27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees of the Australian Aircraft Industry in New South Wales and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the governments policy of producing components in Australia for Aircraft purchased overseas for our Civil and Defence requirements, does not fulfill the needs of industry to ensure:
That the purchasing of aircraft from overseas does not entirely meet the Australian requirements and conditions, but has to be accepted due to th. lack of a long range plan for defence requirements and associated specifications necessary for the Australian Industry to produce aircraft to meet these requirements.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Federal Government in order to provide employment for the technical, design and manufacturing teams of the New South Wales section of the Australian Aircraft Industry, take immediate action to ensure the re-equipment of the armed forces with Australian designed and produced aircraft and accessories by: -
Whilst fulfillment of the above would provide a solid foundation for the distant future, an immediate necessity exists to provide work in the factories now and to this end, offset manufacturing is the probable immediate answer, although from our experience the policy of producing parts against offset orders does not provide work for tecehnical and design teams, but only provides production work for the workshops of parts which are pre-designed and pre-tooled by the originating overseas manufacturers.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Cope, Mr Keating and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of interested citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will at once, in the public interest, take steps to dedicate as a National Park an area of at least 1436 square miles as recommended by the Northern Territory Reserves Board.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Dr Everingham, Mr Reynolds and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members nf the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth:
That the undersigned believe . . .
That hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world.
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240m
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Mr Bonnett and Mr Brown.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will restore to the Australian people true religious freedom, which can exist only when Church and State are legally separated both in form and substance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Barnard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of Victoria respectfully sheweth:
The Red Kangaroo, largest marsupial in the world, has through shooting for commerce become extinct or rare in many areas where it was once prolific.
We, the signatories to this petition feel that the commercial killing of kangaroos, when permissible cropping rates are unknown, is one of the most blatant examples of un-conservation and stupidity being permitted by a civilized country in the world today.
Estimates show that kangaroos alive in their natural habitat as tourist attractions are worth $200 million more to the Australian economy over a period of 9 years, than dead ones exported as pet food or toys over the same period.
We believe that Australians have the right to see kangaroos in reasonable numbers on the landscape - the kangaroo is our national symbol, the symbol of a country going ahead in leaps and bounds’. We object to the present degradation of this symbol.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to make emergency Federal finance available to the States for State school education, and divert the large sums of public money being spent on private schools, to the government school system for which the gov- ernment is truly responsible. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble petition, of Electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully; showeth:
That ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II have been discriminated against in the interpretation and administration of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971.
Whilst on enlistment they were prepared to serve in any area, ex-servicewomen who did not actually serve outside Australia are at present debarred from War Service Homes rights.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that immediate action be taken to grant War Service Homes rights to all wartime ex-servicewomen. whether married or single and without restriction as to dependants, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That the National Capital Development Commission have advised us of their intention to develop the entire western side of Melrose Drive with flats and town houses.
Your petitioners therefore humbly, pray that the aforesaid strip of land on the whole western side of Melrose Drive be reserved for development as parkland. Your petitioners are concerned that such a development will place an excessive strain on the schools of the area, and will result in a diminution of the land available for recreational purposes, and will create hazards. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Minister for Customs has now put the responsibility for censorship into the hands of the people, and invited reactions to his decisions.
That bis decision to release ‘The Little Red School Book’ represents a dangerous error of judgment, since it so clearly disregards the need to provide safeguards for young people against exploitation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate and effective action (through education, publicity and legislation) to counter the potential harm that could occur. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hamer.
Education: Pre-school and After-school Centres
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable state education departments and local govenment authorities to establish:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Dr Klugman.
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners humbly pray that all manner of pressure, including economic sanctions, to effect cancellation of the said explosions be applied to the Republic of France, Your petitioners as in duty bound will forever pray etc. by Mr Lynch.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I ask: Has he yet considered submissions from the Queensland Government for Commonwealth financial assistance for phase 2 of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme? If so, is he able to indicate whether this will be included in the second allocation of funds for water resources development?
– As the honourable member knows, the first grant made under the new national water resources development programme was an amount of $ 12.8m for the Monduran Dam, which is associated with the whole Bundaberg irrigation scheme. At the same time, Queensland is undertaking the barrage arrangements towards the mouth of the river adjacent to Bundaberg. The Monduran Dam is designed to store water from the Kolan
River and to utilise a diversion scheme into the Burnett. That is a major part of the Bundaberg scheme that is to be undertaken. As the honourable member will recall, I had the opportunity of firing the first charge at the dam some time ago.
This was the first allocation made under the new programme and I am sure it is appreciated by, the people of the district. However, subsequent to that, the Queensland Government has been giving consideration to the second phase, which envisages the development of another water storage and also some channels to provide irrigation into other areas, all associated with basically the same scheme. Just a few weeks ago the Queensland Government, through its Premier, submitted to the Prime Minister a proposal for consideration in relation to phase 2. The Queensland Government has been informed that this matter will receive the usual consideration, which means, of course, that it will have to be studied by a special survey team comprised of officers of my Department assisted by officers of other departments, including the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. That is the normal procedure and of course, it will take quite some time. In addition, a number of other submissions have been made by Queensland in accordance with the priority which has been placed by it. Those matters will have to be considered in the order in which they have been submitted to the Commonwealth by Queensland.
We will not know whether this project will be accepted under the scheme until we have had the opportunity of conducting a full survey and the interdepartmental committee which will have to examine it on behalf of the Commonwealth has had the opportunity of doing so and reporting to the Government on it. So one should not expect any urgent decision to be made. But I can assure the honourable member, and the honourable members on the Government side of the House who have raised this matter recently, that the matter will be fully considered and handled as expeditiously as possible. The decision as to what will ultimately happen - whether a Commonwealth grant will be made to cover the whole or part of the project - will be made after a submission has been put to the Government on the details submitted by the Queensland Government.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for National Development. 1 ask: Has the Minister seen a report which suggests that petroleum and gas reserves have exponential lives of 20 and 22 years respectively but that fossil fuel reserves are not in danger of exhaustion? The Minister will be aware of the finding of the Eighth World Petroleum Conference that high octane petrol can be economically obtained by the hydrogenation of coal. Will the Minister now institute feasibility studies of the application of the H-coal process, utilising the vast brown coal resources in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria, in the production of oil from coal on the grounds of national security, environmental protection and decentralisation?
– The honourable member has shown a great deal of interest in this matter. In fact, he has discussed it with me on a number of occasions in the past and I know that he has raised the matter in the Government members’ National Development Committee. It is a matter of great interest to Victoria because the utilisation of its brown coal reserves is of vital importance to the economy of the State. However, it is not correct to say that the petroleum and natural gas reserves in Australia have the limited life that was suggested in the Press report referred to by the honourable member. In the next 2 or 3 years our petroleum reserves will be sufficient to cater for about 70 per cent of our total requirements. After that, unless any further major discoveries are made, that percentage will decline.
We are just emerging as a producer of natural gas and our reserves are not yet proven, although we believe that will be a major world producer when the reserves are ultimately proven. This will take a couple of years.
The hydrogenation process for producing motor spirit from brown coal has been examined in the past and some studies have been undertaken. So far the indications are that it would not be a viable process, although there is still a lot more work to be done in this field. However, there is an aspect of the production equivalent of natural gas from coal on which a lot of work has been done in the United
States of America. We hope that the research work that has been undertaken there will be of some benefit to Australia.
– Order! The Minister is taking up a considerable amount of the time of the House. I know that his answer is relevant to the question and to that extent the Minister is in order, but I ask him to endeavour to comply with the request I made a considerable time ago and which I have made on several occasions that answers to questions be as short as possible. The alternative is to inform honourable members privately by letter or to seek leave to make a statement after question time. I would appreciate the Minister’s co-operation in this regard.
– Mr Speaker, this matter is of vital importance to Victoria and is of great importance to the honourable member who asked the question. I will conclude on the note that a lot of research into brown coal is being undertaken at the present time by the University of Melbourne, the Victorian State Electricity Commission and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation through one of its agencies. The National Coal Research Advisory Committee has provided funds to various organisations to assist in this research field, principally directed tb the further utilisation of brown coal for electricity generation purposes but at the same time directed to research in some of these other fields. I assure the honourable member that note will be taken of the points that he has raised and everything possible will be done to comply with the suggestion he has made.
– The Prime Minister will have noted that, following his Government’s recent pronouncements on decentralisation, there has been renewed discussion on proposals for new States. Has his Government reconsidered the decision or does it adhere to the decision of the Holt Gov.vernment to reject the unanimous recommendation of the joint all party committee on constitutional review that the Commonwealth should seek power at a referendum to permit the Commonwealth, and not just the States, to take steps to establish new States?
– That is a highly technical question involving a matter of great constitutional and policy importance. I have not looked at these papers for some time but I will ask the Prime Minister’s Department to let me have the file and I will look at them again.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Yesterday I asked him whether a statement on the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits would be made to the House before it rises. He suggested that I should ask the question today after he had consultations with his Ministers. Is the Prime Minister in a position to make any statement on this matter?
Mar MCMAHON- Immediately after. I left this chamber yesterday- I commenced making inquiries as to when we could expect a statement in the House relating to the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. I did contact one of the Ministers and also departmental officers about the matter and I have let them know how urgent and how important it is that wc should be able to make a statement on this matter before the House rises. I am sure that the message has been understood and I hope - in fact, I am fairly certain - that we will be able to make a statement on the matter before the House rises.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen reports that Australian scientists have worked closely with the French in research relating to nuclear weapons and that there is an agreement on a feasibility study to establish a joint uranium enrichment plant? Has this close co-operation with the French been chosen because it is most consistent with the production of nuclear weapons, and does it expose the Australian Government’s verbal protests against French nuclear tests as humbug? If the Australian Government desires to oppose French nuclear tests, will it now break off this close co-operation with the French in the production of nuclear weapons? If not, why not?
-I think that in the last part of his question the honourable member for Lalor suggested that there is close co-operation with the French in the production of nuclear weapons.
– That is a most extraordinary statement. The question of the development of our uranium resources comes within the responsibility of the Minister for National Development. As I understand the matter, wide ranging studies and discussions are continuing with the United States of America, Canada, Japan and the French as well. The honourable member for Lalor just selects the French because he thinks that he can make some sort of mileage out of this in relation to the nuclear test protests which we have made. Of course, the fact is that Australia has to get, or at least look at, the best technology in relation to the long term development of its resources, and it would not be honouring its trust to the Australian people if it tied its hands in regard to at least exploring what was proper and best for the Australian people in developing these resources. It goes no further than that at the present time. There is certainly no joint co-operation in the development of nuclear weapons - the suggestion is ridiculous - but there is a very wide ranging feasibility study in relation to the development of resources, involving a number of countries. As far as I know no result has come from this as yet, but no doubt at the appropriate time whatever result emerges will be made known to this Parliament.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. Has the Department of the Interior agreed with the State governments to control the number of laying hens in the States and in the Australian Capital Territory? Has the Department agreed to licence a New South Wales poultry farmer to set up a large poultry farm in .the Australian Capital Territory? Was this poultry farmer refused a licence in New South Wales to increase greatly his number of laying hens in that State? Would not the granting of this licence defeat the purpose of the agreement between the States and the Department to limit total egg production in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the Young district in my electorate is a large supplier of eggs to Canberra and that the licensing of this New South Wales poultry farmer would greatly jeopardise the livelihood of a great number of poultry farmers?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honourable member is yes. Ari agreement was reached at the recent Australian Agricultural Council meeting to limit the production of eggs State by State throughout Australia. The quota set for the Australian Capital Territory is 85,000 hens which will not make Canberra self-sufficient in egg production. The current number of hens in the A.C.T. is approximately 50,000, so the quota falls far short of the consumption level in the A.C.T. Interest has been shown by a large producer in New South Wales in establishing a moderate sized poultry farm in the A.C.T. I do not know whether this producer was refused an application to increase his quota in New South Wales, but I have heard that this is so. If there were to be unlimited production of eggs in the A.C.T. it would certainly defeat the spirit of the understanding, between the States that was reached at. the Australian Agricultural Council Meeting. It would be unthinkable for any egg producer to be allowed into the A.C.T. to produce an unlimited quantity of eggs and so upset the arrangement that has been worked out with the poultry industry and between the various States. The answer to the second part of the honourable member’s question is that I’ do know that the poultry farmers in Young are very important suppliers of eggs to the A.C.T.
– Has the Prime Minister or his Government received any communication from Lord Vestey 6f the Vestey company which controls 16,965 square miles of land at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, offering to the Government a grant of land from the Vestey property for people of the Gurindji tribe, leaving the Vestey holdings with approximately 16,930 square miles? If so, what were the terms of the offer? Was this offer made immediately after the release of a statement by the Government of its policy on Aboriginal land use? Why has it taken the Government 9 months since January to grant land to the Gurindji Aborigines?
– I call the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
– As has already been announced, Lord Vestey has given the Australian Government 35 square miles of land which will now be handed to the Gurindji people at Wave Hill. The land is in 2 parts. One area is of 25 square miles and the other area of 10 square miles will be used for cattle mustering. This was the original area of land that Lord Vestey had in mind. Amicable discussions have taken place between the Government and Lord Vestey.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that the Australian Wheat Board has recently sold 1 million tons of wheat to China. Is not Russia also buying wheat from Australia? Does this not seem to suggest that Communist countries are not very good at farming? Does this not make one sceptical about the wisdom of the advice given by at least one prominent and vociferous Labor Party spokesman on rural affairs that we should copy the farming methods of communist countries.
– I suspect that one of the reasons why we are able to supply the orders to which the honourable gentleman so correctly referred is that we do not follow the communist system of agriculture. I think all of us are conscious that the markets of this world do change according to seasonal conditions and, of course, over that factor neither a communist nor a Liberal-Country Party government has control. It is equally true that given the variation of seasons that exists in Australia the policies that we have pursued have enabled a significant volume of production over the course of the years. Even though adverse prices prevailed generally in the primary sector last year we were still able to generate from primary products approximately 50 per cent of our export revenue. I think that of itself demonstrates the efficacy of the policies which we pursue and somewhat lampoons the alternatives which the Opposition sometimes propounds.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it necessary for public servants giving evidence to the Henderson inquiry into poverty to obtain clearances for their statements from their senior officers? If there is no provision for a clearance to be given, does it follow that Commonwealth welfare officers and others will not be able to give evidence? If a clearance is necessary, is this not an unnecessary inhibition on Professor Henderson who should be able to receive submissions from all levels of the Public Service free of possible internal Public Service censorship?
– That is a difficult question relating to the procedures before Professor Henderson. I have placed no embargoes at all upon the method by which Professor Henderson should conduct his inquiry. But if it is contemplated that public servants should give evidence I will make inquiries from my Department or from the Attorney-General’s Department to ascertain the position.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware of the uncommon reservoir of engineering and allied expertise contained in the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission? Is he further aware that the nationally reputed programme of hydro-electric power development in Tasmania now has a foreseeable end. with a predictable consequential reduction within Tasmania of the associated professional employment? Will he investigate the possibility of putting some or all of this expertise to national use in a consultative or other appropriate capacity when the need arises?
– I am sure we all have a full appreciation of the expertise that is available in this field in Tasmania and the splendid work these people have done in the development of the hydro-electric system in that State. It is also a fact, of course, that when the existing scheme is completed most of the major projects in that field will terminate. But, as the honourable member has pointed out, this means that there will be available to be absorbed into industry in other parts of
Australia a relatively large number of people with special skills. Within whatever capacity I can employ 1 certainly will try to assist in this regard, although it is principally a matter which concerns the State governments. I would point out that the major instrumentality that we have in the consultancy field, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned - one which is now doing an excellent job - is the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which, as honourable members know, has absorbed a fair proportion of the skilled personnel from the Snowy Mountains Authority who are now fitting in in a splendid way in conjunction with private consultants in Australia and who are doing some very big jobs overseas. The Corporation is expanding all the time. I will certainly take up the matter with the Corporation to see whether there is any way in which it can assist.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, is supplementary to the one asked by the honourable member for Sturt. Has the Minister noted the remarks of the Gurindji elder, Mr Lingari, reported during the weekend, in which Mr Lingari indicated that the recent and much delayed grant of land to the Gurindji people would not be adequate to allow full economic autonomy for the Gurindji people? Can he explain why the Gurindji people were eventually granted only 35 square miles in the area when it is the stated intention of the Government to encourage economic independence for Aboriginal people? Considering (he nature of the land involved, was it the Minister’s advice that 35 square miles could really support an economically viable operation in the cattle raising industry, the one area in which the Gurindji people have skills and training, or did the Minister have advice that if the Gurindji were to have a long term economic viability on their land the grant of land to them should be not less than 600 square miles? If he had advice that the land grant should be larger, why has that advice been ignored?
– In answer to the first part of the question, I inform the honourable member that only one application was received from the Gurindji people and that was for 35 square miles. As yet no other application has been received. There has been some discussion concerning a pastoral project. The honourable member suggested that an area of 500 square miles would be economic. The advice I have received through the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is that an area of 500 square miles would be nothing like adequate for an economic proposition.
– I said 600 square miles.
– Six hundred square miles would be nothing like adequate. A very much larger area would be required if the proposition were to be economically viable. Therefore the policy of the Government . has been quite clear. Aboriginal groups can make application for land as it becomes available but such applications must be on an economic basis. The only application received to date, was for 35 square miles. We must be grateful to Lord Vestey for giving that area of land for the project. If other applications are received the Government will consider what is required, but the only application that has been received was for 35 square miles. I think the House should be grateful for the way in which the matter has been conducted.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Did the New South Wales Government decide last week that all wheat harvested in New South Wales this year, regardless of the quota delivery plan, could be delivered to the Wheat Board licensed receivers and would attract a first advance payment of 110c a bushel? If so, is it intended to extend that principle to all States, regardless of quota delivery decisions in the States? If the Commonwealth does not intend to extend the principle to all States, does that failure constitute a clear violation of the Constitution in that it is a blatant discrimination between States in the distribution of Commonwealth controlled funds?
– I am afraid that I did not hear the beginning of the question, but I think its general implications related to a decision this week by the Australian Agricultural Council.
– No - a decision by the New South Wales Government.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Moore repeat the first part of his question.
– I asked: Did the New South Wales Government decide last week that all wheat harvested in New South Wales this year, regardless of the quota delivery plan, could be delivered to the Wheat Board licensed receivers and would attract a first advance payment of 110c a bushel?
– The position within different States varies according to the State legislation. In fact, different legislation operates in New South Wales from that which operates in the determination of quotas in some other States. Consequently the decision taken by the New South Wales Government can be effected a lot more easily than can a similar recommendation by other State governments. At our Australian Agricultural Council meeting last Monday we accepted as a policy recommendation that in all States an effort should be made to attract all available wheat to the Australian Wheat Board. It is regrettable that at present, because of seasonal conditions and a very significant shortfall in expected deliveries of the current or projected wheat harvest throughout the world, there is obviously an improving market both in terms of the available grain that we could sell and the price that we would be paid for it. For those reasons we decided to see whether we could make a recommendation which would fit within each of the differing State legislative requirements so that, as with New South Wales, in Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and the other States exactly the same circumstance of delivery could be implemented. New South Wales was in the fortunate position that its legislation permitted it to act on its own initiative. The initiative that it has taken is completely in accordance with the recommendation and decision of all State Ministers for agriculture within the Agricultural Council.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Wiltona Hostel in my electorate, which was built at a cost of $3m, is to be scrapped? Is this action due to the fact that a grave error was made in erecting this hostel on a site between the petroleum tank farms of an adjacent oil company, or has it become redundant owing to the cutback in the migrant intake? If this is so, how many other hostels are to be closed because of this situation? What cost to the nation is involved? What plans has the Government concerning the future use of these hostels? Finally, as suggestions have been made that these buildings should be used for emergency housing, will the Minister give me a firm assurance that owing to the dangerous nature of its location the Wiltona Hostel will never again be used to house people, irrespective of the circumstances?
– As I recall it, the Wiltona Hostel is one of some 16 hostels which have been closed progressively during the course of the past 2 years. The reasons are, firstly, the reduction of the migrant intake, and secondly, the increased availability of suitable housing. As a consequence of those 2 factors the average period which migrants spent in hostels immediately after their arrival in Australia has been reduced, as I recall it to some 15 weeks. Those are the reasons the hostel has been closed. The honourable gentleman referred to the cost of the hostel. He will recall, as will the House in general, that during the 1960s the Government embarked on a most vigorous programme of replacing substandard Nissen hut accommodation with modern facilities in that area. The programme for Commonwealth hostels throughout Australia cost some $25m. The Wiltona Hostel was part of that programme and the buildings there were updated progressively as the demand for accommodation grew in the area. In fact, the updating programme was part of the Commonwealth’s function to meet the growing intake of migrants towards the second half of the 1960s.
At the present time the hostel is under caretaking arrangements. I do not recall having received any specific representations for its alternative use. If such representations are made they, of course, will be considered. However, the honourable gentleman can be assured that the advice of the Government’s safety experts certainly will be taken into account, as it has been in the past. He would be aware that the oil tank farm to which he specifically averts was, in fact, established after the initiation of the hostel in the late 1940s. The oil tank farm presumably was established on the advice, or at least with the concurrence or knowledge, of the Victorian Government. Finally, in relation to the last question posed by the honourable gentleman about the alternative use of the hostel, we will examine any representations which might be received. But I can say, in terms of the assurance which he sought, that the concept of collecting in the same accommodation persons in distressed circumstances has not, in the experience of Commonwealth Hostels, proved to be a satisfactory social concept.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that some pensioners are inconvenienced by the fact that their travel concession certificates become defaced or illegible through frequent use? Has his Department any plans to assist pensioners to avoid this inconvenience?
– The answer to both parts of the honourable members question is yes. The travel concession certificates vary from State to State. I understand that in New South Wales we will be issuing plastic covers for these certificates during the month of December to cover the 1973 certificates. In Victoria, where the present certificates are current to June of next year, the plastic covers will be issued early next year. In Queensland the position does not arise because the travel certificates in that State are issued not through my Department but, I think, through the Brisbane City Council. In South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, where there are different sizes of certificates, I understand that the plastic covers will be issued during the month of January next year. Although this may seem a small point, it is of some importance to pensioners and in these small matters my officers are particularly vigilant. Even in these small matters, they are looking to what can be done to help pensioners. These plastic covers will be available in accordance with the time-table I have laid down.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development, whose answers have given so much pleasure during this Parliament. Over 6 months ago I asked the Minister the date, nature and outcome of the application by Queensland for assistance from the national water resources development fund for the Ross River Dam. Two months ago he replied that the information sought would be related to communications between the Governments which, unless otherwise agreed, are confidential. I ask him now why he has already taken 8 weeks to answer my question on notice whether Queensland has in fact requested financial assistance for the Ross River Dam under the national water resources development fund. If this simple question is regarded as seeking information which is confidential between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, has . he asked the Queensland Government whether it will agree to his giving a reply? If the Queensland Government has made, an application, has he sought consent to his answering my earlier question on the date, nature and outcome of the application?
– That was a very long question. It is interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition referring to this matter because my colleague, the honourable member for Herbert, has raised the matter in the House on a number of occasions. I think the last occasion was on a Thursday morning during the grievance day debate, when he asked whether consideration could be given to the matter. I do not think there is any confidentiality regarding the fact that the Queensland Government has submitted a case to the Commonwealth for consideration under the national water resources development programme in relation to water storage on the Ross River. Perhaps I could indicate without breaching any confidence that there are some complications in this application. The position of course is that the only grounds on which this matter could be considered would be in relation to flood mitigation because other than that it is principally related to the urban water storage system. Under the national water resources development programme it is possible to consider matters relating to flood mitigation but it is not possible, because the fund relates only to rural industries, to consider matters of direct urban consequence. These are dealt with under separate headings.
The submission is still under consideration. No reply has yet been given to the Queensland Government in relation to this but I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the matter is being carefully considered. There are legal implications as well as the straight out normal evaluation that is given to matters of this nature when they are submitted. But as soon as possible a decision will be made and the Prime Minister will relay that decision to the Premier of Queensland. I may also say without breaching confidence that the Queensland Government did mention this point in relation to the urban water supply system but asked whether there was any way in which it could be considered in relation to flood mitigation under this national fund. We have been looking at these aspects very carefully and considering what the honourable member for Herbert has raised on a number of occasions. As soon as possible a decision will be conveyed to the Queensland Government.
– -Will the Treasurer explain to the House the implications of a capital gains tax? Has the Government any intention of imposing a capital gains tax? Does the Minister suspect that any group, given the opportunity to do so, would in all probability introduce such a tax?
- Mr Speaker-
– I rise to order. My understanding of the question asked by the honourable member for Griffith is that it is intended to enable the Treasurer to make known some policy deliberations. When this type of question is asked by honourable members on this side of the House it is made very dear to us by the Minister to whom the questions are directed that these things are not appropriate for question time.
-Order! I have ruled on this matter on many occasions in this House. I do hot recollect ever having ruled out of order a question in relation to pol icy asked from either side of the House. I have always taken the attitude that the Chair does not understand the policy of the honourable member’s Party or the Party on the other side of the House. In my position I do not know and I am not responsible for policy. It is a matter at all times for Ministers to decide whether a question raises a matter of policy or not. I have no say in it.
– A capital gains tax has implications for every taxpayer, for every property owner or for anybody wishing to invest in any form of land, personal property, shares and a whole range of activities. The way in which a capital gains tax operates is to test the value at which assets were bought and to test the value at which they were sold. It becomes a very involved and complicated policing exercise. In the past the suggestion of a capital gains tax has raised very great fears ki the minds of people in relation to their own residential accommodation. In a country such as Australia, in which such a high proportion of people own their own homes - I think it is the highest proportion in the world - it would concern a very wide spectrum of the population. Whether or not it would be introduced by a different government - and I suspect it very well might be introduced because the Leader of the Opposition, in order to assuage people’s fears, has said-
Opposition members - Oh!
– He is a very assuaging sort of fellow; just look at him. He has said that he would not increase the rate of income tax. He has said that over a period of 7 years the revenue derived from personal income tax will double itself and that would take care of everything. He has totally ignored the proposition that if the income tax collection goes up the expenditure of government also will go up. To say that he would not increase the rate means that he would stand by and willingly accept an inflationary process which he could put to work for his own political purposes instead of trying to attack inflation. People who are told that the rate would not go up know as well as anybody that this would mean, with the inflationary process which the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to live with, that the amount of income tax they would have to pay proportionate to the income they receive would constantly increase as they progressed through the scale.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The other day I was sat down, after waiting a month to ask a question, because of the length of the question I attempted to ask. Now I have to listen to a Minister answering anything but the question which was asked of him. The question he was asked related to a capital gains tax. Why he is permitted to speculate about what another government would do defies my logic.
-Order! I think the consequences of a capital gains tax or any other tax is relevant to the question.
– That is the income tax side of it, Mr Speaker. The honourable gentleman has also said that he would reduce sales tax and he would not increase company tax. The only conclusion is that he has another form of taxation in mind which he proposes to impose.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1971, I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 31st March 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to Section 39 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-1969, I present the annual report on the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Acts 1971, I present the first annual report of the Commissioner for Employee’s Compensation for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present lists of sheltered workshops approved under the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act 1967-1970 as at 31st August 1972.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1971, I present the twenty-fourth annual report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial accounts.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1972, I present the eighteenth annual statement concerning the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year ended 30th June 1972.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for underground wiring for telephone installations in Australia to be made mandatory, and in particular in the fast developing city of Campbelltown.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in thenplaces. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I thank the House for its indulgence. I want to bring to the notice of the Parliament a procedure, that has been unchanged in the City of Campbelltown for over 20 years. I refer to underground telephone wiring. With the way the environment is being protected at the present time this matter is understandably most important now if we do not want a forest cf overhead telephone and electricity wires to deface the landscape and skyscape. Suddenly this year the supervising engineers of the Postmaster-General’s Department - which, I think, will be admitted is run by a centra] office in Melbourne - agreed to lower costs or to take an economic view of the situation, saving about $70 per allotment or building block by putting the wires overhead. This is definitely a backward step. Telephone posts along the road create a danger to motor cars and to life and limb. Overhead wires are subject to storm and wind damage. Underground wires in the long run should be more economical because they are not subject to the damage I have described.
The Nepean River County Council is putting its wires underground and, in letters to the Campbelltown City Council, it has agreed to charge $9 an allotment for putting telephone wire conduits in trenches. The Postmaster-General’s Department says that it costs $15 a block and that the high cost is in providing the service from the main in the street into the building. So there is some conflict there. The Postmaster-General’s Department has suddenly departed from its time honoured procedure by allowing the wires to go overhead. Campbelltown is the centre of an area which will contain half a million people, and a number of Federal members, by the end of the century. It will probably contain one million people later on because Sydney cannot expand north through the Ku-ring-gai Chase and cannot expand south through Royal National Park, so it is forced to expand west and south-west. Already great plans have been made by the State Planning Authority of New South Wales to enlarge this city. It would be a very bad procedure indeed for the Postmaster-General’s Department to approve the developers’ requests for overhead wiring. Somebody will get the money. If it costs roughly $140 a block for underground wires and $70 a block for overground wires, then I suggest that the developer would save $70 a block. I think that it is short-sightedness on the part of the developer to overground wires in an area in which he is trying to sell land because the poles will go up, the wires will go up and there will be a considerable defacement of the environment.
At this stage in the development of this enlightened country, which is delcared by people like Frost to be very sophisticated in respect of public thought, it is wrong for the Postmaster-General’s Department to agree to provide overground wires. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) in one of his last public appearances - and perhaps in one of mine - will look at the situation and ask his very powerful central office to insist that from now on all telephone wires in Australia go underground. This matter has been the subject of a great deal of correspondence between the Campbelltown City Council and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I ask for leave of the House to table this correspondence so that there will be a clear view of the question. Is that agreeable to the Opposition?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Thank you. The central office of the Postmaster-General’s Department does not really keep in touch with the people of Australia as do the postmasters and other people in the Post Office. Here is a very simple case where the central office of the Postmaster-General’s Department is running counter to the public interest. Here is a case where Parliament should intervene. It should ask the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) and the State
Ministers responsible for the environment to intervene. The Campbelltown City Council would be prepared to take legal action, but I think that as our law stands the Crown would have paramount influence in that kind of situation. I am prepared to go to any lengths to stop telephone wires being installed overground. I think that honourable members and the people of Australia have seen pictures of Tokyo, Osaka and I suppose, to some extent Los Angeles, where pollution and defacement of the environment are almost incredible. I think that the House should express its view that it is wrong for the Postmaster-General’s department to install telephone wires overground.
I understand that the PostmasterGeneral met representatives of the Campbelltown City Council last Tuesday. I do not know the result of that meeting - I did not see anything about it in the local Press - but perhaps the Postmaster-General might indicate shortly whether he undertook to have a look at this matter. I want to be certain that this policy of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is changed; that we do not have any more overground telephone wires to spoil the Australian landscape and that the wires be put underground for the reasons that I have enumerated. Let us have a clean and beautiful city of Campbelltown.
– Mr Speaker, this is a peculiar form of debate in that the first 2 speakers are allowed 15 minutes each and subsequent speakers only 10 minutes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has allowed me to follow the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) so that 15 minutes will be available to me. The Leader of the Opposition will be able to speak for only 10 minutes. I am indebted to him and acknowledge the consideration that he has given to me in this matter.
The first thing I should say is that the Post Office is a very big spender of money within the Australian community. This year it has a works programme of approximately $484m. I think most honourable members would recognise the fact that this means that the Post Office spends more money in one year than any of the new development projects have cost in total.
That, perhaps, puts in perspective the amount of money spent by the Post Office. I have no objection to more money being made available if in fact it is a reasonable proposition that it should be made available. I am in favour of government spending of all moneys that rationally can be spent within the community, but I must say also that I am not in favour of increased taxation, and sometimes it is a little difficult to reconcile substantial increases in expenditure with maintenance of the level of income tax.
Of course, the additional money which would be required by the Post Office for its purposes - and no doubt additional money needed for other purposes - would have to come out of taxation because in recent years loan fund raisings have been inadequate to meet actual requirements. So there is an obligation on the Post Office. It is to install telephones at the lowest possible cost. On average today a telephone costs approximately $1,000 to install, and if we move into the area of carrying the cost of undergrounding telephone wires, it will require probably an additional $5m to $7m per annum, having regard to the number of homes that are built in the Australian community.
But this is only one of the additional matters about which representations are made to me. The Leader of the Opposition will know that a council in his own electorate has requested that parking facilities be provided for all Post Office employees’ cars as well as for the cars of people who use the Post Office facilities. Of course, this means that in the more densely populated areas of the Australian community a very substantial amount of additional money would be required to acquire extra land and, of course, for the construction of car parking areas.
What is the lowest cost solution in relation to telephone installation? The honourable member for Macarthur referred to many, many wires in the. streets. I think that the Post Office is past the day when many, many wires were placed in a street. Because of the use of multi-cables contained in a polythene covering, there is not the necessity for a single wire or double wire connection of every telephone to the, exchange. From time to time we have tried to come to an arrangement with the electricity authorities, and I do not offer any criticism of those authorities. There has been the utmost co-operation, and it has taken place in 2 ways. First of all. instead of the electricity people using a row of poles on one side of the street and the Post Office using a row of poles on the other side of the street, these multi-cable polythene covered cables can be suspended from the poles of the electricity people. Then from time to time the service is reticulated across the street or across the footpath to some 5 or 6 homes.
The alternative is to underground the wires, and where the electricity people are undergrounding their electricity reticulation, provided the additional cost is paid the Post Office is allowed to put a conduit in the same trench as that used by the electricity people. Here lies the difficulty; the trench is required to be deepened. There must be a reasonable separation between the electricity wires and the telephone wires because, of the different voltages carried. In relation to electricity the developer does not have any apparent difficulty in accepting that additional costs should be paid by him. Why is it that developers accept the situation with electricity but are not prepared to accept the, same situation in relation to telephones. I am afraid that I do not understand the attitude of the developers, particularly as in broad terms, the additional cost for undergrounding an electricity cable is 2 to 3 times higher than the cost of Post Office underground reticulation.
When I refer to the lowest cost solution what, in fact, 1 mean is that the. expenditure of money by the Post Office should be at the lowest possible cost. The accepted principle is that if there is a higher cost, that higher cost must be paid by someone else. We know perfectly well that these higher costs, whether paid by the developer of the local council, are added to the cost of the allotments bought by the Australian public. That principle can be criticised, but we must have regard to the total cost factor and must recognise that if we are to spend another $5m to $7m per annum to carry out this work - without any additional money coming into the. Post Office - fewer telephones will be provided for the Australian public each year. I do not know whether that is what honourable members wish or whether they are prepared to say that the Government must provide, more money for this particular purpose. In the last 9 years it has not been easy for me to obtain what I believe to have been the finance necessary to cover the essential installations made by the Post Office. I think it is a fairly simple choice. It is either that the Post Office is given more money to do this work or somebody else pays for the special considerations that are requested. The request relates also to reticulation to houses. The principle of undergrounding can be managed in the ways I have mentioned, but generally the situation is that having undergrounded the conduit and the cable, poles are erected at points along a street and from these poles reticulation takes place. This is a type of reticulation similar to electricity reticulation from electric light poles. The broad suggestion is that reticulation from the street cable to the telephone in the home should be underground. This would involve additional cost. Who is to” pay for it? We believe that additional costs should be met first by the developer, secondly, by the home builder or, thirdly, by the Post Office if more money is made available for this purpose. In some areas there is easy digging, if that is a reasonable term, of the roads for trenches. In other areas, for example in the city of Sydney, the digging of trenches is extremely difficult because of the sandstone country. Tremendous additional costs are involved in breaking through the sandstone for trenching purposes and this adds to the actual cost of reticulation.
It has been suggested by many developers that the Post Office’s costs are unnecessarily high but, as I have mentioned, the electricity cost is 2 to 3 times higher than the Post Office’s cost and if developers believe that they can do the same job cheaper we have no objection to their digging trenches to our specification. We will then put the conduit into the trenches and draw the cables after the trenches have been filled in. If the developers have a problem in meeting the cost as a charge - the Post Office doing all the work - they do have an alternative which they can accept.
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Bate) has suggested that there should be an overall underground system. At this point of time honourable members are in the city of Canberra. Canberra does not make any demand for undergrounding of telephone or electricity cables. In Canberra provision is made for laneways at the back of houses and poles are erected in those laneways and not on the roads. The Electricity Commission and the Post Office co-operate with the local authority in this regard.
I do not adopt, nor does the Post Office, any high-handed attitude in regard to this. The Post Office merely accepts the principle that it should conserve and keep at the lowest possible cost telephones which are supplied to the community. If the Post Office received more money - we appreciate that in many respects it would incur additional costs because of interest charges on money borrowed from the Treasury, which is a situation we accept - and if the Parliament and the Government decided that there should be an undergrounded cable, the Post Office would do the work. Quite candidly, I would hate to see a situation where there would be an increase in the number of deferred applications or unsatisfied demands for telephones. Further, in relation to the policy established in 1970, if cables were put underground, country people would wait a longer period for their telephones to be installed.
I believe honourable members must get this situation into perspective before making a judgment and not willy nilly saying that the Post Office must have more money to do this or that. Honourable members must see to the end of the road and how additional problems can be met before they attempt to exercise any judgment.
I know that the question of environment arises. Poles are unsightly but Australia is a large country with a very small population. It has approximately 5 million to Si million taxpayers who are carrying the whole burden of State government, Commonwealth Government and local government development costs. It is a substantial burden on each taxpayer. I believe that the burden is high enough and that it should not be increased merely to satisfy a particular area or the particular attitudes of individuals within the community.
– Honourable members have listened with great attention to what one expects will be one of the last speeches to be made in this Parliament by both the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Bate). I should like to acknowledge 2 things. The honourable member for Macarthur has come now to realise the demographic change coming over his electorate as it is influenced by the spread of the cities of Sydney and Wollongong. The border areas of the honourable member’s electorate are now experiencing the same problems as are the adjacent electorates which are represented by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and myself.
I should like to acknowledge also that the Postmaster-General has, on a couple of occasions, received deputations led by me and has given a painstaking and courteous hearing to them on matters of town planning. The first time I saw him on such matters was just over 5 years ago. It concerned a matter which I raised in a question to which I received a reply on 2nd May 1967. My question was as follows:
The reply was as follows:
It is the continuing policy of the Commonwealth’ to maintain a close liaison with State and local government authorities and, wherever possible, to comply with their zoning and planning schemes, even though it is not bound by State statutory requirements to do so.
At that time my interest had been aroused because in replacing old post offices better buildings were constructed but there was not the compliance with local government requirements with which any other authority would have had to accord. In particular, parking space was reduced in the new buildings below the amount of parking space provided in the buildings being replaced. Later the Postmaster-General, I believe, brought about a change in his Department’s policy, and in departmental buildings erected later in my electorate offstreet parking space was provided, as it has to be provided by other people providing new accommodation. I acknowledge that again as I did at the time.
On this occasion the matter under discussion concerns underground cables. The Postmaster-General received a deputation on this matter in August last year. He could not agree to continue with what had been the earlier policy of having telephone cables underground. I would have hoped that he would have changed the Department’s policy in relation to this matter. 1 regret that he has not. Therefore I must put a few considerations forward in favour of reverting to the Department’s policy of having underground cables, particularly in the areas of new estates. The PostmasterGeneral says that his Department must find the lowest cost solution to the installation of telephones, and he states, quite properly, that the average cost of installing a telephone is SI, 000. In other words, a telephone is as expensive an investment as a colour television set will be. I believe, however, that he has not given sufficient consideration to 2 factors. One is that it does not cost $1,000 to install a telephone in a properly planned estate. It is for this reason that the cost of installing telephones in Canberra is only half as much as the cost of installing telephones in Sydney and Melbourne.
The deputation which the PostmasterGeneral received from the Liverpool City Council in August last year concerned the telephones in the new Liverpool golf links estate. Every reticulated service could be provided more cheaply in that estate. It would cost very much less than $1,000 to install a telephone with underground cables in a co-ordinated, well planned estate such as that.
The other point I wish to make is that because the Department has lowered its standards in permitting overhead cables once again or in abandoning the former requirement that cables had to be put underground, the Department is making it so much more difficult to have a pleasant environment. It makes it more difficult to plant trees; it makes it more difficult to safeguard trees. My colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has spoken frequently in the House and outside it on this aspect. He will not be speaking today because he has commitments away from the Parliament. But the anomaly which occurred in the Liverpool golf links estate arose from the fact that the State Planning Authority now requires the provision of underground electricity services within subdivisions of land released under the Sydney region outline plan. Accordingly, the electricity cables are not strung above the ground in these areas. They cannot bi because it would be a breach of the law. But the PostmasterGeneral’s Department does not have to comply with these requirements. So the whole benefit sought to be achieved by the town planners in requiring that electricity wires be put underground is completely negated by the Department stringing telephone wires overhead, unless in this case, I think, the Department is paid an additional sum of about $40,000 to lay them underground. The Minister gave me an answer on this on 9 November last.
The activities of the. PostmasterGeneral’s Department are most, crucial to town planning and to urban amentities One would have thought that the Department would not have been the last but would have been among the first to reverse this trend under which developers - that really means home buyers - have to make capital contributions to the reticulated services provided in an area. When the Menzies Government came to power the normal thing was for the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide the reticulated services to the door of the premises. It was the practice for the semi-government authorities tb provide electricity, water, and sewerage services to the door df the property. It was the practice for local councils to provide roads and sometimes gutters and footpaths to the door of the property. These standards have been completely lowered in the last 20 years. It is for this reason that the Labor Party insists that the Financial Agreement should be recast to give local and semi-government authorities - that is, councillors and aldermen in each State - the right to choose a representative to speak and vote for them on the Australian Loan Council. What has happened in the last 20 years is that the debts of all these authorities have grown to be great as those of (he States. Yet they have no representation on the Loan Council.
The Postmaster-General’s Department is abetting the process whereby every person moving into a nev/ suburb or an area of urban or regional development must make a capital contribution to the provision of services which 20 years ago were provided by the community through its elected bodies. I very much regret to find that the Postmaster-General has not changed the Department’s attitude on this matter, as he did on the earlier matters of off-street parking and so on. I believe one of the things we have to accept is that the Department must readily co-operate with other authorities - State, semi-government and local government - in providing those services which individuals and families require.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I agree with the cases put by both the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I sympathise very strongly with the case also put by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I have just been told that somebody made an agreement in relation to this debate, but nobody told me about any agreement and, as a member of Parliament, 1 do not believe that in this case I am subject to it. I am most concerned because my electorate has many similar problems to those which I am quite sure are to be found in the Campbelltown area. Whilst I can understand the concern of the Postmaster-General as to the cost of underground cables and as to the necessity for keeping charges in relation to telephone installations to a minimum, and while I can accept the fact that the alternative is either to give the PostmasterGeneral’s Department more money or perhaps to have a delay in telephone installations. I do not think this is the complete answer. Indeed, if one looks at the problems of the environment, if one looks at the problems of pollution, one could say the same thing in respect of everything that is infecting and polluting the environment.
We could say in respect of those factories whose waste flows into the rivers and streams that unless money is invested in an alternative scheme we will not get rid of the pollution. If money is invested in finding an alternative to the present problem it must cost more and must affect the cost of the goods which are manufactured in this way. Pollution of the environment affects more than just the people with telephones. It affects the whole future of Aus tralia and we ought now to be making decisions, not necessarily as to the cost to today’s taxpayers but as to the end result for the generations of tomorrow. Pollution has been given world wide publicity. I have in mind the book ‘The Australian Ugliness’ which publicised the gaping poles with wires running all over them to be found in Australian cities.
In recent years, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, it has been the policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department to put its cables underground. Honourable members will remember the old problems in developing areas. One month the roads were dug up for the sewage projects; the next month they were dug up by the electricity supply people; and the next month the telephone people would dig up the roads. I thought we had overcome that problem. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that with coordination of the authorities about half of the present waste of money could be avoided. It is incurred because we are continually working without planning amongst the authorities. The extra charges could well be borne by the whole community because the effects spread further than just among people who want a telephone. We do not want to go gack to the old conditions.
The Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) has said that there are only one or two cases, and I agree with him. The step taken by the Postmaster-General’s Department to put its cables underground is a good one and should be continued. I would hate to see in my electorate in the city of Knox, the Shire of Sherbrooke and the district further out the return of telephone poles, holes being dug in the road and the confusion that we once had. I support very strongly the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and the Leader of the Opposition. I have had similar problems in my electorate. The people there are grateful when new post offices and telephone exchanges are built. We are all grateful for the courtesy and consideration that has been shown by the Postal Department, but we have the problems referred to by the honourable member. Parking room is inadequate and staff vehicles stand in the streets in nonparking areas all day. I contend that the
Commonwealth Government must whenever possible co-ordinate with the local authorities.
It is not the best advertising for the Commonwealth to say: ‘It does not apply to us.’ The Commonwealth should set an example. I am grateful to the PostmasterGeneral, particularly in respect of the Ferntree Gully area where this problem has arisen, that his officers have taken every action to see that the problem has been overcome. I accept the viewpoint of the Postmaster-General that extra money is needed. If I and others have to pay more, it is part of our responsibility as Australians at present not to say, T do not want to pay money; I will be dead in 20 years time.’ This generation has to accept the responsibility for these problems which go further than the simple question of telephone cables. They concern pollution in all other matters. If we shirk the issue and take the easy way out we will not be fulfilling our responsibilities. I support what has been said by the honourable member for Macarthur and the Leader of the Opposition. Accepting the difficulties facing the Postal Department, I think the Government should take the responsibility in this matter and see that the policy of putting cables underground is continued.
– I want to be brutally political in this matter. Of course, I accept the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) that there is an obvious need for telephone cables to be located underground. I understand, even if I do not accept, the explanation of the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) of the situation in Canberra. The people in Campbelltown can beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts, because they will have every reason to examine the gift horse, if I may mix the metaphore. For many years I have been the unofficial member for a very substantial part of the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur - a very substantial part indeed. Such refinements as underground cables have not been foremost in the minds of his neglected constituents. Having been the unofficial member for the area for many years I have found the greatest difficulty in persuading people to locate their official member, if that were possible. In the industrial areas around Dapto, Shellharbour and Albion Park he has at all times been conspicuous by his absence.
As a matter of elementary courtesy 1 have endeavoured to refer people there to their absent member, but his whereabouts at all times is rather vague. It is true that they could communicate with his secretary, but in the long term it is very much easier for me to deal with the urgent requirements of his constituents who want telephonic communication. I refer in particular to the shortage of telephones on the Bradbury Estate at Campbelltown. We have heard nothing about that shortage from the honourable member for Macarthur. Our candidate for the area has been actively seeking to remedy that position. Like the man about to be hanged, the Honourable member for Macarthur has found that his attention has been concentrated most wonderfully. We have rather a unique situation in the Macarthur electorate. The official Liberal Party candidate has been rejected by his constituents in the State electorate. The unofficial Liberal candidate has been rejected by his Party. Very obviously the electors will complete the hat trick.
Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Cunningham is going’ a little wide of the subject.
– And the honourable member for Macarthur has been very wide of his electorate, too, Sir. To adapt a line in a good old Australian poem: ‘Bate has gone a’droving and we don’t know where he are’. In more serious vein I want to deal with the specific problems of the Coonawarra Estate in Dapto, a housing commission area in which between 1,100 and 1,200 houses are being built. Par .excellence far the citizens there would have been an estate on which the concepts of my Leader could have been put into operation. The cables should have been there before a brick was laid or any thought was given to excavation.
I have been constantly bombarded by these people. They would not care whether the cables were suspended from balloons, so long as they could get a service. They have not got it and they do not look like getting it until there is a change in representation of the area. That being so, I pay more than lip service to the concepts of town planning, the in thing today. It is long overdue. A very frugally minded government has, in many cases, again to quote the old saying, spoiled a good ship for a ha’p’orth of tar. lt costs very little extra to do as proposed, and in the long run it is better to have it done. There are other problems also in my section of the broken back constituency of Macarthur. It has been nothing but a political refuge because it has no community of interest,, communication and certainly no unity of representation, but it shortly will have that. On purely regional and climatic grounds there is special need for underground cables in such areas as Dapto, which has high rainfall and very high wind velocity. Of course, the bucolic honourable member for Macarthur knows that you spread political fertiliser where you will get the best result. For that reason you do not fertilise the least fertile parts of your electorate but those that are the best. That gives the quickest and greatest improvement in crop yield and also in political yield. On this occasion I leave the honourable member for Macarthur to the tender mercies of his former constituents.
– I understand that there is some reasonable time limitation in this debate. I intend to take only a few minutes. I think that the short debate that has taken place has been useful. It is interesting to note the newly found concern of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Bate) for the northern part of his electorate, but I think the more significant factor about this debate is the failure of the Minister for the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) to take part in the debate. The Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, has been giving a lead to the country 031 environment. It is amazing that he evolved from the Government and has gone past it. The Government has not caught up to him. At a conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science recently he said:
When civilised mon looks out from the padded cell of urban life, what a destruction of the human environment he would see if only his eyes had not become too narrowly focused on his house, motor car, golf course, his cocktail bar and his television set. He would see a countryside despoiled, wild life being exterminated, vegetation withered, air and sea polluted, rivers made foul, green fields turned into rubbish dumps for old model cars, and the night and day made hideous by the blasphemous glare of uncontrolled noise.
In many ways those expressions tally with the concern that has been evinced by the shadow Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who regrettably is not here today. He has made it very clear that an Australian Labor Party government will regard this matter as extremely important and entitled to a high priority. The PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan .Hulme) talked of $5m to $6m as the difference in the cost of putting wires underground or above ground as though it was a great and significant matter. If the request had come from some of the friends of the Government he would be advocating that it be handed out willy nilly. This is a relatively infinitisemal amount of money in terms of the magnitude and volume of money handled by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Shortly we will be hearing about one or 2 telephone exchanges. I have a recollection that the Woollongabba telephone exchange building will cost’ about $6m or $7m. The equipment in most telephone exchanges is 6 or 7 times the cost of the exchange. So, at a place like Woollongabba one exchange can be worth $49m. If the Government is to say that $5m to $7m will deter us from putting cables underground, then it just shows that the Government suffers very seriously from a lack of a sensible, ordered set of priorities. The environment is a lot more important than the Postmaster-General has been prepared to concede in the discussion today. Why, the profits of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the telephone section amounted to $59. 8m this year. If one starts to think of the great proliferation of wires that will take place as our population doubles in the next 30 years or so, one will come to realise that it is worth while carving $5m to $7m out of that amount for the purposes that have been specified.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, it is so much cheaper to lay cables this way in new areas. I am surprised that the Minister has not indicated today some guide lines for the new Urban and Regional Development Authority that is to be established. It would be reasonable at least to say that whereas it might be expensive to put things underground in Collins St Melbourne or in George St, Sydney, in new communities about which there has been a lot of talk recently we will lay out our requirements as a department which has some concern with preservation of the environment. In Canberra there has been mention of the standards that prevail. We have been told that what are virtually land easements are provided at the back of properties. This is a commendable idea. It is upheld by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, by the electricity authority and probably others as well. I know that the aesthetic standards in Canberra are such that even external tele.vicion antennas are not allowed and householders must use internal antennas to prevent intrusion into the environment of a very unsatisfactory feature. The PostmasterGeneral has not quibbled about the tower that is to be erected on Black Mountain in Canberra with a view to ensuring that television beams can be projected effectively over Canberra in such a way as to avoid the necessity for external antennas for household television.
The point I am making is that if these matters are important to the people who live on Commonwealth controlled territory, as they should be, they should be similarly important to the rest of the people of Australia. Many honourable members in the place have no enthusiasm about the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the effect that it cares only about those who come under its direct responsibility. A Labor Government will spread the wealth and ensure that a decent set of priorities will apply to matters of this kind. I can understand the dilemma of the honourable member for Macarthur who is trying probably to squeeze a vote out of the situation by rushing in here in a state of panic to move for discussion of a matter of public importance 23 years late. I think he has done the Parliament a service in raising it. The city of Campbelltown, represents virtually a very significant part of the relief programme for Sydney. It is the place to which young people will be given the opportunity to go to to get out of the stinking, seething, sweltering city with all its muck, filth and pollution. It is the place in which it is reasonable to expect a young couple to rear children.
We should set out to make Campbelltown a decent place. Canberra is our first example. Campbelltown easily can become the second. I believe that following the election results we will have a. representative for Macarthur who will be continuously assiduous in his representations for the needs of decent developmental and environmental standards for the people of Canberra, for the people of Campbelltown and, indeed, for the people of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– This discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a’ second time. The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide funds for the development of colleges of advanced education in the triennium 1973-75. Honourable members will recall that when I tabled. the third report of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education on 22nd August 1972 I said that the Commonwealth would support a programme totalling approximately $450m in the triennium. Included in this sum is provision for the Canberra College of Advanced Education which is financed entirely from Commonwealth funds and for which accordingly no provision is made in this Bill.
The proposed level of expenditure on the colleges in the new triennium represents an increase of 78 per cent on the expenditure in the present triennium. These figures demonstrate the strong measure of community support which the colleges are receiving, especially among school leavers seeking a tertiary education orientated to the needs of industry and commerce. They also reflect this Government’s determination to encourage the development of this significant new stream in tertiary education in Australia. The Bill before the House is broadly similar to the States
Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1969 but incorporates some changes consequent upon the creation of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education and upon the construction of affiliated residential colleges in the colleges of advanced education. The Bill provides for a total programme of recurrent expenditure in the States of approximately $266m of which the Commonwealth share is about $94m and the State contribution $172m.
The largest component of recurrent expenditure is, as might be expected, the salaries of the teaching staff and in this connection it should be noted that during the present triennium, 1970-72, the student enrolment in colleges of advanced education has risen from approximately 38,000 in 1970 to about 54,000 in 1972 and it is expected to reach approximately 81,000 in 1975. The financial assistance provided in this Bill allows for the necessary increase in staff. The increase in enrolments also demands the construction of new buildings, the replacement of old and inadequate buildings and the provision of equipment. The Bill provides for expenditure upon these items in the States of approximately $157m of which the Commonwealth share is about $79m. Members will recall that in making these grants to the States the accepted formula is that in respect of capita] expenditure States will contribute $1 for each $1 of Commonwealth grant and in respect of recurrent expenditure the States will contribute $1.85 in respect of each $1 of Commonwealth grant. In that $1.85, of course, fees are included.
The Commonwealth at the present time has accepted that when academic salaries rise the Commonwealth will make supplementary grants to the States for its share of the increased costs under the normal matching formula. A new development in the triennium 1973-75 is that the Commonwealth will also make supplementary grants when salaries and wages of nonacademic staff are increased as a result of a national wage case decision. Significant new developments for which the Bill provides include the establishment of new colleges in South Australia and New South Wales, the continuation of major projects in all States, special assistance for the construction of student residences particularly in country areas, assistance for running costs of student residences, and the provision of special assistance to libraries in colleges of advanced education.
With regard to student residences the Commonwealth is prepared to provide funds for building student residences in country areas, additional to those already specified in the second schedule of this Bill, and an amount of $500,000 has been set aside for this purpose. With the State matching contribution this means that colleges in the country may draw upon a fund of up to Sim for the construction of additional student residential accommodation. The Government also wishes to encourage the flow of private funds into the construction of student residences and has agreed to provide funds to assist those colleges which might also be able to obtain loan moneys for the erection of student residences. The Commonwealth invites the States to share equally with the Commonwealth an amount of $2,500 in respect of each student place in residences being partly financed by loan or gift. The effect of this measure will be to enable rental charges in the student residences to be fixed at a level which, while remaining within reasonable limits for the student, will provide for the repayment of principal and interest on the loan over the normal lending period. The arrangements which have been made in the past for funding of the construction of affiliated colleges will continue to apply in the future.
In the university area the Commonwealth has made in the past unmatched grants to assist with the running costs of collegiate accommodation. In the colleges of advanced education also, affiliated colleges exist and there may develop during the triennium other student residences of a collegiate type. This Bill makes provision for unmatched grants to be made to such institutions on the recommendation of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education and a sum of $500,000 has been set aside for this purpose. The Commission on Advanced Education has drawn attention to the particular needs of libraries in colleges of advanced education and this Bill provides for additional assistance for these libraries. Over and above the unmatched grant for the libraries of $500,000 as has been provided in previous triennia the
Commonwealth will make available up to a further Sim, subject to a matching contribution from the States. The effect is to make available for library purposes an additional $2.5m providing that States contribute Sim. The allocation of these funds between institutions will be determined by the Minister on the advice of the Commission.
Under the present Act the Minister must approve particulars of building projects and must approve courses in colleges of advanced education for Commonwealth funding purposes. Now that the Australian Commission on Advanced Education has been set up as a statutory authority the Government has decided that some of the functions at present resting with the Minister should be transferred to the Commission and this BDI provides that approval of courses and particulars of projects listed in the schedules to this Bill may be approved by the Commission. Where variations are sought in respect of those projects the Commission may approve minor variations but where the total funds transferred exceed $200,000 Ministerial approval will be required. The Minister will provide Parliament with statements giving details of such transfers. In previous triennia the Government has provided a sum of $250,000 for research and investigation into matters of particular importance in advanced education. The reports which have been received have been of great value to the colleges and to the Commission and this Bill provides for a similar grant to be made m 1973-75.
In conclusion 1 might remind members that this Government has maintained a live interest in teacher education and it might be noted that the Bill before the House provides funds for teacher education in 7 colleges of advanced education. Moreover, as members will recall, I have asked the Commission on Advanced Education to present a report no later than March 1973 on the needs of teachers colleges which the Government has decided should be funded in the same way as colleges of advanced education and universities. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is with considerable satisfaction that I introduce this Bill to amend the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1971. This satisfaction derives from the fact that the legislation goes far beyond the improvements foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the Budget Speech. Indeed, for the Commonwealth, we propose to break entirely new ground. The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for the payment of compensation at the rate of full sick pay to Commonwealth employees during total incapacity following a compensable injury. The payment will be made at this rate for the first 26 weeks of a period or of the aggregate of periods up to 26 weeks in respect of any one injury.
Honourable members will recall that ‘injury’ in the relevant context of the Act - that is, in section 29 - carries an expanded meaning and includes the contraction of a disease or the aggravation, acceleration or recurrence of a disease. They will also be aware that the Act applies to the employees of prescribed authorities of the Commonwealth and to other classes of persons who are not strictly employees. Examples of these latter classes of persons are holders of statutory offices and prescribed classes of persons such as school cadets and person who render voluntary assistance to the Commonwealth. Altogether the Acts apply to more than 425,000 persons. The Acts are also of world wide application and cover employees in some 70 Commonwealth posts scattered around the globe.
The Act which came fully into operation only on 1st September 1971 constitutes a complete compensation code and replaced an Act that, with amendments, had been in operation since 1930. This new compensation code was vastly more beneficial than the legislation which it replaced and I am pleased to report to the House that it was brought into effect smoothly and without disruption to the then existing case load. If I may interpose, I tabled this morning the first annual report.
The amending Bill now before the House marks a further significant breakthrough in this field of benevolent legislation. The compensation that will be payable to a totally incapacitated employee for the first 26 weeks of a period or for periods aggregating 26 weeks will be at the full sick pay rate that would be payable to him apart from the compensation legislation. At the conclusion of the 26 weeks the employee will be entitled to weekly compensation payments at the increased weekly rates provided by this amending legislation. By utilising a proportion of any sick leave credit available to him the employee may then build up the weekly compensation payment during this subsequent period to the rate he would have received as sick pay had compensation not been paid. If an employee’s conditions of employment do not provide for sick pay, the rate of compensation payable during the first 26 week period or aggregate of periods to which 1 have referred will be at a rate equal to his basic earnings for the work he would have performed but for the injury.
Of next importance to the adoption of the full pay principle, the Bill makes substantial increases in existing monetary benefits. These monetary benefits were last increased on 25th May 1971 and were then incorporated in the new compensation code when it became fully operative on 1st September last year. The new code included additional benefits and these rates are also increased by this Bill which in addition, provides for some machinery amendments of a minor nature.
Under the Bill the basic lump sum payable to dependants upon the death of an employee is being increased from $13,500 to $14,500. A corresponding increase from $13,500 to $14,500 will be made in respect of the maximum lump sum payment for the more serious scheduled injuries. Lump sum payments for the less serious scheduled injuries will be proportionately increased as will those in respect of loss of the genitals, the permanent loss of the capacity to engage in sexual intercourse, facial disfigurement and total loss of the sense of taste or smell.
Following the period for which full sick pay is payable the Bill provides for the weekly payment in total incapacity cases to be increased from $35 a week to $43 for a single employee, an increase of 23 per cent. The latter amount will be supplemented by $11 a week for a dependent spouse in lieu of $8.50 a week as at present. This is an increase of 29 per cent. A further $5 a week remains payable for each dependent child. Where an employee requires the constant assistance of an attendant, the weekly amount of $8 payable to him will be increased to $9. The present limitation of $150 in any one case in respect of provision or modification of certain aids, appliances and equipment will be increased from $150 to $350.
I come now to the more - important df the machinery amendments included in the Bill. For accuracy in interpreting the word overtime when determining average weekly earnings of an employee, the term will be defined to include shift duty, weekend duty, holiday duty and excess travelling time. The Bill amends the provision which excludes seamen from the application of the Act and ensures that such seamen to whom the Seamens Compensation Act does not apply are covered by the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act if they are employees within the meaning of this Act. As a consequence of this amendment, it has been necessary to include transitional provisions in the Bill to ensure that any cases unintentionally excluded from the application of the principal Act at the date of its proclamation on 1st September 1971 are now brought within the scope of the Act, rather than remain indefinitely under the. ex-gratia approval which was extended to such cases as an interim measure.
The transitional provisions also provide that between a period commencing on the proclaimed date of the principal Act and ending immediately before royal assent is given to this amending legislation - that is, during the transitional period, anything that was done by, on behalf of, to or in relation to, such a seaman, as a claimant for compensation has effect as if it was done under the principal Act. Among other things, this has the effect of restoring to any seamen involved, all rights accruing under the Act, including the rights to have their cases referred to a compensation tribunal or to make application to a prescribed court for judicial review of their claims.
The Act now provides that attendances at certain places are to be regarded as employment for the purposes of attracting compensation cover. This Bill now ensures that cover is extended to employees at living accommodation such as PMG work camps, where the place of employment is geographically situated outside such living accommodation at which employees are required by their employment to reside. Also, the Bill remedies the situation under the Act where an employee though properly excluded from cover during his attendance at his own separate living accommodation, such as married quarters, is not so excluded during his attendance at the separate living accommodation of another employee.
One other minor change will be made where civil damages awarded are reduced because of contributory negligence on the part of the employee. The Act provides that in these cases, the amount of compensation recoverable from damages should be reduced in the same proportion as the damages were reduced. The intention was that the amount of compensation to be recovered from damages should not exceed the amount of the damages recovered. However, the Act does not correctly apply this principle and could place some cases where there was no contributory negligence in a less favourable position than other similar cases where there was contributory negligence on the part of the employee. The Bill removes this anomaly. The increases in the rates of monetary benefits, to which I have referred, will apply from the date of the royal assent.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in little over 16 months this Parliament has completely remodelled the scheme of Commonwealth employees’ compensation. Perhaps, more correctly, I should say we have created an entirely new scheme. The introduction of full sick pay during a period of total incapacity is the rounding off of what was already a most comprehensive code. I have heard voices raised to the effect that there will be no incentive for an injured worker to return to work. I would point out to the House that last year we wrote into the leg islation provisions covering rehabilitation and vocational training. These will play their part in restoring injured employees to their maximum working capacities. In any event, I have confidence in the integrity of our Commonwealth employees and of the medical profession to ensure that no unfair advantage is taken of the very generous provisions the Government is asking the Parliament to adopt. I commend the Bill to the House and trust that it will be given a speedy passage.
– 1 seek leave to make a very short statement.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I think I ought to say to the House, as it may be contemplated that we should rise next week - and this I believe is what is planned - that almost certainly some amendments will be moved in the Committee stage of this Bill. I felt that it was only proper that I should give due warning of our intention. They will not be extensive but there will be some.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make an amendment to the United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1971 consequent upon the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1972. As honourable members know, the United States Naval Communications Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1971 extends to civilian employees employed by the United States in connection with the station the terms of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1971 as if they were employees of the Commonwealth.
To extend to these employees of the United States the new benefit of compensation at the rate of full sick pay that is provided for in the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1972 it is necessary to amend the Schedule to the United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1971. The Bill provides accordingly. The Bill will come into effect on the day on which the Compenstaion (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1972 comes into operation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase various rates and amounts of workers compensation payable in respect of seamen and their dependants under the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Such compensation is paid by ship owners and not by the Commonwealth. Compensation for seamen serving in intrastate ships, to whom the Bill does not apply, is paid under State workers compensation Acts. These increases are in line with the increases contained in the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill now awaiting debate in this House, except that whilst the weekly rate of compensation for a seaman is being increased from $35 to $43, the concept of weekly payments on full pay for 6 months is not being introduced at this stage. In addition to the increase in the weekly rate of compensation for a seaman, the Bill provides for an increase from $8.50 to $11 in the weekly rate for a seaman’s wife and for the basic lump sum death benefit, to which other lump sum benefits for various injuries are related, to be increased from $13,500 to $14,500.
In introducing the Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1971, I indicated that action was in train further to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act to apply a similar code of compensation for seamen as is applied to Commonwealth employees under the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act.
Due mainly to the need for a complete review of a complex range of provisions and for consultation with ship owners who are responsible for payment of compensation to seamen, it has not yet been possible to complete the preparation of a Bill incorporating the necessary amendments. The review, and the necessary consultations, will also have regard to the concept now being introduced into the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act, to which I have referred, under which weekly compensation will be on full pay for 6 months. Action is proceeding, however, and a Bill to amend the Act to introduce a new code similar to that for Commonwealth employees will be introduced as soon as practicable. The Bill at present before honourable members provides improved rates of workers compensation for our Merchant Navy personnel. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18th May (vide page 2806), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Chipp). - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent members who have already spoken in this debate from speaking a second time.
– There is perhaps little which is new that can be said on the matter which is now before the House. But it is also true to say that I think there is advantage in restating in this House, of Parliament, and before the Australian people, the importance of this Bil] and the reasons why it should be passed into law. I welcome the opportunity for the Parliament to discuss once more the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. It gives us the chance - so far postponed - to resolve on the floor of this House, the attitude of this House of Parliament towards this proposed law. I must emphasise at this stage that this Bill, if passed, will not decide the question of whether the national Government or the State governments have legal sovereignty over the waters around our coast. Therefore those of us who support this Bill are not asking that the question of sovereignty be decided by this House. We are asking that a situation be created where the question of sovereignty may be. properly decided in a constitutional way, and that situation will be created by the passage of this Bill, which would open the way for a decision by the High Court of Australia in accordance with the Constitution.
The last time the House discussed this matter we were asked by the Government to adjourn the debate so that conferences could occur between national and State representatives to see whether this matter could be resolved in some other way. That was a reasonable request for time, and it was acceded to. Since then these conferences have taken place and have, on communiques issued to us, reached no agreement except an agreement not to try to resolve the matter at all - not to try to put the matter of sovereignty beyond doubt. That is not a reasonable solution. In fact, it is not only not a reasonable solution; it is not a solution at all. Certainly, even if all that was hoped for by those engaged in these discussions took place, it would not be a solution which would be lasting and final. Even if all matters in question - those relating to fishing and fishing laws, to poaching, to conservation, to anti-pollution measures, to mining, to drilling for oil, to international agreements and to the questions which will arise between ourselves and Papua New Guinea - were the subject of identical legislation, co-operation, cooperative legislation between the national Government and the States, each State would still be able in future - any State would still be able in the future - to change its legislation and the whole facade of uniformity would fall to the ground, as it has fallen to the ground on the question of uniform company laws. Moreover the national government, in changed circumstances in the future which might call for changed national legislation, could not itself legislate to change existing mirror legislation and ensure its sovereignty without altering the whole pattern of uniform legislation and with the sure knowledge, which it ought to have, that it had the power so to legislate.
The only real resolution of this matter is to put beyond doubt the question of sovereignty and the only way to do this, since the Commonwealth and the States still make conflicting claims as to the sovereignty right out to the end of the continental shelf, is to have the matter resolved by the High Court. It may be that some private litigation will eventually lead to such a resolution. But I suggest it is unworthy of the Parliament, representing the nation, to shirk creating a situation which will have the matter resolved and leave it to some private individual to bring a case, which he may or may not be able to do. Especially do I feel this when the Commonwealth, as it has done in its agreement with Indonesia, asserts a positive sovereignty over waters in the Indian Ocean which it will not assert by legislation passed inside Australia - although I must say that even in this matter of the agreement with Indonesia, good as I believe it was for Australia, I understand that the Commonwealth was so unsure of its position that it felt it necessary to consult with the Government of Western Australia while engaged in carrying out this international agreement.
If that is so, is this to be a precedent? Must the national Government consult with any State or all States in the future on international matters which may be in dispute between ourselves and some other countries? What happens if agreement cannot be reached after that consultation and a State asserts that it will not agree to the international agreement made by the Commonwealth? If it is argued, as I gather it is, that the matter is in doubt and there may be State sovereignty over these waters, then what happens? Do we then assert that this is not so and that we, as a national Parliament, have authority? If that happens then why can it not happen now?
The reasons why this matter should be resolved have been stated before. Senate select committees, a speech delivered by the present Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) on behalf of the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) when he was Foreign Minister and a number of authoritative statements all assert after thorough examination that it is not in Australia’s national interests for this matter to remain unresolved. I read into the record, in order to support that, the final recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. It said:
The Committee considers that, notwithstanding the advantages to the national interest which the legislation and its underlying conception has produced, the larger national interest is not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the territorial sea-bed and the Continental Shelf.
I reinforce that by a quotation from the speech made by the Minister for National Development when he introduced this Bill. He said:
At present, the State governments also claim sovereign rights in this same area. The Commonwealth believes that, except in respect of internal waters as they existed at federation, the States have no such rights. The legal issue is presently unresolved. The Government’s view is that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable. This will be a matter for decision by the courts.
It is not just I who is saying that it is in Australia’s national interests to resolve the matter, and the corollary must be that it is against Australia’s national interests if it is not resolved.
I would also suggest that, in spite of the arguments which have been put forward for the resolution of this matter, there have not been arguments put before us to show that the reasoned, cogent arguments in the Senate Select Committee’s report - presumably those reasoned, cogent arguments led to the quotation I read from the speech of the Minister for National Development - are wrong. No suggestion has been put before us that the Chief Justice was talking through his hat in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia when in the course of his judgment he said that the sea bed and the continental shelf naturally belong to a nation as an international person. Either they do or they do not. Either they belong to Australia as an international person or they belong to 6 or 7 different international persons, 6 of whom are not recognised internationally. We do not know the answer. Nor has it been argued that the Chief Justice was wrong when he said that the existing situation in respect of fisheries is pregnant with practical difficulties, particularly if there is at any time any diversity between Commonwealth and State laws with respect to fishing on the high seas’. There is such diversity between Common wealth and State laws at present. There is a diversity which bears upon individual citizens of Australia in an unjust way.
I have not heard one argument advanced to destroy the validity of the reasons which have been advanced for resolving this matter. It has occasionally been said that the matter is not important; it is not significant enough for the Parliament to take note of; it is not one of great importance to Australia. But surely any reasonable person examining the present position must agree that it is important both now and especially in the future for as far as we can see ahead. The sea, and its contents - the fish in it and the deposits on its bed - are becoming of more and more importance to the peoples and the nations of the world. Already we see grave disputes abroad on the question of fisheries, as to who has the right to fish in certain areas and on the vastly important matter of so regulating fisheries that particular species of fish are not destroyed and made extinct. There have been clashes on the high seas - in the North Sea - on that very matter. There will be further matters of international concern as to the width of territorial waters, as to the distance over the sea bed to which national sovereignty extends and as to whether the resources of the sea bed outside that limit should be internationalised and used for the benefit of underdeveloped countries. This idea, as I understand it, was put forward by the United States of America in the United Nations.
Who is to decide the limit of the continental shelf from Australia’s point of view in this kind of argument? Who is to decide whether at this cut-off point the sea bed outside is to be internationalised? What happens if a State government claims that the national Government does not have the sovereignty to do this, because the State government has the sovereignty it now claims? I know at present it does not assert this although it does want to be consulted before national sovereignty is asserted. But what is to stop it asserting it in the future if this matter is not to be resolved? Not least among these matters of great concern are those of conservation and pollution of the sea. I have already spoken about conservation of fisheries. Pollution of the sea wherever it occurs is not confined to that area in which a tanker discharges ballast or to some specific area in which some kind of pollution occurs. When it occurs it is of interest to all those countries whose coasts are washed by the sea. At the moment we do not know who has the ultimate sovereignty over conservation and pollution. We do not know who has the ultimate sovereignty over deciding whether a dead reef somewhere around Australia can be mined for cement works. We do not know who has the ultimate sovereignty over deciding whether an oil well can be drilled in some area where there is a possibility of destroying a great national asset. We do not. know who has the ultimate authority on that.
And it is no answer to say that agreement can be reached on this point or that point or that co-operation may be achieved on this point or that point. What we need to know as a nation is where ultimate sovereignty over these matters lies. That is why the Senate Select Committee brought in the report it did and that is why the then Government reached its conclusion and read in this House the speech of the Minister for National Development. 1 cast no aspersions on any persons who have changed their minds since then. It is the perfect right of anyone to do this. But I do assert that there has not been advanced by matter of argument or reason any explanation of why that change should have taken place. Bearing in mind that State governments claim sovereignty right out to the continental shelf, must the national Government consult all State governments and get their agreement before entering into an international agreement? Are we to be able to act as a nation, or as 6 States which have another government negotiating for them but necessarily bound by the rights those other 6 governments claim? I believe that is a derogatory position for Australia to have in the world. All these matters are not confined in importance to Australia. They were even considered to be of sufficient importance in Canada for a case to be stated before the Supreme Court there so that the resolution could take place. Already we have a situation where State and Commonwealth laws on fisheries do conflict. In Tasmania a fisherman has had his boat confiscated for allegedly breaking a State fisheries law. He believes he was wrongfully treated because he was complying with a Commonwealth law which he believes was applicable in his case. He has been trying to get the matter before the High Court - with, meanwhile, his means of livelihood out of the sea and on a slip. But the State Government is doing all it can to delay that matter going before the High Court. It might lead to some resolution of this problem. But, on the other hand, the fisherman himself may well run out of heart or out of money before he can bring a personal case before this great tribunal.
Now we read that the Tasmanian Government has given what are reported to be exclusive fishing rights’ in waters where Commonwealth fishing laws apply. What is to happen if other States follow suit? Who is really to decide this matter, if somebody infringes an exclusive right which a State claims it has the right to give in waters over which the Commonwealth claims it has sovereignty? All I know is that one of the things that will happen is that some individual Australian citizen or citizens will be greatly disadvantaged, as they must always be, when the state of the law is not clear and when they are caught, as citizens, between such conflicting interests. In justice it is wrong for Australian citizens to be liable to be subjected to this kind of a situation.
This is not, as I see it, a matter of differing political philosophy; it is not a matter of basic differences between the the parties in this House. This is a Government Bill, albeit one introduced by a previous Government, and that it is not already law is a responsibility resting at least as much on the present Opposition as on the present Government. But that is water under the bridge. It remains a matter which, while it is unresolved, inhibits necessary national action, afflicts with injustice private citizens and leaves completely unclear the situation around Australia’s seas. At some time I am sure that the demands of common sense and the pressures of future historical development will lead to a resolution of this matter, but we have an opportunity now to act in what has been said to be the national interest and what I believe to be the national interest, and as a Parliament I believe that we should do so. We should pass this Bill.
– -Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1.4 to 2.15 p.m.
– Once again we are debating the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970. When this Bill was last considered the debate was adjourned on the clear assumption that the Commonwealth Government, through its Ministers, would convene meetings with the respective State Ministers, on behalf of their governments, to make a positive decision with respect to the passage of this Bill. At no stage did members of the Opposition believe the intent of the Government in these terms. We believed it was simply only a front to stall matters and to prevent the Parliament taking a positive decision in the House of Representatives. It is fairly clear now that this view, in fact, was correct and that these conferences between the Commonwealth and the States since the last time the Bill was debated had one objective, namely, to sink this legislation once and for all. It was simply a front. The Government has disowned the legislation, lt refuses to see its great national importance and its significance to Australia in its relationships with other countries.
An absurd situation is developing. Next year one of the most vital conferences - the Law of the Sea Conference - will be held and it seems now that Australia will go to that international conference without being able to speak with one voice on behalf of the Australian nation. We have the absurd situation today of individual States having conflicting claims on many matters, such as the continental shelf, fisheries, the boundaries of inland waters and the status of the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Recently an agreement was made between the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) showed no reluctance to assert Australian sovereignty over Australian waters to reach an agreement on a boundary between Indonesia and Australia. Why is there reluctance now to assert sovereignty over the coastal waters of Australia?
Statements have been made recently by the Queensland Premier regarding the boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea. I submit that it has nothing to do with the Queensland Premier. Australia, as a nation, not the Queensland Pre.mier, should be negotiating this boundary. But this is what the States are doing. They believe that they have the right to do this and they go ahead. In recent years some emotional, outlandish statements have been made by State spokesmen. Some of the worst have come from Queensland and have been made by the previous AttorneyGeneral Dr Delamothe. It is quite clear that he had no real basic knowledge on the subject. I would say that he had not even read in any depth the Geneva conventions or the real background to the Australian Government’s claim to the coastal waters of Australia.
We have reached an intolerable situation compared with the rest of the world. I would say that we are the only one of over 100 littoral nations which has not once and for all made a decision on this most important matter. We should be able to go to an international conference with one voice on behalf of the Australian nation and the Australian people but this Government will go to the conference next year and allow this intolerable situation to continue. It is a matter of vital importance. The great wealth of the oceans and the complexity of matters associated with the oceans are great international and national problems.
In the last decade tremendous emphasis has been placed on the resources of the oceans and the development of oil and natural gas exploration rights. From preliminary work we know of the great mineral wealth that lies in the waters, the great potential wealth below the subsoil and also the problems of pollution. All these are national problems. It is no good the Government saying that it will introduce legislation and that the States will introduce mirror legislation. This is completely unsatisfactory. One has only to read what has happened in the last 2 years and relate it to now to see the hypocrisy of the Government on this issue. I find it staggering that members of the Liberal and Country parties who sit opposite can accept the arguments of the Prime Mnister (Mr McMahon) who, when this Bill was introduced, was Minister for Foreign Affairs and responsible for the introduction of this legislation. For reasons apparently known only to himself he seems to have changed his mind and wants to sink this legislation.
I agree with what the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) had to say on the subject.. I think the effect of his words was that this is a matter of great national importance; it should, as much as possible, be above the political arena and this Parliament should take a responsible attitude to a national problem. I quote the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), speaking on behalf of the present Prime Minister when this Bill was introduced. He said:
In these circumstances, the Government feels that, without prejudice to the petroleum agreement and to the action that has been taken in pursuance of it, the constitutional issue should now be decided once and for all, and without delay.
This was said more than 2 years ago. He went on to say:
Until it is so decided the Commonwealth cannot either disclaim responsibility for what is done in off-shore areas or itself take appropriate action.
This is as correct today as it was more than 2 years ago. These were the spoken views of the present Prime Minister of Australia - the Minister responsible for the introduction of this legislation. These strong words, with which the Opposition and some members of the Government parties agree, were endorsed by all members of the Liberal and Country parties in this chamber at that time. A former AttorneyGeneral, the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes), a man of learning who is not here today, has not changed his views in any way on the urgency of settling this problem as quickly as practicable. We know what happened with respect to the views expressed by some members of the High Court. In a joint Press statement with the Minister for National Development, the Attorney-General at that time stated.
We need to know . . . that in entering discussions in the United Nations we are spokesmen for Australia as a whole. This is a national question. . . .
That statement was made 2 years ago. In fact, it is completely true that when Australia goes to the United Nations conference next year it will speak just as the
Attorney-General at that time said. Australia’s representatives at that conference will be spokesmen for Australia as a whole. They must not be in the intolerable situation existing today in which the States have conflicting views and the Government refuses to assert what we on this side of the House believe - that it has clear title of sovereignty over these waters and over the resources in these waters. In June 1970 in a joint communique the Commonwealth Ministers said:
The Commonwealth Government is firmly of the view that it is highly desirable in Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position as to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and the States in off-shore areas resolved as soon as possible.
That statement was made in June 1970. What sort of a responsible government makes an important statement like that and yet is not prepared to put its views into effect and is not prepared to give the Parliament any concrete or substantial reasons why it should not do. so? The Minister for National Development and the then Attorney-General also said:
Once this is resolved the Commonwealth is willing to enter into agreements for the mining of oS-shore minerals other than petroleum and these agreements would be similar to the off-shore petroleum agreements.
That, of course, is a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, the principle is - there that until this Bill which is of national importance is subjected to some positive decision all off-shore mineral exploration will remain ground to a halt. The question of the border between Australia and New Guinea is one which will cause Australia problems in the future. It is important that Australia makes a decision in relation to this matter. At the present time the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia is in one place .100 miles from the coast of Australia but 200 yards from the coast of Papua New Guinea. This is helping to cause friction between the emerging country of Papua New Guinea and the Commonwealth cc Australia. I believe that it should be a matter between the Commonwealth of Australia, not the. State of Queensland, and Papua New Guinea. No doubt this situation will be the cause of much more trouble unless the Australian Government passes this Bill and asserts its sovereignty over the waters around the Australian coast. There are clear guidelines on which to do this, but I agree with the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) that it is the High Court of Australia which in the end will have to determine this problem. There are clear guidelines to be followed if one has a look at what has happened in the United States of America and in Canada. Although the American States, as we know them, have been given protection by the 2 governments of Canada and the United States, the fact remains that under both of those systems of government the title to the seas around that continent lies within the jurisdiction of the governments of Canada and the United States. This has been decided. 1 think it is most important that we consider the many problems which are emerging and in relation to which the laws are uncertain. The right honourable member for Higgins mentioned a decision which apparently has been taken by a State government to give exclusive fishing rights to a foreign company to operate in Australian waters. If the reported statement is correct, this fishing company can protest under particular conditions against Australian fishermen coming into those waters to fish. This type of agreement, if it is reported correctly, is, I believe, quite foreign to the whole principle of Australian agreements. Australian fishermen have to be given priority. I hope that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and those responsible for our fishing grounds are having a close look at the allegations made last night in the newspaper report.
Many other things are emerging which one must mention. Pollution is causing great heartburn. Only a few days ago a world conservation authority made the statement that the sugar industry is responsible for the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef because of the use of fertilisers and insecticides. I think that is a lot of hooey, but who am I to say that? Unless we have Commonwealth research at a high level to determine the significance and the incidence of pollution in the waters around Australia then we will have this type of unsubstantiated statement which causes concern in many parts of Australia. The present laws as they relate to Australian waters - the 3- mile limit, the territorial limit, the fishing rights) - will have to be looked at thoroughly at the United Nations convention next year.
Many other countries, particularly in Latin America, already have made unilateral decisions regarding changes in the breadth of the territorial sea as it relates to fishing rights in the limits of the outer continental shelf.
How can the Commonwealth go to this convention and speak with one voice for the whole of Australia when we know that some States are in marked conflict with each other regarding their definitions of the outer limits of the continental shelf, their definitions of what is a man-made island, caves and reefs, and in relation to where the Commonwealth responsibility might start and end. We have this absurd conflict in Australia today between the States, and here we have a Federal Government which is prepared to allow this state of affairs to continue. Although I made it quite clear when I started to speak that I did not think for one minute that the Commonwealh would take any positive role in the interim period, I had hoped that perhaps the Prime Minister and his Ministers would see the great importance of this problem, not only now but in the immediate future. 1 had hoped that the Commonwealth would not go to the next conference on the law of the sea with this great veil of uncertainty hanging over the heads of the spokesmen who are purported to represent Australia. How can they represent Australia? How can they speak with one voice? They cannot. It is no good the Minister for Foreign Affairs getting up in this place and saying that they can, because already we have numbers of examples, particularly in the fishing world, which are complex. We cannot reach a decision.
While we have this uncertainty in relation to the mythical 3-mile limit and the international sea we know what sort of complex legal arguments would arise if the States or the Commonwealth decided to apply the law. I can remember my friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) raising in the Parliament certain queries regarding this issue. One can imagine the situation of a fisherman who throws his line from one side of the 3-mile limit to the other, crossing with it the mythical boundary. Who is then responsible? Is it the Commonwealth or the State concerned? Nobody can answer that question while the present uncertainty is allowed to continue.
I submit that the House of Representatives must resolve the situation this afternoon. A vote must be taken and I hope that many members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party will come to their senses on this matter and will vote in a positive way.
– When this matter was last before the House a suggestion was made that the Commonwealth Government would turn back and enter into consultations with the States with the end in view of advancing this issue and ultimately settling it. On the basis of that categorical assurance I voted for the adjournment of the debate. That brings me to say at once that no device will be available to any person and no resourcefulness of mind will be able to contrive a stratagem which will encourage me to vote against this matter being resolved today. That is the course. I hope that no honourable member lingers under any sense of ambiguity as to my meaning. I suppose that an individual coming from outside into the House of Representatives and discovering the number of occasions upon which this issue has been debated would be drawn irrevocably to the conclusion that we are a bunch of masochists as far as the territorial sea is concerned. It is no wonder that the old Latin maxim to the effect that in the public interest an argument must be finished came into existence. It is in the public interest that this argument should be finished.
The legislation comes back before us today not by dint of the suggestion for a contingency motion of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) but because, I put with respect, the Government wanted to escape the agony that would be in attendance on that motion. So we go now, as it were, to face the executioner cheerfully if not prayerfully. Two arguments seem to exist against this legislation being resolved. The first one is: ‘Oh well, we are going to enter into a new spirit of co-operation with the States, in co-operative federalism’. It is one of those splendidly vague shibboleths that are employed, depending on the circumstance and upon the burden to be carried.
The second argument is that there is no urgency about this measure. I have heard those 2 arguments ad nauseum and I want to turn back to them today. Before 1 do so, I would like to indulge in the luxury of saying that when this matter was last before us I gave some arguments with respect to its urgency. The silence in response to those arguments I describe as deafening. It is all very fine to say that I adverted to the problems facing a young lieutenant commander in deciding whether there is a transgression with respect to territorial waters. What is the answer of the Government to that practical problem? There is none, other than that we are to resort to co-operative federalism . for a solution.
Those arguments are gone. If some people feel stimulated because they have not been answered, let that stimulation take them where it may. I turn to the first co-operative argument. It follows .the gathering of State Ministers together with the Commonwealth on the law of the sea. A document was put out describing what took place at the gathering. I do not want to upset my friend the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) whose integrity and stature I respect completely, but 1 have always been given to frank speaking and I am not to be dissuaded by respect or friendship from saying that this document represents one of the most shabby collocations of words ever put together after any conference. Two specific matters can be extrapolated from the document. The first is stated in this way:
Stale Ministers, while recognising the desirability of the Commonwealth consulting the Stales regarding international discussions, made it clear that the authority of the Commonwealth to negotiate international agreements has never been questioned by the States.
How indulgent that is of the States. I draw attention to the words ‘whilst recognising the desirability’. I have always thought that the purpose of a federation is to form a nation. When dealing with matters which include an aggregation of national responsibilities the Commonwealth speaks from the fountainhead of power given to it. The second matter which I culled out is the more respectable of the two. It is stated in these words:
Th: Commonwealth emphasised the desirability of removing legal” uncertainties as to where sovereignty lay . . . rejects the idea of the possibility of a series of legal cases.
I ask honourable members to listen to this statement for a gem of initiative and ingenuity:
One proposal pat forward was that a preferable method in the long term would be to determine the question by constitutional amendment.
Is my honourable friend serious about that suggestion? Back in the 1930s every political party in Australia joined together to support a referendum with respect to air navigation and it was rejected. I have detected in my electorate no tumult or controversy that might attend the subject of air navigation. I have seen none with respect to this matter. I put to the Government with the utmost sincerity that it simply is not on. The referendum procedure offers but little opportunity for amending the Constitution.
The second point is in juxtaposition. It was suggested it might be one of the matters which would be brought before the constitutonal review convention. There is a notion abroad, and I think it should be impeached, that this constitutional review convention will be a panacea for all ills, constitutional or otherwise. The simple fact of the matter is that the convention can achieve nothing other than to make recommendations. Beyond that it would he left to the States either to refer powers - and the prospect of that being done would be rather limited, I would submit - or alternatively to conduct a referendum. I would be impressed at least to the extent of being willing to accept the view of a co-operative, movement if the Commonwealth and the States had conferred in regard to the boundaries of the States. I will illustrate that point. In the Bill introduced by the. Government led by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins, there were certain savings. One of them dealt with bays, and I quote:
The application cf this Act does not extend to or in respect of any waters of the Sea that are waters of or are within, any, bay, gulf, estuary, river. . . .
Bays were excepted. In other words to apply the territorial sea provision it must be known where the base line is. When one tries to draw a base line with respect to bays one is faced with a veritable conundrum. Four common law bases have existed since 1900: Twice the territorial sea boundary, which is 6 miles; a measurement of 10 miles; headland to headland; and visual sight. When each one of those cri teria is applied one finishes with a different area of water enclosed. If the States had said to the Commonwealth: ‘Look, even though we. have to settle this at some time in the future by co-operation or else by some other fashion, I think we had better set ourselves to establish a CommonwealthStates mixed boundaries commission’, I would have said, ‘All right, here is an expression of genuineness.’ But I must confess I have the greatest hesitation in accepting this in the absence of anything objective.
– What about proposal
– I will have a look at that proposal. It refers to defining the internal waters of the States and the base line, and puts forward the view that an examination should be made of the feasibility. If the honourable gentleman can convince me that we are moving, that something is being done, I will be quite happy. But I am bound to say at the moment that I think nothing is being done - to the tenth power.
I want to move to the second point, namely that there is no sense of urgency about this. There has been a great sense of exultation about the Australian-Indonesian agreement. I am sorry, I cannot join in the exultation, and I will say why. It is not possible for this Commonwealth Parliament or a Commonwealth government unilaterally to alter the boundaries of a State. That is the effect of section 123 of the Constitution. It cannot be done unilaterally and this is one of the difficulties with respect to the islands in close propinquity to Papua New Guinea. But I want to examine the argument of the States that they have control of the continental shelf. Before turning to that, may I inquire what is meant by the continental shelf? In 1958, the immediate criterion was water out to 200 metres - and tacked on to article 1 of the convention of the continental shelf the exploitability test. In other words there was, to use the language of a Minister in the past, an expanding rim.
The States have said that they agree to the 200-metre mark and they are also prepared to accept the expanding rim doctrine. That is one approach to what constitutes the continental shelf, more compendiously described as the continental margin, which includes the slope and the rise down to the abyssal plain. Alternatively we could accept what has been described in the International Court of Justice decision in the North Sea continental shelf case as the natural prolongation of the land under the sea to the land to which it is appurtenant. Whichever criterion we accept, the States say: ‘We own this”.
This is not a matter of some speculation. I have had the benefit - dubious, I am bound to say - of reading a paper prepared by the former Attorney-General in Queensland, Dr Delamothe, for an address to the National Development Committee of the Government Parties. No opportunity was provided for any person who did not agree with Dr Delamothe to come and talk to that august body. Among other things, he cited from an opinion given by Mr Harold Winneke, Solicitor-General of Victoria. He stated:
The Attorneys-General of the Stales are of the opinion that, subject to a possible exception to be mentioned below-
That was irrelevant - that sovereign rights in respect of the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the Continental Shelf contiguous to the coast of the States are wholly within State authority.
Again, there is no doubt about that. The doctor, who knew more about appendectomies than he knew about the law of the sea, went on to say this:
In my view, then, primarily Queensland owns the maritime belt (3 miles limit) and has also lights to explore and exploit the whole continental shelf.
There is no doubt about that. If the States are right, the Commonwealth is purporting to alter the boundaries of the States, in flat conflict with section 123 of the Constitution. I would be interested to hear an argument coming from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) on that point. If the States are right and they do have sovereignty over the entire continental shelf including the slope then, under the Indonesian agreement, there are certain areas, albeit minute, surrendered either to a form of Indonesian control or completely to them. I would think that it was as arresting a proposition as anything that I could conceive that, pursuant to an international agreement, a Commonwealth government consciously could purport to alter the boundaries of the State.
I come now to the second aspect, that of urgency in this matter. We will be taking part in a law of the sea conference in Geneva next year. Again, taking the assumption that the States do have sovereignty over the continental shelf and over the continental slope - indeed, some of them would go so far as to say over the whole continental margin - one of the crucial issues before that conference next year will be to delineate what is national jurisdiction. This had its origin in a recommendation made by a former Maltese ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Pard, who clamoured for the development of an international regime with respect to the oceans of the world. President Nixon, speaking with all the singular authority of his office, has said that he has a preference for cutting off the national jurisdiction of all countries at the 200- metre mark and that the area from the 200-metre mark out to and including the continental slope - the continental rise down to the beginning of the abyssal plain - should be handed over to a trusteeship, with 50 per cent of the proceeds of exploration - minerals, oils or whatever it may be - going to underdeveloped countries and the other 50 per cent to the coastal States.
What is to be the position of the Australian delegation in those circumstances? No federal saving clause is going to rescue the Australian delegation from the dilemma. 1 know at the moment the view is that we will run along and argue for the best. I am tempted to predict that the majority of nations will opt for cutting off national jurisdiction at the 200-metre mark. If that happens, what is to be the position in relation to the States? State territories are involved and a decision must be made by the Commonwealth with respect to it. Is the Commonwealth going to say, if another nation subsequently seeks to arraign us before some international arbitral body: ‘The States have granted permits to explore and exploit minerals. This is a matter between the Commonwealth of Australia and the components in the Federation’? The nonsense can be seen at first glance.
I suggest that this is the dilemma that the Government is in. Is any person’s reputation seriously to be put in jeopardy by allowing this matter to be resolved in the
High Court? That, after all, is the purpose of the High Court. With great respect, the consultations with the States seem to me to be productive of nothing more than groaning, creaking displays of provincialism. We are dealing with great and important issues here. If I were to conduct a survey in this House and ask all honourable members what has been the dominating feature of the 20th century, I suppose I might be told it was the holocausts of World Wars I and II; but I suspect that it may be the view of many of us that it has been decolonisation, the breaking up of empires where dominions swept across whole continents, with new nations came into being. Fivesevenths of the world in which we live is made up of oceans. Surely to heavens it is not going to be the experience of the 20th century that there is to be set loose the forces of a new colonialism - the race to the swift and to the strong. Surely this is not our wish. Surely this is not to be our hope and surely we will act and behave in a manner which befits a nation and not a gathering of 6 provinces. 1 am proud to be. an Australian. I speak and think of myself as an Australian first. I am proud of The town in which I was born and the State in which I live. But my first responsibility - my first loyalty and allegiance - brings me back to the nation in its corporate sense - and this Bill expresses that. Every move which has been made by the Government with respect to ensuring that this Bill does not get on to the statute book seems to me to fly flatly against the tradition of which I speak and to work flatly against the best interests of this nation.
Mir CONNOR (Cunningham) (2.54) - We have heard notable contributions on this measure from the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). They have both spoken like Australians - like big Australians. I might not agree with their politics but I do agree with their patriotism. The question that is posed in this Bill is whether we, standing here today in a national Parliament, are prepared to assert the fundamental sovereign right, the indubitable sovereign right, of the national Parliament to legislate in respect of its offshore terrain. The Bil itself is exemplary in its drafting, its con ciseness and its general coverage because in it very carefully - and I pay credit to those responsible for its drafting - is every point which would need to be adjudicated on by the High Court of Australia.
In a national Parliament we discuss national issues. As the right honourable member for Higgins said in May of this year, this is a matter of high national politics. Today is the day when the Australians in this House of Representatives can stand up and be counted. There is no alternative to it. This is the Grand Assize of Australia. It is where we speak in terms of national welfare. There was never an issue considered by this House where so much was at stake either in terms of constitutional principle or in the value of the assets involved. The Government has of course put itself into a ludicrous position. It is wearing 2 hats on this issue. A matter of weeks ago we had the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) negotiating in full national status and stature with the- Government of the Republic of Indonesia on an agreement or a- concordat, call it what you wish, and I believe it was a reasonable one and one that was satisfactory to both sides. But having worn that hat of national sovereignty in respect of our transactions with another nation the Government then speaks within Australia in terms of Australian parochialism and as the subordinate, the junior constitutional partner of the 6 separate States.
Let any member of this House answer me these questions: What State accredits ambassadors? What States enter into treaties with other sovereign nations? In what other place but Australia and under a government such as this could we have a situation as is defined in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act where a sovereign national Parliament agrees not to exert its sovereign national rights? A king cannot be less than a king nor can he abrogate any part of his sovereignty. As this is a national Parliament we cannot agree not to exercise national powers. The tail is wagging the dog in Australia today. The 6 States have intimidated, for various reasons, this Government and in doing so they hold Australia up to international ridicule because the right of the Commonwealth is undoubted in respect of the continental shelf.
Where before in Australian constitutional history has the Chief Justice said in advance what his decision would be in one of the most grave and important matters of constitutional law? Where before has he been backed up by one of his brother justices, Mr Justice Windeyer who fully agreed with his sentiments? They are worth quoting and repeating. This was in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia. This is what the Chief Justice of Australia said:
It is quite clear historically, if one examines the descriptions of the territory placed under governorship, that the territory of the original colony of New South Wales except as to certain islands of the Pacific did not extend beyond low water mark on the eastern coastline of the Continent and of the Island of Tasmania: and that as each of the colonies of Victoria and Queensland were severed from it, the territory of those colonies by description also ended at low water mark. The same can be said of the other Australian colonies. Thus the reasons given in the Canadian Case are applicable to the circumstances of those colonies.
If you want to take it further you have no less than the opinion of a former Chief Justice of the International Court of Justice, Sir Percy Spender. These matters were fully discussed and ventilated even before the Bonser case at a legal convention in Sydney. We have reached the apotheosis of state parochialism in this legislation and in the attitude of this Government. As for the States themselves, they are entitled to a fair deal. Any national government would assuredly give proper recognition to them in respect of royalties because, let it be remembered, they provide the infrastructure for the servicing of the off-shore drilling rigs, the pipelines and the like. But this is a fundamental issue and it is of growing importance because in the world today we face a crisis in hydrocarbons and we in Australia have many problems to solve. At the present time with the Bass Strait discoveries and the other off-shore oil productions we can still supply only 70 per cent of out needs of petroleum and allied products, lt has been estimated that within 5 years we will be able to produce only 30 per cent of our needs. On the other hand we would appear to have world ranking supplies of natural gas. This is the nub of the problem. If you want to look at the real causa causans it is simply this: When parochialism was rampant a foolish, stupid, parochial arrangement was entered into between a former Prim;
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Minister and a former Premier of the State of Victoria and today we are suffering from the backlash of it.
One of the by-products of it is the present impasse between the Australian Gas Light Co. and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and its subsidiary, Tubemakers of Australia Ltd. There is a new set of values in relation to hydrocarbons in the world today. When the original Bass Strait agreement was entered into - it is an unspeakable one - the going price was a matter of 30c per 1,000 units for natural gas. In point of fact the Australian Gas Light Co. refused to pay that price after a long haggle and bad blood was created then which exists to this day and will continue to the detriment of Australian industry. We now find that the Australian Gas Light Co. has alternative supplies at 16c to 17c per 1,000 units. But in the world today the United States is suffering an acute shortage and we will have proven surpluses. The United States is prepared to pay as high as $1 per 1,000 units and even the Japanese are prepared to pay 80c per 1 ,000 units.
The prices fixed for crude oil, which at the time were considerably in excess of the going price and which I criticised justifiably in the light of the then scale ot international charges, have been far exceeded. Today and in the future the stature of each nation and its very right to survive will depend upon the availability of hydrocarbons to provide energy needs. It was said that nations in World War II floated to victory on a torrent of crude oil. To this day and for a very considerable time to come that will be the situation internationally.
How is this Government to speak in national terms if it is not prepared to assert its undoubted rights? Does it have ro be skulldragged screaming to the High Court of Australia? That is the position it faces. Let us revert to the case of Bonser v. La Macchia. Has there ever before been such a pathetic spectacle as that of the senior legal representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia and of the State of New South Wales both tiptoeing into the High Court and, very ashamedly and in a very small voice, suggesting to the Chief Justice that he should not adjudicate on the question of sovereignty in respect to the continental shelf? They were rebuked, and rightly so because they were speaking on behalf of little Australians. The present situation stultifies every crown law department in Australia. If the leading legal luminaries - legal advisers - of the respective governments, both Federal and State, were able to speak their minds without inhibition they would say that the sovereign right undoubtedly resides in the Commonwealth; and so it will be.
The right honourable member for Higgins raised also the issues of pollution and fisheries. Australia is an island. It is the smallest of the continents and the largest of the world’s islands. It has the largest of all the continental shelf. - and probably the richest. The largest remaining unproven oil field and natural gas field is to be found off the north west shelf of Australia - off the shore of Western Australia. The whole of the area between the north of Australia and its north west and the East Indies is undoubtedly the world’s major reservoir. In the past we have had too much of this Government abdicating its national responsibilities. We have had too much of it refusing to exercise its proper function to regulate international trade. Let me remind the House that, in respect of the exports of both iron ore and wood chips, the Government reluctantly but finally had to intervene. We have the same pathetic spectacle in respect of coal exports. We are already hearing the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) suggesting in a very subdued voice that it is quite possible that some of the less accessible reserves of the north west shelf could be exported.
We - I am speaking in terms of the incoming Labor administration - will be wanting to see exactly what is involved. There will be no more national sellouts. We will see that Australia’s natural resources are sold in the future at world parity prices. We will see that we arc respected among the other trading nations for our ability to demand our rights and get them. Our honesty and ability to fulfil our contracts are undoubted. Our word is good. But other nations sneer at us because we are soft touches in international trading terms. A total of 140,000 miles of the north west shelf, under the terms of prospecting rights granted by the State of Western Australia, has been given to one firm - Woodside Burmah. Farm- out agreements have been negotiated with almost every major oil exploration and production company in the world and they are to be found there. The results of the infinitesimal part of it which has been tested up to date are fantastic in terms of their financial value.
What does the future hold? Who in this House has not heard of OPEC - the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries? The Arab nations and the Moslem world, where most of the current world oil production happens to be, have got together and decided to assert their rights and their status. They are doing so in no uncertain terms. They are getting high prices. That is a matter for them. It is only within the last fortnight that a Yemeni represetative of the Trucial States in the Arabian Gulf was able to negotiate a contract in unprecedented terms under which 20 per cent of the estates and interests of the oil companies will be purchased by the members of OPEC. The pressure is on. There is no limit to what these countries will decide. The major consuming countries of the world are in a desperate position. I speak of the United States and Japan. They will be looking for alternative supplies. We could supply them with some. But whatever it is, it must be supplied at a proper price. It must be in Australia’s interests and it must be in terms of a contract negotiated by a truly Australian national government. Let us imitate the imitators. MITI - the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Japan - knows just how to handle Japan’s resources. It knows how to buy and how to sell. It also knows how to import and how to export. We can learn a lesson from the Japanese; and learn it we shall. I repeat that today will be the opportunity for the big Australians to stand up and support this legislaton, irrespective of party allegiances. Party allegiances do not matter in a situation like this. The Opposition welcomes the measure.
– This is a Government Bill. The basic idea underlying its introduction was the desirability of determining, in respect of the territorial sea and the continental shelf, the question of where sovereignty lies - what is the jurisdiction of the States and what is the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth? The general objective of seeking to have this question resolved is one with which very few members of this House would quarrel. I for one appreciate and understand the desire that the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) have so clearly and eloquently expressed in their speeches today to achieve that objective. 1 agree that questions of national importance are involved. But since this Bill was introduced it has, I believe, become increasingly evident that the method of using it to achieve that objective is by no means the best one. lt has, indeed, become increasingly evident that if this Bill were to be used as the method it would require very significant amendment.
Before discussing the course which the Government now believes should be followed, I wish to mention 2 points. Firstly, it has been suggested that the lack of resolution of the question between the Commonwealth and the States in some way restricts the Commonwealth’s legal power to negotiate international agreements. That is simply not so. The Commonwealth has power under the external affairs provisions of the Constitution. So it has power to negotiate treaties, to enter into conventions and to make agreements regarding matters - any matters - relating to the law of the sea. The recent agreement Australia entered into with Indonesia settling the boundary of the sea bed between our 2 countries is an example of this. Likewise, the Commonwealth can freely negotiate in respect of the new law of the sea convention. Make no mistake about that. It has complete legal power, it can freely negotiate. The significance of the States in this situation is a significance which occurs in every federal system which has to enter into international negotiations, whether it be for a convention against racial discrimination, an International Labour Organisation convention or any other convention. But when it comes to implementing it in such a country it may be that some of the implementation has to be effected through its States section in its division of sovereignty. But there is no legal restriction on negotiation.
The second point relates to the suggestion that this Bill offers a speedy means of resolving the issues which exist between the Commonwealth and the States on this subject. It is by no means clear that this is so. The experience of 2 other countries with federal systems, both of which have been referred to in this debate - the United States of America and Canada - which have tried to resolve this matter by litigation is by no means encouraging. In the United States of America since 1947 - that is, over a period of a quarter of a century - the matter has been litigated continuously in a series of cases, and 3 of these cases are still current. In Canada a dispute between the provincial governments over off-shore rights is still not resolved notwithstanding the advisory opinion given by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1967 in relation to British Columbia.
It is fair to say that this Bill would be likely to involve a good deal of litigation to resolve the questions which it raises. I would like to refer to clause 9 and clause 1 1 of the Bill. Clause 9 declares that the Commonwealth has sovereignty in respect of the internal waters of Australia. Internal waters are the harbours, the rivers and the lakes, which are normally regarded as part of the sovereign territory of the States. This clause declares that the internal waters of Australia belong to the Commonwealth of Australia. Clause 11 provides an exception to that general proposition. It reads:
The application of this Act does not extend to or in respect of any waters of the sea that are waters of or within any bay, gulf, estuary, river, creek, inlet, port or harbour and -
were, on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and one, within the limits of a State; and
remain within the limits of a State, or to or in respect of the airspace above, or to or in respect of the bed or sub soil of any such waters.
This means that the Commonwealth is asserting a claim to substantial areas of water which are at present administered by the States, not as high seas, not as territorial waters, but as inland waters. The test in clause 11 is the position as at 1901.
At the time of federation, as my learned friend from Moreton (Mr Killen) has said, there were various ways of determining where, in the case of a bay, one drew the base line. Perhaps the most common place to draw it, because there was a 3 mile territorial sea, was 6 miles between the jaws of the bay. They were the internal waters, and outside that line were territorial waters. In 1928-29 a codification conference was held at The Hague at which Australia indicated that it was prepared to jo along with a 10 mile closing line for bays. This proposal was put forward substantially by Great Britain. Subsequently we adopted a 10 mile closing line for bays, so the internal waters moved outwards. Since then the States have administered internal waters - not territorial waters; I have not come to territorial waters yet - out to the base line of the 10 mile limit.
After the 1958 International Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone was entered into we became entitled to take a closing line of 24 miles between the jaws of a bay. For some time we continued with our 10 mile closure and did not trouble about the 24 miles, but on 31st October 1967 I, as Attorney-General, announced in this House that we had decided to apply the principle of the 24- mile closing line wherever that was relevant around the coast of Australia and the Territories. At that point the States treated as internal waters the waters right out to the 24-mile closing line. Then the mapping section of the Department of National Development prepared maps which we supplied to the States in connection with off-shore oil matters, showing 24-mile closing base lines across the bays. These are the ones currently used. At first the States acted on the basis of a 6-mile closing line, then a 10-mile closing line and now for some years a 24-mile closing line. Not only has the Commonwealth not objected to their doing this but it might be seen as having encouraged it a little. Yet this Bill seeks to put them back to the position in 1901. It is hardly surprising that they have indicated a little resistance to this process.
Another element is involved here. The Bill refers to the position in 1901 and that would have to be established all around Australia in a series of cases, physically on the ground, on evidence as to what the position was. One would have to prove where there had been erosion or accretion since then. There is a field here for litigation which would involve the lawyers for a considerable number of years, lt may be that we should delete clauses 9 and 11. But I could go on to indicate how some litigation could arise. One faces up to this if one has to. but all I am saying is that it would be misleading for anyone to conclude that the passage of this Bill will simply lead to a speedy solution to this problem. This sort of procedure has not pro’,ed to be quick in the United States where there has been a series of cases over a quarter of a century, with 3 still current. It has not proved to resolve the problem in Canada where cases are still current. It is obvious that it would not necessarily be a speedy means of solution.
I believe that the course the Government should follow is to make an effort to resolve these difficulties by a process of cooperation with the States. This was stated when the matter was last before the House, in May this year. Following that debate several consultations with the States took place between officials and Ministers. It was discussed at the Australian Minerals Council and at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Finally each State appointed ministerial representatives to confer with the ministerial representatives appointed by the Government. They mct in Canberra on 10th August this year. This matter was discussed and a communique issued after the meeting. I would like to refer to some passages of it. The first extract reads as follows:
The meeting then examined questions concerning the territorial sea and the continental shelf under Australia’s federal system.
The meeting identified problems for the Commonwealth and (he States in regard to these matters and explored possible courses of future action.
The Commonwealth emphasised the desirability of removing legal uncertainties as to where sovereignty lay.
As was indicated in another part of the communique, we discussed the question of a test case. The extract continues:
While this was recognised by the States, they all took the view that a possible seres of legal cases was not a satisfactory method. One proposal put forward was that the preferable method in the long term would be to determine the question by constitutional amendment. It was suggested it might be one of the matters to be brought before the Constitutional Review Convention.
The States unanimously affirmed their opposition to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and their preference for finding a solution through co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Commonwealth does not have to accept that proposition but it is clear that the 6 States - after ali they are partners in this federal system of ours - took that practical view as to the way in which this matter should be approached. The States were unanimously opposed to introducing this Bill as the method and they claimed that it would inevitably lead to what they described as a ‘litigation serial’. They may or may not have been right in that view, but that is what they were putting. The result, therefore, in their view would not be a speedy determination of the issues involved.
In the result the States strongly advocated and favoured a joint examination of other methods of dealing with this question. This was stated in the communique at a later point. It said:
The Stales put forward the view that an examination should be made of the feasibility of -
A solution of the problem of off-shore minerals by means of complementary State and Commonwealth Legislation;
If I may pause there, that is an isolated small section of the problem which is currently urgent because licences are being granted. Therefore, they are suggesting that we should study complementary legislation as a means of dealing with that matter. The communique continues:
That does not restrict the means which may be explored. It is not out of the bounds of possibility that one could, even on that, explore further the question of a test case when one has been through other possible ways of arriving at some accommodation on this matter which would clarify it. The communique continues:
Another point in relation to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources was referred to in the following way:
In relation to petroleum the meeting noted points raised in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources including the question of Ministerial responsibility and agreed that further examination was needed in order to determine whether alterations should be made to the Petroleum Scheme.
After this meeting of the ministerial representatives of the 6 State governments and the Commonwealth Government the following was agreed:
Ministers will report to Governments on today’s discussions and will recommend that urgent studies be made by the Commonwealth and State officials with a view to considering the matters raised by the States and to framing specific recommendations to be submitted to Governments for decision.
I believe that in our federal system this was a responsible and proper approach to what is undoubtedly a complex and difficult question. Subsequently I and my colleagues reported to our ministerial colleagues in the Commonwealth Government. We were not bound to do so but we reported the result of the meeting. My ministerial colleagues were of the opinion that the proposals made at the meeting should be followed up. On 5th September the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) wrote to each State Premier informing him that the Commonwealth was agreeable to the suggested discussions and studies taking place. Since 5th September all State Premiers have replied favourably to the Prime Minister’s letter. So, with the agreement of all existing State governments and the Commonwealth Government, it has been decided that it is responsible and proper now to put to study these matters of internal waters, the means of resolving this question and co-operative legislation in relation to minerals other than off-shore petroleum. In the face of that, I suggest that this Government properly takes the view that it should not at this time seek to force through this Parliament and pass the Bill before the House thus bringing about a legal confrontation. That, of course, is basic to the question.
– It is your Bill.
– My whole speech is based upon that fact, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) well knows. Therefore, it is considered that this discussion with the States, as agreed by all governments, should proceed. The Government wishes not to remove the Bill, but it considers that further consideration should be deferred while these discussions proceed. 1 suggest that that is the responsible course to adopt.
– I gather from the speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) that he will be voting against the Bill. He is the first speaker today and on any of the occasions on which this Bill has been debated to oppose the Bill.
– I have not opposed the Bill.
– Will the Minister vote against the Bill?
– You will find out.
– Thank you for the courtesy.
– I thought I was perfectly clear in what I said.
– I thought there was only one person in the Government who could not make up his mind. The Minister can be speaking in 2 capacities, one as the Minister representing the present AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) and the other as Minister for Foreign Affairs. As regards his capacity as Minister representing the Attorney-General, let me quote what was stated as the legal position by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) in his capacity as Acting Minister for External Affairs when this Bill was introduced on 16th April 1970. He said:
That is, the question of sovereignty under the federal system - . . has been specifically answered by the courts in both of the 2 overseas federations which are of particular interest to Australia - the United States and Canada. In the United States, the matter was litigated in the Supreme Court by the State of California, and subsequently by other States. In Canada by virtue of a special legislative provision, the question was referred to the Supreme Court, at the instance of the Federation itself in relation to the Province of British Columbia. In both federations the Supreme Court answered the basic question in the same way. Sovereign control over the mineral resources of both the territorial sea and the continental shelf was held to be vested in the Federation alone, to the exclusion of the component States or Provinces.
I would imagine that that expression of opinion was confined by the AttroneyGeneral of the time, the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes). It is a matter of notoriety that he adheres to that opinion still. However much the Minister for Foreign Affairs, representing the AttorneyGeneral, may talk around the question, he has not suggested any more prompt or effective way of determining matters of jurisdiction in this vexed field. As the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) said this morning, it is not good enough to leave it to private litigants to determine this matter. Wc have been promised for 2i years a Federal Act which then can be challenged by any State AttorneyGeneral in the High Court. This question ought to be determined by governments or at the instance of governments. There is nothing that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said which holds out any hope for an expeditious or effective determination of this issue. He now talks around the legal situation. He has not in fact repudiated the view which was expressed at the time the Bill was introduced.
On the other hand, he may be speaking in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Let us recall that this Bill wa3 introduced on behalf of the then Minister for External Affairs, the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), during his absence. When he returned to Australia the Bill was then on the notice paper in his name, and it remained on the notice paper in his name for the better part of a year until he succeeded to the Prime Ministership. Apparently he is not speaking on the Bill even at this stage. However, when the Bill was introduced on his behalf it was a matter of urgency that it should be dealt with. It was said, on his behalf, that the constitutional issue should now be decided once and for all, and without delay. The Minister for National Development said when introducing the Bill:
The Government’s view is that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable.
Now 2i years later we are no nearer to having it determined. The States have acted with no expedition on this matter. There is still no agreement between the Commonwealth and States on this matter. Even if there was a purported agreement between them, it would still fall to be determined by the High Court at the instance of anybody who did not like any of the laws which any of the parliaments, or all of the parliaments, purported to pass pursuant to that agreement. Should this be determined without delay? One would have thought that the whole House was in agreement with this point of view at the time the Bill was introduced in April 1970. Everybody who has spoken on this Bill has said that it was urgent and that it was in the national interest.
The point that I particularly want to make is that we can get no comfort at all from the history of CommonwealthState agreements in these matters, where the Commonwealth has the jurisdiction to enter into international agreements. Everyone concedes - even the States concede - that the States have no international status at ali. They cannot be represented or present at any international gathering. Internationally they are still British colonies, and it falls to the Commonwealth, as it has ever since the nation was federated-
– The States were invited to environmental councils.
– They can attend as observers. They cannot attend as delegates. No State can be represented at any international conference. No State can vole at any international conference.
– State representatives were made members of the Commonwealth delegation.
– Very well, State representatives were members of the Commonwealth delegation. They were not there as members of any State delegation. This is an international truism which applies to the Australian States, the States of the United States of America, the Canadian Provinces and the German Lander, lt is the Federal people, for better or for worse, who have the sole right to vote and speak at any international gathering.
In some matters the Commonwealth has sought the co-operation of the States. On a former occasion the Minister had pointed out the position under the constitution of the International Labour Organisation. This is one international body at which the Commonwealth alone can be represented, but where the conventions are not, in the terms of the organisation’s constitution, able to be ratified by the Commonwealth alone. The Commonwealth has to have the State laws in conformity with the conventions before they can be ratified. Incidentally, the Commonwealth cannot apply those conventions to any of its external Territories until it ratifies them on behalf of Australia.
Honourable members will see from an answer I received on 31st May 1972, as reported at page 3379 of Hansard, that there are 72 ILO conventions - more than half of the ILO conventions - which the States have not agreed to the Commonwealth ratifying. This is an instance where the Commonwealth cannot act internationally unless the States legislate. The States have not legislated in regard to more than half of the ILO conventions.
Then there is the question of human rights. Two States, New South Wales and South Australia, have not yet brought their laws into conformity with the requirements of the 1950 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others and Final Protocol. Queensland has not yet brought its laws into conformity with the requirements of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The United Nations General Assembly resolved that 1968 should be the International Year on Human Rights, and 1971 should be the International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. On each occasion Australia found that the States would not co-operate in permitting the Commonwealth to ratify international conventions in the field of human rights. Honourable members can get the details from an answer given to me by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 31st August 1972, reported on page 1112 of Hansard.
I shall give another instance. I refer to the maritime conventions, and here honourable members can see from an answer given to me by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) on 25th May 1972 the extreme delay which the States have imposed on the ratification of certain international conventions in the maritime field - Safety of Life at Sea, Pollution of the Sea by Oil and others in the oil pollution field. There are others covering general matters such as damages and civil liability and nuclear materials and load lines.
It may be that in the case of the maritime conventions the Commonwealth does not have to wait until the States have legislated. I would imagine that the Commonwealth could act in this field under the external affairs paragraph in section 51 of the Constitution just as it has done in respect of civil aviation conventions. Nevertheless, as a matter of practice, the Commonwealth has waited until the States have legislated in all these fields of safety and pollution at sea, and the States have not co-operated. I need not go into other fields, such as that of criminal law within 3 miles of the coast because, here again I ask: What is the position as the law stands at the moment? There can be breaches of Commonwealth or State laws; there can be violence or worse in that 3-mile belt around our coast. Who passes the laws in this respect? The position has already arisen regarding the loss of lives at sea. Do the State workers compensation laws apply in respect to ships which are going between one port and another in the same State? No decision has been taken before the courts. Settlements have been imposed on the parties because of the cost of litigation.
Where there is an ILO requirement for State legislation, where there is in practice a requirement for Human rights legislation by the States, where is the co-operation? We have left the maritime conventions to the States but the States have not acted. There are some ILO conventions going back to 1919 which the States will not apply. In relation to human rights I have quoted conventions from 1950 onwards and in relation to maritime matters I have quoted conventions from 1957 onwards. Is the Commonwealth to wait until the States move at their leisurely disparate fashion in this field of the territorial sea and the continental shelf? Australia is a continent on its own. It is important for Australia to assert its rights to fisheries, to the sea bed, and to the riches of the sea bed and of the territorial sea. We are, moreover, adjacent to a great number of archipelagos. We are one of the largest trading nations by sea in the world. It is important that we should be able to deal with other countries in questions related not only to fisheries and the sea bed but also to peaceful transit. In what shape is our nation, in what shape is the present Government or any future government at international conferences when it is dealing with these resources and with transit rights?
The extraordinary position has arisen in which everybody who has spoken on this Bill at any time that it has come up or has been brought up has been in favour of the Bill. This is Government legislation. It was mentioned in the speech of the Governor-General when he opened the Parliament in March 1970. Whatever changes there may have been in Prime Ministers and Ministers since that time, no-one has asserted that this measure has ceased to be part of the Government’s programme. The Governor-General’s Speech is still the programme, one would have thought, of the McMahon Government. This Bill was introduced on behalf of Mr McMahon when he was Minister for External Affairs. Now, he may try to slide away from that situation. I remind honourable members of what he said about it on 30th September last year. In a question to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) 1 made a reference to this Bill. I said:
In a very thoughtful and scholarly speech in April last year the Minister forecast Commonwealth legislation providing detailed rules under which offshore mining titles might be issued . .
In answering my question the Minister for National Development said:
That is, my comments - regarding the speech which, I may say, 1 made on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time because it was in relation to a matter which concerned the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Hansard report continues:
– Could you thank him on my behalf too?
– I think that ought to be recorded.
– I will see that it is recorded. The Prime Minister a’so extends his thanks to the Leader of the Opposition.
It might not be unusual but it is still deplorable that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) should seek to slide away from things which he is reported in Hansard as saying as recently as 30th September 1971. This Bill was introduced in April 1970 on his behalf. Until he became Prime Minister it remained on the notice paper in his name. In September last year he wanted it recorded that he thanked me for the tribute that I paid to the scholarly and constructive speech delivered on his behalf when that Bill was introduced, ls the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who preceded me in this debate, repudiating his Leader, the right honourable member for Lowe, in his former capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs or in his present capacity as Prime Minister, or is the Minister in the same state of indecision as is his Leader, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs?
I conclude with a couple of other examples of where, not in the international field but in the domestic field, we have sought the co-operation of the States. It will be remembered that in 1958, and then with full reasons in 1959, the all-party Joint Committee on Constitutional Review recommended that there should be Commonwealth jurisdiction over companies and also restrictive practices. The then Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, the present Chief Justice, aspired to get uniform legislation on these subjects by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. On restrictive trade practices not a single State government of his political persuasion was prepared to co-operate. The only Stares which were willing to co-operate had Labor governments. Finally, the Commonwealth had to legislate on its own in the restrictive practices field. Nevertheless, there was still an attempt to get a uniform companies law. We still have not got it. For over 12 years the principal law officers of the 7 governments in Australia have spent hundreds of hours meeting together, and their advisers have spent thousands of hours, trying to bring about a uniform company law for Australia. We still have not got it.
– There is a uniform companies law.
– But it is not uniform.
– Yes it is.
– No, it is not uniform. Whether it is in international matters where we are compelled to seek the co-operation of the States, in international matters where we have chosen to wait for their cooperation, or in these internal matters where we have sought their co-operation we have not had it, and we will not have it in this field. The urgency, the importance and the national interest involved in the speech made in April 1970 are still valid.
– To facilitate the vote I move:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Giles) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is: That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 11 October (vide page 2462).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $43,549,000.
– The Department of National Development must be regarded as one of the most important Federal departments. It is directly concerned with the land, water, mineral, forest and off-shore resources of this nation and the application of labour, capital and management to those resources. The Department is very concerned with the administration and development of resources in the various States of the Commonwealth. It is concerned internationally with many organisations which deal with the development of Australia’s resources. It is also a department which has, indirectly, very important powers through advice to the Government on matters concerning specific exports from this country. On several occasions the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) has taken action with respect to the export policy on and price of basic resources such as iron ore and woodchips. The Department also determines the export policy on materials such as uranium, as it did in the earlier days with iron ore.
The Department of National Development is very important to the Federation and I believe its various components will become more important in the future. In fact, Australia’s growth, prosperity and heritage are tied up with the development of our natural resources. The annual level of national income, the various annual economic growth rates, the annual performance of the balance of payments, the distribution of wealth throughout Australia and the establishment of settlement areas in the great cities, the provincial cities and the country towns are all factors which are directly concerned with the development of Australia’s resources. The burning question in recent years of decentralisation will become an important factor in determining policies as they relate to national development.
There are only 2 deliberate ways in which settlement can be established. The nucleus will have to be built on people or resources. The best example of the development of cities and towns in Australia by the compulsory transfer or settlement of people is Canberra, and to a lesser degree Townsville - toy the transfer of Army personnel. The whole of Australia has developed through its natural resources. The next step was the development of processing works and tertiary industries to support the basic development. In Australia today new towns are developing. There is great activity in this field in my own electorate. New towns like Goonyella, and the new areas of Saraji and Hail Creek involve or will involve the establishment of people with new transport development and new national development. In the field of national development, there are various Commonwealth, State and private organisations working on research and on the evaluation of basic natural resources. Without question, within the Department itself, excellent work is being done by such bodies as the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the division concerned with forestry and, of course, the division concerned with fuel, energy and the like. Practically all major development projects involve State and Commonwealth policies. Although it is the sovereign right of the State to determine the organisation and development of its own resources, nevertheless the Commonwealth, because it is the financing power, because it has control over exports and imports and because it has particular and specific powers in relation to taxation fields, is of vital importance to the States when it comes to organised development.
But there are major problems in developing resources in Australia and I believe that this is one of the main reasons why we have seen such accelerated development of Australian resources by foreign companies. First of all, the States just do not have sufficient funds for large scale development of land, power, water resources, transport etc. The States also do not have adequate staffs to be able to evaluate and measure the feasibility of large projects and to make judgments whether or not they should plough money into them. Also, it seems that many projects in Australia are influenced by qualitative means. This is one of my great arguments and it is something to which I have certainly taken exception ever since I have been in this Parliament, namely, that feasibility studies are influenced in the departmental sense by political pressures.
By that, I do not mean that politics come into it in any way in making decisions, but certainly the political climate at a point of time often influences the speed at which decisions are taken by depart ments in the field of national development, particularly when they have to consider projects from the point of view of interdepartmental committees. I could give many examples of the frustrations that I experienced with the operations of interdepartmental committees before I entered Parliament. Often it does not matter how technically sound a project is; if the climate is not right for development it is often difficult to obtain a decision, even from an interdepartmental committee.
One has only to look at the great number of decisions taken in the 1960-61 period, when the Menzies Government was desperately looking for developmental projects. The projects went through the interdepartmental committees very quickly as compared with the snails pace at which they went through the committees about 4 or 5 years after that date. Often this is influenced by the political climate at the time. There is no disguising the fact that the major policy making departments, particularly the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Treasury, are conscious of Government policy in these fields of accelerated development. It has always been my opinion - and I have always agreed with the recommendations of the Vernon Committee - that the function of an interdepartmental committee should be completely divorced from any political arena. It should present the facts and the truth, and nothing but the facts and the truth, as quickly as possible to the Ministers and to the Cabinet and not delay simply because, say, the permanent heads of relevant departments believe that the political climate is just not right to present a report at that point of time.
Members will recall that one of the major recommendations of the Vernon Committee’s report to overcome many of these problems was to establish what is called a special projects commission which would be clothed with powers to investigate proposals for major development projects in Australia.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I intend to confine my remarks to a couple of matters with regard to national development that I feel are important. Within the last few years, much has been said about financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the States, and much has been done by this Government in this regard. Also, there has been much talk of cooperation with the States on development projects, most of which have been in the mining industry, the conservation of water and flood mitigation. But there are other areas of industrial and agricultural enterprise which I feel could be investigated by the Department of National Development for the benefit of a community and a State, and which would also be in the national interest. There has also been a great deal said about decentralisation, and the urban and regional development policy introduced by the Government recently is to be commended in this regard. In my opinion decentralisation plays a vital part in planned development and, to achieve this, sensible use of available land must be made and sensible thinking in the planning for long term projects must be undertaken.
Combining these thoughts of long term planning, the use of land, planned development, decentralisation, benefits for the community and the State, and national interest, one such industry to which I feel more attention should be paid is forestry. We are extremely fortunate in Australia that we can grow all the types of timber we could possibly need and, in my opinion, we should not have to rely on importing more and more timbers to meet our requirements for this product, lt is a fact that in the last few years more attention has been paid to this matter of reafforestation than ever before, and the recently introduced Softwood Forestry Agreement Bill between the Commonwealth and the States assists considerably. But I think it is still not enough to guarantee supplies of this commodity for domestic use for future generations, and I class it high on my list of priorities in national development.
The softwood planting programme in Queensland, for instance, has been restricted considerably because of the lack of finance, and 1 feel that while it is considered that reafforestation is a State concern, this will always be the case. I personally feel that it should be a matter of national concern, and not one to be considered for State decision only. While I agree that the State must have the final say in regard to land usage for reafforestation programmes and control of the forests, I am positive that close liaison and co-operation could overcome any problems in this regard and that planting programmes of any respectable size should be classified as national development.
One of the reasons I would classify it as national development, apart from the milling of the timber, is the possibility of the establishment of pulp mills, combined with other fibres, which could develop into a healthy and prosperous export industry. I first mentioned this some 4 years ago, and submitted a softwood planting programme for implementation in the Ingham district of north Queensland, where seasonal conditions are such that softwoods could reach a reasonable state of maturity in a period of from 10 to 12 years. The submission was investigated and 1 have been assured that the scheme was feasible and economically sound. If this could be developed as a national project, a forest of 100,000 acres and more could be established in some of the best softwood country in Australia. I also submit that this land could be used for other purposes as well as softwood forests. For instance, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in north Queensland, in the course of its pastoral research, has, I believe, developed a pasture which can thrive in a forest such as I have mentioned, and I visualise stock grazing on this pasture until the forest reached maturity. So there would be a double use for this land.
Naturally enough, I do not submit that the whole acreage be planted in the one season, but that a planting programme of so many thousand acres annually be undertaken. 1 submit also that included in this national development project a pulp mill should be established in this district. I am informed that the softwoods, together with the fibres that constitute the cane waste known as ‘bagasse’, would make a pulp which would be readily acceptable and sought after on overseas markets. The demand for good quality pulp on world markets, I have no doubt, will continue and remain high for a great number of years to come, and the establishment of such an enterprise to my way of thinking would be sound long term economic planning. Apart from this, it would create employment and assist the economic development of the Ingham district, which would be completely justified under the Government’s plans for decentralisation and regional development. In the establishment of such a programme there would not be a shortage of labour or materials as we already have the experienced foresters in the area and sufficient tree seedlings are also available. I think it is plainly a case of decision by the Commonwealth, in cooperation with the State of Queensland, to regard this as a completely national development project, which I am sure would be extremely beneficial in the national interest.
Again, talking of long term planning in the national interest, 1 refer to the beef roads project in north Queensland, which is a national development project. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Government should be commended for the part it has played in opening up our grazing lands in the western country, and for the quick transport of stock through our beef roads system. But there is one addition that could be made to the system which would be of tremendous benefit and improve the whole roads system considerably. In the overall context of the roads system this would be classed as a minor matter, but it is one which, if it were implemented, could be of great benefit, again in the national interest. As it is at the moment, beef roads closest to the western side of the Divide run north and south, and while it is possible in the present system to travel anywhere in western Queensland and the Gulf country, and for some way up the Peninsula, to reach the north Queensland eastern coastline means a long, arduous journey. This matter could be rectified quite simply with the construction of a link road from the Ingham district to the closest north-south beef road across the Divide, and another from the Tully district to that same north-south road.
A study of a map of the present beef road system and the projected system would show that these short link roads would make a tremendous difference to people and to stock coming to the coastal areas. It would in fact establish 2 means of road communication to the southern part of the State where now only one exists. There would be a coastal route from the north to the south as well as the inland route. I trust that the lesson we were taught during the last great drought period has not been forgotten. I am positive that many of our stock could have been saved if a ready access to coastal pastures had been available. In fact I am sure that we would not have the problem we are experiencing now in restocking if our breeders could have been transported quickly to the coastal areas. Apart from the saving it would create in a drought period, the access to other useful land would be worthy of consideration. At the present moment this would not be possible because of the long, arduous route that has to be taken to reach the populated areas on the eastern coast. It could open up further reafforestation projects and possibly agricultural projects.
Another thought worthy of consideration would be the splendid opportunity these link roads would make for the tourist industry, lt would be possible to travel through some of Australia’s most scenic country and give ready access to the coastal area and our vast hinterland to the tourist. The link road from the Tully district to the nearest beef road would provide a quick means of communication for trade and tourism from the tablelands to the coastal centres and this in terms of domestic economy would be invaluable. In terms of economy in the national interest, the forestry scheme and the link roads system I have mentioned would provide a valuable asset in the long term. The matters I have mentioned earlier such as community benefit, the State and national benefit, decentralisation, planned development, sensible use of land and long term planning are all embodied in these 2 projects. While the forestry scheme for the Ingham district would be a new development, the link roads I have mentioned could be included in the next beef road programme allocation. I do not think the initial cost to implement these schemes would be great, especially in view of the returns that would be made from them. While I consider that the Government has made remarkable progress through the efficiency of the Department of National Development, I would request that these submissions I have made receive earnest consideration in any development plans for the future.
– In dealing with the estimates for the Department of National Development we are dealing with governmental policy as far as the mineral industry is concerned. Equally important, we are dealing with the Government’s attitude and policies in relation to overseas ownership, investment and control. I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) to his Government’s failure to face up to the adverse effects which foreign companies can exert upon healthy Australian subsidiaries. To be specific, the most blatant example is the recent purchase of the Avonmouth Smelter, Bristol, United Kingdom, by Conzinc Riotinto of Aust. Ltd, or more specifically Australian Mining and Smelting, United Kingdom, from Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation Ltd which was a deal to rid RTZ of a smelter which has been losing money consistently and which has a very doubtful future resulting from pollution and a lack of profitability. If after 12 months under the control of the subsidiary of CRA it is not put on a profitable basis and the plant is closed down - I do not suggest it will close down but assume that it may close down - the holder of the redeemable preference shares, that is, RTZ, has first claim on the assets which total $15.2m. lt is obvious that insofar as RTZ is concerned it cannot lose but CRA can. It is equally obvious that it must accept all actual operating losses.
The basic facts are set out in the ‘Nation Review’ issue of August this year. The article in it states:
RTZ’s biggest troubles lie in a lead-zinc smelter at Avonmouth, near Bristol, United Kingdom. The smelter’s lead discharges into the environment and the effects on the staff working in it blew into an international scandal late last year. The resulting official inquiry under Sir Brian Windeyer, the vice-chancellor of London University, was reported late last month. But in October 1971, before the scandal had blown, RTZ and 2 of its part Australian-owned and Australian resident subsidiaries . . had entered upon a tentative deal whereby the down-under companies would take over Avonmouth through a jointly owned company. . . .
It goes on to state:
What of the Avonmouth deal? Originally costing RTZ a capital outlay of 15 million pounds sterling ($36m at the exchange rate … in May 1968), the English company is reported to have spent another $20m since then in attempted improvements and operating losses. Sir Valston Duncan referred to it as the cross we have to bear, in April 1971. The offer from the Australian companies was said to include up to $6m in cash and up to $12m in preference shares in a company whose sole asset was to be the smelter. Surely this deal implies that CRA is being asked to take all the risks and accept all the losses which it seems are inevitable from the future operations of the Avonmouth smelter whilst RTZ is freed from a very costly burden which has dragged down the value of its shares. It might be good company financial policy but the politics of it for this country demand investigation. Since production at the RTZ plant and the Imperial Smelting Furnace began it has been plagued with problems, both financial and pollution. Several years of substantial losses have been incurred in operating ISF and the production process has been the subject of searching inquiry. What is abundantly obvious in the previous situation is that RTZ was forced to carry the burden resulting from the losses of ISF. But what ought to be brought out into the open is that at the very same time RTZ needed finance to invest in other ventures, principally in South West Africa. To dilute the profitability problem of Avonmouth RTZ has now sold, to its Australian subsidiary, CRA, a company in which there is substantial Australian equity but not sufficient for any real Australian control. The disposal of Avonmouth to CRA has solved 3 basic problems for RTZ: Firstly, it has provided the additional capital required for the development of the uranium deposits in South West Africa; secondly, it has ensured a flow of funds from Australia without incurring withholding tax; and, thirdly, it has retained ownership of the smelter. In the terms announced, AMSE can withdraw if it finds that the smelter cannot operate profitably at the end of 12 months. But is that prospect likely? 1 doubt it.
The real danger to Australia in the future lies in what this deal may lead to without some very tight controls being exercised on the export of untreated Australian lead and zinc ores and concentrates.
The future of the Cockle Creek and Port Pirie smelters are very much in the limelight, as their future can be decided in much the same way as Avonmouth’s by the board of RTZ in London, particularly in the absence of national policy restraints. The closing of Avonmouth actually would bring to an end an era of Australia-United Kingdom participation in lead zinc smelting that has been based on a government to government agreement which was made in about 1918. Of course, conditions have changed radically since then, but government agreements are still necessary to protect our mineral resources and the processing of same as much as possible in Australia and new agreements need to be made now.
One is bound to ask: Has the sale of the Avonmouth smelter to CRA by RTZ the approval and support of the Commonwealth Government, knowing that its future is extremely doubtful and that the financial risks have to be taken chiefly by the Australian-based company? Has the Government defined a policy to protect and expand the smelting industries at Cockle Creek and Port Pirie that are controlled by CRA in the light of the purchase by it of Avonmouth and its large investment in the Holland plant now under construction? Surely this transaction, deal, swindle or scandal - depending upon the angle from which one views the matter - ought to be the subject of a searching detailed inquiry. The shareholders have a right to know the facts. The national Government has an obligation to assess what effect this deal will have on industry and employment, both in the short and the long term. I make the humble prognostication that neither the Minister for National Development nor the Government will do so. If that is the case, I request that the matter be immediately referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for detailed investigation.
In the limited time that I have at my disposal I would suggest that the following should be the terms of reference of any inquiry into RTZ: Firstly, is it a fact that in recent years the Avonmouth zinc-lead smelter has encountered 2 very significant problems - pollution and a lack of profitability? Secondly, is it a fact that this company has encountered financial difficulties resulting from the West German Govern ment’s decision to withdraw from a joint uranium venture in South West Africa? Thirdly, was this company’s solution to sell the Avonmouth smelter to its partly owned profitable Australian subsidiary CRA? Fourthly, did such a transaction result in (a) the repatriation of profits in CRA without the payment of an Australian withholding tax; (b) the disposal of an unprofitable asset whose effect would be to dilute the profitability of an Australian subsidiary, so distributing some of the burden of losses from the United Kingdom to Australian shareholders and the Australian Treasury, and (c) the provision of funds to go ahead with the South West African project?
Fifthly, and this is the important point, what effect did it have on Australian shareholders? In particular, what effect did it have on the loss of profitability due to the acquisition of a loss producing asset? Could it result in the prices of lead and zinc concentrates going to the required subsidiary at lower prices? Were Australian shareholders fully acquainted with the acquisition; if not, why not? Has CRA disclosed all the details of the transaction - how it intends to convert a position of liability into one of profitability; if not, why not? What are all the factors involved? Will it inhibit the establishment in Australia of new zinc and lead smelters to process Australian concentrates profitably? What uncertainties exist as such that relate to future United Kingdom pollution controls? Could any such measure result in CRA being required to outlay considerable sums to meet pollution control devices?
Sixthly, insofar as the Australian Government is concerned, what effect would the loss of profitability have and by what level would taxation diminish? What would be the quantum of loss of economic activity with the consequential loss of employment opportunities and income producing effects? What would be the effect of the diversion from Australia of the much needed capital required for further development? To what extent has there been an avoidance of Australian tax by the repatriation of profits to purchase Avonmouth without the payment of a withholding tax? What would be the loss of taxation revenue on corporate profits due to zinc/lead refining taking place outside Australia?
What would be the possible loss of taxation on profits due to the selling of zinc and lead concentrates at less than the true market price in order to avoid incurring excessive losses at Avonmouth? What would be the effect of the diversion of talented Australian management expertise to activities outside of this country? I would like an indication of the Government’s attitude to what I believe is a scandal.
– I wish to take part in the debate on the estimates for the Department of National Development. 1 support the appropriation of $43,549,000 to this Department, which compares more than favourably with the expenditure of $39,370,543 last financial year. Because, the Department of National Development covers such a very extensive area of development in Australia, including the petroleum, mining and gas fields, it would not be possible for me in the time available to comment on everything. Therefore. I have selected the petroleum exploration and development section of the national development field in Australia for my comments.
Petroleum produces something like 48.6 per cent of Australia’s primary energy. Finds of petroleum at Barrow Island, Moonie and in the Bass Strait have made a great impact on our economy and have saved Australia millions of dollars in foreign exchange. It is essential to keep a very active programme of exploration and drilling activities in Australia as certain producing fields are showing signs of the possibility of a reduced production. Our petroleum demands are increasing all the time. I am referring to our demands for motor spirit, aviation turbine fuel, heating oil, automotive distillate and fuel oil, to say nothing of the great demands for lubricating oils.
Following an investment of approximately 31,00m to find and bring existing reserves of oil and gas into production. Australia now stands seventeenth internationally as an oil producer. Some 120 million barrels of oil are now being produced each year. Eighty per cent of it is coming from the 2 very prolific and well located fields off the coast of Victoria. They produce some 300,000 barrels a day.
Barrow Island produces some 50.000 barrels a day, whilst 2 small Queensland fields produce some 3,000 barrels a day. Great concern is held in this field because it is quite evident that the supply from Moonie is very much on the decline. Looking ahead, it is apparent that the present producing fields will be able to produce of the general order of 137 million barrels a year until 1980 and, probably for the next decade, at 100 million barrels a year, but that they will decline to a third of that figure by 1990.
Let us have a look at the demand side. The Department of National Development predicts that Australia’s crude oil consumption will be 250 million barrels a year in 1975, 350 million barrels a year in 1980 and 450 million barrels a year in 1985. The current consumption is about 190 million barrels a year. Next year we will be about 75 per cent self sufficient in known oil. In 1975 we will be about 65 per cent self sufficient; in 1980 we will be about 35 per cent self sufficient; and in 1985 we will be about 20 per cent self sufficient. Those figures speak for themselves. It is obvious to the layman that Australia must have an active exploration and drilling programme lined up so that it can meet future demands with confidence and save, as I have already mentioned, millions of dollars in foreign exchange. In times of war it will also give us security to have our own petroleum supply. Looking back we find that some SI. 000m has been invested in exploration to provide, in 1971-72, a $300m cash flow, thus saving S60m on the present overseas landed cost of imported similar petroleum.
The cutback in oil exploration in Australia in recent years may be reversed this year. Off-shore exploration activity appears to be recovering steadily. On-shore it is expected that more wells will be put down this year. There must be a minimum level of activity to justify the contractors keeping equipment in this country. Last year a few oil rigs left this country and went to our neighbours in Indonesia because there were not sufficient programmes for them to be maintained and employed in exploration in this country. That situation is to be deplored. It would appear that the position is now being rectified.
We recently witnessed in this country a drastic strike in the petroleum refining industry, one that nearly paralysed the everyday and commercial life of even’ one of us. It occurred in the maintenance section of the industry. Many key industries came to a standstill. In its recent annual report and balance sheet the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd disclosed that S25m of its gross income was lost by the shut-down of the Esso-BHP field in Bass Strait. Other oil companies operating in this country lost $1Om in sales and production. We are still feeling the effects of this unnecessary strike, particularly in northern New South Wales and Queensland where harvesting is in operation. There is a shortage of petrol - mainly of super grade petrol which comprises 80 per cent of the market in this country. What a time to have a strike of national importance on our hands, when the grain is about to be harvested. We have had droughts in this country and we want to get what little grain there is harvested as quickly as possible.
There is no doubt that the petrol strike could have threatened, and may still threaten, the possibility of harvesting this grain promptly. As I said, for such a strike to occur at harvest time is a crime. We must instil some commonsense into our key unions which appear to be and which are no doubt communist controlled. The shortage is so acute as a result of the strike that the oil industry in Australia has arranged for tankers to come from the Persian Gulf to overcome our problem. In Australia we have spent millions of dollars developing crude oil resources and we find that we are thrown to the wolves by the irresponsible action of these communist controlled unions.
I want to refer briefly to the fact that the present Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) has done a magnificent job in this field. He has visited all the major industrial undertakings, the major oilfields, the mining fields and the gas fields in this country. Through his efforts and those of his Department the total expenditure provided under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act has now reached SI 13,998m. Under his direction great development has occurred in the mining industry and in the petroleum industry in Australia. But we must watch this position carefully. We must see that adequate exploration work is going on in the petroleum industry in Australia, which is so important from a defence point of view and from a foreign exchange point of view. I am pleased to have taken part in this debate and to have brought to light this particular section of industry which I feel is of essential benefit to Australia.
– The estimates for the Department of National Development provide an opportunity for honourable members to discuss the broad question of the activities of the Department and the direction of that important part of Australia’s national growth and development. Where development has occurred there have been eruptions of multi-national corporations which have been aided and abetted by the Government in the plunder of our resources, lt is true that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has made a significant contribution in providing technical information to oil and mineral search companies. The Division of National Mapping also has rendered outstanding service to the Parliament, the Minister and the nation. The Joint Coal Board with its limited scope and application has given valuable aid to the coal mining industry. What is wrong is the refusal of the Government to plan the development of this nation. Earlier today we had a spectacle of the Government refusing to deal with the broad spectrum of development and the legality of the coastline of our country. I will not discuss that in detail.
There is a need, if this country is to go forward, to have clearcut plans for the development of the nation - not as to what some company will do in developing some part of the nation, but for the Government itself to co-ordinate the development of this country, to have regard for our resources and to consider what will be required in the years that lie ahead. A national energy policy is long overdue but the Government and the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) steadfastly refuse to do anything about this. The Minister has said that it is a complex matter. Indeed it it, but this complex matter has been dealt with by other nations in a most effective way. Countries that we regard as less competent than ourselves, countries less endowed with natural resources, have adopted policies for energy and power which make this country seem to be a backward provincial area. It is necessary to have an energy policy which will deal with the production and marketing of our resources with regard, firstly, to the needs of this nation. It is necessary to bring into harmony all of the nation’s resources and to plan their utilisation and management.
National requirements must be placed first and distribution must be wisely planned and considered, not for the Australia of today or for 100 years but for some thousands of years. It is depressing to find that most of the thinking in regard to these matters is: What can we export? What can we give to some other part of the world? Let us remember that our resources - these basic qualities of energy - belong to all Australians. This truth has application in all forms of energy - of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power and other agencies of power. I am particularly concerned with the position in the coal mining industry for, in the district which I represent in this House, there have been dismissals from minefields because of the lack of understanding and the lack of direction between the various States of the Commonwealth in the production of coal and its marketing. A basic charter was laid down by the Labor Government of the Chifley period for the Joint Coal Board when it was established and that charter, if extended throughout Australia, would provide a blue print for the development of the coal mining industry. When we think of this industry we should have regard to what has occurred over recent years.
Frequently honourable members on the Government side draw attention to the fact that production is not satisfactory and that we have to do better, but in the coal mining industry production has increased substantially while the number engaged in the industry has fallen considerably. Let us look at the facts. The number employed in the industry in 1952 was 19,000 and it fell to 14,000 last year. During this time production rose from 15 million tons in 1952 to 35.2 million tons last year. The western coal field of New South Wales has the highest output per man/ shift - 14.72 tons - although the number employed in the industry in that field has fallen from 2.519 in 1952 to 577 at the present time. These figures are certainly outstanding. This achievement was commented upon in the report of the Joint Coal Board.
It is not the capacity of those in the industry to produce which is the problem facing the coal mining industry. They have been able to produce and have done so very well indeed. The problem facing the industry is one of organisation, control and management. We can win the coal but what needs to be acknowledged is that marketing and management require very careful consideration and attention, and the only way that this consideration and attention can be given so that the industry can be planned on a worthwhile basis is for some form of national understanding of this matter to be exhibited. 1 make a plea to the Government to indicate, even at this late stage, some change of heart. The Commonwealth Government should not permit the resources of any part of Australia to be plundered by open cut mining without regard to the future. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to all of the people of Australia and should not hesitate to declare where it stands on this special aspect of the development of our country.
I desire to refer also to our oil industry. Here again the Commonwealth Government, without interest in this matter, is prepared to spend money through the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the exploration for oil. It grants subsidies to a considerable extent - $121. 6m to 12th September last - and gives taxation concessions as well as assistance in many other ways, but when gas and oil are found, the Commonwealth Government retreats from the scene and allows the multi-national corporations to dictate their own policies in regard to this important source of energy in this country. This is not good enough and the Government should declare where it stands. The Labor Party faces this matter with a full knowledge of its responsibilities and, when in power, will introduce a national fuel policy. We will have regard to all forms of energy. I can only hope that at the next election the Labor Party will be given an opportunity to ensure that these great reserves of energy producing material in this country are used for the development of this nation. Our first thought will not be the exportation of these great assets which belong to the people of Australia; our energies will be bent towards building this nation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak about salinity and the River Murray, but before doing so let me commend the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) for the most comprehensive statement which he made to the House recently and which was contained in the booklet which we all now have entitled Australia’s Natural Resources - Minerals, Forests, Water and Energy’. I also want to congratulate the Minister for his patience and persistence which have at last resulted in the commencement of the Dartmouth Dam. The national water resources development programme which was initiated in 1966 with funds of $50m and extended in 1969 for a 5-year period with a further $10Om, has been of tremendous importance and advantage to the development of irrigation and water resources in Australia. The scope of the programme was widened in 1969 to include other factors including salinity control. Work on salinity control became eligible for financial assistance and Victoria has already made some use of money provided for that purpose.
The widening of the scope of the programme came at a most opportune time in view of the report of investigations into salinity in the River Murray basin. The problem of overcoming the increasing salinity in our greatest irrigation area, along the River Murray, is of tremendous national importance. I hope that the further research that has to be undertaken can be concluded so that we can get on with the major work of salinity control along the Murray. The sorting out of priorities between the 3 States and the River Murray Commission in respect of works to be undertaken is progressing as quickly as possible. The Minister visited the area in January this year and saw much of the Victorian irrigation system and the salinity problem. He noticed as he went upstream into the eastern section of the irrigation area, particularly in around Kyabram and Shepparton, that the salinity problem is not as marked as it is further downstream and that the problems are slightly different. There the water tables are not as saline as they are further downstream although patches of higher salinity are developing, lt is of considerable importance for us to note that the water tables are rising rapidly in this area and that there is no basic surface drainage system to relieve this situation. The Minister was shown a number of examples of self help by people. They are pumping water from bores and re-using it to lower the water table. This is helping, but greater overall planning and development of drainage in that area is needed if some of the problems further downstream are not to be repeated in what is the most productive part of the River Murray irrigation system. After I and 2 State members of Parliament visited the Minister in May to talk about possible extensions to the national water resources development programme, I was pleased to receive a letter from him in which he stated:
Other types of work designed to improve the efficiency of water use or to increase availability of water for rural development are also eligible, as are drainage works associated with irrigation development.
The last part of that sentence is of tremendous importance to the irrigation areas in northern Victoria. No doubt the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria will have taken note of the fact that drainage works are eligible for assistance, and I hope that any applications it makes for allocation of funds under this programme for works including surface drainage works as part of the ordinary irrigation development for efficient use of resources, will receive sympathetic consideration by the Commonwealth. Victoria is different from the other States in the sense that it has developed its natural water resources to a far greater degree. So Victoria’s requirements for assistance under this programme differ from those of the other States. In particular, the 2 things that Victoria needs in regard to irrigation are improved efficiency of distribution and improved drainage works. 1 think that from a cost effectiveness point of view these would yield higher returns than would new irrigation works elsewhere. I refer to the following paragraph, on page 86 of the comprehensive statement on Australia’s natural resources:
A good deal of attention has also been given to tha renovation of distribution systems in existing irrigation projects as a means of making additional supplies available, as in the GoulburnWaranga system in Victoria. Improvements in distribution efficiency in large systems can result in a significant increase in the quantity of water available for delivery to the farms.
There has been a startling increase in the percentage of water finally delivered to farms in the Goulburn-Waranga system in the last few years. By that I mean the percentage of water that leaves the last regulator in the weir or in the main distributing channel and is actually sold to the farmer. In my particular district efficiency has increased by up to 30 per cent, and I believe that this is a very important aspect of the efficient use of our water resources. I think this is what we are talking about and what the Minister talked about in his comprehensive statement. So Victoria, if it is to be assisted, as I hope it will be, will require assistance more with distribution systems and drainage systems than with capital works or headworks programmes.
In regard to the overall control of salinity, the drainage problems and the high water table problems in the GoulburnMurray system are of tremendous importance. I also draw the Minister’s attention to the greater awareness of wildlife habitat when we are looking at the River Murray system and our irrigation systems. I do not want to detract in any way from what the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) may say on this question. I do not know whether he will speak on it, but he certainly has been a great promoter of this important aspect over the years. One of the things that we all saw when the Minister visited Victoria in January was the ibis rookeries at Kerang.
I believe that when we are considering the efficient use of our natural resources it is important for us to remember the wildlife habitat that happens to be in an area. I refer not only to the Kerang Swamp area but also to the Barmah forest area which is very much a part of the River Murray system and which is, to a certain extent, under the control of the River Murray Commission. There is a difference of opinion as to whether forestry or wildlife should come first at Barmah, but I hope that a sensible conclusion and compromise can be reached so that wildlife is an acceptable part of and plays a role in the scheme of things. Perhaps at one time irrigation farmers were too keen to drain every swamp in order to use every acre foot of water that they could get but now they are aware of the importance of wildlife to the ecology of an area, and the ibis is an outstanding example of this. I hope that in any scheme involving the use of water we provide for the breeding grounds of birds and of other animals. The irrigation community would welcome and support the diversion of water for that purpose.
Of course, after the Dartmouth dam is constructed there will be the problem of the river height below Wodonga to the Yarrawonga weir, the problem of erosion control and the problem of the capacity of the river itself. I welcomed some correspondence which I received from the Minister in which he informed me that desnagging operations are taking place in this area and that these operations will be increased so that by the time Dartmouth is completed the capacity of the river in that area will be enlarged. In this way the full benefit of Dartmouth will be obtained. In conclusion I would like to commend the work of the Department in the research that it is carrying out into water use, the gauging of our water resources and generally the whole concept of the efficient use of the water on this continent.
– I should like to make a few comments on the estimates of the Department of National Development. Recently we had circulated to us a copy of a statement made by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) titled ‘Australia’s Natural Resources - Minerals, Forests, Water and Energy’. It is a very interesting document. It contains quite a deal of information. But one point about it is that it clearly indicates how much of Australia’s resources have been given away to overseas interests. Recently the Government introduced guidelines in order to put a bit of a brake on the taking over of Australia’s resources by overseas companies, overseas shareholdings and so forth, but I am afraid that this step has been taken a little bit too late because if we look through the Minister’s statement we find that the greatest part of Australia’s mineral resources are now controlled by overseas interests. If we want to get back some control, legislative action will have to be taken by a future government.
As I said, our mineral resources already are well under overseas control. Perhaps 1 can just go through the Minister’s statement and refer to a few of the minerals. The first is tin. Australia has a fair amount of equity in the tin industry and possibly in the uranium industry. But if we refer to iron ore we see that in Hamersley Holdings Ltd, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd has 54 per cent equity, the Kaiser Steel Corp. has 34.5 per cent equity and the balance of the equity is held mainly by Australian shareholders. In Goldsworthy Mining Ltd, Consolidated Gold Fields Australia Ltd has a 33i per cent interest, the Cyprus Mines Corp. has a 33V per cent interest and the Utah Development Co. has a 33i per cent interest. Mount Newman Joint Ventures is owned 30 per cent by Dampier Mining Co. Ltd, 30 per cent by Pilbara Iron Ltd, 25 per cent by Amax Iron Ore Corp., 10 per cent by Mitsui-C. Itoh Iron Pty Ltd and 5 per cent by Seltrust Iron Ore Ltd. If we look through the other companies we find a fair percentage of overseas holdings. The only fully Australian owned company engaged in the development of our iron ore fields, of course, is the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. The same comment can be made about the Koolanooka project. Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates and the Savage River Mines Joint Venture.
The same comment applies to the aluminium industry. In Comalco Ltd. Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corp. has 45 per cent equity, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd has 45 per cent equity and the balance is owned mainly by Australian and New Zealand shareholders. Alcoa of Australia Ltd has a great deal of overseas control. In Nabalco Pty Ltd. Swiss Aluminium Australia Pty Ltd has 70 per cent equity and Gove Alumina Ltd has 30 per cent interest. I understand that originally Nabalco was to have only a certain percentage of overseas control, but because money for the project could not be raised in Australia, the percentage of overseas control was allowed to rise. If we had a progressive government, a government that was concerned about maintaining Australian ownership, it certainly would have taken up the balance of the equity in Nabalco. The same comment can be made about Queensland Alumina Ltd and Alcan Australia Ltd. If we look through the statement which the
Minister presented we find that a great number of overseas owned companies have a big say in our nickel production.
The same comment can be made about black coal, not so much in relation to the New South Wales fields but in relation lo the Queensland fields. There has been exploitation of our coal fields by overseas companies, and it has been exploitation in its real sense. Companies are taking coal from Queensland at a price which I understand is well below the price which purchasers, mainly from Japan, have to pay for similar types of coal in the United States and in other countries. The same comment can be made about the petroleum industry. If we look through the list of companies engaged in our petroleum industry we find that they are mixed up with well known overseas companies. The only one which did not get a mention was Mogul Ltd from the television show ‘The Troubleshooters’. The same can be said of our refining industry. The only wholly Australian owned refinery is Ampol Refineries Ltd. Again, the others have strong overseas ties. If we examine the investment in our mineral resources we find the same sort of thing. This is a result of Government policies. I hope that the next Labor government will take steps to reverse this and to see that some Australian control is regained so that Australian resources are used for Australia’s benefit.
In the few minutes remaining to me I should like to refer to another matter which I have raised on a number of occasions, namely, the Lock-Kimba pipeline. My reference to this particular project has not been political. Following the offer by the Prime Minister in 1969 of $100m to assist in Australian water resources programmes the South Australian Government - then a Liberal Government - in January 1970 applied for assistance to complete the LockKimba pipeline. It serves a pretty dry area which has very little surface water. This is an area that could be developed far more than it is if surface water could be mid available.
The Hall South Australian Liberal Government applied in 1970 for assistance lo complete this project. In the intervening period between the time of the application and the time a decision was made I know that many approaches were made to the Commonwealth Government seeking a decision. By the time the decision was made South Australia had a Labor government and it could not get an answer. It took 19 months, I think, from January 1970 until September last year for an answer to be given. That answer rejected the South Australian Government’s application for assistance for reasons which were more or less related to the difficulties in the sheep and wool industries, and the Commonwealth Government said that it was not practical to put money into a project when the products of the area were already in trouble. For these reasons the Federal Government rejected South Australia’s application for assistance.
After approaches had been made to the Federal Government it agreed to reconsider the application in the light of what had been put forward to show how diversification had taken place from the time of the application until the time that the Government rejected it. In May this year the South Australian Government carried out a complete and comprehensive survey of the area. It examined what had taken place and the potentialities. This information was submitted to the Commonwealth Government in May - 5 months ago. In view of the information the Commonwealth Government had prior to May, with the new information from the South Australian Government, I think it is about time for a decision to be announced.
The South Australian Government is playing its part. In the last State Budget it appropriated $675,000 to keep this project moving. But unless South Australia receives assistance from the Federal Government it will be a number of years before the project can be completed. I certainly hope that the Minister and his Department have examined the latest application by the South Australian Government and that a decision will be available shortly. It is obvious that the Lock-Kimba pipeline is becoming a political football. It has been kicked around by a number of Liberal politicians in my own area who have tried to place, the blame for the delay on the South Australian Government. In fact, one Liberal senator criticised the South Australian Government for delays in the submission of its application. Little did he know that 6 weeks previously the South Australian Government had presented an application and submissions to the Commonwealth Government.
I am beginning to feel that whatever decision is given on this subject, it will be a political decision. If South Australia is to receive assistance for the Lock-Kimba pipeline we will probably get a decision before the election. If assistance is not given before the election a decision will not be made at all. This is not a political matter. It is a matter on which both sides of the political spectrum in the State and to some extent in the Federal sphere have been prepared to cooperate to try to get something for this area of South Australia. I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to announce a decision on this matter shortly.
– I want to speak to these Department of National Development estimates particularly in relation to the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission. As you well know, Mr Deputy Chairman, this is one of the most substantial industrial and developmental undertakings operating in Australia, paralleled only by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. I want to touch on the resources of expertise and knowhow of a particular kind involved in this organisation and relating in that sense to a question which I asked the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) only this morning. It is the case that a great deal of the Tasmanian economy since the First World War has come to rely upon and relate to the Hydro-Electric Commission. The development of expertise in that institution has been such, as the Minister for National Development well knows, that its expertise has been drawn upon on numerous occasions by bodies such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority during its much later arrival on the developmental scene. I think that it is not generally known that the situation now is that unless bulk power using industries are attracted to Tasmania in a way which they have not been in the last few years this concentration of expertise, in the civil and electrical engineering fields notably, is in danger of running down.
As I have said, the economy of Tasmania depends greatly upon the developments which are undertaken under the auspices of the Hydro-Electric Commission. Something like one-half of Tasmania’s loan debt is in direct relation to hydro-electric works which have been undertaken over the years. Briefly, we have concentrated in the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission about 160 professional civil engineers, about 100 electrical engineers and numerous technical and supporting staff making in all almost 5,000 people employed in the undertakings in which that instrumentality engages. The domestic and commercial load of electricity in Tasmania has been of the order of 175 megawatts. It has been increasing by an average of 6 per cent to 7 per cent annually, that is to say, of the order of 10 to 12 megawatts per annum. That is the equivalent, in thermal terms, of one Bell Bay thermal station added every 8 to iO years. That is 120 megawatts or so of electrical capacity. If that sort of development were to occur it would represent the spending of a couple of million dollars annually and about 60 per cent of it probably outside of Tasmania.
As distinct from the development of further thermal stations constructed largely from imported materials and with a certain amount of imported expertise, the civil branch alone of the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission has spent in recent times about $35m, nearly all of it in Tasmania. That amount includes expenditure not only on the civil construction works in relation to dams and water storage and hydro-electric power development as such, but also expenditure on roads for tourists and timber access and even acquisition, lt involves fishing developments, fire protection and a certain amount of intrastate decentralisation. In fact, as I said earlier, the failure to develop bulk power demands in the way in which they were developed during the interwar period and the immediate post-war period will have a very considerable impact on the economy of the State of Tasmania. It is for that reason - this is not at all evident at the moment - that large power users such as the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia, the Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd, Comalco Aluminium (Bell Bay) Ltd and Associated Puip and Paper Mills Ltd are to be duplicated, if at all, in large numbers. Unless that is done, as I said before, the Hydro-Electric Commission will tend to run down.
It is for this reason that I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that this is, if not unique, indeed an unusual concentration of engineering expertise. In the same way as the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has now entered into the field of overseas consultation by the nature of its initial functions, there is an excellent case to be made for us to look nationally towards the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission to try to keep in operation, whether or not it is in Tasmania, as much of that accumulated expertise as possible. I repeat that it has been an organisation of a kind which in the past has lent itself to advising bodies such as the Snowy Mountains Authority at a time when that Authority was developing its own particular character and expertise.
I think this is of considerable importance not only to Tasmania but also to Australia. Of course, it relates to this whole portfolio of national development, and I would like to make one or two points in that regard. I compliment the Minister on the review of natural resources which he gave us within the last week or two. It is well presented and it is comprehensive, but 1 would like to draw attention to the fact that it seems to cover the traditional fields of minerals, forests, water and energy - in other words, our natural resources. I wonder for how long the title of ‘National Development’ will be appropriate to the Department which the Minister has administered so well for some years past. In fact, it may be an appropriate time, since the Minister’s retirement is pending and since the raising of this matter is no reflection on him, to raise the question of changing the name of the Department. We are dealing with Australia’s natural resources, as the title on the front of the review indicates.
Of course, our natural resources are not the only things involved in national development. We now have on the stocks a National Urban and Regional Development Authority in which is concentrated in one way or another more development than takes place outside the urban areas of the country. At the same time, again traditionally, national development does not include manufacturing industries. That is part and parcel of another portfolio and comes under the administration of another department. Because neatness and logic tend to commend themselves to me in describing things as accurately as possible, I wonder whether we may give some thought, in view of developments that are taking place on other fronts, to a more apt description such as the Department of Natural Resources or some better title that may be thought of.
The Department has displayed quite concerted interest in basic and important matters, all of which are in the field of natural resources, whether they are replenishable or whether they are of the diminishing kind. Nevertheless, they are there in large profusion, and it is one of our great good fortunes in this country that their development in relation to other resources, not least our human resources, the interrelationship between the development of these resources and our physical and social environments, and their relationship in turn with our new found and developing interest in urban matters and in regional development, are totally unable to be divorced, even if we wanted to do so, from the other fields of interest which I have raised. 1 think it will become increasingly apparent that what in fact the Minister has been so well administering, what the Commonwealth has taken a continuing interest in, and what to some extent we still depend upon in the States for the definition of priorities - sometimes perhaps unfortunately - is in fact the department of natural resources. One of the greatest developers of those natural resources has been the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission to which I devoted the greater part of my speech this afternoon. I hope that the Minister will take note of what I have said in that regard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Department of National Development covers a vast field, and it amazes me that the Government, during the whole period of its office, has foisted the burden of this vast field upon one
Minister. Today Australia is screaming out for a separate ministry of fuel and energy. If it established such a ministry the Government would be merely coming into line with other major industrial and trading countries in the world today. In addressing the Australian Gas Association’s 11th annual convention, Mr Bott, the Secretary of the Department, made the comment that the discovery of large reserves of natural gas in various parts of Australia would have a bigger impact on the pattern of energy distribution and use in Australia over the next 20 years or so than any other single factor. In a further comment he said that natural gas has been identified as a major factor in the international energy market.
The question that agitates the mind of every loyal Australian is just to what extent he will reap the benefits of his own national birthright; whether this Government, running true to form, will endeavour to see that the full fruits of it go to private enterprise, or whether a national government is prepared to exercise its undoubted rights to construct a natural gas pipeline to be a common carrier and, more than that, whether it is prepared to assert its authority over the continental shelf and in particular the deposits within the Northern Territory. Remarkably, the General Manager of the Australian Gas Light Co.. Sir William Pettingell, disclosed his hand quite recently. Plan A obviously is to get a pipeline under State legislation from Sydney to the Gidgealpa area in the Cooper Valley basin. But he came a little into the open when he said that the company proposed to extend that pipeline to Pa’m Valley in the Amadeus basin which is on Federal territory. There are tremendous reserves there, and obviously anyone who is not a biased political partisan can see the reason for the haste with which the Australian Gas Light Co., and its subsidiary. East Australia Pipelines, is endeavouring to rush through a general agreement and tie the hand of a new administration.
From every point of view it has encountered difficulties in respect of the proposed route of a pipeline in New South Wales under the Pipelines Act of that State. It has been able to advertise only about twothirds of its proposed route, from the north-western corner of New South Wales diagonally across that State in the general direction of Orange. Beyond that it has come to a full stop. Members of the Opposition in New South Wales have been approached and canvassed in relation to 3 alternative sites. Correctly they want to know precisely what the proposals are because there has been no advertisement. There are many formidable problems to overcome. Indeed, there are problems of natural conservation and problems associated with the suggested provision of a service corridor across the Blue Mountains. With these things still up in the air it is scarcely seemly that the Australian Gas Light Co., people should announce the finalising of a contract for the supply of a pipeline. It is starting to smell in more than one direction. I repeat my comment of a few weeks ago. They will not be satisfied. They are perpetuating the feud - the bad blood between themselves and the Australian steel industry which has stemmed from previous abortive attempts to secure agreements for the supply of natural gas from Bass Strait. The Government is trying to placate both parties but it will not be able to do so because the Australian Gas Light Co., representatives have long memories. They are not prepared to forget and forgive. Further, they see that fortuitously they might be in an even better position because the Government, with its supine attitude, is prepared to allow them to go the full distance and to extend their pipeline from Gidgealpa to Palm Valley.
This could develop into a major national scandal. There is no other way to describe it. I am reminded of the immortal words of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) who compared the Government’s attitude to private enterprise with that of a puppy which wanted its tummy tickled. It is prepared to lie on its back and to be suitably tickled. Where is the national interest? The Australian Gas Light Co’s interests are talking of the export of natural gas. There may be a case for it, but just what do the people of Australia get? What steps has the Government taken to protect their interests? I refer particularly to the graticular policy. Nine graticules were to be drawn in respect of any discovery of either natural gas or crude oil. Successful explorers would be allowed to take 5 of the graticules, and the Government - the people of Australia - would take the other 4. That plan has gone into the discard. Instead of following the principles that operate in respect of the northern shore whereby a successful explorer gets a development lease of 100 square miles, principalities are handed out in both Bass Strait and the north-west continental shelf areas.
A Labor government will protect (he national interest. It will provide not merely a pipeline to Palm Valley but also a link in the form of a national pipeline grid that will connect Sydney to Gidgealpa and Palm Valley. Undoubtedly we have the constitutional powers to do it because Palm Valley is on federal territory. We will be taking the gas to federal utilities in and around Sydney and on to Canberra. We will be on perfectly sound constitutional ground and let no-one in this House forget it. We will also provide a link between Sydney and Melbourne and another link to supplement the needs of the Brisbane area where supplies are limited. If and when the full potential of the north-west shelf is revealed we will also connect with that area after the legitimate requirements of Western Australia have been established.
This Government follows a ritualistic policy whenever an election is approaching. Last time a plan for an atomic reactor was trotted out by the Department of National Development as a gimmick for the election then ensuing. On this occasion it is to be an enrichment plant for uranium. In this regard Australia and France are international outlaws. Neither is prepared to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In the case of Australia, to get nuclear technology we must give appropriate undertakings and be subject to appropriate supervision - international supervision at that. The Government is trying behind the door to get nuclear technology and at the same time not to accept any commitment in respect of renouncing the right to the construction of nuclear weapons. It is typical of the Government to move in that fashion. Again it is rushing in at a bad time and with a rather antiquated process because the gas centrifuge process is well under development and will undoubtedly replace the gas distribution system.
– I have entered this debate not only because there are natural resources in the Northern Territory but also because of what the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has said. He said that the Labor Party envisages a pipeline from Palm Valley to Gidgealpa and a general national grid to carry the gas south to be used in Sydney, Melbourne and so on. This is a typical ALP approach in which one-sixth of Australia - the Northern Territory - is scrubbed, instead of looking to the other end of the country where a pipeline could go. A pipeline could be built to the north where the Government has envisaged spending about $22m on improving the port of Darwin. Darwin could be a major shipbuilding and industrial port at the bottom end of the Indonesian archipelago. The honourable member for Cunningham mentioned a uranium enrichment plant. There is a uranium province in the Alligator River area.
– It is of world significance.
– Yes. The ALP people have no regard whatsoever for anybody but themselves and the cities in the south. I have regard for Australia. I am looking outwards. The ALP is looking inwards with its typical narrow minded attitude. The Government should be looking towards sending the gas north. Many honourable members have said that the gas should be bottled up and saved virtually for the southern cities when their supplies are running low. The people who went out into this country and discovered oil at Mereenie and gas at Palm Valley have spent millions of dollars. Are they not allowed to sell something, not so much to recoup the money they have spent, but bearing in mind that great quantities of gas and oil are still in the area? Many thousands of square miles could well be gas and oil producing country. The exploration companies cannot go on and on in such hard country as the Amadeus area of central Australia. They must be allowed to get some sort of return in order to carry on. I must admit that Australia has to take an overall look at its fuel assets but I am not in favour of bottling up the gas until it is too late to use it. We have to look north because that is where our associations should be formed. We should be leading the countries in this region and this is a chance to use our own resources in our own region, to the advantage of all countries in the area.
I know that the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) is waiting to speak in this debate. I commend the Government for continuing its beef roads programme .which has opened up the north to such a tremendous extent. As the plan is drawing to a close I ask the Minister to look very closely at regional road planning in the area. As I mentioned earlier, the port of Darwin is to be improved and it could be part of an overall scheme to use gas in an industrial complex 2,000 miles closer to the area where we would be selling many of our products and assisting people such as the Indonesians, Filipinos, Malaysians and Singaporeans. When looking at the uranium province in the Alligator River area, the Government should not lose sight of the conservation of the flora and fauna in the area. I know that a joint committee of the Northern Territory Administration, the Department of the Interior and, I think, the Department of National Development, is studying this matter. This matter cannot be overlooked. Tn this significant uranium province there are also unique flora, fauna, scenery and artifacts.
Before I resume my seat I would urge the Government to keep this consideration very much in mind. I am certain that mining, conservation and national parks can go hand in hand. If the mining companies and the Government have the strength to insist on certain conditions, made not by ratbags but by people who know what they are talking about when it comes to conserving flora, fauna, scenery and artifacts, this can work. So, I urge the Government to give this matter due consideration.
– I will not take up too much of the time of the House. I am grateful for the indulgence of the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) in allowing me this second opportunity of speaking. About a fortnight ago, the Minister submitted a voluminous document to this House. 1 believe that it was prepared earlier, in 1967, and was axed because it would have been publicly unpalatabic. It has now been resurrected, in effect as the Minister’s swan song. I have had a series of 8 questions to the Minister for National Development on the notice paper dating as far back as 18th May asking the Government’s attitude and policies in relation to discussions with the French, German, Japanese and United States Governments on uranium enrichment. I also understand that the statement made by the Minister is to be debated in this House, perhaps next week.
The Minister knows that the Government will have to make up its mind as to what is to be its policy in regard to uranium enrichment. If I am to take part in a constructive debate on this matter, I would like these questions to be answered, as well as questions relating to equity holdings on the north west shelf, before this debate comes on. I think the Minister knows that Australia would receive far more in terms of export income from enriched uranium than it would from liquefied natural gas. We want to be in a position to make a balanced evaluation of this matter. The Minister knows that if Australia is to establish a uranium enrichment plant and natural gas is used as fuel, the amount of gas used over 20 years will be about 5 trillion cubic feet. If the enrichment plant were to use coal as fuel, between 150 million and 200 million tons of coal would be used. I am very eager to receive specific answers to these questions before the debate comes on.
The second bracket of questions in which I am interested concerns the north west shelf. As I understand the situation, despite what the Minister for National Development may claim, overseas control of the north west shelf has reached 87.5 per cent. In effect, Australia has approximately 13 per cent equity remaining to it. Despite what the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) claimed, we have an equity ratio in Palm Valley of about 90 per cent foreign holding to 10 per cent Australian holding. The second point that I want to raise deals with the export of natural gas. Is it a fact that there is an agreement in existence between the Pacific Lighting Co. and Magellan Petroleum Southern Pty Ltd for the export of 500 million cubic feet of natural gas a day to the western seabord of the United States?
Another question I want to raise refers to the Minister’s claim that the Govern ment may permit the export of natural gas from remote areas. I should like to refer to recent remarks by Sir William Pettingell in regard to the Cooper Basin and Palm Valley. Sir William said that the Cooper Basin pipeline could cope with a loading of one billion cubic feet of natural gas a day which would be supplied at the same time from the Cooper Basin and Palm Valley and that this would make a pipeline very attractive. He said that the pipeline could take 600 million cubic feet a day in addition to the loadings of the Australian Gas Light Co. and suggested that some of this gas would be available for export on such an expanded market.
The Minister for National Development, in announcing the Government’s policy on the export of liquefied natural gas, said that it was the Commonwealth’s intention in general not to allow the export of LNG except in certain circumstances in remote areas. What precisely does the Minister mean by ‘remote areas’? Does he mean the north west shelf, the Amadeus Basin, Mereenie, Bass Strait or the Cooper Basin? It is pretty significant that the diameter of the pipe has been so designed as to provide for 2 things, firstly, to meet the local market and, secondly, to meet the export market. I would like to know precisely what the Minister means by the export of natural gas from remote areas. What are these areas?
Finally - 1 shall conclude on this point - it is about time that this Government sorted out its priorities. It never fails to amaze me to see the attention that is given by the Press and other sections of the media to proposed takeovers of what I call the petty cash sector of the economy, namely, companies such as Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, Travelodge Australia Ltd and Kiwi Australia Ltd. If we were to add up the value of those companies and remove them from the stock market, we would be up for a total of $190m. Yet, we see a plundering of our resources which is reaching world crisis proportions and nothing is done about it.
I sent a telegram to the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control - I have not even had the courtesy of a reply - requesting a detailed study, examination and investigation into the escalation and depth of foreign control both in the north west shelf and the Amadeus Basin. This inquiry certainly will not get off the ground until there is a change of government. The point that worries me is that we are dealing with assets which, if we accept the Government’s conservative estimate, are worth at least 2 to 3 times the national Budget, and these assets are being plundered and controlled by overseas corporations. If we accepted the Minister’s own figures, these assets are worth $16.5 billion. I would like an answer to my questions. What does the Government intend to do in relation to dropping the chopper on the plunder of our resources, particularly of our fuel and energy resources, and the escalation of foreign control?
– First of all, 1 should like to mention that this will be the last lot of estimates that I will be handling in this House and 1 should like to express appreciation to all honourable members who have taken part in what I believe has been a very constructive debate. Certainly, the contributions have been hard hitting in one or two cases but nevertheless, they have been made with the object of obtaining information and I think that in every case they have been based on a sound foundation and have been constructive.
A number of matters have been raised by honourable members to which I will reply briefly, in view of the time factor. Firstly, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred at length to matters concerning national development principally in relation to northern development with which, of course, he has had a very close association. I must express appreciation to the honourable member for Dawson for the constructive approach he adopted. I do not know whether he said all the good things first and was keeping the bad things until last and then did not have time to say them, but I shall give him credit for an intention to say only kind things on this occasion. The point he raised in relation to feasibility studies has been taken on board. I can assure the honourable member that the matters he raised will receive consideration.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) referred of course to matters that concern the northern part of Queensland. Timber production features prominently in the economy of that area. The honourable member for Herbert referred to the programme of softwood planting proposed by the Australian Forestry Council and sponsored financially by the Commonwealth. The new programme has just been approved. In fact, the legislation for the new programme finally went through only a few days ago. I am sure it will be of assistance as far as Queensland is concerned. The points he raised in relation to beef roads have been noted. I am sure that he will be happy as far as the proposals for the future are concerned.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) referred in detail in his initial comments to an arrangement through a subsidiary of Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation Ltd whereby Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd has taken over the Avonmouth Smelter and is now marketing metal through that company into European Economic Community countries. We know about it. I cannot give the honourable member information regarding the details of the financial transactions. All we know is that CRA, through its principal company RTZ, organised this because of tariff problems related to the EEC. I refer to the tariff that is imposed against metals. Perhaps the raw materials could be imported but the prohibitive tariff would apply against the metals, principally lead and zinc. The arrangement is made now through Avonmouth for the manufacture of metals to provide an opportunity to continue to supply EEC countries with Australian raw materials processed at Avonmouth. That is the basis of the proposal. As to the financial details, if there is any real problem certainly we will look at the points the honourable member has raised. They may concern a State. They may have some effect as far as the new proposals being considered by the Commonwealth at the present time are concerned. However, we will examine the background of the details. As far as the request of the honourable member to have the matter submitted to a Senate select committee is concerned, I can only suggest that Senate select committees decide which matters they will examine, lt will be open to the honourable member to make a suggestion to a committee himself.
On the question of the Green Paper which I submitted to- the Parliament a couple of weeks ago, the honourable member said that he thought this was prepared back in 1967. I am sorry, but he is completely wrong. The information is right up to date, in fact up to just a couple of weeks ago. It is an entirely new document which has been presented. I think he had in mind the White Paper which I had prepared just a couple of years ago and which in fact was not presented. This document is an uptodate version, perhaps, of what the White Paper would have been a couple of years ago. The honourable member referred to questions on notice. I will certainly see what I can do to expedite a reply to those questions.
In regard to the policy on natural gas, 1 do not think I need elaborate on what I said in the Green Paper and which I have explained to the House on a number of occasions except the matter in relation to the contract which has been signed on a provisional basis between Magellan Petroleum Southern Pty Ltd and the Pacific Lighting Co. The contract has been submitted for consideration. As I pointed out to the House, in view of our present policy it seems unlikely that approval will be granted although we must fully examine every aspect of it. The points raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) are very pertinent to this. Until such time as we have full knowledge of our total reserves on the northwest shelf, in Palm Valley, Amadeus Basin, Cooper Basin and all those other areas it will be impossible really to assess what the future position will be in relation to our own requirements but a lot of work is being done in this field at the moment. In the meantime, the policy which I have enunciated will still apply.
The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) made a very contsructive submission in relation to the petroleum industry and his survey, I think, is worthwhile reading and it would be of interest as far as the industry and Parliament ls concerned. The honourable member lor Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) did refer to the question of no plans for development. I have already referred to the Green Paper - r will not elaborate on that - which brings together all the policy aspects in relation to natural resource and energy development in Australia. I shall only refer him to that as a basis for all the policy points in relation to the various industries that are concerned. The honourable member referred to problems in the coal industry. This is a matter with which I dealt at great length on Monday night in a speech to the Coal Preparation Society of New South Wales. I can only suggest that I could send him a copy of that speech which would give him a lot of detail in relation to the future of the industry as we see it in Australia.
The honourable member referred to the control of the petroleum industry by private companies, particularly overseas companies. Unfortunately from his point of view this is the wrong industry to pick on when referring to complete control by overseas companies because 1 suppose ‘ii.it there is no industry more controlled by government than the petroleum industry where the distribution and the utilisation of local production is completely under control, where it is subsidised and where there is even price fixing as far as the industry is concerned in the field of motor spirits and other products. Also, export control applies to liquid petroleum and to natural gas. The Government has pretty substantial control as far as the petroleum industry is concerned and I am sure the honourable member should not bc concerned in relation to it.
The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) referred to the River Murray system and the salinity problems of that river. Many of the points which he raised are already covered in my statement but I do appreciate his constructive comments. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) referred to the Loch-Kimba proposal. A request was made for assistance to be granted by the Commonwealth. A further submission, as the honourable member stated, was made a few months ago and at the present time it is being examined. It was sent back for further information which has now being received and I hope to be in a position before long to give a decision on it. I cannot indicate whether it will be favourable or otherwise, but certainly the opportunity to study it is far more favourable at the moment than it was at the time of the first submission.
The honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) raised the matter again in relation to scientists employed by the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Authority who will become available on the market in Australia for employment in other areas in the future. I can only refer the honourable member to the answer which I gave him during question time today. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) spoke about natural gas policy. I am afraid I cannot go into the details regarding this except to say that where exploration leases are granted in any State and in Commonwealth Territories this is a matter which is goverened by mirror legislation in relation to petroleum and it is a matter for approval by both the States and the Commonwealth. The honourable member did say that Australia had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Wc have in fact signed it and this was announced in the House. We did submit to the international atomic energy agency some proposals for amendments before the agreement was ratified. Most of those amendments that we suggested have been agreed to and the proposals should come back before long for consideration and ratification by the Government.
The proposal to set up a uranium enrichment plant in Australia is not anything new. I have discussed this matter overseas for the last 2 years. It is reaching a stage at which within the next year or so some decision will have to be made in relation to it and that is why at the present time wc are trying to encourage the interest of Australian companies. We have bad some substantial success in Australian companies indicating an interest in joining a consortium to provide an enrichment plant in the future. But it is not correct to say that the gaseous diffusion system is out of date. It is the only system operating at the present time. It is the only system that will operate for some years in the future. The next 5 plants that will be constructed will be gaseous diffusion plants. We hope that the centrifuge system eventually will be successful but I believe it will take at least another 10 years before we could look forward to its being a proven viable proposition even at that point in time. On the question of studies being undertaken at the present time with the United States and France, these are in the early stages as elementary studies. We are having discussions with Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and West Germany in relation to these matters. I can assure the honourable member for Cunningham that all States and the Northern Territory have indicated their intense interest in establishing an enrichment plant within their borders and are co-operating with the Commonwealth to the utmost in this field. We believe that eventually an enrichment plant will be established in Australia.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) referred briefly to a matter which is of concern to him, namely, the development of the natural resources - principally natural gas - of the Northern Territory. I can assure him that the particular points he has mentioned today are well and truly in mind. I hope to be able to give him some information soon regarding the Mareenie area. The honourable member is vitally concerned about the establishment of a refinery in Alice Springs to service that area in the future. I hope to be able to provide some information to him in relation to that within a matter of weeks.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $81,059,000.
– -The consideration of the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department opens up an exceedingly wide field of debate for honourable members. I should like to say first of all that 1 have the greatest respect for the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I pay a tribute to officers of his Department for the unfailing courtesy and observance of protocol and foi generally conforming to normal civilised standards. In discussing the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department I want to point out that there is a need for a searching inquiry into all aspects of the Department, including the financial arrangements, the structure of the Department, the telecommunications section, the provision of mail and postal services, the provision of television and broadcasting facilities, charges for licences, the provision of Telephones and the denial of some services that should be available to every person in Australia.
I am particularly concerned about financial arrangements. Quite frequently the balance sheets of the Postmaster-General’s Department misleadingly reveal losses. I say that because, as the further statements provided with the balance sheet reveal, a heavy burden of interest is being borne by the Department - a burden that should not be carried by those who use the postal and telegraph services of this country. The Postmaster-General’s Department is a service department which provides services to the people of this country. It ought to be treated as a service department in a growing, developing nation.
Let us look at the facts. Firstly, the balance sheet of the Department reveals a net profit of $59. 8m for the last financial year. The telecommunications service had a profit of $71. lm, but a loss occurred in the postal section of $11. 3m. That, of course, is utterly misleading. I wish to protest against the manner in which the taxpayers of this country - the people who use the postal and telegraph services - are called upon to pay interest on their own money, which is precisely what is happening. The taxpayers’ money is advanced by the Treasury, for the provision of these services. In turn, the users of postal and telegraph facilities are called upon to pay interest on that money. According to page 24 of the annual report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1972, $131,374,198 was paid in interest, which reduced the overall profit to $59,798,942.
It is a disturbing state of affairs that this burden should be carried by people who use telephones in the countryside. In the city, in industry and in the development of this country. Telephones are used by the sick, the aged and the infirm. I think a most unsatisfactory state of affairs exists. Whilst this situation exists, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is obviously compelled to increase charges, but by increasing charges it is adding to the burden on industry and the community gener ally. 1 think this should be stopped. I believe that there is need for a review of the whole of the financial arrangements of the Department. The structure of the. Postmaster-General’s Department should be thoroughly investigated. We should see just what has been happening with regard to not only the postal section and the telecommunications section - I am opposed to their division; I think they should remain united as one service helping the development of this country - but also the mail services and see what can be done to improve them. There was a time when there were 2 mail deliveries a day in my town and in many other country towns. The service has now been reduced to one mail delivery. In other cases measures have been taken which have denied services to people. 1 think that calls for protest by everyone interested in the development of our country.
I note from the annual report of the Post Office that the number of unsatisfied demands for telephones throughout the country is 65,369, which is quite a substantial number. In my own electorate of Macquarie there is quite a substantial number of people who have been waiting for telephones to be connected. I have before me a statement prepared by the Department on the number of people who have been waiting for telephones to be connected. Some of these people have been waiting for up to 3 years. A lady at Katoomba has been waiting since 10th September 1969. Others have been waiting 2 years, 18 months and so on. Is this the measure of the service that is to continue to be given in the future? A halt should be called to this practice. We ought to reverse our attitudes. It is not good enough that people who require telephones for health or employment reasons have to wait so long to have them connected. People have written to me and advised me that their jobs depend upon the availability of a telephone. I received a letter from a constituent in which he told me that his work was satisfactory but that he would lose his job if he did not have a telephone connected to his house. He included a letter which confirmed this statement.
I also have before me a list of people who are still waiting for telephones, particularly in the eastern portion of my electorate. In the Penrith area there were 896 deferred applications as at 30th September 1972. That is not good enough for a city on the outskirts of Sydney. In the case of Springwood there were 308 deferred applications despite a dramatic improvement in recent times. I am indebted to Mr O’Donnell, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales, for assisting me in this regard. The position at the present time is far from satisfactory. It is necessary to go on and consider other aspects of telephone services. At the time of the Budget last year or the year before the Postmaster-General came into this House and made a statement which was welcomed by everybody. He said that telephone services would be provided in the country up to 15 miles from the line. We all thought that that was an acknowledgement of the problems of people in country areas and of the need for people following rural pursuits to have a telephone with which to communicate with markets and their neighbours and be able to discharge their business. Despite that it has been exceedingly difficult to have this promise honoured. That is one of the matters which cause me considerable concern. I know of a person who lived only 3 telephone poles from the nearest telephone line and who had paid money to be connected but had been denied a telephone for quite an extended period. I also know of a person in another area a couple of miles away who was denied a telephone although bis name appeared in the telephone book. 1 wish to pass on to another subject, namely, the services provided by radio and television stations. I think a thorough inquiry should be conducted into the quality of service provided by and the administration of not only the national stations but also some other stations - particularly into the manner in which they interpret public requirements and demands. One area thai is of particular concern to me and about which I have written to the Postmaster-General’s Department on numerous occasions is the need for translators in the Portland, Cullen Bullen and Wallerawang areas. I was advised that this service was to be provided in June of this year. June has passed and it has not been provided. I have been advised since then that translators will be established and services will be available-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– For the interest of honourable members I table 3 documents relating to the Jetair matter. They are as follows:
A letter dated 17th October 1972 from Senator K. C. Wright to Mr Alexander Barton;
A reply from Mr Alexander Barton to Senator R. C. Wright received on 18th October 1972; and
A message setting forth a letter from Hungerford Spooner and Kirkhope, accountants and auditors, addressed to the Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth Centre, Phillip Street, Sydney, dated 18th October 1972.
– Firstly, let me say that I support the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I would like to spend a few minutes discussing what I regard as a most exciting development which 1 would like to see take place in Australia. 1 have with me a publication entitled ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1972-73’. 1 notice that trunk telephone calls are assessed to have increased during 1971-72 by about 10 per cent over 1970-71. The publication says:
The maintenance of a high standard of service and further extension of STD facilities should result in a continuing high growth rate.
I am a little surprised to see that telegram lodgments for 1971-72 continued their downward trend and fell by 5 per cent. A reason given for this progressive decline in telegram lodgments was the growth in telex and private wire services and the switch to other Post Office services.
I notice a most significant change in the number of telex subscriber services in operation at 30th June 1972. The number increased by 15.6 per cent during 1971-72.
Call traffic increased by 11.4 per cent over the previous year. The report goes on to say that ‘continued growth in this service at a somewhat similar rate is expected’. This adds a lot of substance to a matter I have brought up in the Parliament a couple of times. I refer to the continuing and increasing demand for more and better communications services throughout the country. What I regard as one of the best ways of achieving this better and more complete service would be for Australia - particularly the Postmaster-General’s Department in consultation and in co-operation with the other departments - to purchase and install a domestic communications satellite system. When I raised this matter before and asked a question in the House of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) he told me that the system had been investigated, together with a number of other systems involving satellites, but he mentioned that it had not been put into operation anywhere in the world. It had not been put into operation in the United States of America where one would expect such an advanced system to be operating.
Since that time the Canadians have made a firm commitment to purchase and launch their own domestic communications satellite system. This will come into action on 1st or 2nd November this year. I think it will be interesting, in terms of the argument that the cost of such a system would be too great for Australia, if I give the Committee some indication of the cost of the Canadian system. It is on public record that the Canadians have purchased 3 satellites for a total cost of $US30m. This total includes the expected incentives for orbital performance and ground stations. In addition to this, to set up the system they have decided to build 2 major 98 ft turnkey stations, 6 regional transmit and receive TV network stations, 24 TV receive stations, 2 thin route stations for message traffic and one telemetry and command station - a total of 35 stations in all. The total cost of this section of the programme will be $US16m. These costs do not include some site acquisition and preparation costs. The launch vehicles, which we would have to purchase, cost at the moment about $US15m for 2 Thor Delta boosters. The total system costs should be about $US70m. The Canadians have plans for further expansion of the ground network. The total cost of the system which will cover the entire nation of Canada will be less than $US70m.
The United States system of communications is very different from ours. Over there they do not have a government operated communications system, lt is interesting to notice that at the moment, following the decision by the United States Government to call for applications to produce one of these domestic satellite systems. 8 applicants have applied to the United States Government to build a domestic communications satellite system. One organisation - Western Union - has done a complete cost analysis of its application. It plans to invest about $69m in the initial system. This will include 3 space craft, 2 launch vehicles and 7 major trunking earth stations, plus a ground network inter-connecting system. The cost benefits of satellite systems over terrestrial systems depend very greatly on the network design, the geography and the service offered. Generally, for distances in excess of 1,000 miles and for point to multi-point distribution, such as TV receiving, satellites provide significant economies. I am led to believe that satellites provide the only feasible method of inter-connecting very remote areas with high quality service and bringing wide band services such as television into sparsely populated areas.
As we all know, Australia has a small population concentrated largely on a few points on the coastal fringe. It has a very great area which is very sparsely populated. Recently the Government introduced what I regard as a highly significant proposal to develop regional centres. Also over the last few years there has been a succession of very exciting mineral discoveries and the consequent build up of small communities at the sites. If one were to introduce a satellite communications system it would provide telephone, radio, telex and television systems, both black and white and colour, over the whole of Australia simultaneously. I believe this could be done at reasonable cost particularly in view of the statement by the Post Office that there is a continuing and accelerating demand for high class communication systems. I have already mentioned the possibilities of such a satellite being used for nation-wide education programmes at both primary and secondary stages, and also for an open university television channel. Although it has been looking at the possibilities of such a system, it is time that the Australian Post Office presented publicly a cost-benefit analysis of the comparative performances of a terrestial based system and its own domestic satellite communications system. In this time of increasing technology and increasing demand for improved communications, Australia in concert with nations such as Canada, Brazil, India and Indonesia, should be looking at the purchase and installation of its own domestic satellite communications system. I believe this would involve not merely an outgoing cost because I am strongly of the opinion that significant sections of such a nation-wide network could be built in Australia. In addition, with all the resources of technology which we have in Australia and the expertise we would gain in installing our own system, we would be able to contribute to the systems of other countries which, I feel sure, will be installing domestic communication satellites in the near future. Not only would this be a significant boost to the quality and coverage of communications in Australia but also it would have a very good effect upon increased technology in the communications fields in Australia. Our record in telecommunication is sound. We have a world-wide standing in this field and I ask the PostmasterGeneral to consider undertaking a costbenefit analysis of the continuation and expansion of a terrestial-based system and the introduction of a communications satellite.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The hnourable member’s time has expired.
– In debating the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department it is impossible to cover widely the functions of that Department. I am sure that honourable members appreciate the material that has been provided to them on the activities of the Department. In looking through the financial details in the report of the Australian Post Office I was struck by the fact that there is no way of determining the State by State break down of the financial return. Perhaps I have overlooked some information that has been given. If not, I believe that this information would bo helpful and relevant so that honourable members could see what was occurring in each of the States. However, it is on several other matters that I wish to speak. For some years I have had an interest in industrial safety. In the Australian Post Office annual report for 1972 the following statement appears:
Lost-time accidents sustained by Post Office staff during the year totalled 5,678. The incidence of these accidents per 100 staff was 5.0 - the same as that recorded last year.
I am rather concerned about the position being stated in this way. To me, a losttime accident rate for staff of 5 per cent is rather high but to determine the real effect of this rate one would have thought that the figures would have been expressed in the usual way in which such figures are expressed, that is, in terms of the number of hours lost per million man hours worked. In this way one has a basis on which to determine whether the safety factor in this industry is as high as it is in other industries. I felt further concern for this situation when in the same report on page 43 there was comment on the motor vehicle fleet and its operating costs. The statement was made that operating costs, exclusive of depreciation, have been held at 5.5c a mile for the past 12 years. My reason for concern is that in the Australian Post Office ‘News’ of October 1972 a letter which I think is worth reading is published. It is headed ‘Standards ignored’ and states:
As members of the Australian Postal Workers Union, we support public enterprise in the belief that a public authority can serve the public as well if not better than a private firm chasing profits. However, the Post Office has an obligation to observe certain rules and standards which we are convinced it has ignored in the hope of keeping costs as low as possible.
Although the article on Post Office transport by, Mr Corless (APO News, August ‘72) mentions safety and reliability, it is a fact that many of the old tucks operating from Dudley Street Garage are always driven with the windows wide open because of the stench of oil fumes coming into the cabin from badly worn engines. It is a sad fact that many drivers have taken trucks out even though they were convinced in their minds that the vehicles were unroadworthy.
The Dudley Street drivers’ committee rejects the article by Mr Corless because it paints an unreal and inaccurate picture. APWU members who insist on the need for a fleet of vehicles in good repair and meeting all safety, standards are helping to protect not only working conditions but also the public and the real needs of the Post Office.
This deserves comment from the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme). He should answer this criticism. If it is a question of the industrial safety of the employee; if it is a question of Post Office vehicles being a marked cause of pollution; if it is a fact that they are unroadworthy, and if one of the greatest public enterprises in Australia is allowing these conditions to continue then many of our committees on industrial safety, many of our steps to reduce pollution and many of our committee reports that we have recently had presented on vehicle safety are useless. Those matters are raised in a Post Office publication, and properly should be raised at this time and answered.
In the Post Office report I noticed also a statement that early in 1972 a promotion campaign was launched to extend the use of franking machines. I, as one who has obtained a franking machine for use in my own office, feel that the Postmaster-General could well give some consideration to the promotion of the use of franking machines by supplying them to members of Parliament for use in their offices so that they have not only the convenience of these machines but also can keep a check on their postage costs. In addition there are certain advantages in mail sorting for local Post Office personnel.
In the few minutes left to me I want to return to a subject that I have raised on a number of occasions - the size of telephone accounts since the changeover to subscriber trunk dialling. I have raised this matter with the Postmaster-General on behalf of a number of individuals and have spoken on it in the House. I remind the PostmasterGeneral that several weeks ago, arising out of a Press report of union officials alleging that thousands of telephone subscribers were being overcharged on STD calls because of faults in the mechanism, he said in answer to a question that if these officials gave him details of such faults he would look into them. My concern is that I have given up referring any of these large accounts to him for investigation. I receive courteous replies but none of them satisfies me. None of them has yet ans wered the question why a man, who was on holidays for 3 weeks and had his house locked up and not used by anyone., had calls recorded on the meter during that period. This was ascertained because the Post Office was checking at that time. Nor do they explain the question concerning one other man who, because of the size of his account, has locked his telephone and has kept a very close record of the calls that are made, yet the number of calls which he has recorded differs from the number recorded on the meter. One can understand that there will be an increase in the account if numbers of STD calls are made.
The postal union officials who raised this matter, apparently at a Press conference that was given at the time, gave some details of the various defects which they alleged were apparent and of the reasons why overcharging of individuals was occurring. Apparently it has led to an upset in a further area of the Postmaster-General’s responsibility because when an interview in regard to this matter was to take place on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme, the policy of equal presentation of points of view had to be disregarded to some extent because the Post Office would not answer the arguments that were advanced by the officials. STD is certainly a convenient mechanism for people to use, but when age pensioners and other individuals suddenly find unexplained rises in telephone accounts of double or treble their usual value, I think that they are entitled to query them. They are entitled to a thorough-going investigation of the whole metering system when allegations are made by persons working in the Department and who believe that such charges are being unfairly imposed on these individuals.
– I should like to deal with 2 points tonight. The first, with which I will deal very briefly refers to the problem, which I think exists in the electorates of many honourable members, involving the provincial Press and the Postmaster-General’s Department in relation to bulk charges for posting. I think the subject probably has been well and truly ventilated by many honourable members in the past, and I have no intention of going over old ground. But working, if I might say so, backwards through the problem that evolves, I refer to what I regard as a most excellent and reasonable case - perhaps the Government might think the only reasonable case, I do not know - made out by the Provincial Press Association, lt refers in my State to the need to make a little inset on the bottom of every bulk posting advertisement saying what newspaper has printed and is legally responsible for the particular advertisement which appears in that provincial newspaper.
I think one can advance a philosophical argument - which I do not intend to do tonight - as to the role of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I do not know whether honourable members, on the one hand, think that the Department should be purely a public utility or, on the other hand, that it should be looked on as a business enterprise. If it should be looked on as a business enterprise, do honourable members think that this business enterprise thing should be qualified? In other words, the philosophical argument - and I will not go into it any more fully than that - is purely a matter of how far such a public utility should compete with such items and such articles as those handled by the provincial Press. I take the view that the role of the Postmaster-General’s Department in these matters should be to ensure as viable a proposition in the interests of the paying public as is possible. By the same token, I do not think that it should intrude any more than it has to across such traditional mass media items as provincial newspapers. In other words, I think the Government has to look very carefully to see within what room it allows these traditional provincial newspapers to operate.
The proposition that I wish to raise tonight is that the laws, as they affect provincial newspapers, state that at the bottom of every double full page spread advertisement for a chain store operating in many country towns there should be spelt out, for instance: ‘issued through the Southern Argus’ or ‘the Northern Times’ or ‘the Southern Rock’ or whatever it might be. It has been put to me - and I think with a great deal of reasonable argument to back up the claim - that if the Government or the Postmaster-General’s Department should allow within, say, the State of Tasmania or the State of South
Australia, ‘authorised by the South Australian Provincial Press Association’, it would save the cost of distribution by the provincial Press in a sensible fashion. There would be an immediate economising right across the scale, because you cannot hold a run for a little country newspaper with a distribution of 300 or 400 or 2,000 or 3,000 newspapers. But if this were allowed - and I regard it as a proper and very reasonable request - I think it would be some small way in which we could help what I might refer to as the struggling country Press in some areas and enable it to compete, I think properly, with the enormousness of the Postmaster-General’s Department in terms of its household deliveries. I am not against household deliveries, but I think that we should have a look, on proper business grounds, at a suggestion such as this which has been put forward in good faith.
The second point 1 wish to raise refers to the provision of an establishment for country telephone subscribers. I think it is fair to say that during 1970 the Government re-examined its entire policy relating to the provision of an establishment for subscriber telephone services based on the experience of the expansion of the automatic system in country districts and on the higher standards of telephone line construction necessary because of this establishment. The Government, in its review, aimed to evolve a policy which telephone applicants could readily understand and accept as being fair, which eliminated as much as possible the effect of the location of the exchange as it affected the cost of lines to individual applicants, thus ensuring that the Post Office had control over the orderly and economic development of the entire telephone network concerned. As a result the Post Office now wholly constructs and maintains all new telephone lines from the appropriate exchange to each applicant’s premises. Of course, this includes the erection of lines on private property, which is the project I personally have in view.
The Post Office bears more of the cost of the line plant than it has been responsible for in the past. It now meets the cost of line plant up to a radial distance of 15 miles from the appropriate exchange - and honourable members would be well aware of that - irrespective of the route distance involved. In the case of applicants located more than IS miles radially from the exchange, the Post Office bears the cost up to the IS miles radial point. But the applicants now are only required to pay unconditionally a once-only charge for the Hue beyond the 15-mile radius at a standard rate of $40 per radial quarter mile. This charge is determined on the length of line beyond the radial distance from the exchange to the applicant’s premises less the 15 miles provided free. In accepting full responsibility for the cost of maintaining the lines extending beyond the 15 miles radius the Post Office regards such lines as its property as is the case with lines provided solely at Post Office expense up to that 15-mile radius.
The revised policy means that practically all subscriber exchange services in country districts will now be provided wholly at departmental expense. I think this is worthy of note for those of us with country electorates. Few cases only will occur where contributions to line costs will be required from applicants. The revised conditions also cover the upgrading and reconstruction of private sections of existing subscribers’ exchange lines as opportunity permits, particularly during conversion of these lines to take automatic working. Of necessity this work will need to be undertaken progressively over a period of years and obviously it will depend upon the resources, physical and financial, available.
In the minute or two remaining to me I should like to comment on the capacity of the Department to enter into the new field of technology to help overcome the considerable backlag of applications for telephones in these areas. The backlag results from the policy adopted by the Government 2 years ago. Honourable members will be aware that immediately there was a flood of applicants to take advantage of this new and good offer by the Government. Of course, quite apart from the financial difficulty of providing resources, physical difficulties were immense. Consequently a backlag of some considerable proportions ensued. I congratulate the Department for getting into the field of radio telephones. I gather that they still have bugs, if that is the right word. Furthermore, they are still expensive to establish and maintain, but I congratulate the Post Office for taking advantage of new technology and using this new resource of radio telephone in country areas in order to overcome the backlag which occurred as a result of the need established by past Government policy which was of such great benefit and encouragement to those who live out of touch wilh normal facilities in outback areas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– -I do not want to take up too much of the Committee’s time but 1 should like to say a few words about television in remote areas. As honourable members may know, my electorate covers more than 50 per cent of the total area of South Australia so I am naturally concerned about remote areas. Probably the area most harshly treated with respect to television at the moment is Eyre Peninsula which comprises approximately 50,000 square miles. The eastern part of the Peninsula is served by existing television services, but in the western part there are no services whatsoever at present. A couple of years ago a public announcement was made- I do not blame the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) for this - that a powerful station would be established in the western part of Eyre Peninsula to service quite a wide area. This statement was incorrect. I checked with the Postmaster-General’s Department and it said that it would only provide small stations at Ceduna, which is approximately 280 miles west of Port Lincoln and at Woomera. The small station at Ceduna will give coverage possibly only for about 12 to 15 miles if the people are lucky. A vast area will remain unserviced even when the proposed station is established and many constituents will have no television reception at all. No television stations are planned to cover that particular area, but I certainly hope that in the next phase of planning the Postmaster-General’s Department will give these areas some consideration so that the local people will get a television service. Many of them have bought television sets in the hope of being able to receive programmes. Because they have the receivers they have to pay the licence fee and so forth, but they get absolutely nothing in return.
I am of the opinion that whilst colour television may be very desirable we are possibly getting our priorities wrong. Colour television is very expensive from a capital point of view and before we go too deeply into the matter of colour television we should look at the question of providing a reasonable service to the more remote areas of Australia. In a lot of cases people in these areas are penalising themselves by living in such areas. The Leigh Creek coal fields area, which is not in my electorate but in the electorate of Wakefield, has a population of slightly more than 1,000. This area is completely remote. These people get no television reception, but surely they are entitled to something. It has been suggested by a couple of previous speakers that with technological advances these particular areas could be covered in the near future and the people could secure a reasonable television reception.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) referred to the delay in rural telephone connections. I must virtually back up what he said. Following the announcement of the new policy of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, under which the Department provides 15 miles of line, there was a flood of applications for telephone connections. However, the facilities of the Department were not sufficiently advanced to be able to give people the benefit of what was then proposed. I have checked with the local engineers in my area and they have told me that the best they can do is to effect about 35 rural telephone connections a year on Eyre Peninsula. I have made inquiries for various people and in some instances they have been told that they may have to wait until 1974 or possibly 1975 to be provided with this facility. This is not very satisfactory to the people who have lodged applications. I certainly hope that the Postmaster-General’s Department will make a greater effort to speed up these connections.
In the rural areas there is also a need for more automatic telephone exchanges. Most of the members who represent wide country areas receive complaints about the present service. Because only a limited number of subscribers are connected to an exchange, the service is restricted in hours. This is the cause of much discontent. I hope that the Postmaster-General’s Depart ment can bring about an increase in the number of automatic telephone exchanges so that people in the more remote areas can have a 24-hour automatic service. That is all I have to say on these estimates but I hope that some notice is taken of what I have said.
– The operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department, of course, are of tremendous importance to the whole of the Commonwealth and of special importance to the people in outlying areas. I should like to make one or two points in connection with the Postmaster-General’s Department estimates. Firstly, I refer to television. The 38 television stations in the last group to be provided and presently being constructed have brought a great deal of satisfaction to those people in the areas where the stations are being provided. Nevertheless, a large area will not be covered because these smaller stations have a small range. One thing that has concerned me in this regard is that I have had it put to me that some of these stations, such as the one at Miles, will beam onto the town from the eastern side of the town. Representations have been made to me by the Murilla Shire Council, of which Miles is the main centre, urging that the station be moved west from Miles to one of the higher points between Toowoomba and the Queensland border from which a much better service would be provided.
I would like to know whether any station, including the station at Miles, will beam its signal on to the town rather than it being what is called, according to some of the people with whom I have spoken, a multi-beam station. I have made representations to have the Miles station moved. If it can be moved I believe it would give a better service, and if it were moved to what is known locally as J D Ridge it would mean that most of the stations west to Charleville - that is as far west as they can go - would be about 60 miles apart. If these stations had the capacity to beam in all directions - I understand there are stations of this kind which have a range of some 30 miles or more; I know the Department is very cautious about giving distances - all of these stations then would actually link up, even though the reception at the extermities of those distances might not be quite as good. However, that is the feeling of the people in the area. I urge the Postmaster-General to examine this matter to see whether a better service can be provided by moving the Miles station west of Miles. If in fact the station at Roma, for example, is a multi beam station, I would like to know whether all of the stations have a similar capacity. If not, could they be provided with a transmitter with the maximum range that can be provided in stations of that type?
I welcome the effort made by the PostmasterGeneral to have these stations provided. Although he announced this as a 4-year plan, there has been a lot of criticism about the length of time it has taken. The Postmaster-General did not have to make the announcement at that time. He could have delayed the announcement and there would have been a delay between the announcement and the station going into operation. But by making the announcement, procedures can take place which 1 hope will bring these stations into operation according to the timetable that has been allocated for ‘them. They will be of very great benefit to the country towns in the vicinity, not only from the point of view of adult entertainment or educational value but also from the point of view of the great advantage they will afford to the school children and the students in the area. I commend the Postmaster-General on undertaking this programme. I only hope that we will see a further stage extending to places like Quilpie which does not already have the advantage of being included in the present stage. I could name a number of other places which are equally deserving of this facility such as Taroom, Wandoan, Surat, Bollon, Thargomindah and many others. 1 want to touch on the subject of telephones. I make a plea to the Government to devote more funds to this section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The waiting period for telephones has created tremendous difficulties, particularly for families living well away from their doctor or any medical attention at all. Telephones would make a tremendous difference to those people from the humanitarian point of view. It is from that angle that I press this matter very strongly. We all know that one cannot run a property effectively with out having telephonic communication. I appeal to the Government to provide more funds to the Postmaster-General’s Department to enable this unacceptable delay in telephone installations to be eased. People have had to wait some years already and they are still waiting for telephones. I know that finance does not cure all of this problem, as the Postmaster-General has pointed out to me and many of my constituents who have made application to him time and time again. Nevertheless, there is a need not only for finance but also for technicians. There is a need for electronic equipment and for cables. All of these things are required before the plan can be completed. I know it could be some time before this time lag can be reduced substantially, but I feel that the provision of further funds would help the situation. I have not yet found people in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who have said to me that they did not need more funds or that if they had more funds they could not make use of them. I feel sure that the programme generally would be assisted if further funds were made available for that purpose.
In common with other speakers I have heard already in the debate tonight, I commend the Postmaster-General, the Government and the Postmaster-General’s Department on the excellent policy which has been brought down. It has been of tremendous value to people in rural areas in enabling them to have a telephone perhaps when they could not afford it otherwise. The only fly in *e ointment is the length of time they have to wait. However, the Government has brought down a splendid policy and, although its implementation will be costly, I believe it will pay dividends to the Postmaster-General’s Department. When the services are installed to the standard required by the Postmaster-General’s Department they will be free of a lot of the problems that have been associated with country telephones in the past. There will not be anything like the present number of calls on the Postmaster-General’s Department technicians relative to the number of telephones they are serving. There will be a greater continuity of service and this will bring greater revenue to the Postmaster-General’s Department. So while the cost will be very heavy, I believe that there will be benefit to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I believe that eventually the policy will prove economically sound as well as providing a standard of service that we want to see provided in those areas.
The only other matter I wish to mention is a matter which I have spoken about constantly, and that is the need for individuals to have local call access to the main business centre. As the Postmaster-General pointed out to me in a letter dated 16th October, to enable all subscribers to have local call access to their nearest main centre would mean extending this concession over distances in excess of 100 miles. Perhaps we will not be able to provide this facility for everyone but I believe it can be provided for more people than at the present time. I do not accept the proposition that telephone zones should be similar in size wherever they may be. I believe that zone sizes could be expanded in western areas. I do not accept that the cost of providing this facility would be excessive because, while the capital outlay would be fairly high, once the equipment was installed, the upkeep would not be very costly. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have a look at my suggestion of expanding the zones in the outlying areas with the object of serving more people with this local call access to their nearest main town than are served at the present time. This is a service for which people are looking. I have not pressed for anything more strongly. I believe there is a good deal of justice in the argument, so I hope that in the course of time this request will be granted and that as many people as is reasonably economically possible - I am sure the service could be improved - will be able to have local call access to their main business centre.
– In the very few minutes available to honourable members in this debate I want to commence my remarks by reminding the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) that I stand by the statement I made in the House last night about certain appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Postmaster-General said there was no element of truth in what I had to say. If the Postmaster-General does not believe that a certain person appointed as a Commissioner is not his next door neighbour I am prepared to go on a current affairs programme with the Minister and debate the issue. I will not insist, as the Prime Minister (Mr McMahan) does, that there be a run and a re-run of the programme. Apparently the Prime Minister has to be afforded the protection of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department before he will make a national broadcast to the people of this country. I stand by what I said last night about the shackling and censorship of the current affairs programmes. I do so in no uncertain manner.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) should not have been so quiescent and should not have been so congratulatory in his speech. The honourable member for Maranoa has stood in this place year after year and has complained about matters affecting his electorate and country people generally. For about the sixteenth time we heard the honourable member condescendingly praising the PostmasterGeneral and his Department whereas he ought to be taking a stronger line on behalf of the people he purports to represent.
I have a few moans and groans to make. [ will not be so congratulatory. The Government’s policy of increasing Post Office charges has inflicted a burden on the business community out of all proportion to what is required to meet the Department’s costs. Last year in the Budget the Government imposed a tremendous increase in Post Office charges. A profit of $60m has been disclosed by the Postmaster-General and it is alleged that the correct profit could be as high as $200m. Honourable members are aware of the growth that has taken place within industries and insurance companies. Some insurance companies have now introduced their own system of capital city to capital city postal deliveries. Postal charges have been pushed up to the point at which business interests consider that they can carry out their own deliveries of letters, papers and parcels better than can the Postal Department. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not once again blame rising costs. Perhaps he should blame the management of his Department. I want to touch on some other matters that concern people in my electorate, and indeed, in the whole of South Australia, because of the stupidities and shortcomings of the Post Office. Why is it that public school organisations have been forced to pay higher postal charges on school books? Why has the South Australian Association of State School Organisations been inflicted with a burden through the shortcomings of the Government because of increased postal charges for its publication? People in the community who are associated with school committees, parent organisations and so on do not get one cent in return for the hours they devote to the welfare of children. These people have to engage in fund raising so that they can pay a handsome dividend to the Post Office.
– Oh nothing; it is a fact. The honourable member can ‘Oh’ as much as he likes. 1 come now to another matter. Why have church organisations also been placed in the category on which a burden has been inflicted? I have in mind the increased charges that have to be met by the people who produce the Methodist Central Times’. It is a terrible thing to increase these charges. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has been heard to plead a case for country newspapers in his electorate that have been swallowed up by the mass combine of city newspapers in the last few years. I refer to the ‘Advertiser’, for example. The honourable member’s heart bled for them but he did not have a word to say for the pensioner organisations, school and church organisations, and so forth.
When will the Postmaster-General raise the concession granted to widows in respect of television licences and the like? When the first teenager in the family brings in about S25 a week, away goes the concession. Not one skerrick of consideration is given to whether a widow has 3 children at school. Obviously the Minister does not give a damn. He simply says: That is the cut off point. That is my Department’s decision. That is the Government’s decision. There it ends and I will not listen to any compassionate argument.’ Why has he not considered what is involved in the installation of telephones in flats and apartments? A hole is punched in a wall and a wire is led through but the installation charge and reconnection charge are the same for pensioners and others when they have to move, as quite frequently they do. I have corresponded with the Postmaster-General on this matter in recent weeks. Why is the same charge imposed on such people as is imposed on business organisations?
I would also like the Postmaster-General to look into the cancellation of the television programme ‘Adventure Island’. He must be aware that the programme was one of the most popular on television. The matter should receive his priority attention to ensure that the programme is continued. In my area after development takes place the people have to wait God knows how long for postal receiving facilities and public telephones. In some parts of my electorate people have been waiting for years for postal deliveries. Yet honourable members opposite say that they want to congratulate the Postmaster-General and his Department for all sorts of things.
Another matter which troubles me at the moment is the restricted type of licence which has been granted to universities in Adelaide in respect of the production of television plays. It has been ruled that the producers cannot play music in those plays. We might as well go back to the days of silent films. What an imposition and a restriction to be in operation. Is there any common sense in it? The plays are produced on an educational basis but they must not include background music. It seems quite ridiculous to me and I hope that the penny will drop so that such a stupid restriction will be removed. I refer now to subscriber trunk dialling. Will the Minister inform this House whether the Belmont telephone exchange has a technical fault?
– Where is Belmont?
– The honourable member knows damn well where it is. If the honourable member who represents that area were here 1 would tell you. I ask the Minister how many complaints he received about telephone accounts issued from that exchange? How many rebates and adjustments were made in terms of dollars and cents? The Minister will not reveal that figure because if he did other subscribers would be able to argue about their telephone accounts. Some people in my electorate who are usually charged for trunk line calls about $10 to $13 have received bills for about $400. I ask the Minister: What the devil goes on, man? Does not the Minister think that the situation requires some sort of investigation? The subscriber is not always at fault in querying charges. It may not always be a case of a teenage lass waiting for her parents to go out so that she can speak on the phone for hour after hour. Some bachelors in my electorate are salted with these types of bills. I repeat that there ought to be some sort of investigation into this matter.
Although the time allotted me to speak in this debate has nearly expired 1 would like another 20 minutes to give the Minister a run down on a number of other deficiencies in his Department. I believe that the whole Department ought to be investigated to see whether a better system can be introduced to deal with rental charges, meter charges and so forth. Other countries have adopted a system of renting or hiring telephones which seems to be a more sensible and economic approach than the system at present in operation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have listened to an extraordinary outburst by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), who has built up quite a reputation for himself in this place as one who will make utterances without the least bit of evidence, without the least bit of fact and without the least substantiation of what he says. It is a great shame that in matters of this kind the honourable member wishes to mislead the public and in particular his own constituents. I think it can only be deplored. He referred to a loss being incurred in some operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department but then cited an incredible profit figure of $200m. One can only guess how he arrives at that figure. My guess is that he wants to construct for his own political ends a coloured account of the position even though it is nothing like that at all.
The profit referred to in the report of the operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year ended 30th June 1972 shows a very sound business result having regard to what happened to the business of the Post Office in the preceding 24 months. There has been an astronom ical rise in wages, and unprecedented industrial disruption has occasioned losses. These had to be taken into account in the budgeting of the Post Office. The provision of service, when considered in relation to actual cost, is well above that of any other similar instrumentality anywhere in the world. Yet the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) criticises the Government in respect of the cost of postage of school magazines and other publications. Of course, these publications are transmitted by the Post Office at a loss. The arrangements made in this field and the creation of certain categories are tremendously advantageous to the organisations that use this service, and it ill becomes the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) to make the kind of criticism that he has made.
– Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Cowper has made an allegation against the honourable member for Angas. He declared that the honourable member for Angas criticised the Government. The honourable member for Angas has never criticised the Government since he has been in this Parliament.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– There is no question as to which honourable member I am referring to. I am referring to the honourable member for Sturt. If I inadvertently said ‘the honourable member for Angas’, I certainly apologise to the honourable member for Angas.
The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) referred to the aspects of finance and, in particular, made the observation that in his opinion the interest charged to the Post Office was a burden upon the service. Of course, this matter has been debated in this House from time to time over the years. I refer to the report of the Committee that dealt with this matter a few years ago. Its recommendation indicated quite clearly that, from a business point of view and from all other considerations, it was a sound practice. Naturally, it would be very helpful to the operations of the Department if this were removed, but the funds would still have to come from somewhere. They would have to come from the Government or, in other words, from the taxpayer. Of course, if we think in terms of the taxpayer, we are really thinking in terms of the general public who are the users of the Post Office and, if the matter is taken through to its logical conclusion, I think we really end up in exactly the same position.
The suggestion of a review of the whole financing structure of the Department is something to which no-one would object. If there were to be some worthwhile result from any kind of review in any business undertaking, it is right and proper that this should occur. But there have been quite extensive deliberations by the Estimates Committee in another place. If such an inquiry could elucidate matters and be constructive in nature and could be helpful from an administrative point of view, it is right and proper and should not be criticised. Perhaps in that respect, the honourable member for Macquarie was quite right in making the observation that he did. But he then went on to say that there is need to look at the standards of service that are provided. I believe that a detailed inquiry into the standards of service would disclose that what is being provided today is quite outstanding in terms of comparison with any other similar service. Naturally, costs must be taken into account but on the postal side there is a definite policy of providing service. Of course, this really is the reason for the losses that have occurred year by year in this section of the operation. To criticise the standard of service is to deny the facts as they really exist.
References have been made to deferred applications. Again, I think the honourable member for Macquarie particularly raised this point. He quoted figures which 1 think should be explained to the House. It is true that the annual report of the Post Office mentioned a total number of deferred applications of 65,396, but of these the actual number of deferments was only 13,250. The number in the course of being connected to the service was 35,459, and this figure is included in the total tally. The number of quotations with the applicants was 12,686 and the number of applications being examined so that a quote could be made tallied 3,974. So, the significant point about these figures is that the number of actual deferments as at 30th June 1972 was more than 1,000 lower than at the same time last year. I think that this figure demonstrates that the Department really is making progress in what is a tremendous job to provide the services that are required in this coun’ty.
– What about the 40-
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will cease interjecting.
– Members of the Opposition are again criticising the Post Office without any facts and without recognition of the truth of the matter. I think it was the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) who made a typical criticism. He said that only 35 country connections had been made in, I presume, South Australia. The truth is that, in the year just ended, the total number of rural connections in South Australia was close to 500. In fact, the figure was 490. That certainly is a long way from the figure of 35 which was referred to by the honourable member for Grey.
There has been some criticism of the provisions for country applicants under the new system of providing lines up to 15 miles from exchanges. I think that the record here is one of which the Department can be really proud. In the year just ended, new services provided totalled 2,208 and the costs of providing those services, together with the up-grading of 2,949 lines, was no less than $7m. But (he present Budget provides for an increase in the allocation for this kind of work to a total of $13.5m. This is almost double the amount which was spent last year and shows a positive attempt to deal with what is the most difficult problem that the Department could possibly have on its hands, namely, the provision of services to remote areas at a cost of enormous sums of money. I think it should be particularly emphasised that some single subscribers require an outlay of funds of as much as $10,000 for a single telephone. This is being done. It has never been done before by any other government. There was never any thought of doing this.
Honourable members on the other side of the House who are critical might remember that, years ago, their view was that there should not be this kind of help for people in country areas. So, the story might be taken through in every facet of the operations of the Department. The number of rural automatic exchanges that have been provided and the increased services that are being provided month by month and year by year disclose the outstanding record of accomplishment of the Department. There is more to be done and it will be done. Criticism, when justified, is right and proper, but when it is baseless, as we have heard it tonight, it of course reflects seriously not only on those who utter it but also on the community which has such a dependence on the service that is being provided and which is required by them.
– I am sure that it must have given the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) a great deal of pleasure this evening to listen to his offspring giving such an eloquent account of the way in which the Australian Post Office has handled its affairs.
– Are they related?
– I meant his political offspring. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) criticised some of my colleagues who spoke previously in the debate. He suggested that the Department is really making progress and that the criticisms that have been made have been without foundation. As an illustration of the high costs of the services provided he said that it cost up to $10,000 for the installation of a single telephone service. These are all matters to which I should like to refer in some detail to show that, to begin with, while the Postmaster-General’s Department may really be making progress, it is not making sufficient progress to keep up with the growth and development of the Australian community. I refer not to the high cost of the installation of telephones required in isolated areas but to telephones required in areas of growth on the outskirts of metropolitan areas particularly Brisbane and especially in my own electorate of Bowman. This year the annual report shows that the telecommunications section of the Post Office made a profit of about S71m. While this is very commendable it shows that the Post Office has a very suc cessful adjunct in its operations. But the problem is that this section of the Post Office has not been given the opportunity to expend the money that it should be expending to provide adequate services in its area of responsibility. I can speak only in the most complimentary way about the Post Office staff but I cannot say the same for the actual provision of services particularly in regard to telephone installations.
I remind honourable members that telephone calls for last year, as disclosed in the annual report, earned a total of $387m for the Post Office. Surely a better deal could be given to those people who require a telephone than is being given at the present time. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) instanced this evening cases of people who are in dire need of a telephone and who have been denied a connection. People in metropolitan areas are being denied a telephone connection and they face a waiting period in some cases of up to 2 years. Recently in Brisbane - and whether this was as a result of my criticism of the lack of telephone services in certain areas of Brisbane or not I do not know, but certainly something prompted this comment - the Post Office through a spokesman, an unnamed spokesman of course as is usual in these cases, made an outstandingly ridiculous statement saying that the growing demand for more and more telephones in city and suburban areas had exceeded the resources of manpower, capital and material because Brisbane was going through a period of telephone mania. How ridiculous it is when today young people who build a home find that they are readily able to get, as they are entitled to expect, electricity and water but they cannot get a simple telephone installation which they require and which they should be entitled to have connected to their home just as they have available other essential services connected.
The spokesman for the Post Office to whom I have referred talked about a total of 800 applicants in Brisbane on the deferred list. But I would refute the claim that there are only 800 deferred applications in Brisbane or the near suburban areas. I know of over 350 in my own electorate who have had to wait for over 12 months to have a telephone connected. There is a greater number who have waited for less than 12 months and a considerable number who have waited between 18 months and 2 years. There are approximately 700 applicants waiting in an area which includes my electorate and extends as far as Acacia Ridge, taking in sections of the Moreton, Oxley and Mcpherson electorates. There are 170 deferred applications of people facing a wait of 3 months to 6 months and about 380 applicants facing a wait of 18 months. This is in the Brisbane area. Earlier I received an indication from the Postmaster-General that he would agree to my request to incorporate in Hansard a table which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library Statistical Service setting out the number of telephone applications which have been received over the years.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I will not refer in any great detail to this table but I should like to make reference to the fact that the table covers the last 5 years and sets out the estimated demand and total number of applications received In each of ‘those 5 years. The situation generally in Queensland is quite a sorry condemnation of a position that has been allowed to deteriorate over the 5 years with the exception of the 1969-70 financial year. The variation in demand over estimate in Queensland exceeded the national average except in 1969-70. In 1970-71 Queensland had a figure of 10.6 per cent representing the variation of actual demand for telephones over the estimates prepared for that year. The national average at that time was 4.1 per cent. This year the situation is far worse. The figure is 13.5 per cent for Queensland and the national average is 5.4 per cent. In Victoria over the same period there has been a steady decline in the variation of actual demand over the estimates prepared for each year. So in effect the problem has been tackled in Victoria and very creditably has been overcome to a great extent. For the 1968-69 financial year Victoria had an 11.8 per cent variation with a national average at 7.4 per cent. As I said, the problem has been realistically tackled in that State but this has not been done in Queensland according to the figures set out in this table and in the light of actual cases which, tragically, had been referred to me and which I had to put to the people in the Post Office which rejected them. The variation in Victoria has dropped from 11.8 per cent to only 1.8 per cent in the last financial year compared with a national average of 5.4 per cent.
I implore the Postmaster-General while he still has an opportunity in the remaining couple of months in which he is in charge of his Department to take immediate action in an endeavour to overcome the serious backlog of telephones in Queensland as is indicated in the figures I have given, particularly in those areas where there is obviously no room for the excuse that exchange facilities or trunk lines need to be installed. I have had very reliable communications stating that without this sort of hold-up in the Brisbane area there are in excess of 200 applications which have been deferred because of the unavailability of labour to carry out the job or the unavailability of handsets or simple equipment. I am informed that 200 people cannot get a telephone because the Post Office either does not offer adequate wages or employment conditions which are necessary to attract people into employment or does not carry sufficient stocks of equipment to enable it to do the job.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is interesting to hear the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) condemning the Australian Post Office for a lack of funds and a lack of progress being made on the installation of telephone. It is also interesting to hear them during debates on matters of public importance saying that all cables should be put underground, which as the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) pointed out would further delay all the desired results. We have to be realistic. We have to be responsible. In conceding the difficulties of the Post Office 1 do not intend to speak on this subject but rather on the estimates relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. During the 14 years that I have been a member of Parliament 1 have always supported the Australian Broadcasting Commission because I believe that it is the only means we have of ensuring objectivity in the reporting of news as well as parliamentary proceedings. The Press in Australia is owned by a few groups and it prints just what the policies of those groups require it to print. There are great protests at times against alleged government censorship of news reporting, but it is nothing to what the Press censors. Anybody who has been a Minister knows the misrepresentation that takes place in our daily Press. I have always looked to the ABC as the means of providing the community of Australia with objective news broadcasts and I believe that it has succeeded very considerably. But in the last year I have noticed a great change.
The programmes are excellent, certainly: but as a person who is critical and one who has been associated with the circumstances of the times I have an impression that the young men who are the commentators, interrogators or whatever they are called probably suffer from immaturity. I think they are quite sincere in their endeavours to provide a good programme, but my view is that sometimes they do not know their subject and they let some people get away with murder. I was amazed by what was said on a ‘Four Corners’ programme last Saturday concerning Japan’s association with Australia in the. field of trade and so on. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) was interviewed on that programme. Reference was made to the ownership of land in Australia falling into what the honourable member described as alien hands. He. said that 400,000 square miles of Australian territory was owned by aliens - and he was allowed to get away with saying it.
The young fellow who interviewed the honourable member for Riverina in the Four Corners’ programme on the ABC did not ask him who the aliens were who owned this land. If the honourable member for Riverina had been questioned on this he would have had to be. honest and admit that only a fraction of this land was owned by people other than people from the United Kingdom. As a member of an old pastoral family, I know that the old pastoral companies from the United Kingdom have been in Australia from the very beginning of white settlement. Are we to include the people of the British Isles as aliens? I gather that this is the new attitude which has been adopted by members of the Opposition and apparently it is accepted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The expression ‘owned by aliens’ probably sounds very frightening to the people of Australia. We see similar sorts of statements in our afternoon newspapers, and I am sorry to see the Australian Broadcasting Commission participating in this sort of thing. To say that 400,000 square miles of Australian land is owned by aliens sounds quite impressive, but if the young man conducting the interview had known something about the subject he would have asked: ‘Is this freehold or leasehold land?’ If the truth were to come out I believe it would show that it is all leasehold land. All this 400,000 square miles of our birthright that was accepted on the ‘Four Corners’ programme as having been sold to aliens is probably leasehold land which will revert to the Crown in a few years’ time after millions of dollars had been spent on improving it.
The people of Australia are being misled by plain nonsense. I am disappointed that the ABC has been a party to this sort of thing. It is quite extraordinary that it accepted the views of the honourable member for Riverina - a member of the Opposition - without question, especially with an election coming up. It looks rather ominous to me. Apparently the Commission’s commentators or interviewers support the Opposition and fear the present Government which they claim to be selling our birthright. I do not know where the honourable member for Riverina got his information. I say that because it is impossible to get the facts from the State governments in Australia as to who owns the land in most of their pastoral areas. But this information is available for the Northern Territory. For the information of honourable members, I wish to quote figures 1 obtained from the Legislative Reference Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library on the ownership of land in the Northern Territory. The area under pastoral lease in the Northern Territory is 286,648 square miles. A total of 74 per cent of that area is held solely by Australian interests. A total of 16.3 per cent of it is held solely by overseas interests.
– That is the best portion.
– The honourable member for Hawker should listen to what I have to say. The breakdown of that figure is 5.2 per cent United States held and 11.1 per cent United Kingdom held. Would the honourable member for Hawker classify United Kingdom interests as alien interests? Is that his view? The honourable member for Riverina called them alien interests. That is a departure from the traditional Australian view of our British ancestors. Most of us have descended from British people.
– You are an old colonial; that is your fault.
– I have descended from British people. I do not regard my grandfather as having been an alien. The honourable member might regard his as having been an alien. He probably was. That is ! the difference between the honourable member and me.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. With what estimates are we deal ing? Is the honourable member for Mcpherson dealing with the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Chairman, I seek petmission to have incorporated in Hansard the relevant information I received from the Legislative Reference Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Area under pastoral lease = 286,648 sq. miles. 74% of this area is held solely by Australian interests. 16.3% of this area is held solely by overseas interests which breaks down into 5.2% U.S. held and 11.1% U.K. held leases.
The rest of the land is held by joint Australianoverseas interests.
– This is the sort of misrepresentation about which I am concerned. Most of us take with a grain of salt what the Press publishes but we look to the ABC for integrity in its news reporting and we are not getting it.
– We are getting it.
– We are not getting it. We had the case recently of an order being given not to put a particular segment on a current affairs programme, bug down the line it was decided to put it on. In other words, some people in the ABC make their own rules. That is the philosophy of anarchy. Who makes the rules - this Parliament or the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which derives its statutory authority from this Parliament? If we are going to have a philosophy of anarchy coming into the ABC, God help us because we get no help from our Press. When I was in Japan a few months ago the retiring Prime Minister, Mr Sato, told the reporters sitting in front of him:
Get out of the way and permit a TV camera to be placed there. I want to appeal directly to the people, and I want reporting to be carried out mainly by TV. I don’t like newspapers which distort the news.
May we look to the ABC to give us objective news reporting. I hope the present situation will be remedied.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr Chairman.
– Does the honourable member for Riverina claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Fisher, who has just resumed his seat. He stated during the course of his address that I had made the statement-
– I would remind the honourable member for Riverina that it was the honourable member for Mcpherson who just resumed his seat.
– I beg your pardon. I meant to say the honourable member for McPherson.
– He has got his facts mixed up again.
– It is only because I am dealing with a mixed up member of the House; otherwise everything would have been perfectly all right. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for McPherson in relation to a statement which I made on the ‘Four Corners’ programme of the ABC at the weekend. I should point out also that the honourable member for McPherson misrepresented the ABC. I repeated on that programme a statement which I made in this House on 28th September in the presence of his Leader and which went unchallenged either by his Leader or the honourable member at the time. It related to the Prime Minister’s statement in this House on foreign ownership of Australia. I said:
Nowhere did he-
That is the Prime Minister - refer to the great alienation of land and water resources. No where did he refer to the fact that about 250 million acres of land are now owned or controlled outside this country.
I stand by that statement. It is substantiated and I suggest that the honourable member should listen a little more attentively in future.
Mr BARNES (McPherson) - I have been misrepresented. I was referring to the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme ‘Four Corners’. I based my remarks on that.
– In speaking to the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I cannot resist the temptation to refer to a couple of comments made by the honourable member for
McPherson (Mr Barnes). I would regard him as being as irrelevant on current affairs as he is on most subjects he discusses in this place.
– I think he is typical of the Government.
– He may be. He is about as relevant on these matters as is Boadicea’s chariot. I want to speak about 2 matters in these estimates. The first is one of great concern and great regret to me personally. 1 know it has been touched on many times here but I intend to touch on it again. This matter of great regret to me and to honourable members on this side of the House is that the emasculation of current affairs programmes on the ABC is continuing. It is a matter for further regret that the inhibitions being imposed on the current affairs sector of the ABC are reducing its objectivity and its freedom clearly to discuss national issues. It seems to me that if these programmes are not at the moment being quite clearly diminished we are certainly well on the way to extinguishing them as effective public forums.
I want to refer to the existing morale - low as it is - within the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I can think of no time in my experience in broadcasting, which goes back a great number of years, when the morale of the personnel in the Commission has been lower than it is at this moment. It is low for a great number of reasons. These people feel that there has been a political imposition on them to present facts and a portrait of contemporary affairs in this country that suit the government of the day. I find this a very distressing situation. I have spoken on this matter in the House before and I will continue to talk on it while this situation exists. I think a lot of honourable members, particularly on the Government side, fail to recognise that if we are to have a public broadcasting service it must not be inhibited or emasculated by government policy or interference at any time, and that is exactly what is happening now. I have spoken with a great number of members of the ABC all over this country. I know the conditions under which they work. I was an employee myself. I know the conditions under which they are now being forced to put programmes to air, with blatant political interference.
I will not mention personalities or bring names into this very short debate. 1 think it would be unwise and unfair to do so. One has only to look at the daily Press and to read the reports that are emanating from the ABC at the moment to see exactly what sort of situation we have got ourselves into. There is no longer trust in the staff of the ABC by the top hierarchy of the ABC. lt well suits the management at this time to indulge in this self-imposed censorship of programmes. As I said in the House a short time ago, if the Government wants the French system to prevail in this country, where there is complete government domination of the state broadcasting and television services, it is heading in precisely the right direction to achieve that result. 1 do not put any personal blame on the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) for this. In the 3 years I have been in this Parliament I have found him to be a man of great integrity and I have no reason to change that point of view, but unless the Government allows the ABC to operate as an objective current affairs examiner of governments and government performance without any interference, it might just as well let the ABC die tomorrow, because this is what is happening.
We have the extraordinary paradox now of commercial television stations being far more free and far more critical of government performance in this country than is the public broadcasting service which has the duty to do this. One has only to look in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for 1971-72 to see the ratings of current affairs radio programmes like AM’ and ‘PM’. They have an audience of 400,000, and this disturbs the Government. Obviously the Government is disturbed because such a considerable audience in the country is alert to government lack of performance. The Government has every reason to be worried. Its performance in the last 2 or 3 years has been appalling and I have no doubt that people want to know about it. They are entitled to know about it without any fetters or interference from this Government or any other government.
Let me turn now to a local matter. Since the inception of television in Tasmania in 1961 many areas in various parts of my electorate have experienced great difficulties in obtaining favourable reception of an image. I am prepared to acknowledge at the outset that the communications I have had with the Postmaster-General have always been eminently satisfactory. But I want to remind him again that over the past 2 years I have made constant representation to him on the lack of reception - the lack of a good picture - in the Huon Valley area of my electorate. This area involves a great many thousands of people who, in 1972, are still not receiving an adequate picture. I remind the Minister and I remind the Committee that we are now dealing with the proposition of introducing frequency modulation in broadcasting. We are talking about the introduction of colour television. I have no argument with these things. I support them. But these people since 1961 have been denied an adequate television coverage. I think in 1972 that they have exhibited a remarkable tolerance in putting up with it for about 10 years. I know that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is in a very difficult position. It does not have the field engineers and the technicians to carry out every task that it is called upon to carry out. But, speaking for my own constituents - I have received very strong representations from them - 1 remind the Minister and ask him to place this on the top priority programme for the Board to ensure that it will make some firm recommendation as to what it is going to do.
I know that the geographical location of the area imposes a very great demand on the technicians and their ability to get a picture into this area. But I remind the Minister that these people have been very patient. I think they have been excessively patient. The time has now come when they should be considered along with other people throughout the Commonwealth who, in the last 10 or 15 years, have been receiving a very adequate television picture. The. Minister has responded to the representations I have made to him, but I ask him as a matter of urgency to place this issue high on the priority list.
– I want to raise briefly 3 matters which come under the jurisdiction of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). The first relates to continued complaints from the electorate of overcharging on telephone accounts. The honourable member for Scullin , Dr Jenkins) has already raised this question to some extent. I support what he has said and say that 1 share the experience which he outlined. I am certain that this experience must be shared by many other honourable members as well. I have found a steady stream of constituents coming to me alleging excessive telephone charges and producing facts which, by all canons of common sense, would support the claims they are making. I stress that these complaints were coming in before the recent publicity which has been given to this question as well as since that time, and there is a very regular pattern attached to them. When we have a complaint we approach the local post office supervisor and very courteous attention is given to cur request for a review. I accept that checks are carried out to the best of the ability of the Post Office, given their methods and equipment, but the results are almost uniform. Invariably our submissions are rejected and no amendment is allowed to the telephone charge which has been brought into question.
To cite just one example of the situation te which I am referring, one constituent to present this problem is a widow who can produce accounts to show that over the past 7 years, a period during which she has had 14 telephone accounts, she has never been called on to pay in excess of $70. However, her second last account was for $193 and a few cents and her last account, by some coincidence, was also for $193 and a few cents. Let me draw attention to a number of special and important factors related to these 2 accounts. Firstly, 1 already have made the point that these accounts were almost 3 times her standard account over the previous 7 years. Secondly, for 6 weeks during one 6-month period her house was vacant while she was absent in the eastern States. No-one else had access to the home and the telephone could not have been used for this large proportion of that 6-month period. Thirdly, after the shock of receiving the first account for $193 the telephone subscriber took special care to monitor her own calls, particularly the subscriber trunk dialling calls, and she points out that over the last 6-month period she made no more than 12 STD calls, all from Perth to Sydney and all were strictly timed to be not in excess of 3 minutes. Irrespective of the meters and the checks, this constituent will never be satisfied that these 2 accounts fairly and accurately reflect her usage of the telephone service. I am bound to say, having looked at this matter closely and accepting the facts that this subscriber has presented to me, that I could not accept these charges either. Whatever the meter says, these charges cannot be right.
The most frustrating aspect of these cases of alleged overcharging is the inability of telephone subscribers to obtain a detailed account. STD and local calls are jumbled together, and charges attributable to each cannot be isolated under the present procedures adopted by the telephone section. I am without the technical knowledge to put the following matter any more than tentatively but I submit to the Postmaster-General that, as I understand the position, other countries which have installed the STD service provide in their metering equipment for the ability to give detailed accounts for STD calls. I also understand that there is no serious bar to the introduction of that service here, that is, there is no serious technical bar and no excessive cost involved. Accordingly, because I can see no other way out of the problems of dissatisfaction to which this question gives rise, I put a series of questions to the PostmasterGeneral hoping that he will have the facts available now but that if he has not, he will provide them later. Firstly, is it a fact that separate details of STD usage are available in other countries which have installed the STD service? Secondly, what would be the cost of introducing changes to our service to make that detailed advice possible? Thirdly, what reasons other than cost exist to support the refusal of the Australian Post Office to install this service? Finally, will the Minister give the House an assurance that this matter will be looked at again with a view to installing the necessary equipment?
The telephone service is a monopoly but that is no reason to operate it on a take it or leave it basis - ‘Accept our readings and charges because you have no alternative. Take it or do without a telephone service’. If anything, a monopoly situation makes even greater the responsibility of the Department to ensure fair treatment of telephone subscribers. I am sure that subscribers, whether they are treated fairly or not, will never be satisfied that they are being treated fairly until detailed accounts of the sort I have indicated are made available to them in accordance with ordinary commercial practice. I know of very few commercial situations where large accounts are given and no opportunity provided to the customer to have the details of the accounts made available.
– The Department will put a check meter on if the subscriber pays for it.
– I must confess that I have not come across this point. Even so, such a service should be available without charge. I move from that question in the few minutes I have available to deal with a charging practice of television commercial stations in Western Australia which has come to my notice and which I think is improper. This concerns the advertising rates now imposed by those stations on political advertisements. In accordance with ordinary commercial advertising practice, television stations have a casual rate for the isolated advertisement or two and a package rate if a given number of advertisements are taken over a restricted period. The difference between the 2 charges can be considerable. It has come to my notice that both commercial stations in Perth have now advised that they are not prepared to accept political advertisements on a package deal basis and that advertisements, no matter how many and in what short period they are to be shown, will be charged for at the casual rate. An example of the effect of this is that in one time slot the cost has now risen from $85 to $133 for a 20-second advertisement, an increase of almost $50, while in another time slot the cost of a 20-second advertisement has risen from $64 to $95.
As 1 understand it, the only reason given for this change in practice is that pressure of political advertisements is too heavy to accommodate with comfort and, to overcome that difficulty, what amounts to something like a 50 per cent surcharge has been imposed. However, I would point out that it is only political advertisements which are subject to this surcharge. Ordinary commercial advertisements, even though they are within this crowded period, still are available at the package rate. This raises an important question of principle. The democratic process requires that we be given the opportunity of the maximum possible presentation of political policies to the electorate. What we have here, in effect, is a decision by commercial stations to censor and restrict the ability of political parties - this applies to all political parties - to put ‘their policies to the electorate. In doing this it appears to me that the stations are reversing the proper order of priorities. They are restricting political advertising but allowing advertisements for cornflakes, soap, cigarettes and baked beans to go on as often and as unrestricted as they like. That is a reversal of proper priorities and I urge the Postmaster-General to look at this matter. If necessary, regulations or legislation should be introduced to ensure the ready availability of television time to political parties at election time. I raise just one other question related to the change in television station practice. It refers to the question of collusion. It cannot be a coincidence that both commercial stations have adopted a surcharge procedure together. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to look at this matter closely.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Usually it is my custom in estimates debates to cover most of the points raised by honourable members in their speeches. Tonight it is not my intention to do so because so many honourable members have spoken and so many points have been raised. I shall deal with what I think are the more important points, and many of the other points will be answered by letter, as has been done in the past. I think the Assistant Minister assisting the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Robinson) covered the question raised by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) regarding an inquiry into Post Office affairs. I come to the point raised by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) in relation to communication by satellite on an internal system basis. He gave figures in relation to Canada and the United States and suggested that this system would appropriate to Australia. I think that perhaps the honourable member does not completely appreciate the problems experienced in Australia, although he mentioned the sparsely populated areas and the facilities which are necessary to make properly effective a satellite system of communication for, as he put it, telephones, radio and telex.
I am sure that the honourable member must appreciate, as do other honourable members, that an earth station is required to receive messages from satellite at the present time. In fact, a message is received at the earth station - I think I am right in saying - at a strength of 100th of an ordinary torch battery and it is brought into the Australian system by increasing the power of the actual message. So before we could use satellites for the purpose of providing communication to the interior dwellers of Australia it would be necessary to overcome the problem concerning what I term the earth station. I believe that over the next 10 or IS years the scientist and the engineer will find means by which an earth station can be reduced to such a size that it can be incorporated virtually in a television set. When that happens it will be possible for people in the outback to receive messages in this way. But as the position stands at the moment, the message must be received at an earth station, which is a very expensive piece of equipment, and it must be reticulated over a broad band telephone service in order to get the message into the transmitters and then into the home. While I believe that in the future this system could be used in Australia, I am afraid I cannot accept that it would be posible to use it at the present time or even necessarily in the near future.
Several honourable members - in particular, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) - have raised the question of telephone account overcharging. Many accusations about overcharging are made. Unfortunately, I believe that people do not keep appropriate control over the use-
– You are wrong.
– Of course, the honourable member for Corio is an expert. I would not know anything. I know only what flows from the engineers and the scientists in my Department. I will give 2 illustrations. Not long ago I received a letter from a woman who said that she had had difficulty with a girl who had come into her home and asked to use the tele phone. This woman believed that the girl was making a local call. She offered to get the number for the girl, but the girl said: No, I am sorry, I want to ring my mother but she speaks only Italian’. The charge was $54 for a 17-minute call to Rome. The woman was not blaming the Post Office for that situation, but it is an indication of the sort of thing that can happen.
Now let me give another illustration. A gentleman said to me that he and his wife occasionally left their home for periods of 10 days, and they left in the home people who were scrupulously honest. I said to the officers of my Department: ‘Find out when next they are going away and put test equipment on the line’. Of course, at the end of 10 days the test equipment showed that STD calls had been made to Melbourne and Brisbane from that particular telephone. This gentleman decided that the only thing to do was to install another telephone. Here were people who were believed to be scrupulously honest. In most cases when we check with people who complain of overcharging we find that other people have had access to the telephone. A person could be sitting in his lounge room and somebody could ask to use the telephone. That person could use the telephone for STD purposes just as easily as he could use it for local call purposes. Unfortunately, not everybody in the community is honest.
The equipment and the machines which the Post Office provides are checked time and time again. The meters are checked before they are installed and from time to time after their installation. There are very very few occasions on which test equipment, when applied to lines after complaints are made, reveal the meters to be malfunctioning or overcharging.
– There are some.
– The honourable member says: ‘There are some*. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs has admitted that some overcharging may have occurred in approximately 40 out of one million cases. That is a very small percentage. This happens no matter which system is used. If we refer back to the old manual system we find that overcharging occurred under that system because a telephonist would make a mistake in taking down a number. Instead of taking down 1234’ she might take down ‘1243’. lt would not be until the people actually received the docket and checked it that the mistake would be discovered. This type of mistake has always occurred in relation to charging.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) raised a question concerning provincial newspapers. 1 will be pleased to look at the suggestion which he has made. I think it would take me too long this evening to try to cover the whole area in relation to the Post Office householder service, the supplement included in country or metropolitan newspapers and the subsidy which the Post Office pays to country newspapers. I will look at the matter and will inform the honourable member of the position in due course. He also referred to our country lines policy, as did another honourable member. 1 wanted it to be clearly understood that the country lines policy was never intended to be implemented in a matter of 2 or 3 years. It will take 10 to 12 years before we are able to implement fully the policy under which we provide, at departmental expense, a telephone line out to a IS mile limit in country areas and out beyond that point, at a cost of S40 per quarter mile, to subscribers who want a service. I am sorry to say that there is no way in which we could achieve a total connection to subscribers in these areas in a short period. There would not be the money or the manpower to achieve that result.
The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) referred to the provision of television in remote areas. I really believe that when the seventh stage is concluded, when television is available to 98 per cent of Australians - which is almost the same percentage as in the British Isles - we in Australia will have done a pretty good job in the provision of television. It is ridiculous to suggest that because the Government has announced its agreement to the introduction of colour television this will, in fact, affect any further development of black and white television. It will not. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will consider continuously other new areas which may require television, where it can be provided at not excessive cost.
I want to comment on what the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) said. He took the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) to task in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The honourable member for Franklin suggested that there had been political interference and political imposition that suited the government of the day. I think they were broadly the terms he used. I do not know where one goes to prove the falsity of this accusation. I have said there has been no political interference. The honourable member for Franklin said that he did not blame me and that he would not mention people by name. But the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in a journal of September, contributed a substantial article. In this article in ‘Radio Active’ he said:
The decisions by the Commission were made entirely on its own initiative and in the proper exercise of its responsibilities, and they were made without pressure from any outside source. In particular, it is quite untrue that they were made under political pressure - which implies political direction regarding ABC programmes or political interference in the determination of programme policy.
The Commission does not object to criticism of ABC programmes by individual politicians, who have at least as much right as anyone else to express their views; but the Commission has not accepted and will not accept direction from any outside source on its programming policy.
Do the honourable member for Franklin and other honourable members accept that as a truthful statement from the Chairman? Do they accept my denial or do they say that the Chairman is, in fact, a liar when he puts words such as those into a public document? I believe that we should try to understand the real situation in regard to this matter. There has not been Government interference. The honourable member for Franklin said that this is the situation into which we have got ourselves. I suggest to him that this is the situation into which members of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have got themselves.
Not long ago in this chamber I tabled guidelines laid down by the Commission in relation to current affairs programmes. I have not heard one criticism from a member of this chamber of the quality of those guidelines. They were guidelines to the staff. Is there objection to those guidelines? Is it not a responsibility of the
Commission lo indicate to the staff how, in fact, they should-
– We object to the guidelines of the Prime Minister.
– If that is the way he puts it I suggest that the honourable member should stand in his place and indicate that the Prime Minister may have laid down guidelines for the staff of the ABC. In fact, I do not believe that to be true.
– I believe it to be true.
– The guidelines are laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is the Commission which has autonomy not the staff.
– Almost autonomy.
– lt has almost complete autonomy in programming. The honourable member knows that on questions of public interest I have a right to direct the ABC that it shall, in the national interest, present a particular programme. I have the right to declare that a programme shall or shall not be televised or broadcast. 1 have not used that right in my 9 years as Postmaster-General, so I suggest that an interjection such as he has made has no validity whatsoever in relation to this argument. If the staff is in any difficulty, members of the staff have brought it on themselves because they have tried to take autonomy unto themselves in relation to the way they should present programmes and not in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Commission.
The honourable member for Franklin raised the question of Huon Valley television. I merely indicate to him that the Board has completed its extensive field surveys in the Huon Valley area. It expects to make a recommendation to me in the near future. I hope that this will be satisfactory to the honourable member and to the people who live in that area. I am sure it will be appreciated by him that a tremendous amount of work has been required of the Board in relation to the seventh stage, particularly having regard to colour television and the inquiry into frequency modulation radio broadcasting in recent times.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) raised the question of separate charging meters for subscriber trunk dialling calls. Overseas there are machines capable of doing this but they can be applied only to the system provided with certain types of electrical exchanges. We do not have that type of exchange in Australia. As I understand it, I do not believe that it would be possible to attach any type of equipment which would separate the listing of STD calls from the normal local calls on our telephone system.
This is the ninth occasion on which, as Postmaster-General, my estimates have been before the Parliament, and it will be the last time. I appreciate the co-operation which honourable members have given me over the 9 years I have been PostmasterGeneral, not only in relation to the estimates debates but also in relation to my responsibilities in many areas. I publicly acknowledge the very high quality and standard of work performed by officers of my Department. I use the term ‘officers’, but I include every member of the Post Office and the other instrumentalities. I believe they genuinely endeavour to serve the Australian public. I know we have our odd industrial problems. Let us not worry about those at this time. I still believe that within my Department are groups of genuine Australians who are concerned with assisting the Australian public. 1 include also in these remarks my personal staff. Some have been with me for the full 9 years. I believe most members would acknowledge the courtesies which they have received from them while I have endeavoured to carry out my duties.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Sir ALAN HULME (Petrie- PostmasterGeneral) - Mr Chairman, I suggest that the order for consideration of the proposed expenditures agreed to by the Committee on 31st August be varied by next considering the proposed expenditure for the Department of Shipping and Transport.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, $129,275,000.
– I move:
That the proposed expenditure be reduced by $10.
As an instruction to the Government:
To enter into discussions with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments and any other interested
Victorian Governments and any other interested State for (a) the acquisition and assumption of responsibility for their railways and (b) the provision of capital investment in urban public transport as recommended by the Bureau of Transport Economics in June 1972.
Having moved that amendment, one has to examine the finances of the Australian railways system. When one does so, one wonders just how long it will be before this Government does something about railways, what financial assistance it will give to the railways, and just how long the railways system and public transport as a whole can continue to carry this huge financial debt that it carries at the moment. For example, the total Australian railway debt as at 30th June 1971 was $1,79 1.9m. The debt had grown to that figure in the period 1950 to 1971 from $671. 2m. The disturbing fact about this is that in that period 1950 to 1971 the railways had repaid only $230.8m off their debt, and in the same period they paid a total of $992m in interest. This is a financial situation which no-one in any responsible position can allow to continue. For this reason a Labor government will take action, first of all, to open discussions with both the New South Wales and Victorian governments to assume responsibility for their railways. The Premier of New South Wales has made a public statement already that the Commonwealth Government can assume responsibility for the New South Wales Railways. We in the Australian Labor Party accept the offer.
The former Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, on 28th August 1970 wrote to the then Prime Minister and made an offer to him to hand over the Victorian railway system to be incorporated in the Commonwealth railway system. On 30th April 1971 the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) replied to that correspondence and indicated that this Government was not prepared to assume responsibility for the Victorian railway system. We on this side of the House believe that Sir Henry Bolte made the correct move. A Labor government would be prepared to accept that offer and would be prepared to open negotiations immediately to assume that responsibility. 1 believe that only a Commonwealth government has the financial resources to assume responsibility for the debt to which I have already referred and to provide the money to carry out the necessary development, to upgrade the public transport system and to make it more attractive to the public in order to get the people off the roads. That is the only way in which our public transport system can function.
For example, in the year ended 30th June 1970 the State railways lost $39m on country and interstate passenger services and $19m on suburban passenger services, making a total of $58m. Their freight operations were quite successful and on those they showed a profit of $83m. Taking into consideration interest and loan charges of $94m, one can see that there is a problem in the railways system. I would like to hear what the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) has to say about this. When one considers also the fact that twothirds of suburban passenger rolling stock is more than 30 years old and that half of the freight rolling stock is more than 30 years old, there is obviously a case to justify a substantial Commonwealth expenditure in this field.
Recently at the opening of the WhyallaPort Augusta railway the Minister for Shipping and Transport issued a Press statement. He boasted of the fact that the Commonwealth Government in the 20 years since 1951-52 had outlaid more than $205m by way of grants and loans in order to achieve an adequate standardised network. He went on to say that $40m had been outlaid on other railway projects with the aim of overall national railway extension improvements. Let us compare that figure with the amount made available by the Commonwealth in the same period in relation to roads. Including loans which had to be repaid, the Commonwealth outlaid $245m on railways. In direct grants to the States, which were non-repayable, the Commonwealth outlaid $2,063,667,000 for roads in that same 20-year period. I obtained that figure from the Budget papers. This shows the comparison between the amount of money made available by the Commonwealth for roads and that made available for railways.
To suggest that the Commonwealth has a responsibility in relation to railways is not something new when one examines the work that is being done in the United States, where recently it was announced that $12 billion will be made available over the next 12 years for the upgrading of public transport and for improving their railway systems. The West German Government is making money available to 10 of Germany’s major cities on the basis that 50 per cent will be found by the West German Government, 30 per cent by the State governments and 20 per cent by local government. Let us compare this interest in the national public transport system with the paltry amount this Government is making available to improve our railways. On these figures alone there are adequate grounds to justify the points I have been making.
In the few minutes left to me I want to deal with the other aspects of public transport, namely buses, trams and that type of transport which is used in the major cities. In the year 1960-61 in the 6 capital cities there were 1,105 million passenger journeys. In the year 1970-71 there were 948 million passenger journeys, a drop of 14.2 per cent. Yet in that same period the population of these cities increased from 5,758,000 to 7,502,000, an increase of 30.3 per cent. However, as I have said, in that same period the usage of public transport declined by 14.2 per cent. As far as the attractiveness of public transport is concerned, the systems today are almost identical with what they were back in 1960-61. One can go back even further than that. As far as urban rail transport is concerned, some of the carriages used are more than 40 years old. In fact, more than two-thirds of the carriages are over 30 years old. In that same period we have seen the fares for both bus and tram transport increase. For example, in 1949 the fare for the first section in New South Wales was 2c; today it is 10c for the first section. That increase is typical of the way in which fares have increased during that period. It is no wonder that people are not interested in travelling on public transport. They will not do so under those conditions and with the unattractive type of transport that is available.
We on this side of the Committee submit that it is the responsibility of the Common-
Wealth Government to provide money to assist the States. The first method and the best method of assisting the States is by taking over and assuming responsibility for the railway systems and making money available to upgrade public transport. One may ask: ‘How will the Government go about it?’ The Opposition believes that a commission should be set up similar to the Australian Universities Commission to examine the requirements of the State public transport systems, to determine the methods by which that money will be expended, in what way it will be expended, and the amount that is required. The Government already has the Bureau of Transport Economics operating. It has the capacity and the staff to carry out this type of research and then to advise the Government.
– I do not wish to speak on the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I want to discuss some matters which are most important not only to the merchant navy of Australia but also to our defence. I refer particularly to the need for the merchant navy to be able to defend itself in time of war, at least to some extent. We have a current programme to increase our detroyer strength, but irrespective of whether we achieve the aims of that programme in the short term we still will not have sufficient naval escorts to provide the desired degree of protection for our merchant navy. I believe very strongly that at this stage we should make some provision for the merchant navy to defend itself to some extent.
The Commonwealth Government has made and will make a large sum of money available to the builders of merchant ships in Australia. In that circumstance we have the right to impose requirements in respect of the design and building of such ships. In any future conflict merchant ships are likely to be attacked by aircraft. A good argument can be made out to the effect that the defence equipment of shipping could be made more efficient by locating it on the merchant shipping. Not only would there be a more direct involvement between the attacker and the attacked, but also in many cases merchant ships because of their size would provide a better platform for anti-misslile launching systems. If such facilities were made available on merchant shipping greater defensive capacity could be achieved more cheaply than by concentrating solely on naval vessels.
If that argument is accepted, the next point is that modification could most efficiently be effected at the building stage.
I am told that such a programme would require certain structural modifications, including strengthening, and more particularly, the incorporation of additional wiring facilities. If that work were undertaken, obviously some carrying capacity of the ship would be lost. However, I believe that this could be offset to some degree if all shipbuilders were required to undertake modifications such as I have suggested. In other words, no advantage would accrue to one fleet only.
There is no doubt that such strengthening of the structural components of a ship and the additional wiring would be much cheaper if carried out at the building stage. I believe that we should utilise the design facilities and expertise of the Royal Australian Navy so that merchant shipping could be quickly converted to a wartime capacity should the need arise. This requirement should be included in future plans to assist the merchant shipbuilding industry in Australia. It would provide our merchant navy with additional protection. It would also introduce a degree of cooperation and liaison between the Royal Australian Navy and merchant navy. If this situation came about the total defensive capacity of Australian shipping would be enhanced and any potential aggressors would be much less inclined to attack Australian shipping. They would be deterred by the fact that our shipping would be able rapidly to undergo a refit or modification in order to increase its defensive capacity.
I commend the suggestion to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). In many other countries there is closer liaison between the navy and merchant navy. In a country like Australia we are dependent to a great extent on the continuance of open sea lanes. Our shippig would be in a much better position in the event of future conflicts.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). In doing so I point out that transport costs are exceptionally heavy in Australia. Moving people and goods in this country accounts for about 25 per cent of the national income and employs about onesixth of the work force. I believe it is inevitable that transport costs in this country should be high. Australia is approximately the size of the United States of America, but its population is about 13 million, compared with the United States population of about 190 million. However, the disparity in transport costs - between 25 per cent in Australia and 10 per cent in the United States and 9 per cent in Canada - is too great. It makes it necessary for us to achieve the greatest possible efficiency and economy in transport operations.
In order to achieve that end we must develop a national transport system adequate to meet the needs of future development, lt must co-ordinate all forms of transport so that the most economical use is made of each means of transport, supplementing rather than competing with each other. Such a national plan should take into account the future construction of road, rail, air and shipping services so that each service fits into the plan as traffic grows with development.
The only body that can initiate a national plan is the Commonwealth Government. It controls shipping and air transport. By agreement with the States it has been playing a part in the construction and standardisation of strategic railways. It also makes grants for road construction. The national plan would require the Commonwealth to consider arranging with the States Commonwealth jurisdiction over ports, bearing in mind that there are 90 ports in Australia administered by more than 30 authorities. A programme should be outlined for port development and coastal shipping. It must also take into account the part that air transport will play in the overall plan. Railways must play a big part in the national plan. In many overseas countries, the railways are again coming into their own. In Japan they are engaged in building a nation-wide network of super-express lines. In France, there is an experimental train doing 205 miles an hour. In the United States of America the metroliners are doing over 100 miles an hour. In the United Kingdom, similar experiments are taking place. On the other hand, in Australia we get the picture of a rundown, dirty, inefficient system with worrying deficits.
There has never been a more opportune time that now to do something about this. The updating of our railway systems requires large public investment. The Commonwealth Government will have to come to the party. That emphasises the nature of the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition, which proposes how this should be done. This Government, pressurised by the motor car industry, seems to think that motor traffic is the beginning and the end of everything. The vision of this Government and some of the State governments seems to be limited to building more, roads and expressways to handle the ever-increasing road traffic. I draw the attention of honourable members to a statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport on 6th October when he said:
It must be a source of continuing disappointment to some State Ministers for Transport to see railways treated as the Cinderella in their State budgets because of the lack of priority accorded them among the many competing demands.
Of course that is so. The States just have not the finance to handle the gigantic problem with which they are faced and that is why the amendment which the Opposition has moved is so important. The Minister continued:
At the same time the railways of Australia, as their collective name shows so clearly, are of national importance. On the latest estimates, our national rail system accounted for about 30 per cent of total domestic freight movement, and the railway^’ traffic task has been increasing.
In that statement, the Minister for Shipping and Transport drew attention to the national importance of our railways system but, of course, the Commonwealth has not done sufficient about it. The Minister went on to say:
To assist in this national requirement, the Commonwealth has over the years concentrated its efforts in the railways field in the standardisation programmes. In all, in the 20 years since 1951-52, the Commonwealth has outlaid more than $205 m by way of grants and loans . . .
The Minister went on to point out that the Government has provided nearly $40m on other railway projects with the aim of overall national railway extension and improvement. So, over a period of 20 years, the capital made available by the Commonwealth to railways amounted to $245m. But when we compare this provision of capital with the amount made available for roads over the same period, we get a glaring situation of inadequate finances made available for railways. For example, between 1951-52 and 1971-72 an amount of over $2,063m was provided for roads, none of which was repayable or interest-bearing, while over the same period only $245m was provided for railways which amount was mainly for rail standardisation. Some of this capital provision was by way of grants but more than half must be repaid in addition to interest on outstanding balances.
It should be remembered that the railways provide and maintain their own tracks, signalling, etc. This is financed by capital upon which interest must be paid and depreciation provided for. The railways also provide many services free or at less than cost. For instance, pensioners travel free of charge on the Western Australian railways and at half rates in other States. School children receive concession rates on the railways and country interests receive special treatment. Of course, all this is at the expense of the railways. Nobody claims that this should not be so but it merely indicates how the railways are disadvantaged.
On the other hand, the road industry has its roads provided at public expense and the industry provides none of these social services that I have just mentioned. The city traffic is growing heavier and is being increasingly handled by buses and motor cars. Fewer people are using railways and losses are increasing. Traffic congestion, delays and parking problems increase as the number of motor cars rises. That is why in other countries the major cities have had to resort to mass transportation by rapid transit systems. In some countries the monorail has been installed and in others underground railways have been constructed. We too must consider alternative ways of moving people and goods. The railways must play a bigger part in this operation. I should like to draw the attention of honourable members to an article which appeared in the November issue of ‘Rydge’s’.
– Where do your want the monorail? Do you want it in Western Australia?
– Will you keep your trap shut? Mr Brown, when he was speaking as chairman of commissioners for the Victorian Railways, defined the railways’ economic role as ‘the carriage of large amounts of traffic on high density routes between points of traffic concentration.’ The article states: lt is the total traffic density over a specific route that is the principal factor determining whether rail will be the economical mode for the task’, he stated. ‘Other factors, such as the length of the route, the classes of traffic being handled over it, and the degree of congestion on the parallel road system must, of course, be taken into account, but these factors play a subsidiary role to traffic density.
This definition of the railway role arises from the nature of the railway cost structure, in which over 60 per cent of total costs relate to items which do not vary in the short term in accordance with fluctuations in the volume of traffic, and ensures that additional traffic can be handled on specific routes at a less than proportionate increase in total costs.’
The Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport’s Bureau of Transport Economics in its urban public transport study showed the need for financial aid for rail and urban transport. The study stated:
The review of statistical and financial data supported the view that public transport fulfils a vital function in capital cities, that current levels of capital expenditure are inadequate and that public transport authorities cannot finance an appropriate level of investment from current revenue sources.
Obviously, this Government must provide adequate finance for the public transport needs of the States. For example, in Western Australia there is a proposal before the Government for a Perth regional transport plan involving 6 miles 2 chains of electric railway, about half of which is to be underground, and a bus route. It incorporates a huge capacity rail rapid transport system and an extensive bus system feeding into rail.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– With regret but without apology I want to concentrate my remarks on the problems of Tasmanian shipping. This is a matter which has been raised in this House on many occasions and most recently I think in any concerted way by me in the early hours of 25th May of this year when I related the problem in particular to the port of Hobart. It is a problem of considerable complexity which seems incapable of any simple solution and, of course, it is compounded and made less than clear by the varying interests in the matter. On the one hand, we have the several commercial interests of Tasmania seeking to achieve the most efficient services possible to the 4 or 5 major ports of the island and, on the other hand, we have notably the Australian National Line, and through it the Commonwealth Government, attempting to find solutions to what appears to be a fairly insoluble problem. The basis of the problem appears to lie in the fact that Tasmania is Australia’s smallest State. It provides relatively small amounts of cargo from any one port. So in any economic sense - and that of course must be related to the legislative provisions of the operation of the Australian National Line - it is difficult to provide the frequency and adequacy of service which any individual shipper might like to enjoy.
At the same time people are aware in Tasmania that their State is an island and that it has no alternative forms of surface transport, notably rail, and that the inclinations of the Commonwealth on occasions to subsidise by loan or by grant several railways on the mainland continent of Australia can be seen by Tasmanians to be the direct equivalent of the subsidies which they would like to see accrue to shipping. Any disinclination by the Commonwealth to subsidise shipping in a thorough going way or in an obvious way is seen to be less than justice tor those who benefit from shipping in Tasmania, Of course the problem often lies in the fact that everybody benefits or does not benefit by the functions of shipping because most of the produce and material products which are distributed to Tasmanian consumers are imported either from Australia at large or from overseas through mainland Australia.
In the inter-play between the various interests in this matter there is a great inclination to forget some of the facts. It would be less than justice, I think, not to draw attention to the fact that the Commonwealth has shown a continuing interest in the problems of Tasmanian shipping. With the encouragement and assistance of the Commonwealth Government the Australian National Line introduced into the Bass Strait trade the first drive-on vessels, now known as ‘roll-on roll-off’ vessels, in Australia and at that time, in 1959, the sea freights were reduced by 45 per cent, which is a pretty impressive operation for any commercial undertaking in the postwar period. That is a fact which is forgotten almost entirely in any discussion these days on Tasmania’s shipping problems.
Ultimately, the 45 per cent was progressively offset but it was not until 1970 or so that a 12i per cent increase in freight rates was approved and great was the noise with which that announcement was received. I and others participated in public discussions relating to that increase. However, more recently, as part of its continuing efforts to contain freight increases, the Australian National Line has taken steps to rationalise its services to Tasmania. This action was taken in the light of increases in costs in Tasmanian trade. From the end of March until the end of December last year costs in that trade increased by $1.8m. Since the beginning of this year additional cost increases have approximated Sim and in August, a couple of months ago. freight schedules were restructured. At the beginning of this month passenger fares were increased. These recent alterations are expected to increase receipts by about $300,000 per annum.
In addition to those developments there are special provisions made by the ANL which exclude dense cargo such as aluminium, zinc concentrates and green timber from the recent freight increases. Taking those things and some others into account it would only be reasonable to suggest that the ANL or perhaps the Government operating through it is very much aware of Tasmania’s shipping problems. Nevertheless the situation remains that individual shippers tend to be inadequately served or at least believe that they are less than optimally served and some of that difficulty may lie in the fact that Tasmania is decentralised to a degree that no other Australian State is. lt may well be - in fact I think one should argue that it should be - that with our now developing interest in urban and regional development the situation which has so far proved disadvantageous to Tasmania, the division of its total imports and exports among several viable ports as distinct from operations in other States whereby every State is dominated by one port, whether it be Sydney, Melbourne,
Adelaide or somewhere else, should be taken into specific account in our developing interests in decentralisation. But even if that were so it seems to me a little difficult to foresee a position in which all shippers will be happy with the Tasmanian shipping situation, not least because even though the economic situation may be shored up as best as possible or adapted to current circumstances we are still left with the position whereby a mere handful or may be 2 handfuls of stewards can practically invalidate, make non-operative or nullify the best attempts economically to serve Tasmania with shipping.
Perhaps, as I see it anyway, the best answer lies in Tasmania’s attempting to establish its own line and that, I think, is a proposition which would be received sympathetically by the Commonwealth Government, either by means of loans or grants. I think there are one or two precedents which suggest that I could be right in that respect. I think the Tasmanian Government, once having initiated its own shipping line, would probably quickly find the problems associated with manning rates, wage rates and industrial problems associated with the manning of ships. Nevertheless there may be some advantage in transferring the problems from the Commonwealth to the State in the sense that if the operatives were directly beholden to the State they may find themselves having a much more specific interest in the economic wellbeing of Tasmania than people coming from mainland States or elsewhere would have.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) which states that the Government should enter into discussions with the New South Wales and Victorian governments and any other interested State for the acquisition of their railways and the provision of capital investment in urban public transport as recommended by the Bureau of Transport Economics in June. For many years now the Australian Labor Party has emphasised the vital necessity of a national transport policy and of direct federal involvement in the nation’s railway system and in its urban public transport. I have repeatedly stressed that any function for which the States have to bear the full financial burden will inevitably be downgraded as against functions for which the Commonwealth accepts a share of responsibility. Classic examples of the difference in facilities between the Commonwealth and the States are the airlines and the railways.
After many years of criticism by the Australian Labor Party and pressure from transport Ministers of all political parties, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) indicated in his ‘Monday Conference’ interview last week that some new Commonwealth initiative would be made. No indication has been given to this House. Indeed, it appears probable that the new policy will be relegated to an election promise for the Prime Minister’s policy speech. The Australian public will recall that similar election promises were made by the former Prime Minister prior to the 1969 House of Representatives election. In that policy speech, the then Prime Minister said:
The problem with traffic congestion in the cities is one of great urgency. We have made a significant contribution to easing that congestion problem through our allocations for urban arterial and sub-arterial roads. But there is a great deal more to be done especially in improving public transport systems.
The then Prime Minister committed his Government, if re-elected, to action on this basic matter. That speech given almost exactly 3 years ago has not resulted in any policy initiatives by the Government. This new promise, and the proposals on foreign investment and child care centres involve a reversal of a 3-year process: We are now experiencing the Government’s re-Gortonisation. It has been impossible to obtain any information on the Government’s consideration of these basic questions. The present Prime Minister has refused to confirm or deny whether Sir Robert Askin, on behalf of the State of New South Wales, offered State railways to the Commonwealth, as was reported in the newspapers. Similarly, when the Prime Minister replied to correspondence from the then Premier of Victoria on his offer of the Victorian railways to the Commonwealth, he refused to give me any information on what his decision had been. Recently, the Leader of the State Opposition in Victoria sought and received the correspondence between the former Premier and the Prime Minister. In his reply the Prime Minister stated:
Difficult issues would arise in any Commonwealth takeover of a State’s railways. Any such move would, for example, have important implications for the division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the Slates in the transport field and it is also apparent that there would be many problems of co-ordination in relation to other State policies.
This curt explanation indicates that the Commonwealth refused to give any serious consideration to the Victorian suggestion. Nobody would suggest that Sir Henry Bolte was a unificationist or a centralist, but he formally offered to negotiate with the Commonwealth on the acquisition of Victoria’s railways. I remind the House that the Commonwealth Constitution in Section 51 (XXXIII) expressly gives the Commonwealth power to acquire State railways with the consent of the State. When I asked the Prime Minister, 2 years later, whether any further discussions had occurred with either New South Wales or Victoria, he told me there had been none. It is clear that the Commonwealth refused to investigate or even seriously contemplate proposals which had been placed before the Government by 2 State Premiers under procedure sanctioned by the Constitution itself ever since it was first enacted.
It is clear that the Liberal Federal Government regards railways as a problem. A Labor Federal government would regard them as a challenge. In no other federal system in the world today are railways conducted by State governments or within State compartments. The comparisons that we usually make in Australia are with the federal systems of the United States, Canada and West Germany. In none of those federations is there a railway system run by the government of a State, a province or a land. In none of those federations is there a private railway system conducted within State borders. Whilst the Commonwealth has, for many years, provided funds for our cities’ freeways, it has refused to provide funds for our cities’ railways. For years the Australian Transport Advisory Council has been pressing the Commonwealth Government to provide funds specifically for the States rail systems and for urban public transport. At the meeting of the Council in February this year, the State Ministers sought an immediate annual allocation for public transport and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) promised to bring the resolution to the notice of the Commonwealth Government. At the further regular meeting of the Council in July of this year, the Minister gave an undertaking to the State ministers that he would discuss the matters raised with the Government as a matter of urgency. The State Transport Ministers showed so much faith in the Commonwealth’s undertaking that they called a special meeting of the Council outside its normal cycle of February and July each year. It was held on Sth October. The sole purpose of this meeting was to impress on the Commonwealth the urgency of the transport problems facing the States. The Commonwealth has consistently refused to give any indication as to when it would make up its mind. Nor has this House been given any information.
In June of this year the Bureau of Transport Economics completed an economic evaluation of capital investment in urban public transport. This report was discussed at the meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in July and again on the fifth of this month. Only yesterday I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport when this report would be released. He stated: . . this matter is presently before the Government and when the Government has taken decisions on. it consideration will be given to releasing the report.
No such answer would be tolerated in the German Bundestag, the Canadian House of Commons or the American House of Representatives. The reports of their bureaus are tabled in the legislature. Not only the members of those legislatures but also the members of the public know what the experts advise. After all, this is not a field in which individuals can make a fortune by speculating on prospective Government decisions. These are reports compiled at the public expense by public servants. They should be tabled. Surely the public is entitled to this basic research in order to allow some form of meaningful public debate on this vital national issue.
The reason for the Government’s reticence was revealed by the South Australian Minister for Roads and Transport, Mr
Virgo, in a press conference after the meeting of Transport Ministers on 5th October this year. In that conference Mr Virgo suggested that the Bureau of Transport Economics report had concluded that at least $500m should be spent on urban public transport over the next 5 years. Lest it be thought that Mr Virgo’s comments were based on party political considerations, I refer the House to the comments made by the Victorian Transport Minister, Mr Wilcox, the day before in which he doubted the Commonwealth’s intention and noted: ‘The Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Nixon, has no understanding of the problem’. He concluded: The Federal Government is the only central Government in the world that does not give money for urban transport’. These are the words of a Liberal Minister and they reiterate the sentiments expressed on many occasions by my Party.
Deficiencies in our urban public transport systems have been at crisis level for several years. Commonwealth action is long overdue and an immediate commitment is required. It must not be left to the doubtful status of an election policy promise. The Liberal Government failed to honour a similar promise made by the former Prime Minister before the 1969 elections. The public can no longer trust promises of this character by Liberal Party leaders.
– I was very interested in the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that a Labor government would accept the railway system as a challenge. Let us hope that it would do a bit better than the previous Labor administration when we had a hopeless situation in the railways in Australia. The Australian Labor Party went out of office 23 years ago and I am not very confident that it would do any better in office now than it did then. We have a socialist railway system in Australia. I am not going to say that the railway system should be handed over to private enterprise; but we have to make it work and the only way to make a socialist railways system work is to have competition.
– Two railways running alongside one another?
– Hear me out. I am referring to motor transport. Immediately after the war we had the communist dominated unions - the Seamen’s Union, the Waterside Workers Federation and the railways unions that tied up our transport situation. Without motor transport this nation would have been strangled. Thanks to section 92 of the Constitution they could not do anything about taxing motor transport off the roads. Unfortunately, I admit, some members of my Party are interested in holding a referendum to abolish section 92 for the purpose of making it easier to market primary products. We must weigh this against the prospects of a takeover of the transport situation in Australia. Transport is a vital issue and a matter of major cost to many people in Australia. We have a coastline of 12,000 miles.
– Square miles?
– Twelve thousand square miles.
– It is a big coastline.
– It is. Water transport is the cheapest form of transport there is in the world. Honourable members opposite talk about development of the north, and we hear a lot of this sort of thing from the Opposition. Darwin, north Queensland and other places in the north are being strangled because of the onerous conditions being placed upon water transport by various union regulations. One has only to go back about 30 years to see that we had viable passenger transport service around the coast of Australia. Today no passenger ships travel around our coastline. The only sort of shipping transport that is viable is bulk transport, and obviously that does not help many people. This Government has made a valiant effort to build an Australian merchant marine. Unfortunately, it has not received co-operation from the unions in this operation. Today we have strikes. We cannot rely on any sort of transport around our coast and we do not have a great amount of general cargo. I believe that the answer is to throw our coastline open to foreign flags. We cannot support irresponsible strikes. Just recently we had the experience in Queensland of foreign tankers being anchored outside the harbour because the watersiders or the tug operators would not service these transports. They alleged that Australian tankers were out of commission. This country cannot afford that situation. As we do not receive co-operation from the unions I believe we must throw our coastline open to foreign flags.
– lt is wide open now.
– Not interstate. We have it from overseas but not interstate. The Tasmanians are suffering from the situation. The Tasmanian small crop growers - producers of potatoes, peas and all the things they produce over there - have to pay a hidden tariff by way of exorbitant freight rates in order to sell their products. Consequently, other countries such as New Zealand can undersell them. The Australian manufacturer has pretty well been denied the developing market of Papua New Guinea because of the exorbitant freight rates between Australian and Papua New Guinea, lt is cheaper to buy goods from Japan, Germany or Britain and to import them to New Guinea than it is to take them from Sydney. The time has come when we cannot afford the luxury of building up an Australian flag line.
It is argued that in time of war we would have our own fleet. Those of us who are old enough will remember the time of the Korean War when there were strikes of seamen taking supplies to our troops in Korea. Is that a line we could rely on in time of war? Obviously we could not. The seamen did not agree about the type of person we were fighting. In those days we were fighting against the communists of North Korea. We have had the same difficulty when we have been fighting against the North Vietnamese. The communist controlled Seamen’s Union and others have tried to impede our efforts in that direction. I believe that transport is a vital problem for the people of Australia. We are an exporting nation. Our great wealth comes from exports. We cannot afford to support this flag line when wc do not receive co-operation from the unions involved.
– In considering the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport this evening I want to confine my remarks to the shipbuilding industry and, in particular, to the current situation at the Evans Deakin & Co. Pty Ltd shipyard in Brisbane. I refer initially to discussions that I and several of my colleagues from this side of the
House and from the Senate had some weeks ago with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). He was good enough, on short notice, to give us the opportunity to discuss with him the current situation at Evans Deakin. I remind the Committee that at that time some 1,500 skilled shipyard workers were facing the possibility of dismissal if an almost immediate decision in regard to a new order for the Evans Deakin shipyard was not forthcoming. The Minister asserted that he had not been made aware of the problems Evans Deakin was facing until a short time before we interviewed him and because of that he was not in the position to take any earlier action to see whether a guarantee of work could be provided for the shipyard.
The Minister gave us a firm understanding that he had been doing all he could possibly do to overcome the problem of the shipyard and he clearly indicated to us that he had not been aware of this problem over the long period of time that we suggested he should have been aware of it. Since that time, following a question that 1 asked in the House regarding some guarantees towards the continuation of employment for these men at the Evans Deakin shipyard, the Minister nas been able to give me an indication that in his understanding of the situation the problem has largely been overcome and the continuity of employment will almost certainly be guaranteed for the men. I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter in recent days with the management of Evans Deakin and I understand that the dismissal of the men is now most unlikely. It was explained to me that this is due to a natural wastage of men or a loss of men going to other jobs for various reasons. The main reasons for this problem being virtually overcome at this stage are the fact that the ‘Sir Roderick Miller’ is due to be launched soon and there are no other orders in hand, and the earnest efforts by the Evans Deakin management to place the men in other sections of their general engineering activities as the ship completion date approaches. I certainly must compliment the management on this decision and also compliment the industrial unions for the great restraint they have shown while this threat has been hanging over their heads. The situation has been resolved but I suggest to the House that it was not resolved because of any action that the Minister or the Government took to overcome the problems of the Evans Deakin shipyard. The head in the sand attitude that the Government has adopted for many years now, particularly in respect to the Evans Deakin shipyard, but generally in respect of continuity of work in the short term and the long term for shipyards in Australia, is still being adopted.
I utterly and entirely refute the assertion by the Minister that he was not aware of this problem. If he was not aware of the problem throughout at least the last 9 months, he certainly should have been aware of it. It was not the fault of the Evans Deakin management that he was not aware of it. It was either his own fault or the fault of his Department for not making him aware of representations that had been made, and of approaches personally to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Certainly he must have been aware of the discussions that he himself had with the management and the chairman of directors of Evans Deakin and others involved at the time of the launching of the ‘Esso Gippsland’ earlier this year at the Evans Deakin shipyard. I cannot cite the details of the contacts that Evans Deakin has had with the Government, but I certainly have it on the most reliable authority that contact has been made and that no effort was spared by the management to make the Government aware of the impending crisis that the Evans Deakin shipyard faced. For reasons best know to the Minister and the Government, they chose to ignore these warnings. They chose to ignore the details of the impending crisis that were given to them in a conversation following the speech that the chairman of directors made at the launching of the Esso Gippsland’ in April this year.
I also want to mention - perhaps the Minister can explain this to me - that I raised soon after the Budget session commenced in August the question of the suggestion of the acceptance of a tender from a Japanese shipyard for the construction of a ship to be used in the Australian export trade. I asked whether special action could be taken, in view of the problem that was being faced by the Evans Deakin shipyard, to secure this order for Evans Deakin rather than allow it to go to the Japanese shipyard. The order, of course, has since been confirmed and the ship will be constructed at the Japanese yard. When I raised with the Minister, not just on one occasion but also in a speech in the House and subsequently as a member of the delegation of honourable members from this side of the House which called on him, the question why some arrangements could not have been made for this ship to be constructed in Austrafia, particular emphasis being put on the construction of the ship at the Evans Deakin shipyard, the Minister indicated to me that, as much as he might like to do something in this matter, his hands were tied by the fact that Australia was restricted in making subsidy payment on ships constructed for overseas trading by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development agreement to which Australia was a signatory. He suggested that this agreement placed the Government in a position where it was not able to subsidise the construction of ships for overseas trading.
I have had this matter thoroughly checked and on the most reliable information I can get I understand that there is certainly some agreement which restricts us in some ways but that there is definitely no agreement between OECD members regarding shipping practices and credit terms available to buyers of ships to which Australia is committed. Australia has acceded to a formal OECD understanding regarding credit terms available to buyers of ships but this has nothing whatever to do with construction subsidies. Similarly, in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade there is nothing which could restrict the Government in making a decision to subsidise the construction of ships such as the one in respect of which the contract has recently been let to a Japanese shipyard. This is a continuation of the head in the sand attitude of the Government. Ever since it took office it has regarded shipbuilding in Australia as a necessary evil rather than as an essential and vital Australian industry whose development should be encouraged.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport and as a member representing a Western Australian constituency, I express my concern on behalf of Western Australia at the lack of adequate Commonwealth financial grants to meet urban and other associated transport needs. We are all particularly conscious of the need to have sufficient funds available for forward planning to prevent the city and suburbs becoming choked by private transport, but more importantly what is required is forward knowledge of what moneys are to be granted, and when, and whether the funds will be sufficient and provided early enough to avoid the problem before it occurs. This has not happened in the past and there is no substantial evidence that it will occur in the immediate future under this Government. There is a danger that this area of Commonwealth-State relations will become an area for election gimmickry, grants becoming available only when elections are pending. This would be disastrous as the very quality of life, the basic factors of day to day living and of decentralisation are affected by urban transport requirements. It is wrong to say that this is a State responsibility for the States have neither the capital nor the taxing ability to deal with the problem.
It is fair to say that any major transport links that have been instituted between the States in the past have placed an annual burden of loan repayments or overall maintenance on the States affected. In the case of Western Australia with the introduction of the standard gauge rail link with the east, an annual repayment of over $4m is required. All of these funds must be provided from the limited finances available to the State. This is why I make the point that there is a need for direct grants which do not place the repayment problem on the limited State Treasury. The present system affects us all because if repayments to the Commonwealth are so great this, in turn, affects the facilities that the State can provide in other areas. This aspect particularly applies to the existing Federal Government which makes grandiose statements when allocating funds to other fields, such as education, only if the States provide funds on a dollar for dollar basis. That system of matching grants will not be sufficient to solve the urban traffic tangle. It is not only the suburban rail and bus services which are affected but also the associated traffic and parking area planning both of which make huge capital demands.
In Perth city it is currently planned to widen Wellington Street to 120 feet to provide for a metropolitan bus terminal. The Perth City Council has an extensive city road and traffic flow plan for the city centre. It is an idea] concept. But again the question is: Where will the money come from? No doubt the Council will avoid passing on to the city ratepayer the cost of a government proposal to cater for a transient population so it will ask the State Government for the funds. But the State Government must be granted funds from the Commonwealth to meet these needs for if any city is to survive some authority has to provide the funds for urban transport revival, for the provision of bus expressways. In Australia we are just beginning to think of providing express bus services to outlying districts while other nations are providing expressways for the buses themselves. But our buses get hopelessly caught in peak hour traffic. Our trains are of the conventional type. Many of them have been reconstructed under updating programmes, rather than renewed. In a country with distances such as we have in Australia, experiments with more advanced types of rail transport, at Commonwealth expense, to find the ultimate suitable form of transport in that area must be commenced.
In the community interest public transport must compete with the private motor vehicle, which form of transport itself is constantly subjected to updating by manufacturers in order to effect sales and by governments in order to improve safety and efficiency standards. Public transport must be futuristic in design, planning and convenience. The existing system of urban volume transport under private, municipality and State government ownership and control is based on meeting existing volumes of passengers and of meeting, in the main, the needs of people who have a student’s or a pensioner’s concession or are unable to use a car for some period of time. People use public transport only because it is a bad second choice. If the opportunity presents itself they will use their own transport or accept the use of a friend’s car. This attitude is ingrained in our whole community and it will remain with us until such time as governments recognise the need for fast, regular comfortable, and economic forms of public transport. Public transport will be popular only when it can offer the same comfort, prestige and convenience as private transport offers. This in itself will happen only when there is completely new thinking about the administration of transport generally and, more importantly, when the sources for the provision of funds are widened in the Commonwealth Treasury.
Recently an urban shopping centre was opened in Western Australia. One of the main attractions of this centre is the provision of parking for some 2,000 cars. Acres of bitumen will be laid as each urban shopping centre comes into being. There will be a choking of access roads and a further dying of the old areas near the city as people are attracted away from them because of car parking problems. Someone in the community has to pay for the redevelopment of old areas in order to accommodate the car. But still we lack an efficient form of public transport in the old and the new areas, while all of our metropolitan areas become choked with cars.
In this chamber we speak of decentralisation, but we pay scant regard to the existing problems facing our cities. As the suburbs grow the centre quickly chokes with people. We talk of establishing new cities. One wonders whether there will be a further duplication of the previous problem because a solution or a longterm plan has yet to be evolved or even considered. The authorities for implementing such a plan have yet to be established. The real cost to the community has never been ascertained. One suspects that land costs would be minimised if outlying areas were more readily served by fast, efficient and new concepts of transport I do not refer to the existing, accepted types of public transport but to the new forms of rail transport being evolved overseas, both in the tracked rubber tyred high speed version and the experimental air cushion type. We do not need a revamped version of existing types of public transport but the introduction of completely new types which can be evolved to meet the needs of this nation.
Our own aircraft industry could well look at the use of air cushion vehicles in metropolitan and near metropolitan areas. No doubt other types of transport could be researched by this industry or by other Australian industries. This is the type of thinking that is required. No State authority has the kind of capital resources available to it to carry out this research, so the finance, the initiative and the offers must come from the central authority - the Commonwealth. We have evidence of the acceptance of this need in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) which states:
That lite proposed expenditure be reduced by $10. (As an instruction to the Government to enter into dicussions with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments and any other interested State for (a) the acquisition and assumption of responsibility for their railways and (b) the provision of capital investment in urban public transport as recommended by the Bureau of Transport Economics in June 1972.)
But it is not sufficient to plug holes or to revamp old systems. A completely new approach is required. My colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) referred to monorails. This is a worthwhile suggestion because that system is suited to run in conjunction with roadways. lt can run both along side roads and down the centre of median strips. The future planning in roads to link both our existing and planned cities must be carried out in conjunction with public transport planning. The Commonwealth already is making some grants for roads, with some stipulations attached. But here again the planning is centred around the acceptance of the concept of the growth of the motor car. Again action is taken only after the growth problem appears to choke an area. It is imperative that the areas of population already established are not choked and are not made redundant in a business sense by the shopping and living areas being overwhelmed by traffic, as has been the American experience. The Western Australian Government has recognised this problem and is taking some steps to prevent its proliferation by the provision of bridges, overways and through ways and by upgrading the existing transport systems. But without large amounts of capital from the Commonwealth this action will not be adequate.
– In rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport I will not spend much time on the actual figures. First, I would like to commend the Government and also the Minister-
– What for?
– You would have nothing - and I do no know where you come from, some area in Brisbane.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order!
– Through the Chair, this person would have no idea about what goes on-
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. Surely the honourable member for the Northern Territory should have the courtesy to refer to me by my title - the honourable member for Bowman - not as ‘this person’.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Yes. The honourable member should be referred to as the honourable member for Bowman. 1 remind the honourable member for Bowman that interjections are out of order.
– I commend the Government for making a major commitment of $54m in the Budget to build a standard gauge railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs - provided it can get the acquiescence of the South Australian Government. This is a major achievement by this Government.
– What about Connair?
– I will talk to you about Connair because you have presented certain misstatements.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory will direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I am commending the Government for proposing to spend $54m on this railway line.
– It has taken many years.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– I am trying to help him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- He does not need any help.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, if I were allowed to say a word or two to these people I could really do something about it. But since I have to speak to you, Sir, I cannot do anything about it. I was commending the Government on the proposed expenditure of $3.4m this year on this railway line. This is a major achievement. It is a major step forward in the development of Australia that the Government is prepared to spend this money on the railway line. These small noises who interject on me would not know anything about what goes on in the outback. The Government is spending S3. 2m on this project this year. I commend it and the Minister wholeheartedly for pursuing this course. He is looking forward to the development of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) stood here with a slick sort of approach. He is a slick operator and no doubt various other honourable members say exactliy the same sort of thing as he does.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, 1 raise a point of order. To call an honourmember in this chamber a slick operator is offensive. The Leader of the Opposition certainly is not a slick operator. He is particularly capable.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Speaking to the development of the Northern Territory I refer to s visit by the honourable member’s Leader to Alice Springs a year or so ago. I am talking about the development of Northern Territory roads and railways. When the Leader of the Opposition was asked whether he would consider improving the north-south road and whether he would go to see it, this great Leader of the Opposition said that he would not go and look at it. He said that there was no earthly reason why he should look it it because he knew the situation. How would he know? He would not have the faintest idea about it, any more than the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who is interjecting, would know. Members of the Opposition set themselves up &s great experts on the Northern Territory. I support the Government’s attitude. I support the Government’s expenditure on and interest in the Northern Territory. I support also its road-making programme all over Australia. I support its whole approach to development in the north. As 1 have said before, these small people do not know anything about development in the Northern Territory or the north. They would not know the implications of beef roads and ports. They just do not know anything about this. These small-minded people are here to reject these estimates. They have moved an amendment. It is a very small-minded amendment.
– We have been very tolerant with him, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! I will decide whether we will be tolerant.
– Members of the Opposition have moved this amendment not to aid development or to further Australia or anything else but for political kudos only. That is exactly what they are doing. They are 2-bit operators. They know nothing about the situation. I am talking about my country and you people do not know anything about it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will address his remarks to the Chair.
– I am sorry, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am here to present the case for the Northern Territory and northern Australia. The Labor Party has no idea what it is talking about. It just does not have men of experience. It has no idea whatsoever.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As one of the little people and the representative of the electorate of Grey I hope that we can provide the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) with possibly SOO miles of railway line. I hope that the Government agrees to go ahead with work on the Stuart Highway because the people in my electorate would be happy to provide land for a decent roadway. I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles
Jones) but I do not wish to speak on it at this point The main thing I should like to refer to is the Australian shipbuilding industry. It can be said that for some time the Australian shipbuilding industry has been in some confusion. The Tariff Board made a report to the Government on the shipbuilding industry. The Government sat on the report for some time. The report, as we all know, was released about the end of last May. Since then the Government has examined the report. It did not accept it fully and made some alterations. I think that it has possibly only added to the confusion that exists among shipbuilders and everybody connected with the shipbuilding industry in Australia.
In the Minister’s original statement he said that a licence would be freely given to import ships to Australia provided they were tied up with the landed costs or the cost of building them overseas and sailing them to Australia. The Minister recast his statement on that point and withheld the ‘freely given’ term in respect to the imports. The industry certainly does not know where it is going at the present time. This is indicated by what has been said by many people connected with the shipbuilding industry. Perhaps one point that came out of the Tariff Board report - I think this has been accepted by the Government - is that we no longer have the recognised yards. This has added to the doubts that exist among the shipbuilders. For example, the contract for the construction of an oil rig was given to Transfield, a firm which has had no experience in shipbuilding in Australia. Construction of (his type has been undertaken successfully in Australia at Whyalla. I refer to the ‘Ocean Digger’. Perhaps the Minister can inform me whether the oil rig to be built by the Transfield organisation will be subject to subsidy.
I have said that the industry is still confused and does not know where it is going. This is indicated by a number of public statements that have been made recently by people connected with the shipbuilding industry. In last Thursday’s Adelaide Advertiser’ was the report of an announcement by Mr Dalziel, the general manager of the Whyalla shipyards. It was stated that the proposed SI 2m to $15m expansion plan for the Whyalla shipyard has been temporarily shelved. Mr Dalziel stated that this was because uncertainty in the future shipbuilding market made it difficult to justify such an expenditure. He went on further to say that the expansion, known to include improvements to the existing harbour, would have enabled the shipyard to build ships in the 100,000 ton class - bigger than anything yet built in Australia. When the Minister attended the launching of the ‘Clutha Capricornia’, which was 85,000 tons, he made the statement that he hoped that we soon would be able to build ships of 100,000 tons. This statement certainly put back the Whyalla shipyard. It is possible to build ships of that size because we know at the present time that the larger a ship is the more economical it is.
The Whyalla shipyard is an old shipyard in one sense. It is 32 years old. Its order books are pretty thin at the present time. In fact, it has tendered for a contract for a 4,000 ton unit load carrier and a 15,000 ton zinc concentrate carrier which would help relieve the situation. Apart from that the future seems a little bleak. A ship construction firm in Adelaide in South Australia is facing the same situation. In the Sunday Mail’ of last Sunday there is an article headed ‘Sack Threat to Ship Men’. The article states that the general manager of the company said that the shipyard reeded a new order very quickly to avoid having to dismiss workmen. His comment followed a report that a proposed $12m expansion to the Whyalla shipyard has been temporarily shelved. The Whyalla shipyard has no new orders after 1974. The articles goes on to list the orders this shipyard has received. They involve 2 ships, one to be completed next January. After the shipyard has completed this work :t will have no further work. So we see the situation in relation to 2 shipyards, one employing approximately 1,700 men and the other one employing approximately 850 men. Certainly the future does look a bit bleak for these 2 shipyards.
This situation applies not only to the South Australian shipyards. I think the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) has made mention of Evans Deakin. It is interesting to read the comments of Dr Hughes from Evans Deakin. On 22nd
August he attacked the Government for its dismal record in encouraging cargoes to be carried in Australian ships and said Australia was at the bottom of a list of 36 countries engaged in sea transport. He said that this situation would be aggravated further unless a subsidy is paid on Australian made ships engaged in overseas trade, a proposition rejected by the Government although supported by the Tariff Board. This attack came from the shipbuilders themselves. We find another point of view from the unions. The industrial officer of the Merchant Service Guild, Captain Nicholls, following an appearance before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, said Australia was exporting crude oil from its own oil fields while it had its own refineries and importing refined products, which meant that Australian tankers were being laid up. He said that this amounted to an attempt by overseas companies to put Australian ships off the coastal trade. Australian shipping companies should do something to look after their own interests. He said that the Merchant Service Guild would send a telegram to the Minister protesting at the inroads made by foreign companies. I think that statement would tie in completely with the opposition we heard from the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes) earlier.
In yesterday’s Adelaide ‘News’ appears an article in which it is stated that 2 Australian tankers are being tied up. It states that 2 R. W. Miller tankers which lost their contracts to carry Australian oil are up for sale. So we find that in that situation 2 Australian owned tankers will be tied up with the consequent dismissal of crews and so forth. As everybody knows, quite a number of Australian manned ships are laid up around the coast with the resultant unemployment of our seamen. Perhaps one point that does cause concern to everybody connected with the shipbuilding industry is the fact that a feasibility study was done on the Westernport project which involved the building of a new shipping complex- dry docks and so forth. Of course, this would only affect the existing yards and, in my opinion, certainly would not be in the best interests of Australia or of the yards. If we look at the shipbuilding yard in which I have an interest - Whyalla - vrc find a shipbuilding industry which to a great extent employs excellent labour which has been brought from Great Britain over the last 2 years. They are people who have set up their homes in a decentralised area 250 miles from Adelaide. I do not think they should be placed in the position where they do not know what their future is. I know that my time has just about run out.
– I think it has, too.
– I hope that my remarks show more sense than those of the honourable member for the Northern Territory. We hope that the Australian people, when they look at the policy of the Australian Labor Party, will realise that we want to ensure that we have our own ships, we put our own ships on the overseas trade, that we man them with Australian seamen and that we see that they are carrying a fair percentage of our own trade. We do not want the present situation where we are completely at the mercy of overseas shipping lines. I think less than 2 per cent of our overseas trade is carried by Australian ships. I am sure that the people of Australia will realise this and when we have a Labor government we will have a comprehensive policy that looks into the future of our Australian shipbuilding industry.
– In speaking on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport, I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) which reads:
That the proposed expenditure be reduced by $10. (As an instruction to the Government to enter into discussions with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments and any other interested State for (a) the acquisition and resumption of responsibility for their railways and (b) the provision of capital investment in urban public transport as recommended by the Bureau of Transport Economics in June 1972).
I disagree with the remark of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that rail transport, which covers rail transport systems in the States, is a very small matter. I think rail transport is most important to this country, especially in relation to the transport of goods. With very few exceptions most of the State transport systems have been running at a loss. Most of these losses have been incurred by the interest and redemption payments on rolling stock, on general running charges, and in some cases in providing transport where it is needed for essential services, such as the transport of stock and fodder to areas of drought at concessional rates.
In many cases State rail systems are being asked to operate as a social service by providing rail passes to pensioners. I do not disagree with what they are doing, but if these things are to be granted and if railways are to operate as a business, then I believe that these concessions that are granted should be charged to one branch or another of the State social service systems. The granting of passes to pensioners must cost the States quite a considerable amount by the end of the year. This applies also to people in need of medical treatment and people seeking transport to capital cities or to places where larger hospitals and specialist treatment is provided. If these people qualify under a means test - this is certainly so in the State of Queensland - they are given assistance. But no charge is made on these people by the rail system. So I believe that there is a need for the Commonwealth, as is suggested in our amendment, to assume responsibility for the railway systems.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke of Federal systems and how central governments under other Federal systems are responsible for road transport. Commonwealth aid is given to air, road and sea transport. The Commonwealth over a 5-year period is giving to the States Commonwealth aid roads grants totalling $1,252,000 interest free. I can see no reason why intrastate and interstate rail transport should not receive similar financial assistance. Public transport is an import function in the larger cities. Some of my colleagues have referred to the crowded centres within the cities and the need to provide parking facilities for motor vehicles.
In the time remaining to me I would like to discuss the problems of the shipbuilding industry within Australia. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) referred to the position at the Evans Deakin yard. The honourable member foi Grey (Mr Wallis) referred to the position at Whyalla. I am sure that if the honourable member for Newcastle had the time he would state the position at the State Dockyards in Newcastle. In my electorate a similar position obtains. There is a short age of orders at Walkers Ltd at Maryborough. Further orders are needed almost immediately to maintain continuity of employment at that establishment.
The situation at the Evans Deakin yard is very serious and I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Bowman. I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) for his courtesy when receiving a deputation of Queensland Labor parliamentarians and representatives of trade unions from Evans Deakin and Walkers Ltd to whom I introduced the Minister a little over a week ago. The Minister was most courteous and I believe that he genuinely tried to be helpful. However, it seems that the position as we knew it at the beginning of the year at Evans Deakin was not made apparent to the Minister. Somewhere along the line the wires were crossed.
The Evans Deakin yard has the capacity to build vessels of up to 67,500 tons dead weight. It contributes about $9m annually to the econmoy of Queensland in wages, salaries, goods and services. On 31st May a joint statement on the Government’s policy on shipping was made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It was decided to increase the sliding scale subsidy on shipbuilding up to a maximum of 45 per cent from the previous maximum of 33J per cent. Previously the subsidy was based on the cost of building a similar vessel in a United Kingdom shipyard. As I understand the position, the maximum subsidy of 45 per cent is related to world prices. In Japan and Sweden shipbuilding costs are about 15 per cent less than those in the United Kingdom. Finance is available to shipbuilders in overseas countries that is not available here. In Australia the costs of shipbuilding are not Government guaranteed. Overseas it is not uncommon for shipbuilders to give a purchaser credit for 80 per cent of the sale price over a period of 8 years at an interest rate of 6 per cent or 7 per cent. The Australian National Line purchased the ‘Echuca’ from Spain where credit is offered at interest rates from 6.75 per cent to 7.25 per cent. I understand that Spain, like Sweden, allows credit over 15 years as against 8 years allowed by other countries. I appreciate the fact that the
Minister did somewhat belatedly retract part of his joint statement of 31st May. In that statement he said:
Approvals to import new ships will be freely given where Australian yards have been given the opportunity to tender but where no Australian yard tenders for the vessel or where the price of the vessel from the Australian yard, after payment of the subsidy, exceeds the normal price for which the vessel can be acquired from an overseas builder, including the cost of delivering to an Australian port.
Last week the Minister indicated that the Government intends to carry out the policy as it has operated over quite a number of years. It has been said in this debate that only about 2 per cent of our overseas trade is carried in Australian vessels. In 1971-72 our imports were valued at $4,150,000 and our exports at $4,374,000. I believe that a larger percentage of our trade could be carried in Australian vessels. Fifty years have elapsed since the Australian overseas line was disbanded. In that period our overseas trade has been at the mercy of overseas owned shipping conferences which have controlled freights, interest and insurance charges. In many cases through their subsidiaries they have controlled stevedoring charges and the conditions of transport.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– The first point I will deal with is the shipbuilding problem which was raised by the latter speakers in this debate. I will come to the points raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). It the Government had accepted the Tariff Board report the shipbuilding industry in Australia would have been killed. I do not think that anybody inside or outside this House would not accept that as the cold fact. The Government therefore sought - recognising and stating that Australia needed an efficient and viable shipbuilding industry - to try to set an umbrella under which an efficient and viable shipbuilding industry could operate. We faced up to a most difficult report that was very critical of the industry, its productivity and many other aspects. I personally believe that we have given the industry an opportunity between now and 1980, when the Tariff
Board again reports on the industry, to settle down and look forward to a reasonable and assured future.
I now refer to some specific points raised by several honourable members. I am not sure whether the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) was challenging me. The implication in some of his words was a challenge - to use an Australianism - to my fair dinkumness. I think that was rather unfair of him. I do not think the proprietors of Evans Deakin would challenge me on that score. I will recount a history of the situation. The honourable member for Bowman specifically mentioned a speech of the chairman of Evans Deakin at the launching of the ‘Esso Gippsland’. I listened to that speech with a great deal of interest, but it was mostly confined to criticism of the number of foreign ships operating on the Australian coast. That was not brought to my attention until the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) came to me specifically to discuss the Evans Deakin problem.
When the chairman of Evans Deakin made his speech I said that I would look at the problems of imported ships, and I did so. That matter has been recounted over and over again. The honourable member for Griffith arranged an immediate discussion with the proprietors of Evans Deakin and we have had discussions. I think the real crux lies in the fact that the honourable member for Bowman said in this House that up to 1,500 workers would be dismissed from Evans Deakin. The simple facts are, on the admission of the honourable member for Bowman tonight, that that is not the case. I have bad it confirmed today by the proprietors of Evans Deakin that some 50 people have gone into other jobs for a variety of reasons but that the company has been seeking other fitters for the fitting out of the ‘Sir Robert Miller’ and that the net position is not going to be anything like the picture painted by the honourable member for Bowman.
This not being a Government of secrecy as some would claim, I would like to list for the information of the House some of the current shipbuilding activities and refer to orders that have either been placed or are presently at the tender stage. There is a tanker of 24,000 dead weight tons; there are 2 dumb barges and 2 passenger ferries; there is a 138 feet trawler, an oil rig, 2 prawn trawlers, one off-shore supply vessel, a tug barge flotilla, a pipe laying barge, 2 roll-on roll-off vessels, a dumb cutter suction dredge, a tug and a roll-on roll-off sea coaster. In addition to that, discussions are being held on another semi-submersible drilling rig, 2 tugs and a beach coaster and on top of that again, the Australian Shipbuilding Board has received numerous other inquiries about the prospects of building. The point I make - I make it in all sincerity - to the honourable member for Bowman is that I believe the problems of Evans Deakin and other shipyards around Australia have been overcome by the Government’s method of adoption of the Tariff Board report. I believe these shipyards can look with some confidence to a long term programme of building.
Because of the time factor, I have agreed, under some pressure, to keep my remarks short and if I do not answer any specific points now the honourable members concerned will be answered individually. I obviously will not have time to answer the individual points which have been raised. Let me come to the main part of the Opposition’s stance tonight, namely, its amendment. It is true that the Commonwealth Government has been long associated with the development of roads throughout Australia and it is a fact that in the current Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, $l,252m will be provided to the States by the Commonwealth to assist them in their road programmes up to 1974. This figure was increased from $750m which was provided under the last Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. I have not heard anyone deny that this has been of tremendous assistance to the States in their general roadbuilding programme and their general financing programmes. Added to that, if one takes the 10-year period and recognises that in 1962-63 grants and revenue to the States totalled $63 lm as against the figure 10 years later in 1972-73 of $ 1,690m or almost $l,700m - the figure has increased by 24 times - it will be seen that the general revenue position of the States has improved immensely and quite remarkably.
In addition to that, the Commonwealth has agreed to take over State debts to the tune of $ 1.000m to assist them in their problems throughout the period. So, in all of these factors through revenue grants and by assisting the States in their aid roads grant, the Commonwealth has looked to the States and hoped that the States would be able to overcome their railway and urban transport problems. The simple fact is, as I was quoted by one honourable member tonight as saying in a speech I made in Whyalla, that the State governments have treated the railway and urban transport systems as the Cinderella in their State budgets. This has been because of other competing demands. Over a period of 10 or 20 years, this has caused the State railway and transport systems to run right down.
Our interest in this matter can be proven by the fact that, as provided in the 1969 policy speech of this Government, the Bureau of Transport Economics was established. As is well known, that Bureau has done a great deal of work to assist my Department to study the problems of railways and the problems of urban transport. This matter has been discussed at Premiers Conferences held in this chamber and also in the forum of the Australian Transport Advisory Council of which I am the Chairman. As mentioned by several speakers tonight, at the last meeting of that Council, I agreed to take to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) for consideration the problems of the States. I have given that undertaking to them. I will do that.
I wish to say something more philosophical about the approach of the Opposition to the subject of transport. Opposition members talk about a national plan. What we want to do as the Commonwealth Government is to set a framework that will give each of the competing modes the opportunity to advance and not to be retarded by parameters set by an authoritarian government. We do not want to freeze technology in any one mode. We want to advance technology. All of the approaches that we will take as a government now, in the next 3 years, and long into the future will be aimed at advancing the technology of the various modes to give a better operating service of all the modes in their proper capacity throughout the Australian States. I say now that we reject the amendment that has been moved.
I must mention the speech made tonight by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I know full well his love for the Northern Territory. I do not suppose that there has even been a more dedicated representative of the Northern Territory in this Parliament than the present honourable member for the Northern Territory. The fact is that he knows the problems of the Northern Territory better than anyone else in this chamber. I had the pleasure of being the Minister in charge of the Northern Territory for 4 years and I know full well the dedication of the honourable member for the Northern Territory and his complete understanding of all problems - transport and otherwise - affecting his electorate. 1 also know of the great difficulty that he has with instant experts from the Opposition who visit the Northern Territory for 24 hours, return here and make great speeches telling the nation what ought to be done in the Northern Territory. I sympathise with the honourable member for the Northern Territory in having to put up with this problem.
In the last Budget, the Commonwealth Government committed $54m to building a standard gauge railway from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. With great regret I say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory that at the present time this matter is being held up by the Premier of South Australia. It was my wish to introduce into the Parliament before it rose a Bill in respect of this project. It is now apparent from a letter that we have received from the Premier of South Australia that he will not permit us to fulfil our obligation at this point of time. I must apologise to the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I can only hope that the Labor Premier of South Australia will see better sense in the short term and will permit us to get on with this railway which is of national importance and will contribute to national development. I am sorry that I must convey that bad news to the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that he will inform his constituents of this fact when he returns to the Northern Territory. He will be able to tell them the reason why I am unable to introduce that Bill into the Parliament.
The only other point that remains to be mentioned is that raised by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), who is not present in the chamber at the moment. He suggested that the Merchant Navy should be formed in such a way that it could be used as part of our defence forces in times of war. I will refer the points that he raised to the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) for comment and ask the Minister to reply directly to the honourable member. I conclude by saying that I am sorry that I have been unable to answer each of the specific points that have been raised. I will look with great care at the record of the debate and make sure that each of the specific points raised by the various honourable members is responded to.
Thursday, 19 October 1972
– I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) for getting the annual report of the Australian National Line to honourable members before consideration of these estimates. The report makes slightly less depressing reading than those for previous years, particularly the report for 1970-71. According to the chairman, Mr Weymouth, the year under review was the most difficult for the Line since it was established 16 years ago. The loss on coastal operations was $2.4 lm, which the report attributes to lower economic activity, rising costs and industrial disruption. These losses were offset to some extent by modest profits in the overseas operations, where the year’s results are distinctly encouraging. The overall loss was $ 1.89m compared with $2.53m in the previous year; so, everything considered, the Line has not done too badly. It is certainly a much better result than that on the recent operations of Qantas Airways Ltd.
A significant feature of this year’s report is the omission of any reference to the Tasmanian trade. In last year’s report the unfavourable aspects of the Tasmanian section of the coastal trade were emphasised. This year Tasmanian operations are ignored, both in the chairman’s review and in the report on coastal operations. The main references to the Tasmanian trade deal with the re-deployment of ships and service. It is impossible to get from the ANL report any notion of the losses sustained in the
Tasmanian trade. This is intriguing; perhaps in the circumstances of the past year the Line thought that no news of Tasmania was good news. We know that the Line does cost its Tasmanian operations separately and that it can provide net trading results. Indeed, the Minister has indicated that he he has no objection to these results being supplied on a confidential basis to the Tasmanian State Government. The Line’s objection to publishing a breakdown of this sort is that it would disclose commercial information which could prejudice the Line’s position in relation to its competitors. There may be merit in this argument, but it should be possible to give a fuller account of the Tasmanian trade and its prospects in the ANL report without infringing the competitive position of the Line.
I have described in some detail in this chamber the extreme economic disadvantages faced by Tasmania because of its physical isolation and its almost total independence of shipping services. About 8 per cent of exports are carried by air and these are mainly smaller parcels of light weight with a relatively high value per unit of weight, or an occasional urgent consignment. The rest of the trade is dependent on shipping; major industries export almost 100 per cent of their output and bring in much of their raw material by sea. Many medium-size and small industries have to export surplus production, as the local market is too small to absorb all the commodities produced. The island is dependent for day to day consumption on goods imported by sea; the important tourist industry draws very heavily on sea transport, particularly ANL services. These are fairly obvious points which have been made again and again, yet they have not been sufficiently comprehended by this Government
Against this background of the absolute dependence of the Tasmanian economy on shipping services, I want to look at the record of freight increases on these vital services in recent years. The ANL increased freight rates by 12 1/2 per cent in August 1970. It also recast schedules so that in many cases the freight rate increases were very much greater than I2i per cent. These rates subsequently were adjusted, although there were complaints that anomalies remained. The rises imposed by the ANL were quickly followed by the other major shipping firms - the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand and William Holyman and Sons Pty Ltd. On 1st March last year, passenger fares and accompanied vehicle charges were increased by the ANL; passenger charges rose by up to 15 per cent and car charges by about 5 per cent. Shipping rates on interstate general cargo services were increased again from 1st July last year - by 12.5 per cent for Sydney-Tasmania services, by 8 per cent from Melbourne to Tasmania, and by 6 per cent from Adelaide to Tasmania. Another extensive set of higher charges has now been imposed on important categories of cargo and on passenger fares and vehicle charges. These applied from 14th August for cargo and from 12th September for passengers and cars. The latest increases are too complicated for me to summarise here, but they contain some provisions which are difficult to explain.
The new rates for cars seem designed to hit those with smaller cars. For the mini-sized vehicle up to 11 feet, the return fare has been increased by 44 per cent; for cars from 11 feet to 13i feet, which include common VW and Morris models, the increase is 46 per cent. For cars from I5i to 17i feet, which include the Valiant and the Fairlane, the increase is only 44 per cent. There may be some logic in these differentials, but it is difficult to see; it can hardly encourage the tourist with a modest budget and a small car to go to Tasmania on the ANL. Another peculiar feature of these latest increases is that they were imposed without any consultation between the ANL and the Tasmanian Transport Commission. There may be no statutory obligation on the Line to discuss higher charges with the State representatives, but it is poor public relations to say the least. It does nothing to raise the status of the ANL among Tasmanians who are becoming more and more critical of the Line.
In summary, there have been 4 major shipping cost increases imposed on Tasmanian services in less than 2 years. Undoubtedly the ANL has serious problems which must be conceded; I have always tried to be fair to the Line and acknowledge what it has done for Tasmania. The simple truth is that this process of regular heavy increases in shipping rates either has to stop somewhere or it has to be offset in some way. The barden is fast approaching the point where it must inevitably cripple the Tasmanian economy. The cost of sustaining a permanently deprived and depressed economy in future years would be immensely greater in social welfare terms than the assistance which should now be given for essential shipping services to Tasmania. If the Government wants a region of economic deprivation similar to the Appalachian regions of the United States, then it is going the right way about creating it.
I exclude the present Minister for Shipping and Transport from this indictment; it is my understanding from the State Government that the Minister has shown concern and is trying within the limitations of his portfolio to give assistance. State Government officials are optimistic that the Minister is aware of the gravity of the situation and is genuine in his efforts to assist. Apparently there have been fruitful discussions between State and Commonwealth officials, and I thank the Minister for his role in producing this more hopeful atmosphere. There is always understandable reluctance on the part of a government to subsidise a particular region or a specific group of people; this cuts across concepts of popular sovereignty and political equality. But it is a situation which in situations of crisis has to be faced, and this situation is fast approaching with Tasmanian shipping.
The Commonwealth has given many millions of dollars for rail transport services in remote areas of mainland Australia - in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. There is another example in this year’s Budget, with the provision of $54m for the Alice SpringsTarcoola railway; this will be made on favourable terms under railway standardisation programmes. No-one begrudges this sort of transport assistance to remote and deprived areas; it must be given. But the same principle should be applied squarely across the board; it is inconsistent to subsidise transport services in some remote and deprived areas and not to assist or intervene when higher freight rates are piled on luckless people in other deprived regions without any assistance or intervention. The
Government just does not seem to comprehend the blatant discrimination in its approach to transport policy.
In the time available remaining to me I have a few words to say about another aspect of this discrimination against Tasmanian transport services, and that is the Bell Bay link. When the Bill giving Commonwealth assistance for the Bell Bay link was discussed in the Parliament late last year, I was extremely critical of the Government for the harsh terms imposed. I compared the Bell Bay agreement most unfavourably with assistance given by the Comomnwealth to railways in all other States. I suppose one should be charitable to vanished Premiers, but the legacy left behind by the former State Government amounts to one of the greatest administrative shambles in Australian history. The history of price escalation on this rail scheme is in the great tradition of the Fill aircraft, the DDL destroyer programme and the Sydney Opera House. The present estimated cost of the rail link is $12.6m. With the ancillary works needed to make effective use of the link the total cost is now estimated at more than $30m. The Commonwealth is committed to give assistance of $4.25m, most of it by way of a loan.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Though my months of action speak much louder than words, I have been unable to enter into the debate before now as I have been attending a meeting of a sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee that has been dealing with the subject of foreign aid. I regret very much that this debate went on without my knowledge.
– I thought you would have been talking about the doctors. The Prime Minister talked about the doctors.
– Be quiet, lt is my turn to speak now.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) Order! There are far too many interjections. I do not want to take up the honourable member’s time. It is not fair to him co do so. But I have to call the Committee to order.
– I am absolutely disgusted at the speech made in my absence by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). I am quite pleased that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) was able to enlighten the Committee on some of the real facts relating to Evans Deakin Industries Ltd. The honourable member for Bowman thinks that Evans Deakin is a prawn vessel fishing off the coast of Manly in Moreton Bay.
Motion (by Mr Giles) agreed to:
That the question be put.
That the amendment (Mr Jones’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr Corbett)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendment -
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1972.
Without request -
Gift Duty Bill 1972.
National Service - Rehabilitation of ex-Servicemen
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
This evening I wish to raise a matter that has been referred to me in recent days by the father of a young man who has been caught up in the vicious provisions of the National Service Act. He asked me to raise this matter because of its urgency andso that a decision could be made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) with some haste. The situation is rather typical of what probably many young men are facing today who have recently passed their medical examinations and who have been called up to report for Army duty at the end of January. This young man, who is 21 years of age, is just about to sit for his final examinations at the University of Queensland to qualify as a chemical engineer. He will complete these examinations at the end of November. He is in a class of 30 young men who will graduate this year and, for various reasons, is the only one who will face the provisions of the National Service Act. The others are either exempt or excused on medical grounds.
The professor at the university has advised the class that 20 of the young men will find no difficulty in being placed readily in their profession but that 10 of them may face some period of waiting while they organise jobs for themselves. The situation is that this young fellow, who has been educated on a Commonwealth scholarship - the Commonwealth has contributed thousands of dollars towards his education while he has been at secondary school and at the university - for the next couple of months will face the problem that he cannot even apply for a position in his profession. His father will have to keep him for those 2 months until he is due to go into the Army at the end of January. A further problem that he faces is that his son will come out in the middle of the year after having served his 18 months in national service training and will face competition at the end of the year, if he has not been able to secure a position beforehand which would be most unlikely, from 2 classes of graduates - the number unknown - who would follow him from the Queensland University. He will be 2 years behind every one of the 29 men who graduated with him. The burden that is thrust upon him by the provisions of the National Service Act indicates that the Act is unjust and discriminatory in the worst possible way. At the end of the 2 years he will have to face the problem of seeking a future for himself in his chosen profession. He will not only have to secure a job but also secure a job in the profession that he has been away from for 2 years and against competition from up to 60 men who graduated in the 2 years he was away from university.
It is quite obvious that this young man who has been educated under Commonwealth scholarships and in whose future success the Commonwealth has an investment, will perhaps be in a position where his future will be ruined almost before he is given an opportunity to enter his profession, simply because of the provisions of this disgraceful: and obnoxious National Service Act. What will happen to him during the 18 months of his service? If he is lucky he will find himself serving in an officers’ mess. More likely he will find himself gardening at Ennogera Barracks or doing storeman’s work. While I do not wish to reflect on the men in the Services who carry out these duties, I am critical of a system which forces a man of this capacity to carry out these duties when he is qualified in the profession which he has chosen. Under the provisions of the National Service Act and because of the stupidity of this Government, he finds that if he had qualified as a teacher or a doctor he could have applied for exemption or time in which to gain experience in his profession, but because he is not in either of those professions this man has been told by the national service office in Brisbane that there is no provision under which he can seek deferment to gain experience in his profession. He is just caught up in the system. He must face the National Service Act provisions and go into the Army at the end of January. May I say again that the career of this lad could be ruined for all time because of the crazy provisions of the National Service Act.
– And we talk about conditions in Russia.
– My colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) refers to what we hear about totalitarian countries such as Russia. Surely in no other country could we find a more ridiculous situation than the one which this lad faces. As I said in my opening remarks, I mention this matter at the request of this lad’s father who has suggested to me also that he knows of one other similar case involving a young man who qualifies this year as a mechanical engineer. Probably there are countless dozens of such cases of young men throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. The Minister for Labour and National Service when I spoke to him earlier told me that it would be diffifficul for him to come into the House tonight but that he would listen to my remarks. 1 ask him now formally and officially to show some compassion in this case, to give serious consideration to the persona] problem that this young fellow faces and to grant him total exemption from the provision of the National Service Act.
-] would like to have the opportunity of making some comments about the plea that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) has made but time precludes me from doing so. However, I do think thai there are a number of men in similar circumstances who have served and, I think, done remarkably well. I want to raise a matter in respect of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. I would like to explain that the case to which I wish to refer is one which has concerned the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and myself. I give credit to the honourable member for Macarthur for the action he has taken on this over a considerable period. The matter came to my attention only recently. I had an interview with the gentleman today and I said to the honourable member for Macarthur that I would raise it tonight. I am interested in this question because the case is similar to many which came before the Joint Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. The terms of reference required the Committee to look at the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, not the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act which a regular member of the Service comes under should he be injured in an accident which occurs not in war time.
The matter which I wish to raise concerns a Lieutenant-Commander of the Royal Australian Navy who was injured in 1969 while serving in the flying arm of the Navy. A limitation of 10 minutes does not allow one to go through all of the details of the case. ] have no joy in standing at 20 minutes to one to talk in the adjournment debate but I think there is some urgency about bringing to the notice of the Government the fact that there is concern both in the Services and in the Parliament as to the lack of co-ordination in respect of rehabilitation when such people are seriously injured. The man to whom I referred who was injured in a flying accident is now a paraplegic and is restricted to a wheelchair. In my opinion the treatment that was meted out to him was not of the kind of which a government could be proud.
This matter does not concern just the Minister for Social Services (Mr Went worth). The Minister was not the Minister at that particular time. I am not making an attack on the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) because the Minister for the Navy was not the Minister at that time. It does not affect the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) because the Treasurer was not the Treasurer at that time. But I think that all of the various Ministers who are concerned in this matter, and the Government as a whole, must look at the question of coordinating the rehabilitation of regular servicemen who are injured in this way. I would like to quote from a few extracts of a letter from a former Minister in the Government which absolutely amaze me. This letter in relation to the claim of this man was sent to the honourable member for Macarthur and stated:
The Commonwealth is prepared to accept liability in respect of its employees, including members of the Services, who sustain personal injury in consequence of their employment.
Later - and this is the part I react to - it stated:
The possibility of the Commonwealth meeting the expenses of certain modifications to his home and car were carefully explored by my Department. However, as the legislation does not extend to such matters the only way in which payment of those modifications could be accepted would be on the basis of an economic business proposition; that is, it would be necessary to establish that the Commonwealth stood to gain some economic benefit, for example, a saving in future compensation payments resulting from the earlier establishment of … in employment.
There was no interest in re-establishing this man so that he could restart his life or in giving him the opportunity to have a more complete life than is possible at present as a paraplegic with the pain and suffering and everything else that he has gone through. The Government was interested in him only as an economic prospect. If 1 had been the Minister - I do not reflect on him because the letter was probably written by the departmental head - I would rather cut my arm off than write such a letter to a man who was injured in the service of the Commonwealth and is now a complete paraplegic. The man is not complaining. He is not asking for more money. He is receiving his DFRB pension and Commonwealth employees compensation payments. On his own initiative he has registered at the Australian National University and is doing his first year of law. He receives no allowance for his car which is of a special type. He was not given any cut in sales tax on the purchase of his car because as he is studying to commence a career he is not using the car to earn his livelihood at this particular time. He is paying the full rate of tax on his DFRB pension. This is not superannuation. He receives a class A invalid pension because he is unable to earn his living.
At the peak of his career as a lieutenant commander he injured himself in such a way that there is no possibility of his recovering. He already owes an amount of $1,040 for taxation last year and he will have to pay the same amount this year. He has a young wife and 4 children. Under the law the Taxation office cannot allow him a reduction in taxation. When servicemen are injured in this way I think that their pension, because it is a pension for invalidity, should not be taxed at the full rate. As I understand the position, the moment this man receives $1 a year he will lose his entitlement to Commonwealth employment compensation and I think this is quite iniquitous.
He is entitled to a refund of the fees for his university course at the end of the year if he successfully completes it. To me this is an incredible thing. Surely the Commonwealth should endeavour to rehabilitate him by putting’ him through the course, not refunding him the money if he successfully completes the course. Who in this House knows what the pain and suffering of a paraplegic is when there are changes in the weather and in respect of other things? If this man does not pass his first year at the university surely to goodness he should not lose his fees.
At the present time this man is living at Bruce Hall at the National University. He has to pay for his accommodation there. He also has to pay for his motor car. With a wife and 4 young children this man is in very difficult circumstances. It is not that he does not get enough to live on: It is just that he has not the security that I think he should have. In my opinion the Govenment, even though perhaps it believes that it is doing a good job, has to co-ordinate the taxation position in relation to a DFRB class A invalid pension. I think that this man should be given his pension without any taxation deductions. I think that he should be assisted to purchase a motor car because he cannot get around without one. Because he is not earning his living and because he is studying in order to earn his living, he should be allowed a deduction in sales tax on his car.
In my opinion, the rehabilitation which has been given to this man is an example of how the system falls down. I and the honourable member for Macarthur give notice that should we be back next year, without any doubt this will be one of the matters which we will take up. I hope that the Government will again look at this case and at other cases of a similar nature. The Minister for Social Services has been most sympathetic. He has told me that if I give him the facts of this case he will look at it again. I stress again , that the Ministers presently occupying these positions are not responsible for this case. I thank the Minister and I hope that the Government will look at this matter more sympathetically not because this man is asking for help but because he says that there are others who are suffering who should be helped.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Giles) agreed to:
That the question be now - put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.50 a.m. (Thursday)
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS UPON NOTICE The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
The following Regular Army band units are based in Queensland:
As the above bands have aggregated more than 450 public appearances throughout Queensland between August 1971 and September 1972, it is not proposed to list all the functions and dates. However, the following table indicates the broad categories and numbers of public appearances (excluding rehearsals) by the 2 Regular Army band units:
Air Force: Supply of Prophylactics and Contraceptives (Question No. 6354) Or Klugman asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
What was the cost of contraceptives and prophylactics against venereal disease supplied to Air Force personnel during each of the last 5 years
The cost of prophylactics against VD supplied to RAAF personnel during each of the last 5 calendar years is as follows:
Drug Abuse: Ministerial Conference (Question No. 6420) . Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
No specific requests or suggestions were made at the meeting for legislative or administrative action. The meeting reviewed the activities of the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence since they last mei The following major points were agreed upon:
How many fruit growers in each State have
How many of them had been processed by that date and what number and percentage of the processed applications had been (a) approved and
The operation of the fruit-growing reconstruction scheme is to be governed by an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The scheme will be administered by the State rural reconstruction authorities.
Enabling legislation was introduced in Parliament on 20th September 1972. However, trees pulled after 14th July 1972 are eligible for assistance under the scheme provided that application was made to the appropriate State authority and the trees were inspected before removal. Information on the operation of the scheme to date will be available from the States after the legislation becomes law and the agreement is signed by the Prime Minister and each State Premier.
What was the (a) enrolment quota, (b) number of applications for enrolment and (c) number enrolled for each faculty in each Australian (i) university and (ii) university college at the commencement of the 1972 academic year.
The information provided in answer to parts (a) and (c) has been supplied by all universities.
The following enrolment quotas applied at the commencement of the 1972 academic year in each Australian (i) university and (ii) university college:
The following universities did not apply individual faculty or school quotas but have an overall planning number for new students or limit their overall student enrolments.
The figures must be treated with great caution if it is intended that they be used to ascertain the numbers of applicants who failed to gain entry into particular faculties in each of the universities given. I would refer the honourable member to my answer to Question No. 5404 asked by Mr Daly (Hansard, 19 September 1972, page 1610), and the answer to Question No. 1991 asked by Senator McClelland (Hansard, 26 September 1972, page 1188). Prospective students of universities in the Sydney area and the Wollongong University College make single applications listing orders of preference for various faculties within each of the universities. An applicant who is not admitted into the faculty of his first choice at one university is quite likely to be accepted into that faculty at another university in the same city or in another State. However, be will be recorded in the statistics of the admission centre as not having been accepted for the faculty of his first choice, whereas in fact he may have gained entry to the discipline of his first choice at the university of his second choice.
Subject to the preceding qualifications and reservations the numbers of applicants qualified for matriculation who sought enrolment, by the faculties of their first preference, in the metropolitan universities in Sydney and the Wollongong University College are as follows: -
The Superannuation Board’s investments with non-governmental organisations fall into 2 main groups:
Investments in each group as at 30th June 1972 amounted to:
These, in total, represent less than 30 per cent of the Fund at that date.
The average rate applicable to all investments held, including governmental loans, was 6.36 per cent.
Although these factors have been recognized in the past and account has been taken of them in reaching decisions on the acceptability of migrants the identification of personal or other potential weaknesses still remains difficult, particularly in those cases where applicants deliberately seek to conceal them.
A number of modifications to application forms are contemplated, but the main Innovation, in the new measures will be a structured assessment system that will require selection officers to assess separately and to report on two main types of criteria: economic factors and social and personal factors. Provision will also be made for review of marginal cases by officers qualified and experienced m the behavioural sciences.
The identification of pre-migration difficulties will not necessarily, lead to the rejection of the applicants, but before a decision is reached, any potential difficulties will be assessed against the amount of family or other support that the migrants may expect in Australia.
On what date was compulsory voting in (a) State and (b) Federal elections introduced in Australia.
As the redevelopment of Anzac Square, Brisbane, which is to commence shortly, will require a great deal of blasting during excavation work and will cause various other noise problems during construction, what steps have been taken to protect public servants, both in the existing and newly constructed Commonwealth Offices, adjacent to the Square.
The redevelopment of Anzac Square is the responsibility of the Brisbane City Council, lt is understood that site excavation for this project will take about 3 months. It is also understood that the builder is required to take ali necessary precautions to prevent nuisance from dust, including spraying with water during the progress of the work. He is to take all reasonable precautions to minimise noise at all times and to allow for the re-arrangement of his works programme to meet the reasonable objections of any persons occupying adjoining or adjacent buildings.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19721018_reps_27_hor81/>.