opinion will it force producers out of the egg industry? If this is so, does the Government still look on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia as a means of stabilising the Industry? If not, what does he intend to do to bring stability to the industry?
– I have not read the statement mentioned by the honourable member, lt sounds like a pretty big basket if it will hold 36 million eggs. It is a fact that over production has caused a problem in the poultry industry and that we have difficulty in disposing of eggs on world markets at a reasonable price. The solution of the problem of over production and the introduction of a stabilisation scheme depend upon the agreement of the States to some sort of rationalisation. At the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council several of the States proposed that poultry farms should be licensed.
However, other States stated strongly that they would not support the proposal. No scheme could really succeed unless it had the support of all the States. The honourable member will be aware that stabilisation schemes depend on the voluntary support of the industries in the States and no scheme could work unless it had the support of all the States.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Has his attention been directed to a report that the Minister for Lands in the New South Wales Liberal Government, Mr Lewis, declared in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly yesterday that the plans proposed by the Commonwealth Government to rationalise the dairy industry were unacceptable to the New South Wales Government and were probably unacceptable to the Queensland Government? What is the plan that has been rejected?
– I saw in a newspaper this morning the statement mentioned by the honourable member and I was a little surprised by it. I suppose on closer examination we can understand that this would be the normal reaction of a State Government when it is negotiating the conditions on which finance will be made available, lt naturally wants to try to get the best deal possible. At present officers of my Department are negotiating with officials in the various States on the terms and conditions under which we will make money available to the States if they so desire it to bring about some reconstruction of the dairy industry. The purpose is to help the small or low income earners to leave the industry if they want to do so, to enable the amalgamation of farms, to have more economic units or to allow diversification into other forms of production.
We have said to the States that we are prepared to make a certain amount available in the form of a grant so that redundant improvements on small properties can be written off and so that a certain amount will be made available, in the form of a loan to enable a property to be purchased. It is a matter for negotiation regarding the conditions of repayment of the loan and the proportion which will be made available as a grant. 1 would like to say that 1 am a little disappointed by the industry’s reaction to this proposal. 1 think there has been a grudging approval of it. This proposal is something that is really to the benefit of the dairy industry and why the industry is not more enthusiastic and does not give more support to it, 1 do not really know. 1 think there is lack of leadership on the part of the leaders of the industry in failing to give a bit of guidance to the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. It relates to some representations I made and to the speech I delivered during the AddressinReply debate, seeking a greater allocation of funds for country aerodromes and citing Kingaroy Airport as an example. Since there have been further discussions about the Kingaroy aerodrome, can the Minister state the present position? Has the Kingaroy Shire Council now agreed that the aerodrome should come under the local ownership plan or has the Department of Civil Aviation agreed to give greater consideration to the Council’s views?
– T know that the right honourable member has been pressing the case for Kingaroy Airport for some considerable time. He will be pleased to know that agreement has now been reached between Kingaroy Shire Council and my Department on the conditions under which the airport will be handed over to the local authority under the local ownership scheme. Arrangements have been made for the earthworks and drainage which are important in this case, to be done by my Department. The cost will be about $15,000. In addition, a sealed gravel strip and taxiway will be provided. This will cost about $30,000. The cost will be met jointly by the local authority and my Department. This has been announced as a unanimous decision by the local authority. 1 understand that arrangements will be made to sign the agreement in the near future.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. Can the Minister advise me of the number of servicemen’s homes constructed by his Department on the Long Bay rifle range in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith? Can he also say when the Department of the Army proposes to make part of the rifle range available for the building of housing commission homes for civilian families who are in urgent need of accommodation?
– The details of this matter, in terms of the number of homes and so on, are not known to me. I will treat the question generally as being on notice and will let the honourable member have a reply in due course.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer the honourable gentleman to the present controversy taking place in the various States regarding the need to clarify or otherwise amend the law relating to abortion. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, in view of the differing opinions which are being expressed, he will seek to have the matter listed for discussion or examination at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
– The law relating to abortion and for which we are responsible is that which applies in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is the same in both instances. Let me refer to the law in this Territory, lt is taken from New South Wales, and it makes it an offence unlawfully to administer a drug or unlawfully to use an instrument to procure a miscarriage. There was in England a case in which a doctor was prosecuted. The direction to the jury was that he was not guilty of unlawfully using an instrument unless the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had not acted bona fide for the purpose of saving life or for the purpose of saving her from becoming a physical and mental wreck.
Whether the word ‘unlawful’ should be more broadly interpreted or whether its meaning should be widened legislatively is a matter that is being considered by the Attorney-General of New South Wales at present, and I am considering the same matter in relation to the proposed new Criminal Code for the ACT. I read in the newspapers this morning that the AttorneyGeneral of Victoria is likely to appoint a committee to consider the subject in relation to that State. Probably it is too early to put the matter on the agenda of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. However, it is being considered by the authorities mentioned and I shall keep in consultation with the New South Wales Attorney-General, whose law it is desirable should remain similar to that in the Territory. It would be undesirable to have the position in this Territory so different that it might become a place of resort for people who wished to procure abortions.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, refers to reports of a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, in which he urged primary industry organisations to deal directly with the Australian Country Party, in attempts to influence the Government’s policy. I ask: Does this statement represent the Government’s policy? Does the Government wish to discourage primary industry organisations from dealing direct with Government boards and departments and, for that matter, with other political parties, including the Liberal and Labor Parties?
– Primary industries and their representatives will, as they always have done, make up their own minds about the channels through which they wish to influence affairs and the ways in which they wish to put their cases forward. One of those ways, of course, is by meeting with the Cabinet, as they do. It is perfectly clear that any particular parties that wish to deal as parties with primary industry organisations are free to do so, as is the Australian Labor Party and as is the Liberal Party of Australia.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Navy. Is he aware that for the year ended 30th June 1965 there were 106 C class disability discharges from the Navy, compared with 8 from the Army and 23 from the Royal Australian Air Force, and that for the year ended 30th June 1966 the figures were respectively 81, 9 and 6? This is despite the disparity in the respective strengths of the three Services. Can the Minister give me any reasons for this high discharge rate in this category in the Navy?
– I was very interested in the figures that the honourable member quoted. Knowing the care with which he does his homework, I am certain that he has a very good basis for them. I regret that I cannot give him an answer immediately, but I shall treat the question as being on notice. I shall be very interested to see the answer when it comes through.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. On 26th February the former Minister for Customs and Excise said that a large number of Japanese and Australian companies had deliberately entered into collusion on a widespread scale to evade customs duties on Japanese manufactured goods entering Australia, and that the arrangement was so widespread as to constitute an attack on our protection policies for Australian industry.
Did the evasions, whether by falsification of price, quantity or type, constitute the largest ever disclosed by investigations of that Department? By how much has the revenue been defrauded and Australian industry damaged? Has the Minister raised the matter with the Japanese Government and, if so, with what result? What action is being taken to prevent a repetition?
– I cannot confirm the precise words used by my colleague, the former Minister for Customs and Excise, but in substance what the honourable member says is correct. The Minister, whose responsibility it was, together with the Comptroller-General of Customs, to see that our customs laws are observed, became aware that there was reason to suspect that large Japanese companies were acting in a manner so as to evade payment to revenue of customs duties and, in my opinion more importantly, to circumvent the protective intentions of the Australian customs tariff. I should say that the Japanese companies, on the evidence available, were not acting alone, but that Australian companies were in collusion, with them. My colleague announced, with the authority of the Prime Minister, that this discovery had been made, that extensive investigations had occurred and were still proceeding and that in due course the companies would be summonsed under the provisions of the law and the full rigours of the law applied.
To expedite decisions on these matters the companies were given the option of either going to the High Court or going to what I loosely describe as a customs court. The customs court can give a prompt decision from which there is no appeal and has the right to impose precisely the same fines as the High Court may impose. My understanding is that at the present time the assembling of evidence is in the hands of the Attorney-General’s Department. There is not the slightest intention of departing from the substance of the intimation made by the then Minister for Customs and Excise. There was another point that I wanted to make which escapes my memory.
– Loss of revenue.
– The honourable member asked me whether I had taken this up with the Japanese Government. The answer is, yes, I did. I did so, firstly, very firmly with the Japanese Ambassador to Australia and, secondly, with the Japanese Prime Minister in Tokyo.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service in his capacity of Minister representing the Minister for Housing. As it is now 3 years since the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was established and commenced business, can the Minister say whether in its operations it has made significant progress towards fulfilling its objectives? In fulfilling these objectives is it the experience of the Corporation that there is a need to amend the legislation; for example, to permit the Corporation to insure a second mortgage when the first mortgage meets certain standards? Another example would be to allow the mortgage to be insured when the advance is made by an investor who is not an approved lender provided thai the mortgage is managed by an approved lender.
– The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was established about 3 years ago. lt has made a great deal of progress and has insured about SI 00m worth of loans. I might add that the initiative having been taken by the Government in this matter - guided largely by its desire to make loans available to young people so that they would not have to borrow under expensive second mortgages - the activity has been infectious and there are now a number of other institutions in this field, including some insurance interests, of which the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation of Australia Ltd is the oldest. The * movement seems to be spreading and there is still great scope for it to spread further. 1 am not aware at the moment of any need to change the legislation. When I introduced it myself I made it clear that if experience indicated - since we were entering a new field - that changes should be made, the Government would consider them and, if appropriate, make them. It was not the object at any stage for the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to insure second mortgages. The basic purpose of the legislation was to get rid of high cost second mortgages by providing bigger loans so that second mortgages would not be necessary. However, 1 think that the Mortgage
Guaranty Insurance Corporation does insure second mortgages. With these new institutions coming into the field there will be a lot of flexibility of a kind that probably a government institution could not undertake. There is provision for loans to be made by other parties provided an approved lender manages them. I will ascertain from the Minister the precise way in which this operates and will notify the honourable member.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Yesterday, in the course of an answer to me. he mentioned that an organisation described as Australian Commodity Research whs registered in Canberra and he invited any honourable member who was interested to discover who was behind Australian Commodity Research. I have had a search made in the companies office in Canberra and I am informed that this organisation is registered in the name of a woman and at an address which, as far as I can discover, is not that of any of the men or organisations or journals whom or which he mentioned yesterday or in several other answers over some days past. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he can specify any other records or give any further information which would enable honourable members or other persons to understand this particular cryptic reference yesterday.
– My information, which I did not ascertain of my own volition, came from sources which I have no doubt are correct. It is that the organisation registered consists of one woman, who is a minor. This is a very curious state of affairs and I recommend that the Leader of the Opposition, if he is interested in this matter, should pursue his inquiries further. I believe he will discover matters of interest.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether or not anything can be done to improve the quality of reception of the national broadcasting service in the north west areas of Queensland. . The service, both from Mount Isa and Longreach, is not good and in many areas is not available at all. There is no alternative Australian Broadcasting Commission programme available - and this applies to most of the remote inland areas of Queensland - and the service frequently provides programmes entirely unsuitable for western areas. Could the Minister give an assurance that the national television station to be established at Mount Isa will serve Cloncurry and other north western areas? Will he advise me as to what prospect’s now exist for the early introduction of television in other fringe and remote areas?
– The honourable member has asked two questions. The first relates to broadcasting in the area which he represents. I appreciate the interest the honourable member has taken in this matter, because there is a substantial problem in regard to broadcasting and television in some of the remote areas of Australia. He will appreciate that the topography of the Mount Isa area is a difficult one. It is impossible for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to find ways and means of overcoming completely trie difficulties or even deficiencies in relation to either broadcasting or television in that area. lt will be appreciated that Australia has available to it something like 104 frequencies for broadcasting and that there are approximately 185 broadcasting stations. This indicates that because of the restricted number of frequencies there is duplication in their use. The Broadcasting Control Board, having regard to its own charter under the Broadcasting and Television Act, constantly is seeking ways of improving the situation. Consequently, in my own mind and in the collective mind of the Government, there is a desire that there should bv; in the remote areas particularly better services than are available at the present time.
Referring to television, I would remind the honourable member that Mount Isa is virtually in a saucer within a particular area. Television in general principle is a line of sight operation. Again because of the topography of the area, it is very difficult to provide a good service very far from Mount Isa itself. Even if the power of the station was increased tenfold it would not mean that we would get a much greater coverage of television transmission. I can hold out no hope that the station at Mount Isa will provide television coverage for Cloncurry; nor, I understand, is it likely to be possible to place a translator station between Mount Isa and Cloncurry to provide a pickup and an adequate signal into Cloncurry. Under any circumstances I believe that this must be regarded as a fringe area. The Board is constantly giving consideration to what can be done to extend television into the remote areas in order to provide this essential amenity for the people. This will be continued and will be encouraged by myself and by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to a United Nations report prepared by Manouchehr Ganji, Special Rapporteur of the Commission of Human Rights, to the effect that 4,150,000 Africans of Southern Rhodesia are subjected to conditions of slavery within the definition of the term in the 1926 Convention on the Abolition of Slavery and Slave Trade? In view of this finding will the Prime Minister restate the emphatic opposition of Australia to the Ian Smith administration in Southern Rhodesia and that administration’s policy of democracy in leg irons applied against the Africans by the unconstitutional Government of Southern Rhodesia?
– I have not had my attention drawn to the document to which the honourable members refers. The rest of his question is concerned with policy which has been stated before.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer to a question asked a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Kooyong. Does the Attorney-General agree with me that the issue raised by the honourable member is not so much one involving legal technicalities as one involving the moral attitude of the community? If he does agree with me on this point, would not a select committee of this Parliament be a more appropriate body to investigate this matter than a committee of lawyers as proposed by the Attorney-General of New South Wales - that is, a committee of the Law Society, not necessarily representative of the people or their attitudes?
– I agree, of course, that this problem goes far beyond legal considerations, but I am not convinced that a select committee of this Parliament would be the ideal body to inquire into it, particularly as our area of responsibility, from the point of view of territory and population, is so small a part of Australia. As I said before, if we get out of step with the rest of Australia, particularly New South Wales, the risk we run is that the Australian Capital Territory may become a place of legal resort. I believe that this is a problem that must be tackled by the Commonwealth and the States, particularly NSW, in concert, and this is the approach which I propose to adopt.
– -1 ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, who represents the Minister for Supply, to obtain and give particulars of the procurement by the United States Services of military supplies from Government factories, ordinance stores and private suppliers. As the Armalite rifle appears to have been adopted as the most suitable weapon for tropical conditions, will the Minister review the decision not to manufacture this weapon at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow?
– In certain circumstances and conditions, such as those in which it is being used now. the Armalite may be the most suitable rifle. Whether it is so in other conditions I will find out. Having expressed my own doubts on the matter. I will collect all the information I can for the honourable gentleman and let him have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to a report of an incident at the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Reserve in which a departmental officer had to fire shots in the air to break up a group of several hostile residents. Has the Minister any details of this incident? If not, will he obtain a report on it?
– So far I have received few details of this incident, and I know little more of it than has already appeared in the Press. It is, I think, primarily a matter for the Government of
South Australia and not for this Government. In discharging ray responsibilities as Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs it seems to me to be a cardinal principle that efforts in the Commonwealth sphere should be co-ordinated with those of the States, and that we should not try to supersede the States. I may add that we are interested in the general principle rather than the particular incident. The particular incident, as I have said, in this case is within the the province of the Government of South Australia. As I understand it, this incident took place some months ago, in fact in January. There does not seem to be much profit for the Aboriginal people in resurrecting it at this moment. However, it is a matter for the Government of South Australia.
These are not easy questions. Recently I visited some Aboriginal settlements. I found there that the Aboriginal people themselves were asking that there should be more discipline in their own settlements. Aboriginal people were being disturbed by other Aboriginal people and were being forced to leave their own settlements by other Aboriginal people. This is a situation which has arisen, I think, because there has been a breakdown of the Aboriginal discipline which in its pre-white context was one of the most rigid in the world. It has been destroyed now and left a vacuum.
I think that we have to consider this matter in the context of the beliefs of the Aboriginal people. I would ask that we do not try to exacerbate incidents but rather that we try to study these incidents and use them as a means of elaborating policy for the benefit of the Aboriginal people. I know - and I think the House had better realise this fact - that forces are at work endeavouring to exacerbate these incidents not for the benefit of Aboriginal people but against the interests of Aboriginal people and for purposes which are not themselves of Aboriginal welfare. In this regard the Government is very interested in any principles which lead to the advancement of the Aboriginal people and to a greater effort in raising living standards for them on their reserves and elsewhere. Particular application of these principles in the States - I do not say in the Territories, but in the States - lies with the State governments concerned.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation is aware that both Australian airline companies are involved in a dispute over air safety concerning the DC9 aircraft, The Minister is aware also that Ansett-ANA is flying its DC9 aircraft pending a decision of the court. Can the Minister explain to the House why DC9 aircraft owned by Trans-Australia Airlines are not operating under the rationalisation policy of the Government?
– Mr Speaker, whilst it is my normal policy to provide as much information as possible to the House - I think that the honourable member is aware of that fact - under the present circumstances, because there is a case before the High Court which is related to some degree to the question asked by the honourable member and as a decision has not been handed down yet in that case, I must regard the matter as being sub judice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Is the honourable gentleman aware of my advocacy during the adjournment debate last night of a grant for pipelining in the Millewa district of north western Victoria from the $50m to be provided over 5 years for water conservation as announced in the last Budget? Does the Minister know that in the Millewa large quantities of water in open earthen channels are lost through seepage and evaporation, and that the suggested pipelining would make available to the district at least an additional 7,000 acre feet of water, making possible additional production valued at present rates at over Sim per annum?
-Order! The honourable member is giving information. I ask him to direct his question.
– Is the payment of a grant for this scheme currently under consideration? If the Minister has any doubt as to the worthiness of the proposition, will he accept an invitation from me and residents in the area to travel to the Millewa and make a personal assessment of the value of this project as national development?
– I am aware of the constant advocacy of the honourable member for Mallee of a number of matters, particularly the Millewa water development project. This project at the present time is one of a number of projects for which the Victorian Government has sought funds under the national water resources development programme. It is being looked at by my Department and other Commonwealth departments which are attempting to allot an order of priority so that they will be in a position to commit further funds under the national water resources development programme. As 1 said once before, although there is a shortage of water in Australia I am afraid that one of the greatest shortages is that of finance. 1 understand that this particular project will cost some $2m. We have only $26.4m left under the national water resources development programme, having committed approximatley one-half of the total of S50m. We have requests on hand totalling $280m, so I am afraid that a few people will miss out.
- Mr Speaker, I suggest that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I point out that question time recently has become most restrictive. Hardly a member on the Opposition side is able to ask more than one question a fortnight. May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will consider extending question time so that this valuable opportunity-
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I suggest that the honourable member make his request direct to the Prime Minister.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 30 April, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Wentworth be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee and that in his place Mr Drury be appointed a member of the Committee.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Lynch be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee and that in his place Mr Buchanan be appointed ft member of the Committee.
– I move:
That a National Water Conservation and Constructing Authority, embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, be established by the Commonwealth to carry out, in association with State governments, the systematic development of soundly based water storage projects in the major river systems serving those .established and proven areas which are periodically devastated by recurring droughts..
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– The question before the House is one which I consider to be of great importance. I refer to the systematic development at an accelerated rate of Australia’s water resources in those areas in which development is feasible to supply not only primary and secondary industries but also the needs of towns and cities. It is a fact that often it takes a tragedy to prove a point or to silence some of the most vocal critics. The serious tragedy of the current drought in southern Australia has in fact silenced many of those people who have been only too keen in the past to sabotage actions or ideas designed to achieve an accelerated rate of water conservation in Australia. Of course, there are still some people in Australia who, for reasons known only to themselves, are opposed to water conservation for agriculture, for stock water or in general. I have, in mind men such as the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who has made damaging statements in recent months outside this House about large scale water conservation. But fortunately for Australia the views of the Minister for the Navy on water conservation are rarely taken seriously.
Water is a resource that is one of Australia’s most precious assets. It is becoming more precious as time moves on, and time will show that water conservation in this nation, the driest continent in the world and the continent most susceptible to devastating and ravaging droughts, should and must be given a higher priority rating than it has now. I submit it should have a priority rating almost equal to that of defence. I do not know of any area of national development that has been neglected more by Federal governments than water conservation has. Water should be harnessed for power, irrigation, stock water, flood mitigation, industry and domestic use in the major cities of this continent. There is no plan at all: just an ad hoc unco-ordinated sequence of actions. Every decision taken by this Government with respect to water conservation has been forced upon it either as a result of political adversity or political opportunism. I will not spend the time of the House going through the Government’s decisions, but let me just mention the original Ord River project. This involved a $10m grant to Western Australia. It was a political handout without the slightest semblance of any economic analysis to back the judgment. Has any economic evaluation been made of the Chowilla Dam? The answer is no. Was any economic evaluation made of the Blowering Dam? The answer again is no. No economic evaluation by the Federal Government was made of flood mitigation in NSW. Intensive economic evaluations were made of stage 2 of the Ord River scheme and the Nogoa Dam, but it took 2 to 3 years after these economic evaluations were made before a decision was taken. The decision on the Ord should have been taken at least 2 or 3 years earlier and the decision on the Nogoa should have been taken at least 18 months earlier, ls this the way to develop the water resources of Australia? These are ad hoc uncoordinated actions motivated entirely by political considerations and the whims of political fortunes.
Let me deal briefly with the Snowy Mountains Authority. I treat with some contempt the frequent sniping of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) at the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, with respect to the initial organising problems of the Snowy Mountains Authority and the difficulties encountered by the Authority in its earlier years. I am sure that men such as Sir William Hudson share my views of the cheap attempt to belittle the organisation of the Authority in those difficult years. Let the honourable member for Eden-Monaro realise that his Party, the Liberal Party, bitterly opposed the proposal to establish the Snowy Mountains Authority. If it were not for the courageous attitude and the decision of the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, who was also the Treasurer, there would be no Snowy Mountains Authority today and there would be no Snowy Mountains scheme. 1 shudder to think of what would happen to many areas in the drought torn parts of southern Australia now and in the future if the impounded waters in the Snowy Mountains area did not exist.
We are today witnessing a tragedy unparalleled in the history of the development of this nation, a tragedy that this young nation cannot afford, and that is the deliberate destruction of that once proud and world famous organisation, the Snowy Mountains Authority. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro tries to justify this Government’s action - an action condemned not only throughout Australia but also by responsible professional organisations throughout the world. I hope the honourable member for Eden-Monaro was listening to the debate on the ‘Voyager’ findings. Perhaps he might reflect on the sincere motivations of the honourable members for La Trobe (Mr Jess), Warringah (Mr St John), Bradfield (Mr Turner) and Swan (Mr Cleaver). These honourable members saw a wrong being perpetrated and spoke out. They will earn the respect of their constituents as well as that of the people of Australia. The attitude of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro in publicly endorsing this Government’s policy of deliberate destruction of the Snowy Mountains Authority has not gone unnoticed by the people of Cooma.
I had a faint hope that when the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) came to office with a fanfare of promises and the possibility of courageous action, the Snowy Mountains Authority as a national authority would be saved. Let me quote what the Prime Minister elect of Australia, when he appeared on television with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro on 7th January said:
There is a great future for the Snowy Mountains Authority. There is a great need for increased and more competent technical skills to be available directly to the Commonwealth Government.
He also said:
I am not prepared to say any more at the present stage.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said:
Senator Gorton’s unequivocal assurance given in the living rooms of so many people immediately before an election comes as concrete proof of his intentions - the great future of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
What hyprocisy. The action taken in the last 2 weeks shows how unreliable and lacking in credibility are the statements of the Prime Minister in regard to the Snowy Mountains Authority. The result now is wholesale retrenchment and dismissal of the men in that great organisation. Can we blame the men of the Authority, the people of Cooma and the people of Australia for their undisguised contempt of this Government and its unforgivable policy of deliberate destruction of this Authority.
Does the Government really believe it can fool the people? Does it believe that because a few technical officers are retained and left behind to carry out investigation and design work when asked to do so by someone, the Authority will be an effective force in the field of national development? I submit that no self-respecting professional engineer would allow his reputation to suffer by becoming associated with such a negative and innocuous organisation which had no power, no charter and no effective say in construction work. The destruction of the Snowy Mountains Authority by the Government at a time when this continent is crying out for an accelerated rate of water conservation to minimise the effects of recurring drought in areas where water is available such as the Murray-Darling, the Burnett-Kolan, the Dawson, the Pioneer, the Burdekin and the Herbert, and other areas in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, is a blot on the history of development of this nation. It is a victory for the Treasury and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon): it is a memorial to weak Ministers. While this travesty of justice is perpetrated, millions of acre feet of water flow wastefully to the sea through the very areas which are highly devastated by crippling droughts.
The frequent parrot-like statement of the Government that water conservation is the responsibility of the States shows the Government in its true light. The States simply have not the resources to undertake major development projects. This will never be so unless the States are guaranteed a satisfactory Budget each year by the Commonwealth for the planning and construction of fully co-ordinated water conservation projects. The ad hoc, stop-go, policies cf the States are not in the best interests of national development. This is accepted by the States. Even if the States were given adequate finance, what guarantee has the Federal Government that the projects would be designed to maximise export income which, with development, is one of the criteria laid down specifically by the Federal Government? What guarantee has the Federal Government that the States will construct projects of national priority? Further, 1 believe that the Commonwealth must have an interest in the framing of priorities because all major irrigation schemes in Australia may - I say ‘may’ deliberately - need financial support at some time in the future, either temporarily or permanently, for nobody can forecast the terms of trade in primary industry. The responsibility for this falls on the Commonwealth, not on the States.
In the interests of Australian development, so that funds will be allocated to water conservation projects in the States in the most efficient manner, I submit that instead of having six States and the Northern Territory competing for funds or for Federal handouts, there should be one Federal authority whose principal purpose, in co-operation with the States and with Federal agencies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Northern Territory Administration, should be to investigate the soundness of various projects and to determine relative priorities so that that authority could advise the Government on the economic efficiency of proposed projects. Could this Government, even after almost 20 years in office, tell me or anyone else which is the most attractive water conservation project in Australia in terms of economic efficiency or in terms of any other criteria that the Government likes to lay down? Can this Administration say which will give the best return in the future - the Ord River project, the Nogoa scheme, the
Blowering scheme, the development of the Dawson Valley, the Burdekin proposals, the Murray-Darling plans or the schemes for areas in the Northern Territory adjacent to the Adelaide River and the Daly River? Does the Government know which offers the best prospects? The answer, of course, is no. Surely this Government should be able to give some indication of priorities after all this time. However, any attempt to plan or to formulate long term arrangements for development is viewed with the utmost suspicion by the Treasury because it may commit the Government for funds in the future. Surely the essence of good government with respect to the disbursement of public funds is to have in advance some idea of the relative priorities of various projects so that public funds may be disbursed in the best possible way.
An integral part of the functioning of a national conservation authority would be the utilisation of benefit cost analysis. On several occasions, I have heard members of this House talking about the technique of benefit cost analysis and the need for its introduction. I suggest with respect, Mr Speaker, that those who ask for the adoption of this technique and those who put forward ideas about the benefit cost calculus should first understand what this technique is and particularly its pitfalls and limitations as well as its advantages. For example, a crucial parameter in the use of benefit cost analysis is the particular rate of interest that is adopted. Just by choosing a particular rate of interest, one can completely alter the soundness of any conclusions. Let me give a concrete example. In an evaluation of the Ord River project that I made in 1965, I demonstrated that at a rate of interest of 5%, discounting changes in the annual stream flows and their effect on benefits and costs over the assumed life of the project, the benefit cost ratio was 1.5. At an interest rate of 4%, it increased to 1.8. But at a zero rate of interest - in other words, on the basis of interest free loans - the benefit cost ratio dramatically increased to 5.7, which is a highly economic figure. This is one parameter only in relation to which one has to exercise extreme caution. The use of benefit cost analysis and its associated measurements, however, is the only known satisfactory technique that can be used to provide a comparison of priorities as between projects.
The projects compared should be like projects. I stress this point. It is unwise and wrong to compare benefit cost ratios for beef roads with those for water conservation projects or public utilities. I admit that I have used these techniques which may not be correct in a strict analysis. I have been guilty of using benefit cost techniques to establish the economic justification for particular projects, such as the brigalow and beef roads in isolation. This is really a rate of return analysis rather than a benefit cost analysis. I submit that in relation to water conservation the best use of benefit costs analysis is not to determine unequivocally the soundness of a particular project but to provide a guide for a government as to the relative efficiencies of projects, whatever criteria may be used.
The establishment of a national authority to plan and implement large scale water conservation programmes does not mean that the authority would be widely engaged in actual construction. Let us make that very clear, because it has been said in this House that such an authority would be directly involved in construction. Its nucleus of construction engineers would be concerned principally with the implementation and supervision of programmes laid down by the Commonwealth Government in coordination with the States but carried out primarily and directly by contracts, as is the present Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. The principal role of the Federal authority in this field would be to tackle the regional development of favourable areas where multi-purpose projects for power and irrigation - and flood mitigation - are the key to a region’s development. From the standpoint of large scale, long term development, based on principles of development similar to those of the Snowy Mountains complex, the greatest scope for the employment of Federal funds by a Federal authority fully co-ordinated with State and other Federal agencies is in the Burdekin-Fitzroy basin of Queensland and the contiguous areas of the valleys of the Herbert, Pioneer and Burnett rivers. It is not an exaggeration to say - there is plenty of evidence to prove it - that this region, with its huge reserves of water, undeveloped soils and minerals, particularly black coal, is potentially the richest region in the Commonwealth. The catchment area of the
Burdekin-Fitzroy system is 20% greater than the entire area of Victoria. Its runoff is equivalent to 75% or 80% of that of the whole Murray-Darling complex. It hai the great advantage of an existing infrastructure of towns, railways and ports. However, because of the frequency of droughts, it has experienced greater cumulative - I emphasise the word ‘cumulative’ - losses of income than has any other region in Australia. It is the area where the greatest scope for intensive beef cattle production lies. Despite its undeveloped nature, there are more beef cattle within the area bounded by a half circle within a radius of 150 miles from Rockhampton than there are in the whole of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Production of beef there is between three and four times as great.
The Burdekin-Fitzroy region has the resources for the establishment of secondary, industry. Water will bring industry and people. Power will bring industry and people. . The shortage of people is our greatest resource deficiency, not only in central and northern Queensland but in Australia as a whole. The Federal Government talks about decentralisation and the development of basic industries in north Queensland in order to take advantage of its raw materials, particularly minerals. But such talk is nonsense while there L no harnessed water. The Burdekin-Fitzroy basin has the water, the limestone, the salt and the coal that are needed. These are essential ingredients for the creation of large scale industry, whether it be aluminium smelters or steel works. But nothing can be done regarding large scale processing unless water resources are harnessed. The alumina works at Gladstone found that out very quickly last year. Reserves of soft and hard coking coals are in the vicinity of 30,000 million tons in this area alone, but what do we see? We see the wild race to ship coal overseas in the raw form.
Another major function of a Federal authority on water conservation would be the co-ordination of research on desalination and the testing of demonstration models aimed at the conversion of salt and brackish water through nuclear energy and other energy, such as energy from chemicals, to fresh or sweet water. Let it be made clear that desalination is not some sort sort of panacea for solving the problems of water storage, but I submit that it is an alternative which must be given every encouragement by the Federal Government. The cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide will face crisis after crisis in the future with water shortages. In the development of additional water supplies full consideration must be given to the science and economics of desalting as well as the reuse of waste water, which is a costly process but nevertheless may be an essential process in the future. The Federal Government is the only authority which has the resources as well as the responsibility to Australia to see that this research is encouraged.
Whichever physical or chemical process is used to remove salt from water - whether it be ion exchange, electrodialysis freezing or distillation - they all have one fundamental fact in common - energy and the huge cost of providing this energy. Distillation requires heat, including in some instances solar energy. Electrodialysis requires electric power in huge quantities. Approximately 50% of the total cost of producing fresh water is for the energy needed. On top of that are the distribution costs which, as we know, are extremely high for water. The cost of producing fresh water is in inverse proportion to the size of the plant. In small plants of, sr. y, 1 million gallons a day production, sweet water can be produced at less than SI per 1,000 gallons. In large plants costing $500m - for example, the present one under consideration in California is capable of producing 100 million gallons a day - the cost is estimated at approximately $72 per acre foot or 22c per 1,000 gallons. They are extremely high costs when you consider that the costs are recurring and are not once and for all costs.
In a country which has suffered staggering loss of production and export income in major droughts and where the very means of sustaining employment in the cities are being threatened, water conservation must be given a higher priority rating than it has had up to the present. Australia can no longer afford the devastating economic destruction of droughts in areas where millions of acre feet of water flow to waste each year. Australia can no longer afford the unsympathetic attitude of the Government towards long term planning and a positive programme of water conservation. These are policies which are foreign to the negative thinking Treasury, which dominates the economic thinking of this nation except when electoral or national emergencies galvanise the Government into action to a degree which even the Treasury forces arc unable to stop. If this Government can afford to wage war in Vietnam and to pour possibly millions of dollars down the drain then surely it can afford to wage war on the greatest economic scourge that this country is faced with and will be faced with in the future - the devastating effects of crippling droughts. Surely it must be prepared to spend more money and more effort o” this problem.
– I would like to get back to the motion that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has moved. Despite the fact that I have this motion in front of me I was finding some difficulty in understanding it. I thought that I would understand it a bit better after the honourable member had spoken. But, on the contrary, I find that he has left it completely alone and has spoken only about the need for water conservation. Let me read the motion to the House and let us discuss it. It states:
That a National Water Conservation and Constructing Authority, embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, be established by the Commonwealth to carry out, in association wilh State governments, the systematic development of soundly based water storage projects in the major river systems serving those established and proven areas which are periodically devastated by recurring droughts.
There are so many questions here that have been left completely unanswered by the honourable member for Dawson. It is very easy to paint a broad brush picture like this, but when one gets down to tin tacks what does it really mean? What is to be the size of the organisation? What are to be its terms of reference? Where will it obtain finance and how much finance will be required? Do we just’ give it $100m and say: ‘Go away and spend this and come back to us when you want some more’? How does it work in with the States? We know the States have the constitutional authority and power to develop their water resources, but how does an authority such as this take over from the States?
The setting up of such a national water conservation and constructing authority without specific objectives or projects is neither workable nor necessary. We know perfectly well that when the Snowy Mountains Authority was set up it was not told: Go and have a look at the area, tell us what you want and we will give it to you’. The whole plan was worked out beforehand - before an authority was ever established. Firstly, there were discussions over a long period and consultation to see what was the best plan and the best way of developing this area. Eventually the Commonwealth, in co-ordination with the States and under Sir Louis Loder, produced a plan. Although there have been minor alterations since, it is on that basic plan that the Authority was set up. It is no good setting up an authority and immediately giving it completely free rein to establish a body of this nature, because that would be an abdication by the Government of all responsibility for water development. This is not the way that governments work. It would also be an abdication of responsibility for taxation, because decisions on water conservation and development of resources are made in the light of available taxation and of needs.
In the Department of National Development we have a water resources branch which is responsible to the Minister. Similarly, in forestry we have the Forestry and Timber Bureau and we have the Bureau of Mineral Resources for minerals. These bodies make recommendations to the Minister and the Minister makes recommendations to the Cabinet. We cannot just set up an overall authority and tell it to go ahead and develop Australia and come back when it needs more money. There are strong constitutional bars to the proposal that has been put forward by the honourable member for Dawson. After hearing him it is quite obvious that he has no desire to see the States operate as such. He is a unificationist and a Socialist, and he wants to see ‘one vast central authority that will direct how the States shall meet all water development works in Australia.
– With State co-operation.
– Yes, he said in cooperation with the States. But what does this mean? He obviously envisages a large central authority, because if one reads the honourable member’s motion - which he did not do - one will see that he uses the words embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority’, which means that the authority that the honourable member wants to set up must at the very least be larger than the present Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. At the present moment the Authority is geared to an annual expenditure of something like $50m, which is roughly of the same order as the amount of money that is being spent at the present moment by the States on water conservation. This means that if we ask the Snowy Mountains Authority to do this work there will be no work left for the States to do. Would the States be happy wilh this minor role? I am sure they would not be. I am sure they would desire to see that they continued to have the responsibility for developing their water resources with assistance from the Commonwealth Government.
The motion goes even further. It implies that State water developments have not been systematic or soundly based. As I have said, the honourable member for Dawson is obviously a Socialist and a unificationist. He believes that a central authority in Canberra would better be able to develop Australia’s water resources than the State authorities which have, over a long period, attained considerable knowledge and expertise. I have worked with a number of of the State authorities and I have a high regard for them. At their head they have some of the finest men in the world in the field of water conservation and irrigation. But, no, the honourable member for Dawson wants those authorities replaced by some central authority in Canberra which will have the power to direct all water conservation in Australia.
The honourable member made extensive allusions to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. He fell into the common error that so many people fall into. He said that the Authority is being disbanded. We know that this is completely wrong. It is not being disbanded. We are retaining the skills that we believe are necessary. When the end of the Snowy scheme was in sight - and we know now that the work will be completed by 1974 or 1975 - the Government, a couple years ago, started looking closely at what should be the proper policy on the future of the Authority. It looked, first, to see what skills were available in the Authority - whether there were special skills. It decided, I think rightly, that in the fields of investigation - particularly of dam sites and of major projects - of design and of scientific services the Snowy Mountains Authority was quite pre-eminent in Australia. The Authority had collected skills that were not available elsewhere and which would be of great use in future developmental projects. On the other hand the Government decided that in respect of the supervision of construction - because the bulk of the work in the Snowy scheme is done by contractors - the Authority, although competent, was no better and no worse than most of the State bodies which have operated much longer than it has and some of which probably have had more experience.
The Government then looked at the likely work which was going to be available to the Authority. It seemed unlikely that sufficient suitable work would be available in the Territories. Undoubtedly some water conservation projects, mainly of a small nature, are necessary in the Northern Territory and and in the Australian Capital Territory, but we have the Department of Works which is quite competent to handle this work with assistance in designing from the Snowy Mountains Authority. The States were then approached and asked whether they were prepared to make work available for the maintenance of the Authority. With one exception the States said quite bluntly that they could see a future for the Authority as a consultative body so that the States, when commencing any construction job would not have to set up everything that went with investigating an area, designing a dam and preparing contracts and that sort of thing. They said the Authority had a future as a consultative body but that: ‘We are perfectly competent to handle everything that we will be able to construct with the money we get in the foreseeable future’.
– Does that apply to all States?
– No, to all bar one. One State did suggest two projects but in so doing it did not say how the projects were to be financed. They were fairly major projects and shortly afterwards the State approached the Commonwealth Government for funds for one of the projects. It is obvious that the States see the maintenance of the Authority only as a lever to try to get additional funds over and above what the Commonwealth feels it can make available to the States.I am perfectly certain that this is what the honourable member for Dawson believes. The reason be wants the Snowy Mountains Authority maintained in its present constructing role is so that it can act as a lever to get more money out of the Commonwealth.
– What is wrong with that?
– The greatest difficulty is in finding sufficient funds from the limited resources available in Australia. All authorities, which are concerned with developing Australia’s water resources, regularly review their contributions to see whether they can make available more money. We have recently increased quite considerably the amount we are making available. But the proposal we are now considering is a subterfuge to try to squeeze even more from the Commonwealth than the Commonwealth feels it can provide. The pet topic of the honourable member for Dawson is water conservation. With someone else it might be social services, hospitals or roads. There is constant pressure on the Government for more money. The honourable member for Dawson has committed the common error of telling the public that the moment there is no constructing authority in the Snowy Mountains organisation, Australia cannot go ahead and build more dams. Nothing could be more wrong. If one examines activity in respect of water conservation in the last 20 years, one finds that more than five-sixths of the work has been undertaken by State water conservation authorities and less than one-sixth by the Snowy Mountains Authority. In other words we have ample constructing authorities available in Australia for every cent that we are able to afford.
We have been told that once the Snowy Mountains Authority is disbanded we will have no more ability to go ahead at the necessary rate, but the fact is that more than half of the Authority’s work force consists of contractors, and when the contract work is completed they will be available to more elsewhere on other work. Of a total work force of 6,000 the actual retrenchment from the staff during the next 6 years will be about 170, and in 1975 an additional 113 will be retrenched. If this is going to mean the end of Australia’s ability to increase its water conservation, then all I can say is: God help us’.
I return to the present proposal, because it is alleged that we do not have an overall plan in Australia. It is terribly easy to say that if we are to set up an organisation it should be centralised under one control and it should have one plan. But we must realise that we have a Constitution and whether we like it or not we have to live under it. This is how Australia developed. It is all very well to say’ that we would like to do something, but we have to take account of the historical background and of the fact that the States have always had the authority and the constitutional right to develop their own water resources. We have a programme which takes account of this but which, over and above it,, superimposes Commonwealth assistance in many fields. I believe the programme suits Australian conditions. Some people ask why we do not adopt a procedure that was adopted in another country with completely different conditions 50 years ago.
Lel me detail the basic means of water conservation projects in Australia at present. Many of the bodies concerned have evolved during the last few years, and some during the last 3 or 4 years. First we have the Australian Water Resources Council, which is a Federal-State body .that was set up to make an assessment of Australia’s resources so that future planning would occur in the knowledge of what our resources wore, lt now has a 10-year accelerated assessment programme. The Commonwealth alone over 6 years, has contributed $7im to it. This will double the number of stream gauging stations which are being set up in the Commonwealth. It will increase by about 100% the rate of investigation of underground water resources. The Council is doing a number of other things to co-ordinate investigation and research into such matters as desalination and evaporation.
After the Australian Water Resources Council we come to the State authorities which prepare and earn- out long term programmes. For example, Victoria has a 10-year programme. 1 understand that New South Wales is doing the same thing.
So the State governments are taking measures in order to have known programmes and to get stability in their work forces. Over and above this the Commonwealth fills in the gap in State programmes, particularly where the cost is beyond the financial capability of the States. Examples of this include the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Ord River scheme and the River Murray scheme. We have given assistance to a number of other projects, some of which were mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson. This is the third section of the national programme of water conservation.
The fourth section has only come into being fairly recently. I refer to the National Water Resources Development Programme. This Programme came into operation with a budget of $50m. From that sum the Government already has committed $20m for the Nogoa Dam at Emerald and $3 .6m for a couple of projects in Victoria aimed at keeping salt out of the River Murray. As T mentioned at question time this morning, a number of other requests from the States arc being looked into. We hope to be in a position to commit more funds from the National. Water Resources Development Programme later this year.
Finally, we shall have this consultative body of (he Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority which will be available for consultation by governments within or outside Australia. It is of interest to note that the Authority already has received a considerable number of projects from overseas as well as within Australia. These are under way. The Authority has been asked to act as a consultant and to design and prepare tenders and the like. In this body, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, will be preserved the best of the collective skills in the Snowy Mountains area which are worth retaining. In the light of this information I find it impossible to understand why people do not realise the true position of the Authority. I have made statements on numerous occasions saying that the Authority is not being disbanded; that we are keeping the skills that have been developed. Yet only last night I saw this editorial in a Melbourne evening newspaper:
The Snowy Mountains Authority will design Melbourne’s big new water storage dam near Emerald. The Board of Works action in hiring the Authority for this work is doubly welcome.
The editorial continued and said, firstly, that this would help Melbourne’s water supplies, and secondly: the Board’s move is a convincing demonstration that the Snowy Mountains Authority need not be disbanded when the Snowy scheme is complete.
The Authority is not being disbanded. The skills acquired by the Authority are being used in the planning and construction of Melbourne’s new water storage dam. Admittedly, we do not know what future requirement there will be for these skills. We are allowing the Authority to carry on in this way in order to see how many requests for assistance will be made. Obviously, an organisation of this size cannot be retained unless there is sufficient work for it to do. We are hopeful that in time there will be sufficient work available for it. In fact, the Commissioner of the Authority has told me that at the moment the Authority would be hard pressed to take on additional work as it is fully committed. The Government has a great plan for water conservation and development. Much of this plan has been drawn up only in recent years and I am sure that it will assist, in a constitutional way, to develop our water resources.
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) spent the 20 minutes allowed to him in this debate to tell this House and the nation what cannot be done in the way of the development of water resources. He gave to the people being dismissed from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority or to those seeking water conservation projects no ray of hope as to what is likely to occur in the future. In reply to a question this morning the Minister admitted that the National Water Resources Development Programme adopted by the Government involved the provision of a sum of $50m over the next 5 years and was to cater- for the six States of the Commonwealth. Already approximately $25m has been made available, leaving $25m for the remainder of the 5-year period despite the fact - and he admitted this - that immediate claims and submissions from the States, amount to $280m.
This is not all. The Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, Mr Beale, has an idea going considerably beyond the expenditure of that sum. He has a plan for New South Wales estimated to cost $l,200m. Yet over the next 5 years, so far as this Government is concerned, $2 5m is to be made available for the water conservation requirements of New South Wales and the remaining States of the Commonwealth. Of course, no mention has been made yet of the problems in the Northern Territory.
The Minister has adopted a negative role. The Government does not believe in planning now. It did not plan for the Snowy Mountains project. It boycotted the commencement of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Only one member of the Government parties attended that ceremony and that was the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), a member of the Country Party. This has been the attitude of the Government throughout the whole period. This shows how negative is the Government’s thinking and how much it is opposed to orderly planning and development. Dealing with a similar matter to the one we are discussing, the Minister went on record on 12th October 1965, as reported at page 1670 of Hansard, as saying:
When we look at the possibilities of tropical irrigation we find there is very little indeed which can be grown in northern Australia which can be exported and sold on the world market. The local market would not be sufficient to justify any major expansion of tropical irrigation such as would be envisaged by a national conservation authority of the type suggested by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro.
He was referring to the former honourable member for Eden-Monaro. The authority suggested then is similar to that suggested by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The Minister made it clear then, as he has made it clear today, that the Government is not interested in the retention of the work force of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and employing it on the great conservation projects that could be carried out throughout Australia. There are many such projects. Today Australia faces one of the most severe droughts in our history. The whole of the south eastern part of Australia is in the toils of a grim and disastrous drought which is bringing ruin to many good farmers and other people. The city of Melbourne has been affected. Many people are worried. There are other problems, too, throughout the land because never at any time is every part of Australia free from the ravages of drought. If the southern part is not affected then there is drought in the centre, or the Darling basin, or northern New South Wales, a part of Queensland, or Western Australia. Yet when we ask the Government to deal with water conservation as a national matter, one affecting the whole of Australia, it remains unmoved.
The Opposition wants to see established a national conservation authority, lt wants to see the skills available within the Snowy Mountains Authority retained. I challenge the Minister by saying that skilled men within the Authority have resigned because of the bleak future of that organisation. Their names are on record. The Minister has written to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) giving explanations for the resignations of certain skilled men formerly employed on the Snowy Mountains project. There is no possibility under this Government of any planned water conservation. I ask honourable members to give careful consideration to this matter. Is there any possibility of the Darling River, which rises in two States and from which water could be made available for the benefit of four States, ever being developed in a useful way unless there is a national plan for it?
– Do the States want to carry out their own schemes or not?
– The answer to this is quite clear. The Rural Reconstruction Commission, established under the control and auspices of the Honourable I. I. Dedman, MP, investigated many projects back in 1945. It outlined its views on projects that might be undertaken. The Snowy Mountains scheme was suggested and other projects were mentioned at the time. Two years earlier an agreement was reached between the States of New South Wales and Queensland, covered by legislation enacted in both States, which was known as the Border Rivers Agreement. It provided for an understanding between the two States with regard to the building of four weirs and one regulator. This mighty programme commenced in 1947. Well, I believe the task has been accomplished - four weirs and one regulator between 1947 and now. Since 1949, however, seventeen major water storage projects have been completed under a national plan in the Snowy Mountains area. As a result of that scheme water is being made freely available to Victoria and
New South Wales and is augmenting the water supplies of South Australia. Seventeen major water storages have been completed in the Snowy area under a national pkiu, while four weirs and one regulator have been built under the Border Rivers Agreement, and this has taken 2 years longer. It is not good enough. Surely this must convince honourable members that if wo want a worthwhile scheme we must dismiss politics entirely from our consideration of this subject. Let us be Australians in this matter. Let us go for a major national plan which will be of value to all the people of Australia. The Darling River scheme is one that would be of benefit to four States, even though the water would come from only two States.
Only a few days ago we had a discussion on flood mitigation. Many people have expressed views here and elsewhere on this subject. One of the persons to express a view was Mr Ulrich Ellis, who is well known for his connection with the New State Movement. He pointed out in a very thoughtful article what could be done in the New England region by the diversion of water from the eastern watershed, which at present causes flooding on the coastal plain, over the ranges to the western side. This could provide a” permanent supply of water to ensure the riparian rights of those in the Darling and Murray areas and at the same time provide the necessary water for the new crops being grown along the Darling and its tributaries in the northern parts of New South Wales and in Queensland. Surely this is the kind of work that should be undertaken, although I am convinced that under this Government there is little hope that it ever will be done.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) chided my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The Minister said that we wanted to take over the States. The proposal before the Parliament is to work in harmony with the States and to co-ordinate our activities with theirs. The conservation of water is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, of the State governments, of local government authorities - in short it is the responsibility of everybody in Australia, from the person with a private home to the farmer with a property, to the local government authority, to the State government and finally to the Commonwealth Government. As to the development of a major system, as outlined by the honourable member for Dawson, this is obviously the responsibility of the nation.
When we look at developments in the field of water conservation in other parts of the world we must surely ask ourselves what kind of people we are that we cannot do what other nations are doing. In America there is the North American Water and Power Alliance whose activities extend far beyond States. In North America it is not a question of wondering what some State is going to do. Canada, the United States and Mexico have been able to reach agreement on the development of the water resources of North America. Yet in this Parliament we are wasting our time quibbling about the rights of States while we deny the people of Australia the water that is essential for our development, our defence and our production. We must develop our water resources on a national basis if we are to make this nation what we want it to become. Australia cannot progress unless we have adequate supplies of water.
We all know the grim story of the drought that is affecting many areas at the present time, and we know of the droughts that have affected other areas in the past. Record droughts have occurred at various times and we know that records of disaster and tragedy will be broken in the future unless we go ahead with wise planning for the development of our water resources, which are perilously inadequate under present conditions. The North American Water and Power Alliance conceives the collection of surplus water from the high precipitation areas of the north west part of the continent and the distribution of it to areas of Canada, the United States and northern Mexico where water is scarce. This is the kind of concept that we ought to adopt in Australia. It disregards boundaries and envisages States working towards common objectives for the provision of water to develop the nation. This development of water resources is necessary in Queensland just as it is in New South Wales. It is vital to the people of Victoria and South Australia, and a plan along the lines of the North American scheme could be devised if the Government had the nerve to call a meeting of State and Com monwealth Ministers to talk this matter out as sensible people, to formulate a plan and to put it into operation. lt is not only America that has a sensible plan for water conservation. We all know of the gigantic efforts of the United States Reclamation Authority and the Tennessee Valley Authority. We know of the Anderson Act in the United States. All these activities indicate an awareness on the part of the people of that country of the necessity to do something about water, which in that country is not nearly so precious as it is in Australia, which is the driest of all the continents. France has its water planning authority, as has South Africa. We have all read of the enormous project to build the Aswan Dam on the Nile. We know about the work being done in the Mekong Delta. We in Australia have given assistance towards work being carried out in the Indus Basin in the subcontinent of Pakistan and India. If all these other nations can deal adequately with their water problems, what sort of people are we that we cannot? Surely in this matter the responsibility rests upon the national government to show leadership. Let me remind honourable members of the substance of the motion of the honourable member for Dawson:
That a National Water Conservation and Constructing Authority, embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, be established by the Commonwealth to carry out, in association with State Governments, the systematic development of soundly based water storage projects in the major river systems serving those established and proven areas which are periodically devastated by recurring droughts.
The Minister tried to make it appear that there can be no agreement, no unity. Of course, we know that there can be. There was in connection with the Snowy Mountains scheme. There is today in connection with the Blowering Dam. There is no argument about that. But while we are advocating further developments, what is the record of the Government? The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who has several times tried to interject, will, I am sure, speak up for his State and will agree with me that work on the Chowilla Dam has ceased because of a change in Government policy. Surely this kind of piecemeal approach to water projects can no longer be justified.
– Who wanted to build the Chowilla Dam?
– The honourable member for Angas realises that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to the cessation of work on the Chowilla Dam. I only ask the Parliament to realise that at this time the Government has failed the nation. Unemployment is occurring through dismissals on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Work has stopped on the Chowilla Dam. The Government has failed to adopt a national plan, policy and pattern for water conservation for this nation. One would think that no doubt existed today that there would never be a drought again. We have the statement to which I referred by Ulrich Ellis entitled ‘Flood Mitigation - a Plan for New England’. In this statement, Ulrich Ellis says:
Flood mitigation cannot be regarded as an isolated activity. To be effective, it must be allied with a programme for the development of the streams of New England in conjunction with their environment, their resources and facilities in general.
How can that scheme or any other scheme be implemented unless the Commonwealth Government teams up with the States, as it did in the case of the Blowering Dam, to bring these schemes about? The obvious thing to do in the co-ordination of work involving streams which cross the boundaries of States is to have a national conservation authority to do the work.
I have referred to these matters in some general way. I am satisfied that a conservation plan must be adopted. No other answer presents itself to this problem in Australia. A conservation authority would have regard to a continuity in policy. What has been the custom in recent times? When the pressure is on the Government and votes are being sought before election time, if the Government feels that it is vulnerable in one place or another it will go ahead with a water conservation scheme in the area. For instance, the Government went ahead with the Ord River scheme. When it felt that it was in a comfortable position the Government decided that it would not do anything more about that scheme. Queensland was neglected for years. The Nogoa Dam project could not get a mention from the Government side. But when the Government thought that it would require votes from this area, it was prepared to do something about that scheme. I must say that the Government has been much more successful in planning election campaigns than it has been in planning water conservation schemes. When it comes to elections, the Government can do this sort of thing.
What we want is a continuing policy in which a portion of the annual Budget is voted year in and year out as is the case with the Snowy Mountains scheme. Australians in the respective States will know that this work is being developed in the interests of the whole of the nation. The Australian Labor Party is not satisfied, even though the Minister for National Development is satisfied, with what is occurring at the present time. The Opposition believes in a nationally planned co-ordinated policy of works implementing carefully designed objectives in conservation. We believe that this is essential for the progressive development of water reserves in Australia. This must not be left to the political climate of the day. The agreement of the States will have to be sought. I ask the Minister for National Development to formulate a policy, take it to the States and ask them for their views on it. Surely if we are to give priority to the things that we need most in Australia today we must think of water supply as number one. Probably we must think of people as our number two priority. We must have our water supply. We must have people. We must have education. We must have development. But, before coming to the other priorities, we must have water.
The Government ought to allocate a certain part of its Budget each year for the development of water resources in this country. The Australian Labor Party asks for the retention of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, not merely in name, not merely with a dwindling number of experts but with engineers, scientists and technicians. The Labor Party asks in other words for the preservation of this workforce that has won renown throughout the world with records in tunnelling, laying pipes and building dams. The Government should keep these men working for the conservation of water and for the future development of this nation.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am glad to be able to participate in this debate today. I think the whole House welcomes the discussion of this matter concerning water conservation and drought. This is a motion that is worthy of discussion. I do not say that 1 agree with all sections of the motion but the subject matter certainly is worthy of discussion. This proposes that there should be a national water conservation organisation. If established this organisation should work in co-operation with the State governments and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and to help in the fight against the devastation of drought. 1 do not believe that anybody is against this sort of thinking. We would all like to see such an organisation established. But there are problems in bringing its establishment about.
Before talking about the motion before the House might 1 say that 1 had hoped that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) would explain a little more clearly and a little more fully his proposal. But he did not. For the first 5 minutes or 10 minutes of his address we heard the usual tirade that we have become accustomed to from this gentleman against individuals. It is a pity that he has this venomous and rather bitter streak in his nature. Today he directed bis attack against the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro). I do not know why the honourable member has to do this. I have seen it happen before when be has referred to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). Every time that the honourable member for Dawson comes into one of these debates, instead of sticking to the motion before the House which might be worth while in itself-
– Why does not the Minister stick to the motion?
– I am answering some of the attacks that the honourable member has made on other individuals. The honourable member has to take it like a man and not interject. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro time and time again has spoken on behalf of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I have read reports of his remarks in newspapers. I have heard him on radio and I have seen him on the Canberra commercial television station. I think that he is a worthy representative of his electorate. I believe that he has the confidence of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority that he is doing whatever he can in its interests as the local member. I think the proof of the pudding - the test of his work - will be at the polls next year.
The honourable member for Dawson said that whatever the Government does in water conservation is political. The honourable member went on to make a political play himself of the motion that is before the House. I listened to him accuse the Government of using the Ord River scheme as just a political gimmick. He said the same thing about the Emerald River project. It does not matter what is involved because the honourable member always accuses us in this way. I hate to take anything away from the late Mr Chifley who deserves credit for the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Authority. I give him credit for his work. But, really, the then Labor Government made a bit of political play out of that project when it was established. This was’ before the 1949 elections. The Government had some designs ready but these were not quite complete. Representatives of the then Government raced down to lay the foundation stone of the Adaminaby Dam. A great ceremony was held with a fanfare and with trumpets blowing. But what happened? When the engineers came to build the dam they found that the foundation stone was 4 miles out. They had to alter the site of the dam to the proper place downstream. This is political play. I take nothing away from the late Mr Chifley for having created the Snowy Mountains scheme. But I think that this Government deserves a mighty lot of credit for seeing that the plan was implemented and brought to fruition.
How has the Government done this? It has mainly managed to accomplish it with a minimum amount of money by changing the system under which the work was done. In those earlier days this work was carried out by the Department of Works. This Government introduced the system of contracting. As a result leading contracting firms from all round the world submitted tenders to do this sort of work. I think that it is quite remarkable that the total cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme was estimated then as being $800m and today, nearly 20 years later, the scheme will be finished for approximately that amount of money. Thi3 has been possible of course only by the development of new techniques to reduce the cost of tunnelling and dam construction generally.
I do not think that it is right to say that all credit should go to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the work done concerning water conservation. In 1947 there were 7 million acre feet of water in storage. In 1968 there are 26 million acre feet of water in storage, and by the time all the schemes at present started are completed there will be 40 million acre feet of water in storage. But only one sixth of this amount of storage is due to work carried out by the Snowy Mountains Authority. The remaining five sixths of the amount of water storage is the result of work carried out by the States. So it is quite evident that the States carry out a lot of work in this field. They have big, effective construction authorities which are quite capable of doing even a great deal more work if they had the money. The problem is finding the money.
The Commonwealth Government is providing general revenue grants to the States to enable them to carry out this work, and we have now come further into the field by making special grants available for water conservation schemes. Last year we announced that an additional $S0m was to be made available to the States for water conservation work. The States have assessed their own positions and have submitted, I think, nineteen projects to the Commonwealth for consideration under this $50m scheme. I hope - as I think all of us do - that this is only the beginning and that more and more money will be made available to be spent on water conservation. But the nation has many priorities and it is a matter of determining what amount of money, should be given to each of these priorities.
The honourable member for Dawson proposes this motion at a time of drought, to give the impression that perhaps water conservation is the answer to droughts. I doubt whether it is the complete answer.
– It is one of the answers.
– I agree that it is one of the answers, but I do not think it is as important as some people believe, because we have irrigation projects which are developed around the maximum return that farmers can get from their land and the water. We find that farmers are going in for production of specialist crops, such as cotton, fruit and rice. If a drought does occur in a particular area, water conservation would not mean that more fodder would be available for stock, because people just do not change their pattern of farming overnight. They keep to the type of farming that will bring them the greatest profit. Farmers in the irrigation areas are developing pastures and crops and generally their farms are stocked heavily. I was down in the Colleambally area only last week and I found that there. is a restriction of water in that area. The area is being affected by the drought probably more severely than are other areas which have not had any water at all, because the farmers have a high carrying capacity on their farms and now with the limitation of water, they cannot support the stock that they have and must unload some of it. We find, too, that the productive capacity in an irrigation area might be small in relation to the overall needs of a drought-affected region.
We have the Emerald scheme, for instance, which will cost $30m. That $30 will enable approximately 135 farmers to settle in that area. I think it would be difficult to imagine that every one of them would become a grower of lucerne, although that would be the only crop they could grow in that area which would be immediately available for drought relief purposes. I think we would find people there raising their own stock or growing cotton or sorghum. So is it not the complete answer. But if they can grow fodder in those areas, it is generally found that prices become inflated and that farmers in the drought stricken areas cannot pay the inflated prices for lucerne or whatever the crop might be. But I agree that in this nation of ours, which is scarred by drought - there has been a repitition year after year of the scourge of drought - we should try to do as much as we can to overcome the problem.
It is alright to say that there ought to be a national water conservation and constructing authority in Australia embracing the Snowy Mountains Authority, but there are legal problems involved in this matter. I should like to have heard the honourable member for Dawson elaborate a little on how he thought this proposal might be possible. The Minister for National Development clearly answered him when he said that Australia happens to be a federation in which States have sovereign rights and are very proud of their own irrigation and water conservation departments and public works construction authorities. Any thought that the Snowy Mountains Authority might move into their areas arouses resentment by the States. When the States were asked whether they had any work for the Snowy Mountains Authority only one State replied that it had work for it. In other words, the States have the capacity to do all the construction work provided they can get the money.
I heard the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) refer to the Blowering Dam. He said that this was a perfect example of the Commonwealth working in harmony with the States. It is a good example, but there is a history to this case, and I think that the honourable member knows it. When the Snowy Mountains Authority was formed by agreement with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, what did the then Labor Government in New South Wales say? It said: ‘We will agree to the Snowy Mountains Authority constructing the Snowy Mountains scheme, but we will not agree to it building the Blowering Dam.’ Construction on this dam was delayed for almost 20 years because it was in the hands of the New South Wales Labor Government. When you go down to the Colleambally, Griffith and Leeton areas today you hear how the people there feel about this matter. It was not until the Commonwealth agreed to provide the money to build the dam that we were able to get permission to construct it. These are the facts. There are constitutional difficulties which are not easy to overcome.
Drought has to be tackled in many ways. We like to see work carried out on water conservation projects. It is nice to have big projects. They are wonderful political things to talk about. But there are other forms of help in drought. I like to see small dams, too, and I like to see farmers with tanks on their farms to help them through. We have done a great deal in this direction. We have given taxation concessions to farmers to encourage them to construct dams and tanks on their farms. If one flies over the southern area of New
South Wales and the northern area of Victoria one sees mile after mile of country dotted with dams and tanks which have been constructed in the last 10 or 20 years. All this has happened as a result of the taxation concessions which we have given to the farmers to encourage them to do this sort of work.
There are other ways in which to eliminate the effects of drought. I should like to see a national fodder conservation scheme introduced so that storages of wheat could be made available in a period of drought. Perhaps this is the most economical way in which to tackle the problem. It is not right to talk in terms of the Snowy Mountains Authority being the ultimate in construction authorities. I can remember being criticised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and I think by the honourable member for Dawson, for saying that the Snowy Mountains Authority was not significant as a construction authority. I was attacked for making this statement, but I still stand by it. The Snowy Mountains Authority is not significant as a construction authority. The Snowy Mountains Authority is significant for those things in which it is pre-eminent, namely, dam designing, survey work, scientific investigation, tunnelling and other matters. This is the important function of the Snowy Mountains Authority. This is the part of the Authority’s function that the Government will retain.
I was very interested to hear the honourable member for Dawson today say: ‘We want to retain the Snowy Mountains Authority. We want it to work in conjunction with the State governments and of course we want the work to be done on the same system as before’. That means that the work is to be done by contractors. Contractors have done most of the work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Snowy Mountains Authority has not done the work as a constructing authority. It may have supervised the work. It has the specialist skills to enable it to see that the job is done properly. This is exactly what we are keeping. We hope that we can work in conjunction with the States and naturally we hope that the States will continue the system of calling tenders and doing the work by contract, although I appreciate that some States have excellent constructing authorities of their own. The Snowy Mountains
Authority has been using its specialist skills in Queensland. In the past year or so it has investigated eleven different projects in Queensland and this has materially helped the State Government to assess whether the project is worth while.
Another point raised by the honourable member was somewhat contradictory. He said that we introduced these schemes only as a political gimmick and that we delay making a decision until we do a cost benefit study on the schemes. He then said that we should do a cost benefit study. The reason we delayed making a decision on the Emerald and Ord schemes was that we wanted to assess the cost benefits of them and we wanted to be sure that if farmers went into the areas they would receive a reasonable return for their efforts and would not become peasant or poverty farmers. 1 remember the honourable member for Dawson getting up in this House and badgering the Minister for National Development time and time again. He asked repeatedly: ‘Why do you not make a decision on the Ord scheme?’ We said: ‘We will make a decision when it is proved that crops can be grown successfully and economically in these areas’. Last year the farmers in the Ord area proved to us that they could grow cotton and obtain yields comparable to the yields obtained in other areas in Australia by introducing new techniques and new varieties. The Government then made a decision, but it wanted the pilot scheme to be tested and tried first and it wanted the figures to be on the board. We obtained the figures only last year. But of course we were accused of delay and when we made the announcement we were accused of playing politics. You cannot win in this game. lt was a pity that the honourable member for Dawson had to show his bitterness again by attacking individuals and bringing politics into the debate. However, this discussion in the House has been useful. It is important that the Australian public be made conscious of the need for more and more water conservation. My colleague and friend, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan), has been one of the most outspoken members of the House on the need for more water conservation. He has continually advocated that the Darling River scheme be implemented. So not only
Opposition members talk about water conservation. Many honourable members would like to see more money spent on water conservation, but we must meet all the priorities and a growing nation, such as Australia is, has many needs.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent precedence to General Business being extended until 2.45 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension considerable debate had taken place on the motion moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) for the establishment of a national water conservation authority. With the possible exception of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) 1 doubt whether there are any members in this place who would disagree with the desirability of this proposal. It seems to me that the Minister wishes the Commonwealth to abdicate ils responsibility in this matter. It is all very well to say that we may be impinging on State rights if the Commonwealth endeavours with State co-operation to enter into the field of water conservation. Australia is a very dry continent. It is said that it is one of the driest. We do not conserve sufficient of the water that is available to us to get the best out of that area of the continent which is arable and suitable for farming and other purposes. The effects of water shortages are very easy to see. We can see the effect that drought has on urban areas if we walk through the cities of Canberra and Melbourne and the provincial cities in Victoria. Drought is an inconvenience to the people of these areas and that is about all we can say of it.
If we go out of the towns we see areas where farms have been almost completely devastated by lack of water. We can realise the effect on our future . that failure to conserve as much of Australia’s water as possible will have. It is estimated that our. population will double within 30 years. If this, is true - and I see no reason why it should not be so - we will have to double our output of vegetables and meat. We will use up to 40% more dairy products than we do today and about 20% more fruit. All these items can be produced economically only if water is available for them to be grown easily. It is all very well for the Minister to say that the States would object to the Commonwealth entering this field. At question time today the Minister said that applications for projects to cost $280m have already been received. He also indicated that $24m of the $50m of Commonwealth funds for water resources development has been committed. This indicates that over the next 4 years $26m will be available for allocation to water conservation schemes.
Water is the prime requirement of development in this country. If we neglect the water supplies we may as well forget the rest. The cities in the southern areas of Australia are short of water at the moment because of a drought. If the population growth of these and other cities continues at the current rate, in the future it will not be drought which causes water shortages; it will be purely and simply a lack of water storages. The Commonwealth and the Commonwealth alone has the money with which to undertake major projects of the nature of the Snowy Mountains scheme. No State or combination of States in Australia could undertake a major scheme of this type. Even if the States wished to do so, in all probability it would be against the economic interests of some of them.
Mention has been made of the Darling River basin scheme. The Darling basin has been put forward over a period of time by various authorities as the best area to support another major national water conservation scheme. I do not know the economics of this scheme and I do not say whether it is a good one or a bad one. But it is said that the scheme would provide water for Queensland, New South Wales and also parts of Victoria and South Australia. It would therefore be necessary for four States, and primarily Queensland, to be involved in this scheme. I do not think anyone could honestly suggest that we should expect Queensland or New South Wales to start such a scheme. The proposed scheme is very remote from Victoria and South Australia and therefore to ask those States to support such a scheme would seem to me to be idle thinking. The Commonwealth is the only body in Australia which can undertake the necessary investigations and evaluations to decide whether or not such a scheme would be practical and useful. If, after such investigation and evaluation, the scheme was found not to be useful, obviously a lot of people who perhaps had spent a lot of time pursuing it would be discouraged and would know that they had been pursuing something which was not worthwhile. If on the other hand the scheme was found to be worthwhile and of benefit to the nation, I suggest that the investigations by the Commonwealth and the investment of money in the storage of water in this way would be well justified.
When he spoke earlier, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) indicated that he had mixed feelings about the motion. He felt that it might or might not be a good thing to have a national conservation authority. Not so long ago in an election speech the Minister indicated quite clearly that he was in favour of a national conservation authority. I should hope that every member of the Australian Country Party and all members who hold seats in country areas would be in favour of a national water conservation authority. The Commonwealth at this stage is committed to spend $50m in 5 years on the development of water resources. For the benefit of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), on a previous occasion I was reported in a Press article as saying that this amount was to be spent over 10 years. I was not aware of my error until the honourable member mentioned it and I apologise. This contribution represents little indeed when one considers the cost of a major water conservation project or the cost of any other major project which can be combined with water conservation such as a hydroelectricity undertaking. When the Snowy Mountains scheme is finished the cost will have been between $800m and $900m. It would cost at least that amount and possibly more if the upper Darling scheme were proceeded with.
We have in Victoria a situation which should not exist in this country and especially should not exist in that State which, apart from Queensland, probably is better off for water than any other State. In Victoria the situation exists where the irrigation farmers in the northern part’s of the State have to carry on a continual battle against the metropolitan interests in Melbourne who also are in need of water. Victoria has two separate water authorities. I realise that this is purely a State matter and therefore I would not suggest that the Commonwealth should come into this particular field. But the fact is that there is water in Victoria which can be conserved and there is ample room for the Commonwealth and the State to co-operate in its conservation. Other than at the psychological level, the produce which is produced by irrigation farmers is more important than are suburban lawns. However, the pressure that can be exerted in certain directions is such that in, all probability, over the years, suburban lawns will get the water and irrigation will be second choice for the supply of water.
I do not know what this Government plans to do about water conservation. I nope, that in its wisdom, it will accept the terms of this motion, which proposes that a national water conservation authority be established. I believe that the establishment of proper priorities for water conservation works is the most important single task that faces this country. In this field we should not pass the buck between the States and the Commonwealth, as has become fashionable. There has developed the habit of taking refuge in the Constitution, but it can always be got around when those concerned believe that it is to their advantage to do so, no matter how insurmountable the barrier allegedly presented by the Constitution may be when they regard it as being to their own disadvantage to get around the Constitution. If that is the view that we adopt, we neglect our duty. Insurmountable problems in the way of Commonwealth assistance for education were said to have been presented by the Constitution prior to the 1963 general election. The Prime Minister of the day made quite a point of saying that the Constitution placed the responsibility for education completely at the door of the States. But at the time of the 1963 election it was found that no such problem in relation to education existed, and this has been the view taken subsequently.
The constitutional problem with regard to water was readily overcome in relation to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, obviously because the States knew that they were getting a good deal. I believe that the States are big enough to look at these matters in a national light, and I am sure that if they were aware that they would get from the Commonwealth a fair deal and a good deal, no opposition to the establishment of a national water conservation authority would come from any of the States involved. It may well be that a State such as South Australia, which was given certain guarantees when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was set up and which is now encountering difficulty in obtaining what it was promised at that time, would feel not inclined to trust the Commonwealth again. However, I believe that South Australia will get the water which it was promised - water which it needs more than most other States need additional supplies of water. South Australia, more than Queensland, New South Wales or any other State, needs a national water conservation authority and a national water priorities programme if its development is to go ahead. With the exception of the central areas of the continent, that State, I believe, is the driest part of Australia. It is certainly the driest of the developed areas, and in this context, it has more problems than any other State has.
– Can the honourable member tell me whether South Australia wants to build its own dams?
– 1 do not know whether it does. This morning, the honourable member for Dawson said that the Commonwealth should determine priorities and allocate funds without taking over the responsibilities of the States, wherever those responsibilities lie.
Another honourable member wishes to follow me in this debate, Mr Deputy Speaker; so I shall round off my remarks at this point. I ask honourable members, particularly those on the Government side of the chamber, to regard this motion seriously and earnestly. Our future development depends on how well we manage the whole of the continent that we occupy. Let us not, on every issue, regard this nation as a grouping of six divided and separate States. If we take that attitude and say, for example, that the proper place for a dam on the Murray River is in Victoria, and that, therefore, South Australia cannot be supplied with water from that river, we shall abdicate our responsibilities. I believe it is proper that we should have a national water conservation authority and I ask honourable members to support the motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes.) for his courtesy in not using all the time that was available to him. I thank the House also for agreeing to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to allow the honourable member and me an opportunity to speak in this debate. The member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has proposed the following motion:
That a National Water Conservation and Constructing Authority, embracing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, be established by the Commonwealth to carry out, in association with State Governments, the systematic development of soundly based water storage projects in the major river systems serving those established and proven areas which are periodically devastated by recurring droughts.
I purposely read the motion into the record again because the honourable member did not speak very much to the terms of his own motion. I do not like this motion It is very puny. It does not provide for the whole range of works with which the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is occupied. In exactly the same way, the honourable member’s recommendations for the future of this proposed authority are extremely ill advised and badly thought out, in that he suggests that the Commonwealth should virtually take over from the States major construction in the field of water conservation, neglecting entirely the rights of the States and constitutional problems that he would not be able to overcome, and forgetting completely that if the Commonwealth tried to do this by force of its financial powers, the States, obviously, would take the opportunity to retreat from part of the financial burden and would spend the money in other fields. Such a development could lead to a situation that would drastically reduce the overall rate of expenditure on water conservation in Australia. Such a reduction of expenditure would be thoroughly bad for the nation in theory, as I am sure the honourable member himself would agree. I also point out to the House that the member for Dawson is lying in his teeth when he suggests that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and I-
– Order! The remark was unparliamentary and I ask the honourable member for EdenMonaro to withdraw it and rephrase his words.
– Well, I withdraw, but the member for Dawson has exhibited deliberate mendacity in stating-
-Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member for EdenMonaro alter his phrasing as he was asked to do.
– The honourable member for Dawson, at the very least, has made a series of calculated tergiversations in connection with-
-Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member need not search the dictionary in order to get round the words that I suggested he alter.
– ‘Tergiversations’ simply means ‘backsliding’.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member now continue his speech.
– I can only completely deny the implications made by the member for Dawson. He must have known that it was wrong to suggest that the Prime Minister and I had been guilty of misleading this House, the people of Australia or anyone else in any way about the Government’s intentions with respect to the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority, lt is true that the Prime Minister, before his election, appeared with me on a television programme and expressed his continuing interest in the future of the Authority. There is no doubt that he still has this interest. The member for Dawson also tried to imply that in statements and in my speeches in this House and elsewhere I give water conservation too low a priority. 1 think 1 need only refer to the speeches made by the member for Dawson and myself in the Address-in-Reply debate. As you, Sir, know, that debate gives all honourable members an opportunity to discuss the whole field of government in Australia. In his speech the member for Dawson did acknowledge other members’ remarks about the drought.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for EdenMonaro is referring to the honourable member for Dawson as the member for Dawson, instead of as the honourable member for Dawson.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– In the debate on the Address-in-RepIy the honourable member for Dawson acknowledged the remarks of other honourable members regarding the drought situation and water conservation. That was all he said about those subjects. He then went on to talk about sugar, and sugar exclusively, for the remainder of his speech, without even recognising the fundamental importance of, or the order of priority involved in, our foreign affairs and defence situation, our social welfare services and the many other aspects of expenditure, let alone the whole field of national development. By contrast, and it is on record, in my Address-in-Reply speech, while I gave priority to our foreign affairs and defence needs, I also dealt extensively with water conservation and the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. This is on record, and I am sure that the honourable member for Dawson is aware of it. But the honourable member is also guilty of other mistakes and what might be called variations from the facts. However, at least he has some grains of professional honesty left, in that today he has placed on record his own confession that he has used benefit cost analyses improperly.
– And accepted by the Government. Do not forget to say that.
– Unfortunately he may not have nearly as much political honesty in his advocacy for the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. I think that most of the constructive debate on the future of the Authority has come from this side of the House. A feature of the speeches of the honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) is that they have nothing to offer in this matter other than to suggest that the Authority should be kept as it is at present - and they do not even understand what that is - to do more major conservation works throughout Australia. At one stage the honourable member for Macquarie said that the Government should be keeping together all of these men who have broken tunnelling records. He has completely failed to understand that these men are part of construction organisations and companies which have contracted and tendered to do this work and which will be continuously engaged, providing they stay in business - and there is no reason to suspect that they will not - in this kind of work throughout Australia.
– The eastern suburbs railway, for instance?
– Exactly. Including the eastern suburbs railway. This is another illustration of the limitation of the thinking of the honourable member for Dawson on the SMA. The Authority’s capacity goes well beyond water conservation. I would also like to emphasise one particular point that was made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) outside this House on an earlier occasion, and again in this House today. The level of expenditure on water conservation by the Commonwealth Government cannot be restricted - except in the minds of some honourable members opposite - to the plan to grant $50m over a period of 5 years. This is just part of the expenditure involved, as the Minister pointed out earlier. It would appear that honourable members opposite completely and deliberately neglect the fact that the Commonwealth Government is spending between $40m and $50m a year on the Snowy Mountains scheme, and this is water conservation. The Opposition must know about this expenditure. Obviously the honourable member for Dawson still has the capacity to calculate, if nothing else. The Commonwealth Government recently decided to spend, in a mixture of loans and grants, $48m on the Ord River scheme, $20m on the Nogoa River scheme and $3.6m in Victoria on various water conservation projects. This has established a level of expenditure by the Commonwealth in water conservation. Last Sunday I asked the Minister for National Development if he could see in the foreseeable future any reduction in this level of expenditure, including the current rate of expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme. He said that not for a moment could he imagine it.
– Is that in writing?
– I am putting it on the record now. It has already been stated publicly, but I am putting it on the record for the information of honourable members opposite, particularly the honourable member for Dawson. The Minister said that he could not see any reduction in this level of annual expenditure. This does not mean to say that the level may not vary as specific works occur and expenditure on the scheme is varied from the year to year. This Government is not tied to any pettifogging detail on one particular level of expenditure in this field. It is genuinely tackling the job of water conservation throughout Australia.
It would appear from many of thenremarks that honourable members opposite do not know that this Government has established the Australian Water Resources Council and that the States are represented on this Council. In fact, we already have a very good basis for co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth on water conservation.
However, as I said in my AddressinReply speech, I am not completely happy with all of the Government’s current decisions on this matter. I believe that by now we could have a better definition of the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. I believe that when that definition is made it should include sufficient autonomy within that organisation for it to attract the best talent in the world and to operate in the most effective way. I also believe that the position announced in June of last year by the Government, that it does not envisage that the Authority will continue any construction activities after the completion of the Snowy Mountains scheme, should be varied along the lines that the Government does envisage that there could be situations where it would be appropriate for the Authority to act as a constructing authority after the completion of that scheme.
There are two points involved here. One is autonomy and the other is construction ability. As far as autonomy is concerned, the important point is that while the Authority remains responsible to the Minister it should have a one line budget on each project, so that it can act to achieve maximum economies which the Snowy Mountains Authority has in fact done under the present scheme. Under the same budget it is now producing 3.74 million kilowatts of installed capacity as against an originally planned 2.62 million kilowatts.
Much has been made on the construction side as to the difference between a construction company and a constructing authority. I believe that the Government’s decision will have to be altered in order to make sure that the Authority is capable of having that kind of relationship between a major contract designer and a constructing body which is necessary for the best results from that design. It is also normally necessary for a constructing authority to have some small body of construction capacity itself for minor ancillary works. This proved to be the case with the Snowy Mountains Authority. 1 believe that the overall expenditure in this field would not be affected by these changes in policy. I recommend to the Government that it seriously consider-
-Order! The extended time allowed for precedence to General Business has expired. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next day of sitting.
-Does the honourable member for Angas claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. There was an insinuation running through the speech of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), and more latterly-
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Angas used the words: ‘An insinuation running through’. This is not a personal explanation. I did not mention the honourable member’s name.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, this explanation is in relation to the- Chowilla Dam.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Angas that he has claimed to have been misrepresented. There must be a direct misrepresentation in a remark that has been made by another honourable member about the honourable member.
– I cannot claim that it is a personal misrepresentation so much as a misrepresentation of facts. May I proceed on that basis?
-The honourable member may claim misrepresentation only on a personal basis.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That Government business be postponed until after notices numbers 2 and 3, General Business.
– I move:
The sections referred to are those which seek to establish a board of management in the Canberra Community Hospital and which provide that the board shall consist of five members, two of whom shall be chosen from among the elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and the three remaining members to be members nominated by the Minister for Health. It may be suggested that in moving this motion at this stage I am seeking to whip a dead horse. Certainly I cannot look with any confidence to having my motion carried in this chamber where we are outnumbered some 81 to 42, and I would doubt that even the ‘Voyager’ dissidents would refrain from supporting the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) on this matter. But my purpose in moving the motion is to assert that the people of the Australian Capital Territory should not be deprived of a democratic right which they have enjoyed for about 35 years.
Much has been said and written in past years and in recent months about the prospect of granting self-government to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. The goal of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory seemed to be much nearer when the then Minister for the Interior, now the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), set up a departmental committee to study the problem. In May of last year the Minister presented in the House a paper entitled ‘Self Government for the Australian Capital Territory. A Preliminary Assessment’. It was a most impressive document. In its early stages the Minister used the words:
There is, of course, no evidence to suggest that the Australian Capital Territory electorate would be incapable of exercising authority with appropriate effectiveness and a full sense of responsibility -
He went on - and I ask the House to note these fine words:
It is difficult to conceive of grounds for the retention by the Commonwealth of full control over those aspects of the government and administration of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory which exist to meet community needs and are not directly relevant to the existence of Canberra as the seat of government and the national capital.
This was summarised in the conclusions of the report in the following words:
No matter how sympathetic to the needs of the people the Ministers and their departments may be, the present administration of the Australian Capital Territory is based on a system which does npt encourage responsible participation in government by the Australian Capital Territory community.
Nearly 5 years earlier the then Minister for the Interior, now the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), when presenting a Bill to establish the ACT Electricity Authority said;
Another aspect of this Bill wilh which I would like to deal is that it establishes in Canberra another authority in the field of local administration.
The ‘Canberra Times’ of the day said:
This is not just another local administrative authority comparable in all respects with existing government agencies. It represents the first step in granting to residents of the Territory active participation in a significant public utility.
When that Bill was debated the Government rejected and defeated an Opposition amendment to give consumers majority representation on the Authority. I have quoted those statements to show the attitude that has been adopted towards giving the people of the Australian Capital Territory responsibility for their own government within their own Territory.
On 19th June 1967 the Minister for Health announced that the Canberra Community Hospital Board, on which elected members have a five to three majority, would be abolished and would be replaced by two nominated committees on which there would be no representatives elected by the people of the Australian Capital Territory. Thus, on the one hand we have a Government Minister supporting an extension of local self-government in the Australian Capital Territory and, on the other hand, a Minister acting to deny to the people of the Territory the right any longer to elect those who will control and manage their hospital.
I ask: Does not the hospital, in the words of the former Minister for the Interior, exist to meet community needs’? Is it not, in the words of his predecessor, ‘in the field of local administration’? Is it, any less than the Electricity Authority, ‘a significant public utility’? The people of Canberra have exercised their right over many years to elect their representatives to the Hospital Board. I think I am correct in saying that they have done this for about 35 years. In the main they have chosen well, selecting people who have given great service to the community. It is true to say that over all the years no complaint by any government in power has been made of any failure by the elected members of the Hospital Board to carry out the duties for which they were elected. In earlier years the Board was a fully elected hospital board, At the time of its abolition it was a board on which elected members had a five to three majority over nominated members. The Board, which has been abolished by the Minister’s decision, had done particularly well, influencing decisions which have improved conditions at the hospital and extended greatly the range of medical care and services provided. The Minister himself paid a tribute to the good work of the Board which his decision abolished.
It may be that a change in administration of the hospital is, as the Minister for Health said, essential to keep pace with the growth of Canberra. This has not been proved.
The Minister has advanced no real reason for his decision. In fact, he treated the people of Canberra with considerable contempt. His announcement was, to say the least, brief. It made use of generalisations but it gave no real reason for the decision which the Minister announced. My concern is that we are being denied an electoral right which we have enjoyed for years. I fear that a board dominated by Government nominees might not be responsive to the needs of the community; that it might not have sufficient regard to the rights of the individual. In saying that I voice no criticism of the Minister’s nominees on the present Board. In particular, I have great respect for the ability and experience of the Board chairman. In fact I have been closely associated with him for nearly 60 years. I believe that the Minister’s choice for this position was an excellent one.
– Who is the chairman?
-The chairman is Mr Allan Fraser. I think that he has served on the Hospital Board for something like 20 years. He has been elected with overwhelming majorities and has topped the poll at at least nine elections of that Board.
– He would not be as good as his brother though, would he?
-The honourable member does not know all his brothers. If the honourable member would like to be a little more particular I could answer his question. The history of this matter is that in June last year the Minister for Health announced that the Canberra Community Hospital Board would be abolished and would be replaced by a management board of five members. All five members were to be nominated by the Minister. I think that the Minister acted autocratically. I think that he must have acted without consulting the Minister for the Interior. His proposal was widely opposed in the community - by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, by the Trades and Labour Council, by political parties and by community organisations. Just to illustrate the extent of the opposition I will quote from a letter I received from the Secretary of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of tha Administrative and
Clerical Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service. This Branch has 4,000 members in the Territory. The letter stated:
My members firmly believe that policy making in relation to the Canberra Community. Hospital facilities should be in the hands of the Australian Capital Territory residents through their duly elected representatives. The existing’ system has worked satisfactorily despite the fact that the Minister for Health has the fina] say. At least local residents have had a channel through which they can present their suggestions, knowing that these suggestions would receive full and careful consideration. They can indicate their disapproval of any member of the Board by [he eminently practical route of removal from office.
The Secretary went on to say:
The proposed new system would deprive the local community of any real say in hospital affairs.
When that situation arose in which the Board was to be abolished and replaced by a wholly nominated board of five members, the Labor Party, on my submission, decided to move in the House of Representatives and in the Senate for the disallowance of the ordinance. In the other place a motion was moved by Senator Dittmer on behalf of the Labor Opposition and it was debated early in September last year, lt then became apparent that the motion for disallowance would have the support of a majority in the Senate, including the Australian Labor Party as the official Opposition, the Australian Democratic Labor Party senators, an independent senator and some Government senators, lt was only at that stage that the Minister, through his representative in the other place, indicated that he would invite the Advisory Council to nominate one of its elected members to serve on the Hospital Management Board.
The debate in the Senate was adjourned and later the Minister for Health made known his decision to permit citizen representation to the extent that two elected members of the Advisory Council would serve on the Hospital Management Board. The new amending ordinance tabled by the Minister for Health at the end of September sought to implement this decision and that is . the ordinance we are now discussing. With the introduction of the new ordinance the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate sought :ind was granted leave to withdraw the motion for disallowance. It became apparent at that stage that the support previously available to the Labor Opposition’s motion in the Senate would no longer exist.
It is still my view that the people of Canberra should not be deprived of the right to choose for themselves the people to represent them on the Hospital Board. The Government may determine the number to constitute the Board. It has chosen a board of five members. Perhaps a larger board would be better. A board of five members is replacing a board of eight. No-one suggested that a board of eight was too cumbersome or too large or that the members were not fully occupied in the time they had available to carry out their duties of administering the hospital. Possibly the Government might claim that because of the heavy financial allocations it makes to the hospital it ought to have a majority of nominated members on the Board. This is not a view with which I would agree; but when we have a government in power that has a very substantial majority its will can become effective and the Government might well determine that it should have a majority of appointed members. Even if we accept that point of view - and I personally maintain that we should have the right to elect a majority of the representatives on the Board - then at least those members who are to represent the people should be chosen directly by the people.
I pointed out that in September last year this community elected eight members to serve on the Advisory Council. There are eight elected members and four Government nominees on the Council. We people of the Territory chose those members for their ability in that particular field, not Tor possible appointment to a board to manage a hospital. We should be given the opportunity to select from the candidates offering those whom we think are best qualified by knowledge and experience to serve on the Hospital Board, f know that, at the time the Minister gave the right in the amending ordinance to the Advisory Council to elect two of its elected members to serve on the Hospital Management Board, a viewpoint was put forward in the Council and to the Minister that if there were to be such an election then those participating in it should be the elected Council members only. The Minister replied that he felt thai the nominated members on the Council also should participate. 1 do not suggest that the nominated members on the existing Advisory Council were directed how they should vote in this election. I do not suggest this for ons minute. But I do suggest that this is possible. If there are tour Government nominees on an Advisory Council of twelve and those four nominees are subject to direction by the Government, then there is a very substantial block vote which could result in the election of people to the Hospital Board not truly reflecting the opinion of the people as shown in the election of members to the Advisory Council.
I said that the proposal of the Minister for Health evoked considerable opposition throughout the community. In the time available to me I want to quote some of the criticism expressed. An editorial in the Canberra Times’ of Tuesday, 20th June 1967 - this was after the Minister’s announcement of the abolition of the Board - stated:
Change in the system of hospital control in the ACT is inevitable and proper. At present there is only the Canberra Community Hospital but in 1970 a Catholic hospital is expected to be completed and by 1972 the Woden Valley Hospital should be taking in patients.
I think that was a bit optimistic. I think it is more likely to be 1975. The Minister may care to correct me about this forecast. The editorial continued:
In due course there will be others. A new style of hospital control had to be devised, and that is the point of the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Health, Dr Forbes. The question is whether the changes announced are likely to meet requirements.
The first point that will strike the people of Canberra is that they are losing the right to a direct say in hospital affairs through elected representatives. The present, mainly elected board of the Canberra Community Hospital is to be demolished and in its place there will be a management board of five, nominated by the Minister for Health. To people lacking almost every other power to control their own affairs, the elected hospital board is more significant than the Minister may realise. If it is an unusual system, it has at least worked - according to the Minister, the board has made ‘a fine contribution to the development of the hospital’. The difficulties of recent years have been due to the great rebuilding programme and the need for administrative changes within the hospital, all of it overshadowed by the uncertainties that the Minister’s decisions have now gone some way towards dispelling. At least throughout the difficulties the public has been able to keep close to the hospital through its elected board members and through the board’s open meetings. This has been important and worthwhile.
In a subsequent editorial on 22nd June, referring to the Minister’s decision to appoint a Hospitals Advisory Committee as well as a nominated Hospital Board, the newspaper said:
The Minister, who holds h:s place in Parliament through an election, should recognise that not all wisdom in hospital matters resides in appointed experts. Nor is it as if the Hospitals Advisory Committee is likely to prove a thorn in anyone’s flesh with or without some public representation - its title describes its functions, which will b». no more than advisory
That, of course, related to the Hospitals Advisory Committee. When the matter came before the Senate for debate, and when the Minister announced that he would respond to some pressure by allowing two elected members of the Advisory Council to be elected by that body to serve on the Hospital Board, the ‘Canberra Times’ said this in an editorial on 6th September 1967:
The people of Canberra, for a change, have the Government on the run. LaM night-s debate in the Senate on the motion to disallow the Canberra Community Hospital Ordinance 1957 was adjourned without a vote being taken, but the tenor of it is very much against the Government. In particular it is against the Minister for Health Dr Forbes, who is responsible for the present situation. Dr Forbes is a Minister whose best intentions are sometimes hampered by his clumsiness of execution.
I stress that these are not my words; they are the words of the ‘Canberra Times’.
– They would be right if they were your words.
– I do not write the editorials for the ‘Canberra Times’. The newspaper continued:
In this case he allowed Canberra to become bo alarmed about changes proposed in the administration of hospital services that the concern spilled over into the Senate. It is no good trying to write this one off to party politics. The concern is genuine and is fairly reflected in the Advisory Council.
Later in the same editorial the newspaper said: . . the new ordinance should make it clear that management boards of future hospitals ure to have public representation. It is lime that lite Minister for Health and some other Ministers :md their advisers learned that the people of Canberra have too little say in their own affairs and resent being pushed about. Perhaps this episode will reach them.
Only a few days earlier the same newspaper made a very important point in one of its editorials. The people of this Australian Capital Territory, denied the right that ia enjoyed by everybody else in Australia to govern themselves in their day by day affairs, have exercised over the years the right to elect some members to an Advisory Council and some members to a Hospital Board, and of these two bodies the only one with any executive authority has been the Hospital Board. The newspaper made this point. It said:
And there’s the rub! One of Canberra’s only two representative bodies, and the only one with any executive responsibility, is being abolished. Moreover there is no provision for any direct representation of the Canberra community on cither committee-
This was written, of course, before the Minister had conceded that there should be at least some semblance of public representation. The editorial went on - or on the management committees one gathers will be appointed in due course to run the affairs of oilier public hospitals built in the Territory. The ACT Advisory Council, as long ago as its June meeting, resolved ‘in the absence of directly elected representatives to these bodies Council recommends to the Minister that he make provision for appointment to both bodies of representatives from the ACT Advisory Council.’ No direct reply was received for either of the two subsequent Council meetings - though in the meantime the Hospitals Advisory Committee was named, without a Council representative.
To sum up, I make this point: For all these 34 or 35 years the people of Canberra have exercised the right to elect their representatives to the Hospital Board. The right is suddenly taken from them by a Minister who has given no statement of detailed reasons for his action. There has been no complaint over the years about the way in which the Hospital Board has managed the affairs of the hospital. As I said, in earlier days it was a wholly elected board, and gradually, I presume because of increased Commonwealth expenditure on the hospital, Government nominees were appointed to the Board, first a representative from the Treasury and then other Government nominees. The Australian Labor Party has always submitted candidates for the Hospital Board, just as it has always submitted candidates for the Advisory Council. I think the Minister in one of his earlier statements on this matter said that only one political party had nominated candidates to these bodies. Well, it certainly is true that only the Labor Party has nominated candidates consistently for election to the Hospital Board. There were years, and, 1 think, right through the 1950s, in which the Liberal Party in Canberra nominated candidates for election to the Advisory Council and the same candidates stood as independents for the Hospital Board, but the Labor Party’s candidates at least stood before the community as representatives of a political party <ind were elected as such.
But it is also true that party politics, in the loosely held meaning of that phrase, never intruded into Hospital Board affairs. The Labor Party members of the Hospital Board never caucused on any proposal coming before the Board. In fact on many occasions they differed one from the other on matters to be decided by the Board. Of course they had a common allegiance to a platform and to certain principles in relation to public health. In the earlier years in which they represented this community on the Hospital Board the hospital was a free hospital, and the public should remember that under the administration of this Government the privileges they previously enjoyed have been taken away. As I have said, never once did party politics as such intrude into the affairs of the Hospital Board. The public showed their trust of the candidates who nominated as Labor Party candidates by electing them to the Board. In fact on one occasion there would not have been a Hospital Board had it not been for the candidates standing for the Australian Labor Party.
My point is simply this: We in this chamber talk, this Parliament talks, successive Ministers for the Interior have talked and successive Prime Ministers have talked about granting self-government to the Australian Capital Territory, about granting increasing responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. But now the Government, through its Minister for Health, has decided to deprive the people of a right of self-government that they have exercised, and that they have exercised wisely and that they have exercised well. The Government cannot speak - well, evidently it can but it should not - with two voices. It should be prepared to give the people of the Territory the right to govern themselves, and if it is talking about giving that right it should not deprive them of the right, which they have exercised over the years, to elect their Hospital Board.
I think the people of the Australian Capital Territory have shown themselves quite capable of electing people to represent them on the Advisory Council and on the Hospital Board. People who have served the community and the hospital well have been chosen by the community to sit on the Hospital Board. I do not know why the Minister should be afraid to allow the people to continue to elect their own representatives on the Hospital Board. The opportunity exists. Elections must be held for the Advisory Council every 3 years. There is no difficulty at all about making electoral arrangements to hold at the same time an election for the people’s representatives on the Hospital Board. If people can be entrusted to elect this Parliament, if people can be entrusted to elect State Parliaments, then surely to goodness the people of the Australian Capital Territory, who have sought for years the right to govern themselves, should at least be permitted to continue to elect those who will represent them on the Canberra Community Hospital Board. I think that the people of Canberra should be entitled to elect the majority of the members of that Board. I suggest to the Minister for Health that he consider enlarging the Board and also that he consider ensuring that in all future elections to the Canberra Community Hospital Management Board the people will have the right to elect those who will represent them on that Board. This is a right which should not have been taken away. It is a right which should not be denied any longer.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not detain the House very long on this matter. Despite the assertions made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser), the reasons why this decision was taken have been canvassed pretty fully. Quite categorically I deny that I and my officers have not given full reasons as to why the decision of the Government was taken to change the character of the Canberra Community Hospital Management Board.
– I made no criticism of the Minister’s officers.
– Yes, but the point that the honourable gentleman was making was that no reason had been given to the people of Canberra or to himself for making this change. I deny this assertion.
I was amused at the honourable gentleman saying - I am not quite sure whether these were his own words or whether he quoted the ‘Canberra Times’ - that there was no politics in the action that took place in another place respecting this ordinance. I think that the honourable member quoted the ‘Canberra Times’ in saying that. I am sure that the honourable gentleman himself is aware that there was considerable political activity in this respect. The lady who was at that time the Deputy Chairman of the Canberra Community Hospital Management Board and who was at that time and who, I understand, possibly still is President of the Canberra Branch of the Australian Labor Party was running in and out of the offices of his colleagues in another place like a rabbit running in and out of a warren. I think that considerable politics was involved in this case, whatever the honourable gentleman may say.
This same lady is given frequent space in the newspaper, the ‘Canberra Times’, from which the honourable gentleman quoted, in terms of articles to write on health and hospital matters in the Australian Capital Territory. But the newspaper does not declare her interest. Just her name is given. The newspaper has never mentioned among her qualifications that she has what I might term ideological interest in these matters and an official connection with one of our great political parties. I believe that a newspaper which publishes articles of this type, if they are intended as an objective, independent account of a situation, is misleading the public. If the newspaper wants to print these articles by the lady in question, it should make it clear that she is the President of the Canberra Branch of the Australian Labor Party so that people may take that factor into account when they are considering her views.
– She would know more about hospitals than the Minister does. She is doing research work on the matter.
– I am not denying that she has great competence. She also has chosen to associate herself in an active and officebearing sense with one of our political parties. I would expect exactly the same thing to be done if she was a member of my own party or if somebody else was given space in the newspaper in connection with this matter. I am not making this a party matter.
– Of course the Minister is.
– This is not a criticism of the honourable member for the ACT. It is a criticism of the ‘Canberra Times’. That newspaper should declare the interests of this lady just in the same way as a member of this House is required to declare his interests if something comes up which might relate to any benefit that he might receive.
– The Minister will admit that I neither quoted the lady nor referred to her.
– I know, but this led naturally from the statements that the honourable gentleman read from the Canberra Times’.
– They were editorials.
– All right, they were editorials.
-Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
– I am putting the editorial opinion of that newspaper in its proper context by making the remarks that I am making. I can understand the point of view put by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. I respect it. I should like to make it quite clear that I do believe that what should happen in Canberra in relation to self-government and local government is one thing and that running a hospital is another thing. I do not believe that it is a valid argument to say that, because the people of Canberra have more limited opportunities than they perhaps think they should have in an overall local government sense, they should not be deprived therefore, if there are good reasons, of the right to elect people and particularly the majority of members of the Canberra Community Hospital Management Board.
Why was this decision taken? The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory talked about the people of Canberra being deprived of a right that they had had running back into the 1930s. But he did not tell us that the reason why the people of Canberra originally were given that right was that in those days, when this system was first introduced, the people of Canberra paid a direct hospital tax and, in the context of no taxation without representation, this system was devised. Obviously, it was appropriate in that situation in which the Canberra Community Hospital was little more than a cottage hospital. That situation has not existed now for 25 years. The people of Canberra have not paid this direct hospital tax in that time. In the meantime, the Canberra Community Hospital has grown from a small cottage hospital to a complex which will soon be a 600-bed general hospital, the equal of any hospital in Australia. I think that the honourable gentleman must admit that that represents a changed situation. It is one of the contexts in which this decision was made.
Another reason is that the decision was taken by the Government to develop a multi-hospital system in Canberra. Decisions were taken to build the Woden Hospital and to subsidise the Calvary Hospital to be built by the Little Company of Mary. Despite what the honourable gentleman has said, this very fact has been explained to the public many times. We must have a good hard look at the overall control of individual hospitals and the whole hospital system in Canberra. One thing we run up against when we have more than one hospital with direct representation is the mechanical problem of what part of the Canberra community elects people to a particular hospital? Do we zone the ACT and associate one part of Canberra with one hospital and another part with another hospital? Or do we hold a great big election for all the hospitals and then apportion the elected members out between the hospitals?
I was very much opposed to the idea of zoning. We do not propose to zone hospitals in Canberra in respect of the admission of patients. The hospitals will be integrated. They will have integrated services. Some hospitals will do certain things and other hospitals will do other things. All of them collectively will service the whole of the people of Canberra. Of course, that system would have been frustrated, to a large extent, by zoning or introducing electoral boundaries or something of that nature for the election of members to the various hospital boards. But this was not the main reason for adopting the course which we took. The people in Australia who have the greatest experience in this field and who know most about this matter are the people in the States. They run a large number of hospitals of the size of the Canberra Community Hospital. Their experience is much greater than ours.
We looked around Australia and sought the guidance of people who run the State hospital systems. We found that in every State, with the possible exception of Victoria, the current and almost universal practice was to have nominated hospital boards, not boards directly elected by the people. I go so far as to say that that is the case even in Victoria where boards are elected by contributor representatives, but since the introduction of the national health scheme that procedure has become purely formal, and in every sense of the word it could be said that even in Victoria there are nominated hospital boards. It would have been very difficult to go against that experience. The hospital authorities and State governments which for many years have been running hospitals of the size of the Canberra Community Hospital have found, gradually by experience, that the best and most efficient way to run a modern and complex hospital is by having a nominated board. This fact, together with our intention to introduce a multi-hospital system to Canberra, went a long way towards the Government deciding that we should change the present system in Canberra.
The additional factor, as the honourable member for the Australian, Capital Territory himself has acknowledged - at least in part - is that the taxpayers pay a very large part of the cost of running the Canberra Community Hospital. From memory I think they pay more than 70% of the cost. Therefore I believe that the taxpayer’s representative - in this case the Government - should have a predominant say in running the hospital. This was not the case under the old system. Perhaps I should comment on the reason why the States have come to the conclusion that having nominated boards is the best way to run a hospital. We have received evidence everywhere on this point. The function of a hospital board is to see that the hospital is conducted effectively, with proper regard for the interests of the patients, the medical profession and the hospital staff and with due regard to economy. With the complexity of modem hospital administration there is a need to select people who have practical experience in hospital administration or in the control of large undertakings. Although, as the honourable member said - and I fully acknowledge this - we got very good people under the old system, they did not all have that particular qualification which I believe is absolutely essential in the conduct of a hospital such as the Canberra Community Hospital has now become and as the Woden Valley Hospital will become. Perhaps this matter was not quite so important in the days when the old system was first introduced.
I do not wish to say a great deal more on this matter. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that my colleague the then Minister for the Interior, now the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), obviously was not consulted regarding these changes. The then Minister for the Interior was consulted and was in full agreement with the changes. Of course, he was a party to the decision taken by the Government. Perhaps I should make two further comments in relation to the points raised by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. He said that in his view it was improper for the two elected members of the ACT Advisory Council, who now serve on the Hospital Board, to be chosen by the ACT Advisory Council. The honourable member suggested that this could lead to a had result because it was conceivable that the nominated members could be given directions as to the way in which they were to vote. There are two points I should like to make in this respect. I say now, as I have said previously - and I have checked this with my colleagues from whose departments other nominations come - that no direction was given in this case or ever has been given in relation to the way in which nominated members will vote. The other point I make is that the ACT Advisory Council nominates representatives not only to the Hospital Board but also to a host of other institutions. There is the ACT Electricity Authority and a number of other undertakings which do not readily come to mind. It seems to me that we cannot differentiate between these undertakings. If that is the system for nominating representatives, it should apply to the hospital in the same way as it applies to other undertakings. If it is desired to alter that system it should be looked at as a whole and not related to something which applies particularly to the hospital.
Finally, I think that the test is in the way things have worked out. The new system has proved to be very satisfactory. The Canberra Community Hospital is run efficiently and extremely well. I am not conscious of any suggestions that the new Hospital Board has in some way overridden the interests and rights of the people of Canberra, that there is not a constant channel of communication between the people of Canberra and members of the Board, and that the members of the Board are not conscious of the necessity for keeping in touch with the needs and interests of the people of Canberra. Indeed, a large part of the correspondence which reaches my desk from the Canberra Community Hospital suggests that the contrary is the case; that the members of the Board have these interests very much at heart and that in the process of running this fine and complex institution they are constantly attempting to keep in touch, deliberately and directly, with the needs of the people of Canberra. I ask the House to reject the motion.
That the motion (Mr J. R. Fraser’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
That the Amendment to Regulation 127 of the Telephone Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1967, No. 157, made under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1966, be disallowed.
– Hear, hear!
– Although the honourable member for Wills is for the moment on the other side of the chamber, instead of being on this side, where he belongs, it is nice to hear a voice from that side supporting my motion. I dare to hope that honourable members on the other side will support the motion when a vote is taken. The regulation increases by 2c the cost of a telephone call made from the red telephones that we see in increasing numbers throughout the community. The cost of a call will be increased from 5c to 7c. This is an increase of 40% and we should object to it. No doubt this substantial increase follows the Government’s decision, which was announced in the Budget, to increase the cost of local calls made on private telephones from three for 10c to 4c each. The Government says it has now brought in this regulation so that the people who rent the red telephones will have an opportunity to increase their revenue and so be able to pay the rental of the telephones. I cannot understand why the Government should allow the charge to be increased so substantially. For many years the rate for local calls was three for 10c. On this basis, the people who rented the red telephones had a margin of12/3c on each call. Because of the Government’s amendment of the regulations these firms will now be allowed a margin of 22/3c. I feel that this increase is unwarranted and that we as a Parliament should disallow the regulations.
According to information issued by the Department on 23rd November last, red telephones are installed by three firms - Elliott-Automation (Pty) Ltd, Victa Telecommunication Co. Pty Ltd and Horrocks Roxburgh Pty Ltd. The Department allows these three firms to install the machines and connect them to the Government lines using the Government exchange. As a result the number of red telephones is growing. Personally I am opposed to their installation in this way. I think this is the only time since I have been a member of the Parliament that I have seen the Government throw open its doors and allow in the reds. It costs the taxpayer today approximately $1,146 for the installation of a telephone in his home. This is the approximate cost. It may be cheaper in some areas and more in others. This figure is made up of the cost of laying the cables and the cost of the machinery that is installed in the exchanges. The money for this is found by the taxpayers. According to the figures which were given in the last Financial and Statistical Bulletin issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, we find that last year plant and equipment cost the Department approximately $205m. That is the cost to the taxpayer. If honourable members look back over the years they will find the total cost runs into a very substantial sum of money.
The firms that install the red phones have been allowed to use our facilities free of charge. No charge is made by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I resent the fact that we, as taxpayers, should have to put up with this. If these people want to use our utilities they should pay for them.
Why has the Government allowed this position to continue since 1963? In 1963 approximately 500 of these machines were installed. This number has been allowed to grow and it continues to grow. As a result of the Government’s policy the number will increase in the future. At present there are about 8,750 red telephones in operation in Australia. To give honourable members an indication of the cost to the subscriber of these telephones, the subscriber is called upon to pay approximately $24 a quarter or $96 a year, and there is a charge of $40 by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the rent of the line. In the first year of operation, of course, the subscriber has to pay another $30 as the installation fee. So, honourable members can see that a considerable outlay is made by the subscriber to which the company contributes nothing. The burden is thrown on the subscriber.
The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) may say that this has been done to assist the small shopkeeper. This is probably so. But the small shopkeeper is being exploited because of this Government’s policy. These telephones should have been supplied by the Department itself. I believe that if it undertook to supply and install the phones it could do so at substantially cheaper rates. The Department can supply the phones for $20 a year. I cannot understand why the Government has allowed these people to come into this field which, we all know, is the best revenue earner of the Department. I cannot understand why these firms are allowed to come in and connect the phones to the Department’s exchanges. They should have been debarred in the first place. The Postmaster-General may say that he has allowed them in because it saves the Postmaster-General’s Department money. He may say that these firms are saving his Department money because it does not have to do any maintenance on the phones, but how many honourable members can honestly say that they have had many breakdowns in their telephone service? I say that 999 times out of 1,000 the breakdowns occur at the exchanges. So, I believe that the maintenance requirements of the red telephones are practically nil. Yet, we hear the cry from the Minister that his Department does not have to worry about the maintenance of these phones.
The number of these phones has increased and there are now about 8,750 of them. If we multiply $96, which is the annual rent, by 8,750 this works out at about $840,000. That is what these companies are getting out of this field. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department does not receive one penny from that section. The Department is being paid for the calls and for the use of the line by the subscriber. But it is not getting anything from the people who own the red telephones. I resent the fact that these firms are using the facilities of the Postmaster-General’s Department free of cost. There are about 4,000 red telephones in New South wales, 1,600 in Victoria, 367 in Western Australia, 117 in Tasmania, 336 in South Australia and 1,195 in Queensland. The majority of the telephones operate from the manual exchanges and are in the metropolitan areas where the majority of the population is to be found. Quite often the telephones operate in opposition to public telephones. They are in stores and sometimes on the footpaths for people to use. Sometimes there will be a public telephone on the corner and one or two red telephones 20 yards away. Yet the Government has allowed these people to come into this field. I believe that it should never have happened.
The Government has said that the telephones save money because the Department does not have to pay for their purchase. I do not know the cost of the machines because this is very hard to find out, but the Postmaster-General has stated in answer to questions that have been asked by members of the Opposition, that one type of telephone is imported from Japan and the other from the United Kingdom. The modern ordinary telephone that we see on the desks in the Parliament or in offices costs the Postmaster-General’s Department about $18. I do not know the cost of installation of the coin box telephones, but it would not be a great deal because it is not a very large piece of equipment, if we add another S30 or $40 for the box honourable members can estimate the initial outlay. It has been practically nil. The installation of red telephones has been allowed since 1963, and the companies that install them have been able to use many times over the rental that they receive from the subscribers in premises where they are installed. Those funds have been reinvested in the supply of more of these telephones. The initial outlay to the interests concerned was practically nil, but over the years they have been allowed to increase the number of these telephones and, as a result, now have a secure foothold in a field which should have been retained for a government instrumentality and from which they should have been excluded.
The attitude of the Postmaster-General’s Department may be that the installation of red telephones has assisted it because it has not the money to install its own equipment. I think everybody knows that as a result of this Government’s policy, the Department has been called on to pay interest on its capital over many years. Last financial year, its total interest bill was $73,408,018. This is not chicken feed or peanuts. It is good, honest money that the Department has been required by this Government to pay to the Treasury in interest. In the first place, the money that is allocated to the Department is contributed by the taxpayers. They pay it to the Treasury, which then allocates it to the Department. We on this side of the Parliament believe that the Department ought to be giving a service to all sections of the community. The Government, however, requires it to pay this large interest bill each year instead of providing a better service. The Department’s interest bill is growing and will continue to grow. I am sure that if the revenue received by private enterprise from red telephones over the years had been received by the Department and ploughed back into its operations, everybody throughout Australia, including members of the Australian Country Party, would have been satisfied with our telephone services. The Government cannot excuse itself by saying that it has not the money. It has the money, but it is using the Postmaster-General’s Department merely as another agency for raising taxes - as another medium for obtaining money for this Government to spend. I do not think that we should accept the Government’s latest decision to increase the charge for a call from a red telephone.
The Postmaster-General’s Department will provide a coin operated telephone for a subscriber who requires it, at a cost of $20 a year, but it does not provide this kind of service to the extent to which it should be allowed to provide it. This is because the Government keeps a firm rein on the Department and does not allow it to spend enough money. As a result, private interests have come into the field and installed these red telephones. We know that these interests operate in competition with the public telephone instrumentality. Yet the Government cries: ‘They are providing a service to the community’. It is a service, but it is very limited, because these red telephones are available for use only while the business premises in which they are installed are open to the public. When a shop closes at the end of the business day, the telephone service provided by the red telephone is closed, too.
– Those telephones are always in order.
– That may be so, but that does not matter if they are not available when the public wants to use them. Admittedly, they are policed, because they are installed mostly in clubs, shops and other premises where persons are present to keep an eye on them. The fact that they are policed is all the more reason why the Department should be installing them and deriving the revenue from them instead of its being allowed to go to private interests. I suggest that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) probably agrees with me that the Government ought to be providing this service and that it is bad policy for it not to do so. We all know that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is a great exponent of the virtues of private enterprise and that, if he were allowed, he would hand over to it as much of the revenue raising machinery of government as possible. But we ought to be protecting the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, because the taxpayers of Australia need the services that it provides. The Department provides multicoin public telephones, because it has to provide for trunk line calls, and nowadays for subscriber trunk dialling. This is a facility for the public. On a departmental public telephone, one can ring the information number and obtain whatever information he requires. If one is using a red telephone, however, one has to put his coin in the slot and pay the fee if he wants to make an information or other service call. Furthermore, if one wants to make a trunk call from a red telephone, one has to ask the subscriber on whose premises it is installed to bring out his special key and manipulate it in the apparatus. The service available at a normal public telephone, however, is available 24 hours a day. I know that many larrikins go about damaging public telephones. None of us condones this, for one never knows when a public telephone will be needed in an emergency. It is a sorry state of affairs that there is so much vandalism in respect of public telephones throughout Australia these days.
The multi-coin sets installed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in public call boxes cost about $160 each. The total cost, including that of the cabinet in which the set is housed, is something more than this. This equipment is different from the red telephone equipment. The Department maintains all public telephones and meets the installation cost of approximately $1,766 each. In return, it receives the revenue from call fees. It is estimated that at present the average revenue earned annually by each public telephone is $440, give or take a little. Some earn more; some earn less. This is the Department’s reckoning of the average earnings. There are now 15,542 public telephones in metropolitan areas throughout Australia and in country areas 13,161, of which 7,302 are automatic installations. This gives a total throughout Australia of 28,703 public telephones, 22,844 of which are automatic and 5,859 of which are manual. The annual revenue earned by these telephones is substantial, and all of it should go to the Government instead of part of it going to private interests.
We ought to oppose the principle of private enterprise being allowed to operate in what should be a field of government enterprise. Private operators have subcontracted the installation of telephones in factory premises and other places throughout the country. At no time has the Parliament been told that private companies would be allowed to come into the field normally occupied by the Department and undertake actual installations. Members of the Parliament have seen certain installations springing up all over the country, and, as a result, have asked the Minister questions about them. However, he has refused to divulge whether the private operators concerned pay any charge at all. I have it on good authority that they pay nothing. The Minister will tell us no more than that there is an agreement. I do not know who is getting the payola out of it. I do not know whether it is going to McEwen House or to Liberal Party headquarters, but somebody must be getting it. I resent the fact that private interests are allowed to make use of departmental exchanges and lines without paying anything to the Department. However, the Minister refuses to give us any information about this. Unless he gives us some facts and figures, we shall continue to raise this issue.
In answer to a question the Minister stated that under the agreement the companies that operate these telephones can charge a rental of up to $120. I do not know whether these companies will increase the present rentals and charge the lessees up to $120. If the lessees have to pay this additional amount on top of the $40 which they have to pay to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department then quite a substantial amount could be involved. On the other hand we have also to be concerned as to whether this will be a lead-in for the Government. If the public accepts the increased charge for calls on red telephones we will find that the same position will apply in the future for public telephones and also to the ordinary private subscriber. This is another angle from which we should be examining the proposed increase. I would like to know whether the Minister is looking ahead to something in the future.
Whilst there are many Government supporters who, because of the policy of the Government, will probably vote against my motion, I think they should give consideration to some of the matters that I have raised. I sincerely hope that the Minister will reply to some of the allegations that I have made. He has refused to answer them previously when questions have been put to him. The Government has been reluctant to give information on these matters. It will give general information, but not specific details, to the Parliament.
The Minister should inform the Parliament exactly what is happening in this field. We should not be misled. Over the past few months we have found that a lot of information has been withheld from this Parliament. There are many questions that should be answered. The Minister should inform the House of the reasons why the Government is allowing these charges to be increased and whether increases are warranted. He should also inform us whether there has been an inquiry into the finances of the firms concerned. After all, they are the ones who will benefit from the increased charges. A lot of people are probably getting to the stage where they feel that it does not pay them to have these telephones installed in their businesses. I think the Minister should make available the information that I have asked for so that we as a Parliament can decide whether the proposed increase from 5c to 7c a call on red telephones is justified.
The Minister is now at the table. He may wish to answer some of these allegations. I sincerely hope that he will. I do not think there is any justification for an increase of 40%. The Minister should inform us why his Department is allowing these companies that are authorised to lease telephones to have so much margin over expenditure now when they were previously operating with profit on a much smaller margin. I repeat, he should inform the House of the reasons why his Department has allowed these companies to make this extra revenue.
I sincerely hope that many supporters of the Government will give my remarks a great deal of thought, because I am sure there will be resentment amongst sections of the community which will be really hostile to the actions of this Government.
– I formally second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I take this opportunity to speak for a few moments on the motion that the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) has moved. I say at the outset that I am sorry that the honourable member sought to indulge in certain statements to discredit the Government and which he said he had made in the past. However, I believe that today he has made one or two worthwhile points and that overall his was a reasonable contribution which is not in line with his previous style of thinking and philosophy. He takes the view that the Government is allowing private enterprise to take over in this particular field. This statement is consistent with his constant bombardment of the Ansett-ANA group and his over-protective attitude towards Trans-Australia Airlines, but if we discount all his other statements and study only this matter of a 40% increase in telephone charges, I believe that some of the comments that he has made should be noted and considered.
It is said that the reason why charges for these calls on these telephones are to be increased by 40% is to make it profitable for corner stores to install them. I believe that this proposition could well and truly backfire. There is to be an increase equivalent to 3d. Many of the people who use corner store telephones belong to the low income group and people on pensions. An increase of 3d will make them seriously consider whether or not it is worthwhile for them to walk the extra distance to a Postal Department telephone ‘box on a corner a couple of hundred yards away. There is a possibility that in the long term the storekeepers who have had a case presented to the Government on their behalf will find themselves reaching the stage where fewer calls are being made on their telephones, and that the lc or 2c which is to be added to the charge for each call will diminish the number of calls made and in turn will mean a loss to them. They cannot have it both ways.
The local storekeeper does gain added business as a result of having a telephone in his shop. We all know that the local storekeeper is at times very happy to gain the agency to sell postage stamps, yet after a little time passes he starts thinking that he is providing this service for nothing. It is one of those cases where, after a period of time, the original motivation for applying for the agency is forgotten. I believe that this matter is another such instance. These people are quite happy at the outset to acquire a telephone that will bring added business to their shops, but after a while they start whingeing and complaining that they are losing a small amount of money by providing that service. If they looked at the position realistically they would find that the added business would more than compensate for the losses incurred by the increase in charges. However, if charges have to be increased, I would much rather see them increased to 6c than to 7c.
– I would like to deny unequivocally the statement made by the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) that I have refused to answer questions. I think that there are few members in this House who would make this accusation against me. I have tried to be meticulous in my endeavour to answer questions put to me in relation to the Postal Department. The Department is a public utility., and as Minister I am but a trustee, if I can put it that way. I believe the community is entitled to the maximum information that it requires in relation to postal or telecommunication services.
The honourable member has said that these red telephones are in competition with public telephones and that if one walksdown a street one will see a public telephone and a red telephone a short distance apart. It is a little difficult for me to understand how he can speak of competition if the charge for the use of the red telephone is 7c a call and for the use of a public telephone 5c a call. 1 do not think that there would be any competition in those circumstances because if what he says is in fact the situation- the choice would be for thepublic telephone. I suggest to the House that this particular comment is completely unjustified.
The honourable member also said that the installation of red telephones is of limited service to the community. I cannot see his line of reasoning in that statementThere are, as he said, some 8,750 red telephones in the community at the present time. If the Post Office had had to providethat number of public telephones the capital cost would have been something like Si 5m. I appreciate that all the capital cost is not in the provision of the instrument itself. In fact there is a good deal at the exchange: and in the cables, but at least the amount is sufficient to indicate that the Post Office would have been involved in a tremendous capital cost in the provision of 8,750 additional public telephones. That goes to thevery core of the problem.
The honourable member made no reference to many of the other -facilities - yet they are numerous - which have been* approved by the Post Office for attachment to telephones for public use to avoid the necessity for the Government, or the Post:
Office itself, to find the capital to mike them available. Four years ago approximately SI 37m in capital funds was made available to the Post Office. This year that sum had increased to $240m. That has involved a substantial additional call on the taxpayers of this community because Post Office funds come from taxation, not from loan funds. Therefore it is not unreasonable that we should try to make available to the community the services it requires and which could not be provided by the Post Office having regard to the funds available to it.
The honourable member asked for information concerning the companies involved in this operation. There are three of them - Victa Telecommunications Company Pty Ltd, Elliott-Automation (Pty) Ltd and Horrocks Roxburgh Pty Ltd. The Victa company produces the red telephone and makes it available to the public. The other two companies market the Easiphone. I have not available to me at this moment all the information for which people might ask in relation to these companies - they are private companies - but I have some information concerning Victa. The Victa organisation commenced trading in 1963. In the first 4 years of operation it acquired capital assets worth $650,000 of which 93% was spent on telephone instruments. In that period it earned a profit of only $43,000. Surely no honourable member would suggest that the Victa company has earned an exorbitant profit from making these facilities available to the community.
Let us look at the situation. When telephone calls cost 3ic - that is what the Post Office received out of every call made on a red telephone or a private telephone - Victa was receiving 5c which gave a return of 11c to the person who had rented the telephone from Victa or Easiphone. When the charge was increased to 4c the margin was reduced to only lc. I do not believe honourable members would regard a return of lc out of 5c as a worthwhile proposition for the person who had the telephone installed, particularly in view of the fact that the lessees are responsible for a rental of $96 per annum; are under an obligation to meet the installation charge of $30; are under an obligation to meet the rental fee of S40 per annum in the metropolitan area; and, on top of that, are under an obligation to meet the normal local call charge.
To recoup even $140 per annum, which is the rental the lessee must pay to the Victa company and to the Post Office, would require approximately 14,000 calls on each telephone each year. That is a remarkably high number of local calls to make over a telephone. I am sure it is not a profitable proposition and today the people who have installed the telephones are saying: ‘We will have to cancel. We cannot continue with the telephones on the basis of being required to find 14,000 calls per annum.’
– The number is growing.
– In fact, the number is not growing. That is the important thing and that is why this regulation has been introduced. Having looked at the situation, we considered 6c as being perhaps a reasonable charge for a call but the lc coin is not an effective coin for use in the normal coin attachment machines. It would create tremendous problems because it is very small. Therefore the alternative was either to keep the charge at 5c or take it to 7c. Even on the basis of 7c a call it is still necessary for 4,500 calls per annum to be made from each telephone to enable lessees to recover the rentals paid to the companies which make the installation, and to the Post Office itself.
I believe that an unreasonable profit is not being made having regard to the sum of money that the Post Office would have had to find and which, at the present time, it could not find unless there were a reduction in the provision of some other Post Office facility or an increase in the number of deferred applications. Does the honourable member suggest that that is preferable? Would he want to see a delay in the installation of our microwave and coaxial cable systems? Those are the kinds of things which would be affected if we used the funds available for other purposes.
There are about 8,700 red telephones out of a total of 45,200 public telephones in Australia. The number of red telephones, therefore, represents only a small proportion of the total. In round figures one-fifth of the public telephones in Australia are red telephones and four-fifths are public telephones owned by the Post Office. On another occasion the honourable member might like to have a list of attachments which are made available by the Post Office to so many people in the community. The red telephones permit the Post Office to provide one of those attachments and remove from the taxpayer the burden of meeting a substantial capital expenditure.
We do not believe there is any conflict between the objectives of the Post Office in relation to the installation of these telephones and our philosophy in relation to private enterprise. We believe that they provide a very valuable adjunct to Post Office activities and serve the public by providing telephones in places where the Post Office would not make them available in any case because the Post Office does not make public telephones available inside shops. We make public telephones available only in the streets where they may be used 24 hours a day. On the other hand, most of the red telephones are made available in shops. Being in the shops, the telephones are under some degree of supervision which we cannot give to public telephones in the streets. The honourable member mentioned vandalism. Vandalism in public telephones costs us over $800,000 per annum. I believe we are completely justified in accepting the proposal put to us by these companies.
I do not think there is any necessity for me to say a great deal more in this debate. I think most honourable members would agree that there is a justification for the existence of these telephones. I know that they have a value in assisting businesses to create some traffic. It has to be recognised that these telephones are of tremendous assistance to the shopping public. I do not know which business places have them installed but it may be that David Jones Ltd or Farmer & Co. Ltd in Sydney have them installed. This obviates the necessity for a customer to walk to the General Post Office or to an outside public telephone. The machines in the shops are available for the convenience of customers if they are prepared to pay the premium price. Honourable members opposite may say that it is an exorbitant charge. This is a matter on which honourable members can make up their own minds, but why do they not leave it to members of the public to determine whether or not they will use these telephones? I am not sure what would happen if it were decided that we should not allow the increases provided for in the regulation.
I know that this matter was the subject of debate in another place when a move to disallow the regulation was rejected. I think sensible people in this House will vote to reject this motion. This telephone service is of tremendous value to the community. It is of great help to the taxpayers in not having to find capital for additional departmental services. I do not think the public is at a disadvantage, because the public can choose whether or not to use the service. I reject the suggestion that because the charge for this service is to be increased to 7c it is contemplated by me or the Government that public telephone charges will be increased above 5c.
– That is nice to know, anyway.
– I thought the honourable member would like to know that. Sometimes there are insinuations or suggestions of ulterior motives, and they usually come from the Opposition side of the House, but I can assure the honourable member that in this particular case there is no reason whatever for any such suggestion. There is no need for me to say more on this matter. 1 ask the House to reject the motion.
– I support my colleague, the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine), who moved the disallowance of this regulation which will allow the red telephone companies, as they are called, to increase their telephone charges from 5c to 7c. Two reasons were advanced by the honourable member for East Sydney: First, that there was no justification for a 40% increase in the charge for the service and, secondly, that in any event this was a service that the Postmaster-General’s Department ought to be providing. I do not want to argue very much about the second reason because after all that is an ideological argument at this stage. I am not going to move the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) or any honourable member opposite with such an argument, although one honourable member opposite has suggested that the increase ought to have been not to 7c but to 6c. All the mathematics that the Minister has produced support that contention. Apparently the only reason why the charge has to be 7c is because 6c will not work the machine. Surely this is a most peculiar argument to advance - that the cost ought to be 6c but because 6c will not work the machine the charge has to be 7c.
– What is the alternative?
– The Minister suggests that there is no alternative. The Minister has worked out the mathematics of the position, and I concur with them. However, when the telephone companies were paying an average of 3ic a call and were charging 5c a call they were left with a margin of He a call which apparently satisfied them. Now that the charge to the companies is to be advanced from 3 1/3 c to 4c the only justification is to raise the price from 5c to 5 2/3 c. I can see that technically the charge the companies make should be 6c because we have no ic unit, but no reason has been advanced to show why members of the public should be mulcted of an extra cent for every call they make.
Surely it would have been possible to devise a machine to take three 2c pieces, rather than a machine to take a 5c piece and a lc piece. This is the prime reason why we ask the Postmaster-General to look at the position again. After all, he claims that the companies are doing a great service by producing a telephone that saves the Department from having to provide additional telephones. We contest that argument, too. The service the companies provide is a collection box, so called, into which the money is put for the calls. Apparently it is beyond the competence of anybody to devise a meter that will take three 2c coins rather than one to take a 5c coin and a lc coin. Because the Minister will not take the necessary action there is to be a meter that will take a 5c coin and a 2c coin. It would seem to me to be no more difficult to make a meter to take three 2c coins than a meter to take a 5c and a 2c coin. The Minister has produced no information on this aspect. He has taken the easy course of regulating the price. It is all very well for him to talk about it being a competitive price; it is not a competitive price at all.
Apparently nobody has the option of charging 6c even if he wants to devise an alternative meter. It suits the Minister and the companies concerned to fix the charge at 7c. Surely the meters will have to be adjusted. At present they take a 5c coin but in future they will have to take a 5c coin and a 2c coin. Why should it be easier to convert the meters to take a 5c coin and a 2c coin than to convert them to take three 2c coins? This is beyond me. The Minister claims that at present there are 8,750 instruments. The meter boxes of these instruments will have to be changed and all new installations will contain meter boxes anyway. To suggest that the capital cost will be an insuperable difficulty seems to support the attitude of the Opposition, and of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), that no argument has been advanced so far to justify an increase of the magnitude of 40% - from 5c to 7c. All the mathematics that the Minister has produced indicate that even with a charge of 6c the companies would be making ic a call more than they did previously. Apparently because nobody has sought advice from technical experts we are going to have to pay 7c a call. To my mind the Minister’s arguments do not hold water.
It seems to me to be an absurd argument to suggest that in an industry as technically capable as I know the electronics industry to be it would be too difficult to devise an appropriate meter. I ask honourable members opposite to follow the lead of the honourable member for Griffith and to agree that there is no justification for making the charge 7c a call. The regulation should be recommitted so that the charge can be made 6c instead of 7c. No argument has been advanced to justify a charge of 7c a call. The Minister has called upon honourable members to support the regulation as it stands. After having made an examination of the figures which are the basis of the claim that the charge should be increased, I call upon honourable members in the name of the people they claim to serve to support the motion of the honourable member for East Sydney that the regulation be disallowed. There is no justification whatever for an inordinate increase of 40% in the tariff to be charged for local calls on red telephones.
– in reply - The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has given some figures to support his claim that an increase is warranted. My colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has answered the Minister. However, I have asked the Minister some questions which he has not yet answered. In particular, I have asked whether the companies which lease the phones to shopkeepers and other people pay a charge to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the use of the telephone cables and equipment We have been told the figures relating to subscribers. My concern is that the taxpayers of this country pay $1,146 for the installation of telephone cables to the point at which a red telephone is connected. I want to know whether these companies are paying a fee to the Postal Department for the use of that cable, or whether they are given a free service. If no fee is paid, I take exception to this practice. The companies which lease the red telephones receive from the lessees $840,000 a year and it may be that not one cent of that amount is paid to the Postal Department to help to defray the costs of telephone cable and all the equipment necessary in a telephone exchange. That question ought to be answered.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out that the coin mechanism could be adjusted to receive three 2c pieces but I do not think that the PostmasterGeneral has even considered that suggestion. It has been said that the coin mechanism will not operate with lc pieces, but can be operated with 5c and 2c pieces. Are we to assume that each time in the future the charges for calls on red telephones are increased, each increase will be of at least 2c? This would mean that after the next increase the charge for each call will be 9c.
I do not think that the PostmasterGeneral has answered the challenge put to him in Parliament. He has not substantiated his Department’s claim that an increase should be approved. I ask honourable members to give this matter some thought and to reject the statements made by the Postmaster-General. All honourable members appreciate that the red telephones provide a service, but we also realise that they are taking away revenue from the Postal Department. The manufacturers of the red phones should be called upon to assist the revenue of the Postal Department. I believe that until the Postmaster-General is prepared to give to the Parliament all the relevant facts and figures the regulation should be dissallowed. The taxpayers’ money is being used by private enterprise to gain profit and the companies concerned should be called upon to pay, instead of the costs being borne by the subscribers and the general public.
Although the manufacturers of the red telephones are receiving rental charges of $840,000 a year it seems they are not paying one cent for the use of telephone cables and equipment. If the Minister allows this practice to continue I will be forced to conclude that something shifty is going on within his Department for which he should be called upon to answer to the Parliament. If the Minister refuses to inform the Parliament whether these companies are paying a fee I think we can conclude that he is condoning the free use of Postal Department equipment. Unless they are prepared to pay for the use of the equipment they should not be allowed to use it. I sincerely hope that the Minister will inform the Parliament whether the companies concerned are paying the Postal Department any charge to offset the costs incurred by the taxpayers of this country.
That the motion (Mr De vine’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - ‘Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill, Mr Speaker, is to bring into line with present day conditions certain provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act. This Act, which was framed in 1901, has, of course, been amended from time to time. The Bill I am now introducing is a continuation of this process. It covers several general areas, ranging from important to routine.
An important amendment deals with the carriage of mails by sea. A weakness in the Act was highlighted recently when a vessel departed from an Australian port leaving behind quite substantial quantities of mail. This was Christmas mail destined for the United Kingdom and Europe and the ship concerned was the last to leave Australia in time to allow delivery of the mail before Christmas. The present Part II of the Act lays down broad conditions relevant at the turn of the century for the carriage of mails by sea. These conditions are quite inappropriate now, as the incident 1 have mentioned demonstrates. The new Part II retains the Post Office authority to require a vessel to carry mail.
Legislative provision that outgoing vessels must accept any mails tendered is based on the traditional concept that ships are obliged to carry mail if required to do so by governments. Legislation of this nature was being applied by the Australian States well before Federation. The New South Wales Postage Act 1867 and the Victorian Post Office Act 1883, for example, contained these provisions. This is in line with British and New Zealand practices. The statutory provision has remained unchanged in Britain since at least the British Post Office Act of 1908, and similar legislation also exists in New Zealand. In future, except where its safety is involved, authority is given to detain a ship for 24 hours where there is reason to suspect that it may depart without the mail. A penalty of up to $1,000 is proposed for an offence against the new provisions.
The new Part II removes also a number of outdated provisions which, if applied rigorously, would hamper the movement of mails. An example is that special lockers be available on vessels for storage of mail. This is no longer practicable in view of the huge consignments of mail made today, many of which run into thousands of bags at individual ports. Similarly, the requirement that a ship’s master offload the mails before reporting to Customs is out of date. Today, customs officers board vessels before they enter port.
It is proposed also in the amendments. Mr Speaker, to recognise the carriage of mail by aircraft. With the growth of airmail carriage and international airports within Australia for which mail is being made up by overseas administrations, provision is being made to ensure delivery of mail at the appropriate airport at which the international aircraft lands. However, no provision is being made in regard to the outward carriage of mail. External airmail carriage is a highly competitive business. It is arranged by way of agreements, not only between the international operators - government and private - and the Post Office, but also within the framework of the much broader inter-governmental agreements which may give the right to uplift mails and cargo from Australia.
I turn now to damage done to departmental plant by other authorities or people. Currently, this is costing the Post Office about $3m a year. I am referring particularly to cases where road making equipment and the like damages departmental cables. At present, it is difficult to recover costs because there is no statutory liability unless the damage result’s from wilful, negligent or unlawful activity. The new section 139b introduces a statutory provision making any person who does work which damages Post Office property liable to pay compensation. This statutory liability is qualified, however, if the person has notified the Department that work is being done and has permitted a departmental officer to be in attendance while it is carried out. It has been framed to encourage co-operation between persons undertaking works which could affect departmental plant and the Post Office.
The Act at present provides that, where it is necessary for a telegraph line to be realigned or removed to allow for activities such as road widening, the cost shall be borne by the local authority concerned. But, in fact, Mr Speaker, many major road making project’s today are undertaken by authorities which are not under any statutory obligation to meet costs incurred by the Post Office for plant realignment. Section 139c makes provision for these costs to be met by the authority concerned.
Opportunity has been taken to amend the definition of a telegraph line to ensure recognition of other important items of departmental plant. This includes items such as cable ducts and manholes which are integral parts of a telegraph line. Also, the Bill reduces from 18 to 16 feet the minimum height at which telegraph lines may be erected above public thoroughfares. This will save construction costs and the height of a line will still be above the maximum height of 14 feet 6 inches for motor vehicles.
Finally, Mr Speaker, the Bill makes two other changes. Section 97 is amended to permit the imposition of fines up to$200 or imprisonment up to 12 months for offences against regulations. These provisions are intended to curb the incidence of obscene telephone calls and to enable the commitment of offenders to an institution for treatment. Also amended are the titles of the State Directors, in the interests of uniformity with other Commonwealth legislation, to Director of Posts and Telegraphs. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1966 by introducing some administrative and financial changes in the activities of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. First, reference to the Island of Nauru in the Commission’s charter to establish and operate communications stations must be deleted from the Act following the granting of Nauru’s independence. Next, provision has been made in clause 4 for a Commissioner who replaces one who has served only a portion of his statutory period to be appointed for 3 years rather than for the unexpired portion of the outgoing Commissioner’s term, as at present. At present, staff salary levels exceeding $5,000 must be approved by the Minister. To conform with other legislation it is proposed that the level be set at $7,500. To facilitate administration it is proposed that, at the appropriate time, a higher amount may be prescribed by regulation. Clause 6 of the Bill removes the present restrictions regarding the permanent employment of married women.
Under section 35 of the Act, the Commission is required to pay to the Post Office revenue received from terminal charges on international messages handled by stations controlled by the Commission. However, to recognise the work performed by the Commission in handling this traffic, the Post Office and the Commission have, over the years, entered into net settlement arrangements. The legislation proposes to regularise this situation by having the Commission retain such amounts as are determined in consultation with the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs.
Clause 12 raises the amount the Commission may authorise for the purchase or disposal of property from $40,000 to $100,000 and, to facilitate administration, it is proposed that at the appropriate time a higher amount may be prescribed by regulation. The financial limit will apply also for the procurement of supplies and equipment in Australia and overseas. The period for which the Commission may enter into a lease of land without the approval of the Minister has been extended from 5 to 10 years. I think this conforms generally with commercial practice in Australia at the present time.
Clauses 13, 14 and 15 bring the Act into line with Commonwealth banking legislation by deleting the reference to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The Commission is required to bank with the Reserve Bank, or with a bank approved by the Treasurer. Clause 15 also introduces flexibility in investment by enabling the Commission to invest in the short term money market in accordance with determinations of the Treasurer. Clause 16 has re-made section 77. It retains the Commission’s entitlement to have its service telegrams within Australia relating to international communications transmitted free of charge by the Post Office. The Commission will still be obliged to handle telegrams within Australia when requested by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs during periods of interruption to Post Office services. The Commission will receive appropriate payment for the work it performs in these circumstances. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish financial arrangements for the Post Office more appropriate to its role as a business undertaking. Honourable members will recall my giving notice last year when introducing legislation dealing with Post Office tariffs that the Government had decided to establish a Post Office Trust Account into which Post Office revenues would be paid and from which its expenditures would be met. This Bill gives effect to that decision and it is proposed that the new procedure will operate on and from 1st July 1968. This legislation will, for the first time, provide the Post Office with a business charter.
The Post Office, like all business undertakings, is required to make business judgments and decisions. It must react quickly to variations in demand for its services, and it is subject to the added discipline of planning its expenditure with an eye to the revenue and the net financial out-turn it will yield, as well as to the service rendered to the community including what might be termed ‘the less economic areas’. Whilst the Post Office has been expected to conduct its affairs on a business basis, it nevertheless has continued to operate within the same financial machinery as any other department of state. It has been required to pay all its revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and it has drawn from the annual parliamentary appropriations its fund requirements for operating and capital purposes. These arrangements are not suited to the operations of a business undertaking and, in fact, detract from the ability of the Post Office to operate efficiently on a business basis. Not the least of the problems has been the necessity to present each year two separate sets of accounts which militate against an understanding of Post Office financing.
Under the present system of separate parliamentary appropriations for expenditure, the inescapable direct relationship between revenue and expenditure is not clearly expressed, nor does it allow for any flexibility in coping with fluctuations in providing services according to the needs of the public. Under the new arrangements, Post Office revenues will -be paid into the Trust Account, and operating and capital expenditure will be drawn from it. Undoubtedly, the Department’s requirements each year for capital expenditure will be greater than the amount available from revenues. The difference will be provided as a single line appropriation in the Budget and also will be paid into the Trust Account.
The Post Office provision for superannuation liability and interest on advances from the Treasury will be included in operating expenditure. Taking the actual figures for 1966-67 and translating the figures into Trust Account terms, the appropriation would be:
To inform Parliament more fully of the purposes to which the revenues of the Post Office and the appropriation will be applied, a White Paper incorporating substantial information will be presented during each Budget session. It will show, among other things, the trading results of the Post Office for the preceding financial year and an estimate of the results of operations for the current financial year, and it will contain information on the capital programme for the preceding year and the current year.
The commercial accounting system is soundly based and adheres to established business precepts. It provides the real medium for evaluating the state of the financial affairs of the Post Office. The Auditor-General will continue to inspect and audit the accounts and financial records of the Post Office. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs will furnish a report to the Postmaster-General in relation to the operation of the Post Office services during a financial year. This report, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General will, as at present, be laid before each House of the
Parliament I mention by way of interpolation that the audited statements and the report of the Director-General will not be received until the accounts are finally prepared, usually in about October each year. The White Paper is intended to be available for the information of honourable members during the Budget debate and also the Estimates debate.
The arrangements proposed in this Bill will be a real aid to more efficient management of the Post Office which, of course, operates on an efficient and businesslike basis to the maximum extent possible under existing arrangements. However, budgeting and accounting procedures prescribed for the Post Office as a Government department are designed primarily as part of a system appropriate to administrative departments but not suited to the operations of a large public utility. Under existing conditions, for example, detailed estimates of expenditure by the Post Office, as with administrative departments, are shown under numerous divisions and items in the annual Appropriation Bills. If during the year, the Post Office requires additional funds on any item of its votes, it must seek additional funds for this item even though expenditure on other items of a closely related nature may be lower than expected. This procedure will be avoided under the new concept.
There is understandable confusion about the existence of two sets of accounts - Treasury and commercial - and involved reconciliations and lengthy explanations are necessary to explain the differences. The dual accounting system hampers a clear understanding by the Parliament and the public of the true state of the financial affairs of the Post Office. Not the least of the advantages of the Trust Account system will be the removal of the present complexities and confusion.
Mr Speaker, I have no doubt at all that parliamentary control will be enhanced by the proposed new system. Through the medium of the White Paper, Parliament and the people will be better informed on Post Office matters and there will be a clear understanding of the Department’s finances. It is expected that the greater flexibility will encourage and sustain improvements in Post Office managerial efficiency and economy, with consequent benefit to customers and to the community generally. The task of managing the affairs of the Post Office will be helped by internal budgetary and accounting systems designed to achieve the best results in commercial terms. This will be made possible by the elimination of the need to maintain two accounting systems. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General
– I suspend the sitting until 8 o’clock tonight in order that I may present the AddressinReply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, will accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 5.8 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, I waited today upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of the second session of the Twenty-sixth Parliament, agreed to by the House on 26th March 1968.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
Mr McEWEN (Murray - Minister for
Trade and Industry) - by leave - Mr Speaker, I make this statement in order to deal with the problems of a sector of the Australian motor vehicle industry, and with what is now revealed to be evidence of malpractice by Japanese motor vehicle exporters and their affiliated importers in Australia. For some time the question of the protection necessary for the Australian motor vehicle industry has been a matter of debate inside and outside this House. My position has been clear. This industry is vital to the prosperity of the country. It is the pacemaker for secondary industry in Australia. It is the second largest employer of labour in the country. The import saving due to our motor vehicle industry represents a vast figure. It sustains a great many other industries by its demands for rubber goods, engineering products, textiles and so on. For years it has been the policy of the Government to encourage the development of this industryIt is clearly regarded by the Tariff Board as economic and efficient and worthy of protection, and the Government has extended protection to the industry. It is part of the Government’s tariff policy that reasonable competition from overseas is healthy and in the interests of the consumer and the economy. In moderation and on a fair basis, it will promote sound development and growth of this key industry.
Recently the manufacturers have submitted to the Government that they are facing a crisis threatening their existence and future development. This threat arises principally from the rapid increase in imports of built-up cars in the smaller vehicle field. The small car market comprises at the present time some 100,000 vehicles in the total market of about 400,000 vehicles. The great increase in imports has come from Japan. The Japanese share of motor car registrations in 1967 was 36,000. Japanese cars now represent more than 25% of the small car market. A number of points of view have been put in this House and in the Press. Some have alleged that the Australian industry is inefficient. They say it lacks reasonable economies of scale due to the size of the market. It is either said or implied that the industry should be allowed to contract and some elements of it to disappear. There has been criticismof the alleged ‘high’ level of protection accorded the Australian industry. Others have biamed the current Government arrangements to increase local content in vehicles for the crisis facing manufacturers of smaller motor vehicles. It is said that these arrangements have forced assembly or manufacturing operations in Australia that are alleged to be uneconomic and not viable.
The present level of tariffs governing completely built-up vehicles imported into Australia is 45%. This was recommended by the Tariff Board based on true costs and prices as a basis on which duties are levied. The requirements are laid down in our law. I might mention that the duty of 45% can hardly be said by the Japanese to be a high duty since it is nearly the duty that they themselves impose on imports of motor vehicles. The fact that our industry is being severely damaged by imports must mean either that the duties and current arrangements are inadequate to afford proper protection or the protection is being evaded. The first question, before considering any changes in duties or arrangements, is to determine whether there is evasion of the present protection. Therefore, investigations to determine the validity of the pricing of Japanese vehicles for customs purposes, have been going on for some considerable time. These investigations are to find out whether such imports were complying with our legal provisions or were being carried out in a way designed to circumvent improperly our customs laws and so frustrate the protection of our local industry.
My colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), has announced earlier today in another place that his officers have found clear evidence of a blatant and widespread conspiracy amongst motor vehicle exporters from Japan and some of their affiliated Australian importers. Their objective was to evade duties and avoid anti-dumping measures. The amounts involved are substantial. Duties evaded mean that sales tax, mark-ups and other elements in the retail price also are reduced. In fact, for every $1 of duty evaded the retail price is or can be reduced by about $3. I have been aware of the trend of these investigations for many months. I had to wait until the investigations had progressed sufficiently. I had to wait until my colleague was satisfied that action could be taken. I have said nothing previously about the doubts I have held as to the business practices relating to imports of Japanese motor vehicles threatening our domestic industry.
Any plan of tariff protection of Australian industry relies on the integrity of overseas exporters and Australian importers. It depends upon the honest declaration of costs and prices for goods sold to, and marketed in, Australia. Every country has dumping provisions to ensure that where dumped prices based on ‘cooked values’, false invoices, dummy transactions, etc., are used, compensating duties are levied. This is to ensure that industries are subject only to fair competition. Any normal tariff device or any level of protection will fail if imports are brought into Australia undetected under conditions of false prices and false selling mark-ups. Normal protection is not intended to cope with deliberately misleading practices. Thus completely built-up vehicles, if they can enter this country and avoid paying the prescribed duties and taxes, render the present duty protection completely inadequate. The solution is not to raise the duty but to stop the malpractices and bring about fair prices and fair competition. This my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, has indicated will be done.
Part of the Australian Government’s policy is to give a special concession to importers of unassembled vehicles. This concession relates a certain volume of vehicles to a specified minimum Australian content. This specified minimum means relatively small Australian content, apart from assembly costs. This is a concession the like of which is provided by no other country. For instance, Japan, far from giving any concession, virtually prohibits imports of engines and other vital parts. Yet this Australian concession has been criticised by some in this House and outside. It is said to be a compulsion on industry to undertake in Australia assembly and manufacture which it otherwise would not do. This is nonsense.
The special concessions, of course, do not ensure, any more than a normal duty ensures, that manufacturers will not suffer from their own wrong decisions. In every industry from time to time there may well be over capacity and accompanying business mortality. This is brought about by too optimistic thinking of individual companies on the share of the market they expect to get. It is not our policy to dictate who should and who should not manufacture, or what share of the market any one company should or should not get. The forces of competition must determine this within a private enterprise and profit framework. Therefore, whether or not there are special concessions, it can always be that some sectors of the industry can be hurt by theirown mis judgment of the normal forces of competition. I have no brief to protect against these factors. Nor do manufacturers seek protection against them.
However, Sir, if there is a conspiracy to state false values on components, the whole concessional plans will fail just as surely as the protection on completely built up vehicles will fail. Here, the first concern is not to think in terms of altering any existing arrangements, such as the small vehicle programme or what is known as plan A, or the duty rates. Our first concern is to stop the avoidance of the requirements of our law. The evidence indicates that this avoidance has allowed underselling and damaging of the vast sector of the industry which has complied with our laws.
My colleague’s statement in another place indicates that the Government is taking steps to ensure that existing protection will be maintained. The full rigours of the law will be imposed on those who conspire to defeat the law. A key industry like the motor vehicle industry must be fully safeguarded against unfair and illegal competition. We cannot and will not tolerate the deliberate undermining of any Australian industry. I shall inform the House of further developments.
I present the following paper:
Protection of the Australian motor vehicle Industry - Ministerial Statement, 4th April 1968.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The speech made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to the House this evening is one for which we have been waiting for several weeks. It has been apparent that before very long some announcement of this sort would have to come but I must say that as I see the problems of the motor car industry this statement by the Minister is a very disappointing one. He has correctly pointed out that the motor car industry in Australia has become one of very great importance. He says:
It is the pace maker for secondary industry in Australia. It is the second largest employer of labour in the country. The import saving due to our motor vehicle industry represents a vast figure. It sustains a great many other industries by its demands for rubber goods, engineering products, textiles and so on.
This, of course, is beyond question. There is an investment in the industry today of well over $500m and wise it is to point out that of all that money only about $20m is Australian. Whilst this is a very large and a very significant industry it is almost completely owned by people outside Australia. It employs about 55,000 people. In this industry, we have been told for several months, there is a serious crisis, particularly in the production of smaller vehicles. The Minister tells us that recently the manufacturers have submitted tothe Goyernment that they are facing a crisis threatening their existence and future development. So there is no doubt about that. The Minister was quite frank. He recognises the extent and seriousness of the crisis threatening their existence and future development.
What I am concerned to know is whether the Minister thinks that this crisis can be dealt with by action taken against what he calls dumping. Is he suggesting to us that the only or main cause of the crisis in the industry is what he outlined in his speech? The investigations that have been made have revealed that there is clear evidence of a blatant and widespread conspiracy amongst Japanese motor vehicle exporters and some of their affiliated Australian importers. Practices have been going on, of which the Minister gives us details, in respect of cooked values, false invoices and dummy transactions, so that by avoiding duty the retail price of some cars is reduced by about $3, and this has been, apparently, the work of the Japanese alone.
– Three dollars per $1 of avoided duty.
– Yes, $3 per $1 of avoided duty. This apparently is the work of the Japanese alone. It is suggested by the Minister that this is the cause of the difficulty. It is no more than a suggestion. Does the Minister intend to tell the House at this stage that this is the cause of the difficulty? I question that it is. No-one on this side of the House will question that if these practices are going on - and evidence of that already has been found - they should be dealt with. Of course they should be dealt with. The Minister correctly says that the solution is not to raise the duty but to stop the malpractices and bring about fair prices and fair competition. We all agree that where these practices occur they must be dealt with and fair practices must be ensured. This is the first thing to do. But I question whether the crisis outlined, admitted and recognised by the Minister is solely caused by these practices.
Recently there have been considerable pressures on the industry but these pressures have been at work for some considerable time and they showed up in a significant way before the volume of Japanese imports became as significant as it is today. In 1966 Japanese vehicles imported numbered about 20,000. They have risen to about 33,000 in 1968, an increase of about 60%, while total registrations have gone up by about 10%. The crisis that we are talking about now is not one that has recently come about but has existed for some time. It seems to me to be deeper seated and to be related to more things than merely the practices that have been adopted by the Japanese importers in recent times. The Minister looks at a number of factors which might give us an indication where the crisis originated. He looks first at the statements that there is a high level of protection and inefficiency in the Australian industry. He looks secondly at what he calls current Government arrangements. He looks, thirdly, at what he calls the evasion of present protection - these practices by Japanese importers to which I have just referred. The Minister dismisses completely the statement that there might be high protection and inefficiency in Australia. I do not think there is any doubt that the level of efficiency in the Australian motor car industry is not the same everywhere. Some parts of the industry are certainly more efficient than others. Also I think there is evidence that in some cases, if not in all cases, prices are a good deal higher than they might be.
The Australian motor car industry has been quite a remarkable one. It came into existence with a small amount of capital inflow buying the basis of an industry in Australia. It produced a motor car that was sold on the Australian market at a price which allowed sufficient money to be taken back by the producer to enable him to build up an industry out of the price he received for the car. It would be totally wrong for the Australian people to imagine that the motor car industry in Australia was established with capital which flowed in from outside Australia. A little capital came into Australia to provide a foundation on which to produce cars and sell them on the Australian market at a price high enough to allow the industry to plow back capital and build itself up.
– Who made this arrangement in the first place?
– It does not matter who made the arrangement. The arrangement was quite sound, to begin with. But I am trying to point out to the honourable member for St George that something might have gone wrong since 1949 and that he and his party may have had something to do with that result, because they have permitted very high prices to be charged and very high profits to be made. I am not speaking about inefficiency. I am speaking about this process of exploiting the Australian market to get sufficient money to build up the industry. It might have been better if the capital had come in in some other way. It might have been better if a lower price had been charged for the Australian vehicle. At any rate, I think the Minister would have to agree that we have now reached the stage where perhaps something should be done about prices. The industry has reached the stage - at least those parts of it which are producing vehicles with a 95% Australian content - where it has much of the capital structure that it needs; but it will continue to charge similar prices, make the same kind of profits and prepare for the same kind of ploughback as in the past.
I think that we have a right to say to the industry: ‘We expect you not to require as much capital as you did when you were building yourself into this position. Therefore you do not require the same kind of price policy that you needed in the early stages. We expect you to reduce your prices in the future.’ I repeat that I am not speaking about inefficiency. I am speaking about the price policy of a monopolist industry - an oligopoly created by Government policy in which three large manufacturers have taken the greater part of the market. The Government created the oligopoly. It has the responsibility to say something about the prices charged by this oligopoly. It is not a question of inefficiency at all. It might well be that the Australian motor car industry, man for man, hour for hour, and unit of resources for unit of resources, is as efficient as any industry anywhere else. It may be inefficient. But the question, most significantly, is one of price policy.
Therefore I think that the Minister is wrong in simply dismissing this question by statements about high protection and inefficiency as though there was no need to give it any attention. Of course, the Minister also intends to dismiss the second question - that is, current Government arrangements. The Minister, in his speech, said:
Here, the first concern is not to think in terms of altering any existing arrangements, such as the small vehicle programme or the plan A or the duty rates.
That is quite correct as a first step, but the Minister must not leave it at that. Let us have a look at these dumping practices first. Does the Minister intend to tell us that he will not concern himself with having a look at the existing arrangements or, as he calls them, current Government arrangements? It seems to me that these current Government arrangements have contributed substantially to the crisis which the Minister now admits exists. It is not just a matter of a Japanese practice having contributed to this crisis. I think the evidence shows that current Government arrangements have also contributed something to it. I hope that the Minister, his Department and others will examine these current Government arrangements quite closely.
At this stage I do not intend to do more than give some indication of what these current Government arrangements are and how they may have contributed to the crisis which the Minister admits we now have in the industry. The current Government arrangements come about as a result of a plan by the Government to establish in Australia the production of motor cars having a 95% Australian content. Reference was made to the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board mads a report. The Board, by a majority decision, made certain recommendations about what should be done to achieve production of motor vehicles with a 95% Australian content. These recommendations were not accepted by the Minister for Trade and Industry. What he chose to do was contrary to what the Tariff Board had recommended.
– There is no harm in that.
– The Minister might be right and the Tariff Board might be wrong; but the first point that I should like honourable members to note is that the Minister chose to adopt a policy different from that recommended by the Board. The Government chose to adopt what has been called plan ‘A’ with a supplementary ‘SV, or small vehicle, plan. Under plan ‘A’, passenger type vehicles are required to achieve 95% local content over a period not exceeding 5 years. I think that three manufacturers have now achieved that level. However, at first ten different makes of vehicles were known to have been entered under this plan. The market for vehicles of the larger type produced under this plan is approximately 300,000.
The first problem is the scale of production needed to reach the most economic level. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd produce approximately 200,000 Holden vehicles as part of the total number of larger vehicles that can be sold on the Australian market. The other producers have to share what is left of the market. It is beyond doubt that under plan A there is not room for 10, 9, 7 or 6 producers. For a long time motor vehicle producers themselves have been saying that in order to produce economically an output of at least 30,000 vehicles a year is necessary. Therefore you cannot fit into this economy 5, 6, 7, 9 or 10 producers each manufacturing 30,000 vehicles. The Australian and export market is not large enough. One of the difficulties has arisen because the Government’s current arrangements allowed a greater number of producers to enter the field under plan A than could possibly be fitted into it. This was one of the reasons why Volkswagen Australasia Ltd, which had invested approximately $50m in the manufacture of the Volkswagen mo’or vehicle, had to close down a few months ago. So there was a considerable misallocation and considerable waste of resources in a country that cannot spare such misallocation and waste. At least the Volkswagen company has admitted that it made a mistake. It should be obvious to the Government that it, too, made a mistake, but no admission of this kind has been forthcoming from the Government. The Government of this country never makes mistakes. The Volkswagen people were decent enough and humble enough to say that they had made a mistake, but not this Government: It makes no mistakes.
The fundamental weakness of plan A was that it was impossible to fit into it the number of producers who were trying to fit into it, remembering that at least 30,000 vehicles had to be produced by each one for operations to be economical. That is the first point. I do not care how many dumping procedures the Japanese adopt within the limits of 20,000 or 30,000 vehicles. This other aspect is an economic weakness affecting the whole plan far more fundamental than anything dumping can do.
At the other end of the plan, which was a departure from what the Tariff Board had recommended, was what was called the SV or small vehicle or small volume plan. Under this plan it was possible for people to produce 7,500 vehicles with not less than 60% Australian content. Here the key was the limitation to 7,500 vehicles. It was assumed that there would surely not be many separate producers each bringing into the country under this plan 7,500 vehicles, because if you had half a dozen of these you would have a quantity of cars that might fill the Australian market beyond its capacity to absorb them. What the Japanese have done is to proliferate their models under the SV plan. It was assumed that the SV plan would prevent them from bringing in 20,000 or 30,000 cars, but they could bring in 7,000 of each of four models, which in total would be more than 20,000. All of those multiplied models were competitive with the ones sought to be produced here. They would not be sufficiently competitive if there were only one model, but if there were three or four of them they would together be substantially competitive. The plan encouraged the proliferation of models so that each could be imported in the maximum quantity of 7,500.
What will happen now? Volkswagen had to go out of business in this country because it could not reach an economic level of production with an Australian content of 95%. It will produce outside Australia. Its products will be imported with an Australian content of 60%. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House. I will not abuse its generosity. I will conclude quickly.
Volkswagen will import into this country’ three separate models - the 1200. the 1500 and the 1700 - under the SV plan, each in quantities within 7,500. This will give the company more cars to sell here than it was selling in Australia when the cars were produced here. These cars will be a more competitive component in the market, whether they are dumped or not. So if the Minister is suggesting that the substantial thing that has caused this crisis is the dumping procedure, he is seeking to escape the consequences of his own plan A and SV plan. which have encouraged the very thing that they were in the first place supposed to prevent.
We welcome the Minister’s statement that he recognises that a serious crisis exists in the motor car industry. We support him in having a thorough investigation into any improper practices that may have been adopted by the Japanese. But we are satisfied that unless he looks a good deal more closely at the pricing policies of Australian producers, and at the Government’s arrangements to protect motor car production in Australia, he will be failing to tackle the cause of this crisis. We on this side of the House recognise the need for protection in this country, but the policy adopted by the Government has gone further than protection. It has become a kind of intervention in or a planning of the development of the motor car industry in Australia.
It seems to me that evidence exists to show that the position taken by the Government is not well informed. Broadly, the industry has done its homework, but I do not think the Government has. Its intervention has been ineffective. It has caused misallocation and waste of resources. What is needed is a more orderly, consistent plan, well informed to begin with and deliberate in its operation. What is needed is not more intervention and bureaucracy but thoughtful and purposeful Government action. I submit that we have not had this. We must plan for the development of key parts or main parts of industry and not encourage proliferation as has occurred under the SV plan, with consequent waste and misallocation of resources. If we want a motor car industry in Australia we must be satisfied that we have sufficient units to allow each unit to fit into the total so that it may produce a sufficient quantity to get the best results from economies of scale. There has been wasteful competition between the States. This, I submit, has resulted from the Government’s current arrangements and cannot be hidden by histrionics or simply by removing the trouble caused by dumping.
It seems to me that the Minister for Trade and Industry may have other motives in emphasising the significance of what the Japanese have been doing. It may well be that improper practices are carried out by the Japanese in the importation of motor cars into Australia. If there are, let us have the evidence of them and let us get them cleared up. But it seems to me that the performances of the right honourable gentleman in the last couple of weeks in respect of Japan might have some other explanation. There is the mystery of Mr Newton, the secret Japanese agent.
– A paid agent.
– A paid one. The Minister soon will attend the International Sugar Conference. Japan is a key country in this Conference. Perhaps the right honourable gentleman is using this type of treatment of the Japanese to promote his bargaining position in respect of sugar. There is a great need for his bargaining position in respect of sugar to be strengthened because the arrangements which he made previously with the Japanese concerning sugar are far from satisfactory. It seems to me that if we are to solve the problems of the sugar industry and the motor car industry we should keep our methods fairly separate. It may well be that the method adopted by the Minister for Trade and Industry in the House in the last couple of weeks is quite appropriate to assist him to get better results for sugar. This could be said to be a matter for debate. But it does not seem to me that his actions are sufficient to get the best results for the motor car industry. More is required. We have not got anything yet for the motor car industry. If members of the Country Party, who are interjecting, think that we have, they are quite wrong. So far we have been told that there have been some malpractices and that these are to be removed. Let us go ahead with this, but this must not be the end of it. But this does not indicate that the crisis, which the Minister admits exists, will be met. I have shown that in the Government’s current arrangements and in the price policies of the Australian car manufacturers, there are factors that could have and must have contributed considerably to this crisis.
The Opposition is not satisfied with the position that the Minister has taken up. He told us that he will inform the House of further developments. We will wait very anxiously to be informed by the Minister of further developments, because we expect that they will be most interesting and much more substantial than the speech he made to us this evening.
– When I received a copy of a speech delivered by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) in another place and I read certain words therein, I felt very concerned about what was really happening to Australian industry. The Minister said:
I emphasise the words ‘collectively conspired’: to give the Customs investigators false information aimed at evading our laws.
That is a most serious charge. I accept it as being prima facie true and I believe that the Government is completely justified in doing what it has done to stop this collective conspiracy.
I have always been opposed to Japanese imperialism. All the years that I have been in the Australian Labor Party, and they are many, we have been afraid of the Japanese manufacturing industries. In the days before World War II the Japanese dumped many materials on Australian shores and now, seemingly with the connivance of the Japanese Government, because collective collusion could not take place without some Government authority in Japan knowing of it, we have reached the situation where the Australian Government has had to take action that can affect our diplomatic position and our relationships with Japan. What the Government has done in stopping this dumping of motor cars in Australia is completely justified. I hope that the Government will now move from that position to a more positive one that will guarantee the continued existence of the Australian motor car industry. To me the way to deal with General Motors-Holdens Pty Ltd and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Pty Ltd is to compel them to domicile 51% of their shares in Australia. No Australian citizen is allowed to have a lc equity in either of these companies. They would not have come here unless they had the right to do what they have done. The intention of General Motors-Holdens was not known to the Chifley Government when the franchise was given to them. I was a member of the Government at the time. The company promised to produce a small Australian motor car - a family car - at a reasonable price. From the time the company built the first motor car here it has overcharged the Australian people at least $400 for each car it has sold. In that way it has built up the enormous wealth that is owns today.
When Sir Laurence Hartnett, the only non-American managing director employed by General Motors-Holden, had persuaded the Chifley Government that it was possible to build an Australian motor car, and when we had agreed to the proposal, he turned to Mr Chifley and said: ‘Well, what about some financial assistance?’ Mr Chifley said: Will General Motors Corporation not provide some money?’ Mr Hartnett, as he then was, replied: ‘No, we would like to have an overdraft on the Commonwealth Bank.’ Mr Chifley rang Governor Armitage to ask for assistance and Governor Armitage said: Yes, Prime Minister, we will give you £2m Then Mr Isaacson, the General Manager of the Bank of Adelaide in the city in which the Holden company was established, said: We want to be in this.’ He provided another £lm. On this $6m, General Motors-Holdens has built its huge empire. It has $200m worth of assets in Australia and it has remitted probably $200m in dividends to the shareholders of General Motors Corporation in the United States of America.
No amount of pleading by the Menzies Government or by any Australians who have discussed the matter now with General Motors-Holdens will convince it that it ought to domicile its interest here. The Government should pass a law compelling every foreign company operating in Australia to domicile more than half its holdings in Australia. That goes for motor cars, for insurance, for shipping if we can effect it, and certainly for banking. While the Government deals with a situation such as the one that confronts it now and in the way that it has done, we will have recurring crises. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) was right when he said that we are selling a bit of the farm every year to pay our way. It is time we stopped doing that.
I would not have come into this debate but for the fact that I have noticed that the Japanese for a long time have been telling us what we ought to do with our country and how we ought to help them. Japanese business men who were here last week or the week before said we ought to grow only primary produce and we should purchase Japanese manufactured goods. In their view we ought to become a cabbage garden so that we can buy Japanese manufactures. They strengthened their argument with the remark that manufactured goods can be made in Japan at a third or a f ourth of the cost at which they can be made in Australia. I do not think that any Australian, remembering what happened in World War II, would ever want to see a strong Japan in this part of the Pacific again.
– Why did the right honourable member let them in?
– We did not. The honourable member should ask the women of Australia whether they want to see many Japanese goods here. They have a very vivid recollection of what happened when the Japanese were so close to our shores. The first Menzies Government and I think the Lyons Government tried to set up a motor car industry in Australia but at that time not enough Australians had the knowhow. During World War II we had to struggle through with improvised manufactures for our war effort. We emerged from the war with tradesmen who could make Rolls Royce Merlin engines. Before the war we could not make a piece of the fuselage of an aeroplane. After the war the overseas manufacturers said: ‘Now that the war is over we will supply you with motor cars again.’ All the people of Australia had gone through such a terrible experience that there was a unanimous opinion that never again would we be caught in the position we were in before the war. We would populate and develop Australia and we would build a motor car industry. But we were tricked by General Motors and we were tricked by Ford. General Motors Corporation was never able to get into France, never able to get into Indonesia, never able-
– To get into Japan.
– That is perfectly true. What do we find today? The Japanese manufacturers are able under existing conditions to bring their cars into Australia and to undersell General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd on the Australian market. We have to protect ourselves against both the General Motors Corporation and the Japanese. It may be argued that we are spending too much money, employing too many people, using too much material and employing too much finance in the motor industry. What this country needs is a centralised government with a planned economy and a proper system of priorities.
– That is Socialism.
– Of course it is. I am 100% Socialist. The sooner we move towards Socialism and away from monopoly capitalism of the General Motors Corporation variety the better it will be for Australia and the Australian people. The Japanese have an overall favourable trade balance with the sterling area. They want a favourable trade balance with Australia. They cannot have a favourable trade balance with every country. If they do, they will have runaway inflation. They are pressing us all the time and demanding something all the time. I have a fear of Japanese remilitarisation. I believe that it is a more real threat to the security of this country than is the mythical downward thrust of Chinese Communism.
I have been a lifelong protectionist. I am a high tariff man. I am not prepared to tolerate a free trade fiscal policy. We have so much to do to develop this country that we must protect our industries. But we should never allow industries to shelter behind the protective wall of the tariff. No Australian industry should be protected if it is inefficient. Therefore it is for the Government to strike the right balance in these matters.
– The right honourable member has switched.
– No, I have never switched on these matters. I am as I have always been. The Ford Motor Co. came into this new arrangement for manufacturing Australian cars very late. It is sorry now that it came in so late. It incurred huge losses over a number of years. I suppose it is doing reasonably well at the present time. We are a most tolerant people. We will let anybody swindle us. Any nation can come in and rob us. Many overseas companies have come to Australia. Large numbers of people in this country are making money out of our backwardness, our neglect or our lethargy.
Reference has been made to Mr Maxwell Newton, the Japanese commercial spy who used to be in the Press Gallery. He operated from there in the interests of the Japanese. I think he has been removed from the Gallery. But I understand that his second in command, Mr Farmer, is still there. It could well be that other people on Mr Newton’s payroll are there. He is a wealthy man as a result of what he received from the Japanese Government. I do not believe that the Press Gallery should be used by any people other than journalists who are here to report what happens in this Parliament. It should not be used by people who have other interests, either with newspapers around the world or with commercial interests around the world and who operate to their own advantage, not necessarily for the advantage of this country and at times to its detriment. I have known Mr Newton for a long time. When the Sydney Morning Herald’ was supporting the Australian Labor Party in 1961 and he was in the employ of that newspaper, he was with us and he supported us. I admit quite frankly that I received very valuable help from him at that time. But before then he was the enemy of the . Labor Party and since then he has been the enemy of the Labor Party. So I am no defender of Newton and I am no agent of the Japanese.
I believe that we can increase our productivity growth rate. We can increase our overall production if we develop our own industries. The tragedy is that we have not a central government in Australia and we do not look like having one for many years to come. As long as we amble along with the six separate States and the Commonwealth with divided powers we will never be able to develop this nation properly. The Commonwealth has power over customs and excise. It is doing something. It is doing the best it can within the limited provisions of the existing Commonwealth Constitution. I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry not to weary of well doing in the scriptural sense, to continue the investigations of all forms of dumping and to persuade his Cabinet colleagues that the real way out of all this trouble is to pass a law that will compel foreign companies to give the Australian people a majority holding in them.
-I will not detain the House for long. I believe that the Government has taken a particularly wise action in investigating the dumping of Japanese cars in Australia. When the businessmen of a trading nation - not just individuals, not even the vast majority of them, but all of them - are willing to conspire, as was stated in the Senate, in order to evade the customs laws of this country in connection with motor cars, they will do so in connection with every other manufactured article that they can put on the Australian market. We need to protect this country against the dumping practices of the Japanese not just in regard to one item, namely, motor cars.
The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) pointed out that a gentleman named Mr Nara came to this country to attend a businessmen’s seminar in Sydney. We were informed by articles in the Press that he was not an insignificant businessman, not an unrepresentative businessman, but one of the most outstanding and most wealthy businessmen in Japan. He said that the labour cost of Australian manufactures was21/2 to 3 times that of Japanese manufactures. He went on to say: ‘Therefore we can manufacture goods in Japan much more cheaply than you can manufacture them here in Australia. It is an axiom of business that the people who can manufacture most cheaply should get the market and the others should concentrate on that department of life in which they can manufacture cheaply. In Australia you can produce more cheaply than Japan in the field of some primary products. Therefore you should concentrate on those.’ Japan says that we should concentrate on primary production to the total exclusion of manufactures. As the right honourable member for Melbourne said, that means that Australia should become the cabbage garden for Japan. As the cabbage garden, we could not employ vast numbers of people or absorb the vast increase in thenumber of people coming to this country, because fewer people are employed in Australian rural industries today than were employed in them in 1939. If we accent the advice of these leaders of Japaneseindustry we destroy our chances ofbecoming a great nation; we destroy our chances of raising the standard of living, of maintaining our standard of living or of keepingemployed the people we have in this country today.
Therefore, together with the Deputy Prime Minister, I repudiate that idea in connection with Australia. But I say that if we give to the people who have thoseideas the right to establish within this country their own industry - that is, to have total control of manufacturing industries in thiscountry by buying into Australia industrial concerns until they dominate them - what: will they do? They will put into operation their philosophy. They will say: ‘You shall become the cabbage garden. We will buy in merely to destroy your industries. We shall transfer the manufacture of goods, from Australia to Japan so that we can produce them there at one-third the labour cost or less than the cost that operates in Australia’. This of course must not be done if this nation is to develop and is to become prosperous. It must not be done if we are to absorb more people and maintain the standard of living that has been built up. Only since this country has had the protection of tariff walls has it been possible tobuild up secondary industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr Erwin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 March (vide page 569), on motion by Mr Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– However much I may differ from the Attorney-General (Mr
Bowen) in the courses to which he is driven by his protestations and presentations on questions of fact and by his preoccupations and justifications in Liberal Party disputes in the wake of the ‘Voyager’, I have nothing but admiration for the impetus he is bringing to court reform. On 18th May last year he made a statement to the House outlining the jurisdiction of the proposed Commonwealth Superior Court. I believe this was the first statement that any Minister had made to the Parliament since December 1962 when the Cabinet authorised the then Attorney-General to design such a court. On 26th March the Attorney-General announced the decision to transfer the principal seat of the High Court to the Seat of Government. The present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), when he was Attorney-General, told me on 31st March 1965 that he could not say when consideration had last been formally given to carrying out this provision which had been in our statutes since 1903.
Tonight we are resuming debate on a Bill to limit appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. The Attorney-General had outlined the terms of this Bill on 6th September last year. There has been a great advance in Government thinking on this matter since I proposed the question to the House on 23rd September 1965. On that occasion the Government’s case was put first by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. At page 1204 of Hansard he is reported as saying: . . one way in which we could limit the matters that may go on appeal would be to provide that in relation to all matters arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation, there should be no leave without a certificate of the High Court, in other words, abolish the distinction in respect of questions involving disputes as to the powers inter se of the Commonwealth and the States, such as any question arising under section 92 of the Constitution or any other question arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation.
In the same speech, Sir Robert Menzies added the qualification:
I do not commit myself to any view because 1 cannot commit the Government to any view. However, I personally have been not unattracted “by the idea of working out something along these lines.
The present Attorney-General has made no such qualifications as to a certificate being granted by the High Court. He has said that there shall be no special leave from decisions of the High Court on federal matters or leave from Federal courts at all.
The Attorney-General’s predecessor put two arguments in particular with some detail. One argument was that there were still a great number of countries in the Commonwealth which still allowed appeals to the Privy Council. Secondly, he said that it would be quite difficult for us to abolish appeals particularly, say, by referendum. I think it is fair to say that his attitude was essentially defensive on the matter. Our present Attorney-General has made no equivocation about it. He has firmly stated that such appeals should be limited as far as we can effectively do so.
On the weekend after I raised this matter on 23rd September 1965 a gallup poll surveyed opinion in Australia on the matter. A gallup poll had previously done so 10 years earlier. Over those 10 years the percentage of persons who held the view that the final court of appeal should be the High Court increased from 65% to 81%. The percentage who held the opinion that the Privy Council should be the final court of appeal declined from 22% to 10%. The percentage who held no opinion declined from 13% to 9%. I would have no doubt that in the 2i years since then the tide of public opinion in Australia - and I believe of legal opinion - has been confirmed.
This bill is a very great milestone. It represents a step which the Commonwealth Parliament could have taken at any time since it first met at the beginning of the century. This is the first such step that has been taken. It is a very considerable step indeed.
Honourable members and still more, members of the general public, will be concerned that appeals can still go from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council either directly or via the High Court. Perhaps I might state the extent to which such appeals have taken place. I quote from an answer the Attorney-General gave to me on 28th September 1967 in answer to a question on notice by me. I asked:
How many appeals to the Privy Council from each State Supreme Court were (a) instituted and (b) heard in each of the last 10 years?
The Attorney-General told me that there had been twenty-two such appeals. In his answer he indicated that all had come from the Supreme Court of New South Wales except one which came from the Supreme
Court of Queensland in 1964 and another in 1966. In the same question on notice 1 asked the Attorney-General:
Is he able to say whether appeals still He to the Privy Council from the Supreme Courts ot any of the states or provinces of other Commonwealth countries with federal systems?
The Attorney-General replied:
To my knowledge,, no appeals lie to the Privy Council from any courts of any of the states or provinces of other Commonwealth countries with federal systems.
Accordingly Australia is quite unique in this respect. For instance, in the case of Malaysia, a Commonwealth country wilh a federal system, appeals do not lie from the supreme courts of any of the states of Malaysia but only from the Supreme Court of Malaysia itself. Of course appeals from the Supreme Courts of the Canadian Provinces were abolished at the same time as appeals from the Supreme Court of Canada were abolished.
I can understand why the AttorneyGeneral has preserved appeals from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council which may come via the High Court. It is quite likely that if this avenue of appeal via the High Court to the Privy Council from the State Supreme Courts was not preserved many appeals from State Supreme Courts would then go direct to the Privy Council instead of going, at least in the first place, to the High Court. This would increase the cost of litigation and it would diminish the role of the High Court.
It is impossible for this Parliament or for the State Parliaments, by legislation, to abolish appeals from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. This is because the Australian States opted out of the Statute of Westminster. The Australian States are still British colonies. If they wanted to abolish appeals from their Supreme Courts to the Privy Council they would have to ask the British Parliament to repeal the Judicial Committee Appeals Acts of 1833 and 1844. This would emphasise Australia’s dependence on Britain. An alternative course - and I do not suggest that this is free of legal doubt - would be for this Parliament to pass a Bill for a referendum and for the Government to put that referendum to the people to abolish these appeals. This would emphasise our independence.
There are quite a number of State matters in which there can be an appeal in this way to the Privy Council from the State Supreme Courts. The New South Wales Attorney-General gave instances of them on 7th November last. They include the interpretation of State statutes, contract law, tort, crime and stamp, probate and succession duties. He said:
It is doubtful whether the Commonwealth possesses the power to abolish appeals in purely State matters. . . . Tt is highly probable, I think, that it would possess the power only if it sought and obtained it by a referendum.
In these circumstances it is obvious that the most practical method of abolishing appeals to the Privy Council in purely State matters would be to approach the imperial authorities and ask that they pass the necessary legislation. It is equally highly probable, I should think, that the imperial authorities would not legislate in this field unless unanimously approached and requested to do so by the States.
Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, had taken the opportunity once more to proclaim his adherence to the status quo on 17th October when he stated that Victoria had decided not to abolish appeals to the Privy Council in London and that his Government had notified the authorities in London of Victoria’s decision. He gave the reason that Victoria was not satisfied with the High Court. He gave as an instance the occasion when the High Court intervened the day before Robert Peter Tait was to be executed in 1961 and granted a stay of execution. As a consequence the Government had had to commute Tait’s sentence of death to life imprisonment. I should think that the Victorian Government’s attitude, and still more the reason given for that attitude, do not commend themselves to Australians in general and to Victorians in particular.
Perhaps I might recall what I stated in September 1965 in moving a motion that the House was of the opinion that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished as soon as possible. I would limit it now to the situation of the Australian States because the position of the Federal courts will be cured as a result of this legislation. I said:
The essence of British democracy is that laws should be made by a parliament which has been elected by all citizens and that laws should be applied by judges who have been appointed by a government responsible to such a parliament.
In our tradition the rule of law requires that the governed elect the persons who make the laws and the government appoint the persons who apply the laws. Appeals from Australian courts to the Privy Council are not consonant with Australia’s nationhood. They do not comply with the rule of law and the British democratic system which we have inherited.
The judgments of the Privy Council take the form of advice to Her Britannic Majesty, not to the Queen of Australia. To point the contrast, the Privy Council does not hear appeals from Her Britannic Majesty’s courts in England or Scotland or Northern Ireland. Thus there is the appearance and the reality of a court hearing appeals from a dependent country.
What other independent country, one might ask, would allow decisions of its courts to be taken on appeal to a court sitting in another country, to a court comprising judges appointed by the Government of that other country, to a court giving judgment by way of advice to the head of State of that other country?
We still have the embarrassing and humiliating position that questions involving the interpretation of State laws are determined and can be determined finally in the circumstances which I then outlined. I repeat that the Australian States are British colonies. They fly the Union Jack from their public buildings from Government House down. They sometimes display it in their courts, on their public buildings and on their vehicles. They have emblazoned not the kangaroo and the emu but the lion and the unicorn. This sometimes happens in their courts.
I have suggested, and I believe that it is proper and practical, that the situation be cured by administrative action by the Commonwealth Government and that we do not have to wait till the States unanimously ask the Parliament at Westminster to abolish appeals from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. We do not have to go to the trouble of having a referendum of the people on the initiative of the Commonwealth Parliament.
My notion was put 5 years ago, on 28th March 1963, to the Attorney-General before last, when I asked:
Since all the judges of the High Court of Australia have now been appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, I ask the honourable gentleman whether arrangements have been made for Australian Privy Councillors to sit in Australia to hear appeals which lie from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council.
The then Attorney-General answered: ‘No’. The last Attorney-General answered: ‘No’. I have not asked the present AttorneyGeneral that question. I would think that it would be a step which we could take to assert the democratic step of seeing that the final court of appeal for all Australians from all Australian courts is the Australian High Court. As far as this legislation goes, I applaud it. It is one of the biggest judicial milestones we could have reached. I compliment the Attorney-General on having taken the first of the several steps in court reforms which he has outlined to the Parliament.
– We have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) laboriously go through his speech tonight. I think that this was due to the fact that he had prepared it himself. The only time that we may get any comfort from what he has to say is when his speech is prepared by some genius in his Party. I oppose the Bill, not for sentimental reasons or because we are an immature nation. We are a nation in our own right. Nor do I oppose the Bill because it will break our ties with the United Kingdom. Then why do I oppose the Bill? I oppose it, in the main, for the reason stated in the penultimate paragraph of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen). He said:
At the same time, I should not let this occasion pass without expressing the Government’s appreciation of the part that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has played since federation in the Australian judicial system. There have indeed, over the years, been many notable contributions to the interpretation and working of our Commonwealth Constitution.
That is my main reason for opposing the Bill. If the Privy Council were allowed to continue making the notable contributions to the interpretation and working of our Constitution, those contributions assuredly would be just as valuable in the future as they have been in the past.
Another reason why I oppose the Bill is that Australia is in a unique position in relation to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Our legal system and procedures have been formed and based on the British system. What a wonderful position we are in to have the opportunity to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a body of the highest judicial standing in the world, removed from our political scene and our business, commercial and mercantile affairs but nevertheless well versed in our Constitution and laws.
I have the greatest admiration, esteem and respect for the judiciary in Australia and regard every member of the judiciary as a gentleman of the highest integrity and honour. However, many of them have been associated with and have participated in Australian politics. Because of their background and earlier affiliations it is possible that they have, quite genuinely, sincerely and honestly, given an interpretation of the Constitution which was affected by those affiliations. I regard the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as our strongest bulwark against extreme legislation either to the right or to the left. But for the. Privy Council we now would have a nationalised banking system with all its restrictions and control over industry. The’ Privy Council has protected our interstate trade and the sovereign rights of the States.
In his second - reading speech the Attorney-General has this to say:
The brevity of the Bill belies its significance and importance. In this short measure, the Commonwealth Parliament is being asked to take an historic first step towards the establishment of the High Court as the final court of appeal for Australia.
It is deplorable that only four speakers, I think, will take part in the debate on this historic measure.
Another point I want to mention is that the Bill restricts appeals only in relation to Federal or Territory matters. It does not prevent decisions from a State Supreme Court being taken to the Privy Council; it does not exclude an application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council from a decision of the High Court where the decision relates to a State matter; and it does not preclude leave being sought directly from a State Supreme Court in respect of such a State matter.
What kind of judicial system are we setting up? Some litigants will have the right to appeal and others will not. That is an untenable situation. Our whole system of justice needs a complete overhaul by our jurists and members of the legal profession in co-operation with outstanding men of industry and commerce. The legal profession has built up a protective barrier that is impenetrable. There is no justice without money - and I mean big money. The fees charged by the legal profession are out of all proportion to the earning capacity of other professions. I suppose that is one reason why my friend, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), finds his parliamentary allowance so meagre when compared with his income as a barrister.
Let us consider the earning capacity of an engineer who has had to spend 6 or 7 years at a university, and then some years or. active application and experience, before he can earn one-third of the income of a barrister who can qualify within 3 years and then be let loose on the community without any further training or experience. Honourable members may laugh, but that is true. On a recent visit to the Land and Valuation Court in Sydney 1 was appalled when I saw five counsel presenting their cases. They fumbled with their papers and made incoherent remarks. But for the assistance of the presiding Justice, some of them would not have been able to present their cases at all. Some could not give a clear definition of the location of the property that was the subject of the court’s decision. Each case was adjourned, but each barrister was at least $100 better off and the poor old cocky out at Warialda, of course, had to suffer the loss.
We should not be considering a Bill to approve the limitation of appeals to the Privy Council, but rather a Bill that would enable our most humble citizen to get justice within the reasonable bounds of his financial position. The fees charged should be reasonable and fair. I am sorry that there are not more honourable members to speak on this Bill, whether for it or against it. I deplore its being presented. It would have been far better had the States been approached about this matter so that we could have uniform legislation. I stress my earlier contention that we are in a unique position. We have men on the other side of the world, detached from our political and business associations, well versed in our laws and our Constitution, who could give an objective judgment. Never on any occasion during my association with members of the legal fraternity have 1 heard a suggestion that they have not concurred with the findings of the Privy Council. Of course, this may have been because there was no further avenue of appeal, but I should say that 90% of the legal fraternity has the greatest respect for the Privy Council and regard it as the outstanding court in the world. It is a court whose judgments are respected the world over. Why should we retreat from this position?
– It costs a bit of money to get before the Privy Council.
– I said that we should be considering ways whereby our most humble citizen could go to the Privy Council and not be denied his rights. As I said earlier, there is not justice in Australia without money - and I am not speaking of small money. I know of many people who cannot go to the courts. Their cases are just, but they have not the wherewithal to obtain legal aid, and the Public Solicitor or Public Defender cannot assist them because they may own their own homes or have a few other assets. These people cannot afford to risk sacrificing their possessions in an attempt to get their due award from a court.
I trust that the Attorney-General will consider my words. In my opinion the Bill is a retrograde step. I am positive that the Privy Council represents the greatest bulwark against extreme legislation, either to the left or to the right.
– I think that the remarks of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) carry their own answer. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is to be given due credit for at least spring cleaning the very dirty and neglected legal attic of the present Government. The Opposition welcomes the measure as being one that is long overdue. The Bill regularises the fact that for 50 years the High Court has not given a certificate for special reasons on matters affecting the inter se rights of the Commonwealth and States so that they could go on appeal to the Privy Council. To that extent a position that is already a fait accompli is being duly regularised.
The Bill carefully preserves the right of appeal from the Supreme Court of any State not involving, first, the Constitution or, secondly, the legal law or, thirdly, an application for interpretation of regulatory powers under a Federal law. If we want to be perfectionists, the only way to abolish the right of appeal completely would be by referendum, but the Bill is a substantial step along the road. The Bill is to minimise and restrict to the maximum possible, but it cannot and does not abolish the right of appeal. The State rights to appeal still remain and to that extent the stigma of colonialism remains until legislation of the Imperial Parliament removes the right of the various sovereign States of Australia - sovereign is a euphemism in this case - to allow appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. No doubt the overwhelming presence of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, dominated Government opinion for many years in relation to the modification of the right of appeal to the Privy Council. He certainly had a distaste for change and the Government, following his lead, was at that time obdurate and stiff necked.
In 1930 - and I think this contrast should be made - the jurisdiction of the Privy Council extended in area over one-quarter of the globe. It covered the Australian Commonwealth, the Dominions of Canada and New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State, numerous colonial territories, three protectorates, numerous groups of islands and sundry mandated territories. It extended over a total of eighty areas of the utmost diversity of race, economic development, culture and tradition. Today let us consider those which remain - and this list is subject to diminution. It is the latest list I have available to me. Of those eighty-odd countries linked to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with rights of appeal in 1930, there now remains only Australia and its six States, New Zealand, Ceylon, a small collection of the newly emerging Caribbean countries which now have self government, the colonies of Mauritius, the Seychelles, Fiji, British Honduras and three African protectorates. With an agreed formula of judgment - not advice - appeals also continue from Malaysia, Tanganyika and Uganda.
A lot has been said about the merits of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and we pay due respect to the service it has rendered over the years. But today we live in a new era. In its former capacity to deal efficiently with appeals from so many countries of such diverse origin prior to World War II the Judicial Committee as it then functioned was a successful example of traditional British adaptation of mature constitutional machinery which suited the then constitutional development of the various component parts of the British Commonwealth. But in that .very process, and because the Committee did and has to the present day retained the forms and fiction of the past, it has not found favour in the eyes of the various states emerging into nationhood in various parts of the British Commonwealth. To those nations it smacks of colonialism and is politically unacceptable and offensive. If the system of appeal to the Privy Council gives offence to those nations as smacking of colonialism, how much more is it an affront to and inconsistent with Australia’s status as a nation constituted in 1901?
The operation of the Judicial Committee has been left almost entirely in the hands of the senior judiciary of the United Kingdom, with its sittings always held in London. Thus a truly Commonwealth judiciary exercising appellate jurisdiction has never been able to develop. The quality and integrity of the Judicial Committee have never been in dispute, but the insuperable objection to its jurisdiction has been its unacceptability to even newly emerging independent States of the Commonwealth. Even the form of its decisions, in terms of advice to Her Majesty without expression of positive judgment, has been repugnant.
In 1901 the Australian Commonwealth was no more than a fledgling nation with a Constitution which was the product of compromise between the jealousies and rivalries of six sovereign States. Amendments to our Constitution by referendums have been few and tardy, but by the accumulated weight of judgments of the High Court we have achieved an amazing expansion of Commonwealth powers and legal maturity and sophistication. The High Court has during more than 60 years of functioning established itself in the national consciousness as both guardian and exponent of the Constitution and the final court of appeal for all Australians. I think it should be the objective of any Australian government that the Australian High Court and the Australian Parliament should stand in exactly the same relation to the Crown as does the Parliament of Westminster. Anything less than that is completely unacceptable to national sentiment and to the national status of Australia.
We have survived major economic crises. A former generation of Australians repelled the threat of enemy invasion, and today we stand as a nation in our own right. I quote the words of a former Prime Minister who said: ‘Australia faces primary risks and must accept primary responsibilities.’ We are determined to survive. We have embarked on a programme of national development and industrialisation. To add to our numbers we have launched and continued an immigration programme under which we bring in more migrants calculated as a proportion of existing population, than any other country in the world. Many of the migrants who are now fully fledged Australian citizens will welcome this measure.
Today Britain is in an entirely new sitation facing great economic problems. She is no longer prepared to continue her posture as a major world power. To people like the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who for reasons of tradition or sentiment object to the severance or the restriction of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, I say that Britain is realising for the first time that there may be an even more honoured place in the world in the international acceptance of the English language. Britain is learning that to rule the hearts and minds of men is more important than to govern their lands; that to have the respect of world opinion is more important than to have the power to determine the governmental and economic policies of countries subject to her dominion. It is not in the English temperament, nor does it conform with English tradition, for us to accept legal, political and economic tutelage. Our links of language, sentiment and kinship with Britain will be the stronger for the abolition of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
I will now recapitulate the main objection to the continuation of the present situation. As T have said, it is inconsistent with Australia’s status as a sovereign nation. It is an infringement of the sovereignty of the Australian Parliament. The Privy Council is not even the final court of appeal in Britain today. The Judicial Committee has the taint of colonialism. There have been in the past occasions when the question of rival rights of competing African tribes to the possession of places of particular solemnity, or even of idols, would in the Privy Council list have been ahead of mutters that gravely affected the economy of the Australian nation. With notable exceptions, although the right to do so exists, members of the Judicial Committee have never been drawn from the judiciary of other parts of the Commonwealth. The Committee lacks touch with local conditions and Australian national sentiment. Above all, good justice is speedy justice. By the very nature of the constitution of Judicial Committee, speedy decisions cannot be obtained from that body. In point of fact, it is possible for litigants to pass through as many as 4 or 5 inferior courts before finally their particular legal problems are considered by the Judicial Committee. The evils which are sought to be removed may by the time of hearing be irremovable. The question of expense has already been substantially covered in this debate and I will not touch on it any further. The right of appeal as it stands at present is an implied affront to the competence of the Australian High Court to deal effectively and finally with all matters of Australian litigation.
The Attorney-General in his introductory speech raised the question of reservation of this legislation for the royal assent. That brings me to a general scrutiny of certain sections of the Australian Constitution, particularly sections 58, 59 and 60. Although Australia is virtually in practice a sovereign country, we are very much restricted in legal theory. According to the wording of the Constitution, we have sovereign powers of legislation. I will say no more on that subject, out of due respect for the Crown. It is true that the Privy Council dispenses the royal prerogative of justice that has existed from time immemorial through ancient tradition. It has been gradually modified. There may be occasions when it needs to be exercised, but certainly not over a sovereign nation such as Australia. The exercise of the residual sovereignty of the Crown may have application to protectorates and Crown colonies, but should never be used in diminuation of the sovereignty of the Parliament of the Australian nation or of its national courts.
– After the somewhat convulsive events of the last day or two it is rather pleasant to be grazing quietly with the Opposition, peacefully enjoying the quiet glades of law reform. This Bill represents a very significant landmark in our legal history. Tha Privy Council, so far as its judicial functions are concerned, had a haphazard beginning, as did so many British institutions. One can trace its judicial functions in point of origin to the latter part of the 17th century when England acquired, more or less by accident, a number of colonies and something had to be done about providing justice for the colonies. In the main they were American colonies. The Sovereign-in-Council set up a Committee of the Privy Council which was called, curiously enough, the Committee for the Business of Trade. I suppose that title has a somewhat British ring about it. lt was the Committee for the Business of Trade that until 1833 carried out from time to time - and from time to time was fairly infrequently - the judicial business of the Sovereign-in-Council. From having had a haphazard beginning I suppose it could be said that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has had a somewhat stormy career in point of public estimation. It has been said that few judicial bodies have been the subject of so much polemical writing as the Judicial Committee. It has also been said that for after dinner speakers, on the other hand, flushed with a sense of well being, it has proved a favourite topic for eulogy. One would suspect that those dinners were in London and perhaps the speakers were counsel who appeared before their lordships after the dinner was over and said fitting words.
The constitution of the Judicial Committee was changed in 1833 by the Acts of the Imperial Parliament to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) referred. The pressure for improvement in the procedures of the Judicial Committee in those far off days - about 135 years ago - came from a noted law reformer, later Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Brougham, a noted Whig. In the course of his reforming zeal he had some fairly unkind words to say about the Privy Council as it operated in his time before he got his reforming tentacles on to it. He described it as ‘that awful Privy Council which sits at Westminster, making up for its distance from the suitors by the regularity of its sittings’ - I understand they were about 9 days a year - and he went on to say, making up ‘for its ignorance of local laws and usages by the extent and variety of its general law learning9.
– He said that before he was made a peer.
– He did so before he was made a peer and while he was a reforming member of the House of Commons. I think that when he mentioned the last mentioned aspect of the Judicial Committee’s functions, namely the ‘variety of its general law learning’, be spoke proleptically, at any rate, a great truth because thoroughly desirable as I agree this measure is to limit appeals, we in this House should recognise that this country’s constitutional development owes a great deal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Of course there was great controversy at the time of the constitutional conventions in the 1890s as to what, if any, the right of appeal should be from the High Court of Australia to their Lordships of the Judicial Committee in London. It is accurate enough, I think, to say that the fervent and more radical federalists at the time wanted to see, even back in the 1890s, severance so far as judicial decision was concerned between the courts of this country and the Judicial Committee in London. It is accurate to say that the commercial interests of the time were anxious to see the link preserved. Perhaps they subscribed to the view that the Privy Council, like the Ritz Hotel, is open to rich and poor alike but that in the nature of things it would be mainly open to the rich. At all events, by means of a political compromise, the prerogative right of appeal from the High Court of Australia proposed under the draft constitution was established. That position has remained in full operation until today - 67 years later.
I want to survey very briefly some of the usefulness to Australia of the Privy Council during the time - a period of 67 years - that the prerogative right of appeal has been available in full force. It is being restricted by this Bill, of course. It is true to say firstly, I think, that the Privy Council has done much to develop a sound legal philosophy concerning section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the section which provides that trade, commerce and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free. We should remember that it was not until the bank case that very much definition was introduced, for the first time, into legal concepts of the operation of section 92. It is odd - and I do not say this in any carping way - that the Attorney-General at the time, the late Dr Evatt, a member of a political party pledged to the abolition of all appeals to the Privy Council from Australia, appeared and prosecuted an appeal on behalf of the Commonwealth against the decision of the High Court of Australia which declared invalid the banking legislation of 1947. That was the bank nationalisation case. The bank case was a significant milestone in the development of judicial theory concerning the interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution.
But even that case left in its wake some troubled points concerning the construction of section 92. These troubled points concern the operation of section 92 in the field of interstate transport. There was a line of cases dating back to the early 1930s in which there was manifested a great deal of division of opinion in the High Court of Australia as to the operation of section 92 in the field of interstate transport. Here again - and I think we should note this with some gratitude - it was the Privy Council, in the case of Hughes and Vale Pty Ltd against the State of New South Wales, which formulated and rationalised what I think is the final development of section 92 in this area of interstate transport operations. In so doing their Lordships in London took and adopted, if I may say so with respect, the voluminous judgments - which had been dissenting judgments - of Sir Owen Dixon. His view of section 92 was adopted by the Privy Council in Hughes and Vale v. the State of New South Wales, a case that was decided in 1954.
The point I want to make is that if it had not been for the Privy Council - and I say this without derogating from the High Court of Australia at all - we might still find ourselves even today in a sea of dissent so far as Australian courts are concerned in relation to the impact of section 92 on interstate transport cases. Another point which I think should be mentioned when one is assessing the impact of the Privy Council on the development of Australian law is that for those who are believers in the preservation of the jury system in full force - I am a believer, but not all the way; I think there is a great role for juries in our society, but not to the full extent to which they have a role in New South Wales, but that is a matter for another day - the decision of the Privy Council in Hocking v. Bell, the case in which a surgeon was sued back in the early 1940s, did a great service. In that case, after there had been four trials in New South Wales and, I believe, as many appeals, including at least one to the High Court of Australia, the Privy Council asserted with great force and strength the constitutional primacy of the jury as the judge of questions of fact in civil trials at common law. That was another landmark for which we can remember the Privy Council with affectionate regard and respect.
Be all this as it may, although great tribute is due to the Privy Council, the fact is that we have now reached a stage in the development of our judicial institutions where we can at least begin to cast aside the mooring ropes which bind us to the United Kingdom in matters of law because we have a High Court of which any nation could be and should be proud. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that Australian Privy Councillors with judicial qualifications - of them we have seven, namely, the present members of the High Court Bench - should sit as Privy Councillors in Australia to hear appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. This, of course, would be a matter for administrative arrangement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Government of the United Kingdom and also, and importantly, the Government of each of the States in respect of the Supreme Courts of which appeals were sought to be so determined. Although the idea put forward by the Leader of the Opposition certainly has something to commend it, I think we must remember that in this area the wishes of the States would be paramount.
Without being pessimistic I am bound to say that it seems to me that if the States wanted to preserve the right of appeal from their Supreme Courts to the Privy Council it is hardly likely that they would be disposed to agree to appeals from their Supreme Courts being determined by Australian High Court judges sitting as Privy Councillors. One cannot be dogmatic about this sort of thing, but it seems to me to be unlikely that they would wish this course to be adopted, so long as they wished the right of appeal to the Privy Council from the Supreme Courts of the States to be preserved.
However, 1 think that there is a matter that might be worthy of consideration. Perhaps it is a slight variation from what the Leader of the Opposition proposed. We now have the position in which, under this Bill, it is proposed that the right to seek leave to appeal to the Privy Council from decisions of the High Court of Australia is substantially limited. Broadly speaking that right is limited to matters of State jurisdiction - non-Federal matters. I see no reason why an approach should not be made to the United Kingdom Government by the Australian Government - and, in this approach, the Australian Government would be able to negotiate alone with the United Kingdom Government without regard to the State governments because the State governments would not be concerned with this matter - with a view to arranging that applications for special1 leave to appeal to the Privy Council from the High Court of Australia might be determined here in Australia by judges of our High Court sitting not as such, because they could not sit as such in hearing those matters, but as members of the Privy Council.
– Which judges of the High Court?
– The honourable member for Mitchell raises a constructive and valuable point. He asks which judges of the High Court should sit as members of the Privy Council to determine an application for special leave to appeal to the Privy Council. There is merit in his point. I am glad that the honourable gentleman has mentioned this matter. We know that we have a High Court bench of seven judges. In all but very rare cases, the Full Bench of the High Court is constituted by five judges. This means that we have left over, as it were, to deal with applications for special leave to appeal to the Privy Council two judges who would not have been concerned with the matter about which leave to appeal is sought. There can be no possible objection to constituting a bench of three Privy Councillors in Australia consisting of two judges who had not determined the particular appeal and one judge who did sit in the hearing of the appeal. I see no reason at all why this should not be done. I think that it is a procedure that might be, indeed would be, worth investigating. It could be put into practice by agreement with the United Kingdom Government. If put into practice, it would bring about considerable saving of expense to litigants at large.
I wish to say something about the speech made by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). The only part of his speech with which I found any reason to disagree was that part in which he said that the Privy Council, as it were, carries with it the taint of colonialism. I do not want to make any heated objection to that statement. I merely wish to point out to the honourable member that, on the contrary, nations which have emerged from colonialism, developing their own free institutions, have opted to preserve a link with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I instance Malaysia. Upon the foundation of that nation, legislation was passed to enable the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to determine appeals from Malaysia and to report to or advise not the British Sovereign but the Head of State of Malaysia. The same procedure is adopted in Singapore. Appeals are made to the Privy Council from Ceylon. There are appeals still from some of the newly emerging West African nations.
If I may administer a mild criticism, let me say I think it is going a little too far to say that in this situation the Privy Council today carries with it the taint of colonialism. On the contrary, the Privy Council has been resorted to by independent nations because they realise that, for the time being at least, while they are developing their free institutions, the Privy Council has a role to play. We have gone, I think we can say thankfully, further along the road. We are able, as I said earlier, to commence the process of cutting the painter. It is to be hoped that in the not too distant future the various State governments will see their way clear to procuring the passage of legislation to abolish a right of appeal from State Supreme Courts to the Judicial Committee because, I believe, at this stage of our constitutional and judicial development the High Court should be the ultimate arbiter for all Australian law. I do not want to say anything more than to compliment the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), as did the Leader of the Opposition, upon his initiative in introducing this very important measure of law reform.
-! support the Bill and I commend the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) for his progressive leadership in introducing it. In his second reading speech he said:
I would think that every Australian should join with the Attorney-General in support of this measure. I agree that this is an historic and correct move forward towards an independent Australia. It is important that we view it in this perspective. We are living in the second half of the twentieth century. Never before in the history of this universe have so many nations and people thrown off the shackles that held them down. I do not contend that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is a body of oppression but in its early days it did represent the establishment and, as the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) rightly said, it had a tinge of colonialism. Of latter days its decisions have been in agreement with those of judges of the High Court of Australia. This has been so particularly over the past decade. The Privy Council is a remnant and a relic of the old imperialistic era.
The Minister stated that the Bill marks an important step in Australia’s judicial history and he went on to say that it will enhance the standing and prestige of the High Court of Australia. The move is correct also on an economic basis and this must be given deep consideration. There has been insufficient discussion of this aspect. Litigation before the Privy Council is not a level of law that is open to a normal Australian. It is a level open to the very wealthy - perhaps one would say to the very wealthy corporation.
Honourable members may correct me if I am not accurate in stating how one approaches an appeal to the Privy Council. In order to appeal to the Privy Council a litigant must first petition for special leave to appeal to that body from a judgment either of a State Full Court or the High Court of Australia. In due course his counsel - generally a Queen’s Counsel - appears before the Privy Council to seek leave to appeal. If leave to appeal is granted the case is heard within a period of from 3 to 9 months. In most cases counsel for both the appellant and the respondent travel from Australia to England for the hearing. During the hearing of the application for leave to appeal the parties are represented generally by one counsel. In many instances both Queen’s Counsel and junior counsel travel from Australia to England for the hearing of the appeal itself. It is interesting to note that the Privy Council sits on only 4 days a week - Monday to Thursday inclusive. Its members have a pretty good trade union.
Recently I was involved in a case before this ancient body - the Privy Council. It was the case of Uren v. Australian Consolidated Press. It was an 8-day hearing. The case commenced on Thursday, of one week, the court had a retirement on the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then the case started again on the Monday and went through to the Wednesday of the following week. It occupied 3 weeks in all. Of course, when you keep a Queen’s Counsel living abroad-and we all know the expense involved in living abroad for 3 weeks - the costs run into a very tidy sum. The costs of this case are a very interesting exercise. My taxed costs in the case amounted to $10,600.
– How much?
– For the benefit of the honourable member for Kooyong, I repeat that my taxed costs amounted to $10,600. Luckily for me, I did not have to pay the costs. Australian Consolidated Press had to foot the bill lor $10,600. But, of course, I know that the Attorney-General is well aware that Australian Consolidated Press, which is a wealthy monopoly in this country - perhaps I should withdraw that remark and say that it is a wealthy oligopoly -can write off its legal expenses as a taxation deduction. But even though I was successful in this court case, my London solicitors informed me that I would have to pay $500 for solicitors’ and client’s costs in excess of the taxed costs. So from my personal experience I would say that this type of justice is outside the realm of a normal Australian.
Another interesting aspect that should be brought to the notice of the House is that in regard to the hearing to seek leave to appeal I did not consider it was necessary to send over a legal representative from Australia. I knew it would be costly. But had I sent over a representative from Australia to appear in the hearing to seek leave to appeal, Australian Consolidated Press would have had to pay further substantial costs in addition to $10,600. But let us face facts. As a member of Parliament I am in the fairly high income bracket in this country. What opportunity would an ordinary Australian have to fight a case before the Privy Council? Australian Consolidated Press sent over from Australia a very distinguished Queen’s Counsel to appear in the hearing to seek leave to appeal. On the second occasion when the case was to be heard the company sent over from Australia not only a Queen’s Counsel but also a junior counsel. Imagine what I would have had to pay if I had had to meet the enormous bill for this. If my taxed costs amounted to $10,600, I can assure the House the taxed costs of Australian Consolidated Press would have been far in excess of that figure.
I could refer to other figures, but I do not want to deal with this question at any length because the case is still sub judice. I want to deal specifically only with the Privy Council aspect of the case. The Minister shows great promise. He is a man of dignity. In the House he quietly listens to questions, no matter how difficult they are, and he answers in a dignified manner. I ask him to give this matter deep consideration. He said that this Bill was the first step towards the establishment of a High Court as the final court of appeal in Australia. I commend those words. Here is a man who seems to want the Australian
High Court to be the final court of appeal in this country. Let me deal later with some of the technical aspects of such a change.
If the law is to be just to all, this expensive procedure of appeals to the Privy Council must be scrapped. My fear is that while an appeal to the Privy Council still lies, this establishment will be used by the wealthy to frustrate the course of justice. We must examine how best we can make the High Court the final court of appeal in Australia. Could we do this by referendum? I have asked this question of many legal men. If this could be done by referendum we must begin to educate the public in the need for this change. It may be that the Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral could present a unified front to get this change.
The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), who is a distinguished Queen’s Counsel, submited proposals to us for bringing about changes in appeal procedure. But I detected a conservative streak in his makeup when he referred to State rights and State jealousies. Earlier tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam) gave technical details of how the problem of Australian High Court judges dealing with appeals from decisions of that court could be overcome. We know that at present there are only seven judges of the High Court. If five of those judges sit as a full bench of the High Court, this leaves only two who have not had any prior interest in the case to hear an appeal from a decision of that court. It may be necessary for the other three members of the court of appeal to be judges who earlier tried the case as members of the High Court bench.
This is a difficult problem but may 1 make a suggestion as to how it might be solved? It may be necessary for us to consider increasing the number of judges of the High Court. I do not think there are enough judges of the High Court. Some of them are getting old. I know that one of them recently had a leg amputated. The responsibility of their work imposes a great strain on them. It may be necessary to increase the number of judges of the High Court to enable them to travel more than they do now, to give them more time for study and to give them greater opportunities to rub shoulders with the common man.
It is essential that judges of the High Court have the opportunity to understand our society at the grass roots level.
The judicial body with the highest standing and reputation in the world is the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It is a citadel of freedom. Its judgments have done more for freedom than have the judgments of any other body on this universe. Many of the members of the Supreme Court bench are quite strange personalities. One of them, a Roosevelt New Dealer, is a keen hiker. He has been married three times and his last marriage, I think, was to a young woman in her twenties. Some people might say that he is an eccentric fellow, but all I ask is that they read his judgments. If the number of High Court judges were to- be increased, the formula proposed by She Leader of the Opposition could be adopted. 1 suggest that this proposal be given consideration.
To bring out the point that concerns me, I will give a hypothetical case. Let us consider a jury case that is heard in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Most of the appeals to the Privy Council seem to come from that State. The jury makes an award and then there is an appeal to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Powerful financial interests might be aware of the thinking of the members of the Australian High Court and they might decide to by-pass the High Court and go direct to the Privy Council, feeling confident that the Privy Council would uphold the judgment of the High Court but might overrule a judgment of the Supreme Court. A precedent for this was established in the case of Uren v. Australian Consolidated Press. The Privy Council upheld the opinion of the High Court that the decision in the case of Rookes v. Barnard - which was a consideration in my case before the High Court - was not good law in Australia because Australians with their own process would develop their own law in their own way.
I can be corrected on these matters if I am wrong. I understand that in the last decade the only case in which the Privy Council has reversed a decision of the Australian High Court is Parker v. The Queen. This was a murder case. In 1964 the Privy Council upheld the minority judgment of Mr Justice Windeyer and Mr
Justice Dixon and rejected the majority decision of Mr Justice Kitto, Mr Justice Menzies and Mr Justice Owen. I understand that this is the only case since 1957 in which the Privy Council has reversed a decision of the Australian High Court. But let me come back to the case of Uren v. Australian Consolidated Press in which the Privy Council more or less laid down that Australian law in fact should develop in its own way. I do not want to lecture the House on this matter. I am a layman and I know that most of the people who have spoken earlier tonight have had legal training. But I have had a personal experience of the law over the last 4 or 5 years. I have sat through quite a number of trials both in the Full Supreme Court of New South Wales and in the High Court of Australia. I could not go to London for the Privy Council hearing, but I read the judgment. I have no doubt that I have yet to see a little more of the courts. This legislation is a great step forward. This is an historic move for Australia. The Attorney-General and the Government are to be commended on the legislation.
– I did not intend to speak in this debate but, being inspired by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mt Irwin) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), I think I should make a contribution and not leave the debate entirely to members of the legal profession, although they have made a very worthwhile contribution. I commend the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) on bringing this legislation forward. It is very progressive legislation. In fact I believe that it is the most progressive legislation that has been put before this Parliament since the divorce and marriage laws were modified and streamlined by a previous AttorneyGeneral. I thought that legislation was long overdue. With respect I say that this legislation is overdue. However these measures indicate that our Attorneys-General in recent years have been adopting a very progressive outlook towards the law. The State Parliaments have been talking about law reform for some years.
Delegations have gone overseas to obtain ideas about streamlining the law. Most of our delegations that go overseas to obtain modern ideas on anything - whether the law or anything else - go to the United States.
Whilst I admire that country for certain of its attitudes, I am not an admirer of its legal processes. I am mindful of many of the things that happen but particularly of the legal machinery required to make a final decision. In the case of the multiple murderer, Caryl Chessman, it took 12 years to finalise the legal processes under American law before he finally was executed. I thought that was a shocking decision to make after he had been allowed to sweat for 12 years. I say that any case, whether it is a civil case, an equity case or a criminal case, should be finalised within 12 months. I believe that the present Attorney-General will endeavour, while he retains this portfolio, to streamline the laws of Australia just as effectively as he is doing in the legislation now before us.
I have always held the view that the High Court of Australia should be supreme in Australian law. The honourable member for Reid says that the number of High Court judges should be doubled. I believe that it should be quadrupled. I would like to see the day - I do not suppose I ever will see it - when there are only two courts - a trial court and a court of appeal. Australia is over-legalised, as are the mother country, Great Britain, and the United States. Citizens of the United States have told me that if the Government, to use the vernacular, puts the McCarron Act on a person, which means that the Government proclaims him to be subversive or a Communist, he can go broke by the time he clears his name by going through the legal machinery. We well recall that this Government, not this Attorney-General, endeavoured to outlaw the Communist Party in this country. The Government brought down the most awful legislation it has ever introduced. This legislation put the onus of proof on the individual. Most Communists and pro-Communists in this country are working class people who would not have the wherewithal to go through the legal machinery to have the stigma removed from their names. I do not think that such legislation would have been put through by the present Attorney-General. I understand from political writers that this antiCommunist legislation was one of the greatest errors ever made by a government in this country. I am reminded by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr
Duthie) that this legislation was introduced in 1951. Of course, the editors of newspapers - not the reporters in the Press Gallery - never launched the attack on the Government that they should have launched for endeavouring to introduce legislation like this in a country where people are freedom loving. If the newspapers had done their job and written that episode up as they should have done, the Government would have gone out of office.
Some months ago I asked the AttorneyGeneral to find out what was the average cost for an ordinary undefended divorce in this country. I took this action because I was concerned about a rather good type of lady who is a constituent of mine in Cessnock. She came to me and told me that she had been to a solicitor and made inquiries about obtaining an ordinary divorce. She was told that the cost was $500. This was the cost quoted before the legal machinery had been used at all - before the case had even left the starting blocks.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter is getting a little wide of the context of the Bill.
– With great respect, Mr Speaker, during your absence the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin)-
– I am not responsible for what went on during my absence. The honourable member is getting a little wide of the Bill at this stage.
– Mr Speaker, if I may bring it in this way, let me say that an appeal to the Privy Council is far too costly for any Australian, wealthy or poor. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) gives $10,600 as the cost of taking a case before the Privy Council. This reminds me of the story of the lawyer and the oyster. I suppose most honourable members recall it. Two bosom pals who had gone through kindergarten, primary school, high school and university together were walking down a street in London one day, and one drew the attention of the other to a big, juicy oyster on the footpath. Just before the second man stepped over it, his mate said: Look what you are stepping over,’ and picked it up. The other said: ‘Give it to me’. His friend answered: ‘No; I picked it up. It is mine’. The other said: ‘You would have stepped over it had it not been for me.’ They then noticed a lawyer approaching, and one said: ‘Here is a lawyer coming. Will you accept his decision as final and binding?’ The other replied: ‘Yes’. The two mates explained the case to the lawyer who said: ‘All right; my decision is final and binding. Give me the oyster.’ He took out his pen-knife, opened the oyster, ate it and gave the two mates one half of the shell each. They exclaimed: ‘You have eaten the oyster’. The lawyer said: That is my fee for deciding the case’. This is the kind of thing that is going on.
There are perhaps lawyers who sacrifice substantial incomes to come into this Parliament, but not all of them will have a chance to become Attorney-General. I believe in the expedition of justice. As I said before, I believe we are over-legalised. I believe that many of our judges should be treated as race horses are. Judges go stale through living among musty law books, and they should be put out in green grass to spell now and again. Of course, the Privy Council consists of old fuddyduddy judges who just do not know the conditions-
-Order! The honourable member will not reflect upon the judiciary.
– They do not understand Australian conditions as Australians do Mr Speaker, and the Privy Council should not be called upon to decide matters that affect this country. These matters should be decided by Australians. I generally respect the judiciary and the magistrates, but from time to time I am unable to understand why some decisions are taken. Quite recently in the Wallsend Court of Petty Sessions a solicitor was prosecuted for failing to vote in the Senate election. When he appeared in court he had another solicitor defending him. His defence was that he forgot to vote; he had no other defence. He was acquitted.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that he is getting very wide of the contents of the Bill.
– May I crave your indulgence for a few more moments, Mr Speaker? You know now what the defence will be if any of my constituents are prosecuted for failing to vote. I do not believe that there should be one law for one person and a different law for another person. I do not believe that there should be a law for the rich and a law for the poor. Really I do not think that there is, but I believe that more elasticity is shown in the case of privileged people than in the case of those who are not so privileged.
I again applaud the Attorney-Genera! and express the hope that during his term of office he will do his level best to reduce legal costs in Australia, which are far too exorbitant. From day to day we see decent citizens paying too much for legal costs or being exploited by unscrupulous lawyers.
1 1 0.42] - in reply- I am glad to have the general approval of those who have spoken in this debate in favour of the Bill. It is true that there was a dissenting voice from the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), lt is perhaps not without significance that he is a banker. I think it is fair to say that in the banking case the Privy Council, in its interpretation of section 92 of our Constitution, may be said to have been a bulwark against the putting into effect of legislation of a particular type. 1 appreciate many of th reasons which the honourable member advanced in favour of the retention of th Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as a final court of appeal. Indeed, these considerations were all very carefully weighed when the Government was considering whether it should abolish the right of appeal or limit it to the extent to which it is to be limited. It was believed that the considerations in favour of restricting the appeal at this point were overwhelming.
I should comment on two suggestions that were made during the debate which might well bring about further amendments. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) suggested that perhaps the Government could consider having High Court judges, all of whom are members of the Privy Council, sitting in Australia as an appellate court in cases where an appeal will still lie - in short, in matters of State jurisdiction. As I see the position, considerable difficulties would confront the Government if we adopted that course, particularly where those State matters had passed to the High Court and it was intended that they should go on to the Privy Council. We would find High Court judges sitting in judgment on their own colleagues, who normally would be in the same jurisdiction. Although this happens in Supreme Court sittings in banc, it is not a highly desirable principle in itself, particularly with a small court. In addition, it was pointed out that there would be difficulty in getting a sufficient number of them. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) suggested that we might increase the number. Perhaps as the years go by the number of judges of the High Court will have to be increased. However, it is worth noticing that the United States of America, with a very much larger population than wc have, has only two more members on its highest court than we have on ours.
An increase in number would present some problems in a country with a population as small as ours, because we would have to find in one generation men of sufficient calibre to take their place on the final court of appeal for Australia. Although I think one might consider this still further, my reaction would be that it would present very grave difficulties. I may say also that I have discussed this matter with State Attorneys-General in discussions in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Although I cannot disclose the discussions because they take place on a confidential basis, I can assure the House that there would be a considerable degree of objection from the States to that course.
The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) suggested a variation of the proposal in that we could have High Court judges sitting as Privy Councillors to consider applications for special leave. If leave were granted the case could then go on to London to the Privy Council if it fell into that category. The passage of this Bill would not affect a case of that kind. That might be a more practicable proposition but it still faces formidable difficulties, particularly in finding High Court judges to sit to grant special leave who have not already sat on the case. But that is not an insuperable objection. Since that would affect State jurisdiction appeals, it would be a matter in which the States might raise objection. However. I will take the proposal under consideration, but its consideration need not interfere with the passage of this Bill.
I close by saying that I have been glad to hear the appreciation of the House of the historic nature of this step. We are reaching a point in time when the judicial structure of Commonwealth courts, particularly in this country, is moving into a new stage. Recently I announced the decision to move the High Court to the National Capital and the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Superior Court which would handle single justice federal matters in various capital cities. These three proposals taken together represent, I think, a substantial change in the nature of our judicial system, a change which I believe is well due.
The Privy Council has served this country well in the past, but the time has come now to make the High Court the final court of appeal in those matters with which the Bill deals. I think it is highly consistent with out status as an independent nation that we should now take this step.
-Order! The question is That this Bill be now read a second time’.
– Mr Speaker, I desire my name to be recorded in Hansard as dissenting from the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I direct the Committee’s attention to clause 4. In his second reading speech the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) said of it:
Clause 4 will exclude appeals from Federal Courts, other than the High Court, and the Supreme Courts of the Territories. The clause does no more than give statutory effect to existing practice. In theory, leave might be sought to appeal from one of these courts to the Privy Council, but in practice there has never, so far as I am aware, been such a case. The clause is included for the sake of completeness.
I can imagine that there might be cases where, in theory at all events, leave of appeal to the Privy Council could be asked from a decision of a court of a Territory other than the Supreme Court, and I inquire whether it might not be prudent to substitute a court of a Territory’ for ‘the Supreme Court of a Territory’. I do not propose to move any amendment; I raise the question.
The other comment 1 wish to make turns on the Attorney-General’s statement:
He will have been aware from the comments of my colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), that there is some expertise on my side of the chamber in matters of Privy Council appeals. Indeed, the only person in the Parliament who has been taken there is, in fact, the honourable member for Reid. I can cite, and many of my colleagues will recall, another case where one of my colleagues could have been taken to the Privy Council. It was the case of Cameron and Davis, before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The applicant was the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). His senior counsel was the learned gentleman who is now the Deputy Leader of my Party in the Senate (Senator Cohen). He was instructed by the honourable gentleman who is now the Leader of my Party in the Parliament of Victoria. The junior counsel for the respondent was the learned gentleman who is now the Leader of my Party in the Senate (Senator Murphy). The respondent’s senior counsel, not being satisfied with the decision of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, sought leave from the Privy Council to appeal to it. Leave was refused, not on any ground that it was not open to the Privy Council to grant leave in this case but that it was not thought appropriate to do so. This is a matter of history which I thought members, not only of the legal profession but of this institution, might like to have on record. However, it is the first matter upon which I seek the AttorneyGeneral’s comment; that is, might it not be more prudent to say ‘a court of a Territory’, and not limit it to ‘the Supreme Court of the Territory’?
– When clause 4 was being settled, this matter was considered at some length. It was considered that no appeal had, in fact, been taken so far and that the likelihood of one being taken from an inferior court was so remote as to make it unnecessary to express the provision in such a way as to cover it. Indeed, it was considered that in the unlikely event of an appeal being taken from an inferior court direct to the Privy Council so that leave was applied fc-T, it would be even more unlikely that leave would be granted. After this clause has been passed, the possibility of the Privy Council’s actually considering such a case and granting leave in the face of the section and the policy it expresses is so unlikely that we need not really concern ourselves with it. Should such a case arise and be taken there would be no great difficulty in making a further amendment.
I was interested to hear from the Leader of the Opposition of the case of Cameron v. Davis. I had not bad it in mind when I made the statement in my second reading speech to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. However, I had in mind the possibility of such an appeal. That is why in my second reading speech I referred to confirmation of existing practice rather than confirmation of an existing legal position - because of the possibility that there may have been a prerogative right to grant an appeal from such a court. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for raising this matter, but in all the circumstances I think it will be adequately expressed in the form in which it appears. Therefore I would not seek to amend it.
– I would like to hear an expression of opinion from the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) in relation to an appeal from a Federal court in respect of a State law operating within the Australian Capital Territory, inherited from New South Wales prior to 1911. As the honourable gentleman well knows, the statute law of the Australian Capital Territory is in a most unsatisfactory position. I would like to hear his comments on this matter.
– Although it is true in a lay or general sense to say that New South Wales law applies in the Australian Capital Territory, it does so, of course, either because of a Commonwealth Act or an ordinance which brings it into operation here. Therefore technically it comes into force in the Territory as a Territory law made under the Constitution. For this reason I would think it would be covered by the expressions in the Bill, so that no appeal would lie in such a case.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by M-r Bowen) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to take this opportunity to refer to the dispute relating to the grounding of aircraft of Qantas Airways Ltd and the stranding or diversion of hundreds of passengers to other airline companies. Great damage has been done to the magnificent goodwill built up by Qantas all. over the world. It is costing Qantas hundreds of thousands of dollars while its aircraft are grounded. The loss by Qantas is the gain of other airlines. Some overseas airlines have gained but one airline that is benefiting considerably is Ansett-ANA.
I will always support a genuine industrial dispute because 1 believe that in many cases this is the only way to get justice or to have a wrong corrected. But 1 find it very difficult to give the same support to this airline dispute as I have given to other disputes which have had my great sympathy. I say this because I believe there is evidence to show that this dispute has all the hallmarks of being a conspiracy in which AnsettANA and the Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association of Australia are acting in collusion to damage Ansett’s chief rival, Trans-Australia Airlines and to wreck the overseas airlines Qantas. I believe that the flight stewards are being misled by their secretary, Mr J. P. Forrester, who is, I believe, part of the conspiracy deliberately to ground TAA and Qantas aircraft. For a long time now it has been genuinely accepted that Ansett Transport Industries has been contributing to Australian Democratic Labor Party funds. It is also well known that Mr J. P. Forrester is a considered agent of the Democratic Labor Party and the National Civic Council.
– He is a member.
-I am reminded that he is a member.I believe that the grounding of Qantas and TAA aircraft is the complete reverse to what the Press usually tab these disputes. The Press has described a number of industrial disputes as Communist inspired. This somewhat clever conspiracy by Ansett and the reactionary Mr Forrester, the Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association, to my mind is designed to cripple financially, if possible, our semi-Socialist airlines TAA and Qantas. Both these airlines are comparable with the best in the world.
Wherever Mr Forrester has been dissension has arisen and suspicion has been created among former friends of long standing. Chaos, bigotry and bias has been the order of the day. I hope to substantiate these remarks soon, if time permits, but before doing so I want to point out to honourable members that Mr J. P. Forrester appeared on the television station Channel 10 last Tuesday at 6.30 p.m. to explain why his flight stewards had decided to ground Qantas aircraft. Is it not a strange thing that the time was made readily available to him by this television station? I suggest that the time was made available free of cost. What a coincidence it is when we learn, according to the 19th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that 133,333 shares in Channel 10 - the station over which Forrester put his propaganda - are owned by Ansett Transport Industries. So Ansett’s own station permitted Mr Forrester, the Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association, to propound and to try to justify his Association’s action against TAA and Qantas. It was a case of Ansett permitting use of the airlines propaganda machine to the detriment of TAA and the great Australian overseas airline Qantas. Mr Forrester, who has always been regarded as anti-Socialist, must rejoice inwardly at his capacity to inflict serious financial injury on two of Australia’s most important and efficient people’s-owned airlines.
Let us look at Mr Forrester’s background - this turbulent, truculent troubleshooting tyrant who has an intimate and close association with the Democratic Labor Party and the National Civic Council. He has publicly criticised great Australians like the Reverend Dickie, Bishop Moyes, the Reverend Hartley, the
Reverend Alf Clint, Canon Thomas, the Reverend James -be is no relation of mine - the Reverend Pethebridge, the Reverend Anderson, the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the former honourable member for Parkes, Leslie Haylen, and many other Australians for their contribution to world peace which has been acclaimed throughout the world by millions of people. The latest recruits to that august body of humanitarians are no other than His Holiness the Pope and LBJ.
The Democratic Labor Party and the National Civic Council have proved themselves to be ardent supporters of big business and the free enterprise system. Mr Forrester, the Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association of Australia and the Australasian Airline Flight Engineers Association, is not without some organising ability. He will use any person, church or organisation to gain his own ends. Let us look at what was said about him in a booklet ‘The Trojan Horse’, which was written by Eric H. Collings, of Bateau Bay Road, Bateau Bay, and printed by Gowans and Son of 17 Rosedale Avenue, Greenacre, at a time when Mr Forrester was active in the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. The publication states that he wrote the following letter in the name of the Federated Clerks Union on 13th March 1961:
Dear Fellow Member,
I would like to ask for your assistance for distribution of the enclosed ticket. The reason for the idea of the ticket is to offer a real Labor alternative to the present group of persons claiming to be Labor - the people like Morey–
I interrupt my reading to say that Tom Morey is an upright and free man–
Holmes, Geitzelt, Lambourne and Davies make it impossible for genuine Labor people to vote for this so called Australian Labor team and therefore I submit this team for your approval and support.
Kindest personal regards,
An enlightening pamphlet, ‘The Trojan Horse’, which accompanied the letter, showed a photograph of the office of the Flight Stewards Association of Australia and the National Civic Council located together at 257 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. Each had its own telephone number and a small partition divided their rooms, but when telephone calls to either were made they were invariably answered by the same person. From this address Mr Forrester moved in 1964 to 324 Pitt Street, Sydney. Soon afterwards the National Civic Council shifted to the same address. Room 7 on the fourth floor of that address was Occupied by the officers of the Flight Stewards Association and the Flight Engineers Association - Mr Forrester is Secretary of both - and also Breckwoldt and Co. Pty Ltd. In room 6 on the fourth floor was the National Civic Council. So we see that Mr Forrester and the NCC are as related as the umbilical cord is to the foetus. They are virtually the one and same body.
Also at this address at 324 Pitt Street, in room 5 on the fourth floor, are Francis and Grimes, solicitors, and in room 9 on the third floor is the New Settlers Federation. This organisation, according to my recollection, is said to be an adjunct of the NCC and associated with Mr Santamaria, the head of the NCC. In room 9B on the fourth floor is the Australian Citizenship Fellowship, a worthy organisation which I believe is misguided by the NCC. Mr Grimes, one of the solicitors earlier referred to as counsel for the Federated Clerks Union and a member of the DLP, appeared in legal proceedings for a man named Foster who is the fatherinlaw of Mr Forrester. On Mr Forrester’s leaving the presidency of the Clerks Union to become Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association, his position was filled by none other than Mr J. J. Macken, a member of the DLP and a full time official of the National Civic Council. This Mr Forrester, who is an arch smearer of decent Aust.tralians, I suspect is in a conspiracy with Ansett-ANA to harm the good name and record of TAA and Qantas, which, in my view, is the best airline in the world. [Extension of time granted.] I thank honourable members. We all know that AnsettANA is operating its DC9 aircraft for a trial period with three-men crews. AnsettANA had promised to take the same action as Trans-Australia Airlines; but I believe it double-crossed or two-timed TAA. With Mr Forrester leading this industrial group, one can imagine how this was achieved to the financial advantage of Ansett-ANA and to the detriment of Australia’s Qantas and TAA organisations.
Mr Forrester plays religion to the fullest. In the past he would be the first to tab industrial disputes as being Commo inspired.
In my opinion the present dispute is being Fascist led by Mr Forrester. He once put a notice on St Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church at Bexley. The sign read:
Postal Workers ballot- We have transferred to School of Arts, Bexley. 1 will call back here at 12, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Please wait. If you have transport go to Bexley Heights, turn right along Forest Road. Hall is about J mile on leftsigned J. Forrester’.
I understand that this brought a reprimand from the monsignor in whose area the church “was. He told Forrester and his colleagues that this sort of thing should be stopped and that the church should not be used for union organising. He plays on religion. This is the sort of thing he does. The sooner the flight stewards and the flight engineers wake up to Mr Forrester and realise that he inspired this action for the sole purpose of rubbishing Qantas and TAA to the benefit of Ansett-ANA the better it will be. I believe that this could well be a gigantic conspiracy.
– Very briefly I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is at the table, to bring before the Cabinet - really I think it is a matter for the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) - the present situation with respect to Government House in Darwin. Darwin is developing faster than any other city in Australia; it is developing even faster than Canberra. Darwin has many new and modern buildings, but the architecture of Government House goes back to the pioneering days. This building has no air conditioning in the bedrooms or in the dining room and it has a roof that leaks or which cannot cope with tropical thunder storms. The result is that if VIP guests are staying at Government House they get an unwanted and unexpected shower if a storm occurs in the middle of the night.
I do not know why this situation should exist. I understand that Government House is soon to have a Royal visitor. These are the conditions in which he will be a guest. Apart altogether from Royalty, it is about time that this country did something to remedy this situation. The best thing to do would be to demolish Government House and to build a reasonable, up to date building so that when the Administrator and his wife have invited guests, as they do on many occasions, those guests - many of them people arriving in Australia - will not be met with conditions that they would not find in most parts of South East Asia today.
– Tonight I wish to recommend to the Government that when the next Budget is being prepared consideration is given to allowing donations to little theatre as taxation deductions. 1 have been asked to make this recommendation to the Parliament. I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is at the table, has been contacted already by Mrs Weatherhog, a member of the Gatton Mercury Theatre, on this matter.
The problem with little theatre, as most honourable members will be aware, is that it operates almost exclusively on amateur efforts and with the goodwill of people in the community. Little theatre does make a very valuable contribution in’ local areas, in suburban communities, and in country towns. Indeed, it seems to .me that a very large part of the burden of cultural development in this country is being shouldered by people who generously give their time, interests and enthusiasm to maintaining and developing little theatre.
Our cultural activities are very important. Such activities arc important in any community. In fact, historically, the quality of life that has been provided will be judged much more by the standard of culture that we have established in our time than by any other measure. So there does seem to be a very great need for the Government to accept the recommendation that contributions to little theatre be allowed as income tax deductions. Perhaps I should read a letter that I have received from Mrs Davson. Being a woman who has devoted a very long period of her life to the promotion of little theatre she is very well informed on this subject, and she puts the position much more eloquently than I could hope to do. She writes:
Further to our letter of 27th December, in our endeavour to help further the advancement of the Little Theatre Movement in Australia by soliciting the Federal Government to allow all donations to little theatres as allowable deductions for income tax purposes under section 78 (1) (a), we do feel this to be very important, and by way of explanation perhaps we should add a little.
Little Theatres have to have somewhere to hold their rehearsals for any productions - even though this is sometimes relieved by the use of free private homes - to store their equipment of furniture, flats, platforms, properties, costumes, etc., whether they are rented premises of a room or a theatre, or even of that invaluable asset of a home of their own - a permanent clubroom theatre or a theatre building, and this all takes money.
No Little Theatre can maintain good standards without the expenditure of money in production costs and purchase of equipment and this, added to the cost of providing a roof over one’s head and hire of hall or theatre for productions, makes it increasingly hard for Little Theatres to keep to their business, which is primarily the training in the many different departments of acting, production, behind the scenes work of carpentry, lighting and costuming, etc., and the staging of plays.
Taking into account the money spent on the time of the rehearsal period, the production costs and general overhead in rentals, etc., tha money outlaid is not always recouped on the proceeds of public productions, even when well attended, when the admission price is kept necessarily to family figure admission price, and so to survive Little Theatres are forced to spend more and more of their time in money raising efforts not connected in any way wilh theatre and so the community suffers a cultural loss of less theatre.
Mrs Davson develops this point at some length quite persuasively, making an argument that we ought as a matter of responsibility to the community to allow donations to little theatre as deductions for income tax purposes. She concludes by saying:
People do give money to many good causes where donations are allowable deductions for taxation purposes, but they will not so readily give to an equally worthy community call 4 - Little Theatre - which caters for the cultural and social well being and personality development and stability of character of normal people, unless there is the same incentive, that the donations to approved Little Theatre be allowable deductions for income tax purposes under section 78(1) (a).
In a subsequent letter Mrs Davson makes a number of points as to what should be regarded as approved theatre. The argument she develops is the quite legitimate one that we have a responsibility to give assistance to the work of little theatre. After all, as I mentioned earlier, little theatre is carrying an important burden in the community at present in cultural development in the dramatic arts. It is little theatre which gives aspiring actors in Australia their early training and their early education in the field of dramatic art. We are interested in our national cultural standards’ and therefore this matter is the responsibility of the Federal Government. It seems to me that the Government does have a responsibility to assist little theatre, and what is suggested does not seem to be such a great contribution to make, that is, that donations to little theatre be allowed as deductions for income tax purposes. Even if we do this we will still not be doing nearly enough for the cultural development of the community. We do not know enough about the need for the sponsoring of cultural activity in the community.
Some months ago the former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, announced that an Australian council for the arts was to be formed in Australia. It was clear that it was intended to be for the performing arts. We have heard nothing of this proposal since. We do not know the composition of the council. We do not know when it will be appointed or what will be its source of funds. We do not know whether it will depend on yearly appropriations or whether it will be able to rely on an endowment which, of course, I would recommend as the most desirable and effective means of financing such a council. We do not know anything about the council. We do not know how it will operate and we do not know the extent of its activities. I think that in this field alone the Government is greatly remiss. The Australian people need to know something about this council. But above all, the Government should give the Australian community, and thereby the people who are active in the fields of arts and letters in Australia, an undertaking that it will carry out a comprehensive survey of arts and letters in Australia. After all, if we are to adopt an ad hoc approach to this matter, which the Government proposes to do with this Australian council for the arts, then we are stabbing in the dark. We are moving along blindly. Our knowledge of the subject is based more on subjective hope than on objective findings. It is most important that the Government should tell the people something about this council.
But there are other matters that the Government ought to be looking at, such as the assistance that it is giving to authors in the Australian community. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that the best way for an author, poet or painter to produce bis best work is for him to be starving in a garret. I do not suppose that many of our creative people would be in such a position, but it is ridiculous to think that they should have to go through a period of struggle before they are skilled enough to produce their best work. We have a responsibility to see that these people receive sufficient remuneration to allow them to devote their full energy to a specific field of artistic or cultural endeavour in the community. We have a responsibility to take some sort of action to guarantee that Australian authors receive remuneration for books which go into libraries and which circulate through possibly a couple of hundred hands. Under the present system, an author receives a royalty, or whatever it is called, only on the original sale of his book. Action has been taken in the Scandinavian countries, and is being investigated in Great Britain, to ensure that authors receive a fair return for the circulation of their books. The services of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, excellent as they are, con provide comprehensive information on what is being done in these other countries.
We ought to be acting in this field of cultural activity. It seems to me that we are deficient in this field. After all, it is true to say that we live not by bread alone. The cultural achievements of a country are very important. We ought to be acting to assist, as much as we can, arts and letters in Australia. I conclude by restating the purpose of my speaking tonight. 1 ask the Government to provide in the next Budget that contributions to Little Theatre in Australia be deductible items for income tax purposes.
-! want to refer briefly to a matter which must be of serious concern in Australian administration. I refer to the attack on a senior public servant which was made in this Parliament recently under the cover of privilege and without an opportunity being afforded to the public servant to reply to the attack.
– Maxwell Newton is not a public servant.
- Mr Newton has the facilities of the Press available to him, and he has taken full advantage of them. This interjection about Maxwell Newton having no opportunity to reply brings up the point that I want to make. There is a convention in Australia and Great Britain which provides that no public servant can make a statement without the authority of his Minister.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Macarthur is referring now to a previous debate and reopening a matter which was canvassed and debated and in respect of which the whole matter has been closed by the Parliament.
-The honourable member for Macarthur has not as yet mentioned the ‘Voyager’ debate and he has not canvassed it. At this stage I would say that the honourable member for Macarthur is in order, but I would remind him that no reference to the previous debate or to the subject matter of that debate should be made.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Hindmarsh is looking at me rather viciously, but I am not perturbed. We have some facts about him that would make him look a bit different.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. Could you point out to the honourable member that under Standing Orders he is obliged to speak from his position in the chamber and not to wander around the House.
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member for Oxley.
– There is a convention in the public services of Australia and Great Britain that public servants observe a vow of silence to preserve anonymity.
– The honourable member should try it some time.
– The Opposition is very anxious to stifle comments such as I am making. I enjoy the efforts of honourable members opposite. I propose to read from an article by Mr R. S. Parker, Reader in Political Science at the Australian National University, on the subject of public servants being attacked and whether they have any redress. I am not referring to another debate; I am referring to the position of a public servant in Australia. In his article on the Bazeley case, entitled ‘Monolithic Government and the Conspiracy of Silence’, Mr Parker states:
In Australia wre have inherited to an exceptional degree the British tradition of a strong government, dominated by the Executive, and governing the country, in effect, ‘by and with the advice and consent’ of a representative parliament. (The divisive effects of federalism are only marginally relevant in the present issue.) This system necessarily implies putting a tremendous trust in the occupants for the time being of Executive offices, and in their integrity. Its central pivot is the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, and while in theory this doctrine pre-supposes parliamentary control over the actions of Ministers, in practice it really means absolute Ministerial control over most of the organs of government, with responsibility exacted only in general terms at periodical elections. The loyalty of civil servants to Ministers, and by the same token their anonymity and neutrality, are essentially by-products of the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility. In terms of this doctrine, what civil servants do and say, as regards official matters (but by no means in their official capacity), is entirely at the discretion of their Ministerial masters in exactly the same way as is the control and use of official records, public money and materials, and the other instruments of government.
In other words, a public servant is enjoined by this custom - there is not much reference to it in the Public Service Act - to be silent. We have seen a few examples - the Dr Bazeley case is one - of what happens to a public servant who says something which is outside ministerial responsibility or which is said in criticism of the government. In other words, a public servant must be silent. He must serve whatever government the people elect at the polls, no matter how small may be that government’s majority. Once that government is elected the civil servant must do what he is to told to do by his Ministers. He cannot complain, he cannot go to the Press and he cannot reply. A public servant does not have the right to answer. He must take whatever is said about him in any place, in the Press or in the Parliament. He is forced to listen in silence to anything that is said about him or about the Government. But if an individual public servant is attacked, it is an attack on the whole system as we know it in Australia. Our system of government is the same as the system in Great Britain. Our civil service is the same as the civil service of Great Britain or of India, and an attack on an individual is an attack on the system. In my view, any person who attacks the system loses his right to use the system.
We in Australia rely on the public servant’s loyalty to his masters, the vow of silence and the anonymity of the individual. A public servant who is attacked has no redress. The Public Service Act does not give him the right of reply and if he tries to answer his accuser he may be charged, as Dr Bazeley was. In a recent case a public servant made a statement and was immediately criticised publicly because he dared to say something himself instead of saying it through his Minister.
When a member of the Parliament attacks a public servant, I doubt whether that member of the Parliament is entitled to have the confidence, loyalty and trust of the Public Service or of the system as we know it. If we want this system to continue, then let us keep to it. Let us play according to the rules, particularly if the public servant does not have a right of reply. An attack on a public servant is a cowardly attack on a person who cannot defend himself. We believe in fair play. We believe that if a person is criticised he should be permitted to speak in his defence and to clear himself, particularly when he has a defence to a charge that is made against him. An attack by a member of the Parliament on a public servant is a low down filthy use of parliamentary privilege and the member ought to be branded as a mongrel cur.
-Order! I think the honourable member should withdraw the last two words that he uttered.
– I will not withdraw them. I did not say that any member of the Parliament did this. I said ‘if a member did it’.
-Order! The words are completely unparliamentary and I request the honourable member to withdraw them.
- Mr Speaker, with great respect to you, I refuse to withdraw.
-I name the honourable member for Macarthur.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the honourable member for Macarthur be suspended from the service of the House.
– Mr Speaker, before the question is put, I suggest that the honourable member be given another chance. This has often been done before. When an honourable member on this side has been named, the Government, through the Minister, has suggested that he be given the opportunity to reconsider his words when his emotions have calmed. I do not think that the honourable member for Macarthur has ever been suspended from the service of the House before this. That is a very good record and I think if he was asked once again to reconsider he might, on reflection, withdraw the words he used.
-I will take cognisance of the suggestion of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I request the honourable member for Macarthur to withdraw the words he used.
– Mr Speaker, this is a matter of principle. I will not withdraw the words that I used.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The honourable member for Macarthur is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours. (The honourable member for Macarthur thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
– Politics is a tough game. Public life is a very difficult arena. I believe that basically what we should try to do in this House is to deal with policies instead of personalities. In the words that were uttered by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) tonight, certain accusations were made against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I was not in the chamber when the Leader of the Opposition made the comment which I read in the newspapers which was attributed to him. As I understand it, he was dealing- with a matter of policy. How it is expressed is a matter of each man’s personality. Each man says what he wants to say in his own way. But he was dealing with a matter of policy.
– A mongrel cur.
– Order! The Minister will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The honourable member for Macarthur scraped the bottom of the barrel in making himself an exhibitionist and in trying to attack the Leader of the Opposition.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the honourable member for Reid referring to a previous debate? He is now really mentioning a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Therefore he must be referring to the recent ‘Voyager* debate.
-I remind the honourable member for Reid that any reference to a previous debate would be out of order.
-I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your guidance. Over the last 2 weeks I have been deeply disturbed by a personal attack made within this House - not just an attack on an individual, but a deep personal slur on the loyalty of a man in regard to his actions to his country. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) in fact has made a personal accusation or charge against Mr Maxwell Newton. He went to the extent of saying that Mr Maxwell Newton was a secret paid agent of the Japanese* Government. In my opinion that was a very serious charge. I know that honourable members on the other side of the chamber have made accusations against people on this side being paid agents or dupes of the Soviet Union or China. We could make accusations about people on the Government side being paid agents of the United States or Great Britain. This is just nonsense.
Nobody has a deeper respect for the Deputy Prime Minister than I have. I think he is a fine Australian. But for some reason or other he seems to have an Achilles’ heel as far as Mr Maxwell Newton is concerned. It seems that Mr Maxwell Newton’s great sin is that he criticises the policies of the Australian Country Party. For criticising the policies of the Country Party he is accused and abused. The rights of this House have been abused in this personal attack. I am not talking only about personal attacks on Maxwell Newton. I deplore personal attacks on any person. I want to see honourable members referring in this place to policy and not resorting to personalities. I know there are extreme circumstances when one has to deal with individuals, but these should be minimised. We should guard against using this House to blacken anyone’s character.
Reference has been made to Maxwell Newton holding a position in the Press gallery. The terrible sin that he has committed has been to attack the policies of the Country Party. One can think of Press correspondents who have vilified the Australian Labor Party. What would be the position if we attacked the Press and made personal accusations about its members being pawns and dupes for some other country? Surely there should be some realism about these matters. Smearing accusations are made against the Labor Party. After all, the Press of Australia is not the friend of the Australian Labor Party.
I do not agree with the policies of Maxwell Newton. But that is not to say that I believe he is a paid agent of the Japanese Government. I disagree with the economic policy put forward by Maxwell Newton. As a matter of fact, I disagreed with his policies when he was the editor of the ‘Australian’. I thought he made a fine contribution to Australia when he was the financial editor of the ‘Australian Financial Review’, because he brought out many of the facts relating to government and big business in this country. I have deep disagreement with him in relation to his economic policy. But having said that, I am appalled that personal attacks are being made on him in such a manner. Why is this taking place? Why do we have this continued vilification of one man? Why do not the Government and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) face the real issues of trade? We have had a deficit on the balance of current account with the United States of America during the administration of this Government. This deficit has been of the order of $4,900m. Between the United Kingdom and tha United States we have had a deficit of over $9,000m during the period of this Government’s administration. Our overall deficit has been about $6,200m. This means that we have had a favourable balance with some countries to the extent of about $2,800m. The great bulk of that credit, of course, has come from trade with Japan. As a result of trade with Japan we have been able to bring down our deficit on current account to about $6,200m. But what has the Government done to pay for this? It has allowed indiscriminate foreign investment to eat the heart and soul out of this country. As the Deputy Prime Minister said a few years ago, we are selling a bit of our heritage every year. But the Deputy Prime Minister only uses words. He has taken no legislative action to rectify this matter.
What does the Deputy Prime Minister do to try and counteract our deficit? He makes personal accusations. He takes one man as his punching ball and tries to lay all the sins in the world on him. He tries to blame one man for the trade deficit. When is he going to face up to his responsibilities? When is he going to stop talking and start acting? When is he going to get the Government to undertake some economic planning? When is he going to try to rectify the balance of payments position? I point out once again that our overall trade deficit during the administration of this Government has been about $6,200m. When is he going to be as tough with the United Kingdom and the United States as he has been with Japan, with whom we have a favourable balance of trade? After all, I am not one who should praise the Japanese Government. I suppose that I have suffered as much under their barbarism as any other person here, but I do not indulge in personalities. I think it is about time we took stock of one another in this House and stopped resorting to personalities. Let us confine ourselves to the consideration of policies. When we do, we will be a better Parliament.
– I refer to the 1967 Budget in which special provision was made whereby the Commonwealth would give assistance to deserted wives. I also make reference to the fact that in my speech on the Budget last year I congratulated the Government on this move. On 31st August I asked the then Minister for Social Services when this new plan would be implemented. Unfortunately, there are still deserted wives, and they are still a problem. Recently in my home State of Queensland I saw newspaper reports wherein social workers were claiming that deserted wives in Queensland were half starved, that some were slowly starving to death. It is hard to imagine that we would find husbands starving to death, but I have been assured that this too happens at times.
During the recess I visited the Palen Creek prison farm and spoke to a number of husbands who had deserted their wives and who had been in prison for failing to pay maintenance. Their attitude was that they would rather be on that prison farm or in gaol than pay to support their wives.
– They have courage.
– The honourable member opposite says they have courage. I notice that he has not the courage to sit on his own seat but must sit with Government supporters at a moment like this.
I feel that we should all deplore the attitude of these men. Perhaps they are motivated by the fact that their wives have had affairs, if I may use that expression, with other men. I feel it is a matter of principle to them that they should not pay. But the fact of the matter is that the children of these marriages must suffer while these men are so dogmatic that they will not pay. This is a matter which society has a responsibility to ensure is corrected as soon as possible.
It is 8 months since the Commonwealth Government made its most generous offer to assist the States to meet payments to deserted wives for the first 6 months of the desertion. Eight months have passed which have recorded empty tummies, worry and concern because of lack of money. It is up to the States to present a unified case so that the Commonwealth can legislate to implement this assistance. A lot of difficulties appear to be encountered by the States in coming to agreement. I was rather amazed recently when the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, said ‘Leave the States along’ after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had made some remarks. The Leader of the Opposition had suggested that some powers should be taken away from the States. It is amazing that the Labor Premier of the State of South Australia remained silent on this matter. But this is only a point of history now. We have a situation now where the Leader of the Opposition is hovering around like a hawk ready to swoop on cherished rights that are held by the States.
The failure of the States to come to an agreement on Commonwealth assistance for deserted wives and wives of prisoners will be judged by the public. There is nothing surer than that. The ball now lies at the feet of the States and they have to kick it, and kick it right through the goal, because this is a matter of extreme urgency. I am sure that procrastination is causing so much added and unnecessary hardship in view of the Commonwealth’s most generous offer.
– I shall detain the House for only a minute or two. This evening the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) referred to certain industrial problems at present affecting our international and domestic airlines. I do not wish to intervene in the position at this time because one matter is already before the High Court and another was referred today to the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal but I must refer to the honourable member’s criticism of Mr Forrester, Secretary of the Flight Stewards Association and the Flight Engineers Association, to the effect that Mr Forrester, by bis actions, had been assisting the private enterprise airline, Ansett-ANA.
I do not doubt the honourable member’s sincerity in relation to this matter and the impression he may have gained but I should like to make the point now that Mr Forrester apparently is not being helpful to that airline because I have been informed that the Flight Engineers Association has advised flight engineers flying with AnsettANA that they are to take strike action as from midnight tonight. I intervene at this point merely to indicate the present situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m. until Tuesday, 30 April, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
er asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Yes, except that employment in Canberra is not regarded as being interrupted if the applicant is temporarily absent from Canberra in the course of his employment. 3. (a) Thirty-two months.
The Right Honourable Paul Hasluck, M.P., Minister for External Affairs.
The Honourable Gordon Freeth, M.P., Minister for Air.
The Honourable L. H. E. Bury, M.P., Minister for Labour and National Service.
The Honourable P. J. Nixon, M.P., Minister for the Interior.
All these tenancies were granted because of their Ministerial duties.
At that time the Department of Social Services had just moved to Canberra and the Minister for the Interior accepted that the right of the Minister for Social Services to purchase should be analogous to the officers of his department who were transferred to Canberra. These officers were allowed the right of immediate purchase.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) 1967-50 fines.
1st January-20th March 1968-315 fines.
– The answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on various university matters (Question No. 382, published on pages 2850-2853 of Hansard for November 8 1967) contained errors, of which the honourable gentleman has been notified by letter, in parts 4, 8 and 15.
The relevant questions and their amended answers with comments are:
Wales and South Australia as a result of changes in the secondary school systems of those States.
The number of Commonwealth scholars enrolled for the first year at Monash University in 1967 now appears as514.
The figures originally given in the answer to part X were provided by State Education Departments which have been handling the detailed administration of the affairs of Commonwealth university scholars on our behalf. The figures for New South Wales in column (b) have been revised and a footnote has been added to the answer to part 8 explaining the circumstances under which a student’s results have been counted as a failure. This definition is consistent with that on which previous answers to similar questions were based.
The answer to part 15 nowrefers only to fees paid in respect of Commonwealth university (undergraduate) scholars which was the basis used in previous years in replying to similar questions. The figures provided in the previous reply contained, in addition to money paid in fees for Commonwealth university (undergraduate) scholars, amounts paid in respect of Commonwealth postgraduate awards. Of course, there are other payments to the universities by the Commonwealth in the nature of fees for which comprehensive statistics are not available: included in this category would be payments for sponsored students, e.g. Colombo Plan students, cadetships and free places.
There is one further important point to note about the answer to part 15. The percentages in the second column show the relationship between student fees, as defined, paid by the Commonwealth and students’ fees paid from all sources as used in the answer to part 14. The two sets of figures used to calculate percentages in part 15(b) are not strictly comparable. The figures in part 15 (a) include fees paid to student unions, etc., whereas the part 14 figures exclude these; again the part 14 figures include an unknown element for post-graduate fees. The amounts involved are relatively small but would, if known, require a small variation in the percentages given in the answer to part 15.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An act of grace payment was considered by the Government in 1964 but not approved. In considering the matter at that time, the Government had available to it the views of the responsible Ministers.
Appeals to the Privy Council (Question No. 176)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What attitude, if any has been expressed by each State government towards the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council from its Supreme Court since his statement of 6th September 1967 on the limitation of appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Prime Minister informed the State Premiers of the Commonwealth’s intention to limit appeals to the Privy Council from decisions of the High Court in advance of my statement of 6th September 1967. The Premiers have not informed the Commonwealth of the attitude of their governments to the question of abolishing appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. The Honourable Member will doubtless have observed that the Premiers of two States, namely, New South Wales and Victoria, have been reported as saying that they are opposed to the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council from State Supreme Courts. I have had informal and confidential discussions with my State colleagues in the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral; I do not feel free to refer to those discussions other than to say that I believe the majority of the States are at this stage opposed to the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council from State Supreme Courts.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680404_reps_26_hor58/>.