16 February 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m.; and read prayers.


Senator SANDFORD.- Following a report that the Melbourne City Council proposed to sanction the issue of an additional 200 taxi-cab and hire-car licences, the Commonwealth Director of Rationing, Mr. Cuming, is stated to have said that petrol would not be made available for the extra vehicles. As the proportion of taxi-cabs to the population Melbourne is, according to information that I have received, considerably less than in Sydney and Brisbane, will the Minister for Shipping wild Fuel indicate whether there is any possibility of additional petrol being made available for the new taxis in Melbourne ?

Senator ASHLEY. - Two or three weeks ago, I attended a conference in Melbourne at which the question of increasing fuel supplies to taxi-cabs throughout Australia generally was discussed. Representations had been made r.o officers of my department that in some cities there was a demand for more taxicabs. However, the attitude taken by an organization representing existing taxi cab proprietors was that, if their petrol ration was increased, there would not be filly need for additional licences. As the result of those representations, additional petrol supplies were made available, for taxis throughout the Commonwealth on application to’ the liquid fuel boards in the various States. The fact that the proportion of taxis to the population is greater in Sydney or Brisbane than in Melbourne does not have any bearing on the matter, because in some cities people are more taxi-minded than in others. That has been shown by statistics supplied in the past when rationing has been under consideration. I shall have inquiries made, but in view of representations by those who at present are endeavouring to gut a living from taxi-cab services, I should not be prepared to recommend that additional licences be granted.


Senator TANGNEY. - In view of the statement which appeared in yesterday’s press that the Commonwealth Government would assist the governments of the States to finance the erection of homes for the aged, will the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing consider obtaining reports from Great Britain on the special types of individual flats that are being provided for elderly couples including pensioners for the equivalent of 10s! a week Australian, thus catering for the .’aged who do not wish to enter institutions?

Senator ARMSTRONG.- I shall .bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Works and Housing and provide an answer as soon us possible.


Senator DEVLIN.- In view of the ravages of the rabbit plague in certain parts of Australia caused by the scarcity of wire netting, can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel say whether it would be possible to divert labour to the manufacture of this and other fencing material?

Senator ASHLEY. - The Government is endeavouring to increase wire netting supplies both by importing this commodity from other countries, and by increasing local production. I understand that arrangements have been made with the Minister for Immigration to provide immigrant labour for some wire netting manufacturing plants. The Government i3 well aware of the ravages of the rabbit pest, but although imports of wire netting from other countries have been sanctioned, full advantage has not been taken of this facility by merchants, no doubt because of the high cost of the imported commodity compared with that manufactured in Australia. I assure the honorable senator that the Government is doing everything possible to improve the position.

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Senator ARNOLD:

– In reply to a question that I asked last week, the Minister for Supply and Development mentioned certain negotiations that were taking place for the diversion of immigrant labour to steel manufacturing plants. Is the Minister yet in a position to advise the Senate what labour will be available for this industry from the ranks of displaced persons immigrating to Australia, what arrangements have been made to house the immigrants, and when can the steel works expect the additional In hour to be available?

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Shipping and Fuel · NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I cannot answer the honorable senator’s question in detail, but I can inform him that provision is being made to house immigrants who will be employed in the steel industry at Port Kembla in the south and Port Stephens in the north. It is expected that in the course of a few months those people will be engaged in the industry both at Newcastle and at Port Kembla. I shall endeavour to provide the honorable senator with a more detailed answer to his question as early as possible.

Senator LAMP:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconst ruction, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that hydro-electric works in Tasmania arc being seriously retarded owing to the shortage of steel?
  2. If so, will the Minister give a slant resume of the measures taken to increase steel production in Australia during the last twelve months?
Senator McKENNA:
Minister for Health · TASMANIA · ALP

– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -

  1. . Yes, the hydro-electric works in Tasmania are short of structural steel and every effort has been made to obtain for Tasmania the maximum quantity from total production.
  2. The major retarding factors in steel production are shortages of coal and labour. Insofar as coal i« concerned, this is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and ho informs me that every effort, is being made by the Joint Coal Board, which, despite many difficulties, has stabilized the position and is gradually resolving the various factors which have militated against increased foal production. Close consultation is maintained between my department and the Joint Coal Hoard in regard to coal for steel i,i,,d ,ii:tin”. In regard to labour for the industry, hostels are being built by the Common wealth at Newcastle and Port Kembla l<> accommodate displaced persons, while m Whyalla hostel accommodation, also for di* placed persons, is being prepared at equal cost to the Commonwealth, the South Australian Government and the steel company. A hostel is also being erected at North Kembla by Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited, to house construction gangs for new steel plate and sheet mills. It is expected that the first of the displaced persons for steel production will commence work in June of this year. A.a result of these steps, the output of steel generally should commence to improve to wards the end of this year. The Government has removed any obstacles in the way of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited obtaining plant from overseas for its steel sheet and rod mills.

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– Minister for Shipping and Fuel read in the press, or been otherwise informed - 1. That Mr. J. Healy is reported recently to have attended and addressed a meeting of waterside workers that was held in Brisbane in defiance of the order of the local Port Committee? 2. That the Stevedoring Industry Commission has been requested by the Brisbane Port Committee to take disciplinary action concerning the holding of that meeting? 3. That it has not been possible to hold a meeting of the Stevedoring Industry Commission because. Mr. Healy is absent in Western Australia? “In view of Mr. Healy’s frequent violation and flouting of the law, does the Minister still consider him a fit and proper person to hold office on the Stevedoring Industry Commission ?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I have not read the statement referred to in the press, and if I had I should not have given complete credence to it.


– Minister been otherwise informed?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I certainly have not been informed that a meeting of the commission has been delayed because of the absence of Mr. Healy. I suggest to Senator O’Sullivan that the Stevedoring Industry Commission is quite capable; of conducting it own business, and that if Mr. Healy, a representative of the steamship-owners or any other member of the commission unduly absented himself, prompt action would be taken by the commission.

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Senator LAMP:

– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what amount of assis- tance, financial or otherwise, has been given to the company mining scheelite at Grassy, King Island?

Senator McKENNA:

– During the war the Government made advances totalling £500,000, less only £50, to the company which mines scheelite at Grassy, King Island, in order to encourage the production of that metal. At the conclusion of the war, when the company found that because of over capitalization it could not continue to produce scheelite at a profit, it approached the Government for assistance. Because of the strategic importance of the industry to the defence of Australia, and because the livelihood of a community of some 200 people in a very isolated area was affected, the Government decided to assist the industry, which is capable of earning dollars for Australia. After a complete survey of the position the Government decided that the company should repay only £250,000 of the amount advanced to it, and that the Commonwealth would forgo the balance of the debt. The Commonwealth has written off an amount of £249,950 owed to it by the company.

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Senator COOPER:

– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that pressure is being brought to bear on the Government by the Australian Labour party to appoint a “ party man “ as chairman of tha Australian Broadcasting Commission ? If so, does that not give the impression that the Australian Labour party is endeavouring to use the Australian Broadcasting Commission for political purposes?

Senator CAMERON:
Postmaster-General · VICTORIA · ALP

– I am not aware of any pressure being brought to bear on the Government to appoint any particular person as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, nor am I aware of any intention on the part of the Government to make such an appointment for political purposes.

Senator COOPER:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

In view of the recommendation of the committee set up to inquire into the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the question of increasing the circulation of the A.B.C. Weekly should be thoroughly investigated by a specialist, will the Postmaster-General inform the Senate whether such recommendation has been adopted?

Senator CAMERON:

– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question : -

In accordance with the recommendation of the Fitzgerald Committee referred to by the honorable senator, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has already investigated the possibility of increasing the circulation of the A.B.C. Weekly and improving its contents. Recommendations on these lines were made to the commission at its meeting in January last and further consideration of the matter has been deferred for its meeting to be held during the present month.

Senator LAMP:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

What steps are being taken to provide a second relay broadcasting station for northwestern Tasmania?

Senator CAMERON:

– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question : -

In view of the establishment of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, provision of second regional stations will be given consideration by the board as early as practicable.

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asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -

  1. Will the Minister inform the Senate how much the Joint Coal Board has cost the taxpayer since its establishment?
  2. Is it a fact that, notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s plea for a savings campaign, further considerable expenditure is in present contemplation; if so, will the Minister state what amount is involved and give details of the items upon which such money will be expended?
Senator ASHLEY:

– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -

  1. The Joint Coal Board’s cost of administration which is shared equally by the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments has been as follows: -

In addition the Commonwealth has met other expenditure by the Board on research, investigation, prospecting, education and training «nd compensation to controlled collieries as follows: -

The board’s expenditure on welfare which is -shared by the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments has been as follows: -

From its inception to the 31st December, 1948, the commercial and trading activities of the Joint Coal Board have resulted in a net profit of approximately £129,000.

  1. The board’s estimates for 1948-49 provide for a total expenditure from welfare fund of £300,000 and advances from the Commonwealth of £701,000 to be allocated as follows: -

Although the Prime Minister has asked the community to increase its savings I am not aware of any occasion on which he has suggested that this should be interpreted to mean that the development of our basic industries should be retarded. In fact, one of the objects of the savings campaign is to induce a flow of resources to accelerate that development.

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Senator AYLETT:
through Senator Lamp

asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. Will the Postmaster-General inform the Senate what is delaying the erection of the post office and residence at Tullah, Tasmania?
  2. Will he give an assurance that the building will be erected before the winter sets in?
Senator CAMERON:

– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -

A site to permit the erection of a new post office and residence at Tullah has been acquired. Working drawings and specifications for the new building are complete and tenders close on the 16th February, 1949. It has been ascertained from the Department of Works and Housing, Hobart, that prospective tenderers have been interviewed and it is expected that a suitable tender will be received. Everything possible will be done to have the work completed at an early date.

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Senator ASHLEY:

– During the debate on the Estimates on the 28th October, 1948, Senator Lamp asked why the office of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was situated in Melbourne. The honorable senator intimated that he saw no reason why the office should not be located at Adelaide, Port Pirie, or Port Augusta. The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information : -

After a comprehensive review of the whole position and in the light of experience of the system of administration since the inception of the Commonwealth Railways, it is considered there would be no advantage in changing the location of the office ; on the other hand there would be many disadvantages. Having regard to the very wide area over which Commonwealth Railways operations are distributed, the necessity for office representation as near as possible to the main source of business and for convenience of administration, Melbourne is unquestionably the most suitable location for the Commissioner’s office. Melbourne is the convenient centre for the conduct of business with the Minister, with the industrial arbitration tribunals, and the Crown Law authorities, several important unions, other railway departments, and large commercial firms. The location of the administrative office conforms with the practice generally adopted by business organizations and other railway administrations. The loss n( revenue duo to competing steamer and air services would result through lack of direct contact with travel agencies, press and advertising firms, factories, warehouses, other business organizations and railway administrations. The transfer of the Commissioner’s officii to Tort Augusta would introduce disabilities which would be inimical to the successful conduct of the railways operations. It would not affect any worthwhile saving in rental of a Melbourne office as staff would have to be retained there in any case and there would be the increased costs of interest and maintenance on the additional premises and residential accommodation which it would be necessary to provide at Port Augusta. Further, by carrying on the administration from Port Augusta, inconvenience and loss would result through the office being unfavorably situated for the purchase of railway requirements.

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

. - by leave - Yesterday the Treasurer delivered in another place a financial statement in which he reviewed the financial outlook and announced the Government’s taxation proposals. I now propose to inform honorable senators of the main features of the Treasurer’s financial statement.

From the figures of revenue during the first seven months of 1948-49, it is clear that the budget estimate, which was £493,000,000 for the full year, will be exceeded. Collections of customs duty have been high because of the strong inflow of goods from abroad, notably from the United Kingdom. It is also ‘likely that the estimates of income- tax and social services contribution will be exceeded, this being a consequence partly of higher incomes and partly of further success in overtaking arrears of unassessed and uncollected taxation. Sales tax is showing the effects of greater business turnover and pay-roll tax of higher employment and wage earnings. Other revenue will probatory not differ greatly from the budget estimates. Expenditure on defence and allied services will be rather less than estimated, chiefly because delays have occurred in the delivery of stores and in the making of equipment on order. The works programme, for which provision was made in the budget, has also been retarded through difficulties in obtaining labour, equipment and materials.

It would not be possible at this stage to foretell accurately what the final figures of revenue and expenditure for the year will be; but, on the experience of the first seven months, it is expected that they will show an appreciable improvement on the net result predicted in the budget. It will be recalled that in the budget an a mount of £5,000,000 was provided from Consolidated Revenue for the War Gratuity Reserve. Consideration will be given to the possibility of increasing the amount of this provision in additional estimates for this financial year.

Looking to the future, we should endeavour to see the financial position in its full breadth and relate it to the main economic trends within Australia and in the world abroad. In western Europe, the economic situation, in its fundamental aspects, continues to give cause for deep anxiety. In our own dollar problem it is satisfactory to see that the restrictions imposed on dollar imports fifteen months ago, combined with efforts to expand dollar exports, promise to bring our dollar trade in merchandise fairly close to a balance for the current financial year. This position, however, should not be misunderstood. A good deal has been due to exceptional prices for wool. Moreover, other items requiring dollar payments, such as interest, freight and remittances of dividends and royalties, are still likely to leave us with a net dollar deficit this year, and we remain under” as strong an obligation as ever to “keep to an absolute minimum our requirements from the sterling area dollar pool on which we have made heavy drawings in recent years.

Within Australia, there has been a large, and widespread rise in incomes during the past two years. The primary industries have had two good seasons, and prices, especially for wool and wheat, have been high. There has also been a notable inflow of capital seeking permanent investment here. At the same time, costs and prices have been rising at an increasing rate, and this reflects the continuing lack of balance between total demand and the supply of goods. It is true that local production has increased, though not as fast as is necessary in certain basic industries and other fields, and that the volume of imports has risen. No possible rate of increase in supply, however, could have kept pace with the rise of nearly 50 per cent, which has taken place in national income during the past two years. The level of overall demand for goods, and for labour and capital plant to produce goods, remains excessive.

The Government is tackling the problem in two main ways. On the one hand, production is being assisted by every possible means, especially production in the basic industries, such as coal, where shortage of output is holding up the flow of products elsewhere. The Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, working through the Joint Coal Board, are engaged upon a complete re-organization of the coalmining industry in New South Wales. Mining methods are being modernized, working conditions improved and lone-neglected mining communities rehabilitated. Plant worth £3,000,000 is on order and deliveries are now coming forward. The Government has already provided approximately £2,000,000 for the work of the Joint Coal Board. An important contribution is also being made to the problem of key industries by the placement of migrants. On the other hand, the Government is encouraging restraint on spending by individuals and organizations throughout the whole community.

Since the war ended, the Government has sought progressively to ease the burden of taxation made necessary by the war. At the same time, it has eliminated the huge gap between .revenue and expenditure and has built up reserves, such as the National Welfare Fund and the War Gratuity Reserve against future expenditures. Present conditions are such that this policy should be followed even more firmly than during the last three years. We face a greater need than ever to conserve the resources presently available to the Government. Revenue ought, as far as possible, to cover all forms of expenditure, including provision for definite commitments still to be met. Moreover, we have to keep fully in view the trend of expenditure in well-established responsibilities of the Government. This trend creates a problem with regard to business undertakings which, in all spheres of government, have been particularly affected by the rise in costs. This matter has been discussed with the Premiers of the States at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. It is, I believe, a sound principle that, under conditions such as the present, the revenue of undertakings derived from charges for services to the public should, as far as practicable, suffice to cover their expenditure. Freights and fares of the Commonwealth Government Railways were increased as from the 1st December last by an average of about 25 per cent. The position of the other Commonwealth business undertakings is being kept under close review.

All the considerations just outlined bear upon the question of how much revenue should be raised by the Government, or, in other words, upon the rate? of taxation which should apply. Since the war ended, in addition to substantial reductions of sales tax and other form.? of taxation, four major reductions in direct taxation of individuals have been made and the effect has been to lighten the weight of taxation very considerably. The Government now proposes to make further substantial reductions in the rates of individual income tax and social services contribution. These proposals are put forward now in order that the tax instalment deductions from earnings may be reduced as from the 1st July, 1949. This could not be done if the decision were postponed until a full financial review is made in connexion with the budget for 1949-50. The annual cost to revenue of the proposed reductions will be £36,500,000. This reduction represents approximately 23 per cent, of the total amount at present paid by individuals. The percentage reduction is substantially greater in the lower and middle income groups, but taxpayers in all ranges of income will benefit by the proposed reductions.

It is also proposed to grant certain entertainments tax concessions in respect of sports, or games, in which men, women and children are the sole participants and which are conducted by non-profit organizations. These concessions will take the form of a reduction of the rates of tax in respect of these sports to the lower scale rates already applicable to plays and the like, as well as the raising of the existing limit of exemption from UM. to Is. 3d. The increase in the exemption will apply to plays and theatrical productions as well as to the sports, or games, in question. It is proposed also to remove the tax from payments of less than Is. for admission to amusements of the kind conducted at amusement parks, and also from payments of less than Is. for incidental refreshments served at dances. The cost of these concessions will be £135,000 for a full financial year, and approximately £50,000 for the balance of the current year. The measures of taxation relief which it is proposed at this stage to give appear to the Government as the most appropriate under present conditions. In keeping with the policy of the Government during recent years, the financial position will be kept under regular review. I lay on the table the following paper : -

Financial Statement by Senator W. P. Ashley, M.P. and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER) adjourned.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 140), on motion by Senator Ashley-

That the bill be now read a second time.

South Australia

.- The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), in the course of his second-reading speech, assured the members of the Opposition, in anticipation of the protests which they usually make against socialization, that the measure makes no provision whatever for the socialization of the shipping industry. On a perusal of the bill, honorable senators opposite have not been able to find an opportunity to give vent to their usual pious disgust of socialization which they have so often voiced during the regime of the present Government. I heartily support the main objectives of the bill. The first is the maintenance of the Australian mercantile marine, the second is the maintenance of the ship-building industry in Australia, and the third is the establishment of a ‘Commonwealth line of steamers. I am particularly gratified to notice that the bill provides that ships required for the coastal trade must be built in Australian yards.

My only regret in connexion with themeasure, although it represents a big step in the right direction, is that up to date there has been no evidence of the likelihood of an amalgamation of the four primary modes of transport in Australia. The distances between our ports and the areas covered by our railway networksare so great that the economic success of all transport ventures will not be assured until the four branches are brought under one administration. Year after year the various State governments approach the Commonwealth Grants Commission with applications for increased grants, mainly because of losses incurred by State railways or harbour services. The reasons for the financial losses which occur so consistently are easy to understand. Rail services were established for the economic development of Australia, but. unfortunately, the predominance of the profit motive, which has always been uppermost under the capitalistic system, has led to the condemnation of State transport instrumentalities merely because of their failure to return financial dividends to their governments. I maintain that, whatever financial calls must be made upon the taxpayers in order to pay the cost of maintaining transport services for the community, no government, whether Labour or Liberal, should condemn them for having made possible the development of this country. Our transport services have paid dividends to the nation over and over again in terms of economic progress, and I trust that that fact will not be ignored. I deprecate the attitude of our political opponents and others who, in season and . out of season, condemn governments for conducting community services at a financial loss. Only a nitwit or a fanatical adherent of the profit system would expect transport systems to return profits in cash. They have rendered services, perhaps indirectly in many instances, of untold benefit to the country. Governments have a duty to ensure that the people who are responsible for increasing the nation’s primary and secondary production shall be catered for with the best and most up-to-date rail and road services. The value of such services to a country as large as Australia is undeniable. It is unfortunate that, because Australia is divided into States, the representatives of six governments cluster around the proverbial ‘honey pot of the Commonwealth every year seeking to square their budgets for transport services which, when assessed in terms of service to the people, have repaid their costs over and over again.

I noted with interest that Senator Rankin, in condemning the bill, held up her hands in holy horror and said that the Government had to take over only one more transport service and it would have control of the lot. I am sure that, if she has not already repented, she will soon realize that transport services have been more subject to government control than have .any other services in Australia. Long before World War II., the governments of all States realized that motor transport services, improving rapidly as the result of the advancement of mechanical science, were threatening rail transport systems. In South Australia they were also interfering drastically with coastal shipping services. Large motor vehicles were capable of carrying passengers and goods direct to the metropolitan area faster, and sometimes more cheaply than was possible by other means of transport. It became apparent that, if road services were allowed to go unchecked, they would soon be able to take over the best and most payable passenger and freight traffic, leaving only more -cumbersome and less profitable freight for ships and trains. All governments decided that control of road transport was necessary. A general policy was laid down and, although it might have been deliberately flouted in some instances, it has at least had a steadying effect upon rail and sea transport. In South Australia, we have been able to maintain regular coastal shipping services in spite of the great depression, repeated droughts, and the intervention of World War II. I view with concern the lack of determination on the part of shipping firms to enlarge their fleets by having ships built in Australia or by purchasing vessels overseas. Senator Arnold reminded us last week, in a very learned discourse on this topic, of what had already happened in Australia. He mentioned the establishments of Walkers Limited, at Maryborough,

Queensland, and Evans Deakin and Company Limited, at Brisbane.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– They are very efficient private enterprises.


– If Senator O’Sullivan will control himself, and allow me to make my speech without interruption, we may have an opportunity to debate that subject at a more opportune time. He points to those firms as examples of successful private enterprise. I admit that the firm of Walkers Limited has performed wonderful services for Australia, by building not only ships but also locomotives, which are in use on most Australian railways. Senator Beerworth has had years of experience driving over some of the most arid areas of South Australia on a Class T locomotive and I remind Senator O’Sullivan that, although he has boosted Walkers Limited on occasions, he has referred- to the engine at other times in terms that I should not like to repeat.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– What does the honorable senator mean?


– The honorable senator has criticized the engine because it would not go right. Like the honorable senator in some of his criticism of the Government it has sometimes become stubborn and refused to stay on the right tracks. I learned during my sojourn in Queensland as a member of the Parliamentary delegation which visited that State last year, that shipbuilding interests there were seeking the aid of the Commonwealth Government. Regardless of what Senator O’Sullivan may say on this subject, considerable financial assistance has already been given by the Commonwealth Government. T say, “ Good luck to them ; they deserve it “. I have no doubt that when this bill becomes law, the private shipbuilding industry will continue to flourish because, despite the claims of the Opposition, the measure does not provide for nationalization.

I turn now to Whyalla. I was pleased to hear Senator Arnold make such glowing references to that town. I am sure that he will not take offence when I say that he could do no other. As the honorable senator pointed out, not many years ago the site of Whyalla was a desert. It is well known that Australia produces the best iron ore in the world. With the aid of a very eminent Australian, Mr. Essington Lewis, and with Commonwealth Government assistance, Whyalla has been made one of the most modern shipbuilding centres in the world. I pay a special tribute to the work of the

Manager of the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla, Mr. Dalziel. He came to Australia from the “ Old Country “ many years ago, and his expert knowledge of the shipbuilding industry has been of immense value. He has around him to-day an efficient staff, preponderantly of Australians, many of whom had, prior to the establishment of the industry at Whyalla, never seen a ship built. Originally, of course, skilled technicians were brought from Great Britain, and we must pay a generous tribute to the assistance that they have rendered. They brought to this country a fund of knowledge of the industry which they have since passed on to Australian workmen. It has been my lot to visit many industrial undertakings throughout the Commonwealth as a. member of Parliament, as an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, and as an employee in industry, and I have no hesitation in saying that nowhere else in Australia are to be found the excellent relations between master and man which are so evident at Whyalla. From a new industry established in a wilderness, shipbuilding at Whyalla has developed into one of Australia’s leading industrial enterprises, and the town of Whyalla itself is one of the most modern in the Commonwealth. The project is an accomplishment of which we as Australians should all be proud.

Senator Nash:

– Is there any particu lar reason for the excellent conditions obtaining at Whyalla?

Senator CRITCHLEY There are many reasons. In the first place, amicable relations between employer and employee are absolutely necessary, and for the establishment and maintenance of those relations, the men themselves must be given some credit.

I come now to the quality of the ships that are being built in this country. Recently 1 had an opportunity to inspect two vessels, one of 12,500 tons, and one of 6,000 tons. I have had some experience of ships including colliers and “ tramps “, and I say with conviction that accommodation for crews on the new ships is such that any complaint from seamen, from the highest to the lowest, about their quarters would be most surprising.

Much has been said about the original Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I do not propose to enlarge on that subject. That line, as history shows, was established in the face of competition just as severe as that existing to-day. Only the necessities of the period enabled the line to become an accomplished fact. Overseas shipping combines have never favoured shipbuilding in this country. The sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was forced by the pressure brought to bear by private shipping companies obsessed by the profit motive. However, the “Bay” liners and the cargo vessels of the Commonwealth line rendered a service to this country which could not be measured merely in money terms. Had right prevailed, those ships would not have been given away but would have continued to render service to the Australian people until their useful life had ended. Unfortunately, they were disposed of, and although the purchase price was ridiculously low, £400,000 remains unpaid to the Commonwealth Government. I do not suppose that that money will ever be paid.

Some anxiety is being felt in other parts of the world about the future of the shipbuilding industry. In the United States of America particularly, there is a demand for government assistance both for the construction of vessels and for their operation. I trust that Senator O’Sullivan will favour me with his close attention now because in his criticism of this measure last week he is reported o have said -

Wherever the meddling deadly hand of Government has entered the commercial affairs it has led to a costly failure. Don’t let us have another farce of Government enterprise and control on our hands. When there are efficient commercial shipping companies operating, why should the Government blunder in?


– I waiting for an answer.


– The answer is quite obvious. What private organization would be prepared to expend money on the construction of railway lines and roads to remote parts of the Commonwealth for developmental purposes? There is no profit in such ventures and so they are left to governments. How would residents of remote parts of the Commonwealth, particularly areas served only by ships, fare to-day if they were left to the tender mercies of those members of the community whom Senator O’Sullivan champions so eloquently? Private companies pick the eyes out of transport services. They are not interested in nonprofitmaking undertakings. Recently Mr. G. L. Killion president of the American President Lines, is reported to have said -

To he sure, United States exports over the past two and a. half years have been the highest in record. . . .

At the end of the war the United States possessed 00 million tons of merchant shipping, or two-thirds of the world total as compared with one-sixth in 1039. . . .

There was a time when good service at a reasonable rate represented practically the only reason for choosing a ship for a particular cargo To-day, however, other factors are major and controlling. They centre around the political and economic backing that operators may obtain from their respective governments.

That statement indicates an appreciation of the fact that, to perform its duty, every government must concern itself with the defence of its country. Shipping is an essential undertaking and ships must be retained in service even though subsidies have to be paid, or control of vessels assumed by governments themselves. Private shipping lines operate for profit, .and exorbitant rates are charged for passengers and cargo on even the most humble “ tubs “ that have outlived their usefulness years ago. When shipping lines do not pay, private companies seek government assistance. What is the difference ‘between a government subsidizing a. private shipping line and a government undertaking a shipbuilding programme and establishing its own line of steamers? In the final analysis it is the taxpayer that pays the bill. Continuing, Mr. Killion said -

The policy of fostering merchant marine development is spreading among many foreign governments which require that government sponsored cargoes move only on vessels’ flying the national flag.

That shows that Mr. Killion is not blind to the obvious. Governments of all kinds are concerned with the slow shipbuilding programmes of private shipping companies, and, to foster the mercantile marine of their own countries, are insisting that government-sponsored cargoes be carried by vessels flying the national flag. Another interesting recent newspaper report stated -

Washington is particularly concerned at the weakness of the Royal Australian Navy.

I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy will correct that statement if it is wrong. The report continues -

The active Australian Fleet (on official figures) will next year comprise one aircraft carrier, one S-inch gun cruiser, five destroyers, three frigates, two tank landing ships, two survey ships and one tug.

It is known that the Government is finding great difficulty in manning even that small force, and that the Navy is gravely short of trained officers.

This Government has shown to the world its intention to build up our naval defences at the earliest possible moment. It is not afraid to bring from the Old Country the most highly trained officers and the best technicians available. A government that is imbued with such enthusiasm cannot be accused of acting detrimentally to the Australian people.

I pass now to a report published in the Sunday Herald of the 13th February. This, too, is most important to the Government and to the Australian people because it reveals startling accomplishments by the Japanese, aided and abetted by the United States of America. The report states -

In the three and a half years since the end of the war, Japan has built up her merchant marine to 1,670,912 tons. Already this exceeds the 1,500,000 tons which Mr. Edwin Pauley recommended when he surveyed the Japanese economy as Reparations Commissioner in 1946. Japanese shipyards are still turning out 20,000 -tons of shipping a month. But many United States administrators, both on the spot in Japan and in the United States itself, are urging that Japanese shipping should be increased’ still more, for domestic traffic and later for world trade. . . .

The strongest motive behind American support for a large Japanese merchant marine is the 1,000.000 dollar’s a day which the supply of Japan’s deficiencies is currently costing the United States taxpayer. Many Americans feel that, as before the war, Japan may once again be able to improve her foreign exchange position by cheap shipping. Powerful opposition to this comes from American ship-owners, already staggering under the competition of cheaper foreign shipping. Britain, who depends on her merchant marine to redress her balance of trade, is also opposed.

Those who want to increase Japan’s merchant marine are not impressed with the argument that Japan may become a dangerous international competitor. They say most of the Japanese vessels are wooden and steel steamers of up to 2,000 tons, engaged in the coastal trade hauling coal and timber. Japan needs these vessels desperately to supplement her road and rail system, which are all but broken down. Unless Japan has shipping of her own to meet domestic needs, her basic economy is strongly influenced by higher freight rates set by other nations, which will deplete Japanese foreign currency earnings.

I contend that the progress which has been made in J apan is of the utmost concern to Australia. Although a great deal has been accomplished in this country since the war in the construction of ships, the importance of the facts contained in that article must cause any Australian who is concerned about the welfare of his country to give the matter serious thought. I do not make that statement with any purpose of retaliating against Japan; my purpose is to ensure that Australia shall maintain the social conditions which it has built up so painfully over the years and has sacrificed so many lives to retain. It is obvious that action must be taken in Australia to offset the efforts being made to re-establish the Japanese mercantile marine. A pamphlet issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) sets out, under the heading, “A Great Shipbuilding Record “, some facts concerning Australia’s shipbuilding which are of vital importance. So interesting are those facts, that I propose to read portion of it to honorable senators -

Another striking performance during this same period has been accomplished by the ship construction section of our Naval Department, in spite of labour shortages through so many of our young men being needed for the various fighting services. This is demonstrated by the following figures: No less than -83 major naval fighting ships have been built and launched and most of them have seen action. The latest types built are the modern large type destroyers named after the famous battles in which Australian troops played an importSenator ant part, such as H.M.A.S. Tobruk and H.M.A.S. Ansae. In addition to these modern fighting ships, hundreds of small craft were built during the same period.

When we turn to the record of the Commonwealth Ship Building Board, established by the Curtin Government in 1941, we cannot help being proud of its splendid achievements, for, during its seven years’ operation, it has surprised its critics. Here are some of the facts: Since 1941, no less than 25 ships have been built, launched, and put into commission, with a total deadweight tonnage of 154,000. Of these, thirteen ships were of 9,000 deadweight tons, two were 6,500 tons, and eight were 3,000 deadweight tons per ship, and the only criticism I have heard is that they are built too well. A further 44 vessels, aggregating 205,100 deadweight tons are scheduled for construction, of which work is proceeding on nineteen vessels, comprising ten of 6,500 deadweight tons, six of 3,000 deadweight tons, and three of 700 deadweight tons.

I hardly need to remind honorable senators that the Australian workman is admitted to be the best in the world. When he has completed a job requiring skill and application it is usually difficult to find a fault in it.

In my opinion the introduction of a measure such as the one we are at present considering is long overdue, particularly when we bear in mind the many thousands of miles of coastline that we have to defend and the paramount need to develop this country. Obviously our transportation systems cannot be too modern. My only real regret is that neither this nor any other measure introduced to the National Parliament has provided for the co-ordination of our four major systems of transportation. However, the establishment on an adequate scale of a ship-building industry in this country must go a great distance at least towards improving our sea transportation. Apart from the importance of providing proper defence for this country, the encouragement of intranstate and interstate trade by the provision of a modern merchant marine must be an important preliminary step towards the establishment of a co-ordinated transport policy. It is essential, in the interests of Commonwealth national defence and of expanding peace-time commerce that only the most modern equipment and the most skilled labour be employed in the construction of ships. Of course, I am not the first individual to realize that, and I have every confidence that the present

Government will ensure that only the most efficient equipment shall be provided for the industry and the services of the most competent technicians and artificers obtained. An adequate merchant marine, fully equipped to handle the many different varieties of sea commerce, including passenger transportation, with complete co-ordination of all forms of transport, is indispensable to a wellbalanced national economy such as that which is needed in the mid-twentieth century. As I have already said, I believe that the present measure is an important step in that direction, and I sincerely commend it to the Senate.

Senator COOKE:
Western Australia

– This bill aims at re-establishing a Commonwealth shipping line and at developing the shipbuilding industry in Australia. It is, therefore, one of the most important measures that have been introduced in the Parliament since the period before World War I. When the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) introduced the bill in the Senate he pointed out the desperate condition of the merchant fleet on which Australia had to rely at the outbreak of the recent war. The ships were antiquated, many of them being from 15 to 20 years old, whilst some had been in service for 30 or 40 years. They were decrepit and inefficient in operation. The neglect of the shipbuilding industry in this country, which resulted in such a state of affairs, is even more to be deprecated. Tradesmen, technicians and artificers, who were available to the shipbuilding industry at one time, are no longer available because we neglected to foster the industry. We realized the consequences of our neglect during World War I., when our defence activities were severely hampered by the lack of modern vessels. However, thanks to the efforts of the Government, and particularly to the application and ingenuity of Australian workmen, Australia emerged from that crisis. From my experience I am convinced that nothing is more vital to Australia than the development of an adequate and efficient maritime service. No nation can become great without such a service; and whilst we are concerned to foster development in other directions, we cannot afford to overlook the importance of shipping and shipbuilding to Australia.

It is, perhaps, significant that the most vicious attack made by members of the Opposition on Labour’s developmental plans has been concentrated on our proposals to provide Australia with adequate mercantile and naval shipbuilding facilities. Whilst I cannot believe that members of the Opposition have not the welfare of Australia at heart, I cannot escape the conclusion that their masters are responsible for the attitude which they adopt. I need hardly recall that it was an anti-Labour government that destroyed the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I stress the fact that the introduction of the present measure represents the implementation of an old plank of the platform of the Australian Labour party. When the Fisher Government attained office in 1910 it promised that it would establish governmentowned maritime services. It is interesting to recall that about the same time an English engineer, named William Adams, was responsible for the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Japan. Indeed, I was in Japan recently when a memorial was unveiled to his memory. Because of the naval strength which Japan was able to develop as the result of Adams’s initial effort, that country was enabled, as we know to our cost, ultimately to challenge the survival of Australia. We have- the spectacle, in retrospect, of Australia’s great statesman, Andrew Fisher, and William Adams, the English shipbuilding engineer, simultaneously advocating the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia and Japan respectively. Although the industry was not established in Australia until action was taken by the first Hughes Government to establish a line of Australian steamships, a commencement was made in Australia not so long after J apan established its maritime industries. The Commonwealth line was commenced with 37 vessels, which we purchased from other countries, and supplemented by a number of enemy vessels which had been captured. We built on that foundation, but our work was subsequently destroyed by a government formed of the political parties which have always opposed

Labour. Although those political parties have changed their names from time to time their policy has been consistent. By contrast, the Japanese maritime industry received every encouragement; large, modern shipbuilding yards and up-to-date factories were constructed and a huge output of shipping tonnage was achieved, which enabled Japan to develop tremendous overseas trade. The resources of the Inland Sea were developed, and subsequently Japan obtained access to all the raw materials of East Asia, apart altogether from the establishment of its vast overseas trade. The lesson for Australia to learn is that but for the establishment and development of maritime industries in Japan, that country would never have ‘been aide to develop to the degree that it did. We all realize now that it was that development which enabled Japan to become so strong as to menace even the survival of Australia.

Members of the Opposition have stated that our previous essay in the field of maritime transport was a failure. However, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), who was fair up to a point, admitted that our attempt was not a complete failure, inasmuch as the Government shipping line earned a profit of £7,000,000 during the earlier period of its operation. That sum off-set a considerable amount of the capital outlay incurred in the establishment of the line. However, the important tiling to remember is that the operation of that line during World War I., particularly in 1916-17, enabled us to transport huge quantities of our primary produce to our allies in other parts of the world. At that time the crop yield and the wool clip were particularly good, and although the overseas prices for our primary produce were comparatively low, Australia would have derived very little income from that produce had it not been for the establishment of the Commonwealth shipping line. Those steamers were able to transport our produce overseas at a time when shipping was very scarce indeed. At; the present time we are enjoying more fortunate economic conditions than we did in 193G-17. The nations which need our primary produce desire to enter into contracts with us, and are prepared, not only to pay satisfactory prices for our goods, but also to provide shipping for them. Although we are now enjoying all the advantages of a seller’s market, we must remember that conditions will not always be so favorable, and that, sooner or later, we shall undoubtedly experience the disabilities of marketing our produce on a buyer’s market. When that occurs we shall be confronted with the competition of other food-producing nations which can provide their own shipping to transport their produce to the purchasing countries. The disadvantage to our primary producers if they have to rely upon the ships of other nations, and pay exhorbitant freights, to transport their produce to overseas markets at a time of keen competition is obvious. I remind honorable senators that prior to the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers when we had to rely on the merchant fleets of other nations, our primary producers had to pay from £10 to £15 a ton for the transport of wheat to overseas markets, but when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was operating Australian wheat was transported at a cost of only approximately £5 a ton. Moreover, when the market fell, if ships had not been available, the primary produce would have had to rot in this country. It is interesting to >reflect on the history of that shipping line, and therefore I shall refer to a speech that was made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on the 10th July, 1923, in which he referred to the devaluation of the. fleet. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, had proposed that as shipping freights were high and it was inevitable that they would have to be reduced to meet world competition, the value of the Australian ships should be written down. He did not at any stage of the debate suggest that he was going to write them down and later sell them to the Inchcape shipping combine. Although the right honorable member for North Sydney was opposed to Labour, he stood solidly by the shipping line. He feared that the government which he supported was about to do something with which he did not wish to be associated, and which he thought would be a disservice to Australia. As reported in Hansard, Vol. 103, at page 803, lie said -

A notable feature of the Prime Minister’s proposal is the extraordinary reduction of valuations which he has thought proper to make. I do not understand the motive underlying his action. Who can benefit by it? Not the Commonwealth, for, as a shipowner, it places itself distinctly at a disadvantage by writing down th« value of property that it ‘has to sell, and by shouting the fact of its worthlessness from the house tops. The right honorable gentleman affected to be very reluctant to disclose the names of the valuers, .and the extent to which the various classes of ships had been written down, “because” he said, “ wo are sellers of ships “.

Later in his speech he referred to the loss incurred by the line, in these words -

The Prime Minister tells us that the loss in 1921-22 was £1,200,000, while the estimated loss for the year just closed is £1,000,000 or thereabouts. There were no losses or very little, on the “ Austral “ and “ ex-enemy “ -ships. Where were the losses? It is very -obvious that the figures presented show very clearly where the losses have occurred, and that is, on the “ Bay “ ships. I am very anxious to know by what amount the “ Bay “ ships are now written down.

Obviously the “ Austral “ ships and the “ ex-enemy “ ships had then paid for themselves. They had earned over £8,000,000. The “Bay” ships were obviously showing a loss. Concerning that the right honorable gentleman said -

I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that what we need to do, if we are going on with the line - and are not creating a Board to get rid of the ships - is to build more vessels of the “ Bay “ -class. We must either get out of the business -or go on with it in ship-shape fashion. There -is no half-way house. and later -

Human nature is a curious thing. It enters in by the tiniest crevice; it is found everywhere, and it is in the shipping ring, without –a doubt. And human nature being what it is. will any honorable member say that it is for the benefit of Australia as part of the Empire, that the only vessels by which we can send our goods to England should be controlled by one great corporation?

He then decried the combine severely, and -said that it could not serve Australia or the British Empire adequately. Concerning the record of the shipping line, he said, referring to the speech of the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce -

From the right honorable gentleman’s own speech it is now abundantly clear that the ‘line has done great work for Australia, and its record, judged even by commercial stan-


dards has justified its existence. There are not more than one or two members in this chamber who would to-day suggest that we should do away with the Commonwealth Shipping Line.

The United .States of America developed its own shipping line, and I point out that that country did not become a real nation until it had a proper maritime service. Honorable senators sitting in Opposition refer continually to private enterprise.. In the United States of America, essential transport services have been subsidized, as have those of other nations, and Australia will have to adopt a similar practice. A further portion of the right ‘honorable gentleman’s speech reads -

The Prime Minister has shown that, compared with the people of the United States of America and Canada, we may regard ourselves as exceedingly fortunate. The right honorable gentleman said nothing about depreciation in America, yet, although that country has lost nearly £500,000,000 on her fleet, she is not going to scrap it.

That shows what a fleet is worth to a nation, and yet the Opposition continues to assert that we should leave sea transportation to private enterprise. Such a shipping line will never be established in this country unless by this Government, and in the manner that we propose. It is most necessary not only for the purpose of maintaining our exports and imports, but also for our own internal development, that we should control our own shipping line. The north-west coast of Australia will never be developed unless our own ships carry to that area machinery and goods necessary for its development. Rail transportation facilities do not at present exist there, and I doubt if they ever will be provided. Even if such facilities were provided, from the economic or effective point of view that part of the country would not be developed so well by railways as would be possible by a shipping line serving the area. When we get down to facts we find that the Opposition is opposing this measure, not by logical, hard argument, but merely by saying that if we establish a shipping line it will be another instance of socialization or nationalization. As a matter of fact this bill provides for the manufacture of ships in Australia and the purchase of British ships from British shipbuilding yards to augment the Australian fleet. In some instances, it will assist -private enterprise to acquire and run ships, provided that it is an Australian shipping venture.

In Western Australia there are vast areas of rich hinterland awaiting development. This is one of the reasons why I welcome this measure. It is impossible, with the existing shipping facilities, to develop those areas. A case in point is Esperance, where a meeting of citizens was held on the 9th January, 1949. The press report of that meeting reads -

In the Esperance district there were over 1,000,000 acres of undeveloped land with an assured rainfall of over 20 inches, speakers declared. Reasonable shipping freights, if a service were made available, would prove that this land could be used economically for the production of food for overseas markets, but this would be impossible if all material necessary for the development of this belt and the food produced had -to . be hauled by rail hundreds of miles from and to Fremantle when a. deep-water port was available.

Goods for Esperance are transported by land from Fremantle involving 600 mile3 of haulage by rail, which is stultifying and retarding development in that portion of the State, and the port would be capable of handling shipping. However, there is not enough cargo to be discharged there at present, and consequently little development has taken place. The Government of Western Australia has proposed a plan for land settlement adjacent to Albany, but the circumstances there are somewhat similar. It is unlikely that the shipping service to that area will be improved until an adequate fleet is available. I point out that if the hinterland were developed cargoes would be available; although the country has great potentialities there is no inducement for people to settle there. It is necessary for their wool to be conveyed to Fremantle for classification, scouring and shipping, which increases costs. Previously applegrowing was a major industry in that area, but apples are not now picked up at Albany. Geraldton is similarly affected, because the shipping companies are not interested in calling there. Of course, if it were a payable economic proposition to put down and lift cargo at Geraldton, the shipping companies would readily provide shipping for the purpose. The proposed shipping line is intended to be developmental, and ultimately the country that will be developed will become profitable.

During the years following 1916, and before the Commonwealth shipping lino was sabotaged by an anti-Labour government, the vessels carried goods to Australia for £5 a ton, although freights of £15 a ton were offering. If we had not possessed that line of steamers we should have been left high and dry for service. Subsequently, in 1923, the Australian Shipping Board of three members was established. Mr. H. B. Larkin the manager of the fleet, was appointed chairman at £3,500 a year, in addition to which he received an entertainment allowance of £1,000 a year and travelling allowance of £2 a day. The other members were Sir William Clarkson and Mr. R.. Farquhar each of whom received a salary of £3,000 a year and travelling expenses of £2 a day. Honorable senators sitting in opposition have told us that the value of money to-day is much less than then, so that the salaries I have mentioned were princely indeed. The freights were reduced, and ultimately that shipping line was blatantly and villainously sold to the combine for less than £2,000,000. As Senator Critchley has said, £400,000 of the price has not yet been paid to the Commonwealth. I believe that the shipping line which will be established under this measure will operate on a much sounder basis than did the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. It will be operated under the control of a board which will also have power to construct ships and to provide all services auxiliary to shipping operations. The proposed board will be enabled to provide ships for intra-state and interstate trade and also for overseas freight and passenger services. It will thus provide up-to-date sea transport, which is just as essential as modern internal transport services. The earning capacity of the proposed shipping line is not the only consideration to be borne in mind in dealing with this project. The establishment of a shipping line will greatly increase the national, wealth by facilitating the marketing of our products overseas and providing up-to-date sea transport generally. The proposed line will more than justify itself in helping to develop the tourist trade to this country. Few people realize that in 1947 Great Britain derived £20,000,000 sterling in dollar credits directly from the tourist trade, whilst income from passenger fares of passengers to and from Great Britain by sea and air was estimated at £10,000,000, that is, a total of £30,000,000 income attributable to the tourist traffic. Of the revenue derived from tourists, 45 per cent, came from hard currency countries and 38 per cent., from dollar areas, including the United States of America and Canada. In spite of the restrictions placed upon travel by the United States of America authorities, revenue derived by Great Britain from air and shipping freights and fares in 1947 represented the largest single item of income in Britain’s trade with the United States of America. Great Britain was enabled to gain that advantage solely because it was able to provide adequate shipping services. Surely, no one will suggest that our existing shipping facilities are adequate to meet Australia’s expanding needs. Indeed, at present one considers it a privilege to be able to obtain a berth on any vessel bound for Australia. This proposal will effect a great advance in our economy. All of us should be proud to have a hand in the establishment and implementation of a project which will assure to the nation a progressive mercantile marine, because, as I said in my opening remarks, no nation can be really great if it does not possess a flourishing mercantile marine. I commend the bill.

Senator HARRIS:

– I welcome the introduction of this measure, the object of which is to establish the shipping industry on a sound basis. All of us know the unfortunate history of this industry since the end of World War I., and we do not require the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) to tell us the fate of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers which was established during that war. During the period between the two world wars the shipbuilding industry deteriorated to a serious degree. I hesitate to imagine what would have been the industry’s fate had not a Labour government been in office during the last six years. In 1939 we were deplorably short of ships. How happy the nation would have been at that time had the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers not been abandoned by antiLabour governments. Thanks to the present Government, we now have engaged in the coastal trade fifteen vessels which are doing a magnificent job. But for the Government’s practical handling of this problem, the distant States, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, would now be practically isolated because since the end of World War I. private shipping companies have fallen down on their job. We know that during the last world Avar the Government assumed control of all shipping and undertook the construction of urgently required vessels. At the same time, it allocated the vessels available on a basis which benefited the distant States. In that respect the Government did a wonderful job. How different the situation would have been at that time had the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers been maintained. I recall that the late John Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, was very worried because of the lack of vessels to provide an adequate service in our coastal as well as our overseas trade. At that time, millions of tons of wheat stored in silos and on the wharfs at Fremantle was completely lost through rot and the depredations of weevils simply because sufficient ships were not available to lift it for overseas ports.

As I anticipated, the Leader of the Opposition expressed agreement with the first two objectives of the measure, namely, the maintenance of our mercantile marine and the establishment of the shipbuilding industry. I was not surprised that he condemned the third objective of the measure which is to establish a Commonwealth shipping line. I trust that this legislation will ensure that the condition of affairs which existed under the Bruce-Paste Government in 1927 shall not be repeated. The Leader of the Opposition contended that the Government should primarily direct its attention to increasing the production of steel and coal which he claimed are basic requirements of the shipbuilding industry. However, all of us realize that the steel industry is deplorably short of manpower. For instance, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could employ an additional 500 or 600 men at its steel works at Newcastle if such labour were available. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to attribute the inadequate production of steel to lack of coal supplies. The fact remains that more steel could be produced in this country if the requisite man-power were available. I am pleased to learn that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is planning to place a certain number of migrants in that industry. We have also heard a lot of abuse of the waterside workers and the seamen. The Opposition parties attribute the slow turnround of ships to “go-slow” tactics on the part of the wharf labourers. No complaint has been made in that respect so far as the Port of Fremantle is concerned. At the same time, in many instances cargo consigned from overseas to Western Australia is often loaded at the bottom of holds beneath cargo for the eastern States, and for that reason vessels have departed from Fremantle after having unloaded only half the cargo consigned to Western Australia. Such a state of affairs is the fault of the shipping companies at the overseas ports. In some instances wharf lumpers at Fremantle have taken hours to shift cargo consigned to New South Wales and Victoria before they were able to get access to cargo consigned to Western Australia. Such delays have been for as long as ten hours. Yet, the Opposition parties always attribute the slow turn-round of ships to “ go-slow “ tactics on the part of the wharf labourers. Obviously, those who make such statements are ignorant of the facts; and I regret that members of the Opposition parties are not sufficiently game to inspect work on the wharfs in order to find out the facts at first hand. They should do that, instead of abusing the wharf labourers and seamen at every opportunity. Furthermore, it is not unusual for vessels to be stood out in midstream for considerable periods, a practice that contributes to the slow turn-round of ships. It would be futile to expect anti-Labour governments to take steps to establish a Com- monwealthshipping line or to placebefore the Parliament any proposal of” this kind. Therefore, I am glad that the Government has taken this opportunity to introduce this legislation, particularly as I have no doubt that it will be in office for many years to come and will thus be enabled to implement this project fully. I believe that theshipping line which will ‘be established under this measure will thusbe expanded to such proportions that should the Opposition parties ever again be elected to office they would not dare tointerfere with it. Much has been said about the history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the disposal of that line. The Bruce-Page Government, which came into office in 1923, had interests closely interwoven with those of” English shipping, banking and insurance companies. We knew as soon asMr. Bruce became Prime Minister that his object would be to get rid of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamersbecause he would be forced to do so by the “ Shipping Conference “, which controlled about seven lines operating around1 the Australian coast. Mr. Bruce did’ everything possible to sabotage the Commonwealth line. He overloaded it with heavy expenditure, and he actually created waterfront disputes that tied upBay “ vessels in New South Wales and Victorian ports. His aim was to createexcuses with which to convince the Government that those vessels should besold. The Leader of the Opposition hastold us that the parliamentary PublicAccounts Committee advised the Government to dispose of the “Bay”’ steamers in September, 1927. The honorable gentleman did not tell the wholetruth, and in order to make the facts clear I refer honorable senators to a speech that was made in the House of” Representatives on the 15th March, 1945, by Mr. Wilson, the then member forWimmera, on the subject of . the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Afterdiscussing the methods by which Mr. Bruce had handled the “ Dale “ ships and’ the “ Bay “ ships, he said -

The tactic of setting up a Public AccountsCommittee, to advise on their retention or- disposal, was resorted to. In May, 1927, this committee reported - “Not only has the Commonwealth line been responsible for actual reductions in freight, but the presence of the line has exercised a material restraining influence against proposed increases. The committee, therefore, recommends that in the interests of Australia the line be continued.”

This, of course, was just the opposite to what Bruce wanted. He then fell back on the method of tendering evidence in camera, a device often used by employers in the Arbitration Court, when some particular judge finds their arguments in favour of wage reductions a little abstruse. The chairman and four other Bruce-rage appointees to the board were called on to interview the Public Accounts Committee behind closed doors. Nobody knows what transpired at this stage, only the people concerned. But the upshot was that in November, 1927, the committee reversed its previous finding and urged that the line lie disposed of. Bruce announced that he would sell what was left to the “Shipping Conference “.

That statement is totally different from the story that was told to us last week by the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps the honorable gentleman had forgotten the original recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee in 1927 that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers should be continued.

The process of sabotage was eventually completed as the result of the committee’s later recommendation after it had taken evidence in camera. We all know what happened then. The White Star Line, which took over the vessels, conveniently went broke and we lost everything. Senator O’Sullivan did not contribute much information to the discussion of this measure. He said that he welcomed the re-establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia, but be did not like the idea of this Government establishing a Commonwealth Shipping line. A great part of his speech was taken up with his usual abuse of the waterside workers and talk about Communist elements in the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers Federation, which was not relevant to the bill. I shall tell the. honorable gentleman briefly what was in the mind of Mr. William Morris Hughes, who was Prime Minister in 1919, when he continued to buy ships on behalf of the Australian Government. The honorable gentleman will no doubt be interested in view of his criticism that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was paid for by the taxpayers. He appears to be greatly concerned about the taxpayers’ money and he frequently complains that all the legislation enacted by this Government is financed from the pockets of the taxpayers. The extracts from Hansard that I am about to quote will show what a previous government, of the same political colour as Senator O’Sullivan, thought about the purchasing of ships with taxpayers’ money in 1919 without even the approval of the Parliament. A formal motion for the adjournment of the House of Representatives to enable discussion of government shipbuilding contracts was moved by Mr. Boyd, the honorable member for Henty, on” the 30th July, 1919. The debate was opened in this form -


-(Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - I have received from the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The entering into contracts for the purchase of ships in England by the Government without parliamentary authority “.

Mr. Hughes was then in England. Mr. Boyd began his speech by recounting what the government of the day had done and how it had bought ships to the value of millions of pounds without notifying the Parliament of the transactions. The Hansard report continued -

Mr. BOYD. ; My view is that the Government failed to consult Parliament because they feared that the necessary authority would not he forthcoming. The Government practically said to themselves, “ We will take the risk just as we did before “.

Mr. Groom, representing Darling Downs, who was Minister for Works and Railways and Acting Attorney-General, replied to Mr. Boyd. He said - . . . the Government made certain contracts for the building of wooden ships in the United States of America. Now that the war is over, those vessels are not suitable for normal requirements.

Those wooden ships were what we termed “ coffin ships “ and they cost many thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money.- Mr. Groom also said -

I remind honorable members of the responsibility placed upon the Government of securing proper and sufficient tonnage for the export of our primary products, and I particularly call their attention to the operations of the “Conference Shipping Lines”. The activities of the Conference are of very great importance to Australia, and neither the Government nor Parliament can overlook that fact. Combinations in shipping are not of recent growth. Even before the war they were becoming an Empire problem of very serious import.

Mr. McWilliams interjected ;

And the Australian Agent of the Conference is the man whom the Government appointed to deal with shipping, Sir Owen Cox.

Mr. Groom then said ;

I do not know whether or not that is correct; but I am dealing with the problem which Australia has to face. Since that list of Conference lines was prepared a Japanese line and the Eastern and Australian Company have been added. Let the House consider what that shipping monopoly means to the producers and the exporters of primary produce

Mr. Boyd interjected ;

Did the Government hope, with their five ships, to beat that combination?

Mr. Groom replied ;

Nobody knows better than does the honorable member how the Conference operates in influencing trade into its own channels. These lines work on a deferred rebate system, under which shippers are compelled to sign a declaration at the end of given periods to the effect that they have not shipped any cargo by vessels outside those controlled by the Conference. I shall mention to the House an illustration of how even Governments may be compelled by the Conference to toe the mark. The Government of Victoria booked a certain amount of space on the Commonwealth ship Bulla, .but, owing to the fact that they were notified that they might lose a considerable sum of money in deferred rebates, they withdrew the shipment from the Commonwealth line.

That illustrates how the shipping combine operated. The statement was made ‘by a prominent member of the antiLabour Government in 1919.

I hope that the Government will continue to encourage the development of the shipbuilding industry. We have cornpetent men available for the industry in this country, although, unfortunately, many skilled tradesmen transferred to other industries when shipbuilding was allowed to lapse over fifteen years ago. Since then we have lost the opportunity to train apprentices in many of the trades required in the industry. We suffered on that account during World War II. When the Curtin Labour Government took office in 1941, it had to solve a vast man-power problem by transferring unskilled men from non-essential industries to skilled trades. We had only half of the number of men needed for industries that were essential to the prosecution of our war effort. Dilutee labour had to be introduced into the engineering trades particularly. There was a deficiency of skilled labour in engineering callings because of the industrial stagnation before the war when thousands of men were unemployed, and employers were not engaging apprentices. When the wartime call for greatly expanded production came, engineering workshops lacked sufficient skilled labour, and process workers had to be introduced to carry out various branches of the engineering trades. This system was not always satisfactory to the employer or to the job. I am confident that Labour will remain in office for many years to come and, as a consequence, full employment will continue. Employment creates employment. We do not want a repetition of happenings after the first World War when we found unemployment creating further unemployment. I trust that the Government will continue its interest in the shipbuilding industry because the building of ships involves many trades and the opportunities for apprentices will be extensive. Establishment of a shipbuilding industry on a sound basis will eliminate the necessity in future years to import trained artisans from overseas. At present, shipbuilding is at a low ebb throughout the world, and we cannot hope for many trained shipwrights amongst our immigrants. Great Britain, one of our few sources of shipbuilding tradesmen, cannot be relied upon for this labour because the British Government will not encourage them to leave the Old Country. Therefore, we shall have to train our own men. The conditions that the Commonwealth Government can offer to men in the shipbuilding industry are better than those obtaining in private yards. During the war conditions of employment and amenities in Commonwealthcontrolled industries were far better than those offered by private employers. 1 have no fear of any lack of apprentices in the shipbuilding industry or any other undertakings that the Government may control.

I am fully in accord with the bill, and I trust that it will have the support of all Australian citizens. I cannot understand any thoughtful Australian opposing the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. We have all had experience of the private shipping companies during the war and before the war. Without Commonwealth owned vessels on our coastline to-day, the people of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania would be in a most unfortunate position. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers rendered valuable service to this country during and after World War I. Primary producers particularly benefited, and. I was surprised indeed to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), who is a member of the Australian Country party, opposing the establishment of a new Commonwealth line. Senator O’Sullivan, of course, represents those who would exploit the primary producers and one cannot expect him to support the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. Should Labour have the good fortune, as I believe it will, to continue in office in this Parliament for some years to come, the new Commonwealth line will be established on such a sound footing that no succeeding anti-Labour administration will be willing to sabotage the undertaking as the original Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sabotaged.

Senator TANGNEY:
Western Australia

– I rise to Support this hill because I believe that by building and operating a Commonwealth line of steamers, the Australian Government will be making a worthwhile contribution to the world-wide problem of overtaking the deficiency of shipping caused by war-time losses. The shortage of shipping is not confined to Australia. It is common to every combatant nation of World War IX While I was in England recently, T discussed with representatives of other dominion parliaments the food situation in the United Kingdom, and the South African delegates told us that that Dominion alone could feed the people of Great Britain if sufficient ships were available to carry the food. Travelling across to the Netherlands in Dutch government-owned ships, we found that the great plea was for more shipping. Coming back from France in Frenchowned ships, we heard similar views expressed - more ships not only to carry food to those countries, but also to carry on normal trade. I came back from Great Britain on a cargo ship owned by one of the biggest pastoral companies in Australia. I was rather surprised to find that that company operated its own vessels between Australia, South Africa, South America and England. Surely, if it is right that a big monopoly company, owning or controlling huge pastoral interests in Australia, should have its own line of ships to carry its produce abroad, it is also right that the Commonwealth of Australia, which is, after all, the people of Australia, should own its own ships also to assist in the development of this vast continent.

The claim has been made by members of the Opposition that this measure is the thin end of the wedge, and that the next step will be the socialization of shipping. That has been categorically denied by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who has outlined the three main purposes of the bill. First, and foremost, its object is to provide for the maintenance of Australia’s mercantile marine. That is most essential, and I shall deal with that matter in more detail later in my speech. The second objective is to provide for the maintenance of our shipbuilding yards. That too, as other honorable senators have already pointed out, is most necessary. When there was a slump in the shipbuilding industry years ago, skilled labour was diverted from shipbuilding to other undertakings, and when the war emergency arose the Government of this country was confronted with the enormous task of finding sufficient skilled labour to carry out its vital shipbuilding programme at a rate consistent with a full defence effort. The third object of the bill is to provide Australia with a Commonwealth shipping line. This, of course, will not be the first Commonwealth shipping venture, as has been mentioned frequently in the course of this debate. The original Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was a profitmaking venture for a long time, but it was eventually sabotaged by an antiLabour government. The people of this Commonwealth were left the poorer not only because of their loss of a mercantile marine, but because of a deficiency of £400,000 in the payment for the vessels. Years later, in World War II., one of the “ Bay “ liners, / ervis Bay, proved its worth in combat with a German warship in the Atlantic Ocean. It could have proved its worth still more had it remained, with its sister ships, under Commonwealth ownership, and played its full part in the Australian shipping service.

In our discussion of a Commonwealth shipping line we must not lose sight of the fact that we, in Australia, live on an island continent, and that the maintenance of sea power is essential to our continued existence, both physical and economic. In 1939, when World War II. broke out, there were many antiquated vessels in service on the Australian coast. Most of them were more than twenty years old. In 1941, it became the responsibility of a Labour Government to set about rectifying the anomalous position that had arisen through enemy sinkings and lack of foresight on the part of previous governments. In an endeavour to build up the Australian mercantile marine as quickly as possible, shipbuilding yards attempted the maximum production permitted by the shortage of skilled labour which this measure will help to obviate in the future. In 1944, I had the privilege of launching one of the “River” class vessels, River Shoalhaven. I inspected the fine workmanship on that vessel which had been built by Australian workmen. In December, 1948, River Shoalhaven received the Duke of Gloucester shield for being the most efficient unit of the Australian fleet. She received that award in competition with vessels that had been built abroad. The “ River “ ships are most practical for the Australian coastal trade, many aspects of which do not appeal to private companies. Western Australia is particularly dependent upon shipping. At present, because of the lack of transport, there is in that State a scarcity of homebuilding materials, home fittings, and many other commodities produced in the more highly industrialized eastern portions of the Commonwealth. The shortage of interstate shipping creates many domestic problems for Western Australia. Before the war, we had a regular passenger service every week between Western Australia and the eastern States. Some people may wonder at the reason for the feeling amongst Western Australians that they are being neglected. The truth is that their feeling of isolation is greatly magnified by the shortage of shipping between the west and the east. However, Western Australia’s shipping problems are not confined to interstate services. Western Australia itself has a vast coastline and the north-western, nor them, and south-eastern portions of the State depend almost exclusively upon shipping for their development. Opposition speakers have criticized State enterprises, but I remind them that but for the State shipping service of Western Australia, the northwestern and south-eastern portions of that State would not have reached their present stage of development. One of the first effects of the establishment of the State shipping service of Western Australia was a reduction of freights and fares. That is most important when one considers the degree to which fares and freights have been increased in recent years. Before the war, a passage from Australia to England on one of the “ Bay “ liners cost £38. To-day the same service costs £135 sterling. That is an instance of the increase of fares and freights that has occurred. However, in Western Australia the State shipping service has been able to keep its fares and freights down almost to pre-war level, and is providing a service to the people of the north-western parts of that State, apart altogether from the value of that service in transporting freight. In any discussion of a governmentowned instrumentality people are inclined to judge the instrumentality solely on its ability to earn .profits, forgetting that the purpose of a State instrumentality is primarily to provide a service, irrespective of whether profits can be earned. The absence of the profitmaking motive is the reason why the railways of Australia have opened up such vast areas. We do not find private enterprise providing omnibus routes in sparsely populated areas ; and the same consideration applies to the introduction of rail transport in remote areas. In Western Australia the government-owned railways operate, in some instances, lines hundreds of miles in length in which they cannot hope to make a profit. The purpose of their operation is to develop outback areas and to provide service and amenities for the pioneers. Consideration of those facts leads us back to shipping. The establishment of the proposed Commonwealth shipping service will provide goods and services for the people of the north-western part of Western Australia. The delivery of goods and services means life to those people. Ships carry meat, fruit and vegetables, which they could not otherwise obtain. As an illustration of the way in which private enterprise exploited the people in the north-west of Western Australia I need only mention that the residents of Wyndham, which is in the most northern part of the State, who were served by private airlines - which, incidentally, were subsidized by the Government - had to pay 9d. each for oranges. The oranges actually cost 3d., but they had to pay 6d. air freight on each orange. Similarly the air freight on 7£d.-worth of vegetables amounted to 5s. 3d. However, the State shipping service was able to transport freight at a much lower rate, and it even enabled the women and children of the remote north to visit the south for a respite from the harsh tropical conditions and discomforts of what is, in reality, a pioneering settlement. The reduced fares and freights charged by the Government shipping line also resulted in shipping lines, which operate between Australia and places as far away as Singapore, having to reduce their fares and freights between Wyndham and Fremantle. Although it substantially reduced its charges, the Western Australian Government shipping line has not been a financial failure. Not long ago it acquired additional vessels, and a recent survey of the requirements of the State disclosed that Western Australia needed many more such vessels. As Senator Cooke pointed out, the south-eastern portion of Western Australia is also in need of a service similar to that provided for the north west districts. Great difficulty was experienced in obtaining shipping facilities for ports such as Eucla, Ravensthorpe and Esperance. In order to obviate the haulage of goods over unnecessarily long distances, it is essential that small ports, such as those which I have mentioned, shall be utilized. I know that labour senators from Western Australia had a very hard battle to prevail on private shipping companies to call at Esperance to unload goods. In fact, the shipping companies wanted to continue to haul freight another 500 or 600 miles by sea, which resulted in it having to be transported 400 miles by land, before it reached its destination. When the Government, at our request, asked the shipping companies to provide facilities at; Esperance, it was trying to help the goldmining industry, about which a great deal has been said in the House of Representatives. Previously, batteries, machinery and other gold-mining equipment had to be hauled many hundreds of unnecessary miles in order to transport it to Kalgoorlie. We must have more ships, because smaller ships can enter small ports, and experience has proved that small vessels are usually the most economical to operate. What is true of Western Australia is also true of the other States. After all, the Government’s job is not to look after any particular section of the community more than any other section. In the same way, members of the Parliament are supposed to represent, not a mere section of opinion but the community as a whole. The bill intends that a shipping line shall be established to serve the outports. One of the tragedies of Australia to-day is the centralization of shipping at big ports, which has led to the concentration of industries in large cities. The aim of the Government is to improve the national economy by establishing outports that will develop the hinterlands of Australia. Unfortunately, many of Australia’s potential seaports have been sadly neglected in the past.

The measure intends that vessels of standard types shall be constructed. During the war a board was established to deal with all the problems associated with shipbuilding. That board, which is still in existence, has a thorough knowledge of Australia’s shipping requirements. The Government will decide what types of ships shall be built, in which order the ships shall be constructed, and the ports that shall be served and developed. It is important that the proposed Commonwealth vessels shall be used to the greatest advantage, and one of the board’s first tasks will be to ensure that proper use will be made of the ships. Another important feature of the measure is that sea-going licences will not be issued for vessels more than 24 years old. In the comparisons that have been made between the operation of the former Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the line now proposed to be established, one important point which has not so far been mentioned is that the former line was at a serious disadvantage because it had to operate old vessels. The line now proposed to be established will be provided with new, modern ships. Those ships will conform to one or two standard designs, so that repairs and replacements will be effected as expeditiously and cheaply as possible. The new line will not labour under the disability of having to take over some one else’s troubles.

Another important feature of the measure is the Government’s determination that our shipyards shall be kept busy. Even as a means of defence the development of the proposed shipping line is important. Whilst we do not look forward to war, and do not even desire to discuss the possibility of the occurrence of another world war, the clouds on the international horizon warn us that we must be prepared. During my visit abroad with the Australian parliamentary delegation, I had my eyes opened to the fact that all is not well in international affairs. For instance, factories in Belgium are working 24 hour3 a day on the manufacture of armaments. That seemed to me to be a terrible state of affairs. After all the suffering, hardship and waste of World War II. one would not expect to find a country which had been overrun and had felt the full impact of war twice in 25 years preparing for a third world war. Of course, we must be realistic in our outlook. It is all very well for us to cherish ideals, but we cannot altogether be idealists in a world of reality. When I saw people working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making armaments, I realized the need for Australia to provide not only for its peace-time development, but also to do something to assist our defence in the event of another emergency arising. It behoves Australia to keep its shipyards busy, so that skilled labour will not be lacking, as it was during* the recent world war, in the event of another war. In 1939 the Cockatoo Island dockyard was the only dockyard in Australia, but when the war ended a number of dockyards were functioning in various States, and many of them were equipped and staffed to carry out most intricate tasks. In Western Australia we are concerned that the small dock which was installed in Fremantle harbour should be retained, although we have received flattering offers for the removal of its equipment. After all, the State of Western Australia occupies one-third of the territory of Australia, and the people of that State regard themselves as guardians of that territory.

When this measure is enacted I trust that the need ‘for decentralization will be kept in mind, so that in each State an army of skilled shipwrights will be available. The critical period through which we passed during the recent world war must have convinced all thinking people of the need to disperse our industries and skilled man-power. In any event, in wartime it is both difficult and dangerous to have to transport artisans and machinery from one part of Australia to another. That is why it is necessary that each State shall have its share of technicians. No State should have monopoly of skilled labour. I trust, therefore, that when the shipbuilding industry is being expanded the industry will be distributed among the States, and that the benefits of the implementation of the Government’s present proposals will not be confined to any particular section or group of the Australian people.

It is noteworthy that the principal opposition to the Government’s proposals to establish its own shipping line and to develop a local shipbuilding industry has come from those who are associated with large companies, including shipping lines. When the Government’s proposals for the nationalization of banking were under consideration, an examination of the intricacies of the banking system revealed that many banks are linked with shipping companies, which are, in turn, associated with air transport, insurance, the pastoral industry and numerous other vested interests. The opposition that has been raised to the Government’s proposals does not come from the “man in the street “ - who is the individual we have in mind when we say that we represent “ the people “ in the Parliament - and it is clear that a challenge has been hurled at the people of Australia concerning their right to provide themselves with the cheapest and most efficient form of transport. As I have said, this measure is important. We must learn the lessons of the past, and I trust that in the future there will not be a repetition of the sabotage experienced by the former Commonwealth shipping line. However, I think that the people are now too wide-awake ever again to entrust the destinies of this country to those who betrayed them. The anti-Labour administration which disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers sold one of the people’s greatest assets, because nothing could be of more value to an island continent than a fleet of merchant steamers. However, the present administration is sincerely endeavouring to remedy the situation created by the sale of our former shipping line, and in doing so it has in mind not only the need to provide for our economic development in time of peace, but also to provide a most valuable form of insurance in the event of war occurring.

In conclusion, I mention the necessity to develop trade with our island neighbours. Quite a number of our ex-servicemen who served in the islands in the war, have pointed out to me the great possibilities of reciprocal trade with the islands to the north and east of Australia. I have in mind particularly a number of young ex-servicemen with mates’ certificates, who have combined to form a small shipping company for the purpose of trading with the islands. Their little company is doing quite well. They have been operat ing for only a few months but they see the possibilities there, and this bill will not 4o anything to stifle them. It is proposed to build up a line of steamers which will be able to carry on that trade, and will be developed on the idea that there will not be any stinting in the building of ships. Proper refrigeration will be provided so that our goods will reach other countries in good condition. With this bill is bound up the possibility of exporting Australian goods properly packed. We shall be sending abroad the best Australian goods in the best Australian ships that the best Australian workmen can produce.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– I compliment Senator Tangney on the excellent address that she has delivered to the Senate. During the course of this debate our lady senators have delivered two very constructive addresses, from different aspects. Last week Senator Rankin, in a speech which must have taken her a long time to prepare, and- which was fairly well presented to the Senate, suggested that the introduction of this bill might well be postponed, and that the time was not yet ripe for its introduction. On the other hand, the lady senator on the government side of the chamber has given very pungent reasons why this measure should be proceeded with immediately. I have been disappointed at the criticism that has been levelled at the bill by the Opposition, and I believe that the Opposition is bereft of any valid argument against the proposal. I was astounded to hear the grounds on which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) opposed this bill. As he is a primary producer, claiming to represent the interests of the primary producers and in view of the experiences of the past, one would have thought that he would be very favorable towards the introduction of this measure, and that as the result of his experiences abroad recently he would have seen the necessity for the introduction of a measure of this kind. Senator O’Sullivan’s chief objection to the measure was based on the possibility of the Communist party obtruding itself. He failed to grapple with the problems associated with the creation of a shipbuilding industry in Australia, the maintenance of the mercantile marine, or the maintenance of an Australian shipping line. I am at a loss to understand what the Communist party has to do with this matter. It appears to me that the technique of the Opposition not only in this chamber but in another place, and of their spokesmen outside of the Parliament, whether it be in the press, on the radio, or elsewhere, is to try to obtrude communism into every piece of legislation that is brought before the Parliament, or, if a matter is not before the Parliament, on some pretext or other to endeavour to obtrude communism into every government activity. A great clamour has been made about what this Government intends to do in regard to communism. “ What are we going to do when this bill becomes law ? “ asked Senator O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– I said that the Government will make a mess of the line.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– And the reason that the honorable senator suggested was the presence of Communists in our industrial organizations.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– That is not so.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– That is what I gathered from the honorable senator’s remarks. If we want to discuss the intrusion of communism into the industries of Australia we should adopt a different attitude altogether. Let us discuss it on its merits, and not intrude it into legislation of this nature. This Government is not responsible for the growth of communism in Australia or in any other part of the world. Communism is not confined exclusively to Australia. I believe that the working conditions which exist in this country and which will be in operation in the various industries’ which this bill proposes to create and foster will be of such a nature that the growth of communism will be slow indeed. If honorable senators of the Opposition were to cast their minds back over history they would have a better understanding of the growth of communism in other countries of the world, and would see that it was because of the bad conditions that exist. When reference is made to the Government fostering shipbuilding in Australia, or doing something with our mercantile marine, whether on the wharfs or on the ships, it is asked “ What is the Government going to do about it ? “ I suggest that those who ask that question should ask themselves what the Government of Russia did in days gone by to stop the growth of communism. What have the governments of other countries of the world done ? It was as a result of the teeming millions of those countries suffering degradation, misery, and starvation, .that it was possible for the communistic idea to develop. I contend that in taking advantage of legislation of this nature to speak about communism the Opposition is not doing itself or its cause any good. The Opposition should co-operate in the building up within Australia of conditions that will make it impossible for this new idea to develop. It is well known that tyrannies, persecutions, and executions have never stopped the growth of communism.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– What about the suggestions made by Mr. Nicol of the Australian Workers Union?

Senator SHEEHAN:

- Mr. Nicol has put forth suggestions of a practical nature. He says that if conditions for the Australian workmen are improved there will be no necessity to exercise the coercion that the Opposition has spoken about.


– Order ! The honorable senator should now confine his remarks to the measure before the Senate.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– As Senator O’Sullivan’s chief contribution to this debate related to communism I thought that at the outset I should deal with that aspect of the matter.


– Order ! The honorable senator was perfectly in order in making passing reference to communism. I can quite see that the matter of developing a Commonwealth shipping line can be related to that particular phase of world political events. However, the honorable senator should now discontinue that line of argument.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– I hope that when this hill reaches another place it can be opposed on more legitimate grounds that have been advanced by the Opposition in the Senate. The measure has three objectives which are most important to Australia. In the second.reading speech that was delivered by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), very important reasons were :given for its introduction. In order to anticipate the usual objections that are levelled by the Opposition, the Minister very early in his remarks reviewed the position in the world at large and dealt with those interests which were opposed to the nationalization of banking of which Senator Tangney has spoken. He explained that it was not proposed to nationalize shipping, but that it was intended that the proposed shipping line would merely compete with existing lines, and that should any other shipping line or combination of financial interests decide to operate a shipping line in Australia, the road would be open for them to do so. I consider that the first objective of the bill, the maintenance of the Australian mercantile marine, is most important. Unfortunately our friends of the Opposition, and those who are generally opposed to Labour legislation, never seem to learn as the result of their experiences. They continue to oppose progress and new ideas, and stick to the old methods though they have been proved to be outworn, outmoded, and useless. Our opponents were in control of the treasury bench of this country for many years following World War I. When World War II. broke out we found that the same old opposition existed in Australia. Nothing new had been prepared despite the fact that for years there had been people in this country, not all associated with the Labour movement, who had pleaded with the then existing governments to do something in regard to shipbuilding. I recall that the Australian Industries Protection League, which had its head-quarters at Melbourne, was very active in advocating the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. The president of that body was Mr. T. S. Nettlefold who later became Lord Mayor of Melbourne. He was not a Labour supporter, or sympathizer. In fact, from time to time it was mentioned that he was a likely candidate for the anti-Labour parties for parliamentary honours. The secretary of the organization was Mr.

Hume Cook. For years it pleaded with anti-Labour governments to establish the shipbuilding industry in Australia. It had three main objectives: First, the establishment of a dockyard on Singapore lines to be erected at Darwin or some other point along the Australian coast approved by the Australian naval authorities; secondly, the setting up of the shipbuilding industry in Australia either directly by the government of the day or by the government subsidizing private firms for that purpose; and, thirdly, the provision of shipping facilities for trade between the States and between Australia and adjacent territories. A pamphlet which the organization issued some time ago makes very interesting reading, particularly when one peruses the letters which passed between the organization and the Lyons Government, which was in office just before the outbreak of the last war. In all of that Government’s replies one senses the spirit of procrastination. The Government was putting off the making of a decision. No encouragement was given to that organization to hope that in the near future Australia would undertake this important work. The replies received were of the stereotype kind. At one time the responsible Minister was the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and, later, ex-Senator McLeay. No doubt, Mr. President, you and other honorable senators who were members of the Senate just prior to the outbreak of the last war will, recall that when Labour senators suggested that shipbuilding should be undertaken in Australia the reply we received from the government of the day was that it was impossible to undertake such a project in this country. I remember pointing out to ex-Senator McLeay, who was then the Minister dealing with the matter, that in my home town of Castlemaine, the engineering firm of Thompson and Company had been able during World War I. and for some period afterwards, to construct marine engines in their foundries. I urged that that firm should continue to carry out that work and that similar work should be undertaken in foundries in many other centres in Australia. The only response we received to such representation was an attitude of procrastination. The Government took the view that everything would be all right notwithstanding the fact that at that time Hitler was on the march and we were trembling on the brink of the greatest catastrophe that the world has ever known. The view taken by the antiLabour government of the day was that nothing was likely to happen in Australia, that we would be all right should war break out and that it would be confined to other parts of the world. The result was that when at last the blow did descend upon this country our mercantile marine was practically out of date. When the strain of war was placed upon the ships we had available, they were hardly able to limp around our coast, let alone go out and meet our enemies, who possessed the most up-to-date fleets and had been preparing for a number of years in the knowledge that sooner or later they would undertake a certain task. As the result of the procrastination of anti-Labour government during those years we were faced with a deplorable position. Had it not been for the foresight of a previous Labour government, the Fisher Government, in undertaking shipbuilding on a limited scale, our position would have been completely hopeless. Unfortunately, owing to the limitations placed upon the National Parliament by the Constitution, the Fisher Government was practically thwarted in its objectives. Whenever this Parliament asks the people to give to it greater powers in order to make it a more efficient institution and better able to meet the requirements of the people, such requests are stoutly opposed, with the result that in many vital respects this Parliament cannot take steps to meet the requirements of the country. The initiative of the Fisher Labour Government when it endeavoured to construct naval dockyards was thwarted by a ruling of the High Court. However, despite those limitations that Government provided a nucleus of an industry which enabled us to do something in the early stages of the recent war but not to anything like the degree we should have reached had we been able to develop our programmes as we desired.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had drawn attention to the fact that nothing had been done to establish dockyards or a shipbuilding industry in Australia except during the regime of the Fisher Labour Government. I had reminded honorable senators that the Cockatoo Dockyard in Sydney had been prevented, .by a decision of the High Court, from engaging in the construction of ships for private interests. I am pleased to know that, as a result of arrangements made in recent years, it is now possible for government instrumentalities, such as those for which this bill provides, to render service to the Australian community by building ships. The first objective of the measure, the maintenance of an Australian mercantile marine, is really a part of our defence policy. Honorable senators will recall that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) drew attention during his second-reading speech to the unhappy position of Australia at the outbreak of World War II. By virtue of the office that he held during the war, the Minister was able to speak with authority on that subject and to advance strong reasons why we should proceed with the plan for which the bill provides. He told us that at the outbreak of war the Australian coastal fleet was scarcely adequate for the task that it was later called upon to undertake. That was no reflection upon the men who manned the ships or upon the Australian shipping companies, although the companies had been shortsighted, as their failure to maintain their fleets in a .modern condition and to support the Australian shipbuilding industry proved. The Minister said that the 9tate of the fleet at the outbreak of war was, to some degree, the outcome of the depression years of the early ‘thirties, a state of affairs that the Labour Government will not permit to recur. In 1939, of a total fleet of about 225 vessels of approximately 450,000 gross tons, no fewer than 82 vessels of 107,000 gross tons were more than twenty years old. An additional fifty vessels, totalling 102,000 gross tons, were from sixteen to twenty years old. Thus, assuming the average age of a ship to be twenty years, almost half of the fleet was approaching or had already passed its normal span of useful life. That was a shocking situation for a nation that depends upon shipping so much as Australia does. What did the Labour Government do to rectify that position? It bad to draw upon that almost obsolete fleet for the purpose of providing many of the nation’s defence requirements. Many of the vessels were used as trawlers or troop carriers. Others were converted to hospital ships.

It is a remarkable fact that Labour governments seem to take more interest in consolidating the defences of Australia than do governments of any other political colour. I have already mentioned the Sydney dock. 1 now ask honorable senators to cast their minds back to the first steps that were taken by a Labour government to provide for the adequate defence of Australia.


– By ab compulsory military training!

Senator SHEEHAN:

– The point is that, whether training was compulsory or not, the Fisher Labour Government ensured that the men who were called to the colours had adequate material to enable them to form an efficient fighting force. When that Government decided to establish a navy, it did not attack the problem half-heartedly and say, “We cannot do this, and we cannot do that “. It did everything possible to create a highly efficient service. It undertook the building of warships of the “River” class. It is a coincidence that during this debate we have discussed the building of “ River “ class commercial ships. When the late Mr. Fisher spoke about warships of the “ River “ class, his opponents were so ignorant of the subject that they believed that the vessels were intended to operate on the rivers of Australia. Some of those wise men complained that there were no rivers in Australia large enough to carry the ships. That showed how little the anti-Labour parties knew or cared about the defence requirements of Australia in those days. In providing an efficient navy, the Fisher Government decided that its officers should be trained in Australia, and so it established a naval college. It also decided to form an army and, just as this Government has provided for everything necessary for the operation of an efficient commercial fleet, so in those days efficiency was the keyword of the Fisher Government. It decided that an army would be useless unless munitions and equipment for it could be produced in Australia. Therefore it established the small arms factory at Lithgow and munitions factories in Victoria. Horses were used in warfare in those days, and so a remount depot was established. In order that the horses could be properly harnessed, a harness factory was put into operation, as well as a clothing factory to clothe the troops. That Labour Government displayed efficiency in every sphere of its activities. Unfortunately, the anti-Labour governments which held office between the two world wars neglected opportunities to maintain the nucleus of the defence system that had been created by the Fisher Government. We do not want that to happen again.

Australia is practically isolated from the rest of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Not knowing what the next 25 years will bring and what assaults may be made upon this country, we cannot defer the establishment of a shipbuilding industry, as suggested by Senator Rankin and other members of the Opposition. The job must be undertaken now. We must be prepared for the future. This bill provides that we shall have an adequate merchant fleet. No longer will there be vessels long past efficiency on Australia’s coasts should danger overtake us. Ships will be built on the most modern lines. They will be fast vessels able to travel with speed and safety. Many honorable senators will recall the condition of the British mercantile marine during World War I. I mention that because of the suggestion that has been made that shipbuilding should be left in the hands of private enterprise. I recall the tragedies that occurred as a result of the use of old vessels during World War I. Mr. Bonar Law, who was a shipping company director, refused to accept some of the insurance payments that became due to his company as the result of losses of ships. That situation was a result of the inefficiency of private enterprise. With the government controlling its own mercantile marine, when a vessel is required to go to a certain port, it can be sent to that port, whereas with shipping under private control, shipping companies are much more concerned with carrying payfreights than with doing a job on behalf of the government and the nation. Private companies send their vessels where they will earn the most money. This applies particularly to the development of the various islands around Australia. We speak of the wonderful potentialities of this country. We express the hope that the population of Australia will, in the not too distant future, be increased from its present figure of 8,000,000 to 20,000,000. In view of the most efficient manner in which this Government is implementing its immigration policy, I have no doubt that our population will reach 20,000,000 before very many years have passed. We are planning the expansion of existing irrigation schemes and the establishment of new ones. We are clamouring for greater production. All this will mean an increase of our export trade, and vessels will be required to take our goods to overseas markets. It may be that we shall seek new markets. At present the establishment of new shipping services for this purpose may not be a paying proposition, and therefore any such proposal would be rejected by the private shipping companies. However, with a Commonwealth-owned marine service profits will not be the main consideration. Instead, the main consideration will be the development of trade, and therefore new commercial ventures which will be a benefit to this country as a whole will be embarked upon. With the development of Australian shipbuilding yards, new, efficient vessels will be made available for service with the Commonwealth fleet, and it will be possible to expand trade for the benefit of the community generally.

I listened attentively to Opposition speakers in this debate. They spoke of the alleged failure of the original Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and something was said about government instrumentalities being unable to earn profits. It is most remarkable that an honorable senator who claims to represent the primary industries of this country should speak of the need for the profit motive in government instrumentalities. I asked by inter- jection in the course of a speech.’ by one Opposition member, whether heknew of a railway service in this country that paid. I should like to see honorablesenators opposite going out into thecountry districts of Australia and suggesting to the primary producers that becausethe railways do not pay, they should besold to private enterprise, or that thegovernments which at present control! them should increase freights and faresso that a profit could be shown. Railwayswhich are fulfilling the purpose for whichthey were built cannot be expected tcmake a profit. In Victoria, many hundreds of miles of railways at present serving the back country would never havebeen built had their construction beenleft to private enterprise. It is not possible to measure in pounds, shillingsand pence the value to a nation of itstransport system, the great service that it renders to the community, the assistancethat it gives in the development of tradeand commerce, or the prosperity that it brings to the people generally.

It is true that we had a Commonwealth mercantile marine operating in thiscountry years ago. It was started in 1916 with fifteen second-hand steamersWorld War I. was in progress, and theRight Honorable W. M. Hughes wasPrime Minister. In those days, of course,, the right honorable gentleman had someLabour sentiments. He knew the valueof a State-owned mercantile marine at a time of national peril. He purchased the ships in a hurry, and they served the purpose. By 1923, the Commonwealth had 50 ships in commission. The Opposition claims that the undertaking was a failure, but again consideration must begiven to the value of the service that the vessels rendered to the community. I have before me a report on the finding of the Public Accounts Committee, which, in 1927, was charged with the task of investigating Commonwealth shipping activities and the Cockatoo Island dockyard. It is true that a majority of members of the committee eventually recommended the disposal of the ships, but a minority recommended their retention, and even those who favoured selling the vessels had to admit their great importance, and the magnificent part that they had played during the critical period of World War I. The report states -

Consideration of the benefits and disabilities of the Commonwealth line resulted in a division of the committee, a majority of the committee favouring its disposal. However, the majority recommendations were tempered with a clear recognition o£ the benefits of the line, causing it to recommend, on pages 10-20 of the report, that a company be formed which “ might well be called a co-operative venture to take over the remaining Commonwealthowned ships.

A co-operative venture ! A majority of members of the committee recommended the disposal of the vessels, but they said, in effect, “ Let us get together and make this undertaking a co-operative venture “. They did not suggest that the line be handed over to private enterprise. The report continues -

This recommendation envisaged the full support of the Chamber of Manufactures and the Commonwealth Government, the company to run the vessels in a manner designed to preserve for the nation the national and economic benefits of the Commonwealth line.

That, in my opinion, is justification for a Commonwealth-owned shipping line. The recommendation envisaged the full support of the Chamber of Manufactures in this country, clearly demonstrating the value of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. There were further benefits also to which the committee referred. The report also states -

Incepted during the war years, the fleet of ships was of considerable value in enabling war-time shipping tasks to be performed. The establishment of the line brought into being an organization facilitating the utilization “of the output of Australian shipbuilding yards, an industrial venture found necessary in the interests of defence in both the first and second world wars. In the immediate post-war years the Commonwealth lino enabled Australian exporters to get goods to overseas markets in time of severe shipping shortage.

That is the very point we are arguing to-night. We claim that by passing this measure, and establishing a Commonwealth shipping line, we shall be ensuring the carriage of our goods to overseas markets at a time of severe shipping shortage. The report further states -

A high standard of efficient handling of cargoes was noted by the Committee which found the Line an efficient and popular service. The modern fleet compelled a general uplifting of shipping standards. By providing re frigerated chambers in its ships, it encouraged’ and rendered possible successful marketing overseas of Australian soft and citrus fruits,, and other refrigerated cargoes.

I hope that those who advocate the extension of fruit-growing in the irrigation) areas will not forget that as the result of the operations of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers it was possible to develop the fruit export tradewhich is now of such great value to theCommonwealth and those engaged in it.

The report continues -

The presence of the Line exerted considerableinfluence in restraining increases in freights,, a reduction of 10s. per ton in freight ratesbeing estimated to have saved £2,000,000 per annum, in Australian freight charges. The importance of the freight controlling valueof the Line was especially commented upon, in the Minority Report, the saving to Australian primary producers being especiallynoted.

It has always been the aim of the party whose members comprised the minority of the Public Accounts Committee at thetime of its report, to help the primaryproducers of this country to derive areasonable return for the labour that: they apply to their industry. On theother hand, the parties whose membersmade the majority report render only lip-service to the primary producers of this country. The primary producersshould remember those things. The report from which I have already quoted’ further states -

The competition of the Line compelled: healthy modern efficient standards of shipping and shipping services.

Senator COOPER:

– How could the few Commonwealth-owned ships have carried all the goods that the honorable senatorhas mentioned?

Senator SHEEHAN:

– When theLeader of the Opposition (SenatorCooper) made his speech last week I could see that his arguments were notbased on very sound premises. The point. I am making is that by reducing freight, rates the Australian Commonwealth Lineof Steamers compelled its competitors todo likewise.

Senator COOPER:

– How could it havedone that? The Commonwealth shipscould not possibly have carried all thefreight that was operating.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– That did not matter. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was a competitor in the field and well the private companies knew it. So they plotted its destruction. They opened a campaign of abuse against the Commonwealth line in the newspapers. They ridiculed its efficiency.

Senator O’BYRNE:

– Just as they have done with Trans-Australia Airlines.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– Exactly. They perceived in those instrumentalities strong competition which would menace the stranglehold that they had on the transportation of this country.

Senator COOPER:

– Did TransAustralia Airlines reduce, or increase freights and fares?

Senator SHEEHAN:

– It compelled the private airlines to provide every passenger carried with life assurance. Let me turn to another aspect of the report, because the passage which I am about to quote adequately disposes of the criticism of the proposal which I anticipate will be made. The report states -

The major factors and disabilities which contributed to the disposal of the Line were, found as follows. Up to 1923. the net profits of the Line were £2,300,000. After that date losses set in due to increasing competition from surplus overseas tonnage. The Commonwealth ships stood at an abnormally high valuation on the books.

The explanation of the “ high valuation “ referred to is that the vessels were purchased in all the haste of war-time, which means that the line was over-capitalized. Furthermore, the line was expected to return dividends right from its inception.

I propose to say something now with regard to the industrial disputes which occurred during the period of the line’s operation. It is true that the operation of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was impaired by the occurrence of industrial disputes, but critics of Labour do not mention that the operations of the shipping companies were similarly disorganized. And, of course, every industrial dispute in which the line happened to be involved was attributed to the maritime unions, just as every industrial dispute that occurs to-day is featured by the press as some abnormal occurrence due entirely to the trades unions. The plain fact is that ever since man began his upward climb disputes have occurred between those who have, on the one hand, and those who have not, on the other. It is probably because of the disputes that have occurred that progress has been made. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was involved in the general maritime disturbance which resulted from the efforts of British seamen to improve their conditions - an improvement which was long overdue. However, even that dispute did not seriously interfere with the efficient operation of the line.

Something has been said about the effect on shipping companies of the economies that had to be effected in the Commonwealth shipping line, but I invite honorable senators to consider the conditions of employment of the crews that were employed on the vessels operated by that line’s competitors. Coolie labour was the order of the day. The unfortunate crews worked for a mere pittance. They were accommodated in surroundings such as even honorable senators opposite would not inflict upon their dogs, because, in fairness to honorable senators opposite, 1 believe that they believe in providing decently for faithful friends. Press criticism also played its part in destroying the Commonwealth shipping line. The press, as ever, sought to serve private interests. With regard to the ultimate disposal of the line, I point out that although it is said to have been sold, the fact is that it was not sold - it was given away; and Australia is still waiting for the company which purchased it to pay the price. Undoubtedly, the shipping situation on the Australian coast to-day eminently justifies the entry of a free competitor. Australia needs it.

The measure unfolds a complete plan for the development of a great maritime industry in this country. As one honorable senator pointed out, the establishment of an adequate mercantile marine is a necessity for any island continent. The development of this country is largely dependent upon ships, and our future is largely interwoven with the expansion of our sea commerce. We cannot hope for any real development of our industries, which are based on the overseas demand for our produce, unless we have shipping to transport that produce to the markets of the world. I realize, of course, that the implementation of all the Government’s intentions, as set out in the measure, will require some time; but I say in all seriousness, “ Let us get on with the job ; let us plan for the future. Let us plan not only for the development of Australia, but also for the security of this great country.” To any student of events it is evident that we can hope to achieve national development and security only by the implementation of the principles which Labour has so consistently advanced over the years. This measure is in keeping with those principles, and I am confident that its implementation will result in the creation of a shipping line and a shipbuilding industry that will prove worthy of Australia.

“Western Australia

– I vividly recall that at the last elections, and also at the preceding elections, I campaigned for the return to office of a Labour administration on the ground that Labour stood for progress. In the light of the achievements of Labour since it assumed office in 1941, no one can deny that it has fulfilled its election promises. The present proposal is in line with Labour’s progressive policy.

  1. admit at the outset that the present measure may increase the demand on skilled labour that is at present being made by the housing programme, but it is important that the people should realize that shipping is vital to Australia. The shortage of ships is nearly as acute as is the shortage of houses. The State of Western Australia, which I represent, has been endowed, at Yampi Sound, with substantial deposits of iron ore. The development of those deposits has proceeded by leaps and bounds, and I trust that before long Western Australia will embark on the production of steel. The introduction of the present measure affords particular pleasure to me because I recall that when I was a boy in Queensland, vessels of 200 and 300 tons were built at Kangaroo Point and operated around Manly and ether places. Western Australia has also built a number of steam vessels, which provo3 that it has scope for the development of that industry. This afternoon four rep resentatives in this chamber of Western Australia have advanced reasons why the people of Western Australia would benefit from the introduction of another shipping line, and I endorse their remarks, seaports such as Esperance, Bunbury, Geraldton and Albany badly need development. Prior to the present Parliament, Senator Nash and I endeavoured to persuade the Government to arrange for vessels to call at Esperance to unload cargo for the gold-fields. Although, unfortunately, our representations were not entirely successful at the time, I am convinced that they served a useful purpose. I was present at Esperance when the shipping pier was built That construction was undertaken because the gold-fields had no direct outlet. It was also hoped that the establishment of shipping facilities at that port would develop some remarkably good country in the hinterland.

Considering the measure from a national point of view, I can assure the people of Australia that they have nothing to fear from its enactment. I think that should be evident from the secondreading speech made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who introduced the measure. In the course of his speech the Minister stated -

The Commonwealth line which it is now .proposed to establish will not experience disadvantages similar to those with which the previous line was confronted. The Australian Shipping Board and its predecessor, the Shipping Control Board, have during the war been responsible for the control of all Australian shipping and for the operation of the vessels owned and chartered by the Commonwealth. During this period an experienced organization has been developed which will be in a position to undertake readily the operation of the Commonwealth line. The lino will not be equipped with old and out-of-date vessels but with new ships suitable for the trades *n which they are to operate, subject to the reservation that for some time it will be necessary to continue to operate overseas vessels on the coast. It is intended that at the outset the line will operate in the Australian coastal trade and in the islands trade.

The Minister went on to say -

The Government is confident that, with freights at an economic level, the operation of the board will not, result in financial losses.

That is fair enough, and it indicates that primary producers will be given a chance to have their produce carried intra-state and interstate at reasonable rates. Furthermore, it is an assurance that the proposed line will not incur financial losses. The Minister continued -

A further point is that the Australian Shipping Board is operating vessels in what might he termed “ developmental routes “ and to ports which are not served, or are not .adequately served, by the vessels owned by the private companies, owing to the fact that the cargoes available are not sufficient to enable ships to call there on a profitable basis.

The Minister’s statement emphasizes sufficiently the point that I desire to make, and it is to be hoped that the establishment of the proposed line will encourage the shipping companies to provide such a service.

Another matter mentioned in the course of the debate is that substantial docks have been built in various parts of Australia. That is something the importance of which should not be overlooked. A fine dock has been built in Queensland, and it is one of which the Queensland people should be proud. That dock can accommodate the largest vessel to enter Australian waters. However, I regret that the proposal to construct a naval dockyard in Western Australia has not yet been implemented.

Senator Cooper:

– With a change of government the State of Western Australia might still obtain a naval dockyard.


– A change of government ! The reason why that State has not a naval dockyard now is that antiLabour governments were in office at the time when the Henderson Naval Base should have been constructed. However, now that Labour is in office we have a chance. Indeed, the former Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, did his best to provide a navalbase in Western Australia. I draw particular attention to the number of vessels that have been constructed by the Government since Labour has been in office. I have before me particulars relating to the construction of major naval units launched between October, 1941, and 1949. Altogether 196 miscellaneous craft, including tugs, general purposes vessels. Fairmiles, fast supply boats, and oil fuel lighters were launched. I point out that that has been achieved since this Government assumed office. In addition four destroyers have been launched during that period, which is a credit to Australia. Those vessels are almost as large as cruisers. In that .period, also, 35 corvettes were launched. Many of those were built by the Brisbane firm of Watts and Wright. As honorable senators are aware corvettes performed yeomen service during the war period. No less than twelve frigates were also launched during the same period. I contend that the launching of 247 naval vessels during the period mentioned is a wonderful Australian achievement. Those vessels were built entirely in Australia. In bygone days no one could have expected that they would be built in this country. I recall the time when it was permissible for vessels up to only a specified tonnage to be built here. In those days craft of a larger tonnage than that specified had to be bought overseas. I have never been to Whyalla, but I believe that the shipbuilding yards there are of a very high order.

Senator Cooper:

– That is because they are run by private enterprise.


– I understand that Iron Yampi is to be built there shortly. Whilst in the early days of shipbuilding in Australia we did not have the skilled men to carry out the work, such labour is now available. When I was in Brisbane with a parliamentary delegation a little while ago, I saw the keels of two ships that were about to be constructed. Although I did not witness a launching whilst I was there, it was indeed pleasing to me to see the men employed in the shipyard working conscientiously in the interests of the Australian people. Honorable senators will be interested also in the following particulars relating to the construction of vessels other than naval vessels in Australia during the same period. They are as follows: -

These vessels are under construction by “various firms in Australia.

Honorable senators will see that 53 of such vessels have been completed, or .are under construction, or on order. They comprise vessels which are coalfired, oil-fired, and diesel-engined, and comprise general cargo, cargo-passengers, and cattle-cargo types. It is an achievement of which we should all be proud that between 1941 and 1949, a total of 300 vessels have been built, or are in course of construction. Australia has nothing to fear if that rate of progress is maintained. Senator Murray suggested that tankers also should be built in Australia, because oil may be struck at any time and that type of craft would then be needed

Senator Murray:

– Oil has already been struck in New Guinea.


– Pending the necessity to use tankers for the conveyance of oil won in Australia, they could bp utilized to bring oil to this country from overseas, and thus relieve the acute shortage of petrol in this country. As a result of the establishment of the proposed shipping line our primary producers need have no fear that shipping will not be available when required to convey their produce overseas.

I again stress the necessity for the building of a fairly large dock at Fremantle. As honorable senators are aware, during the war period ships were repaired in various docks in this country. I remember seeing a vessel which “had been badly bombed tie up at Fremantle, and although it was not possible to dock the ship, sufficient repairs were carried out expeditiously to enable the vessel to put to sea again. I emphasize .that we now have the men, the material, and suitable sites at which docks could be constructed. We have all of the facilities that are required to build ships in Australia. I wish this bill the best that can be wished for the benefit of the Australian people, because I know that in time to come larger types of vessels will be built for the passenger trade and it will then be possible for people to travel by sea at rates cheaper than those that are at present charged by the private shipping lines.

Senator NASH (Western Australia) [8.53 1 . - The preamble to this bill points out that the Commonwealth has power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, and to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extending to navigation and shipping, and that it is desirable in the interests of the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and the several States to establish the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry in Australia on an adequate scale and to maintain those industries in continuous operation. In that preamble no constitutional difficulties seem to be involved. There does not appear to me to be any indication of a desire on the part of this Government to nationalize other shipping services or the shipbuilding industry in this country. It is perhaps only natural to anticipate that there will be in this chamber, as usual, opposition to this proposed legislation. I except a deal of opposition to this measure from various sources. In the main the forces which will be opposed to it are those that we term vested interests. It is a remarkable phase of our parliamentary life that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), who is a member of the Australian Country party, should not aline himself with the interests of the primary producers whom he is supposed to represent in this chamber, and who are so vitally concerned with the accomplishment of the objectives of this measure. From the mass of the people of Australia I do not expect that there will be much opposition to this legislation. I believe that were it not for high-pressure political propaganda in which the words “ socialization “ “ nationalization “ “ communism “ and so forth will be. emphasized, the people would not be unduly concerned because of the introduction of this measure by the Government. Its purpose is to bring about the stabilization of shipbuilding in Australia and to make provision for shipping service to meet the requirements of passengers and goods transport between this and overseas countries and also between various parts of Australia and the adjacent islands. The preamble to the bill sets out in >i very few words the whole intention of the Government in introducing this legislation I draw attention to clause 15 2 which reads -

Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of ,a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.

I consider that this is a very important clause. Senator Clothier and I have repeatedly advocated the necessity for the provision of a shipping service to Esperance in “Western Australia. We have been successful to the degree that there is now operating a three-monthly service to the port, but that service is not sufficient; a more frequent service is necessary. The privately run shipping company which is providing the service to Esperance will send a vessel there only when a minimum cargo of 800 tons of cargo is guaranteed. Although that is not a large amount of cargo it must be remembered that Esperance is the natural port for the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, and it also serves a large area of the adjacent country. Esperance is approximately 300 miles by rail from Kalgoorlie. J point out that there is a very large population on the Kalgoorlie-Boulder goldfields, and there is also a large scattered population further north. At first glance it may appear that the distribution to those gold-fields of 800 tons of cargo would present no difficulties. But 1 believe that the reason why that tonnage is so difficult to obtain at that particular port is due to the ramifications of private enterprise at Fremantle. Dealers on the gold-field who wish to import goods have been negotiating for transport through various agencies, or companies, in the metropolitan area, and they do not like to break away from the present system of arranging transport for that particular portion of Western Australia. That may be a valid argument for that practice, and, perhaps, other strong reasons may .be advanced for it. What would happen should some one decide to make a change I do not know, but I shall not elaborate on that possibility. The Esperance district comprises an area of over 1,000,000 acres which has an average annual rainfall of from 18 to 26 inches. In view of the provision that I have just cited it appears to me that if private enterprise is not prepared to cater adequately for the Esperance hinterland, there should be no objection to the provision of a government shipping service to the port of Esperance. Sub-clause 1 of clause 15 provides that the board which is to be set up under this measure shall have power -

  1. to establish, maintain, and operate, or to provide for the establishment, maintenance and operation of, shipping services for the carriage of passengers, goods and mails - (i) between a place in a State and a place in another State;

    1. between a place in the Com monwealth and a place in a Territory of the Commonwealth ;
    2. between a place in a Territory of the Commonwealth and a place in the same or another Territory of the Commonwealth;
    3. between a place in the Com monwealth and a place in another country; and
  2. between a place in a Territory of the Commonwealth and a place in another country;

Bearing in mind the needs of the port of Esperance and remembering the provisions I have just read I draw attention to the fact that in Western Australia there has been an agitation for some time to establish what are known as “ outports services “. Bearing in mind sub-clause 2 of clause 15 which provides that a shipping service can be made available by direction of the Minister to a particular area and also remembering the provision that the Board shall have power to establish shipping services for the. carriage of passengers, goods and mails “ between a place in a State and a place in another State”, I should like to know whether the latter provision will preclude vessels of a shipping service established by the Australian Government from calling at “ places “ within a State. My point is that under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government has power to provide interstate shipping services. Thus, it can establish a shipping service from, say, Melbourne, in Victoria, to Fremantle, in Western Australia. But could it establish a service embracing Melbourne to Esperance, Albany, Busselton Bunbury and Fremantle ?

Senator Lamp:

– The Australian Government has power under the Constitution to provide such a service.

Senator NASH:

– Bearing in mind the differentiation observed in the Constitution between interstate and intra-state trade, the words I have quoted give rise to some doubt. For instance, dealing with air services, I understand that TransAustralia Airlines is providing certain services as the result of an agreement between the Australian and Queensland Governments. If such a condition applies in respect of services being provided within a State by Trans-Australia Airlines, which is a Commonwealth instrumentality, will the Australian Government be similarly restricted in establishing shipping services under this measure?

Senator Lamp:

– No.

Senator NASH:

– Whilst Senator Lamp may be satisfied on that point, I apprehend the possibility of a constitutional difficulty arising should the Minister desire to provide a shipping service not only “between a place in a State and a place in another State “, but also between a place in one State and “places” in another State. I should like the Minister to clarify that point. Should my fears be well founded, I suggest that if it is possible to overcome the difficulty I have mentioned, the measure should be amended accordingly to ensure that the provision of sub-clause 2 of clause 15 to which I have already referred shall be effective. My fears on this point may not be well founded, but it is better that t-ie Government lock the stable door before the horse has gone.

The great south-west of Western Australia, which is served by the ports of Albany, Esperance, Bunbury and Busselton is capable of absorbing 1,000,000 people. To-day we are crying out for more population. This measure will help us to accelerate migration to Australia if it can be implemented expeditiously. It can prove of much benefit to that portion of Western Australia which produces timber, wheat, wool, dairy products and fruit and is regarded as the garden of Western Australia. It is a large productive district, and I am pleased to know that portion of it is being utilized for the settlement of ex-service personnel.

This measure has been the subject of much criticism. But why has it been introduced? It cannot be said that the Government has introduced it merely because of some fetish. It has been said during this debate that since the Labour Government assumed office in 1941 it ha* enacted much legislation of great benefit to the people. This measure cornea within that category. Of course, some people will not like it. However, we know that under National Security legislation passed during the war, the government of the day enacted shipping co-ordination regulations, under which it set up the Australian Shipping Board to meet Anatralia’s shipping requirements. The reason for that decision is not difficult to find. We know that in 1924 shipbuilding in Australia was practically non-existent. At that time we relied solely upon private enterprise to provide adequate shipping facilities, but twelve months after the outbreak of the last war we found that practically no shipbuilding was being carried on in this country, although naval ship construction was taking place at Cockatoo Island dockyard. In Western Australia and some other States shipbuilding as it was carried on at that time was practically confined to repair work. Consequently, when a heavy toll was taken of British shipping, particularly during the early stages of the last war. Australia had to sit up and take notice. We then wondered where we would obtain the ships necessary to enable us to prosecute our war effort. It was for that reason that the Government of the day, under the late John Curtin, established the Australian Shipping Board. That board has accomplished a wonderful job in this country. Since it was established, seven years ago, it has constructed and commissioned 25 ships totalling 154,000 tons. That is no mean accomplishment for a country which had practically lost the art of shipbuilding. In Australia at that time it was difficult to find a shipwright, because previously no employment was available for such artisans. Of those 25 vessels, thirteen were of 9,000 tons, two of 6,500 tons and eight of 3,500 tons. During the war 12,160 merchant vessels totalling more than 53,000,000 tons were repaired. Those facts indicate that shipbuilding is now an important part of Australia’s economy. It must continue to be so irrespective of the political character of future governments. We must make it impossible now for anybody to interfere, with the progress and the development of the industry, because it is of the utmost importance to the nation. It has already been pointed out that many other industries are brought into operation by the shipbuilding industry. Every ship, particularly if it be a passenger vessel designed to provide comfort for the people whom it will carry, requires a wide variety of furnishings, fittings and accessories. As far as I can gather, th& services of all existing trades ar6 involved in the construction of a ship.

Senator Murray:

– Shipbuilding authorities point out that there are ten other men working behind each man actually engaged on the construction of a ship.

Senator NASH:

– I do not dispute that. Indeed, when one examines a modern large ship the truth of the assertion is evident. Why should Australia not build ships? What is wrong with the proposition? Would it be better to spend our money in the United Kingdom or in some other country than to build our own ships in Australia ? If we bought vessels in other countries, our money would be spent overseas and the countries where we purchased them would be able to use their own raw materials although we have rich resources in Australia.

An examination, of the history of shipbuilding in Australia discloses that private enterprise has not been prepared to engage in the industry, except to a limited degree. The only organization competent to build ships in Australia economically is the government of the country, which has behind it all of the financial resources of the nation and can ensure that the industry, once established, shall not be driven out of existence by competition of the most unfair kind that is often used by private organizations to destroy competition. I am glad that the bill, whilst dealing with shipping generally, deals specifically with shipbuilding as well by providing that ships must be built in Australia. Do honorable senators opposite want all ships operating in Australian waters to be built in other countries? Do they not desire to ensure that Australian artisans shall be given an opportunity to prove their prowess in the shipbuilding industry? It has been suggested that governments are not able to do any jobsuccessfully and efficiently if it happens to be outside the realm of ordinary government. That is a stupid contention. In order to controvert it, I merely refer to theTransAustralia railway line, operated by the Commonwealth. That line connects Western Australia with the eastern States, ft is 1,100 miles long ; it does not cross a natural river from one end to the other. It runs over arid and useless country. It has no industrial background to support it in a revenue-earning capacity. What private enterprise would have undertaken to build that railway, which provides one of the most important services to the nation, from a strategic point of view, in time of war? When I hear people criticizing government enterprise, I ask the critics what would have happened to Australia if we had had to rely upon private enterprise to develop it since the early days of colonization.

References have been made to the financial losses sustained by government railways services. Those losses are only theoretical, in my opinion. The trouble with government railways in Australia is that they are required to pay too much interest on money that has been borrowed overseas. Western Australia - has a population of a little over 500,000 people.

It has a railway system extending oyer about 4,500 miles. That railway service must operate for approximately nine months of every year in order to pay the interest bill of overseas bondholders. Therein lies the kernel of the trouble that confronts government railways throughout Australia. I know that it is not wise to introduce any extraneous matter when discussing a bill, but I ask for the indulgence of honorable senators on this occasion. The national credit of Australia could be used to finance our railways services and to finance the proposed shipping line. Money could be made available to all governments in Australia to finance essential services for the people at the cost of issuance, not at the high interest rates which we now pay. But should any of us have the temerity to suggest that we should endeavour to discharge the nation’s liabilities by paying overseas bondholders at the Australian face value of their holdings, we are told that Australia would be immediately charged with repudiation. It is wrong to criticize government instrumentalities loosely and to say that no government can conduct any undertaking efficiently .and at a profit. Transport services and other services were used in order to develop Australia. Water, rail and other services have been provided, and now the Government wants to provide a shipping service. Is profit to be the key-note of this proposal? Must any project that is embarked upon by a government be judged only by its profit-earning capacity? Had that test been applied to all government owned and controlled services established by Labour and anti-Labour governments of the past, Australia would still be in the doldrums. Had the job been left to private enterprise, the country would still be fit only to be the home of people not wanted in other countries. As the result of the enterprise and spirit of determination of the people who came to Australia many years ago, no matter why or how they came here, and as the result of their ideas regarding social ownership and the control of public instrumentalities through parliamentary institutions, the country has been able to progress so rapidly that, with a population of only 7,500,000, we have transport services on the land and in the air just as good as those of any other country. They may not be so luxurious in general as the “ crack “ train and ship services of some countries, but they are modern and efficient, nevertheless. As I have pointed out, a Labour government, hampered by the consequences of the lack of vision of previous anti-Labour governments, found it necessary to commence theconstruction of ships for merchant and naval services. Had it not done so, we should not have been able to meet the requirements of total warfare that were thrust upon us. During World War II., ships of the Australian mercantile marine had to he diverted from their norma] channels of service for use as hospital ships, troop-carriers, mine-sweepers, naval auxiliary vessels and supply ships in operation areas. The result was that the normal day-to-day shipping requirements of the Australian people could not be satisfied. Even yet we have not returned to normal. I have heard honorable senators complain time after time that ships cannot be obtained to clear the produce of their States from their ports. In Western Australia, there are continual complaints because badly needed goods cannot be carried to that State owing to the lack of ships. Some people try to blame this Government for that state of affairs. According to them, anything that goes wrong in Australia to-day is the fault of the Commonwealth Government. That is a stock argument that is used in an effort to discredit the Government in the eyes of the people. The tonnage owned by private shipping companies in Australia was greatly depleted during the war. Some vessels were sunk while others, requisitioned for war-time duties, have not yet returned to normal services. I understand that only one, or perhaps two passenger vessels are running to Western Australia at present. There are, of course, cargo vessels, but normal services have by no means been restored in the coastal shipping trade of this country. This bill embraces both interstate and overseas shipping. I am confident that in the absence of a governmentcontrolled shipping line carrying passengers, cargoes and mails overseas, the already high fares and freights charged by private shipping companies would soon be increased further. Therefore, the Government’s proposals set out in this measure represent a substantial step forward. The bill envisages progress, and progress is what this country needs most. Without progress, we shall stagnate.

Obviously, shipping lines are a lucrative business. Previous speakers m this debate have reminded the Senate of the modern tendency for small businesses to be absorbed, and for big businesses to form cartels. Shipping is no exception. Although the overseas vessels operating in the Australian trade ostensibly belong to individual companies, most of these companies are members of a shipping combine, which, because of its strength, can call the tune, and compel the unfortunate Australian public to pay the piper. The Commonwealth shipping line foreshadowed in this measure will at least be able to prevent private companies from exploiting the people of the Commonwealth. I have said that shipping is a lucrative undertaking. I read in the press recently that Orcades which came to Australia a few weeks ago, cost its owners £8,000,000. If a shipping company can afford to expend £8,000,000 on one vessel for the Australian trade, obviously it expects the service to be most lucrative. I do not wish to disparage the shipping company concerned, but obviously it must expect to get its £8,000,000 back somehow, because, after all, private enterprise has only one motive and that is the making of profits. If a person cannot show a profit in private enterprise, he looks for another job. If the operation of a shipping service to Australia is sufficiently lucrative to enable a private company to expend £8,000,000 on one vessel, obviously it is a business in which the Australian Government should be engaged in the interests of the Australian people.

Senator O’Sullivan said that he agreed with the establishment of an Australian mercantile marine, but he opposed the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. He said -

Do not let us have another horrible farce of futile government control.

The honorable senator added that it was impracticable for a government to operate any commercial enterprise successfully. Such observations are mere clap-trap, to use a vulgarism. How does the honorable senator reconcile his views with the success of the Postal Department as a business undertaking? That department is possibly the most extensive business enterprise in this country, and it is under governmental control. Over the years, we have repeatedly seen the sorry spectacle of some of the most brilliant officers of the Australian postal service accepting higher paid positions in private business. I say, therefore, that the Postal Department alone is a sufficient answer to the honorable senator’s criticism. However, I refer him also to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, 51 per cent, of the shares in which are owned by the Commonwealth Government. That organization, too, is recognized as most efficient. It is certainly not running at a loss. In support of his arguments, Senator O’Sullivan claimed that there had been very little government interference with the management of Trans-Australia Airlines. In one breath the honorable senator said that it was impractical for governments to operate commercial enterprises, and in the next he claimed that there had been very little government interference with the management of TransAustralia Airlines.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– But it still lost more than £750,000.

Senator NASH:

– I shall deal with that. The fact is that political interference with government owned and controlled services is forbidden. In most legislation governing such services political domination is specifically prevented. Business enterprises are generally placed in charge of a commissioner, a commission, or a board entirely independent of the government. This bill places responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and control of the proposed Commonwealth shipping line on a board.

Senator WARD:
Minister for External Territories · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– And the Government will appoint the best men available.

Senator NASH:

– Yes. The Government will not use this legislation to provide political plums for hangers - on. It intends to bring to this country the best intellects available for the job so that the most efficent results may be obtained. That is the difference between the board proposed in this bill and that created by the anti-Labour government which disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. That was a hand picked board constituted for a specific job, namely, to give away the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. This legislation is designed to prevent that from happening again, even should a change of Government in the Commonwealth sphere occur, although I believe firmly that the people of Australia will retain a labour administration’ for many years to come in spite of the hopeful aspirations of our political opponents.

Comparing Trans-Australia Airlines with private air-line operators in this country, Senator O’Sullivan claimed that Trans-Australia Airlines did not have to pay taxes and other imposts levied on the private companies. In view of that statement I decided to obtain some information on the subject, and I found that of a total sum of £217,580 due to the Commonwealth for air route charges in unpaid claims rendered to the 31st January, 1949, £185,000 was owed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for charges up to the 31st August, 1948. Obviously, therefore, the private companies are not all paying their just dues.


– not income tax.

Senator NASH:

– Never mind. I am dealing with the comparison thai the honorable senator made. I ascertained also that Trans-Australia Airlines and Q ant as Empire. Airways - both governmentowned airlines - and practically all private airline companies excepting Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, are paying air route charges. Therefore, Trans-Australia Airlines which Senator O’Sullivan criticized, is doing something that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is not doing. It is paying air route charges and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is not. I also found that the approximate cost to the Commonwealth of aerodromes and other air transport facilities throughout Australia is £10,000,000 and that those facilities are available to private airline operators without charge. So, before claiming that Trans-Australia Airlines was in a privileged position because it did not pay taxes senator O’Sullivan should have devoted some attention to the commitments that other airlines are not called upon to meet. In the eight years from 1940 to 1948, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received more than £2,500,000 for the carriage, of airmails. People who seek to cast aspersions upon a government-owned instrumentality should take the beam out of their own eye before trying to cast the mote from the other fellow’s eye.

Quite a lot has been said about the need for increased production, but of what use is it to increase production if the only result will be to increase the profits of the rapacious shipping companies? It is obvious that the establishment of the proposed Commonwealth Shipping line will reduce fares and freights. The primary producers will probably be the principal gainers, because they will save considerable sums in reduced freights. Government instrumentalities, Commonwealth and State, have been mainly responsible for the development of this country, and I repeat that the real function of a government instrumentality is not to earn profits, but to provide a service to the community at the minimum cost. That is the real difference between private enterprise and government enterprise.

During the debate considerable reference was made to the valuable services rendered to the community by private enterprise, and I gathered that members of the Opposition were of the opinion that the present Government is opposed to private enterprise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Labour has nothing against private enterprise, nor, for that matter, has the present Government. What Labour and the present Administration insist upon, however, is that the national interest shall be paramount; and to that end it may be necessary for the Government to own and control certain essential services. The measure does not envisage the appropriation of the private shipping lines, so that the propaganda of the Opposition is quite bogus, and is obviously intended to hood-wink the people.

I am loath to criticize Senator Rankin, but the honorable senator stated, when she first entered this chamber, that she sought no special privileges because of her sex, but wished to be treated exactly as any other honorable senator. I propose to deal with her contribution to this debate on that basis.

The honorable ‘senator stated that the present was not an opportune time to introduce a Commonwealth line of steamships. Of course, in the opinion of our critics, the time for any progressive social reform has never been opportune.


– May I remind the honorable senator that the Premier of South Australia, who leads a Liberal Government, placed the supply of electricity in that State under government control.

Senator NASH:

– That is so, but it is hardly relevant to the shipping industry.


– The point is that the honorable gentleman saw the light. Obviously, he did not altogether believe in private enterprise.

Senator NASH:

– That is quite true. In many instances private enterprise carries on only because of governmental subsidies. Senator Rankin contended that the Government should pay more attention to arresting the increasing costs of living and to preventing the depreciation of the purchasing power of tho community. Of course, such criticism sounds very well, and any one who was ignorant of political realities might imagine that the present Government was not concerned about the increase of the cost of living. However, I remind the honorable senator that in the State of Western Australia, which I represent, the basic wage was increased in the metropolitan area by 3s. 2d. a week to £6 4s. 9d. a week, in the south- wester n district by 3s. Id. to £6 4s. 4d. a week, and in the gold-fields and other parts by 3s. 3d. to £6 12s. 9d. a week. [Extension of time granted.’] Three months previously a record increase of 4s. 2d. a week had to be made in the basic wage for the metropolitan area. On the 11th

February last the basic wage in the metropolitan area of Western Australia increased by 3s. 2d. a week. I mention those facts merely to inquire as to the reason for the increased cost of living complained of by Senator Rankin, and preliminary to disposing of her contention that the present Government is not concerned with the standards of living of the workers. She criticized the introduction of the present measure on the ground that the Government was far more concerned with the establishment of the proposed shipping line than with reducing the costs of living. However, I remind the honorable senator and her colleagues that the political parties to which they belong deliberately embarked on a campaign to persuade the people to vote- “ No “ at the recent referendum on the continuance of control of rents and prices by the Commonwealth. In Western Australia the anti-Labour parties assured the people that if they voted “ No and took away from Canberra - the bureaucratic, power-hungry centre - the powerto control rents and prices everything: would be well. Of course, the sharp increase of the prices of essential commodities that has occurred since the referendum exposes the falsity of the campaign waged by our political opponents.. As I have said, the cost of living has increased in Western Australia by at least 3s. 2d. a week within the last threemonths, and during the preceding three months it increased by 4s 2d. a week,, which was a record increase of the basic wage margin. The implications of thoseincreases are obvious, and unless something is done the cost of living will continue to sky-rocket. Constitutionally, theCommonwealth is apparently powerless tointervene, and the tragedy of the result of the referendum is that the cost of livingmust continue to increase. Every increase of the basic wage results in a worsening of the position of the worker, who is continually chasing the risingcost of living. Only recently I purchased a shirt at a cost of 35s. lid. which I could have purchased for 123. 6d. two or three years ago. Can we blame thepresent Government for that state of affairs? Emphatically not; we must blame the anti-Labour parties, both Commonwealth and State, who used every means at their disposal to persuade the people to vote “ No “ at the referendum. However, the people of Australia, in their wisdom, will recall the advice tendered to them by the Australian Labour party at that referendum. The subsequent course of events has endorsed the soundness of that advice, and I am quite confident that the people of Australia have now had sufficient experience of Labour administration to trust the present Government. For that reason I have no doubt that they will endorse the principles of this measure, which I commend to the Senate.

Senator O’BYRNE:

– The objectives of this measure, which are to establish a Commonwealth shipping line and to develop the shipbuilding industry in this country must commend themselves to the community. During the course of the debate the entire history and ramifications of Australian transportation have been reviewed. That review points conclusively, I suggest, to the need for the establishment of some coordinating authority, particularly in the realm of marine transportation. The Opposition’s attack on the measure has been half-hearted. The members of the Opposition in this chamber, who represent the State of Queensland, obviously realize how greatly that State depends on shipping for the transportation of sugar, which is its principal export, and they know only too well how badly they have been served by the private shipping lines. As a representative of Tasmania, T believe that I speak for the people of that State when I say that we, too, have been badly served by the private shipping companies. Indeed, we are virtually in the grip of a monopoly. Until the establishment of Trans- Australia Airlines our aerial transport also was in the grip of a monopoly. The principal objective of this measure is to establish the shipping industry on proper lines, and for that reason, apart from any other, it must commend itself to the people of Tasmania.

Senator O’Sullivan alleged that the implementation of the Government’s proposals might become yet another unhappy episode in the story of governmental enterprises. However, he did not tell us the other side of the story, which is, that

Australia’s governmental enterpriseswere praised throughout the world for the magnificent service that they rendered to this country during its time of need. I remind honorable senators that a Labour administration was in power during that time. The honorable senator,, when he told us of the governmental enterprises that had failed financially, omitted to mention the part played by privateenterprise in frustrating the efforts of previous governments. One of the greatest evils that confronts us to-day is the desireof some individuals to exploit the community. During the war and since, including the era of rehabilitation and reestablishment, one of Labour’s principal aims has been to encourage a spirit of co-operation amongst responsible people. But wherever we go we hear of an infectious pall of gloom and despondency being spread by the opponents of Labour. They are afraid of change because they represent the forces of reaction. They have basked in the field of privilege for centuries and they are now fighting in the last bastion of the last citadel of privilege to endeavour to frustrate this project. It is a great pity that those who have had the privilege of education and have be«n in contact with people who could supply them with all necessary information in their business and who understand how industry and commerce function should adopt this attitude. Unless we have their co-operation it is extremely difficult for the country to be administered efficiently. When I charge them with pessimism and cynicism towards our Australian way of life I make a grievous charge against them. We should be able to expect all sections of the community to co-operate in the vast work that we have before us in Australia. We must not only strengthen our defences and develop our natural resources, but also establish a population worthy to hold this country, which belongs to all of us. In the name of democracy the Government should get that co-operation, since it represents a majority of the people.

I do not place very much importance on the complaint of the Opposition that this is another chapter in the long and sad story of government enterprise. On the contrary, I think that this Government should be praised for its vision in introducing a measure of this kind into the Parliament so that we can be certain that in the future we shall not be subjected to the whims of people whose only object is the making of profit. The lifelines of our society are our railways and airlines and, above all, our shipping lines. The development of this country should not depend on the whims of private enterprise. The introduction of this measure is a very progressive step, because it provides a definite plan to supplement the present shipping arrangements with our own ships, made by our own artisans and manned by our own seamen.

During the war there was a largescale attack on British shipping by the enemies of the British Empire. As a matter of interest I shall quote figures of British Empire losses during the war. In 1939 the British Empire possessed 21,000,000 tons of shipping, .but during the war period 1,360 ships were sunk by submarines, 440 were sunk by aircraft action, 340 by mines and 210 by surface raids, making a total loss of 2,350 ships, comprising 12,000,000 tons of shipping. When we realize that that amount of shipping has been lost to the British Empire it is even more important that we should embark on a progressive programme of building our own ships in Australia. The personnel of our shipyards are people of British stock. We are proud of the fact that 97 per cent, of our population is of British stock. The sorrow and misery that were witnessed in the shipyards of England before the war at places such as Jarrow have already been mentioned in this chamber. Our people are to be given an opportunity to develop the industry which originally made England famous; they are to build and man ships and take them to sea. In this country English people have been able to find a true democracy, and it is fitting that they should be employed on shipbuilding. There is no provision in this bill for the nationalization of the shipping industry, notwithstanding the implication by members of the Opposition that that is its object. I remind honorable senators that the Minister for

Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who introduced the measure, pointed out quite clearly that there was no provision in it for the nationalization of shipping. This is a bill designed solely to develop the three aspects of the shipbuilding and shipping industries mentioned by the Minister. The essential objective is to continue with the equipment, the personnel, and the technique that were developed during the war, so that the industry will not be lost to us but will be of continual use in the future. Tasmania’s need for an Australian line of ships is perhaps greater than that of any other State because of its insular position. Recently I visited an island in Bass Strait where the shipping service is so poor that in the winter months the residents have to wait for three weeks or a month for their second-class mail matter and merchandise. There is need for the duplication of the service to that island. The necessity, also, for an authority to decide the places where shipping is most needed has been foreseen and provided for in this measure.

Senator Rankin said that this bill was not timely, but in every measure of a progressive nature that is introduced into this chamber the cry is heard, “ It is not time to do it. Let us postpone it. until some future date”. That is the cry of those who want time to get their tentacles on to any new enterprise that may be opened up by the progressive policy of this Government, but our attitude is that now is the time to start. If it takes us twelve months or two years to get into full swing, that will be quite long enough ; but now is the time to introduce the measure that will set the machinery in motion. The argument that the hill is not timely does not hold water. The comparison that has been made between the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the present airline service provided by TransAustralia Airlines is not a good one, because the service that is being provided by Trans-Australia Airlines is of the very highest standard. When Trans-Australia Airlines commenced its service to Tasmania the private airline companies were’ charging a fare of £4 10s. The rebate provided for business people reduced that fare; to £3 16s. The motto of Trans- Australia Airlines was “ one price for all, the lowest “, and that policy was pursued, to the advantage of all sections of the community. That in itself made a very great contribution towards the development of air services in Australia. There is no doubt that just as Trans- Australia Airlines is carrying out an important function in our community to-day by lifting the standard of air servies so also will an Australian Government line of ships meet a need in our society. Therefore, we require an Australian line of ships in order to supply a similar need in another sphere of our economy. As previous speakers have stressed, we require an up-to-date shipping line to meet our needs, not only in war-time, but also in peace-time, although, personally, F place greater emphasis upon the necessity to meet our peace-time needs. “We have so much to do in this country and the Government’s plans for its development are so firmly laid that we cannot escape the necessity for establishing an efficient shipping line.

The expansion of the shipbuilding industry will open up additional fields of employment for our artisans and other workers. During .my recent visit to Queensland, I was impressed when I witnessed work in full swing at the shipyards of Walkers Limited, at Maryborough, and Evans Deakin and Company Limited at Brisbane. Under this project firms of that kind in all of the States will be given additional contracts. Therefore, it can be said that under this measure a completely now industry will be established which will enable us to supply our own shipping requirements. With our steel and coal resources the industry will be guaranteed success. In the years between the two world wars our lack of shipping was not pronounced because with so many thousands of our workers unemployed only limited cargoes were offering. At that time when 25 per cent, of the population was unemployed no great demand existed for additional shipping facilities in this country. To-day, however, the Government is implementing its policy of full employment and that need is daily becoming increasingly urgent. The coastal trade offers great possibilities. It has hardly been touched by private enterprise. The establishment of the proposed line will engender competition and give an impetus to the industry. Members of the Opposition parties contend that the present shortage of shipping cannot be laid at the door of private enterprise, but has resulted mainly from the policy of the Government. It is the habit of the Opposition parties, not only in this chamber, but also in the House of Representatives, to endeavour to lay the blame for every shortage, whether it be due to world conditions or to the dollar position, at the door of tho Government. They blame the Government for the rising cost of living, and imply that if they were in office they could rectify these matters. However, we know the sorry story of anti-Labour governments. The Australian economy practically stagnated in the period between the two world wars because anti-Labour governments failed to evolve any progressive policy or undertake projects of the kind envisaged under this measure. The argument of the Opposition parties that if they wore in office they could provide more houses, increase production generally to a greater degree and provide more liberal social services is merely advanced in an attempt to discredit this Government. I am confident that the people of Australia are fully awake to that sort of propaganda. Privately, many members of the Opposition parties express the view that the Australian worker is too well off, that the Government’s full employment policy offers too wide a vision for the ordinary worker and that projects of the kind embodied in this measure give him too great a measure of independence and promote a standard of living which is too good for the community. The Government’s housing policy, for instance, is anathema to the Opposition. It cuts across the privileges which private enterprise has exclusively enjoyed for the last 150 years and, therefore, Labour’s opponents are determined to fight legislation of this kind to the last ditch. However, the time has come when private enterprise must give an account of its stewardship. I have no doubt that the people’s verdict is that it has fallen down on its responsibilities. This Government is rectifying the errors made in the past.

Senator Cooper:

– Is not private enterprise carrying out shipbuilding at present ?

Senator O’BYRNE:

– It has been given the incentive by the progressive and coordinated policy of the Government.

Senator Cooper:

– The Government is prepared to use private enterprise.

Senator O’BYRNE:

-. Yes ; but, previously there was no shipbuilding industry in this country. It has never been fostered by any anti-Labour government. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, when dealing with the provision of subsidies for shipbuilding, said -

The Government proposes, that companies -desiring to purchase vessels shall approach the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, who will .arrange for the placing of an order with an Australian shipyard for the type of ship the company requires. The order will be placed by the Commonwealth through the Australian Shipbuilding Board and not by the company. On completion of the ship it will he resold to the company at a price lower than the purchase price paid by the Commonwealth, the difference representing the amount of subsidy met by the Commonwealth. It is proposed that the resale of vessels will be at a price approximating that of a similar vessel built in a British yard with a proviso that the difference shall not exceed 25 per cent, of the Australian cost. Australian costs are already less than in some overseas countries and as the Australian yards gain in experience it is expected that the difference in costs will be reduced and will eventually disappear. This method of subsidy to the industry has many advantages It is flexible in operation and will permit the amount of assistance to be varied, if necessary, as between the different yards. It ensures that the shipping companies shall obtain ships at approximately the same cost as if they had purchased them in the United Kingdom, and it avoids the necessity of passing on to the community excess costs in the form of higher freights as would be the case if the industry were assisted by means of a tariff.

Senator HARRIS:

– The Opposition parties agree with that.

Senator O’BYRNE:

– Yes; but this Government is the first to introduce a policy of that kind. Had anti-Labour governments adopted such a policy we should have been enabled to supply our own shipping needs prior to the outbreak of the last war. It has always been passed over as untimely or because it would interfere with private enterprise. The fact remains, however, that private enterprise has not been prepared to embark upon this enterprise on a sufficiently large scale to supply the vital needs of Australia’s economy. That is why this bill has been produced. The Minister who introduced the bill, concluded his speech as follows: -

To sum up, this bill will provide the measures needed for the maintenance and development on sound lines of the Australian shipping and shipbuilding industries. Experience has fully demonstrated that the fostering of these industries is necessary, first from the point of view of the defence of’ the Commonwealth, and secondly to provide that these industries shall continue as sound and prosperous parts of the Australian industrial economy. That the maintenance of an adequate up-to-date mercantile marine and an efficient shipbuilding industry are vital for the defence of Australia cannot be disputed and from the commercial and economic viewpoint it would be a tragedy if full advantage were not taken of the gains that have been made during the war. The bill has been drafted with these objectives in view and I commend it to honorable members.

This great potential industry is now ready for us to develop. Our artisans are trained, the equipment has been installed, and the shipyards are in full working order. It is our duty to develop the industry to the fullest extent, and I am confident that it will prove to be of lasting benefit to Australia, and that we shall never regret the passing of this bill.

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

in reply - It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has said, that this bill has three objectives - first, to provide for the setting up of a Commonwealth line of ships; secondly, to provide for the maintenance of an Australian shipbuilding industry; and, thirdly, to provide for the setting up of an adequate and efficient mercantile marine. He said that the Opposition was in complete accord with some of the aims of the Government in regard to shipping, but disagreed with certain of its other proposals. One would imagine that the bill embraced a dozen proposals, yet he himself said that there were only three. He- said that the Opposition supported some of them, and as he spoke in the plural, he must have meant that the Opposition supported at least two. The honor- . able gentleman went on to say that it was embarrassing for the Opposition that all the Government’s objectives were embraced in one bill. I am sorry that he is embarrassed, but I know of many other measures that embraced more than one proposition.

An examination of the facts by any unbiased person must convince him that Australia’s mercantile marine and Australia’s shipbuilding industry were in a very bad condition before the war. Many of the ships of our mercantile fleet were out of date. For that, I do not propose to criticize the private shipping companies, because I appreciate, as does the Government, the assistance given by those companies during the war. The companies loyally observed the controls which the Government was compelled to exercise over shipping at that time. However in the period between the two wars private enterprise failed to support the Australian shipbuilding industry, or to create a mercantile marine that would adequately serve Australia. For that reason, and because a sufficient merchant fleet is essential for the defence of Australia, the Government is determined to operate a line of ships, and also to maintain the shipbuilding industry.

Our coastal fleet consists mostly of worn-out ships, most of which need to be replaced. Indeed, during the war, many ships were immobilized for lack of repairs. I am not blaming any one for that. It may have been a legacy of the depression, and, as I have said, the Government appreciates what was done by the private shipping companies to further the war effort. I also appreciate what was done by the officers and crews who accepted great risks to keep the ships moving during the war. No praise can be too high for those who worked the ships when our coastal waters were strewn with mines. The men never hesitated to carry on, and to them we owe much for the successful prosecution of the war. This is the only Government which has given practical application to the policy of decentralization. The Government is determined that all parts of the Commonwealth shall be properly served with transport, whether it be the outer ports


of the various States, or the outback areas of the continent. Thus, the Government is determined to develop a Commonwealth line of ships. At the present time, the Government controls most of the ships in the coastal trade. But for the ships that have been built in Australia by the Government, or chartered by the Australian Shipping Board, Australia’s coastal trade would be in a very serious condition. I draw attention to the fact that no session of Parliament passes without frequent complaints being made by members of the Opposition about shipping services to the various States. Some responsibility for this may rest on the Australian Government, but the major obligation to provide an adequate service has at all times rested upon the private shipping companies. That obligation was not honoured. In their criticism of the bill, which was very mild, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues resorted to the old expedient that we encounter day in and day out in this chamber of maligning the workers in the industry. Senator O’Sullivan even wandered as far afield as England and discussed the iron and steel industry there before returning to Australia to criticize the turn-round of ships in our ports. The Leader of the Opposition also complained about the slow turn-round of ships. I was very alarmed when I heard the figures that he quoted, and I made inquiries on the subject.

The Leader of the Opposition said that he had recently received a letter from the managing director of the Lyle Shipping Company Limited, of Glasgow, naming several ships that had been allegedly held up for long periods in Australian ports. At the outset, I point out to the honorable gentleman that very often a percentage of the total working time on a vessel is classed as nonproductive time, which is time lost during the course of loading through no fault of the waterside workers. Delays in shunting, waiting for cargo, rain, the putting on and taking off of beams and hatches all account for non-productive time. Every vessel mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in his complaint was subject to a proportion of non-productive time. He stated that Blairdova loaded 7,814 tons of bulk grain in seven days. Seven days would include a Saturday and a Sunday. It is very strange, that never, in any computation that they make affecting the workers of Australia, do honorable senators opposite make any allowances in their favour. Everybody must agree that a Saturday and a Sunday must have been included in that period of seven days. But the honorable gentleman did not allow for that! The working period might have been only five days, .but, in order to make it look bad for the workers, he spoke of seven days, just as he spoke on another occasion of 28 days when, allowing for Saturdays and Sundays, the working period involved was only twenty days. Let us deal with each case raised by the honorable senator.

Senator Cooper:

– Be fair !

Senator ASHLEY:

– I am being fair. The figures are clear. They can be recorded and the honorable senator can have them checked. I shall not argue the point because the time at my disposal is limited. The honorable senator said that Blair dova had been loaded with 7,814 tons of bulk grain in seven days. Those figures were substantially correct, as the vessel loaded 7,521 tons of bulk wheat and 298 tons of bagged wheat in seven days. But the honorable senator did not mention the bagged wheat! There is a vast difference between pouring bulk wheat into the holds of a ship and loading 298 tons of .bagged wheat when each bag has to be manhandled. The honorable senator next said that Cape COra had loaded 9,102 tons of bulk wheat in ten days at Geelong and had then proceeded to load bunker coal at Newcastle, where it remained for three days. The facts are that the vessel loaded 8,610 tons of bulk wheat and 491 tons of bagged wheat in six days. Twenty-five per cent, of that time was non-productive. The ship then went to Newcastle and loaded 740 tons of bunker coal in two days, not three days. The honorable senator received all the information that he quoted from some shipowner with whom he travelled to Australia from England and who later supplied the figures to him by letter. Therefore, there can be no doubt about the -matter. The honorable senator’s memory did not fail him. He had not heard the information during a discussion in the smoke room on board ship. It was sent to him in writing by a shipowner, who forgot to remind him that ships are often tied up in the United Kingdom for a month or six weeks although they contain food from Australia for the people of Britain. It would have been better if the Englishman who travelled out here and had so much to say to the Leader of the Opposition about the turn-round of ships in Australia had made some reference to delays in United Kingdom ports.

Senator Cooper:

– He did not travel out to Australia. He is still working in Scotland.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The honorable senator stated that Cape Nelson loaded 9,163 tons of bagged wheat at Wallaroo in 22 days. The correct working time was fifteen days, and, of that total, 22 per cent, was non-productive time.

Senator Cooper:

– That is what we want to know.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The honorable senator knows the truth now. He said that Cape Ortegal loaded general cargo at Melbourne in twenty days. The truth is that the vessel was loaded in sixteen days, 40 per cent, of which was nonproductive time.

Senator Cooper:

– Let the people know.


– Order ! The Minister must be -heard in silence. These constant interjections must cease.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Leader of the Opposition said that Cape Rodney loaded 7,666 tons of oats in 28 days. The correct time was twenty days, even though there were considerable delays due to rain and non-productive time amounted to 38.2 per cent, of the total. The honorable senator said that Cape York loaded 9,035 tons of bagged flour at Sydney in 21 days. The correct figure for the loading time was eleven days, even allowing for 30 per cent, non-productive time. He also said that Queen Adelaide loaded about the same quantity of bagged flour as Cape York in 22 days. The vessel really loaded 8,698 tons of bagged flour in thirteen days. Non-productive time was 35.1 per cent, of the total, and one-fourteenth of the non-productive time was attributable to rain. He said that Rocky Mountain Park loaded 8,500 tons of bagged flour at Sydney in nineteen days and 9,325 tons of bulk wheat at Geelong in nineteen days. In fact, the vessel loaded 8,500 tons of bagged flour at Sydney in fifteen days and 9,140 tons of bulk wheat at Geelong in seven days. It may interest honorable senators opposite to know that the people whom they represent in the main - the employers - remarked favorably on the efficiency of the labour engaged for Cape Corso Cape Nelson, Cape Ortegal and Rocky Mountain Park. I have disposed of allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition about the turn-round of ships in Australian ports.

Senator Cooper:

– When we ask for information we like courtesy, not abuse.

Senator ASHLEY:

– I do not know when I ‘have abused the honorable senator.

Senator Cooper:

– Well, the Minister has abused me..

Senator ASHLEY:

– If telling the truth is abusive, then I owe the honorable senator an apology.

Senator Cooper:

– I asked a simple question.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The honorable senator is prepared to accept as accurate any statement made to him, and to give it publicity in this Parliament. Public utterances by the Leader of the Opposition are regarded as truthful utterances by the people.

Senator Cooper:

– The Minister has not answered my charges.

Senator ASHLEY:

– I have given a complete answer to the allegations that the honorable senator has made. I am generous enough to say that he has probably been misled in the matter.

Senator Cooper:

– The ships were in port at the time I indicated.

Senator ASHLEY:

– I have fully answered that. I have referred to the loading times as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, and given the Government’s reply to his allegations. Senator O’Sullivan said that the delay in the turn round of ships was caused solely by the waterside workers, and that the

Government had withheld from him information in respect of the establishment of a government shipping line. The honorable senator also quoted extracts from a letter which was supposed to have been published in a newspaper. I am sorry that the honorable senator had to rely on what he has read in the press in order to bolster his argument. I need not remind him that some sections of the press are by no means reliable, and that he may well have been misled in this matter. An announcement of the Government’s intention to establish a Commonwealth shipping line, continue the shipbuilding industry in Australia and foster a mercantile marine service was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in August, 1945, more than three years ago. It is not a part of my responsibility to impress on honorable senators opposite the announced policy of the Government. Announcements have been made by the Government during the intervening years about its intention to establish a Commonwealth shipping line.

Reference has been made during the debate to the sale of two vessels. I have received from the chairman of the ship committee of Daylesford, the following letter, which was written from Brisbane : -

We wrote to the Prime Minister on June 10 expressing concern at the delay in establishing the Commonwealth Line and asking for a reply advising what progress has been made and can early advice be expected. To date no reply has been received.

The crew of this vessel is now further disturbed by a report in the Sydney Telegraph of June 29, stating that Cabinet approval had been granted to sale to private companies of the Barrigun and the Balaar,

It seems to us that this decision is not consistent with the interests of the Australian people in establishing a Commonwealth Line. Rather does it remind us of the Bruce-Page Government policy during the 1920’s when the last Commonwealth Line was sabotaged.

We would appreciate an early reply indicating your Government’s attitude.

The letter which is signed by G. C. Wills, contains seventeen signatures of members of the committee.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– I did not inspire that letter.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The reply which I sent reads as follows: -

With regard to the sale of the two “ E “ class vessels, the Government, in arriving at its decision to sell these vessels, was actuated by the constitutional decision that it is not possible for the Government to itself operate a shipping service on the coast, and, at the same time deny to the private shipping companies reasonable price quotes to procure the vessels they may need to keep their own fleets in operation. If the Commonwealth is to set up its own line of steamers, therefore, it is necessary that the private companies’ shall be allowed to purchase vessels themselves.

In view of the Government’s intention to introduce legislation that in future any vessels constructed in Australia shall be used on the Australian coast, the only source of supply of vessels for the private companies is from the Australian shipyards. With relatively few exceptions, the whole output of the yards up to .date has been taken by vessels ordered by the Commonwealth.

It is the intention of the Government as soon as possible to introduce legislation into Parliament providing for the establishment of the Australian Shipping Board on a permanent basis and the setting up of a Commonwealth line of steamers together with other measures which the Government intends to introduce to provide for the establishment and encouragement of the shipping and shipbuilding industry in Australia. The introduction of this legislation is dependent, to a great extent, on the very full legislative programme which the Government has in view, but you may be assured that it will be introduced as soon as practicable and in the meantime the Commonwealthowned vessels will continue to be operated by the Australian Shipping Board.

There is nothing secretive about that. It merely confirms the policy determined and announced by the Prime Minister three years ago.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– I did not say that that policy was kept secret.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The honorable senator said that it had been kept from him and from the people of Australia. Senator Rankin asked a number of questions including the pertinent question, “Can Australia afford this government enterprise ? “ I say to the honorable senator and to the people of Australia that the Government regards the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line as important to the defence of this country. For defence purposes, it intends to develop the shipbuilding industry and establish a mercantile fleet so that we shall not again be in the position in which we found ourselves in 1914 and again’ at the outbreak of World War II. After World War I., our shipping and shipbuilding resources were dissipated, and trained man-power was lost to the shipbuilding industry.

After the outbreak of World War II., the political parties now in opposition endeavoured to revive the shipbuilding industry, and from that stage onwards, the Labour Government has helped to assist the industry in every possible way. The Government is determined that the shipbuilding industry shall be a source of employment and the means of developing a highly skilled technical staff. The development of the shipbuilding industry in Australia can be made possible only by the government ownership of a shipping line, whether a coastal line or a line of vessels carrying Australian goods to other parts of the world and bringing to this country much needed imports. The Government is determined to foster the industry in every possible way.

In answer to complaints about the slow turn-round of ships, I remind honorable senators opposite that every ship that enters our principal ports to-day is fully laden and, after discharging its cargo, is again fully loaded before it departs. The position to-day is quite different from what it was in pre-war years, when so many ships entered port only half laden and were able to make a quick turn-around. Another factor which must be considered is that the type of cargo carried to-day is . quite different from that carried in pre-war years. In 1938-39 Australia imported 48,060 chassis for motor vehicles. This year, there will be imported into this country 120,000 motor vehicles, including 80,000 British passenger cars. Those figures indicate the greatly increased volume of imports of motor vehicles alone. As many motor cars and parts are imported in cases, the work of the waterside workers is considerably more laborious and heavy than it was in pre-war years.

In conclusion, I express my appreciation of the small measure of support that has been given to this bill by the Opposition. Opposition speakers said that they supported certain portions of the measure, but they were rather vague as to what those portions were. To my colleagues on this side of the chamber, I express my satisfaction at the manner in which the bill has been received, and at their cooperation in securing its passage.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.

page 341


The following papers were presented : -

Commonwealth Public Service ActAppointments - Department - Civil Aviation - T. K. Watkins. Postmaster-General’s - L. L. Birch;

Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1946-47.

Senate adjourned at 10.63 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.