18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers. clothes rationing.
Senator TANGNEY. - In view of the decision of the Government to issue new clothing coupons next month, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the present issue will expire then, or may the coupons be used indefinitely?
Senator COURTICE.- I understand that the coupons now in use may be used indefinitely.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Trade and Customs informed the Senate, in reply to a question by Senator Beerworth, that arrangements were being made to import tractors from Great Britain. As great difficulty has been experienced during recent years in obtaining parts to replace those worn out or damaged, can the Minister say whether the Government has taken any action to ensure that an ample supply of tractor parts shall be available, thus avoiding great inconvenience to primary producers?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator has engaged the attention of the Government for some considerable time, and all necessary steps are being taken to secure tractors and tractor parts to meet our requirements. Our need in this respect, in order to enable us to increase our production of foodstuffs, is also appreciated by Great Britain.
– Iron foundries in Western Australia are in desperate need of coke, of which they have been unable for some considerable time to obtain adequate supplies. Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping advise me of the list of forward cargoes, and whether the coke companies can ship any cargoes of coke to Western Australia within the next two or three months?
– At the moment I am unable to supply a list of forward cargoes for Western Australia. The Government does not exercise any control over the distribution of coke. That is a matter entirely for private enterprise. Some time ago, in an endeavour to meet the huge demand for coke in not only Western Australia but also the other States, particularly Victoria, the Joint Coal Board negotiated with the coke companies offering to make available increased supplies of coal with a view to releasing greater supplies of coke. At that time, those companies were able to take only an additional few hundred tons of coal. The Government has done all it possibly can to increase coke supplies. I shall advise the honorable senator later of the list of forward cargoes for Western Australia and also of the possibility of improved coke supplies.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1224).
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £1,775,500.
Furt her consideration postponed.
Proposed votes - Department of Labour and National Service, £1,178,300; Department of Transport, £54,000; and Department of Information, £333,900 - agreed to.
Department of Post- war Reconstruction .
Proposed vote, £711,000.
– This department is playing a very important part in the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women. It appears that two new branches are being established, namely, the industrial development branch, with a staff of 56, which is to cost £42,997, and the regional planning branch, with a staff of 33, which is to cost £17,708. The Minister may be able to give some information to the committee in regard to the functions of these two new organizations. I understand that the regional planning section is entirely new, but that the industrial development section carried out some work last year.
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) 1 10.10]. - This is a new set-up consequent upon the termination of the war. Temporary officers are now being made permanent.
– Are these two sections functioning in connexion with the training of ex-servicemen?
– The proposed vote for “ salaries and payments in the nature of salaries “ for the Office of Education this year is £41,650 compared with £24,000 last year, of which approximately £19,000 was actually expended. I am prepared to concede that the Office of Education is doing valuable work in giving ex-servicemen an opportunity to undertake higher education, but I have had brought to my notice certain difficulties associated with obtaining reconstruction training allowances. The rules governing such advances seem to me to be rather restrictive and inelastic. I have had brought to my notice a case in point. It concerns an ex-serviceman, the son of a grazier. This man applied for a reconstruction training allowance, but, after the Office of Education had made inquiries, it informed him that the income of his parent was adequate for him to provide his son with the training that he sought. Upon making inquiries from the parent, I found that, although his taxation return had shown a reasonable profit for the year, he was heavily in debt to a pastoral firm which had put him on quite a small allowance and taken the remainder of his income. The Office of Education informed me that, if the taxation office waived the payment, that would be accepted as a reduction of income. T interviewed the taxation authorities and they informed me that they could not waive the payment altogether but, considering the circumstances, they would allow the debt to remain for a further twelve months. The fact that the Taxation Branch was satisfied that the father’s actual income was insufficient to warrant the levying of tax should have been sufficient evidence, for the purposes of the Office of Education, that he could not afford to pay for the education of his son, who, therefore, should have been eligible to draw an allowance for books. However, the Office of Education did not accept it as evidence. It contended that, although the father’s actual income over the period of twelve months had been too small to warrant tax, his earnings during the period had made a considerable difference to his capital liabilities. The ex-serviceman needs the education allowance now. The fact that his father’s earnings now may improve his capital account three, four or five years hence is of no immediate benefit to him. The Taxation Branch’s decision on this matter should have been regarded as proof that, for the year in question, the father could not afford to meet the cost of his son’s education. The son should have been granted an allowance for that year, and the matter could have been reviewed again in the succeeding year.
– The first request made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) was for an explanation of the increased expenditure provided in the Estimates this year. The fact is that the office in question was not fully established last year. That accounts for the increased provision. The honorable senator also complained about the application of the means test to persons who claimed assistance. I point out that the means test is not applied to ex-servicemen. It is merely intended to ensure that wealthy people shall not receive financial assistance on behalf of their children. I am not clear as to what the honorable senator wishes me to explain. The fund is not intended to benefit civilians who can afford to pay for the education of their children.
– I understand that. I asked why the means tes-t should operate against an individual whose income, in the view of the Taxation Branch, was so small as to be exempt from taxation. A large proportion of this man’s income was demanded for the reduction of his mortgage liability, and the amount left to him by the mortgagors for the year was insufficient to enable him to pay for the education of his son. In fairness the Office of Education should take a more liberal view. In this particular case it is obvious that during that year the man’s income was not sufficient to permit of his paying anything for the education of his child. Surely it is not contended that children should have to wait for education until their parents are receiving sufficient to enable them to pay something to the Office of Education.
– Any scheme of social service introduced by a government inevitably contains a number of anomalies. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) will give me the facts of the particular case to which he has referred, I shall be glad to bring them to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), and I am sure the Minister will give the matter sympathetic consideration. However, I do not think that that particular case has any general bearing on the estimates for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction which we are now considering.
.- I notice that the amount to be provided for financial assistance to university students under Division 109, Office of Education, namely, £225,000, represents one-third of the proposed total expenditure of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, namely, £711,000. What proportion of that sum is to be expended on ex-service and civilian students respectively? I do not make this inquiry in any spirit of criticism, because I believe that the Government has treated ex-service men and women most generously. We know that, because of the Government’s policy in regard to the rehabilitation of exservice men and women, the number of university students has been trebled. I know that the majority of students at Australian universities now are exservice men and women who would not have had an opportunity of embarking upon a course of scientific, cultural or professional training had it not been for the provision made for themby the Government. I am a life member of the University of Western Australia, and I come in contact with many hundreds of university students, and I can assure the Government that those students are loud in their praise of the Government. The present Government is the first one in this country to extend the availability of higher education, and I commend it for what it has done and what it proposes to do.
.- The question asked by the honorable senator in regard to the allocation of the sum of £225,000 between students who are ex-service men and women and those who arc civilians, does not afford any real idea of the assistance being rendered to ex-service students in regard to university education. Later the committee will be dealing with the provision of funds for university training for ex-service men and women, and it will be found that the amount provided by the Government for that purpose is approximately £3,000,000.
.- I notice that the amount proposed to be provided to cover temporary and casual employment of ex-service men and women is £450,240 and that reference is made to “ Temporary and casual employees” and “ Extra duty pay “ in two divisions. I do not question the validity of the proposed appropriation but I should like to be informed of the reason for it. I know that the regular Public Service is under-staffed and underpaid and that its members do not receive credit for the magnificent job which they perform. These officers are often greatly misunderstood and consequently they are the subjects of unjustified adverse criticism. I believe that they are working well in the interest of Australia. I should like to know whether the extra pay represents overtime, and, if not, what it is.
– Overtime for temporary assistance is charged to item 2 in the division relating to salariesand payments in the nature of salary.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges.
Proposed vote, £76,420,000.
– In view of the unsettled state of the world, the defence of Australia is a matter of such importance that whatever government was in power would have to give careful consideration to it. Australia’s defence is a grave responsibility resting on the government of the day. I have always discounted the criticism of “ arm-chair critics and i do not wish to fill that role. The Government, has had its disposal specialists and technical advisers in every branch of defence, and I believe that it, should seek their advice. Having obtained that advice I believe that the Government should follow it. The country cannot, afford to reduce its defence expenditure too drastically, because the world is in such an unsettled state that the risk of doing so is so great. When the provision for the several service departments comes before us, I shall raise a number of matters affecting them.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) 1 10.29”). - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that defence is essentially a matter for experts, but I urge that provision be made to furnish to the Parliament a complete report as to the hest way to co-ordinate the various arms of our defence services. I submit that the Department of Air should no longer be a separate department, but, that we should follow the example of the United States of America and brins; the Navy, the Army and the Air Force under one Minister for Defence. The Minister for the Navy could assist him.
I am sorry that no provision has been made in these Estimates for universal military service.
– The honorable senator means conscription?
– I prefer to call it universal military service, but the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) may call it conscription if he likes. During the war of 1939-45 many Australians were embarrassed when conscripted soldiers of other nations came to the assistance of Australia, which had no provision for compulsory service overseas. It is true that Australian volunteers fought rema.rka.bly well with the men of other nations; but the fact remains that, whereas British and American servicemen were compelled to go anywhere in the defence of democratic ideals, a territorial limit was placed on the services of Australians. In the interests of discipline among the youth of the nation universal military service n a necessity. Apparently, the experts have advised that the voluntary system is a failure. Speaking on this subject in 1909, Mr. Andrew Fisher, as reported in Hansard, volume 52, page 4455. said -
Nothing would delight me more than ti’ know that we could defend Austn li, effectively by the adoption of a volunteer system. That has always been my hope and desire but the military experts have told ,,n, Federal Government after another that th, volunteer system has absolutely failed. It is no longer a matter of money but a question of principle. It is now a question whether every citizen of the Commonwealth should not undertake the first duty of a citizen of any country and be prepared to protect its honor and its interests.
A system of universal military training would have a. salutory effect on the youth of the nation. God forbid that Australia should again be threatened as it was a few years ago; but in such an event the existence in the country of a. body of welltrained and well disciplined men would provide some measure of protection against an aggressor.
As another war would certainly be n global war, we should bring the basis of our defence organization into conformity with that of the nations which we would expect to he on our side. Youths in Great Britain will normally become eligible for training at the age of eighteen years. The estimated intake is 204,000 whole-time conscripts each year until 1954. During the reserve period conscripts must give 60 days’ service in parades and camps. The National Service Act will not remain operative after 1954 unless the Parliament otherwise prescribes. It provide? that volunteers in any of the three services must sign on for seven years. In the United States of America, an advisory committee on universal training submitted a report to President Truman on the 2nd June, 1947, in which it recommended six months’ basic training on land or sea for all men between the ages of eighteen, and twenty years. The committee estimated that those who would undertake such training would number about S90,000 per annum. Although it is expected that the President will act on the report, the domestic situation in the United States of America has caused the matter to be postponed. It is significant that Mr. Truman said on the 17th June last -
Universal training in the United States ia » military necessity. At no stage will America 1><; left militarily weak.
There is conscription in imperialist Russia, also. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to this matter in order that, should the necessity unfortunately arise, the youths of this country will be sufficiently trained and disciplined to resist aggression.
Senator MURRAY (Tasmania) 10.35]. - An amount of £147,000 is being provided in respect of the education of children of deceased and of permanently and totally incapacitated soldiers. Last year, the sum of £130,872 was expended for this purpose. I should like to know whether worthy organizations, such as legacy and remembrance clubs, who undertake the education of soldiers’ children, are assisted in any way from this vote.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping) 1 10. 36]. - No assistance is made available to legacy and remembrance clubs from this vote.
– A ?um of £85,231 is being provided in respect of salaries for the staff of the Joint Intelligence Organization under the .Department of Defence. This is a new branch of the department and provision is made in respect of 195 employees. The sum of £66,400 is allocated for the current financial year. I should like to know what are the functions of that organization.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales –Minister for Supply and Shipping) 10.3S]. - Wherever possible, inter.service organizations are being amalgamated, and the establishment of the Joint intelligence Organization represents the first practical step in that direction. Much of this expenditure is offset against provision that would otherwise have to be made for the individual branches amalgamated. It is intended to develop the Joint Intelligence Organization in stages, and the financial provision made for the current financial year covers the first stage of development of the new organization. A total of 195 civil servants is employed in the classifications shown in the detailed Estimates, and it is proposed that the intake of additional employees shall be made on a progressive basis. Consequently, the financial provision now being made represents, in the majority of instances, only part of the salary commitment for the current year.
– In respect of the estimates for the Department of the Army, I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army a case regarding which J have made representations to the present Minister and his predecessor over a long period. On the 14th December, 1945 premises owned by Mr. D. Garland, of 4 Derby-street, Hendra, Brisbane, were seriously damaged by an army vehicle, which at the time was being illegally used by a service driver. The accident caused considerable inconvenience and shock to the tenants, who were conducting a newsagency in the premises. In addition, over twelve months elapsed before the necessary repairs to the premises were completed. Those repairs cost £33. When Mr. Garland applied for compensation through his solicitors to the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s office, Brisbane, he was informed that the driver of the vehicle was on a “ frolic of his own “ and that in the circumstances Commonwealth liability was denied. I pursued the matter farther with the then. Minister for the Army, and later with the present Minister, who, on the 18th April last, advised me that, although earnest and sympathetic consideration had been given to Mr. Garland’s application, the department was unable to accede to his request for compensation. In a previous communication, the former Minister for the Army suggested that Mr. Garland be advised that his only recourse was to take legal proceedings against the driver of the military vehicle. The driver in question is still serving with the Army, and, therefore, action cannot be taken to garnishee his army pay.
The decision in this case of both the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Army places the life and property of any citizen at the mercy of any military official who uses army equipment without authority. Mr. Garland has a just claim to be reimbursed the amount of £33, the cost of repairing the damage caused to his premises. The decision of the two departments seems to me to be extraordinary and altogether inconsistent with justice and equity. Are private citizens to be precluded from obtaining redress when they suffer injury in circumstances of the kind I have explained? I urge the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to see whether justice cannot be done to the injured party in such circumstances. Many similar cases have arisen, and I know that in some of them the Commonwealth has made satisfaction to the injured party. Recently, in the Supreme Court of Queensland juries awarded the sum of £267 5s. against the Commonwealth to a woman who was knocked down by a military truck in Brisbane in March last year, and the sum of £500 against the Commonwealth to the owner of premises in the Valley, Brisbane, which were damaged when an army tank moving through the Valley during war operations crashed into an awning. In Mr. Garland’s case, the amount involved is too small to warrant his taking legal action, The Department of the Army should do justice to Mr. Garland.
– Cases of that kind mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) are dealt with almost weekly by the Department of the Army. If the Leader of the Opposition will supply me with particulars of this matter, I shall take it up with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), although I cannot imagine that I shall have any more influence with him than the Leader of the Opposition himself. I am confident that the Minister for the Army will give to the Leader of the Opposition the utmost consideration in regard to any matters that he desires to raise.
.- In 1946-47, the vote for the payment of seamen’swar pensions and allowances was £32,000, of which £19,420 was actually expended, leaving a balance of more than £12,000. The estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £18,300. This would appear to be rather a small sum considering the number of men involved, particularly merchant seamen who served in danger and war areas. I should like to know whether these men are entitled to the same pensions and allowances as members of the armed forces.
– The vote last year was much too large, and it is expected that the sum allocated this year will be sufficient to meet all claims. If it is not, additional provision will be made.
– I notice that under the Department of Munitions, provision is made for expenditure at quite a number of munitions factories and establishments including, “Ammunition Factory, Victoria “ Ammunition Factory (No. 1), South Australia”. “ Ammunition Factory (No. 2), South Australia “, “ Explosives Factory, South Australia “, “ Explosives Factory (No. 1) , Victoria “, Ordnance Factory (No. 2) , Victoria “, and “ Small Arms Factory (No. 1), New South Wales “. Are these factories actually in production, or arc they occupied onlyby maintenance staffs?
– All these factories are undertaking a mixture of war nuclei production and commercial production. The quantity of commercial products coming from munitions establishments would surprise most honorable senators, particularly Senator O’Sullivan, who has been so critical of the substantial increase of Public Service personnel since 1939. The munition factories under the control of my department are an instance of public servants being engaged in production. This year we shall have received nearly £3,000,000 worth of commercial orders, of which approximately £2,500,000 worth will have been delivered. This production has been undertaken at the request of commercial interests. It is work that they cannot do themselves because of the lack of man-power or production potential. The articles being produced cover an extraordinary field. Honorable senators may have noticed in the press within the last couple of days photographs of big ice-making plants being delivered to China. These plants cover an area nearly as big as this chamber, and a large number of them will be sent to China at the request, initially, of Unrra. Other items now in production include golf club heads, and motion picture projectors. At Lithgow, of a total of 1,500 employees, nearly 1,300 are engaged directly and entirely on commercial production. The Government regards it as essential that these factories should be kept in operation if possible. If commercial orders were not accepted, the cost of maintaining skeleton staffs of caretakers, managers, skilled and unskilled workers, would be substantial. By fulfilling commercial orders, these establishments are doing a very important job for this country, and, at the same time, they are providing training for workers so that should the worst happen, the factories could be returned to war production very quickly.
– I am pleased to hear of the work that is being carried out by the munitions factories. There is another point, however, on which I should like some information. The schedule of salaries and allowances indicates that, for instance, at “Ammunition Factory (No. 1), South Australia “, there is an accountant and two clerks, at “Ammunition Factory (No. 2), South Australia”, there is a manager, and an accountant, two clerks and three cadet engineers, and at “Explosives Factory, South Australia”, there is an accountant and two clerks. I should like to know whether these individuals form the nuclei of administrative staffs, or are the factories actually engaged on production, the other employees being paid from some other source.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South - The proposed vote to which the Loader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has referred applies only to permanent officers of the Department of Munitions. The salaries of temporary officers are provided in another division. Very little production of any kind is being carried on in the munitions establishments at Salisbury and Finsbury in South Australia. The Salisbury plant is to be used in connexion with the experiments with guided weapons, and the department is maintaining a staff there until it is taken over for that purpose. Almost all of the establishment at Finsbury has been made available to private enterprise. Therefore, there are very few permanent officers of the Department of Munitions in South Australia at present.
– .1 refer now to the proposed vote for reestablishment and repatriation. The work of the Department of Repatriation has a very important effect on the lives of thousands of ex-servicemen. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia will hold a general congress at Canberra next week, and it is probable that it will then repeat requests which have already been made for increases of service pensions. There has been no substantial increase of the general rate of pensions for many years, although it is widely recognized that the cost of living and other costs have con.siderably increased since then. “When the last general review of service pensions was made, the government of the day appointed an all-party committee consisting of ex-servicemen from hoth chambers of this Parliament to make a thorough investigation of the pensions scheme. The committee’s recommendations wereaccepted, in the main, and the Government granted a general increase of pensions. The time has arrived for a further review of the scheme by another such committee. Nobody will dispute the fact that many service pensions at present are totally inadequate as the result of increased costs in recent years. I allude particularly to the war widows’ pension, which has already received some consideration by the Government, and to small “border-line” pensions. the recipients of which are often completely incapacitated for work. I have no doubt that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia will direct the attention of the Government to many of the disabilities suffered by ex-service men and women when its representatives meet at Canberra next week. Therefore, I suggest that the Government appoint an all-party committee of this Parliament to examine service pensions and make appropriate recommendations.
The work of repatriation tribunals should be speeded up. At present exservicemen may have to wait for as long as eight months before their claims can be dealt with by the tribunals. Their cases are frequently of a serious nature, and they ought to be dealt with immediately, if possible, or at least with much less delay than now occurs. Furthermore, applicants often have to make four or five trips from their homes in the country to the capital cities where the tribunals meet. It would be of great advantage to these men if all interviews with them could be completed during one visit so that they would not have to make a series of visits ro the city.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that any requests made to the Government by the congress of the Relumed Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia will receive sympathetic consideration according to their merits. That has always been the attitude of this Government. It realizes that the last word is never said on any subject and that there is always room for improvement. If the delegates who attend the congress, in their collective wisdom, can make suggestions for improvements in relation to pensions and the general treatment of ex-servicemen, I am sure that their representations will be considered very sympathetically. The repatriation tribunals mentioned by the honorable senator are invested with a certain amount of authority, and the Government assumes that they will deal with all applicants for pensions or benefits of any kind in a manner that will be convenient in every way to the applicants.
If the work of the tribunals requires to be speeded up, the congress might be able to make helpful suggestions to the Government with a view to overcoming delay.
– In Division 190, “Native training and reconstruction - Papua. - New Guinea “, the sum of £130,000 is proposed to be provided for that purpose. The vote for 1946-47 was £50,000, but of that amount only £536 was expended. Is the appropriation at present proposed intended to provide assistance for training and rehabilitation of natives who were members of the New Guinea Force, or is it intended to provide training generally of the natives of Papua and New Guinea ? Bearing in mind the fact that only £536 was expended last year, the Government must envisage a considerable expansion of training when it proposes* to appropriate £130,000 for the current, financial year.
– Thi’ scheme of training and reconstruction is still in its initial stages. Any comprehensive scheme for improvement of the lot of native peoples must be considered carefully and involves a detailed study of the characteristics of the particular natives concerned, their background, and the conditions under which, they are living. Such a detailed examination is being .made of the natives of New Guinea, and it has not yet been completed. However, a great deal of preliminary work has been done, and it is expected that implementation of the scheme can be commenced during the current financial year. The Government is resolved that any money which it uses for this purpose will be expended wisely, and that is the reason why the expenditure, to date, has been so small.
– Is the proposed vote to be expended on all the native people, or only on those who were members of the Native Forces of New Guinea?
– It is to be expended on all natives who were affected by the war.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Leader
Division 205 of the Estimates, which shows that the amount received by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission during the last financial year and the sum expected to be realized during the current financial year. I pay tribute to the work of that commission. It expected to realize £25,000,000 in respect of sales made in 1.946-47, but its operations have resulted in the receipt of £3S,000,000, which is very satisfactory. However, I notice that during the current financial year the commission expects to realize only £16,000,000. I3 that because it expects to coin.nllete its operations?
– It is> not anticipated that the commission’s operations during the current financial year, which are estimated to yield £16,000,000, will dispose of all the stocks which remain to be cleared. It is difficult to forecast when the commission will complete its operations, but I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that it is making every effort to clear its stocks as soon as possible. The commission has practically completed operations in Western Australia, and its remaining stocks are to be transferred to the Department of Supply and Shipping for disposal. It is expected that the commission will also complete its activities in South Australia in the near future. However, it will he some time before the commission concludes its operations in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The Commonwealth Disposals Commission has done a very good job, as the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged. I made reference to that fact last night, and I do not propose to repeat myself now. However, one factor which is delaying the winding-up of the commission’s operations is the necessity to restrict the release of. certain items, such as motor vehicle parts and other articles which are now being manufactured in Australia. Goods of that type can only be allowed to infiltrate into the market, because otherwise the sale of locally-manufactured goods would be jeopardized and Australian secondary industry disrupted. The commission endeavours to synchronize its releases of manufactured goods with periods when similar locally manufactured articles are in short supply.
– Division 193, “Assistance to Primary Production “, makes no provision whatever for assistance to the tobacco industry, and indicates that in 1946-47 only £11 was expended for this purpose. There may he provision in some other division of the Estimates for assistance to tobacco-growers, but I have not been able to locate it. When we bear in mind the difficulties which the Government is experiencing in regard to the importation of tobacco because of shortage of dollars, we realize the urgent necessity to stimulate local production of tobacco. I do not know of any reason why Australia should not grow tobacco equal in quality to that imported. I believe that some years ago South Africa embarked on a planned campaign to encourage the growth of tobacco of a quality suitable for sale in the world’s markets, and we know the success that attended its efforts. I believe that we could do the same in Australia. We have the right kind of soil and a suitable climate, and apparently all that is needed is the advisory services of technical experts from overseas. I should like the Minister to explain why no provision ha9 been made in the Estimates this year for encouragement of the tobacco industry.
.- The sum of £10,000 is being made available for experimental work in connexion with the production of tobacco leaf. The expenditure of that money should greatly assist the industry, and I know that those engaged in tobacco production are appreciative of the assistance rendered to them. I assure the honorable senator that this important industry is receiving every consideration from the Government.
– Division 193 relates to assistance to primary production. The vote for the apple and pear industry is £230,000, whereas the expenditure last year was £811,458. In view of the importance of this industry to Western Australia, I should like an explanation of that reduction of £581,458. During the war, those engaged in growing apples and pears received assistance from the Commonwealth largely because of the loss of the export market. Other applegrowing States, although severely hit by war conditions, were not affected so greatly as was Western Australia because of their closer proximity to local markets. I should like to know whether producers in Western Australia can expect the same treatment as during the war years until marketing conditions become more normal and there is a reasonable chance of a fair return being received for their products.
– I agree with what Senator Cooke has said. Tasmania is in a similar position to Western Australia, and the growers of apples and pears in that State hope that the Government will see its way to continue the apple and pear acquisition scheme.
– I understand that, the apple and pear acquisition scheme is still functioning, but I am unable to say at this stage what the future policy of the Government in regard to the industry will be. The amount of money made available to assist the industry each year depends largely on the production of apples and pears. That is probably the reason for the smaller vote this year.
Senator MURRAY (Tasmania) 1 11. 21]. - The situation in Western Australia as outlined by Senator Cooke is similar to that which exists in Tasmania. The payment of a subsidy to the apple and pear industry was brought about by conditions over which the growers had no control. During the war interstate and overseas markets were not available to them. I hope that the Government will continue the assistance which the industry has enjoyed for several years.
– I assure honorable senators that the continuance of the Apple and Pear Board-
– I am more concerned about the continuation of the subsidy and the acquisition scheme.
– Those matter? are now being considered by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard).
.- The sum of £7,536,300 is set down for .1947-4S for “ Tuition, text-books, equipment, &c”, under division 187 which relates to the technical training of ex-service personnel. That is a considerable increase on the expenditure last year. Can the the Minister say whether the increased vote is an indication that the long delays which exservice men and women have experienced in connexion with their training will disappear? Many ex-servicemen are becoming impatient at the delays which occur before their training commences.
– Many problems have been encountered in connexion with the technical training of ex-service personnel, hut the department is doing its best to expedite their training. Shortages of skilled labour and other requirements affect the training of these men and women just as they affect industry generally. The honorable senator can rest assured that the Government will do its best to meet the requirements of these men as early as possible.
.- Prior to my election to the Senate I was associated with the Post-war Regional Committee connected with the training of ex-service personnel in Victoria, and I know something of the problems which face the authorities in this connexion. After six months’ training, an exserviceman is eligible to receive full award rates of pay, but as industry appears to be unable to absorb all the young men who have undergone that period of training, those who are entitled to receive full award rates cannot be placed in industry, and, therefore, they receive only the allowance provided under the post-war training scheme. Something ought to be done to ensure that jobs shall be found for those who have qualified for employment at full adult rates. Failing that, an increased allowance should be paid to them. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia and the trade union movement generally believe that trainees should receive at least the basic wage while undergoing training. I agree that that is a matter of Government policy, but I urge that something be done to improve the lot of the young men who, although qualified for employment at award rates, are still paid the rates prescribed for trainees.
– Matters associated -with the training and subsequent employment in industry of ex-servicemen have caused the Government so much concern that some months ago a committee was appointed to inquire into the problem. I have no knowledge of what transpired as the result of that inquiry, but I shall bring the remarks of honorable senators to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Keconstruction (Mr. Dedman) for his consideration.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole, £4,774,000.
– Under Division 210, Department of External Affairs, the following item appears : - “ International Labour Conferences - Representation- £38,000 “. The expenditure under this heading last year was £31,338. Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, inform the committee what expenditure is covered by this vote? Does it refer to the staffs which attended various conferences and are expected to attend other conferences during the current financial year ?
– Each year provision is made for the representation of Australia at International Labour Conferences, such representation consisting of representatives of both the workers and the employers. One factor contributing to the increased vote is the higher costs associated with travelling abroad. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) does not take exception to the expenses of those who represent Aus tralia at these conferences being paid and that his inquiry is merely for the purpose of obtaining information.
, - For several years I have drawn the attention of successive Ministers of Health to the vote for the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, and have asked for more sympathetic treatment of this important national body, but although Ministers have agreed that more should be done the amount shown in the Estimates has remained the same year after year. I notice that increased votes appear in respect of other items. For instance, £22,500 is set down for the World Health Organization. From what I have said on previous occasions, the Minister is aware of my intense interest, in this matter. These organizations depend to a large degree upon State assistance, but they have not been able to obtain additional assistance from that source because the financial resources of the States themselves are restricted. These organizations are doing great work. They were established as voluntary bodies, and they are still depending largely upon voluntary effort to maintain what is one of the most important works which can be undertaken on a community basis on behalf of Australian youth. From time to time, large sums of money are voted for the purpose of caring for people when they become sick; but we seem to be reluctant to attend to the preventive side of medicine. We seem to have a strange reluctance to assist our young people to go out and get healthy recreation, and to be trained along lines which will enable them to develop their minds and bodies and become good Australian citizens. T deplore the fact that the Minister has not seen fit to increase the vote in respect of national fitness for the current financial year. In the area, in which I reside, the enthusiasm of local citizens in this work is most encouraging. Indeed, I am amazed to find so many people prepared to give up so much of their time to this work, with the object of giving to our boys and girls the opportunity for healthy sport and to be trained in ways that will make them good responsible citizens. For this reason, I am distressed that after the Minister had promised to give sympathetic consideration to this matter he lias failed to increase this vote. I request him to increase it next financial year.
.- The proposed vote of £72,000 for national fitness is considered by the Government to be a fairly generous contribution. Senator Arnold will agree that the States have some responsibility in this matter. I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations to the notice of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who at the moment is engaged on other urgent government business.
.- Last year, an amount of £318 was expended in respect of item, “ Rev. Irving Benson - Air transportation from United States of America “. What was the purpose of that expenditure? I ‘ am of opinion that the Government, would have received better value for that money had it assisted the Rev. Irving Benson to travel in the opposite direction.
– The Rev. Irving Benson was engaged on an educational tour in the United States of America.
– Do I understand that the Government sent him on an educational tour in the United States of America ?
– No; the Government assisted in paying his fare by air from the United States of America.
– An amount of £18,000 is provided for the item, “ Cairns malarial drainage scheme “. No expenditure was incurred last year in respect of this item. Can the Minister give some information to the committee about the matter?
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) 1 1.1.37]. - The proposed vote is the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the completion of the Cairns malarial drainage scheme, in accordance with an undertaking given to the Queensland Government that the Commonwealth would complete all works originally undertaken in respect of that scheme during the military occupation of that area. Honorable senators will recall that complaints were made to the Commonwealth because the drains were left open. The Commonwealth was requested to complete all works originally planned, on the understanding that the State Government would accept responsibility for maintenance in the future.
.- An amount of £100,000 was voted last year in respect of assistance to Tasmanian primary producers, and of that sum £75,000 was expended. As no provision is made this year in respect of that item, can the Minister explain how that money was expended under the heading of “Miscellaneous” services”?
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) 11.38]. - That was a special grant in order to enable the State Government to provide assistance to Tasmanian primary producers. Speaking from memory, it was used to assist producers who had suffered severe loss through fire and frost.
– Although an amount of £4,581 was expended last year, a sum of only £200 is being provided this year for the item “ Soya bean - Development and experimental work “. The soya bean has been cultivated with outstanding success in many other countries, and its extracts have been widely utilized in secondary industries. As experiments in this country up to date have been very promising, I should like to know why an amount of only £200 is to be provided this year for this purpose. What progress is being made in developing the soya bean in Australia? Is it likely to become a successful crop in this country?
.- Last year the sum of £5,000 was voted for this purpose, the work entailed being carried out by the State Government. It is anticipated that the sum of £200 will be sufficient to enable the experiments now in hand to be continued this year.
– A sum of £2,000,000 is provided in respect of the item “Wheat, - Contract with New
Zealand “. Last year the sum of £7S6,962 was expended under this heading. I presume that this- provision is portion of the cost which the general taxpayers of Australia will be asked to shoulder in order to enable the Government to fulfil its contract to sell wheat to Hew Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel. That contract has another three years to run, and should the price of wheat remain at anything like its present level a heavy burden will be placed upon the general taxpayers. Oan the Minister give any indication of the contribution which will he sought in this way from the general taxpayers during the unexpired term of the contract?
Senator ASHLEY (Hew South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping) 1 11.42]. - Naturally, I cannot forecast what the price of wheat will be during the next three years. The proposed vote of £2,000,000 is for the purpose indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper).
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) 11.43].- Will the Leader of the Senate ask the Minister for Social Services to make a statement in respect of the results which have so far been obtained in providing vocational training for invalid pensioners and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries in respect of which the sura of £4,000 is being provided this year? On this item the sum of £2,178 was expended last year. This service is a new undertaking by the Department of Social Services with a. view to minimizing the hardships of the pensioners involved. I should like the Minister for Social Services to make a statement as soon as possible dealing in detail with the activities of the department in this sphere and indicating the number of people who have availed themselves of this training.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping) M 1.44] .-The Department of Social Services is empowered to arrange vocational training for invalid pensions and beneficiaries of unemployment a’nd sickness benefits with the object of enabling them to qualify for suitable employment. Although the cost incurred under this heading last financial year was only £2,178, the sum of £4,000 was voted, and it, is intended to maintain the vote at that figure, because the department hopes to extend the scope of vocational training during the current financial year. With the assistance of officers engaged in rehabilitation work for ex-service personnel it should be possible to do more for these beneficiaries than has been done for them up to date. Successful vocational training for such persons achieves at relatively small cost a substantial saving of expenditure in respect of invalid pensions and sickness and unemployment benefits.
– Will the Leader of the Senate ask the Minister for Social Services to make a statement as soon as possible setting out the results so far achieved ?
– Under the estimates for the Prime Minister’s department a sum of £1,000 is provided for the item “ Returned Soldiers and their dependants - Grant for relief and distress “. Is this service supplementary to the activities of the Repatriation Department? Is not that department responsible for all benefits to ex-service personnel and their dependants?
– For several years, an annual grant has been made to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to provide Christmas relief foi1 ex-servicemen and their dependants. The grant is distributed by the league without discrimination among its own members and other ex-servicemen in indigent circumstances. The Commonwealth Government also provides an annual grant of £2,640 to the league for maintaining an employment bureau in each capital city to assist in placing exservicemen in employment. These bureaux are firmly established, particularly as welfare centres.
– The grant to which I referred is to the league and not to the individual?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of Revenue, £10,000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £10,000,000- agreed to.
War (1914-18) Services.
Proposed vote, £1,248,000.
– Apparently no provision has been made in this proposed vote for improvements to the Australian War Memorial at Canberra. Most visitors to this country agree that this building is one of the finest of its type in the world. It is visited by many thousands of Australians annually as well as overseas visitors. Much could be done to improve its surroundings at very little expense. I am sure that the designer of this structure did not visualize the building standing on the bare slope of the mountain. It is true that lawns have been planted, but the appearance of the building could be much enhanced by the planting of trees and shrubs. Plans for this work could be prepared by the landscape gardener of the Department of the Interior, and the work could be carried out, I am sure, for a modest expenditure.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that the Government has not overlooked the importance of the Australian War Memorial. Plans are now being prepared for the enlargement of the building to provide for the relics of World War II., and provision will be made in the Estimates for this work when the money is required.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Commonwealth Railways, £1,530,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £26,836,000.
– Yesterday the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) gave an informative speech upon the affairs of his department. I. notice that this year, the number of employees of this department is expected to be 7,000 more than last year. I should like to know whether this increased staff has been necessitated by the considerable expansion of work of which the PostmasterGeneral spoke, or whether the new employees will be largely on the administrative side.
– As I indicated yesterday, there has been a considerable increase of the personnel of my department because of the extraordinary demands that are being made for postal services now compared with in previous years. It is intended that many of the department’s temporary employees shall be made permanent.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Northern Territory, £975,500; Australian Capital Territory, £740,500; Papua-New Guinea. £2,779,000; Norfolk Island, £4,000- agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £1,775,500.
Consideration resumed (vide page
– I understand that the staff of Australia House, London, is being increased, and I urge that consideration be given to the appointment of Australian women who have a good knowledge of all States of the Commonwealth and of living conditions generally in this country, to give practical advice to women migrants on such matters as housing, clothing, the schooling of children, &c. This information would be of great assistance to the migrants when they arrive in this country, and would help them to settle happily in their new land. I suggest also that Australian women should travel on immigrant ships coming to this country for the same purpose. I understand that there are English women doing this job at present, but I think it could be better done by women who have a practical knowledge of living conditions in all States of the Commonwealth.
– I appreciate Senator Rankin’s suggestion that Australian women should be recruited for the staff of Australia House to help migrants with the problems that they will encounter when they reach this country. Actually, quite a. number of Australian girls are employed at Australia House now. Most of them paid their own fares to London and have taken the opportunity to work at Australia House while visiting Great Britain.
They have been doing an excellent joh. However, the Department; of Immigration has called applications from amongst Australian women for the work that Senator Rankin has in mind, and two women will proceed to London shortly for this purpose. 1 shall convey to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) the honorable senator’s other suggestion that Australian women should travel on immigrant ships for the purpose that she has mentioned. That is an excellent thought. At present officers of the Department >( immigration join immigrant vessels at various ports and travel with the immigrants for part of their journey, during which they give lectures on Australia and, generally, give information about this country. I shall suggest to the Minister that he give consideration to employing women for this purpose also.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) yesterday discussed fully, and in a constructive manner, the work of the Department of Immigration, and paid high tributes to the Minister for Immigration. These tributes, I can assure the committee, are well earned. While the Minister was overseas recently I had the privilege of acting for him. and I saw ample evidence of the colossal job he has set out to do, and the extraordinarily energetic manner in which he is carrying out his duties. [ thank the Leader of the Opposition for his constructive remark? in regard to this department.
– An amount of £97,500 is provided under this vote for Maltese immigrants. This is a new item of expenditure, and I should be glad if the Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong) would explain the reason for it.
– This is the Commonwealth’s contribution to assisted passages for Maltese immigrants under an agreement entered into between the Australian Government and the Government of Malta. The agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall pay a certain scale of assistance to Maltese citizens in specified age groups coming into this country. The groups range from children to approved adults who will .be able to help in the development of Australia. The Government contributes an amount of £43 15s. each to assist the passages of children of the ages of twelve and thirteen years. The scale of payment decreases gradually. For young people between the ages of thirteen years and eighteen years, it is £40 12s. 6d. each, and for persons over the age of nineteen years, it is £37 10s. each. The purpose of these contributions is to help the Government of Malta to move desirable types of people from th<island to Australia.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1185), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has explained, this is a machinery measure and the Opposition does not wish to obstruct its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1185), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now rend n second time.
.- This bill is designed to abolish the statutory 10 per cent, addition to customs charges in order to conform with amended customs procedure in this country. The Opposition will not delay its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed th rough its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1188), on motion by Senator COURTICE -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill was introduced at a rather late hour yesterday, and, as the Senate has been working since early this morning, the Opposition has not had time to study it in detail. Therefore, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1225), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill proposes to make financial provision for certain additions, new works and buildings and seeks an appropriation of £29,967,000 for that purpose. As the details of the works and buildings to which the bill relates can be dealt with separately at the committee stage, I propose to agree to the second reading of the measure immediately.
.- I should like to know the policy of the Government regarding the provision of accommodation for Commonwealth officers employed in State capital cities. The time has arrived when the Government should refuse to continue to pay over £1,000,000 each year in rent for office accommodation. I am particularly interested in the plans for a new Arbitration Court building in Melbourne and for the Russell Telephone Exchange in Melbourne. At present, the Arbitration Court judges, the Industrial Registrar and the conciliation commissioners are working in an antiquated and dilapidated building that is a disgrace to the
Government. It has had plans for a new building prepared, and I do not think that the housing shortage is so serious as to warrant further delay in the erection of a new Arbitration Court building. The proposed automatic telephone exchange at Russell-street, Melbourne, is badly needed. Does the PostmasterGeneral’s Department intend to proceed with that very important work in the’ near future? The site of the building has been acquired by the Commonwealth, and all tenants have vacated the existing building. The time is ripe for the provision of suitable accommodation for Commonwealth employees in all capital cities. Even the accommodation in Melbourne for members of this Parliament is inadequate and antiquated. Better offices should be provided for us in almost every State. What does the Government intend to do in order to reduce the huge impost of rent charges for office buildings in capital cities ?
– in reply - The policy and the intention of the Government are to provide offices for its staffs in State capital cities and wherever else they may be required. Land has been purchased for this purpose in some States already, but the structural work has been delayed because of the shortages of man-power and materials. I am sure that Senator Lamp would not seriously suggest that these buildings should be erected before we provide homes for the people who badly need them. In addition to planning the erection of new buildings, the Government has purchased buildings in some capital cities in order to provide office accommodation for its staffs. I appreciate the fact that an enormous sum of money must be expended each year, under present conditions, on the rent of office buildings. In regard to the honorable senator’s remarks concerning the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, I point out. that the Government’s decision to “ stream-line “ that court, by appointing a. large number of conciliation commissioners, was intended to decentralize the functions of the court. It is not expected that the congestion in Melbourne, formerly experienced by the court, will continue. However, the Government will give consideration to the honorable senator’s representation when formulating its building programme, to ensure that adequate accommodation shall be provided for the members and staff of the court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Glauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– (Queensland- Leader of the Opposition) ‘12.17”. - The largest, amounts proposed to be appropriated for additions, new works, buildings, &c, are to he expended by the Department of Civil Aviation, which proposes to expend £7,835,000, an increase of £5.453.000 over its expenditure last year, and the Department of Works and Housing, which seeks an appropriation of £7,3554,000, an increase of £5.0S1,000 over last year’s expenditure. Some of the largest sums included in those estimates are to be spent on the acquisition of sites, buildings and works. Including buildings, works, fittings and furniture under the control of the Department of Works and Housing, the Department of Civil Aviation proposes to expend £5,400,000 on the acquisition of sites and buildings. This large sum includes provision for an advance of £1,500,000 to the Australian National Airlines Commission. The people of this country require more information as to the financial position of the commission, and they desire, particularly, to know whether the commission is functioning at h profit or a loss. The establishment of a government-controlled airline is a socialistic venture, and it has already cost the taxpayers of this country more than £4.500.000. Senator O’sullivan mentioned the fact that private airlines are compelled by law to su’bmit balancesheets in respect of each year of their activities. The Australian National Airlines Commission carries mail, passengers and goods, in competition with other airlines, and, since it has already cost the taxpayers of this country £4,500,000, the Parliament is entitled to have presented to it a detailed report of the operations and the financial position of the commission. We are asked to vote, “ in the dark “, a huge additional sum for this commission. We do not know whether the money is required to bolster up the finances of an unsound venture, or whether it is intended for the purchase of aircraft and the acquisition of other assets. The committee should be given the most complete detail in regard to these matters. Admittedly, members of the Opposition in this chamber comprise only three honorable senators, as against 33 honorable senators who support the Government. However, the three members of the Opposition represent 4S per cent, of the electors of Australia, and we have certain rights. Membership of this chamber imposes on us a duty and responsibility to bring our views on matters of importance to the notice of the Government as forcibly as we can. Because of that obligation, and because of the importance of the principle involved in government operation of ari airline, and the appropriation of large sums of money for that purpose, honorable senators on this side of the chamber insist that some further information be made available concerning the operation of the Australian National Airlines Commission.
In 1.945, the Government obtained legislative power to create a. monopoly of air services, and ever since the financial aspect- of the operations of the Australian. National Airlines Commission has been a closed book. The only time that we hear anything of it at all is on occasions, such as the present, when we are asked to vote large sums of money for the commission. Reports in the press, and widely-circulating rumours indicate that the Australian National Airlines Commission is not content with competing with other airlines in interstate business, but intends to invade the intra-state sphere. In that sphere it will be competing with private air services which are efficiently run and rendering valuable service to tho community. Because of the Government’s policy in regard to civil aviation, it is obvious that the reason the commission proposes to invade the intra-state sphere is that the Government wishes to drive out of existence the airlines which are at present providing such satisfactory services. One asks whether that is the reason why the Government is so reluctant to reveal the financial position of Australian National Airlines Commission. Private airlines have to pay considerable sums towards the maintenance of aerodromes and the provision of other facilities, which is, of course, quite reasonable, but, in addition, they are called upon to pay heavy taxes on their profits. The government-owned airline can afford to function at a financial loss, because it knows that that loss has to be borne by the taxpayers of the country. If its operations yield a profit, however, it pays no tax; so that the taxpayers are the losers whatever happens. I trust that the Minister will furnish some detailed explanation of the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation.
Division 13 of the estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c, shows that the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Works and Housing expended £2,113,000 during 1046-47, and is estimated to spend £7,114,000 during 1947-4S. This division has rendered a very fine service over many years to ex-service men and women by erecting houses for them. A very high percentage of people for whom that organization has erected homes have expressed their satisfaction with its administration. It must be admitted that some ex-service men and women have criticized it, but there is always a small minority whom it is impossible to satisfy. I appreciate the difficulty of securing sufficient housing materials, and I realize that the Government is confronted with a serious problem in this regard. However, the situation in regard to the supply of materials should improve considerably as time goes on, and I trust that considerably more homes will be built during the coming year than were built last year.
Recently I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing in reward to the progress of construction of homes for ex-service men and women. His answer revealed that 19,000 applications for homes are outstanding. In view of the assurances given to those who protected this country from the Japanese, the position is truly alarming. We do not want ex-service men and women to continue to live in flats, single rooms in other people’s houses, or tents. The figures given by the Minister disclose that only 501 war service homes were completed during the year 1946-47 and that, in addition, the construction of approximately 1,000 homes was commenced. The war service homes commenced during the year in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria numbered 2S3, 263, 107 and 137 respectively. Only 203 war service homes were placed under construction in Queensland during the year and of that number, only 100 were completed. We must do better than that if we are to satisfy in a reasonable time the 19,000 ex-service men and women whose applications for war service homes, have been approved, because at that rate another nineteen years will elapse before the demand will be met. As time goes on the situation will probably improve, but I emphasize that it is our bounden duty to provide homes for these men and women as early as possible. The position in Queensland is most unsatisfactory; 1,797 ex-servicemen in that State are still waiting for war service homes. These applications should be given a high priority, and homes should be provided as early as possible for those who gave so much for Australia.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I commend Trans-Australia Airlines on its achievements, particularly in the direction of reducing the cost of air passenger travel. Since it has conducted a service between Tasmania and Melbourne, fares have been reduced from- £4 10s. to £3 16s. 6d. If similar reductions have occurred on other routes the benefit to the public has been considerable. These results amply justify the expenditure provided foi the service, even if nothing further be done in the future. Those reductions have benefited travellers on other airlines, so that the total advantage to the travelling public is much greater. When I was in Western Australia a few months ago with the Public Works Committee I called at the Tourist Bureau to make inquiries about returning from Perth to Melbourne by air. I asked what chance I had of getting a seat in a Trans-Australia Airlines aeroplane to Melbourne. Pointing to a poster on the wall the man behind the counter said, “ You have a better airline there “. I noticed that it was a poster issued by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I replied that I had had experience of air travel and I did not want him to tell me what I should do. ft would appear that that company is paying government officials to tout for custom to the detriment of the national service. Such actions on its part are despicable. I hope that the service rendered by Trans-Australia Airlines will be extended considerably during the present financial year.
.- The sum of £1,500,000 set down for an advance to the Australian National Airlines Commission will bring the total sum advanced to that body since its inception up to £4,500,000. That is a large sum, and I emphasize that it is the people’s money. I have travelled in Trans-Australia Airlines aeroplanes, and at all times I have received the utmost courtesy from its officials. That has been the experience also of other passengers with whom I have’ spoken. Nevertheless, I do not think that any honorable senator is in .a position to express an opinion as to the efficiency of the service. Senator Lamp said that Trans-Australia’ Airlines had reduced fares, but it is possible that they should have been reduced still further. We cannot tell what should have been done until a balance-sheet and trading account of the commission’s operations are placed before us. The first corrective of the conduct of public business is well-informed, enlightened public opinion. The public can be informed and enlightened by debates in the Parliament and by newspaper reports of such debates. If fares are reduced regardless of the efficiency of the service, the people, after all, will have to pay. The Government should take prompt steps to present to the Parliament a complete statement of the trading operations of TransAustralia Airlines. Should that statement disclose a satisfactory state of affairs, I should be most happy and proud to commend the commission on its operations; but if, on the other hand, the statement were to disclose that heavy losses had been incurred because of the reduction of fares in order to meet the competition of air services conducted by private enterprise, I should regard it as my duty to criticize the administration severely. Until we have details of the operations of the commission we shall not be in a position to offer informed criticism, either favorable or unfavorable. I urge the Government to place before the committee information which will enable honorable senators to form an accurate judgment as to this instrumentality.
– I cannot find in these Estimates any specific items relating to the provision of office accommodation for Commonwealth departments in Adelaide. There is provision for the acquisition of land but there appears to be no provision for the erection of buildings, notwithstanding that the situation in relation to the housing of Government departments in Adelaide is most unsatisfactory. If a person were to visit every Commonwealth office in Adelaide, exclusive of army head-quarters and hospitals, he would have to traveL probably 10 miles. Some of the offices are in “ poky “ little places scattered throughout the city, whilst many post office buildings are too small and inconvenient for efficient work. Steps should be taken to remedy the existing state of affairs, even if at this stage the Government went no further than to ask the Public Works Committee to make preliminary inquiries with a view to providing the necessary accommodation.
– It is not to be wondered at, that the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines are criticized by the Opposition, because any interference with private enterprise is resented by honorable senators sitting opposite.
– We have merely asked for information.
– The leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) may, or may not, be aware that Queensland desires Trans-Australia Airlines to extend its operations to that State, and that negotiations to that end are now taking place. It would appear, therefore, that the services rendered by that instrumentality are appreciated even in Queensland which has returned nonLabour senators to this chamber.
– We want a statement showing the operations of this concern.
– Wherever public money is involved, there must be an accounting of it to the Auditor-General. If it were suggested that every big company operating in Australia, including those conducting air services, should present a balance-sheet to the Parliament the Opposition would resist the proposal. lilting suspended from 12.45 to B.J 5 p.m.
– The Australian National Airlines Commission has not yet presented its annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1947, but I am informed that it is in course of preparation. In accordance with the .requirements of the act, the commission’s annual report and financial accounts, with the report of the Auditor-General, will bc presented to Parliament, and, therefore, the Senate will be given the opportunity to discuss them fully. However, I am now able to give to honorable senators -dme general information regarding the comission’s activities during 194’6-47.
As honorable senators are aware, the commission was constituted in February, 1946, and was faced with the immediate task of creating an organization to operate a network of interstate air services in c-on;i petition with well-established operators. Its first task was to secure the necessary aircraft and trained personnel. Although there was much excellent aircrew and ground stall’ material available, particularly from the demobilized members of the Royal Australian Air Force, it was essential that this personnel should be properly trained in the techniques of civil flying, and in the maintenance and operation of transport aircraft in accordance with civil requirements. The commission, therefore, set up a national airlines school, which opened on the 2nd I lily, 1946, at which aircrew personnel were given specialist training in navigation, instrument flying, radio aids, and all other relevant subjects, and were checked out to a very exacting standard.
Active operations were inaugurated on iiic 9th September. 1946. with an interim once-daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, the prime purpose of which was to give the organization practical experience in all the numerous directions which constitute an efficient commercial airline. The operations ‘between Melbourne and Sydney were increased to twicedaily, and extended to Brisbane on the 7th October. On that date the services were declared to be fully available to the public. As staff was trained, and’ the necessary organization created, the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines were expanded, until, on the 12th December, 1946. the opening of the Perth-Adelaide service, marked the achievement of the commission’s first objective of linking ali the Australian capitals with regular services for the carriage of passengers, mails and freights. It can be confidently claimed that the creation of this organization, and the development of its activities from the appointment of the commission, in February, 1946. to the operation of a. network linking all the capitals of the Commonwealth, in a period of some ten mouths, is a. most commendable effort, and one -that, has probably never been surpassed anywhere in the world. Since December the services have been further developed and ‘expanded until, by June, the scale of Trans-Australia Airlines operations represented over 7,250,000 miles per annum.
The Trans- Australia Airlines fleet, as at the 30th June, 1947, comprised four DC-4 and thirteen DC-3 passenger aircraft, two DC-3 freighter aircraft and six additional DC-3 aircraft under conversion for civil use. The commission has also ordered five Convair-Liner 40- passenger aircraft which is probably the most modern medium-range aircraft in production to-day. These aircraft have a cruising speed of 300 miles an hour and are. fully pressurized, thus greatly reducing, and in fact eliminating, on normal altitude flights, the effects of altitude on passengers’ comfort. These aircraft are expected to be delivered early in the new year and will set a new standard of speed and passenger comfort on Australia’s main traffic routes.
The commission’s services have been well patronized by the public for both passengers and freights. In April, 1947, the number of passengers carried on
Trans-Australia Airlines services reached 100,000, and on the loth September, 1947, the 200,000th passenger was carried. The freight carried up to the 30th rune, .1947, was over 2,500,000 lb., most of which had been transported during the latter three months consequent on the commission’s drive to secure this type of business. In accordance with the Government’s policy of tendering mails to the government airline, Trans- Austrafia Airlines is carrying the greater proportion of the air-mails.
All these operations have been conducted without, any injury to passengers or crew and with a degree of regularity and efficiency thai stands comparison with any airline in the world.
Although the amount of traffic carried by Trans-Australia Airlines is very gratifying, it could not be expected that the revenue earned during the nine-months period of earnings would be sufficient to cover the developmental and operating costs for the whole year. Until the audita! figures are available, I am unable to state the exact amounts; but I am satisfied that the financial results are reasonable bearing in mind the inescapable heavy charges for the training and establishment of an organization of the magnitude of Trans-A.ustralia Airlines.
The commission’s activities have been financed by grants from the Treasury, totalling as at the 30th June, 1947, £2,170,000. Honorable senators will note that future advances up to £1,000,000 ure provided in the Estimates now under discussion. The advances are being applied mainly to items of a capital nature in the purchase of aircraft, spares, and stores, plant and buildings, the main items up to the 30th June, 1947, being -
Expenditure of over £750,000 during 1947-4S is involved in the purchase of the Convair-Liners with their necessary spares.
In considering the future of TransAustralia Airlines, the commission is being instructed now to enter the field of developmental services, and will commence operating between Adelaide and Darwin at the beginning of next month. It is proposed that, the commission shall undertake other developmental services during the year but I am not in a position to announce at present just what these services will be. These developmental services clearly cannot be expected l” operate at a profit. Negotiations are now being concluded for Trans- Australia Airlines to undertake the maintenance and overhaul work for .British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines when that company takes over in April next the trans-Pacific operations now being conducted by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as contractors to British Commonweal th Pacific Airlines.
Apart from the high establishment and developmental costs inescapable during the early years of an activity such a.s this, the finances of the commission have been unquestionably affected by the rising costs of both staff and materials. This factor to-day, is affecting not only airline operations but also every other activity. The present level of fares and freight rates throughout, Australia was determined prior to recent increases in costs ami increases in charges for air transport arc as inescapable as they are in other forms of transport. As honorable senator* know, approval was recently given for an increase of 20 per cent, in the fares on the major air services and consideration is being given to the question of similar increases on the remaining services.
The Commonwealth has in TransAustralia Airlines m splendid organization conducting an Australia-wide network of air services for the benefit of the community. In the face of the inevitable difficulties associated with establishing a new activity of this nature and magnitude the commission could not reasonably be expected to show a profit during the early years; but I am confident that the commission will continue to spare no effort to conduct its activities economically and with the gratifying operational success that has marked its first year’s operations. In establishing developmental services it will contribute to the future of Australia, in the same way as the railways which were constructed in the very early days of this country. Honorable senators opposite have had much to say in recent debates about the need 10 help people in outback areas overcome the great difficulties arising from their isolation. Therefore, I am sure that they will approve the establishment of developmental air services to outback centres. Indeed, I believe that this is one of the greatest works that any government can perform.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) asked for details of the construction programme in respect of war service homes. Homes under construction and scheduled to be completed by the 30th June next, total 796, whilst homes to be placed under construction and to be completed by the same date total 2,240, making a total target of 3,036 homes as at that date. I am not entirely satisfied with the progress that has been made up to date in the construction of war service homes. However, honorable senators opposite appear to ignore the shortages of man-power and materials. In addition, owing largely to the strict supervision of work done under contract, it is difficult to get contractors to compete for this work when so much more work is now offering in other spheres than was the case following World War I. However, I am confident that the leeway will soon be made up, and that the target of 3,036 homes will be reached by the 30th June next.
– I appreciate the information which the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has just given to the committee. The Minister has more or less circumvented further discussion of the activities of Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Airlines Commission until a report has been presented to Parliament. I am pleased to know that such a report is being compiled and is likely to be presented in the near future. We on this side of the chamber are concerned with this matter because the operations of this new undertaking are being financed out of revenue, and it is a matter affecting every taxpayer in this country. We want to know whether the new project is being run efficiently and economically. The operations of Trans-Australia
Airlines have been made considerably easier by the use of aircraft ordered originally by private airline operators. Had these aircraft not been available, the new concern probably would have encountered the utmost difficulty in establishing its services. The Australian National Airlines Commission also enjoys the advantage of having ‘unlimited finance at. its disposal. I have travelled by TransAustralia Airlines aircraft and have always found the operatives most courteous, and the service efficient. But that has not convinced me that there is not a need to inquire into the finances of this organization, and I look forward to the presentation of the promised report.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1322).
– I support this bill and welcome its introduction to the Parliament through this chamber. It is regrettable that more legislation is not initiated in the Senate, thus giving honorable senators a better opportunity to debate important bills, and also to spend a little more time in Canberra. I object to the manner in which an endeavour is being made to rush this bill through the Senate. It was introduced only last night, and as the Opposition consists of only three honorable senators, it is most difficult to devote adequate time to all the measures that are brought before us. There was a need for this legislation two years ago. The war period showed the great advantage that had accrued to this country from the development of our northern areas by sugar-growing. Had this industry not been established, it is probable that those areas would have been used largely for cattle raising, with the result that the population would have been comparatively small, and there would have been little encouragement for the construction of railways, roads, and other facilities. “The sugar industry made possible the closer settlement of the fertile lands in northern Queensland, and the establishment of substantial country centres. But for this development the defence of our northern shores would have presented a far greater problem than it did at the critical war period. The railways were able to carry troops and war materials, and the land settlement made possible the production of huge quantities of foodstuffs such as vegetables.
Another advantage was the availability of a considerable amount of rural labour. On that count alone, therefore, the people of Australia have occasion to be thankful for the sugar industry. The industry is not seeking a greater price for its product than that operating prior to 1933. Until that date, the price of sugar was 4£d. per lb., but due to depressed conditions then existing, the industry voluntarily reduced the price to 4d., thus easing the burden upon the Australian community which was suffering reductions of wages and social services, and unprofitable prices for primary products. Since 1933, of course, the prices of all other primary products have advanced considerably. There has also been a general improvement of wages salaries, working conditions, and the general welfare of the people of this country. Social services too have been expanded. However, although other sections of the community not only have regained what they lost in the difficult years prior to 1933, but also are enjoying standards never before obtaining in this country, the return to sugar-growers has remained at the 1933 figure. This measure represents a belated attempt to restore conditions operating in the industry prior to 1.933. For the reasons that I have mentioned, I am sure that no one will question the justice of the proposed increased price. I point out further that production costs in the sugar industry have risen considerably as they have in other industries, both primary and secondary. No one would deny to sugar-growers a return equal to the cost of production. plus a small margin of profit.
Had sugar-growers been entirely dependent upon that portion of their production marketed in Australia at 4d. per lb., they would not have been able to continue operations during the last few years. Fortunately, they have been able to obtain a better price for exported sugar. However, owing to shortages of labour and fertilizers and to other handicaps caused by the war, production has fallen considerably below the pre-war level. The reduction of the exportable surplus has placed the industry in a very parlous condition. An increase of Id. per lb., instead of id., would represent only a 25 per cent, increase of the 1933 price. If honorable senators can prove to me that the prices of other commodities have not increased by more than 25 per cent, since 1933, I shall gladly stand corrected. But I am sure that they could not do so. For this reason, I maintain that the increase of icl. per lb. is not sufficient to cover increased costs of production and also provide a reasonable margin of profit for the producers. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider increasing the price by an additional £d. per lb. so as to place the industry on a stable basis, at least for the next few years. The Minister’s second-reading speech was very informative. It dealt with the history of the sugar agreement, and covered both the progress of the industry in the past and its prospects for the future. He pointed out that, after the 9th November, Australians, although paying 4½d. per lb. for sugar, will still be enjoying the cheapest sugar in the world. I am pleased to support the bill because I approve of the proposed increase, although I contend that it is inadequate and that a further increase of id. per lb. should he made as soon as possible.
– I, too, have pleasure in supporting the bill, although I have two complaints to make in regard to it. The first complaint is that the measure has been too long overdue and the second is that the increase should have been Id. per lb. instead of id. per lb. The stability of the sugar industry in Queensland transcends all party considerations, and Australia is fortunate to have as Minister for Trade and Customs a man so well versed in the requirements of the industry as is Senator Courtice. He can bring to bear on matters affecting the industry, and thereby affecting Queensland and Australia generally, a very wide, practical and sound knowledge. I am sure that the people of Queensland, particularly those who produce sugar, look to the Minister to give even greater consideration to the industry, which is of vital importance to the whole of Australia. Honorable senators who have not yet visited northern Queensland could scarcely appreciate from descriptions the important part, that the industry has played in that, vulnerable area of Australia which lies north of Rockhampton. It is a fertile part of the State but. without the sugar industry, it would still he virtually unsettled. I’ urge the Minister to simplify the procedure involved in reviewing the price of sugar. The Government should appoint a board along the lines of the Tariff Board, but. composed of people who have practical knowledge of costs of production in the sugar industry so that, when costs rise, appropriate increases of the price payable to the growers may be made without delay.
. - in reply - I express my appreciation of the manner in which this bill has been received by honorable senators. The sugar agreement dates back 30 years, and T take some pride in the fact that I was associated with those who were, responsible for its acceptance by the Commonwealth Labour Government, and the State Labour Government of that time. The increase of id. per lb. of the price of sugar has been under consideration for some time, but the policy of this Government has been to prevent, if possible, any increase of living costs. Therefore, the rise was decided upon only after serious consideration and upon the receipt of strong claims from representatives of the industry. I say in all sincerity that the increase is well justified and will give a great deal of encouragement to the producers in Queensland. The industry fell into the doldrums during the war, when it made great sacrifices owing to shortages of man-power and machinery. As I said in my opening speech, sugar production decreased by 35 per cent, during “World War II. Therefore, it was necessary to stimulate activity in the industry not only in the interests of Australian con11sumers. but also for the purpose of aiding the British people in their time of need. I am grateful to honorable senators generally for the manner in which they have received the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1226), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill was presented to the Senate at a late hour last night, and I protest against the Opposition being expected to debate it so soon after its introduction. The measure will have far-reaching effects on the dairying industry, and the Opposition, which has a strength of only three senators, has not been given reasonable time in which to become fully acquainted with its provisions. I firmly believe that, the hill is not, the result of any representations made by dairy-farmers. From what I can gather after a brief examination of its terms, it proposes to take away the freedom that has been enjoyed by the board in control of the dairying industry and to create a new board which will be directly under the control of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. This is merely another method of nationalization by strangulation. The Minister (Mr. Pollard) will have power to veto any decision that may be made by the Australian Dairy Produce Control Board. The Minister for Trade and Customs ( Senator Courtice) said in his secondreading speech that the Government considered that a smaller body would be able to administer the industry more effectively than the existing board. The present body, which was constituted fairly recently during the life of the present Parliament, has seventeen members. The new hoard will have only twelve members. The producers’ representation will be reduced from four to only two -.members. That is a reduction of 50 per cent, of the representation . allowed to producers. On the other hand, the cooperative butter and cheese factories, which were previously accorded representation by nine members, have had their representation reduced to six members, which is a reduction of only one-third.
The representation of privately owned and proprietary controlled factories remains the same, each category being accorded one representative. Employees cif butter and cheese factories, and the Australian Government are each to be represented by one member. The representation of employees of butter and cheese factories on the controlling board is a new departure. Previously there was one representative of the Australian institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, but that body is not afforded any representation on the board proposed to be established. I have no objection to a representative of the employees being appointed to the Australian Dairy Produce Board, because, for a long time past, it has been recognized that greater cooperation is necessary between employers and employees. However, I cannot understand why the Australian Institute nf Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries is not, to be given representation. The members of that body are highly skilled and responsible executives. They direct the actual operations involved in the manufacture of butter and cheese, which is a highly scientific process. Those executives are responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the quality and quantity of production, and I think that they are entitled to at least the same representation as the employees of butter and cheese factories.
– Will they not be covered by the representation extended to the co-operative butter and cheese factories? The managers of those factories all hold certificates of dairy technology.
– No. The representation proposed to be granted to cooperative butter and cheese factories does not necessarily imply that members of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries will be repre sented. After all, the co-operative butter and cheese factories are only to have one representative for each State. I think that the Government should have provided for representation by one member each of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries and the butter factory employees. Furthermore, I protest strongly at the proposed reduction of representation of the dairy-farmers from four members to two, which is a reduction of 50 per cent.
The Minister for Trade and Customs stated that the Government has entered into a long-term agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom to provide for the export of butter and cheese to that country until June, 1948. ] think that the Minister should supply some information concerning that agreement, particularly with regard to the price to be paid by the British Government for the butter which it purchases. Dissatisfaction and doubt exist in the minds of the dairy-producers of this country because they believe that they are not receiving all that they are entitled to. A committee was appointed only recently to inquire into production costs in the dairying industry, and a report was submitted to the Government. Following the submission of that report an increase of the price of butter of 4^-d. per lb. was approved, which raised the price of butter manufactured in factories to 2s. per lb. Despite that increase, dairy-farmers are still discontented. They believe that the committee actually recommended an increase of 5½d. per lb. I cannot understand why the report and recommendations of this committee and similar ones which have been appointed are not made public so that the primary producers and the public can assess the value of the inquiries and reports made by such bodies. If the committee which inquired into production costs in the dairying industry did recommend an increase of price of 5i per lb., one would naturally believe that the price to be paid by the British Government, under the agreement made with the Australian Government, is higher than 2s. per lb. If that is so, the dairy-farmers are entitled to receive at least the price which the British Government has consented to pay. t do not think that a price of 2s. l£d. or even of 2s. 3d. per lb. is an extortionate one. We know that the United Kingdom purchases Danish butter f.o.b. at Danish ports at a much higher price; in fact, my recollection is that it pays 2s. 8d. per lb. Before the war there was a difference in the price of Danish and Australian butter of 3d. per lb. in favour of the Danish commodity. On that basis Australian butter should now sell in the United Kingdom at 2s. 3d. per lb. I repeat that the Minister for Trade and Customs should inform the Senate of the price to be paid by the United Kingdom under the agreement. If he does so it will overcome much of the suspicion and dissatisfaction experienced by dairy-farmers, [n any event, they are the actual producers and they have a moral right to know the price for which their produce is to be sold. Grave doubt and anxiety were created in the minds of dairyfarmers when, ‘ as the result of an increase of price paid by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter, it was suggested some months ago, that more than £1,000,000 received for the sale overseas of Australian butter and cheese was being withheld by the Government. The Government has never offered any satisfactory explanation to remove that suspicion and distrust, and dairy-farmers still believe that they have been most unfairly treated.
The bill also takes away the right at present enjoyed by dairy-farmers to elect their own representatives to the controlling body. Under the provisions of the original act, the dairy-farmers of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were given the right to elect one representative for each State. In addition, dairy-farmers in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania were permitted to elect one joint representative. This bill provides that the only representation to be given dairyfarmers, apart from the appointment of State representatives, is the selection of two representatives by the Minister. That provision will deprive the producers of something for which they have contended ever since control hoards were established. The representatives of primary producers on the various control boards in Queensland are elected by the primary producers themselves, and that is probably the reason why those boards have operated so successfully. The producers have complete confidence in members whom they have elected, because they believe that their interests are adequately safeguarded in that way. It may be that the introduction of the system of representation proposed in this bill will function satisfactorily, but the dairy-farmers cannot be expected to have the same confidence in a board so constituted as they would have in a board on which all their representatives were elected. I cannot understand why the Government has departed from the established principle of elective representation of the producers, because that system has proved most successful in operation.
Clause 12 provides for a substantial departure from the provisions of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924- 1947. Section 20 of that Act states - (1.) The board shall, with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
That is quite equitable. However, clause 12 of the bill proposes to amend that section by inserting, after the word “ shall “, the words “ subject to any direction of the Minister”. The amended section will then read -
The board shall, subject to any direction of the Minister, with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters : -
That takes all the business associated with the export of dairy produce out of the hands of the board and leaves the Minister in complete control of everything associated with dairying. With this provision on the statute-book the board will become merely a body of advisers, with no power to do what its members think best for the industry. Is it any wonder that I regard the’ bill with disfavour amounting to fear, when it, is evidence of a forward step towards the nationalization of the dairying industry? It is not right than any Minister should be able to veto a decision arrived at by a majority of the board.
I also express the strongest disapproval of the way in which this bill has been brought before us. “We have not had time to give to it the consideration it deserves. In the short time available to us the Opposition has done its best. In committee, I shall submit amendments in the hope of improving the bill. For the reasons that I have stated I shall oppose the second reading.
– Some of the features of the bill are not unreasonable. Indeed, I welcome the provision giving representation on the .board to employees engaged in the industry. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) said -
The Government now proposes to reinstate the Australian Dairy Produce Board so that a statutory authority shall be available to advise and assist in dealing with the important problems likely to arise in the industry, with the gradual rehabilitation of overseas markets.
That is highly commendable, but the same comment cannot be made of some of the provisions in the bill, among them that which empowers the Government to nominate the chairman, and a later clause which enables any decision of the other members of the board to be stultified should the chairman disagree with it. He has only to convey notice of his dissent to the Minister within twenty-four hours for the resolution to be entirely nullified, unless the Minister gives the “ all clear “. In my opinion, those provisions are evidence of unjustified government and bureaucratic intrusion into industry. The pious suggestion that the Government’s nominee will be there to offer advice and to place facilities at the disposal of the Government tq the board, is highly commendable, but the power to override the decision of a majority of members of the board destroys whatever other virtues the bill possesses. The Minister went on to say -
As the six members elected to represent cooperative butter and cheese factories will be directors of those factories elected to such positions by the producer suppliers to those
factories, it will be appreciated that producers will have eight representatives on a board of twelve members.
That is excellent, but the provision that a decision of a majority of the representatives of the people engaged in the industry may be completely nullified by one member who is the nominee of the Government is most distasteful. For the reasons that I have given, I shall vote against the bill.
. - in reply - 1 regret that the time available for the discussion of this bill has been somewhat limited, but it only reached the Senate from the House of Representatives last night, and it was introduced into this chamber as early as possible. I am astonished at the criticism of the measure by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), especially in view of his long association with primary producers and his membership of the Australian Country party. In saying that, I do not wish it to be understood that I am astonished at any action which the Australian Country party may take in respect of legislation designed to assist primary producers, because it has been my experience that such legislation has never had the whole-hearted support of that party. The existing legislation provides for a board of seventeen members, and the bill proposes to reduce the number to twelve. However, it leaves the constitution of the board practically the same as before. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition takes exception to the provision that two members of the board shall represent the dairy-farmers of Australia. He may object to the Minister selecting them from a panel of names submitted by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, but as a Queenslander he should know that that is a common practice in Queensland, and that it is difficult to choose representatives of primary producers by any other method. He is aware that a similar practice is followed in connexion with the sugar industry and that the system has worked well for a number of years and has given general satisfaction to producers. When it is remembered that eight of the twelve members of the board will be representatives of the primary producers, it cannot be said that the interests of those engaged in the industry are likely to be neglected. It is the policy of the Government to give representation to those engaged in various industries when boards to control them are appointed. I submit that it is not unreasonable that the chairman of the board shall be a. person nominated by the Government. The board will have to deal with the export marketing of dairy products and will have control of about £15,000,000 each year. It is most important to obtain stability in this industry. I greatly fear that increased production may lead to difficulties in finding markets for our products, resulting in lower prices and bad conditions for producers. We have had that experience in the past. The Government is concerned about the marketing of our primary products in the future. That is one of the reasons why this board is to be set up - so that it may protect the interests of the dairy-farmers. I am surprised that there should have been opposition to the bill. I cannot see any real value in the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. His only objection was to the composition of the board. I think honorable senators will agree that the producers have been treated very liberally in the way of representation. There is no evidence that the Labour Government has ever attempted to treat the primary producers unfairly. On the contrary, all our efforts have been in the other direction. Only recently, it was announced that the price of butter was to be increased by 4d. per lb. That is an indication that the Government realizes the importance of the dairying industry.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN. - How does the Minister justify the giving of such wide powers to the chairman?
– This board will have to deal with the marketing of dairy products overseas, and will be responsible for the handling of Commonwealth funds to the extent of, perhaps, £1 5,000,000. Therefore, it is only proper that the Government should, through the chairman, be represented on the board. If the Government uses its power unwisely, the position can be corrected very quickly. It has not been suggested that the chairman would exercise his power to the detriment of the producers. I honestly believe that this measure will go a long way towards producing stability in the dairying industry, and that it will give satisfaction to those engaged in it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) Section four of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “4. - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be an Australian Dairy Produce Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
– This clause provides for the making of a very important change in the constitution of the board. I listened carefully to what the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) said in reply to the second-reading debate, but he gave no sound reasons for the change proposed. He said that in the sugar industry a somewhat similar procedure was followed, hut he did not say that in the dairying industry the primary producers had themselves asked for a. change in the constitution of the board. Indeed, he admitted that in many instances the producers wished to elect their own representatives to boards of control of this kind. I believe that the representation of the producers has been reduced too much. Actually, a 50 per cent reduction is to be effected, which is greater than that made in the case of any other of the interests involved, with the exception of the factory managers and secretaries, and they, after all, are not concerned with primary production, but with the turning of a primary product into a manufactured commodity. Apparently, the only reason which the Government can advance for proposing to reduce the number of representatives of the primary producers is that there were too many members on the old board. I move -
That, in proposed new section four, subsection (2.). paragraph(a), the word “two” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three “.
– The Leader of the Opposition (‘Senator Cooper) has just repeated, in support of his amendment, the arguments which he advanced on his speech on the second reading of the bill. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), and other members of the Government, have given much consideration to this matter. The old board consisted of seventeen members, but I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition objects to that number being reduced to twelve. The Government cannot accept the amendment. It believes that the proposed method of selecting representatives of the board is fully justified. The clause provides for selection by the Minister of two representatives of the dairy-farmers from, a panel of names to be submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. It must be remembered that the board will be vested with power to borrow large sums of money in order to finance the marketing of the commodities it controls. Our existing contract for the sale of dairy products to the British Government will expire next year, and we are endeavouring to negotiate a longterm contract extending to 1951 on a basis of very favorable prices to the Australian producer. As the marketing of dairy products will involve heavy financing, and as the hoard will have power to raise the requisite finance, it is only reasonable that the Government should retain the degree of direct control over it that is inherent in the clause. Very able men are associated with primary producers’ organizations in the various States. I could name several men who are world authorities on the marketing of butter. Their advice and assistance should he available to the Government. Therefore, the clause provides a safeguard which the Government mustretain in view of the great responsibilities which will devolve upon the board in its financial operations. I cannot accept the amendment.
– 1 am surprised at the request made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). His amendment, if agreed to, would mean that the Australian Country party would be able to elect representatives to this board, and through it, to commit the Government to expenditure to any limit such representatives might desire. Under such a system the Government would not retain full control over the business transactions of the board. The members of the board could commit the country to enormous expenditure without the sanction of the people.
.- I suggest that the wish of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) can be met by providing for three representatives of dairy-farmers on the board, and, at the same time, deleting the provision for the selection of a representative from each State of co-operative butter and cheese factories, which, I believe, are truly representatives of primary producers.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has not produced any evideu.ee to show that the producers are dissatisfied with the previous basis of representation when they had four representatives on this board. He also said that the hoard would be handling enormous sums of money in marketing the commodities which it controls. But, to whom does that money belong? It will not be made available as a gift by the Commonwealth, but will be backed by the commodities to be marketed ; and those commodities are the property of the primary producers. That is the position, unless the Government intends to nationalize the dairying industry as it now proposes to nationalize the private trading banks. The Minister argued that because the board would be handling large sums of money, the Government, itself, must choose the personnel of the board, and I take it that it will choose men who will carry out its wishes. Are not the members of the board to be allowed to have a mind of their own? The basis of representation in this case should be the same as that on the Wool Board which handles many more millions of pounds than this board will be required to handle. Does the Government intend to exercise this form of control over the wool industry instead of allowing the wool-growers to elect their own representatives? If the Minister produced evidence of dissatisfaction among the primary producers with the previous basis of representation, he might be able to justify his rejection of the amendment ; but he has not done so.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Senator Cooper’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nicholls.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Meetings of the Board).
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Leader of the Opposition [3.48]. - Paragraph b of this clause seeks to have inserted after sub-section 5 of section 10 of the principal act the following new provision : - (5a.) If the chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the board dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the board.
I object to this provision and would like to see the paragraph left out. Whatever decision the board may arrive at as a result of its wise deliberations, the government-nominated chairman, it is suggested, is to have power to dissent from that decision, ifhe feels so disposed, and thereupon, by observing the provisions of the proposed new sub-section, he may upset the whole working of the board. Those who will be elected to the board will be men well versed in the industry. Most of them will be deliberating upon the disposal of the product of their own industry. No person could serve on a board more effectively than one whose intersts and livelihood depend upon its efficient functioning. The bill provides for the election of eleven representatives, all of whom will be associated with various branches of the industry, and a governmentnominated chairman. Notwithstanding that there may be agreement between the eleven representatives, the chairman may dissent from their decision and refer the matter to the Minister who, in turn, may amend or vary the decision, the varied decision then being regarded as the decision of the board. The board is thus to be shorn of all authority; it will be merely a body established to advise the Minister as to what should or should not be done in regard to the marketing of dairy products. For that reason I ask that paragraph b be deleted.
, - The Government could not accept such an amendment. If Senator Cooper feels so strongly on this point I suggest that he vote against the clause.
– I shall do so.
– Senator Cooper has departed from his usual reasonableness on this occasion and has adopted an extreme view. The honorable senator has, in effect, submitted a strong case for job control, which is rather unusual for him. Having regard to world conditions to-day, it is essential that the Government should do everything possible to develop and safeguard markets for Australian production. Protracted negotiations are frequently conducted with other countries at the government level for the purchase of our commodities. Does the honorable senator contend that after negotiations had been completed with, say, the United
Kingdom Government for the purchase of our surplus dairy products, or some portion of it, the board should have the right to refuse or sanction the making of the contract? I repeat that there is no need for the Leader of the Opposition to be concerned regarding this matter. He is well aware that organizations of this type work in close association with the Government. So far, no. difficulties have arisen. “We claim that the Government must have the final say where there is disputation, because it is party to agreements involving many millions of pounds.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has advanced exactly the same argument on behalf of the Government as I have on behalf of the board. The Government apparently doubts the qualifications, ability and sincerity of members of the board.
– That is not so.
– I claim that it is. The Minister said that the board might make a decision that was incorrect or was not acceptable. But who is to say whether it is incorrect? Are we to accept the view of the Minister rather than that of eleven practical members of the board, who have a thorough knowledge of the industry? The Minister claims that this provision is necessary, but I remind him that it has not been necessary before. Can the Minister point to anything that has occurred in regard to the operations of the present board that would justify this action? This clause amends subsection 4 of section 10 of the principal act, which provides -
At any meeting of the Board, the Chairman shall have a deliberative vote, and in. the case of equality of vote, shall also have a easting vote.
In what way has this provision operated unsatisfactorily, or to the detriment of the industry, thus necessitating this sweeping change? The proposal now is that the chairman shall have not only a casting vote, but also a. supreme vote. Even if every one of the other eleven members agreed upon a certain course of action, the chairman would have power to veto the proposal. Does the Minister imagine for a moment that these eleven practical men would do anything against the interests of the industry that they represent? It is inconceivable. They are interested in the industry, and will be prepared to give of their best to assist it. This proposal gives too much power to one individual, and unless the Minister can show a real necessity for the alteration, I shall not be prepared to agree to the clause.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition. (Senator Cooper) to that portion of my secondreading speech which states -
The Government now proposes to reinstate the Australian Dairy Produce Board, so that a statutory authority shall be available to advise and assist in dealing with the important problems likely to arise in the industry with the gradual rehabilitation of overseas markets.
The Government wishes to maintain the closest possible association with the industry. I regard this clause as essential. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has discussed it with representatives of the industry, and has given it a good deal of consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Particular powers of Board).
– This clause is supplementary to clause 8, which we have been discussing, and as that clause has now been passed, I can only express my dissatisfaction with this one.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put, on Fridays, at 3.45 p.m., I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1227), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am pleased to support this bill. As was pointed out by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), salaries of High Court justices have remained unaltered since 1903. Judges enjoy life tenure, on condition of good behaviour, under an act of 1701, when the justices of Great Britain were put beyond the whim and caprice of the Crown. Ever since then, the justices have stood bet ween the Executive and the personal liberty of the subject. The story of the British judiciary since that time is really the story of the development and preservation of British personal liberty. When our judges take office they swear to administer the law without fear, favour and affection and in case after case throughout the centuries, the judges have restrained an over-zealous Executive in its attempt to encroach upon the liberty of the subject. In the face of the general trend towards bureaucracy, a trend that has been rather forcible recently and was some years ago described by Lord Hewitt, former Chief Justice of Great Britain, in his book, The New Despotism, we must rely more and more on our judges to curb the trend towards unwarranted intrusion into our lives by bureaucrats. In other words, we must ensure that our executives administer the law within the concept of the rule of the law. It is traditional that, regardless of the pecuniary sacrifice involved in acceptance of appointment to the judiciary, when such an appointment is offered to members of the English bar - and we follow the same example in this country - the appointment is accepted. It behoves us, as servants of the people, to ensure that the sacrifice that judges make when they accept a seat on the bench shall not be more severe than circumstances make necessary. Regardless of what government has appointed our judges and regardless of what political affiliations, if any, those judges may have, there has never been a wellbased suggestion that they have at any time departed in the slightest degree from their oath to administer justice without fear, favour or affection. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill; my only complaint is that it is considerably overdue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
New clause 2a.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That after clause 2, the following new clause be inserted : - “2a. The Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911 is repealed.”
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 17th October (vide page 936), on motion by Senator Ash ley -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1948.
The Budget 1947-48 - Papers presented by theRight Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1947-48.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1930, Senator O’Sullivan be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 19th November, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19471024_senate_18_194/>.