18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers
– In the event of the Senate adjourning this week for a short period, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping arrange for the information sought in questions on notice to be forwarded to honorable senators instead of’ being retained until the Senate re-assembles- after Easter ?
– I shall advise Ministers to forward to the honorable senators’ concerned, information obtained in reply to questions on. notice.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.When will the Minister for Supply and Shipping be able . to inform the Senate of the date when the resumption of the interstate shipping service between Sydney and Fremantle can ‘be expected ? 1 If he is unable to give such information at this juncture, will he supply it to the Senate at a Inter hour of the day?
– All honorable senators are aware of the interruption caused to shipping by the strike on the waterfront in Sydney; and honorable senators opposite have urged that following the settlement of that strike, priority should be given to the unloading of foodstuffs on vessels tied up in that port. Ordinary interstate shipping services will be resumed when that work is completed.
Victorian, South Australian ‘ and Tasmania!* Supplies
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what success has been achieved as the result of. the Government’s decision to* operate a weight and grade system as a basis, of settlement of the dispute between the Government And .the meat vendors in Victoria?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– With relation to the meat shortage in Melbourne and in Adelaide. is it not a fact that the present dispute is one between the graziers on the one hand and wholesale butchers on the other, and that the Government intervened in order to ensure that the graziers should receive ceiling prices for their stock and consumers should be enabled to purchase meat at the fixed retail prices?
– The honorable senator has a fairly good grasp of the situation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the graziers are prepared to accept the ceiling prices that have been fixed for their stock. Is it also a fact that the butchers have decided to appraise stock at their own valuation as one man? Does the Minister blame the producers for not sending their stock to market to be appraised by one man at values below the ceiling rates?
– I shall direct the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and supply him with an answer in due course.
– Is the Minister aware that trouble in the meat industry, similar to that which has been experienced in Victoria for some weeks, is now occurring in South Australia, particularly in the metropolitan district, and, if so, can he say whether the man responsible is the same person who is assessing meat prices in Victoria for the master butchers? Further, can he give to the Senate an indication of the steps taken by the Government to overcome the impasse between the suppliers of stock and the butchers ?
– I shall not answer the honorable senator’s question at length, but I assure him that the provision of adequate supplies of meat to the people is being thoroughly examined by all of the appropriate authorities and every’ endeavour is being made to overcome the difficulties. Probably the major difficulty arises from adverse seasonal conditions which have caused a shortage of supplies of stock. I am hopeful that in the flush season disputes like the present dispute will become things of the past.
– In view of the request -made by the Premier of Tasmania to the Commonwealth, following a conference in Tasmania representative of the butchers, stock-raisers and the Government of that State, that all restrictions in respect of the meat trade, including prices control and rationing, be removed, what steps, if any, has the Government taken to give effect to the unanimous wish of the people of Tasmania?
– I have received no information concerning the result of the conference to which the honorable senator refers. The position in the meat industry in Tasmania has been under review for some time. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– As the cost of building homes, is now so high and interest payments on housing loans- constitute so large a proportion of weekly repayments by home builders, I ask theMinister for Supply and Shipping whether the Government can do anything to provide loans for home building at reduced rates of interest?
– The Minister for Works and Housing has already brought to the notice of the States the high cost of home construction. I shall bring to the attention of the Treasurer the honorable ‘senator’s request that interest rates on housing loans -be reduced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister forWorks and Housing has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. The position has been discussed with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and a statement will be prepared by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner setting out the changes in costs of important building materials since the outbreak of war with a short summary of the reason for the increases.
– In view of persistent press rumours of a possible shortage of sugar in this country, will the Minister for Trade and Customs make a comprehensive statement on the matter as early as possible, and give an assurance that adequate steps are being taken to ensure the availability of sufficient sugar to meet our domestic requirements and to permit of the export of the largest possible quantity to our kith and kin in the old country?
SenatorCOURTICE. - I shall be very happy to accede to the honorable senator’s request.
– by leave - Last weekend a newspaper version of two paragraphs of the Auditor General’s Report for the year 1945-46, which was tabled in the Parliament last Friday, gave a somewhat inaccurate impression of certain contracts made during the war by the Department of Aircraft Production. To correct this impression I point out that the war-time contracts of the Department of Aircraft Production were arranged with proper authority and that the financial transactions were carried out in accordance with Treasury procedure. The winding up of the extensive war-time contracts of the Department of Aircraft Production is a matter to which unremitting attention is being given by officers of the Aircraft Production Division of the Department of Munitions, which now incorporates the Department of Aircraft Production.
The first allegation in the newspaper statement is that “ the extent to which advances totalling £14,375,000 and materials from overseas sources valued at £1,790,000 have been utilized for the purposes of production is not recorded in the departmental accounts “. The contractor in this case is Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. The reply to this allegation is that details of advances of both cash and materials are segregated in the departmental records against each individual major contract, and that these advances are being adjusted as final costs of the respective projects become available. The contracts between the Commonwealth and this company were subject to review by a special committee that was appointed by the Treasurer during the war. The committee recommended the project margin and the financial bases of these contracts, and the recommendation was approved by the Treasury. The committee, which consisted of the then Director of Finance of the Department of Munitions, the Director of Finance of the Department of Aircraft Production, and a representative of the Treasury, appointed an officer who was then employed by the Defence Division of the Treasury to make a special investigation of the financial accounts of the company. As a Treasury officer, he completed his investigations in respect of the war years ended the 30th September, 1943, and, after he had returned to private practice as a chartered accountant, he was retained by the department to make a. similar investigation in respect of the two years ended the 30th September, 1945. In view of his special knowledge, it is proposed again to retain this officer to make a similar investigation in respect of the financial year ended the 30th September, 1946, the accounts for which will be available shortly. It should be noted that the last report of this officer was completed since the 30th June, 1946, that is, after the completion of the Auditor General’s Report.
The second newspaper allegation is that “ another contractor was supplied with materials valued at £7,375,000., and with advances totalling £9,800,000, although formal agreements between the Commonwealth and the company had not been completed “. This refers to the contract allotted to De Haviland Aircraft Proprietary Limited, of Sydney, for the manufacture of the” Mosquito aircraft. The financial accounts of this company are subject to continuous cost investigation by departmental officers - both technical and finance - and this investigation lias fully covered the company’s project since its inception. It is true that a formal agreement was not completed during the war period in respect of the Mosquito aircraft contract, but the project was covered contractually between the Commonwealth and the company in the form of an exchange of letters and formal orders. The negotiations preparatory to the completion of a formal agreement, which in the circumstances was not an urgent matter, extended over a long period and, in fact, these negotiations have just been completed. All points at issue have been determined and the company has recently indicated that it is prepared to sign an agreement along the lines of a draft which has formed the basis of the discussions with it. The statement that “the basis for subcontracting under this major contract had been determined and that departmental cost investigation was proceeding in regard to sub-contractors’’ accounts “ is merely a statement of fact, as also is the statement that the project allotted ,to the De Havilland Company, which originally was for the production of 370 aircraft, was, with the termination of the war, reduced to a total of 209. This contract will not be completed at the present reduced rate of production until June, 1948. The final costs of these large and complex contracts can not be determined until the projects have been completed and actual costs of materials and equipment supplied from overseas become available. The department has found it necessary to charge out “ on consignment “ large quantities of ‘materials and equipment at estimated prices pending the receipt of actual .costs from the
British Air Ministry, by which the overseas supplies were arranged. In conclusion, I assure the Senate that full and complete records of all the transactions of this division have been properly maintained as required by the Treasury, and whilst there have been delays in some cases in effecting adjustments as between the departmental books and the contractors’ accounts, such delays are unavoidable because of factors beyond the control of the department.
News Service of Australian Broadcasting Commission : (Statement .by Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “.
– Yesterday Senator Amour made a statement by leave, in the course of which he asked me a question with regard to the banning of the reporter responsible for a recent article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph,* or any other member of .the staff of that newspaper., from the precincts of the Parliament. Senator Amour claimed that the Daily Telegraph had distorted facts ki a report which it published concerning the establishment by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of an independent news service. The matter arose from a report of evidence given before the Broadcasting Committee. Senator Amour claimed that the committee, having been appointed by statute, has the same rights, privileges and immunities as the Parliament. I did not answer his question at the time, because I wished to consider the matter before making a statement.
Both the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph, have published -matter on several occasions “which has incurred the condemnation of members of the Commonwealth Parliament and of the present Parliament.
– The Daily ‘Telegraph is not the only newspaper which does that.
– Apparently the Daily Telegraph has erred more than any other newspaper. In 1942, its representatives ° were excluded from the Senate, the King’s Hall, the Library and, I believe, the bar. On that occasion, as Hansard of .the 2nd June, 1942, shows, the then President, Senator Cunningham, said that that journal had published an article which - contained a number of statements concerning the Senn te and its members which could only be construed as a deliberate attempt by the newspaper in question to discredit the Senate in the opinion of the people and to bring it into contempt. The article also contained offensive and scurrilous personal attacks on various members of the Senate.
Later, a statement was made on behalf of the newspaper, and its representatives were again allowed to come within the precincts of the Parliament. On the 27th September, 1945, Senators Amour and Lamp asked me whether I would consider the expulsion from the precincts of the Parliament of this newspaper’s representatives. On that occasion the Daily Telegraph had published an article which Senator Amour said referred to the Parliament with contempt. On that occasion I did not take action, except to address the Senate for about twenty minutes, giving my personal views as to the freedom of the press. I speak from a personal point of view w now, and repeal what I said then.
Personally, I do not care what the Daily Telegraph says about the Parliament, or what it has said on several occasions about myself; but, as President of this Senate, I have to take action if there is gross contempt of the Parliament. E believe in freedom of speech, even in the freedom that is exercised by the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. At the same time, I deplore the fact that by their conduct they are lowering the prestige of the press in the eyes of the people. There was a time when people would say with regard to a matter : “ It is true, “because I read it in the press “. The attitude towards the press to-day has changed entirely, and many people say : “ Oh, that is only a press statement “. It seems to me that the Daily Telegraph would be well advised to be more careful in the presentation of its reports. It is possible for newspapers to publish the truth, but by failing tq publish necessary qualifications to give a wrong impression.
What I am now about to mention is nothing more than a minor matter concerning myself. I appointed my daughter as my secretary, and I make no apology for having done so. She is now a student at the University. On two occasions the Daily Telegraph referred to that appointment and placed in brackets the words, “Position not advertised “. I realize that that is not a world-shattering matter. It is merely something of a minor nature, but it shows what a newspaper can do. The position of confidential secretary to a Minister is never advertised. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have the same rights in this matter as have Ministers. I am well satisfied with the appointment that I made; but I deplore the dirty way in which these statements are published and the attempt to create a wrong impression. The Daily Telegraph would have the public believe that I have acted in an underhand way. Indeed, that impression has been created in different parts of the Commonwealth. Prior to the recent elections in South Australia I received a letter from a branch of the Australian Labour party asking if it was true that I had appointed a secretary without calling for applications for the position, and whether other statements which were in circulation concerning members of Parliament were, true, also. I replied that I had appointed a secretary without calling for applications, and I added that I made no apology for having done so. The only purpose of placing in brackets the words “ Position not advertised “ is to mislead the public. It may interest some members of the public to know that a confidential secretary to a Minister loses his position when the Minister goes out of office.
I recollect a speech made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) in Brisbane a year or two ago. In one newspaper his speech was reported with a number of omissions, but every word that was published had, in fact, been uttered by the honorable member. No complaint could, therefore, be made that he had been reported incorrectly, but by leaving out certain words, that newspaper was able to place an entirely different construction on what he said. Newspapers can do these things, and at times they do them. It is to be regretted that some sections of the press seem to regard members of Parliament as fair game for this kind of thing. I do not accuse all newspapers of such tactics. Indeed, a few weeks ago a leading pressman came to me, following a newspaper report which was derogatory to nae, and apologized, saying that 95 per cent, of the members of the press gallery in this Parliament did not agree with that paragraph, or with others that had been published with the object of belittling me. I know the reason for those paragraphs ; they were the outcome of certain action taken by Mr. Speaker and myself. I shall not go into that matter, except to say that they were written deliberately by some one who resented that action. I can afford to laugh at these things, but I do say that representatives of the press are descending to low levels indeed when they adopt such an attitude. I could refer to another report of such a nature that could have been written only by a man full of bitterness and envy, but I shall not say more on that subject. Some honorable senators know what I am referring to.
In regard to the request of Senator Amour that representatives of the Daily Telegraph be excluded from this building, I cannot see my way to refuse them the right to enter it. The case in which President Cunningham was involved was a deliberate attempt, and he said at the time, to bring discredit on the Senate. The attack was personal and scurrilous and, in my opinion, President Cunningham took the right action ; but on this occasion it is difficult to say whether the Daily Telegraph deliberately distorted what was said. I do not know whether that newspaper deliberately set out to mislead the public or whether a mistake was made, but judging by what it has published in the past, I am inclined to agree with .Senator Amour. In to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph its publishers have been fair enough to print a report of Senator Amour’s speech yesterday, and also a statement by me in relation to the Parliamentary Refreshment-rooms, but iti reporting Senator Amonr’a remarks, in which he said that the gathering of news by the Australian Broadcasting Com-, mission would cost the Australian taxpayer about a id. a month, that newspaper gave the amount as ls. 2d. Whether that was done deliberately, or was merely a typographical error, I do not know. The Sydney Morning Herald, which is more fair, gave the amount as a id.
I repeat now what I said to the Daily Telegraph in September, 1945: I ask it to be fair. As the custodian of the rights of the Senate I have been fair to the press. I have never sought publicity in any way, and I have always tried to do niv best for representatives of the press, and to treat them well. In. no other Parliament in the world are the representatives of the press treated as well as they are here. They have access to practically every part of the building, including the Refreshment-rooms, where they are charged for meals the same as members of Parliament, notwithstanding that the cost of the meals provided exceeds the charge. Representatives of the press have their own rooms and their own bar, and in every way they are treated with consideration. I am glad to say that most of the pressmen here realize that they have been treated fairly. On one occasion representatives of the Daily Telegraph in the press gallery had to take action against the editor of their newspaper, and he was fined by the Australian Journalists Association for a broach of its ethical code. I hope that in future the Daily Telegraph will act fairly in reporting the proceedings of the Parliament.
– In view of press reports that South Africa intends to abolish rationing entirely, will the Government review the rationing of foodstuffs, textiles and other commodities with a view to following South Africa’s example?
– Whilst the abolition of rationing is a matter for decision by the Cabinet, I can confidently say that the Government has no intention for the present of abolishing rationing in any general way. The Government recognizes its obligation to do everything within its power to supply Great Britain’s needs of fat, meat, butter and other primary products, and it will endeavour to honour that obligation by maintaining the present system of rationing, or by any other means which will help it to achieve that purpose.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1. (a) What was the net amount of profit revealed when closing down the canteen (or equivalent) services of the forces for the war of 1930-45; (J) what proportions of this amount were credited to (i) the Navy, (ii) the Army, (iii) the Air Force?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) The net profits as shown in the last audited balance-sheets of the Canteen Control Hoards are as follows: - Australian Army Canteens Service as at 31st December, 1945, £2,(i20,SS9; Royal Australian Air Force Canteens as at 31st March, 1940, £009,050. Both canteen services are still in operation. (6) No proportions of these amounts have been credited to the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
With reference to page 2283 of Ilansard, No. 12, of the 10th July, 1940-
Did the then Minister for Repatriation state that the Repatriation Commission had, with his concurrence, appointed a special advisory committee “to examine the existing medical set-up of the Repatriation Commission throughout Australia; to consider fully all facts and factors affecting proper medical care and treatment of all members of the forces suffering physically or mentally as a result of their war service, and as a result of its investigations and deliberations to advise as to the future policy, organization and administration of the medical services of the Repatriation Commission with a view to ensuring the best and most efficient medical services and also to ensure, as far as possible, that exservicemen in the medical care of the Repatriation Commission have the benefit of the latest advances in medicine, surgery and medical rehabilitation “?
Has the special advisory committee completed its investigations and presented a report ?
If so, will that report be laid before Parliament; if not, why not?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
– by leave - read a copy of the Financial Statement made in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the previous day (vide page 1.113), laid on the table the following paper : -
Financial Statement bv the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer, and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 25th March (vide page 1076), on motion by Senator Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland) [4.3J. - This bill is to approve the ratification on behalf of Australia of the convention on international civil aviation which was concluded at Chicago on the 7th December, 1944. Australia is already a party to the convention, because it was necessary for Cabinet to ratify the agreement before the 1st March of this year in order that Australia should he an original signatory to the convention. The bill has now come before Parliament so that Parliament may, in effect, ratify what Cabinet has done. Because of the immense developments in aviation during the recent world war it was necessary to revise the provisions of the Paris Convention of 1919 and the Havana Convention of 1928. When the Paris Convention was drafted one might say that aviation was merely being tried out. At that time we thought the aeroplane had been greatly improved in efficiency during the first world Avar, but in the light of what we havewitnessed since,we now realize that developments in aviation had scarcely begun. Australia has played its part in this remarkable progress, and it is vitally necessary in the interest of the defence of this country that we should continue in the forefront of aerial development, particularly in view of its vast distances and small, scattered population. To-day Australia is only a few days’ aerial journey from any country in the world. During the recent war aircraft proved of immense value to the security of Australia, both in defending its long coastline and in attack, and honorable senators remember that Australia was used as the main base for the aerial assault on Japanese occupied countries in the southern Pacific. It is obvious that aviation will continue to play an important part in the defence of Australia. With regard to civil aviation, it is clear that the Government is much more interested than it was in the past. TransAustralia Airlines was established by the Government and is completely under its control. The Government has gone further and made an agreement with the old aerial pioneering firm of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, under which it becomes a partner in that undertaking. I mention these two examples merely to show that there are opportunities for the Government to employ some of the many distinguished flyingmen who have served this country so well. Some of them had proved themselves as flyers and as administrators prior to 1939, whilst others rendered distinguished service during the last war. I suggest that the Government should make a special effort to obtain the services of these men, either in its own company or in Qantas Empire Airways Limited, where it can exercise its prerogative to secure their appointment. Unfortunately, up to the present a number of the appointees have had no previous experience in aviation.
I am in complete agreement with the principal provisions of this measure and I believe they are necessary to put international aviation on a sound basis. Because modern aeroplanes can fly in a few hours or days from one country to another it is absolutely essential that there should be unanimity of conditions and regulations in all parts of theworld. I commend the measure to the favourable consideration of honorable senators.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria) [4.13].- This bill is commend ably brief,but at the same time quite a lot has been left unsaid. I had occasion to make the same criticism of the bill to implement the Bretton Woods Agreement. In both measures far too much latitude has been left to the respective authorities. As an example of what I mean I quote from clause 5 of the bill, which reads -
After section four of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 5. The GovernorGeneral may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the Chicago Convention and the provisions of any amendment of the Chicago Convention made under Article ninety four thereof and for the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation - (a)in relation to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States ;
in relation to the Naval and Military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States;
in relation to postal and other like services ;
within any Territory of the Common wealth;
within any State the Parliament of which has referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth the matter of the control of air navigation within that State; and
for carrying out and giving effect to any other international convention or agreement relating to air navigation to which Australia is or becomes a party.”
I should like that to be explained. Does it mean that the Government can prohibit any private aviation company from carrying goods between states, or between Australia and other countries ? In its present form the clause gives that power to the Government, and establishes the right to set up a government monopoly. Under this clause Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, or any other aviation company, could be debarred from carrying mails, parcels or goods. I should like to know whether that is the Government’s intention. If not, is the Minister prepared to give an undertaking that the Government will preserve freedom of trade, and will not seek to establish for itself a monopoly over air transport?
Paragraph / provides that regulations may be made - for carrying out and giving effect to any other international convention or agreement relating to air navigation to which Australia is or becomes a party.
Under that provision it would not be necessary for the Parliament to be consulted in future about any aspect of air travel or air carriage. Surely that is going too far. It savours too much of Hitler’s gestapo. In effect, it enables the Government to say, “ The Government is superior to the Parliament and can take power to itself to do anything it likes in relation to air travel, or the carriage of goods by air. “ Under the legislation introduced by this Government the Parliament is gradually being robbed of its powers. The control of the business of the country is being taken from the Parliament and vested in other authorities.
– I assume that regulations made under this legislation will be subject to the usual review by the Parliament. That means that unless a motion disallowing them is agreed to within a certain specified period the regulations become effective. In the event of the Parliament being in recess for several weeks, or for several months, the regulations remain in force without the Parliament having an opportunity to disallow them. The bill empowers the Minister to control trade between the States and between Australia and other countries, and to decide whether any aviation company shall be allowed to carry freight. That is a dangerous power to vest in any Minister. It will probably lead to favoritism; the company which first gets the ear of a Minister will be in a most favoured position. It would appear that the Government desires to have in its own hands the control of all carriage of goods by air, and it may be all air passenger traffic also. I recognize the need for stringent regulations in respect of safe air traffic, but I am not convinced that air travel is yet as safe as some would have us believe.
– Does the honorable senator favor the appointment of an all-party committee to deal with subordinate legislation by regulation?
– I am prepared to support such a proposal, but I am confident that the Government would not agree to any system of two-party control. This measure leaves all power in the hands of the Minister. I object to any’ Minister having the power to ruin any company which disagrees with him. I object also to the insidious way in which Parliament is being robbed of its powers. Much e-f the legislation brought before the Parliament during the regime of the present Government is not so innocent as it looks. When I find that the deliberations of the Senate are cut short, as happened in connexion with the Bretton Woods Agreement-
– That is not true.
– It is true. The honorable senator knows that the secondreading debate on the International Monetary Agreements Bill followed immediately on the Minister’s secondreading speech, thereby denying to honorable senators generally an opportunity to consider the Minister’s remarks.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping made it clear that he was prepared to allow n full discussion of the bill.
– What has that to do with it? The honorable senator says that I am not speaking the truth when I say that honorable senators were not given an opportunity to study the Minister’s second speech before being called upon to discuss the bill.
– The honorable senator’s leader did not ask for an adjournment.
– Again I ask what has that to do with it? I repeat that as the Minister’s second-reading speech was followed immediately by a general debate, honorable senators did not have an opportunity to consider what the Minister had said.
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– The implications of this apparently innocent measure are not evident at first glance, but the more we consider the bill the more justification there is for giving close attention to every clause. I conclude by sounding a warning against the tendency to pass legislation authorizing the making of regulations under which the Parliament is robbed of its powers.
. - Whilst I do not oppose the bill, I take this opportunity to address myself to the general principle which has been dealt with by Senator Leckie. I believe that, in the future, governments will resort still more frequently to the practice followed in the past of submitting agreements of this kind merely for the Parliament’s ratification, whilst, at the same time, the Parliament as a whole is not given a timely opportunity to express its views upon the subject-matter of such agreements. When an agreement is submitted to Parliament for ratification, we can either ratify or reject it, but we cannot alter it, even should it be shown, as the result of debate, to be likely to prove irksome, or suggestions be made to improve it in our own interest. Under the procedure now followed, an agreement of this kind can be altered only by resubmitting it to a conference of representatives of those countries which drafted it. I believe that we can best serve the interests of our own country by giving to the Parliament an opportunity to debate subject-matters about to be submitted to international conferences. We should thus ascertain in advance the views of the Parliament as a whole, and the Minister appointed to represent the Government at such conferences would be better equipped to safeguard Australia’s interests. In the past, certain agreement? emerging from international conferences have not met with the wishes of either the Parliament as a whole or our people. Although the Opposition cannot force its will upon the Parliament, it can render considerable assistance to the Government in its responsibility to deal thoroughly with every aspect of a matter in respect of which an international agreement is about to be considered. Under the existing system, however, the Parliament is not consulted beforehand; it is automatically obliged to ratify any agreement which the Government accepts. A change of Government may occur after a convention has been entered into at an international conference. It is significant that we do not follow this procedure in dealing with legislation of a domestic nature. I fail to see any reason why we should follow a different course in dealing with legislation involving international agreements.
Senator Leckie also dealt with the implementation of international agreements by regulation. All of us appear to be too apt to accept the principle of legislation by regulation; but, having the power’ by regulation to make good any omission from a measure, the Government is content to submit to Parliament what might be described as skeleton bills. The danger of this tendency to legislate by regulation was dealt with fully by Lord Hewart in his book The New Despotism. All measures submitted to Parliament should, as far as possible, cover all aspects of the problems with which they deal. However, governments find it all too easy to make good the defects of statutes by passing regulations, and I regret that that system seems to be encouraged by heads of government departments. The danger of such a practice is emphasized by the number of cases in which it has been shown that regulations have not been consistent with the relevant statute, or have been practically on the border-line. Before the Government’s representative leaves this country to attend conferences to consider international agreements, every opportunity should be given to the Parliament to discuss the subject matter of such conferences. That could be done, if necessary, by submitting such matters, even informally, to a joint session of honorable members and honorable senators. In that way the mind of Parliament as a whole would be clearly expressed, and, subsequently, the Parliament would be better enabled to see to what degree international agreements submitted to it for ratification really meet its wishes.
– It is extraordinary that whilst the Opposition did not oppose the ratification of the Bretton “Woods Agreement yesterday, Senator Leckie and Senator Hays should oppose the agreement embodied in this bill, because, under the Bretton “Woods Agreement, Australia hands over certain powers to an international body whereas under this agreement it will retain a full measure of control of the activities concerned. Senator Leckie went so far as to liken the Government’s procedure in submitting this agreement for ratification to Gestapo methods. Whereas, yesterday, he supported the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement, he opposes the ratification of this agreement, which is of less importance. He objected to the provision in thus measure empowering the Government to make regulations dealing with its subject-matter.
– When we agreed to the Bretton Woods Agreement we ratified something which was set out in black and white; but that is not the case in this instance.
– By ratifying the Bretton Woods Agreement, Parliament surrendered certain powers to an international body, and the Opposition did not object; but honorable senators opposite now make a tremendous fuss about ratifying an agreement under which the Government will retain full control of the activities covered by the agreement. If this agreement is all wrong in Senator Leckie’s view, how can he say that the Bretton Woods Agreement was all right? Honorable senators opposite complain that we must either accept, or reject, the agreement but can not amend it. It must be obvious that once an agreement has been made only the parties to it can alter it.
– The Parliament cannot alter an agreement.
– No, but it can reject an agreement just as it can reject regulations. Any regulation that is issued under Commonwealth legislation may be disallowed by either House of the Parliament. If an honorable senator has an objection to a regulation, he may take the matter up with the appropriate Minister, and, if he is still not satisfied, he may move in the Senate for the disallowance of the regulation, but, so far as I am aware, few motions for the disallowance of regulations have been made in this Parliament during the last five or six years. Senator Leckie’s argument is based on entirely false premises.
– What chance will the Opposition have of moving for the disallowance of regulations in this chamber after the 30th June next?
– I shall be sorry to see Senator Leckie depart from this chamber upon the expiration of hig term of office in June of this year. I shall miss his pleasing countenance, and, of course, his repartee in debate. I confess that sometimes I succumb to the temptation to transgress the Standing Orders by interjecting while the honorable senator is speaking, just to hear hia replies. I have been giving some thought to the matter of regulations for some time, although not for the same reason as that which prompted Senator Leckie’s interest in it. In the South Australian Parliament, there is a committee known as the Subordinate Legislation Committee, which examines all regulations issued under the statutes of that State. That is a lead that could well be followed, in this Parliament.
– But the duty of that committee is only to ensure that regulations shall be within the bounds of the legislation under which they are issued?
– No. It has to investigate two distinct questions : The first is whether a. regulation comes within the ambit of the act under which it was issued, and the second is whether the regulation is necessary for the implementation of that act. Senator Leckie’s objection, as I understand it, is that the Minister who will be charged with the administration of this legislation, may issue regulations without reference to anybody, and that there will be no provision for the redress of any wrongs that may be done by such regulations.. I have pointed out that either House of the Parliament may disallow a regulation; but the constitution of a. committee similar to the South Australian Subordinate Legislation Committee would remove any doubts that the honorable senator may entertain, in regard to the issuing of regulations.
I have not heard one word of commendation of this bill from honorable senators opposite. Are we to believe that it has no good points? It is true that Senator Hays said that he did not quarrel with .the bill; but he did not say that any benefit would accrue to Tasmania from it. In my view, that State may benefit considerably. One objection that has been raised is that competitive organizations will be squeezed out of existence; but the Commonwealth has possessed power similar to this for some time, and, so far as I am aware, none of its competitors has been squeezed out. In fact, I have no knowledge of the abuse by any Minister of power conferred upon him under legislation of this kind. Certainly, honorable senators have not voiced complaints in this regard. There is no foundation for the fears that some honorable senators- opposite apparently entertain, and I trust that we shall not hear any more about the alleged dangers of conferring administrative powers upon subordinate authorities, particularly in view of the Opposition’s acquiescence yesterday in the legislation to implement Australia’s participation in the Bretton Woods scheme.
– in reply - Australian airline services have a record for safe operation which compares most favorably with that of similar services in other parts of the world, and with the development of the latest navigational aids, Australia is visualized as remaining in the front rank of air-minded and airequipped nations. Australian airline operators have rendered a good service in the past, and, with the arrival in this country of Constellation and Convair aircraft now on order, we shall have the most up-to-date machines in the world. The operation of a commercial airline service requires sound business administration and expert aeronautical knowledge. Members of the board of management must possess a combination of these qualifications. The Government’s representatives on the board of Qantas Empire Airways Limited have been selected after due consideration of these requirements. They are, Sir Keith Smith, a pioneer of aviation, Mr. W. Taylor,, who is experienced in business administration and a viation, law, and Mr. Watt, the representative of the Treasury and of the taxpayer. With few exceptions, the TransAustralia Airlines organization is staffed by ex-servicemen. In setting up that organization the Government gave full consideration to the claims of exservicemen, and in cases where their qualifications met requirements, preference was given to them. They are doing excellent work to-day.
Senator Leckie complained of an alleged lack of clarity in certain provisions of this measure. Without wishing to be offensive, I am afraid that that is a chronic complaint with the honorable senator. He referred to. clause 5 which will give the Government power to pass regulations. Such regulations, of course, will he within the constitutional authority of the Government. The High . Court has already ruled that the Government may not monopolize commercial air transport between States. Reference was made to this matter in my second-reading speech. The honorable senator directed particular attention to paragraph f of proposed new section 5. This is not designed fo obviate the necessity for parliamentary approval of international conventions. Its purpose is that, in the event of Australia ratifying such a convention, the Government shall be empowered to apply regulations under the act without the necessity for a further amendment of it. Senator Leckie is well aware that regulations must be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament and that either House may disallow them. The honorable senator argued that a regulation might escape the no’.:’fi of members of the Parliament; but surely that is the responsibility of members themselves and not of the Government. If the Government fulfils it’s obligations to Supply members of tie Parliament with copies of regulations, the final responsibility rests with the members themselves. I point out, too, that there is in existence a Regulations’ and Ordinances Committee of the Senate, provision for which was made in 1932. Paragraph 3 of Standing Order 36a of the Senate states - 36a. - (1.) A Standing Committee, to be called the Standing Committee on Regulation^ and Ordinances,- shall be appointed at the commencement of each Session. (3.) The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to sit during Recess; and the quorum of such Committee shall bc four unless otherwise ordered by the- Senate. (4.) All Regulations’ and Ordinances laid’ on the Table of the Senate shall stand referred to such Committee for consideration and, if necessary, report thereon. Any action necessary, arising from a report of the Committee, shall be taken in the Senate- on motion after notice.
– When did that committee last report to the ‘Senate?
– Again that’ is a responsibility of the committee and riot of the Government. I was a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee’ at one time and I took strong objection to’ the fact that the committee was not dealing’ with regulations as it should. ft brought the matter to the notice of the Senate: I pointed’ out that during, a certain, period’ when ex-Senator Spicer w.iis chairman of the committee, no fewer than 200 regulations were passed, without examination. I refused to be a , party to that sort of thing, arid I resigned’ from the committee. Senator Leckie was a member of the Government at that time, but he took no action in’ the matter. Ministers merely listened to, my protests, as they were bound to do, and then conveniently forgot about the matter. If abuses’ df power occur because honorable senators neglect to pay proper attention to the business of the Senate, that’ is the fault of the honorable senators concerned. Senator Leckie and Senator Hays have said1 that all sorts of things may happen if the1 powers provided in the bill are granted’. I remind’ them that they have ari obligation’ to prevent such things from happening by exercising vigilance.
I directe’d attention to laxity of superVision in 1940.
– Regulations’- were being issued then’ at the rate of 25 a month.
– The government of the day was responsible for that.
– The rate reached 4’5 a month under the Labour Government.
– That was to meet the necessities of war. The Government did such a good job with its regulations that honorable senators opposite had very little’ to say about them’. I assure the Senate that all regulations relating to the administration of the Department of Aircraft Production were closely examined arid that careful consideration was given to their implications’’. ( Up to the present, I have not had complaints about regulations giving rise to abuse of power. Senator Leckie said something, about favoritism, implying that the Minister could give a contract to a personal friend. That, is riot” correct. The honorable gentleman’s statement was exaggerated. The Minister1 does not have power to give exclusive contracts to persons of his own choice. As I said in my second-reading speech, the High Court ruled that the Government may not monopolize interstate trade. It seems to the’’ that’ Senator Leckie* was influenced more by a* desire to impute ulterior motives to respectable gentlemen like myself on this side of the Senate than by any desire t6 deal with the bill on its merits. The honorable gentleman should be aware that a multitude cif technical regulations must be promulgated for the purposes of air . navigation and’ that it would be beyond the capacity of Parliament to deal with them all in detail. The more technical the subject of a regulation may be, the more closely, critically and constructively m 11,st it be reasoned out. Such a matter can be discussed only in a general way in this chamber. unless some honorable senator happens to be an expert on it and can give the Senate the benefit of his knowledge. Senator Hays would have us believe that the Government wishes to do all sorts of things without consulting the Parliament. In that respect, his speech followed’ the lines of the speech made” by Senator Leckie.
The honorable senator overlooked the fact that the Minister for Civil Aviation has, from time to time, tabled in the Parliament reports dealing with discussions at international conventions and with matters relating to his department. He also said that regulations that are not consistent with the law might : be issued. 1 agree with him. Such regulations have often been issued. Mistakes of that nature are likely to occur again unless the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee do the job for which they are appointed. The criticism expressed by Senator Leckie was not justified. He is one of the most experienced members of the Senate and he should know that the abuses of power which he professed to fear could not occur if honorable senators, in the first instance, and especially -members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, examined new regulations as carefully as they should do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.8to 8.40 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 30th April, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the date on which the Senate next meets.
Anzac Day: Final of Loan Quiz Competition - Shipbuilding - CIVIL. Aviation : Transport or Goods - Food for Britain : Postage Rate on Parcels - Rail Transport: Members of Parliament - Newsprint - Fruit Canning.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
On the 20th March last, Senator Cooper asked whether the final of the quiz championship to be held in connexion with the Third Security Loan could be held on an evening other than that of Anzac Day. Other representations of a similar character have already been considered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifiey), who has stated that he saw no reason why the broadcasting of the quiz on Anzac night would be a desecration of the Anzac spirit. Commercial stations broadcast serials and plays on Anzac Day. Presumably no objection is taken to this, and therefore it is difficult to understand why objection should be taken to the broadcasting of the quiz, which will serve a national purpose. The use of Anzac Day for loan publicity is not new. During the war broadcasts in connexion with Commonwealth loans were made on Anzac Day. and it is not considered that they detracted from the proper observance ofthe day.
– On the20th March last, Senator Aylett asked a question concerning shipbuilding. I am now able to advise the honorable senator that seventeen merchant vessels are at present on order for the Commonwealth Government and are in various stages of construction. These comprise one 9,000-ton d.w., six 6,000-ton, five 2,500-ton and five 550-ton freighters. In addition Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is building for its own use four 12,500-ton ore-carrying vessels. No shipyards that have built large merchant vessels have been closed. The Cockatoo and the Naval Dockyard, Williams town, are now engaged solely on naval construction. Merchant vessels completed and in commission to date aretwelve 9,000-ton River class and five 2,500-ton D class freighters. If Senator Aylett can supply the names of the shipyards he has in mind which have been closed down a further reply will be furnished to him.
– On the 25th March, Senator Aylett asked, upon notice, whether in view of the isolation of Tasmania brought about by the waterfront stoppage the Government would endeavour to make arrangements with
Trans-Australia Airlines for sufficient cargo planes to be made available to lift emergency cargo from Sydney and Melbourne to Tasmania during the waterfront stoppage.
I am informed by the Minister for Civil Aviation^ (Mr. Drakeford) that Trans-Australia Airlines provides freight facilities on its regular services and can provide freighter aircraft on application from shippers of goods.
Earlier to-day Senator J. B. HAYES asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to supply the following answers: -
– I desire to bring under notice the matter of providing transport for members of Parliament having to travel between Adelaide and Canberra. There has been a shortage of coal in South Australia for quite a long time, with the result that members of Parliament have been unable to get berths because there are no extra interstate trains and there has been curtailment of trains in country areas. “We have to give a fortnight’s notice to the railway authorities before we can secure berths on the trains travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne. Travel between
Melbourne and Canberra is not so difficult to arrange, but the same trouble is encountered on the return journey from Melbourne to Adelaide. I ask the Leader of the Government (Senator Ashley) to inquire into the matter to see whether some arrangement can be made to have berths on the trains made available. Many years ago I bought a railway pass and with that pass I was always able to secure berths on the trains. I understand that a certain amount of money is paid every year by the Commonwealth to the State railway authorities for members’ passes, and, that being the case, it should be possible to secure berths at less than a fortnight’s notice. During last session an arrangement was made whereby four berths were reserved for members travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide so that they could be accommodated at a moment’s notice. There are occasions now when members have to come to Canberra at very short notice and it is not possible to give the railway authorities the fortnight’s notice which they require. There is, of course, the alternative of air travel, but considerable difficulty is encountered in that regard because only limited passenger accommodation is available and members have to pay their own fares.
.- On the 19th March I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) the following questions: -
In reply, the Minister stated that the allocation of newsprint to the newspaper mentioned had not been cancelled, and that he understood the journal was still being published. By this afternoon’s mail I received a letter, dated the 25th March, signed by J. W. Campbell, the editor of The Roch, in which he said -
We note with interest the question you asked in the Senate recently, regarding the position of The Rook relating to supplies of newsprint. We are also surprised at the reply which Senator Courtice gave to that question.
We would like to bring under your notice the position as it stands at present to the best of our knowledge. Hereunder is the paragraph of a letter signed by J. J. Kennedy,
Comptroller of Customs, dated 15th January, 1947, File Ref. T. & C. 47/N.P.1G, which reads - “ As action along these lines is not practicable in your case in view of the heavy over-usage (namely, .14 tons 4 cwt. 3 qrs. 10 lbs.), it has been decided to withhold from you authority to use newsprint in the production of The Rock pending submission of your case to the Newsprint Pool Committee for its consideration and decision.
We have reason to believe the Newsprint Pool Committee has met to discuss this issue; we have not been apprised of its decision.
I bring this matter forward because my attention has been directed to an assertion that this newspaper has been refused supplies of newsprint because of its over-usage of paper, and also because it had received supplies from other sources. The statement of the Minister was definite that the allocation of newsprint to The Bock had not been cancelled. I do not know whether the journal was still being published, but in the public interest I think that it is incumbent on mc to bring this matter to the notice of the Minister. I ask him to ascertain the facts.
– Earlier to-day Senator Brand asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to inform the honorable Senator that newspapers in certain areas where canning fruits are grown have featured a statement alleged to have been made by Dr. Coombs relating to Empire preference. The Government has already denied that Dr. Coombs made the statement attributed to him. Between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent, of the Australian production of canned fruits, approximately 2,500,000 cases, is normally sold in Empire markets overseas. The Australian delegation to the International Conference on Trade and Employment has been directed to do its utmost during the course of the negotiations to retain and expand these markets, and the markets for all other primary and secondary products.
I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave on the 19th March to Senator Nash regarding newsprint for The Rock newspaper. There has been no cancellation of the quota of newsprint for that journal, and I believe that it is still being published. The Rock has been generously treated, as it has secured an increase of the quantity of newsprint originally allocated to it. “When its publishers applied for newsprint’ about two years ago they said that the quantity asked for would be adequate for a certain period, but its over-usage of newsprint has been persistent. The Government does not control the allocation of newsprint; that is done by a committee consisting of men associated with newspaper production. Every endeavour has been made by that committee and the Government to deal fairly with The Rock. but if newspapers generally were to use more newsprint than is authorized the whole system would soon break down. This newspaper has been treated fairly and it will continue to get its proper quota of newsprint.
– in reply - I shall make inquiries regarding the transport of members of Parliament to which Senator O’Flaherty referred, although I should have thought that the transport officer in this building would be able to make the necessary arrangements.
– On two occasions I have not been able to get a berth on. the train.
– There are no travel priorities at present; even Ministers are not given priorities. At this end, arrangements for the transport of senators is a matter for the transport officer at Parliament House, and at the other end arrangements are usually made byofficers at the Federal Members’ Booms in the several States. However, if I can be of assistance to honorable senators in this matter I shall be happy to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Common wealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Joint House Department - T. E. Govan, R. W. Hillyer.
Nationality Act - Return for 1946.
Senate adjourned at 8.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470326_senate_18_191/>.