18th Parliament · 1st Session
The Presiden t (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping consult with the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria regarding the urgent necessity to pay a subsidy at the rate of £1 a ton for every 100 miles for the transport by road of superphosphate, as is now paid by the Government of Western Australia? Can he say whether it is a fact that the production of foodstuffs will be seriously reduced in Victoria if fertilizers are not made available? Is he aware that, in desperation, many farmers are paying as much as £3 a ton road haulage to enable them to obtain superphosphate for seeding operations? Has he noticed that a State member of Parliament, representing a countrv electorate, has said that the loss of wheat in Victoria, through the shortage of superphosphate, may amount to £20,000,000 this year?
– I shall take up with the Prime Minister the question of paying a subsidy for the road transport of superphosphate to enable primary producers in Victoria to sow their wheat. I am not aware that any member of Parliament has said that a shortage of superphosphate might reduce the value of the Victorian wheat harvest this year by £20.000.000. I realize that fertilizers are necessary and that their availability affects the incomes of farmers and graziers. Every effort will be made by the Government to assist the Government of Victoria and of any other State where difficulties are experienced in supplying fertilizers to rural producers.
Financial Assistance - PensionsLimbless Civilians.
– Can the Minister for Health and Social Services say whether there is any legislation to assist financially a child who has to leave her work and return home in order to care for her aged parents, who are in receipt of the pension and are practically invalids? If not, will the Minister take steps to provide for such cases?
– The Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act contains a provision whereby a grant can be made in the circumstances outlined by the honorable senator. In fact, I have personal knowledge of cases where section 36 of that act has been applied for that purpose.
-Can the Minister for Social Services say whether there is provision in the social services scheme for payment of pensions to persons who have hitherto been ineligible because they own a house? Many of these people cannot get possession of their houses, yet they are debarred from receiving the pension. Has the Commissioner for Pensions discretionary power to continue the payment of an old-age pension to a person, who although he owns his own home, is obliged to live with relatives because of, say, testamentary dispositions ?
– The cases cited by the honorable senator are rare. With regard to the case of a married man who has left his home and cannot regain possession, the halving principle is applied, as between man and wife. Where that principle can be applied the DirectorGeneral of Social Services is empowered to disregard any particular property. The case of an unmarried person is not covered by, the legislation. I should be glad to have particulars of any cases of which the honorable senator is aware so that I may consider them. The difficulty with regard to persons who have let their homes and are unable to regain possession of them is that there is no provision for them in the existing legislation. I should be prepared to consider an alteration of the legislation if I were assured that the necessity for it exists.
– Representations were made some time ago to the Minister for Social Services for the provision of vocational training and the supply of surgical requirementsto limbless civilians. Has the Minister considered their representations ; and if so, is he prepared to make any concessions?
– There is provision for vocational training in the existing social services legislation. The Director-General has power to require invalid pensioners to undergo a course of training. This has been done, in some instances with extraordinary results. On one occasion, 600 invalid pensioners, mostly young persons, were called up for treatment, and as a result 460 of them were taken off the pensions list. Their training cost the Commonwealth about £G,40’0 but the (relief to Consolidated Revenue amounted to about £35,000 per annum, -which for the period of their expectation of life would amount to about, £500,000. Tinder the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act there is power for the Director-General to ask an applicant for employment relief to undertake vocational training, and to treat him as a fully unemployed person during the period of training. In addition, my department is attending to the vocational training of non-war disabled exservicemen who do not come under
I he aegis of the Repatriation Department. ‘Institutions for that purpose have been established in each State, with the exception of Tasmania. The Re-establishment and Employment Act also contains provisions dealing with disabled persons. It gives power to the Government to deal with persons who are suffering from certain disabilities, whether or not they are already in the pensions field. I am hopeful that a plan will be developed in the not distant future to enable vocational training’ facilities to be provided for all persons in the community, whether pensioners or. not. In respect of limbless men who lost their limbs while working in the. Civil Constructional Corps or because of a war injury, there is a schedule of payments for their disabilities, and also an allowance, ranging, I think, from 48s. a week down to approximately £1 a week. Most of the cases which the honorable senator has in mind are covered by existing legislation. 1
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what steps have been taken to implement the suggestion 1 made that wheat be exchanged for linseed oil from India? Will he also obtain a statement as to what steps are being taken to obtain adequate supplies of linseed oil for Australia? ; Senator COURTICE.- I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– In view of the shortage of linseed oil, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether any experiments have been undertaken in Australia to grow the type of linseed from which linseed oil is obtained? Some oil was obtained from flax but the plants were not of the type to provide linseed oil of the highest quality.
– I have no definite information to give to the honorable senator at this stage, but I shall have inquiries made and shall furnish him with an answer later.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport what is the order of priority governing the granting of permits for the purchase of motor cars and trucks?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Transport.
– Will the Leader of the Senate request the Treasurer to make a special grant to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for work designed to eliminate the cabbage moth ? Enormous damage has been done by this pest in all States this year, and it is time that some definite steps were taken to combat it-
-I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Treasurer!
– by leave - Since the cessation of hostilities the Government has been deeply concerned with the difficulties confronting the people of the United Kingdom in respect of adequate food supplies, and, although not specifically requested to do so by the United Kingdom, has continued rationing in- Australia en the scale imposed at the height of the most critical period of the war. In this action the Government believes that it has the support of the Parliament and an understanding Australian public. We had all hoped for a more rapidly improving British fowl situation. Unfortunately, hovever, the recent blizzards and floods have aggravated an already acute food situation.
The Government considers that there is a desire on the part of the Australian people to have explored any and every avenue by which additional assistance can bc rendered. With this end in view, a Cabinet sub-committee was recently appointed to examine practical ways and means of rendering further assistance. This sub-committee submitted for Cabinet’s consideration a comprehensive review of each available and suitable food product, additional quantities of which could be made available to supplement existing food export programmes and commitments. In. addition, recommendations for the implementation of Cabinet decisions were submitted. I am now able to announce Cabinet’s decisions and acceptance of these recommendations as f follows : -
Continuation of the existing scale of rationing in respect of - butter, meat and sugar. I might say that, whilst it can l>e agreed that comparatively large sections of the community can very well reduce their con-sumption of these vital commodities, there is without question a larger section of lower income and larger family groups who are not able to sacrifice these essential basic foods and substitute the more costly alternatives such as fish, fruit and dearer vegetable products. Therefore, the Government has decided to launch an -appeal to all sections of the community to -
With respect to meat, I might state that on the 27th March, the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Mr. Shute, outlined to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) a practicable plan through which- the board, with the co-operation of graziers and exporters, would be prepared to arrange export to Britain of consignments of live-stock designated by graziers specifically for that purpose. On the Government’s behalf the Minister immediately endorsed the suggestion and authorized the board to devote any necessary funds to the furtherance of this plan. New South Wales graziers are co-operating splendidly and reports indicate similar co-operation by Western Australian graziers. I believe graziers in other States will follow this example. To obtain the whole-hearted and effective public co-operation in regard to the foregoing, Cabinet has approved the expenditure o,f up to £10,000 to give publicity to these proposals.
I come now to proposals to make available additional quantities of nonrationed foods. Last week, mainly as a means of encouragement to producers and processers of edible oils and fats to conserve for export to Britain the maximum quantity of these products, the Prices Commissioner substantially increased price levels. An examination has been made of the possibilities of exporting to Britain additional quantities of canned fruits. It has been decided that the quantity of canned fruits for the local market will be limited to 600.000 eases .against 748,000 cases made available last year, and an allocation proposed by the industry for 1947 of 1,000,000 cases. Exports to Britain in 1946 totalled 977,000 cases. The limiting of quantities for local consumption should make 2,000,000 cases available for export - 1,500,000 cases for Britain and 500,000 eases for other markets, including New Zealand and Canada. In the event of the estimated production of 2,600,000 cases being exceeded, the additional quantities ar« to he made available for Britain.’
It will be recalled that the Govern.Went recently decided to continue the deprivation of rice to local consumers, who have not received locally grown rice since 1942. Appeals will be made to those associated with the poultry and rabbit industries to make available for export increased supplies of these commodities, with particular application to rabbits, in regard to which, it is thought, there may be at present considerable needless waste. Possibilities of increased dried fruits exports have been examined and, although the industry has suffered an adverse season, the Dried Fruits Board has indicated that it contemplates increasing the amount of dried fruits expected to be available for export by 8.500 tons. This will mean some sacrifice by local consumers as well as some additional monetary sacrifice by the industry.
This statement is intended to indicate only the additional steps to be taken to provide additional foodstuffs, that ‘ is. other than those already .anticipated, and in regard to which repeated outlines have been given in this House. I conclude bv expressing the hope that all parties and all sections of the community will cooperate in making a success of the plans outlined.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact that food sent from Australia to Great Britain is placed in a general pool? If so, will the Minister take steps to ensure that, at this time of crisis, such food shall be supplied to the people for whom it is intended?
– I am not aware (f the conditions under which food is distributed in Great. Britain. The honorable member has not made clear whether he is referring to food parcels or to food shipments generally.
– Governmental allotments.
– I believe that the British Government has some supervising authority to distribute food as it arrives in Britain. The Commonwealth Government is not in a position -to issue directions as to the best method of distribution. I do not believe that there have been any complaints regarding the distribution of food parcels. I have not heard that parcels have not been delivered.
– I know of no difficulties in that respect.
– The general distribution of food stocks is a matter entirely for the British Government.
– As the onus for placing meat in cool stores for export to Great Britain is thrown upon the primary producer, can the Minister say whether there would be any objection to the United Kingdom Government having its own buyers operating in our stock saleyards, and to the export of the meat direct to Great Britain through existing export channels?
– I do not know whether it would be convenient for the United Kingdom Government to send buyers to Australia to purchase stock, but if the honorable senator desires that inquiries be made in the connexion indicated by his question I shall be glad to ta-ke the matter up with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and to let the honorable senator have a reply later.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the Government is endeavouring to increase exports of canned fruit and other commodities to Great Britain, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping state whether there has been any improvement in the supply of tin plate, which would enable Australian manufacturers to assist in the food canning programme ?
– The tinned plate position has not improved. There is a world-wide shortage of this commodity, and it has been intensified by recent industrial disputation in the United States of America.We have a mission in America now seeking supplies in that country, and the Commonwealth Controller of Tinplate is in Great Britain. The Government is fully aware of its obligations in regard to the provision of tinned plate for the essential needs of the nation, and it is doing everything possible to improve the position. It has been watching the situation closely since before the shortage reached its most acute stage, and, as I have said, representatives have been sent abroad in an endeavour to obtain additional supplies. There are no bright prospects regarding future supplies. However, the Government will not relax its efforts. Only to-day, before I left my office, I despatched a cable to the Australian High Commissioner in London regarding the tinned plate situation.
– In view of the scarcity of ships operating between Tasmania and the mainland, and as the steamer Taroona will soon be laid up for overhaul, thus further aggravating the situation, what steps, if any, does the Government propose to take to improve the Tasmanian shipping service? There is a great accumulation.of cargo, including potatoes and fruit, in which the Commonwealth Government has a direct interest, at Tasmanian ports.What action does the Government intend to take to supplement the shipping service in order that these commodities, which are badly needed on the mainland, and the large stocks of stores waiting at Sydney and Melbourne for shipment to Tasmania, may he despatched to their destinations?
– I have repeatedly acknowledged in this chamber that there is a shortageof shipping, and I am sure that honorable senators appreciate the difficulty as much as I do. However, continual representations have been made by senators and members of the House of Representatives from Tasmania in regard to the shortage as it affects that State. I can assure them that the State of Tas mania is not suffering any more inconveniences than the States of South Australia and “Western Australia. The tonnage available to the Director of Shipping is allocated as equitably as possible and with due regard to essential needs such as food, housing material, and other important commodities. The honorable senator can rest assured that the Directorate of Shipping is giving the most careful attention to the needs of Tasmania.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seamen’s Compensation
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That thebill be now read a second time.
The Seamen’s Compensation Act is an. important Commonwealth act which provides compensation cover for those workers who, while employed on the high seas, are outside the scope of the various State compensation acts. The first Commonwealth Seamen’s Compensation Act was pased in 1909, but in the famous Kalibia case the High Court held that one section was invalid because it purported to cover seamen employed on intra-state ships. The section in question referred to “ ships engaged in the coasting trade “, and in the absence of a limiting definition, such as that in the Navigation Act, that broad term covered intra-state as well as interstate traffic. Such an extension was considered to be beyond the constitutional power of the
Parliament, and as the particular section could not be severed from the rest of the act the court decided that the whole act was invalid. The act of 1909 was therefore replaced by another in 1911. Reference to Ilansard shows that the amending legislation was supported by all parties, and I hope that the present bill will receive the same general acceptance. The 1911 act continued for 27 years without amendment. By 193S, however, it was agreed that it had become out of date in a number of respects, chiefly in regard to the amounts payable, and an amending bill was then passed.
The Commonwealth has other workers’ compensation legislation, in- regard to its own employees. I refer, of course, to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Amendments to that act were made in 1944:, the more important of which provided for - (1) greater benefits to dependants in case of death; (2) greater benefits for the family of an injured employee; (3) increase of maximum aggregate total of weekly payments;
Naturally, seamen regard these new provisions as representing the current Commonwealth view of what is fair and reasonable compensation for injuries. The Government considers that to be a reasonable point of view, and by this bill it is proposed to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act on very much the same lines. For instance, the maximum amount payable to dependants when the injury sustained by a seaman results in his death is increased from £750 to £S00, plus a payment of £25 for, each dependant child under sixteen years of age. Weekly payments during incapacity will be twothirds of the seaman’s weekly pay with a maximum of £3. In addition, £1 will be payable for a wife, or a housekeeper dependant on the seaman, and 8s. 6d. for each dependant child under sixteen years of age, the total payment, of course, not to exceed the seaman’s pay at the time of the accident.
Consequent upon the increase of the weekly benefits, it is necessary to increase the maximum which the seaman may re- ceive in weekly payments. This maximum, therefore, is increased from £750 to £1,000. Otherwise, weekly payments would not continue for so long a period as is the case under the existing act. Cover will also be pro.vi.detl against injury by accident while travelling to, or from,’ the seaman’s place of employment. This feature of workers’ compensation, which” was first introduced as Commonwealth legislation by the amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to which I referred previously, is now embodied in some State acts.
The list of specified injuries in the Third Schedule, in respect of which lump sums are payable, is to be enlarged, and the appropriate sums increased. They are based on a maximum of £S00 instead of £750. The list of industrial diseases in the Fourth Schedule is to be added to by providing that compensation shall be payable in respect of any infectious disease contracted by employment involving contact with the infectious sources of the disease.
The bill contains two provisions for which precedent cannot be found in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The first is that where a dependant dies before a claim under the act is made, or, where a claim has been made, before an agreement or award has been arrived at or made, the legal personal representative of the dependant shall have no right to payment of compensation, and the amount of compensation shall be calculated and apportioned as if that dependant had died before the seaman. The second, relates to the provision of machinery for recording whether a seaman is right-handed or left-handed.
Necessarily, some provisions in the Commonwealth Employees’ . Compensation Act are not applicable to seamen. For example, there is a great variety of occupations . under the Commonwealth, and this results in a longer list of industrial diseases than -is necessary in the case of seamen; and, of course, the machinery clauses vary. In the main, however, the present amendments will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into harmony with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I shall be glad to explain all these amendments in detail at the committee stage. I commend the bill to the
Senate, as a measure which will give to seamen a compensation law in keeping with modern conceptions of social justice, and one which their services to the nation have richly earned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a ‘first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill opens a new chapter in Australia’s attempt to regulate the relations between the two groups, employer and employee, engaged in the conduct of Austraiian industry. The bill does not repeal, but does substantially amend, the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, passed in 1904 and itself amended on -fifteen previous, occasions. The basic principle of the act remains, namely, the principle that, within the limits permitted by the Constitution, the maintenance of industrial peace, and the adjustment of the terms and conditions of employment, are not merely matters of local, or private, concern, but are of vital concern to the community as a whole.
Why do I speak of a new chapter in the history of industrial relations in Australia? Because this bill has an entirely new emphasis. It builds on the foundations of past experience, but it seeks to get away from the legalism and the technicalities which have been so much criticized in the existing system. The court is retained; but assigned to it’ are only those functions which require the use of judicial techniques or which demand uniform treatment because of their overriding importance to all Australian in- ‘dustries. For the day-to-day work of preventing and settling industrial disputes by means of conciliation and arbi tration, the bill will replace judicial procedures by administrative and conciliative procedures.
In its main lines the act of 1904 was largely experimental in character. The keynote of that experiment was the creation of a court, staffed by highly qualified judicial officers. The changes of .1926 served only to emphasize the judicial element in industrial regulation. This approach has dominated the history of industrial relations in the Australian system, which is limited by the Constitution to disputes of an interstate character. The original emphasis is illustrated by the title which Mr. Justice Higgins, for so long president of the court, gave to his account of the work of the tribunal. He called it “ A new province for law and order “.
I do riot under-estimate the contribution that judicial tribunals have made, and will always make to the development of our civilization. It is wrong to underestimate the value of legal training and outlook, not ‘ only in those fields which belong to the domain of strict jurisprudence, but also in those persons who may be charged with the public duty of securing and maintaining the terms and conditions of employment. Indeed, there are outstanding names in our industrial history which bear witness to the latter truth. I think especially of men like Higgins, Heydon, and Piddington. The system of industrial regulation cannot be properly administered without impartiality, disinterestedness, and a strong sense of justice ; and these qualities should be, and usually are, developed by a legal training and by judicial habits. But it is a profound mistake to think that these qualities, and especially the judicial temper, can only be exhibited in courts of law or in the application of ordinary legal techniques and procedures.
The Australian people have had more than 40 years’ experience of the Arbitration Court system. When on one famous occasion abolition of the court was proposed, the Australian people spoke very decisively in favour of retaining it. The court cannot be said to have fully satisfied all hopes that have been built upon it. On the other hand, it has important practical achievements to its credit. It has influenced Australian economic life as a whole to a degree far greater than its founders ever imagined possible. It has raised industrial conditions gradually but effectively. Through its basic wage and standard hours awards, it has provided a national minimum. It has lessened the aggregate of industrial dislocation. It has encouraged and almost made mandatory the Australian system of collective bargaining through registered organizations. I assert confidently that the Australian worker, the employer and the Australian community have been far better off with the court than they could possibly have been without it.
The years of the two world wars, and even the uneasy years that lay between, have witnessed a great industrial expansion in Australia. The vastly increased industrial effort and output have created new and more acute problems- of industrial relations, and new industrial demands have been stimulated. In all democratic countries, this generation has witnessed the establishment of many and varied types of administrative bodies, set up to replace courts and legal tribunals. These administrative tribunals have been established partly to avoid the formality, aloofness and time-consuming methods which are so often characteristic of legal tribunals in ascertaining facts. The new emphasis must therefore be on informality as opposed to formalism - expedition as opposed to the law’s delays, which in themselves are likely to accentuate industrial disputation and dislocation.
A primary purpose of the amending bill is therefore to expedite the machinery of conciliation and arbitration. Australian industries are now so closely interconnected, and industrial organizations are on so large a scale, that expedition is the first requisite for any successful effort towards industrial peace. In the days of ‘ smaller industrial operations, and therefore less extensive disputes, more leisurely treatment could be afforded. It is very different to-day. Within a matter of days, or even hours, the activities of a few individuals may hold up the industry of a continent. Every effort must be made, therefore, to streamline the methods ‘ by which actual, and more particularly threatened, industrial disputes can be brought to the knowledge of the industrial administrator; to give as much scope as possible for the initiative of conciliation authorities themselves; and to improve the methods by which they can act in the public interest for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Let me add this: In preparing the bill, the Government has taken the opportunity of ascertaining and considering the opinions of many organizations, both of employers and of employees, and also of those who have had practical experience of the actual working of the arbitration system. Further, there was a substantial area of agreement .in the opinions expressed, not only as to the defects in the present system, but also as to some at least of the remedial means by which they can best be eliminated. I make it clear, however, that the bill, while drawing on some of the important suggestions put forward, represents an independent attempt at a solution.
I shall now state the main changes which the bill introduces. It frankly turns away from the existing method, the settlement of disputes by judicial decision under a very artificial system of procedure, and turns back to the primary method specified in the constitutional power of the National Parliament, namely, prevention of disputes and conciliation of disputants. In our view, the present practice, whereby the court is given general jurisdiction over arbitration, and conciliation commissioners occupy only subordinate positions with very inferior status, is unsatisfactory and should be altered. Therefore, each of the conciliation commissioners will be given power, without technical and artificial hindrances, to go to the cause of impending industrial trouble, and to endeavour to remove the cause of the trouble by conciliating the disputants.
The bill provides that if conciliation fails a conciliation commissioner shall then, but not till then, proceed, with no further formalities, to act in an arbitral capacity, and to prevent or settle the dispute by making an award or order.
Under the bill we shall abolish the present formal procedure, the following of which under the act, as it stands at present, is a condition precedent to the exercise of arbitral functions. Section 19 of the act prescribes four procedures by means of which the court may obtain “ cognizance “ of an industrial dispute. Procedures of this kind make possible delays, doubts, and obstructions at the most critical incipient stages of disputes. These procedures will all be remedied. The simple provisions introduced by the bill are designed to enable commissioners to intervene long before differences between parties become irrevocably defined.
This measure requires a conciliation commissioner to deal expeditiously with industrial disputes. Immediately he becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute, a conciliation commissioner must endeavour to bring the dispute to an end by conciliation and, if this is not possible, to settle it by arbitration. In addition, organizations and employers who are aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or an industrial situation which may bring about an industrial dispute are required to notify the fact, so that a conciliation commissioner may proceed forthwith to deal with the matter.
Experience has shown that it is absolutely necessary not only to make the industrial authorities absolute masters of their own procedure, which the present act does, but also to assist them by giving indications of specific powers which should be exercised in the interest of expedition. The bill does this. F-01 instance, it empowers a conciliation commissioner or the court to determine what periods are reasonably necessary for the fair and adequate presentation of the respective cases of the parties and to require that the cases be presented within such periods accordingly. Similarly, the bill enables the- commissioner, or the court to require evidence or argument to be presented in writing, and to decide the matters upon which oral evidence or argument will be heard. The exercise of these powers will greatly expedite hearings.
Under this measure the task of the conciliation commissioners will be to bring to bear on existing or threatened disputes practical knowledge and judgment. The bill imposes on each of them the duty of keeping himself acquainted with industrial affairs and conditions. It also provides that conciliation commissioners may be assigned to particular industries or groups of industries. This will give greater opportunities for expert handling of the problems of those industries. A chief conciliation commissioner is to organize and allocate the work of all of the conciliation commissioners.
The bill provides for conciliation commissioners a security and independence which the Government thinks are essential for the proper discharge of the functions assigned to them. Under the present law, conciliation commissioners hold . only short-term appointments. Under the bill, however, a conciliation commissioner will hold office until he attains the age of 65 years, subj’ect only to removal on address from both Houses of the Parliament on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. Thus is a guarantee of independence equivalent in nearly every respect to that of a judge. Such a tenure is the best guarantee of free and unfettered judgment.
The court will remain. Its principal function will be to deal with distinctively legal matters, and it will sit as a bench of at least three judges. Indeed, the purely legal functions of the court will be extended, while the aggregate of legal questions arising under the act or the awards will be considerably reduced. The bill proposes to make the court the only and final court of appeal in all judicial proceedings concerning the act and awards and orders made under it; that is to say, in proceedings in State courts for an offence against the act or for claims based upon an award, an appeal will lie to the Arbitration Court, not to the Supreme Court or the High Court. The decision of the Arbitration Court on such .an appeal will be final. The present appeal to the High Court from the Arbitration Court in relation toquestions of law will be abolished.
The bill assigns to the court arbitral jurisdiction in relation to certain matters of wide general importance in which it is desirable that uniformity should exist. These matters are standard hours, the basic wage, annual leave, and female minimum rates. But this is all.. The awards or decisions of individual conciliation commissioners will not be subject to appeal to the court. These general matters, however, are of such complexity and of such far-reaching importance that uniformity is essential, and they can most fitly be dealt with by the court itself.
The bill provides for a bureau of research and statistics for the purpose of collecting and compiling, in accordance with the directions of the Chief Judge, information which may be of assistance to the court and to conciliation commissioners in the exercise of their powers and functions, and of carrying out research in respect of such matters as the Chief Judge directs. This bureau should become of immense value under the new system.
The bill retains all the methods provided for in the existing act for securing the acceptance and observance of awards. One extreme view, presented by a section only of employers, was that all the penalty sections which were repealed by the Scullin Government in 1930 should now be restored. This view has been rejected by the Government. Equally, the Government has rejected suggestions that all existing disciplinary powers of the court itself should be eliminated. The existing provisions relating to the deregistration of organizations, the secret ballot under court orders, the cancellation and suspension of awards, and the enforcement of sanctions inserted in awards, are therefore retained. The bill also imposes on the Registrar, and on inspectors appointed under the act, the duty of instituting proceedings for an offence against the act whenever so directed by a judge, and imposes thesame duty on an inspector whenever so directed by the Registrar.
This measure contains other amendments designed to improve the act and the system. The definition of “ industrial matter “ is enlarged and broadened. Safeguards against any abuse in the employment of young, infirm, or aged workers are strengthened. The official inspectors are armed with greater powers to prevent breaches of, and to police, awards. The period during which arrears of wages are recoverable is extended to twelve months. The existing restrictions on the court’s powers to award preference to organizations will be removed, without, of course, prejudicing in any way the operation of the law governing preference to ex-servicemen. There are other amendments which no doubt will be fully examined by the Senate at the committee stage of the bill.
Having mentioned the main principles of the bill, I add that a special memorandum is being prepared showing the existing act as it will appear when amended by this bill, and I am arranging for copies of this document to be made available to all honorable senators at an early date. In view of the extensive amendments made, it. is proposed to re-number the act so that the Australian industrial code may be readily found and understood. It may be useful if, at this stage, I draw the attention of honorable senators to the schedules. The first schedule contains a list of textual or formal amendments to the principal act. The second schedule gives effect to the proposals for re-numbering which I have just mentioned. The third schedule contains amendments consequential on the re-numbering. I emphasize that the success of the new system of conciliation and arbitration will depend mostly on the men who administer it -
For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate’er is best administered is best.
Men are required with a strong sense of social justice, a high degree of personal disinterestedness, and that impartiality without which thetrust of both sides can never be secured. Common sense, human understanding, and courage are also necessary. This bill, I am convinced, affords better conditions and clearer direction for the work of those who will constitute the industrial authorities of the future than the statutebook has hitherto contained. I sum up the measure in a few sentences. First, the bill boldly attempts to grapple with the two outstanding defects of the present procedure. It emphasizes informality and expedition in bringing the machinery of conciliation and arbitration into play. It abolishes the cumbrous preliminaries which have tended to prevent the industrial authorities from getting hold of a situation. Secondly, when the machinery has been brought into play, the bill will substitute for legal technique and courts of law the practical decisions of experienced and independent laymen, who will exercise administrative discretions. When they have grasped a situation, their methods will not be governed by any technical or legal procedures.
The aim of the Government has been to embody in the present bill the true spirit of the constitutional power of the national Parliament with respect to industrial disputes. The wisely chosen words of that power - “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes “ - convey no idea of formality, of technicality, of legal procedure, or of the atmosphere of courts. They breathe the spirit of informality, of practical methods, of the absence of all technicalities, of conciliation and, when all else fails, a settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration rather than by the ordeal of legal battle. The ideals of the Constitution builders find clear expression in the bill which I now submit for approval by the Senate.-
Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 1696), on motion by Senator MoKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -This bill is a necessary measure which has been presented to meet the changing conditions brought about by faster means of travel throughout the world. Clause 6 deals with the quarantine of humans. As the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) stated in his second<reading speech, this is an essential clause. The Minister has shown the danger to which the people of this country are exposed under the present inadequate quarantine regulations. He mentioned that air travel has outstripped international communication to such a degree that it is possible for a person infected with smallpox or some other exotic disease to arrive here during its incubation period and’ for the infection to remain undetected. It would be possible for such a person to traverse the length and breadth of the country before the disease had manifested itself, and to cause the outbreak of a major epidemic. All reasonable people must agree with the Minister that precautions should be taken to guard against such an occurrence. Wo need only refer to the press reports of the current panic in New York because of the outbreak of small-pox there. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether emergency precautions have been taken, either by provision for mass vaccination or inoculation or some other means, to prevent the outbreak of such an epidemic here?
Clauses 3 to 9 relate to the quarantine pf animals and plants, and clauses 1 and S deal specifically with the unlawful importation of animals and plants. The Minister illustrated the very grave danger to which we are. exposed, if precautions are not taken, when he pointed out in his second-reading .speech that under the present regulations it is possible for rabies and other animal diseases hitherto unknown in Australia to be introduced to this country. Of course, even to-day there is- a handful of selfish people in this country who believe that their regard for their pet animals would justify them risking the health of the entire human and animal population of the country. On the other hand, many animal lovers realize the danger involved, not only to the community but to their own animals, in the importation of animals without proper supervision.
Clause 8 deals with the importation of plants, and under existing conditions there is grave danger of the entry of noxious plants. I particularly invite the Minister’s attention to the danger of noxious plants being introduced by the undercarriages and exterior surfaces of incoming- aircraft. Many countries now only a few hours’ flying time from Australia are ridden with animal and plant diseases. Under the present practice it is possible for noxious plants and insects to be picked up and- transported to Australia. Aircraft from some neighbouring countries are now only a short period in flight and that period of exposure to the elements is not sufficient to destroy harmful organisms. I understand that the interior surfaces of incom- ing aircraft are thoroughly disinfected. but I do not know whether this precaution extends to the exterior surfaces. We can visualize an aircraft, say, from the Netherlands East Indies, the landing wheels or under-carriage of which has come in contact with some noxious weed in taking off, conveying the weed to the lauding ground in Darwin. During the wet season in Darwin, when tropical storms are prevalent, all extraneous matter is washed off the surface of aircraft into the ground, and that could very well provide an opportunity for the growth of some noxious weed throughout Australia. It may be that at an aerodrome in a remote part of Australia a seed will germinate and grow and the weed spread so quickly as to reach alarming proportions before active measures are taken to eradicate the. pest ‘.hat it has become. ‘In his secondreading speech the Minister emphasized the danger of such a happening. When he replies, I should appreciate some indication from him of the steps proposed to be taken to minimize the dangers that I have mentioned. I regard the bill as necessary to meet the changed conditions of transport, and I shall support it.
– I support the bill. ‘Since before federation, Australian quarantine officers have exercised great care to prevent the introduction of diseases into this country. The bill before us aims at tightening the existing quarantine laws in order to meet changed conditions due to the development of air transport. The speedy transport o;f people, animals, and plants, makes quarantine legislation increasingly important, because dangers which did not exist here when people and cargo reached Australia only in ships have now become real.
Unless stringent laws be passed, and unless they be administered strictly, there is danger of Australia’s freedom from diseases which cause much loss in other countries becoming a thing of the past. Passengers arriving in. Australia by air may include persons suffering from quarantinable diseases, which, however, may not have revealed themselves sufficiently to warrant the quarantine officer placing such persons in quarantine. Accordingly, they may travel freely in Australia before the authorities realize that they have brought a dangerousdisease to this country. In such an event, the -State law would, no doubt, be brought into operation, and the person affected with the disease would be placed in quarantine. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that, in addition to proper safeguards being instituted against the introduction of diseases from overseas, the position in Australia will also be attended to. One matter not referred to by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in his secondreading speech is the relationship of Commonwealth and State quarantine laws. As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Government has not absolute powers in quarantine matters. Some States exercise a most rigid system of inspection and quarantine in respect of animals entering their territory. If an animal which is free from disease is landed from a vessel at, say, Melbourne, it becomes subject to the State quarantine law as soon as it touches land. Some years ago a vessel carrying stud cattle from New Zealand to Tasmania called at Sydney, where- it was held up because of a strike. The result was that the cattle were landed in New South Wales. They were free from disease, but as they had landed in New South Wales, the Parliament of that State had to pass a special act in order to permit them to proceed to Tasmania before the expiry of 90 days. I believe the period was reduced to 80 days. The realization of the need to tighten Commonwealth quarantine laws in order to cover air transport raises the question as to whether the States also should not provide additional legislative safeguards against the introduction of quarantinable diseases. I hope that in his reply to the secondreading debate the Minister will make clear the position as between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to quarantine matters. It would appear that with the passing of this bill, complementary legislation will also have to be passed by the States.
.- I compliment the Government on the introduction of this bill. Had there been a more strict supervision of persons, animals and’ plants entering Australia in the early days of this country some of the noxious weeds which now infest large areas of Australia would not have been introduced. The bill contains a definition of “ pest “. It is difficult to say what constitutes a pest, because an animal or a plant which may be harmless in one country may become a pest in another country. For instance, in Great Britain the rabbit is regarded as a blessing, whereas in Australia it is undoubtedly a curse. Similarly, many beautif ul flowers which are highly prized in Great Britain, are. noxious weeds in Australia. Attempts to eradicate St. John’s wort have cost Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Is not the rabbit an asset rather than a pest?
– No. Although the value of the rabbit skins exported from Australia is greater than the value of our meat exports, the rabbit is still a pest. The losses caused by rabbits exceed the export value of rabbits and rabbit skins.
Australia has been fairly free from cattle diseases. Cattle in Australia have not suffered from foot and mouth disease, or from many of the other diseases which have ruined herds and flocks in other lands. Senator Herbert Hays referred to the quarantine laws of Tasmania. Those laws have been so strictly administered that pleuro-pneumonia has never made its appearance in Tasmania, although there have been cases on the mainland. .Stricter quarantine laws are now necessary because a sea port is no longer the Australian destination of every freight-carrying vehicle. An aeroplane from overseas may land its cargo at some point in the centre of Australia; hundreds of miles from the sea-board. Not many years’ ago there was an outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia. It was the result of carrying cattle to be killed and eaten by sections of the community who had special religious beliefs in regard to such matters. These animals became mixed with other stock, and the disease spread. The eradication of rinderpest cost nearly £100,000, and some of the best flocks and herds in Western Australia had to he destroyed because of the outbreak.
Great care should be exercised over the introduction of seeds into Australia in order to ensure their freedom from disease. Unfortunately, many plant pests have found their way to Australia in the past. The authorities in those days did not realize that the Australian climate could convert a plant that is harmless in another part of the world into a pest. There should be the closest examination of all plants and seeds imported.
For many years cattle tick has caused concern to the people of Queensland and New South Wales. .So far, the southern portions of Australia are free from this pest, but the tick does not stop at State borders, and I greatly fear that in time cattle tick will find its way to Victoria. There should be legislation to provide that no animal shall pass from one State to another without first . being carefully inspected and treated.
– Large sums of money are being expended in that direction.
– The expenditure of thousands of pounds is not sufficient. Stock must be prevented from travelling without first undergoing a period of quarantine to ensure that they are absolutely free from disease.
– I agree.
– Fortunately rabies is non-existent in Australia. That is because Commonwealth and State Governments have exercised the greatest care to prevent -the introduction of this terrible disease. I regard- the bill as necessary to meet present circumstances, and I hope that it will be administered strictly.
– This is one of those rare occasions when all honorable senators find themselves in agreement on a particular measure. I am very pleased to note such unanimity. The bill is essential, and I support it ; but I should like further information from the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) with respect to certain aspects, particularly with regard to animal quarantine, because the facilities for quarantine with respect to human beings seem to be well provided for. Mention has been made of tho introduction of pests which have caused incalculable damage in this country. I have never regarded the rabbit as an asset. The losses caused through the depredations of the rabbit have been many times greater than any value it may have proved to have been to the country. It has caused considerable loss in pastoral areas, and has proved disastrous to many primary producers. With the advent of air transport we may expect that animals of all descriptions will be imported into this country by aeroplane. Whilst the methods followed in handling animals arriving on boats is clear, I should like a fuller explanation of the methods proposed to be employed in dealing with animals arriving in this country by aeroplane. We should leave no loophole whatever so far as the administration of the measure is concerned. I should also like further information on the point raised by honorable senators opposite as to the methods by which quarantine matters in respect, of animal, plant and seed pests will be determined.
Another point on which I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to enlighten the Senate “ concerns the demarcation between Commonwealth and State powers in respect of quarantine. 1 take it that the Commonwealth law would override State law in that respect.
– If that is not the case, then Ave are .merely beating the air by passing this legislation, because in the administration of this measure the possibilities for friction with the States are almost unlimited. Evidently, honorable senators opposite also appear to have doubt on that point, and the Minister might make it clear- whether Common. wealth lav? overrides State law. I believe that in such a matter Commonwealth law is supreme. The Minister might explain exactly the limitations of Commonwealth and State law in the’ quarantine field.
– The Commonwealth law is supreme in respect of arrivals in this country, but does not operate interstate.
– I am concerned only with the quarantine powers of the Commonwealth and the States in respect of arrivals from overseas, because this measure does not deal with intra-state, or interstate, quarantine. For instance, should, animals arrive from overseas by plane at .Sydney, but be destined for Mel bourne, and the plane remain at Sydney for only a very brief period, wouk quarantine measures be applied at Sydney or at the point of destination?
– I commend Senator Gibson upon his remarks with respect to rinderpest, because I readily recall the heavy losses which that pest caused in Western Australia, and the heavy expenditure which was incurred in combating it, although, fortunately, it was possible to confine the infected cattle to a small area. The Minister for Health (Mr. McKenna), in his second-reading speech, dealing with small-pox, said -
There may, however, be a- passenger who has spent the previous week in, say, Calcutta, where small-pox may be rife, and cannot’ satisfy the quarantine officer that he is protected against small-pox. This person may actually be incubating a disease. although showing no evidence of it, and he may not do so until several days later. The present law stipulates that he should be vaccinated, but it docs not provide for him to be kept in quarantine or under surveillance unless pratique is withheld from the aircraft.
I agree with that statement. Themeasures taken in the past to safeguard our people from the introduction of diseases were too lackadaisical. I wholeheartedly support the bill because under it quarantine control generally will be tightened up. Diseases such as small-pox may be introduced by arrivals by boat as well as by aeroplane. I vividly recall the scenes at Fremantle when during a smallpox scare boats from the East were not allowed to berth at the wharfs.
– in reply - I express appreciation of the approach, to this measure made by honorable senators who have spoken. Senator Cooper raised two points. The first was as to whether we had adequate medical supplies on hand to meet an outbreak of small-pox. We are rather happily placed- in that respect. Probably, about 1,000,000 of our population have already been vaccinated against that disease in the persons of ex-service^ men and women who served outside Australia’ during the Avar. We have on hand at present 1,250,000 doses of calf-lymph as a stock pile -against the outbreak of that disease. We believe that that is an adequate reserve, whilst more can readily be made available as the result of the establishment of the serum laboratories at Royal Park, Melbourne. In addition, other biological products are being developed at those laboratories and extensive stocks are being kept to meet possible outbreaks of different diseases in this country which may, or may not, be imported from abroad.
I am obliged to Senator Cooper for his suggestion about the need to examine the exterior of aeroplanes, but I am informed that danger from that source is comparatively negligible. However, I shall follow up his suggestion in order to be sure that no loophole is left in that respect.
Senator Herbert Hays raised an interesting point regarding the relative powers of the Commonwealth and the States in the quarantine field. He said that the Commonwealth powers “ are not absolute”. With all that he said except that view, I can agree. Section 2a of the Quarantine Act assumes, and for very good reason, that the Commonwealth has absolute power. It reads - 2a. - (1.) Whenever the Governor-General is satisfied that an emergency exists which makes it necessary to do so, he may, by proclamation, declare that any or all measures of quarantine prescribed by or under any State Act shall, for such period as is specified in the proclamation, cease to have effect, and such measure shall thereupon cease to have effect accordingly.
Thus, we assume power to override State law where necessary; but it is quite clear from decided cases that the Commonwealth and the States have a concurrent jurisdiction in the field of quarantine. The quarantine power is not exclusive to the Commonwealth, as is the customs and excise power where there is a specific reservation of exclusive power to the Commonwealth. This matter was considered in 1928 in the Nelson case which went to the High Court. That was a case where New South Wales declared a quarantine area and prohibited the importation of cattle from Queensland. The matter was the subject of litigation and went to the High Court, which held in very express terms that the Commonwealth had an overriding power by virtue of section 109 of the Constitution which, in effect, says that where the States and the Commonwealth enjoy concurrently a particular field of power the Commonwealth’s law is to prevail, if there is any conflict. So, in effect, the Commonwealth in the matter of quarantine is paramount, and can override any State law.
– That would happen only in cases of extreme emergency.
– Yes ; but what is done in Tasmania by the State is really for Tasmania’s good, and we in our exercise of Commonwealth power believe that it is a primal duty - I do not say it is our sole duty - to intercept diseases at the sea border. Then, it is for each State to protect itself against the spreadof local diseases. Senator Gibson put his finger on the reason for the action taken in Tasmania in the matter he mentioned. It was to prevent pleuro-pneumonia from spreading to Tasmania; and the State under its quarantine power has been able to keep out that disease. There is no desire by the Commonwealth to invade fields which are of peculiar import to the States alone. The Commonwealth and the State powers in the quarantine field can run side by side without difficulty.If honorable senators are further interested in this matter I refer them to the case ex parte Nelson which is reported in Volume 42, C.L.R., pages 217-249. The judgment of the courtin that case contains some interesting passages. I shall read an extract from the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins. The Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Starke had upheld the view which I have just put to the Senate, and Mr. Justice Higgins followed on with this -
I venture to say that I agree with the Chief Justice, Gavan Duffy and Starke J J. that the section is not invalid on any of those grounds.
That is the section in the New South Wales Stock Act -
In my judgment in ex parte Beavis (1) I have given my reasons for thinking that the Commonwealth power under section 51 to make quarantine laws is not an exclusive power - that the States can make quarantine laws as before federation, butwith these qualifications: (1) that the State quarantine laws are invalid if and so far as they contravene section.92.
Section 92, of course, provides that trade, commerce and intercourse between the
States shall be absolutely free. That section does not arise in any way in relation to overseas trade, so that that particular.qualification impinges more on the power of the States than on the power of the Commonwealth.
– But that was not a case of disease. It was a question of trade.
– Diseased stock could not be transferred from one State to another.
– It is a question of fact in each individual case as to whether interstate trade is interfered with. It is a situation that one cannot discuss in. the abstract. One must look at the facts of each case. The courts have always ma.de that approach to the problem. The second point made by His H< n our was this -
I am glad that honorable senators raised that question, because it has given me an opportunity to point out the Commonwealth view on the matter.
Senator Hays also referred to the need to keep track of people who come into this country. Their addresses are recorded so that, if an aircraft arrived in this country and a person incubating a disease did manage to get through our quarantine net, we could immediately pick up all contacts ‘from that aircraft. We should set our administrative machinery in motion to overhaul them and see” if they had developed the disease. Actually, when a person is inoculated, he is free, but is kept under surveillance. He is not permitted to go to any part of Australia where there is no quarantine officer to whom he can report. He must report daily. It so happens that small-pox is not contagious until the symptoms are apparent, so that any one incubating the disease may be free for quite a long period without doing any damage, so long as he is isolated the moment the symptoms appear.
Senator Gibson referred to the .need to ensure that seeds and plants shall be disease free before being brought into this country. I can assure the honorable senator that all seeds and plants, includ ing even timber - it may be borer infested - are examined very carefully by quarantine officers. The honorable senator referred also to tick eradication. That is a matter in which the Commonwealth has taken considerable interest. The suggestion that the honorable senator made has, in fact, been in force for some time in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. The Commonwealth, and not the State, has declared quarantine area there and the forces of the State of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth are concentrated on the erection of concrete dips. Cattle are not allowed .to enter or leave that area until it is declared free of tick infestation. It usually takes fifteen or eighteen months to get an area completely free from ticks. Not long ago one area was released - it was a large area comprising some thousands of square miles in the north of New South Wales. The Commonwealth has been contributing to State finances up to a maximum of ?53,000 per annum to, assist tick eradication in New South Wales, and recently Cabinet approved of a grant of ?7-5,000 a year for five years to enable a further intensive programme of tick eradication to be undertaken in that State. The Commonwealth is working in close collaboration with New South Wales and Queensland in this matter and when the tick area is pushed back over the Queensland border, the Commonwealth will concentrate its energies on the problem of control in that State.
asked what was the position regarding animals arriving in Australia by air. The importation ‘of animals by air is prohibited. Therefore, the only animals that might come through would be ones smuggled past our quarantine barrier. The honorable senator asked also who would define a pest. That matter will rest with the veterinary, quarantine and agriculture and plant specialists, and I suppose I must acknowledge that in due course, the job of deciding what is or what is not a pest will devolve upon me as the responsible Minister.
Senator Aylett also asked a question regarding the location of our quarantine barriers. Quarantine barriers are set up at first ports of call, and aircraft approaching this country are under an obligation to give some hours notice of their arrival. There is no danger of an aircraft arriving without a quarantine officer being ready for it. It is an offence for an aircraft to land at a first port of call without giving adequate notice to the quarantine officers of its arrival. Senator Clothier spoke of rinderpest in Western Australia which, when it first appeared was pounced upon so quickly and effectively.
I appreciate the welcome that has been extended to this bill by the Senate, and I. believe that our quarantine officers will be gratified to realize that their very successful efforts down the years are appreciated by the legislature.
Question resolved in the affirmative-.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the Senate, at Us rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Commonwealth Buildings at Hobart - Statistics - Housing.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Recently the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Mr. H. T. Armitage, visited Tasmania, and while in Hobart stated that a new Commonwealth Bank building was to be erected in that city/ He also produced a plan of the proposed magnificent structure. Whilst Tasmanians no doubt will be proud of this building when it is erected, it seems to me that to give priority to this work over housing, of which there is an acute shortage in Tasmania, as in every other State, would be quite wrong. It is pathetic to see people living in old caravans and, within a few hundred yards of my own residence, in tents. Mr. Armitage said that it was the intention to proceed with the erection of the Commonwealth Bank building almost immediately, and when the suggestion was made to him that the work would interfere with the housing programme and could very well be postponed until more homes were erected, he made the following extraordinary statement, which was reported in the press : -
The materials to be used in the construction of the Commonwealth Bank’s new building in Hobart, and the labour to be used in its construction will not compete with home building in any way.
That statement requires some clarification because it is obvious that the labour forces, including skilled building tradesmen such as carpenters and builders’ labourers, of which there is a- shortage throughout the Commonwealth, that will be required for this gigantic project, will be considerable. Also, substantial quantities of glass which is almost unprocurable at present, will be needed. The same applies to steel reinforcing, members, cement and crushed metal. There can bie nc doubt that this work will retard the building of homes. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) if it is the intention that the bank building shall be erected in the immediate future, and if so, does he not agree that this work should be postponed for some little time until the housing situation has improved?
.- I suggest to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that an endeavour be made to co-ordinate the collection of statistics by the States and by the Commonwealth. In Victoria, statistics are compiled at the 31st of March of each year. I see no reason why this work -should not be done at the 30th June when Commonwealth income tax returns have to be made up. There must be a considerable variation between the statistics collected at the 31st March and those compiled from income tax returns made at the 30th June. If all statistics were collected at 30th June, it would be a great convenience to those people who have to fill in long lists of items on two occasions each year.
.- I refer to the subject mentioned by Senator Sampson, but I approach it. along a different line. The fact that the Commonwealth Bank proposes to erect a building in Hobart provides the Government with an opportunity to centralize branches of Commonwealth departments in that city in one block of buildings..
The Commonwealth is paying an enormous amount for the rental of offices in Hobart, and a great deal of inconvenience is caused to the public by the fact that they are scattered all over the city. Could the Government bring all these offices together in one block of buildings ? The Commonwealth . already owns most of the square on which the bank building will be erected. The departments concerned have expanded considerably since the beginning of the war, and they will grow even more in the future. I believe that such a plan could be carried out now. Tasmania has abundant supplies of the raw materials that would be needed in the building of offices. It has some of the best sand and metals in the world and ample stocks of cement. The buildings could be made of concrete, and therefore there should be no problem about obtaining materials. The most important shortage is that of labour,. Labour is scarce throughout Australia, of course, but this could be overcome by encouraging immigration. The Government should seize this opportunity to inform people in’ other countries who wish to come to Australia that there is plenty of work awaiting them and that they can obtain employment at the best rates of pay and under the most satisfactory conditions in the world. If we are to stand . still and say that this cannot be done and that cannot be done, because we have not sufficient’ labour, we shall never get anything done and we shall not increase our population. If the construction of Commonwealth buildings in Hobart would interfere in any way with the housing programme, I would not be in favour of it. However, Tasmania is carrying out a very successful programme of home construction. I travel a great, deal throughout the State, and I have been surprised to see how many new homes are being erected in its towns and cities, particularly Launceston and Hobart. In view of the progress that has been made, I consider that Tasmania’s housing problem should be solved in the near future. Therefore, the Government should press on as soon as possible with the erection of public offices at Hobart. Et should do everything possible to secure the necessary labour by encouraging immigration, even if it has to apply for extra ships to transport migrants to Australia. Now is the time to encourage people in other countries to start life anew in Australia. I do not know ‘what plans the Government has in mind, and it may already be contemplating the action that I have suggested. However, I ask whether it has completed “the purchase of the area on which the bank building is to be erected, and whether all Commonwealth buildings in Hobart could be centralized on that site. The centralization of Commonwealth offices is a policy which should be put into effect in every capital city.
Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) 1 5.4]. - I draw attention to the rising cost of home-building, a subject which is exercising the minds of the people very much. The problem created by this increase is serious, and I am not in a position to say what would be the most effective solution. However, I urge the Government to do something in the interests of working people who wish to erect homes for themselves. The cost of a home to-day is about 100 per cent. higher than the pre-war cost. A house that could have been built for £800 before the war costs £1,600 to-day, and it takes perhaps twelve months to complete. I am particularly concerned about the interests of working men in this matter. The fact is that, when costs return to what may be regarded as a normal level, people who have been paying off the cost of homes built during the period of high prices, will find that they have no equity in their buildings. I am aware that the increase is due in part to increased costs of materials and labour, but one of the greatest factors, which should be avoidable, is the delay in completing homes. This delay is due to shortages of hardware, roofing material, glass, and so forth. A contracting builder and his staff have a home partly erected, when they find that some essential materials are not available and work must be discontinued for the time being. The contractor must continue to pay his’ staff until the materials arrive. Such delays are usually lengthy, and the wages bill therefore adds greatly to the cost of the building. This problem is widespread. Commonwealth and State Governments should investigate it and endeavour to solve it. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to examine this matter in order to see whether anything can be done about it.
.-in reply - Both Senator Sampson and Senator Aylett referred to the proposed erection of a. Commonwealth Bank building at Hobart. Senator Sampson was somewhat disturbed about the possibility of construction work being commenced immediately. Senator Aylett, on thecontrary, said that the bank should be commenced as soon as possible,consistent with the availability of labour, because thenecessary materials were available in ample quantities in Tasmania. Therefore, I am left at the cross-roads. If I give an answer that will satisfy Senator Sampson, it will not satisfy Senator Aylett. The best thing that I can do in the circumstances is to assure both honorable senators that nothing will be done to jeopardize, or impede in any way, the continuation of home-building in Tasmania and throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. Senator Herbert Hays referred to the problem of the high cost of home-building. I assume that he referred specifically to conditions in Tasmania. I remind him that the problem docs not apply only in that State.
– I did not specify Tasmania.
– I point out to the honorable senator that, as the result of increases of prices for primary products grown in Tasmania, such as potatoes and blue peas - the price of potatoes has increased 100 per cent. - the cost of living has increased considerably. The cost of living, in turn, is reflected in the high cost of house construction. If there could be a reduction of costs all round, the cost of building would probably decrease.
– Why should houses in South. Australia be much cheaper than inTasmania?
– There may be conditions in South Australia that do not apply in Tasmania. However, in Tasmania, where cement is produced, it should be possible to build houses more cheaply than in South Australia, which imports Tasmanian cement. The cost of home-building is constantly under review by the Prices Commissioner. This applies to costsin South Australia and in Tasmania. Senator Gibson spoke of the desirability of securing uniformity in the collection of statistics . I agree with what he said, and I shall have representations made to the appropriate department with a view to seeing whether there is any possibility of arranging cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in this matter. This would enable the accuracy of information collected to be checked, and would have other advantages. Also it would obviate the necessity for duplicating certain work involved in filling in forms for State and Commonwealth purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The followingpapers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 - No. 22- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department-
Commerce and Agriculture - W. T. Doig.
External Affairs-E. R. Walker.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 38.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes-Hamilton, Queensland.
Department of Supply and Shipping purposes - Townsville, Queensland.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 40.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 1 - Police.
Senate adjourned at 5.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470501_senate_18_191/>.