17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Shortage - Loans
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware of the fact that a publication entitled About Housing has just been issued by the Minister for Works and Housing?, Does he believe that the acute scarcity of homes throughout Australia can be ameliorated to any degree by the publication of such voluminous documents?Will he urge upon the Cabinet the necessity for more positive action in relation to the production of essential building material ? Is the Minister aware that bricks, mortar and cement comprise the usual consituents in home building, whereas printed propaganda provides no real relief to home seekers ?
– I have not read the publication to which the honorable senator has referred. I am aware that there is a shortage of building materials generally and that there is a shortage of houses throughout the Commonwealth; hut the present Government cannot accept any more responsibility for it than previous administrations. Had past governments during the depression years given attention to the housing needs of the nation, we should notbe in such a desperate position as we are to-day with regard to the housing of our people.
-Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping state whether the present shortage of houses is not due tothe cessation of home building during the past six years, when all available building materials were used for urgent defence requirements, and also to the present abnormal demand for. houses by exservicemen, who have married and now require homes?
– I can only repeat that the major cause of the shortage of houses in Australia is due to the failure of previous governments to build houses during the depression when hundreds of thousands of our people were unemployed and building materials were available in abundance. That fact has greatly aggravated the present shortage. The Government is doing everything possible to overcome the shortage. Within its limited constitutional powers it is giving the utmost assistance to the States in dealing with this problem; and I am sure that the position will be improved considerably in the near future.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping supply any statistics regarding the shortage of houses throughout Australia immediately prior to the war? If there was a shortage, was sufficient material then available to meet the housing needs of the people?
– I am not in a position now to supply the information required by the honorable senator in detail, but there was a shortage of house; throughout Australia prior to the war. That is admitted by everybody. At that time, many men were unemployed, and there was no reason why they could not have been employed on the building of houses. Such a policy would have greatly reduced the seriousness of the problem confronting the Government today. Another factor which contributed to the present housing shortage was the failure to train unemployed youths during the depression years, which led to a shortage of skilled building tradesmen.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact that, in spite of the difficulty of obtaining building materials to-day, more homes are now being erected in Australia than at any other period during the last twenty years?
– More homes are being built in Australia to-day than ever before.
– Will the Leader of the Senate give his authority for his statement that more houses are now under’ construction in Australia than ever before? The brochure issued by the Minister for Works and Housing states that the largest number of houses built in a pre-war year was 40,000, that for the year ended the 30th June, the target is 24,000, and that at the 30th March, there were 10,000 dwellings under construction.
– The honorable senator is entitled to ask a question, but not to give information.
– How does the Minister reconcile his statement that more houses are now under construction than in any previous year, in view of the contradiction of that statement in the official booklet issued by the Minister for Works and Housing?
– I. am not in a position at present to supply the honor-; able senator with the information he seeks as to the number of houses built in various years, but my statement that’ more houses are being built in Australia than ever before, is correct.
asked the Minister i representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers:-
– Some time ago, Senator Amour asked a question relating to the provision of postal telegraphic and telephonic services’ in country districts. I now inform the honorable senator that the Postal Department has prepared comprehensive plans for the development and expansion of the postal, telephone and telegraph services through out the Commonwealth. A start has been made with the post-war programme which comprehends an ultimate expenditure pf £20,000,000, and already a number of improvements have been effected both in the metropolitan and country areas. The first’ and most important job is, naturally, the restoration of depleted reserves of plant and equipment which were exhausted during the war period. The initial programme of works in country districts includes, the erection of 55 new post office buildings and the remodelling of 100 existing country post offices. Forty hew telephone exchange . buildings are contemplated in country districts. In addition, it is- proposed to erect 400 small buildings to accommodate rural automatic exchanges. The new post office buildings will be modern and attractive in appearance and will not only afford ample accommodation for the public, but will also include adequate amenities for the staff. An exhaustive examination of postal facilities has been completed and steps have been taken to effect improvements in respect of the following services -
Country mail services : The policy has been liberalized to an appreciable degree. The aim is to establish at leas’t a three-times weekly mail de- livery in all country areas wherever it is practicable to do so without cost to the local residents concerned.
Letter delivery services : It is proposed to introduce house to house delivery of correspondence in country townships to a far greater degree than in the. past, and the facilities in a large number- of centres where an outdoor, delivery is already in opera-“ tion will be improved.- ‘
Letter receivers: Posting receptacles will be provided in future on a more liberal basis than that observed formerly, and public convenience, rather than the financial aspect, will be the determining factor.
Delivery of parcels: It is proposed to arrange for the delivery of parcels to the premises of the addressee at each centre from which an outdoor delivery of correspondence is effected.
Stamp selling machines: A large number of automatic machines for the sale of postage stamps will be installed, and offers have been invited for the supply of 600 machines. In selecting sites, preference will be given to post offices and also to cases where appreciable inconvenience is being caused to the local community through the absence of means to purchase stamps when the local post office is closed.
Circulation of mail matter: The mail circulation arrangements throughout the Commonwealth are being examined critically in the light of the. present-day conditions with the object of ensuring that the most accurate treatment and rapid transit of correspondence between points of posting and delivery .are provided.
Telephone exchange services; In order to assist the man on the land, the department will now incur expenditure not exceeding £100 for each applicant for a telephone exchange service. The maximum amount expended by the Postal Department prior to. the introduction of the amended basis in October, 1945, .was £50. In general effect, therefore, the department has doubled the amount of construction which it is prepared to erect in providing a subscriber’s service.
Extra mileage charges : With a view to ameliorating the conditions of telephone subscribers who are obliged to lease long lines, the extra mileage charges for the departmental sections of lines extending beyond two miles from the exchange were reduced substantially in January, 1946. The adoption of the new scale of fees has already benefited some 26,500 subscribers to the extent of nearly £30,000 per annum.
Public telephones : The conditions under which public telephones are established have been improved and these facilities will be provided- on” a much more generous basis in future. In considering proposals’ particular attention will be paid to the inconvenience which the absence of a telephone service is causing to the local residents in the area affected.
Trunk-line system: The plans to improve the trunk-line system include the erection of many new lines, the installation of modern carrier telephone systems and the laying of underground cables. Some projects have already been completed and it is expected that the rate of progress will be accelerated in the future. So that the benefits of telecommunications facilities may be extended to rural districts which are at present more or less isolated, the conditions under which new trunk lines are established are being made more liberal.
Hours of telephone service: The basis under which the hours of attendance at small manual telephone exchanges are determined is being reviewed with the object of introducing a more favorable scheme, and thereby increasing the number of exchanges where a continuous service is provided or attendance is given up to 10 p.m. daily. It is .also proposed to extend the benefits of the automatic system as widely as possible and the plans provide for 400 rural automatic exchanges to be established throughout the Commonwealth. These automatic units have been developed specifically to meet the conditions in isolated localities and they afford service throughout the whole 24 hours.
Radio-telephone .facilities : Experiments are being conducted with a view to determining the practicability of utilizing radio-telephone facilities as an adjunct to the land line system. It is anticipated that these trials will furnish valuable data relating to the usefulness of radio-telephone services in outback areas, where the cost of erecting trunk lines is prohibitive because of the abnormally long distances involved.
Privately erected services: The conditions affecting part-privately and wholly privately erected telephone exchange services are under examination for the purpose of ascertaining to what degree, and in what respect, it would be practicable for the department to render a greater measure of assistance in the location and removal of faults.
The programme also provides for the modernization and expansion of the Commonwealth telegraphic system and the introduction of machine telegraphy wherever this course is practicable.
Plans have been prepared for extensions to the national broadcasting system, including the establishment of many additional regional stations to serve outback areas where the listeners do not receive a satisfactory .service from the existing national transmitters.
– I ask the Leader qf the Senate whether it is true that Mr. A. E. Monk, secretary of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions, has returned within the past two or three weeks from a visit to Moscow? Did the Commonwealth Government contribute* to Mr.- Monk’s expenses whilst abroad, mid if so, what is the amount involved?
– I am not aware that Mr. Monk has just returned from Moscow, but I shall have inquiries made. T assume that the expenses incurred by Mr. Monk whilst travelling abroad as the representative of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions would be met in the same manner as those of say a representative of the Employers Federation in similar circumstances. However, T shall obtain the information desired.
– It has been reported from time to time that the establishment of branches of British industrial undertakings in this country has been delayed because of double taxation. As this matter has now been settled satisfactorily, is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to inform the Senate whether any British industries are to be established in Australia in the immediate future?
– I understand that negotiations have been going on for some time in regard to the transfer of British’ industries to this country, and I am informed that factories are now being set up by certain organizations.
– Has the Leader of the Senate seen a recent press report that more than 20,000 American exservicemen who lost a leg in the war are to be given specially constructed motor cars by the Government of the United States, of America? Will the Minister ascertain whether this statement is correct, and if so, will the Australian Government grant a similar concession to Australian ex-servicemen who suffered similar disabilities during their war service?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable senator refers, but I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation. I am sure that the Government will give to limbless ex-service personnel ‘in thi* country consideration as favorable as that extended by governments of other countries to limbless ex-service personnel.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture why that Minister cannot supply an answer to the questions which I placed on the notice-paper three weeks ago asking for information regarding the price of wheat imported last year, and the loss resulting from the cancellation of contracts, if any, for the sale of Australian wheat?
– The information sought -by the honorable senator entails considerable investigation by a number of officers of the department. It is the wish, as well as the duty, of all Ministers to make available as soon as possible answers to questions asked in the Senate. I shall draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that an answer hasnot yet been supplied to the. honorable senator’s question.
AVAILABILITY FOR PRIMARY PRODUCTS.
– ! ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the restrictions placed upon railway goods services as the result of the continued coal shortage in New South Wales may not disorganize this season’s wool sales and disrupt the export of other primary products, such as meat and wheat? “With a view to obviating such a calamity to the country will the Minister give early consideration to expediting the release, of the. maximum number of army motor vehicles now awaiting disposal, as well as issuing additional petrol supplies free of excise duty, with a view to providing an alternative means of transport of primary products to ports?
– In conjunction with the State governments, the Government is giving consideration to the possibility of using the maximum motor transport available with a view “to relieving the restriction upon transport services as the result of the ‘ shortage of coal. The Government is dealing with this problem in a practical way, and will hot be influenced by calamity howlers in. the press, or elsewhere.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping the following questions : - 1. Did Senators Collett and Allan MacDonald,. during the debate on the Treasurer’s Financial Statement yesnerd ay, stress the urgent need for assistance to be given to the gold-mining industry and for the repeal of the gold taxi £. Did the Minister for Supply and Shipping, in closing the debate, refer to this as a “ local matter “ and suggest that, because the Menzies Government, imposed the tax for war revenue purposes, no assistance would be rendered to the industry; if not, what is the Government prepared to do in the near future to encourage and. develop this rich national asset ?
– 1 said, in replying to speeches by honorable senators opposite on the Treasurer’s Financial Statement, that many local matters had been discussed. I believe that the words f. used were that honorable senators had adopted a parochial attitude. For example, some of the subjects discussed were Tasmanian potatoes, Western Australian gold and “ Victorian chilblains “. The Government; instead of neglecting the gold-mining industry in Western Australia, has already assisted it and will continue to do- so. What I said in reference to the gold tax was correct. That tax was imposed by the Menzies Government, which also imposed many taxes upon other industries. The Government is not in a position to remove these taxes. It has many commitments to meet, includ ing those in respect of ex-servicemen who defended the nation, and no single section of the community can be relieved of taxes unless special circumstances warrant, the granting of such preference.
– It is’ stated in the press to-d:ay that a report by the Social Security Committee tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday stressed the need’ for granting increased sums of money for the purposes of the National Fitness campaign. Will the Minister for Health examine the report, and give early and sympathetic consideration to the committee’s recommendations ?
– A copy of the report has been made available to me only to-day, and I have not yet had an opportunity to peruse it. I shall do so, and shall unquestionably give sympathetic consideration to an extension of the Government’s aid in the promotion of national fitness. About £70,000 per annum is now being provided by the Government foi- that purpose.
– On the 2nd August, Senator Foll asked a question concerning the relaxation of the British prohibition of the importation of certain luxury items in relation to Canadian goods. I have had inquiries made and now inform the honorable senator as follows: - It was announced in London on the 8th April, 1946, that, in order to- facilitate the re-opening of established trade connexions, the. United Kingdom authorities’ have agreed to allow token imports of certain categories, of manufactured goods that have been excluded from the .United Kingdom market as a result of the import’ licensing procedure of the United Kingdom Board of Trade; Such token shipments are to be restricted to manufacturers having a pre-war pattern of trade with the United Kingdom, and are to be limited to 20 per cent., of the value of the manufacturer’s average ex- . ports of. each commodity during the base years of 1936 to 1938. The relaxation, which is extremely limited in nature, as set out above, ie intended to apply to imports of specified countries -which may be willing to operate the necessary administrative arrangements, and whose underlying financial arrangements with the United Kingdom make such relaxations possible.Accordingly, where it can be shown that, a manufacturer of a particular class of goods had an established market for these goods in the United Kingdom before the war, the United Kingdom Board of Trade will favorably consider applications .forimport licences on the basis of 20 per cent, of his pre-war trade. The necessary arrangements to meet this requirement will’ be worked out by the United Kingdom Government with the governments of the countries concerned. As these arrangements are made, detailed notices to importers setting out the procedure will be published. Arrangements have already been completed in the case of Canada, and, more recently, with regard to the United States, but goods on the existing list will be admitted on the same basis from any other country to which the scheme may be applied: Equally, any additions to the list accepted by the United Kingdom Government, will be applicable to all countries covered by the scheme. If there are any Australian manufacturers who wish to re-establish their goods on the United Kingdom market under the conditions Stated, representations will be made to the United Kingdom Government for the extension of these arrangements to Australia. .
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the price of tallow is pegged in Australia at £27 15s. a ton, that the overseas price of tallow is £115 a ton, and that a blanket embargo on the export of that commodity is in operation? Does the Minister know that there is not an export embargo on soap, and that the value of soap exports has risen from £74,000 in 1938-39 to £343,000 in 1943-44? Is he aware further that the overseas price of soap is * estimated in accordance with the overseas price of tallow which is £115 a ton?
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in giv ing information under the guise of a question. Information can be elicited from the Minister by asking a . direct question.
– I desire the Minister to ascertain whether these are facts. I wish to know whether the difference between £27 los. a ton and £115 a ton goes to the soap manufacturers in Australia-. Will the Minister inform me whether the money received by Lever Brothers, who are by far the largest exporters of soap in this country, is used in London to swell Australia’s overseas credits, or is this profit simply placed to the account of Lever Brothers in England? I desire the Minister to examinethe position in order to ensure that Australian manufacturers of tallow shall be adequately protected against the big international soap combine-
– Order! The honorable senator is not now asking a question. I ask him, and honorable senators generally, to confine questions to matters of public affairs, and to observe the printed instructions relating to the asking of questions. The proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast for only a short period each day, and it is somewhat unfair to other honorable senators who desire to ask questions for any honorable senator to monopolize too great a proportion of that time: While on this subject, and in the light of what happened earlier this morning, when the Postmaster-General read a long statement in reply to a question, I suggest that in future, instead of a Minister reading a long statement in- answer .to a question, it would be preferable if he were to ask leave to make a statement.
– It is true that the Government has found it necessary to place an embargo on the export, of certain commodities which are in short supply in Australia, and that the embargo applies to tallow. I am noi acquainted with the profits made by the* exporters of “tallow and cannot say howexport prices compare with local prices. I shall have the position investigated, and will supply the information to the honorable senator.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.;Yesterday, the PostmasterGeneral, in replying to a question by Senator Nash, regarding the effect on listeners in Western Australia of the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament, gave certain information to the Senate which is not entirely satisfactory to the people of Western. Australia. I now ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that there is only one land-line channel available between Adelaide and Perth at the time when the proceedings of this Parliament are being broadcast. If so, will the Minister give early consideration to the opening of a second land-line channel to Western Australia, so that the ordinary programmes advertised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Western Australia may be broadcast without interruption? Is the Minister aware that many listeners in Western Australia outside the area served by station 6WF are unable to hear anything but parliamentary broadcasts during certain hours, and that even such items as market reports and’ other matters of greater interest to the primary producers of that State are not available to them?
– Yesterday, when I answered a similar question asked by Senator Nash, I said that only one national station in Western Australia was made available for broadcasting parliamentary proceedings and that other national stations could broadcast other programmes.
– People outside the radius served by the Perth stations cannot hear those programmes.
– I shall inquire into the honorable senator’s complaint, and will supply him with a brief answer to hisquestion as speedily as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 9th August, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 31st July (vide page 3320), on motion by Senator Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This extraordinary bill is based upon a report and recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee. As honorable senators are aware there are nine members of that committee, five of whom represent the Government, and four the Opposition. In reporting on one subject, the five Government supporters were of one opinion, and the four Opposition members were of another. The minority report states that the question of the Australian Broadcasting Commission setting up its own news service was not included in the terms of reference to the committee. I have a vivid recollection of strenuously opposing the formation of the Broadcasting Committee because I was of the opinion that it would interfere with the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That is exactly what has happened. This bill is a further attempt to interfere with the free exercise of the powers conferred upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission was established in the belief that it would be an independent or semi independent body; but there has been continual interference with its functions. This measure means that the commission is not to be permitted to use its discretion in regard to the advisability of setting up its own news-gathering organization, but is to be compelled to establish its own service. There are only two provisions in the measure that really matter. One is the clause providing that the commission shall set up an independent news service, and the other is paragraph b of clause 18 which, although ambiguous and requiring clarification, according to an interpretation given to me, means that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will have authority to broadcast advertisements, or to arrange with the commercial stations for the broadcasting of advertisements. If that is not the intention of this provision, I should like an explanation of it. The bill shows evidence of hasty preparation. Although it was introduced :ito this chamber only last week, already there is a long list of Government amendments. It seems rather sinister that just prior to an election, “the Government should seek to have all the news that is broadcast over the national stations gathered by men of its own choosing. I do not think I am any more suspicious than other men, but the forcing of an important measure such as this through Parliament on the eve of an election savours of an attempt to facilitate the broadcasting of election propaganda. If T be wrong in that assumption, I should like to know the reason for the haste in passing this measure. Why not let it wait until after, the elections when the people will have given their verdict? By insisting upon the immediate passage .of the bill, despite the fact that already we have 27 measures to deal with before the end of the session, the Government is leaving itself open to the gravest suspicion. I have rarely read a more confused report than the one upon which this measure is based. Certainly I have never read a report of a parliamentary committee that gave »o little reason for the conclusions reached by the majority of its members. One would be inclined to believe that the minds of Government members of the- committee, were made up before any evidence was taken at all. Bearing in mind the terms of reference, and the circumstances in which it was conducted, one wonders just what is the province of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Even the majority report of the committee admits that four out of five members of the commission opposed the formation of an- independent news service, preferring to enter into an agreement with the Australian Associated Press for the payment of £20,000 a year for overseas and local news - £12,500 for overseas news and £7,500 for local news. The commission favoured the proposed agreement with the newspaper proprietors, but not being quite satisfied about the price, submitted the matter of the determination of the price to arbitration. The Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, was chosen by the parties as arbitrator. As set out in the committee’s report, he determined that the sum of £20,000, made up of £12,500 for local news and £7,500 for overseas news, was a fair price. But the committee, instead of doing the job’ which was assigned to it by the PostmasterGeneral, adopted the attitude. “ Oh no ; we will not have anything to do with these agreements. We will go and do something else I liken its attitude to that of a man whom one asks to report whether, with a view to purchase, a motor car is in good order, but instead of reporting upon the condition of the car, he recommends the purchaser to huy an. aeroplane. If the .measure btpassed, the commission will be involved in considerable expenditure. In order to gain an .idea of what that expenditure is likely to be we must look farther than the evidence furnished with the committee’s report. The report states that the cost of the commission’s present news service is approximately £53,000 a year. Personally, I believe that that is rather a large sum to pay for the rather scrappy news bulletins, which are broadcast by the commission. However, I need not deal with- that aspect. If the commission entered into an agreement with the newspaper proprietors, its expenditure in respect of news services would be increased by £20,000, and an additional £10,000 which, in order to implement the agreement, the commission would he obliged to incur in employing its own representatives in various newspaper offices to cull the news suitable to the commission. That would mean an increase of £30,000, or a total expenditure in respect of the commission’s news service of £83,000. But what does the committee propose? It proposes that the commission should set up independent news agencies in Australia and overseas. We are informed in the committee’s report that the cost to the newspaper proprietors for the Australian newspaper service in respect of overseas news is approximately £180,000 a year. That is only for factual or basic news, or, as it is sometimes called, first “ news. In addition, individual newspapers collect supplementary news direct. That cost also does not include the cost of gathering intra-state and interstate news. One newspaper said that its cost of gathering local news is £80,000 a year. Thus under the proposal embodied in the bill, compared with the cost of £S3,000 to the commission under the agreement recom mended by the commission, the commission will be involved in an expenditure of from £200,000 to £250,000 a year. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), in his second-reading speech, said nothing of that expense. Apparently, he regards it as a mere bagatelle. However, those are the facts. Consequently, one wonders how this proposal is to be financed. We know, of course, that of the listener’s licence-fee of £1, 15s. is paid to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the remaining5s. is retained by the Postal Department. Under the Australian Broadcasting Act the Postal Department must make land-lines and communications available to the commission. In respect of land-lines the newspaper proprietors pay to the Postal Department £247,000 a year; hut those services are made available to the commission free of charge. That fact also is hidden by the Postmaster-General. I presume that in view of the charge for such services made to the newspaper proprietors the provision of similar services to the Australian Broadcasting Commission involves the department in considerable cost. The people are not told anything about that item of expenditure.Now, in addition to that expenditure, the taxpayers are to be committed to an expenditure on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission of an amount variously estimated up to £250,000 a year, instead of an expenditure of £83,000, to which the commission would be committed under the agreement with the newspaper proprietors which it requested the committee to endorse,plus an increase of possibly 50 per cent. on that amount in respect of gathering its own supplementary news overseas. I shall read the minority report which has been signed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who was vicechairman of the committee, Senator Herbert Hays, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) -
We disagree with the comments and recommendation in the report for the following reasons : -
That report was made by four independent men who listened to all of the evidence given before the committee, and who, after considering all of the circumstances, hesitated to interfere with the affairs of a statutory body. They claim that the members who made the majority report exceeded their power because the committee had not been asked to express an opinion on the establishment of an independent news service. It was asked to report as to whether certain agreements should be entered into or not. The members who signed the majority report apparently went out of their way to try to implement the policy of the Labour party. The Government must have some special reason for introducing this bill just before a general election’ campaign. The measure leaves nothing to chance. It contains definite instructions to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which will be left with mo discretionary power about making agreements for the collection of news. It provides that the commission shall broadcast news daily from all national broadcasting stations, and shall - not “may” - employ an adequate staff both in. the Commonwealth and in overseas countries for the purpose of collecting news and information to be broadcast. “ Adequate “ is a wonderful word. The
Commission will employ an “ adequate “ staff at an “ adequate “ remuneration ; I assume that there will be good jobs for persons who have the ability to tinge news’ reports in the way that the Government desires.
– That is a reflection on journalists.
– No. It is a reflection on the Government. It is well known to everybody who has listened regularly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service that some of its early news broadcasts from Canberra had a distinct political flavour. Recently, following complaints, the bias has been considerably reduced. I have very little complaint in that regard now, although nobody would say that these broadcasts favour the Opposition parties. I am afraid of a government which interferes with the policy of’ a statutory body and insists that it must not use its own judgment but must carry out the government’s wishes. Any unbiased person cannot fail to realize that the Government expects to secure some benefit from its action before the elections. It fears the blizzard of the 28th September. Being doubtful of its ability to ride out the storm, it is taking all possible steps to secure an advantage over its political opponents. I suppose that it is useless for us to oppose the Government on this bill. The die has been cast. This is a very controversial matter, and, when other important business awaits our attention, the Government ought to postpone further consideration of it until after the elections. However, when I made such a suggestion, I was tola that “the bill must go through”. This merely confirmed my opinion that the Government expects to derive some benefit from the measure at the elections. I repeat that the news-gathering organization which the Government insists that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall establish, will cost the nation a great deal of money. The commission’s present news service is reasonably adequate and costs only £83,000 a year. The proposed new service may very well cost two or three times that amount, although the advantage derived from the innovation will be very small. I realize, of course, that the Government is actuated by special reasons at which Ican only guess.
For instance, it may be actuated by its dislike for newspapers. However, I cannot imagine that the collection of news by tie Australian Broadcasting Commission will damage the newspapers in any way. I believe rather that the public’ will read the newspapers more avidly as soon as the effect of the commission’s new method of news gathering becomes apparent. People will turn to thenewspapers and say, “ “We have been listening to this over the air, but now we shall find out the truth “. I cannot understand why the Government should suddenly decide to spend a considerable sum on an independent news service, unless it lias reasons which are not apparent in the bill or in the committee’s recommendations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is supposed to be an expert at its own job, and it is, in fact, doing quite well. Therefore, it should have as free a hand as possible. I cannot imagine anything more damaging to the work of any commission than continual interference by outside bodies, such as the Parliament or a parliamentary committee. If the commission had told the’ Government that it desired the proposed news service, I should have had nothing ro say on the matter, but when we find that four of the five members of the commission are opposed to the establishment of the service, and the fifth is not quite sure about it, we realize that the experts are being ignored, that’ the amateurs are being applauded^ and that the Government is backing the1 amateurs. 1 appeal to -the Government, before it is too late, to. postpone the institution of this’ service, as there is no immediate necessity for it. If the’ Government allowed the proposal to stand over until after the general elections, there would be no suspicion of unfairness on its part. T fear, however, that, knowing that .it now has the necessary numbers to force the measure through the Parliament, and fearing that, after the 28th September, it will not ‘have so great a following-
– We have no such fear.
– Then what is the reason for the hurried passage of this bill? All that the Postmaster-General has said is that the agreement seems to bp favorable to the commission,’ and will operate for only twelve months. I know that the measure will be forced through the Senate, but.it is right that the people should be informed as to the proposed expenditure and as to whether the service will be financed by an increase of the listener’s 1 licence-fee or a subsidy from general revenue. As the public is getting an adequate service at present, it seems to me that the Government should furnish ‘ full details of the expenditure likely to be involved, and say how the money is to be raised. Many listeners regard the licence-fee. of £1 as sufficiently high, and if the Government should decide to increase that fee, in order to increase the subsidy to the commission, the listeners will consider that they .are not getting full value for their money. The people assumed that the commission would have full power in its own domain. I protest against the bill on the score of the cost of the service incurred.
– Many good Australians have waited with interest for this bill, and- I congratulate the Government upon -its introduction. In addition to providing for the establishment of an independent news service, the bill includes provisions for the appointment of a Promotions Appeal Board and a Disciplinary Appeal Board. Honorable senators opposite are apparently determined to follow the lead” of the four members of the Broadcasting . Committee who are members of the Opposition with regard to the proposed news service. It is regrettable that the honorable senator who leads the opposition to this measure has not examined the majority report of the committee. He seems to have depended on the minority report, and he shows that he has little knowledge of the subject. He referred to paragraph b of clause 18 of the bill, which’ relates to commercial broadcasting stations and not to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The honorable senator became hopelessly confused as to the nature of that provision.
-=-I merely asked for an explanation.
– The honorable senator should have been able to understand it. by the exercise of common sense. He said that he was opposed to- the establishment of the Broadcasting Committee, but I consider that the appointment of such committees is of great advantage in a democracy. They present reports and recommendations to the Parliament, as the result of which legislation regarding the matters dealt with is introduced sooner than would otherwise be the case. An opportunity is thus presented to members of all political parties to investigate matters referred to those committees. The honorable senator also complained bitterly against the Broadcasting Committee’s report regarding the establishment of the proposed news service, and said that the committee could not have given less consideration to the matter. If he and other honorable senators opposite have been unable to interpret the evidence presented to the committee on this matter, that is their own affair. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, told the committee’ that the commission had no objection to the establishment of an independent news service, and that the only matter that concerned the commission was the cost of conducting it. Representatives of the Australian Journalists Association gave evidence, when the committee investigated the previous proposal for a news agreement, and on that occasion they were strongly in favour of an independent service. They were unable to appear before the committee when it investigated the present proposal, because at that time they were engaged in the Arbitration Court, but they forwarded a letter stating that their views had not changed since their examination regarding, the previous news agreement. Mr. Henderson, representing the Australian Associated Press and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, said that those bodies would be glad if the commission conducted an independent news service of its own.
– What has that to do ‘ with the bill?
– The honorable senator contended that the Broadcasting Committee had had no evidence before it regarding the matter, but they examined Mr. Hanlon, who has had 40 years’ experience as a journalist and an editor, and also Mr. Dixon, to whom I shall refer later. It has been said that a majority of the members of the Broadcasting Committee went beyond the committee’s terms of reference in their report. When the committee received its terms of reference from the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), there was a document attached from the Australian Broadcasting Commission setting out the reasons why it thought that the agreement should be adopted. In that document the commission also discussed” the proposed independent news ‘ service and attached to the terms of reference was the arbitrator’s decision in which an independent service was referred to. In addition to the evidence given by witnesses, the committee had the views of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regard to certain matters on which it had .made submission to the Minister, as well as the views of the arbitrator. The whole of the evidence centred on an independent news service as an alternative to the draft agreement. I suggest, that it would not have been helpful to the Parliament, or to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, had the committee merely reported that it did not favour the signing of the agreement, and had left it at that, because that would have meant that the position which had existed for ten years would have remained unaltered. The committee knew that when the previous agreement was being examined, there was opposition to the continuance of the “Canberra Roundsman “ acting on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that there was a desire to set up an agency to gather news. Those matters were, noi’ referred to in the new agreement, under which the charges were to be raised from £5,000 to £12,500 per annum for an overseas service and from £2,700 to £7,500 for Australian news for a period of one year. When the matter was submitted to the arbitrator it was suggested that £20,000 peT annum should be paid for overseas news and £10.000 for Australian news, a total of £30,000 per annum. The arbitrator’s decision provided for £12,500 and £7.500 respectively, a total of £20.000. The Australian Broadcasting Commission budgeted for £53,000 for news. Under the agreement the cost would have been £S3,000. Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Dixon. who are expert journalists, say that they oan conduct an independent news service for £83,000 per annum, the actual cost being dependent on the result of negotiations with overseas agencies. Mr. Henderson said that the cost of the Australian service would not be less than £110,000 per annum. Even if he were correct in his “ estimate, that sum would not be too high to’ pay for a service in which the public would have complete confidence.
The Australian Journalists Association pointed* out that although news might not be given a slant by newspapers supplying Australian news, there would be a risk that news would be given a slant by those employed by the Australian Associated Press in London and New York, as they might submit, news in accordance with the policy of those in control of overseas newspapers. The association said that the Australian Associated Press would not want to pay cable rates on news which that body would prefer to suppress. The president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association also said that his organization viewed with supreme indifference the proposal that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should have its own independent news service, but he went out of his way to discredit such a service. He raked over a lot of past events relating to Ministers in various governments having taken the Australian Broadcasting Commission to task in connexion with .broadcasts of a political nature. The happenings to which he referred took place before the act of 1942 came into force. Under that act, the commission is empowered to refuse to accept any instructions from a government in regard to political broadcasts. It further requires the commission to advise the Parliament in its annual reports if any such instructions have been received. It is significant that no such advice has appeared in any of the commission’s annual reports since that act came into operation, in July, 1942. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has said that the payment of considerable sums of money would be justified in order to secure public confidence in the integrity of its news service, and that if the com mission were to lose that confidence it might as well “ shut up shop “. The evidence clearly shows that the only way to secure that complete confidence is for the commission to gather its news independently of the newspapers. The commission can do that easily, in respect of Australian news, but it cannot do so quite so completely in respect of overseas news. It can, however, do the next best thing; it can get its news direct from news agencies abroad, and can make its own selections from what is received, instead of having to rely on the judgment of the Australian Associated Press as to the overseas news which should be made available to the people of Australia. In his evidence before the committee, Mr. Henderson tried to discredit the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He also attacked men of ability, accusing them of incompetence. In order to bolster up his case, he quoted some words of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, which, however, the committee had no means of verifying. He also said that Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Dixon are not competent to advise on the cost of news services. I point out that Mr. .Hanlon is a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and has had 40 years’ experience in all spheres of journalism, and is the editor of a newspaper. Mr. Dixon has had ten years’ experience in the news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Prior to that, he was editor of the Goulburn Evening Post for two years, and managing editor of the Maitland Daily Mercury for six years. For three years before being appointed to the latter position he was sub-editor of Sydney Truth and a special writer for that newspaper. On the nintieth anniversary of the Maitland Daily Mercury he produced a 52-page newspaper to mark the event. Tt was the biggest newspaper ever produced in the country districts of New South Walesup to that time. The Sydney Morning Herald, with which Mr. Henderson is connected, had a half-page advertisement in that issue of the Maitland Daily Mercury. In a pub-leader the Sydney Morning Herald said -
The Maitland newspaper has a fine record. While other ventures have come and pone, it has continued its steadfast course as part and parcel of the Hunter Valley.
The sub-leader said a lot more in the same strain, indicating clearly that the Daily Mercury stood high in Australian journalism. Other testimony from highly placed newspaper officials could be produced to verify Mr. Dixon’s experience and competency. If all these factors are weighed in the scales of justice, I do not think that any fair-minded person could support Mr. Henderson’s reflections on Mr. Dixon’s competency. When he gave evidence before the committee, Mr. Henderson worked himself into a frenzy. Swinging his arms, he said that Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Dixon were incompetent to judge the cost of an independent news service for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In this connexion, I point out that those who gather’ news for the Australian Broadcasting Commission have in mind that the news will be broadcast. They do not have to write articles such as would be printed in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian Broadcasting Commission would not have to incur expenditure in the installation and maintenance of printing plants, nor would it have to purchase large supplies of newsprint, and pay high costs for the transport of newspapers after they were printed; It would not require the special premises needed to produce newspapers, and would not have to pay agencies large sums for distributing them. It would not need to employ a staff to attend the law courts, or special writers to deal with international, commercial and social news items. It would need no costly photographic equipment, and it would not have to buy comic strips. Literary matter and fiction, such as is published in newspapers, would not come within the scope of its operations, nor would it incur the heavy costs which the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers have to meet in connexion with sporting events. The Australian Broadcasting Commission obtains its own sporting news direct from the sporting fields as part of its regular programme. Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– News sessions last from five minutes to fifteen minutes. The 1.30 p.m. news service is usually, a repetition of the’12.30 p.m. service. Therefore, the cost of gathering news for broadcasting would hot be nearly so great as it is in the case of a newspaper. When Mr. Henderson gave evidence before the Broadcasting Committee he worked himself into a frenzy. I could not understand his attitude, nor do I think it was understood by other members of the committee. Mr. Henderson stated in evidence - .
In discussions with the commission’s chairman, it was made clear that the newspapers preferred to have no dealings with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Later, he said -
The present attitude of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to the idea of the Australian Broadcasting Commission having an independent news gathering service is one of supreme indifference.
It’ would appear therefore, that th* newspaper proprietors were quite happy about the Australian Broadcasting Commission conducting its own news gathering service, so why all the fuss?
In the course of this debate, there has been some comment on the fact, that the majority report of the Broadcasting Committee was presented by the five Government supporters. I remind the Senate however, that of the fourteen reports presented by the committee eleven have been unanimous. The trouble started on this occasion when the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) presented » report in the House of Representatives. He made some comment upon it, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) then ‘made a statement to the press to which I replied subsequently in thischamber. Compared with the publicity given to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition, my reply received very scant attention from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Leader of the Opposition made his announcement in the morning, and it was broadcast in the 1.30 p.m. news session. I replied in the Senate about 5 p.m. but my remarks were not broadcast in the 7 p.m. news. At 9 p.m., the statement by .the Leader of the Opposition was again broadcast, with my reply. That is a practice to which the Australian Broadcasting Commission should not resort, and I trust that when its independent news gathering service is established,, news broadcasts will be confined to factual matter, and- will state both sides of all important questions. I should not like the Australian Broadcasting Commission to indulge in a campaign of suppression similar to that pursued by the newspaper proprietors for many years, not only in this country, but also in other parts of the world. I remind honorable senators of one outstanding example of suppression by newspaper proprietors. After world War I., the then Prime Minis,ter of Great Britain, Mr. Lloyd George was a national hero. He was carried shoulder high wherever he went; but because the leading British newspapers opposed the policy of the Liberal party, they determined that nothing favorable to that party would be printed about it. The result was that within a very short time the Liberal party was practically unknown. Such a state of affairs would be intolerable . in this country. If a prominentcitizen makes a political statement, and there is another side to the question, each should be broadcast. I trust that the Government will ensure that whatever money is required’ by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to carry on an independent factual news service as proposed by this measure will be forthcoming.
This bill incorporates several amendments of the existing ‘act, some of which have been sought by members of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for some time. I refer particularly to the constitution of’ a Promotions Appeal Board and a Disciplinary Appeal Board. Similar bodies have been provided for in other legislation including the Commonwealth Bank Act and the Overseas Telecommunication Act. Another amendment proposes to avoid duplication of reporting and to make it unnecessary for the Governor-General to prescribe the method of keeping minutes. There are other amendments that were not placed before the- Broadcasting Committee for consideration, but which the Government believes to be necessary.. I am rather concerned with the proposal contained in sub-section 9 of proposed new section 17, which states -
The rate of salary payable to any other officer shall, if it exceeds the rate of One thousand five hundred pounds per annum., be subject to the approval of the Minister.
I should like the Postmaster-General to take particular note of this provision because in my mind it is most serious. Some time ago the Australian Broadcasting Commission advertised for a news editor. After applications had closed, Mr. Moyser editor of the A.B.O. Weekly, told Mr. McCall, assistant general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who has since resigned, that Mr. Cyril Pearl, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, had received a letter from a Mr. Cotton, who was then at Singapore, asking if. there was any chance of an appoinment in Australia. Mr. Moyser told Mr. McCall that he knew Mr. Cotton, who was born in Australia, to be a. first-class sub-editor. Mr. Moyser said that .Mr. Cotton had gone abroad about twelve years ago, and after roaming around the world for some years, had joined the British Broadcasting Corporation as sub-editor in its Latin-American news department. After three years there, Mr’. Cotton had resigned -to take charge of radio, news at Singapore, where there was a staff of three, including himself. This was after the war had ended. After about twelve months at Singapore, Mr. Cotton wished to return to England or else to come to Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Commission paid Mr. Cotton’s fare by air from Singapore to Sydney, and also to ‘ Melbourne and Adelaide to interview Mr. Medley and .Mr. Dawes, two of the Australian Broadcasting Commissioners. At its next meeting in Sydney, the commission appointed Mr. Cotton national news editor at a commencing salary of £1,200 a year, rising by increments of £100, to £1,400. He has a three-years contract. He first asked for a salary of approximately £900 net, in Australia. Why did the commission give him £1,200? Was it to cover income tax ? Section 17 of the Australian Broad; casting Act requires the commission to seek the approval of the GovernorGeneral for the salaries of the general manager and the next six most highly paid executive officers of the commission. It would be of interest to know whether the commission exceeded it’s powers in appointing Mr. Cotton at a potential salary of £1,400 without approaching the Postmaster-General with a view to seeking the Governor-General’s approval. A salary of £1,400 a year puts him into second or third position on the commission. I ask the Postmaster-General to state, when he is replying to the debate, whether he approved of Mr. Cotton’s appointment at a salary of £1,200 a year, or whether he has taken any action to ascertain . the position from the commission. This matter was the subject of an article in Smith’s Weekly, but unfortunately I cannot give the date of the issue in which it was published. In addition, I understand that there are complaints from journalists employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that Mr. Cotton is not doing an effective job, but is re-organizing the staff to the dissatisfaction of almost every one. I should like to knowwhether Mr. Cotton was appointed to the commission’s staff at the instigation of the editor of the Sunday Telegraph with the object of sabotaging the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s independent newsservice.
The news supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission must be maintained on a factual basis. I shall leave the matter there. I should like the Postm aster-General, when he is replying to the debate, to tell the Senate whether the commission will inaugurate its independent news-gathering service as from the date on which the bill is proclaimed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Nash) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representa tives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I wish to make it clear that the problems existing in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales are the result of a complex set of circumstances which have arisen over a long period and that no simple or short-term solution of these difficulties is possible. That is why the Government puts forward the proposals contained in the bill which provide for a comprehensive approach to all these problems.
Coal production occupies a basic position in the economic and industrial development of Australia. Adequate supplies of fuel are necessary at all times for the maintenance of services and industries and the importance of obtaining maximum quantities of coal cannot be over-emphasized. The fundamental fact in the cal-mining industry is that production has failed to keep pace with increased consumption. There has been throughout the war years an ever-widening gap between the supply of coal and the demands for it owing to the growing industrialization of Australia. That gap is not likely to be less in the years to come unless special measures are introduced. As the result of this position, consumption has had to be rationed from time to time, with serious repercussions upon industry and the community’s life generally. Stocks have dwindled now to the seriously low level of less than 500,000 tons, compared with nearly 2,000,000 tons at the end of 1942 and 1,300,000 tons at the end of 1943. The present level of stocks leave no safety margin and any important disturbance of production necessitates rationing.
The most obvious cause of the present precarious position can be found in the all-too-frequent interruptions to production in the New South Wales mines. But the basic cause lies in the fact that the coal industry is outmoded in its organization. The industry generally has been unable to meet the increased demands placed upon it, to guarantee continuous long term employment to the workers engaged in it, to establish satisfactory working conditions, or to make adequate technical progress. Despite all the precautions taken to provide for the safety of miners, the fatal accident rate in the industry in New South Wales is excessive. Housing together with the provision of amenities and the improvement in the surroundings of coal mines and of coalmining townships have been neglected. Improved mining practices, for one reason or another, have not been adopted ; methods of mining have often been archaic and wasteful of coal resources and man-power, and there is a widespread general antagonism between the miners and the coal-mine owners. During the last 50 years the coal mines have gen- erally been worked on the cheapest possible lines, regardless of the long-range effect on their value as a national asset. To-day, we are suffering the consequences of the mistakes of the past. _
As Mr. Justice Davidson stated in the recent report of the Board of Inquiry, the coal-mining industry in New South Wales . is drifting towards disaster, and serious disturbances exist within the industry which threaten to overwhelm it and to cause increasingly grave injury to the whole economic life of the Common*wealth. It is clear that this position can be attributed partly to historical and partly to psychological factors. These factors include the toll taken by the depression, with the constant fear of insecurity and accidents in mines. The coal-mining industry, more than any other, is beset by fears of unemployment and by social bitterness engendered by long periods of depression in the past. It would, therefore, be a mistake to regard the solution of the problem as simply one of introducing better working conditions, of introducing new methods in the operation of mines, of maintaining order on the coal-fields, or of doing any one of a large number of things that need to be done. The condition of the industry, is due to no single cause, but to a whole series of causes, and we cannot hope to achieve a solution of all the problems in the industry within a day. We have read a great deal in. the news-, papers of disruptive forces, of allegedly irresponsible stoppages or of absenteeism. Often, doubtless, these are facts, but they should be regarded as symptoms of the sick condition -into which the industry has fallen. From some of the criticisms made of this bill, it would appear that the problem would be settled if stoppages ca.used by industrial disputes were prevented by waving some sort of a disci plinary big stick and that production would then automatically increase sufficiently to meet all our needs. But it is safe to gay that, even if miners and mine-owners worked in perfect harmony, and there was a continuous effort by all engaged in the industry, Australia would still be short of coal.
The Government, therefore, takes the view that a radical re-organization of the industry, carried out over a long period, is a prerequisite of any real improvement in the production of coal and that anything less will be ineffective. The efforts of individual coal-mine owners by themselves cannot hope to meet with material success if for no other reason than the very real antagonism which has developed between owners and workers in this industry. The successful operation of coal mines cannot, in any event, be dissociated from their whole surroundings. Mr. Justice Davidson has drawn attention strongly to the fact that housing and associated communal facilities will need to be improved at the same time that measures are taken in the mines themselves. There is abundant scope for such improvements, but considerable planning and expenditure will be required. A comprehensive approach to the problem can only be made by the two Governments concerned in co-operation with all engaged in the industry.
The Commonwealth Government itself has attempted within its constitutional powers during war-time to do whatever was possible to assist in relieving the position. The Coal Commission was set up in 1941 with the vital responsibility of maintaining Australia’s coal output at the highest possible level and of allocating and distributing supplies. That commission has .done much both to increase the productive capacity of mines in ‘all States and to distribute equitably the coal produced. On the production side, special action has been taken to develop open-cut mining in New South Wales. The annual output from open-cut mining has increased since its inception in the early years of the war to 5-23,000 tons in 1945 and possibly . 750,000 tons in 1946. In distributing New South Wales coal, the Coal Commission has given special attention to the needs of the two main, importing States, Victoria and South
Australia, and these two States have been obtaining during the war years a steadily increasing percentage of the New South Wales production of coal. The commission has also given special attention to fuel economy in industry and has carried out research into dust prevention and other mining difficulties.
However, no experiment so far attempted has reached the fundamental causes of the problem. It was impossible during the war years to attempt any re-organization of the industry in a really thorough way and our whole emphasis had, therefore, to be placed upon making the best use of available facilities within the limits of the industry as it was then constituted. The position to-day, however, is very different as we look forward . to a period of peace marked by the growing expansion of industry and any government would be false to its trust if it did not attack the problem with all the means at its disposal.
Mr. Justice Davidson’s report drew attention to the need for a general scheme of reform in the industry, framed with- the objective of enabling the numerous developments ‘ and changes necessary to be made and of restoring confidence between ‘ the management and mine workers.- The Government has prepared the bill with those ends in view. It has, it believes, discovered -that the best method of tackling the problem is tq set up an authority which is neither a Commonwealth nor a State body, but a joint authority vested with the support of both the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Governments.
The New. South Wales coal industry produces approximately 82 per cent, of Australia’s black coal. This output is, however, distributed to the majority of States and the production and distribution of New South Wales coal is, therefore, a matter of national concern. The Governments’ of New South Wales and the Commonwealth have conferred and the Government’s plan with respect to the coal industry of New South Wales is being undertaken with the full cooperation and agreement of the Premier of that State. The bill has been prepared on the basis of a careful and critical examination of Mr. Justice Davidson’s report.
The Government places great value upon the wealth of information and the recommendations contained in that report and its positive recommendations urging mechanization, improvement of health and safety practices, and working and. living conditions are fully reflected in the bill; It is true that the final plan which, has been worked out differs from Mr. Justice Davidson’s proposals for the establishment of a national authority based upon voluntary action and including provision for the granting .of a bounty to mine-owners willing to come, within the jurisdiction of that authority. Mr. Justice Davidson explored other alternatives, which he rejected as being unconstitutional. However, the Commonwealth Government and the State Government overcame constitutional difficulties in the way of establishing an authority on a more assured basis by agreeing to pool their powers. The Government considers that, in this way, it will be able to carry out many of the major recommendations in the report in an even more effective manner than that suggested. It . will be necessary for complementary legislation to be passed by rue New South Wales Parliament to complete the process of giving full powers to the board which is proposed to be set up. The bill before the Senate, which presents some unusual constitutional characteristics, envisages the vesting in a Joint Coal Board of wide authority to enable it to fulfil its functions. The Constitution sets limits to the powers which the Commonwealth can grant to the board, and therefore New South Wales will supplement the board’s powers by act of Parliament. This is a unique constitutional legislative procedure. From the draftsman’s point of view this bill has been most difficult. Serious and complex problems have been thoroughly examined by Commonwealth and . State officers separately and at joint conferences. The Ministers of both governments’ have considered the reports of their officers, and they have given special thought to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility in relation to this joint authority. These are real difficulties which cannot be overcome without the full co-operation of the two administrations. Those who are familiar with public affairs will realize that the production of a bill in the comparatively short time -which has elapsed since the proposals were first mooted represents a major achievement. I mention these matters as they indicate the sincerity of the Government and its determination to find a solution of the problems which beset the coal-mining industry.
I turn now to the principal provisions, of the bill, the purpose of which is to provide means for securing and maintaining adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia and for providing for the regulation and improvement of the coalmining industry in New South “Wales. It is intended that the Governor-General shall arrange with the Governor of New South Wales for constituting an authority to be known as the Joint Coal Board, the board to consist of a chairman and two other members, each of whom can be appointed for a period of seven years and will be eligible for re-appointment. The usual arrangements are made for the board to be capable of holding property, entering into contracts and the like. No member of the board may be associated in a business capacity with the management or control of a coal mine or of any enterprise connected with coal handling or distribution. Upon the appropriate clause of the bill coming into operation, the Coal Commissioner will cease to exercise the powers and to undertake the responsibilities now conferred on him by the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944 in respect of the coal industry in the State of New South Wales. Saving clauses are included in the bill in respect of- action already taken, or set in train, by the Coal Commissioner acting under the authority of that act. Property inNew South Wales now vested in the Coal Commissioner will be vested in the Joint Coal Board when the relevant clause of the bill comes into operation. The powers and functions of the board will be extensive. It will be charged with the responsibility of taking such action in regard to regular production andi subsequent distribution of coal as will best serve the public interest, and in this regard it will have authority to regulate the pricesof coal and the allocations of quantities and grades of coal .to consumers. Power will exist for the board to regulate the mode- of working in the industry, the use and introduction of machinery, and the efficient and economical use of coal. It will have power to regulate employment in the industry, including recruitment and training. It. will be charged with the responsibility of promoting the well-being of workers engaged in the industry and, in this connexion, to make provision for safety and health conditions. Clause 13 (2.) (j) provides that the board is to have power with respect to -
Collaboration with other persons and authorities in the establishment and provision of amenities and of- health, educational, recreational, housing and other facilities for communities of persons in coal-mining districtsand in the promotion of the development and diversification of industry and of town and regional planning in such industries.
My purpose in reciting this paragraph wi extenso is to emphasize the Government’s intention to stress the importance to the community of the men who are engaged in coal production and the necessity for ensuring that they and their families share fully in the Australian way of life. The Government does not underrate the prominent place to be accorded health a!nd safety measures and the development ‘ of mechanization. It intends that these shall be regarded as being of .first-class importance - of greater importance than previously - and in particular it emphasizes the necessity for dealing with the “ dusting “ of miners which has caused such distress on the southern and other coal-fields. However, the Government wishes to do more than ensure that the purely vocational troubles relating to health and safety are dealt with, and more than to provide adequately for welfare and amenities at the pits and other working places. The Government’s strong conviction is that the value of miners and their f amilies as human beings must be recognized, that miners shall not be a class apart, that they and their children shall live in decent surroundings, in which they can take a just pride, and under conditions to which the Government is certain they will respond. The coal industry is dependent on the men who produce coal, and concentration of attention in collaboration with other authorities concerned on the physical and social environment of these men and their families seems to the Government to be a logical early step to bring the industry into a healthy state. We believe that this policy will pay dividends in increased production, but we believe even more strongly that the community has a duty to the miners and their associates as men, women and children, which comes even before its duty to them as workers. This spirit moves the Government in regard to this and allied clauses of the bill before the Senate.
The process will not be completed in a brief period. It will not be done without great expenditure of public funds. It will call for the exercise of much devotion, study, great judgment and hard work by the people who are chosen to constitute the board. The future will attest the Government’s wisdom. The money will be provided and the Government will choose as wisely as itcan the men to form the board. They will not represent coalowners or coal-miners. They will be chosen as competent men of diversified experience, who will undertake a task of major importance to this country. The board’s efforts and the country’s money will be well expended in the cause of ensuring stability in an industry of fundamental importance to Australia. I believe that mechanization should be given great prominence in the reorganization and development of the industry of coal production. It will not be sufficient to confine the introduction of machinery to coal-cutting; from this point forward, extending to the surface of the mine, thereis ample opportunity for use of efficient effort-saving machinery. Mechanization can well be extended into the early stages of distribution and to bulk operations connected with distribution. Safeguards against loss of employment by men who might be displaced will be essential, and the board will have suitable powers in this respect. The board, it will be noted from clause 14 (3), will have powers to assume control and managementof mines and to acquire and operate mines. This is not dogmatic nationalization; it is an expressionof the Government’s firm determination to leave no mean untried to make this industry work.If itbe necessary to acquire mines, this will bedone. Necessity, and thecircumstances of particular mines, willdetermine the extent and use of these powers. I turn now to clause 18, relating to the furnishing of reports regarding policy to the Prime Minister, and the Premier of New South Wales, and to the power of the Prime Minister, in agreement with the Premier, to issue directions on matters of policy. I have no doubt that this will be said to be political interference. I choose another phrase for honorable senator’s to use. Is not the Prime Minister, in agreement with the Premier, to give the board “ statesmanlike guidance “ ? Those are the words I prefer to use. Where can the good sense and judgment of the people be better reflected than in their parliaments? Who are better fitted than the leaders of governments to interpret the judgment of the people and their parliaments? The board’s powers cannot be allowed to be exercised without checks, and I do not believe that any parliament would consent to leave such wide and novel powers to an appointed body without making due provision for such checks. The Joint Coal Board will not be hampered in its executive or administrative work, but it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that the board moves in the right directions and that its policies, in the larger sense, are in harmony with the intentions of the participating governments. If any honorable senator intends to mention “ political interference “, I ask that he will also suggest some better way to guard with certainty the points I have just raised. The Commonwealth Government will finance the operations of the board to the degree that this will be necessary by the granting of moneys appropriated by the Parliament. This fact in itself will naturally give a strong power to the government of the day. But once the money has been appropriated, the responsibilities for disbursements and for accounting will be with the Joint Coal Board. A scrutiny of the financial provisions will reveal the borrowing powers of the board, which will be subject to the Treasurer’s guarantee, and the obligation of the board to keep a workers’ compensation fund, a welfare fund and a coal industry fund. The generalpurposes of these funds are indicated in the financial clauses.
Although not contained in the present bill, certain financial arrangements have been agreed upon with the New South Wales Government. The- State will pay half and the Commonwealth half of the costs of administration, and an amount not exceeding £70,000 per annum will be contributed by the State to the Joint Coal Board’s welfare fund, such contribution to be on an equal basis with the’ Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will meet other expenses including subsidies and those arising from the board’s production and trading expenses, and will also pay advances and grants for capital purposes, including the capital costs of amenities, mechanization, acquisition, and ne.w development. The New South Wales Government will continue to contribute £80,000 per annum to the miners’ pension funds and the chairman of the Joint Coal Board will, by agreement with that government, be ex officio chairman of the Coal and Shale Miners’ Pensions Tribunal.
The bill provides for the creation of an industrial tribunal, to consist of a person of legal qualifications and experience. His term of appointment will be similar to that of the board. The jurisdiction of the tribunal in respect of federation members will replace that of existing industrial tribunals, and the tribunal may refer to a local coal authority any industrial dispute or matter for investigation and report or settlement. Clause 37 and following clauses of the bill describe the constitution, powers, and procedures ‘ intended for local coal authorities. It is not the intention of the bill to provide for non-federation members to come within the jurisdiction of the tribunal or the local coal authorities. Employees in the industry, other than federation members who will look to the tribunal and the local coal authorities, will have recourse to the existing machinery for determination of their industrial conditions. In this respect, I invite the attention of honorable senators to the definitions of “industrial dispute” and “ industrial matter “ set down in clause 4 of the bill. I refer now to the conditions which I mentioned earlier as being necessary to be fulfilled if the present endeavour to set the industry on a proper footing is to be successful. As I have said, the ills from which the coal-mining industry is suffering are undoubted, and the effect on the body economic is grievous. The disease is not of long standing and there is no difficulty in describing the symptoms. This is an easier matter than making a diagnosis and prescribing a cure. People who name remedies take their reputations in their hands. If the remedy does not work, then the doctor may be discredited. This risk the Government is prepared, nay, determined to take. The effects of maladjustment in the coal industry are too serious for the position to be allowed to stand as at present. It may be said, and undoubtedly will be said by honorable senators opposite, that the Government has made earlier attempts to solve the difficulties in this industry, and that these efforts have not been successful. That they have not been wholly successful is true; but that they have resulted in holding the industry together also cannot be disputed. There has been no general strike in the industry since this .Government has assumed office. I remind honorable senators and the people of this country, and I also remind the coal-owners and the coalminers that the troubles prevalent in the industry to-day have not arisen during the term ‘ of office of the present Government. Previous governments have had difficulties with regard to the coal industry, and have tried remedies which have not left the industry at peace within itself and in harmony with the rest of the community. Other countries have had troubles with this industry, and still have them.
The necessity for discipline within the industry is obvious, but, as I have emphasized, the mere imposition of discipline will not correct the troubles with which the industry .is afflicted. If the cause of the troubles can be removed, matters of discipline will not retain their present importance. It is in this belief that the Government is putting forward its present proposals. It is obvious that there is something far more amiss than can be set right simply by a change of regulations or acts of parliament. However, the passage of legislation may be necessary, and in this case an act is necessary, in order to provide the conditions under which the position in the industry may be adjusted. I am not so pessimistic as to fear that the situation cannot be adjusted, if a proper .approach is made, resolute, temperate, seasoned, and sustained, by the various interests concerned. It is customary in industrial disputes for the parties to insist on their rights and to keep these in the forefront of their minds. Eights, however, are an accompaniment of responsibilities, and I direct the attention of mine-owners and coal-miners to their responsibilities. Like this Parliament, they have a responsibility to the community. Like this Parliament, they have a responsibility to refrain from bringing into the present discussion recitals of old wrongs. Like this Parliament, they have a responsibility to meet the earnest and sincere effort of the present Government to find a solution of the problem, with a reasonable and genuine disposition to help and not to hinder.
I have explained something of the benefits which can ensue from the present measure. I wish now to sound a note of warning, and I invite both employers and employees to recognize that in serving the interests of the community, as they will if they achieve stability and efficiency in coal production, they will preserve the industry. Owners and employees alike must recognize that there is an intensive search for substitutes for coal. The development cif inventions is such that the advent of a suitable and economical alternative fuel is not an altogether improbable contingency. Because of the extensive and essential use of. coal by industry generally, employers and employees have a clear and pressing duty to the rest of the community. Let them not overlook their self-interest in this matter. Let them realize that they owe it to themselves to ensure that the coal industry shall continue and prosper, and not become endangered because of failure to recognize responsibilities.
The present effort of the Government, is so far a new approach as to make any reference to past failures inappropriate and irrelevant, except so far as experience may afford warnings against pitfalls and guidance for the future. The issues at stake are too vital .to allow any risk of failure to arise from wrangling, and recriminations as to past failures, whether they be on the part of mine-owners, managers or coal-miners. The Government is not on the defensive regarding the present position of the coal .industry. It inherited a state of .affairs which can be traced back for generations, and which has its origin far away from this country. The industry calls now for a new spirit of tolerance and of determination on the part of both employer and employee to achieve a permanent and just basis for the future. This Parliament must approach consideration of the bill in the same . spirit, regarding itself as a partner in the new and hopeful venture which the momentous decision of the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government has made possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 3800).
– One of the provisions of the bill provides for the deletion of section 25 of the principal act, which reads -
The Commission may collect, in such manner as it thinks fit, news and information relating to current events in any part of the world, and may subscribe to news agencies.
Clause 5 of the bill provides for the insertion of the following new, section in lieu of section 25 - (1.) The Commission shall broadcast daily from all national broadcasting stations regular sessions of news and information relating to current events within the Commonwealth and in other parts of the world. (2.) The Commission shall employ an adequate staff, both in the Commonwealth and inoverseas countries, for the purpose of collecting the news and information to be broadcast in pursuance of this section. (3.) The Commission may also procure. new,s and information relating to current events in other parts of the world from such over- . seas news agencies and. other overseas sources as it thinks fit.
The proposed new section comes before us as the result of a majority recommendation from the Broadcasting Committee. The committee had had submitted to it, under section 85 of the principal act, a reference to ascertain whether approval should be given to agreements which the
Australian Broadcasting Commission desired to enter into with Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited to broadcast overseas news and with Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to broadcast Australian news. The committee was asked to make a recommendation as to whether the Government should give approval to the proposed agreements which were to cost for the overseas service £12,500, and for the Australian service £7,500. It is interesting to note that the prices to which I have just referred were determined by the former Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland. Both parties to the proposed agreements consented to the reference of the agreements to Professor Copland for determination as to the price to be paid.
Senator Leckie referred to the minority report submitted to the Parliament by the Broadcasting Committee. An effort was made to show that the establishment of an independent news service by the commission was not mentioned in the terms of reference, but there is a convincing answer to that contention. As Senator Amour, the chairman of the Broadcasting Committee mentioned, it was incumbent on the committee to take notice of documents attached. to the terms of reference. One of them was a statement supplied to the Minister by the commission, in which the matter of an independent’ service was specifically dealt with. In addition,, the arbitrator, in giving his decision, made specific reference to an independent service. I quote the following extract from his finding, which is attached to the committee’s report : -
Consideration of the cost of an independent service offers little guidance, though it is relevant to point out that tire aggregate cost’ of the Australian Associated Press Service is now more than £150,000 per annum. Despite the fact that the’ Australian Broadcasting Commission would incur much less expense in the cost of cables for its summarized news, it is certain that the cost of running an effective independent service would exceed the sum paid by any single newspaper at present for the Australian Associated Press Service. Nevertheless, it would not be strictly relevant to pass any determination of a rate on the cost of an independent service …. Whilst not dismissing altogether the cost of an independent service as of some relevance to the issue, the matters that appear to merit consideration are…..
Then the arbitrator set out the matters which, in his opinion, merit consideration. I have drawn attention to that passage to indicate that it is wrong for the Opposition to claim that an independent news service was not a matter at issue. During discussions on the matter referred to the committee,, no objection was raised by the representatives of the commission or of the newspaper proprietors regarding the admissibility of evidence about an independent service. It was quite within the scope of the reference for the committee to give consideration to the implementation of a service to be taken as an alternative to acceptance of the proposed draft agreement. I think it was asserted that to answer “yes” or “no” to the question whether the proposed draft agreement should be accepted, was of little use to this Parliament in guiding it as to future policy. Had the committee not given a, lead to the Parliament the old system would have been continued, and there would have been no progress. As a member of the committee I thought that the committee had a responsibility to present something constructive to the Parliament. The committee has presented fourteen reports to the Parliament, all but two of which have been unanimous. As- the committee consists of representatives of all political parties, that is an excellent record. The members of the committee who signed the minority report took the view that the terms of reference were restrictive, and so they merely reported that, in their opinion, the proposed agreement should be made. They left it at that. In my opinion, there was nothing constructive in that recommendation. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, said in evidence that an independent news coverage was regarded by the commission as a long-term and desirable objective. That opinion takes the ground from under those who say that this measure has been introduced by the Government to aid it in the forthcoming elections. Mr. Boyer also said that the commission favoured, as an alternative to the draft agreement, the principle of getting all its news completely independently of outside sources. I believe that every member of the committee has complete confidence in Mr. Boyer, who went on to say that a majority of members of the commission consider that an independent news service is not yet practicable with the financial resources available to the commission. Financial considerations could arise at any time. It appears that about £53,000 per annum is now being’ expended annually by the Australian Broad. casting Commission in gathering news, and that the adoption of the draft agreement would increase that expenditure to about £83,000. When we contrast the expenditure on the factual news organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission with, other items of expenditure, we find that the cost of the rest of its news service is low compared with the sums expended in other directions. It is interesting to note that the commission’s director of news, a practical newspaper man, expressed the opinion that the proposed agreement was unnecessary and undesirable, and, in respect of Australian news, unworkable. He pointed out that the commission expends a lot of money each year to maintain its independence in musical matters. It does not have to rely on the Tivoli circuit or other similar sources for entertainment features. It should be just as independent of the capitalistic press in regard to news. In his. evidence before the committee. Mr. Henderson,’ the president of the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, said that the newspapers with which he was associated preferred to have no dealings whatever with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which should have its own news service. He also said that he had always known that, this was a political matter, in which government policy was involved. He added that for their self-protection the newspaper proprietors did not want to make an agreement with the commission, and they advised that body to go ahead and provide its own service. I emphasize that that was the attitude of the representatives of the newspaper proprietors of this country. Mr. Henderson also told the committee that the newspaper proprietors had decided that, they would supply an overseas news service to. the Australian Broadcasting Commission for £20,000 a year, and a local service for £10,000, a total of £30,000 a year. He said that if that decision was regarded as unsatisfactory, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should go ahead with its own service. Eventually,, the price was fixed by arbitration. Under the previous draft agreement £5,000 per annum’ was to be paid to the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited, for overseas news but the PricesCommissioner who acted as arbitrator fixed the amount at £12,500. His decision, was generous to the newspaper proprietors. The general manager qf the Australian Broadcasting Commission told the committee that he did not think there was any justification for increasing the payment to £12,500, but that as the commission had decided to go ahead with the agreement, subject to the approval of the Parliament, he thought that’ it should do so, and that alternatives should be examined during the ensuing twelve months. The commission’s news director said that the proposed agreement differed from the 1944 agreement only in respect of price; it was two and a half times the amount mentioned in the earlier agreement. On the subject of Australian news, the news director said that .the commission was 99 per cent, independent of metropolitan newspapers, and in respect of State news it was 44 per cent, independent of them. He went on to say that, in order to take full advantage of the draft agreement, the commission would have to employ another nineteen journalists to cover all newspapers in capital cities belonging to the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. If those additional nineteen journalists were added to the present news staff of 35, the commission could provide an independent service. The president of the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association told the committee that the commission could not collect all its news for less than £110.000 a year, but he did not go further and give an estimate of the actual cost. Mr. Henderson must be regarded as a reliable authority speaking on behalf of the newspaper proprietors. The committee was told what it cost metropolitan newspapers to gather news, :but Senator Amour has pointed out that many of the features associated with a daily newspaper would not be required by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At the moment, .the commission is expending about £S3,000 per annum for news. In my opinion, an expenditure of £110,000, or even £130,000, would not be too much to pay for. an unbiased news service, because it would give to the public confidence in the news presented to it. In a matter of such importance the cost is not of paramount importance. I have endeavoured to explain to the Senate various aspects- of this proposal as they were presented to the Broadcasting Committee. In this measure the Government proposes that certain concessions shall be granted in respect of listening licences to persons in receipt of invalid, old-age .and invalid pensions, as well as pensions under the- Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I. commend the Government for these proposals, but as they are matters for consideration in committee I shall leave any further remarks until .the committee stage has been reached.
– I regret very much that by sheer weight of numbers, the chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, which in the past has done some good work, and other Labour members of it, have been able to bludgeon their way to a decision in regard to this matter. It is obvious that the proposal to set up an independent news-gathering organization is a political stunt, the object of which is to facilitate the dissemination of propaganda on behalf of the Labour party at the forthcoming general elections. We all know how estimates of the cost of government undertakings have been exceeded in the past. For instance, the original estimate of the cost of the Captain Cook Graving Dock in Sydney was £3,000,000, but when the Auditor-General examined the figures, it was found to be approximately £9,000,000. I venture to suggest that the estimated cost of an independent news-gathering organization given by Mr. Henderson, who is a practical newspaper man, will bc nearer the mark than that of certain political “ stooges “, who are anxious to create another expensive government, department, providing “ cushy” jobs, and enabling our national broadcasting stations to be used by the Australian. Labour party for propaganda purposes. I regret that this Government has not made the best of its opportunity to keep the Australian Broadcasting Commission free from the sordidness of . party politics. It is most undesirable that a supposedly independent semi.government instrumentality ‘ such as the commission should be subjected to influence by individuals as ruthless as some holders of ministerial office to-day. It i3 obvious from appointments in recent years, that the first qualification necessary for membership of an important board or commission, is association with the Australian Labour party. I have, had an opportunity to become acquainted with members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I say unhesitantly that they are doing an excellent Job, and will continue to do it so long as they are permitted to carry on their, administration free from political interference. I compliment them upon the high standard of the programmes broadcast over the national stations. Unfortunately, however, it appears that if members of the commission and of other similar bodies, are not prepared to bow their heads to the will of Ministers or caucus leaders, when their term of office expires, they hear over the air that the Government no longer has any use for their- services. I regret that Senator Amour went out of his way to criticize Mr. Henderson most harshly. Does the honorable senator expect all witnesses who appear before the Broadcasting Committee to be “ stooges “, prepared to give evidence that will please the chairman and other members of the committee? The reason for the action of Labour members of the committee in pushing the establishment of an independent news service is obvious. I venture to suggest that the cost of such an organization will be approximately £250,000 a year, and that in years to come, as has been the case with other government departments, we shall read in the report of the AuditorGeneral, the same old story of substantial discrepancies between estimated and actual expenditure, resulting inevitably in losses. I have never before found it necessary to criticize, the quality of the A ustralian Broadcasting Commission’s 7 p.m. news bulletin, which, after all, is the most important of the day; but I am afraid that the longer Senator Amour continues as chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, and the longer Ministers are permitted to go to the lengths to which they have gone in recent years, the less confidence will the people have in the impartiality of the commission’s news services. 1 .find that, frequently, questions of great national importance raised in. this Parliament involving any criticism of the Labour Government, are omitted from the 7 p.m. news bulletins. Recently, this Parliament was privileged to listen to a very important speech by Senator Armstrong on foreign policy. For once, a member of the Labour party had the courage to say openly what he thought. The honorable senator criticized the attitude of the Minister for- External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) towards Spain. Almost every newspaper in this country regarded the speech as a matter of great importance, but when the 7 p.m. news bulletin was broadcast that night, there was no mention of it. Instead, we were told what the Minister for Trade .and Customs was doing in regard to the supply of cigarette papers. Recently, this chamber devoted two days to the discussion of the need to send additional supplies of foodstuffs to Great Britain. That too, was omitted from the 7 p.m. news bulletin. Even more recently, Senator Sampson moved a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to discuss the unsatisfactory position existing in connexion with the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, but once again the item was not considered of sufficient importance to be included in the evening news session. The need for the maintenance of our national broadcasting service on the highest possible plane must be obvious. Let the Australian Broadcasting Commission carry on its administration free from political, interference. There is a suggestion that irritating tactics by some members of the Labour party, resulted in the resignation of the former chairman of the commission, Mr. Cleary.
– That is a lie, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I mention these things because I think it is appropriate that I should do so.
– I say you are a liar.
– Let me sound a note of warning in regard to the proposed independent news service. The job Wil call for experienced men, but continuation of the present trend will mean thai officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly of its news staff, will be selected by whatever government happens to be in power in order that it may derive some political advantage from the “ colouring “ of news to suit its own party ends. We have before us the example of the Department of Information, which was established in war-time to give authentic news to the people of this country. Wow, it is a propaganda machine for the Australian Labour party. During the last referendum campaign the department issued literature supporting Labour’s case, and used public money in a manner ‘ which, according to the Auditor-General, was not right ; but after all, what is a few . million pounds to this Government? Losses do not matter so long as the new department can be made as big as possible and used for political propaganda.
I regret the constant attacks that are . made by honorable senators- opposite on the newspapers of this country. It has been my privilege to compare overseas journals with our own newspapers, and I say without hesitation that our newspapers provide as wide a coverage of news, and present it in as efficient a manner,- as any other journals in the world. I cannot understand this constant cheap criticism of men in the newspaper industry who render a good service to this country. Wo doubt, it emanates from the desire of honorable senators opposite to nationalize the press, and so set up another big government department run by bureaucrats. I resent Senator Amour’s criticism of Mr. Henderson and of the capitalistic press generally. Such attacks should not be made in this chamber under the cover of parliamentary privilege.
I draw Senator Amour’s attention to the professional record of some of the men whom he regards as great authorities on newspaper work, and whom I assume, he would employ in an. independent news-gathering service. The following statement was published by the editor of the Labour journal known as The Standard: -
” STANDARD “ APOLOGISES TO CONSOLIDATED PRESS.
The Standard tenders to Consolidated Press Ltd., publishers of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and the Australian Women’s Weekly, an unqualified apology for unfounded statements regarding that company, which featured on the front page of the Standard, in its issues of November 25 and December 9, 1943.
The directors of the Standard, are satisfied that the allegations published in this paper, suggesting that proprietors and executives of Consolidated Press Ltd., were negotiating an agreement with Colonel McCormick (head of the isolationist Chicago Tribune newspaper) were without foundation, and were published recklessly, and without an attempt to check <m their authenticity.
In its issue of November 25, the Standard had stated that the United States isolationist, press, was seeking a. foothold in Australia and that the Chicago Tribune had plans for a newspaper here with a circulation’ of a million, lt went on to declare, that in press circles, it was said the Sydney Daily Telegraph had ; been approached to link up with this venture and. that Mr. E. G. Theodore, chairman of directors of Consolidated Press Ltd., flew to the United States recently.
In its issue of December 9 the Standard declared that its previous item that the Chicago Tribune was negotiating with the Daily. Telegraph for a daily newspaper in Australia .and that “ Cut-up-the-Empire “ McCormick was seeking a foothold here had not been denied and the reason was that the truth of the report could not be challenged.
That issue of the Standard added that the problem of control had arisen in the negotiations, that Telegraph executives had visited the United States during the war for the purpose of completing the deal, that Mr. E. G. Theodore had been twice to the United States on this particular mission and that there would be no denial of the Standard’? statements.
The Standard was served with a writ issued by ‘Consolidated Press Ltd., claiming £10,000 damages for libel as the result of publication of these articles.
The Standard, is now satisfied that its » negations were wrong and that -
Consolidated Press Ltd. has not been in negotiation with the Chicago Tribune or with Colonel McCormick, its proprietor.
That none of the companys’ executives went to the United States for the purpose of carrying on, such negotiations.
That Mr. E. G. Theodore has not been to the United States for 15 years.
The author of the articles in question wai Mr. L. Haylen, then editor of the Standard. who consequent upon his election as a member of the House of Representatives, relinquished his position with the Standard.
The directors of the Standard have taken steps to see that it will not be possible to repeat such statements in the Standard.
The Standard proffers this expression of regret and apology to Consolidated Press Ltd. without reserve.
It is people of that type whom Senator Amour suggests should be placed in charge “of the news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order to ensure that the , commission’s news will be derived from free arid inde-pendant sources. I shall not labour the question further. It is clear that the Government is anxious to get into this business, just as it is anxious to interfere with private air-line companies and to meddle generally in businesses which are working smoothly and efficiently under private enterprise. The Government would render better service to the community if it directed its attention to the urgent problems confronting the nation instead of harassing individuals engaged in private undertakings. I do not want to see propaganda of the kind that appears in the Standard, or- in any Liberal party journal broadcast over the national stations under the guise of news. The commission is doing a good job. I appeal to the Government not to make this great instrument a plaything of party politics to be used by politicians at Canberra anxious to further their own party political aims by whatever means .they can employ.
– The bill is largely a machinery measure relating to the control of the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At the outset I should like to say a few words about the work of the Broadcasting Committee of which 7 have been a member since its establishment. The proposals embodied in the bill are based on recommendations contained in the majority report of the committee. This is the committee’s fourteenth report, and, if I remember aright, on only two occasions have members of the committee seen fit to furnish aminority report. The committee in its inquiries has dealt with many important problems which have confronted the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). Of course, it can inquire only into matters referred to it by that Minister; I mention, in passing, that the’ committee ft’ which Senator Gibson was chairman was responsible for many improvements of the original act. The members of the present committee have worked together most amicably. Differ- ences of opinion have arisen with respect to various matters, but in the majority of instances the committee has been able to present unanimous recommendations. Mention has been made of The resignation of Mr. Cleary, who was formerly chairman of the commission. 1’ do not agree that such a matter should be ventilated in the Senate. Personally, I believe that Mr. Oleary’s resignation was not due in any way to interference by the committee, or to embarrassment arising from any recommendations made bv the committee. When he was chairman of the commission he gave evidence on many subjects before the committee, and when doing so it was important that he should have with him the officers in charge of the various branches of the commission’s activities. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Mr. Cleary’s business capacity as chairman of the commission, and to his clear and impartial outlook towards the various problems which confronted the commission from time to time.
The matter upon which I and my colleagues in the Opposition parties have presented a “minority report on this occasion involves a vital party political principle. The establishment of an independent news-gathering service by the commission was not included in the terms of reference to the committee. Nevertheless, members of the ministerial party and the Opposition parties could, not possibly reach agreement on such a proposal, because, as I have said, it involves a vital principle of policy. I have no doubt that the objective of the commission is to establish an independent news service when it has the requisite financial resources. Honorable senators opposite invariably question the impartiality of newspaper reports. They will not deny, however, that compared with press standards in other .countries, theAustralian press- has no reason to reproach itself on that score. By and large, the press of this country has accomplished much in the interests of the people as a whole. Nothing in the majority report of the committee implies that its recommendation that the commission establish an independent news service should beimplemented forthwith. I fail to see how the commission will establish a news service which will be more impartial than the news services .now provided by the newspapers. A roundsman, whether he be’ employed by a newspaper or by the commission, must inevitably write his report with unconscious bias towards hig own views. Therefore, there can be no guarantee that the commission will be able to present news which will be .completely unbiased. The great newsgathering organizations, such as Reutersand the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited sell their services throughout the world, and we must recognize the fact that they offer the only practical medium by which the great majority of people are able to get the world’s news.
Sena’tor Collings. - The Government now proposes to provide another medium.
– As 1 have already said, it is a matter of opinion as to whether the commission, by establishing its own independent news service, will be able, in fact, to provide news which can be said to be completely unbiased. In those circumstances the proposal embodied in the bill really means that the commission will be duplicating services already in existence. ‘ Whichever way we turn we shall not completely solve that problem, because, in the presentation of news, the human element cannot be eliminated. Although several people who witness an accident may agree as to its main features, their versions will invariably differ in detail. Therefore, whilst the objective aimed’ at by- the establishment. of an independent news service is sound, I doubt whether the commission will succeed to a greater degree than the newspapers have succeeded in giving unbiased news. lt would be easy to influence the Government’s attitude towards newspapers. If a newspaper published a leading, article commending the Government for its achievements in the last three years, honorable senators opposite would be elated and would think, “At last, here is a newspaper that is unbiased and gives us the credit which we deserve.” That is the standard by which the Government judges news. This Government has no cause for complaint about news broadcasts, Any complaints that might he made should come from this side of the Senate. The minority report of the Broadcasting Committee favoured continuance of the agreement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the newspapers for at least twelve months so that the matter could be further investigated. We who made that report consider that the majority report favouring the establishment of an independent news service covered a subject not referred to the committee by the Postmaster-General,
– I am opposed to the bill, and, because of its importance, I do not inintend to record, a. silent vote. The measure provides that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall establish, a news service which will involve wasteful duplication of a service already provided efficiently by the newspaper proprietors. Furthermore, it may also duplicate some of the functions of the Department of Information. It is strange but true that, although news has been broadcast regularly for a number of years, the distribution of newspapers was steadily increasing up to the outbreak of war, which indicates definitely that broadeasting has not lessened the desire of the people to obtain their news by means of the printed word. News broadcasts must be sketchy. They must be made at stated times, at which it is not always convenient for people to listen. For these reasons, the newspapers retain their importance in the community. I envisage many difficulties that will arise if the proposals in the bill bp put into effect. At’ present, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has the whole of the newspapers’ service at its disposal. If the bill comes into effect, it will have to depend upon its own sources alone for the supply of news, and frequently its organization may overlook important items warranting broadcasting to the public, particularly in country districts, before the daily newspapers are available. Thus it may be .completely “ scooped “ by the newspapers and fail to provide the people with the service that they need. Having regard to the proposals set out in the Treasurer’s Financial Statement, the fact that taxes have increased by 100 per cent, since 1942, and the fact that Commonwealth expenditure in 1945-46 exceeded the estimate by £42,000,000, it is high time that we endeavoured to reduce governmental expenditure. The time is not opportune to embark on the venture provided for in the bill. The report of the Broadcasting Committee shows very clearly that the income derived from the listener’s licence fee is not sufficient to cover the costs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Therefore, either the proposed news-gathering service will have to bet paid for out of revenue or the licence-fee will have to be increased. In view of the excellent service that we now enjoy, under the arrangement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the newspapers, there is no justification for putting the Government’s plan into effect. I am in accord with the minority report of the Broadcasting Committee that -the matter be deferred for at least twelve months in order to permit full investigation of the problems involved.
– in reply - The proposals contained in this measure are considered to be necessary in the light of experience gained since the Australian Broadcasting Act became law. The act has never been amended in an arbitrary way. Decisions have always been arrived at after discussion, and agreement where possible, and, on all occasions, representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have been consulted. As Senator Herbert Hays and others have said, proposals have frequently been submitted to the Broadcasting Committee for the purpose of investigation and recommendation. Therefore, it cannot be truly said that decisions” have been made hastily. Senator Leckie said that the bill proposed to interfere with the freedom of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That is true up to a point. All statutory bodies are responsible to the Government, which is the supreme governing authority in the country. That must be so in a democracy. The position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not different from that of any other statutory body. Surely Senator Leckie will not suggest that the commission, or any other’ statutory body, should be allowed to be a law unto itself. The honorable senator said that he would have no objection to the bill if its proposals had been recommended by the commission. The implication of that statement is that the honorable senator would reverse the normal process so that the statutory body would be the real governing authority and the government would be a subordinate authority. That would be ridiculous, ,and this Government would not tolerate such a state of affairs. Senator Leckie said that paragraph 6 of clause 18 had some relation to advertising. That is not so. The clause is designed to prevent the establishment of private monopoly control of commercial broadcasting. There is a. tendency towards such control not only in broadcasting but also in almost every essential service. The Government would prefer broadcasting companies to act, as far as possible, in an independent capacity rather than to be dominated by a common board of directors. Monopoly control in the United States of America has increased so greatly that, to say the least, it is very embarrassing both to the people and to the Government of that country. Morris Leopold Ernst recently wrote a book entitled The First Freedom. Copies have not yet arrived in Australia, but I have been privileged to read reviews of the book. They give some idea of the position that has arisen in the United States of America as the result of attempts to establish private monopoly control of broadcasting. I have before me an extract from America, Volume LXXXV., No. 8, of the 25th May, 1946, containing a review of a book by Benjamin L. Masse. It states -
With regard to monopoly of the press, he has marshalled some impressive figures: only 117 American cities left in- which competing daily newspapers exist: one-fifth of all newspaper circulation controlled hy 370 chain dailies; 3,200 weeklies dead in the past few decades; more than 3,000 of the remaining weeklies dominated by a single company.
The situation in radio and the movies is no less disturbing. Before the war, four networks had 95 per cent, of night-time broadcasting power; 144 advertisers accounted for !)7 per cent, of network income; the largest eleven advertisers contributed about onehalf of all network income. Worse still, onethird of nil regular radio stations are interlocked with newspapers; in more than 100- localities the only surviving newspaper owns the only radio station. As for the movies, five giants control the 2,S00 key theatres of thu nation. They pocket more than threefourths of the admission revenue contributed by the 100,000,000 people who attend movies every week.
The same position exists in Australia in a lesser degree. The Government intends to prevent any further extension of that situation. Clause 18 is designed to enlarge the scope of section 107 of the Australian Broadcasting Act in order to’ allow regulations to be made controlling the activities of networks of commercial broadcasting stations. In a report to Parliament,’ dated the 28th June, 1945, the Broadcasting Committee recommended that, in the public interest, a check should be placed on the development of commercial broadcasting . networks. The matter has been carefully examined by the Government, which considers that provision should be made in the act whereby it would be possible, if necessary, to control such networks by regulation. By this means, any developments calculated to establish private monopoly control of broadcasting activities could be effectively ‘counteracted. The object of the proposed new paragraphs are to counteract the activities of private monopolies.
In the opinion of the Government, the commission should have complete freedom in the selection of news, as in the selection of vocal and instrumental music. It should not be dependent on the private press for its news. The Government believes that if the commission has complete freedom ‘ in those matters it will be better for all concerned. The press is more or less limited by its financial obligations. The policy of a newspaper must be more or less influenced by the financial obligations of the company or the financial interests of those whose money is invested in it. It is- not an independent or free press, iii the real sense of the term, but it is a very much dependent press. Even the editors are not free to publish what they think should be published. They have to write and publish in accordance with the policy laid down for them. News is written with a certain slant, in conformity with the policy of the newspapers. I am a member of the Australian Journalists Association of many years’ standing, and many of the members of the association are among the most competent journalists in Australia. ‘ I do not think any of them would be prepared to support the proposed agreement with the newspaper- proprietors. They consider that the commission should have complete freedom to select news in its own way for the purpose of informing the people of facts as they can be ascertained from overseas sources and in Australia.
The press receives valuable assistance from the Government, particularly from the Postmaster-General’s Department. Senator Leckie drew attention to the cost to the newspaper organizations of the transmission, of matter for- subsequent publication, but he conveniently forgot to mention the valuable concession granted to the press in the form of reduced charges for press telegrams. The specially low rates which apply to press messages have resulted in a large increase of the number of such telegrams. If the newspaper companies were required to pay the normal rates for telegrams which apply to other commercial enterprises, they would have to pay approximately £150,000 a year more in the case of telegrams within the Commonwealth, and approximately £750,000 more in respect of the increasing number of overseas press messages. Therefore, even’ private press organizations are dependent on the government of the day to the extent of being indirectly subsidized to the amount of about £900,000.
– Why does the Government do that?
– A precedent has been established. The Government realizes that all sections of the community have their uses, and where it is established that sections have their uses and require assistance, it is the duty of the
Government to assist them. It has been considered by governments in the past that the press should be encouraged as much as possible, and I assume that it has been established to the satisfaction of those governments that assistance in the direction I have indicated should be given to the press. Up to the present no attempt has been made to deny that help.
It was further stated by Senator Leckie that the Australian Broadcasting Commission received 15s. out of each listener’s licence-fee, but that is not ‘so. It receives only 12s. at present, and 1 think it’ would be more than satisfied if . the figure mentioned by Senator Leckie were correct. The honorable senator also made reference to the expenditure incurred by the commission, and implied that it was likely to be extravagant and become a heavy charge . on Consolidated Revenue. The success of the commission’s work depends on the management exercised.
– We should allow it to manage its own affairs.
– The honorable senator was not in the chamber when I stated that every statutory body is responsible to the government of the day. It would be absurd to allow such a body to become a law to itself.
Senator Amour directed attention to the engagement of Mr. Cotton by the commission. I have no knowledge regarding that matter. Sub-section 5 of section 17 of the principal act provides that the rates of salary payable to the general manager and the six most highly paid executive officers shall be subject to the approval of the GovernorGeneral. I am not aware that the name of Mr. Cotton has ever been referred to the Government. The honorable senator also drew attention to the fact that the bill enables the commission to pay a salary up to £1,500 a year. The object of that provision is to bring the bill into conformity with similar clauses in the Overseas Telecommunications Bill and the Australian National Airlines Bill.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), as usual, made several extravagant statements quite unsupported by facts. He described the measure as having been introduced for political purposes, but, after describing it as a political stunt, he said later that he was satisfied that the commission had done good work. His first criticism is unsupported by facts, and was contradicted by his subsequent remark. I, as PostmasterGeneral, have not attempted to interfere with the commission. The most cordial relations exist between the members of the commission and myself. When complaint has been made to me about a matter broadcast by the commission, before anything has been said by me the matter has been submitted to the commission for comment and advice. We have always got along quite well in such instances. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that Mr. Cleary’s resignation was due to political interference. All I have to say in reply to that is that when Mr. Cleary resigned he gave no reasons for his action, and I, quite properly, I think, did. not ask for his reasons. Up to the present I do not know why he resigned, and I do not intend to inquire. I have never discussed the matter with him, as I have not met him. The extravagant statement by the Leader of the Opposition, who indulged in cheap theatricalism, does not get us anywhere. He has merely indulged in political froth and bubble. If the Opposition intends to make an approach to the electors on those lines, I am afraid the chances of the Leader of the Opposition of a successful appeal to the people are a great deal poorer than I thought at first they would be. Statements such as those made by him have the effect of losing votes. If he made a calm approach to these matters and relied on facts, it would be to his advantage.
All of the amendments for which the bill provides are the result of a constant review of the operation of the principal act, and the Government believes that the proposed alterations should become law. It has not been influenced by the fact that we are on the eve of a general election. It is not acting in a hurry, but is simply taking a step forward with a view to improving existing legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section seventeen of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Division inserted in its stead: - ” Division 1a. - The Service of the Commission. “17g. - (1.) For the purposes of this Divi sion, there shall be an Australian Broadcasting Commission Promotions Appeal Board (inthis Division referred to as ‘ the Promotion Appeal Board’). (2.) The Promotions Appeal Board shall consist of -
a Chairman, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General and shall hold office on such terms and conditions as the Governor-General determines ;
an officer appointed by the Commission; and
an officer elected by the officers of the Commission in the prescribed manner (in this section referred to as the officers’ representative’).”
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, in proposed new section17g, subsection (2.), paragraph (a), after the word “determines” the word “and” be inserted.
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) proposed -
That, in proposed new section 17g, subsection (2.), paragraphs (b) and (c) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: - “ (b) in respect of each provisional promotion against which an appeal has been made to the Promotions Appeal Board -
an officer appointed by the Commission; and
an officer nominated by the organization of. which it is appropriate for a person occupying the vacant position concerned to be a member.”.
.- In paragraph c of sub-section 1 of proposed new section17g reference is made to “ an officer elected by the officers of the commission “. The amendment refers to “ an officer nominated by the organization”.. What is the reason for substituting “ nominated “ for “ elected “ ? Docs it mean that a panel of names will be submitted to the Minister for him to make a selection?
– In the event of a difference of opinion arising about say, musicians, the organization would nominate an officer with a knowledge of music. A similar course would be followed should the difference of opinion affect another section of the commission’s employees.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, in proposed new section 17g, subections (3.), (4.), (5.) and (6.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - (3.) An officer shall not be appointed or nominated as a member of the Promotions Appeal Board if that officer has himself been provisionally promoted to the vacant position concerned or has himself appealed against the provisional promotion to that vacant position.”
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) proposed -
That, in proposed new section 17g, after sub-section (7.), the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (8.) In this section, ‘organization’ means an organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-46.”.
.- Does the proposed new sub-section mean chat an organization which is not regisrered under the act mentioned will have no standing at all? It may happen that a difference of opinion will arise between the commission and persons concerned with programmes dealing with cultural or educational matters, who do not belong to any organization registered under the act mentioned. Would they have no rights under the. proposed newsubjection? Is it intended that ordinary citizens who are not members of a union registered with the Arbitration Court will be debarred from having their cases dealt with?
– All the organizations are registered under the act. An organization which is not registered under the act would have no rights under th is legislation.
– Does the Minister consider that to be fair?
– It is quite fair. Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 (News services).
.- This is the vital clause of the bill and the Opposition proposes to vote against it. It was because the Opposition has no serious objection to the rest of the bill that it allowed the second reading to be passed on the voices. We hope that the Government will see the error of *it** ways, and will either agree to the deletion of sub-sections 1 and 2 of proposed new section 5, or will amend them by substituting the word “ may “ for the word “ shall “. That would still give to the commission the right to do all the things referred to in those sub-sections . if it thought it wise to do so. Theuse of the word “shall” makes it mandatory on the commission to set up separate organizations immediately. I recall what the Minister (Senator Cameron) said about the press on an earlier occasion, and the one-sided view which he presented. He said that the Postal Department granted concessional telegraphic rates to the press valued at £900,000 a year. From the Minister’s remarks one would have thought that the press was subsidized to that amount, whereas it is well known that press rates are governed by an international agreement, which provides for reduced charges for press messages in order that the news of the world may reach the people. Tor the PostmasterGeneral to say that his department is actually giving concessions to the press as a sort of a poor man’s subsidy, is not playing the game. In fact, it is well known that when an American company sought to establish an organization in this country to disseminate overseas news by radio the Government refused permission.
– Would the honorable senator have approved? .
– There was only one reason, for not approving, and that was that the Postmaster-General’s Department would have been deprived of substantial revenue. If the concessions extended by the department to the press amount to £900,000 a year, the total sum expended by the press must be enormous, and must represent a substantial profit to the department. It is no use the PostmasterGeneral telling us that out of the goodness of its heart, his department is, in effect, paying a subsidy of £900,000 a year to the newspapers. The honorable gentleman knows very well that that is not true and I am astounded that he should adopt such an attitude. Clause 5 shows the biased outlook of the Government, and I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral, even at this late stage, either to withdraw the clause altogether, or to amend it by altering the word “ shall “ to “ may “. Then the commission would be able to use its own discretion in the matter. Surely the commission is to be entrusted with some say in its future policy.
– I cannot accede to the request made by Senator Leckie. The word “ shall “ is inserted for the protection of the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself. The duties of the commission are laid down and the word “ shall “ must be used. If the object were to allow statutory bodies such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become laws unto themselves, the word “ may “ could be used. Clause 5 is most important. The statements that I have made in regard to concession rates enjoyed by the press are facts. I have not reflected on the press in any way. I have simply said that it enjoys concessions amounting to approximately £900,000 a year, which means, in effect, that newspapers pay less than ordinary citizens for the service given by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Press business is still profitable to the department, is it not?
– That is not the question.The point is that the press pays less for telegraphic messages than the ordinary citizen. The honorable senator has said that the press must expend enormous sums of moneywith the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but I point nut that if people were not willing to advertise or to buy newspapers, the press would not be able to expend any money at all. Therefore the press is no more deserving of commendation for the money that it spends than are the people who provide the money.
– This is a very innocent looking clause but it is the substance of the bill so far as taxpayers are concerned. It provides for the setting up by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of its own independent news gathering service. Before the clause was drafted, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) must have had some idea of what would be the cost of such a service to the taxpayers . of - Australia. Practical newspaper men with a lifetime of experience behind them have suggested that the cost will be approximately £300,000 a year. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give some indication of what he expects the cost will be, both for the overseas news service and for the local news service.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Names of speakers to be announced).
.- I should like an explanation of this clause. It provides that the name of the person who delivers an address, shall be broadcast and that if the speaker is not the author, the name of the author also shall be broadcast. I do not know whether that refers only to addresses or statements. I can understand that if the real name of the authors of certain compositions broadcast over the air were to be announced it might be rather awkward for some people. It is all very well in the case of plays or books to broadcast the name of the author as well as his nom de plume. Does it. mean that the name of the author of all material broadcast must be announced, or does it refer specifically to statements on political and kindred subjects?
.- The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the licencees of commercial broacasting stations are required, under section 90 of the principal act to announce the name of each person who is to make an address, or broadcast a statement, relating to a political subject, or current affairs, before and after the address, or statement. It is proposed: (a) to stipulate that if the speaker is not the author of the address the name of the actual author shall be indicated ; and (b) to permit the announcement to be made after the address only in the case of an announcement which contains 100 words or fewer than 100 words. It is considered desirable to ensure that the name of the person actually responsible for the statement shall be disclosed. The advisability of making the second alteration was demonstrated during the last Federal election campaignwhen the speaker’s name had to be broadcast before and after even the briefest announcement concerning a candidate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Publication of text of item transmitted by broadcasting station).
.- Iassume that this clause and the following clause have been inserted as the result of provisions made in the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill, under which, as I pointed out when that measure was before the Senate, newspapers might have difficulty in publishing anything which had been broadcast. I also pointed out that the Minister at that time did not seem to think that there was substance in the objection I raised. That bill provided that no one could publish any news that had already been broadcast. That would lead, of course to a most extraordinary position.I assume that this clause and the following clause are designed to prevent such an injustice from being done: These clauses prove that many of the measures now being brought before us have not been carefully scrutinized, because the reason for these clauses is to rectify the mistake made in the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
After section ninety-three of the Principal Act, the following section is inserted: -
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That proposed section 93a be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following section: - “93a. - (1.) Except with the consent of the owner or licensee of the broadcasting station whose programme it is desired to broadcast and, in the case of a broadcast which is a re-broadcast, with the approval of the Minister -
the Commission shall not broadcast the whole or any part of the programmeof a broadcasting station (whether situated in Australia or elsewhere) other than a national broadcasting station; and
the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station shall not broadcast the whole or any part , of the programme of any other broadcasting station (whether situated in Australia or elsewhere). (2.) In this section, ‘ re-broadcast ‘ means the reception and re-transmission of a broadcast.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Regulations).
.- The clause reads -
Section one hundred and seven of thePrin- cipal Act is amended by omitting all the words after the words “and in particular” and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs : -
For prescribing matters relating to the making of agreements or arrangements by licences of commercial broadcasting .stations for the provision of programmes for the broadcasting of advertisements, or relating to’ such agreements or arrangements so made.
.-Earlier Senator Leckie requested the information he now seeks. I supplied the information which apparently satisfied other honorable senators opposite, but the honorable senator himself was not sufficiently interested in the matter to remain in .the chamber while I gave my explanation. I shall repeat it. It is proposed to enlarge the scope of section 107 of the principal act in order to enable regulations to be made controlling the activities of networks of commercial broadcasting stations. The Broadcasting Committee, in its second report, dated the 28th June, 1945, ‘ recommended that in the public interest a check be. placed on the development of commercial broadcasting station networks. The matter has been carefully examined by the Government which considers it desirable that provision be made in the act, whereby it will be possible, if necessary, to control- the networks by regulation. By this means any developments calculated to establish monopoly control of broadcasting activities can be effectively counteracted. As I pointed out earlier, the tendency in the United States of ‘ America is to establish private monopoly control of network organizations of commercial stations. The Government is of opinion that that would be to .the great disadvantage of the commercial stations themselves as well as to the people. Therefore, we intend to prevent as far as we can the establishment of private monopoly control of commercial stations through the medium of network organizations.
.- I thank the Postmaster-General’ (Senator Cameron) for his explanation. However, in giving it he gave me a “ dirty left-hander “. He implied that 1 am absent from the chamber a good deal. I am present in the chamber more often than is the Minister.- In any case, remarks of the kind made by a Minister should not be made in the chamber. His implication is unfounded. I now ask whether the Minister’s explanation means that a commercial broadcasting station which wants to enter into an arrangement with another commercial station for the exchange of news, or other items, cannot do so unless it obtains the approval of the Minister? Does it mean that a company which controls more than one station cannot link up the programmes of those stations? Does it mean that staion 3DB in Melbourne, for instance, could not combine with a commercial station in Sydney, or Brisbane, to broadcast the same matter? Why should commercial stations be prevented from combining to obtain the best talent possible? Where, is the danger of any station in Australia wanting to “ collar “ a large number of stations? The Minister’s explanation is clear enough, but the reason for the explanation is about as muddy as it could be. This provision seems to be an attempt to squash commercial stations by preventing them from combining for the broadcasting of news, or other items. It is an underhand way of trying to boost the national stations at the expense of the commercial stations.- This provision can have no other object. It indicates, apparently, that the commercial stations are forging ahead of the national .stations. I have been inclined to doubt statistics which purport .to show that more people listen to commercial stations than to national stations. If this is an attempt to squash, commercial stations by preventing them from combining to give the best programmes, I oppose it.
– The clause does not mean what Senator Leckie has suggested. As I said earlier, it is designed to prevent the establishment of private monopoly control through network organizations which are not considered to be in the interests of either the stations themselves, or of the community as a whole.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) proposed -
That the bill fee now read u third tune.
, - In committee, when clause 5 was being considered, I asked what I considered to” be a very reasonable question, but the Chairman of Committees-
– Order ! It is not permissible to revive a debate in committee on the motion for the third reading of a bill. The proper procedure would have been to ask for a recommittal of clause 5 when the measure was in committee.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.You were present, Mr. President, when the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) very courteously told Senator Leckie that he was always willing to supply information. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether any estimate has been made of the cost of the news-gathering organization to be established under clause 5? I cannot imagine that he would propose to create siu-h an organization -without giving some consideration to the cost involved. Senator Leckie said that qualified newspaper men with lengthy experience in the art of news-gathering had given evidence that an organization for the collection of news in Australia and overseas would cost approximately £300,000- a year. That is a very large sum to charge to the taxpayers for a service which many of us consider to be unnecessary. . Can the PostmasterGeneral give to the Senate an estimate of the cost of the proposed news service?
– in reply - The precise cost of the organization has yet to be ascertained.
– But what is the estimated cost?
– The matter has been discussed with representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The rough estimate made by them is considerably less than £200,000 a year.
Question resolved in the afirmative
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna,1 read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal object of the bill is to remove certain disadvantages which have arisen by reason of the delay at present, occurring in the examination work of the Patent Office. That delay has been brought about in part by the fact that a large number of examiners of patents - representing over 60 per cent, of the staff - were released during the war from the Patent Office for service in the forces and in other departments. The delay has also been partly brought about by reason of an abnormal and entirely unpredictable increase of the number of applications for patents”. This increase appears to be largely due to the great industrialdevelopment which has taken place in Australia in recent years. Many overseas manufacturers have discovered during war-time that . the Austraiian market is worth-while, and that they cannot obtain royalties for the use- of their inventions in Australia unless they patent them here. In 1939, the number of applications for patents was 5,700; last year it was 7,300 ; and it is expected that this year the number will exceed L0,000. In passing,. I mention that the state of the work in the Australian office is not singular. The position in the British office is practically the same, and the state of work in the United States of America office is also far from normal. Every effort is being made to obtain the services of additional examiners of patents. However, it takes at least three years to train an examiner fully in his work, and it is therefore evident “that some considerable time will elapse before any substantial reduction, is made of the arrears- of examination work in the Patent Office. Any serious delay in the examination of patent applications has a detrimental effect on inventors, and onindustrial development. In the first place, the delay abridges the inventor’s rights in his invention because it abridges the life of his patent, which dates from the date of application. Secondly, manufacturers who desire to embark on new projects do not know .of the inventions which may be lying’ dormant in the Patent Office and may ultimately interfere with their own developments. The normal procedure in connexion with an application for a patent is that, after- it has been examined and passed’ by an examiner, it is accepted by the Commissioner and thrown open to public inspection. Any person who considers that he would he prejudicially affected by the application, if granted, may lodge opposition within- three months. If there is no’ opposition, or if the opposition is dismissed, a patent is sealed on the application and that patent dates from- the date of the application and applies for sixteen years. However, the inventor may not commence any action for infringement until his patent has been sealed, and then only in respect of infringements occurring after the publication of the complete specification, which takes place when the application has been accepted. The Patents Act contemplates that normally an application would be accepted within twelve months and - the patent sealed within sixteen months. These times were substantially observed before the war. At the present time, however, publication consequent upon acceptance does not take place until approximately two years after the date of application. The rapidity of technical developments taking place at present issuch that the effective life of many -patents is very much less than the period of sixteen years for which they aregranted, so that a delay of even two years represents a greater proportion than oneeighth of the effective life of the patent. As far as industrial development is concerned - a matter to which the patent system is primarily directed - delay in publication of specifications leaves manufacturers in the dark and hampers them in their developmental activities. Under the existing law, a specification remains secret and is not published until it hasbeen accepted. At the present time, as I have said, this does not take place until about two- years after the application is lodged. In other words, the undue prolongation of the secrecy period is embarrassing to manufacturers. A partial solution of the difficulties of inventors and manufacturers- alike lies in the expeditious publication of ‘complete specifications lodged in connexion with applications for patents. This bill, therefore, proposes -to amend the law so as to providefor the publication of complete specifications forthwith after lodgment at thePatent Office and for a patentee whoseinvention has been used after publication to be entitled to damages for infringement committed from the dato cf publication forthwith after the lodgment;, instead of from the date of publication consequent upon . acceptance. Damages are, of course, recoverable only if a patent is ultimately sealed on the application and only in respect of valid claims. As a corollary to the provisions referred to, the bill also gives protection to persons who may be threatened with infringement actions by applicants on thebasis of questionable or invalid claims, and prohibits the making of false representations that articles Are patented^ or the subject of pending applications. The bill also proposes to make permanent a practice adopted during- the war under the National Security Regulations of not examining a provisional specification until the complete specification has been lodged. In many cases, applications are accompanied by provisional specifications only and lapse by reason of the failure of the applicant to lodge a complete specification. The time occupied in examining provisional specifications which may lapse will be saved by reason of this amendment. The passage of the bill will not detract from an inventor’s existing rights, but will, in fact, enable his exclusive rights in his invention to commence at an earlier date. Furthermore, the bill will benefit manufacturers by making it possible for them to ascertain at the earliest possible date what inventions have been evolved by others and are the subject of patent applications, thereby enabling them to avoid wasteful duplication of developmental activities. I trust that the bill will commend itself to the Senate and will be passed without delay,
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on. motion by Senator .7. M. Fraser) read a first time.
– I moveThat the hill be now read a second time.
The purpose’ of this bill, which is supplementary to the Meat Export Control Bill 1946 covering the reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board, is to transfer to the board the powers and functions at present exercised by the Controller of Meat Supplies and the Meat Canning Committee under the National Security Regulations. It will be appreciated that the transfer will be of a temporary nature only, and that with the expiration of the National Security A.ct itself, this bill will cease to have the force of law. Notwithstanding this, it is necessary that the interests of the Commonwealth Government and the meat industry itself, insofar as these relate to actions taken by the Controller of Meat Supplies and the Meat Canning Committee . under National Security Regulations, be protected, and the bill provides for these rights and obligations to1 be assumed by the Australian Meat Board. Since rationing of meat and control of meat prices are matters which, for the time being at least, are closely linked with the general control of the meat industry, provision has been made for the temporary appointment “to the Australian Meat Board of two additional members, one to represent the Commonwealth’ Prices Commissioner, and one to represent the Director of Rationing. However, these members will automatically cease to hold office on the expiration of the National Security Act.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3433), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Several bills have been presented to the / Senate to implement the financial proposals of the Government, and as I discussed the proposals when debating the Treasurer’s Financial Statement I do not intend to make second-reading speeches on those measures.
Question resolved, in the affirmative. ‘
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRIBUTION BILL 1946. t
Debate resumed from the 1st August _ (vide page 3434), on motion by Senator Ashley - 1
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3435), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3438), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3439), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3441), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The bill has my approval. Clause 7 provides that every person who has discovered that any prescribed substance or mineral containing any prescribed substance, occurs at any place in Australia, shall report that discovery by notice in writing to the Minister. Does the Government intend to prescribe various substances from time to time? I should imagine that the nature of the prescribed substances would have to be widely known. The definition clause states that “ prescribed substance “ means uranium, thorium, plutonium, and neptunium, or any of their respective compounds. It seems that atomic energy is expected to be derived solely from those minerals. Will not other substances be prescribed from time to time?
– The honorable senator would have answered his own question had he read the whole of the definition. It states - “ prescribed substance “ means uranium, thorium, plutonium, neptunium or any of their respective compounds, and includes any other substance (being a substance which, in the opinion of the Minister, is or may be used for the production or use of atomic energy or research into matters connected with atomic energy) which is declared by the Minister, by order published in the Gazette, to be a prescribed substance for the purposes of this Act.
The possibility that other elements, not known at present, may be capable of producing atomic energy has been recognized by the authorities concerned, and other substances may be prescribed at the discretion of the Minister.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3442), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3444), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3445), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through itsremaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st August (vide page 3445), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 6th August (vide page 3666), on motion by Senator Collings-
That the following paper be printed: -
Nationality questions -Report of Committee appointed by the Minister for Immigration to consider the practical and legal difficulties involved in the possession, by husband and wife, of different nationalities, and other matters relating thereto.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Siitmg suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 3806).
– I propose to address myself very briefly to this measure, the object of which according to the preamble, is to provide means for securing and maintaining adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia. Some things are to be hoped for very devoutly, and I wish I could believe that this measure will be able to do what the Government apparently believes it will do. The whole crux of the matter is, will the passage of this legislation result inthe production of more coal? Reluctantly, I must come to the conclusion that the answer is “ No “, because I do not believe that the Government will have the courage or the determination to ensure that the provisions of the bill shall be made effective. The position in which we find ourselves to-day as regards coal is the result of a gradual but persistent deterioration of production. The growing ulcer has come to a head. Coal stocks have fallen steadily because of a long series of stoppages engineered deliberately by the miners’ leaders for reasons utterly unconnected with the traditional grievances, hates, or disabilities of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) spoke when this bill was before the House of Representatives. The miners leaders are members of a party which frankly declares its determination to paralyse industry. They make no secret of their objective, and that objective has now very nearly been reached. Why do they desire to paralyse industry? Because that action is part of a shrewdly calculatedplan to make our present system of government, in which I fervently believe, unworkable, so that they may pave the way for the introduction of another system that they seek to impose upon the people of this country. The coal-miners of Australia have been the spoilt darlings of arbitration. They have been given their own tribunals so that the delays which occasionally occur in the bringing of matters before the Arbitration Court could be avoided. In this regard, they have received privileges that arc not enjoyed by any other section of industry. They have received this special attention, not because the Government loves thom more than any other class of workers, but because they have been able to enforce their will more effectively upon the Government than any other organization or pressure group in the Commonwealth. The miners control the flow of the raw materials without which most services and most industries in this country would cease. “When they stop that flow, as they have been doing for a considerable time past, the Government quickly puts up its hands and surrenders. Honorable senators will recall the long succession of appeals, threats and denunciations by Labour leaders because of the refusal of miners to work, and their defiance of the law. No infuriated mine-owner or member of the Opposition could have spoken more bitterly to the miners than the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, or the present Prime Minister; but they have been absolutely helpless. They have been unable to impose their will on the miners, and that, I suggest, is the real test of social and political strength - that a Government should be able to make its will effective, and to govern. To date the miners have won. They have done exactly what their leaders wanted to do. They have so restricted production that our coal stocks are practically depleted. So long as certain stocks were in existence, the community could carry on its activities for a while even if the miners went on strike, but now, a strike means instant paralysis of industry and.-hardship for all members of the community. Miners have reduced the output of coal so that stocks cannot be replenished. They have prevented the Government from collecting fines imposed upon those guilty nf promoting illegal stoppages. . It is clear that on the coal-fields the Government ot this country exercised authority only in respect of minor matters. The issue is clear and simple. Will the Government or the miners’, federation decide -to what degree Australia’s industry is to remain in operation, how many houses may be built, how much food we may eat, and how many Australians may keep their jobs? So far, the miners’ federation has’ determined all these matters. If this bill means anything at all. it is another attempt to take the power from the hands of the miners’ federation and return it to where it rightly belongs, namely, to the Parliament and the Government. I was exceedingly disappointed when perusing the secondreading speech of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on this measure to find that his object seemed to be to obscure the real purpose of the bill. One is not encouraged to hope that the measure will be carried out in all of its most minute details. The Minister’s speech was mostly evasion and crocodile tears, with heavy emphasis on the sins of the employers and the dreadful woe of the miners. If in the past the Government has been afraid to stress the urgent, need for. discipline on the coal-fields - self-discipline is sadly lacking throughout the Commonwealth to-day - will it ever find courage enough to implement this measure? Judging by its record this is very doubtful indeed. Does any sane person believe that the miners’ leaders will accept the directions and threats that are contained in this bill without a tough and bitter struggle, after they have had such a successful run in defying directions and threats in the past? The misery that they may cause to the rest of the community, including their own families and their fellow workers in other industries. the embarrassment that may be caused to this poor weak-spirited Government of ours, and the danger of a reduction of the living standards of the workers who will lose their jobs if industry Ernes over the precipice on which it has been tottering for so long, do not matter a tinkers curse to the miners’ leaders. Before coal can be produced in sufficient quantities these vile mischief-makers will have to be dealt with and put in their place. They are not trying to make our system of Government work; they are out to smash it utterly, and they are going the right way about it, according to their lights. To bring these men . to heel and make them suffer the consequences of breaches of the provisions of this measure will require a major effort on the part of the Government. I shall await evidence that the Government is in dead earnest in respect nf this measure. Thi? is nur choice: either the Government must allow industry to drift into chaos, which the miners’’ leaders want to create, or the responsibility will fall upon the rest of the community to supply workers for the mines who will accept the wages and conditions now enjoyed by the miners and obey the law, and, most important of all,’ produce coal whether they be members of the miners’ federation or not. Such action would not constitute an attack upon trade unionism. On the contrary, only by such means can trade unionism be saved from collapse in the greatest production depression this country has known. That depression must come inevitably unless the problem of the coal-mining industry is solved. Chaos in the industry will bring about a revolution which will put on top the men who have no more time for sane trade unionism than has Hitler, or “ Joe “ Stalin. No one in this country wants to do the miners any harm. Everybody will gladly concede them anything they can obtain by legal means which will not deprive the rest of the community of the right to live in reasonable comfort and sufficiency. A new deal for the miners is important; but a new deal for the rest of our people who have suffered exasperating inconveniences for so long, is much more important. The bill represents the first attempt by the Commonwealth to deal with the ‘ coal-mining industry as a whole problem. The. essential heed is that the Government must enforce its provisions. Should the Government fail to do so, the measure is so much waste paper and not worth a “ cracker “.
– Bills are being placed before us in such quick succession that it is difficult for honorable senators to give to them the attention which their importance demands. The importance of this measure is emphasized by the action of the Government in introducing it in the closing stage of the session. The establishment of peace in the coal-mining industry is “one of the most important problems that the Parliament could discuss, and I should like to believe that all honorable senators view the measure in that light. However, because of the limited time available to us to examine the measure, we must accept very largely the statements made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) in his second-reading speech. I followed his speech closely. I have also endeavoured, in the brief time at my disposal, to peruse carefully his remarks. If. one is to judge the measure by the contents of the Minister’s second-reading speech, I admit that it is good in parts. I was impressed very much by his concluding remarks when he reiterated the thoughts expressed by honorable senators on this side of the chamber some weeks ago when we discussed the problem of the coalmining industry. He said that what was required was tolerance on the part of all concerned with the problems of the industry, sympathetic understanding of the other fellow’s point of view, and an effort on the part of all concerned to deal- with the acute situation which now prevails. Whatever doubts we may have as to the necessity for the measure and what it will accomplish, no doubt appears to exist in the minds of the coal-min.ers as to the effects which the bill will produce. I- have mixed with coal-miners, and I shall never subscribe to any statement which suggests that, by and large, they are not an honest body of men. In the main they are very worthy citizens. Evidence exists that the majority of the coal-miners are very mindful of their responsibilities towards the community and are anxious to do the right thing by the rest of their fellow citizens. On the other hand, however, a small section in the industry is now in control, and is able to dictate the policy of the miners who, very largely, are victims of circumstances. I am afraid that that small minority receives a great deal of comfort from this measure, because the bill provides for the appointment of a board to which will be transferred certain powers which, during the war, were exercised by another authority under the National Security Regulations. Perhaps, the most significant feature of the bill is that it contains a very definite threat to the coal mine owners whilst it offers no threat at all to the militant miners. I am afraid that the small minority to which I have referred, the Communists in the industry, see in the measure an opportunity to side-step those bodies which are constituted by Parliament for the purpose of providing means of settling disputes within the industry.
Under the measure, the miners will be afforded direct approach to the government. “We know that these men in private conversation make no secret of the fact that they regard themselves as masters of the government. In Victoria, the Wonthaggi coal mine is nationalized. It is owned by the State Government and operated- by the -Railways Commissioners. In addition, the usual machinery was provided for adjusting disputes arising at Wonthaggi from time to time, namely the Arbitration Court. During the war, we found that so long as a Liberal government was in office in Victoria, peace was maintained on the Wonthaggi coal-field. Under Liberal governments no stoppages occurred. However, from the moment the Labour party took office in Victoria trouble arose at Wonthaggi. In the Melbourne Argus of the 2nd August, the following paragraph appeared: -
The Victorian miners desire that the provisions of the Coal Bill shall apply to all States. Mr. A. Payne, representing the Wonthaggi Trades Hall Council, says that they believe that by this means they will have direct approach to the Government and many problems could be overcome. The council decided to refer the request to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which will submit proposals to the Federal Cabinet.
That statement provides definite evidence of the reaction of the coal-miners to this measure. After years of peace at Wonthaggi under a Liberal Government, trouble has been recurring since the day that the Labour party took office in Victoria. We read in the press that trouble occurred on the Wonthaggi coal-field on the Sth February, the 11th February, the 3rd April, the. 13th June, the 14th June and the 30th July. Those reports indicate that the coal-miners believe that they are the masters of the Government, and that they believe not only in direct action but also in direct approach to the Government.
– What was the trouble at Wonthaggi?
– I have high respect for the coal-miners as a body, and particularly the miners at Wonthaggi. Senator Aylett and I grew up among coal-miners, and played football with them ; and, therefore, we know something of their troubles. The Argus of the 2nd August reported -
Wonthaggi miners will see the Premier to discuss the cause of recent, stoppages and to demand a 35-hour week and a fi increase of their weekly wages.
That was not what they requested in the early stages of their disputes. At first they asked for some small concession. That concession was granted to them, and. like Oliver Twist they are coming back for more. We cannot blame them, perhaps, for adopting that attitude, because it is the responsibility of this Parliament to provide machinery whereby the miners will be given an opportunity to ventilate their complaints and have them dealt with promptly. But such machinery should operate entirely independently of Parliament. The Minister pointed out that under certain conditions the proposed board will be subject to direction by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales. Such a provision is unwise, and I oppose it. I agree that the Parliament cannot escape its responsibility towards the industry. We have a responsibility to ensure that the coal supplies essential to industry, are produced. It has been said that the miners work under bad conditions. What are those conditions? I shall discuss conditions in New” South Wales as I know them.
– Why not start with Victoria, about which the honorable senator knows so much?
– I do know something about conditions in Victoria, and I shall be pleased to accommodate the Minister. It is not necessary to roll in the gutter to know that it is dirty. In other words, it is not necessary to perform, all the duties of a coal-miner in order to know about the conditions under which he works. I have had some association with the coal-mining industry in Victoria. At one time I was 8. mineowner. I and a number of others advanced money to enable a tunnel to be driven into the seam at Korumburra, which is close to Wonthaggi. Korumburra, Jumbunna and Outtrim are the oldest coal-mining fields in Victoria. I also hewed some of the coal at Korumburra. It is a pleasing fact that conditions in the industry have improved a. great deal since that time. At present, Victoria has only two coal mines of any importance - Wonthaggi and thebrown coal mine, at Yallourn. As the Minister has rightly pointed out, unless the miners are prepared to fulfil their obligations to the community, their market will soon be lost because of the development of other industrial fuels.
– That also applies to the mine-owners.
– I agree. In Victoria and New South Wales, locomotives are being converted to use oil instead of coal.. Industries in Victoria, and in New South Wales to a lesser degree, are making similar changes. The Labour Government in Victoria is making arrangements to develop further brown coal-fields for the purpose of manufacturing gas and pipingit for over 80 miles to Melbourne. The Premier of Victoria has said that that State must be made independent of the dictators who are in charge of the coalminers in New South Wales. I refer now to conditions on the New South Wales fields. Obviously, some honorable senators opposite have little knowledge of this subject, but anybody visiting the coal-fields for the first time would be agreeably surprised by the conditions existing around the coal mines. There are lawns and concrete paths.
– What coal-field is the honorable senator talking about?
– The Newcastle field. Everywhere there are indications of the efforts being made to meet the requirements of the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. In that State, as elsewhere, attention has been directed for a number of years to the improvement of miners’ working conditions. It is true that some miners are difficult to deal with, whilst others are reasonable, and I agree with the Minister for Supply and Shipping that the mine-owners can be separated into similar categories. However, throughout history some mine-owners have always endeavoured to improve working conditions in the mines. They have cooperated with governments at various times in implementing legislation to compel other owners to fall into line with their progressive policies. In New South Wales, great strides have been made in legislating for the benefit of coal-miners. The requirements of the law are very . stringent. The main purpose is to ensure that miners are employed under good conditions. Provision is made for the men to change their clothes at thepit-head, and they are taken by tramways to within a few yards of the coal-face. Conditions in the mines are good, and Ican enumerate at least twelve other industries in which conditions are much worse than in the coal-mines.
– Such as?
– There is for instance the man who drives a tractor on a wheat farm.
– He is in the fresh air all the time.
-Yes, but he is affected by dust and heat. Railway engine drivers and firemen work in coal dust and, in temperature conditions varying from furnace heat to bitter winter cold. Even the man who delivers our daily bread sometimes works under worse conditions that I have seen in New South Wales coal mines.
-Obviously the honorable senator has not been in many coal mines.
– That is also trueof the honorable senator. After changing their clothes on the surface and being taken to the coal-face, the miners do a certain amount of work and have their crib.
– How are they taken to the coal-face?
– By trolley.
– In all mines?
– In most mines.
– That statement shows how little the honorable senator knows about the industry.
– The New South Wales legislation provides that the men must be taken to within a certain distance of the coal face.
– Do they change their clothes in their own time or in the owners’ time.
– In the owners’ time. If they have a good working day, they spend six hours at the coal face. On coming out of the mine, they change their clothes in the owners’- time and provision is made for them to have baths.
– And why not? Surely the honorable senator does not begrudge that?
– Certainly not, but a warm bath is not available to thousands of citizens owing to power restrictions. Apparently I am telling honorable senators opposite things that they did not know about the industry. Conditions provided at the pit head are much superior to those provided in most other industries.
It has been said that the coal-mining industry is extremely dangerous. There are dangers associated with coal-mining just as there are dangers associated with walking across a city street. However, special provision is made to guard against danger in the mines. The Minister knows that the law provides that certain men must be appointed in every underground position to ensure that working conditions are safe. A miners’ deputy is in control of a limited number of men within a limited area, and before, any shift starts work he must inspect the area and make sure that it is safe for the men. In addition, there are an under-manager and a manager in each mine charged by law with the definite responsibility of protecting the workers! Furthermore, there are government inspectors to supervise the safety precaution’s.
– There should not be an accident of any kind.
– I agree. Nevertheless, although we say that there should not be accidents in our homes, domestic accidents do occur. The insurance rate relating to accidents in the coal-mining industry is lower than the rates in respect of accidents in a number of other industries.
– What are the other industries?
– The goldmining industry is one.
– What is another one?
– I shall tell the honorable senator later. I do not want to delay the Senate unduly. Under the law relating to coal-mining in New South Wales, there is a court administering coal mine regulations. This court is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the law is carried out. It deals in the first place with minor disputes that occur in the mines, but the miners have the right to take any dispute to the Arbitration Court. However, because of the encouragement that the men have received during the past few years from this Government, they by-pass the Arbitration Court and approach the Government direct. Ventilation is provided for in the regulations, and care must be exercised to ensure that a current of air passes through the workings. ‘ Conditions in that respect are congenial. A great deal has been said regarding dust in the mines. Special provision is made to ensure that dust is kept under control. It is an unfortunate fact that a certain kind of sickness develops amongst miners. However, I point out that, notwithstanding the care that was exercised in examining the physical conditions of army and air force recruits during the war, many of these men later developed tuberculosis. If a miner has weak lungs, it is only reasonable to expect that his trouble will be accentuated as the result of employment in the mines and, therefore, his disability cannot be attributed entirely to the conditions of his employment.
The Minister pointed out in his secondreading speech that one of the courses to be followed for the purpose of increasing the output of coal ‘is the further mechanization of the mines. Most mineowners have been anxious to do that for some years, but owing to New South Wales legislation the use of machines on pillars has been prohibited, and consequently the output of coal has been reduced. The Minister said with justification that the men employed in the mines are entitled to security of tenure. Notwithstanding the introduction of mechanized methods and the improved output resulting, from it, if the miners meet their obligations to the community and produce sufficient coal to allow industry to function, they will undoubtedly have security of tenure in their employment. lt can be anticipated that work will be provided for them in the mines for many years. The Minister remarked that because of the unfortunate strike on the coal-fields in New South Wales during the early period of the war, coal production fell to the extent of 900,000 tons. Not only must we produce about 14,000,000 tons a year to meet the presentrequirements of the community, but we shall have to increase that output, if the demands of new and expanding industries are to be satisfied. All industries require reserves of coal to enable them to operate continuously and provide maximum production. The employees engaged in industries other than the coalmining industry are also entitled to security of tenure. In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia many men are now out of work because of the lack of coal. Sometimes they go to their places of employment not knowing whether work will be available for them unless a collier arrives.
Miners in New South Wales have the benefit of a pension fund, and at the age of 60. years they are compulsorily retired on a pension of £2 5s. a week, with £1 a week for a wife and Ss. 6d. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years. The fund has been established by means of a contribution of 3s. 6d. a week from the miner while working, and the mine owners pay 7s. a week in respect of each employee, whilst the New South Wales Government provides £80,000 per annum. The miners retire on a’ pension some years earlier than the age at which the invalid and old-age pensions become available to citizens generally.
The problem presented by the conditions in the coal-mining industry is of sufficient importance to merit the earnest consideration of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I have expressed my thoughts on this matter, believing that they are worthy of consideration. I concur in some of the statements made by the Minister in his secondreading speech. He indicated that he was expressing the thoughts of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in declaring that the problem does not permit of easy solution. The Minister remarked that something more than the provision of amenities on the coal-fields was required.
That is why he advocated a spirit of tolerance and an effort to understand the difficulties of those engaged in the mines. Of course, that is the only way to obtain the desired results, industrial disturbances are of no benefit to anybody, particularly the workers themselves. The employees together with their wives and children suffer most.
We should not give false encouragement to the coal-miners. I am sorry that no provision has been made in the bill to ensure that effective action will be taken against those who disobey the instructions that may be issued by the Joint Coal Board. Whilst the bill and the Minister’s second-reading speech convey a definite threat .to the mine-owners of nationalization of the mines, there is nothing in the measure or the speech indicating that action is likely to be taken against the miners themselves. I oppose the bill because I regard it as ineffective. It amounts to a mere gesture to the miners. The Government, appears to say to them, “ We give you this chance, but for goodness’ sake keep quiet until after the general elections “. The Government seems to appreciate the fact that the problem of the coal-mining industry will be keenly discussed at the forthcoming elections, and it has introduced this measure in an effort to hide its lack of courage in the last three years to take effective action for the purpose of ensuring peace in industry and the production of sufficient coal to maintain industry.
– I welcome this measure as the first evidence in Australia of a serious attempt to grapple with an industry that has been in a state of neglect and anarchy from the time when coal was first discovered in Great Britain. I shall briefly trace the history of the industry. I had hoped to hear constructive suggestions from honorable senators opposite as to how the position of the nation consequent upon the shortage of coal supplies might be eased. I was amazed to hear such statements as those made by Senator A. J. Fraser, who claims to know something of the coal-mining industry, but who showed that he has not the faintest idea of the conditions in a coal mine. The honorable senator tried to mislead the Senate by suggesting that coal mines are beautiful places with lawns and gardens around them and many other desirable amenities. I was wondering whether he was really serious, or whether he has ever seen a coal mine. There is only one coal mine in Australia surrounded with lawns and gardens, and that happens to be the John Darling Mine, which is the show colliery of Australia.
– I was not referring to that mine. There is the Burwood mine.
– I- had forgotten the Burwood colliery. Credit should be given to the mine-owners for having planted a small flower garden at that pit. I am well acquainted with the conditions that prevail generally in the coal mines of New South Wales. I have visited some of them within the last fortnight, in order to obtain first-hand information regarding the industry. I inspected several small pits in the Cardiff area near Newcastle. One is known as Black Butt No. 2 colliery and is situated about a mile from Cardiff. From that pit, 100 tons of coal a day is mined, and it is typical of ten or twelve other pits in the area. There are S40 acres of coalbearing country, with ,a seam of the best Greta coal measuring from 6 feet to S feet 6 inches in thickness. At the mine referred to, 30 men are employed. When I visited the pit, work had ceased in order to bring to the notice of the coal tribunal many defects which the employees had been trying to have rectified. They stopped work for one day in order to demand that the coal authorities should visit the pit and remove their difficulties. I saw eight or ten horses in a little compound about 20 or 30 yards wide. They were enclosed by barbed wire, and their coats were covered .with the sweat and mud resulting from their work in the pit on the previous day. The only water they had to drink was that being pumped from the pit. There was no fresh water, although water pipes were only a few hundred yards away. _ The owner pleaded that he was too poor to provide a fresh water supply. And so the horses had to drink the water pumped up out of the- pit. There were some drums in whi’ch that water was stored, and when the miners came up from underground they could, if they wished, wash themselves in it. I suppose that if they had wanted to do so they could have stripped off their clothes and washed themselves in a drum.
– ‘What was the mining inspector doing?
– I am telling the Senate of the actual conditions at a mine that I visited, and I challenge any honorable senator to disprove my statements. At that pit men who want a drink of water must bring it from their homes and. carry it with them, unless they are prepared to drink the water pumped up from the mine - water in which the horses have paddled all day. As I have said, they are also free to wash in that water. They have a shed in which they can change their clothes. Honorable senators may say that they are well provided for, but I point out that the shed is about 10 feet by 6 feet, and contains a lot of harness and feed for the horses, as well as other articles. The mcn are expected to change in that room, if they do not wish to go home in their working clothes. There are no other amenities at that mine. If a man gets hurt there is no water with which to wash his wound, and there are no facilities for dressing’ it. Senator A. J. Fraser may say that the regulations provide that certain things shall be done. I say that those facilities are not there. I have described a typical pit on the northern coal-fields.
– The New South Wales Minister for Mines is empowered to close such a mine.
– That may be; but what we want is not the closing of mines, but the opening of mines. Let me describe the working conditions at one mine in New South Wales that I visited. The hauling gear is between 20 feet and 30 feet from the ground. Lashed across a number of sleepers are some bush saplings. The boy who knocks the pin out of the trucks has to be a trapeze artist. The safety inspector should do something about that pit. The man who operates the winding gear is exposed to the weather. A few days before I was there the weather was cold and he was wearing a heavy coat, which became caught in the winding gear. As it was an old coat, such as most of the “miners
Lave to wear, it became torn, and so be was able to extricate himself from the winding gear. I went down the pit, and the conditions I saw there were so appalling that I was pleased to get back to the surface. I saw roofs that were on the point of falling in; in some places the roof had cracked and was positively dangerous. The timbering of the mine was inadequate; some of the props were falling out, and others had white ants in them. Officials of the lodge told me that the safety inspector had visited the mine about six months before I was there, and that they had pointed out the danger. The inspector said that he would compel the owner to do something about it. He may do so some day, but six months have passed since he was there.
– He may do something after some one has. been killed.
– That may be, but the miners do not. want to be killed. As I. passed along the tunnel, I noticed that the electric power-lines crossed the pipe leading to the face. “ Should a powerline break or lose its insulation, the whole of the pump reticulation plant in the pit would become alive. The miners asked that the power-line be shifted, and the inspector agreed that it should be done. That was six months ago and the .powerline is still in the same position. The inspector has not been there since. The men are becoming restive. Indeed, they stopped work for a day in order to bring these things to the notice of the mining inspector and the coal tribunal, but because they did so the newspapers said that Communists were holding up the production of coal. When I reached the working face I was appalled at the neglect to provide proper working conditions. I saw men drilling holes, and they showed me how the work was done. First, they drilled a little hole in the floor and then one in the roof. After that, they set up an’ antiquated contraption, put an endless thread through it, and attached a drill to it. Then, by a laborious process, they drilled a number of holes on the face of the coal. After about 20 or 30 minutes they placed a charge in the working face.- That had to be done time after time. They had to drill about fifteen to twenty holes. That work took up about 75 per cent”, of their time.
It is possible to get power borers which will drill out the holes in a few minutes, but the owner said that he did not have enough money to provide them. Accordingly, the men are working under these antiquated conditions and are wasting their time. I do not want to get tod far away from the bill, but the remarks of Senator A. J. Fraser have led me to describe what is actually happening in the. coal mines in this country. There was not much evidence of the lawns to which the honorable senator referred.
– Are there not better mines than those which the honorable senator has described?
– I have described conditions at a typical small pit. I am aware that some of the bigger mines have their show places. Chief among them are the Burwood and John Darling collieries, where the amenities, which have been mentioned to-night by Senator A. J. Fraser, do exist. I challenge honorable senators, however, to find another pit in northern New South Wales that has a lawn or a flower growing. What I saw and have described is a typical mining scene. The bigger mines do provide baths for the men; and when miners come to the surf ace from below they need a bath. They have these amenities at the bigger pits only because the employees there are sufficiently numerous to make demands and have them acceded to. It is unfortunate that we have had to wait until the coal mines of this country have, to a great degree, been destroyed; until the resources df our coal-fields have been largely lost; until the men employed in the industry have drifted away from it; and until the industries of Australia are on the verge of a breakdown for want of coal before any effective action is taken to get coal. Senator A. J. Fraser spoke of inducing men to enter the industry and Senator Sampson pleaded for a “.showdown” with these men.
– A member of Parliament once said, “Fire low and lay them out”.
– That is the spirit that has brought us to our present position. Honorable senators opposite say that a determined stand must be taken; that the Government must show the miners that its will must prevail; that these men must be forced to do this and that; and that if they then will not go into the pits, free labour will be introduced. What is stopping any one from trying to induce other men to work in coal mines?
– What would happen to the man who wanted to do so?
– He would be accepted into the federation; the other miners would be glad to have him. Does the honorable senator suggest that he should not join the union to which his fellow workers belong?
– He should be allowed to do what he likes.
– The reason for the present shortage of coal is that, instead of men wishing to enter the coalmining industry, they are getting out of of it as fast as they can obtain other work.
– There are more men in the industry to-day than ever before.
– That is not so. There’ are only 15,000 miners in the industry.
– There are 17,000;
– That was the number twelve months ago, but since the man-power controls have been lifted, 2,000 miners have ‘left for other employment. The greatest difficulty is now being experienced in getting men to work in coal mines. Only those men who have their homes in mining districts and who would have to pull up their stakes if they accepted other employment will stay there. Young men are not entering the industry; and we shall not induce them to .do so while conditions remain as at present.
– Were not men put into the John Brown coal mine at one time?
– That was done in 1929 by a government which was determined to exercise its will on the miners. At that time the miners were locked out by the owners who, in total disregard of an award of the Arbitration Court, decided to reduce their wages by 12£ per cent. The men refused: to work, but the owners had the “ whip-hand “ on that occasion. To-day if the miners revolt, they are branded as Communists or “ Bolshies and all that is bad. In 1929, when the owners locked out the regular miners, they obtained between 400 and 500 men from other States. They put them on board ships and took them to Newcastle, and put them to work in the Rothbury coal mine. That caused a total stoppage of not only the coal industry, but also other industries. Six months after the owners had finished with those men, not one of th’em remained in the mines. It co3t the Government £25,000 to rehabilitate their pits after those men had left; yet honorable senators opposite want untrained men to be put into the mines again. We moist be realistic concerning this problem. Coal is wanted, but it is useless to say that coal will be delivered where it is needed unless the miners dig it and bring’ it to the surface. It, is useless to talk in vague terms of what ought to be done. It is equa’lly useless to say that the miners are led by Communists. Those who indulge in such platitudes do not know what, they are talking about. Senator -Sampson said that the miners were led by a few Communists. I challenge him to name these Communists. I know the miners’ leaders both on the northern and southern coalfields of New South Wales and there are two or three men who owe allegiance to the Communist party. Most of the leaders owe allegiance to the Labour party, and I resent the term Communist being applied to them. The honorable senator went on to say that this small minority of Communists led the miners by the nose. That allegation has been made frequently over the years. Anybody who has had courage enough to take a stand against established customs and to fight for his fellow men has been dubbed a “.bolshie “, a Communist, or a member of the Independent Workers of the World. It is always said that the majority is led by a small minority; but that is not true. Let us consider for a moment the reasons for the introduction of this measure. In the United Kingdom the early days of the coal-mining industry provide the blackest pages of Britain’s industrial history. “Women and children were employed in the pits with total disregard for their comfort, care or safety.
– Or education.
– Yes. They were treated as animals. Mine-owners had a total disregard for their employees and since those times, there has been a feeling of resentment amongst the miners. They have resented the attitude that they are an inferior body of men, and are not entitled to the way of life that is enjoyed by other citizens in the community. In this .country, in the early days, coalmining was a task, fit only for convicts. In the City of Newcastle, for the first 40 years . the only men to work in the coal-mining industry were convicts, and coal-mining was regarded as a shameful occupation. Since then, the coal-miners have been outcasts, and we have before us to-day the very difficult task of convincing them that we regard them as citizens who are entitled to the same standard of comfort and the same consideration that is enjoyed by other members of the community. Many royal commissions have’ been appointed, to inquire into the coal-mining industry, and although each inquiry has resulted in a voluminous report, not one of these bodies recommended the solution that this bill provides, namely the creation of a new spirit between the coal-miners and those members of the community who require coal. I should like Senator Sampson to tell me in what respect this bill fails to achieve the objective desired. He and his colleagues have alleged constantly that the Government has not been firm enough in its attitude to the miners and. that it has not imposed sufficiently severe penalties for breaches of the law. They claim that there is not enough coercion in this measure; but let us have a look at the penalties that it provides. Members of the Opposition obviously have not read the bill very closely because its penalty provisions are most drastic. At the discretion of the Joint Coal Board, a man who breaks the law may be put out of the coal-mining industry for the rest of his life. That is the most severe penalty that could be imposed upon a coal-miner. Miners follow an occupation that involves isolation. They live in their own com munities, build their homes around the pits, and have no option but to work in the mines because there is no alternative employment. If a man is dismissed from the industry, there is nothing to keep him in the district. He must gather together his few sticks of furniture and leave. What more do honorable senators opposite want? Of course we could provide that a miner who broke the law could be shot, but that would not help the production of coal, and in any case, I believe that the existing penalty of banishment from the industry is just as severe. Honorable senators opposite have not contributed one worth-while suggestion to the solution of this problem, and I. feel that the Government, so far at least, has no case to answer. The Minister has explained the provision of the bill clearly, and I congratulate him upon his” speech; but there are many things to be done. I am very much afraid that this country will be without an adequate supply of coal for some time. Whereas a few years ago there were 24,000 employees in the coal-mining industry, that number has now been reduced to about 15,000, and men are continuing to leave as fast as they can find employment elsewhere. Moreover, fathers and mothers are not prepared to allow their sons to enter :the coal-mining industry. At one time mining families provided a large percentage of new recruits for the industry, but that is not so to-day. So the prospect is, that instead of securing more man-power for mines we shall be getting less and less, and it is not easy to see how the production of coal can be increased in the near future. The Government must be prepared to make this industry at least as attractive as other industries. Senator Sampson endeavoured to show -that coal-miners had all the amenities that they wanted. During the war years it was my privilege to inspect many of our munitions factories. There I ‘ saw men and women working under ideal conditions. The workshops were bright and airy, and had clean floors. If the work itself was not clean, at least the employees had facilities for keeping themselves clean. Heating was also provided, and canteens served proper meals. In short, these factories -had all the amenities that one could reasonably expect. The result was that the workers were contented. But go to the mine-fields and see what amenities are provided for the coal-miners. Senator Sampson said that they were entitled to baths. By all means let them have baths; but what else do they get? The honorable senator endeavoured to paint a picture of the miners being driven to their work on electric’ tramways; but I know pits in which men have to walk a mile or 2 miles to the coal face, through dust from six to eight inches deep, or in mud up -to their ankles, sweating, before they actually reached the location of their employment. They have to work for eight hours without seeing the sunshine or breathing fresh air, and with only the water they carry with them. At meal-times they sit down amongst the coal and litter, and eat their food from tins. Should an accident occur, the unfortunate victim has to be transported to the pit-mouth by his fellows before he can be given medical attention. When the work of the day is over, and the miners return to the surface, they are allowed to have baths ; but I suggest to Senator Sampson that if he wants the minors to remain in their industry, he must be prepared to give them more than baths. I do not ask the Opposition to accept my word for the conditions that exist in many pits. I have before me a copy of the conclusions reached by the last authority that inquired into this industry. The document states -
Mechanization of the mines to the fullest practicable extent would eliminate much of the trouble in the industry.
More attention should be paid by the owners to means of improving the surroundings and both surface and underground equipment of the pits in order to provide more comfort and to remove causes of irritation. For example, most of the pits are too drab in appearance, some of the workshops are badly lighted and encumbered with masses of accumulated rubbish. Brightness and cleanliness are pleasingin any circumstances. Some workers, also, are exposed unduly to the weather and mostly there are no suitable arrangements for having lunch in reasonable comfort. Sanitary provision underground is too often either lacking or unnecessarily crude. Care in many of these matters, and assistance generally in improving the working and living amenities of workers, can go a long way towards establishing a better foundation for the relationship of employer and employee which, unfortunately, in many centres of the coal-fields is still unhappy.
Of course it is unhappy. I have nothingagainst the mine-owners, but I believe that the men who toil in this industry day after day should share in the profits tosome degree at least. Some of the money should go back to the coal-mining towns. To-day they are barren places,- most of them, lacking even a park or a swimming pool. They provide none of the amenities that are to be found in other centres. The profits taken out ‘of the industry are expended by the owners in more pleasant places where they enjoy their lives in comfort and ideal surroundings. That is one of the things that make the coal-miners so bitter. One of the first actions of the mine-owners should be to provide for the miners and their families at least some of the amenities that are enjoyed in towns and cities throughout the Commonwealth. I could go on to tell the Senate many reasons for the resentment that is evident amongst coal-miners today. I have emphasized the case for the miners because I know that the object of the Opposition will be to direct attention to strikes and to blame the miners for all the shortcomings of the industry. Nothing will be said about stoppages caused by breakdowns, antiquated methods of haulage, dangerous conditions underground including bad timbering, and bad ventilation. All these things can be rectified with proper attention; yet they are causing stoppages daily. Day after day work is stopped because the miners’ representatives will not let the men go down because the mines are not safe. These things are conveniently forgotten. Under this measure, the Government is making its first effort to rehabilitate the industry. Of course, there are many ways in which coal can be won quickly. For instance, many pits which have been allowed to be closed down can be opened within a very short time. If men can be induced to return to the industry, greater quantities of coal can be won for the nation; but while the present conditions of industrial anarchy remain in the industry I have no confidence whatever that miners will return to it. A better spirit must be established between the miners, the coal -owners and the community as a whole. T shall instance the carelessness and neglect to which I have referred. At the North
Wallarah colliery about six months ago, the mine spread to within a few yards of an adjacent lake. The miners repeatedly asked the owners not to allow the work to approach nearer to the lake. The safety provisions provide that mining shall not be carried on within two chains of tidal waters. However, the owners continued to approach nearer to the lake until a subsidence occurred within a few yards of tidal waters. The miners then asked that the subsidence be filled in; but this was not done. Subsequently, heavy rain fell and the water ran into the pit with the result that to-day that pit, which was producing 200 tons a day of the best Bunnerong coal, is now flooded with waters which rise and fall with the tide and the coal in the pit is lost to the nation. I could give other specific instances of similar neglect. Of the rich Greta seam not more than 30 per cent, of the coal is being won. The remaining 70 per cent, of that beautiful ‘ rich coal will be lost to the nation. Resources which should be preserved for our people are being lost beyond recovery. If this policy is allowed’ to continue it will not be very long before the rich coal seams of Australia will be ruined. Then we shall be confronted with a crisis which, we shall not be able to surmount. I welcome this determined attempt by the Government under the measure to correct the evils in the industry which are of long standing. It is useless to appeal to the miners to be patriotic and supply the nation with coal. They have heard those appeals too often. The history of the industry has been one of intermittent periods of booms and of unemployment, with the men working two days a .week and then being unemployed for the rest of the week. That has been the story year after year, until to-day the miners are tired of those conditions, and are very suspicious that when we merely plead with them to work a little longer and give the nation a little more coal, the community is not interested in their conditions, but is interested only in seeing that it is supplied with coal regardless of what happens to the miners. The community does not care if the miners are “ dusted “ ; or if a man in his early thirties has his lungs eaten out with dust and, consequently, cast out of the industry to exist for the remainder of his short life on a miserable pension. No one worries about his plight. Yet honorable senators opposite say that the miners are well cared .for, that they enjoy a health scheme and a pension scheme. They say that many of the miners must have been physically unfit upon entering the industry, when in so short a time hundreds of them come out “ dusted “ and are thrown upon the industrial scrapheap. Honorable senators will realize the seriousness of the .hazard presented by “ dusting “ alone when I tell them that the cost of compensation to miners on account of incapacity is as much as 13s. a ton. It is not unusual for a young, strong vigorous man to go into the bowels of the earth, and after working for a few years, find that in the heyday of his life his lungs are becoming affected. “When he is thus stricken, what can he do ? On the coal-fields there is no other industry. The pits are his only means of earning a livelihood. A great number of miners are turned out “ dusted “ and finished before they reach their fortieth year. ‘ Yet honorable senators opposite say that the miners have an easy life, that they enjoy the. usual amenities, liberal pensions, and are well cared for generally.
I sincerely trust that the Government will implement the measure and face this problem with courage. It will not fail to do so, because I know something of the determination of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in this matter. The Government, having determined upon this course, and having ‘induced the New South Wales Government to co-operate in this approach to the problem, the miners will be given a new deal. At the same time,’ I say to the miners that, while we .recognize their disabilities and know that they work under many irritations, nevertheless, seeing that the Government is making this determined attempt to rehabilitate their industry, they will have no right to go on strike. I say emphatically to the miners that they now have a duty to the nation and to the Government, which is determined to help them. In response to that gesture, they must now assist the Government to rehabilitate their industry; and, if the Government implements this measure with determination, they will have no good cause to strike. I repeat that this is the first attempt by the Commonwealth to tackle the problems associated with the industry. It will probably be some time before the results of its efforts ave revealed, but I believe that if it implements the measure fearlessly it will really solve the problem of the industry.
– I have listened to the debate with interest. Perhaps, the closing remarks of. Senator Arnold have been the most helpful. He asked many questions which the ordinary man in the street is now asking. The ordinary citizen wants’ to know how 17,000 coal-miners can determine the way of living of nearly 7,,000,000 fellow citizens. Senator Arnold pleaded with the miners not to go on strike. He made that plea with sincerity. The ordinary man in the street asks why the miners should go on strike when a Labour government has been in office for the last five years, and why such a government has not alleviated the conditions of the miners.
– Because the Government for most of that period has been busy with its war effort.
– Let us cease this talk about our wonderful war effort.
– The honorable senator has done his share of blowing the bugle.
– I take exception to that remark. Inside, or outside, this chamber I have never spoken of what 1. did while I was a .member of the armed forces. Perhaps, if the honorable senator had done anything like I have done he would have a better realization of what it means to work and suffer alongside his fellow man. “We should cease talking about our wonderful war effort. Whatever Ave may have done we have accomplished in the interests of our country. Were we not fighting for our very existence? Has not the nation the right to demand that every citizen shall do his utmost in the defence of this country? Any one would think that none of us was obliged to do anything to defend Australian when it was threatened with invasion. Were we not all fighting for our own protection, the protection of our kith and kin, and to preserve what is best in the national interest? Surely, our country can demand sacrifices of us without giving us any reason whatever to claim credit for our efforts. We shall be wiser not to claim credit for such sacrifices. Reverting to the measure, it is clear that the production of power will determine the future of Australia. The man in the street is very worried about the present shortage of coal. The housewife also is worried, because additional burdens are thrown upon her in the household owing to the lack of power for the production of which coal is necessary. The shortage is also severely felt in our public institutions, such as hospitals. It is no pleasure to our people to have to put up with inconveniences caused by the shortage of coal. During the war, people were prepared to shoulder such sacrifices because they believed that they would thereby contribute to the nation’s war effort. But, today we are at peace. Surely we are now entitled to give under normal conditions. The people of this country ask the Government why sufficient coal is not being” produced. Are the owners to blame? If so, the Government should have taken steps long ago to discipline them. But it has failed to do sq. Working conditions in the industry are prescribed under various awards of the Arbitration Court. Have the owners broken the awards? If not, they are absolved from blame. Much has been said about the miners’ right to strike.
– What is ‘the honorable senator’s opinion about that?
– If they desire to strike, they have that privilege. I do not deny it to them. However, if they are not satisfied to work in the industry, they should step aside to make room for those who will do so. This bill will give very wide powers to the Joint Coal Board which is to be established. The board will have power to close down collieries, and will supervise the distribution of coal, a relatively unimportant’ task. It will also have power to regulate profits, to mechanize the industry, and ito provide amenities for the miners. The Commonwealth Government and the government, of New South Wales, where most of our coal mines are situated, will conclude an agreement on this subject. Much has been said about mechanization of the coal-mining industry, but I hope that the Minister for “Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will provide ms with more information on this subject than has been presented by the Government, up to the present. We have been told that the miners oppose mechanization because they believe that it will reduce employment in the industry. I fail to see the point of their objection. They complain that, they are engaged unwillingly in the industry. Therefore, any method of reducing employment in it should receive their support, because, under present economic conditions, employment is available to them in other’ industries. The proposed removal of pillars in the mines has received a great, deal of consideration. The employment of mechanical methods to win coal from the pillars should increase output considerably. The miners are said to object to this proposal. The public wants to know whether that is true, lt is claimed that mechanization increases the safety of employees. All employers have a duty to safeguard their workers against injury by every possible means. At the same time, the workers are under an obligation to protect themselves. I am not in a position to say whether or not it would be possible to obtain more coal by extensive use of the open-cut method in New South Wales. However, it is interesting to note that, although millions of tons of coal are available in open cuts in the Muswellbrook area, the Coal Commissioner, in conjunction with the Muswellbrook Coal Company Limited, has authorized production of only 1,700 tons daily. Some authorities say that this output could be increased to 4,000 tons daily, and others say that this would be futile because a bottle-neck exists in the railway yards at Muswellbrook. If the latter contention be true, there should be no difficulty in removing the bottle-neck to enable greater quantities to be produced. We have heard a great deal about appeasement of the ‘ coal-miners, and some honorable senators have referred to the dark days in Great Britain and elsewhere many years ago.
However, wo are’ concerned only with conditions as they now exist on our coalfields. Working conditions in the coal mines have been improved. We have heard tales of appeasement by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when he was Prime Minister during World War I., by Mr. Stevens and Mr. Mair during their respective terms as Premier of New South. Wales, by the late Mr. John Curtin, and by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). These men have done their best, to cure the ills of the industry. They have spared no effort. Therefore, it isobvious that the absence of peace in the industry is not due to any mishandling of its problems by our leaders. We have heard a great deal about the alleged sins of the mine-owners, but peace in the industry is essential to their prosperity, and they are as anxious as anybody else toremove unrest. Honorable senators opposite say that the chief concern of the owners is to secure profits. I do not agree with them, but, at any rate, it -must be obvious that the financial interests of the owners would best be served by removing the causes of unrest in the industry. Unless they provide the best possible conditions for the workers, they will not be able to secure satisfactory profits.
– The miner makes a profit out of his wages.
– That is so. One would think, from what honorable senators opposite have said, that the minershad not received any wages for the last five years.
– A profit out of wages!” What a statement.
– It is a statement that I wish the honorable senator would analyse. We. are all working for wages.
– Many do not earn, them.
– I agree with the Minister. Until we all earn ourwages, we shall not ha ve prosperity in the coal-mining industry or in industry generally. The people of Australia should take the Minister’s statement to heart. Let us all give service for the wages, that we receive. If honorable senators were tocease talking nonsense, face the facts, and attack the nation’s problems in a friendly spirit of co-operation, we should do a great deal to remove industrial unrest. The workers expect much from the “ terrible bosses “ of whom we have heard from honorable senators opposite. . They, too, should make a friendly gesture to the employers. When we secure friendship and co-operation between employers and employees, Australia will become a prosperous nation. This Government admits that it has attempted to secure the best possible conditions for the workers, but in return the workers have not honoured the promises which they made to the Government. I view this state of affairs with considerable misgiving because it may lead to serious trouble. However, I hope that, in this year of grace, common sense will prevail on both sides. The Government should face up to the situation and reorganize the coal-mining industry according to the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Davidson, whom it appointed as a board of inquiry. I understand that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions welcomed his appointment and that the miners’ federation also approved of it. He inquired into the industry for fourteen months, and we have his report before us. Nevertheless, not many of his recommendations have been embodied in this bill.
– Does the honorable senator know why that is so ?
– They could not he implemented because of constitutional impediments. That was why an agreement had to be made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales.
– I am sure that, if the Government stood its ground and determined to reorganize the industry on the lines suggested by Mr. Justice Davidson, the objections of the miners’ federation would not receive public support. Any action by an organization which has not the support of a. majority of the people cannot succeed. In my opinion, most Australians believe that this Government has adopted a reasonable attitude towards the miners, and has been generous to them, but that the miners have “bitten the hand that fed them”.
Therefore, the public is not behind them in their present attitude. If a general strike occurred, the community would have to face up to it. There might be chaos in industry for a while, but that would probably be the best way to overcome the present difficulty. As a result of the Government’s appeasement policy, coal production has fallen by 3,500,000 tons. The industry would be placed on a sound footing, and play its part in the national economy, if the stoppages constantly experienced were eliminated.
In 1941, when the Menzies Government was in power, it grantedcertain concessions to the industry. In January, 1942, regulation 10 under the National Security Act made it an offence for employees to refuse to work. In April of that year, regulation 168 carried an obligation to serve in the fighting forces or in the Civil Constructional Corps as a penalty. An employee in one of the collieries was called up, but after a visit to the mine by the then Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), the order was withdrawn. On the 29 th May, 1942, the Canberra Code was drawn up, but very little came of it, because many trade unions refused to nominate representatives on the pit committees which were to deal with stoppages, and the code was never incorporated in a statute. Prosecutions of several mineowners and of batches of miners, however, were launched under Statutory Rule 328 of 1942. The number of stoppages of work decreased sharply after the promulgation of that rule, but when the authorities ceased to apply it, the position reverted to what it had been previously. In May, 1943, National Security Regulation 144 was introduced, under which, if any lock-out, stoppage or strike occurred, and the Prime Minister was satisfied that there was no lawful excuse, the offender could be compelled to serve in the armed forces, or as the man-power authorities directed, but that regulation was just as ineffective as the others. The penalties inflicted under it, aggregating £1,500, were subsequently remitted by the present Government.
Over a period of years, much has been done in the interests of the coal-mining industry. We hear a great deal of the effort of the coal-miners during the war period. In 1942, although 12,500,000 tons of. coal was mined, the loss of production through stoppages and absenteeism amounted to 2,169,000 tons. In 1940, during the regime of the Menzies Government a strike lasting ten weeks, occurred, when according to the Minister, 900,000 tons of coal was lost.
– That was a continuous stoppage of from nine or ten weeks on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, when 10,000 men we’re idle.
– I am not concerned as to how many stoppages occurred at that stage, or whether the strike lasted for nine weeks or nine days. The Minister stated that in 1940 over 900,000 tons of coal were lost, and partly for that reason there is a shortage of coal at present. The Minister also said that in 1942 there were over 2,000,000 tons of coal in reserve. Since 1943 we have lost 2,100,000 tons of coal, at grass.
– Does the honorable senator allow for increased consumption?
– The point is that we have no coal reserves on hand. Under the famous man-power regulations, of which much has been claimed, the. Government, on its own admission, has not allotted the necessary men to the coal-mining industry, and therefore the industry has not delivered the coal required. Much has been said- about stoppages in the coal-mining industry in other parts of the world, but we find that the percentage of lost time in Australia is greater than in Great Britain or the United States of America.
The man in the street reads that the shares in coal-mining companies are on the market, ,and that the percentage of profit of the mine-owners is low. Why have not the miners themselves bought some of the mines and operated them? Why has not the miners’ federation purchased some of the properties in order to show to the world what the miners can do? Perhaps that would be the best way to settle the disputes between the owners and the miners. Taking into consideration the money which the miners have lost through stoppages of work, they could easily have become mine-owners. T believe that they have initiative. Could they not operate coal mines, and agree among themselves as to the industrial conditions ?
– On the cooperative principle.
– I would not care what name was given to the method of production, provided sufficient coal was forthcoming. No doubt the intentions of the Government with regard to the bill are good, but I fear that the results hoped for will not be achieved. Although the bill purports to provide means of securing and maintaining adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia, it will fail in its purpose. The further purpose of regulating and improving the coal-mining industry in New 1 South Wales is commendable. All of us should endeavour to make the conditions of employment in the mines as congenial as possible. I believe in private enterprise, and members of the Opposition are frequently charged unjustly with having the sole object of making profits. There is a far more generous approach to industrial problems from the employers’ side than ever before. I am happy to say that members of the Opposition have become more liberal-minded than in the past. Improvement of the conditions of employment in all industries is not the exclusive responsibility of any one section. It should be the duty of every person in the community. We on this side are willing to do something to bring about better conditions and we expect those opposed to us in politics also to do their part. I believe that the Government also expects something from the coal-miners. If they will not seize the opportunity presented to them by this bill to secure better conditions they will lose the support the great majority of Australian citizens. It is. not right that 17,000 men who are not prepared to obey the laws of the land should deprive the community of coal.
– I am pleased to be associated with this bill, which I regard as the first real attempt in 30 years to ensure peace in the coal-mining industry of this country. At the outset, I propose to quote the remarks of one of the foremost leaders of the coal-miners. He said -
Coal-miners operating under good conditions will, and do, get coal. Their critics often provoke strikes. If coal is to be treated as a social need and it produces a social service now is the time to do it.
I compliment Senator Arnold on his very fine speech. Because of his close association with the industry, the honorable senator is in a position to state the case well. He has done so. I have always found coal to be a black substance, but the history of coal-mining is even blacker. When coal was first discovered to be a producer of heat and light the owners of the coal set out to obtain it by the cheapest possible methods. Accordingly, they employed in their mines not only men but also women and young children. “Women with children at the breast, had to work in coal mines. “When Cade and others made an effort to have women and children removed from the mines the predecessors of honorable senators opposite let out an unholy squeal. They were supported in their protests by a sympathetic capitalist press, by bankers, and even by parsons from their pulpits. Those people claimed that any attempt to tamper with conditions in the mines would destroy the foundations of the Empire. Right down the ages, every attempt to improve the conditions of work in coal mines has met with opposition from the’ interests which honorable senators opposite represent to-day. When an effort was made to reduce the working week in mines to 60 hours, it was said that to do so would be to undermine the Empire. Every time that there has been, an attempt to shorten the working hours of miners, to improve conditions or raise wages the same wail has been heard. Senator Mattner said that he and his colleagues on the other side now approach the consideration of matters associated with the coal-mining industry in a more generous spirit than in the past. Their repentance has been long delayed, but- 1 hope that the honorable senator is right and that those who have opposed the miners in the past will change their outlook. This measure will improve working conditions in the mines and therefore, we can expect coal to be won. One great fallacy which confronts us on every hand is that coal-miners earn fabulous wages.
I have ascertained that at least 60 per cent, of the coal-miners in this country do not receive more than £7 for a- full working week of five days. Many miners receive less than that amount. Out of their earnings they have to pay- taxes and contributions to hospitals, doctors and ambulance funds, insurance and funeral benefits premiums, and 7s. 6d. a week to a pensions fund from which they receive no benefit unless they live till they are 60 years old. Even the miners’ old-age pension is included in the pension fund of his own creation. Senator Arnold said that the compensation paid to miners for injuries was greater than the wages bill for operatives. In doing so, he quoted from Mr. Justice Davidson’s report. I have never been down a mine,, and I have no wish to do so, because I have seen too much of the effect of underground works. I have, worked on the surface of mines, and I have seen men come up from below. I have also seen pit ponies brought to the surface, and I am convinced that conditions underground are not attractive. Men who spend their lives in coal mines view life from a different angle from that of people working above ground, and we must make allowance for them. Honorable senators may not know that coal is produced more cheaply in New South Wales than <in any other country, and that the output for each miner is also greater in Australia, than ‘anywhere else. Senator A. J. Eraser spoke of lawns at coal mines, but I confess that I have not noticed them. I have seen baths at mines, and I believe that they are necessary, because if men who come up from the bowels of the earth covered with coal dust did not have a bath before leaving the property of the coal-owners, they would be in danger of being apprehended by a- policeman for stealing coal. I have seen men come to the surface at coal mines in the south coast district of New South Wales covered with dust, and I have realized that much coal dust has also gone down their throats, to the detriment of their respirator .organs. I can understand why so many miners contract miners’ phthisis. Death from miners’ phthisis is a terrible experience. When a. man gets “ dusted “ he suffers from slow suffocation up to a certain point, when his struggles enable him to inhale some fresh air. . That gives him new hope and some fresh vigor, and he believe that he has been given a new lease of life. I was greatly impressed by a story that 1 read in which the writer,, himself a miner, described the agony suffered by a miner who was “ dusted “. He concluded his story with these words - “ I have just been informed by my doctor that I am “ dusted “. Honorable senators can imagine his state of mind when he heard the doctor’s verdict.
– We have not heard the story yet.
– The honorable senator can. read it in last Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph. Senator Mattner referred to the strike which occurred in the coal mines of New South Wales in 1940. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did nothing, to bring about a settlement but, instead, allowed a strike to take place. The strike lasted for almost ten weeks, and coal reserves amounting to 900,000 tons were lost. That placed the coal-miners in a much stronger position than they had ever been in before. The Menzies Administration, instead of assisting industry, defeated its own ends. The miners, who had always insisted that nobody cared for them, and that they were only pariahs in the community, found themselves in box seats for the first time, lt was only natural that people in that frame of mind should use the power that they found available to them. I do not say that I .agree with everything that the coal-miners have done, but we must all agree that their attitude was quite natural. They have taken advantage of their new power in the community to enforce better conditions in the industry. We can understand,, therefore, why one of the miners leaders has said -
If coal is to bc treated as a social need, and it? producers as civil servants, now is the time to do it.
L believe that this Government is in a much better position “ to-day than any government has been during the last twenty years in regard to the coal-mining industry. At least the miners are prepared to regard our efforts as being sincere, and, having got that idea into their heads, they will produce coal. I am sure that this legislation will make a great difference to the industry. On the ‘other hand, the methods recommended by some honorable senators opposite to increase the production of coal would not produce v’ery satisfactory results. Senator Sampson said that unionism could be saved- from collapse only by the introduction of men to the coal mines who would accept the pay and conditions obtaining in the coalmining industry and obey the law. I am afraid that that method of tackling the problem would not get very far, nor. would it result in the production of more coal. I was disappointed’, and even disgusted, to hear that suggestion made in this chamber. Speaking of the appeasement policy pursued by the right honorable member for Nor.th Sydney (Mr. Hughes), Mr. Stevens, Mr. Mair and now the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), Senator Mattner asked why it was that miners went on strike more during the regime of Labour governments. The answer, of course, is that . coal-miners strike against unfair conditions, regardless of what government happens to be in power. To show how heinous is the crime of the miners in striking, Senator Mattner mentioned the inconveniences suffered by invalids during the recent “blackouts “ in Sydney. He referred particularly to patients in hospitals. Two months ago I was in hospital.
– And we are all pleased to see the honorable senator back.
– I thank the honorable senator, and I assure him that 1 appreciate the spirit in which my return to this chamber has been received. I was in hospital when the “ black-outs “ occurred. I have since learned that they were quite unnecessary. Strangely enough they occurred at the most inconvenient times during the day. Usually, I was either in the middle of a meal or about to start a meal when lighting was cut off, and, together with other patients, I just had to wait until the power was restored. On occasions when the delay was long, candles and hurricane lanterns were substituted. The “blackouts” were quite unnecessary, because there were several thousand tons of coal on sidings at Lithgow, but the Bunnerong authorities instructed that it be left there, although its delivery to the power house would have obviated the necessity to “ black out” portions of the City of. Sydney. ,
One. of the bug bears of honorable senators opposite is that this measure comes close to nationalization; but what is wrong with that? I believe that nationalization would cure most of the ills affecting the coal-mining industry to-day. If the mines were nationalized, it would be possible to improve working conditions to a degree that is impossible to-day because of the cost. However, [ believe that the ultimate solution of the problems of the coal-mining industry lies in the implementation of the Ramsay scheme of underground gasification. This involves the .lighting of controlled fires in the coal seams. All the by-products of coal can be utilized, including even the ashes, if plant is installed to bring them to the surface. At present, we are losing 25 to 30 per cent, of the coal in our mines because of the need to retain huge pillars and faces to prevent subsidence. Under the Ramsay method, all of this could be burned out. The adoption of this method would necessitate the introduction of certain types of machinery, and would entail an expenditure of some millions of pounds. I cannot imagine the mine-owners being prepared to undertake this expense. I am firmly of the opinion that the much reviled system of nationalization will have to be applied to the coal-mining industry before we can solve finally the problems that, are associated with it to-day. Coal mining is a dying industry. The miners themselves know that, and they are getting out of it as quickly as possible. For the information of Senator Mattner, I point out that there are left in this industry to-day, not 17,000 men as he stated, but little more than 15,000, because, during the last twelve months, between 1,500 .and 1,700 have left the mines for more congenial jobs. During the last 18 to 20 years, more than 7,000 men have gone out of the coalmining industry. The motive power of world industry is changing, and the miners know that with the wider use of other fuels, fewer men will be required to produce coal. They accept that at inevitable, and are retiring gracefully from the industry to seek occupations elsewhere.
I believe that the arguments of honorable senators opposite against this measure have been dealt with adequately. The bill is a genuine attempt to tackle miners’ problems; to get close to the miners, and to improve their social lot as well as their working conditions. 1 have reason to believe that the miners are responding as they have never responded before, and I am sure that this measure will have the effect upon the coal-mining industry that .this Government intends that it should have.
Debate (on motion by Senator James McLac.hi.an) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
Industrial Disputes in South Australia.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a serious problem that has arisen in South Australia. I was unable to see the’ Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to-day because he was exceptionally busy with other matters in the House of Representatives. Recently, in South Australia, there was a very serious dispute in the motor-body building industry that could have assumed large dimensions. It was caused by the fact that one firm in South Australia was in the habit of employing staff men to do work Ordinarily performed by workmen in the factory. Twelve months ago, exception was taken to this practice, because the men believed that the staff employees had been appointed, to do supervisory work, and should not be doing the work ordinarily performed by tradesmen and other semi-skilled employees. The company, of course, asserted its right to employ whoever it liked on that work. I am pleased to be able to report to the Senate that the dispute has now been settled satisfactorily between the Disputes Committee and the company. To-day I have received a communication from the union concerned asking me to direct the attention of the Government to a matter which it fears will have serious repercussions unless some action be taken. A number of the employees ofRichards industries Limited resigned in accordance with the terms of the award, giving the necessary notice, and were about to be employed by General Motors-Holdens Limited. The secretary of the union was advised later by General Motors-Holdens Limited that as these men were employed by Richards Industries Limited just prior to the dispute, they must decline to employ any of them. A number of smaller firms adopted the same attitude towards these men. Had the dispute continued, the men who resigned from Richards Industries Limited would not have been able to obtain employment, and, consequently, would have been obliged to apply for unemployment relief. I have been asked by the union concerned to inquire whether the Government cannot do something in order to prevent a recurrence of that kind of thing, because otherwise very serious industrial trouble may arise in the future. The request made by the union’s secretary was as follows: -
I trust that you will take this matter up with the Government either by question in the House or other means, with the object of ascertaining what power the Government hag to stop such a. matter happening again and drawing the attention of the two firms concerned to the matter, advising them of the Government’s intentions should it happen again. Should the Government have no power over such occurrences will the referendum proposals give the power to the Government to stop is the future a repetition of the refusal by General Motors-Holdens Limited to employ labour employed by the Richards Industries Limited.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and to advise me later whether the Government now possesses power to prevent a repetition of the occurrence so that I can inform the union accordingly.
– I shall bring to the notice of theMinister for Labour and’ National Service the matter raised by Senator Finlay.
Question resolved in the affirmative:
The following paper was presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Canberra University College - Report for 1945.
Senate adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460807_senate_17_188/>.