30 May 1947

18th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 3194



Senator SAMPSON:

– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether it is correct, as reported in the Tasmanian pres«, that -a representative of the Aluminium Commission, when in Tasmania, said that before operations commenced it was essential that a channel be cut in the river Tamar from the northern end of Home Beach to the 4/8 beacon opposite Newnham, and if so, who will bear the cost?

Minister for Munitions · NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The proposed diversion of the river Tamar has been considered by the local-governing body for a number of years. It is most desirable that the river be straightened to provide direct access to tho works of the Aluminium Commission. I cannot say who will bear the cost, but I expect that it will be borne by the local authority which, for many years, has planned a diversion of the river.

Senator Sampson:

– The project waa abandoned many years ago.


– Possibly some contribution towards the cost will be made by the Aluminium Commission, but it is hoped that most of it will be paid by the local body.

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Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia

by leave - As this is the last occasion on which Senator Gibson will be present in the Senate, I desire, on behalf of the Opposition, that our appreciation of hi3 meritorious service to Australia, especially in the Commonwealth Parliament for the last 26 years, be placed on record. During that period Senator Gibson has occupied the high offices of PostmasterGeneral and Minister for Works and Railways. I am sure that the present Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) will not object if I remind the Senate that it is on record that Senator Gibson was the best Postmaster-General Australia had produced up to the time the statement was made. We all appreciate his splendid service and the valuable work that he has performed while a member of the Senate. We shall be thinking of Senator Gibson in his retirement, and we trust that he will long enjoy the fruits of his labours. He has been successful, not only in the political, but also in the business sphere, and we trust that it will be our pleasure and privilege to meet with him from time to time.

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South Wales · ALP

by leave - I desire to associate the Government and its supporters with the references made to Senator Gibson by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). No man has served his country with greater devotion and ability than Senator Gibson has done. I refer especially to his keen sense of justice and fair play. When the honorable senator was Postmaster-General, an office he held with distinction and ability for the record term of eight years, he brought to bear upon his ministerial duties his practical experience of life in the outback. He developed to a remarkable degree the postal and telephonic services in country areas. I recall an occasion when I was PostmasterGeneral, when I had good reason to be thankful for his fair-mindedness. A discussion was taking place in this chamber with respect to the merits of my allocations of broadcasting licences; and when matters did not look too bright from my point of view, Senator Gibson rose in his place and declared that he would have done exactly the same as I had done were he in my position. That incident reflected the honorable senator’s sense of justice, which is characteristic of him. There is no doubt that he has brought to the Parliament a valuable knowledge of the primary industries of th:.a country. Very few have exhibited like knowledge in either this, or any other. parliament in this country.

The Senate will be much the poorer for the loss of Senator Gibson. I join whole-heartedly with the Leader of the Opposition in wishing him the very best for the future, and I have no doubt that I can express that wish on behalf of every honorable senator. Outside the chamber he is addressed by his friends as “ Gibby “ ; and I simply add, “ May you, Gibby, in your retirement, enjoy the peace of mind and happiness all of us wish you, and which you have so deservedly earned “.

Senator COOPER:

– bi/ leave - I should like to support the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) with reference to the retirement from the Senate of Senator Gibson. The honorable senator was one of a small band of enthusiastic country men who were mainly instrumental in forming the Australian Country party nearly 30 years ago. Since that time he has played a prominent part in advancing the ideals of that party. For many years he was a member of the House of Representatives, and he has been a member of the Senate also for many years. On all occasions he has exhibited a very clear grasp of the needs of country dwellers. He has lived in the country and has country interests; and he fully understands the needs of the primary producers who are developing this great, land. In addition, he has also had considerable city and business experience and his variety of interests has enabled him in both chambers to contribute valuable criticism and advice with respect to the many complex questions that come before the Parliament. All. of us regret very much that he is now about to retire. However, all of us must some day make a similar decision. I sincerely hope that Senator Gibson will enjoy every happiness in his home life, and in whatever pursuits he may undertake in his retirement. I trust that. he will visit Canberra during parliamentary sessions to see how we are getting on, and perhaps to advise us on some of the difficult problems with which we shall be faced in Mie future.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon Gordon Brown:

– From my vantage point in the chair in this chamber, and as a relatively “ silent “ senator, I am able to appraise the work of members of this chamber in debate. Our good friend, Senator Gibson, has upheld the best traditions of Parliament. He is a great parliamentarian, and we shall certainly miss him. In debate he is always incisive and fair, and, unlike most other honorable senators, including myself, he has always managed to keep to the point. We have come to know that when he rises to speak he has something important to say. We all wish him well, and I echo the hope expressed by Senator Cooper that we shall see the honorable senator in the precincts of this chamber on many occasions in the years to come so that we may renew our acquaintance with him.

Senator GIBSON:

by leave -I am astounded at the proceedings in the Senate this morning, and somewhat embarrassed by the speeches that have been made. As honorable senators are aware, I am retiring from this chamber voluntarily, and am now making my last speech in the Senate. Upon my retirement from political life, I shall miss greatly the many friends that I have made amongst honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives. I recall that when Senator Ashley became Leader of the Senate we on this side of the chamber believed that he was in for a rough time, because we had a strong team on the Opposition benches. Ourleader (Senator McLeay) is a keen debater, and, backed by my good friend Senator Leckie, whose wit and satire are well known to honorable senators, he has many times thrown political dynamite into the Government camp. But once again opportunity made the man, and Senator Ashley rose to the occasion. He has led the Senate with distinction. That is acknowledged by members of all parties in this chamber, and I am indebted to the Minister for the many kindnesses that he has shown to me personally during his term of office. For fourteen years 1 was a member of the House of Representatives, and for part of that time served a3 Postmaster-General. I have been a member of the Senate for twelve years, and, as I have said, I shall miss the company of the many friends that I have made in this legislature. However, I shall listen to your voices over the air, and perhaps will return and sit in the strangers’ gallery of this chamber to hear what is going on. It is gratifying indeed to be carrying away with me the good wishes of an august body such as the Senate. T shall leave the Parliament regretting the parting from the many personal friends who have stuck close to me and assisted me in any work that I may have done for the country and for the Senate.

I was the nucleus of a nuisance body that arose in both Houses of the Parliament - the Australian Country party. I was the first representative of that party elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, and for some time I was a solitary figure in the House of Representatives. Eventually that body grew to what it is to-day - a solidly represented party in both Houses. I shall watch with considerable interest the doings of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the future. In passing, I remark that the press would make it appear that the members of the opposing parties in the Senate are sworn enemies who are constantly at one another’s throats. That opinion is held generally outside of the Parliament, whereas the fact is that we have 311st us many friends amongst honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber as we have in our own ranks. What is the true position ? There is more than one side to every question of politics. We on this side of the Senate view political subjects from a different .stand-point from that of the Australian Labour party. However, we all face towards a common goal, namely, the welfare of Hie public as a whole. To-day, the people have ruled that the Labour party’s view is correct; to-morrow they may decide that our view is right. The fact is that we all seek to achieve the same end. I thank all honorable senators from the bottom of my heart. These are the last words that I shall be able to utter in this chamber.

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– Yesterday 1 asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping a question regarding the tonnages of iron and steel products that have been shipped from the eastern States to South Australia. Is the Minister yet :ible to supply me with an answer?

Senator ASHLEY:

– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -

Latest statistics to hand are contained in a statement dated the 22nd May, 1947. Constructional and pastoral steel includes roofing iron, galvanized iron, iron piping, &c.

At Newcastle on the 22nd May, there were 28,244 tons for shipment to all States. Steamers have been allotted to load 27,119 tons. It must be remembered, however, that there is the usual production going on and since the date mentioned this production would amount approximately to 5,000 tons, leaving a back lag of approximately 0,000 tons. For South Australia in particular there were 3,069 tons for Adelaide. Against this /illaroo loading was 2,950 tons and the Australian Shipping Board are looking into the question of fixing Mildura to follow Ellaroo to clear up the balance.

At Port Kembla there were 13,000 tons awaiting shipment to all States against which vessels have been allotted to lift 12,784 tons.

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Senator FINLAY:

– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs when we may expect clothes rationing to be discontinued. Will it be possible in the coming financial year to eliminate the coupon system altogether? If not, may we expect a substantial reduction of .the .numbers of coupons required to be surrendered for suits, overcoats, and other essential items, which now cause a severe drain on the coupon issues received by the people?

Minister for Trade and Customs · QUEENSLAND · ALP

– It would give me a great deal of pleasure to be able to tell the honorable senator that we may expect an easing of clothes rationing. However, I should be over-optimistic if I said that we could reasonably expect anything of that nature in the near future. There is a great scarcity of cotton goods, and I believe that the people will be considerably embarrassed by the shortages of sheeting, calico, and materials of that kind. Supplies of certain materials have been increased by means of purchases made from Japan and the United States of America. The chief problem in relation to suiting materials is the difficulty of production. It is possible that much greater production will be achieved than at present, and in that event the position will be eased considerably. However, I do not think that there is any likelihood of an immediate relaxation of rationing.

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Private Hospitals


– Because of shortage of accommodation in maternity hospitals in South Australia many expectant mothers are forced to enter nonapproved hospitals, and they thereby lose the benefit of the hospital subsidy of £2 2s. a week. Can the Minister for Health and Social Services say whether the subsidy can be paid in such cases, and, if so, will the necessary publicity be given to the matter?

Senator McKENNA:
Minister for Health · TASMANIA · ALP

– As the law stands it would not be possible for payments to be made direct to patients. The private hospitals regulations, made in pursuance of the act, provide that payment will be made to proprietors of approved hospitals of the amount involved, and that 6s. per day is to be deducted from patients’ accounts. I regret that that cannot be done in the case of non-approved hospitals for a number of reasons, the relevant one in this case being that there has been general cooperation with the Government by the private hospitals in promoting the scheme throughout Australia. Every private hospital in Western Australia and Tasmania is co-operating and is approved for the purpose of participation in the benefits of the act. In Victoria, of 221 private hospitals, only nine are not approved, whilst in Queensland there are only the same number which are not approved. In New South Wales recently there were 157 private hospitals not approved.

Senator Allan MacDonald:

– Does that include what are termed “ private convalescent homes “ ?

Senator McKENNA:

– No, under the Hospital Benefits Act 1945 no provision is made for approval to be extended to an institution where medical care is not provided. Convalescent homes and institutions of that nature do not come within the scope of the act. In New South Wales, thanks to the co-operation of the proprietors of private hospitals, some 70 have qualified to participate in the scheme within the last two and a half months, and I hope for complete co-operation by all private hospitals in that State. There has been a general acceptance of the scheme, based on payments to the hospital and not to the individuals. I hope that a drive now being made to enlist the participation of the remaining hospitals will be successful. In South Australia only eleven hospitals are not in the scheme.

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Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to.

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to pharmaceutical benefits.

page 3198


Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill . for an act to amend the Hospital Benefits Act 1945.

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.

Second Reading

Senator McKENNA:
TasmaniaMinister for Health and Minister for Social Services · ALP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of this bill is to amend the Hospital Benefits Act 1945, in order to authorize the making of regulations to operate from the 1st July, 1946, in relation to payments by the Commonwealth of hospital benefits in respect of Australian residents who are temporarily absent from Australia. Following representations made by Australians temporarily stationed abroad who remained liable to pay Commonwealth income taxes, the Government, in June, 1946, decided that, subject to certain conditions, maternity allowances, child endowment and hospital .benefits should be made available as from the 1st July, 1946, to Commonwealth and State employees stationed temporarily abroad, members of the Australian Defence Forces and their dependants abroad, excluding hospital benefits for the members, and other Australian residents temporarily abroad. Provisions covering maternity allowances and child endowment for such persons are included in the Social Services Consolidation Bill now before the Parliament. Section 4 of the Hospital Benefits Act 1945 provides that the regulations may make provision for, and in relation to, payments by the Commonwealth of hospital benefits, at such rates and subject to such conditions as are prescribed in respect of patients in private hospitals as defined by the regulations. The amendment to that section proposed by clause 3 is to enable the regulations to make a similar provision in respect of persons who are residents of Australia as defined by the regulations but are temporarily absent from Australia, and such spouses, children or other dependants of any such residents of Australia as are prescribed. It is proposed by clause 4 to amend section 8 of the principal act to permit of retrospective effect being given to the regulations so that they may operate from a day not earlier than the 1st July, 1946. I commend the bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 3077), on motion by Senator McKenna -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia

– I do not propose to speak at length on this bill, which is one to approve the constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. I am sure that all honorable senators agree with the comments of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) who, in his second-reading speech, said -

Unesco is the product of the general conviction that scholars, scientists and educationists can, through a strong international body, make a major, positive contribution to international understanding and progress.

When we approach the discussion of this measure from a practical point of view we must realize that after World War I. there was general support throughout the world by the people of all nations of the principles enunciated by those who were responsible for the formation of the League of Nations. After World War II. that spirit resulted in the establishment of the United Nations as a genuine attempt to outlaw war. The great danger is that the people so soon forget. I compliment the Government on its active participation in the various organizations that have been established under the United Nations. As political leaders we should on every occasion do all that we can to impress on the people of Australia, and, indeed, of all countries, that it is their bounden duty to take an active interest in the things that really matter. When we look back on the recent war and reflect on the horrors and hardships which it has caused, and realize that many millions sacrificed their lives unnecessarily, we should do all that we can to further the ideals of this and other organizations whose object is the creation of a better international understanding, and should strive to the utmost for the peace of the world. I regret that the United Nations has not made more progress during the last two years, but we must realize the practical difficulties associated with bringing more than 50 nations, with their different ideologies, together, and getting them to move along the paths leading to peace. One reason why more progress has not been made is that the leading powers hold different opinions regarding vital matters. As men charged with the responsibility of doing the right thing in these matters, we must try to lay the foundations of peace while, at the same time, making adequate provision for Australia’s future defence.

We must, therefore, approach all of these problems in a practical way. I strongly believe that had the people of the world backed President Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, World War II. could have been avoided. Notwithstanding that Britain was one of the leaders of the victorious Allied nations, there is disorder, hardship and misery in Britain to-day. It is indeed true that, in the final analysis, those who win a war are the losers. I hope that this organization will be able to contribute something to a better understanding among the nations of the world. I am not unmindful of the fact that we must not be led astray, as we were led astray after World War I., by putting too much faith in the League of Nations, with the result that our defences became ineffective, and we nearly lost everything that we possessed. Until the nations of the world approach these matters in the right spirit, the leading powers must make sure that their defences are adequate to enforce the laws of peace which are essential to the well-being of mankind generally. A great writer has said that there isan everlasting sacredness in human life, and that God who gave it guards it jealously. When we look back upon the loss of human life in wars, the flower of the manhood of this and other countries, surely it is our duty, while we are not unmindful of our own defence requirements, to support organizations of this kind which are doing so much to lead mankind along the path of peace and international co-operation.

Western Australia

– I shall be very brief in my remarks on this bill the purpose of which is to link Australian thought with that of other nations in the promotion of world peace. Many of us have been exercised by the grave doubt which exists regarding the future of the United Nations organization. It is inherent in a young organization such as this that there will be disputes and arguments until the organization gradually gains strength and develops wisdom. Indeed, in the absence of such disputes and discussions, I should be gravely apprehensive regarding the prospects for future world peace, because they reflect the fact that the nations of the world are interested in the objectives set out in the measure. That interest, however small, will grow and thus enable this organization to play an important part in the maintenance of the peace of the world in the future. That can only be achieved, as the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) said in his second-reading speech, through international cooperation in the libraries and laboratories of the world. Education and research will make the greatest contribution to future world peace.

I was also glad to hear the Minister’s reference to the part played in the preliminary activities of this organization by the Australian delegate, Professor R. C. Mills, Commonwealth Director of Education, who, when speaking at the Preparatory Commission, presented the view of the Australian Government that a limited, practicable programme for the organization - one which attempted to combine immediate tasks with long-range projects - was preferable to a programme which attempted to extend Unesco’s as yet limited resources over too wide a field of enterprises. The Minister said that this approach has, in general, been adopted. In that respect the Government is acting wisely, because overloading a young organization of this kind with detail would tend to hamper its development. I was a great believer in the League of Nations. League of Nations Unions were established in all States of the Commonwealth, and in practically every country. The valiant workers and enthusiasts in those unions, despite many great disappointments, remained steadfast in their work for the maintenance of the League in the hope that it would prove to be the means of maintaining world peace. However, we know the fate suffered by the League. To-day, we have another organization which I hope will be supported by all those who supported the League of Nations in the past, because this new organization offers the only hope of survival of many countries, if not, of the world itself. I refer, particularly, to countries which are not members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and have few, if any, friends, but share British ideals. ‘ I commend the Government for introducing this measure, and express the hope that this organization’s activities in the field of education and research will contribute to the greatest possible degree to the maintenance of world peace.

Senator TANGNEY:
Western Australia

– I support the setting up of this organization and Australia’s membership of it. Isolated as we are from other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the rest of the world generally, it is important that we take part in these international organizations, particularly those with the high ideals of Unesco. I know that many peoples are sceptical of the various world organizations which have been established since the end of the recent war, because they believe that these bodies are of mushroom growth and will probably suffer the fate which, unfortunately, befell the League of Nations. However, in the 25 years between the two world wars, the peoples of the world have come to realize that the only way of staving off a third, and possibly, a final conflagration, is to educate the peoples of the world, primarily to enable them to realize that the purpose of their being is not to be in constant strife with each other but to live in peace and harmony with all nations. The history of wars proves that they are caused mainly through ignorance, illiteracy and greed. In this matter we in Australia cannot be complacent. We are very close to the overcrowded countries which constitute the continent of Asia; and right on our doorstep are millions of native peoples who are living in a state of perpetual ignorance, want and squalor. I have visited those countries and seen for myself the awful contrast between the wealth of some sections of those communities and the degradation and squalor of other sections, which, of course, are considerably in. the majority. This ignorance is a definite menace to world peace; and, in my opinion, it is also a definite menace to the peace and future of Australia itself. History also proves that the women of the world have had to bear the greatest burden in war. They have brought children into the world, only to see them massacred when they reach manhood in repelling foreign foes. To-day, all of the women of the world will welcome the setting up of Unesco if it is going to save them and their children from a similar fate. The ideals of this organization are very high - to promote amongst the people of all nations that complete understanding that can come only through education, because education and knowledge know no boundaries of country, creed or colour. If the high hopes of those who have established Unesco are realized,future generations will not have to bear the sufferings that have befallen the past two generations, which have had to face wars in all their awful aspects. I commend the Minister upon the introduction of this measure. I believe that Unesco will succeed, and I feel certain that this Government, together with the other governments that comprise Unesco, will do their utmost to see that the high ideals of this organization are realized.

Senator McKENNA:
Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services · Tasmania · ALP

in reply - I appreciate the reception that hasbeen given to this measure by honorable senators opposite who have spoken, namely the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Allan MacDonald. I endorse the very high sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, which I may add, are characteristic of him. Those who have founded Unesco hope that it will serve the desirable end of shedding some light in dark places. I appreciate the comments of Senator Tangney with regard to the bill, and I trust that when Unesco is functioning fully, and its objects are understood in the world, it will be a force for the uplift of mankind.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 3078), on motion by Senator Ashley -

That thebill be now read a second time.

Senator COOPER:

– The purpose of this measure is to reduce the silver content of the silver coinage of this country. At present, the silver content is 92.5 per cent. fine silver and7½ per cent. alloy, consisting of copper, zinc and tin. The bill will reduce the silver content to 50 per cent., the balance being made up of alloy. It is estimated that the silver coinage in circulation in this country amounts to £26,000,000. Roughly, this would represent 88,000,000 oz. of silver. The bill provides for a reduction of 42½ per cent. in the silver content, which really means that our silver currency will be debased by that percentage. If our entire present silver currency is withdrawn, and the Treasury is able to reclaim the full amount of silver from it, the surplus over and above that required for the new coinage will be 40,000,000 oz. In other words, 40,000,000 oz. of silver is being taken from the pockets of the people. In the past, when a reduction of the precious metal content of currency has been announced in various countries, there has been a tendency for people to hoard the old coins rather than let them return to the Treasury, in the hope that some day they will be of greater value. I am afraid that this will happen again. It is regrettable, therefore, that the proposed new silver coinage in this country could not have been introduced without a public announcement. The present silver coins could then have been withdrawn by the Treasury without any difficulty. There is an old saying, “bad money drives out good money “. That is as true to-day as in the past.

Senator Nash:

– Is the honorable senator suggesting that new currency is bad currency ?

Senator COOPER:

– No. But the intrinsic value of the new currency will be 42£ per cent, less than that of the present coins. I realize of course that the reduction of the silver content will not have any influence upon the purchasing power of the coins. For instance, nickel coins, although having little intrinsic value, would have the same purchasing power as the present coins. Our silver coins have a definite intrinsic value, which will be reduced by the implementation of the bill. Therefore I am sure that people will hoard silver coins before they can be withdrawn from circulation. I realize that the Government must conserve supplies of silver because, during the war, Australia obtained from the United States of America a loan of 11,000,000 oz. of silver for coinage purposes. At that time, there were large numbers of United States troops in Australia, and this made it necessary for the Government to increase the silver currency issue. That is why silver coinage in circulation at present has reached the extraordinarily high value of £26,000,000. According to estimates based on the present rate of production, Australia’s surplus stocks of silver will be increased within two years to about 12,000,000 oz. The quantity that we borrowed from America does not have to be returned immediately. Therefore, the Government could well wait for a year or two until we have accumulated sufficient silver to repay that loan.

Senator Large:

– And still retain a proportion of 92J per cent, of silver in our coins?

Senator COOPER:

– Yes. Within two years we should have sufficient reserves of silver to enable us to meet our overseas commitment. The debasement of our silver currency is unnecessary. Considering the full facts of the situation, the reasons stated by the Minister for the Government’s decision are inadequate.

Senator SAMPSON:

– The purpose of this bill is to enable the Government to return to the United States of America the total of 11,000,000 oz. of silver that it obtained from that country during the war. It is interesting to consider the value placed by the people upon gold and silver coins. I recall the days when sovereigns - “ Jimmy O’Goblins “ - were currency in most Empire countries. The Australian sovereign was paler in colour than other sovereigns because it contained a higher proportion of gold. In South Africa at that time, Australian sovereigns could be sold to Indians on the Rand, in Natal, or elsewhere for 21s. 6d. or 22s. each. They were going out of circulation for this reason. India has been a tremendous sink for gold and silver for many generations. Indians like something tangible, like gold or silver, to hoard. For that reason, Australian minted sovereigns were in high demand in South Africa during the period I have in mind, from 1902 to 1907. Many Indians used Australian sovereigns for the manufacture of jewellery. Others “ sweated “ them. By this process they removed some of the gold content of the coins without destroying their apparent value. The object of the Government in proposing to reduce the silver content of our coinage to 50 per cent, is to enable it to build up a stock of 11,000,000 oz. of silver needed for repayment to the United States of America. I do not believe that the reduction will have much effect on the value of the coins. They will still be able to buy the same quantity of commodities as they will buy to-day. Silver coins are merely token payments.

Senator ASHLEY:
New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping · ALP

in reply - I cannot accept the statements of Senator Cooper and Senator Sampson that the currency will be debased by reason of the fact that the silver content will be reduced to 50 per cent. I say this because of the increased price of silver. Before the war, silver was valued at .2s. Id. sterling per fine oz., the equivalent of 2s. 7£d. in Australian currency. In 1945, an increase of the price of silver in the United States of America forced the London price up to 3s. 8d. sterling per fine oz., the equivalent of 4s. 7£d. Australian. A further increase in the United States of America in August, 1946, sent the London price to 4s. 7id. sterling per fine oz., the equivalent of 5s. 9d. Australian. It is very difficult to sustain the contention that the coinage has been debased by reducing its silver content to 50 per cent., because the value of that metal has increased 100 per cent. Prior to the introduction of cupro-nickel to the United Kingdom coinage, the silver content of that coinage was 50 per cent., but when that change was made there was no outcry that the substitution of cupro-nickel had debased it.

Senator Collett:

– The Minister’s argument is that there is still 2s. worth of silver in a florin?

Senator ASHLEY:

– And there is. There has been a great deal of hoarding of silver coinage. This is revealed by a comparison of present and prewar statistics, which show an increase from £8,000,000 to £26,000,000. If this change does no more than to encourage the reintroduction of that coinage into circulation it will do the community a great service. We experienced the sametrouble with regard to bank notes of large denominations, which were hoarded during the war by blackmarket operators and people engaged in other illicit enterprises. These people sought to evade their tax liabilities by converting their money into bank notes of large denominations for hoarding, and it was necessary to take special steps to defeat this practice. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question resolved inthe affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (The Schedule).

SenatorMcLEAY (South Australia - Leader of the Opposition) [11.38].- Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) tell me why, since the silver content is to be reduced from 92½ per cent. to 50 per cent., it could not be reduced to 25 per cent.? Why is the silver content that was accepted for so many years as the standard still treated as the measure of value? If the Minister suggests that the reduction of the amount ofsilver in the coinage does not diminish the present value of the coins compared with their pre-war value, can he inform the Senate why the pre-war silver content is accepted as the basis for coinage? Will a reduction of the amount of fine silver in the coinage affect countries like India, where the ex changes are worked on the basis of so many rupees to the pound sterling? In view of the important changes now taking place in that country, will the Minister inform the Senate whether this measure has any connexion with the recent decision to reject the established exchange rate whereby the rupee was tied to the pound sterling? Is it the policy of the Government to take such a step without prior consultation with the governments of Great Britain and the Dominions, whose currencies function on a sterling basis? It is important to ensure that what we propose to do shall not adversely affect the interests of the United Kingdom or the Dominions. I should greatly appreciate any information as to the probable reactions of the Government of India.

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South Wales · ALP

– The reason for the reduction of the silver content of the coinage is the increased cost of minting. The reason why 50 per cent. is accepted as the basis is that a lower silver content would not enable the coins to withstand wear and they would have become discoloured. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has inquired as to possible reactions overseas, but I can assure him that the measure will not have any such effect because international monetary arrangements are based on international exchange rates, which are independent of national token coinage systems.

Clause agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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Australian Broadcasting Commission;

Independent News Service - Answers to Questions

Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator CAMERON:
PostmasterGeneral · Victoria · ALP

.- On the 28th May, Senator Allan MacDonald asked the following questions: -

  1. With reference to the recent announcement that an independent news service is to be inaugurated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission next month, is it a fact that this news service is already in operation?
  2. If so - (a) what is the total personnel already recruited; their respective employment status for this service; and the weekly overall cost in each State and overseas; (b) was this early recruitment of news-gathering personnel an instruction from the Government?

I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -

  1. The independent news service is being established by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in accordance with the provisions of section 25 of the Australian Broadcasting Act which came into operation on the 1st October, 1946. Since that date, the commission has been making preparations for the institution of the service, which will commence on the 1st June, 1947. 2. (a) Forty-three additional full-time journalists have been appointed throughout Australia for the independent service, making a total staff of 77 full-time sub-editors and reporters. The appointment of part-time country correspondents is not completed, but approximately 250 have been offered positions. Fifty-nine of these appointments are in large centres on a small annual retainer, plus a small fee for each item used. The remainder do not receive a retainer, but are paid on the basis of . each item accepted. The approximate additional weekly cost of the independent news service in each State and overseas will be - New South Wales, £296; Victoria, £204; Queensland, £250; South Australia, £180; Western Australia, £250; Tasmania, £204; overseas, £385.

    1. The recruitment of news-gathering per sonnel was undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on its own initiative in pursuance of section 25 of the Australian Broadcasting Act.


Australia) [11.47].- Will the Minister for . Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) expedite answers to questions on the notice-paper so that, if possible, answers shall be supplied to all such questions before the Senate rises for the forthcoming recess?

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South Wales . · ALP

in reply - I shall endeavour to comply with the honorable senator’s request.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 3204


The following papers were pre sented : -

Arbitration (Public Service) Act- Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 - No. 45 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).

Commonwealth Public Service Act -

Appointments - Department -

Civil Aviation - J. M. Giroud.

Postmaster-General - W.R. Baker, R.

Buring, R. Frankel, L. T. Garrioch, D. A. Gray, R. K. Heathcote, J. K. Lynch, F. J. Norman, O. A. Pierotti. R. Pitkethly, J. H.Reen, H. J. Thorogood, F. D. Wilkinson.

Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 62 (Parliamentary Officers).

Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947 - No. 61.

Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty -fourth Annual Report for year 1945-46.

Senate adjourned at 11.49 a.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.