27 April 1932

13th Parliament · 1st Session

The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.

The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair and read prayers.

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Assent to the following bills reported : -

Lands Acquisition Bill.

War Service Homes Bill.

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Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[3.3]. - by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that, consequent upon the reorganization and amalgamation of the activities of certain Commonwealth departments, the following ministerial changes have taken place: -

HonorableR. A. Parkhill, M.P., formerly Minister of State for Home Affairs and Minister of State for Transport, to be Minister of State for the Interior.

Honorable C. A. S. Hawker, M.P., formerly Minister of State for Markets and Minister of State for Repatriation, to be Minister of State for Commerce.

Honorable C. W. C. Marr, D.S.O., M.C., V.D., M.P., Minister of State for Health, and formerly Minister of State for Works and Railways, to be also Minister of State for Repatriation.

Copies of the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 35, of the 14th April, 1932, embodying the revised administrative arrangements of the Commonwealth approved by His Excellency the Governor-General in Council have been placed in the Library for the information of honorable senators.

I shall represent the Minister for the Interior in the Senate.

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Minister for Defence · Westtern Australia · UAP

[3.4]. - by leave - As announced in the House of Representatives on the 17 th February, the Australian Delegation to the forthcoming Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa will consist of the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, C.H., P.O., M.C., M.P., Assistant Treasurer, and the Honorable H. S. Gullett, M.P., Minister for Trade and Customs. I have now to intimate that they will be accompanied by the following officers: - Dr. A. E. V. Richardson, M.A., D.Sc, Director of the Waite Agricultural Institute; E. Abbott, Deputy Comptroller-General of

Customs; J. F. Murphy, Chief Investigating Officer of the Development Branch; A. C. Moore, Department of Trade and Customs; L. E. Stevens, Department of Commerce; C. B. Carter, Department of Commerce, and Mrs. F. M. Grant, Private Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Mr. Murphy will act as secretary to the Delegation.

Invitations were extended to representatives of industry and commerce to act as consultants to the Delegation, and those invitations have been accepted by Messrs. R. W. Knox, a former president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce; S. McKay, of McKay, Massey-Harris Proprietary Limited; H. W. Osborne, Western District Co-operative Produce Insurance Company Limited; and F. H. Tout, of the Graziers’ Association.

An invitation was also extended to, and accepted by Mr. M. B. Duffy, who has had a lifelong association with the Labour movement in Australia, and who is a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board.

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The following papers were presented : -

Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank, and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 31st December, 1931, together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.

Elections andReforendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Elections, 1931, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1931; together with Summaries of Elections andReferen- dums, 1903-1931.

Elections, 1931 -

Statistical Returns showing the Voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election, 1931, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1931, viz.: -

New South Wales.



South Australia.

Western Australia.


Northern Territory Election, 19th December, 1931 - Detailed Return.

Protocol, dated 11th August, 1931, relating to Czechoslovakia and providing for the suspension for one year of the payment of inter-governmental debts.

Report of the Special Advisory Committee convened under the Agreement with Germany concluded at The Hague on 20th January, 1930.

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -

No. 4 of 1932- Australian Postal Elec tricians Union.

No. 5 of 1932 - Common Rule re Sick Leave.

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 31.

Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1931.

Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statu tory Rules 1932, No. 37.

Immigration Act - Return for 1931.

Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 32- No. 33.

Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 26.

Railways Act - By-laws - No. 57 - No. 58.

Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-

Ordinances of 1932 -

No. 9 - Liquor.

No. 10 - Trustee.

No. 1 1 - Weights and Measures.

Meat Ordinance - Regulations amended.

Public Health Ordinance - Regulations amended (Meat).

Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules . 1931, No. 155.

Wheat Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 25- No. 38.

Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 39.

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Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.

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through Senator Reid

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

In view of complaints that the tobacco sold in Australia at very high cost is sometimes quite smokable, but mostly objectionable, is it practicable for- the Government to set up some supervision over manufacture to ensure evenness of quality in any grade, under penalty of a fine when the standard is not adhered to?

Senator GREENE:

– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -

There is no reason whatever to think that the tobacco sold in Australia is mostly objectionable, nor is it considered practicable to set up a standard of quality.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vide page 566, volume 133), on motion by Senator McLachlan -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Senator BARNES:

.- As this bill is of a machinery nature, and similar to one which was introduced by the preceding Government, I do not propose to occupy the time of the Senate in discussing its non-contentious provisions.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 (Shorthand notes of evidence).

Senator McLACHLAN:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

– I have been advised that certain representations with regard to the bill have been made on behalf of an important body connected with the administration of the bankruptcy law. As I should like to have an opportunity to consider their views before the main provisions of the measure are passed through committee, I ask that progress be reported.

Senator Barnes:

– Will the Minister supply me with a copy of any suggestions that may be offered ?

Senator McLACHLAN:
Minister in charge of Development and Scientific and Industrial Research · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– I shall be pleased to do so. The Inspector General of Bankruptcy and the draftsman are now considering the representations made, and I hope to circulate the amendments to-morrow.

Progress reported.

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Minister for Defence · West ern Australia · UAP

[3.18]. - The Government is introducing in another place this afternoon a bill which it regards “ as important and urgent. It desires to pass it to-day, if possible, and I suggest that, in order that the Senate may deal with it after the dinner adjournment, if it is through another place by that time, you, Mr. President, should suspend the sitting until 8p.m.


– In deference to the wishes of the right honorable the leader of the Senate, I shall leave the chair until8 o’clock.

Sitting suspended from3.19 to 8 p.m.

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Wyndham Aerodome - Newnes Shale Deposits

Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[8.0]. - As there is not much likelihood of the bill to which I made reference earlier in the day reaching the Senate at a reasonable hour to-night, I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Western Australia

– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the matter of the Wyndham aerodrome. A great deal of feeling exists in Western Australia in this connexion,particularly since the disclosure by the Minister of the fact that up to date only £9 has been spent by the Federal Government on its improvement, while over £4,000 has been spent in improving the aerodrome at Darwin. Of course a portion of the £4,000 was money voted for relief work; but, at the same time, the Government could very well have expended similar moneys at Wyndham instead of carrying out its present policy of supplying large numbers of unemployed at Darwin with free steamer passages to the various States. During the last few months over 100 unemployed have been sent by this means from the Northern Territory to various parts of Western Australia. Instead of dumping these people upon the Government of Western Australia in this manner, the federal authorities should have expended more money on the Wyndham aerodrome, where they could have been profitably employed. I have before me a copy of a letter written by Mr. D. J. Davidson, of Wyndham, which he has asked me to bring under the notice of the Government. The letter is written from Wyndham, is dated the 5th April, and is addressed to the Editor of the West Australian newspaper, in which journal it was published. It reads -

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We have seen, of late, a great deal of com ment in the press with reference to the relative merits of Wyndham and Darwin as ports of entry to anil departure from Australia, for aircraft flying overseas. I feel, that while Wyndham has received a good share of publicity in this connexion, it can hardly be said to have been given a square deal, more particularly with regard to the federal authorities. I am induced to write this letter upon reading, in your issue of 24th March, the reply received by Senator E. B. Johnston from the Minister for Defence (Sir George Pearce). The Minister states that the sea crossing from the north-east end of Timor to Bathurst Island, on the line of flight to Darwin, is less than the sca crossing from the southwest end of Timor to Cape Londonderry, or the Drysdale Mission, on the line of flight to Wyndham. This is correct if Kupang is taken as the point of departure on the Wyndham route. The nearest point of Timor to Cape Londonderry is, however, a cape - of which I am unable to ascertain the name - situated some ‘ 05 odd miles to the east of Kupang and on the south coast of the island. From this cape the distance to Cape Londonderry is equal to that from the north-east end of Timor to the most northerly point of Bathurst Island, on the Darwin route, i.e., about 300 miles. The total distance from Kupang to Wyndham, via this southern cape and Cape Londonderry, would be 515 miles, of which the first 65 and the last 150 would be over land, making a sea crossing of 300 miles, shore to shore. “The distance from Kupang to Darwin, via the north-east end of Timor and Bathurst Island, is about 040 miles, of which the first 200 and about half of the last 80 miles would bo over land, making the main sea crossing 300 miles in this case also, with a further short flight across the sea between Bathurst Island and Darwin. A very big deviation would be necessary to approach Australia from the north-east end of Timor, and, as far as I am aware, Kupang is the only properly equipped aerodrome on the island. Taking distances direct between Kupang-Wyndham and Kupang-Darwin, respectively, we have 450 miles and 520 miles, not a very great difference, wore it not for the fact that the last 150 miles on the Wyndham route is over land, reducing tlie sea crossing to 300 miles, whereas practically the whole of the route to Darwin is over sca. As regards aerodromes on the Wyndham route, I am inclined to agree with the Minister that the establishment of a properly equipped aerodrome at the Drysdale Mission would not be justified at the present juncture. However, sufficient facilities at present- exist at the Drysdale to allow the mission to be used in an emergency. I have been informed by one of the monks stationed at the Mission, that they have an aerodrome approximately 300 yards by 300 yards, and that, m addition, an excellent and extensive landing ground is available on the beach at low tide.

With regard to the provision of an allweather aerodrome at Wyndham, the Minister states that a close examination of the Wyndham district, within a radius of fifteen miles, has been made by officers of the Civil Aviation branch of his department, but that it has been found that the nature of the country is unsuit- able- from the point of view of obtaining a site which could be prepared as an aerodrome for use in all weathers. I venture to say that this statement is not correct and that an aerodrome can be found within the required radius, and prepared nt a moderate cost. I am inclined to agree tlie Minister’s statement with regard to the limitations of the nine mile site, but consider that a far superior aerodrome, and of ample dimensions, could be made at a site about; ten to eleven air miles from Wyndham, and ,i very moderate cost both as regards preparation and maintenance. With regard to the three mile site, I think that, owing to the stony nature of the country, the cost of preparation and maintenance would be rather excessive. Reviewing the situation generally, Wyndham may be said to be far more favorably situated than Darwin, both geographically, meteorologically, and from a point of view of existing facilities for repairs and maintenance of machines. I have already dealt with the geographic situation as compared with Darwin. Meteorologically, Wyndham is favored in not being subject to tlie very heavy annual rainfall - and consequent poor flying conditions - appertaining to Darwin. Wyndham is, in addition, outside the cyclone area. As regards repairs and maintenance of machines wo have the Wyndham Meatworks, with an efficient and up-to-date plant and staff of engineers, and quite capable of repairing and making parts for aeroplanes. Two cases in point occurred last year on tlie occasion of mishaps to visiting machines, and many other instances of mechanical assistance given to airmen could be quoted. I doubt whether Darwin oan make any such claims. During past years many herrings have been drawn across the trail with regard to the provision of an all-weather aerodrome at Wyndham, but to date little or nothing practical has been done. On the other hand large sums of money have been spent on the Darwin ground, and, I understand, that the Commonwealth Government is now only awaiting the expiration of certain leases to make further extensions, and, presumably, further expenditure also. The fact that such world-famous airmen as Air Commodore Kingsford-Smith, Captain Pattist, of the Royal Netherlands Indies Air Force, C. W. A. Scott, and J. A. Mollison have chosen Wyndham, speaks for itself. It will be said, no doubt, that KingsfordSmith, on the occasion of the last English air mail, used Darwin, but it must be remembered that he originally planned to go from Wyndham, and only changed his mind a few days previous to departure from Sydney, upon being advised that, owing to rainy conditions at tlie time prevailing in Wyndham, the salt marsh aerodrome might be unsafe. Had we had an all-weather ground this last-minute change of plans would not have been necessary. In conclusion, I may say that Wyndham has been sorely neglected in this connexion, and that if the Commonwealth Government will not, or do not wish to, act it is up to our own Government to do something before tlie opportunity passes and Wyndham is condemned for ever in the eyes of the world, as a port of entry to and departure from Australia.

That letter, which is very comprehensive, speaks for itself. I endorse it in its entirety. The points raised in it demand the immediate attention of the Government. There is no need for me to emphasize that Wyndham has been unjustly treated, particularly as the records show that the total expenditure incurred on the Wyndham aerodrome since it was established is only £9, as compared with over £4,000 spent at Darwin. This small amount has been expended at Wyndham despite the fact that there is a governmental aerial service from Perth to Wyndham, which should he in operation throughout the year, but has to be suspended during the summer months owing to the failure of the Commonwealth authorities to provide a proper all-weather ground at Wyndham so that it could be used during the wet summer season. It is the duty of the Federal Government immediately to provide an all-weather airport at Wyndham. The facts quoted in the letter I have just read show that nature has favoured Wyndham with the shortest sea crossing between Timor and Australia, and that with the proper advantages of a first-class aerodrome, Wyndham should be the first port of call in Australia for all aircraft coming to this country from Europe and Asia. I feel sure that the fact that Darwin happens to be in Commonwealth territory, while Wyndham is in Western Australia, would not operate to the disadvantage of the latter in the minds of any Common wealth Government. I submit that the Government should, without delay, supply proper facilities at Wyndham to permit it to receive the advantages of its geographical position as a first air port of call in the Commonwealth for aircraft travelling to the Commonwealth from Europe and Asia.

Senator DOOLEY:
New South Wales

– I desire to obtain, some information from the Vice-President of the. Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) with respect to the expenditure of moneys allocated to relieve unemployment among those engaged in the coal-mining industry. An arrangement was made by the previous Government to provide £100,000 to relieve distress among the coal-miners. A committee was appointed to explore the possibilities of obtaining oil from shale, and it was decided to conduct certain experiments at Newnes. I understand that as a result of the recommendations of that committee a grant of £30,000, out of £97,000 made available for New South Wales, was made, and that that amount has now been expended. I understand that tenders are now being called for the leasing of the shale deposits at Newnes, and that it has been proved that oil and petrol can be profitably produced from the shale there. It was suggested to the previous Government that a further advance should be made to enable a tunnel to be constructed, through the mountain thus making richer deposits available. That would involve, the expenditure of a further £30,000. Shortly before the previous Government went out of office, arrangements were being made to provide that amount. If the Government proposes to lease the shale deposits to private enterprise, as has been suggested, I should like to know if it is possible for the operations at Newnes to be continued until a satisfactory tender is received. If that is not done, great hardship will be inflicted upon those who settled in the locality in the belief that the undertaking was of a permanent character. I believe that operations have been a success, and I would be sorry if the work should close clown pending further experiments, and the expenditure of additional money. Seeing that money has been allocated for the purpose, I hope that the Government will not close down the works until a satisfactory tender is received.

Vice-President of the Executive Council · South Australia · UAP

Senator Dooley has referred to the production of oil from shale at Newnes as if it were something which had been proved for the first time. There is nothing new in the production of oil from shale. Similar work has been carried on for many years in the Old World, and the possibilities of the Newnes deposits have already been proved by a British corporation and by an Australian company. The work recently undertaken _was not embarked upon for the purpose of exploring the possibilities of obtaining oil- from shale, because that had already been demonstrated. A large plant, which had been erected, and which functioned for some time, clearly demonstrated that oil could be profitably extracted from shale.

Senator Dooley:

– The public have had the idea that the development of Newnes was being handicapped by foreign corporations.

Senator McLACHLAN:

– Newnes i:* handicapped, unfortunately, by its location. The difficulties surrounding its position were recognized by the Scullin Government, and have been recognized by me since I was appointed to control the operations there. The honorable senator would have the Commonwealth Government embark upon a mining venture, and gamble on what might happen when the hill was pierced to obtain sufficient quantities of shale to enable the plant to operate economically. I speak from a personal knowledge of this matter, as well as in the light of information that has been conveyed to me by officers who are well qualified to express an opinion. The Newnes Valley itself does not contain a sufficient quantity of shale to meet the requirements of the enormous plant which has been erected there. Honorable senators have no idea of its extent and magnitude: but when I tell them that something like £1,800,000 has been spent on plant and fittings of the most up-to-date character - which I am glad to say are in very good condition - they will realize that the provision is altogether in excess of what is required for the shale that can be obtained inside the Newnes Valley. The late Government exercised caution when it vested the control of the operations at Newnes in a limited liability company, the function of which was to advise on the possibilities of obtaining shale and on the development of the shale oil industry, not only at Newnes, but also in other centres in New South Wales where more extensive deposits are to be found than exist on the other side of the Newnes Valley, as well as in Tasmania, and, I understand, in a portion of Victoria. This committee, I believe, was designed to act in an advisory capacity, and not to embark on any industrial undertaking such as that which has been visualized by the honorable senator. The company which was formed started without any capital, but was registered. Cer tain directors were appointed, and Mr. Gunn was deputed to represent the Government on the board of directors. The late Government allocated a sum of £30,000 for the operations at Newnes. Various difficulties were encountered, and the advice was tendered to which the honorable senator has referred, that there must be either a tunnel through, or an aerial rope-way over, what is probably the most precipitous and the most difficult country in Australia. The present Government was not prepared to expend any further amount on what it regarded as more or less a mining venture. The development of Newnes may prove a success under private, enterprise. I assure the honorable senator that it has not been a success under the present control, and that it could not hope to be with the limited supplies of shale available. There have been no newcomers to Newnes. The committee was hampered in its operations by being obliged to employ men who were resident in the district. Such pressure was brought to bear that it was not allowed to introduce men from other coalfields, who probably are more skilled and better equipped than are some of those who reside at Newnes. Notwithstanding the fact that a great deal of the oil recovered was sold, we are on the verge of having exhausted the £30,000 allocated by the Scullin Government. The present Government,” therefore, has determined that the field shall’ be handed over to private enterprise, which is more capable of economical operation than any government or body of mcn appointed in circumstances similar to those which governed the appointment of this committee. The men employed on the field have not given the venture the encouragement that might have been expected. Let me give one illustration of what happened. The men are paid so much a ton for the delivery of the shale at the crushers. The shale thus delivered is weighed, and then gravitates to the retorts. When the figures came to be balanced it was found that the quantity credited was 150 tons in excess of what had actually been delivered. An executive officer ordered the removal from the job of the man who was responsible, whereupon all the other men struck. That is only one of many illustrations that I could give which indicate a lack of encouragement ofthe committee. Consequently, the Government has determined to dispose of the property to private enterprise. It is merely held under option by the committee. The property belongs to another body, which bought it some time ago, but was discouraged from developing it.Tenders have been called, and I believe that some have been received, for the taking over of the property on such terms that the interests of shale oil development in this country will be safeguarded. There are possibilities of its development, but they can be realized only under the most careful private management, with the. operations directed by men who are thoroughly skilled, not only in engineering, but also in chemistry;

Senator Dooley:

– Does the Government contemplate the payment of a bounty on the production of shale oil?

Senator McLACHLAN:

-We are subsidizing approved work atNewnes to the extent of £10,000. Consequently, Newnes will have had spent upon it £40,000 of the £90,000 that was available. The control of the expenditure of that money is vested to a certain extent in the Government, because it must see that the purpose for which it was allocated - the relief of distressed miners - is fulfilled.

Senator Dooley:

– Will the balance of the money be spent?

Senator McLACHLAN:

– The balance has been ear-marked for shale oil development, and will be spent in that direction. There are otherfields, notably those at Capertee and Baerami, in which the deposits are richer than those at Newnes, the yield being as high as 140 gallons to the ton. We are awaiting certain developments in relation to the interests of those by whom they axe held. It. would be well in their own interests, and in the interests of the shale oil industry generally, if they came together and put forward a scheme of development on scientific and economic lines.

Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[8.24]. - Senator Johnston has raised the question of the possibility of the development of Wyndham as an air port. The honorable senator wrote to me on the sub ject, and I replied to him; and I have also had representations from the people of Wyndham.I think the honorable senator will agree that a very reasonable case has been made out for the stand that is being taken by the Defence Department. i assure him that if I have any prejudiceatall in the matter, it lies in the direction of Wyndham.

Senator E B Johnston:

– I am sure of that.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But in the expenditure of public money I must be guided, not by any political prejudice that I may have in favour of the State of which I am a representative, but by the advice of the experts in the department who understand the subject. I make no pretence at being an expert in matters affecting aviation; but I hope that I am capable of judging the pros and cons when a case is placed before me, and I must say that the case put up by the departmental officers seems to to he a reasonable one. I point out that the total amount available for expenditure upon civil aviation in Australia is extremely limited. At this juncture we are not in a position to develop an air port at Wyndham. But the matter is not closed; it will come up again, I hope, before very long, when we shall have under consideration schemes that are in process of formulation for what I may term an all red air route to the United Kingdom. At the present time negotiations are proceeding between the various companies in Australia, with a view to an amalgamation, and the putting forward of a proposal for the forging of our link of that Imperial airway chain. When that proposal comes forward, the claims of Wyndham and of Darwin undoubtedly will arise. A good deal will depend upon the nature of the proposition that is put up by these companies, one of whom is the Westralian Airways Limited, which fact furnishes a guarantee that the interests of Wyndham will not be overlooked. The Government has a perfectly open mind on the matter, and whenever a favorable opportunity presents itself and the financial position is sufficiently sound the development of an air port at Wyndham will be considered free from any prejudice, and a decision arrived at entirely on the merits of the case.

Senator E B Johnston:

– The letter that I have read furnishes further facts in reply to the stand taken by the department.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That letter has been brought under the notice of the experts in the department. I draw attention to one paragraph in it, which, with commendable fairness, admits that the Government is justified in not incurring any expense at the present juncture.

SenatorE. B. Johnston. - That refers to expenditure at Drysdale Mission, not at Wyndham.


– I assure the honorable senator that the matter will be fully investigated, and that the claims of Wyndham will be given every consideration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjournedat8.28p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 April 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.