26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr DRURY presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that this House take any action necessary to assist the campaign for a lasting peaceful settlement in Vietnam.
A similar petition presented by Mr Duthie was received.
A similar petition presented by Mr Uren was received and read.
A similar petition presented by Mr Griffiths was received.
– I ask the Minister for National Development to tell the House whether a firm decision has been made to abandon certain important projects in the Kosciusko area under the control of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Does the Minister agree that the planned programme of works in the high Snowy Mountains should be scrapped and that the massive water storage projects forming an essential part of the Snowy-Murray section of the Snowy Mountains Scheme should be jettisoned? If he approves the abandonment of the works to which I have referred, is it because plans have been prepared for a nuclear power station near Canberra?
– A firm decision to eliminate these works has not yet been made. A decision will be made on 14th May at a meeting of the Snowy Mountains Council. The recommendation of Mr Dann, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, is that these works should not be proceeded with. This is because there have been considerable changes in the works of the Snowy Mountains Scheme since it was first designed by Sir Louis Loder and his team in the 1940s. For example, the original design of Tumut 3 and 4 power stations provided for 400,000 kilowatts of power. Now there is to be one gigantic station, Tumut 3, which is to have a capacity of H million kilowatts. In addition to power storage-
– What about water storage?
– No additional water would be available, even if these dams were proceeded with, because they would be above other dams which in any case would catch the runoff. It is the belief of the Commissioner, after looking at the matter very closely, that these dams would provide power at a cost which would be considerably higher than that of power produced by conventional means. The last point that the honourable member mentioned, concerning nuclear power stations, relates, of course, to a matter of policy which I would not discuss at question time.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. I refer him to persistent rumours, circulating in aviation circles in Sydney, that the road bridge which supports the north-south runway over General Holmes Drive is unable to support the fully laden weight of the Boeing 747 aircraft which are soon to use Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Can the Minister assure the House that this vital road bridge is capable of taking the 680,000 lb fully laden weight of these aircraft? To what extent had this crucial factor been examined before approval was given for the purchase of these large and noisy aircraft by Qantas Airways Ltd?
– I have not heard the rumour to which the honourable member refers. But I can assure him that it is completely unfounded. The maximum weight of the Boeing 747 was taken into consideration when this structure was being erected. Although the structure had been designed before the Boeing 747 was on the drawing board, the weight of the aircraft was taken into consideration when it became known that this type of jumbo jet aircraft would be available for commercial use. Certainly, the matter was checked very carefully by my Department and the Department of Works before the order was approved for
Qantas Airways Ltd. The maximum weight of the aircraft was given by the honourable member as 680,000 lb. This was the weight indicated to us at the end of December last year. As the honourable member perhaps realises, in the manufacture of an aircraft many modifications take place. The maximum weight of the version of the Boeing 747 aircraft which is intended to go into production will be very much higher than the figure originally given. Even though the weight will be much higher than originally thought, I can give an assurance that the bridge is quite capable of carrying the weight of the machine which we expect will go into production.
I might mention finally that one of the points in relation to the strength of runways and bridges that must be taken into consideration is the type of undercarriage used on particular aircraft. The type of undercarriage that will be fitted to the Boeing 747 is a multiple unit that spreads weight over a greater area than the undercarriage fitted to the Boeing 707-388C, which is the largest passenger aircraft operating here at present. However, as I said at the outset, the rumour to which the honourable member referred is quite unfounded.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, ls it a fact that the Treasurer will tender his resignation in the near future to accept appointment as Governor of New South Wales? If so, though not questioning the Treasurer’s qualifications for this important post, I ask whether it is a fact that the real reason for the change is to remove from public gaze the unseemly wrangle between the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister, and the sordid intrigue and disunity in the ranks of the Government parties?
– I categorically assure the House that the Treasurer will not tender his resignation in the near future, nor, I should hope, in the distant future. I suggest that the state of the economy in this country, for which he and we on this side of the House are responsible, would suffer a disservice if he did. It is understandable that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) should ask this question because of the strains to which recently he has been exposed. Somehow or other he must have mixed up the two sides of this House. I realise that, for some time, there have been long standing difficulties among members of the Opposition along the lines of never letting your right wing know what your left wing is doing. This attitude might possibly have led to this rather confused question. I do not in any circumstances wish to be involved in arguments on policies, practices and personalities. 1 do not want to be drawn into them in any way. Opposition members seem to be doing quite well without any assistance from this side of the House. I conclude merely by saying in relation to that part of the question about an appointment outside this House that I should have thought it more likely that the Leader of the Opposition or possibly some other Opposition members might be studying the jobs vacant columns rather than the Treasurer.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. As Australia is the leading sporting nation in the world and my electorate contains the sporting centre of Australia, the St George district from which have come most of Australia’s international sporting champions, will the Prime Minister fill a great need in this country for co-ordinated organisation and promotion of sport and also support the Government’s fitness campaign, by considering the creation of a ministry for sport?
– I appreciate the honourable member’s interest in bringing this matter before the House on behalf of his constituents. The question of whether ministries should be created for particular purposes must .be regarded as a matter of policy and I could not give him an answer now to his question. john mcewen house
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he will give consideration to making donations subscribed to the construction of John McEwen House, the Australian Country Party headquarters in Canberra, tax deductible.
– As I so frequently inform the House, proposals of this nature are usually dealt with at budget time. I assure the honourable gentleman that the matter he has raised will be considered and that all Ministers will be able to participate in the discussions.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Has the Australian Broadcasting Control Board decided to site a national television station of the relatively low power of 10 kilowatts 6 miles northeast of Geraldton? Will the station have an effective viewing radius of only 60 miles? If so, what plans are proposed to provide an effective television service to the highly productive areas surrounding the towns of Three Springs, Perenjori, Carnamah, Coorow and Dalwallinu?
– Having made an examination of the Geraldton area, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has recommended the erection of a television transmitter some 6 miles north-east of Geraldton. The siting of the transmitter at this distance from the town does not mean that reception in the town will necessarily be the worse. Television is a line of sight operation. Transmitters must be placed at one of the high peaks near the principal area of reception. The transmitter will have a power of 10 kilowatts. This will be a medium powered station but most honourable members will recognise that the major areas of population in and around Geraldton will be within 40 miles of the transmitter. A station of this power, costing $250,000, will service some 17,000 people of the total number that could be serviced if a station of maximum power were erected. If we were to seek to provide a service to the remaining 2,000 people who may not obtain a service from the proposed station or if we sought to extend the service beyond a radius of 40 miles, we would be involved in an additional cost of $500,000. I cannot comment on the provision of television for the towns referred to by the honourable gentleman but if some of those towns and surrounding areas have a reasonably substantial population they no doubt could be served at a later date by translators from the Geraldton station. Such translators would cost probably $10,000 or $15,000 each. The provision of translators in such a case is a better economic proposition than the erection of a 100 kilowatt station in Geraldton itself.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. In recent weeks there have been a number of statements relating to pensions and the means test. These have raised the hopes of pensioners and others not at present eligible for pensions. Will the Minister at his earliest convenience make a statement to the House on these matters so that interested persons may have some idea of exactly what they can expect?
– The question obviously involves a matter of policy and as such will be considered by the Government in due course.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport say what consideration the Government has given to establishing in Australia a register for Australian ships? Are there any significant or outstanding problems associated with establishing such a register? Conceding that the retention of the present relic of the past is confusing, not merely to many people in Australia, but to others outside this country, will the honourable gentleman assure the House that he and his Department will inquire as to when such a register can be established?
– As in many other fields of Commonwealth legislation, we still have in this field legislation which depends, not so much upon laws passed by this Parliament, as upon laws passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, dating back to the days when Australia was still a colony of Great Britain. As the honourable member has stated, ships registered in Australia are registered under the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894. I understand that consideration was given to this question during the deliberations of the Constitutional Review Committee and a recommendation was made that a shipping power be included in the Constitution to rectify the deficiencies which at that stage were thought to preclude this Parliament passing a law enabling us to register ships under the Australian flag. I am advised that as a result of Australia becoming a party to a Geneva convention - I think it was called the Convention on the High Seas - there is now a possible constitutional capacity to pass a law which will enable the registration of vessels in Australia. Of course this is a matter predominantly for my colleague the Attorney-General to determine. There are some difficulties about the extent to which such a law would enable registration to apply to vessels operating intrastate and also on Australian inland waters. However, the matter is under active consideration. It has been pursued by my predecessor in this portfolio and by other Government members and I assure the honourable member that it is a matter which may be brought to conclusion before too long.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I ask: Will he consider publishing separate statistics of Aboriginal infant, neonatal and child mortality rates as distinct from general statistics so that the administration will be put under an objective measurement of its achievements, which cannot happen if we only have generalised objectives like assimilation?
– I think that the honourable member’s suggestion is worth serious consideration. Of course there are difficulties in that in many cases no specific statistics are kept of Aboriginal births. 1 do know that although the Aboriginal infant mortality rate has fallen tremendously and very satisfactorily in the last few years, it is still a good deal higher than the white infant mortality rate. I think that it might be of some interest to the medical profession to be able to localise this problem so as to be able to approach it with more accuracy. J therefore think that although there are difficulties in that separate statistics are not at present kept the question that the honourable member raises is worth examining.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air and in so doing I refer to reports appearing in this morning’s newspapers that all Royal Australian Air
Force flying displays throughout Australia will be cancelled and that the Telstars aerobatic team is to be disbanded. As flying displays have been a feature of Air Force Week in past years, will the Minister inform me whether the newspaper reports are correct and what, if any, arrangements have been made for displays during Air Force Week this year?
– Honourable members will be aware that during recent years it has been the custom to have an open day at major RAAF bases to enable demonstrations of flying and static displays to be viewed by the public. This is felt to be a good public relations exercise and it has done a good job in publicising the activities of the RAAF. But this year the RAAF has been under particular strain in meeting commitments in Vietnam and South East Asia generally. A large number of its aircrew have been overseas training with new types of aircraft. In Australia it has faced heavy commitments in relation to the acceptance of new types of aircraft such as the Mirage, the Macchi and the Orion. In these circumstances it has been decided that for this year only open days will not be held at the major RAAF bases, and displays of aerobatics requiring specialised teams such as the Telstars will not be given. I emphasise that this is for this year only and that the decision has been made because of the very heavy commitments that the RAAF is facing at the present time. 1 should add, however, that the normal practice of making aircraft available for formation flying over major country centres and at ceremonies such as wreath laying, during Air Force Week, which this year fall, I think, between 9th and 15th September, will be followed when such flights can be fitted in as part of normal flying training exercises.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to standards and procedures required to be adopted by Australian meat works killing for export. Is the Minister aware that a situation has arisen in which costly United States standards are being forced upon killing works in respect of types of meat not sold or likely to be sold to the United States of America, and that if these standards are not complied with by a particular works all meat exports from such works to the United States may be banned by the United States authorities? Further, has a situation arisen in which the Department of Primary Industry is setting the United States standards as general export standards regardless of the destination of the meat, and at great and sometimes unnecessary cost to the works concerned?
– I am very much aware of the problem referred to by the honourable member. I have had extensive discussions with meat industry representatives about this ma Mer. There is some uncertainty as to the correct interpretation of relevant provisions in the United States Wholesome Meat Act and as to the standards and procedures necessary in our abattoirs. Because of this we are considering sending a delegation to the United States of America to obtain a clear interpretation of the meaning of the legislation. At the moment an American official, Dr Tolley, is in this country for the purpose of inspecting our abattoirs. I think it is quite vital for us to ascertain the true meaning of the United States legislation and for us to do our utmost to meet the standards that are demanded of us.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. I refer to the alleged misuse of Commonwealth cars and drivers by the Leader of the Opposition. It is alleged that he directed the drivers to act as postmen for the delivery of the letters he distributed recently containing plaintive pleas. Will the Minister inquire whether the cars were in fact used in this way? If they were so used, will he have the cost of such use determined so that the Leader of the Opposition may be sent an account for the amount spent out of the public purse?
– This matter is being handled more directly by my colleague, the Minister for Supply. Subject to such correction as the Leader of the Opposition may care to offer, I understand that he did recently require certain important letters to be delivered, as a matter of urgency, to the members of his party throughout the country, and that he sought the services of the Department of Supply to have this done. This carried him considerably beyond the transport privileges available even to a Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for Supply countermanded the arrangement when the matter came to his ears. The Minister has called for a report as to ‘.he terms of the request that was made and the extent to which it was complied with. I understand that he proposes to discuss the report with the Leader of the Opposition when he receives it. I think I should point out that the Department of Supply provides the transport services only. The administration of members’ privileges rests with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. If financial charges arise from services such as these, they are levied against the Department of the Interior by the Department of Supply, and I should imagine that in the present case the Department of the Interior would then deal directly with the Leader of the Opposition.
– 1 address to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question which follows upon a question asked by the honourable member for Griffith. Is it a fact that a Commonwealth car - an American model worth several thousand dollars - was involved in an accident on the Lockyer Valley Highway near Gatton about the middle of last year; that it contained three women who had been on a shopping expedition in Brisbane, and that one of the women was the wife of a Minister who had then been for some time, and also after the accident was still for some time, absent overseas? Was the use of the vehicle on that occasion justified under the entitlements of members of this Parliament? If not, will the Minister examine the matter with a view to having the Minister for Supply discuss it with the relevant Minister, who is sitting close to the Minister for Defence at the moment? Will he also discuss how the cost of the damage should be met?
– The honourable member is dredging deep into history and I am surprised that he was not concerned about this matter much earlier. Obviously I have no knowledge of happenings 18 months ago, but I will refer the question to my colleague and ask for his advice.
– I address to the Pos1 master-General a question relating to one of (he special facilities that are provided in the cities by the telephone service. Can the Minister say why his Department draws upon commercial broadcasting services rather than the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide news to telephone callers? Will he consider arranging for this facility to be provided through the medium of the ABC? Will he also consider an extension of the facility to make it possible for people living in the cities or who are visiting the cities and who are interested in country news and country weather conditions to obtain this information by telephone through the use of recordings of reports broadcast by ABC regional stations?
– This service is provided by commercial broadcasting stations quite independently of the Post Office; nevertheless those stations have Post Office approval for the use of the equipment required. The Post Office supplies the telephone lines which connect the equipment at the broadcasting stations with the local exchanges. Up to now only commercial broadcasting stations have been interested in providing this service, but if the ABC or any other commercial station wants to provide it - it is a costly service from the point of view of the installation of equipment and the leasing of lines - the Post Office will be quite happy to give approval for the necessary installations.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Are reports that the American airline company Eastern Airlines has been granted permission to enter the North America-South Pacific area correct? Does this mean that there will now be two major American airlines operating on this route in direct competition with Qantas Airways Ltd? Can the Minister give any assurance that Qantas will continue to carry at least half the business on this route or will it now have to be satisfied with approximately one-third of the traffic where previously it shared all the traffic with one American company? What does the Government propose doing to ensure that Qantas retains its present share of the traffic? Or is this approval part of a deal to give Qantas access to additional American traffic?
– It is correct that Eastern Airlines has been recommended for approval by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States of America to operate on the Pacific route. This is subject to appeal by American airline operators and I understand thai a number of appeals will be submitted, so that it is unlikely that the airline concerned will commence operations in this region for some considerable time. Of course, the operations of this airline concern us vitally as far as our international traffic with Qantas Airways Ltd is concerned. But it is still necessary for the United States airline and the United States authorities to negotiate rights with my Department. That, [ understand, will be part of the procedure after the appeals have been dealt with finally. If that is so and negotiations proceed, it will be the objective of the Government and my Department to ensure that the rights of Qantas are protected as much as possible and where possible, in view of other routes being opened up, to ensure that we have access to routes that will improve our traffic in those particular localities. I can assure the honourable member that we are watching the situation very carefully. We appreciate the significance as far as our international air traffic is concerned and we will do everything possible to protect our rights in the future.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and deals with housing finance. I ask whether it is a fact that whilst, overall, banks are advancing housing loans in volume approaching approved limits, the situation in Western Australia justifies special consideration. Will the Minister give consideration to recommending the diversion by the banks of housing loan moneys from areas under less building pressures to meet the undoubted expansion demands of Western Australia?
– The figures relating to housing commencements in Australia as a hole are satisfactory, I believe. The present rate of commencements is something more than 120,000 and could, on present trends, go even higher, so that we would not want to give any stimulus to increase housing finance in Australia as a whole. The honourable gentleman is correct in saying that in Western Australia there is a particular problem both in regard to the price of land, which has risen far too quickly, and the fact that not enough houses are being erected to meet the increased demand stimulated by increased industrial and mining activity taking place in that State. I do not know to what extent I will be able to help, but I will take up the matter with both the Reserve Bank of Australia and my own officials to see if there can be a diversion of finance to Western Australia.
– 1 ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that widow pensioners who accept the responsibility for the care of a State ward after becoming widows are not paid a mother’s allowance, whereas a widow who had the care of a State ward before becoming a widow is paid a mother’s allowance. If so, will the Minister see that this iniquitous, inexplicable discrimination is discontinued immediately?
– The facts as outlined by the honourable member are correct. 1 understand. This is one of the matters at present under consideration.
– My question is directed to the Acting Attorney-General and relates to section 92 of the Constitution. I realise that, in the main, the section deals with the imposition of uniform duties of customs, but I would like to know whether there is any way whereby that part which deals with trade, commerce and intercourse among States being absolutely free can be applied to the case of an outstanding footballer from Western Australia, Sydney Jackson, who comes from the leading football club in Western Australia. East Perth?
-Order! The honourable member is giving information now.
– 1 would not have thought that you, Sir, would have stopped an honourable member from giving honest information. This brilliant footballer from the leading football club has been cleared by his club, but the clearance has been refused by the Western Australian National Football League. I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether there is any way in which he could intercede under section 92 to see that this brilliant footballer from the leading club is cleared?
– I have great sympathy for the view put by the honourable gentleman. I would like to see anyone who plays football as well as this young man able to play with the team of his choice, particularly in the home of Australian football, Melbourne. My colleague the honourable member for Higinbotham, from whom I have managed to take 20c on a few occasions, no doubt would bc pleased to sec this footballer join the Carlton team. I might say that there is another footballer named Lakes whom I would like to see playing wilh Melbourne. Be that as it may, 1 am afraid that the founding fathers did not intend that this piece of legislation should bc applied for the resolution of civil matters as between persons. This i.s a constitutional safeguard which is directed to parliaments and governments. I am afraid that in my view section 92 would nol help.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell me who ordered the grounding of the Trans-Australia Airlines DC9 aircraft during the recent airline pilots dispute? Does not the Minister believe that an engineer should have been placed on the flight deck pending the hearing of the dispute by the Court, thus following the policy of this Government? Was this method adopted by Ansett-ANA ls there any truth in the suggestion that the bureaucrat who ordered the grounding of the aircraft was most anxious to hand over very lucrative business to the opposition airline, AnsettANA? Finally, what was the cost of this action through heavy loss of revenue to TAA?
– At present all DC9 aircraft operated by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA are flying on agreed conditions. It is a fact that TAA DC9 aircraft were grounded owing to an industrial dispute and also that at the same time DCS aircraft operated by Ansett-ANA continued in operation. There is still before the High Court a matter relating to this industrial dispute. A judgment has not yet been handed down in relation to the powers of the original tribunal. So at this point of time I still regard certain aspects of the matter as being sub judice and cannot comment on them. At a later date I shall examine the question about costs and incomes, and when the judgment from the High Court is handed down I shall see that an answer is provided.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen reports today which state that the discovery of a huge artesian water supply in central Australia could lead to a transforation of the dead heart through irrigation? Can he give us any details of this water supply?
– Beginning in about 1956 the Bureau of Mineral Resources undertook some work in the Alice Springs area, and it soon became apparent to the Bureau that there were quite considerable underground water resources in that area. These resources are contained in two sandstone aquifers. One is in the Mereenie aquifer in the Amadeus basin and the other ls the Dulcie aquifer in the Georgina basin. The Mereenie aquifer is particularly large. I understand that it is about 250 miles in length and 60 to 80 miles in width, and has a thickness of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. It has been estimated that in this area the total quantity of water, which incidentally is of quite good quality, is about 2,000 million acre feet. The rate of recharge is not known; insufficient pumping has been done. However, as the honourable member knows, the Alice Springs Water Resources Branch does pump out of some bores near the town. I understand that they have a rate of discharge of about 15,000 gallons an hour. It is very high quality water with a salt content of about 300 parts per million.
The Dulcie aquifer is about 150 miles to the north of Alice Springs and contains a good deal less water - about 100 million acre feet. Obviously further work must be done. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has undertaken some work on the use of the water for growing crops, but the main requirement now is to prove the economic feasibility of growing additional crops. If this can be done, there is undoubtedly sufficient water available for a very big irrigation scheme.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1.966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Proposed new technical testing and laboratory centre, Garden Island, N.S.W.
The proposal is to construct a three-storey brick and concrete building which will enable several specialist facilities now accommodated in scattered and generally unsatisfactory buildings to be concentrated in one area. The estimated cost is $570,000. In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Committee has drawn attention to the fact that the proposal was referred to the Committee before the master plan was cleared by the Government. While the Government accepts the principles of thorough forward planning commented upon by the Committee, in this case it is considered necessary to proceed with the proposal in question as quickly as possible. However, I can assure the House that sufficient progress has been made on the master plan to ensure that the siting of this project will in no way inhibit the proposed future development of the dockyard. Upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Proposed extension of Hawthorn Telephone Exchange, Vic.
The proposal involves the construction a six-storey extension to the existing exchange building to house telecommunication equipment to serve the eastern sector of the Melbourne network. The estimated cost is $1,400,000. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal involves the erection of twelve married quarters for officers and thirty-six married quarters for other ranks at a total estimated cost of $700,000. The houses will be standard units designed in accordance with the approved scales and standards of accommodation for the Services. In view of the nature of the proposal, I recommend that it be carried out without having been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– If there is anything that needs close scrutiny it is the way in which the Commonwealth Government houses its own employees. I would think that the housing of servicemen is something that has been seriously neglected for many years. As one who was a victim of this neglect as a serviceman, I believe that the Parliament ought to direct the closest possible scrutiny at this subject. Speaking as a member of Parliament, 1 suggest that we should take extreme care before we allow any of the committees of the Parliament to be bypassed in this manner.
– I appreciate the comments made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I know there are many of us who in the past have felt that members of the Services have been pushed from pillar to post. At times they have had poor accommodation and at some times they have had no accommodation at all. I must say that over the last few years the situation has changed drastically. The Public Works Committee agrees with the motion just moved by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), representing the Minister for Works. Generally, the Committee has not sought to have housing proposals referred to it. We take this view because housing works costing over $500,000 usually mean the repetition of standard units. In addition, the question of total cost is not of special significance. In the past, the Public Works Committee has looked quite thoroughly at housing projects for the Services. We now have a repetitive process taking place in the expansion of the Services where houses are being constructed in the various establishments. There are certain standards laid down.
– A project at Kapooka was the last one the Committee looked at.
– That is right. The Public Works Committee appreciates the fact that the Minister has asked the House to approve that the work in question be not referred to the Committee.
– I want to address myself very briefly to this question. I believe that on occasions such as this the House should be given greater detail than has been given by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly). Without giving any reasons at all, he has moved for the exemption of this work from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. I believe the House is entitled to know the reasons which prompted the Government to seek such exemption. If this is a matter of security or urgency, the House should have been told. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, has stated the views of the Committee. However, 1 think that a matter of principle is involved. The question of repetition of a type of construction is not at issue here. What is important is the amount that is to be spent. We appreciate the difficulties and the urgency of this proposal; that is why we do not intend to make an issue of it. But I suggest to the Minister that in the future, when he suggests to the House that a particular work be exempted from consideration by the Public Works Committee, he should at least state the reasons which prompted the Government in taking such action.
– I am sure that the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) will give sympathetic consideration to what appeared to be legitimate points that have been raised. I rise simply because the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) referred to the inadequate housing of servicemen in the past. Only last Saturday, the Campbell Barracks at Swanbourne, in Western Australia, were opened. Some honourable members who were privileged to be there saw what is probably the finest complex of new buildings for the housing of Australian servicemen that they have ever seen. 1 should hope that my colleague the honourable member for Wills will take the first opportunity to see this outstanding accomplishment in Western Australia when he next visits that State.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 260), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [3.26.1-1 am sure that this simple Bill will not delay the House for long. The Opposition supports it. Its purpose is merely to make an adjustment in the amount of money provided in the principal Act for the building programmes at the University of Newcastle and at La Trobe University in Melbourne. The principal Act provided that $1,800,000 be set aside for Newcastle and $5,838,000 for La Trobe. This Bill will merely rearrange expenditure at the two Universities inside that total. For Newcastle the Bill will allow the erection of separate buildings for the Department of Metallurgy and the Department of Chemical Engineering, as the University wants to transfer chemical engineering from applied science to engineering. To allow this to bc done a separate building is obviously convenient. Of the original sum of $lm approved for a building for engineering and architecture it is now provided that an amount of $127,500 may be used for a separate building for architecture. These matters have no doubt received the consideration of the University authorities in Newcastle and of other people in the chain of authority. I am sure that the factors that would determine the wisdom of this change have been closely examined. I can find nothing to indicate that this is not a wise adjustment.
The changes within the existing total provided by the principal Act for the La Trobe University will involve the substitution of four buildings instead of three. The four buildings are for first year science, physics, chemistry and for biological sciences and agriculture. They arc to be constructed instead of the three buildings already approved by the principal Act. The second change that affects La Trobe is the substitution of a science lecture theatre block, as originally proposed, with a building that will be called a ‘humanities and social science theatre block’. The need for this change is presumably due to some movement in enrolments compared with what was anticipated when the original plans were prepared. The variations I have mentioned will make no difference to the total amounts provided for the two universities in the principal Act. This Bill merely provides for an adjustment of that total to meet the changed requirements of those two universities.
I have not had a chance to visit Newcastle recently, but I did notice when recently 1 was at La Trobe University that this establishment is taking on a distinctive pattern. The new arrangement of buildings will be conveniently situated in the university grounds and will, if anything, accentuate the distinctive nature of La Trobe in Melbourne. Throughout Australia our universities have not developed a distinctive character. Unfortunately, one cannot fail to be appalled by the way universities in Melbourne and Sydney have had to grow in the past. There is nothing consistent about their characters as there is about the characters of great universities in other countries including the United States of America. It is a great tragedy that the two oldest universities in Australia, Melbourne and Sydney, should have had to grow as though not part of the same tree, as though some abnormality in their building structure has occurred, as in fact it has every decade or so. La Trobe and to some extent Monash, the new universities in Melbourne, are acquiring a consistent character. I see no reason to believe that when these changes take place they will not be in each case consistent with the overall character of the universities. This is a point beyond which 1 cannot go. I cannot discuss whether these changes and adjustments are necessary for utilitarian purposes. All I can do is accept that those who know are satisfied that these things should be done. Therefore the Opposition supports the Bill.
– As the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) said, this Bill produces no radical changes. It does nol propound any new policy on the part of the Government. It is merely a rearrangement within an existing structure, depending upon the particular requirements of the two universities concerned. As a consequence the debate is very limited, but I wonder whether you, Mr Speaker, would indulge your natural inclination to be indulgent and enable me to make one or two references to the position in Queensland concerning the suspension of the building programme of the Sir Samuel Griffith University. I assure you that I will not trespass needlessly on your patience, but to give my remarks a cloak of respectability-
-Order! The honourable member may make only a passing reference to this matter, lt is not one coming within the ambit of the Bill.
– I regret that I do not see the name of the Sir Samuel Griffith University in the preamble to the Bill. I would like to have seen the Sir Samuel Griffith University in a position to rearrange its internal programme. The simple but nevertheless melancholy truth is that the building programme in Queensland has been cut back. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been patient in explaining this matter to me and to a number of my colleagues who have been interested, but I wonder whether the Minister would be good enough to use his offices to try to break through what is rapidly approaching a position of high peril in university life in Queensland. If no building is commenced at the new university in the coming triennium it wil’l mean that by the next triennium the position will be parlous. There is no getting away from that fact.
The honourable member for Yarra has spoken about universities developing their character. 1 would agree with what he said. I think universities do this. I submit also that if universities tend to become too large they tend to become very impersonal, as has happened with a number of universities in Australia and elsewhere in the world. The University of Queensland has 14,700 students on its roll. About 12,000 of those are on the campus. The others are external students. There has been a disposition by the Australian Universities Commission - I say this with great respect to the members who serve on the Commission - to treat Queensland as though it were different to the other States by writing down the significance of external students. Queensland is different because of its enormous distances. The honourable member for Yarra and the Minister would concede that there are two or three universities in the other eastern States whereas in Queensland there is only one of any size with another small university in Townsville which in the foreseeable future will not have a student enrolment exceeding 600 or 700. The University of Queensland is now at the stage of having to meet the enormous pressure of students within a radius of 200 or 250 miles of Brisbane. One of the most conspicuous features of predictions of .student growth in universities, certainly as far as Queensland is concerned, is that all such predictions have been wrong. Queensland University is one of the fastest growing universities in Australia. I hope that the Minister will’ be able to confer with his colleague in Queensland with a view to finding a formula that may enable the Commonwealth and the State to devise-
-Order! The honourable member is now getting too far from the Bill. He should come back to the Bill.
– I am coming back rapidly. 1 trust that the Minister will be able to find a formula that wil’l enable the Sir Samuel Griffith University to be commenced in the next triennium. If this does not happen I fear that a very significant crisis will develop in university life iti Queensland.
– In his second reading speech the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
A second change is to substitute for the science lecture theatre block originally proposed the humanities and social sciences lecture theatre block because enrolments in the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences have changed the University’s order of priority for these two buildings.
This is eminently reasonable but I would draw the attention of the House to the number of other miscalculations that have been made. I am confident that in raising this matter the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was seeking to demonstrate how many other shortcomings there have been in predictions about these matters and the Government’s attitude to them. As far as I can tell the Government adopts towards recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission an attitude different from that which it adopts towards the recommendations of other statutory bodies. I believe that the recommendations of the Commission in respect of most matters should be as sacrosanct as are those made to this Parliament on financial1 matters by other commissions. This Parliament should take some action to keep recommendations of the Universities Commission under close scrutiny. Whether we have allowed the development of universities to get into the hands of a statutory corporation which has become an empire subject to very little scrutiny is open to doubt. I would be fairly confident that the Minister is attempting to manage and to control the Universities Commission.
The La Trobe University is one of our new ventures. Having driven past it frequently and having visited it on a number of occasions recently I have formed the opinion that it is developing very well. The general concept of a total university, planned from the foundations to the finish along corporate lines, is something that should be extended to other fields. As the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) pointed out, the problem with the large universities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, is that they have grown all over the place, resulting in a loss of character and characteristics. The fact that miscalculations of the numbers of students in each of the faculties have been allowed to occur to such an extent as to lead to serious miscalculations in the building programme indicates a lack of social research and of research into education in this area.
One of the difficulties we face in running an eye over the education system in Australia is the inability to obtain all the facts. Why should there be any difficulty in obtaining such simple details as the number of students who sat for matriculation in Australia last year, the number who passed in various subjects and other statistical information? I challenge honourable members to endeavour to obtain such information. I had difficulty only a few months ago in obtaining such details as those relating to costs in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 have no doubt that this information is available.
The interesting thing about the development of our system of universities is how far we have changed the constitutional precepts under which this Government has been operating. A glance at the schedule to the Bill will show not only that we are placing money at the disposal of the authority but also that we are specifying the exact works upon which that money will be spent. For instance, we stipulate that alterations to the library will cost $60,000. A few minutes ago we were told by the Minister for Works that he did not think it necessary for the Parliament to scrutinise a proposal to spend quite a large sum of money on housing servicemen. While I am not anxious to see the Commonwealth extend a restrictive hand into the field of education, I do believe that it should be concerned with other areas of education in much the same way as it is concerned with university education. I can only say that I see in this Bill before us, with its restrictive provisions, a continuation or a perpetuation of the inequalities in Australian education. The fact is that La Trobe University should be expanded much more rapidly. I think it had SOO students last year and now it has 800 or 1,000. I suppose this is a commendable achievement when one considers that this University is starting from the ground, as it were, and is building up an institution with a highly qualified staff and so on.
For many years Victoria has suffered from neglect in university education. I am not familiar with the comparable figures for Queensland, but perhaps the same position applies in that State. Figures I have in front of me show that 36,883 students were enrolled in New South Wales universities last year and only 22,591 in Victorian universities. As Victoria has threequarters of the population of New South Wales there should have been about 28,000 students enrolled at Victorian universities last year. What I would like to have seen included in this Bill is some approach to the problem which would allow universities like La Trobe, Monash and Melbourne in particular, and perhaps others, to be expanded to take up this slack of some 7.000 or 8,000 people in Victoria who would be in universities if their opportunites had been comparable with those offered to the people of New South Wales. I believe that this is the challenge facing the Minister for Education and Science.
We on this side of the House have been giving the Government great encouragement for some 9 or 10 years in the field of education. I mentioned this very subject in my maiden speech, lt is good to see that, although it has taken a long time, the Government is now getting around to some action and that we now have a portfolio of Education and Science. The Minister can rest assured that he will have our friendly scrutiny, advice, encouragement and persuasion from now on. However, I hope that he will do something in the near future to overcome the inequalities in Australian university education that exist between the States.
– It is not very often that I speak on a Bill of this type. In fact this is probably the smallest such measure on which I could speak. I wholeheartedly agree with the Bill and I applaud the Commonwealth’s work in the fiel’d of university education. 1 even agree with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) that the Commonwealth should enter further into the field of education generally. 1 am convinced that it will have to do so in the future.
When a Bill of this type is introduced into this House discussion is restricted to the specific provisions for which money is to be supplied. However it is not the Government that is spending money on university education; it is the people of Australia. Of course this is true of all expenditure. Money is taken from the taxpayers and expended in specific avenues that the Government considers worthy. I have cause for concern as to whether, as the representative of an electorate in which there are nearly 100,000 voters, I should vote on this Bill without commenting on what is happening within certain universities. I propose in the future to reserve my right to vote either for or against a Bill according to what I believe to be the interests of the people I represent. I agree with the amount of money that is to be made available by this Bill, but I think that the time must come when we as members of Parliament will have to stand up and say whether we agree with certain actions which appear to be condoned by university authorities or to be the standards of behaviour set by some of the principals of universities at this particular time. I think we are waiving our rights if we come into this Parliament and we do not stand up and speak on behalf of the ordinary, common and decent people in this country in regard to this behaviour.
-Order! I think the honourable member is too far away from the context of the Bill before the House and I ask him to come back to the measure.
– He wilt get back to Monash soon.
– 1 hope everybody understands that I have been referring to Monash. Mr Speaker, I hope that your ruling will not preclude me from saying that in the future I will exercise my right either to vote against a measure or take whatever other action I consider appropriate. It would appear that protests are common to universities but students are the only ones who have the right to protest. Let it be known that the message is catching and that protests may occur in the Federal Parliament. In that case the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairne) and I may be on common ground in respect of matters such as crucifixion.
– I agree with most of what has been said by honourable members. I particularly agree with the remarks that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) made about Queensland. The moneys that have been made available to Queensland universities have been reasonable in the circumstances. But there is an attitude growing which I think is closely associated with the general financing of universities and that is the attitude of the general public towards students. This has a very close relationship to this Bill. The general public is asking whether public moneys should be paid to people who are taking advantage of the education that is made available but who are abusing their privilege. I draw attention to the remarks of Mr Nucifora, the President of the University of Queensland Students’ Union, of which my son is a member, who was most depressed at the reaction of the public towards a collection which was made for a charity. The students set a target of $20,000 and they collected only $10,000. They had to stand up to a tirade of abuse at almost every home that they called upon. They received great criticism of the conduct of students and so on. The unfortunate aspect of this is that people are saying that huge sums of money are being made available to universities for the benefit of a small group of people who are apparently irresponsible in many directions. Most people deplore the demonstrations that are held but 90% of the students are blamed for the irresponsible 10%, and I will mention the Monash University in this context because of the demonstration that occurred there recently.
-Order! The honourable member is getting far too wide of the scope of the Bill. I have already cautioned two other honourable members and I am afraid my indulgence has been fairly tested.
– I may bc mistaken in thinking that this matter is associated with the financing of universities. I shall turn fo another aspect and that is the student who comes up the hard way. Several honourable members in this House have achieved considerable academic status in this nation in this way. One such person has just left the House. I refer to the honourable member for Moreton, who was a self propelled student - if I may use such a term. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) is another example.
– How about me?
– I will include the honourable member, too, without even knowing what status he has achieved. The point I wish to make is that students who have more or less to finance their own way through universities find that when they apply for taxation relief they are rejected. After all there are two sides to the question. One side is the financing of the universities.
-Order! I again remind the honourable member that this Bill is restricted to the provision of legal authority for a building programme at two specific universities. He is ranging very wide of the Bill.
– Then I will say nothing further, Mr Speaker, about the deplorable situation which exists in the taxation field in relation to students who cannot get a concessional deduction on fees and other university expenses. I conclude by saying that I strongly support the Bill.
– in reply - I thank the House for its support of this small measure. The remarks of honourable members, whether they have been specifically related to the Bill or have ranged somewhat wide of it, will be duly noted, and I know that they will be given full weight where it is appropriate for the Australian Universities Commission to discuss them. I have noted what the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has said about the additional university in Brisbane. I have already discussed this matter with the Chairman of the Australian Universities Commission and I know that it is a matter that the Commission has constantly in mind.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) mentioned the availability of statistics on various aspects of education. Officials of my Department have been discussing this with State authorities. These authorities collect many of these statistics in the first instance, particularly when they affect their own operations. We are trying to devise some method by which we can provide honourable members, and all others who are interested, with the information they want more quickly than they have been able to get it in the past. The honourable member made some comparison between universities in New South Wales and in Victoria. When making comparisons of this kind one should have in mind the difference between the efforts made by the two States in the important field of tertiary education. 1 think it can fairly be said that Victoria has done a great deal in the field of advanced colleges and technical education - perhaps more than some other States have done. It is necessary to look at the States’ efforts as a whole and not at the efforts in one field only.
That is all I wish to say, Mr Speaker, except to repeat my thanks to the House for its support of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page SI. 7), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a very significant Bill. The second reading speech made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) provided us with a great deal of substance in a very small space. The Opposition has never been happy about the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act. It has constituted perhaps the most significant entry that the Commonwealth Government has ever made into the field of financial provision for the States for education. For many years the attitude of the Commonwealth Government was that the Commonwealth did not have power to provide funds for education. I remember debate after debate in which th: then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, argued that the Commonwealth had no power to provide funds for such a purpose. On every occasion we pointed out that the Commonwealth did have this power, that it could act under section 96 of the Constitution to provide money for education or for any other purpose, provided the money was spent by the States on agreed projects. We pointed out that there was no barrier to such financial provision. We were quite astonished when one evening in 1964, without any prior sign of a change in attitude, legislation was introduced to do what for years the Prime Minister had said there was no power to do. This legislation introduced a principle which we think is extremely desirable, and insofar as the Bill now before us continues the application of that principle we approve of it.
In 1964 the then Prime Minister said that the Government had decided to take this step because of the great need in Australia to improve the development of scientific skills. He pointed out that there were many deficiencies in the secondary schools and that unless science teaching facilities were quickly and considerably increased we would be unable to provide the scientific background needed by students entering universities in increasing numbers. What was done by the Government then constituted recognition of a principle that we had been hammering in this House and in the Senate for a number of years. The answers that we had received from the responsible Minister, who happens to be the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), were to the effect that there was no crisis in this field of education, that there was no special or great need. When on that memorable evening in 1964 the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies agreed that there was need for the provision of Commonwealth funds for science laboratories, we were pleased that our support of this principle over a number of years had at last received the Government’s acknowledgment. So far, therefore, we were quite satisfied about the principle that the original legislation established and this Bill perpetuates. We were pleased to see the Commonwealth entering another part of the field of education by the direct provision of funds. We were pleased to see more funds going towards the provision of science teaching facilities. But we are not completely satisfied that the way in which it was done was the best way. There are a number of reasons for this which 1 will indicate briefly later.
The Commonwealth Government prior to 1964 had taken up another stand which I think constituted one of the reasons why Sir Robert Menzies used to say that the Commonwealth had no constitutional power to provide these funds. The Government had taken the view that it could provide money only for Government schools and for university education. I understand it was not the policy of either the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or the Government to provide money for non-government schools. Consequently on that evening in 1964 that I recall very well, when Sir Robert Menzies announced that money was to be provided for nongovernment schools - independent schools as the present Minister calls them - we were surprised. We had thought that this new and quite radical step would have had some debate in the Liberal Party somewhere, and perhaps even in the Country Party. We thought it might have had some debate in the Government party rooms. But no, Sir Robert merely came into the House, held up his hand and said: ‘We are going to provide money for independent schools’, and, lo and behold, every person on the Government benches held up his hand too as though he had no other idea but to follow his leader in what seemed to us to be quite a radical step - the provision, for the first time, through the Commonwealth Government, of funds for independent schools.
Our feeling was that before a radical step of this sort was taken it was desirable to have a top level inquiry into education as a whole. It may have been quite a legitimate step to take and it may have been legitimate to extend it even beyond the provision of funds for science laboratories, but we felt it was necessary to have a look at the whole structure of education by means of an inquiry that could properly identify the places of greatest need. I want to develop this point somewhat because the Minister, quite properly, told us that the money provided under the principal Act to government schools totalled $27,114,000 and that during the same period $13,340,000 was provided to independent schools.
– There were two periods. There was the original period of 1 964 and then there was a triennium. Those figures were the totals for the 4 years and not for 3 years.
– That is right. I am not concerned about the period so much as the comparison between the two amounts.
I have no statistics, nor can statistics be easily obtained, but it seems to me that the independent schools received almost half of the total provided to government schools. It is certain that not half the children who need scientific education are going to independent schools. Far more than half go to government schools and yet the independent schools received half as much as the government schools during the 4 year period. This ratio needs looking at, especially when we consider what is proposed for the future. During the next 3 years $37,721,400 will be provided. The government schools will receive $21,713,400 and the independent schools $16,008,000. The independent schools will receive an increase of about $2,700,000 over the next 3 years, so the ratio will be even more favourable to independent schools. One could reasonably expect the ratio to go the other way.
At least once a year I visit the dozen or fourteen most distinguished, best known and best equipped independent schools in Melbourne. I know the type of facilities they have. I visit also the leading high schools in Melbourne and know the type of facilities they have. The government schools have a bigger need of better facilities than do the independent schools I visit. I would not want to deny students anywhere the best possible educational facilities. T do not want to deny” to the most exclusive of the independent schools the best facilities for scientific education. But the point T stress is that the independent schools are vastly ahead of most government schools in the provision of the facilities to which this legislation relates. It is bad enough to have a ratio in which the numbers of children are not reflected, but it is even worse when the ratio does not reflect the needs of the students.
It seems to me that there was danger initially in adopting a method of giving grants for science facilities that was not based upon an adequate inquiry into needs. In providing money for education the Parliament should have regard to needs and not to social class or religion; it should not discriminate for or against social class or religion but should treat them as being quite irrelevant. Distributions should be made according to the needs that exist. In some instances the need in independent schools is great, and that need ought to be met.
In some government schools the need is great, and that need ought to be met. We can achieve the kind of collective broad community support for the provision of vastly increased funds for education which we ought to be providing only if we can convince the community that the funds are being fairly and equitably spent. My own experience is that this is not being done.
Other alternatives could have been considered. In some cases it might be possible - I hope it will be possible in the future - to provide central facilities for teaching science and languages so that all children from all schools in the area may use those facilities. As more expensive and complicated equipment is needed for the teaching of science and languages it will not be possible to provide dispersed units with such equipment in all secondary schools. Dispersed facilities would not be adequately used and sooner or later thought would have to be given to the establishment of language laboratories and science laboratories in central areas with the most modern teaching methods. We must recognise that we could not provide, except for perhaps the biggest school, the complicated and expensive equipment that is necessary for the teaching of science. It might be necessary to establish a science academy, financed by the Government, and staffed in whatever way we want, so that standards can be raised more rapidly, so that students can get the advantage of using better equipment than is available now, and so that the equipment provided can be used more efficiently.
I know of quite a number of independent and Government schools where the laboratory equipment lies idle for some considerable part of the day and sometimes for days. In some cases the equipment is not used at all. Yet schools within 200 or 300 yards from the schools with unused laboratory equipment have no facilities. My initial argument proves that such a situation is not only inequitable, it is also uneconomic. I believe that vested interests have had too much influence in determining the flow of funds and the principle that the Government has adopted. To my mind, it is foolish to imagine that the legislation has been a complete success. I regret that it is necessary to criticise any of the developments in education because I believe that nothing in this country is more urgent and necessary than that we should have the fullest possible enthusiasm behind our educational programmes. 1 hope that what I have said about the Bill, in merely opening the debate on it - I will be followed on this side by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who normally leads on such a Bill - will be taken constructively by the Minister and that some of the points that I have raised in general will be answered when the Minister comes to the stage of replying.
– I rise to support the Government again this year in the matter of the allocation of capital funds for the use, construction and equipping of science laboratories. The fact that these grants have been made in an unmatched way, so that they are direct grants to State governments, is a matter that, I believe, has received general acclamation from the State governments themselves. 1 will touch on this matter at greater length later on. The value of the scheme has been undoubted for some years now. Over the years various people have questioned the wisdom of such a move. A little while ago the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) questioned whether any discussion or consideration was given to the scheme before it was introduced by Prime Minister Menzies in 1964. In commenting on that state of affairs it would be right for me to point out that very frequently, at our Party meetings, matters are discussed which are not known to the public at large. I do not know whether the Liberal Party of Australia would accept the procedure as being correct necessarily if, after voting for a leader of the Party, we were to give statistical information that the vote was 38 to 32. I believe that this is taking the principle of information, whether it comes in an underground fashion or whether it is given publicly, to a rather ridiculous degree. I do not wish to debate the point. I merely point out that I do not believe that the honourable member for Yarra has any idea of what is discussed in our Party room.
– I was talking about discussions at Liberal Party meetings outside this building.
– I do not know what parties the honourable member attends. I am not concerned about that. I am concerned with the fact that I do believe that in our Party room we discuss matters that sometimes are not taken up by the Press and very frequently are not known even by honourable members opposite. I believe that this is a fair enough comment to make, without being in any way rude to the honourable member. 1 would like to say one or two other things. It seemed to me that the honourable member for Yarra very adroitly skirted the point with which I am about to deal by insinuating that his Party, and no doubt the honourable member himself, had hammered at the Government on many aspects of education. With regard to the particular topic that we are debating this afternoon, the hammering was applied in a rather different direction. If I remember rightly, back in the days around March 1964, according to a report in a Western Australian newspaper, at an Australian Labor Party Executive meeting at that time, a Mr Chamberlain, whose voice is not unheard in the power struggles that continue now and again in the Party to which honourable members opposite belong, had this to say on the particular matter of science laboratories that we are debating today:
The establishment by the Federal Government of science blocks and the provision of science facilities in private schools is quite obviously contrary to Federal Party policy.
How does one reconcile that statement with the honourable member’s remarks about hammering the Government on all progressive and vital measures to do with education until eventually the Government agreed to meet the honourable member’s requests? Mr Chamberlain’s statement does not quite add up to what the honourable member said. That is one view. Perhaps the honourable member for Yarra can be excused for making his statement because another view, expressed at the time by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), completely contradicted this point of view. Mr Whitlam made the rather remarkable statement that he thought that the Government’s decision was consistent with the prime socialist objective of ensuring an equal opportunity for all in life. That is another view altogether and is at variance, as 1 suppose one could expect, with the views expressed by the honourable member for Yarra a few moments ago. In quite a categorical fashion the honourable member said that he believed that, before the Government should have adopted this enlightened viewpoint of providing science facilities right throughout the educational structure, a proper inquiry should have been held. There are people in my State who, if I might use a rather coarse phrase, have had a belly full of public inquiries. A public inquiry seems to be one way of getting nothing done, of bucking an issue or of pushing it aside. I would say that no matter what discussions were or were not held, the fact that leadership was given by the Prime Minister of this country constituted an immediate and vital recognition of the fact that we were deficient in training scientists. That is the issue. As I said a little earlier, and I repeat it, I believe that the move has been a far sighted one.
I remember the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) had a lot to say in the debate on this subject last year until he got into trouble with the Chair. The honourable member discussed at great length the agricultural requirements for a new technological age aid. His argument, which occupies several pages of Hansard, was a rather extraordinary one. The honourable member said that we needed scientists for all kinds of agricultural reasons, to open up the north, for matters that were his particular interest and other matters. The honourable member questioned whether the Government should have gone ahead with this scheme because of the lack of trained science teachers properly to implement it. Surely this is a strange way of looking at a problem if one knows that a problem exists. If an instrumentality is to be set up to train scientists, it seems to me, with my ordinary way of looking at things, that it is cockeyed logic to suggest that the scheme should not be implemented because the scientists are not available to train. Which comes first the chicken or the egg? To try to damn the scheme initiated by the Government was, I believe, contrary to the kind of action that one would expect from a man with the scientific qualifications possessed by the honourable member for Dawson. I shall pick up the trend of the honourable member’s speech at this point by coming straight to the question of need, which I believe is very much the basis of the present scheme.
Perhaps 1 can put it this way. In 1964 - it has been made even plainer in the years that have passed since then - the Prime Minister of the time recognised that Australia was entering a vastly changing world in which more technological training and more science at graduate level was necessary. He realised that he could not, through State governments which have control over State education by constitutional right, try to effect improvement in education and science because by so doing he would be ignoring very big sections of the Australian public who were interested in having their children trained in science. Consequently, as I said a little earlier, he applied the science laboratories scheme through the full spectrum of the education system. I hope that what I say next is received without any offence by any honourable member present. 1 believe that last year J compared figures from America involving schools which did not possess proper science laboratory and training facilities. If I remember rightly, at that time 1 highlighted the point that many Roman Catholic schools in America were just not equipped to train people in the sciences. I pointed out that I believed this situation also existed in Australia, although perhaps it was not so bad here.
Those honourable members who have had the opportunity to go into some areas of Melbourne where the standard of living could be described as being not as high as it is in other areas must be impressed by the fact that the facilities offered to the students are not of a high order. If those conditions are allowed to continue I suggest that, contrary to being accused of discrimination, which I gather was what the honourable member for Yarra was insinuating, we would be denying a section of the population their proper right to receive scientific training. The situation to which I have referred has been overcome by applying capital aid for the construction of science blocks and laboratories and for the purchase of equipment through the whole education structure. Whether or not the honourable member for Yarra thinks that some schools may have been provided with facilities that they did not need, one cannot afford to ignore the independent schools of the type which I have just mentioned.
What does this legislation aim to achieve? Firstly, it aims to produce more students trained in the basic sciences by providing more facilities. Secondly, it aims to produce students possessing higher standards, apart from there being more of them. A point which last year was well taken up and highlighted by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), though no doubt he applied his argument with a different end result in mind, was the urgent requirement of scientific resources in this day and age. I do not think that anyone would deny the success of the present scheme in trying to come to grips with that problem. In essence, we are discussing need. Thirdly, we are able to get what I describe as a follow on or drag on effect from such emphasis on scientific training. This follow on effect will impregnate not only our universities of tomorrow but also post-graduate work of a highly experimental nature in sciences. Its effect will be felt more fully as it seeps through the entire education structure. The requirements of industry today make necessary a bigger pool of trained scientists. I do not use the word ‘pool* in an offensive sense. There is a bigger demand from industry for scientists and this trend will continue.
All that Prime Minister Menzies did in 1964 was to introduce a grant, which we are seeking to renew in the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1968. He was far-sighted enough to pick up a deficiency in our resources and be sought to make sure that the deficiency was remedied. There is a fourth point of which we should be aware. I refer to the relief afforded to State governments in expenditure on education if the Federal Government comes to the party and helps as it is through this measure. As I move about my electorate and go to many metropolitan schools, as I have done in the last twelve months, I am impressed by the facilities which have been provided under this scheme. The State Government has not had to find the money to provide these facilities nor has it even had to provide part of the funds. This is not a matching grant; it is a direct grant to fulfil a need which extends throughout our education structure. Because of their nature I believe that these grants have had a vital effect on the dynamics of education.
As there seems to be ample time, perhaps ] can deal briefly with the way in which this Act is to be administered. I felt that the honourable member for Yarra was questioning the method of allocation. I gained the impression that he did not agree with the amount of capital that is to be infused into at least one section of the independent school structure. As honourable members can see from the schedule to the Bill the expenditure, which will amount to about $37m, is set out State by State. These amounts are allocated for the triennium. Clause 3 provides the limitations on annual expenditure from the fund by each State. The overall figure is divided among the States on the basis of -population. Then within each State an assessment is made of the number of students attending government schools and the number attending private schools. On that basis the funds are apportioned between the schools with perhaps two-thirds going to State schools and one-third going to the independent schools, depending on the situation in each State. Within those two categories, what I shall describe as committees are set up.
First there is the committee which allocates the funds available for the Roman Catholic schools, and a further committee is set up to apportion funds and to determine priorities between the other independent schools. The remaining funds, which are allocated to the government schools, are automatically and quite naturally administered by the Slate Education Department. Working in with the two independent committees is the standards committee. I mention this in passing because the success of the scheme is largely the result of the important work of this committee. The standards committee has taken the looseness out of the architectural design of science laboratories. It may seem to honourable members that such a committee would produce a dull, monotonous science laboratory, but in my opinion this has not happened. The standards committee has produced a first-class functional laboratory full of imagination and good ideas. Tt has been instrumental in ensuring that the capital granted to independent schools by this Parliament has been properly used.
It seems obvious to me that in due course we will not need to expend so much money on science laboratories. From year to year more and more schools have received funds for science laboratories. Although applications for grants are still coming forward, an examination of the overall problem will show that during this triennium much of the backlog will be overhauled. This leads to the thought that the Government may apply the same principle to other fields. The honourable member for Yarra was in my view on very safe ground this afternoon when he mentioned language laboratories and school libraries. I made a similar suggestion to the Parliament during a debate on this subject last year. If our education system is to develop on sound lines, we as the Federal Government should promote ideas that will produce a balanced education system. I strongly suggest that, as the need for grants for science laboratories lessens, the Government provide assistance in other vital areas of education. The Government adopted the principle of providing capital grants when it saw the need for science laboratories at schools, and I hope it will extend this principle to libraries, which are also vitally needed at schools.
In this modern age, the old practice of learning subjects parrot fashion perhaps from half trained teachers has disappeared. Today students must be educated fully. We have shown with the assistance we have given for science laboratories that students can be trained when the equipment they need is available to them. We should continue to provide assistance for equipment that will develop their imagination, even to the provision of visual aids in their instruction. I hope that governments of tomorrow will carry forward the idea of a balanced education, particularly in State schools, so that the people of tomorrow will be trained to use their imagination, to use proper sources of reference and to enjoy some alternative form of entertainment instead of being slaves to the television screen. Instruction of this sort must be imparted at an early age and at a low level of education. However, I acknowledge the need for libraries in high schools, technical colleges and the colleges of advanced education that will soon be established. I hope that this is the way legislation of the type we now have before us wilt develop in the future. 1 repeat the suggestion 1 made last year that we provide assistance for language laboratories. Personally I cannot see much sense in the Flinders University of South Australia running a language laboratory in Spanish. If grants for language laboratories in key areas are to be made under legislation such as this, I would prefer to see them teaching the languages of the countries with which we are associated now. Whether the language be Japanese or whether it be Malay, which is the easiest language to learn and the one most used in the countries near us, is unimportant. Obviously more than one language will be taught and the language laboratories will be distributed throughout the nation. People may well even have a choice of languages. 1 would like the Government to consider making grants for language laboratories because I believe that we must now think of the broader aspects of education and not confine ourselves to science laboratories. We should invade the areas of the humanities. We should provide adequate reference sources and ensure that students are trained from an early age to use them. We can look around us in this Parliament and see people who very early in their careers became accustomed, in the critical analysis of legislation, to using libraries and the sources of reference available in them.
I finish by saying that we on this side of the House and, I believe, honourable members on the other side, welcome the appointment of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as Minister for Education and Science. At his youthful age he will bring a vital intellect to bear on the problems of education. His appointment has been well received by the community in general.
– I would like to begin, where the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) concluded and extend my personal congratulations and the congratulations of members of the Opposition to the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his appointment to his present very responsible portfolio. 1 did not always agree with his decisions or his comments when he was Minister for the Army. I believe that he distinguished himself in that portfolio and proved that he is a sound administrator. I hope that he will bring the same drive and initiative to his new portfolio. I am sure that the Minister knows that education and science pose some of the most important problems that the Parliament and the nation must face in the immediate future.
I do not agree with the comment of the honourable member for Angas that the Parliament should not appoint more committees. It is true that some committees have been appointed to investigate various departmental activities and requirements in the States. However, all honourable members must agree that one of the most valuable reports on education that the Parliament has ever received was the report of the Murray Committee, which was established by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Had it not been for the very valuable recommendations of this Committee, much of the improvement that has been achieved at the tertiary level would not have been possible. This country benefited From the inquiry conducted by that Committee. I believe, as other Opposition members believe, that a further committee is now necessary not merely to consider the question of tertiary education in Australia but to look at the question of primary, secondary and technical education. We believe that it would be possible for any government to assess the needs of education at these levels. If the Australian Labor Party had the responsibility for governing this country, it would immediately appoint a committee of inquiry to examine education at those levels.
Legislation such as this is normally used in this Parliament for a wide ranging debate on education. I do not intend to take chat opportunity this afternoon, because on 13th March of this year I gave notice I would move that in the opinion of this House the Government should appoint a committee of inquiry to examine education in this country at primary, secondary and technical levels. I hope that before the House goes into recess we will have an opportunity for a full scale debate on these matters. Let me now turn to the Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the measure. However, we believe we should restate some of the attitudes we have adopted on similar legislation. The criticism that the Opposition levelled at the original legislation was that it had been introduced into this Parliament following a promise that had been made by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in the 1963 election campaign. At that time, Sir Robert Menzies committed this Parliament and the nation to providing financial assistance for science laboratories. The Opposition does not dispute that as a result of that legislation the science facilities in the various States, both in independent schools and in State schools, have been improved immeasurably.
I agree with the honourable member for Angas that we have now reached a stage at which the Government should take a very serious look at the legislation and consider whether it could be improved. We have pointed out on other occasions - and 1 repeat this again today - that it is not in the best interests of this country to have science laboratories and the best equipment that is available for use in those laboratories, unless there are sufficient teachers to teach science subjects in those laboratories. 1 think the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) must be fully aware that in most States, in both State and non-government schools, there are adequate science facilities. But the State education authorities point to the lack of trained science teachers to teach in the laboratories. If the Government had been prepared to accept the recommendations on teacher training made by the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia, which did very valuable work at the tertiary level of education, we might not have this difficult situation.
The Opposition believes that the Government should look at teacher training and the lack of science teachers. I have said in this House on other occasions that because of the shortage of teachers in the various States the attitude has been adopted in the State education departments that any teacher can teach mathematics. But if the Government were prepared to adopt the principles enunciated in the report of the Martin Committee, inadequate teaching, obviously, would no longer exist, for there would be a source of trained teachers. These are some of the criticisms we make in respect of this legislation.
The Government has decided to continue the grant for the next triennium. As the honourable member for Angas has said, $37,721,400 will be made available over the next 3 years. Of this amount, S21.7m will be allocated to science laboratories and equipment in government schools and $16rn will be distributed to independent schools for the same purposes. It must be conceded that this is a very generous grant for the next 3-year programme. I agree with the honourable member for Angas who said that after this money had been allocated and spent on the provision of science laboratories under the terms of the legislation which we now have before us, it would be necessary for the Government to look at other aspects of education for which money ought to be made available. Additional school library facilities have been pointed to as being an urgent need. In his Senate election policy speech the former Prime Minister. Mr Harold Holt, said in J 967 that the Government was seriously considering making a grant to assist libraries within the State education systems. So far, the necessary legislation has not been introduced into this Parliament. We believe that the Government might seriously consider these matters. It is not only a question of making money available to provide science facilities in the various States and to provide the equipment for the science laboratories. The Government should also give consideration to the other factors which are so clearly associated with science teaching in Australia.
Mr Deputy Speaker, only a short time ago the New South Wales Department of Education carried out a survey of the needs of science teaching in that State, which pointed to the quite obvious need that existed not only for science buildings and science equipment but also for laboratory assistants. The report on the survey went on to point out that it was not possible to train students adequately in a science laboratory unless there were trained laboratory assistants as well. Here is another aspect which the Government might seriously consider. Facilities and equipment are available. The Government should seriously consider the need for laboratory assistants if teaching is to be adequate in the science laboratories for which the Government is providing finance under the terms of this legislation.
When I began speaking 1 said that I did not want to deal with this subject at great length. Among difficulties confronting State education departments are the shortage of teachers, the shortage of science buildings and equipment, classrooms in other buildings and the shortage of library facilities. All these matters will have to be considered by the Government in the near future. In these circumstances we believe that it will be necessary for the Government to give most serious consideration to appointing a committee of inquiry to investigate important aspects of education. These embrace the primary, secondary and technical levels and the provision of science laboratories, for which the Government has since 1964 accepted a measure of responsibility, library facilities, teacher training, and many other aspects of education.
Although we support this legislation we have taken the opportunity to point to what wc believe are necessary improvements and to emphasise our belief that education must be dealt with much more thoroughly than the Government has dealt with it in the past.
– The Opposition has not shown much fire during the debate on this Bill. Members on that side are exhibiting a slightly wilted appearance. I am sure that honourable members will recall the remarks made on this subject a few years ago by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). What he then said was quite different to what he said today. I suppose it is important to take note of what the honourable member for Yarra has said, because he is advancing towards leadership of the party to which he belongs. When a person attains leadership of the Australian Labor Party, or for that matter any political party in Australia, what he says on any subject is important. Today the honourable member for Yarra mentioned that he had visited some independent schools in Melbourne and he felt that their need was not as great as that of some government schools. Then he fell back on the theme adopted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the old established Labor policy of the need for an inquiry. This virtually was the burden of the Opposition’s contention today on this Bill.
A few years ago the honourable member for Yarra came in here and read a lot of cuttings the contents of which are recorded in Hansard for anybody to read.
These related to attacks by leading educationists on the lack of funds at that time for education. Today either the Opposition felt no need to continue the attack or apparently it decided that there would not be enough room in the Press to record such an attack. However, two or three years ago when the same amount of money, or less, was being made available for education, the Opposition mounted an attack that reflected the views of people outside this place including leading educationists, university people and representatives of parents and citizens’ associations. These groups of people had mounted a tremendous attack on the Commonwealth Government for not making enough money available for education. Those who keep in touch with matters like this will clearly recall the savagery of their criticism. But this afternoon all is quiet. I do not think the present position is brought about because the honourable member for Wannon (M, Malcolm Fraser) has become the Minister for Education and Science. Apparently the public are accepting the present situation in education but they should not accept it. This is quite wrong. The Opposition is reflecting the satisfaction of the people by not conducting an attack on their behalf. However, this altitude represents a failure by the people of Australia to realise the critical situation in regard to education generally. When making his second reading speech on this Bill the Minister said:
The Government recognises that if Australia is to develop as we wish and if we are to make the greatest use of our own resources we need a greater number of well-trained scientists and technologists. If wc arc to maintain and improve our position in the modern scientific agc it i< clear that the Government must give attention to the standards of training.
How does one measure what should he the standards of training? How does ons measure the need to make the greatest use of our own resources, the uses we make of them and how many more well-trained scientists and technologists we should have? Australia is situated on the Pacific Ocean, on both sides of which live groups of people who can well be proud of their attainments in science and technology. The citizens of the United Stales of America and of Japan arc entitled to be proud of their progressive policies on science and technology. Australia is being criticised for permitting her natural resources to be exported and for permitting other people, particularly the Japanese by the application of superb technology, to transform the materials that they carry away from our ports - iron ore, steel and whatever else it may be - and bring products back to this country to compete with goods that we ourselves produce. Although we live in a young country and are not quite ready to compete perhaps on equal terms with some more advanced technological nations we should not fail to realise that the next two or three years will be of critical importance to us. We must appreciate that Japan, though unable militarily to occupy Australia, by taking advantage of her technological superiority, which may continue to progress faster than ours, will be able to penetrate Australia economically. This economic penetration may well prove to be much more longstanding and to have more long-lasting effects than any short-lived military occupation might have achieved. The Japanese may not have been able to hold this country for long if they had taken it but if they make an economic penetration of the country they will probably obtain a permanent foothold here. Our duty in this situation is clear. We must try to compete in the technological sphere with our trading partners, the Japanese. We concede that we are a young nation with primitive resources but we must do our best to advance and to compete technologically with our partners.
Within the last few weeks the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East has been meeting in Canberra. The delegation from Japan included a remarkable galaxy of scientists. There were twenty-eight people in the Japanese delegation to the meeting of ECAFE held at the Parkroyal Motel in Canberra. What kind of men represented Japan at that meeting? There was Mr Takeda of the Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo. There was Mr Nagai of the Senior Overseas Research Staff at Sydney, Institute of Asian Economic Affairs. There was Mr Nishiyama, Deputy Manager, Planning and Co-ordination Department, Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund, Tokyo. There was Mr Kure of the Bank of Japan, Tokyo. There was Mr Shiozawa, of the Export-Import Bank of Japan, Tokyo. There was Mr Nakaya, Secretary-General,
Japan ECAFE Association, Tokyo. There was Mr Seki of the Planning Section, Economic Co-operation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo. There was Mr Yamanashi, Technical Official, Economic Co-operation Policy Section, Economic Cooperation Division, Trade and Development Bureau, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Tokyo. The presence of those twenty-eight men in Australia demonstrated Japan’s enormous power in technology and science.
We all are aware of the magnificence of the Japanese electronics industry. Anybody who leaves Australia is asked to bring back a Japanese radio. We all know the power of the Japanese motor industry. We have heard a lot about it lately. We know about Japan’s wonderful steel industry and its shipbuilding industry.
– What about its textile industry and its footwear industry?
– I thank the honourable member. If we are to compete in technology and science with the Japanese we must have regard to Japan’s education system. In this respect the Minister will have superior knowledge to mine. I have before me some information on the Japanese education system. This information has been supplied by Mr Weir, Senior Legislative Research Specialist (Social Welfare) in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. The source of the information is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s ‘World Survey on Education’, volume IV, 1966. The survey shows that the percentage of enrolment in the compulsory primary and lower secondary schools in Japan is more than 99.8%, and there is hardly any wastage. So 99.8% of children in Japan attend primary and secondary schools. The survey reads:
In I960, some 56 per cent of the students completing lower secondary school entered upper secondary schools, and about 20 per cent of the upper secondary school graduates went on to institutions of higher education.
Schools are recognised as providing a public service in Japan so that only Government and local authorities or bodies having juridical personality are allowed to establish them.
A table shows that public establishing bodies cater for 99.4% of primary school students, 95.3% of lower secondary school students, 69.4% of upper secondary school students, 23.6% of junior college students and 42.9% of university students.
It is interesting to note how Japanese universities train their students. It is this training that has enabled Japan in the last 20 years to attain such a high place in science and technology. Before the last war many Japanese products were shoddy. Today they can compete with any product in the world and present a serious threat at any time to Australian industries. Let me recite the subjects required to be studied for a Bachelor of Science degree in Japan. Mathematics must be studied for 2 hours a week. The required number of credits is two. Exercises in mathematics require 2 hours study a week with one required credit. Laboratory work in physics requires 4 hours of study a week with a requirement of four credits. Dynamics requires 4 hours study a week with a requirement of four credits. Other subjects to be studied include exercises in dynamics, electromagnetism, mathematics for physics, optics, thermodynamics and applied electricity. Elective subjects include nuclear physics, astronomy, geophysics and physical chemistry. In all, nineteen or more credits are required. This is a most intensive way of educating the Japanese who will undertake scientific and technological pursuits. This is the country which is our greatest trading partner. Japan buys more of our raw materials than does any other country. Japan will be buying enormous quantities of our iron ore in the future. Thank goodness we are now processing the iron ore at Dampier into pellets, which is half way towards the end product - steel.
Several points arise for comment in this debate. First there has been no criticism of this Bill. It is accepted by the Parliament. No fire has been injected into the debate. The Minister may rest calmly. But this is no excuse for being smug. It is almost a smug House that is listening to the debate now. All right, we are happy with our education and there is no fire in the Opposition, or at least not the usual fire. I do not think this is due to the personality of the Minister. He is the first Minister for Education and Science from this House. The lack of fire in the debate is brought about by reason of the tiredness of certain people, including educationists outside who have ceased their publicity on this matter and their attacks on the
Government. Now we are getting somewhere in education, but in the next 2 years there must be a tremendous drive in this country to improve our knowledge of science and technology. We must attempt to measure up to the achievements of the Japanese and the Americans. We need a survey of their efforts. We must ascertain how they do these things, how they can pay their employees so well, and how they can take our raw materials and process them in their textile industry, their shipbuilding industry, their motor industry, their electronics industry and their foodstuffs industry and export them back to this country where they compete with products manufactured in Australia. The Japanese are able to do this notwithstanding that customs duties are levied on Japanese products coming into this country. There has been some controversy about customs duties on Japanese imports, but the Japanese must pay most customs duties. They have to get into this country; they have to pay freight in and out and they have to handle the goods at their own end. We will have to know how the Japanese do this. We cannot permit Australian workmen and managers to fall by the wayside in this economic race. Our workmen are equal to any in the world and if they are given the know-how, technology, machines and tools they can do this job.
This is the kind of task that faces the Minister for Education and Science. He is at’ present sitting in this House hearing approval of what he is doing, but I want him to realise the kind of economic race that we are in. We can be swamped by the Japanese unless we speed up our education. Our education system is already magnificent but it has to be better; it has to be faster. We need to have more educated people; otherwise we will lose the economic race with Japan. Just as surely as Japan tried a military takeover during World War II it is now about to attempt an economic takeover of Australia. In 2 years we will see the results unless we provide better education for more of our people.
– The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has in his usual capable way indicated quite clearly that the debate on this Bill is quite different from the corresponding debates in earlier years. If we go back to 1964, as the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has indicated we should do, we will remember the evening on which the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, introduced the original legislation for the provision of grants for the construction and equipping of science laboratories in all schools. The debate was vigorous both inside and outside this House. The changed attitude of the Opposition on this occasion must reflect a changed attitude on the part of its supporters outside this House.
The honourable member for Yarra led, for the Opposition today and he indicated that he had to do it in rather a rushed fashion as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is the person who usually leads in this debate. The honourable member for Yarra made three points which are worth examining. He spent some time recapitulating section 96 of the Constitution, under which these grants are enabled to be made to the States for the purpose that is stated in the Bill. We on this side of the House have no argument with section 96. Our only argument with the Opposition, and particularly the honourable member for Yarra, is that whereas we wanted to make grants in the way that they are made now, the Opposition did not want us to do so. In other words, had we on this side of the House not been in government this kind of legislation would not now be in practice.
The honourable member for Yarra referred to the ratio of the amount of the grants to the various schools, government and non-government, and he seemed to have a point here. He said that over the 4 years that this legislation had been in existence $42m had been expended, of which almost $27m had been provided to government schools and over Si 3m to nongovernment schools. He questioned whether this was a fair proportion. But apparently legislation that was passed in this House last year has escaped the honourable member’s notice. Surveys carried out by the Department of Education and Science in the years after the original legislation was first brought into operation, revealed that certain sectors of the Australian education system needed more assistance than others, and it was in pursuance of the principle of giving assistance where the need was greatest that the Government decided to double the assistance given to the nongovernment sector. It is quite clear that we have followed the principle of meeting the need where it was evident. We have followed that principle quite vigorously and we offer no apologies for that.
The third point which the honourable member for Yarra made rather encouraged the thought that he was not happy that this assistance for science laboratories went to all types of schools. He indicated quite clearly that he visits 12 or 14 high schools in Melbourne each year. He said that some of these high schools were very well endowed and others were not very well endowed. Because some high schools had far greater facilities than others he asked why the ones that had the facilities should not be penalised in relation to those that did not have the facilities. I suggest that he is misunderstanding the arguments for egalitarianism in Australian society. The Government does not say that every child in every school should be forced to have equal opportunities. What it does say is that children at schools should be encouraged to have the capacity to have equal opportunities. There is a great difference between the two principles. I suggest that the second principle is far more capable of exerting pressure on economic growth and development in a country than the first. Those who doubt this should have a look at the United Kingdom where the present Government has mistakenly attempted to apply the first principle.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who usually leads in this debate, was very quiet this year. He seemed almost fo be apologetic. He glossed over many of the criticisms that he made in 1967 and in 1966 - and well he might gloss over them. But he adopts the principle that education in this country is completely a Commonwealth responsibility. Listening to his criticism of the Government on teacher training and on the different education levels in the various States, one would think that the major administration of education in this country was performed by this Government. One would think that the States performed a minor role in education. There are some of us in this House who still argue for distribution of power and authority between the Commonwealth and the States - for a continuation of the Federal system. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that administration can be closer to the people concerned.
Education in Australia over recent years is one sector of society to which far greater resources have been attracted since the early 1960s. The two sectors of Australian society which have attracted greatly increased resources are education and defence and the Government makes no apology on either count. We all know the story of defence. We all know that up to 5% of our gross national product, and a greater proportion of our economic effort, are devoted to the meeting of our defence requirements. With respect to education there is a story that needs to be told. In 1962 and in 1963 the National Union of Australian University Students, which was very agitated over education at the time, published its own estimates of our requirements. It argued that if we could have the situation where 4% of our gross national product - measured in the simplest possible way - was devoted to education by 1970 it would be very happy. If one makes the necessary calculations and if one does not forget that vast amounts of money are spent in the private sector, one realises that we have more than arrived at that situation now. So we have attained the goal rather earlier than the critical authorities outside the Parliament would have thought possible a few years ago, and we have attained that goal through measures such as the one now before us. For a country to increase in this way the proportion of the gross national product devoted to education, while at the same time maintaining a growth rate of between 4% and 5%, is not a bad effort. It is something that this Government can be quite proud of.
The honourable member for Macarthur, when referring to Japan, made another point which ought never to be forgotten. If we are a society which is steadily becoming industrialised we can maintain our position in the world and our high living standards only by having greater amounts of capital supporting each person working in the community. We can obtain this extra capital only if we spend more on education, and particularly on science education, year by year. The Government has done this and it may be quite proud of what it has accomplished.
While we have been spending these sums on government and non-government schools Opposition members have been performing gyrations in respect of their own attitudes. They have looked for different leaders while pursuing different policies. Some leaders have risen, some have suffered, some have nearly suffered. But in the matter of a policy on education, which is one of the great policy issues, they have been able to achieve no unanimity.
– Some are about to suffer more.
– That may be so, but one hesitates to prophesy in these matters, even to prophesy the obvious. In 1963 when the former Prime Minister made it known that he wished to introduce legislation along these lines the argument advanced was quite simple. We said that a question of justice was involved and that there was involved also a matter of economic sense. We knew that we had to pursue economic growth and that in order to do so we had to spend more money on science education. The argument was that if we were to pursue greater growth and wanted more money devoted to education for this purpose, it was unfair to place all the responsibility for inducing that growth on 75% of the people. It was unfair to the 75% who were concerned and also to the 25% who might not have been concerned if the principles to which the Opposition had adhered over the years had been followed. So the Government said that the principle must be applied to every school in Australia. It has consistently applied it in this way over the years and the people have supported it in this.
Bearing in mind the fact that education requires the expenditure of both Commonwealth and State money, one regrets that States in which Labor governments were in office were most loath to adopt this principle. However, one can now see that even Tasmania has been forced to adopt some of our principles during the last year or so. The Government of that State has done so through fear of political defeat.
The principle embodied in this measure should be applied in other fields, and I ask the Minister seriously to consider doing so. Financial provisions should be made in a similar way, for instance, for the establishment of language laboratories, a suggestion that has been talked about and has received strong support, and also for the provision of libraries. I suggest that the principle could be applied to another aspect of education which 1 have not heard widely mentioned. I refer to the development of trade workshops in the various schools, both government and nongovernment. One knows that the metal working instruments, for instance, required in such workshops are most expensive, and both government and non-government schools wish to expand their activities in this field. We suggest that aspiring tradesmen have a right to the kind of assistance provided under this legislation in the same way as future scientists or those who wish to become well versed in languages. I ask the Minister to consider this carefully. It would do a world of good for students training, whether in government institutions or non-government institutions, to become tradesmen.
There is one matter on which I ask the Minister for an interpretation. He has received very sincere praise this afternoon and I want to request that he interpret for me a passage in the 1966 policy speech delivered by the former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt. This is a matter which has given me some cause for concern. The former Prime Minister said:
In the next financial year and subsequently, we will double the amount available to independent schools for these laboratories:.
This has been done. He went on to say:
We believe this will ensure that in four years every science teaching secondary school in Australia, whether Government or independent, will have the science teaching laboratories and the equipment it needs - provided with the financial help of the Commonwealth Government.
Does that mean that by the end of 1970 each of the secondary schools teaching science and wanting a laboratory will, in fact, have one? Surely that is the only reasonable interpretation. I ask the Minister to clarify that point if he will deign to spend one or two minutes in doing so.
The legislation which honourable members on both sides of the House are supporting today will amend what was an epoch making measure when it was introduced. At that time it did not have the support of all in this Parliament. It was opposed by a large section of it. We are proud to have been able to convert many of those who opposed the legislation originally. I ask that when the Government considers further improvements in provisions for education it explore the possibility of applying this principle not only to language laboratories and libraries but also to trade workshops in schools. I also ask the Minister to give a definite interpretation of the passage I quoted from the former Prime Minister’s policy speech delivered at the end of 1966.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WannonMinister for Education and Science) 5.28] - in reply - The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) asked for an interpretation of a passage in the policy speech made by the former Prime Minister in 1966. At the time when that speech was delivered we did not have available to us the information that we now have concerning the needs of various schools for science teaching facilities. During the current triennium. we expect substantial progress to be made in meeting these needs in schools both independent and secondary, but we do not expect that the programme will be completed by the end of the triennium. In fact we know that it will not. If all the schools are to get the kind of science teaching facilities we regard as necessary, some provision beyond the present legislation will have to be made, and that must be a matter for decision by the Government at a later stage.
I would like to thank the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for the somewhat generous and, I think, undeserved remarks they made. I can only say that I look forward to my job in this portfolio with a great deal of enthusiasm. I hope that I will not fall into the error, mentioned by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate), of smugness and complacency. Indeed, if that occurred I am quite sure that honourable members on both sides of the House would soon see that I was jolted out of that attitude.
The honourable member for Macarthur mentioned a UNESCO document which made some comparisons between Japan and Australia and which seemed to indicate that Japan’s effort in the field of education was quite remarkable and that Japan was putting a greater effort into these fields than was Australia. My Department has had discussions with the Commonwealth Statistician about some of the international comparisons that have been made. One thing is quite clear, that is, that it is very difficult to get a basis of international comparison which is valid because of the different factors that go into the compilation of figures in different countries. If this is the report which I have in mind, it would seem to indicate that Australia is spending only about 3.4% of its national income on education. In fact, at the moment we are spending over 4% - perhaps quite substantially over 4%. This, in part, is a symptom of the greatly increased funds that have been devoted to education not only by the Commonwealth but by the States in recent years.
I should like to turn to two specific comparisons that have been made, not in this debate but on other occasions. One percentage that has been used relates to the population in the 15 years to 19 years age group which is undertaking some kind of education on a full time basis, not necessarily at school but perhaps at technical colleges or at the commencement stage in universities. The percentage quoted in a table that was used in one comparison - I think perhaps in the UNESCO document - placed Australia fairly low on the list with about 20%. In fact the Australian percentage is well over 30%; it is about 34% and is almost identical with Japan’s figure. Another comparison of a different kind is used and this relates to the number of graduates from tertiary institutions for every 100,000 of the population. In this particular comparison Australia was placed fairly low on a particular list with only fifty-five graduates per 100,000. In fact the Australian figure should have been 190, which would have placed Australia substantially above Japan. I am not quite sure whether these figures were used in the UNESCO document.
– I think we are above Japan in the statistical sense but our figure has to be better because of our small size.
– I am not saying that there is not room for continuous improvement. I am trying to make the point that Australia is doing more than some international comparisons have led some observers and some commentators to suggest. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition both repeated an earlier plea that an overall inquiry into all aspects of education should be initiated by the Commonwealth. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicated, he has a motion for discussion under general business which I think might be debated next Thursday week. It relates largely to this matter and I do not intend to foreshadow arguments on that particular question on this occasion. I would say only that I believe the arguments against his proposal are stronger now than they have ever been and I hope more effective than they have ever been.
The honourable member for Yarra, who led for the Opposition in this debate, indicated some concern but not concern of such a kind as would lead the Opposition to oppose the Bill. He tended to suggest that the Commonwealth had provided some aid for independent schools only since 1964. This, in one sense, is correct if it is looked at on an Australia-wide basis; but if it is looked at in relation to the Commonwealth’s particular responsibilities in the Australian Capital Territory it is quite incorrect because specific aid of a particular kind has been applied to independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory by this Government since, I think, 1956. This, not the legislation in 1964, began the Commonwealth’s involvement in assistance to independent schools. The honourable member for Yarra indicated considerable concern - although I found it a little difficult to follow the basis of the figures he was using - at the proportion of the funds that the Commonwealth was making available to independent schools as compared to the proportion going to government schools. He seemed to indicate that much more should be going to the government schools and much less to the independent schools. Although this was not said in clear terms I believe it to be a completely fair inference from the nature of his speech.
A little later today I hope to introduce legislation, which is relevant in this context, to renew for a further 3 years a sum of SI Om a year to be made available to
State schools in all the States for the construction of better technical training facilities. When the science laboratories legislation and the technical training legislation began to operate in 1964 the Commonwealth was making S20m available for these purposes, and of that $20m the independent schools were getting only $2,668,000 a year. Partly because of experience of the scheme and partly because of knowledge of quite acute needs in independent schools, from 1st July 1967 my predecessor arranged that the sum being made available to independent schools should be doubled to become $5,336,000, and this is the first year in which the doubled funds have been made available for independent schools. But this now means that in one year, taking these two separate funds together, independent schools are getting over $5.m a year out of a total of a little over $22im. T. do not believe that anyone with any knowledge of the needs of independent schools could say, with any kind of justice, that this means that an undue proportion of the funds is going to independent schools. Indeed, if we look at the total completed programme in both the technical training field and the science laboratories field taken up to the present and projected to the end of the life of the legislation now before the House and of that which will be before the House in relation to technical training, we find (hat by the end of the 7 years the government schools will have had over SI 20m while the independent schools will have had a little over S29m. This, again, does not indicate an undue proportion of funds going to independent schools.
One other point is relevant in this context. There is no particular reason why funds being made available to schools for a particular purpose should be broken up in the same way between the two categories of schools, government and independent, because it is relevant to bear in mind that government schools are financed almost entirely by government funds from the States, a significant proportion of which comes indirectly from the Commonwealth. So government moneys of one kind or another are going to government schools anyway and, therefore, if the Commonwealth is making a particular grant for a particular purpose there is no real reason or no necessary reason why it should be based on the same proportion or the same formula for both government schools and independent schools.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned an alleged shortage of teachers. He said that the Commonwealth had not taken up the teacher training recommendations of the Martin committee on tertiary education. This, of course, is true. It is also true that a number of these recommendations are within the province, prerogative and power of the States to implement and not of the Commonwealth. However, the financial recommendations at that time, admittedly of an interim nature, suggested that $5m should be made available in a capital form, half of which will come from the Commonwealth and half from the States. In other words $2im should come from the Commonwealth as an interim grant for teacher training facilities. The committee suggested certain conditions which should be attached, if my memory is correct. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will know that the Commonwealth has begun a scheme on an unmatched basis to make $24m available for the construction of teacher training facilities in the States and this I believe to be much more generous and of much greater advantage to the States than the recommendations of the Martin Committee. Therefore to say that the Commonwealth did not take up the Martin Committee recommendations is, I believe, almost irrelevant to the argument.
The honourable member for Yarra again suggested that these funds were made available for science laboratories for all the schools, irrespective of needs. A standards committee - and this should be quite clearly understood - operates in all States in relation to independent schools. The States judge their own needs for State schools. The standards committee advises the Commonwealth on the needs of independent schools. If a wealthy school had all the science facilities that were needed, bearing in mind the number of students learning science at that school, then it would receive no benefit of any kind from the scheme.
– Is that worked on a priority basis? The schools cannot get the benefits later on, is that so?
– If the schools have all the science facilities which the committee judged to be necessary, as I understand it, they would not receive any support under the scheme. If it were judged that a school needed one additional laboratory and equipment to go with that laboratory, then that school would be eligible for support for that additional laboratory. The standards committee makes a judgment on what the particular schools need but then it is up to the independent authorities themselves. There is an advisory authority for Catholic schools and another for the other independent schools and those authorities make their own advices to the Commonwealth concerning priorities within their own systems. If such authorities made recommendations beyond what the standards committee had suggested was necessary, then the Commonwealth would not support those recommendations. We support a level of assistance up to that which the standards committee regards as necessary for any particular school. This, 1 believe, introduces a very real element of need into the way in which the funds are dispersed between different schools throughout the Commonwealth.
The honourable member for Yarra seemed to have in mind one suggestion which I would find difficult to approve, having in mind the needs of rural areas. The honourable member suggested that it was wasteful and perhaps unnecessary to establish science facilities in some of the smaller schools where such facilities might not be used as intensively as in the cities. One of the objectives of the Government is to establish equality of opportunity no matter where people may live, whether it is in the cities or in the country. This means that if there is a country school teaching science with a legitimate need for laboratories or an additional laboratory, it would certainly be my wish that that school receive at least as much attention as schools serving a larger number of people in other areas. Otherwise, in remote areas, the quality of education and training will not be as high or as effective as in larger centres. I am pleased to see that, while there has been some constructive criticism of what the Government has done in these fields, there has been no opposition to these particular measures in this debate. I thank the House for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 April (vide page 663), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill which proposes to amend the Defence (ReEstablishment) Act in three ways. Firstly, the Bill proposes to extend the time for which a national serviceman may serve by an additional 3 months. I want to make it perfectly clear that, while the Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Bill, it has not altered its attitude to national service training. All that has been said in Parliament by the Opposition on national service training is still valid. We believe that there are many anomalies and I want to refer to the ballot itself.
– A Bill in relation to national service training will be introduced later. Perhaps the honourable member might careto leave his comments on national service till then.
– In that case I will not persist with this line of argument. I merely want to indicate that there are matters upon which the Opposition feels very strongly. The Bill proposes three changes. 1 have looked very carefully at the second reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and at the Bill. The Opposition can see no objection to any of the issues raised by the Minister on this occasion. The Bill proposes that the time limit for a national service trainee may be extended for a period of 3 months. I have tried to find out, from the Minister’s second reading speech, why it was decided that the period should be only 3 months.I am aware that the Minister has explained that a time limit had to be established and the Government decided on 3 months. The Minister will be able to give some indication why it was decided that the extension should not exceed 3 months. The Opposition agrees that a national service trainee, who wishes to continue his service, should be provided with the opportunity to do so. As I have said, the Government believes that this period of extension should be 3 months.
The second point with which the Minister dealt - and it is the second amendment that the Bill proposes to the Act - concerned those who are employed as casual workers in this country. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, this would affect largely those who are engaged as waterfront workers and in similar industries. This proposition seems to be a very reasonable one. The Opposition does not accept the propositions contained in the original Act. The Opposition agrees that, if there are anomalies in the Act which react unfavourably against those persons who are liable to be called up for a period of 2 years service under the legislation, then those people ought to be covered under the terms of the Act. The Minister has recognised the anomaly in this respect and the Bill will be amended accordingly. The Opposition approves this attitude towards those who are engaged as casual employees on the waterfront or in other industries where they would not be regarded as full time employees. In these circumstances any reestablishment provisions ought to apply to those who were regarded by their employers as being employed merely on a part time basis.
The third matter covered by the Minister in his second reading speech related te. the civil employment provisions. Under the terms of the Act a national service trainee is entitled to re-engagement and should at once be re-engaged by his former employer. To this extent the Act provides for his re-employment The Minister has dealt with the question of re-establishment, particularly in relation to a fine which may be imposed on an employer who refuses to re-employ a national service trainee under the same conditions as applied before he was called up. The Government has decided that since adequate provision is made for compensation to be awarded by a court to a national service trainee who has not been re-engaged by his former employer, the fine which is imposed will in future be payable to the Government and not to the national service trainee who has received compensation. No doubt the Government has a very good reason for amending the Act in this way. Although the Minister has not enlarged upon this point or given any reason why the Government has made this decision, I am sure that he will be able to explain for the benefit of the Opposition the reason why the fine is to be paid to the Government rather than to the national service trainee.
We accept that the Act provides sufficiently for a national service trainee who was previously engaged in industry and who would not, when his service had been completed, be re-employed by his former employer in the same circumstances and conditions as applied before he was called up. Since compensation is payable, we have no quarrel with the Government’s decision that any fine which is imposed shall be paid to the Government and not to the trainee. The Opposition believes that the amendments to the Act which have been proposed are sensible. We do not oppose them. We believe that they will improve the Act.
– in reply - I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for his remarks. He asked one or two questions. The first question related to the provision which extends the limit of service from 2 years to 2 years and 3 months. This provision must be considered from two points of view - that of the Army and that of the individual concerned. We wanted to make sure that an individual would have the opportunity to serve a little longer if he was willing to do so. It has been found that people may wish to serve in Vietnam for a certain time so that they qualify for a war service home on their return, lt suits both them and the Army to extend their service. The period of 2 years and 3 months is sufficient to meet the cases that we have experienced so far. The reason why the limit on the period of service has been extended by 3 months derives from the fact that re-employment and reestablishment provisions are based on continuity of employment so that when a serviceman leaves the service he carries a right to reinstatement and is otherwise treated as though he had not been away. In the case of big employers perhaps the continuity of service could be carried over a longer period, but we have to legislate for the general position. It is thought that it would be hard, particularly for a small employer, to continue this period indefinitely, bearing in mind the serviceman’s right to reinstatement. We believe that this provision meets the practical needs and the practical situation and, at the same time, does not impose an undue burden on small employers.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked also for an explanation of our intention that a fine should be paid to the Government rather than to a national service trainee where a case for compensation has been brought by the employee against the employer who has not re-employed him or who has otherwise penalised him. We felt that on the assumption that the court would give adequate compensation, the individual should not receive the fine also. This has been done not so much because of proceedings taken under this Act but because it has been a principle of law adopted for some years that fines should go to the Crown and not to individuals. We would not have done this if we were not quite satisfied that the compensation would be adequate in every respect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Fairbairn, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is one of two concerned with grants which have already been announced under the national water resources development programme. The Government has offered to the State of Queensland a grant under the programme of up to $20m for the Maraboon Dam on the Nogoa River, which is the basis for the Emerald irrigation scheme, and that offer has been accepted. The national water resources development programme was announced by the late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, in his policy speech in November 1966. Under the programme the Government proposes to make available about S50m over 5 years for selected water conservation projects in the States, over and above the States’ own rural water conservation programmes.
Under the Federal Constitution responsibility for the assessment, development and control of water resources rests primarily with the State Governments, and the programmes of water conservation being undertaken by the States bear ample testimony to their recognition of the need to develop and make available as much water as possible for use in rural areas and in towns and cities. However, following on the successful Commonwealth-State co-operation in the accelerated programmes of water resources measurement, to which the Commonwealth is making a significant financial contribution, the Commonwealth Government decided that an acceleration of the national effort in water conservation works was called for. The Government therefore established this programme, which will result in a substantial increase in capital expenditure on rural water development works.
The State Premiers were invited to submit’ proposals for consideration under the programme, and in due course we received submissions from all States of the Commonwealth, involving altogether thirty-two projects with an estimated total cost of $290m. The Queensland Government submitted four projects, but so far has provided reports on only two of these, the Emerald project in central Queensland, and the Kolan project near Bundaberg. It requested that the Emerald project be given first priority. Some considerable time before the national water resources development programme was announced the Commonwealth had been involved with the Queensland Government in studies of the merits of this project, and in 1966 the Queensland Government requested financial assistance for it. As I have mentioned, the Queensland Government then again submitted this project as its own number one choice for inclusion in the national water resources development programme.
Because of its involvement in studies of the project over a number of years, the Commonwealth Government was in a position to make a decision on it ahead of the other projects submitted for consideration. During the period in which Commonwealth authorities were involved in its examination demonstration farms had been established to provide experience on most of the soils that would be included in the project area, in order to supplement the quite lengthy experience already available from private irrigation development on some of the soils. In addition, at the suggestion of Commonwealth authorities, some significant changes have been made in the proposed irrigation development, in order to avoid some soils on which the long term prospects under irrigation were not altogether assured.
The Emerald irrigation project comprises a major storage dam on the Nogoa River, about twelve miles upstream from the town of Emerald, from which water will be supplied through a channel system serving irrigated land on both banks of the river in the vicinity of Emerald. The storage capacity of the reservoir will be about 1,170,000 acre feet, and the regulated flow normally available from the dam will be 120,000 acre feet per annum. The irrigated area will comprise 130 farms, each with an irrigable area of 450 acres.
Experience from private irrigators over a number of years, and more recent experience on the Government demonstration farms in the area has shown that the soils in the irrigable area are suitable for a wide range of irrigated production, including lucerne, cotton, sorghum and wheat. The actual production undertaken by irrigators will be largely influenced by the economic conditions as at the time. The area has good transport connections to most parts of Queensland, and is in the centre of a large and important pastoral area, and so is well placed for integrated development with the pastoral industry if, as is suggested by the Queensland authorities, this proves attractive.
In view of the magnitude of the total cost of the project in relation to the suggested allocation of funds for the national water resources development programme, and also considering the desirability of the Queensland Government’s having some involvement in the project, the Government decided that it would offer a grant of up to $20m to finance the construction of the dam. The offer of this finance was conditional on the Queensland Government’s undertaking to construct the irrigation and other works, estimated to cost S8m which are an essential part of the project, and this condition has been accepted. The assistance will take the form of a non-repayable grant.
I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of measures granting financial’ assistance to the States. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in section 5 for the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. Provision for non-repayable grants is made in section 4 of the Bill. Sections 6 and 7 set out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project, and cover the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, action by the State to provide the other works which make up the total project, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in section 8, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments and for repayment of over-payments are made in sections 9 and 10.
The large task of making a preliminary assessment of the other proposals submitted by the States for consideration under the national water resources development programme, in order to select those that appear sufficiently attractive to warrant closer study, has been going ahead as rapidly as possible, and I hope it will be possible to advise the States on the results of these studies in the near future. As honourable members will know, 1 propose to introduce in this House shortly a further Bill to give effect to the Government’s decision to grant assistance to the State of Victoria for two projects under the programme.
The national water resources development programme represents a very important move towards closer collaboration between the State and Commonwealth Governments, and a more continuing and detailed involvement by the Commonwealth, in the development of Australia’s water resources. The present legislation will give effect to the first decision of the Government in connection with this important programme and will provide support for a project of great significance. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Fairbairn, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill b: now read a second time.
In introducing the Queensland Grant (Maraboon Dam) Bill I foreshadowed my intention to introduce a further Bill relating to a grant being made by the Government under the national water resources development programme. The grant in this case is to the State of Victoria, and is for an amount of S3. 6m to cover the cost of works to reduce the flow of saline water in the River Murray. The general provisions of the Bill now before the House are almost identical to those in the Maraboon Dam Bill, and I will therefore confine my remarks to the works which the Victorian Government will carry out on the projects for which finance is being provided.
Honourable members will have heard a good deal about the difficulties being experienced by irrigators and other water users along the River Murray. The water supply situation has been aggravated in recent years by increasing salinity in the middle and lower reaches of the river, as a result of which the operation of the storages controlled by the River Murray Commission has had to be modified in order to make available substantial releases to meet requirements for control of water quality, over and above the quantities required for use by the three States.
In the normal course of events, one would expect a problem of this type to build up gradually, allowing time for detailed study and formulation of plans for remedial measures. Indeed, the River Murray Commission, of which I am President, last year appointed well known and widely experienced consultants to advise it on all aspects of salinity in the River Murray, in order that a comprehensive plan for remedial measures could be drawn up and implemented. Unfortunately in the abnormal conditions over the past 8 months or so, the problem assumed great urgency, and the Government therefore decided to give special consideration, ahead of the other submissions, to three proposals put forward by the Victorian Government to assist in dealing with the problem.
These proposals all involved pumping of saline water, mainly drainage from irrigation areas to natural depressions away from the river, which would act as evaporating basins. Two of the projects are located in the Sunraysia area, the third being near Kerang, at the lower end of the Torrumbarry system. In the Sunraysia area, the larger project involves the pumping of saline wafer from Lake Hawthorne, which acts as a sump receiving underground drainage from a large part of the Mildura area and delivering it through a pipeline to a natural depression about 5 miles away, where it will evaporate. The works involve the construction of a pumping station, the pipeline and an embankment to enlarge the evaporating area to about 3,000 acres.
The other project in the Sunraysia area involved similar treatment in relation to drainage water from the Red Cliffs area but would have diverted a much smaller quantity of salt - about 8,000 tons per year compared with about 27,000 tons per year from the Lake Hawthorne project - at a much higher cost per ton of salt removed. It is apparent that this project is less useful and less urgent than the other two.
The third project involves two small weirs near Kerang to divert water to the proposed pumping station on Barr Creek which carries the drainage from a large part of the Torrumbarry irrigation system. From the pumping station water will be delivered to Lake Tutchewop some 6 miles away and to other natural depressions in the vicinity. This project would result in the removal of about the same quantity of salt per year as the Lake Hawthorne project. The estimated cost of the Lake Hawthorne project is $1.6m and the Barr Creek project $2m.
After due consideration of the three proposals, the Government decided, pending the report by the salinity consultants, and a decision by the River Murray Commission regarding overall responsibility for works of this nature, that finance would be provided under the national water resources development programme to enable the two most important of the projects to be carried out in time for the benefits to be available for the next irrigation season. It is not possible to make a normal assessment of the economic merits of these proposals, but Barr Creek is known to be one of the major sources of saline water, including the so called ‘slugs’ of saline water which periodically cause such trouble in the irrigation areas downstream. Lake Hawthorne in its present condition is not able to hold all the drainage water it receives, and leakage from the lake seriously increases the salinity in the Mildura pool and downstream along the River Murray.
From studies of the river regulation, it is clear that on the basis of assigning to these projects the credit for saving in water which would otherwise be required for dilution problems, the projects are extremely attractive. As I have indicated, they were given special, urgent consideration because of their importance, to the three States concerned, in improving the water supply in the River Murray next season. As I mentioned earlier, the general provisions of the Bill are similar to those of the Queensland Grant (Maraboon Dam) Bill and I need not detain the House by outlining them again. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate ion motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes a further extension for the next 3 financial years of unmatched capital grants to State governments for technical training. As in the past 4 financial years, the grants will be at an annual level of $10m, a total of $30m. They are intended to facilitate the training of young men and women pursuing trade and certificate courses in technical colleges and trade schools, and those pursuing courses at agricultural colleges, by providing the capital facilities by way of buildings- and equipment for their training.
Under existing legislation a total of $40m has been available over the past 4 financial years, and as a result, there has been a substantial improvement in technical college facilities in the States. The lists which I have circulated give details of the use which the States have made of the Commonwealth grants in providing facilities in accordance with proposals agreed between the Commonwealth and each State. As the grants have been substantial in relation to the States’ capital expenditure on technical training, the improvement in facilities has been very great. I think that over the whole of this period the funds made available by the Commonwealth have been just under 30% of the total funds that have been spent in these fields.
The States initially found difficulty in mounting construction and equipment programmes of the size made possible by the Commonwealth grants. Funds have now been available for 4 years and this problem has been almost completely overcome. I am assured that all but $1,600,000 of the $40,000,000 which will have been available to 30th June 1968 will be applied before that date to the construction and equipping of technical colleges and trades schools and that in three of the six States the whole of the Commonwealth grant will be spent before that date. In the three remaining States money which we will advance before 30th June 1968 under the existing legislation will be applied in the first months of the 1968-69 financial year to projects which have already been agreed to and are now under way.
We are proposing the extension of these grants for technical training in response to firm indications from State Ministers for Education that there is a continuing need for capital facilities. I have already received general proposals which will fully account for the amount of S30m which the Bill proposes should be available over the next 3 financial years. Some examples of the States’ proposals will give an indication of the further substantial improvements in technical training facilities which will be made possible by the extension of the scheme.
In New South Wales the Commonwealth grants will be used to continue the improvement of facilities at Randwick, Blacktown, Bankstown, and Liverpool in the Sydney metropolitan area, and in the country at Orange, Dapto, Singleton, Gosford and Moss Vale. Construction and equipment programmes will also be continued under the scheme at Hawkesbury, Wagga and Yanco Agricultural Colleges.
In Victoria major projects proposed include extension to the William Angliss Food Trades School and the Northern Suburbs Motor School and extensions to technical colleges at Bendigo, Warragul and Castlemaine. In addition there will be further assistance for agricultural education in Victoria. In Queensland, colleges proposed for assistance over the next 3 years include Yeronga, Ipswich, Ithaca, Rockhampton and Cairns and the Longreach Rural Training School. In South Australia, further assistance will be available for trade and certificate courses at the South Australian Institute of Technology and Roseworthy Agricultural College, extensions will be built at a number of trade schools and technical colleges, and there will be a further improvement in the equipment available for technical training. In Western Australia, major projects are proposed for Bentley Technical School and Bunbury Technical School. In Tasmania, expenditure is proposed for the completion of extensions at present under way at Hobart and for the beginning of new technical colleges at Devonport and Burnie.
As I have mentioned, the Bill proposes that grants to the States for technical training over the next 3 years will continue at the previous level of $1 Om annually. They are allocated in the Bill to the States in proportion to the total State population figures obtained from the 1966 census, as announced by my predecessor on 8th October 1967.
In considering the proposals submitted by the State Ministers for inclusion in this further extension of the scheme, 1 have suggested to them that the Commonwealth grants over the next 3 financial years should not result in any reduction in the States’ own capital expenditure on technical training facilities. The State Ministers have let me know that they understand and accept this condition.
Commonwealth grants for technical training have already greatly increased the facilities available in Australia for training in skills vitally necessary at the trade and certificate level. Further improvement in these facilities is still required at technical colleges and trade schools and the extension of the technical training grants for a further 3 years will significantly assist this improvement. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The present national service scheme came into operation from the beginning of 1965. Under it all young men, whether British or, since January 1967, non-British, who are ordinarily resident in Australia aTe required to register in the half-year in which they reach 20 years of age. Those registering have a choice. They may elect to serve in the Citizen Forces for a period of 6 years as an alternative to national service provided they make the election before the date of the ballot. Alternatively they may take their chance in the ballot and, if selected, are liable for service. In round terms, they have one chance in four of being selected by the ballot.
Apprentices, trainees or students at the time of their registration aTe eligible for deferment, subject to satisfactory progress, to enable them to complete their course of training or study and, of course, subject to the over-riding consideration that deferment cannot be used as a basis for a man escaping his national service obligations, which normally cease at the age of 26 years.
Married men who marry prior to the date of commencement of call-up action for their age group are granted indefinite deferment. This date is normally 4 months after the date of registration and applies to all those in the age group irrespective of the stage at which they will be actually called up. To defer men who may marry at any time before their call-up as has been suggested would be to give a special benefit to those who enjoy a period of deferment for some years and then marry and would be unfair to men who are not so entitled.
The standards of fitness for national service as well as for alternative service in the Citizen Military Forces are identical with those for the Australian Regular Army. These standards are high and most exacting, as is to be expected for an efficient fighting force. Since the national service scheme started, some 326,000 nien have registered for service, of whom 24,000 men, or 27,000 if the current intake is included, have been enlisted for national service, and 10,000 have elected to serve alternatively in the Citizen Forces.
The overwhelming majority of young mcn and their families accept the obligations imposed by national service. These men register when required, attend medical examinations to determine their fitness for service when required to do so. if passed fit, comply with their call-up notice, and in the Army render efficiently the service for which they are liable. A small number, however, are seeking to evade, or are defaulting in, their obligations at one or more of these stages. Amending legislation is necessary to enable more effective action to counter these efforts and ensure that such men do not escape their obligations. Legislation is also required to give effect to a number of the modifications of the national service scheme which the Government considers desirable.
As most honourable members know, those detected as failing to register, or who register late, are liable for call-up regardless of the result of the ballot and also to prosecution. In a number of cases there are, of course, acceptable explanations and circumstances which do not warrant prosecution. Failure to register is, however, one of the most serious offences committed under the Act since it goes to the root of a person’s l liability to render national service. Some technical difficulties have been experienced in the prosecution of those who fail to register and action is being taken to overcome them. The penalty for the offence is also being doubled.
Men normally register when they are detected. A number of cases have occurred, however, where men have refused to register, generally on the grounds of their complete opposition to national service and notwithstanding the advice to these men that following their registration they may apply for exemption as conscientious objectors if they so wish. My Department has no alternative but to prosecute in these cases. If following prosecution a man still refuses to register, he continues to be in breach of the Act and he is legally liable to further prosecution. As there is no wish to compound a man’s offence it is proposed that where a person is convicted for failure to register and continues to refuse to do so he may be deemed to have registered. Steps are being taken to make fictitious registrations a specific offence with a penalty of up to $200. Some of these registrations are practical jokes, but others appear to be serious attempts to embarrass the person named in the registration form and to disrupt our administration. Honourable members will recall the demonstrations against national service which were accompanied by deliberate burning or destroying of registration certificates. The certificate is the key document of a national service registrant. While these demonstrations have abated, the opportunity is being taken to cure deficiencies in the present legislation. lt has also become evident that extensions of the existing powers are required to enable more effective detection of those who seek to evade their obligations by not registering when required. The present provisions of the Act enable my Department to ask questions bearing on a person’s liability to register or to render service under the Act. There arc two deficiencies in this. Firstly, there is no authority to ask questions about a person’s place of living or place of employment so that he may be sought out and his national service obligations and liability clarified. Secondly, my Department can ask questions only about a person of whose existence it is aware. It cannot legally make inquiries of persons or organisations which will reveal the existence of persons of whom it is unaware and who are liable to register or render service and have not done so. It needs to be able to seek from institutions of which 20-year-olds are likely to be clients or members, such information as will enable the Department to satisfy itself that all those liable to register either currently or in the past have done so. A number of authorities are voluntarily cooperating with my Department in supplying names, addresses and dates of birth of men of national service age. A small number, however, have not agreed to my Department having access to their records. It is, therefore, proposed to give access to these records insofar as it could be relevant to the detection of those who may be liable to register or render service. This will not only give legal authority to examine records to which my Department does not at present have access but will also protect the interests of those who are already cooperating with it.
Two changes are proposed in regard to medical fitness. Firstly, the existing provisions regarding medical examination are being recast to place beyond any doubt the power to call all those liable for service not only for medical examination but other examinations, for example, radiographic, specialist or psychological examination, which may be required to determine whether the person meets the Army’s standards of fitness. Secondly, a very small but apparently growing number of self-styled objectors to nacional service - they are selfstyled since they have not been successful in applications as conscientious objectors or have indicated that they are not prepared to submit applications - are refusing to attend medical examination when called upon to do so, and are endeavouring to make capital out of their refusal.
What is proposed is the adoption of a provision under which a person who is convicted of failure to attend or submit to a medical examination may, without prejudice to any monetary penalty which may be imposed under the Act - currently Si 00 but being increased to $200 - be required to enter into a recognizance to submit himself to a medical examination to determine his fitness for national service. If he is not prepared to enter into a recognizance the court shall require him to be detained in custody until that examination has taken place, provided that the detention does not exceed 7 days. If, at the end of that period, there is a continued refusal to undergo medical examination, call-up action will proceed. If the man fails to report as required he will, of course, be liable to prosecution for failure to obey a call-up notice.
The Bill makes a number of changes bearing on the obligation to render service. It is proposed to amend the provisions regarding the liability to render service to give recognition of defence service performed overseas. Where men have served in the Australian permanent forces for less than 2 years before becoming liable for national service, they are required to serve only for a residual period of national service. Since, from the Army’s point of view, there is nothing to be gained by requiring men to serve for a matter of a few months, those who have already completed 15 months or more service are not required to do any additional service but those with less than 15 months service are required to carry out the residual period of service. These latter have the option of serving in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to the residual period of national service. It is proposed to apply the same rules to migrants, whether British or not, who have served in the defence armed forces of an overseas country on a continuous full-time basis before becoming liable for national service in Australia.
It is proposed to remove the requirement of an oath for non-British national service registrants enlisting in the Citizen Forces. When national service was introduced for non-British subjects foreign governments were assured that aliens would be free to exercise the same option as British subjects of serving in the Citizen Forces. Alien registrants, having elected to retain their alien status, may see the taking of an oath as incompatible with citizenship of their own country and they could run the risk of losing their current citizenship and becoming stateless persons. The oath is not required for the enlistment of men, whether British or not, in the Regular Army Supplement for full-time national service; on presenting for service a man is deemed to be enlisted. It is, therefore, proposed that the same arrangement apply for alien national service registrants enlisting in the Citizen Forces.
As honourable members know, the present legislation provides for the deferment of the liability to render service on grounds of exceptional hardship. Where a person is passed fit for service and the rendering of service would impose exceptional hardship on him, his parents or dependants he may seek temporary deferment of call-up and the courts are empowered to grant deferment for successive periods not exceeding 12 months. Honourable members will be aware of cases where it is evident that the circumstances have not changed, and are unlikely to change, from year to year and to require a registrant and his family to return to the court each year to seek deferment on the same grounds could be harsh and is surely unnecessary.
The Government has decided, therefore, that where a national service registrant has been deferred by the courts for not less than 2 years in total on the ground that the rendering of service would impose exceptional hardship on him, his parents or dependants and at the end of the 2 years my Department has no reason to believe that the circumstances which led to the grant of leave will not continue, the registrant will be granted indefinite deferment and in present circumstances will not be called up for service. The same approach will be adopted in respect of serving men. Where men have been granted leave without pay from the Army for not less than 2 years in total they will, subject to my Department being satisfied as to the continuation of the circumstances, be discharged without further liability for service.
While my Department will take a not unsympathetic view of cases which come before it for review, I want to emphasise that all registrants granted deferment on the grounds of exceptional hardship will have had the opportunity of gaining indefinite deferment from national service by undertaking to serve in the Citizen Forces including, where appropriate, the CMF special units which were formed specifically to provide the opportunity for all men to elect to serve in the Citizen Foi ces. If young men do not take advantage of this option there should be good and compelling reasons to warrant the granting of what is, in effect, exemption from service.
Under the present arrangements men who fail to comply with a call-up notice - they may be self-styled ‘objectors’ or simply ‘draft dodgers’ - are, on conviction by a court, normally committed to the custody of the Army and it is then for the Army to make soldiers of them. Where the defaulters on enlistment decide not to carry out their service, the Army deals with the cases concerned under military law, including by court martial. Where a man persists in his default the only alternatives open to the Army are repeated convictions resulting in detention or discharging the offender as unsuitable for further service, in which event the person is free from any further liability for national service simply because of his continued default. The disorganisation and waste of Army resources associated with such cases is, as honourable members might imagine, not inconsiderable.
The present procedures have also been criticised by such diverse groups as the Returned Services League, the Australian Quaker Peace Committee and Federal Pacifist Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Churches. They have all argued that men should not be committed to the custody of the Army but should be dealt with on a civil basis, namely where a man fails to comply with a call-up notice he will, upon conviction, be given the opportunity of entering into a recognisance to obey a further call-up notice and be liable to a fine not exceeding $200. If he is not prepared to enter into a recognisance the court will commit him to civil prison but no fine will be imposed. Where he enters into a recognisance but fails to obey a further call-up notice, he shall, upon further conviction, be sentenced to civil imprisonment. the length of the prison term has received the Government’s close consideration. The Quaker Peace Committee and Pacifist Council and the Australian Council of Churches have suggested a maximum period of 2 years. It should be borne in mind that the man concerned has failed to establish conscientious objector status or has refused to have this determined despite the opportunities provided by the Act, and that he has deliberately chosen not to undertake national service while others undertake their Army service, including accepting the risk of going to Vietnam for 12 months. After weighing all the factors, the Government has decided that the prison term should be 2 years but that men should be entitled to the normal remissions for good behaviour as provided in the various States.
Men may, of course, be enlisted but subsequently fail to render service. We cannot, however, contemplate removing from military law all cases of default during Army service. What is proposed, therefore, is that civil prosecution of enlisted men who fail to render service will proceed only where the Military Board recommends, and the Minister approves. Those convicted by the court will be sentenced to civil imprisonment for the balance of the unserved period of their continuous service.
Finally there are a number of miscellaneous matters with which the Bill deals. Men liable for national service are required to have the permission of my Department if they wish to leave Australia before commencing national service. It has been, however, possible for men liable for national service to escape their liabilities, at least temporarily, by going overseas without permission. If they return to Australia before the age of 26, they are, of course, still liable for service.
The most serious loopholes involve breaching the National Service Act, and there is, I am sure, no disagreement that these need to be closed. After a detailed examination of the position, the conclusion has been reached that in principle a ticket to travel overseas should not be issued to a man in the age group for national service without an authority from my Department. There are, however, a number of aspects on which further discussion with the airline and shipping companies is necessary before this could be given practical effect. This may take some little time. The legislation, therefore, provides in effect that the relevant section will become operative only on and after a date to be fixed by the Minister by notice in the Government Gazette.
The present provisions do not adequately deal with a variety of circumstances in which false or misleading statements may be made. The furnishing of false documents and making false statements is being made a separate offence with a penalty of $200. The National Service Act imposes obligations on employers. The legislation will clarify them in a number of respects. The Act currently provides that an employer shall not prevent - and the legislation proposes to add hinder’ - an employee from serving and neither penalise nor prejudice him in his employment by reason of his obligations under the Act. ‘Employee’ does not include workers who are not under a continuing contract of employment with an employer but who are nonetheless employed by an industry, such as casual waterside workers and allied waterfront workers. It may possibly not include apprentices and perhaps cadets. The legislation will ensure that these groups of workers are covered. It is also proposed to provide for the payment of compensation to an employee whose employer is convicted of having penalised or prejudiced him in his employment by reason of his obligations under the Act and to facilitate the enforcement of an order for compensation.
The current legislation also provides that a person shall not employ, or retain in his employment for more than 7 days, a person who is required to register and has not registered or who has been called up for service and has failed to render service. Every possible aid is needed in detecting defaulters but a number of honourable members, and most recently the Australian Council of Churches, have represented to me that a man should not be deprived of the right to earn a living when the fact that he may be a defaulter is known, or has been made known, to my Department and there is no question of employer connivance in his possible default. Where default is apparent, it is of course, my Department’s job to prosecute him as a defaulter. The Bill therefore recasts the present provision simply to require that an employer shall notify my Department of any person in his employ whom he has reason to believe is a defaulter.
We have no means of recovering fines imposed for offences against the National Service Act where the normal remedies of execution against goods or commital to prison for non-payment of fines are not available. This situation can arise, for example, where a person has been fined for failure to obey a call-up notice and then is enlisted in the Army. The legislation, therefore, seeks powers to deduct from the national serviceman’s pay the amount of the fine and any costs which may be ordered.
The majority of the penalties under the legislation date back to the inception of the original national service scheme in 1951 and in some instances to earlier penalties provided for in the Defence Act even as far back as 1917. They have now been reviewed in the light of the seriousness of the offence in relation to the present national service scheme and present-day money values of the penalty. Flowing from this review, most penalties are being doubled. A minimum penalty is also being introduced for the offences of failure to attend or submit to a medical examination as is already provided in respect of the offence of failure to register. These are serious breaches of the National Service Act, as, whatever the cause, the result may be the same, that is, the avoidance of national service liability.
Lastly, the opportunity is being taken to tidy up a number of minor procedural issues which have been encountered in the administration of national service. The present Bill stems from an exhaustive examination of the National Service Act which 1 and my Department have undertaken in the light of experience, over the past 3 years of the present national service scheme. When the examination was virtually completed 1 received some quite extensive representations from the Australian Council of Churches, particularly bearing on the matter of conscientious objection. Subsequently, the President of the Council, the Rr Rev. N. R. Faichney who is also Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Council’s General Secretary and the Convenor and members of the Committee on Conscientious Objection, which had prepared the Council’s report, discussed the proposals with me at some length.
In brief, two of the Council’s proposals, namely the making of failure to obey a call-up notice a civil offence, and modifying the obligations imposed on employers in respect of men who have refused to register or failed to obey a call-up notice, are dealt with in the amending legislation. As to a third proposal seeking deletion of the provisions of the Act under which a person who has commenced to render service can be granted exemption on the grounds of conscientious beliefs only if he has formed the beliefs after he commenced to render that service, the Government has decided to deal with the matter administratively. Several proposals are still under examination by the Government while others are doubtless being reviewed by the Council in the light of the views which I have conveyed to them. If further legislative changes are considered necessary honourable members may rest assured that they will be introduced as soon as practicable. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 April (vide page 839), on motion by Mr Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill seems fairly straightforward and appears to be necessary to bring the principal Act up to date, but there are a few points on which I would like some clarification. First, however, I want to tell the House that the Opposition proposes an amendment in line with the Australian Labor Party’s policy. I move:
Before submitting arguments in support of the amendment 1 will mention the parts of the Bill that I consider need to be clarified. Part VIa, dealing with the protection of property, ought to be made clear. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) said in his second reading speech:
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 cooperation 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 projects 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.
It would be unfair and unjust if the word person’ were to be interpreted to mean the operator of mechanical plant rather than the owner of the plant. If this were the case an employee of a contractor could be operating under instructions and be liable for substantial compensation payments to the Commonwealth. This section could adversely affect a private home owner who could unknowingly damage telephone cables connecting his home telephone to the main cables under a footpath or in some such position. After a change in ownership of a property the new owner might not be aware of the position of cables. If telephone cables were damaged during the construction of a garden or footpath what attitude would the Department adopt? Perhaps the Postmaster-General will tell us.
Section 139c seems to place an unreasonable burden on local authorities performing work in the community interest, such as the widening or redirecting of roads. In many cases, telephone lines which require moving are in a dilapidated condition and are really an eyesore. When the Post and Telegraph Act was passed in 1901 most of the PostmasterGeneral’s installations were above the ground and could be readily seen. In those days it did not matter much if geometric accuracy was not attained. Even now, generally speaking, the installations are aligned mainly by eye. Consequently installations are provided in a manner that is out of keeping with modern practice. They meander within road reserves and are not always in straight lines. Poles are often placed dangerously close to the edges of roads. The amendments would be more reasonable if the Postmaster-General’s Department updated its practices in aligning its assets. 1 am told that because conduits are not surveyed frequently a corridor 5 feet wide and 5 feet deep is reserved by the Postmaster-General’s Department when the conduits are laid without regard to other assets. Major drains and all sewers have to be laid at certain levels and on occasions huge sums are wasted because sewers and drains have to be laid to uneconomic designs. In the public interest the Minister should consider the matters I have mentioned. Possibly some of the damage to the Department’s underground assets could be avoided if closer attention were paid to some of these points.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has commented on various provisions of the Bill to which 1 will draw the Minister’s attention. Perhaps he will explain them. The principal affiliated union of the Council considers that the Government is legitimately and quite properly taking action to prevent a recurrence of the departure of a vessel from an Australian port leaving behind substantial quantities of mail for the United Kingdom and Europe. However it points out that although there is legitimate reason for some of the proposed amendments in Part LI, proposed section 66 provides for a penalty of $400 where the master of a vessel, or the person in charge of an aircraft, carrying mail from outside Australia for delivery to the Department in Australia refuses, on demand by a person authorised by the Director, to deliver the mail to the person so authorised. Similarly proposed section 67 (5.) provides for a penalty of $1,000 for not delivering up the mail. Proposed section 68 (2.) is of interest in that it gives an officer of the Department sweeping powers. For example, he may detain a vessel, board the vessel with such persons as he thinks necessary to assist him, and use or authorise the use of reasonable force to ensure that a direction by him is carried out. The unions concerned are apprehensive about the desirablility of an officer of the Department being vested with such power which, by the exercise of forcible direction, could create real trouble in an industrial dispute.
The Council’s comments are made against a background of events in a recent national postal strike when certain mail matter which arrived in Australia externally and internally by ship and air was the subject of industrial disputation. The point we raise is that, in the event of any future industrial action involving a bona fide declaration of a black ban by the Australian Council of Trade Unions or its State branches, it would seem that the proposed amendments would permit the Department to have access to the mail. Other organisations also would be concerned at the proposed penalties to which its members could be liable for committing the offence of failing to deliver up mail at the direction of officers of the Department. I suggest that the Minister possibly does not intend these amendments to refer to industrial disputes. Possibly he could agree to the inclusion of words ‘other than in industrial disputes’ which would clarify the position.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is a responsible body. We are not talking about sudden strikes that occur but about those that might be quite legitimate and which would have the approval of the ACTU and the State branches. I ask the Minister to have a look at the viewpoint of the ACTU in respect of these matters. The Bill relating to the finances of the postal services, which will be debated later by my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), by its restrictive nature precludes the Opposition from moving amendments to it, and that is why we are moving the amendment to this Bill that I outlined. The measure relating to the finances of the Post Office does not go far enough. It merely plays about with a difficult and intricate problem. While the Postmaster-General dithers with Post Office re-organisation other countries have grasped the nettle and are tackling postal and communication services. Britain and Sweden have placed their postal services under the control of a public corporation, as have Japan and Indonesia. Germany is considering forming its postal services into a public corporation. Other countries are considering the possibility of so organising their post offices. Mr O’Grady, who retired about 2 years ago from the position of DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, believes that the Post Office should be a public corporation. Since his retirement he has been able to come out in the open and make public statements that he could not make as the head of a government department. He is now in a position to criticise the existing organisation of the Post Office and he has done so in Press articles. Regarding the Post Office becoming a public corporation he has said-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Surely the honourable member is now debating another Bill that is to come before us and which refers to the finances of the Post Office services.
– Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Stirling is in order.
– Regarding the Post Office becoming a public corporation, in an article in the ‘Australian* of 30th October 1967, he said: 1 think a public corporation would have a different approach to the public if it were given truly wide financial powers. It could arrange its business in a different way. At the present lime a purely government department must adhere to the budgetary system of Parliament. In effect, you must not anticipate parliamentary approval for years ahead.
Later he said:
This lack of knowledge of the future has always plagued the engineer in the Post Office in Australia.
The Post Office has always been debarred from long-term planning. … A statutory corporation given proper financial powers would be able to make long-term arrangements with banks or other suppliers of funds and it could so arrange its affairs that it could commit itself to very high capital cost projects which wouldn’t come into use until 5 years ahead and would still have sufficient funds for bread and butter items.
He went on to point out how a public corporation might be empowered to raise money through the Commonwealth loan fund system. It could raise money as do the Electricity Commissions in some States, with approval to go to the market separately, lt could also borrow from banks for a period of 5 years or so.
In the Bills that he has introduced the Postmaster-General has shown a narrow, conservative view. He has continued to place shackles on the Post Office. The only thing that he does propose is the establishment of a fund into which profits, if any, should be paid instead of their going into Consolidated Revenue. There is no power to borrow. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs must continue to go cap in hand to the Treasurer for funds. The Post Office continues to be hamstrung.
Some years ago the British Government established a Post Office Trust Fund similar to that which is proposed in another Bill which has been introduced and which will be dealt with by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. That Government went further and empowered the British Post Office to raise loans, but the British experience did not solve the problem. A public corporation was established. Surely Australia can learn from the British experience, which resulted in the establishment of a public corporation. I emphasise that we are not suggesting the establishment of a public corporation without some investigation. That is why we are suggesting to the Minister that a joint committee of the Parliament should be established in order to inquire fully into the matter and hear the various views of people who could give expert evidence on the matter, including representatives of the unions, one of which is opposed to such a corporation. The views of that union are entitled to be heard, the same as the views of everybody else.
During the debate on the controversial increases in postal charges on 19th May 1967, and in a later debate on the same matter, I drew attention to a document entitled ‘Reorganisation of the Post Office in Britain’. That document was presented to the House of Commons by the British Postmaster-General in March 1967, just prior to the debate on increased Post Office charges taking place in this House. Paragraph 3 of the document states:
The Government concluded that the process begun in 1932 should be carried to its logical conclusion. A public corporation should be created to run this great business with a structure and methods designed directly to meet British needs, drawing on the best modem practice.
Paragraph 6 of the same document states:
The Post Office is a major Department of State. Practically the whole of it is involved in the constitutional change. This is an undertaking without precedent. Moreover, Post Office services are an integral part of the nation’s life. In addition to communications, the Post Office provides part of the machinery of the Social Security system, and many other kinds of business are transacted at Post Office counters. The Government’s objective is to create an authority which will: - be responsible for developing the most efficient services possible, at the lowest charges consistent with sound financial policies. - carry on in a worthy manner the Post Office tradition of service to the public. - develop relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way.
These passages emphasise the need to have a very efficient service at the lowest possible charges. Page 12 of the same document refers to the authority developing relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way. It is worth drawing attention to sections of paragraph 52, because it states:
Without detriment to the responsibilities of managers to manage, the Government will expect the Corporation to promote the most constructive relationships between the management and the staff. The new Corporation will not be taking over an industry marked by bad industrial relations: on the contrary, a fine tradition of cooperation and consultation between the management and staff has been built up in the Post Office. The Government will expect the Corporation to ensure that this develops further in the new conditions and to set the highest standards in relationships with the staff.
Staff relations in the Australian Post Office have been deplorable. To a large extent this can be attributed to the existing set up. The Bill does not offer any hope for better industrial relations between the staff and the management. The Post Office has a staff of nearly 100,000, yet the Post Office administration has no power to deal with the wage claims of its employees. The unions must place their claims before the Public Service Board first, then before the Public Service Arbitrator and in the last resort before the Commonwealth Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. During this tortuous route the Department of Labour and National Service has its say. Here we have delay pyramided on top of delay. No wonder there is grave discontent in every union associated with the Post Office. Mr O’Grady said:
I have found myself completely humiliated when union deputations called on me. No matter what my views, I was required to keep a poker face and not let them think by nod or wink ‘hat I was sympathetic to their case.
Mr O’Grady had to wait until his retirement before he could make a statement such as this. The present Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs no doubt feels just as humiliated. Mr O’Grady said:
It would seem that if the Post Office is to be made into a truly business undertaking, the number of outside bodies having a say in such important matters ought to be reduced to a minimum.
I believe the Post Office should have only two bodies concerned - the Post Office managers tn:mselves and the Pull Court. There should be no other intermediary because this at best results in prolonged delays and at worst causes unnecessary friction between employees and management.
What is there in the Bill that eases that friction? Mr O’Grady also said:
If the Post Office is to be put on the basis of being a true business undertaking in reality and not just in name divorcement from the Commonwealth Public Service Board would be quite essential.
Mr O’Grady made that statement in September 1967. We said the same thing in May 1967. The records will show that we said it. We believe that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be divorced from the Public Service Board and should be a separate department controlled by a public corporation. We believe that then the Post Office would give better service to the community. We believe that industrial relations would improve and would be much more stable than at present. Noone can be too certain about the claims we make. That is why we want a complete investigation by a joint select committee, able to call evidence from all interested parties and then report to the Parliament. The Parliament, after studying the report of such a committee, can make up its mind. That is exactly what the amendment proposes. There is nothing extravagant in what it proposes.
The latest report of the Public Service Board shows that over 200,000 people are under the control of the Board. 1 believe that the figure is 202,707. Of these 98,886 are employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is ridiculous to think that an undertaking like the Post Office should be under the control of the Public Service Board, which comprises three men, none of whom have had Post Office experience. I am not having a shot, as it were, at these men. They are quite capable men. But this undertaking is too big to be controlled in such a fashion. Reports show that the Post Office employs about 50% of the people under the control of the Public Service Board. No wonder the retired DirectorGeneral, Posts and Telegraphs considered the situation frightening and humiliating, to use his own words. The present DirectorGeneral without doubt finds himself in this frightening and humiliating position. The Postmaster-General is determined to keep the Post Office under these frightening and humiliating shackles. Mr Housley, the present Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, who is recognised as an able administrator, realised the problem that faced the Post Office. He said, in a paper to the Royal Institute of Public Administration conference on 23rd November 1966:
The resources of the Post Office have so far permitted it to seek only to melt developing demands as they press upon it. There is need, however, for a more forward-reaching approach so that the Post Office can develop and encourage the use of more efficient tools of government and administration, of those services which make a positive contribution to better management.
When it can do this, Australia will realise the full potential of government through communications.
The Postmaster-General will remember that in an earlier debate he said:
The Government believes that it must do everything that is reasonably possible to meet the needs of the Australian public in the expansion and efficiency of the service.
We agree with that statement. These are empty words if they are not followed by action. There is a need for a full inquiry into the Post Office. In 1965 the Opposition proposed a joint select committee to inquire into the nation’s telephone services and it proposed also an inquiry into the Post’ Office itself.
What is there in either this Bill or the Post and Telegraph Bill (No. 2), which is to be debated later, that will remove the shackles from the Post Office administration? The answer is: Next to nothing. The dead hand of this Government must be removed from the Post Office. This is a conservative Government, hide-bound in tradition. It says, in effect, that what was good enough in the old days is good enough today. But the. present situation is much different from what it used to be. Modern electronics mean that we can move ahead rapidly, but the Post Office can move only at a snail like pace. It cannot plan more than 12 months ahead because it does not know what funds will be provided by the Treasury. As Mr O’Grady said, it ought to be able to plan many years ahead. Long delays for telephone installations result from the lack of financial control. Mr O’Grady pointed out that until recently only 100 to 200 additional telephone lines were added to telephone exchanges when they were enlarged. Often this met the demand for only 12 months and the job had to be done all over again. A public corporation would be able to plan ahead to meet the demand for at least 5 years.
We will continue to grow in population and Australian industry will continue to expand. The old established system, which is to be modified slightly by this Bill and the Bill that is to be debated later, will not meet the complexities of the future. I draw attention to some figures which were quoted from a reliable source only a day or two ago. Australia, with only 26 telephones per 100 of population, is well behind the United States with 48 per 100; Sweden with 46; and New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada with 38 per 100. The Postmaster-General said in his second reading speech:
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 is subject to the added discipline of planning its expenditure with an eye to the revenue and the net financial outturn it will yield, as well as to the service rendered the community, including what might be termed the less economic areas.
We know that Australia is a vast area and that most of that area is sparsely populated. Consequently, costs for postal services and communications must be uneconomic in some parts of Australia. But thai does not mean that people in those areas have to be deprived of these services. Whatever system we have of financing the Post Office, the Government must bear some of the burden as a form of subsidy because of our wide open spaces and because of the scattered nature of our population. The situation in respect of the Post Office is exactly the same as with the State Shipping Service in Western Australia which runs at a loss and which is accepted as having to run at a loss to provide a service to outback areas. Subsidies apply in exactly the same way to our airlines and in many cases to our railway systems.
In an earlier debate the PostmasterGeneral drew attention to the huge size of our continent and the scattered nature of a large proportion of our population. I repeat that this alone justifies some subsidy from Consolidated Revenue. The Government must accept the fact that some of the Post Office services are run as a social obligation to the community as a whole. I suggest to the Minister that he should accept our amendment which provides for a joint select committee to be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board - sufficient has surely been said to show that there is much support for this proposal, not only on this side of the House but among persons such as Mr O’Grady who understands the working of the Post Office - and of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office. [ repeat that we do not say that this should be done without an investigation. There should be a thorough investigation. Evidence should be taken from all interested parties and then we should be able to make up our own minds on what is the best way of managing this very important undertaking.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later in the debate.
– I should like to speak to the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and to indicate very quickly that it is not acceptable to the Government. I shall give the greater part of my time in this debate to explaining why what he proposes should not be done. In the first place it is suggested that there should be a select committee to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board. The honourable member has made several references to some of the trade unions. However, he has not referred to some of tue Public Service unions which have opposed the suggestion that the Post Office should be removed from the control of the Public Service Board. Some unions believe that the Public Service Board is the appropriate authority to look after the wage levels and associated matters for all members of the Public Service. I know that this is a matter of dispute between many individuals in the community. In fact I have my own views on this. I see no virtue in having a select committee for this purpose.
The main part of the amendment is the latter part which deals with the establishment of a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office. I want to say very early in this debate that I will not adopt an ostrich-like stance by putting my head in the sand and saying that I will not have a bar of the suggestion. Nor shall 1 suggest that there is a magic wand in my possession which will quickly achieve this sort of result. I do not see the justification for a select committee. 1 believe that there must be meeting points between the Opposition and the Government in our approach to the problems of the Post Office. This evening the honourable member for Stirling has not provided us wilh any meeting points in the suggestions which he has made to the House. One has to go back through the debates over the last 3 or 4 years to obtain a gleaning of what is the Opposition’s real attitude. I want to mention only one point which I think provides sufficient indication. Inevitably a select committee, if its consideration followed in any way the lines of the nationalist approach to the British Post Office, would consider whether profits should be made by the Post Office. Profits include interest. For a long time the Opposition has made it quite clear that in no circumstances will it have a bar of an interest charge paid by the Post Office on money borrowed from the Treasury. What would happen in a select committee? We would get together and merely argue the toss, Labor saying that it would not have interest and profits and the Government on the other hand saying it would. As the philosophy of the Opposition on this subject is the opposite to that of the Government, I believe the appointment of a select committee would not be justified. 1 want to explain to the House some of the problems that the Government must face in coming to a decision on this matter. The honourable member used the expression that the United Kingdom Government has grasped the nettle and decided to establish the Post Office as a corporation. It is very interesting to note that in 1955 the British Post Office was made responsible for balancing its income and expenditure, but it continued to operate with the Treasury accounting system. In 1961 its finances were separated from the Exchequer and it has since operated as a business with its own trading account. This is when the trust account was introduced for the British Post Office. In 1966 the PostmasterGeneral of Great Britain announced that the Post Office would become a statutory corporation. Almost 3 years were allowed for the preparatory work. It was to have statutory corporation status from 1st April 1968 - that is, last month - but during that month the Postmaster-General announced that, due to legislative pressures, the Post Office corporation would not commence before 1st April 1969. The Opposition regards this as grasping the nettle, but I suggest that there has been a good deal of delay and a good deal of consideration has been given by British governments of different political colours to this question. There is unanimity between the political parties in Great Britain on this subject. The delay is justifiable. Many aspects must be considered.
I want to read two paragraphs relating to the Post Office from the report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in Great Britain. The first is paragraph 17, which appears at page 173. It reads:
The financial objective set by the Government for the Post Office for the 5-year period beginning with 1963-64 was to earn a net return of 8% on net assets. Net return is defined as profit before interest, tax and supplementary depreciation, but after historical depreciation. Net assets are assessed at the mean of the year and are defined as fixed assets (less historical depreciation) plus investments, stores in stock and other current assets less current liabilities.
Paragraph 18 reads:
Your Committee calculate that, in 1965-66, the return on capital needed for the Post Office simply to cover interest and supplementary depreciation was 5.2%. In other words, to achieve the financial objective of an 8% return on capital the Post Office-
That is the British Post Office- are required to do better than just pay their way;
I emphasise the next few words, which are: they must also earn surpluses which can be used towards financing their capital expansion.
Does the Australian Labor Party accept that proposition? It has given no intimation that it does.
– We have asked for a select committee.
– Opposition members have asked for a select committee, but I go back over the debates of the last 3 or 4 years when they have set their faces against such a proposal. If the Australian Post Office is to give the return that is required of the
British Post Office - [ exclude altogether consideration of whether it pays customs tax, payroll tax or sales tax - there will be an immediate increase in charges amounting to $70m to $80 per annum. Is it suggested that this is not a matter that requires a good deal of consideration before we come to a judgment? The Opposition is so far removed from the views of the Government that a select committee would have no virtue whatever.
– That is why we are asking for it.
– No, you have disagreed from the beginning.
– How do you know?
– Because you have told us.
– Well, we have changed our views.
– That is very interesting. Apparently the Australian Labor Party now favours a debit for interest and for some of the other items and a substantial increase of perhaps $70m or $80m in charges so that the Post Office will provide a return of 8%. The honourable member for Stirling quoted from the document ‘Reorganisation of the Post Office’, which is dated March 1967. I will quote some passages that again give us good reason to say that this matter merits a good deal of thought. Paragraph 14 states:
It will be expected-
This is the Post Office in Great Britain -
That is similar to the other extract that I read. The paragraph continues:
The Minister will settle targets with the Corporation to provide a stimulus to efficiency and to ensure that it generates an appropriate proportion of its own capital requirements.
I am not sure that this House, if it really faces the problem of giving the Australian Post Office the status of a corporation, will be satisfied to allow the Minister to set targets for it. In degree, one could say that this takes away the autonomy that a corporation should have.
Paragraph IS reads:
The Corporation will inherit a number of public services which cannot be made financially viable at any reasonable level of charge.
The British Post Office provides the same sort of service as the Australian Post Office does. It pays pensions, whether they be social service or repatriation pensions. It does a tremendous amount of work for other departments and does it all at cost. The British system requires that the British Post Office makes a profit out of providing these services. This is another matter that should receive consideration by us before we come to a conclusion that a corporation is the right status for the Post Office. I come now to paragraph 17, which states:
There will no longer be a Minister answerable to Parliament for its day-to-day activities.
I answer quite a number of questions week by week in this Parliament. Are we to accept willy-nilly that the Minister will have no responsibility to Parliament to answer questions relating to the Post Office? Again this is a matter that will need some very deep thought, but 1 do not think it is a matter that should be referred to a select committee while the views of the Opposition and the Government are so much opposed. It is for the Government elected by the people to make its determination.
Paragraph 23 reads:
Again it is doubtful whether this House would be completely satisfied to permit an outside corporation to fix its charges without reference to the Government or the Parliament. I am not quite sure how the public of Australia would react to such a proposal. I do not know how we would make the public accept that proposition in relation to the Post Office, as a government instrumentality set up with government money. Charges would be increased, and the responsibility would not be laid at the door of the government of the day. Again, I suggest that this is good reason why we should go quietly and not rush into this matter. Paragraph 26 of the document states:
The Corporation will borrow long term exclusively from the Minister . . .
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) made mention of the borrowing powers possessed by the British Post Office even when it operated on a trust account.
This is where 1 might disagree with Mr O’Grady, the previous Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. The United Kingdom document stated that the corporation would borrow on a long term basis exclusively from the Minister. This means that the British Post Office will borrow from the Treasury. If the corporation borrows money from the Treasury on an annual budgeting basis how is the Government not really responsible for what service can be rendered by the Post Office? lt has been suggested to me by some people in industry that there is no need for this approach. They believe that the Post Office should borrow from outside sources. Every member of this House knows that at present the Commonwealth borrows for the States and for itself.
Since this Government came into office in 1949 not one penny of Commonwealth loans raised in Australia has been used for Commonwealth purposes. Every penny of the money raised-and it has been insufficient - has been made available to the States. Borrowers within the States include semi-governmental authorities such as State electricity commissions, and local authorities such as the Sydney City Council, the Melbourne City Council and the Brisbane City Council. Are we to introduce a fourth group of borrowers into a field in which present borrowers collectively cannot obtain sufficient money for capital purposes? How are we to borrow money for the Post Office which this year will require about $200m? How do we get away from financing the operations of the Post Office and some of these other bodies out of the Treasury? If expenditure by the Post Office takes funds from the Treasury, it is part of our annual budgeting, and obviously control is exercised by the Government in relation to what activities can be undertaken by the Post Office. It is all right for Mr O’Grady to theorise about this matter. Until Australia is in a position similar to that of the United States of America or Canada, where sufficient finance can be obtained from the public market, we will not be able to achieve the same goals as can be achieved by those countries.
The British document then states that any increase in the total amount which the Corporation may borrow will need to be approved by the House of Commons. So, again, there will be a government controlled situation. In my view, the idea which the community has that we should have an autonomous corporation has many question marks surrounding it. I believe it is almost impossible to give the Post Office, as a corporation, the kind of autonomy of which we are speaking. Therefore, I say to honourable members that it is unlikely that in the near future Australia will be able to run the Post Office as an autonomous corporation.
I come back to some of the other problems concerning finance. If in fact the Post Office were run as a corporation, increased charges, excluding the taxable items, would amount to the following: Sales tax, $5.5m; customs and excise, $2m; and payroll tax, $8.5m. In Australia we have statutory authorities. Trans-Australia Airlines is an example. Under its charter, TAA has to pay income tax. As honourable members know, on a company basis, income tax takes 424% of profit. If income tax has to be paid by a body such as TAA, surely it is justifiable to ask that another corporation also should pay income tax. The figures I have just given in the case of the Post Office amount to $16m. If we add another $10m for income tax, the total charge would be $26m. This amount is over and above the $70m to $80m I mentioned a short time ago. The British authorities have changed their views even before the United Kingdom corporation has commenced operations. As I said earlier, they are receiving a return of 8% on investment. They realise that this just does not work out according to Hoyle. Britain has now altered the structure to bring a return of 8% on investment in telecommunications and a return of 2% on turnover in relation to the postal service.
Last year the Australian Post Office had a loss of $23.6m. I do not believe that at this point of time we are ready for a corporation. I am sure for the reasons I gave earlier, and having regard to the completely different views held on the Government and the Opposition sides of the Parliament, that the last thing that would be reasonable would be the establishment of a select committee of this Parliament as proposed.
– I support the Bill and oppose the amendment. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has just pointed out to honourable members some of the financial problems that would be involved in forming a corporation to control the Post Office. I believe that the amendment, so far as it proposes a joint select committee to inquire into the activities of the Post Office, is well intentioned. However, the terms of reference of the proposed inquiry as outlined in the amendment are very narrow. Also, I agree very definitely with the Minister that the timing for the establishment of such a committee is wrong. It may be appropriate at some later stage even to form separate corporate bodies in the fields of telecommunications, radio and television broadcasting, and in the Post Office. But I would like to point out to the House that while there are examples elsewhere in the world of separate corporate bodies running telecommunications and broadcasting, I know of no substantial example of a post office operating as a separate corporate body.
The Postmaster-General has outlined the history of the establishment of the Post Office as a corporation in England where moves for a complete review of the Post Office started in 1955. In 1961 the British Government introduced an accounting and financing system which is in some ways similar to what will be proposed in another Bill related to post office services. But the British Government since 1966 has been trying to find some way of converting the Post Office into a corporation. The Americans have been trying for years to do the same sort of thing but neither has been successful. If anyone could succeed in this it would be the Americans. But the United States of America does not have the additional complication of so much involvement in the telecommunications and broadcasting fields as we have.
I must object to the remarks of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) on planning ahead. To the best of my recollection he said that the Post Office cannot plan ahead because it must seek allocations from the Treasury each year, and I think he inferred that it would still have to finance its operations from year to year, and thus would still be unable to plan ahead, under the arrangements proposed by the amendment. I am certain that the honourable member for Stirling is well aware that many Government departments, including the
Post Office, which depend on annual allocations are able to plan ahead in certain circumstances for many years. Obviously the Post Office is one of those departments planning ahead for decades, not merely for a few years. It must be recognised that when a certain level of expenditure has been established by a government department, it is fairly certain that within certain margins the allocations it asks for will be granted. Government departments do not get all the money they want, but this certainly does not prevent them from planning ahead.
There are some other aspects of the establishment of the type of corporation which the amendment seeks that I want to discuss in relation to their effect on country people. Before I give any specific examples I should like to comment generally that a separate public corporation would be inclined to develop the more profitable areas of business in Post Office operations. Of its nature it would not be quite as willing as the present Post Office, or as susceptible to pressure from members of this Parliament, to develop the less economic areas. Many of these less economic areas are the ones that are still developing and often are country regions that many of us represent in this Parliament. Let me now be a little more specific by referring to the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Many subscribers who wish to be connected to the new, improved automatic service learn that they have to supply quite a length 1 of their own telephone line or else make a capital contribution towards the cost of installing that line.
– Or else go without a phone.
– That can happen. In some instances the Department would require the subscriber to pay the first half or perhaps two-thirds of the cost of supplying the telephone line which is additional to the length of line which the Post Office is willing to provide when it extends the automatic exchange service in any direction. This charge is applied according to a formula that has been calculated for use throughout Australia. In fact the Post Office has been subsidising about half the cost of these new extensions. The capital contributions that were invited were not compulsory for people already with telephones or for those in the area who might eventually wish to become subscribers. This meant that people who were willing to pay the capital contribution - in this instance their part of the total cost - paid more than the ones who stood to one side waiting until the line was taken past their property and then announced that they would like the service. When they did, they contributed little or nothing towards the cost of the line provided by the Post Office. It would appear that to some extent the Department has been subsidising some of these capital contributions, believing that it would be a fair bet that in most instances they would attract extra customers.
I should like the Postmaster-General to comment on this matter later. I am well aware that an ad hoc committee of Government members has made some suggestions to him on this point. Towards the end of last year it became departmental policy to charge for the full cost of these installations. I know of one or two people who have paid the full cost. They have no right to recover any of their contributions on a pro rata basis from subscribers coming on to the line later. The Postmaster-General has undertaken to look into these anomalies, and I understand that he is conferring with his departmental officers with a view to deciding whether or not something can be done about this position under the existing Act, or whether amending legislation might be required to overcome the anomaly.
My attitude to the amendment is that the Post Office in its present form is more likely to give consideration to the needs of people in relatively uneconomic areas for Post Office operations than the proposed body. In contrast with the ideas held by the honourable member for Stirling, the Post Office is planning its telephone services throughout Australia for many decades to come. I hope that it does not take as many years as has been indicated for the establishment of subscriber trunk dialling throughout the nation. The sooner this system is brought into genera] operation the better. It is necessary to plan ahead because if a larger allocation becomes available than is now envisaged,it should be able to speed up the provision of this improved telephone system. Its introduction will overcome the problems of many country subscribers.
When Australia is completely served with the STD system it will be possible for anyone to dial their telephone and, for a short call - possibly only 4 seconds initially - to be charged the same for it as a local call. I believe it would be more equitable if all calls could be placed on this basis. If eventually we could change from three categories of calls to two - that is from subscriber trunk dialling, paper book trunk calls and local calls to simply subscriber trunk dialling and local calls or, in other words, calls metered in units of time and calls metered on frequency only - it would be better and more equitable to have all calls metered in units of time. However, it would appear that at present the capital cost involved in changing the metering system from meters which record frequency only to meters which charge in units of time would be prohibited. But part of the pattern of recent years has been a tendency for capital charges to be reduced in proportion to some other charges. It may thus become a reasonable proposition at a later stage to charge for calls in the way I have suggested. In such an event the interval of time allowed on local calls would to some extent depend on how much extra money could be picked up in the metropolitan areas if a charge were made every 2 or 3 minutes. In England an interval of 3 minutes was at one stage allowed but due to public pressure this had to be extended to 6 minutes.
The extended local service area programme, which 1 am sure the honourable member for Stirling is well aware of, is another instance of long term planning in the Post Office. This system has been of great help in developing efficient telephone communications in many of the so-called less remunerative areas. It is a good system but apparently it is sometimes erratic. Whilst community of interest has been an important criterion in designing local call zones and in making local call access available from subscribers in one zone to those in an adjoining zone, in some sections of Eden-Monora, and no doubt in other places, the zones are so delineated as to cut off some subscribers from their local towns. In some cases they have no other town in their zone. There is a good deal of objection on the part of these people to the fact that a few miles puts them into another zone. If these people ring their friends and neighbours or people within their local town with whom they do business, they are involved in a trunk call. The extended local service area programme has been extended because it has been found better to do this than to treat calls over short distances as paper book calls. The cost of handling paper book calls was sometimes in excess of the revenue received. But I think there is a case for emphasising community of interest, even where to do so would lead to extending the zones for local access beyond their current boundaries, so that people living in a community might have local access calls within the natural centre of the community, within reasonable limits.
I am strongly of the opinion that under the present system we have not only long term planning but also a better opportunity to develop communications in country areas. If this Bill becomes law the finances of the Post Office will undergo a change. They will be dealt with in a more businesslike fashion but still will be subject to review, criticism and appreciation by this Parliament. In these circumstances I am convinced that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Stirling is too narrow and is premature. Consequently I oppose it.
– Having formally seconded the amendment moved by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) I would like to read it again to the House because the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) has suggested that it is both too narrow and too wide.
– I said it was too premature.
– I thank the honourable member. The amendment reads: - That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and that a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office’.
Unfortunately the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in my view has confused the debate on this Bill with the debate which will possibly take place on the Post and
Telegraph Bill (No. 2). 1 think that this has been circumstantial rather than anything else. Constitutional arrangements of this House make it necessary to separate what are called ‘financial’ measures from other measures. Thus the Opposition found that it could move its amendment only at this stage. It seemed to me that in opposing the amendment the Postmaster-General was suggesting that the Opposition’s proposal would be considered by the Government, but that such consideration might take a year or two. The difference between us is that whereas the Minister thinks this is a matter for the Government alone, we think that it is a matter for a select committee. This is arguable. To suggest that a change in the structural and departmental nature of the Post Office is a matter only for the Government and for nobody else is, in my opinion, to say the least, a little high handed.
– It happened in the United Kingdom.
– I am not arguing about what happened in the United Kingdom. I will say something later on that matter.
In many respects it is unfortunate that the Post Office is still so described. When we refer to the Post Office we think of red letter boxes and postage stamps. As everybody knows, at least 80% of the activities of the Post Office in a financial sense are not postal at all but telephonic and telegraphic. Occasionally when we speak of the Post Office we are inclined to think of a simple system whereby you buy a few postage stamps and post a few letters. As a perusal of the financial statements of the Post Office will show, by far the major part of its activities is devoted, not to postal aspects, but to what is called the telephone and non-postal side of the operation. In fact, I think the figures show that whereas the aggregate earnings of the Post Office are somewhere in the vicinity of $400m, over $300m of that relates to the telephone service. I make that point only to indicate that when we refer to the Post Office we are referring primarily to the telephone side of the operation. It is even rather quaint to see that this legislation is called the Post and Telegraph Bill. Surely the telegraph side of the concern is the declining part
The word ‘telephone’ is not mentioned anywhere at all except by redefinition in the principal legislation.
The Minister has chided the Opposition about the fact that the British system established the proposition that a figure of 8% should be earned on the capital undertakings of the Post Office. What he seems to ignore is that, as a result of a decision of the Government of which he is a member, over the last 4 or 5 years the Post Office in Australia has been expected to earn a certain amount in respect of the capital that is employed. The ‘Financial and Statistical Bulletin’ for 1967 indicates in note 1 1 on page 12 that for the year ended 30th June 1967 the Post Office was, in terms of the charge imposed on it, earning near enough to 5% on the capital employed. I think the figure is actually 4.983%. Therefore, the difference between the British system and the system in operation in Australia is not much more than the fine margin of 3%. I think the Bill to be debated in this House tomorrow will clarify to some extent my point that the present Government is caught in a sort of half-way house; that it has moved some way towards the British system, which the Minister seems to suggest is impracticable at this stage. The whole tendency during the time that he has been Minister has been towards regarding the Post Office primarily as a business undertaking rather than a public utility. I still take issue on this point because, speaking personally rather than on behalf of my party, I believe that the Post Office is a mixture of the two, although we sometimes go a little bit overboard in one direction whilst ignoring the reality of the other argument. It seems to me that the Minister will in due course consider the proposals that are recorded in the amendment of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) but that he feels that it is the province of the Government and not the province of the Parliament to examine them.
I think that if the amendment is read fairly it will show that there is an open mind at this stage. As the Minister has suggested, there are differences of opinion among some of the unions about what the status of the Post Office should be in relation to the Administration, but a majority seem to favour the corporation type of activity rather than the existing Public Service
Board control. As is often the case in a debate of this kind, it is not a matter of pure black and pure white. Even though the administrative arrangements of the Post Office were changed, 1 cannot imagine that recourse to the Budget could be obviated completely, particularly at a time when expansion is involving an annual capital expenditure of at least $200m. The Post Office could not find this sum from its own resources. That is the reason why I think that some kind of committee of inquiry would be useful in this field, particularly if its terms of reference were left fairly open.
Candidly. I have always been a great admirer of the Public Service form of operation for the Post Office and not a great lover of what is called a public corporalion device. Many angles and aspects of the matter need to be considered. I believe that when the Post and Telegraph Bill (No. 2), which is to be debated tomorrow, is considered in consonance with the measure now before us we see that the Government is in something of a dilemma. As I sec it, the argument advanced in support of the second Bill is that in some respects the present departmental organisation of the Post Office is a hindrance. If I had the speech made by the Minister on that Bill before me now I would quote his words. He suggested that the new financial arrangements will belter enable the Post Office to conduct its undertaking annually as a business than is the case now when it is shackled to the Budget. The proposals seem to me to be a mixture of the two ideas and that is why I suggest that there is some logic in having a committee of the type that has been suggested. After all, here is an organisation that is very significant in the Australian economy.
I agree with the proposition contained in the Bill which will be debated tomorrow. It is rather silly from a budgetary point of view that the situation in 1968 should be the same as that laid down in the original Post and Telegraph Act in 1901. If is rather remarkable to find how little alteration there has been in the legislation. In fact I was rather intrigued to find that the new section 96a of the Post and Telegraph Bill (No. 2) 1968 regarding the finances of the Post Office follows immediately upon the existing Section 96 which deals with the sending of obscene telegrams. To my mind that shows how higgledy-piggledy the arrangements have been and how higgledypiggledy they will continue to be. I suggest there is more merit in the proposed amendment than the Minister has hastily stated. He implied that if it were agreed to it would no longer be possible for questions to be asked in this House about the minutae of the Post Office - for example whether a telephone exchange should be established in the electorate of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro or whether something should be done in a particular metropolitan area and so on. Many matters affecting the Post Office, could well be investigated by a select committee of both Houses. Such an inquiry would in no way hinder the power of the Minister or the Government ultimately to determine the issue. Surely the administration of an organisation like the Post Office, with a turnover of $400m per annum - $8m a week, or more than Sim a day - is important enough to warrant the interest not only of the Government but of the House as a whole, reflecting the interests of the community at large.
I suggest that the Minister reconsider his attitude to this amendment. I know that consideration of it was rather hastily thrust upon him. Other speakers, including the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro), have been inclined to dwell more on the Bill we will be debating tomorrow than on the one that is before us this evening. I suggest that our proposal is reasonable enough. We on this side of the House know that some of the unions whose members are employed by the Post Office are in favour of preserving the existing structure, although some modifications may be considered necessary, while others feel that the British example is preferable. Most of us have an open mind on the subject. All I ask the Minister to do is to reconsider the proposal and have his advisers look at the terms of the amendment. We are simply suggesting an investigation of the desirability and practicability of one form of administration as against another.
It is true that the Australian Labour Party’s last annual conference, in August 1967, plumped, as it were, for the corporation form of administration as against the other form. Nevertheless, I see nothing wrong in having a change of mind about some of the details. I suggest that if the Government honestly examined its own position it would admit that it has had some changes of mind about certain aspects of Post Office administration. This happened, for instance, some years ago when the Government chose to impose an interest burden on the Post Office which. I suggest, is similar in substance to the 8% earning rate that the Minister has now suggested, ls this what we want? I for one certainly do not want 8% added on to the 5% interest burden that is already being carried. What I am suggesting is that having imposed the 5%, which it now would like to ignore, the Government for political purposes is suggesting that the 8% earning rate should be imposed. There is no reason in any case why we should accept the figure of 8%. lt is a matter for the British Government to decide what rate should be applied in that country, but we do not have to accept what Britain accepts. All I am suggesting is that the Australian Government went some way along the British line when it imposed the 5% interest burden some years ago.
The Government is modifying the system further by changing the traditional form in which Post Office accounts have appeared in the Budget papers. In the next lot of Budget documents, the only item will be a single line showing what funds the Post Office requires for capital works and also the difference between its anticipated revenue and expenditure, on a commercial accounts basis. That is a refinement that is well worth while. It always seemed to me absurd to add about $400m to one side of the Budget and then add the same amount to the other side. When 1 was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, this was one matter on which all members of the Committee agreed, I think. It seemed to us that it would have been much better simply to have shown the net position, and it appears that this is what will be done under the provisions of the measure that we are to discuss tomorrow. In justification of the change, the Government suggests that it will enable the Post Office to function more as a commercial business undertaking without being hampered by the departmental arrangements which have previously applied. 1 think in all fairness that this presupposes that there can be some argument as to whether the corporation form or the departmental pattern is the better. That is the simple question that is posed by our amendment. 1 suggest that there is probably not as much dividing us on this issue as the Minister thinks and that the Government in any case has already gone some distance along the road. It has already scrambled some eggs and it must have broken some of the old shells. If those old shells have been broken and a new pattern is emerging, there is a good case for clarifying the position. That is all our amendment suggests. Let us have a select committee which can interrogate witnesses and receive representations from the public, from the unions whose members are employed in the Post Office and from the customers of the Post Office. Again I suggest that the customers of the Post Office are not now primarily people who buy stamps and lick them for themselves. Primarily they are the users of telephone services and the more sophisticated postal services. What applied in 1901, when the Post and Telegraph Act was introduced, does not necessarily apply now. There was no concept then of wireless. There was very little concept of telephone services. There was no television at all. There were certainly none of the overseas telecommunication arangements that we have now. The nature and ramifications of the Post Office are much more extensive in 1968 than they were in 1901. I think that at least the undertaking should have the advantage of a comprehensive inquiry by a committee with the power to call witnesses and to present its deliberations in the form of a considered report. This evening the Postmaster-General has quoted from one such report presented in another country. We in Australia have not had the opportunity to have a similar report. I hope the Minister will reconsider the position and perhaps accede to our requnest.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ian Allan) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice: notice were circulated:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
These details were compiled from publications provided by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680501_reps_26_hor58/>.