18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Clothier) - by leave - agreed to.
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Collings on account of ill health.
Alleged Leakage from Official Quarters.
– Has the attention of the Acting Attorney-General been drawn to the following paragraph in an article in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph of the 10th October : -
Before coming to Parliament, security officers telephoned Mr. Fadden requesting an interview, which Mr. Fadden agreed to give.
If so, did the Minister take any action to check the source and accuracy of that statement! If not, will the Minister inform the Senate whether what was stated in the article actually occurred? Has the Minister’s attention been draws to a report from Canberra in the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 17th October which reads -
Security police investigating the secret documents have placed the leakage of the documents to a girl public servant.
Has the Minister now perused the article in the Sydney. Sunday Sun of the 24th October under the heading, “ Clue of the Extra ‘ g’” ? At the time of publication, was the information contained in both articles in the Sunday Sun of a highly confidential nature? If so, will the Minister direct the Commonwealth Investigation Service to ascertain the source of this leakage of information to this newspaper?Will the Minister inform the Senate of the result?
– I have not seen any of the newspaper articles to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred. I have some knowledge of the fact that security officers endeavoured to communicate with the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) before, in fact, interviewing him in his office in Parliament House. Investigations are proceeding in relation to quite a number of matters in which there is, or may be, some breach of confidence on the part of some one or more persons. Fending the conclusion of those investigations, I do not propose to make any statement to the Senate.
– by leave - With regard to the issue of new ration books on the 27th November, I wish to announce that it has been decided to repeat the action taken in 1946-47 to make a small additional butter ration available to help housewives in anticipation of extra requirements towards the end of the year.
An extra1/2 lb. of butter will be made available to each person during November, 1948, by the allotment of extra butter coupon No. 40, which will mean that during the four weeks ending the 28th November, 1948, 2 lb. of butter will be available instead of 11/2 lb. as is normal.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 27th October (vide page 2184).
Department of Shipping and Fuel.
Proposed vote, £2,165,700.
– The proposed expenditure of the department for the current financial year is approximately £2,700,000 less than the actual expenditure during 1947-48. I presume that the decrease of expenditure is due to a change of the functions of the department, and I should like the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) to furnish some information in regard to the matter. I assume that money is to be expended by the department for general research, and the Minis ter might indicate what action is being taken to promote the search for oil, and whether proper and adequatesteps are being taken to ensure that the interests of the Australian people are being safeguarded in that respect.
The estimates of expenditure for the department contain reference to ships under requisition by the Commonwealth. Questions have been asked on previous occasions as to the reasons for the slow turn-around of vessels, and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, who has exhibited quiet indignation if not open contempt on such occasions, has blamed every one except those engaged ‘in the work of loading and unloading the vessels. He has often attributed the delay in turnaround of ships to obsolete equipment and methods employed on the waterfront. However, I point out to the Minister that the present rate of turn-around is less than half what it was in 1938-39, when conditions were exactly similar to those which obtain now. I do not deny that there may be room for considerable improvement of wharfage facilities and handling methods, but the Minister has not so far advanced any convincing reason for the continued deterioration of the rate of turn-around of vessels. Some time ago, a number of honorable senators opposite, who represent New South Wales, subjected the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) to a barrage of complaints concerning the withholding of sugar from southern States, and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel indicated that he would bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), with a view to having a proper inquiry made into the real reason for the slow turn-around on the waterfront. During the course of his remarks, the Minister mentioned that not very long ago- I think he mentioned July last - wharf labourers who had been sent from Mackay to Cairns found on arrival at Cairns that there was nothing for them to do–
– No ; I said that they bad tobe paid appearance money.
– I assume that the Minister has access to the departmental files, and the speech which he made at’ that time was given due prominence in the Brisbane press. Subsequently, the Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Labour Government, Mr. Collins, made a reply, which was reported by the Courier-Mail, on the 23rd October, in the following terms : - i
The sugar industry had no reason to fear any inquiry into shortages of sugar supplies in the south, the Agriculture Minister (Mr. Collins) said yesterday.
He was defending the industry against Labour attacks in the Senate on Thursday, when the Supply and Shipping Minister (Senator Ashley) said he would ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for an inquiry to establish causes of refined sugar shortages.
Mr. Collins said that to blame the sugar industry for lack of removals was illogical. It would be just as unreasonable to blame Bunnerong Power House for electricity shortages because of lack of coal. “ There are plentiful supplies of sugar in Queensland available for southern markets, provided that the necessary transport facilities are available,” he said. “ Present estimates indicate a production of about 850,000 tons of sugar in Queensland this year. “ Because of delayed removals, heavy stocks of sugar are accumulating in the producing areas, and there is a risk that some mills may have to suspend crushing because of lack of further storage space.”
Referring to a charge by Senator Ashley of obsolete methods under which men had to work on Queensland wharfs, the Minister said - “facilities at sugar ports are no worse than in the last pre-war season (1938), when the average rate of removals was 90,000 tons monthly, compared with an average of about 65.000 tons for the current season.”
Mr. Collins said the statement that the sugar industry received a subsidy was incorrect. On the contrary, the sugar industry gave a subsidy of £210,000 annually to the fruit-processing industry, of which Victoria received the greatest benefit.
Following that, the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, Mr. Pearce, made this press statement -
Apparently, the only example of alleged fault by sugar interests quoted by Senator Ashley related to the payment of appearance money some time ago to Mackay watersiders who had been temporarily transferred to Cairns.
This occurred on the 7th, 8th and 9th July, and the allegation that sugar interests had failed to supply enough sugar for loading al. this period had been fully answered in correspondence between the sugar organizations and the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
The allegation was quite contrary to the facts. In the week in question, sugar loaded at Cairns was 46 per cent, in excess of the required weekly average. For half the week three ships were loading sugar simultaneously and two ships for the rest of the week. Appearance money was paid because it so happened that no other ships were in port to unload general cargo or load any cargoes other than sugar. The sugar industry could hardly be blamed because other cargoes were not handled.
The transfer of Mackay watersiders to Cairns was fully justified; during their stay at Cairns their earnings averaged £12 0a. 8d. per week, excluding appearance money.
Senator Ashley was advised of these facts last August, and it was regrettable that he should repeat an allegation that had been clearly refuted.
I do not propose to quote all the refutations, but a letter from the Stevedoring Industry Commission to the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association on the 19th July - ‘the month in which this alleged happening occurred - was answered by Mr. Pearce in great detail on the 29th July. Mr. Pearce stated all the facts, and I have no doubt that, in due course, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel had at least an opportunity to peruse that letter. It is regrettable that he made his statements, either without bothering to ascertain the true position, or in spite of his knowledge of the true position.
– Whilst the war-caused world-wide shortage of shipping may justify to some degree the claim advanced by sugar interests in Queensland that lack of shipping has been responsible for the delay in the delivery of this commodity to the southern States, there are certain matters that have not yet been explained. Recently, I saw sugar being loaded on to barges at Mourilyan harbour, in Queensland, and, although the facilities were good, they were merely a duplication of similar facilities at Cairns. I consider that the loading of sugar at Cairns instead of Mourilyan involves a substantial waste of shipping. I admit that there are some technical difficulties connected with the use of Mourilyan harbour, but I have no doubt that those difficulties could be overcome if sufficient attention were directed to that matter. Senator O’Sullivan’s claim .that adequate sugar could be supplied, if better shipping services were available, does not get to the main point, which is that the agreement entered into by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to supply adequate sugar for consumption in this country, should be the first consideration of that organization. The company, apparently, can find sufficient labour and cargo space to send sugar overseas, but it is not honouring its agreement to supply the ‘people of Australia with sugar. If this criticism can , be answered satisfactorily, the unrest amongst the people of this country about the present position may be reduced considerably.
.- I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) whether money is included in the Estimates for his department to provide a light on St. Helen’s Point, in Tasmania. A request for this light was made some time ago, when I pointed out to the Minister that the matter was urgent because St. Helen’s was fast becoming one of the most important fishing ports in Tasmania, and a light on the point would ensure safe navigation by fishermen who were caught outside the harbour.
.- Dealing with the sugar situation, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) read a letter dated the 19th July. I happened to be in Queensland in the month of July, and, as the result of my observations and investigations, I came to the conclusion that every statement that had been made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) was absolutely correct. It is quite untrue to say that inadequate shipping is responsible for the shortage of sugar in southern States. I made it my business to visit the wharfs at various ports in Queensland. I found that at some ports in the north of the State were the finest sheds that could be found anywhere in Australasia, but in those sheds not a single bag of sugar, let alone a ton, was to be found. The position, briefly, is that the organization of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has broken down. In an endeavour to get labour for its Yarraville works in. Victoria, the company has applied to the Immigration Department for Baits. The company’s argument is that it is impossible to get sufficient labour locally, and it states. that that is the reason for the shortage of sugar in Victoria. The housewives of Victoria are placed in the invidious position that, while every member of their family is employed and earning money, they have to go like beggars into shops and plead for sugar. A Victorian housewife may perhaps be successful in getting 1 lb. of sugar from a shop. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated that the shortage of sugar in Victoria is due to the fact that there has been a decrease of the quantity of sugar loaded into ships from day to day. Near the federal members’ rooms in Post Office-place, Melbourne, is one of the largest emporiums in Australia. Let any honorable senator try to buy 1 lb. of sugar there and see what happens. That emporium divides the sugar it receives into 1-lb. lots and sells one lot to each customer. As soon as customers know that there is sugar for sale they form a long queue. It is time something was done about the sugar shortage in Victoria. Not only Victoria, but Tasmania and other States, have made requests in this Parliament for some action to be taken. If the sugar interests have failed in the administration of their industry, why do they not have the courage to take the blame instead of trying to lay it on the waterside workers who, they say, are not loading sufficient quantities ?
– The wharfs at Pyrmont are just the same now as they were 40 years ago. They have not been modernized.
– A moment ago Senator O’Byrne said that he had been at Mourilyan harbour recently. I was there when two small steamers were loading sugar. One of them loaded 320 tons and the other 290 tons. That was their total capacity. Each of them had two gangs of wharf labourers working. The sugar was taken by those ships to Cairns, where it was trans-shipped. Who is to blame for that inefficient procedure? Only the shipping companies! I venture the opinion that neither of those two steamers was built within the last 40 years. That is the type of vessel that the sugar companies are using, and those are their methods. This Parliament has given to the sugar interests of Australia an absolute monopoly of the industry; and I contend that consumers are entitled to receive fair treatment from them, and are justified in entering protests against their inefficient methods. I have met many men connected with the Queensland Cane Growers Association. I took the trouble to trace what happened to the sugar produced by the co-operative growers and found that it goes eventually into the control of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The co-operative growers lose all control of it as soon as it; goes into the refinery.
According to the last balance-sheet of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, that company last year made the greatest profit it has made for 25 years. One explanation why the company is able to amass huge profits is that it is not concerned about providing sugar to the housewives of Australia. I was a member of the parliamentary delegation which recently visited Queensland, and I made independent investigations of many matters while on that tour. The delegation visited Townsville, Mackay and Rock.hampton. At each of those ports, I interviewed members of the waterside workers federation, but when I inspected the sheds on ‘the wharfs in those ports,. I found that none of them contained any stocks whatever of sugar. I agree entirely with the Minister’s statement that an inquiry of the kind suggested by Senator Sheehan is long overdue.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan), in his inimitable legal manner, has read extracts from reports which he has procured from sugar interests in Queensland. However, I noted, not without some pleasure, that he commiserated with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), because the Minister was bombarded with questions about the shortage of sugar supplies. Both the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition come from Queensland, and it is marvellous how Queenslanders stick together.
– always right.
– Queens- landers have much to answer for so far as the present shortage of sugar is concerned. Senator Katz and Senator O’Byrne have told us that at Mourilyan harbour sugar is loaded on two lighters, which cannot take a combined load of more than 600 tons, and that these lighters transport the sugar to Cairns, where it is trans-shipped to larger vessels. Such inefficient methods of handling cannot be laid at the door of the waterside workers, whom the Opposition parties never miss an opportunity to abuse. At the sugar ports in Queensland, the wharf labourers are obliged to push trucks loaded with sugar along the wharfs. The conditions under which sugar is still handled in North Queensland ports- are not so up to. date as were those employed in less important industries many years ago. When mechanical loading devices were first introduced into this country I visited an old copper mine at which a tommy engine with an endless chain was- used to haul trucks loaded with ore. Certainly, no constable would be required to direct traffic on the wharfs at sugar ports. After unloading a truck of sugar on to a lighter, the wharf labourers have sufficient time to have a’ smoke and a talk before the next truckload comes along. Indeed, the methods of handling sugar in this year of grace appear to be appropriate to the year 1498, not 1948. In view of the attacks which the Opposition parties repeatedly make upon the waterside workers, I am glad that these facts have been brought to the notice of the Senate. The wharf labourers are obliged to handle sugar under the most primitive methods.
I notice that no provision is being made in respect of the following items, “ Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, Salvage Board Section, Control of Shipping at Darwin, Contribution to anti-pillage scheme, Stevedoring Industry Commission, and attendance money for waterside workers “. Last year, nearly £300,000 wa9 voted under those headings. I should like to know why no provision is being made for such purposes this year, and whether such saving will be permanent.
, - I inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) that the estimate of expenditure in respect of the Department of Shipping and Fuel this year is £2,718,694 less than the expenditure incurred last financial year. That decrease results from the formation of the Department of Supply and Development, which has taken over some of the work previously performed by the Department of Shipping and Fuel. I also inform the honorable senator that provision for the search for oil in Australia is made in Division 163 ; Bureau of Mineral Resources in respect of which the proposed vote is £139,000. A proportion of that sum will be expended on the search for oil.
– Will any of that money be expended in Queensland?
– Yes; it will be expended wherever the surveys indicate prospects of discovering oil. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to shipping I expected that he would indulge in his pet hobby of maligning the waterside workers. Strangely, I received this afternoon a copy of the document from which he quoted. I notice also that he has at his hand his usual sheaf of newspaper clippings. He seems to live on that “ fodder “. Possibly, that is one reason why he looks so miserable. On the last occasion on which I dealt with the transport of sugar by sea, the honorable senator quoted from a sugar industry journal which he said was of recent date, but, later, I found that the information he cited was several months old.
– Th of the journal from which I quoted had been issued only two days earlier.
– But the events with which the honorable senator dealt had happened six months previously. I realize that the turn-round of ships today is not as fast as it was pre-war. However, one reason for that fact is that, whereas before the war ships were. loaded to only half their capacity, every possible pound is now rammed into their holds. Consequently, it now takes much longer not only tb load but also to unload cargoes. Senator Critchley has referred to the primitive methods used in the handling of sugar at Queensland ports. The truck which he said the wharf labourers had to push around the wharf has a capacity of 26 tons. On the last occasion I dealt with, this matter I remarked that an officer of the American military forces said that negroes in America would not work under such conditions.
– The Minister has been in office for seven years now.
– I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that for part of that period Australia was at war. Fortunately for Australia, a Labour government was called upon to prosecute the war. Senator O’Byrne also made reference to Mourilyan harbour. My attention has previously been drawn to the potentialities of that harbour as a shipping port, and men who work on the wharfs have pointed out to me the possibilities of Mourilyan. I understand that at present sugar which is refined at mills in that district has to be carted a considerable distance to another port. However, I can assure honorable senators that a survey is now being made by the Department of Shipping and Fuel into the suitability of Mourilyan as a shipping port.
Although I am unable, at the moment, to inform Senator Lamp whether provision has been made in the Estimates for a light to be installed at St. Helen’s Point, I shall inquire into the matter.
– I do not desire to prolong the debate unnecessarily, but, because of certain criticisms of the sugar industry made by honorable senators, I feel constrained to say something in reply. In regard to Senator Katz’s contention that the industry is badly organized, I assert that independent inquiries which have been conducted from time to time prove that the industry is the best organized in Australia. The conditions of employment of those engaged in all its phases are determined by arbitration tribunals, and the system of profit distribution adopted is more just than any similar scheme in Australia. Some honorable senators have complained of shortage of sugar experienced in various parts of Australia, but I point out that the consumption of sugar is now much higher than it has ever been. Australia is consuming approximately 125,000 tons a year more than before the war. That is a tremendous increase, and represents nearly one-third of the total production of sugar before the war. The increased demand for sugar has arisen largely because of the greater consumption of canned and preserved food at home and abroad. As an example, the production of jam, which is 60 per cent. sugar, has more than doubled since before the war. .Hence the consumption of sugar has increased enormously in respect of the manufacture of jam alone. Because of prosperous conditions and full employment, our people are purchasing more food and consuming much more sugar than ever before. When honorable senators criticize the sugar industry because it cannot fulfil all requirements, I remind them that we are also experiencing acute shortages of coal, steel, manufactured metal, timber, and many other goods and products, of which we formerly had an abundance. Furthermore, whilst the price of many of those goods has doubled, or trebled, since 1939, the price of sugar has not increased in anything like that proportion. Senator Katz, who alleged that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited takes control of raw sugar after the farmer’s co-operative organization have produced it, and thereafter exercises complete control of its distribution, was “ right off the course “. The fact is that the company is bound by a contract with the Queensland Government to refine and process sugar under conditions which permit the Government to exercise ample control over its activities. The present shortage of refined sugar is due, not only to insufficient raw sugar being refined, but also to a number of other factors outside the control of the industry. For instance, the industry is greatly hampered by the shortage of coal. For every three to five tons of sugar processed, one ton of coal is consumed, and in fairness to the refineries, I point out that all kinds of substitute fuel have been used by the industry.
– But that would affect only the price of sugar.
– No, it also affects the efficiency of production. I do not want to appear as an apologist for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company
Limited, because over the years no man in Australia has fought a harder battle with that company than I nave. However, in fairness to the company, I know that it has made provision for the installation of over £2,000,000 worth of machinery to extend and improve its mills in an effort to satisfy the additional demands for sugar. I think that discussion of the shortage of sugar has been coloured by a great deal of prejudice. Mention has also been made of the difficulties associated with the distribution of sugar which are due to the shortage of shipping, but no one is more conversant with the position than is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who has to avoid dislocating other industries by diverting ships for any particular purpose.
Of course, Queensland also has its complaints of shortages against other States. Senator Lamp stated that Tasmania has a surplus of many thousands of tons of potatoes and apples. I need hardly remind him that both those commodities are extremely difficult to obtain in Queensland, and when they are available their price is inordinately high. I could mention other goods which are produced in the southern States of which Queensland does not obtain its proper share at reasonable prices, but I do not think that any good purpose would be served by doing so. Queensland has nothing of which to be ashamed in regard to the sugar industry, and I am prepared to discuss with any honorable senator the particular difficulties of sugar supply experienced in any part of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that Australia is thu only country in the world that produces, cane sugar with white labour, that it has te compete with sugar produced by black labour, and that independent inquiries made by governmental authorities from time to time establish conclusively that the industry is the most efficient in Australia. The history of the industry in Australia, and the progress which it has made since it has been conducted by white labour reflect the greatest credit on all those associated with it. At the same time no one is more conscious than I am of the necessity to supply as much sugar as possible for the conservation of food, which is badly needed by the world at the present time. T have kept in touch with the refineries and other sugar interests to ensure that the industry does its absolute best, and I can assure honorable senators that the industry is making every possible effort to meet the present demands.
– The sugar industry is not regarded in Queensland as a subject for party political controversy, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has ably answered the somewhat illconsidered criticisms uttered by certain honorable senators. Whilst it must be admitted that the present method of distribution is not satisfactory, the fault does not lie with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, but with the authorities who are responsible for the delay in the removal of the sugar from the shipping ports.
– If the honorable senator gets on to that subject again, I shall give him something further to think about.
– It is not true to declare that I criticize the waterside workers whenever I rise, but I make no apology for saying that there is now a slower turn-round and a slower loading of ships than before the war. The Minister says that the reason for the slower rate of loading is that ships carry more cargo than they did previously. That is not the point, however. The point is that the rate of loading per man-hour is considerably lower than it was in 1938-39. If that is the result of bad conditions, the Government should remedy those conditions instead of sitting back complacently and saying, “ All is well when we know that all is not well. I refer to figures to support my statement. In 1939, wharf labourers, working in gangs of twenty, loaded cargo at the rate of approximately 25 tons an hour.
– From what authority is the honorable senator quoting?
– I cannot recall the name of the authority off-hand, but I shall inform the Minister later.
– It is “ Jimmy the blackfellow “ probably.
– No. The Minister is in a better position than I am to get figures. I am not a gambling man, but I am prepared to wager that the rate of loading per man-hour is considerably less now than it was in 1938-39. What is the cause of that? The suggestion by honorable senators that the sugar industry, one of the most efficient and best organized in the whole of Australia, is merely growing cane for the purpose of letting it rot on the wharfs is sheer nonsense. They declare that there is no sugar on the wharfs, but I have figures, which may be found in the Minister’s files in a letter dated the 29th July, to prove the contrary. They show the rate of production of sugar over a period of four weeks in June and July cf this year as follows : -
The letter from which those figures have been extracted states that all sugar manufactured during the week ended the 10th July was railed, with the exception of 77 tons which was stacked at the mill on Friday night because waggons were not. on hand. There is no doubt that plenty of sugar is being produced. There is a bumper crop. The trouble is that it is reaching its destination very slowly. [ welcome the suggestion by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) that there should be an inquiry to establish the cause of the trouble. No good purpose is served by criticizing me because I point out the facts. If the slow turn-round is the result of bad conditions, let us ameliorate those conditions. We cannot be satisfied with the way things are going now, and I am surprised that the Minister should say that he is satisfied.
The proposed vote for the department contains provision for the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal. I appreciate that the Minister has his hands full from time to time with waterfront disputes and mining disputes, and, if I criticize the conditions which prevail, let it be understood that I am not at this stage attempting to lay blame upon anybody.
I bring to the notice of the Senate the fact that conditions in the coal industry are not satisfactory. We are losing hundreds of thousands of tons of coal production, and consequently we are losing production from factories which depend upon coal supplies. It will be useless for the Minister to accuse me of criticizing “ the poor coal-miners “. As I have said in regard to the waterside workers, if the conditions under which the miners work are not satisfactory, let us establish decent conditions for them. I understand that the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal were established for that purpose. But what is the good of having statutory bodies set up to define the rights, duties and obligations of- the respective parties in an industry if their awards are not’ enforced? If an award is unjust, an appeal may be made against it, but an award, once it has been accepted, should be applied. Discipline is very promptly and effectively exercised if awards are contravened by the employers, but the miners’ federation is apparently a law unto itself before which the Government, with all its power, bows down. If the federation has a just complaint, then the cause of the complaint should be removed, but the law must be obeyed. Otherwise, we shall continue to be held to ransom by a Communist-led union. I remind honorable senators that the .avowed ambition of the Communists is to disrupt our industries.
– Poor old “ Corns “ !
– That interjection is typical of the light way in which honorable senators opposite treat what I consider to be very grave matters. Their attitude may be due to the fact that the unions which are responsible for their endorsement and pre-selection are Communistcontrolled. I do not know. But it is noteworthy that many honorable senators are very mealy-mouthed in making excuses for their failure to take a stand against open defiance of the law by Communist-led unions.
– It is about time somebody “pulled on” the mine-owners.
– There is a law, and I am sure that the mine-owners would be forced to obey it if they sought to do otherwise.
– And rightly so.
– Of course. We all should obey the law, and the miners’ federation should be made to obey it. The unfortunate dispute in the coalmining industry at present is not the result of a quarrel between employees and employers but is a dispute between two unions - the Australian Workers Union and the miners’ federation. I urge the Government to protect the men who are pursuing their lawful avocations from intimidation -by unionists who are breaking the law. Another matter which I will discuss more fully when we are dealing with the estimates for the Department of Immigration is the high and mighty attitude of the miners’ federation towards immigrants. This body decides who shall be admitted to its organization and who shall do various classes of work. It is now trying to force its will upon one of the greatest unions in Australia, the Australian Workers Union, in a high-handed fashion regardless of the law, human rights, common decency, and, above all, the suffering of the public. I trust that the Government will have enough wisdom to decide that justice shall be done and enough courage to ensure that justice shall be enforced. The Minister asked me earlier in my speech for the authority for certain figures which I quoted in regard to the rate of loading of ships. I obtained them from a publication of the Australian Overseas Transport Association dated the 21st August. 1948.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) said that he was glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) had answered some criticism expressed by supporters of the Government. Obviously, there is some confusion in the minds of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others about the sugar position. Honorable senators from the southern States have complained that people are able to buy only 1 lb. or 2 lb. of sugar at a time. But if all the sugar in the north of Queensland was shipped south to-morrow, consumers would not receive increased supplies. The truth is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company
Limited cannot refine any more sugar than is being refined at present. That is the bottleneck. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should be fair in dealing with these matters. The Minister for Trade and Customs endeavoured to state the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited accurately. He pointed out that £2,000,000 worth of machinery had been ordered, and that consumption of sugar in this country had increased by -more than 125,000 tons a year, whereas the refineries were capable of handling only an additional 100,000 tons. A minute examination is not required to see that, between those two figures, there is a discrepancy of 25,000 tons, and that if that additional quantity could be provided, the shortage in the southern States would .be eased considerably. My information is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited cannot cope with Australian demands at present because it has not the necessary machinery.
– Nor does it have sufficient coal.
– For some considerable time the company has had all the coal that it has required. When anything goes wrong in this country, some people always blame either the waterside workers or the coal-miners. Machinery in the sugar refineries is obsolete, and methods are out of date. Thus, it has been impossible to meet the increased demands for sugar by the people of this country. I am quite prepared to make representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that a thorough inquiry should be made into the shortage. It is time that the matter was cleared up, and the blame for the present state of affairs apportioned. However, I am sure that an investigation will reveal that the bottleneck is in the refineries. As I have said, if all the sugar in the north of Queensland was brought to Sydney tomorrow, the people of the southern States could not get increased supplies because the refining capacity of the mills is already fully taxed. Like every other industry in the Commonwealth, the sugar industry is endeavouring to expand to meet the greater demands that have resulted from the Labour Government’s full employment policy.
Reference has been made to coal. I am not happy about the position in this industry. I say that quite frankly; but unfortunately the Deputy Leader of the Opposition never has a constructive suggestion to offer when he rises in this chamber to attack the coal-miners. What would he do? I am prepared to listen to any suggestion that he may make for a solution of the problems of this industry. I have never heard the honorable senator voice one reasonable idea for improving the production of coal or speeding the turn-round of ships. To-day, he read some newspaper -cuttings and alleged disloyalty on the part of the miners or the wharf labourers. It is time that he abandoned those tactics. Nobody is more desirous than I am of ending the disputation . between the miners’ federation and the Australian Workers Union. I have done my utmost to end this unhappy affair, and I shall continue my efforts until a satisfactory solution is found. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition what action he would take on the coal-fields.
– I would remove any injustices that exist, and then ensure that the law was obeyed.
– The Government has created a special tribunal to deal with the problems of the coal industry.
– I suppose that, the honorable senator would send the miners to gaol. But that would not help the production of coal. I am concerned with increasing the output of coal, and keeping the wheels of industry turning, and, as long as I am a member of this chamber, I shall continue my efforts in that direction. A meeting is being held in Sydney this afternoon in an endeavour to end the coal-mining dispute on the south coast of New South Wales, and 3 sincerely hope that a satisfactory solution will be found. Only by getting representatives of the contending parties around a table can a dispute such as this be settled. A settlement is not assisted by unwarranted criticism of the miners or the Australian Workers Union by members of this chamber. In fact, many statements that are made in the Parliament are far from conducive to the restoration of industrial ‘peace. I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that [ am just as anxious as he is for a speedy settlement.
– [ hope that early action will be taken to improve shipping services to Tasmania so that the potato shortage in Sydney may be relieved. I have just received a telegram from certain people in Tasmania, who say that they could supply up to 30 tons of dehydrated potatoes a day, as well as quantities of other vegetables, at half the prices prevailing in Sydney. I trust that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) will allocate additional vessels to the Tasmanian service so that those essential commodities may be transported to Sydney as soon as possible.
– Just as the organization of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited for the transpert of sugar from Queensland to the southern States has broken down, so shipping services to the various States have broken down. Fewer ships are plying to Tasmania to-day than in the year 1900. In those days, there were four or five steamers a week, including two on the run to Launceston, one from Melbourne to Hobart and one from Sydney to Hobart. To-day, there is only one steamer, and, during certain parts of the year, even that vessel does not run because it is laid up for an overhaul. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has condemned the coal-miners. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) has pointed out that every endeavour is being made to end the present dispute in the coal industry. This afternoon, representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions are conferring with both parties to the coal dispute in an attempt to reach a settlement. But what is the cause of at least half of those disputes to-day? Why is there no coal at grass? The fact is that if the interests whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represents in this Senate could get 1,000,000 tons of coal at grass as they did twenty years ago-
– The honorable senator is becoming all modern.
– Twenty years ago when the coal mine owners were able to secure about 1,000,000 tons of coal, they immediately forced the miners out on strike. On that occasion the men were defeated.
– The mine-owners broke the law of the land on that occasion.
– Take the Brown interests. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well that John Brown, the coal baron of race-horse fame, flouted the law of the land. When the methods suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were used in New South Wales, they only produced coal strikes. Mr. Wade, a former Premier of New South Wales, a man of the same political colour as the honorable senator-
– Am I responsible, for him, too?
– Mr. Wade leg-ironed the miners’ leaders. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had the opportunity he would do exactly the same thing, if one may judge his likely actions ‘by what he has stated in the chamber to-day. In Victoria, at present, there is a Liberal-Country party Government, just as in this Parliament there is a LiberalAustralian Country party Opposition. Yet the people of Victoria to-day cannot get bread. The Victorian Government suffers under no constitutional limitations. About twelve months ago it passed legislation-
– The honorable senator will be up to date soon.
– That legislation waa known as the Essential Services Act and it gave the Government absolute power to produce bread or anything else, yet the people of Victoria have not had fresh bread since last Friday week. Making wild statements does not produce bread. The only way to produce any commodity is to use common sense-
– And the hands of the workers.
– And to get the parties together as the Australian Government has done with respect to the production of coal. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his party cannot produce one ton of coal. All that they try to do is to “ sool “ somebody else on. The same thing applies to sugar. The interests represented in this chamber by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are at present running fewer steamers to Queensland than they were 50 years ago. In other words, the shipping companies are in the same boat as the Colonial SugarRefining Company Limited.
– I cannot associate any particular item of projected expenditure with the indication given by the Minister some time ago to somebody outside that the Government was considering the establishment of its own shipping line. As no provision has been made in the Estimates for that purpose, has the Minister any information that he could give to the committee on what is in the Government’s mind, and will he bear in mind the sad fate, from the point of view of the taxpayers, that has attended practically every governmentcontrolled enterprise in Australia?
– I hope to be able to give the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) some information on that subject within about two weeks.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Territories.
Proposed vote, £70,000.
– I should like the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories to throw some light on the various items of expenditure shown, as they are not fully detailed. It appears that the inhabitants of New Guinea are very dissatisfied with the treatment being meted out to them by the Administration. I saw in the press recently a statement attributed to the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) to the effect that he intends to have the natives taught what he is pleased to call “ proper English “. Instead of a native calling a saw “ one fella you push em he go you pull em he come “, he will call it a saw. The Minister intends to add to the total of the human happiness of these people under our charge by teaching them “ proper English “. Just how proper that English will be I do not know. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind the establishment of universities in New Guinea so that if any honorable senators go up there they can be greeted in the best Oxford style. What good is it going to do the unfortunate native to foist on him, in his natural habitat, probably the worst aspects of our western civilization ?Rather should we be guided by experts who love and understand the natives.
– The honorable senator is very condemnatory of universities.
– I spent some time in New Guinea, and I consider it would be a tragedy to concentrate on teaching the natives correct English at the expense of their real needs. We should concentrate more on improving their surroundings and giving them proper hygiene, sanitation, medicine and hospitalization. There are many things that could be done to improve the living conditions of the natives. The native may not desire to learn English. He may be quite happy to use his present language so why foist an Oxford education on him? Let us instead give the native scientific assistance so that his crops may prosper and he may have better sanitation and hospitalization and the other material things thatcould make life happier for him. I cannot see that we shall make him much happier by forcing him to learn proper English.
– I consider that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has exaggerated the Minister’s intention to educate the natives to use a simpler form of expression. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) is doing all in his power to improve the living conditions of the natives. I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that many of the natives will require to learn to speak English because numbers of them are being absorbed in the timber milling and other industries and will live their daily lives among white people. A knowledge of English under those conditions will be of great advantage, if not indispensable, to the natives. I can only regard the honorable senator’s remarks with respect to the education of the natives as facetious. For the first time in the history of the territories, the Government is now implementing a comprehensive plan for the betterment of the natives.
– I am surprised at the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) with respect to the Government’s policy for the betterment of the natives of Papua and New Guinea. His statements disclose utter ignorance of the facts. I had an opportunity recently to visit New Guinea, and I know that many of the natives are anxious to be taught the English language. Many of them are contracting to do work for the Government, and large numbers of them are now building houses in their own right. They are being paid award wages and are working under award conditions. They are living to-day just as freely as ever they did, and they are proud of their association with Australians in both war and peace. The honorable senator asked why the Government did not do something useful for the natives. He spoke about insuring the natives’ crops. In the accessible areas the crops are owned by big property holders such as Burns Philp and Company Limited, and I have no doubt that those crops are adequately insured. However, the crops of the natives are in inaccessible areas in the hills, and to talk about insuring them is ridiculous. The Government is attending to matters of more immediate importance in the interests of the natives, without cost to the natives. It is replacing their pigs and other stock of which the Japanese denuded the territories during their occupation. The Government is doing everything possible to hand back to them under conditions existing before the war every part of the territories which have not come under the control of and been bled by private enterprise. The natives are being systematically trained in hygiene. Hospital boys at Finschaven and other places are a common sight. Those boys after being trained are sent into the hills and pass on the benefit of their training to the various tribes. There was a time when the native was very suspicious of the white man and could not be induced to undergo medical treatment for illness or injuries. In those days whole families were brought into hospital. The work of officers responsible for medical services in the territories to-day is worthy of the highest commendation. I repeat that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has spoken in sheer ignorance of the facts, and I regret the possibility that his remarks will be given publicity. Whether in ignorance, or by design, he has made statements which may discourage other Australians from going to places in the territories where the honorable senator himself would not be game to go.
– The only reference made in the Estimates to the Solomon Islands is in connexion with the provision of shipping and mail services to Pacific islands. As the Solomon Islands are of importance to Australia, being part of our perimeter defences, I should like to know whether the Government has any plans with respect to the future of those islands.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) must surely know that Australia is administering New Guinea under the trusteeship agreement approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946.
– But not Papua.
– The honorable senator referred to New Guinea.
– I was dealing with both Papua and New Guinea.
– Whatever the honorable senator may think, the fact is that the Government has accepted responsibility for those territories and in administering them will discharge its obligation to uplift the standard of living of the natives. Under the trusteeship, Australia must provide for the improvement of the health, education and living standards of the native inhabitants and must give special attention to the improvement and expansion of native agriculture and the development of forests, fisheries and other natural resources of the territories. That should be a sufficient answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Of course, he has based his arguments merely on some newspaper report. Indeed, he is very prone to quote newspaper reports. The cheap gibe he levelled at the Minister with respect to the provision being made for the education of the natives is unworthy of an honorable senator.
– I point out to Senator Rankin that the Solomon Islands are under the control of the British Government. Australia has nothing to do with the administration of those islands. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) will note that the sum of £2,500,000 is being provided as a grant to the divisional administration towards expenses in respect of matters including native welfare, development, war damage and reconstruction in the territories. In view of the magnitude of that expenditure it cannot be said that the Government is doing nothing for the natives of those’ territories. Indeed, the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) is doing an excellent job and has given abundant evidence of his earnestness .and sympathy towards the natives. Provision is also being made in respect of war damage compensation to the natives in accordance with the Barry report, public health subsidies, maintenance of hospitals, purchase of livestock, maintenance of buildings, roads and equipment. The new works programme includes repair of wharfs, building construction, including dwellings, hospitals and schools, township reconstruction and ancillary services, including water supplies, drainage, roads, electricity supplies, and the construction of the Markham River bridge. Those facts should answer the statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Evidently, he does not know much about conditions in New Guinea, despite his claim to know more about the territories than any other honorable senator.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator said that he had spent more time in the territories than had any other honorable senator.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £312,400.
– It is very gratifying, as I have noted on previous occasions, to find that the vital problem of immigration is really being approached and handled on a basis that has elevated the subject, as it should, above party politics. The general objective being pursued by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) will receive fairly general commendation by the Australian people. He is certainly working under difficulties, but the majority of Australians will subscribe to the Government’s immigration policy. I suggest that the Government should revive the plan that was put into operation during the war, under which families in Australia accepted responsibility for the care and upbringing of child migrants from England. There must be many children in England at present who are orphans, or are in straitened circumstances. At the same time, I am sure that many Australian families, including childless couples, would welcome such children into their homes. If a planned scheme were evolved to give effect to that idea we would have the advantage of receiving child migrants at their most formative years, and, consequently, they would rapidly absorb Australian sentiments and more readily conform with our idiosyncrasies, if one might use the term, and our general way of life. In every sense of the word they would thus be enabled to grow up as Australians. On the other hand, the immigration of adults involves the uprooting of past associations and replanting them, as it were, in a new atmosphere. That must cause a certain degree of emotional turmoil and distress. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to my suggestion. Suffering children claim our sympathy, regardless of their race, religion or colour, and, in the event of children of British stock not being available, we should attract children from the distressed states of
Europe, who would be acceptable to us on health and other grounds. We should make that gesture to them, and remove them from the atmosphere of fear, hatred and destruction, in which they now live, and give them an opportunity to grow up as free white Australians. Of course first consideration should be given to British children, but after we have obtained as many British children migrants as possible I suggest that we should take the unfortunate children of France, Poland, Germany, and the other war-torn States of Europe.
– I am gratified that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has at last seen fit to commend at least one member of the Government-
– I am commending not so much the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), as the policy pursued by that Minister.
– I appeal to the honorable senator not to spoil the fine expression of opinion which he uttered, which is probably the kindest and truest he has made in the course of his contribution to this debate. I join with him in his plea on behalf of the unfortunate children of Europe. As an example of the efficiency of the selection organization established by the Department of Immigration I commend to the attention of honorable senators a brief report which appeared in the cabled news a few days ago. That report stated that American authorities were complaining that the United States of America was not obtaining migrants of the quality obtained by Australia, which was getting the pick of those available. The present Government, which is an honest one, does not desire to bring to this country any but the best, although in the very nature of things, it cannot avoid bringing out some people who may later become nuisances. However, there are nuisances everywhere, even in this chamber, but I shall be lenient to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because of his generosity to the Minister for Immigration.
Although I agree with the desirability of attracting to this country as many
British migrants as possible, I point out to honorable senators that the United Kingdom needs every available man in the present all-out drive which it is making to re-establish its economy, which was shattered by the war. It is doubtful whether the United Kingdom can afford to lose even the number of migrants which has already been attracted to Australia by the Minister for Immigration. Complaints are becoming more frequent in Great Britain that overseas countries, particularly Australia, are hampering Great Britain’s prospects of economic recovery by enticing it3 people away. The general cause of complaint was very ably expressed in a recent issue of a Manchester publication, which pointed out that not only is Australia obtaining considerable numbers of British people, but also that Australia is endeavouring to obtain as migrants technicians and skilled tradesmen, who are the men that Great Britain can least afford to lose at the present time. I trust, therefore, that honorable senators and members of the community will not be too critical of the reluctance displayed by the British Government to encourage any additional large numbers of people to migrate to this country.
– Provision is made in the Estimates to bring out children from the United Kingdom under an agreement made between the British and Australian Governments, and it is expected that approximately 1,000 will come to Australia during the current financial year. In addition to providing half the passage money, the Australian Government also pays an allowance of £5 in respect of each child under the age of fourteen years who comes to this country from the United Kingdom. The sum of £5,000 is proposed to be expended on the payment of allowances for nurses and others to accompany child migrants, so that it is apparent that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has not- overlooked the desirability of including British children in our migration plan. I can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that the other matters to which he has referred will not be lost sight of by my colleague.
– I understand that the Government’s plan envisages migration by group movements, such as the Barnardo scheme–
– The Government’s group migration schemes are entirely undenomina tional.
– I am not disputing that. I was about to say that whilst institutions such as the Barnardo institution perform excellent work, I consider that something additional could be done by bringing out children in groups. I have in mind the present state of Europe which seems again to be trembling and shuddering under the threat of war, and it must be apparent to any one who has taken heed of the latests developments of weapons of war that that little moat known as the English channel, cannot again offer protection to the Empire. Because it has to import twothirds of its requirements of food and has its industries concentrated in a comparatively small number of overpopulated centres, the United Kingdom is particularly vulnerable to attack by the latest kind of weapons. I therefore urge the Government to impress upon the British Government, in the’ interests of the defence of the entire Empire, the need to disperse its industries and skilled man-power throughout the Empire. No better place for most of them could be found than Australia, which is removed, at least geographically, farther from the potential trouble centre than is any other British country. If Australia could be made completely self-supporting industrially it could become the arsenal of the Empire. That would be a fine thing for this country, a protection for the United Kingdom itself, and an immense benefit to the British Commonwealth.
. -Senator Nash suggested that greater efforts should be made to encourage the migration of individual children to this country. Whilst the suggestion is most humane, I point out to him that one of the practical difficulties which confronts the implementation of any such scheme is the need to provide nurses and guardians to accompany children on the voyage to Australia. The Government has already made ample provision to encourage child migration by the payment of special allowances, not only to the children, but also to those who accompany them.
In reply to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), I do not think that any previous government has done as much to attract overseas industries, particularly British industries, to Australia, as has the present Government. It has done everything conceivable to assist British industrialists to establish works in this country. However, as Senator Critchley pointed out, the British nation is fighting for its economic survival, and it requires the services of every skilled man. Although the Government and the people of Australia would welcome the immigration of large numbers of British people, whether skilled or unskilled, it cannot be denied that the British Government would oppose any such attempt.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed vote, £1,345,000.
– The amount proposed to be expended by the department during the current financial year exceeds the amount expended in the previous financial year by approximately £166,000. A substantial item of the expenditure of the department is incurred for the maintenance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Although the exact sum proposed to be provided for that service is not before me at the moment, I believe that it approximates £700,000. I have pointed out on a number of previous occasions that at a time of full employment it seems a wasteful absurdity to superimpose upon State employment agencies and private organizations a national employment service. Whilst I agree that it is the duty of the Government to assist unemployed people to obtain work during a time of economic depression, that contention has no application now, when private enterprise is fairly crying aloud for employees. Furthermore, it cannot be doubted that the unsatisfactory rate of production in seme industries is attributable to lack of man-power. Not only is the expenditure at the present time of several hundreds of thousands of pounds wasteful, but it will also have the effect of absorbing in useless employment a number of people who could be employed more profitably in private enterprise where they could assist in producing many of the commodities of which we have such need to-day. I urge upon the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (“Senator Ashley) the need to reduce the expenditure entailed in the maintenance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Whilst 1 do not know the exact conditions which obtain in other States, I know that in Queensland there is absolutely no justification for retaining the service. In fact, there appears to be hardly any justification for the Queensland Government to maintain such an organization. We know that when rural employers require labour they simply communicate with the local police station, or with the local auctioneer or stock and station agent, who is usually the “ best bet “. The cities have not only private employment bureaux but also very efficient State bureaux. There is not the slightest need to saddle the people with the huge expense of maintaining the Commonwealth Employment Service, and there is no justification for depriving private enterprise of the labour of its officers, who could be more usefully engaged on productive work.
– I draw the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) to the fact that the Commonwealth Employment Service plays a vital part in the Government’s full employment scheme. Its object is to provide employment for everybody and, by means of vocational guidance, to avoid putting “ round pegs in square holes “. lt is something quite new in human relations. It will put an end to the old system under which private agencies, which prospered on one of the greatest rackets in history, sent men and women to jobs for a standard fee of the first week’s wages. Private enterprise cannot claim credit on that account. I am very glad that that system is finished. Transient seasonal workers comprise a very important section of the population. In order to make full use of their labour potentialities and to prevent unemployment, it is necessary for some authority to maintain constant contact with them and with employers who need workers. The Commonwealth Employment Service provides a channel through which employment flows. The criticism of it by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was unwarranted because the Department of Labour and National Service is carrying out a very important function and, should we ever have the misfortune to experience another economic recession in Australia, it will be prepared, with an efficient staff, to go into full operation. Therein lies its chief value.
– I support the remarks made by Senator O’Byrne about the importance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. It represents another great achievement by this Labour Government. In Western Australia in the past, a Labour government which commanded a majority only in the lower house of the legislature, tried on three occasions to enact legislation to put an end to the operations of private employment bureaux. Those agencies often sent men to positions in the country for which they were unsuited and obtained in advance from the employers the first week’s wages for each job. They frequently misrepresented conditions, with the result that many workers were stranded far from home without money. The State government was unsuccessful because the Legislative Council, which is an undemocratic chamber, rejected the legislation on each occasion. For that reason, if for no other, this Government has done a great service to the real workers of Australia by establishing the Commonwealth Employment Service. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) of the importance of educating workers. I am sure that he is not unmindful of their welfare, but is merely ignorant of the true position. I admit that the Commonwealth Employment Service costs a certain amount of money but, without it, we could not take full advantage of the labour resources of the nation. It is responsible for shifting seasonal workers from place to place to meet employment demands with a minimum wastage of man-hours. “Without such a service, many itinerant workers and others would often be out of employment and would register for unemployment benefits, to which they would be entitled. The payment of benefits to them would be much more costly than is the maintenance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The service is only a part of a coordinated scheme of social services which this Government has introduced. It provides training for men and women who, because of lack of educational opportunities, have not been able to fit themselves for specialized employment of any kind. As a result of this policy, people who otherwise would be a drug on the employment market, in good times and in bad times, are becoming useful citizens. The work of the Commonwealth Employment Service is praised, not only by employees, but also by employers. The unemployed are directed to useful work according to a scientific system. The employers are satisfied because the service provides workers best suited to the available jobs. The criticism of this service by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition obviously arises from sheer ignorance. I should be very happy to provide him with accurate information about the valuable work that the service is doing.
– I notice that the estimate for miscellaneous expenditure contains no provision for assistance towards the establishment of industrial amenities, for which £1,500 was provided in 1947-48, or for the payment of subsidy to provide tradesmen’s rates for fifth-year apprentices in diluted trades, for which £7,500 was provided last year. “Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel explain the reason for that?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) is under a misapprehension .about the Commonwealth Employment Service. He argued that there is no need for the service because there is full employment. The fact is that the service is responsible for much more than the finding of jobs for unemployed men and women. The list of its duties is impressive. It conducts employment offices, operates a vocational guidance scheme, administers unemployment and sickness benefits and reemployment allowances, performs agency functions for. Commonwealth departments, such as the Departments of Immigration, Repatriation and Post-war Reconstruction, advises Commonwealth and State governments on employment trends, cooperates with the States in the prosecution of public works programmes, and with Commonwealth and State immigration authorities by providing information regarding opportunities for the employment of migrants, sponsors immigrants, answers the queries of prospective immigrants/ directs them to employment on arrival, administers training and reception centres for displaced persons, places workers covered by tradesmen’s rights regulations, organizes seasonal labour for the wheat, sugar and other primary industries, advances fares to workers, advises employers regarding the availability of labour, and generally provides advice and information for all citizens who apply to it. There are now 153 district offices, including 31 branch offices, compared with 156 last year. The staff totalled 1,522 at the 28th July, 194S, compared with 1,637 at the 10th September, 1947. During 1947-48, the service received 383,669 new applications for employment from unemployed persons and workers seeking to change their jobs, and it effected 230,396 placements. Five ships brought 4,500 displaced persons to Australia during the year. This year, it is expected that 21 ship? will arrive with 25,000 displaced persons. I have had some experience of the work of the service in connexion with the placement of immigrants. A friend asked me a. few weeks ago whether I could arrange for two immigrants to work on a property which he owns in the northern district of New South Wales. I made application on his behalf to the representative of the Minister for Labour and National Service in Sydney, and was informed that he should apply to the employment agency in the town nearest to his property. He did so, and the vacancies were rilled -promptly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that police stations should be used as employment bureaux. I would deplore any tendency to return to the system which existed during the depression years, when the unemployed had to call at police stations to obtain a little food to help them keep body and soul together. People would resent being forced to seek employment at police stations. The activities to which Senator Rankin referred were undertaken during the period of the war.
They are no longer necessary.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Transport.
Proposed vote, £162,000.
– Provision is made under the Commonwealth AidRoads and Works Act for the allocation of money to be expended on main roads in the various States. I know that roads in all States suffered considerable damage during the war, but I believe that Queensland roads carried by far the greatest burden of war-time traffic. As the result, a great task of repair and reconstruction faces shire councils throughout the State, especially in its northern and north-eastern areas. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) whether there is any prospect of the Government making a special grant towards the repair of the damage done to Queensland roads during the war.
– I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) regarding war-time damage to roads, but I am sorry that he has made it a parochial matter.
– I referred to damage in all States.
– I appreciate the honorable senator’s assurance. In South Australia, various local-governing bodies have had to shoulder big commitments for repairs to the overland road from Adelaide to Darwin. The task of maintaining that road, even in fair condition, is costly. During a recent visit to Queensland, I noticed that roads in the tablelands area had been considerably damaged by heavy war-time traffic. It would be a great shame if the Commonwealth did not do everything pos sible to preserve the strategic roads which were constructed by the Civil Construction Corps, and which are still in reasonably good condition. They are a distinct asset to Australia. With reasonable maintenance, those roads could be kept in a useful condition. I ask the Minister whether any provision is made for extra assistance to local-governing authorities for the maintenance of those highways, as well as local roads.
– In answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) and Senator Critchley, I point out that under the Commonwealth AidRoads and Works Agreement money is allocated by the Commonwealth to the States which in turn distribute it to the various shire and municipal authorities. No special provision is made for the maintenance or improvement of war-time roads, but I agree that those highways are a great asset to the States in which they are located and that, if possible, they should be kept in good repair. I shall bring the comments of honorable senators to the notice of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward).
– I support Senator Critchley’s representations in regard to the Atherton Tableland. I visited that area recently as a member of a parliamentary delegation, and I saw the importance of not. only maintaining existing roads, but also of extending them. A co-ordinated plan is essential for the development of defence roads, and of other highways to open up the Atherton Tablelands. The greatest need of that area is for the good roads, because the marketing of most of its products depends upon road transport.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Information.
Proposed vote, £351,500.
– I understand that the present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), when he was in opposition in this Parliament, criticized the allocation of approximately £30,000 for the upkeep of the Department of Information. Apparently, he thought that was far too much money to he expended on this department for which he is now asking £351,500.
– He was criticizing the faulty administration.
– I suggest that some of the administrators of the Department of Information should read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.We are certainly influencing people overseas, but whether we are making friends is another matter. It is important that we should be favorably regarded by other countries, and the Department of Information can supply much valuable information about Australia to people of other lands, thus contributing to the goodwill that should exist among civilized peoples. But is this sum of money necessary for what is being done, and is what is being done wise? I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Information to indicate to the Senate exactly what the cost of this department was before Labour assumed office in 1941. He might also tell us the reasons for its rapid, if not healthy, development to its present size. I should also like to know, in round figures, the number of permanent officers and the number of temporary officers employed by the Department of Information.
– I cannot say offhand what the vote for this department was in 1940-41. However, as a former Minister for Information, I know that the activities of the department have been expanded considerably since those days. If there is any particular matter on which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) seeks information I shall bo pleased to furnish it to him. I remind the honorable senator also that the department has representation in many more countries than it did in 1941.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
Proposed vote, £787,000.
.. - The vote for this department represents an increase of £76,000 over last year’s provision. I notice that there is an office of education attached to the department, and I believe that my earlier remarks about winning friends and influencing people could be even more appropriately applied to the work of that office. Recently, there was exhibited in this country a poster which was grossly offensive to the great and noble American people. By what stretch of the imagination that poster could be classified under “ education “ I am blessed if I know. It was gratuitously insulting, far from clever, and the mere fact that it was published indicates laxity of administration in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
I am happy to see provision in this vote for university students, and I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will indicate to the Senate the policy that is pursued in the granting of scholarships to university students.
– I should like some information about the land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen administered by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I notice that the number of officers employed in the implementation of this scheme has increased from 17 to 39, and that the proposed vote for this year is £25,605 compared with £12,387 last year. I have no wish to criticize the scheme itself, nor shall I cavil at the increased vote or the larger number of employees if the land settlement of ex-servicemen is to be speeded up. My complaint is about the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Upon the States lies the responsibility of determining the suitability of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. I speak with some knowledge of what has happened in South Australia in this sphere having been a member of an all-party parliamentary committee which was set up to report upon the values of properties offered to the State Government for soldier settlement. The State Government’s recommendation to the Commonwealth are based upon the reports of that committee. There appears to be some duplication of the activities of the Commonwealth and of the States, and this has been made the subject of political propaganda in South Australia. In some instances, the reports of the investigating committee have not been unanimous, and long delays have occurred before the Commonwealth has provided the necessary finance. I dissociate myself from the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) about securing the assistance of local auctioneers. I believe that every facility should be given to people v;ho require assistance of any kind in work which will make for national progress; but the honorable senator was all at sea when he cited the local auctioneer as the best authority. I am sure that if he and I ever “ waltzed Matilda “ together, and we arrived at a town, seeking to slake our thirst and to find out the “ lay of the land we would not approach the local auctioneer. The Commonwealth’s only responsibility under the land settlement scheme is to provide the finance. I do not agree that this is the best method, because it leaves room for political propaganda and such propaganda has been disseminated in South Australia.
– Apropos the reference of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) to a poster that had apparently given some offence to America, I point out that that pester was withdrawn. I understand that its withdrawal followed immediately upon the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction being drawn to it. Generally speaking, it is impossible for any Minister to know every detail of the work done by his department, and I appreciate that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction would not have prior knowledge of a number of publications issued by his department, just as I have no knowledge of what is done by my officers in relation to individual pensioners, who number about 430,000. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction deals with some hundreds of thousands of individual cases through his officers. His department has undertaken the colossal task of the re-establishment of ex-servicemen. As long as any government department is confined to employing human beings, and while angels are not available for staff, we shall have errors of judgment creeping in from timeto time. I am quite certain that had the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who has keen political judgment and a splendid knowledge of international affairs, known about the poster before its appearance it would probably never haveappeared.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has also referred to the allocation in Division 113 of £225,000. for financial assistance to university students. That amount is based on a total of 2,050 students at universities and technical colleges, and represents approximately £110 each per annum. When scholarships are awarded, the means of each student’s family are taken into consideration. Provision is made in the Estimates for a relaxation of that means test. The honorable senator may rest assured that a relaxation of the family means test is pending.
Senator Critchley referred to the increase of administrative personnel associated with the land settlement of ex-servicemen. As he has pointed out, the Commonwealth is concerned with three States, including South Australia. The organization established to handle this activity was, in the initial stages, developed on a temporary basis only, with temporary staff. The whole organization has been overhauled by the Public Service Board, and a re-organization has been effected. It will be understood readily that land settlement of ex-servicemen is a continuing and growing activity, and not a decreasing one. In the immediate future millions of pounds are to be expended on that work in the three States that I have mentioned. The reason for the increase in administrative personnel is simply that a permanent establishment has been authorized by the Public Service Board to replace the former temporary arrangement. The increase affects the central office only, and is designed to ensure more efficient administration. It does not affect the suboffices’ in the States. Is that explanation satisfactory to Senator Critchley?
– It is quite satisfactory.
– I refer to Division 113, Financial Assistance to University Students. If a student earned money during his vacation would the amount earned affect the assistance granted to him?
– I must confess that I am not informed upon that point, but before the debate concludes I hope to be able to make the information avail- _ able.
– Can the Minister give, any indication of the number of individuals settled on the land under the war service land settlement scheme during the last twelve months ? I notice that last year the vote for administration was £12,387 and the estimate this year is £25,605. Can the Minister supply any information regarding that increase of over 100 per cent.
– That matter will came up for debate under the next heading, “ Defence and Post-war Charges “, under which the money allocated for that purpose is appropriated. However, I can inform the honorable senator that at the 30th June, 1947, 52 ex-servicemen had been allotted holdings in the three States and at the 30th June, 1948, the number was about 160. It is expected that considerably more ex-servicemen will be settled in the current year, and substantial provision has therefore been made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence Awn Post-war (1939-45) Charges.
Proposed vote, £82,215,000.
Senator RANKIN (Queensland) [5.23 . - I should like some information in connexion with the living allowances paid to male and female trainees. I am given to understand that a male trainee with no dependants receives £3 15s. a week while living with his family but that a female trainee receives an allowance of £3 a week, which is considerably less. It is unfair that there should be a difference between the allowance for males and females.
– With reference to Division 197, I should like the Minister to give me some information about item 4 which refers to rehabilitation, and allowances in respect of disabled exmembers of the forces not eligible for repatriation benefits. I notice that this year the Estimates provide. £140,000, whilst last year the actual expenditure was £411,152, which was considerably in excess of the estimated expenditure of £200,000. In spite of the discrepancy between estimated and actual expenditure last year we find that £60,000 less is being allocated this year. Can the Minister give any explanation of that apparent contradiction ? I ask my question because the very wording used under this heading indicates that there are some ex-servicemen whose ailments would possibly be of a permanent nature.
– Senator Rankin requested information respecting the difference in the allowances paid to male and female trainees. Living allowances paid to full-time trainees, including the proposed additional 5s. a week, vary from £3 a week paid to female trainees without dependants, who live at a home not maintained by themselves, to £3 15s. a week for female trainees without dependants who do not live at such a home, and to male trainees without dependants. The only distinction in the payments is not as between male and female trainees but as between female trainees who live at home and those who have to board.
– Would a male trainee living at home receive £3 15s.?
– Yes. There is no distinction between male trainees living at home and those boarding out.
Senator Critchley referred to exservicemen undergoing rehabilitation treatment in respect of disabilities not due to war service. That comes under the scheme that was the precursor of the rehabilitation scheme for civilians which will be placed before the Senate shortly. I understand that the amount in the current Estimates is considerably lower than that provided for last year because the scheme is being tapered off and merged with the civilian scheme. Expenditure last year was greater than the amount appropriated, due very largely to the number who applied in excess of what was anticipated, and also to the fact that the scheme last year was in a developmental stage.
.- I refer to Division 186a, International Monetary Agreement. Last year, the expenditure was £10,192,833. There is no provision under that heading for the current year. Can the Minister give me any information regarding this item?
– When the International Monetary Fund was established, the original members had to make certain contributions, some by way of deposit of security in currency of their country and others by way of deposits of a certain quantum of gold or other readily negotiable securities. That was an initial contribution and not an annually recurring one. It was part of the initial payments that had to be made when Australia joined the International Monetary Fund.
– The proposed vote in respect of clerical staff in the administration of war service homes is £169,4S9, which is substantially in excess of the expenditure incurred under that heading during the last financial year. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the number of war service homes that were constructed last financial year?
– I regret that I have not at hand the information sought by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). There has been great activity in the establishment of the War Service Homes Division, and, without inquiring particularly into the matter, 1 assume that the proposed increase is in respect to cost of living adjustments, marginal increases in rates under determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. I should say that the increase is a normal development in the work of the division.
– Some time ago I had occasion to refer to the report submitted to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) by the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. During the course of my remarks on that occasion, Senator Critchley, by way of interjection, said that the present Minister had received the encomiums of nearly all exservice.men’s organizations.
– Hear, hear!
– I shall show the honorable senator how remote that statement is from the truth. The Federal Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is now in session in Brisbane. The membership of the league is over 1,000,000.
– It is 300,000.
– Allowing for the dependants of members of the league, it can be said that it is representative of over 1,000,000 people. The congress now sitting in Brisbane is being attended by the representative, usually the president, of each State branch, and each of those representatives in turn has roundly criticized the administration of the Repatriation Department.
– It would be more correct to say that they have abusedly criticized the Minister.
– When dealing with this subject on a previous occasion, I emphasized that members of bodies such as the entitlement appeal tribunals should be absolutely independent of ministerial control. I urged that they should be subject only to the Parliament, as otherwise they might te deterred from raising criticism of the ministerial head of the department because of personal considerations bearing upon their re-appointment. That view has been borne out in this instance. Shortly after the report of the
No. 1 Tribunal was submitted, the gentlemen who signed it, although they had given years of service to their fellow exservicemen and to their country, were not re-appointed. To all intents and purposes, the failure to re-appoint them amounts to dismissal. They have been dismissed because they had the courage to criticize the Minister’s administration of the department. The chairman of the tribunal, who is a barrister, resigned. After reading the tribunal’s report one can come to no other conclusion than that, he resigned in disgust and as a protest against the manner in which the department was being administered.
– He resigned in order to take a better position.
– Being a barrister, he would not have any need to look for any position. I assume that he would have been quite happy to continue as chairman of the tribunal had he been given reason to believe that the department would be properly administered. One of the other two members of the tribunal, Mr. Hickey, gave up a lucrative job to accept his position on the tribunal. Mr. Hickey, who lost one eye on war service, was appointed by the Government. He was not a nominee of ex-servicemen’s organizations. The other member of the tribunal was Mr. Dibdin, who represented exservicemen’s associations on the tribunal, and had given over twenty years’ service in that position. In due course, the Minister was asked why those gentlemen had not been re-appointed; but no definite reason has yet been given. There has been a slight suggestion that one tribunal will be sufficient to cope with all the appeals that will arise. That is an amazing suggestion, particularly when we remember that all other staffs in the department have been increased substantially. It has been publicly stated that the tribunals are dealing with 2,000 appeals annually. It is physically impossible for one tribunal to handle more than 1,000 appeals a year. The unfortunate aspect of the matter is that these gentlemen, up to the time they submitted their report, were obviously held in high esteem by the Minister, but, immediately they presented their report, out they went. That action on the part of the
Minister will shock ex-servicemen throughout the length and breadth of Australia. One of the meanest features of the explanation given by the Minister for not re-appointing that tribunal is his statement that Mr. Hickey’s nomination was not pressed by ex-servicemen’s associations. I repeat that Mr. Hickey was not a nominee of ex-servicemen’s associations, but had been appointed to it directly by the Government. He was a Government appointee in every sense of the word. The attempt by the Minister to discredit these two men who have given such excellent and courageous service to their country and fellow returned soldiers will meet with the strongest disapproval of all decent people. I should like to know whether there is any likelihood of the No. 1 Tribunal being re-appointed. If not, does the Minister consider that one tribunal will be able to cope with all the appeals that are likely to arise? I should also like to know the number of appeals which it is expected will arise during the next twelve months.
– I also am concerned about the fate of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that I stand by the remarks which I made on a previous occasion concerning the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). I deplore the volte face of the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. From the honorable senator’s remarks one might be led to believe that Government supporters are hostile to exservicemen. The fact is that among Government supporters are many who have suffered through war service and others who have suffered bereavements as the result of hostilities.
– That makes the Government’s attitude all the more inexplicable.
– For years past I have heard all this talk about the Labour party’s attitude towards exservicemen. It is so much cant and hypocrisy. I should like to know why the membership of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has decreased by 50,000 during the last year. I have been a member of the league for many years, and I entirely disagree with its officials when they say that the league is non-political. It is definitely hostile to the Labour Government. That is my candid opinion. I should also like to know how the officials of the league can reconcile their outbursts at the congress now sitting in Brisbane with the statements they made some time ago that the Government’s handling of rehabilitation problems on the whole had been very good. From my experience as a member of the league, I know that, because of my party affiliations I can expect little consideration from it. I have no doubt that the Minister is capable of meeting the attacks made upon him. I sincerely trust that the time is fast approaching when it will not be possible for any group of persons to use ex-servicemen as pawns in the game of party politics.
– During recent years some people have displayed a tendency to ride on the backs of ex-servicemen. The record of treatment meted out to ex-servicemen by anti-Labour governments, and particularly those which were in office after World War I., simply will not bear comparison with that of the present Government.
– It is a pity that the ex-servicemen themselves do not realize that !
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) is apparently developing a penchant for producing newspaper excerpts; in fact, I think he must found many of his political ideas upon what he reads in newspapers. On more than one occasion, however, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) has pointed out that the reports in the press which” he has quoted were not authentic.
– I invite the honorable senator to indicate one which is not authentic.
– I know of several - -
– I rise to order. The honorable senator complains that I have referred to newspaper reports which are not authentic. His allegation is offensive to me.
– No point of order is involved. Senator Nash may proceed.
– I did not intend any personal offence to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but I repeat that many of the newspaper reports to which he has referred in this chamber have proved to be unsubstantiated. It is well known to-day that a great deal of matter which appears in the press is not correct and is published to mislead the public. I am surprised that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia should criticize the Government, as it is reported to have done in the excerpt referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Last year, the Government expended more than £16,000,000 on ex-servicemen and their dependants. More than £7,600,000 was expended on the payment of war pensions, and more than £9,300,000 is to be expended this year on pensions for exservicemen and their dependants of both world wars and the Boer War. I cannot help contrasting the generous provision made by the present Government for exservicemen of World War II. with the broken promises made by the anti-Labour governments which were in office during World War I. and its aftermath to the servicemen of that war. Many of those unfortunates had to “ hump their blueys “ through the country, and take advantage of a payment of ls. at country police stations, which was handed to them with a request to move on to the next town, because they could not obtain employment. After World War I. the trade union movement of this country did its utmost to assist ex-servicemen to obtain vocational training^ and in the aftermath of World War II. that movement has again endeavoured to ensure that exservicemen, many of whom did not serve any apprenticeship and have attained only a certain degree of efficiency, shall be properly placed in industry and receive adequate remuneration. As a result of the consideration given to ex-servicemen by the workers of the country, through the trade union organizations, some of the ex-servicemen who are now engaged in the building industry, but are unable, because of insufficient training, to work as efficiently as tradesmen who served their apprenticeship before the war, are being used by opponents of the trade union movement as a stick with which to beat that movement. Critics of the unions do not hesitate to blame the entire trade union movement for the comparative inefficiency of some ex-service trainees, and they have even referred to some workers as “ studies in still life “. That was the gibe hurled at the men who are now working on the extension of Parliament House Of course, it is all part of the general campaign of criticism of members of the Opposition which seeks to convince the public that the workers of this country are not pulling their weight. Not very long ago, a standing committee of the Parliament was informed that the reason why production in Canberra is not as high as might be expected is that most nf the men engaged in a certain industry are not properly trained tradesmen, but ex-service trainees, whose output cannot be expected to reach 100 per cent. Although the reason for the comparatively low output became obvious on inquiry, that did not prevent critics of the Government from making serious allegations that the building workers of Canberra were not pulling their weight. I think that it is time that the people of Australia acquainted themselves with the relevant statistics of production, which will quickly reveal that the workers are neither shirking their tasks, ner being “ pushed around “ by subversive influences, as alleged by the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition ought to be honest and examine those statistics before he criticizes the workers of this country.
As proof of my assertion that the present Government has done more for ex-servicemen and their dependants than any previous government did the Estimates show that the Government expended approximately £34,000,000 on the re-establishment of exservicemen during the last financial year. Item 1 of Division ISO shows that more than £1,270,000 was expended on the provision of tuition, textbooks, equipment, &c, for ex-service- men. Nearly £600,000 was expended to provide employment for ex-servicemen, including the supply of tools of trade, and more than £175,000 was expended on removal expenses to enable exservicemen to shift their chattels from one part of the country to another. Free passages to Australia were provided for widows or wives of ex-servicemen and children of ex-servicemen who married during service outside Australia at a cost of £287,000. Grants made to war widows and wives of blinded and incapacitated ex-servicemen for the purchase of furniture total £310,000. The sum of £60,000 was expended on medical treatment of widows and children, and widowed mothers of deceased exservicemen at a cost of approximately £69,000. The provision of medical and surgical treatment for ex-service personnel cost nearly £7,000,000.
I do not care that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has carried the resolution mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because the treatment given to ex-servicemen by preceding antiLabour governments cannot be compared with that of the present Government, which has given every possible concession to ex-servicemen, not only of World War II., but also of World War I. Instead of indulging in rotten criticism of the type to which we have listened, our opponents should co-operate with us to help the people, and not seek to extract political capital from every conceivable situation.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) criticized the Repatriation Commission, whose staff is doing a fine job, and I think that it ill behoves the honorable senator to indulge in. criticism of conscientious public servants who are doing their utmost for our ex-servicemen and their dependants.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion of the report?
– I assume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is referring to a newspaper report, but I am referring to the annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia, which commends the Minister for his action.
– I meant the report of No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.
– The report to which I was referring describes the administration of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) as outstanding. Senator O’Sullivan is simply trying to confuse the issue. When his criticism was pinned to the officers of the commission, he stated that it was directed at the Minister for Repatriation. Later he said that he was not criticizing the Minister, but the commission generally.
– I was criticizing the administration.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition based his criticism upon statements made by people who attend conferences as delegates. Unfortunately, those individuals very often express their own personal political views, which are not necessarily the views of the organization they are supposed to represent. As an example, I point to Brigadier Strutt, who is a prominent member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Tasmania, and recently contested the Denison division at the Tasmanian State elections. He barely managed to “scrape home” - indeed, he was the only Liberal candidate elected in a multiple seat constituency, although there are 2,000 members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Hobart. Why did not they support him at the elections? When honorable senators utter criticism they must be prepared to face the facts, and in this instance the fact is that many of the delegates who attended the recent annual conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia do not necessarily represent the views of the members of that organization. I know of one branch of the league which has at least 1,000 members, but finds it extremely difficult to obtain a quorum at its meetings. Nevertheless, that branch is entitled to, and does, appoint delegates to State and interstate conferences, and, without expressing too definite an opinion of their political lean ings, I have my doubts as to whether they really represent the views of the members of that branch.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Some of the statements made at the 32nd annual conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia at Brisbane did not represent the views of members generally, and, in fact, were at variance with the 32nd annual report of the league, which stated -
Although your Executive is of the opinion that there is ample room for improvement in the treatment of ex-service personnel by the Repatriation Commission, it is pleasing to record that during the year relations between the League and the Commission were most amicable and several matters received favourable consideration.
Outstanding was the reply of the Minister (Mr. Barnard) confirming our demands in relation to a more liberal interpretation of Section 47 of the Act, which purports to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant.
After last year’s Congress the following resolution was sent to Mr. Barnard: - “ Having regard to the trend of public policy towards the granting of hospital benefits to the community, the Commonwealth Government be requested to amend the Repatriation Act to ensure that medical treatment shall be provided for all returned men and women without placing on them the onus of proof that ailments are attributable to war service “.
Mr. Barnard’s reply reads : “ The onus of proving that a disability is attributable to war service does not rest upon the applicant. Section 47 of the Act provides that an applicant shall be given the benefit of any doubt and that the onus of proof that a disability is not attributable to service shall lie on the Commission.”
That reply clears up a point that has troubled the League for many years.
That signifies that the need for a second tribunal no longer exists. When the term of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal expired, the chairman, Mr. O’Sullivan, resigned. Mr. Dibdin was entitled to superannuation and was well cared for in that respect. Mr. Hickey, the man who supplied so much of the vitriolic and venomous material to those people-
– That is not fair. It was a public document tabled in the Parliament.
- Mr. Hickeys appointment was extended by the Minister for Repatriation for fifteen months.
He was not re-appointed because, as the report of the Returned Servicemen’s League stated, there was no need to retain him. The Government had given authority to clear away all the appeals which had banked up, and there was not sufficient work to keep two tribunals employed. I refer again to my earlier statement that expressions of opinion by certain delegates attending the annual conference of the Returned Servicemen’s League did not represent the views of rank and file members of the league. Certainly the opinion expressed by Mr. J. T. Wertheimer, the Tasmanian delegate to the conference, was not identical with the view of an honorable body of men. He stooped to the lowest depth of personal invective. So that I shall not be accused of misreporting, I quote the following passage from to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Sim News-Pictorial: -
Whether Mr. J. T. Wertheimer, Tasmanian President nf the Returned Servicemen’* League, said that the Minister for Repatriation (Air. Barnard) rated in intelligence with the lowest of animals was challenged yesterday.
The Sun, however, adheres to its reports of the R.S.L. Federal Congress in Brisbane, published on Monday.
Developments yesterday were:
Mr. Barnard, in the House of Representatives, read this telegram from Mr. Wertheimer : “ I have seen in Monday’s Melbourne Sun remarks reported to have been made by me which are incorrect. It is not my habit to indulge in personal abuse. I did criticize your administration but did not indulge in personal abuse “.
Mr. Barnard said he accepted the telegram but he would make inquiries as to how the report, which appeared in the Sun’ and in Brisbane newspapers, originated. [The Sun reported Mr. Wertheimer as telling the Congress : “ I have full knowledge of Mr. Barnard’s intelligence. It rates with the lowest of animals. A mouse has more.” …” The man is quite incapable of understanding the simplest resolution submitted to him, and it is sheer waste of time approaching him. . . .” “ Apart from not being intelligent, he is not strong enough to put - a case to Cabinet. Cabinet just brushes him off with, ‘ It’s only Claude.’ “]
Outside the House, Mr. Barnard said hu would not reflect on the accuracy of the newspaper report without making further inquiries. “ I had no option but to accept Mr. Wertheimer’s statement “, he said, “ but as it reflects on a journalist who was responsible for the report I feel in duty bound to check up to see what basis there is for such a report. “ Having had years of experience with, journalists, I am not one to accept the verdict that journalists purposely misreport a statement “.
Mr. Barnard expressed appreciation of theaction of the Sun in telephoning him in Launceston on the night of the reported remarksby Mr. Wertheimer, and providing him with prominent space in which to reply in the same issue.
Mr. Wertheimer, in Brisbane last night,, said he had criticized Mr. Barnard in the following words: “The man is quite incapable of understanding any resolution submitted to him and it is a sheer waste of time approaching him. He is not strong enough to put a case to Cabinet. Cabinet just brushes him off with ‘ It is only Claude.’ “
Mr. Wertheimer said that he did not say that Mr. Barnard’s intelligence rated with the lowest of animals, or that a mouse had moreintelligence.
But the Courier-Mail representative’s shorthand report (as published by the Sun) records Mr. Wertheimer as making that statement.
In addition, the editor of the Queensland R.S.L. official journal (Mr. J. C. McWatters) and the South Australian assistant State secretary (Mr. D. O’Bryen), who were sitting close by, stated last night that they were satisfied the published statement in the Sun was true.
The quoting of newspaper cuttings for political purposes in connexion with this matter brings the returned servicemen’s league down to a level to which it should never be reduced. I nail the lie contained in the statements quoted by theDeputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). Most of the delegates at the 32nd annual conference of the league are highly honorable men who have served their country well in the past and are still doing so. But, alas, there are others who are less honorable and would drag down the magnificent: traditions of the league to their own level. The league need not bear the responsibility for the statements made by those so-called spokesmen, because they only reflect the opinion of a very undesirable element of political “ stooges “ who are trying to creep into the league. I nail the lie about the Minister for Repatriation, who has done a splendid job. I speak not only on behalf of myself but also on behalf of a great body of ex-servicemen throughout Australia when. I commend him for his excellent work as Minister for Repatriation.
– I regard the statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) and others that the Labour Government does not look after the interests of ex-servicemen as a lot of “ hooey “. I was a member of the repatriation committee which made certain recommendations to a Labour Government a few years ago. That Government adopted many of the recommendations and even improved upon some of them. That is a matter of record, and the facts can be studied by anybody who takes the trouble to examine the files containing the recommendations of the repatriation committee.
– The committee represented all parties.
– That is so. In an earlier debate, I compared the rates of pension paid under the administration of this Government with those which were paid previously. Some of the rates are as much as 36s. a week higher than the old rates. The general difference is about 6s. a week. A government that oan grant pension increases ranging up to 36s. a week to ex-servicemen is doing a good job. I know that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is a pressure group, simply by virtue of the fact that the average working ex-serviceman has not enough time to spare to take an active interest in the affairs of the league. I have been a member of the organization ever since I came back from World War I., but I have not attended more than two or three of its meetings. Members who are better situated have captured all the offices, with the result that the league has become, in my opinion, a mouthpiece for the opponents of the Labour party. In support of my statements, I quote the following report from this evening’s issue of the Melbourne Herald, which is published by Sir Keith Murdoch and that crowd: -
A motion in Launceston R.S.L. condemning Mr. J. T. Wertheimer for his attack on the Minister for ‘Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) in Brisbane was defeated at the sub-branch annual meeting last night.
Mr. Wertheimer, who is Tasmanian R.S.L. president, was reported to have said at the League’s Federal Congress in Brisbane last week -
The article then quoted the remarks which have been read to the Senate by Senator O’Byrne. The report continued -
The attack was despicable, Mr. M. Chorley said. The League had got away from its constitution, and had become the -mouthpiece of the Liberal Party.
Mr. John Gunn, president of the sub.branch said that the League was non-party political but not non-political. The R.S.L. he said by its nature must be opposed to whatever Government was in power because it was always wanting something more for its members than Governments were prepared to give. The R.S.L. was a pressure group, as much as a union.
Mr. John Gunn is a big business man in Launceston. The critics of the Government are not getting away with their vicious statements. The fact is that the Government has done everything possible for ex-servicemen, and most ex-servicemen are satisfied with it and with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). They consider that he is doing a really good job. Recently, I quoted in this chamber a statement that had been made to me by the matron in charge of a big repatriation hospital. She said that there was a new outlook in repatriation hospitals because they were no longer tied down as they had been tied down before. That statement was representative of the general view of patients and staffs in repatriation hospitals. I commend the Minister . and the Government for their achievements on behalf of ex-servicemen.
– In answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), I point out that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has not the slightest intention to re-appoint the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. The cost of keeping it in commission would be approximately ?10,000 a year, and the Minister does not intend to authorize the continuance of that expenditure. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the liberalization of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has caused a considerable decrease of the number of appeals so that the services of two tribunals are not now required. I am not handicapped by legal training, and therefore I do not accept press statement ex cathedra. I commend that very good advice to the honorable senator.
– I was very interested to hear some of the irrelevant remarks made ‘by Senator O’Byrne.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not refer to the remarks of another honorable senator as irrelevant. I am the judge of relevancy.
– Very well. I shall not refer to his remarks as irrelevant. I point out that my remarks were confined substantially to the report of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal which was tabled in this Parliament. When Senator Critchley declared that the administration of the Repatriation Commission enjoyed the enthusiastic approval of exservicemen, I asked by interjection for his authority for making that statement. Senator Critchley mentioned somebody or other. At that time I had not seen the reports of the federal conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia at Brisbane and had not quoted the statements made by delegates. I had merely asked honorable senators to direct their attention to the contents of the No. 1 Tribunal’s report and express their views upon it. Later, in answer to Senator Critchley, who raised the subject, I said, in general terms, that the press report of statements made by delegates representing the respective States at the conference of the league did not agree with the sentiments which he had expressed on behalf of exservicemen. I am not interested in the press reports and I am not relying upon them. I am relying upon a parliamentary document - the report of the appeal tribunal. We on this side of the chamber recognize that ex-servicemen are generously and eloquently represented in the ranks of Government supporters. I am not here to discuss my loyalty or their loyalty. I am trying to direct the attention of the Senate to a report affecting the welfare of ex-servicemen. There has not been any suggestion that the authors of that report were actuated by anything other than the very highest sense of public service. The Minister for Repatriation himself, as recently as April of this year, expressed in most glowing terms his appreciation of the splendid work that was being done in the interests of exservicemen and of the country generally, by this same Mr. Hickey whom he is now prepared to treat with the greatest discourtesy. What has happened between the glowing expressions of appreciation in April, 1948, and the mean remarks of the Minister in October, 1948 ? Only one thing has happened; an adverse report on the administration of the Department of Repatriation has been made, and to that report Mr. Hickey, very manfully, subscribed his name, although he apparently knew that he was signing his own death warrant in that position. I remarked last week on the prophetic nature of his words. Even at this late stage, I urge honorable senators opposite to forget about newspaper reports, and to direct their .attention to the contents of the report of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. It has been said by Senator O’Byrne and others that there is no need now for two appeal tribunals, because section 47 of the act has been clarified. I remind the Senate that that section was inserted in the act in 1943, and that in March, 1944, the No. 1 Tribunal, because its interpretation of section 47 differed from that of the Minister, referred the whole matter to the Attorney-General. In March, 1946, the Attorney-General advised the commission of the precise effect of section 47, which was that the onus of proof did not rest upon the claimant. That interpretation was brought to the notice of the department and of the Minister. Section 47 has remained in the act, and the interpretation of it which apparently the Minister for Repatriation is now prepared to accept, is precisely that insisted upon by the No. 1 Tribunal, and supported by the Attorney-General in March, 1946. I direct the earnest attention of honorable senators to the necessity to divorce this matter from party considerations. The issue is whether the administration of the Department of Repatriation has been in the interests of those whom it is supposed to benefit. If the only excuse that can be offered for the abandonment of one of the appeal tribunals is that the advice given nearly three years ago is now to be accepted, events must move very slowly indeed in the Repatriation Department, and on that score alone, its administration cannot be defended.
– I have not heard of any protest from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia against the nonreappointment of members of the No. 1 Tribunal.
– I am not dealing with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I am dealing with the rights of ex-servicemen and their dependants. The Minister points out that expenditure on repatriation is now £3,000,000 a year more than it was in 1943. But whose money is it? Is it the Government’s money? It is not. It belongs to the people of this country. Governments do not earn money; they collect money, and, of course, they can lose money too on commercial undertakings. Government supporters need not lay any flattering unction to their souls because of the extra £3,000,000 a year that is being expended. That money belongs to the ‘people of Australia from whom it is extracted. The full value of that money is not reaching its proper destination. I ask honorable senators why it has been necessary for three years to be pegging away for the proper, legal, and liberal interpretation of section 47 to be given effect? It is rather significant that the acceptance at this late stage of the advice of the AttorneyGeneral given in March, 1946, also means that those who so gallantly, and through a high sense of public duty, forced the acceptance of that advice by the department, have been deprived of their positions by the Minister’s failure to reappoint them.
I ask any honorable senator who follows me in this debate to answer the points that I have raised, without trying to draw “ red herrings “ across the trail by citing what has appeared in some newspaper, or what has happened at a meeting of ex-servicemen. I have drawn attention to the contents of a report. If that report is false in any respect, it is the duty of honorable senators to draw attention to its falsity. If it is true, then honorable senators should urge, remedial action and not cover up inefficiency out of a mistaken sense of party loyalty.
– I remind the committee that neither the repatriation boards nor the Repatriation Commission ‘ itself has submitted any statement that could be regarded as hostile to the administration of the department. Members of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal are only three in number, compared with a much larger membership of repatriation boards and the commission itself. Therefore, the majority of the men who are charged with the administration of the act have had nothing to say against the work of the department, whereas some criticism has been offered by an infinitesimal minority. The wording of section 47 of the act clearly and convincingly places the onus of proof on the commission, and the commission has met this obligation. It is true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has said, that that section was referred to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice, but it does not necessarily follow that it was the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) himself who gave the interpretation.
– The ‘ report states that he did.
– That may be, but, so far, that is an ex parte statement. As an impartial observer, 1 should like to hear what the Attorney-General himself has to say on the matter. I do not believe that he was ever consulted. I believe that the interpretation was given by some one without the authority of the Attorney-General. In any event, the commission itself observed the law, and still observes the law. Therefore, the honorable senator’s entire case rests on the opinions of three men as against those of a much larger number. We can judge the actions of the chairman of the tribunal in the light of all circumstances, and when one remembers that when a better job was offering, he applied for it, was appointed, and then resigned, as chairman of the tribunal and, so far as T know, now occupies a still better paid position, one can get a clearer picture of events. I believe that members of the No. 1 Tribunal were antagonistically disposed to the Government. The Minister was satisfied up to April of this year, but when he discovered that the tribunal was unnecessary, he decided that, in view of the liberalizing of the provisions of the act, two tribunals were no longer required. He said that he could see no reason why he should continue to expend £10,000 a year on a tribunal which was not required. Senator O’Sullivan has not placed before us any direct representations from ex-servicemen. He has merely quoted press reports. So far as I know, he had not been approached by representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia on the matter. He has had no communication from the league, and has based his case on assumptions contained in press reports. If, in a court of law, he submitted a newspaper report as evidence, he would be ruled out straight away; yet he expects a body of intelligent people to accept something that he knows very well would not be acceptable in the lowest court of law.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has suggested that the letter to which I have referred, dated the 29th March, 1946, was written without the knowledge of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). The letter is contained in the report of the No. 1 “War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, which is an official document and has been tabled in this chamber. I have already read the letter to honorable senators, but apparently some of the intelligent members of this chamber do not remember things that they would rather forget. Therefore, I shall read the letter again. It states -
I refer to your memorandum of 23rd March, 1944, No. G/907, in which a question is raised as to whether the Appeal Tribunal under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is bound by all the provisions of Section 47 (2) of that Act.
– Mr. Barnard was not the Minister for Repatriation in 1944.
– I am directing my criticism to the administration of the department. The letter continues -
I desire to inform you that with reference to the objection taken by Mr. O’Sullivan, Chairman of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, to a statement in the Commission’s annual report to Parliament for the year ended 30th June, 1943, I am directed by the Attorney-General to inform you that the Attorney-General agrees entirely with the views expressed by Mr. O’Sullivan.
It makes a very poor showing now for honorable senators to say that they have just recently discovered that a correct interpretation is to be placed upon section 47, which was introduced in 1943. If that is the way the department is being administered further words are quite unnecessary from me.
– Are there any further requests ?
– Do you, Mr. Chairman refer to the whole of the proposed vote?
– Yes, the whole of it.
– I lodge a protest. Although there are only three members of the Opposition in this chamber we represent 48 per cent, of the electors of the Commonwealth.
– Order ! To what particular item in the proposed vote does the honorable senator desire to refer?
– I had hoped that the various Ministers would have had time since the suspension of the sitting to gain the information necessary to answer some of the points that I have raised. One question to which I have not yet received an answer concerned the number of war service homes that had been provided. The cost of the administration of the war service homes division is estimated at £183,000. That is not the amount provided for expenditure on homes but for the cost incurred by the staff appointed to provide those homes. I should like to know the number of houses that have been erected by the war service homes division during the last twelve months.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for Social
Services) [8.32]. - The estimates for the current year is £5,605,150 for the erection of homes. The expenditure will cover expenditure on homes’ under construction at the 30th June, 1948, which numbered 2,349 and homes to be commenced during the current year numbering 5,690, making a total of 8,039. It is estimated that the number that will be completed during the current year will be 4,685. The number of homes completed during 1947-48 was 1,244. Results in recent months indicate that, despite the difficulty of obtaining material and labour, that very good rate of progress will be maintained.
– I should like a touch of reality to be introduced into this matter. The number of houses erected in the last financial year was 1,244, but before a brick is laid in the current year there will be an administrative charge of £183,000. Is that the position?
– I have quoted the figures of costs and what those costs will produce. To what does the honorable senator refer now?
– -I am not referring to the money the Government is allocating for the building of war service homes, but to the expenses of the administration of the war service homes division. Last year there was an expenditure on administration of £122,897 and in that year 1,244 homes were erected. There are many ex-servicemen who have been paying off war service homes for more than twenty years and still owe substantial amounts to the division. I make a request that, if possible, the rate of interest on war service homes be reduced to a point where it will just reasonably cover the cost of administration and general handling. If that suggestion is adopted, there will be some prospect of those people owning their homes in their own lifetime. I also consider that in the event of the purchaser of a war service home dying during the period of his indebtedness, and there is evidence that his death has been hastened by or is the result of his war service, then to all intents and purposes the home he deemed fully .paid for and the widow or other dependant be given a clear title.
– Is that the usual procedure adopted by Liberal party governments ?
– I ask the Minister for Social Services to consider that recommendation in the interests of the people concerned and not from the aspect of bitter and narrow party politics from which the honorable senator who has just interjected considers it.
– In reply to Senator O’Sullivan’s reference to the fact that the administrative expenses for the war service homes division will be £183,000 for the current year as against £122,897 for the past year, I draw attention to the fact that about £4,000,000 more is to be expended on the construction of homes this year than last year. Considered in relation to the total expenditure, I regard the increased administrative costs as not only reasonable but light. With respect to the honorable senator’s request for a reduction of the rate of interest to enable purchasers to get out of debt as soon as possible I should say that no government in,the history of Australia has done more to reduce interest than has the present Government. It has concentrated upon the reduction of interest with the result that interest and overdraft rates have been reduced from 7 per cent, to 4$ per cent. The rate of interest charged to purchasers of war service homes is 3 per cent. The honorable senator will realize that the moneys provided come from loan moneys raised at 3i per cent, or at 2$ per cent, interest. I think it is safe to say that these loan moneys are raised at an average of 3 per cent, interest. Administrative costs certainly amount to more than i per cent, or even f per cent, and I put it to the honorable senator that ex-servicemen are getting a fair deal when they are paying a rate of interest which, produces amounts that are lower than the administrative cost of the division. The honorable senator cannot have it all way9. He does not ask the Government to abolish interest and operate at a loss. I consider that I have demon-, strated that the Government has brought: down the interest charge to a fair figure…
– I thank the Minister for the information he has given. One way in which assistance could be rendered to the purchasers of war service homes would be in the establishment of a more economic administration. On the figures which the Minister has just supplied it would appear that practically £100 has been added to the cost of each house by administrative costs.
– That would be an unreal calculation.
– The figures indicate that administrative costs were about £100 for each home built during the year 1947-48.
– The honorable senator knows that much of that money would be spent on developmental work that would bear fruit in later years. It is completely unreal to relate total expenditure to the number of houses built in one year.
– That would not apply to the items to which I shall now refer, which are - postage, telegraphs, telephone supply services, salaries and allowances, temporary and casual employees, extra duty pay, &c. Those items are not investments and do not represent any tangible assets such as bricks and mortar.
– The honorable senator will see the fallacy of his argument when I point out that to a considerable degree salaries in the division are paid to officers who spend their time collecting amounts that have been owing for years. It would be necessary to eliminate those salaries from administrative costs so as to get a clear picture.
– Despite any sophistry in which the Minister might indulge there is no getting away from the fact that the administrative costs represent a tremendously high price to pay for what has been, and is to be, done. I am sorry if the Minister is satisfied with these costs, because I do not consider that anybody has occasion to be satisfied with them.
– The Government entertains no hope of ever satisfying honorable members opposite.
– Does Senator O’Sullivan wish to deal with any other aspect of these items?
– I still wish to refer to several items. Can the Minister give me some indication as to how much of the appropriation provided for credits to be extended to ex-servicemen settlers has actually been advanced to them? The Estimates provide for credits amounting to £2,150,000. In an answer to an earlier question the Minister informed the chamber that 52 settlers had been placed under the scheme and I should now like to know how much, if any, of the provision made for the extension of credits up to £2,150,000 has actually been advanced.
– I shall obtain the information the honorable senator requires and give it to him before the debate concludes.
– I turn now to Division 185, International Relief and Rehabilitation. The sum of £1,780.000 is being provided as a contribution to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the expenditure under that heading last year being £2,240,162. Provision is also being made in respect of “International Post-war Relief and Rehabilitation “, for which purpose the sum of £1,860,000 is sought, whereas last year no expenditure was incurred under that heading. Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) indicate what are the Government’s obligations under those items, whether they are continuing and contractual or whether these sums are gratuitous contributions?
– The amount estimated to be required for the current financial year for the provision of credit facilities to settlers under war service land settlement is £2,150,000. However, provision is being made for the repayment of £750,000 by the land settlement authorities in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and also for the repayment of principal amounting to £63,000 by settlers in these States, leaving a net expenditure of £1,337,000. The funds provided by the Commonwealth to the credit authorities in those three States since the inception of the scheme to the 30th June, 1948, to be made available to settlers for working capital, improvements and equipment amounted to £25,693 in South Australia and £142,899 in Western Australia, making a total of £168,592. Provision is being made for a substantial increase of expenditure under this heading. As from the 30th June, 1947, 52 ex-servicemen have been allotted holdings in the agent States.
The proposed votes in respect of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and International Post-war Relief and Rehabilitation are not payments which the Commonwealth is obliged to make, but represent special provision proposed by the Cabinet. These amounts are referred to on page 9 of the budget papers, which were considered by the Senate recently. They are treasury rather than post-war reconstruction matters.
– Under the heading of the Department of Social Services, the sum of £200 is being provided in respect of “ Discharged members of Women’s Auxiliary Services - Aftercare in special circumstances “. I presume that such women have been suffering from illness due to war service. Could the Minister give the approximate number of women involved ?
– Very few women have received treatment under that heading. This is a very special type of case where some ex-servicewomen get into a certain condition and need particular care. One of the very special duties of the department during the war was to care for those girls, so that their pregnant condition was not made known generally. Those girls are treated under the best conditions. Excellent work is being done by the department in caring for the few girls who have that unhappy experience. In every instance a single girl is involved. Whilst the vote under this heading in 1947-48 was £3,000, only £422 of that amount was expended in that year. The proposed expenditure for this financial year is only £200, and will merely complete the attention being given to cases now in hand.
– The total expenditure incurred last financial year in respect of the Legal Service Bureau was £4,155, whereas the proposed vote for this year is £53,000. I do not offer any criticism of this bureau. Indeed, its officers are efficient and courteous. I had dealings with the bureau in Brisbane, and I know the gentlemen employed there. However, I submit that there is no longer any need for this assistance if any need ever existed. In Brisbane, and I understand in most of the other capitals, the members of the legal profession notify their willingness through the Law Society to attend, free of charge, to the requirements of ex-servicemen and their dependants. Such solicitors are placed on a panel. During the early stages of the war, members of the panel frequently went out to military camps and made wills, adjusted family affairs and drew documents, and, generally, so far as legal requirements were concerned, did all that was required by service personnel. That work was continued by the Queensland Law Society when it notified the authorities that members of the legal profession were prepared to continue to work, free of charge, on the society’s panel. A person who required legal assistance would go to the society, which would pass the particular work on to a solicitor who had notified it of his willingness to do such work free of cost to service personnel. I am sure that members of the profession in Queensland and the “other States are quite prepared to continue that work. Having regard to the rush that occurred at the commencement of demobilization, there may have been a great need for spontaneous help by personnel in process of being discharged or immediately after they had been discharged. Under such conditions, possibly, there was some excuse for providing this assistance. However, there is no justification now for continuing tha
Legal Service Bureau. I am not. criticising the manner in which officers of the bureau have done their work. I merely say that there is no longer any need for such a service, and I ask that inquiries be made to ascertain whether continuance of -the bureau is really warranted.
– The continuance of the Legal Air Bureau has been under very close consideration. The Government finds that the service is greatly appreciated by ex-servicemen. This assistance is made available to them and their dependants, and very excellent “work is being done. The withdrawal of the service would be the subject of a good deal of protest from ex-servicemen’s associations. I acknowledge that in the various States members of the legal profession are prepared to give legal service free of charge to ex-service personnel. That has been done fairly generally throughout the Commonwealth. But it is necessary to have men in a position to devote full time to the needs of ex-service personnel, and no member of the legal profession can do that. As the demand for this service is availed of so widely, the present is not an opportune time to discontinue it. I have noted the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that the matter be kept under review.
– I should like to refer generally to the subject of defence, although I do not intend to labour the matter at this juncture. Much has been said about the state of our preparedness. Having regard to the present unsettled and troubled times, I again urge that very close attention be paid to the advice of our defence experts in the provision of adequate defences. We have been told that the Government is building the nucleus of an army. On the other hand, the advice and calm judgment of an expert of the standing of General Blarney is that in the event of an emergency we could not put one trained division into the field. I understand that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has in mind the formation of a shock brigade of about 4,000 troops with’ certain other complements, mostly station, clerical and administrative, numbering about 13,000. I have no doubt that I shall be told that the Government has evolved a five-year programme, and that it intends to expend the sum of £250,000,000 on defence during that period. I urge the Government to ensure that that money shall be expended wisely. For many months the Government has been endeavouring to develop a voluntary citizen force. The voluntary system has always failed wherever it has been tried. During the first five months of the recruiting campaign, about 157 men volunteered in Queensland.
– One volunteer is worth ten conscripts.
– That view would be all right in its time and place, but I believe that ten of the honorable senator’s Russian friends, if they were well armed and well disciplined would account for one average Australian.
– I rise to order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to my “ Russian friends “. I should not say that the Russians would be friends of mine any more than they would be friends of the honorable senator. His remark is offensive to me, and I ask him to withdraw- it.
– I withdraw the remark. Regardless of how good any volunteer may be, it is not fair to contemplate his having to face a well-armed, trained and disciplined body of men. I understand that several recommendations have been made to the defence department in the name of thirteen of our generals. Whilst we realize that because of security considerations the Government cannot be expected to reveal details of our defence plans, if we were given an assurance that the experts of Great Britain and Australia are working in collaboration to formulate a definite plan of defence we should be much happier than we are at present. In order that we may properly discharge our role under the Empire defence plan we should be given a clear, definite and unequivocal assurance that from time to time a comprehensive survey and assessment will be made of our man-power and military and industrial resources. If we should again be confronted with the holocaust of war we shall then know just what we have to do in undertaking the disagreeable task of converting our industries to the production of war materials. “We should know what portion of our man-power must be made available for active service and what portion should be reserved for the production of war materiel. Our servicemen should be trained and equipped to carry out their task.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not in order in making a second-reading speech at this stage.
– With respect I point out that I have not yet exhausted the period of fifteen minutes to which I am entitled in this debate,, but if I am out of order I bow to your ruling. Whilst I do not intend to recapitulate the disturbing facts revealed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) in the House of Representatives, honorable senators have doubtless availed themselves of the opportunity to read the speeches made by those gentlemen concerning the present strength of the Air Force. The report of the debate contains the reply made by the Minister who spoke on behalf of the Government, and the speeches made by the two honorable members by way of rejoinder. I particularly commend the learned speech made by the honorable member for Franklin.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not in order in making extended reference to a debate which took place in the House of Representatives.
– Then I content myself with recalling to the memory of honorable senators the well-known facts reported in the press subsequent to the remarks made by the members of the House of Representatives. The Chief of the Air Staff rushed into print with a statement that must have amazed honorable senators as much as it did me. The caption in the Brisbane newspaper, which reported his statement of the 9th October, was as follows: -
In the event of a sudden emergency Australia can recall from Japan its three fighting squadrons.
Has any one ever heard such a ridiculous statement !
– I am merely quoting the report of the statement attributed to that gentleman. . When the chief of a fighting service makes such an extraordinary statement can any one be satisfied with the administration of that service? Fancy the Chief of the Air Staff stating that a repetition of the happening at Pearl Harbour could be prevented because we could recall three fighter squadrons, which are thousands of miles away from Australia !
– Is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoting from another newspaper report?
– Yes, Senator O’Byrne and I like newspapers. The text of the article which appeared in the newspaper is as follows : -
No known potential enemy could make an attack on Australia at present, the Chief of the Air Staff said at a press conference at Victoria Barracks to-day. In an emergency three fighter squadrons could be speedily recalled from Japan. Four citizen air force squadrons were being built up in Australia on a limited scale but could be used at short notice. The Royal Australian Air Force was still five thousand short of its thirteen thousand target.
I complain that the approach made by the Government to the problem of developing this vital arm of our defence force is most unrealistic. I understand that some time ago application was made to the Air Board by students of Melbourne University to establish a unit of the Royal Australian Air Force. Naturally they would not be allowed to have aircraft in the university grounds, hut because of the number of students undergoing training in science and other faculties, meteorologists, navigators, engineers, chemists and administrative personnel, such as legal officers, could have been recruited from amongst the undergraduates to form the nucleus of a valuable unit. Notwithstanding that the citizen air force still requires 5,000 personnel to complete its limited establishment the application was not granted.
One would have thought that the Government and ‘the Air Board would he only too anxious to encourage the applicants to form a unit. I should like to receive some assurance from the Government, and I am sure that the people of Australia would appreciate an assurance, that adequate steps are being taken to prepare our defences. In the present troubled and disturbed state of the world defence has become of vital importance. The organization of our defence should not be left in the hands of three service Ministers, some of whom can devote only part of their time to defence matters.
– I have already asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the proposed vote under discussion.
– I was under the impression that we were discussing the Estimates of Expenditure for the Department of Defence, and if I have not done so I apologize.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the estimated expenditure of the Department of Defence and not proceed to the discussion of other matters.
– In this debate my speech is limited to fifteen minutes, and in that brief time I cannot discuss the three services. I was about to say that instead of having three separate service ministries, a senior Minister should be appointed to organize our defence.
T particularly commend to the favorable attention of the Minister the necessity for encouraging the formation of regiments in universities and public schools, where boys of eighteen years of age, who are eligible, are available for enrolment.
– I rise to order. To what particular item is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referring? If
I am to give an intelligible reply to his remarks, he must confine .his criticisms to specific items.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is, I presume, discussing Division 114 of the Estimates.
– I see no reason to pin-point the particular item to which ray criticism refers. If the Minister cannot appreciate the criticism which [ am making-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should not have entered into the debate but for the very serious reflection made upon a leading Australian by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), who criticized a statement made by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Jones, and, by inference. Group Captains Macaulay and Eaton, who are distinguished Australians with fine war records-
– I rise to order. The remarks made by Senator Cooke are not correct, because I did not mention the names of the officers to whom he has referred, and I ask him to withdraw.
Th e TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No point of order is involved. Senator Cooke may proceed.
– I recently had an opportunity to visit the three fighter squadrons in Japan which were referred to by Air Marshal Jones. Although they are trained to maximum efficiency, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that they are not fit to defend the country in time of emergency. When such arguments are used, and the names of high-ranking Australian officers with fine war records are introduced by persons who “ cannot hold a candle to them “. I must take the strongest objection. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should have refrained from making his utterance, if only from a sense of fair play. The component of the Australian Air Force which is serving in J apan is doing an excellent job, and has been commended by the United States authorities. Four squadrons of the Royal Australian Air
Force are also in process of formation in Australia, and they will become the nucleus of a fine air force. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted a statement which appeared in the press and proceeded to ridicule the part which the Australian Air Force could play in the event of war occurring.
– 1 merely pointed out that they are thousands of miles away from Australia.
– Although they are at present stationed in Japan, they would be readily available in the event of an emergency arising. I was flown to Australia from Japan in 36 hours, and the aircraft which carried me was not flying to scheduled time. If there is anything unreal and fantastic about the whole matter, it is to be found in the arguments advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who accused honorable senators on this side of the chamber of telling untruths. I remind the Senate that he made the statement that the membership of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia amounted to 1,000,000, whereas its actual membership, as disclosed by its own report, is only 323,036, and is a decline of 50,811 compared with the membership of the previous years. Yet the honorable senator accused an officer of the eminence of Air Marshal Jones, and, by implication, two other high-ranking air force officers, of making unreal and fantastic statements about our defence forces. The party to which the honorable senator belongs left this country absolutely undefended when it was in power at the beginning of World War II. Before the war the former Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, who was the Leader of the Australian Labour party, made repeated appeals to the then Government to develop an adequate air force for our protection, but his appeals were disregarded by the anti-Labour Government of that time. I appeal new to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to eschew party politics and confront realities. It he will do that he must give credit to those who are responsible for preparing the comprehensive programme for the defence of this country.
– I do not want to labour this matter unduly, but I rise to correct the grossly unfair and untruthful suggestion of Senator Cooke that I criticized the efficiency of the Australian air component in Japan. What I criticized was the efficiency of the Chief of the Air Staff, and any one who has had experience of the Royal Australian Air Force will agree with me that it is completely unpractical and unreal to imagine that three squadrons which are thousands of miles away can forestall a sudden attack on this country. In saying that I make no reflection whatever on the efficiency of the squadrons in Japan, because no one has more respect for the Air Force than I have. It is grossly unfair and untrue therefore to suggest that I have criticized the Australian squadrons in Japan. The honorable senator mentioned names which I have not mentioned. However, I did criticize the inefficiency and unreality of the Chief of Air Staff.
– The honorable senator is not equipped to judge.
– Yes, I am. I have worked under him. I wish to make clear that I did not criticize the efficiency of those squadrons.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £7,549,000.
– When the committee was considering the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, I advocated the subsidizing of stud stock. Division 213 includes an amount of £5,000 to be appropriated to provide assistance for importers of pedigree stock. A similar amount was allocated for the purpose in 1947-48. but only £2,167 was used. I do not think that the intention of my previous remarks was fully appreciated by the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The improvement of the standard of Australian stock is a matter of such importance as to merit all posible assistance. In Scotland, for instance, there are high-quality beef cattle which could be imported with considerable advantage to our beef industry. Border Leicester, Southdown, and Romney Marsh sheep could also be imported in large numbers to improve our fat-lamb studs, and the pig industry would benefit considerably from the importation of first-class stud boar3 from Holland, Denmark and Great Britain. In view of the importance of this matter, the proposed appropriation of £5,000 appears to be inadequate. I hope that the Government will give close attention to my suggestion and that, when the Estimates for 194.9-50 are being prepared, a greater amount will be set down for the assistance of stud stock importers. The improvement of our flocks and herds would produce an increase of our national income, because we rely principally upon primary products for our prosperity.
An amount of £5,000 has been earmarked for drought relief for the dairy industry. In 1947-48, £17,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and a total of £11,116 was actually expended. The seriousness of our losses from droughts should occupy the attention of all Australians. Unfortunately, large areas of this country are subject to periodic droughts, the losses from which, in my opinion, could be greatly reduced if we had a properly organized scheme of fodder conservation. Molasses, a byproduct of sugar, is a valuable stockfeed because of its carbohydrate content, and, when mixed with fibre from sugar cane, grain sorghum, and even the maize fibre which is produced on the Atherton Tableland in Queensland, it could be used as stock feed. Any scheme for the use of sugar cane as fodder would, of course, require an extension of the area devoted to cane farming.
– Not an ounce of the fibre from sugar cane is wasted.
– I know that it is burned in furnaces, but when the supply of coal from the Blair Athol field increases, that fuel can be used instead, and sugar cane fibre could be reserved for stock feed. We should encourage the growing of fodder for use in times of drought as a form of insurance against the reduction of our national income which results from heavy stock losses.
.- The amount of £5,000 for the assistance of importers of pedigree stock has been included in the proposed vote on the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council. This is a renewal of a practice which was observed before the war. It is estimated that the amount will be sufficient to provide any assistance that will be needed by importers during 1948-49. The Commonwealth Government has contributed large amounts to the States from time to time for the purposes of drought relief. In fact, it has borne the major portion of the burden of drought relief in previous years. On the 3rd October, 1947, for instance, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) agreed to meet half of the cost of the losses sustained in the disastrous Queensland drought that year up to a limit of £25,000. That shows that the Government has not been parsimonious in its attitude towards drought-stricken primary producers. In addition to the provision normally made in the Estimates, supplementary appropriations are made in bad seasons.
– Division 205 contains two items which provide respectively for the cost of representation at international labour conferences and for Australia’s contribution to the International Labour Organization. The cost of representation is estimated to be £26,000 and the amount of the contribution to the International Labour Organization is £47,300. Has any statement been made to the Parliament regarding .the apportionment of such costs amongst the nations that participate in the organization?
– As ‘ the honorable senator will realize, the amount of £47,300 will cover the cost of the contribution to the International Labour Organization by Australia as a member nation. The other amount represents the estimated cost of sending an Australian delegation to international labour conferences. Our delegations usually consist of representatives of the Government, representatives of employers, and representatives of employees. The conferences take place annually. They have a very important effect upon standards of living and work throughout the world, and that is why Australia subscribes to the International Labour Organization, which was formed after World War I. This country has had a considerable influence upon the deliberations of international labour conferences. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) led the Australian delegation to the most recent conference. A Minister of the Crown usually accompanies the Australian delegation.
– In Division 203, an item of £500 is set down to provide assistance for the Boy Scout movement. I urge the Government to increase that allowance. As we all know, the movement does magnificent work amongst the youth of Australia. Apart from teaching good citizenship, self-reliance, and self-control, its influence goes a long way towards building up our lads morally and physically. A man who has had Boy Scout training is usually a good asset to the State, and, therefore, the work of the movement should be encouraged by the Government and by every right-thinking person. I urge that the amount he increased or that provision he made for all donations to the Boy Scouts’ Association to be treated as deductions for income tax purposes.
– Apart from providing direct financial assistance to the Boy Scout movement, the Government also provides from time to time gifts of tents and other equipment. It is always anxious to assist the movement, and I shall bring the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the notice of Cabinet.
– I notice that the Government has not made any provision this year, in Division 213, for development and experimental work in connexion with soya beans, although funds were provided for the purpose in previous years. I understand that soya beans are very valuable. Is this experimental work to be discontinued?
– The work is being carried out by the States.
.- Division 206, Department of the Treasury, includes an item relating to legal costs and expenses in connexion with the Banking Act 1947. Expenditure under this heading in 1947-48 amounted to £27,272. Will the Minister representing the Treasurer indicate the date to which that amount carries the costs of litigation in connexion with the act ? It is really a shame that the country has been put to that expense.
– Order! Expenditure under this heading in 1947-48 amounted to £27,272. No estimate is provided for 1948-49. Therefore there is nothing for the committee to discuss.
– Not even the absence of an estimate?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is my ruling.
– There is a new item for this year in Division 214, Department of Social Services, which, I am sure, will he very much appreciated by the women of Australia who will benefit from the proposed appropriation. I refer to the proposed grant of £15,000 for a housekeeper service. Will the Minister for Social Services supply details of that service ?
– The Government recognizes that, in this time of full employment, and having regard to the vast industrial development which has led to the retraction of women from normal domestic services, a great burden is placed upon the average woman in the home. Therefore, although State governments and various municipalities are already endeavouring to afford some relief to mothers, the Commonwealth Government hae decided to enter the field also. Accordingly, provision has been made in the Estimates under the item referred to by the honorable senator for the expenditure of £15,000. The Commonwealth does not propose to deal directly with the various voluntary bodies which will promote this service. The amount is to be distributed to the State governments as an indication of the Commonwealth’s interest, and with a view to stimulating further activity. If further grants are required, the position will be reviewed. The experience of the States has been that although certain sums have been made available for this work in the past, there has been great difficulty in expending them because women have so many avenues of employment open to them to-day, that they are not rushing into this new type of service. It is hoped that by the provision of this grant, adequate remunerations will be available for those who engage in the service, and in some cases, have to undergo periods of training. This is a gesture by the Commonwealth ; an acknowledgment of the need to promote activity on the part of the States to fill a great need in our community at present. The honorable senator will realize that the Commonwealth is sensible of that need and of its obligations. Certain conditions will be attached to the grant to ensure that the money will be provided in accordance with terms that are approved by the Commonwealth.
– Women generally will be most appreciative of this service. The Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) has mentioned the training of housekeepers. I should like to know what the period of training will be, and also what amount will be granted to each State under this scheme.
– Full consideration has not been given to the allocation of this money, but the main thought is that the allocation should have some regard to population and to the number of mothers in each State. No apportionment of the grant has yet been determined. I understand that there has not been a request for any portion of the. amount so far, although some publicity has been given to the scheme.
I must confess that I cannot say very much about training. I have no doubt that the honorable senator herself, with all her experience in social work, will have a better idea than I, of the period of training required. However, I should think that the period would not be short, because a woman who engages in housekeeping is called upon to perform multifarious duties, from cooking and house management to the care of children. Some knowledge of first aid will also be required. The service will have to attract not only a good type of person, but also, if possible, some one with experience, and if an applicant is without experience, the period of training, in my very humble opinion, will be reasonably long.
– Will applications for house-keepers, say, by country women, be made through the State governments or direct to the Commonwealth Government?
– The voluntary bodies in the various States should not apply to the Commonwealth, but directly to the State governments.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed Votes - Refunds of Revenue, £10.000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £10^000,000; and War (1914-18) Services. £1,137,000- agreed to.
Common we a lth Railways.
Proposed vote, £1,886,000.
.- .1 should like to know why the office of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways is situated in Melbourne. . I understand that there is a staff of approximately twenty in that office. I was a union official in the railways in Tasmania, and I recall that almost every day union grievances had to be brought before the chief engineer or the commissioner. I suggest that there is no reason whatever why the head of the Commonwealth railways should be in Melbourne, while the railway lines and workshops that he administers are thousands of miles away. With some other gentlemen. I went to Melbourne to interview th, Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways about certain railway matters in Canberra. We waited all day, and finally left; without getting any satisfaction whatever, .f see no reason why the office of the Commissioner should not be at Adelaide, Port Pirie, or Port Augusta. Having the office of the Commissioner at Melbourne means duplication.
– I cannot answer the honorable senator’s query, but I assume that the office of the Commissioner is at Melbourne because it is a capital city and because other railway administrations are in that city. However, I shall haveinquiries made and provide the honorable senator with the information that ho seeks.
– Again I urge that trained hostesses should travel on the transAustralian trains to assist in the care of women and children who are making that long journey. A train hostess could bc of immense assistance to mothers with young children by preparing meals for the children and naring for them generally.
– I shall direct tinattention of the Minister for Transport to the honorable senator’s remarks.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Postmaster-Genera i.’s D Department
Proposed vote. £32,220,000.
– I should like to express my appreciation, which I am sure is shared by all honorable senators, of the efficiency and courtesy of officials of the Postmaster-General’s Department. My personal association with the Post Office over many years has been one of extreme satisfaction, and I cannot speak too highly of the work of its officers.
I wish to refer particularly to the proposed vote for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Last year, the proposed vote was £275,000, and the actual expenditure £345,365. This year, the proposed vote is £386,000. I should like the Postmaster-General to state the reason for this increase, and to indicate whether it is intended that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall continue to function throughout the fiscal year 194849.
– For several years, the Parliament has appropriated funds to pay to the commission the difference between expenditure and revenue. This year’s estimated difference, or loss, will be considerably greater than it was last year because of increased labour costs, due mainly to cost-of-living adjustment? and new arbitration awards. The honorable senator will appreciate that quite recently rates of pay have increased, and that, consequently, increased’ expendituremust be faced. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will continue to function as a commission. The question of finance will be examined by the proposed new controlling authority, which is provided for in other legislation now before the Senate.
– Under the vote for each State there appears an item “National Broadcasting Services “. The sum allocated for the central office, is £17,500, for New South Wales £75,000, for Victoria £111,000, for Queensland £77,000, for South Australia £37,000, for Western Australia £39,000, for Tasmania £21,000 and for Northern Territory £7,200. The total vote for that purpose is £385,500. L should like to know whether that, money is for technical services, and, if se-, whether it covers all such services.
– That amount covers the ‘ cost of running radio stations particularly the costs of the technical services rendered.
– Division 235 concerns estimated expenditure of £982,000 on the Post- master-General’s Department’s activities in Tasmania. 1 hope that there is provision in that estimated expenditure for the installation of an automatic exchange in the City of Launceston. That city has a manual telephone exchange which is at present operating at almost its full capacity. The telephone service in Launceston is possibly one of the most unsatisfactory in Australia. Launceston is the only big city in Australia that has not an automatic telephone exchange, and the pressure of work on the telephonists is at times practically beyond their capacity. That fact engenders much criticism because at times the girls are so busy that they are delayed in answering calls. I hope, therefore, that when the works provided for in the estimates are carried out, an automatic exchange will be provided for Launceston, particularly as that city’s population is growing. At the present time, the telephone girls have not much room to work in and that affects their efficiency.
– I refer to Division 233, one item of which concerns overseas mail services by non-contract vessels and other countries’ services. I note that the estimated expenditure this year is £57,000 compared with £5,500 last year. I should like the Minister to indicate the reason for that increase and also te inform the Senate as to what non-contract vessels would be engaged in the carriage of mails and other countries’ services in South Australia, other than the Gulf service.
– I inform senator O’Byrne that it is intended to provide a new automatic telephone exchange for the City of Launceston as quickly as possible. The honorable senator knows that the department has a very extensive plan for new works and, consistent with the availability of the necessary manpower and materials, the work of providing Launceston with an automatic telephone exchange will be carried out as quickly as possible. The plans for that work have already been prepared.
In reply to Senator Critchley, I mention that as a result of the representations by the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, largely due to the growth of the food parcel traffic to Great Britain and Europe, the Commonwealth agreed to a modification of the existing rates for the carriage of mails by non-contract vessels. The modification is mainly an increase of rates for the carriage of parcels and other articles, apart from letters. The change operates retrospectively from the 1st July, 1947, so that provision had to be made for increases for the mails carried last year as well as those to be carried this year.
.- I refer to Division 229, under which the Government’s contribution to the expenses of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is estimated at £386,000. Can the Minister inform me whether that amount covers educational programmes such as concerts or does it cover only ordinary pro-, grammes ?
– That is purely a matter for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Postmaster-General’s Department is committed to provide technical services only.
– I desire to ask a question which in view of certain legislation pending the Postmaster-General is not obliged to answer. I desire to know whether that amount of £386,000 is a reasonable amount or otherwise, and what will be the relationship between the proposed new board to control broadcasting, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Will the proposed new board fulfil any of the functions of the commission ? Will the commission continue as hitherto or will its powers be enlarged or restricted after the appointment of the board?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission will be constituted as hitherto. The only difference following the establishment of the new board will be that the board will act more in the capacity of a co-ordinating authority supervising the activities of the commission as well as those of the commercial stations. With respect to finance, it is proposed to budget for three years, as is done in the Postmaster-General’s Department, rather than from year to year. The Postmaster-General’s Department has found that budgeting for three years has enabled it to engage in longrange planning and to enter into contracts so that it can be guaranteed continuity of materials, whereas previously the supply of materials was sometimes held up pending a decision by the Treasurer in connexion with the yearly Estimates. The new legislation proposes that the financing of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall .be on a three-yearly basis and that the financing shall be effected in consultationwith the proposed board, which will, in due course, make its recommendations to the Minister or the Government.
.- Under Division 234, I find that trunk-line telephone services in Western Australia, for which the estimated expenditure in 1947-48 was £170,000, is to be the subject of an estimated expenditure of only £145,000 in the current year. Can the Postmaster-General inform me of the reason for that decrease, and whether there will be a corresponding diminution of trunk line services in Western Australia? Trunk-line telephone services are desperately required in that State. During the war Western Australia was told that its trunk-line telephone services would be developed to the greatest possible extent, and following recent representations it was again told that early consideration would be given to a further extension of those services. Can the Postmaster-General inform me whether an extension of those services will be effected as soon as material becomes available?
– The amount of this year’s vote to which the honorable senator has referred is in excess of the expenditure last year. The expenditure is increasing as the Postmaster-General’s Department is committed to provide additional trunk-line services.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,179,200.
, - The estimated expenditure provided in Division 241 for maintenance of aboriginal affairs seems to be rather small in comparison with what has been spent in New Guinea, and I wonder whether everything that could be done for the aboriginals is being done. I hope that it is and that they are being cared for in the best possible way.
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior I can only draw attention to the fact that the contemplated expenditure of £55,000 for the current year is nearly £10,000 higher than the actual expenditure last year, and that, I suggest, indicates that an extension of facilities is to be provided. One constant difficulty in dealing with aboriginals is that so many of them are nomadic. In the administration of health in the Northern Territory one great difficulty met is the fact that natives afflicted with disease, particularly leprosy, hide in the bush, and their fellows are inclined to assist them in hiding. They disappear as soon as police or health officers come along, and is very difficult to help them. However, the Department of the Interior maintains in the Northern Territory an officer and staff who are charged with the immediate responsibility of the care of the aboriginals. Mr. Moy, the officer in charge is stationed at Darwin. He is young and energetic and covers the territory very well. Although I have not all the facts it seems to me that an extension of facilities in contemplated.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Australian Capital Territory, £909,300 and Papua-New Guinea, £2,701,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £4,500.
– I notice that there is a new item this year, namely, an estimated expenditure of £500 for library services. I regard that as an excellent way to expend money and I should like some further details of it.
– I am not representing the Minister responsible, but it seems to me that that item foreshadows the initiation of a policy that is long overdue. The administrator of Norfolk Island is a former honorable member of this Parliament, and I know that he is a man interested in culture. I am informed that the development of library services on Norfolk Island will be carried out with the co-operation of the National Library. The amount of £500 is to cover the cost of books, the supply and transport of which will be the responsibility of the National Library.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The 1948-49 Estimates provide for an expenditure on capital works and services of £41,347,000 from annual votes and an additional £650,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with Supply (Works and Services) Act 1947, provides the necessary parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure under annual votes, which may be summarized as follows : -
Further details may be found on pages 418-438 of the printed Estimates. Whilst a comprehensive programme of new works has been prepared to provide for the essential needs of the Commonwealth, the volume of work which can be put in hand immediately must necessarily be governed by available resources of labour and materials. Cabinet sub-committees have accordingly been set up to review and approve proposals for new works including the special requirements of the Post Office and the Department of Civil Aviation. Works included in the Estimates now before Parliament are those which, in the view of the Cabinet subcommittee concerned, are of an especially urgent and essential nature and should therefore be undertaken without delay.
Expenditure in connexion with war service homes is estimated at £9,146,000. This provides for the construction of homes, the purchase of land, the improvement of existing homes and the taking over of onerous charges. Provision has been made for an estimated expenditure of £1,000,000 for the conversion and refitting of ships for the transport of British migrants to this country in addition to £1,500,000 for the erection of hostels to accommodate migrants. Anticipated expenditure by the Department of Supply and Development includes £2,020,000 for shipbuilding. The amount of £5,759,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation includes £3,000,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes as well as £1,100,000 for the purchase of modern electrical and other equipment. In addition, provision is made for an advance of £700,000 to Australian National Airlines Commission and a further subscription of £900,000 to the share capital of Qantas Empire Airways.
Expenditure of £478,000 for the Repatriation Department consists mainly of additions and improvements to existing hospitals and institutions. Provision is made for an expenditure of £3,760,000 on works, buildings and sites for defence services, including expenditure by the Department of Supply and Development or defence research projects such as the guided weapons range. The £42,000,000 Post Office rehabilitation programme is now in its second year and it is estimated that £10,550,000 willbe required to meet commitments during 1948-49. The continued large-scale development of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to cost £657,000 and £2,261,000 respectively in this financial year, mainly for the construction of cottages and hostels.
– The total expenditure contemplated under the bill is £41,347,000. That is a considerable sum. Whilst some of the works for which provision is being made are of urgent importance, other items of expenditure cause me grave concern. Of course, these are days of buoyant revenues; but that does not justify the Government, with a wave of the hand, saying “Here goes £2,020,000 for shipbuilding”. What is in the Government’s mind in that respect? That is a large sum of money; in pre-war days it would form a substantial fraction of the total budget. If it be the intention of the Government to operate shipping services rather than to construct or encourage the construction of vessels for use by private enterprise, this is a sad day for the taxpayers of this country. By all means, we should build ships in this country. Indeed, the Government has given considerable encouragement in that sphere in the past. I have in mind the firm of Evans, Deakin and Company Limited, in Queensland, which has shown Australia and the world that Queensland workmen are capable of building first-class vessels. The ships which that company has already constructed are a credit to any artisan in any shipbuilding yard.- I have no complaint if it be the intention of the Government to encourage shipbuilding by private enterprise and to allow private enterprise to operate shipping services. However, this provision seems to carry with it the implication that the Government itself intends to enter the shipping business. If that be the case, I can only express my sympathy with the taxpayers.
The sum of £3,000,000 is being provided for the acquisition and construction cf aerodromes, and the Government also contemplates expending the sum of £1,000,000 on the purchase of modern electrical and other equipment for the Department of Civil Aviation. Nobody will complain about the development of aerodromes, provided the money is not wasted and that the sites acquired and developed are appropriate for the purpose. Air navigation will play an ever increasingly important part in the development of vast areas like Aus tralia, and in the elimination of space and the annihilation of time. No one will complain of this expenditure, provided the sites chosen for aerodromes are appropriate and the work is carried out efficiently and expeditiously. It is sad to note that a further sum of £700,000 is being made available to bolster up the pet enterprise of the Department of Civil Aviation. I ask the Minister to explain the necessity for that provision. Will that sum be expended wholly on capital outlay, or is it being provided to cover up some of the losses that have been incurred by the government-operated airlines? I should like the Minister also to explain what will be the Government’s position in Qantas Empire Airways Limited as the result of making the proposed subscription of £900,000 to the share capital of that organization.
I note that further expenditure is proposed in respect of the development of the Northern Territory. I trust that such expenditure will help to convert what was once the back door of Australia and is now its front door into a territory worthy of Australia. The Northern Territory is of vital importance to Australia from the point of view of defence and also because in respect of aerial transportation it is “ the last place off and the first place on “. The Northern Territory should be developed in keeping with the national importance and dignity of Australia.
Speaking generally with respect to the money proposed to be voted under the bill, I urge the Government to keep perpetually in mind the necessity to ensure that the construction of the proposed works shall not delay the provision of housing for the people. I appreciate that the machinery of ‘ government must continue to function and that funds must be provided for that purpose, but I trust that labour and materials which can be used to better advantage in the construction of homes for the people will not be diverted to the construction of government buildings.
.- I support the bill, and I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to inform me of the situation in regard to the improvement of the post offices at Hobart and Launceston. Although a new building was constructed some time ago for the post office at Hobart is still being used by the Commonwealth Bank. Can the Postmaster-General inform me when the building will be made available to his department? The conditions under which employees of the department in Hobart are required to work are terrible, and I see no reason why the staff should not be allowed to occupy the new building straightway. Will the Minister also inform me what provision is to be made for the accommodation of various government departments in Hobart? The conditions at Launceston, where Commonwealth departments are occupying rented premises are similar to those in Hobart. Land should be acquired for the erection of offices in Launceston. Some time ago I brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) a block of land which was available for acquisition. It was not situated in the centre of the city and would have been eminently suitable for the purpose. However, the Minister had his eye on a block of land in the centre of the city, which would cost nearly four times more to acquire than the block which I suggested. The post office in Launceston is most inadequate, and steps should be taken to install telephone exchanges of proper size and to provide reasonable accommodation and facilities for the staff. Senator O’Byrne and I recently visited all the line yards in Tasmania. In Devonport, a large emporium, which will cost several thousand pounds, is being erected, although the Postmaster-General’s officials informed us that they were unable to obtain a tender to erect a line yard in that town, or even in another which is only a few miles away. I should like to know what the department is doing to provide line yards at Devonport, Ulverston, Deloraine, Smithton, Burnie and Wynyard. No proper mess room or other customary facilities have been provided at the line yards in Tasmania, and the employees have to work under dreadful conditions. Although I do not blame the present Government for this condition of affairs, which has continued for some time, I do not believe the statement made by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Tasmania that contracts can- not be obtained for the building work necessary to provide proper facilities. I cannot believe that the department’s officials have made any special effort to obtain tenders for the work. In some yards which employ 25 men no facilities are provided for storage of materials, and no amenities whatever are available to the staff. If adequate workshops and facilities were provided I have no doubt that one or two men could be released from each gang for employment on more useful work. We want the department to be efficient, but we cannot obtain efficiency unless proper equipment and materials are provided for the staff.
Another matter to which the PostmasterGeneral should give consideration is the necessity for providing homes for postmasters and officials of the department. The department should no longer adopt the attitude that it is not responsible for providing residences for postmasters and officials. It has a capable staff, and it should provide homes for them. The erection of homes for postal officers would not deprive members of the public of the opportunity of obtaining houses, because postal officials, like everyone else, must be provided with residential accommodation. The provision of well constructed and adequately furnished houses would greatly improve the efficiency of the service because it would result in more contentment of the staff. For instance, wives of postal officials would not continue to urge their husbands to apply for transfer to larger towns. Incidentally, I point out that the office premises and residences provided for Commonwealth officers throughout Australia compare most unfavorably with those provided by State governments. That is particularly noticeable in Tasmania, where the post offices and residences compare most unfavorably with State government buildings. Can anything be done to relieve the dreadful conditions under which linemen are working ?
– I support the bill. In moving the second reading of the bill, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) stated -
Whilst a comprehensive programme of new work has been prepared to provide for the essential needs of the Commonwealth, the volume of work which can be put in hand immediately must necessarily be governed by available resources of labour and materials.
I am in entire agreement with the general principle enunciated, but I believe that exception should be made in special cases. I notice that the sum of £478,000 proposed to be expended by the Repatriation Commission will be devoted principally to the provision of additions and improvements to existing hospitals and institutions. I should like the Minister to state on what institutions that amount is to be expended, because-
– May I suggest to the honorable senator that he obtain that information in the committee stage?
– I am prepared to adopt that course.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has drawn attention to the fact that provision is made in the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, &c, for £2,020,000 to be expended for ‘shipbuilding, and he desires to know whether that amount is to be used for the establishment of an Australian Commonwealth line of steamships or for the construction of vessels. The money is to be expended on the construction of vessels, and I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will agree that it is necessary to encourage the development of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. The necessity for such an industry was amply demonstrated during the recent war, when grave anxiety was occasioned by the lack of proper facilities in this country. During the ,war and since much splendid work has been accomplished by our shipbuilding yards, not only in the construction of warships, but also in the construction of merchant ships. Quite recently two vessels which were constructed in Government shipyards were sold to private enterprise.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also sought information concerning the proposed expenditure of £700,000 by the Australian National Airlines Commission, and £900,000 for the purpose of acquiring shares in Qantas Empire Airways Limited. In each instance the appropriation is intended to be applied to capital expenditure. In respect of Australian National Airlines the capital expenditure is required principally for the purchase of new aircraft, such as the Convair aircraft which were recently acquired. That was an excellent deal, because the aircraft are now worth much more than they were at the time the contract was made.
The honorable senator also urged that precautions should be taken to ‘ ensure that the requisition of materials for the construction of hostels shall not hamper the programme of home construction, but I can assure him that, except in exceptional cases of absolute necessity, the construction of hostels will not be allowed to interfere with the housing programme.
Senator Nash referred to the proposed appropriation of £478,000 for the Repatriation Commission. That proposal will be explained in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
Proposed vote, £86,000.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) inform me whether any arrangements have been made for the provision of additional accommodation for South Australian members of the Parliament in the City of Adelaide? The present accommodation is hopelessly inadequate. Six honorable senators are compelled to use one room, and seven members of the staff are crowded into one room and three into another. Although the inadequate accommodation in Adelaide has been the subject of complaint for a long time and many representations have been made, nothing has been done to improve conditions, and I desire to know whether the Government intends to take action to improve the situation.
– ‘There is no provision in these Estimates for accommodation for members of Parliament in South Australia, but I point out that other States are similarly affected by the impediments arising from shortages of labour and materials and the big demand for the erection of houses and other essential buildings in preference to government offices. However, I assure the honorable senator that the Government contemplates the erection of Commonwealth offices in South Australia, including accommodation for parliamentarians.
.- Has anything been done by the Government to provide appropriate accommodation in Melbourne for members of this Parliament? It is disgraceful that we should be forced to use the building in which the Federal Members’ Rooms in that city are now situated. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions and the Government cannot now claim that accommodation is not available because the Commonwealth Bank owns the big Craig’s building, in which an entire floor could be set at the disposal of members of the Commonwealth Parliament, if necessary. I understand that the building has a special entrance and that all the facilities that would be needed could be provided with very little alteration of the structure. I am disgusted whenever I take my family to the present Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne while waiting for a train or an aircraft. Members of Parliament should not be expected to use that dungeon any longer, and I urge the Government to make provision in Craig’s building for offices of the kind to which we are entitled.
– I associate myself cordially with Senator Lamp’s remarks.
– I agree with the opinion expressed by Senator Lamp and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). Victorian members of this Parliament met about a week ago to discuss this question. We arranged a deputation to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) who, I understand, is now investigating the subject and has arranged to discuss it with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The present Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne are housed in a building which belongs to the Post Office. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) is to he provided with offices on the fifth floor of that building.I do not knowhow long he will use them, because the lift is almost invariably out of order. From the reply given to our deputation by the Minister for the Interior, I have reason to believe that the Government will arrange in the near future for the offices to be transferred to the building mentioned by Senator Lamp.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Prime Minister’s Department, £257,400 - agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £136,100.
– Provision is made in item 4 for an amount of £59,000 to be used for the erection of a building and the purchase of equipment and furniture for the Australian Embassy in France. I sound a note of warning in this connexion. In view of the conditions reported to exist in France, I strongly urge the Government to rent premises for the Embassy instead of putting money into bricks and mortar. A great deal of British capital met a very sad end during World War II., and I am afraid that the situation is not calm enough to warrant the expenditure of such a large amount as is proposed on a building and its furnishings.
– Full regard will be paid to all factors, including the one mentioned by the honorable senator.
– Item 16 provides for the appropriation of funds for the acquisition of sites and buildings for the Department of External Affairs overseas. Will the Minister indicate what the Government has in contemplation?
– That item refers to consular offices abroad. Australia has numerous consular offices scattered throughout the world.
– Does the item imply the acquisition of freehold properties ?
– Yes. Australia’s prestige should be upheld abroad, and, therefore, the Government considers that permanent establishments should be acquired in countries where it intends to maintain permanent representation. The honorable senator may be assured that all factors in the various countries concerned, including the domestic situations as well as the possibilities of wars and rumours of wars, will be taken into account.
– But, if the countries are sufficiently important to merit Australian representation in them, they are sufficiently important to be mentioned by name in the Estimates. I am interested to know what countries are concerned.’
– The amount is proposed to be appropriated by way of reserve. The honorable senator will appreciate that suitableproperties do not come very readily upon the market, particularly at central points. Therefore, it is essential that funds shall be available for use in the event of properties in the countries concerned coming suddenly on to the market. The Government proposes to establish consulatesgeneral in New York, the Philippine Islands, the Netherlands East Indies, SanFrancisco, Siam and Shanghai, and consulates in New Caledonia and Portuguese Timor. The proposed appropriation is for the acquisition of properties in those places.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of the Treasury, £36,700 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £12,500.
.- This is a considerable sum of money, and I should like some details of the manner in which it is to be expended.
Is the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) having new offices built somewhere?
– The sum of £12,500 has been provided for buildings, works, fittings and furniture. At 119 Phillip-street, building alterations will cost £2,000, and various articles of furniture will be supplied at a cost of £1,242. In addition, there will be minor works, costing £383, and furniture and fittings costing £762, making the total expenditure in New South Wales £4,387. Certain new works costing £1,050 will also be undertaken in accordance with the programme endorsed by the interdepartmental committee on works, and furniture and fittings will be provided at a cost of £900. Those are all matters of a routine character, providing additional accommodation.
A complete re-organization of the department, and a series of reclassifications has been given effect recently by the . Public Service Board. In fact, the new proposals were submitted to the GovernorGeneral for Executive Council approval only last Wednesday. The department, very wisely, is making provision now for the new buildings that will be required for an increase of staff which is very badly needed in that department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £1,293,000.
– Under Division 10, the sum of £5,000 is included for the erection of a memorial at Canberra to his late Majesty King George V. I should like to know whether there is any likelihood of this memorial being completed before the forthcoming visit to this country of the King and Queen.
– It was hoped that this work would be completed before the Royal visit, but I am unable to say whether or not that will be accomplished.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Housing.
Proposed vote, £9,479,000.
.-The sum of £9,146,000 is included in this vote for war service homes. Wherever one travels, one hears the complaint that the building of homes is being hindered by the lack of home fittings. Recently, I understand, an arrangement was made in Victoria for prefabricated houses to be imported duty free. To enable the erection of war-service homes to proceed with all possible speed, T suggest that a similar concession be granted in respect of house fittings. It would appear that the supply of those fittings is the key to the housing situation, both in relation to war-service homes and homes being erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– I undertake to bring the honorable senator’s worthy suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). His proposal has considerable merit, and I am certain that the Minister and the Government are most desirous of expediting the erection of war-service homes in every possible way. The chief obstacle, as the honorable senator is aware, is the shortage of man-power and materials. I understand that the War Service Homes Commission is working in the closest collaboration with the State governments, which, of course, have their own programmes to carry out.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Supply and Development.
Proposed vole, £2,335,000.
– Under Division 15, item 3 is “Bureau of Mineral Resources - Plant and equipment £110,000 “. Provision may be made under that item for the development of the aluminium industry in this country. If so, I ask the Minister f,r Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) to give favorable consideration to the development of bauxite deposits in New South
Wales. I believe that there are hugequantities of excellent bauxite in the Northern Tableland and Inverell districts. However, the importation of bauxite appears to be contemplated. I understand that, in the production of aluminium, cheap power is very important, if not vital. I contend that the magnificent Clarence River could be harnessed to supply power at a very cheap rate. That river is not far from theInverell and Northern Tableland bauxitedeposits. Although the agreement made with the Tasmanian Government for the production of aluminium in that State is now four years old, little progress has been made in the development of the industry, and the production stage is still a long way off. Bearing in mind the vital importance to the Australian economy in peace and war of aluminium, I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the development of the industry as close as practicable to the bauxite deposits and a suitable power supply.
– I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that the Government will give full consideration to the development of bauxite deposits in New South Wales and inother States. The sum of £110,000 provided in this vote for plant and equipment for the Bureau of Mineral Resources has no relation to the aluminium industry, which, a3 the honorable senator is aware, is governed by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. This is not the first occasion on which the suggestion made to-night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been voiced in this Parliament. However, I agree that there is quite a lot of merit in the proposal to develop bauxite deposits in New South Wales in preference to importing this ore.
– I make it clear that the suggestion that I made was not an original one. I am indebted for the information that I used to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in the House of Representatives.
– And the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully).
– Yes. He, also, has been well to the fore in this matter. I commend to honorable senators the information contained in the reports of the debates on this matter in the House of Representatives
– I was gratified to hear the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) state that it is intended to explore the bauxite deposits, not only in New South Wales, but also in other States. When the subject was discussed in the Senate some time ago, attention was directed to the excellent deposits of bauxite in Victoria, and I hope that, whatever is done in future, the interests of Victoria will not be neglected.
An amount of £5,0”0 is provided for machinery and plant for Beaufort homes. Last year, an amount of £200,000 was voted for Beaufort homes and £149,354 was expended. No provision is made this year for the item, “Beaufort Homes Production - Working Capital (For Payment to Beaufort Homes Production Trust Account) “, but last year £500,000 was voted for that purpose and £300,000 was expended. The Labour Government led by Mr. Cain entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth to build Beaufort homes, but the Liberal-Country party Government has terminated the agreement, and the production of Beaufort homes is at a standstill. I should like the Minister to explain whether the Victorian Government has paid any compensation to the Commonwealth for its breach of the agreement.
.- The provision of £5,000 for Beaufort homes is only for the purpose of winding up the Commonwealth’s interest in the project. The Australian Government cannot bring any pressure to bear on the Victorian Government to continue with the Beaufort homes project. The Victorian Government has sovereign rights in connexion with the building of homes and the conduct of the administration of the State. It is purely a domestic matter for the State Government, and the Australian Government is powerless to make it continue with the project.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £5,759,000.
– I am gratified to see that an amount of £5,759,000 has been provided for the Department of Civil Aviation. The sum includes approximately £3,000,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes, £1,100,000 for the purchase of modern electrical and other equipment, and an advance of £700,000 to the Australian National Airlines Commission. In its third annual report, the commission made the following statement : -
The current deficit of £296,600 covers a year of further development and does not truly reflect the results achieved in the second half of the year. It was a year of rising costs including an entirely new item of air route charges in which the liability of TransAustralia Airlines was £137,070 and there was no general increase in tariff levels to absorb the increased costs of operation.
The loss for the year was £269,800, but I noticed the following statement in the report : -
The Convair-liners which are the most modern aircraft of their type should be in service in the near future. These aircraft will go into Trans-Australia’s Airlines’ books at considerably less than their present market value, the purchase having been made at a firm price of approximately £91,000 each as against the present factory price of £150,000. This represents a saving on the five aircraft of £325,000.
That saving covers the loss for the year. I am pleased to see the Coles brain trust in this wonderful business organization. By providing this amount for the Australian National Airlines Commission, the Government is making a fine investment. The acquisition and construction of aerodromes and the purchase of modern electrical and other equipment are also sound investments, and I commend the Department of Civil Aviation and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) on their foresight.
– I direct attention to the provision of £300,000 for aircraft engines, vehicles and equipment. I do not know whether that money has already been designated for aircraft engines, vehicles and equipment, or whether provision is merely made for that purpose. However, I suggest that the Government should bear in mind, particularly in view of the dollar shortage, that, wherever practicable, and where comparable machines are offering, we should make our purchases from British factories.
I notice that £700,000 will be advanced to the Australian National Airlines Commission. That sum is more than spending silver, andI should like the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation to indicate how that advance will be expended.
– I am advised O’Sullivan may rest assured that, so far as it is physically possible, aircraft engines, vehicles and equipment will be manufactured in Australia or will be obtained from Great Britain. Throughout World War II., the Government followed that policy. In Australia, we manufactured the twin-row Pratt and Whitney engine for use in the Beaufortbomber, in-line engines for use in Mosquito aircraft, and Gipsy engines for Tiger Moth aircraft. I have no doubt that the Government will continue to give effect to that policy. During the war, we found it necessary tomake Australia as selfcontained and as self-reliant as possible in connexion with the manufacture of aircraft.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £42,300, and Department of Health, £9,000- agreed to.
Department of Repatriation.
Proposed vote, £478,000.
– Previously, I had occasion to criticize certain features of the administration of the Repatriation Department, but I am now happy to pay a tribute to its excellent work in connexion with hospitalization. My experience of the work in repatriation hospitals and sanatoriums, and the provision made for the care of the sick prompts me to pay an earnest and sincere tribute to the staffs and to the department.
– In deference to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) I deferred my remarks regarding the Department of Repatriation until the committee stage. I realize now that if I attempt to proceed on the lines I had intended at the second reading stage the Chair will rule me out of order, so I shall contentmyself with asking the Minister to explain the estimated expenditure of £465,000 on new buildings, works, fittings and furniture. Can he inform me what buildings are proposed, and where they are situated? Does the estimated expenditure cover the erection of the building already agreed upon for the Repatriation Department in Perth ?
– Senator that the estimated cost of that building, which is £161,000, is included in the figure of £465,000..
– Does that estimated expenditure include the cost of any proposed new repatriation building in Brisbane?
– Since Senator Lamp has mentioned the matter, I urge the Minister to give very serious and sympathetic consideration to the acquisition of premises which would allow the whole of the Repatriation Department’s activities, except hospitals, in Brisbane to be brought under one roof. At present people who desire to do business with the Repatriation Department have to go to different parts of the city before they can complete their business.
– I shall undertake to bring that matter under the notice of the Minister. I agree with Senator O’Sullivan’s view that it is desirable to centralize administration as far as possible, from the point of view of economy and efficiency.
– Can the Minister inform me whether it is intended to bring the various activities of the Repatriation Department in Adelaide under one roof ? At least four different buildings in that city are occupied by the Repatriation Department. Can the Minister also inform me if there is any provision for further improving conditions at Dawes-road Repatriation Hospital? The Minister and others visited that hospital a few months ago during the winter, and although material progress has since been made in improving the outside appearance of the hospital much remains to be done. Until the conditions of the approaches to the hospital are improved the department will always find the most serious difficulty in retaining staff. Employees leave because they must work hard to keep the place clean because of muddy approaches.
– I am advised that an amount of £65,580 has been allotted for additions and alterations to that hospital. I agree with the honorable senator that we should do everything possible to make the hospital attractive and convenient and to install all the up-to-date amenities possible. Many repatriation buildings are more or less dilapidated and out of date, and the amenities are not what they should or could be. I believe that the honorable senator’s views will receive sympathetic consideration from the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Commerce and Agriculture, £634,300, and Department of Social Services, £54,000 - agreed to.
Department of Shipping and Fuel.
Proposed vote, £858,200.
– I refer to item 3, Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, for which the estimated expenditure is £100,000. That appears to be a new vote and I should like information as to why an amount of £100,000 has been allotted for that purpose.
.- The amount referred to will include new plant for the equipment pool.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of External Territories, £1,300 - agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £2,521,000.
– Division 38 refers to hostels for the accommodation of immigrants. I should like some information about those hostels, where they are or where they are proposed to be built, and an approximate idea of how many immigrants they will accommodate.
– I am unable to say exactly how many immigrants the hostels will accommodate, and where the hostels are I understand that some hostels arc to built in Victoria and some in New SouthWales. Some of the hostels in New SouthWales will be at Port Kembla, where their proximity to the iron-works, in which migrants will be employed, was an important consideration in the choice of location. Others will be established in the capital cities, so that the migrants will be available for employment on projects to be undertaken there. I point out that the proposed vote makes provision also for the acquisition of land on which to build hostels.
. -With regard to the proposed vote of £1,000,000 for “Conversion and refitting of ships for transport of migrants “, will the Minister inform the Senate whether this item refers to assisted, nominated, or free migrants? What is the necessity for this proposed expenditure, in view of the shortage of shipping at the present time?
– Provision is being made for the transport to this country of all classes of migrants.
– Is it intended to refit only Australian ships for this purpose?
– I am not fully informed on that aspect of the matter but I shall endeavour to obtain the information desired and pass it on to the honorable senator.
.- I should like to see punitive measures adopted to deal with people who do not keep to agreements that they enter into with regard to migrants. Several months ago a young woman in Tasmania sought my assistance to secure a passage from Scotland for her fiance, who was an engineer. I was successful in expediting his passage and, in addition, I made preliminary arrangements for him to take up a position with a firm in Tasmania on his arrival. However, in the meantime, the young woman transferred her affections and married another young man before her fiance arrived in this country.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Labour and National Service, £33,000 - agreed to.
Department of Transport.
Proposed vote, £50,700.
– I notice with regret that the proposed expenditure this year has been considerably reduced as compared with the vote for 1947-48. Last year, although the amount voted ‘was £501,000, only £24,773 was expended. From time to time honorable senators have agreed that the standardization of rail gauges in Australia is a matter of the utmost importance, and should be proceeded with as soon as possible. It is realized that as the result of the difficulty of obtaining suitable labour and materials, it has not been possible for the Government to push on with that work as quickly as was expected. I sincerely trust that the reduction of the proposed vote for the standardization of railway gauges from £500,000 last year, to £50,700 this year, does not indicate that the Government has abandoned all hope of being able to make substantial headway with this project before long.
– The reason for the decrease in the amount of the proposed vote for this year as compared with last year is that it has not yet been possible for the Government to enter into agreements with some of the States.
– I should like to know whether negotiations with Western Australia are still in progress.
– I understand so.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Information, £2,500; Department of Post-war Reconstruction, £13,000; and Defence Services, £3,760,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £230,000.
.- I desire to inquire whether any information is available as to why the office of the Commissioner for Railways should be located in Melbourne.
– I am not well informed on this matter, but I shall cause inquiries to be made and will furnish whatever information I secure to the honorable senator. My own view on this matter is that it is preferable to have the commissioner’s office located in a capital city than in a country district.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £10,550,000.
– I notice that the following items appear under this heading: - Division 57, National Broadcasting Service, £227,000; Division 58, National Broadcasting Service, £20,000; Division 59, . National Broadcasting Service, £100,000. I should like to know whether provision has been made in the proposed votes for the installation of frequency modulation and television services.If not, where has provision been made for any such expenditure?
– The position in regard to frequency modulation is that three experimental stations have been erected in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, respectively. Amounts expended oil such installations have been included under “ National Broadcasting Services “. So far as Australia is concerned, the project is in its experimental stage. It is intended at a later date to erect additional experimental stations, and also to conduct negotiations with private manufacturers, with the object, if possible, of making arrangements for the manufacture of frequency modulation receiving sets, and, possibly, adaptors for other types of receiving sets.
– Did I understand the Minister to say that provision has been made in the proposed votes totalling £347,000, for the installation of frequency modulation and television services?
– I am advised that no provision is included in the proposed vote for the installation of television apparatus. Tenders have been called for the erection of two transmitters, one in Sydney, and the other in Melbourne. Alternately, it has been suggested that six transmitters should be installed in the capital cities and tenders have been invited for that work. The tenders are returnable in January next. In the light of the amounts of the tenders, the Government will decide whether or not transmitters will be erected.
.- Can the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) say whether the proposed votes include provision for new postal services such as the construction of new post offices at Hobart, Launceston, Ulverstone, and Deloraine and whether provision has been made to bring the various linemen’s yards up to date?
– The postal department has been the victim of economy budgets since 1929, and, in addiction, must now overtake the arrears arising from the postponement of normal activities during the recent war. The -state of affairs to which Senator Lamp has drawn attention has been inherited by this Government from its predecessors. With a full realization of the facts, the Government has authorized expenditure of £42,000,000 during the next three years. It is proposed to erect a new exchange at Launceston at an estimated cost of £400,000, and to re-model the post office at Hobart at an estimated cost of £250,000. The existing post office at Launceston is a solid brick structure, and this will be modernized. That work will be undertaken as soon as possible. In the meantime, owing to the abnormal demand for telephones, priority will be given to the erection of new exchanges. That work will be carried out by the Department of Works and Housing. I cannot say when it will be commenced, but every effort will be made to do so as soon as possible. I realize the urgency of bringing up to date the various linemen’s yards. That work will involve the provision of buildings and plant. The provision of residences for postmasters and linemen was considered by Cabinet about three months ago, with the result that an independent committee has been set up to investigate that matter. The position will be relieved as much as possible consistent with the resources at our disposal. A number of mobile caravans are being constructed in Sydney for the use of linemen who operate away from metropolitan areas. The caravans, which consist of a bedroom, dining-room and recreation room and will be fitted with refrigerators and radio receiving sets, will obviate the necessity for camps. Existing camps are supplied with refrigerators and radic receiving sets. I expect that these mobile- caravans will be available by the end of the year. The lack of adequate housing “in certain localities has interfered to some degree with promotions. In many instances, employees have refused to accept promotion to positions in localities where they are unable to obtain housing.
– I should like to know whether any of the money now being provided will be expended on improving the service rendered at the central telephone exchange in Adelaide. At present serious delays are experienced at that exchange, and the position is becoming worse.
– I ask the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) whether provision is being made in these Estimates for the construction of a new post office in Brisbane? If so, when will work on the new building be commenced?
– The construction of the new post office in Brisbane will be carried out by the Department of Works and Housing. Already, certain extensions have been made to the existing building. Those extensions will form part of the new post office. They have considerably relieved congested conditions in the building.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral get on with the work before the Government goes out of office at the end of next year?
– Ibelieve that I shall be Postmaster-General long enough to officiate at the opening of the new Brisbane post office, and that I shall have the pleasure of extending an invitation to the honorable senator to the opening ceremony.
Recently, I visited Adelaide and inspected the central telephone exchange in that city. I agree with what Senator O’Flaherty has said about delays at that exchange. Indeed, a new exchange is required. Provision is made in the department’s general programme to bring that exchange up to date. The policy of the Government is to replace all manual exchanges in all capital cities with automatic exchanges. Also, we have on order 650 rural automatic exchanges, which we expect will come to hand very shortly. I assure the honorable senator that the work to which he has referred will be put in hand as soon as possible. At present, we are experiencing a serious shortage of man-power. We require 200 additional engineers, whilst labourers are so scarce that many linemen have to do their own labouring work. However, I hope that a considerable improvement will have been effected in every State early next year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes. - Northern Territory, £657,000; Australian Capital Territory, £2,261,000; and Papua-New Guinea. £100,000- agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
ThatStanding Order 68 be suspended for this sitting, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief feature of the bill is the introduction of a number of new provisions which will enable a substantial start to be made with the Government’s scheme for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons. Such persons have suffered not only because of their inferior position in society but also because of the lack of any organized attempt, other than in a comparatively small way, to improve their position. Private agencies have done good work in this field, but there is an urgent need for a well-organized plan for the whole community under the control and direction of the national government. An important aspect is the fact that, in this field, at present undeveloped, there is unquestionably a large potential source of man-power which, under proper direction and guidance, may contribute materially to the productive efforts of the community. The experience gained in this and other countries of the great value of rehabilitation schemes for ex-servicemen has proved beyond doubt that, with proper treatment and suitable training under the direction of highly qualified and enthusiastic professional and technical staff, men and women with severe physical handicaps respond readily and show resourcefulness to a surprising degree in making a successful readjustment of their lives. There is no reason to suppose that what has been <so successfully accomplished in the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel cannot be achieved with equal success in the case of the civilian community.
The chief difficulty confronting the efforts of private agencies in this field has been the lack of adequate and suitable facilities. The Government proposes to overcome this difficulty by giving the Director-General of Social Services power to provide such facilities and other things as are necessary for the purpose of providing treatment and vocational training for physically handicapped persons. These facilities will include rehabilitation centres for in-patients, clinics for out-patients, psychiatric centres and other establishments. The treatment to be provided will include medical, dental, psychiatric and hospital treatment for both in-patient and outpatient, physical training and exercise, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and other treatment under medical supervision.
It is proposed at the commencement of the scheme to make use of the establishments set up by the Department of Social Services for the rehabilitation of disabled ex-service personnel suffering from non.warcaused disabilities. In carrying out this work, under the authority of Part TV. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, the Department of Social Services has established a rehabilitation centre for in-patients in each of the five mainland States, and has an arrangement with the Red Cross Society for the use of that society’s establishment in Tasmania. The department also has an out-patients’ clinic in Sydney and Brisbane, and is at present taking steps to set up similar clinics in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, ft is also establishing a psychiatric centre in New South Wales and is negotiating for other properties in that State and in
Queensland - one for an additional rehabilitation centre and the other for an additional out-patients’ clinic.
The extent to which the civilian rehabilitation scheme can be undertaken at present is determined, not only by the availability of suitable properties for use as rehabilitation centres, out-patients’ clinics and psychiatric centres but also by the availability of suitably trained staff, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education officers, nursing sisters, physical training instructors, trade instructors and the like. It is the Government’s intention to make increasing use of such specialists in its rehabilitation scheme, but there is considerable difficulty in obtaining them. For the present, therefore, it is proposed to limit the scope of the scheme to invalid pensioners and claimants for invalid pensions and persons receiving or claiming sickness benefits who might otherwise become unemployable. It is hoped that, at an early date, it will be possible, as a result of the establishment of more centres and clinics and the acquirement of more specialist staff, to extend the scope of the scheme to cover all physically handicapped persons in the community, including adolescents, as well as persons suffering from certain industrial diseases. During the three years of the operation of the rehabilitation scheme for exservicemen conducted by the Department of Social Services, nearly 10,000 persons received treatment or assistance, and the experience gained in that scheme will be exceedingly valuable in carrying 6alt the civilian scheme.
Certain provisions already contained in Part VIII. of the Social Services Consolidation Act empower the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to direct that the granting or continuance of an invalid pension, or the payment of an unemployment or sickness benefit, shall be subject to the condition that the claimant, pensioner or beneficiary shall comply, with any requirement by the Director-General that he or she should undertake rehabilitatory treatment or vocational training. Very little has been done in this regard in respect of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries, but during the past four or five years the Department of Social Services has sponsored the vocational training of some 5,000 invalid pensioners, of whom nearly 1,000 have been placed in suitable employment, resulting in an annual saving on invalid pensions of not less than £100,000. There are at present about 350 invalid pensioners undergoing training under these interim arrangements.
The rapid growth of the invalid pension list in recent years calls attention to the need for a scheme such as that upon which the Government is now embarking. During the last three years the number of new invalid pensions granted has averaged 12,000 a year, and the number of such pensions in force has risen in that period from 58,000 to 73,000, an increase of 15,000. Experience suggests that about 15 per cent, of new pensioners admitted would respond successfully to rehabilitatory treatment and vocational training. Assuming that 1,800 pensioners or claimants are successfully rehabilitated each year, the annual saving on invalid pensions would be £200,000. Having regard to the expectation of life of the pensioners concerned, this would represent a total saving of £4,000,000. This sum might well be increased to £5,000,000 by the successful rehabilitation of many of the present 73,000 pensioners. That does not take into account the saving which would be effected in respect of the short-term benefits for unemployment and sickness, particularly in preventing many sickness beneficiaries from becoming invalid pensioners. Apart altogether from the saving of expenditure, however, there is ample justification for the scheme in its economic return to the community in increased man-power, and its inestimable value to the individual in the restoration of morale and social standing.
It is not intended that the existence of a physical or mental disability should of itself qualify the pensioner or beneficiary for acceptance for rehabilitation. To ensure that the work is directed towards achieving the best results it is provided that the disability must have existed for at least thirteen weeks and must appear likely to continue for a further period of thirteen weeks. In addition, it must be a substantial handicap to the person’s engaging in employment, and yet be remediable, and there should be reason- able prospects of his engaging in a suitable vocation within two years after the commencement of treatment or training. During the period of treatment, payment of the pension or benefit for which the person is qualified will be continued, but when vocational training is commenced the pension or benefit will be suspended and, in lieu thereof, the trainee will be paid a rehabilitation allowance at a rate equivalent to the rate of invalid pension, including any allowance for a wife or child, for which he is, or would be, qualified under the means test for invalid pensions, and, in addition, he will be paid a training allowance at a flat rate of £1 a week. Where it is necessary for a trainee to live away from home for the purpose of receiving training, a livingawayfromhome allowance will be paid. This will be 15s. a week for an unmarried trainee for the first four weeks ; 30s. for a married trainee with no children under sixteen years, which will be reduced to 15s. after four weeks; and 30s. for a married trainee with one or more children under sixteen years during the whole period of training. During both treatment and training a pensioner or beneficiary may be paid the cost of fares incurred by him in travelling regularly for that purpose.
Living-away-from-home allowances and payments in respect of fares will not be regarded as “ income “ in determining the rate of rehabilitation allowance payable. Those payments, as well as rehabilitation allowances and training allowances, will not be taken into account as “ income “ in determining the rate of any invalid or age pension payable to the spouse of a trainee. The cost of treatment and training provided for a pensioner or a beneficiary will be borne by the Commonwealth, and the value of the treatment and training will not be regarded as “ income “.
Provision is made in the bill for the Director-General to provide such artificial replacements, surgical aids and- appliances as are necessary in connexion with the treatment or training of a person, or to assist a person to engage in a suitable vocation after his treatment or training has been completed. However, a person who retains any such replacement, aid or appliance for his own use will he required to pay its cost, but payment may be deferred until the person has commenced to engage in employment. Provision is also made for the DirectorGeneral to provide such books, equipment, appliances and tools of trade, at a cost not exceeding in the aggregate £20, as are necessary in connexion with the treatment or training of a person, or to enable a person to engage in suitable employment after the discontinuance of his training. A person who is provided with any such articles upon or after the discontinuance of - his training will be required to pay the cost thereof, but payment may be deferred until he has commenced to engage in employment. Where a person, during the period of his treatment or training, becomes disqualified for his pension, benefit or rehabilitation allowance on account of the receipt of income or the acquirement of property, the course of treatment or training may be continued, but, in that event, the person will be required to pay the cost of the treatment or training provided after the date of such disqualification. The treatment or training of a person will continue until it has been successfully completed or until the Director-General is satisfied that the person will not derive any further substantial benefit from its continuance. Where a person is unable, after successful completion of training, to obtain suitable employment, payment of his rehabilitation allowance will be continued until he obtains suitable employment, but not for longer than three months. A person whose training has been discontinued, and who is engaged in employment or is awaiting placement in employment, may be provided with such further treatment as is considered necessary within a’ period not exceeding six months from the date on which his training was discontinued.
Provision has been included in the bill similar to that contained in the existing legislation, under which the DirectorGeneral may decline to grant or to continue payment of an invalid pension unless the claimant or pensioner undergoes such treatment or training as the Director-General considers is reasonable, having regard to his age and physical and mental capacity and to the facilities available, for him to undergo. A somewhat similar provision is retained in< respect of persons in receipt of or applying for unemployment or sickness benefits. In order to safeguard the Commonwealth from having to bear the cost of treatment or training provided for a> person who is entitled to compensation* granted in respect of such treatment or training, certain provisions have been’ included in the bill which will enable theCommonwealth to recover the cost of the treatment and training out of the compensation moneys. A special provision has been included in the bill under which the Director-General may make an arrangement with a Commonwealth or State authority to provide treatment and training for such persons or classes of persons as are specified in the arrangement. In such cases none of the allowances provided for pensioners and beneficiaries will be payable and the authority may be required to pay the cost of the treatment and training provided.
The cost of the rehabilitation scheme will be met from the National Welfare Fund, except such part of the cost as represents expenditure of a capital nature, such as the acquirement of sites and buildings. The estimated cost of the scheme for the first full year is £650,000, of which approximately £310,000 will be met in the current financial year. The provisions covering the rehabilitation scheme are contained in a new Part VIII., which is inserted in the principal act by clause 20 of the bill. The earlier clauses of the bill provide for certain other amendments to the principal act, some of which deserve mention. One or two cases have arisen where a person, after living in Australia for a long period, left this country to take up residence abroad, became permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while outside Australia and, after a further period, returned to Australia and applied for an invalid pension. There is some difference of legal opinion as to whether sub-section 2 of section 25 of the act requires the applicant to be resident in Australia for a full period of twenty years after the occurrence of the permanent incapacity or blindness, or whether any period of residence in Australia before the occurrence may be taken into account. It has been decided, therefore, to amend the section to make clear the eligibility for invalid pension of an applicant in any such case where there has been a total period of not less than twenty years’ residence in Australia, whether any portion of that period was before or after the occurrence of permanent incapacity or blindness. This will enable pensions to be granted in the few cases of this nature which would otherwise not be granted.
In order to provide for cases where a pensioner’s home is demolished in the process of such schemes as slum clearance, it is proposed to widen the scope of the provisions in the act under which the Director-General may disregard, for a reasonable period, any fire insurance moneys received in respect of the destruction of or damage to a home, if those moneys are used within that time for the purpose of building another home for the pensioner. The proposed amendment will enable compensation for the demolition of a pensioner’s home to be similarly treated, and it will also allow such insurance moneys or compensation to be used for either building or purchasing another home.
Another provision which it is proposed to liberalize is one which gives the DirectorGeneral power to continue the pension of a class A widow where her child attains the age of sixteen years, but goes on with full-time education and is still dependent on the widow, and is not in employment. These conditions apply until the child reaches the age of eighteen years. Cases have come under notice where a child, although continuing with full-time education, earns a little money before or after school hours, usually by selling newspapers, and as it cannot actually be said that the child is not in any employment, it has not been possible to extend the benefit of the provision. It is now proposed to give the Director-General some discretion in the matter so that he may, if he considers it reasonable to do so, disregard the so-called employment. In making his decision, the Director-General will have regard to the nature of the employment, the amount earned by the child and the time occupied in doing the work. I may mention that, in cases of this nature, which have already come under notice, act of grace payments have been authorized pending an amendment of the act.
One or two other proposed amendments may be mentioned. Under the act as it stands, an alien woman who gives birth to a child in Australia during the first twelve months of her residence here, cannot be paid a maternity allowance until the expiration of twelve months from the date of her arrival, unless her husband has resided in Australia for at least twelve months. It is proposed to permit immediate payment of the allowance in any such case if the Director-General is satisfied that the woman is likely to remain in Australia.
Another concession is the exclusion from the definition of “ income “ for the purposes of determining the rate of an unemployment or sickness benefit, any lump sum payment representing a reimbursement of medical, dental or similar expenses actually paid by the applicant. There are other amendments of a more or less minor nature, mostly clarifying existing provisions, removing ambiguities and ensuring uniformity in certain provisions dealing with similar matters. 1 shall explain these amendments fully when the bill is in the committee stage. I have much pleasure in commending to honorable senators this further measure of social security for the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 9th November, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Commonwealth Grants Commission - Fifteenth Report (1948).
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Immigration - R. Annand.
Senate adjourned at 11.55 p.n.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481028_senate_18_199/>.