18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon.
Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
reconstruction training scheme.
– - On the 6th October, Senator Sandford asked a question concerning the encouragement given to ex-service men and “women to train for the teaching and nursing professions under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has now furnished the following additional information in. reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
There has beni a serious shortage of trained teachers and nurses for a considerable time now, and when the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme was established by the Government these two professions were naturally included in the courses that trainees could enter. It was found, however, that ex-service men and women were not offering for training in these professions in sufficient numbers to meet the demand. The problem was discussed with the nursing and teaching authorities in the various States, and as a result it was decided to relax the conditions of eligibility for training in these professions. In the case of teachers, eligibility was extended to include persons who enlisted in the armed forces before their twenty-fifth birthday, and in the case of nurses the age limit was raised to 30. Another encouragement that was offered was to extend the general closing date for receipt of applications for training in these professions by twelve months and, in addition, special provision was made for trainees in other professional courses to transfer to teacher training should they desire to do so. Taking into account these special measures, 1,707 nurses and 1,285 school teachers have completed or are receiving training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, and an additional 1,099 school teachers have received refresher training to bring them up to date in their profession.
– On the 19th October, Senator Amour asked a question relating to the diversion of a tanker from Australia, and referred to the alleged congestion of petrol trucks in country railway goods-yards in New South Wales. I have no knowledge of a tanker having been diverted from Australia by the ‘Shell Company of Australia Limited on the ground that it had nowhere to store the petrol carried by the ship, and I am assured hy the Shell Company that there is no truth in the Suggestion. The New South Wales Department of Railways advises that it is not a fact that railways goods-yards at Goulburn, Cootamundra and other country centres are being congested by any delay in the acceptance of petrol consignments by oil companies.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, seen a report in the Melbourne Argus of the 25th October to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) had stated in answer to an interjector at a Liberal party meeting in Belgrave, Victoria, that if that party was elected to office at the forthcoming general election it would obtain more petrol? As a test of Mr. Menzies’s sense of national responsibility, will the Minister undertake to ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in the national interest, he is prepared to divulge the source from which he proposes to obtain additional petrol without the expenditure of more dollars? If he declined to do so, would the Minister agree that the right honorable gentleman’s statement was purely putrid political propaganda proposed to puzzle people?
– I have not seen the press report mentioned by the honorable senator, although I have seen Oppositioninspired advertisements in the press recently, exhorting the people to “empty” out the Government if they want the petrol bowsers filled. I referred to these advertisements when speaking on the petrol rationing legislation in this chamber yesterday. I am convinced that if the obtaining of more petrol for the people of Australia were contingent upon the election to office of the political parties led . by Mr. Menzies and Mr. Fadden, the patients would die in the meantime. This Government has extended to every oil company in Australia the opportunity to import as much petrol as is obtainable in order to meet the requirements of the Australian people, on condition that that petrol, and the tankers used to carry it’ to this country, have no dollar content. I am unable to say whether this opportunity has been fully availed of by the oil companies. Ampol is endeavouring to import petrol from France. I understand that a tanker will be loaded at a French port in about a fortnight’s time. Many propagandist statements have been made with relation to this consignment of petrol. One was that the petrol was supposed to be on its way to Australia a fortnight ago, whilst another was that loading of the tanker was commenced a fortnight ago. The latest information about this matter is that the tanker will be loaded in about ten days or a fortnight’s time. After world-wide inquiry it is apparent that the petrol to come from France will represent only about 1 Der cent, of the requirements of this country, even if regular consignments arrive.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel been directed to a statement in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph attributed to Mr. H. L. Stevenson, Ampol’s London agent, to the. effect that there is no doubt that Australia could get enough petrol from sterling areas to avoid rationing ; that there is plenty of sterling petrol available from European sources, but that purchasers must be quick to buy; and that it is futile to wait for import licences before clinching a deal, because sometimes a decision must be made within 48 hours ? Has the Minister received any report on this subject from Australian commercial intelligence services overseas ?
– I have read a press statement attributed to Mr. Stevenson about the impediments that he claims exist in connexion with Australia obtaining sterling petrol. All of the oil companies in this country have been investigating the possibility of obtaining additional supplies of sterling petrol. Recently the Leader of the Australian Country party, Mr. Fadden, stated in the House of Representatives that dollarfree petrol could be obtained from Russia. It was subsequently established that supplies of such petrol were not available from that source. The right honorable gentleman then claimed that sterling petrol could he obtained from Poland. His third declaration was that sterling petrol was available in France. In each instance the Australian Government has rendered all assistance possible. At one stage a request was made by an oil company for an export licence to obtain petrol from Poland. The Government communicated with its representatives in both England and Poland, and extended every assistance possible to the company. As I stated during the debate on the petrol rationing legislation in this chamber last night, if the Government attempted to interfere with the importation of petrol it would be accused by the Opposition of interfering with private enterprise, because that is a function of the oil companies. It is the responsibility of private enterprise, not of the Government, to see that sufficient supplies of petrol are available in this country. I also mentioned during that debate that one cause of the scarcity of petrol in this country is the lack of refinery capacity. As I have already stated in this chamber, the Government intends to investigate the possibility of establishing crude oil refineries in Australia.
– Government received any report from Aus tralian commercial intelligence services overseas about the availability of petrol?
– If any request is made by the company, Mr. Stevenson, or anybody else for that to be done, it will be referred to our representatives overseas. If the honorable senator so desires I am prepared to table in the Senate all of the information available on this subject. It will be appreciated that there has been considerable correspondence between Australia and Great Britain, Russia, Poland, France and other countries. It is impossible for me to keep all of the details in my mind.
– Would the Constitution permit the Government to buy petrol for re-sale and enter into the petrol trading business?
– I am not in a position to answer that question authoritatively, but I should say that, in the event of a petrol shortage affecting tie economy of Australia, the Government would be justified in installing refineries or engaging in any other activity designed to provide petrol for the consumers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether, if the Government imported and attempted to distribute petrol, it would be declared immediately to be acting in contravention of the Constitution?
– It is unquestionable that this Parliament has power over overseas trade. That power would enable it to purchase and import petrol or any other commodity by its own act. Apart from that, it may engage in interstate trade subject to the limitation imposed by section 92 of the Constitution, which is well known to honorable senators. In other words, even though the Commonwealth may engage in interstate trade, it must do so in a way that does not offend section 92, which provides that trade, commerce and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free. We have had very recent experience of the fact that this Government cannot create a monopoly even in the field of interstate trade. One example was the case of the Australian National Airlines Commission and another was the banking case. Therefore, there is clear proof that there can be no government monopoly, even under the bead of power granted to this Parliament by the Constitution. This Parliament has not the slightest power in the field of intra-state trade. Applying that set of propositions to petrol, I should say that, although the Commonwealth undoubtedly has power to import petrol, as it in fact imports tea, it would be very quickly halted as soon as it began to engage in the process of distribution. That was demonstrated by a recent decision of the High Court, which determined that this Parliament did not have power to regulate the distribution of petrol down to the consumer. Thus, it is completely clear that, although the Commonwealth can import petrol, it does not have an indefinite power of distribution, .
– Assuming that the Commonwealth did import petrol, would there be any difficulty in the way of it making that petrol available to the existing oil companies for distribution ?
– I can see that I am being called upon to furnish legal opinions. It certainly is not the function of any Minister to give legal opinions, but, out of sheer courtesy to the honorable senator, I should say first that the Commonwealth is not likely to engage upon the complex undertaking that his question suggests. The importation and distribution of petrol are now in the hands of companies which are familiar with all of the ramifications of a very complicated industry. Accordingly, the honorable senator’s question is merely hypothetical. I should say that the Commonwealth, having imported the petrol, would have a limited power to dispose of it incidental to its power to engage either in overseas trade or in interstate trade. However, Senator O’sullivan, as a lawyer, must have a better appreciation than most honorable senators of the effect of the recent decision of the High Court, which expressly negatived the Commonwealth’s power to engage in any control of the distribution of petrol to the consumers. That decision would extend to any control of distribution down to the resellers. There would be a point very short of the arrival of the petrol in Aus tralia at which the axe would descend with the result that the Commonwealth could no longer handle the commodity.
– In view of the importance and urgency of earning dollars from the United States of America, will the Minister representing the Minister for Information give consideration to the following suggestions: - (a) The establishment of a nation-wide publicity and advertising campaign in the United States of America extolling the scenic beauties and tourist attractions of Australia; (b) seeking the co-operation of the Minister for the Army and appropriate American authorities to conduct a series of tours by American tourists to the battle areas in New Guinea and Papua in which the American forces took part; (c) giving the widest publicity possible to the fact that the favorable rate of exchange makes it cheaper for American tourists to visit Australia than Europe ; and (d) conducting a “Miss Pacific” beauty contest in Sydney this summer in conjunction with a special surf carnival in which contestants from the Pacific States of America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and, of course, our own beautiful Australian women will take part?
– The honorable senator’s suggestions have much to commend them. A great deal has already been done by the Department of Information to publicize Australia’s tourist attractions in the United States of America. At this moment, we have in Australia Mrs. Evelyn Mortensen, winner of the American “ Queen for a Day “ radio competition, conducted by the Mutual Broadcasting Company, and her husband, Mr. Victor Mortensen. Their visit, which was organized by the Department of Information, represents the biggest publicity project for Australia’s tourist attractions ever undertaken in the United States. In ten successive broadcasts over the vast Mutual Broadcasting Network with its audience of 15,000,000 people, Australia’s tourist attractions have been highlighted. In addition, the Australian holiday of Mr. and Mrs. Mortensen is being recorded in moving films and in still photographs which are already being exhibited throughout the length and1 breadth of the United States. Distribution for the film is assured in at least 500 American cinemas and photographic displays will be arranged in travel agency offices throughout America. In addition, American travel magazines will be given a complete coverage in still photographs of the various beauty spots visited by the Mortensens in the Australian States. Many thousands of dollars which Australia simply could not afford from its slender dollar credits would be needed to pay for this publicity in the ordinary way. As it is, such publicity will not cost Australia one dollar, because the cost of the publicity will he borne by American interests concerned in the enterprise, using material supplied as part of the existing services of the Department of Information.
– I rise to order.’ I consider that the Minister should have obtained leave to read the remarkably “ impromptu “ answer that he is making to the question.
– The Chair is controlling the business of the chamber. Questions are asked by honorable senators to elicit information concerning matters of public interest, and I, personally, am very interested in the information that the Minister is now supplying, and I think that members of the public would also be most interested to obtain that information. I rule that the Minister is quite in order in answering the question in the way that he is doing, and I ask him to continue.
– Perhaps we should arrange for Senator O’sullivan to meet Mrs. Evelyn Mortensen, when he might become a great deal more interested in this matter. The suggestion that the Australian Commonwealth should cooperate with the American authorities in arranging a series of tours by American visitors to battle areas in New Guinea and Papua in which the American forces served, is one upon which the Department of Information is already working. The Australian News and Information Bureau in New York is now exploring the possibilities or arranging a grand reunion of former American servicemen in Australia to take place in 1950 or 1951, if the necessary shipping can be arranged. All publicity media employed by the Department of Information, including the shortwave station, Radio Australia, are being used to emphasize the fact that the favorable rate of exchange makes it cheaper for American tourists to visit Australia than Europe and that Australia has unique tourist attractions to offer. I am keenly interested in the honorable senator’s proposal for the staging of a “ Miss Pacific “ beauty contest in Sydney, and shall bring it to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Information. The time remaining may be too short to enable a contest of international dimensions to be arranged this summer, “but it may be possible to organize such an event for the following summer.
– I present the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
No assistance was rendered the States under the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927-28, in the period 1935-1939.
Commonwealth assistance rendered to housing since the war has included -
Commonwealth Housing Division, providing through regular publications a world-wide coverage of technical, social and administrative aspects of housing for housing authorities and the building industry generally.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by stating that as a result of the heroic and unselfish work carried out by the members of surf life-saving clubs throughout Australia, the lives of thousands of people are saved each year. The surf life-saving clubs have been established on a voluntary basis. In order to assist them to purchase new and modern life-saving equipment, and to carry out essential repairs to equipment now in use, is the Commonwealth prepared to make a grant to surf life-saving clubs?
– I agree that the provision of funds for the assistance of life-saving clubs throughout Australia is a very worthy objective. However, as in connexion with other similar organizations, assistance for the surf life-saving clubs is a State obligation. The Commonwealth provides finance in various forms for State activities, but unless a request is received from a. State, it is not usual for the Commonwealth to provide money for such purposes. Should an application for financial assistance for the purpose indicated by the honorable senator be received from any State, I shall see that it is brought to the notice of the Treasurer for his consideration.
– Is the Minister for Health able to inform me whether any progress has been made in the development of a serum or a culture for the eradication or prevention of poliomyelitis? What provision has been made by the Department of Social Services for the rehabilitation of citizens in the age group that has been mainly affected by the current poliomyelitis epidemic so that they may overcome as much as possible the effects of the paralysis that usually follows an attack of the dreaded disease?
– I am not aware of the existence of any serum of prophylactic to immunize people against the spread of poliomyelitis. I am speaking for myself, not expressing medical opinion or even the departmental opinion. However, I know that research into poliomyelitis is being undertaken in various parts of the world on a very extensive scale. Not long ago I informed the Senate that virus research - I understand that a virus is involved in the spread of poliomyelitis - was being undertaken at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, which is situated in the grounds of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, under the direct control of Professor Burnett, who was fairly recently awarded the George Medal for meritorious work in connexion with virus research and other scientific activities. I do not think that there is any kind of specific, either for immediate cure or for immunization against the spread of the disease. The rehabilitation of victims of the disease is chiefly a matter for the State health authorities. However, any persons over the age of sixteen years who may be disabled by the disease may take advantage of the rehabilitation scheme for disabled persons which is operated by the Commonwealth and is developing a great deal of momentum. At present, 984 persons are undergoing rehabilitation at the various rehabilitation centres throughout the Commonwealth. During last year alone approximately 300 persons were completely rehabilitated. I am not speaking necessarily of persons affected with poliomyelitis; but the machinery has been established to enable rehabilitation to be provided by the Australian Government and, in appropriate cases, at the Government’s expense. In the treatment of children under the age of sixteen years the States are doing excellent work. There are various voluntary bodies in the field. Crippled children’s societies throughout Australia are doing magnificent work in the rehabilitation of those children. Many of those societies are subsidized from the Nuffield Fund. It will be remembered that Lord Nuffield made a generous benefaction for the conduct of that work in this country. The honorable senator may be assured that the need for rehabilitating either child or adult victims of this disease is not being overlooked either by the Commonwealth, the States or appropriate voluntary bodies.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether it would be possible for the Government to delegate powers to State officers to police federal industrial awards. There are no Commonwealth inspectors in Tasmania to police such awards.
– I should say, as an abstract proposition, that it would be competent for the Government to use a State instrumentality, which was willing to oblige it, for any purpose whatever. That was done frequently during the course of World War II. However, if the question was inspired by the thought that there were no federal inspectors engaged in the policing of federal awards in Tasmania, I hasten to assure the honorable senator that inspectors do visit that State at regular intervals. Two inspectors have been in Tasmania within the last few weeks. They have had some trouble in policing the federal award that now operates in connexion with hotels as the result of the difficulty of obtaining transport around the island. This Government, being particularly concerned with the conservation of petrol, was not anxious to place a motor car at their disposal. Although the inspections in respect of the award relating to hotels were not extensive, that situation can be rectified. At one time, only one industrial inspector from Victoria visited Tasmania, but a second appointment was made not long ago and both inspectors now visit the island at frequent intervals. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Attorney-General, but I am confident that he has already given particular attention to Tasmania’s needs in the matter of industrial inspections.
Standardization of Gauges
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answers: -
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Health Service Act 1948.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to amend section 6 of the National Health Service Act 1948. In its present form, section 6 provides that the regulations may make provision for a scheme for payment by the Commonwealth on behalf of persons to whom professional services have been rendered by medical practitioners participating in the scheme. The payment would be a prescribed portion of the fee prescribed for the particular purpose. Honorable senators are aware that the Commonwealth proposes to pay 50 per cent, of the fees charged by the doctor for services given to the patient and to pay this ‘ amount on behalf of the patient direct to the doctor. It is also proposed to prescribe a schedule of maximum fees chargeable by doctors who voluntarily participate in the scheme. The Government is anxious to introduce the scheme as early as possible so that the benefits may flow to persons needing medical attention, and much of the detail work has already been done. In framing the regulations, however, it has become apparent that with section 6 in its present form, payment for medical services would be rigidly and literally limited to those items which are expressly referred to in schedules of the regulations. From the administrative viewpoint such an inelastic system has serious disabilities. It is not considered feasible to draw up a complete and comprehensive schedule that would embrace every possible medical condition or combination of conditions that would be met in practice. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether any set of regulations attempting to conform strictly with section 6 in its present form could provide for the exclusion of certain patients, for example, compensation cases and persons living in areas where other classes -of medical services are pro vided, or permit the making of special arrangements if thought desirable where agreements for the provision of medical services exist between doctors and particular groups such as friendly societies and industrial and other medical schemes. There is also some doubt as to whether section 6 permits a mileage allowance to be prescribed which would have regard to the actual mileage travelled by doctors in rural areas to .render professional services.
The measure now before the Senate is designed to provide the flexibility which will ensure that the regulations will be drawn up so that the benefits contemplated will reach the people to the fullest extent. At the same time, it has been thought desirable to extend the section to show in outline the general nature of the scheme. Clause 3 of the bill provides for the repeal of section 6 and the enactment of a new section 6 in its stead. The new section will enable the Minister to make special arrangements of the nature already referred to where such a course is desirable. Another important feature of the clause is that three months’ notice must be given before any fee can be reduced. Clause 4 of the bill provides for the deletion of the word “ advisory “ from section 16 of the act. Section 16 enables the Minister to establish such advisory committees as he thinks fit for the purpose of the act. It will probably be found desirable to establish committees other than those of an advisory nature and the section in its new form will be less restricted. Clause 5 of the bill extends the power which may be taken under the regulations by providing for the investing of any court of a State with federal jurisdiction insofar as matters arising under the scheme are concerned. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition does not oppose the measure. It is rather unfortunate that the people of this country have had withheld from them for so long a service to which they are justly entitled. The blame for that lies with the Government, which has an insatiable desire to regiment, regulate, and to put its finger into affairs which can be. much better managed without its interference. That desire to regulate and regiment has been added to on this occasion by an approaching election.
Its handling of this matter indicates clearly that it is much more concerned with political propaganda than with lightening the unnecessarily heavy financial burden that is borne by those who have the misfortune to suffer ill health. The Government seems to be determined to make a political football of a measure which should transcend party political considerations. The health of our people should not be the subject of political bickering. I do not doubt that Government supporters are sincere in their desire to ameliorate the conditions of Australians who suffer illness. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party likewise are most interested and concerned. Apparently honorable senators opposite do not realize that 95 per cent. of income-earners in this country receive less than £1,000 a year. Obviously, a large number of people in that category are supporters of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, otherwise those parties would be without representation in the Parliament. The majority of people in Queensland are supporters of the non-Labour parties, otherwise the three members of the Opposition would not have been elected to the Senate. However, the provision of a workable scheme of pharmaceutical benefits and medical treatment for our people should not be the subject of party-political propaganda. It is an established fact that sickness, particularly prolonged sickness, in families, can have the most devastating effect on the lives of the members of those families. Members of the medical profession have a very full realization of that fact, and they have repeatedly assured the Government that they are prepared to extend the utmost co-operation to the Government to provide an adequate medical service for the poor and needy. However, because of the Government’s dogged determination to have things precisely its own way, the Government has failed to obtain its own way-
-Who is supposed to govern, anyway?
– The honorable senator’s interjection is most apposite, because it typifies the entire attitude of the Government, not only in this matter, but also in every other sphere of life in which it has insisted on intro ducing regimentation and controls. So far we have lived in a free country, but it should never be forgotten that that freedom has had to be won. There is not the slightest reason to believe that members of the medical profession will not co-operate with the Government and give of their best, and a very good best, in the interests of the community. But why should members of that profession be shoved around?
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! I point out to honorable senators that they will all have an opportunity to express their views on this matter in due course. Senator O’Sullivan will continue without interruption.
– Members of the medical profession have from time to time given ample evidence of the sincerity of their offer to co-operate with the Government in this matter. They also made it perfectly clear recently that they will not sacrifice their freedom or permit themselvesto be dictated to, and that they will not willingly place themselves under the thumb of the Government. Of course, the Government has ample power to ensure that members of all professions, including the medical profession, shall comport themselves in a manner consistent with their responsibilities; but that does not mean that professional men should lose their professional freedom. Because they have had the courage to stand up for their freedom, they have been vilified and abused by supporters of the Government. In last Saturday’s issue of the Brisbane Courier-Mail a complete and comprehensive statement was published setting out the extent to which the British Medical Association is prepared to go to assist the Government to implement a practicable scheme whereby the people will be afforded a liberal degree of medical and pharmaceutical benefits. The accompanying comment in the newspaper stated that although the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) had not examined the scheme in detail he would comment upon it at a later date. Reference was also made in the article to a booklet that had been published by the British Medical Association, and although I have not read the booklet, I understand that the Minister has been supplied with a copy of it. The point I make now is that the Minister has not yet made any official or unofficial statement in reply to the statement of the British Medical Association.
The’ principal consideration of members of the Opposition, however, is not the Government’s treatment of members of the medical profession, but the health and welfare of the people. Because the Government is insisting on regimentation and refuses to come to an agreement with the members of the medical profession, the people are being denied the services for which public money has been made available. Let this point be clearly understood : the money that will be provided for this scheme is not the Government’s money, but has been provided by the taxpayers of this country on the express and specific understanding that it is to be devoted to social services. Those who will receive most benefit from the scheme are those who most need it, that is, -those who make up the 95 pei cent, of citizens whose income does not exceed £1,000 per annum. When the principal measure was before the Senate some time ago, members of the Opposition then suggested that it should be withdrawn” and that the Government should confer with members of the medical profession, ‘ the pharmacists and nurses’ organizations and friendly societies so that a practicable scheme of medical benefit that could be administered smoothly could be formulated. However, our advice was disregarded, and no practicable scheme has yet been evolved. The responsibility for that state of affairs rests upon the Government; it is not the fault of the Opposition parties, or of members of the medical profession. In any event, it is certainly not the fault of the people, who so badly need a scheme.
It should be so obvious that I should not need to stress the fact that if the scheme is to succeed the cordial cooperation of members of the medical profession is absolutely essential. If we want a watch repaired we do not take it to a blacksmith, nor do we take a horse to a watchmaker to be shod. I am sure that all sections of the community are anxious that a practicable scheme should be provided as early as possible. Surely the Government can afford, at least in this instance, to bend its stiff neck and forgetabout party-political propaganda and itsthirst for flower to shove people around find regiment them. Can it not face upto the fact that the people need medical benefits, that they demand them, and’ that if those benefits are to be provided’ for .the people it must, for once, forsake its stiff-necked attitude of socialisticprejudice, in order that some practicablescheme may be devised.
– I arn pleased that Senator
O’sullivan has admitted that it is necessary to introduce a workable scheme tobenefit the health of the people. Whilst 1 am prepared to concede that his remarks concerning the desire of the Opposition parties that a workable schemeshould be implemented may be quitesincere, the fact remains that the rest of his speech was so fraught with political propaganda that his utterance as a whole had little to do with the bill. Thehistory of the Government’s attempts tointroduce a scheme of medical benefits is well known. On at least six occasions the Government has approached theBritish Medical Association in an effort to obtain the co-operation of that body, which Senator O’sullivan suggested would be so readily forthcoming. That co-operation has certainly not been forthcoming. Senator O’Sullivan complained that the Government is seeking to regulate, and, to use his own phrase, to “ push around “ members of the medical profession. That is not so. A. similar criticism of regimentation might be made of theGovernment because it requires certain classes of professional people and othersto comply with certain formalities of theAudit Act and other governmental regulations. Professional people are often required by law to complete certain forms and to make certain declarations, but no one would now seriously suggest that the enforcement of such regulations isan interference with the freedom of the people. In the interests of the community it has been found necessary toimpose certain checks upon people in positions of trust. Nevertheless, whenever a law has been introduced to protect the community in the way I have suggested its passage has been opposed by theantiLabour parties on the ground that the Government wanted to conscript, compel and “ shove around “ certain classes of people, and that the freedom of those people was being impaired. On previous occasions I have pointed out to honorable senators that when regulations were first introduced to require doctors to notify the public health authorities of cases of contagious or infectious disease, they aroused a great deal of opposition from members of the medical profession. In Scotland the resistance to the regulations was particularly strong. In fact, it required the passage of years in many countries before doctors . could be relied upon regularly to report contagious and infectious diseases. Of course, one reason why members of the medical profession resisted the regulations was that at the time the regulations were introduced, medical science was not sufficiently advanced for practitioners to be sure of their diagnoses. However, now that medical science has advanced and diagnosis is more reliable, doctors do not hesitate to report cases of the prescribed types of disease.
I believe that the majority of medical practitioners in this country believe in the soundness of the Government’s scheme, and they consider that the people should not be denied the advantages which the Government has endeavoured to provide for them. They also realize that the Government’s proposals were approved by the people at a referendum. However, those who control the British Medical Association have behind them th.e support of what is probably the strongest union in Australia. That union is not concerned with holding compulsory ballots to determine the attitude of its members on important matters, or with secret ballots for the election of its office-bearers. In fact, its activities are completely uncontrolled. Yet, many of those who assert the powers and privileges of their association so determinedly, ure only too eager to interfere in the private concerns of the 95 per cent, of members of the community who earn less than £1,000 a year to whom Senator O’Sullivan referred. Many of the leaders of the Opposition parties have had no hesitation whatever in recommending that ordinary working men should he “ pushed around “t and they even advocate that the Government should interfere in the conduct of the internal affairs of trade unions. A law that has the approval of the majority of the people and is undoubtedly intended to benefit the community should obviously be carried out. The present measure provides that the.Government shall pay 50 per cent, of medical charges of any person who requires medical attention. That is a just provision, and whether the British Medical Association co-operates with theGovernment or not in implementing thescheme, I am sure that the Government, will obtain sufficient voluntary cooperation from medical practitioners. throughout Australia to implement th* scheme.
In the course of his criticism of the Government, Senator O’Sullivan said that the money to pay for the scheme had been collected from the people by taxation. I remind him that the great difference between the taxation revenue collected by the present Labour administration and. that collected by anti-Labour administrations when they were in office is that under Labour’s enlightened government, the burden of tax falls the lightest upon those who are least able to bear it. The present Government has raised the limit of exemption from income tax to such a degree that no family man is now called upon to pay tax unless he is receiving considerably more than the basic wage.. Another illustration of the liberality of the present Government is that a man. with a wife and two children may earn up to £800 a year without having to’ pay tax. * “Whilst it is quite true, as Senator O’Sullivan pointed out, that publicmoneys are to be used to provide medical benefits for the people, it is obvious that all community services provided by the Government must be paid for by revenueraised from the public. That occurs, of course, in any organized community that functions under responsible government. But there are included in that 95 per cent, people who have been suffering for years, and are still suffering from a. disease, who require medical treatment that they have no hope of getting Unlessby the medium proposed by this Government, which has undertaken that the sacred doctor-patient relationship shall not be disturbed. The Government desires to ensure that people who require medical attention will be able to obtain it. The enactment of this measure will provide assistance to meet the high cost of treatment. Medical attention is to-day so expensive that the vast majority of people cannot afford to pay for it. The aim of this measure, and other similar measures that have been introduced by this Government, is that people will be able to obtain treatment not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of industry, and for the benefit of future generations of Australians. Notwithstanding Senator O’Sullivan’s criticism, the Government ha3 done everything possible to obtain the co-operation of the British Medical Association, and it intends, within the provisions of the Constitution, to provide a free medical service for many people who, normally, would not be able to afford such treatment. I commend the bill to the Senate.
.- This bill proposes to amend the National Health Service Act 194’8. The amendment now proposed has become necessary because of the recent decision of the High Court of Australia. Although Senator Cooke has stated that the British Medical Association is at fault, I point out that the doctors have not evaded the law. The doctors, quite legitimately, applied to the High Court for an interpretation of the law. As honorable senators are aware, that interpretation was in their favour. It is quite evident that there is still a disagreement between the British Medical Association and the Government in connexion with this matter, because the medical profession considers that this scheme will be the forerunner of a fully nationalized medical service. It cannot be denied that the doctors have rights as well as the Government. Whilst I do not wish to be a party to the bickering that is taking place, I should like the Minister to inform the Senate whether the British Medical Association was consulted about the proposed amendment before it was introduced into this chamber. My principal concern in this matter is that the people of Australia shall obtain the best medical attention possible. That is their right because, for a considerable time, they have been called upon to pay social services contributions. That entitles them to certain benefits which have already been explained by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I do not doubt that the government genuinely desires to provide the people with the best medical attention possible. The Opposition is equally sincere. It is unfortunate that this measure has been introduced during the dying hours of this Parliament. It may be that the Government considers that something should be done to correct the position before this Parliament is terminated. As honorable senators are aware, a general election will be held in about six weeks’ time. It is to be hoped that the provision of medical benefits for the people of this country will not become a political football.
– The people of this country will give their answer on polling day.
– The disagreement between the Government and the doctors has persisted for about twelve months. What is commonly called free medicine is provided’ for in the pharmaceutical benefits legislation. There is no such thing as free medicine, because the cost of providing that medicine will form a charge against the social services contributions that have already been collected from the taxpayers of this country. The evidence that the people of this country endorse the scheme is by no means overwhelming. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that, to say the least, the doctors are not at all happy about it. Let us consider why that is so. The National Health Service Act provides for the exercise of very wide powers by regulation. Government by regulation has increased very considerably over the past few years. Parliament is becoming secondary to the Government in power. All that the Parliament now does is to pass skeleton legislation or “ an empty egg-shell “ which is filled in afterwards by regulations. Section 22 of the principal act reads -
The Governor-General may make .regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which are by this Act required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular -
Those matters are then enumerated. It must be agreed that that provision is all embracing. The Director-General of Health, by power delegated from the Minister, can at any time issue regulations that would completely revolutionize the medical service. That can be done without the saction of the Parliament and without debate provided that the Parliament is not in session at the time. Honorable senators will agree that sickness inevitably involves heavy financial burdens. Prolonged sickness amongst the members of a family entails greater financial burdens than in the case of an individual. I have no doubt that it is the desire of all honorable senators to assist people who find themselves in an unfortunate position because of sickness. The Government is in a position to introduce any medical scheme that it so desires because of its majority in both Houses of the Parliament. I point out, however, that if any such scheme is to be successful the fullest co-operation of the doctors must be assured. In order that patients may have the greatest opportunity for recovery it is essential . that they shall have confidence in their doctors, who are experts with specialized knowledge. Although that aspect has not been overlooked entirely, 1 think that the Government should have given it more consideration. It must be agreed that doctors are specialists, and cannot be done without. It was proved during the recent coal strike that a coal-miner can be trained in two days. It will be remembered that in a period of five days the troops engaged on open-cut mining produced more coal than did miners who had been engaged in that occupation for many years. 1 suggest that it is futile to endeavour to compare a coal-miner with a doctor, who qualifies only after at least seven years’ intensive study.
For many years past the friendly societies in this country have operated medical services for sections of the community within specified income and age groups. Before members of a friendly society may become eligible to contribute for medical benefits they must pass a medical examination. Even now it is not too late for the Government to make use of the friendly societies’ organization that has been developed over the years. It may be contended that the friendly societies could cater adequately for the medical requirements of all people within specified limits. The Government could pay for the treatment of people who are not sufficiently fit to be eligible for friendly society benefits. It could make an amicable agreement with those organizations to extend their services to people in the age and income groups that I have mentioned.
– Would the doctors agree to that?
– I have every reason to believe that they would do 60. I notice that the Minister has a copy of the booklet A National Health Service, which has been issued by the British Medical Association: That publication sets out measures for a national health service aimed at the maintenance of health, the prevention of disease, the cure of disease and the upkeep of public hospitals, sanitoriums, mental hospitals and homes for the infirm. It suggests that a national health service could be conducted by the existing friendly societies and other organizations and proposes the adoption of a system similar to the medical benefits schemes that have been instituted in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia for people in the middle income groups. That suggestion is worthy of close investigation by the Government. If anything, such a scheme would be more satisfactory for patients than the scheme that is contemplated in the bill, which provides that 50 per cent, of medical expenses shall be paid by the Government. The schemes that operate in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia provide for the payment of 75 per cent, of patients’ costs. The fact that those schemes are working satisfactorily shows that the doctors are sincere in their intention to co-operate with the people in providing health services. I have been informed that the Bank of New South Wales recently instituted a medical benefits scheme for its employees upon an insurance basis. Under it, the contributor is required to pay the first £10 of medical costs incurred on behalf of himself or his family, one-half of the amount between £10 and £50, and nothing at all thereafter. The expense of major operations and the treatment of serious afflictions is the cause of most financial hardships, and the scheme relieves contributors of that burden. I have demonstrated that the British Medical Association is not entirely unco-operative and has the welfare of the people at heart. The doctors are willing to give of their best at fees which, for the items that I have mentioned, would be better for the people than the charges contemplated under this bill. Schemes of the kind that I have discussed would meet the requirements of patients and would also preserve the independence of both patients and doctors. That is what we all want. Acceptance by the Government of the proposal made by the British Medical Association would avoid any further disagreement between it and the association and would provide the people with the service that they need.
– in reply - Senator O’Sullivan earlier this afternoon flattered me by seeking a legal opinion. I propose now to give a medical opinion in relation to his speech on this bill. Speaking as Minister for Health, I say that the honorable senator is suffering from a very high degree of election fever. The whole of his speech consisted merely of a recitation of the advertisements that one reads every day over the names of the Liberal party, the Institute of Public Affairs, the Constitutional League and other bodies behind whose names the vast funds at the disposal of the Opposition are concealed. Those organizations hope that the sheer weight of repetition will ultimately force the people to heed their ca tch-cry of “ .regimentation “. I point cut to Senator O’Sullivan that the repetition of such words and phrases will not convince anybody and will make no contribution to the content of the bill. “I am more concerned with some of the remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) than with the speech of Senator O’Sullivan. I regret that it is necessary for me to join issue with the Leader of the Opposition on two propositions. The first is his claim that this bill has been rendered necessary by the recent decision of the High Court. The honorable senator must be under a. complete misapprehension because that emphatically is not true. Section 6 of the National Health Service Act provides for a medical benefits scheme upon a wholly voluntary basis. That section will not be affected by the bill. The original conception was an entirely voluntary scheme, and that idea will be perpetuated under the legislation that we are now considering.
If honorable senators listened attentively to my second-reading speech, they must realize that the bill was introduced for several broad reasons. Its objects are to give more elasticity to the conditions under which payments can be made, to enable this Parliament to confer power upon State courts in certain matters, and to make completely sure that a contribution in respect of the mileage travelled by a doctor in outback areas shall be within the ambit of the legislation. Those and no other .reasons prompted the introduction of the bill. The measure merely seeks to amplify the existing act, and I assure the Leader of the Opposition that lie is grievously in error if he believes that the amendment has been rendered necessary in any way by the recent decision of the High Court, which dealt with the completely unrelated matter of pharmaceutical benefits. The second proposition upon which I wish to join issue with the honorable senator is the declaration that the Director-General of Health will be able to effect drastic changes in the medical organization of Australia merely by making regulations under powers delegated by a Minister. The honorable senator must have been quoting directly from the British Medical Association’s pamphlet when he made that assertion. That booklet was put into my hands as I was speaking and my attention was directed to a paragraph on page 49, which contains the greatest nonsense that I have ever read. Unfortunately, it is completely in line with the observations that were made by the Leader of the Opposition. That paragraph states -
It is clear, therefore, that without reference to Parliament, the Director-General of Health, via the Minister for Health, may at any time and without warning revolutionize the medical services of the country in any of the following ways : -
The High Court has declared that even in relation to the barest procedural matter, such as the question of which form the doctors should use, not the faintest element of compulsion can be used. Yet the association makes the preposterous claim in this booklet that a full-time salaried service, involving actual conscription of people and bodies, wouldbe possible. The whole thing is utterly fantastic. It is unbelievable that any intelligent person should ever conceive such an idea, much less express it. I shall quote further from the booklet in order to make sure that I am not, overstretching the association’s concept. -
He may, by consent or economic presume -
That is utter nonsense. Had the authors of the pamphlet referred to the National Health Service Act, they would have found that no hospital and no State institution could be taken over except by arrangement, which means agreement and concurrence. That proposition by the Leader of the Opposition, coupled with the proposition set out in the circular, is entirely erroneous and falsely based, and I take this early opportunity to correct the error. Whilst the British Medical Association has been endeavouring to instil fear of nationalization in the minds of its members, it has ignored entirely the High Court decision, which gives clear authority for the assertion that not even the faintest element of compulsion can be used in relation to either doctors or dentists, even in procedural matters, much less matters involving the rendering of services.
At any rate, the High Court has done some good by giving its decision. It has confounded those who have been proclaiming the absurd proposition that the Government aims at the nationalization of the medical and dental professions. That is one bogy that the court has laid. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the friendly societies. In doing so, he touched upon a fourth reason, which I forgot to particularize earlier, for the introduction of this bill. The Government knows that the friendly societies provide fairly comprehensive medical services for their members and that there are also many industrial medical benefit schemes, some of which operate on a contributory basis. I have in mind such schemes as the one that operates on the South Coast of New South Wales, the one that is conducted by the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited in Tasmania, and another that is conducted by the copper-mining organization at Mount Lyell in western Tasmania. There are scores of other medical schemes, many of which have been promoted jointly by employers and employees. The Government does not ignore the existence and the value of such schemes, and in this bill it seeks power to negotiate with the controlling bodies with a view to reaching an agreement that will be satisfactory to them, to the doctors and to itself. That is the reason for the amplification of that particular provision. The honorable senator who is concerned about that point may be assured that the department will enter into discussions with all those bodies. Various schemes are on entirely different bases throughout the Commonwealth and it will not be possible to make any uniform approach. Each of those schemes will have to he considered upon its merits and upon its own features. That, unquestionably, will take some time.
I inform the Senate that when this bill becomes law - and I assume that is will - regulations dealing with the medical benefits scheme will be promulgated. I expect that they will be promulgated in the very near future. It is unlikely that they will be expressed to take effect in the near future. The discussions with the various bodies to which I have referred will take some considerable time and I am not now prepared to forecast when the regulations will become operative; but I hasten to assure the Senate, having regard to the mention made yesterday in this chamber of four freedoms, that no one need have the slightest concern about that. Despite observations to the contrary by certain spokesmen for the controlling body of the British Medical Association, there will not be the slightest interference with the freedom of any patient to choose his own doctor; there will he no interference as to the form of treatment that the doctor should accord to his patients, and no interference with the relationship between doctor and patient. Those observations lead me to a matter that I enter upon with a little distaste. I refer to a broadcast that has been made throughout Australia by a medico - a gentleman who is a member of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. For reasons that I shall give in a moment, I do not propose to give publicity to his name. I refer to series 35 - I presume that it is the thirty-fifth broadcast of this series - made in Canberra on the 30th September last. It is headed, “ Confidence in your Doctor “. The portion to which I direct the Senate’s attention is as follows: -
The Government wouldn’t pay its share of the bill to you. Nothing so simple. It would pay its share to the doctor. And at this point, it asserts a Tight to know what the treatment was for . . . the nature of the patient’s illness or disease.
I have no doubt that that particular statement has gone all over Australia, and will continue to po all over Australia. I say without any reservation, or hesitation, at all that it betrays either the most abysmal ignorance of an unpardonable type, or, alternatively, it is a deliberate misstatement. When I place a few facts before the Senate, I shall leave honorable senators to make a choice between the two propositions, whether that statement was made in ignorance or as a deliberate misstatement. First, the gentleman in question has sat in conferences with me on matters relating to the medical benefits scheme when I have made it perfectly clear that the Government in promoting that scheme was not in any way concerned with the clinical records of patients. I have made public statements in this chamber and elsewhere on many occasions that the Government is not concerned to know the ailments of a patient. I now repeat what I said in public on the 2nd December of last year when I stated -
With respect to secrecy I make it perfectly clear that the Government has not the slightest desire to know what is wrong with any person in Australia. Secondly, I do not believe that under this scheme there will be any need for the Government to know what is wrong with any person.
I was referring to the medical benefits scheme - lt will be necessary for the Government to be informed whether an attendance has taken place or whether a minor or major operation lias been performed so that the Government may know into which particular class each charge will fall. But we are not concerned about the particular ailment of any individual. 1 assure the honorable senator that we are as anxious as he is to develop a scheme under which details of complaints will be kept secret and the confidential nature of the patient’s ailment will be preserved.
What I had1 in mind when I said that was that we need to know when a bill is presented to us by a doctor whether there has been an attendance at the surgery or at the patient’s home. That will cover about 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the total bill of the doctor. As to what the attendance was about we have not the slightest interest and we have never expressed any desire to know what is the ailment of the patient. If there is an operation we need to know whether it is a minor or a major operation, in order to indicate the classification into which the bill will fall, whether it should fall within the five guineas, ten guineas, fifteen guineas or twenty guineas classification, and so on. We have not the faintest interest in knowing the nature of the operation. I draw attention to the fact that the doctor who sponsored that broadcast as a member of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association had an obligation to the persons he represented to know what the Government and responsible Ministers were saying on the subject. He had that opportunity, and I have no doubt that he had a written record of proceedings that took place at all my conferences with that body. It was his duty to know the contents of speeches such as that from which I have just quoted, because that was a speech that I made in the publicity of this chamber in answer to remarks by Senator O’Sullivan in December of last year. It was not a speech that I made on a platform outside the Parliament. It was the plain duty of that doctor to know what responsible Ministers had said. In that duty he has failed, and 1 have no hesitation in. asking honorable senators to take their choice whether what he said arose out of ignorance or was a deliberate misstatement. I shall read a further extract from the brief broadcast made by that same gentleman. He had this to say -
And I think the public should appreciate that the amount of medicine a doctor could prescribe, on any one occasion, would be limited. If the treatment had to be continued for some time, the patient would have to visit the doctor oftener, paying of course one-half the fee. So that under this scheme, each extra visit would wipe out the Government benefit for the one before. That, I suppose, is political economy.
That, I say, is a complete untruth. Again, the Senate may take its choice whether that statement arose out of ignorance or whether it was a deliberate misstatement, because for months before that statement was made the regulations had been published and the doctor in question would have had at least the plain responsibility as a member of the controlling body of the British Medical Association to know the law relating to the subject he was discussing. For months before he made that broadcast the law of this country was that doctors prescribing under the medical benefits scheme were not restricted in any way whatever as to the quantity they might prescribe at any time for any one patient. If that is the type of propaganda that is to emanate from the British Medical Association, that body should reconsider its attitude if it wishes to be regarded as an ethical body. In these remarks I am speaking of one member of that association. I do not propose to give his name, for two reasons: first, I am merciful enough not to give his name; and, secondly, my contempt for him goes too deep to enable me to do so. If that is the type of propaganda that is to be put out on behalf of the British Medical Association I must classify that body in the same category as those in the community who do not hesitate to stoop to distortion of the foulest type of which we have evidence provided from day to day in the press.
We have heard from the Opposition about a very good pamphlet that has been put out by the British Medical Association upon the Government’s health scheme. It may or may not be a good pamphlet. I have not had an opportunity to read it. My attention waB directed first to the matter to which 1 have just referred and, secondly, I am informed - and I accept the assurance - that the only reference throughout the 55 pages of that document to the provision of some form of financial relief to the people is contained in one and half lines on page 11, where, under the heading, “Measures aimed at the cure of disease “, it lists as one item, “ Methods to assist people to meet the costs of medical care “. Those are the only words in that document of 55 pages that are. devoted to that subject.
– I thought that, the Minister said that he had not read the pamphlet.
– I said that I had not read it. The pamphlet was passed to me and I was assured that they were the only words in it that referred to that matter. I repeat that I have not read the document. I turn to page fifteen of the pamphlet, which is headed, “ High Priorities of a National Health Service “. The first item mentioned is “ Housing “. The Government - has already provided over £48,000,000 for housing programmes, and in that sphere it can only give financial assistance to the States. The next appendix is headed, “ Industrial Hygiene “. On previous occasions I have given to the Senate details of what the Government is doing in that field. Another appendix is headed, “ Measures to control diseases peculiar to the tropical parts of Australia “. For some years we have had the School of Public Health and Tropica] Hygiene in Sydney and it has been devoted to that purpose. The next appendix i3 headed, “ Hospital accommodation “. That is a matter for the States, but it is one in which we have a keen interest and may have to take a financial interest when that problem has been fully investigated. “ Tuberculosis Control “ is given the next priority. The Government has set in train for the first time in the history of this country a really live campaign to wipe out tuberculosis. Appendix No. 7 is headed “Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales “. I only wish that I had the time to take that fund to pieces and expose it. I should be happy to take an hour in doing so on some future occasion. Then follow comments on the Government’s proposal for a national medical service, and among those comments, as I have pointed out, is the claim that the DirectorGeneral of Health can do the most impossible things.
Reverting to the broadcast to which 1 have already referred I point out that the gentleman who made it has made statements that are wholly inaccurate. T have not convicted him of making a deliberate misstatement, but have left that choice to honorable senators. He is the type of man in Australia to-day who with completely callous indifference to the financial interests of his patients sends them away from his surgery with prescriptions for the most expensive drugs, including the sulpha drugs, penicillin, insulin and all kinds of costly but important extracts and tablets. With complete and utter indifference he sends his patients out of .his surgery with a private prescription for such costly things when, if he wrote his prescription on an official form, his patients would not have to bear that expense. What is involved in writing a prescription upon a specified form ? Nothing whatever in effort or in principle; hut for the Government, the patient, and the chemist, it is a vastly different proposition. I wonder whether doctors have considered the great embarrassment that a patient may suffer in taking a private prescription form to a chemist and asking, “Would you please tell me whether I have to pay for this medicine?”; or the embarrassment that the chemist may suffer in answering, “ You have to pay for it.” All that could be eliminated if doctors agreed to do one little thing. All that they have to do, is to write their prescriptions on an official form instead of a private form. They can thus eliminate the possibility of fraud and forgery, save embarrassment to patients and chemists, and enable the administration of this scheme to be conducted not only with efficiency but also with real economy. Is it too much to ask the doctors of this country to make that infinitesimal contribution to the scheme? It is entirely a matter for them, and it is well that the people of Australia should know that the one bar to the provision of free pharmaceutical benefits in this country is the unwillingness of doctors to write prescriptions on one form instead of another. There is not the slightest obligation on a doctor to prescribe from the formulary if lie believes that course not to be in the best interests of his patient. In the stand that this Government lias taken, the medical judgment of doctors has been left wholly unfettered and there is no suggestion that the Government will at any time interfere with that judgment. The formulary has been prepared by doctors, pharmacologists, and other experts advising the Government. It is significant that there has been no real criticism of the formulary in the last five years. New drugs have come on the market. A formulary committee is to bc appointed to expand the formulary and keep it up to date. I do not claim that the formulary can cover every single item, but I draw attention to the fact that the British Medical Association, in its representations to the High Court recently, pointed out that its members could not carry on practice without prescribing drugs and the numerous medicaments that form such a. large part of their practice, and all of which, were contained in the formulary. They impressed the Chief Justice so much that, in the course of his judgment, he said that, on what had been put before him - all that had been put before him had been submitted by the British. Medical Association itself - if the scheme were placed upon a compulsory basis, a doctor would have to write all or nearly all his prescriptions on the official form. I do not ask anybody to accept the Government’s view on that matter; I am asking the people of this country to accept the dictum of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. gain, I do not claim perfection for the formulary. It is open to the medical profession to appoint its own nominees te the formulary committee. I carefully refrained from appointing anybody to that committee until the High Court case was determined, but I do not propose to leave the matter open very much longer. I am still prepared, subject to the co-operation of the British Medical Association, to allow that body to appoint its own nominees. I. take this opportunity to-day to Jet the people of Australia, through this Senate, know that the Government has provided for them ari efficient and comprehensive scheme of pharmaceutical benefits. That scheme was frustrated from the start by the British Medical Association. The Government then sought to apply compul-si on in a purely procedural matter, and if the people arc not receiving pharmaceutical benefits to-day, it is not through any lack of effort on the part of the Government. The fault has arisen purely in the manner I have indicated.
I come now to the medical benefits scheme. A few months ago I invited the British Medical Association to appoint a. working committee to sit down with my officers and investigate their suggestions and our suggestions. They declined to do so, unless, first of all, the Government was prepared to give way on every point at issue. In other words, they were prepared to confer under conditions which would leave nothing on which to confer. That was an absurd attitude for a responsible body to adopt. Had my offer been accepted,- it might have been found that the Government and the British Medical Association saw eye to eye on many matters, but the British Medical Association has completely rejected all overtures. It has refused to work out, with departmental officials, the details of any scheme.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls).- Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
– Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) give the Senate any enlightment on the proposal in clause 4 to amend section 16 of the principal a.ct by omitting the word “advisory” in relation to committees?
.- The act as it now stands empowers the Minister to appoint advisory committees. The word “ advisory “ limits the functions of such committees to merely -tendering advice. It appeared to the Government that it might want to establish various professional committees upon which some executive authority would be conferred. That would not be possible if the word “ advisory “ remained in the act. The amendment will enable the appointment of committees which may be either executive or advisory. In effect, the proposal amplifies the powers that the various committees may exert. For instance, it may be necessary to establish disputes committees to consider accounts on which there is a disagreement between doctors and their patients. Such committees may be clothed with authority to make decisions instead of merely advising the Minister as to the decisions that should be made.
– Proposed new section 6 (4.) relates to arrangements between a medical practitioner and a society. Is that provision intended to cover all friendly societies and like organizations with the object of relieving them of the expense of any extra service that may be performed? Will the Government reimburse those societies for that expense?
– Proposed new section 6 merely empowers the Minister to make arrangements for the provision by the Commonwealth of sickness benefits or medical services apart from the 50 per cent, contribution of the doctor’s fee. The mere fact that the power is taken does not mean that the arrangements will be made. I make that completely clear to the honorable senator. ‘ It will depend in the first place on the concurrence of the friendly society.
– No limit is contemplated ?
– None at all. For instance, if it were thought desirable both by the Government and by the society concerned - and I repeat the word “if” - an arrangement might be made whereby half of the fees paid to the friendly society by its members would be contributed by the Government, thus relieving patients of that expenditure. Then, if the service provided by the society was limited to a small area, areas outside that, but within our scheme, would fall under the general provisions of our scheme.
– The provision is intended to be entirely elastic?
– Yes. One of the purposes of the amending bill is merely to take power to enable that to be done at some later date if it be desirable. Under the section as it stands, it would not be possible even to contemplate such an arrangement.
– Mention has been made of advisory and other committees. I should like to know whether those committees will be composed entirely of medicos. Has consideration been given to the appointment of women to such committees?
– Under the national health service, committees of all kinds may be appointed to deal, for instance, with the medical profession, the dental profession, the nursing profession, and radiography, at the technical and not the professional level. Numerous other ancillary activities including optometry as well as ophthalmology may need advisory bodies. I can assure the honorable senator, if she is worried about the future, that on the reason.a Ne assumption ‘ that I shall be Minister for Health for some time, there will be no animus against women in appointing the committees. Speaking seriously, members of the committees will be appointed not because of their sex, but because of their technical knowledge and the contribution that they will be able to make to the work of the committees. In these circumstances, I should expect that quite a number of women would be eligible for selection. However, I do not think that it would be a proper principle to appoint a woman to a committee just because she was a woman. The committees will be of a technical and scientific character, and they will be asked to advise the Government on policy and procedure at a high level. I have already intimated to various organizations that in the develop ment of the National Health Service the Government is prepared to make very liberal use of the advisory and other committees in the various professions. I again assure the honorable senator however, that I have not, nor has any member of the Government - if I may speak on behalf of my leader and his colleagues - any animus against women. I ami sure that, in this modern age many women have such excellent technical qualifications that they are fully qualified to hold positions of importance on those committees.
– I had in mind the nursing profession for instance.
– I agree with the honorable senator that, in the field of nursing, we should look to nurses for advice. There is being developed, 1 understand, a race of male nurses who may be entitled to representation, but I think that the honorable senator can rely upon a preponderance of female representation upon such a committee.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1693), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is to approve the second supplementary sugar agreement made between the. Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government this month. Under that agreement the two governments agree to amend the present sugar agreement in order to provide for an increase of £4 2s. 8d. in the wholesale price of refined sugar of 1A grade and for the price of sugar of other grades to be increased accordingly. The home consumption price of sugar has increased from £37 6s. 8d. to £41 9s. 4d. a ton. The recommendation for an increased price was made by the Government after consultation with the Queensland Government, and only after a close survey of the present position and future prospects of the industry had been made.
It is interesting to note that when the original agreement with the Queensland Government was signed in 1945, the Commonwealth Government gave an assurance to the industry that if, during the currency of the agreement, costs increased substantially, the Government would be prepared, on receiving, representations from the Queensland Government, to reconsider the price of sugar. The measure at present before the Senate is the outcome of a reconsideration of the industry’s position by the Government. From the case presented for an increased price by the Australian raw sugar industry, it would appear that the sugar producers have solid grounds for their request. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) pointed out in the course of his second-reading speech, wages, rail freights, materials, and replacement costs have increased considerably, and there is no doubt that the proposed increase of £4. 2s. 8d. in the wholesale price of refined sugar is fully justified. The increased price will have the effect of increasing the retail price of refined sugar by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, which means that the price will be increased from 4Jd. to 5d. per lb.
I should like to point out now that the price of sugar in Australia is lower than any Other country with the exception of Mexico, Denmark, Argentina, and ‘Peru. Furthermore, during a considerable period the price paid by Australian consumers for sugar has been very low when compared with that paid for other commodities. The reason why it has been possible to sell sugar so cheaply on the home market is that for several years the export price has been high. If the export price had not been so favorable the home consumption price would inevitably have had to be increased.
As honorable senators are aware the control of retail prices is occasioning considerable anxiety to both Commonwealth and State governments. At the conference of State Ministers held at Hobart on the 30th September last, it was decided to protest to the Commonwealth’ Government and the Queensland Government against the request of the sugar industry that the price of sugar should be increased by those authorities without consulting State governments. I point out at once that during the 26 years in which sugar agreements have come under review the States have never been consulted, nor, so far as I am aware, have they ever made any previous request that they should be ‘ consulted. In this connexion I propose to quote to. honorable senators the editorial which appeared in the Australian Sugar Journal of the 15th October. It is as follows: -
In view of this past history, the professed interest of the States is new born and not in line with the accepted procedure applied since the first Sugar Agreement in 1923. There is nothing in the present situation justifying this unexpected change of attitude by the States and one can only conclude that action in this direction arises from the earlier dispute, still apparently alive, between the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government in regard to the price of butter. In connexion with butter, the States are apparently seeking that the increased cost of the dairying industry should be met with an extension of Commonwealth Government subsidy rather than by an increased price to consumers. However, it is a fact that the Sugar Industry in Australia has never received a subsidy from Government funds by way of price support, and this support is no more open to the Industry now than in the past. The only means of relief available is a price increase and there are absolutely no grounds for departure from the long established procedure under which the wholesale price is fixed between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government.
That article explains very clearly the reasons why it is necessary to increase the price of sugar, and I again point out that had it not been for the favorable export prices for sugar during the past few years the home-consumption price would have had to be increased much sooner. In the case presented by the sugar industry it was claimed that sugar-growers should be relieved for the time being of the annual payment of £216,000 to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, whose funds have now accumulated to more than £850,000 because of the nonpayment of export sugar rebates during recent years. The Minister has already pointed out that the Government, after having considered this proposal, has rejected it, but the explanation advanced by the Minister for the Government’s decision was not very convincing. In effect, all that he said was that the contribution had been payable by the sugar industry to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for many years, and that the original arrangement for its payment was a mutual one. The Minister went on to say that since jam contains approximately 60 per cent, of Sugar it is in the sugar industry’s own interest to encourage the sale of fruit products. However, I feel that the Government has not considered this matter from the viewpoint of the sugar-growers. Furthermore, I understand that the original intention of the representatives of the sugar industry and the processed fruit industry was that the fruit industry should assist the sugar industry when the export price of sugar was lower than the home-consumption price. That gave the fruit processors an opportunity to export their products at a reduced price, or, at most, at world parity price, because they were enabled to purchase sugar at a special concessional rate. However, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has now accumulated a credit fund of more than. £800,000 and the export price of sugar is still higher than the homeconsumption price. I consider, therefore, that the sugar-growers are quite justified in asking, not that the accumulated funds should be dispersed, but that the obligation of the sugar industry to make an annual contribution to the committee’s funds should be suspended while the export price remains higher than the homeconsumption price of sugar.
The editorial of the Australian Sugar Journal from which I quoted a few minutes ago contains a number of sound comments on this matter, and I propose to read them to the Senate. They are as follows : -
It hits been a matter of keen disappointment to the Industry that its application for a temporary suspension of the Industry’s contribution to the Fruit Industry has been rejected. The sum of £210,000 per annum is payable to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Subject to manufacturers of fruit products paying fair minimum prices for fruit, as determined by the Committee, manufacturers are entitled to receive a. domestic lobato of £2/4/- per ton for sugar used in products consumed in Australia. Tn addition they are entitled to receive a rebate on the sugar used in their exported products. This export rebate is designed to enable manu- facturers to obtain sugar at prices no higher than those at which sugar could be imported into Australia. But since, however, the price of Australian sugar has been for some timepast well below world parity, no export rebates have been payable and, as a result, the Committee has accumulated roundly £800,000 of unused funds. Moreover there seems no early prospect of world -prices for sugar falling below Australian prices, and it is apparent that the major portion of thu Sugar Industry’s annual contributions will go towards further swelling the very large total of the sum now lying idle in the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. It seemed a very moderate and reasonable request that the obligations of the Sugar Industry to make its annual contributions should be suspended until such time as, at least, a considerable portion of the present accumulated fund had been applied to the purposes for -which it had been raised.
I agree with the view expressed in the article because the sugar industry is certainly making a contribution to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee that will not be required but will simply be placed to the credit of the committee. As the sugar-growers have been through a lean period, they would greatly appreciate the suspension of their obligation to contribute to that committee in order that they may devote the money to developing their industry. This bill is of special interest to the Opposition and to Queensland senators on the Government side of the chamber. The Opposition in this chamber is unique in that its three members are all Queenslanders. The case presented by the sugar industry is very sound, and the Opposition does not desire to impede the speedy passage of this legislation.
– We all realize the very great importance of the sugar industry to the development of the north, and the general well-being of the people of this country. It is difficult for me to understand why the sugar-growers have not before sought an increased price for their commodity, because of the upward trend in wages and costs generally. Although it is inconceivable that any opposition could be offered to this legislation, I consider that some improvements could be effected in this somewhat socialised industry. Socialism has proved more successful in this industry than in any other industry in Australia. Steps should be taken to ensure that all States get a fair deal in connexion, with the distribution of sugar. I point out that this commodity has to he transported over long distances in order to reach the southern States. Although manufacturing firms in the south are rarely inconvenienced by a shortage of sugar, because of the large reserves that they maintain at all times, that is not so in connexion with the domestic use of sugar, particularly during the fruit season. I do not know whether there has been a conspiracy to create a shortage of sugar for domestic use at certain times of the year. It is significant, however, that manufacturing firms, which in the past have bought fruit at cheap rates because of exploited labour conditions, always have plenty of sugar whilst people who grow fruit in their home gardens are not able to make it into jam because of a shortage of sugar. In the past it has been very noticeable that supplies of sugar to Tasmania have decreased whenever there have been shipping hold-ups or industrial trouble on the coal-fields. Frequently sugar is rationed in Tasmania for domestic use at times when other States have ample supplies. Tasmania suffers because, being an island, it has no road or rail communication with the sugar-growing areas. I consider that sugar refineries or storage depots should be established in Tasmania in order to tide that State over periods of industrial unrest on the mainland. Householders in Tasmania have suffered crave losses because of the recurring shortages of sugar in that State. I am not able to say whether sugar will keep for lengthy periods in storage depots. The Premier of that State has stated that sugar deteriorates if kept for a lengthy period in storage depots. If that is so, I consider that a sugar refinery should be established in Tasmania in order to maintain the sugar requirements of that State. It may be claimed that a refinery in Tasmania could provide sufficient sugar in a short space of time to meet the needs of that State for a whole year. I point out that sugar in excess of Tasmania’s requirements could be exported from Tasmania to other parts of Australia as is now done from Sydney and Melbourne. I urge the Minister to take steps to ensure that some thing will be done to alleviate Tasmania’s difficulties in this direction. Whenever sugar shortages occur in Tasmania sections of the people claim that it is because of some shortcoming of the Government. Whilst in the past that may have been so, this Government has not’ been at fault in this connexion. I suggest that the Government could use its influence with the Queensland Government to ensure that all States are adequately provided for in relation to sugar. A refining plant could be established in each capital city, although I do not contend that that is the best way to overcome this difficulty. I have been present in this chamber during a number of debates in connexion with the ratification of sugar agreements, when loyal support for the sugar industry has been given by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I therefore contend that the southern States should be assured of ample supplies of sugar in future. We must also bear in mind the fact that there is likely to be an expansion of the sugar industry in this country, because assuredly Australia’s population will continue to increase rapidly. That expansion will provide an additional means of absorbing new settlers in this country. I point out that had the sugar industry not been established in Australia and that commodity had to be imported, the people of Australia would have had to pay in excess of ls. per lb. for sugar, particularly during war-time. That is borne out by the position to-day in relation to tea. Whilst I wholeheartedly support any measure brought forward to further the interests of the sugar industry, I claim that the people -administering the control of sugar in the north should ensure that the southern States, particularly the island State of Tasmania, shall receive an adequate supply of sugar foiboth manufacturing and domestic purposes.
– The effect of this bill will be to raise the price of sugar by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, or id. per lb. The price to the housewives will be increased from 4-Jd. to 5d. per lb. I realize fully the importance of the sugar industry to the economy of this country. That industry is efficiently managed and it has -been so developed that Australia can now compete with Cuba, Jamaica and other countries. In fact Australia exports large quantities of sugar. Provision has been made in the sugar agreement to protect the export industry and to maintain the demand in Australia. Because of its isolated geographical position, Tasmania has frequently faced difficult problems because of shortages of sugar. That State is frequently affected by industrial unrest in other parts of Australia, particularly hold-ups of shipping. As the result there is often a shortage of sugar, not only for the manufacturers but also for the housewives. This matter has been raised several times in this chamber and has been the subject of negotiations between the Premier of Tasmania, the Australian Government, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. That company has admitted that there have been shortages of sugar in the past, and that there may be further shortages in the future. I contend that a sugar refinery or facilities for the storage of sugar should be provided in Tasmania to ensure that that State shall have ample supplies of sugar during any periods of industrial unrest on the mainland. Paragraph 11 of the schedule to the Sugar Agreement Act 1946 provides -
That the Queensland Government, if and when requested by the Commonwealth Government, shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart, provided that the Commonwealth shall not make such a request unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred in Hobart which ia du* to wholesale merchants in Hobart or the Queensland Sugar Board failing to adhere to the present arrangements whereby special reserve stocks of sugar are supplied to and held by such merchants.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has made representations to the merchants concerned with the disposal of sugar in Tasmania to establish adequate stocks, but they have not been able to provide the necessary storage facilities to do so. Tasmanian senators, particularly, will agree that that agreement should be adhered to and that a storage depot or refinery should be established at Hobart, to overcome the difficulties now being experienced in Tasmania. This portion of a letter that I received from the manager of the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited during a period when sugar was in short supply in Tasmania is significant^
Some time ago the C.S.R., acting for the Queensland Sugar Board, arranged for the Hobart merchants to carry twice the reserve stocks they normally held, but owing to the irregularity of the Hobart shipping service, it has been quite impossible to maintain the stocks and keep up adequate supplies.
That is the crux of the whole matter. The company admitted that because of shipping difficulties it was unable to maintain adequate supplies to Tasmania. It has been claimed that sugar is entering Tasmania in greater quantities than ever before. That is so, but no provision is made for the housewife. Since the establishment of the confectionery works of Cadbury-Fry-Pascall Proprietary Limited, there has been an expansion of the confectionery manufacturing industry in Tasmania. There has also been a development of the processing of fruit to extract juices and manufacture fruit drinks, which involves the use of large quantities of sugar. Shortages invariably appear to affect only the housewives when they want to obtain sugar for the making of jam and preserves. It seems to be more than a coincidence that the shortages arise during fruit harvests. Jam is a very important part of the daily diet of children and working men who eat cut lunches. We all know that more sugar is being produced in Australia than ever before and that the quantities used for the commercial manufacture of jam are at their highest recorded level. In 1939, only 85,000,000 lb. of sugar was used for the manufacture of jam in Australia. Now, we are exporting jam and preserves at the rate of 190,000,000 lb. annually. Steps must be taken to protect the interests not only of manufacturing industries in Tasmania but also of housewives so that they need not suffer from recurrent shortages. I have here copies of letters that were exchanged between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and the Premier of Tasmania during the recent coal strike concerning Tasmania’s sugar famine. Arrangements had been made for three shipments of sugar to be sent to Tasmania. One cargo of 300 tons was destined for Launceston and two others of 500 tons and 1,500 tons respectively were to have been delivered at Hobart by the vessel Talune and the Commonwealth ship Dubbo, making a total of 2,300 tons. The ‘ interruption of transport services caused by industrial conditions interfered with those arrangements. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited informed the Premier that Dubbo had insufficient bunker coal to enable it to make the voyage to Tasmania and that, unless the coal shortage could be overcome, the sugar would have to be disposed of in the mainland States. That incident was illustrative of the difficulties that frequently affect Tasmania because of its dependence upon shipping as the result of its geographical situation. I support the bill. I do so because of the overall importance of the sugar industry to Australia, notwithstanding the fact that Tasmania often appears to be ill-served. The industry helps to swell our overseas credits and it provides a great deal of employment in Queensland, which has a beneficial effect upon the whole of the nation. The bill provides for certain steps to be taken to ameliorate conditions in Tasmania, and I trust that those steps will be taken expeditiously.
– Periodic shortages of sugar in Tasmania have given rise to a great deal of resentment in that State. That resentment, of” course, arises from natural selfinterest. As a Tasmanian, I am deeply interested in the welfare of my fellow citizens in that part of the Commonwealth; but I cannot fail to realize that Queensland, our major sugar-producing State, is also a part of Australia. I speak on this measure because I consider that the shortages of sugar that occur in Tasmania from time to time are not accidental or due to the effects of industrial disputes. It is a remarkable fact that the shortages coincide with the fruit seasons, with the result that housewives are prevented from making jams and preserving fruit. Many people contend that Tasmania should have a sugar refinery. I believe, instead, that the establishment of a sugar stock-pile would give that State a greater measure of security against sugar shortages than would the establishment of a refinery. South Aus tralia has a refinery, but that State nevertheless suffers periodically from sugar famines. During the war, the Government decided to establish a stock-pile of sugar in Tasmania and most of the railways goods sheds throughout the State were packed with sugar. As the result of those precautions, there were no shortages during the war. That proves that Tasmania’s wants can be supplied if proper arrangements are made to store reserve stocks. I want to disabuse th,people of the idea, which is frequently promulgated, that sugar shortages are caused by industrial disputes. The workers are not to blame. The entire blame for such shortages rests upon the Queensland Government or the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company Limited. I trust that the agreement which the bill will ratify will be carried out and that large reserve stocks of sugar will be stored in Tasmania so that housewives may be adequately supplied during the periods when shortages might normally be expected to occur. Full supplies were maintained during the war. That should be possible also in time of peace.
great pleasure in supporting the bill. It is not necessary for mp to recapitulate the details that emphasize* the importance of the sugar industry, not only to the economy of Queensland, but, also to the economy of the rest of Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has pointed out that the price of sugar was last increased in 1947 by -Jd. per lb. Therefore two seasons will have elapsed before this further increase is passed on to the growers. In the meantime, the producers have had to meet substantially increased costs caused by rising wages, freight charges, and replacement and repair expenses. I urge the Government to consider some method of permitting automatic and contemporaneous price increases or decreases to be put into effect as costs of production vary. The facts and circumstances which justify the increase that is now proposed have been prevalent for the past two years, but the effect of the agreement that the bill will ratify will not be retrospective. While adjustments continue to be made according to the present haphazard method, there must always be a serious time lag /between the date when an increase becomes justified by the facts and the date when an increase is granted.
– Just like the basic wage.
– Exactly ! A formula relating the price of sugar to the cost of production could be worked out very easily and a suitable statutory authority, not necessarily a new one, could be appointed to grant price increases or decreases according to that formula upon the relevant facts being established to its -satisfaction. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the establishment of such a body and the clothing of it with the requisite authority.
. - - in reply-I am very pleased indeed with the generous attitude that honorable -senators have adopted in supporting the bill. The measure will effect a variation of the sugar agreement so as to increase the price of sugar by id. per lb. The agreement first came into existence in 1915, and it is subject to review at intervals of three, five or seven years so that the price may be determined. Senator O’Sullivan’s suggestion for the adjustment of the price of sugar according to variations of, the cost qf production would be very difficult to implement. The present method is the most satisfactory and practicable one. As honorable senators ;are aware, the price of sugar was increased by id. per lb. in 1947. Since then costs have increased considerably and the industry has been obliged to seek further financial relief through an additional increase. The sugar industry is unique in that the Government at all times has the right to determine the price that shall be charged to the consumer. That system involves a great principle affecting the interests of the people. The sugar industry has a great history. During “World War I., when Australian producers were receiving 4 1/2 d. per lb. for sugar, consumers were obliged to pay prices as high as ls. per lb. for imported sugar. The expansion of the industry since then has enabled1 us to establish a considerable export trade. One-half of the present crop is sold overseas. There can be no dou’bt about the justice of the demand for a price increase. The Government has agreed to the increase, and its decision has met with general approval.
In reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), I am happy to inform, him. that a balance of approximately £800,000 hae been accumulated in the fund that has been established to enable .the fruit-canning industry to obtain sugar at prices competitive with overseas prices’. However, because of the fact that overseas prices of sugar have exceeded the domestic price no call has been made upon the fund. Although the sugar-growers have made out a strong case foi’ the suspension of payments into that fund until the balance now accumulated in it has been expended, the Government believes that it should not follow that course because such action might give the fruit-canning industry cause to believe that the sugar industry is not willing to carry out the obligations it undertook when that fund was originally established. The Government desires to see the best relations maintained between the two industries.
Senator Morrow referred to the shortage of sugar in various parts of the Commonwealth. He implied that such shortages should not exist when he said that ample supplies were available in all States during the recent war. I remind him that all commodities were in ample supply during the war. At that time we did not experience any industrial trouble. In the crisis that then confronted the nation every citizen realized, that he had to pull his weight. Under such conditions it was much easier than it is to-day to get a. 100 pen cent, effort from all sections of the community. During the recent coal strike 35,000 tons of sugar was lost in Sydney alone due to the difficulties arising from that trouble. That quantity would be sufficient to meet Tasmania’s requirements for a considerable period. Whilst I am not blaming any one for the industrial troubles that have arisen from time to time the fact is that such difficulties have retarded the production and distribution of sugar. At the sams time, the consumption of sugar in Australia has increased by over 100,000 rous a year since 1939.
– Is that not a strong reason for the establishment of more refineries?
– Fes. That aspect of the problem has been taken up with the Queensland Government. This Government has a full appreciation of Tasmania’s urgent need for supplies of sugar particularly for use in the processing of fruit. Perhaps the day will come when the establishment of a refinery in that State will be justified. However, the Government does not exercise any control over the refineries. It merely has an agreement with the refining company that it shall refine sugar at a certain price and distribute supplies throughout the Commonwealth. Senator Aylett has pointed out the consumption of sugar in Tasmania at, present would not warrant the establishment of a refinery in. that State. I believe that the shortages of sugar in various parts of the Commonwealth will soon be overcome. ‘ At present, orders have been placed for £3,000,000 worth of machinery to supplement our refining capacity. In recent years the refineries have found if, most difficult to obtain all the man-power they require. Through the efforts of, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who has directed many Baits to the refining industry, that shortage .has been overcome almost completely and the refineries in Sydney are now working at their full capacity. 1 appreciate what Senator Murray has said regarding the need to supply ample quantities of sugar to Tasmania, particularly during the fruit season, not only for the manufacture of jam, but also for domestic use in making preserves. That need also arises during the fruit season in Victoria and South Australia, and it is most important that ample supplies of sugar be made available for domestic purposes as well as manufacturing purposes.
I shall not weary the Senate by referring to other aspects of the industry. All of us are aware of the great contribution that the industry made to our economy during the war. However, at that time Queensland was practically a garrison State. Nearly every farm tractor was commandeered in the interest of the war effort. Consequently, the production of sugar decreased considerably during that period. Production is now being restored to normal. The Government is hopeful that its agreement, for the sale of sugar to the United Kingdom will be continued so that adequate markets will be guaranteed for additional production. Recently a. number of ex-service personnel have been absorbed in the industry. I believe that this .measure will give fresh heart to those engaged in the industry. It is noteworthy that thriving townships have grown up wherever the industry has bee] established. That is a practical example of decentralization. The industry is being carried on at various points along the 1,000 miles of Queensland’s coastline, and we can take pride in the fact that Australia is the only country in which white labour has made a success of the industry. In fact, we are able to .produce sugar at a lower cost than many black-labour countries. I again express my pleasure at the reception given to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 1593), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That thu bill be now read a. second time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Leader of the Opposition [8.0]. - The purpose of this bill is - r?
To grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the service of the year ending the thirtieth day of June, One thousand .nine hundred .’and fifty, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, .and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, and to appropriate the Supplies granted by the Parliament for that year.
The bill seeks approval for the expenditure of £68,293,000 on capital works and service?, and an additional £592,000 through special appropriations. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) indicated that the works provided for in this measure are, in the view of the Cabinet sub-committee, of an exceptionally urgent nature and should be undertaken with the least possible delay. The Opposition therefore does not desire to impede the passage of the bill. Details of the proposed expenditure can be sought at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
– Included in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department is the sum of £31,000 for the purchase of equipment and furniture for Australia House, and the official residence of the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. Last year, no corresponding appropriation was made, but £2,992 was expended. I should like some information about this year’s vote.
– When the former Australian High Commissioner ‘in the United Kingdom, the late Mr. J. A. Beasley, went to London, Australia House required considerable repair and maintenance work. That work was undertaken, and is being continued this year. The proposed vote of £31,000 includes £1,625 for the purchase of furniture for Australia House and Canberra House. The installation of flourescent lighting in certain sections where artificial lighting is required during normal hours of duty will cost £1,250. The present lighting system is not well designed. The Australia House canteen receives supplies of meat from Australia, and the present refrigerator is too small to accommodate stocks. Provision is accordingly made for the expenditure of £500 on the installation of a cold room. The lifts now in use at the front entrance to Australia House are about 30 years old, and the annual maintenance and repair hill has made it necessary for the Government to give serious consideration to their replacement. In addition, some fear is entertained about the safety of the present lift equipment. The lift at Canberra Houseis totally unsuited to the requirements of” the office, and its capacity is limited tofour people. Probably it is the oldest, lift in London. An appropriation is sought to install all-metal cars with the enclosures finished in Australian walnut veneer. The cars will be equipped with the latest automatic sliding doors which can be attendant-operated by changing over to a key 9witch. Self-levelling devices are also included. The cost of this work is estimated at £13,300. It is proposed also to install private automatic branch telephone exchanges at Australia House and at Canberra House. When recommending the installation of these exchanges, the former High Commissioner advised that they would materially increase the efficiency of the services and take a tremendous load from the shoulders of the present telephone,, operators. For this work an appropriation of £14,135 is being made.
– I remind the Senate that Australia House is this country’s first front door in the United Kingdom. For many years prior to the late Mr. Beasley’s appointment as High Commissioner, Australia had only a back door in Great Britain. In the pre-war years, of course, we had very little to offer. During the war, I visited Australia House quite frequently. Although We had a very fine building on the corner of the Strand, it was not in keeping with the role that this country plays in Empire and world affairs. We should make a point of putting on a good front in London to show the people of Great Britain, particularly those who are considering becoming citizens of this country, that Australia is a nation of substance. I believe, therefore that this proposed vote is amply justified. Adverse criticism of it can only be destructive. Dingy offices overseas are unworthy of this country. Australia should be represented in its true light.
– I am afraid that Senator O’Byrne has a mistaken notion of my remarks. One would gather from what he has said that honorable senators have no right to seek details of proposed expenditure when the Estimates are before this chamber, but should sanction the expenditure of millions of pounds without question. The honorable senator has spoken about Australia’s front door. No part of this proposed vote is for doors. It is- mostly for new lifts and improved telephone services. I appreciate the information that has been given by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley).
Under the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs, the sum of £58,500 is provided for the acquisition of sites and buildings overseas. That is a substantial sum of money, particularly in view of the fact that expenditure last year under this heading was nil although £45,000 had been voted. I consider that members of the Senate are entitled to some explanation of this projected expenditure.
– It is true that no expenditure was incurred last year under this heading, and that the sum of £58,500 is provided in this year’s Estimates. The honorable senator will notice that, in preceding items, provision has been made, for expenditure at existing legations. This item may be regarded as a contingency vote. It is a provision that is made annually for an overseas building programme. Australian representatives are not adequately housed in some countries. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that our diplomats should be housed in a manner consistent with the dignity of the country that they represent. The sum of £58,500 is being appropriated to permit the purchase of more suitable premises - at Paris, for instance - should such premises become available. Obviously money cannot be appropriated at a minute’s notice, and the Government does not know beforehand what properties may become available. This sum will be immediately available should the opportunity arise to improve the housing of Australian representatives abroad.
– The residence of the Australian Ambassador in Paris has recently received unfavorable mention in the press, and I notice from
Division 4, Department of External Affairs, that £4,000 is proposed to be voted for “ building equipment and furniture “ for the Embassy. Is it to be inferred that so far the Embassy has not been furnished ?
– I cannot inform the honorable senator of any details, but I can assure him that the Australian Embassy in Paris is not now, and never has been, unfurnished. As the activity of the Embassy has increased and as staff have been added, additional furniture and better equipment has been provided as it became available.
– For the information of Senator O’Sullivan and honorable senators generally, I may say that when 1 visited the Australian Embassy in Paris last year my impression was that it was a credit to Australia. Despite the adverse publicity that has appeared in the press concerning our continued occupancy of premises that we have been requested to vacate, I can assure honorable senators that the Australian Ambassador, Colonel Hodgson, has done everything possible to obtain other premises. However, it is most difficult to obtain accommodation of any kind in Paris. Indeed, while I was in Paris last year, I was astounded to learn that individuals for whom members of the Parliament have considerable respect had suggested that the Australian Government should purchase premises on the black market. The premises in question, the fair price of which was £10,000, were offered to the Australian Government “ on the black market “ for £35,000. When the matter was brought to my notice I immediately said: “You can hardly expect the Australian Prime Minister to countenance a black market deal in a foreign country when he and his Government have done so much to suppress and prevent black marketing in their own country.” Concerning the provision of furnishings for the buildings, the position is that some furnishings were rented with the building. Others were the personal property of Colonel Hodgson, and the remainder were provided by the Australian Government. I can assure Senator O’Sullivan that the appearance of the Embassy was ,a credit to Australia, and that the expenditure of further money upon a establishment is well merited if Australia is to retain its prestige abroad.
– I invite the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to Division 9, Department of the Interior, which includes the following item: -
I notice that, although the sum of £5,000 was voted for the financial year 1948-49, only £106 was expended. Can the Minister inform me whether the expenditure of £5,750 will be sufficient to complete the memorial?
Senator COURTICE (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs’! [S.19]. - The expenditure proposed will enable the monstrosity - I am sorry, I mean the monument - to be completed.
– I desire to express my agreement with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) when lie referred to that memorial as a “ monstrosity “. I should like the Minister to inform the Senate, if he is able, what is to be done to that monstrosity, and what is the necessity to spend an additional £5,750 upon it. The unsightly figure that is supposed to represent a charger is an abnormality, and I do not consider that further expenditure upon the monstrosity is warranted. I should prefer that the Government erect some simple and fitting memorial to the late Sovereign which would be more in the nature of a delight to the eye.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland-
Minister for Trade and Customs) [S.21], - I am not familiar with the circumstances under which the statue was erected, nor am I familiar, with its history, although I realize that it has stood there for some time. I did not intend to refer to it as a “ monstrosity “, and if I did so, that was .a slip of the tongue on my part. It is hoped that by the expenditure of less than £6,000 the memorial will be completed, and that it will be more presentable.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to Division 9, Department of the Interior, which contains the following item : - 1: Commonwealth offices and other buildings - Acquisition of sites and buildings . . £380,600.
I desire to knew whether the Government proposes to make any contribution by way of payment of rates to local authorities in whose areas sites and buildings are acquired. Although the practice has been for the Commonwealth Government not to pay rates to local authorities, I point out that when that practice was first established at the inception of federation the number of buildings occupied by the Commonwealth Government was comparatively small. Even immigration officers were then accommodated in post offices, but because of the enormous extension of Commonwealth activities that has taken place, particularly under Labour administrations, including the acquisition of bank sites, the establishment of airlines and the inauguration of labour exchanges, local authorities are now deprived of considerable amounts of revenue. As an example, the Brisbane City Council has estimated that it is deprived of more than £250,000 per annum because of government occupancy of premises. I urge that the Government should give earnest consideration to making some recompense to local authorities whose only revenue is derived from property rates. I also impress upon the Government that as a matter or ordinary commercial fairness it should’ insist that the trading instrumentalities which it establishes should pay rates, because otherwise they obtain a most unfair advantage over their competitors.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland-
Minister for Trade and Customs) [8.23]. - I understand that from the inception of federation the Commonwealth Government has always been regarded1 as enjoying an exemption from the need to pay rates. However, I understand that trading undertakings established by the Commonwealth Government make a gratuitous payment to local authorities for any services rendered in connexion with the buildings that they occupy.’
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) has said that commerical undertakings established by the Government which occupy city premises make a gratuitous payment to local authorities only in respect of actual services supplied by the authorities. I am more concerned with the practice followed by such instrumentalities as the Commonwealth Bank, which does not pay rates on the premises that it occupies. Obviously, the non-payment of rates by a commercial undertaking gives it an unfair advantage over its competitors. Furthermore, those Government instrumentalities which occupy large buildings usually sub-lease a considerable proportion of the buildings to professional and commercial tenants, but they do not make any payment in compensation for the non-payment of rates in respect of the rental received from the tenants. I appreciate that as a matter of law a lesser authority cannot impose a charge upon a greater authority, but as a matter of common fairness I strongly suggest to the Government that gratuitous payments equivalent to the rates that would be paid1 by firms or private individuals should be paid by government departments and instrumentalities.
Senator COURTICE (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs [8.25]. - Whilst the Government does not pay rates in respect of property which it occupies, I understand that where it sub-leases portion of that property it makes a gratuitous payment to the local authority as compensation for the loss of rates on the sub-leased portion of the building. However, I shall endeavour to obtain more exact information for the honorable senator.
– Provision is included in Division 9, Department of the Interior, for the following item: - 4.. Commonwealth Observatory- Plant, including purchase and installation 74-in. telescope, £05,750.
Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform me where the telescope was manufactured, and whether it is installed at the national observatory at Mount Stromlo? Can the Minister also inform me of any other Commonwealth astronomical or meteorological observatory in Australia where seismographs are installed to record earth movements? Are any other Commonwealth Government observatories of any kind established in Australia?
– I understand that the only national observatory is at Mount Stromlo.
– Division 10, Department of the Interior, .provides for the allocation of £350,000 for expenditure upon Commonwealth offices and other buildings. I assume that the necessity to provide such a. large sum of money is the large amount of building that will be required to accommodate the additional members of the Parliament and their staffs. ‘ I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to the additional accommodation that is to be provided in the Federal Members’ Rooms, Brisbane. I particularly desire to know whether adequate accommodation is to be provided for the staff in those premises, and I point out that it is most necessary that a decent rest and recreation room should be provided for the female staff in those premises.
– Very considerable extensions and alterations have to be made to all Commonwealth buildings to accommodate the increased numbers of the members of the Parliament. Whilst I am aware of the details of the new accommodation that will be provided in the Federal Members’ Rooms, Sydney, I am not familiar with the arrangements that will be provided in the Federal Members’ Rooms, Brisbane. However, Senator O’Sullivan can rest assured that adequate provision will be made for the proper accommodation of all Queensland members of the Parliament and their staffs. ‘
– I also draw attention to the proposed vote under Division 10 for Commonwealth offices and other buildings. I refer particularly to the Federal Members’ Rooms in Perth. Towards the end of last year and at the beginning of this year a considerable sum of money was expended in fitting up rooms on the second floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building in Perth and transforming what had been decent offices into rabbit warrens, one of which I occupy. It measures 8 feet by 11 feet, has no natural lighting, and no ventilation. The door opens on to a solid blank inner wall. These rooms do not conform to the health standards of any municipality or civic council. The rooms without natural lighting are provided with ceiling lighting. They are very antiquated. The rooms with, natural lighting have also fluorescent lighting. The position is very serious. Since last November the Perth power-house has broken down on a number of occasions, necessitating the use of electric light even in the middle of the day. We have had to carry on by candle-light and at times I have even had to strike matches in order to find the numbers on the telephone dial. This has gone on for month after month. Appropriate accommodation should be provided for the federal members in Perth. Last February, during a heatwave, I applied for an electric fan because of the inadequate supply of air to my office. It arrived on the coldest day in June. Some months later I applied for a table lamp, which arrived only a week before I left Perth to attend these sittings of the Parliament. Before any further alterations are made in connexion with the Federal Members’ Rooms in Perth I contend that an expert who knows the health by-laws of the Perth City Council and is also fully aware of the dignity of the position occupied by members of the Commonwealth Parliament should see what can be done to improve those rooms. The very unsatisfactory system under which federal members are compelled to suffer conditions that would be condemned readily by an industrial inspector if they existed in a factory should not be perpetuated. I hope that accommodation more adequate than exists at present will be provided for the federal members in Perth.
– Apparently the Minister misunderstood my request of a few minutes ago. I am concerned mainly about the inade quate arrangements that have’ been made for the girls on the staffs at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Brisbane. I strongly urge that when alterations are being effected an adequate rest-room shall be provided for the use of girls who are taken ill. The existing provision is most inadequate.
– I shall bring Senator Tangney’s representations to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson). Generally speaking, the accommodation provided for federal members in the captial cities is most unsatisfactory. Although the conditions at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Perth are bad, those at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne are even worse. This problem is difficult of solution because of accommodation shortages generally. The Department of the Interior hesitates to push other people out in order to obtain accommodation for government staffs and I know that the department will do its best to improve conditions wherever possible.
– I support Senator Tangney’s remarks. The Federal Members’ Rooms in Perth are totally inadequate and very poorly equipped. I draw attention to the fact that the telephonic services in those rooms are bad, not only for the federal members, but also for the people who have to deal with them. The switchboard is inadequate, it being almost impossible to obtain direct lines. This state of affairs is most unsatisfactory and increases the difficulties of the staff.
.- The Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne are in a very old building in Post Officeplace. Some time ago representatives of various political parties made a joint application for a floor of Craig’s Buildings, in Elizabeth-street, to be allocated to them. Portion of Craig’s Buildings is occupied by the Commonwealth Bank. That request was ignored. Although at least a portion of the proposed vote of £350,000 could have been avoided if that request had been acceded to then, it is not too late to consider that suggestion.
– I have listened with interest to the requests that have been advanced’ by Queensland, Victorian and Western Australian senators. In South Australia the federal members are housed :in the basement . of State Parliament House, six members occupying one room. I sincerely hope that an effort will be made to provide more adequate accommodation for federal members in Adelaide before the enlarged’ Parliament assembles next year. I draw attention, also, to the totally inadequate accommodation that is provided for Public Service staffs in Adelaide. I imagine that the conditions under which they are working are the worst in Australia. The accommodation they occupy compares most unfavorably with that provided for Public Service staffs in other parts of Australia. I trust that when additional buildings are being purchased or rented for the purpose of conversion into offices in which the administrative affairs of this country shall be conducted, steps will be taken to ensure that the best possible accommodation will be provided for the personnel who will occupy those offices. In many instances the Public Service staffs are working in rooms little better than rabbit warrens. How in the name of fortune they find their way from one department to another is beyond my comprehension. One needs to be almost an accomplished navigator in order to locate some of the hovels in which Public Service staffs are dealing with affairs of state in Adelaide. Although the comparatively small amount of the proposed vote is probably governed1 by the availability of labour and material I trust that some effort will be made to better the conditions under which these staffs are working.
Sena-tor COOPER (Queensland- Leader of the Opposition) [8.40]. - I refer to the proposed vote of £12,000,000 for expenditure under the War Service Homes Act 1918-1949, under Division 13. It is generally recognized that housing is one of the major problems to be overcome at present. This division deals particularly with the housing of ex-service men and women. If we regard £1,500 as being the basis of cost of each home, the proposed vote makes provision for the construction of only approximately 8,000 homes. That is a very modest ambition in view of the large number of ex-service men and women who are still waiting for homes. Is the Minister able to inform me how many claims have been lodged for the building of war service homes, the number carried forward from last year, and the number of applicants for homes this year?
– The proposed vote of £12,000,000 is the largest amount ever to be voted for this purpose. At present there are 22,000 applications in hand which have not yet been approved. They are outstanding. Even if the huge amount of the proposed vote is expended it will not be possible to provide all of those applicants with war service homes this year. However, I point out that in view of the shortages of labour and material it would not be physically possible to expend more money for this purpose in 1949-50.
– I refer to the proposed vote of £2,882,000 for expenditure under Division . 34, pursuant to the Coal Industry Act 1946. I offer no complaint about the amount of money that has been expended by the Government to provide amenities for the coal-miners. Because of the arduous nature of their work, every consideration, every facility, and every amenity possible should be provided for them. However, the results that have been achieved in the coalmining industry since that legislation was placed on the statute-book have not been encouraging. Can the Minister furnish me with details of the major items of expenditure included in the proposed vote?
– A great deal of the amount proposed to be appropriated for 1949-50 will be expended upon the purchase of plant that has been ordered from overseas, not mainly upon amenities for miners and others engaged in the industry as Senator O’Sullivan ha9 suggested. I have explained previously in this chamber that equipment to the value of £4,000,000 has been ordered for the industry and that shipments are being delivered almost daily. Some of the plant is coming from the United States of America, some is coming from the United Kingdom and some is being manufactured in Australia. That accounts for the huge increase disclosed in the proposed vote.
.- Division 34 contains for 1949-50 an item of £225,000 for the acquisition of shares iri National Oil Proprietary Limited. Can the Minister explain the nature of that investment?
– This item arises from the establishment of the Glen Davis shale oil project by a previous government. The arrangement; was for the Government of New South Wales and Davis Gelatine (Australia) Proprietary Limited each to provide one-fourth of the capital required and “for the Australian Government to provide the remaining 50 per cent, of the capital. The project was conducted by Davis Gelatine (Australia) Proprietary Limited for some time on that basis, but the company eventually withdrew and the project has been carried on since then by the Australian Government. The amount of £225,000 proposed to be appropriated represents the price that Davis Gelatine (Australia) Proprietary Limited was satisfied to accept from the Government for its shares in National Oil Proprietary Limited.
.- I thank the Minister for the explanation. I assume that the amount of £210,000 provided in the previous item for the Glen Davis shale oil project represents estimated expenditure upon the working of the project.
– That is correct.
– Division 29, Department of Commerce and Agriculture, provides for a new item of expenditure of £275,000 under the Whaling Industry Act. That legislation was passed by this Parliament earlier this year. Is the expenditure proposed for the establishment of a whaling industry base in Western Australia?
– The Government has approved of the development of whaling operations in waters adjacent to Australia beyond the three-mile limit. A suitable shore station will be established at Carnarvon on the western coast of Western Australia, and three chaser vessels will be purchased to serve that station. The Australian Whaling Commission has been established under the Whaling Industry Act. It consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman and one other member. The Treasurer may make advances . of money to the commission under such terms as he considers fit, repayments qf interest and advances to be made out of the profits derived by the commission from whaling operations. The amount of £275,000 proposed to be appropriated will cover the cost of the three chaser vessels and other equipment ordered by the commission.
– Will the vessels be ready to start operations next season?
– Division 40, Department of Immigration, refers to the acquisition of sites and buildings for hostels to accommodate immigrants. The amount proposed to be appropriated for that purpose is £120,000. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration tell me where those hostels will be established and how much accommodation they will provide for migrants?
– The Department of Labour and National Service has undertaken the establishment and operation of immigrant workers’ hostels as the agent of the Department of Immigration. All requests for the acquisition of sites and the construction of buildings for workers’ hostels are first submitted by the Department of Labour and National Service for the approval of the Department of Immigration, which refers them to the Department of the Interior for execution. The acquisition of sites, and the purchase of buildings already existing on the sites, for use as reception, training and holding centres for immigrants is expected to cost £295,000. The plan provides for centres at Scheyville in New South Wales, Somers and Mildura in Victoria, and Cairns in Queensland. The acquisition of sites for workers’ hostels in different States by the Department of Labour and National Service is expected to cost £150,000.
Senator HARRIS (Western Australia) S.51 1 . - Division 56, Department of the Navy, provides for the appropriation of an amount of £175,000 towards the cost of graving dock construction. Expenditure under this heading last year amounted to £104,020. What graving dock is being constructed at (present? Does the item refer to additions to existing docks, or is additional dock accommodation to be constructed?
– The item mainly concerns auxiliary and ancillary plant for the graving dock in Sydney. The money will be expended upon general stores and other items that are necessary for, the carrying out of major works undertaken at that graving dock.
– Division 37, Department of External Territories, provides for the expenditure of £157,000’ in respect of the, joint acquisition by the Australian and New Zealand Governments from the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited of assets and leasehold property on Christmas Island. What was the total amount involved in that joint transaction and what is the extent of the phosphate deposits on Christmas Island? I make the inquiry in view of the urgent need to develop our resources of phosphate and other artificial fertilizers.
– It is not possible at the moment to state exactly how much phosphate is in the Christmas Island deposits, but a statement of output from the island may be of guidance to the honorable senator. Between 1937 and 1941, the output of phosphate from Christmas Island fluctuated about the level of 150,000 tons per annum. Almost nil of that output was sold to Japan. One cargo annually was shipped to South Africa and an occasional cargo was sent to Europe. Christmas Island was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, Some of the plant was disabled and some of it was removed by the Japanese, but the loss and damage were much less severe than at Nauru and Ocean Island. The island was reoccupied in 1945, and shipments were recommenced in 1946. It is expected that the output for 1951-52 will amount to 350,000 tons.
– I have some knowledge of Christmas Island, but I know very little about the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited. Was the company Britishowned’ and controlled, and to whom is the purchase money to be paid ?
– I understand that the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited was a private company and, as far as I know, it was British-owned. I shall obtain the facts for the honorable senator. The company’s leasehold and property were acquired jointly by the Australian and New Zealand Governments in order that the phosphate deposits might be retained permanently for Australia .and New Zealand.
– I refer to the proposed expenditure by the Department of Works and Housing on behalf of the Department of Immigration of £3,200,000 for hostels for migrant workers. Where are the hostels to be erected? Will they be located solely in Canberra or scattered throughout the various States? An amount of £120,000 is proposed to be expended by the Department of the Interior for the acquisition of sites and buildings for hostels -for migrants. Will the Minister supply me with information about that item also?
– I dealt with those items in answer to an earlier inquiry by Senator Rankin. The hostels will be located in various parts of the States, not in Canberra.
.- The total amount of expenditure proposed in Division 41 is £4,275,000, for buildings,, works, fittings and furniture and for reception centres and hostels for the accommodation of immigrants. That is a very large sum of money. It is more than one-third of the amount that is proposed to be expended in 1949-50 upon the erection of war service homes. The flow of immigrants from Europe under the scheme of the International Refugee Organization for displaced persons appears to be at its peak now, and I understand that Australia’s obligations under its agreement with the organization will terminate in 1951, approximately two years hence. What will happen to those centres and hostels then? They will still be practically new. Under our arrangements for assisted immigration from the United Kingdom, nominated migrants must be guaranteed homes before they can bo admitted to Australia. Does the Government contemplate releasing the accommodation to which this division refers for the use of British immigrants when the stream of displaced persons from Europe is cut off ? If not, what will be done with those numerous and costly buildings?
– Although, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has said, the flow of migrants under the International Refugee Organization scheme will cease in 1951, the fact remains that the Australian Government will continue, after that date, to encourage migrants to come to this country from Great Britain and other European countries. We shall do that in order to increase our population as quickly as it is humanly possible to do so. These hostels may be made available to British migrants if those migrants are prepared to come and live in this country under those conditions. On the other hand, migrants from European countries will continue to flow to Australia because we shall not be able to meet, for many years yet, the demand of the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons who wish to leave those warstricken areas. I know that the Leader of the Opposition heartily approves the Government’s migration policy. He realizes that from a defence point of view such a policy is vital to Australia’s future. Consequently, even if we are obliged to take some risks in doing so we shall continue to encourage the greatest possible number of migrants to come to Australia.
– A vigorous immigration policy involves the provision of accommodation for migrants. However, the expenditure of so large a sum as £4,275,000 on such accommodation implies that a considerable quantity of materials and manpower which ordinarily would be available for the building of homes is being used for that purpose. I appreciate that that is inevitable in the scheme of things, but I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the importation of prefabricated houses in larger quantities than have been ordered up to date. Although all of us support a vigorous immigration policy, nevertheless we have a duty to Australians to provide them with adequate housing. Therefore, we should ensure that no materials or labour will be diverted from the provision of homes for those who have waited for them for so long. I suggest that the Government can meet that situation by importing larger numbers of pre-fabricated houses. If it did that, there would be less need to divert manpower and materials from the urgent work of constructing homes.
– I appreciate the concern that Senator O’Sullivan has evinced in the provision of homes.’ However, the Government is not only pursuing a vigorous migration policy; it has also translated some of that vigour to its effort to provide houses for our own people. It is exploring every avenue in order to ensure that the building of these hostels will have the slightest possible impact on the demand for labour and materials for the building of homes. The sum of £750,000 is being provided for the importation of “ Nissen “ prefabricated houses. At the same time, the Government is bringing huts from Manus Island and converting them for use as hostels for migrants. In fact, in many centres even wool stores are being converted for that purpose. I believe that the honorable senator will realize that the only way that we can solve our housing problem is to make certain that the basic materials required are forthcoming in increasingly greater quantities. I point out that as the result of the employment of displaced persons in the brick-making industry the number of bricks produced during the last twelve months was 50 per cent, more than the number produced during the preceding year. Thus, the migrants are making their impact upon our economy. Hostels are being provided for them at Fort Kembla and Newcastle in order that their services can be used to increase production in the steel industry. Large numbers of migrants are helping to increase our production qf basic materials required for homebuilding. However, Senator O’Sullivan will realize that certain bottle-necks exist and that unless they are overcome not even the effort of 1,000,000 migrants will enable us to make any progress in overcoming the shortage of houses. We must have sufficient of all classes of materials, including bricks, tiles, plaster and steel. These migrants are prepared to come to Australia and engage in industries to which they are directed in order to enable us to solve our housing problem. We owe a great debt to the migrants already here for the vigour with which they have thrown themselves into work to which they have been assigned in order to overcome the shortage of homes that occurred under war-time conditions and due to the apathy of governments before the outbreak of the recent war.
– I refer to the provision of the sum of £1,028,000 for machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions. In view of the fact that so many munitions factories were established during the recent war, I should like to know the necessity for that provision. I should1 also like to know whether the machinery and plants upon which we relied during the war are suitable for the munitions required to be manufactured.
– Even though we are at peace it is the policy of the Department of Supply and Development to use in its factories only plant of the very latest design. As plant becomes unserviceable it is removed and replaced’ with the most modern plant. I assure the honorable senator that efficiency is the keynote of the department’s operations and that the standard of machinery in our munitions factories is unsurpassed in any other country.
.- The sum of £1,919,000 is being provided in respect of arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization and equipment under the control of the Department of the Army, whilst the sum of £3,119,000 is being provided in respect of aircraft, spare engines and initial ranges of spares under the control of the Department of Air. I should like to know whether all of that money will be expended in Australia. If not, can the Minister indicate what proportion of those requirements will be imported.
– That expenditure is being incurred as part of the Government’s policy of using only the verylatest equipment.
, - I should like further information concerning the allocation of the sum of £1,919,000 in respect of arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization and equipment under thecontrol of the Department of the Army. Although the sum of £3,101,000 was voted for that item last year, only £983,648 of that amount was expended. The sum now being allocated appears to be comparatively small when we bear in mind the vital part that Australia is playingin Pacific strategy. Only a few days ago in reply to a question that I asked dealing with the strength of the armed forces, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) revealed that only 127 units of the Australian Military Forces were at full strength and that 444 units were at less than full strength at the 28th September last. I am sure that that information came as a shock not only to members of the Opposition but also to Government supporters. It confirmed my fears with respect to our defence preparations. Therefore, I was not surprised to 6ee featured on the front page of the Sunday Herald last Sunday an article under the heading, “ Armed Forces called Tragic Farce “, in which some of our Army chiefs gave a review of our defence forces.
– That article was a complete pack of lies.
– That is what the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) might have said, but his statement was in conflict with a statement that was made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt).
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I submit that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) is not in order in alluding to a debate that has occurred in the current session. 1 am prepared to give to him any information that he desires relating to the item to which he has referred.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) must confine his remarks to the item to which he lias referred. He may seek information about it, but he is not in order in making a second-reading speech on the subject.
– At a later stage in the consideration of this measure 1 shall be entitled to speak at length upon the subject of defence policy. Does the Minister wish me to do that? If he does not, he should not attempt to gag me.
– lt is not a question of what the Minister may desire; the Leader of the Opposition must obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I point out that the sum actually expended upon the item to which I have referred was considerably less than the amount voted for that purpose last year, and that the sum now being allocated for this item influences me to give credence to the report published in last Sunday’s Sunday Herald.
– I press my point of order. I submit that the Leader of the Opposition is canvassing in this chamber, for propaganda purposes, a statement that has appeared in the press. I contend that, in so doing, he is out of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.My ruling is that the Leader of the Opposition may seek information on any item of proposed expenditure, but may not make a second-reading speech at this stage.
– How can the Minister give me the information that I desire if I do not tell him what I want to know?
– The Leader of the Opposition has been given wide latitude. He should not find any difficulty in seeking information without making a second-reading speech or referring to a previous debate.
– I am asking a question about military matters. I should like to know whether there is any truth in what a leading army officer has said, but, so far, I have been unable to tell the Minister what that officer has said.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have made it clear that the committee is dealing with various items in the Estimates. Honorable senators may not discuss the rights or wrongs of statements that have been made in the press.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army that only 127 units of the Australian Military Forces were at full strength and no less than 444 units were below full strength on the 28th September, does the Minister for Shipping and Fuel consider that there are sufficient men in the armed forces to use the equipment for which the paltry sum of approximately £2,000,000 is being provided in this measure?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has rambled a good deal. It should not be difficult for him to ask a plain question. He is seeking details of the expenditure of £1,919,000 upon armaments, ammunition, mechanization and equipment, and, in so doing, he has very subtly endeavoured to get me to say something about matters that have already been discussed in the House of Representatives, and about a certain press report. Those matters have no relation at all to the measure now before the committee. However, as the honorable senator has sought information, I have pleasure in providing it. One item of expenditure under this proposed vote is ammunition. Obviously, no army can be effective without ammunition. Armies also need clothing, armaments, signal equipment, engineering equipment, survey equipment, armoured fighting vehicles, mechanical transport, general stores, camps, barracks equipment, machine tools, engineers’ stores and supplies, medical and dental supplies and equipment, water craft, engineering plant and so on. It is to purchase those necessities that the appropriation of £1,919,000 is being made. Some of those goods will be imported, but many of them will be made in our munitions factories.
– I thank the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) for the information that he has supplied. The point that I was trying to make is that men are required to use all the items that he has mentioned. I wanted to know whether there was sufficient man-power in our armed forces.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 1594), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the Customs Act 1901-1947. Its purpose is to dispense with the system of making refunds to tobacco manufacturers, based on the quantity of waste arising from the manufacture of tobacco products, and to substitute a system under which there will be paid an allowance fixed in the light of experience of tobacco . manufacturing throughout Australia. In view of the assurance by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) that, under the new procedure, inconvenience will be lessened both to manufacturers and to the department, the Opposition has no objection to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without, amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 1594), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is complementary to the Customs Bill which has just been passed by the Senate, and the Opposition has no objection to it.
– I appreciate the interest that the Leader of- the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has taken in these two measures and his assistance in ensuring their speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 1595),’ on motion’ by Senator Courtice -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) in his second-reading speech on .this measure said -
Nevertheless, presumably because of the absence of a specific provision such as is contained in this bill, the extraordinary contention has been put forward that the prohibitions imposed by the sub-sections apply only after the issue of a writ.
That that contention was by no mean9 extraordinary is amply demonstrated by the fact that the Government has found it necessary to bring in this measure. What is extraordinary is that the Australian Government, busy with national affairs can waste its time, and the time of the Parliament with this pettifogging, pinpricking regimentation. This measure has arisen out of a slight dispute that occurred in Queensland where certain posters have been displayed. An attempt was made by the Australian Labour party to have the posters removed. Legal advice was obtained, and it was ascertained that there was no infringement’ of the law. Liberal party officials made it quite clear that they were not only willing, but also anxious to observe both the spirit and the letter of the law; but, like reasonable Australians, they refused to be shoved around. They were not breaking the law. Certain posters were being displayed, and they intended that those posters should remain on display so long as no violation of the law was involved. In due course, the Government went into labour and brought forward this remarkable legislation. The limitation of the size of election placards during the war, when there was a paper shortage, was quite understandable, but there is no need for such a limitation now. The war has been over for some years, and, judging by the amount of literature that so many government departments publish, there is no shortage of paper, at least for the Government’s own party political propaganda. The suggestion has ,been advanced in support of this measure that it is only fair and reasonable that election expenditure should be limited. For many years such a limitation has existed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. All honorable senators know, or should know, that each candidate may expend only a certain sum of money on his election campaign. Therefore that contention has no substance. This measure was introduced by the Government because of sheer pique. No consideration of saving expenditure in the national interest was involved. The necessity to limit the size of election posters to 10 inches by 6 inches has no foundation whatever in reason. If there were any reason in that proposal, why should not the size of all posters, whether used to advertise goods or services or to display other information, be reduced in size? Of course,, posters not connected with political matters do not impinge upon this power-crazed Government or run counter to its intentions. It is a poor state of affairs when a National Government has nothing better to. do than to introduce petty-fogging legislation of this nature. The measure now before us indicates the extent of Labour’s pettiness and vindictiveness, and it also indicates the present Government’s obsession to continue regimenting the people. There is no justification in common sense or decency for this legislation. It was conceived in stupidity and is being enacted in vindictiveness. I oppose the bill.
– .Senator O’Sullivan stated that the political party to which he belongs did not intend to break the law when it displayed posters of larger size than the law permitted. Of course, he also contended that members of his political party are upholders of the law. The significant feature of the measure now before us is that it does not attempt to enact any new principle, but merely attempts to clarify and make legally effective an earlier act. In view of the present opposition to the measure, it is passing strange that during the war, when the original act was passed, the Opposition parties did not object to it. When that measure was introduced in the House of Representatives the Leader of the Opposition in that chamber . (Mr. Menzies) concurred in it.
– He opposed it.
– The right honorable gentleman had nothing to say about it. Indeed, the newspapers said that he was asleep when it was passed. However, I think that he took an intelligent view of the measure, because no reasonable person could fairly object to it. I repeat that no real objection to the original measure was expressed in either this chamber or in the House of Representatives, and since its passage the law was observed until quite recently, when the circumstances of the Liberal party changed considerably. The controllers of that party then began to realize that in the absence of constructive proposals or a commendable political record to place before the people at the forthcoming election, they would have to rely on flooding the country with political propaganda, including large electoral signs displaying “ socialistic tigers “, if they hoped to win the election. Mention has been made of the limitation of expenditure imposed by the law upon candidates at elections. However, we have had experience of the cleverness of the Communist party, whose members function under five or six different organizations. Although those organizations all bear different titles they have one common objective, which is to defeat Labour. When that party discovers that “ straight “ Communist propaganda is becoming unpopular, its members attempt to evade their legal responsibilities by the subterfuge of placing their propaganda before the people under the aegis of various satellite organizations. That method’ has been copied by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The expenditure of large sums of money upon the design, printing and exhibition of huge posters will occupy the services of an army of men, who, according to the statements made by the members of the Opposition parties from time to time, should be employed in the construction of houses and in increasing our industrial production. If the Communist party were permitted to expend such a Huge sum of money during the forthcoming campaign as the anti-Labour parties now possess, and therefore to disturb our economy, no one would complain more bitterly than would the members of the Liberal party. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) apparently imagines that the flooding of the country with electoral propaganda involves only the use of paper. In fact, like his political predecessors at the outbreak of World’ War I., he probably thinks of the Government’9 proposal as nothing more than “ a scrap of paper “. The fact is, however, that a publicity campaign such as the Opposition parties envisage, would involve the use of large quantities of timber, calico and tin, occupy a large number of printing presses, and absorb the services of an army of men who might otherwise be usefully employed in the rehabilitation of the country.
All that the present measure proposes to do is to make perfectly clear and legally binding the intention of the earlier act, which, incidentally, has always been observed by the Australian Labour party, and it is only of recent times that it has not been honoured by the
Opposition parties. As I said’ previously, the measure has been introduced simply to clarify the law, which is already well understood by all political parties.
– The Australian people enjoy a priceless heritage - that of being able to elect freely the members of the National Parliament according to the principles of democracy. Every man and woman of adult age. is entitled to participate in the election of members of the Parliament. However, the right of the people to elect their representatives was won only after a long struggle, which extended’ over many centuries. Those whom, for want of a better term, we may call “ the common people “, had to fight those who were much better endowed with this world’s goods in order to win that right. In fact, the wealthy did everything possible to prevent the “ common people “ from enjoying -the right to elect their representatives. I am not surprised, therefore, that the representatives of the anti-Labour forces in this Parliament should1 oppose the measure. Because of the huge party funds that they possess they have attempted grossly to mislead the people at every election. One has only to peruse the contemporary press to realize what is happening now. The present Opposition parties are so bereft of constructive policy that they are seeking once again to practise their old tricks of deceiving the people. Those of us who have taken part in a number of election campaigns will remember the misrepresentation indulged in by the anti-Labour parties, particularly through the use of large hoardings. Cartoons have been reproduced on hoardings which depicted all kinds of calamities overtaking the nation if Labour were elected to office. Similar propaganda is being used to-day concerning the present petrol shortage. Consider the misrepresentation of the facts indulged in by the opponents of the Government, who seek to suggest that the reason for the scarcity of petrol is the delay of the Government authorities in Canberra in obtaining supplies of petrol from abroad. Everyone knows that the shortage is the fault of the State governments and the oil companies. Consider also, the subtlety of the appeal to the selfishness of some electors. By this campaign of misrepresentation the antiLabour forces hope to deter the people from voting for the present Labour Administration, of whose record its supporters have every reason to be proud. However, because of the deep-rooted distrust of the anti-Labour parties in the community I have no doubt that even if this measure were not enacted, and no brake was placed on the Opposition parties during the forthcoming election campaign, they would still be unable to defeat Labour.
No doubt members of the Opposition are bitterly disappointed at the introduction of this measure which, after all, is intended merely to continue the restrictions on the size of electioneering posters that were found to be necessary during the war. Senator O’Sullivan described this legislation as being simply another piece of regimentation. He advocated that the ; Opposition parties should be given an “ open go “ during the forthcoming election campaign. In reply, I point out to him that because of the gross misrepresentation by the reactionary forces of the aims and objectives of. Labour it was necessary for earlier Labour administrations to impose certain limitations on electioneering campaigns. For instance, it was a Labour administration that introduced legislation to provide that all political articles published in the press after the issue of election writs must bear the names of those who write them. Similarly, it was necessary to introduce legislation to regulate the conditions under which actual voting could take place. Because of the abuses of. anti-Labour forces in ballot-rigging, the use of undue influence by employers upon employees, and other sharp practices, legislation had to be introduced to curb those activities.
I consider that the Government is perfectly justified in ensuring that the conditions which operated during the last two elections shall continue to operate during the forthcoming election. Of course, those conditions do not suit our friends opposite, who are perturbed because they may not be able to exploit the advantage which they thought they had won when they extorted large sums of money for party funds from certain in- dustrialists and business firms. We know the tactics thai were resorted to by the chambers of commerce, the associated; chamber of manufactures and certain) other institutions to obtain those funds1.In many instances they summoned meetings of wealthy industrialists and businessmen on the pretext that matters of great importance to their business were to be discussed, and warned the head3 of those concerns that only illness should! be allowed to prevent them from attending. When the industrialists and businessmen had assembled in the expectation! of hearing something concerning their business, they were told bluntly that it would be necessary for them to contribute certain sums of money to dislodge Labour from office. As a matter of fact the amount of money that they are expected! to subscribe has not been left to their own determination. They have been peremptorily ordered to pay so much into* the funds of the anti-Labour forces in connexion with the effort that will bemade to dislodge this Government at theforthcoming general election. This measure will give some protection to thepeople who have not so much money to outlay for political purposes. For that reason it is amply justified. This mattergoes beyond party considerations. Labourlias, always claimed that every person rutins country has a right to stand for election to the Parliament. It is thebirthright of every Australian whodesires to enter Parliament to submit himself for election. What hope is therefor the individual faced with the opposition of parties commanding large money resources? Although our friends opposite clamour for people to submit themselves for election as independents, I point out that independents usually find themselves associated with a party before very long. But how can they compete? Will they be able to compete with the millions of poundsthat the Liberal party has at its disposal to-day? Certainly not! No measurethat stands for limiting the power of the moneyed interests of this .country should be opposed. Any measure of that kind is very worthy in a democracy such as Australia. Despite the protests that are now being, made by the opponents of Labour a measure such as this should have been in existence years ago. Senator O’Sullivan, who represents Queensland, probably remembers that when an eminent Australian, who was one of the greatest Premiers that Queensland has ever had, endeavoured to enter the Federal Parliament, after serving the State of Queensland in a magnificent manner, he was subjected to the gravest abuse. I refer to Mr. Ryan. Posters bearing the words. “ Ryan spells Ruin “, in large letters were displayed in all parts of Queensland by the political party that Senator O’Sullivan supports. He was maligned by the vote of the purse possessed by the opponents of the Labour movement. The Liberal party hopes to get the people to vote not in accordance with their own reasoning, but because of fear. By the use of the poster, the cartoon, the radio, and the paid press, that party hopes to instil into the minds of the people a fear that may divert them from voting in their own best interests. We should be unwise’ not to protect the democracy of Australia and make it possible for every man and woman over 21 years of age, who has the right to vote for the election of members of Parliament, tq vote in accordance with his or her reason, after studying the problems that confront this country. I am confident that an election conducted on those lines will return to office the political party that now forms the Government of this country.
– I completely and definitely oppose the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1949 now being debated. Most decidedly it is a destructive measure. It is not constructive in any way whatsoever. It imposes limitations on the presentation of political questions to the electors. Politics should be free and untrammelled, and subject to national loyalty and good conduct. The utmost freedom should be conceded in the presentation of political issues to the people by every candidate. This bill may be described as an entering wedge of control of the means of reaching the people. Today Labour seeks to control posters. Before long, perhaps, it will seek to control radio, newspapers, and even pamphlets. Because of that, this is indeed a very serious matter. The bill will control the information which is to reach the electors until they become so restricted that they will vote -as machines, not as electors living in a democracy, free to form their own opinions and vote according to their own analysis of the affairs of the day. In its first form the application of this restriction was limited to a few weeks preceding election day. Although that in itself was distasteful, it was not necessarily harmful. In its new form it unashamedly limits for all time outdoor poster publicity, which is the simplest form of reaching the people in connexion with elections. Labour will gain much by this measure. Its policy relates entirely to the party machine rather than to candidates. The individual does not matter to the Australian Labour party, but the party machine does. Obviously the more powerful a party machine becomes the less important becomes the individual person. To me this is a very serious thing. I forsee the day when the Labour candidate will not matter as an individual, so long as he gets the Labour endorsement. The poster has been one of the best ways in which the candidate has been made known to the people. His name has been blazoned in huge letters, his views stated, and his party affiliations clearly indicated. Now, however, he will have to rely on pamphlets and other publications produced privately, and he will lose that memory value which is so important in a poster, because it can be seen and studied by the public. By its every action Labour has shown all through this measure its distaste for the individual and, more important, its admiration for the party machine. This is a very serious thing. The basic cause for the introduction of this measure was the’ fact that photographs of candidates, and large posters were displayed in Queensland. Labour cannot stand ‘ individualism. It must have everything on the machine level.
There are two motives behind this bill. The first is to commence the control of the means of reaching the people. That is a very serious thing. The second is to develop the party machine and to reduce the importance of the individual. This legislation is bad. It is unstatesmanlike and destructive of democracy. Why this sudden idea and action to perpetuate a war-time emergency? Why has the Government suddenly decided that it must have more restriction and must go back to the regulations that were necessitated by the shortage of newsprint ? That shortage has been overcome. Yet this measure is brought’ in to extend the restrictions that were necessary when the shortage existed. Government supporters have announced over and over again that when supplies of newsprint were freely available and competition prevailed, control of prices would be lifted. That has been done in many instances, and could be done in relation to many other commodities. If the Government’s policy is to lessen wartime control generally why does it now seek to control election posters? We have been told that supplies are free, and that competition is particularly intense. Why. at this time, should a measure be introduced to restrict posters by limiting them to a very small size? That is illogical and very unsound. Labour advertisements that have appeared in newspapers of recent times were very much larger than the size 10 inches by <6 inches to be permitted by this legislation. In themselves, newspapers are not restricted, but because their circulation extends over a wide area, involving many electorates, possibly only a proportion of the people in a district who see a particular advertisement in a newspaper are interested in the particular candidate. It is not efficient to use newspapers to advance the claims of a candidate whose qualifications are important to perhaps only 20 per cent, of the people who will see the advertisement. Although a radio station may serve a ‘ wide area, perhaps only a percentage of the listeners are interested in any one candidate. The poster is local and helps the candidate in the district in which he is standing for election to place his qualifications before the electors at a minimum of expense. By this legislation the Government is forcing candidates and parties to become inefficient at . a time when Australia needs efficiency. Of course this measure will become law because Labour has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. I point out, however, that it will intensify more than ever the importance of the party machine and in the guise of fair play it will reduce the significance of the candidate. One of the most important aspects is that it will commence to control the means of reaching the people. This is one more step in the process of regimenting the individual and destroying democracy. On these grounds I oppose this legislation. I say that it is bad. It is not a good thing for the country, and should be withdrawn.
– After Senator O’Sullivan had used the word “ indecent “ to describe this legislation, he walked out of the chamber without indicating in what specific manner he considered that it was indecent. I claim that this measure will be the means of eliminating a lot of indecency that was apparent in huge posters prior to general elections in the past. Time and again the countryside has been placarded and disfigured with huge cartoon posters that were most indecent. Moreover, they were most misleading and untruthful. In many instances they contained hare-faced, lying statements. Those posters were displayed by the Liberal party and the Communist party. Honorable senators opposite oppose this measure because, within a poster of 10 inches by 6 inches they will not be able to indulge in this kind of propaganda as effectively as they could by the use of large posters. If, in the past, the Communist party and the Liberal party had been prepared to play the game fairly, and to confine the propaganda on their posters to facts, nobody would have objected. I, certainly, would not have raised any objection to a continuance of the practice had that been the case. It is indecent to broadcast untruthful propaganda to the public on huge posters, as the Liberal party is adept at doing.
Senator O’Sullivan spoke of the limitation of election expenses of political candidates. I notice that he and Senator Rankin offered no objection to that restriction, in spite of their protests about so-called regimentation. Is there any difference in principle between restricting the amount of a candidate’s election expenses and restricting the size of political posters? If one restriction represents regimentation, the other must represent regimentation also. Neither Senator Rankin nor Senator O’Sullivan objected to the limit upon election expenses. Why was that? The truth is that Liberal party candidates have always found ways of evading the law on that point. They expend the full amount of their permissible election expenses on posters alone, hut they use special devices so that the costs are not debited to their campaign accounts. The Opposition parties, and the Communist party as well, are backed by big organizations with vast financial resources, which pay for their propaganda. Posters and other advertisements published under the names of various bodies supposedly not connected with Liberal or Communist candidates misrepresent the truth and malign Labour party candidates. I shall give an instance of the misuse of such means of advertising. A few years ago a certain organization supported a candidate for the Senate in one of the States and it plastered bill-boards in the highways and byways with posters about 12 feet square. [Quorum formed.] The countryside was disfigured by hundreds of hoardings bearing propaganda which urged the people to vote for one candidate. The cost of those posters alone would have far exceeded the legally permissible expenses of the candidate. The Leader of the Opposition declares that he believes in democracy and fair play. I ask him whether it was fair for a man to be elected on the strength of such a campaign and then to appear in this chamber once a year merely for the sake of retaining his membership of the Senate. That gentleman was elected as the result of a high pressure advertising campaign that cost hundreds of pounds. The funds were provided by organizations that had a special interest in having him elected to this Parliament. He displaced good men who would have attended to their duties and represented the people honestly and properly. They were defeated by the power of money.
If honorable senators opposite really believe in equality of opportunity they cannot reasonably object to the proposal to restrict campaign posters to a size-that will keep their costs within the means of every candidate. Even though the size of posters will be limited, there will be no restrictions upon radio and newspaper advertisements. Money can be used to spread lying propaganda about socialism and regimentation which, if repeated often enough, can influence the people by playing upon their fears. The members of the Opposition parties know that they held power in this country in the past, only by virtue of the vast financial resources of their supporters, which enabled them to mislead the people with false propaganda. They know that, when restrictions are imposed upon the means of broadcasting untruths, their chances of bewildering the public mind will be reduced. Senator Rankin said that she objected to the bill for two main reasons. One was that the restriction of the size of election posters would regiment the people and prevent news from reaching them. I remind the honorable senator that newspaper publicity will not be restricted.
As everybody knows, the newspapers effectively limit the publicity that is given to Labour party candidates but give unlimited space to the propaganda of Liberal candidates. If honorable senators opposite want the people to have a fair go, they should appeal to the press to share space equally between Labour party candidates and their opponents. If they would agree to do that, they would be acting according to the principles of democracy. They should also support a fair distribution of radio and broadcasting time between all candidates. But they know that the Labour party would then have a chance to compete on a fair footing whereas, at present, it lacks the funds that are needed to gain equality in the field of publicity. Not only arc the private banks using’ their funds to support Liberal candidates but also they are releasing members of their staffs to canvass the electors against the Government. The reason for that is obvious. The directors of the banks know that, if they can defeat the Labour Government at a cost of, say, £500,000, they will recoup their expenditure and gain millions of pounds of additional profits as well within one year under an antiLabour government. If there is to be fairness in political campaigning Labour candidates should have the same opportunities to express themselves to the people as are available to Liberal and Communist candidates.
There is no regimentation about the proposal contained in the bill. The only objections that have been raised to it have come from the Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the Communist party. There is no limit to the number of posters that can be used. It will be better to have small posters containing only essentialfacts than to have great placards disfiguring the landscape with lying propaganda. AntiLabour parties never stick to the truth in election campaigns. They have won elections in the past by misleading the people, and that is why they object to the restriction of the size of election posters. Posters of the permissible size will not be large enough to carry the lying statements that customarily appear on the hoardings used by anti-Labour candidates.
– A great deal has been said during this debate about matters that do not fall within the ambit of the bill. Some honorable senators have given themselves a. try-out with their electioneering speeches. Others have said that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are the only candidates who are able to take advantage of radio broadcasting and other means of publicity. The truth is that the socialist supporters of the Government have a great advantage in broadcasting from this chamber. They are in the majority in the proportion of eleven to one. If they do not take advantage of their opportunities to broadcast to the people of Australia during the debates in the Senate they cannot rightly blame the three members of the Opposition for stating their views for the information of the public. That is only one instance in whichsupporters of the Government fail to take advantage of their opportunities to broadcast to the people. The bill will prohibit the use of election posters over a certain size. Clause 3 provides that posters displayed at offices or committee rooms of candidates must not contain any slogan or advocacy of the claims of candidates, and clause 4 provides for the removal of posters that contravene that provision. Restrictions upon the size of posters were necessary during the war, when it was essential to conserve our limited stocks of paper. At that time, the Opposition parties agreed to use small posters in the national interest. But such restrictions are unnecessary now. There is plently of paper in Australia, and posters of any size could be used without, damaging the national economy.
The bill is a classic example of the totalitarianism of the true socialist state. It is fantastic to the point of absurdity. I ask the honorable senators to view it in its true light. It provides for what might be termed “ postage-stamp posters “ by limiting their size to 60 square inches. They must not measure more than 10 inches by 6 inches. They must be smaller even than the sheets upon which the bill is printed. The printing that will have to be used on such small posters will be so small as to be scarcely legible at a distance of more than two or three feet. Most candidates would probably be better off without such a medium of publicity. I recall that during one general election campaign an honorable senator who, unhappily, is no longer with us, embodied his life’s history on a poster measuring 10 inches by 6 inches and plastered copies of them on trees, culverts and bridges along the highways for the edification of passing motorists. We can imagine how much of that story passers-by would have been able to read on a poster of that size. Why does not the Government introduce similar legislation to limit to similar measurements posters used for advertising the merits of such articles as soap, wines or motor cars? If the Government is sincere in its desire to beautify the countryside, it should impose similar restrictions on commercial posters. I fail to see how party political posters measuring say 3 feet by 2 feet would disfigure the countryside to a greater degree than the commercial advertising posters that we now see on all hoardings.
– Some of that commercial advertising is dishonest.
– But the Government does not propose to restrict that class of advertising poster. As I have said, this legislation arises from the recent exhibition in Queensland of posters exceeding in size the measurements prescribed under the principal act. I have seen some of those posters, and to me they appeared to be of a reasonable size. They did not disfigure the countryside. In fact, they were of a size that all political parties would find to be convenient. Bearing in mind the propaganda that is being issued on behalf of the Government by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), this measure cannot be justified on the ground that there is a shortage of paper. The shortage that existed when the principal act was passed in 1946 has been overcome. I suggest that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), who is a sincere man and is fully aware of the importance of the corning general election should withdraw the measure and talk the proposal over with a representative of the Opposition parties with a view to coming to an amicable arrangement with respect to the size of posters to be used during the campaign. That course would be of greater benefit to all political parties which would thus be enabled to make the public better acquainted with their respective candidates. At the same time, no political party would enjoy any advantage over another party.
– After listening to the rather extraordinary arguments that have been advanced by members of the Opposition, I was impelled to study the measure a little more closely. The object of the bill is to tighten up a provision in the principal act about which some doubt nas arisen. The purpose of the bill is, first, to clarify section 164b of the principal act which prohibits the display of electoral posters exceeding a prescribed size and, secondly, to provide readily applicable means of effecting the removal of any electoral poster posted up or exhibited in contravention of the provisions of the section or the obliteration of any electoral matter written, drawn or depicted contrary to that section. However,, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) described the. measure as an indication of the Government’s desire to regiment everything that it can possibly lay its hands on. I point out that to a large degree our lives both in public and in private are regimented. For instance, a person is not at liberty to board a tram-car except at recognized stopping places. People are regimented in that way for the benefit of the majority. I have been regimented for most of my life. For instance, I am not at’ liberty to do what I like in this chamber. You, Mr. President, have the power to regiment me in my behaviour here. When I joined the Army my name was taken from me and I was given a number. That regimentation did not do me any harm. After the war was over, I returned fit and able, fortunately, to take my place as a member of the Parliament. Therefore, much, of the talk we hear about regimentation of our lives is utter nonsense.
asked whether it was right for the Government to restrict the display of electoral posters. I ask her whether it is right for party political candidates to break the law. This measure has been introduced to clarify a provision in the principal act. The necessity for it arose out of certain incidents that occurred in Queensland and in other States. Obviously, in such circumstances it is the duty of the Government to clarify the law. However, this debate has developed into a war of the posters. In principle, I am opposed to the display of electoral posters. They disfigure the landscape. When I was overseas I saw posters almost everywhere advising people, for instance, to “ Eat at Joe’s” or to “Bite Bill Blogg’s Hamburgers “. I suggest that not only electoral posters but also all commercial advertising posters should be prohibited. I am glad to know that no posters are displayed in Canberra. That is because their display is prohibited under local ordinances. In Canberra, one enjoys the spectacle of nature’s bounty in the beauty of trees, flowers and shrubs unspoiled by hoardings. Surely, that state of affairs is preferable to allowing the display of posters urging the people to “ Eat Gritty Granose “ or asking them whether they “ protexed “ themselves this morning. All poster advertising is based on the idea of mass suggestion. As the
Liberal party has much more money to expend on such advertising it can dis.play the biggest and brightest posters. However, such a practice is an insult to the intelligence of the average Australian. I do not believe that any person would vote for “ Bill Bloggs “ because he was able to display a bigger poster than his opponent. Australians are educated, -and, very probably, they take the view that the candidate who displays ‘ the biggest posters is telling the biggest lies. At the polling booth people exercise their -own judgment and vote for whom they please. In that respect they do not have :to make an explanation to anyone. That is the prerogative of the people in a democracy.
. - in reply - As I outlined the purposes of the bill in my second-reading speech, there is hardly any need for me to discuss it at this stage. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) suggested that the Government should withdraw it. That would not overcome the difficulty that the bill is designed to surmount. Its object is to clarify a provision in the principal act, and it has been introduced as the result of certain incidents that have happened in Queensland where Liberal party candidates have displayed posters of a size larger than the measurements prescribed under the principal act. I’ remind the Leader of the Opposition that the principal act was passed unanimously and without criticism by all parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives.
– The principal act was passed as a war-time measure. Senator COURTICE. - That is so. On artistic grounds I am opposed to all poster advertising. I was surprised to hear Senator Rankin say that electoral posters displaying the photographs of politicians would contribute to the beautification of the highways. I have seen some of the posters, the display of which in Queensland influenced the Government to introduce this measure. I noted that a considerable amount of timber had been used in the erection of hoardings for the purpose, and, no doubt, that work entailed a corresponding man-power effort. I. believe that if the Leader of the Opposition saw some of those hoardings that have been erected in the suburbs of Brisbane he would agree that the materials and labour so employed could have been used to better advantage in the interests of the community. The people should be given every opportunity to make up their own minds in voting for political candidates. I recognize the power of advertising in influencing opinion. That fact is proved by the results obtained from commercial advertising. Without doubt, people who see advertisements on hoardings day after day eventually get so used to reading them that they come to be persuaded by them. In that way many people could be persuaded to vote for members of the Opposition parties. I repeat that the Opposition parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives wholeheartedly supported the principal act. As the object of the bill is to remove misunderstanding that has arisen with respect to the interpretation of a provision of that measure, I cannot understand the objections that honorable senators opposite have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1694), on motion by Senator Courtice: -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this bill is to give effect to amendments of the principal act recommended by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. It is purely a machinery measure, and contains no contentious clauses on which the Opposition wishes to comment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 20th. October (vide page 1695), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland- Leader of the Opposition [10.32], - The purpose of this bill is -
To grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purpose of financial assistance to the States by reason of the losses and costs incurred by the States as a result of the coal strike.
This assistance will foe poor consolation to the States and to the people of Australia generally for the misery and suffering that was caused by that unwarranted strike in the coal-mining industry. ‘It is difficult to assess accurately the monetary losses caused by the strike, but it is reasonable to assume that they aggregated approximately £100,000,000. A conservative estimate of the loss suffered by primary industries alone would be between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. That is a grievous loss no matter what the causes it is all the more grievous because it resulted from unwarranted disruption of Australian industry. The Opposition does not cavil at the payment of this compensation to the States. We agree that they should be compensated for the disabilities under which they laboured during the strike. However, I cannot let this occasion pass without commenting upon the circumstances in which the need for the bill arose. The coal strike was the culmination of a long series of industrial upheavals and pin-pricking strikes on various coal fields. Those dis turbances resulted in a substantial loss of coal. In 1946, for instance, 1,347,000 tons of coal were lost through industrial unrest in the coal-mining industry. In 1947, the loss was 1,671,000 tons, and in 1948, it exceeded 2,000,000 tons. I do not cite these figures merely to gain some political advantage at the expense of this socialistic government. I realize that strikes have occurred under almost every administration. However, no good purpose can be served in a debate such as this by delving into ancient history. I cite those figures merely to show the effect on our economy of Communist domination in the miners’ federation. During the life of the present Parliament, my colleagues and I have repeatedly urged!: the Government to deal with these instigators of lawlessness, not only on thecoalfields but also in many other key industries such as the waterfront industry, and the iron and steel industry. Many questions have been asked in this chamber and in the House of Representatives about the activities of Communist agitators. Such questions have invariably brought the same reply. I have often sought information in this chamber about upheavals on the coal-fields, and suggested that those disturbances might have been provoked by Communists. The reply has usually been that communism is only a bogy. Opposition members have been accused of suffering from an anti-Communist complex. However, speaking on the second reading of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill on the 29th June, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) admitted at long last that the strike had been deliberately planned by the Communist party. The Minister’s previous ostrichlike attitude to the Communist menace had been inspired, no doubt, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself, who had shut his eyes to the looming clouds- of industrial disruption, reiterating his declaration that communism was a perfectly legitimate organization, propounding a political philosophy. Lawlessness amongst Communist-led unions eventually brought the whole of industry in this country to a standstill. It was then admitted by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and
Fuel -that the trouble had been caused by Communist influence in trade unions. Both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, - members of the Opposition parties have frequently urged the Government to take the strongest measures to ensure continuous supplies of coal. When the strike occurred, and no coal was being produced at all, we urged that action be taken to produce coal which is the life-blood of our industry. We made clear our belief that the maintenance of. coal production was the only answer to the strike. That view was amply borne out at a later date. During the week prior to the commencement of the strike on the 27th June, the Prime Minister expressed the opinion that nothing could be done on the lines suggested.
– The working of the open-cut mines for one thing.
– How would the honorable senator have worked them ?
– Exactly as they were worked not long afterwards. The Government was forced eventually to work the open-cut mines, and the coal so produced was not only a great advantage to industry but also, I consider, was an important factor in the collapse of the strike. Not only did the Prime Minister state, as I have said, that nothing could be done on the lines suggested by the Opposition parties, but he also said, in this Parliament that the miners were the only people who could dig coal and therefore were the only ones who could provide coal for the community. That utterance merely confirmed the belief of the Communist law-breakers thateverything was going according to plan, and that the strike would dislocate industry throughout the Commonwealth and thus force the people and the Go:vernment to capitulate. But the Government turned an extraordinary somersault. After the strike had caused five weeks df suffering and misery, the Government called on troops to work the open-cut mines. The Government belatedly accepted the advice offered to it by the Opposition parties. No one can deny that the servicemen who went into the mines did a wonderful job, although quite untrained in coal-mining. In reply to a question that I asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel on the 12th October, he informed me that the total quantity of coal produced and delivered to rail heads by the troop* amounted to 107,188 tons, including 12,521. tons produced by the Royal Australian Air Force. The average output of coal per man was 14.72 tons a day. During the three weeks ended the 18th June last which immediately preceded the strike the average daily output of coalminers in New South Wales was 8.03 tons a man. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the service personnel did a splendid job. Of course, our experience of the use of troops during the coal strike indicates that the Australian socialist party will have to revise its platform, which at present prohibits the use of troops in industrial disputes.
I have previously asked the Minister, but without obtaining a. satisfactory answer, why the Australian Workers Union was not asked to work the open-cut mines, notwithstanding that its members are at present working open-cut coal mines in South Australia and stone and metal quarries throughout Australia. In reply the Minister admitted that the Australian Workers Union had not been permitted to work the mines, but he did not explain why. Perhaps the reason why the Government was averse to employing members cif the Australian Workers Union was that it feared that if the members of the union once went into the open cuts they would take the view that possession was nine points of the law and insist, on remaining in the mines when the industrial dispute had. ended.
Another matter that invites comment is the action taken by the Government to freeze the funds of the unions concerns.) in the dispute. That is another action that was taken in the face of the platform of the Australian Labour party. I can quite understand the rumpus that mus. have taken place in caucus after the Government’s decision was announced to it. The Opposition voted for the measure to freeze the funds of the unions concerned because it had long suggested that some such action was necessary if the country was not to be held to ransom by Communist-inspired strikes. Of course, the Labour party has always averred that the right to strike is sacred ; but what the people are going *to say about the “sacredness” of that right at The forthcoming election must be most disconcerting to Labour. Of course, the members of that party have been going about the country telling people “ what, a great job Mr. Chifley did in breaking the coal strike “. However, what the people will want to know is, what did the Government do to prevent the strike from occurring? They will want to know also what the Government has been doing for years to prevent strikes. Despite the repeated requests made by members of the Opposition that action should be taken against those who broke the industrial law, nothing was done by the Government. If Labour is returned to office it is most improbable, in the light of its history, that it will be able to eradicate the Communist cancer from the heart of the Australian nation.
To return to the bill, I repeat that I quite agree that the States are entitled to some compensation for the losses that they suffered during the coal strike, but in common with many other Australians, I regret the circumstances which have given rise to the introduction of the bill, namely, the disastrous coal strike which disrupted the economy of the people.
– The int of this bill reminds us of a very sad period in the industrial life of this country. It was sad because during the coal strike 600,000 Australian workers lost their employment. Tt was sad also because of the misery that it caused everywhere; but it was doubly sad because it was entirely unnecessary. Had the Government heeded the warnings which the Opposition had uttered for many months preceding the strike the dispute would never have occurred. Throughout recent years the Opposition parties have constantly emphasized the menace of. communism to our industrial life, but our warnings were rejected by the Government with jeers. We were told that we were merely seeking to raise the “ Communist bogy”. We were assured by the Government that communism was simply another form of political philosophy, and that its adherents were quite harmless.
We were accused of counselling repressive action against the workers. “Ministers of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself, tolerated, if they dd not actually encourage, the activities of the subversive elements in our midst, with the result that eventually our industrial life was brought to a standstill. When that occurred our economy lost approximately £150,000,000. Yet, notwithstanding that enormous loss, the full effects of the strike cannot be measured in terms of £ s. d. No money can compensate for or solace the misery suffered by our people - misery which, as I have said, was quite unnecessary. Yet even now we have no assurance from the Government that we shall not have to encounter a repetition of our bitter experience during the coal strike. Of course, the Government has claimed that the Communists were dealt a death blow. The Communists themselves do not think so, however. They are as arrogant as ever, and already they have foreshadowed the line of attack that they will take. The people of Australia would derive
Rome consolation if they could be assured that, although the coal strike was a most unfortunate occurrence and that the Government was lax in permitting it to occur, there is not likely to be a repetition of that occurrence. However, the plain fact is that we have no assurance that there will not be a repetition. On the contrary, everything indicates that communism has not been killed, . but, as I said on an earlier occasion, it has merely suffered the administration of a mild anaesthetic. If the Government is returned to office after the forthcoming election the ugly head of treason, communist treason, will again be raised in the land.
. - in reply - The bill proposes to reimburse the States for financial losses suffered during the coal strike, but it has also given the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) another opportunity to malign the coal-miners and the ‘industrial workers of Australia. The honorable senator referred to the fact that stoppages were still occurring in coal mines, and alleged that the cause of the stoppages was associated solely with the coal-miners and other industrial workers. Of course, these industrial disputes are not, by any means, one-sided affairs. Many of them are caused by provocation from mine managements. The honorable senator also wanted to know why the open-cut mines were not used earlier than they were, and he recalled that he asked a question in the Senate about the matter. “When he asked that question 1 told him then that open-cut mines were being used to the best possible advantage. If the Opposition parties had been in power during the coal strike it is doubtful whether any coal would have been produced at all. It was only because of the co-operation with the Government of a number of trade unions that we were able to produce and distribute coal. I doubt whether any such co-operation would have been offered to an anti-Labour Government. Senator Cooper takes every opportunity to belittle the workers in industry in this country. He takes special pleasure in drawing attention to the fact that when the soldiers engaged in producing coal in the open cuts they produced a greater amount of coal than had previously been produced by the miners themselves in a similar period. It is evident that the honorable senator did not inquire why that was so. 1 shall not detract from the credit that is due to the soldiers for the magnificent job that they did during the coal strike. They earned this Government’s sincere appreciation for their good work. However, I stress that the honorable senator and his colleagues should have ascertained the facts relating to the increased production before maligning a section of the workers in this country.
– I remember reading Labour’s advertisements in the press headed “ This is a Communis’t Inspired Strike”.
– When the army personnel proceeded to the open cuts they were directed to get the coal as soon a.» possible. Usually, in open-cut mining, two shifts work on the removal of the overburden, whilst the third shift engages in the production of coal. When the soldiers went into:the open cuts tens of thousands of tons of coal were ready to be mined because the overburden had already been removed. Therefore, the soldiers did not have to engage immediately in the removal first of overburden. Because they were able to go straight to the coal face, their production per man hour was greater than had been that of the miners.
– Why did not the Minister give me that information when I asked him a question about this matter at the time?
– The honorablesenator should have made it his business to ascertain the reason for the extra production. On many occasions in this chamber he has maligned the miners, the waterside workers, the ironworkers, and other sections of industry without first ascertaining the facts.
– The Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister for that information at the time.
– The Opposition has referred to the freezing of union funds. That was a most courageous action for a Labour Government to take. In 1940, during the war period, a serious strike occurred on the northern coalfields. The production of 1,000,000 tons of coal was lost. But what action was taken by the anti-Labour government of those days to bring about a resumption of work? No action was taken. The then Government merely sat idly by. After the strike had continued for about ten weeks, however, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, went to the coal-fields and pleaded with the men to return to work. The history of the Opposition parties in regard to coal production in this country is not palatable. When the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was Prime Minister, he, in conjunction with the then Attorney-General, the right honorable member for NorthSydney (Mr. Hughes) was responsible for the establishment of a “ slush “’ fund with which to corrupt the miners’1 leaders. That was the way in which he attempted to secure increased coal production in this country. An amount of £300 was paid over to: the late Mr. Charles Nelson in an attempt to corrupt the miners’ leaders. Yet honorable senators opposite now have the audacity to criticize and malign the workers of this country!
– The Minister would not say that outside this chamber.
– The same thing is happening again. The Leader of the Australian Country party is stumping the country declaring how he would achieve increased coal production. The Opposition has claimed that this Government should have taken certain action with relation to the production of coal in Australia. In point of fact the Government took very definite action. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday asked une a question relating to the Elrington pit in the north of New South Wales, which had been out of production for some time because of a safety issue. There was a disputation between the management and the mine workers in regard to the use of a certain class of sand on the rails in order to prevent the wheels of the skips from skidding. When the rails are greasy it is the practice to apply sand to them in order to obviate skidding and consequential dangers. If the skips were to slip the engines would get out of control. Only a little sand was involved in that dispute. The workers suggested that the trouble could be overcome by the use of beach sand, and a technical man in the mine, the safety officer, recommended a change of sand. But the request was not acceded to, and the pit was out of production for ten days. If the owners of that pit had been earnest in their desire to maintain production they would have obtained a load or two of beach sand promptly. As honorable senators know, there is an abundance of sand in the Newcastle district.
– That is part of the Opposition’s election campaign.
– That is so. There is no earnest desire by the owners in the mining and other industries to achieve continuous production. Workers are provoked in every conceivable way in an endeavour to disrupt industry. When disruption occurs Opposition parties endeavour to place the blame on the present Labour Government. I am convinced that many industrial stoppages have been deliberately caused for political reasons. It ill behoves .the Leader of the Opposition to criticize this Go vernment with relation to the production of coal in this country, in view of the sordid record of Opposition parties when they formed the Government of Australia. As I have already reminded the Senate, an anti-Labour administration established a “ slush “ fund for the purpose of bribing miners’ leaders. Subsequently the royal commissioner who was appointed to inquire into the matter made a scathing indictment of those responsible. This measure has nothing to do with the mining industry in the past, although it can be related to it. I do not think that the Opposition has profited by the references that honorable senators who support the Government have made during this debate. Honorable senators opposite never miss an opportunity to malign the miners, the waterside workers, the seamen and the ironworkers. They are having a slender time now, however, because I have not heard of any trouble on the waterfront or amongst the ironworkers for a considerable time. The Leader of the Opposition took the opportunity to cite figures about the loss of production during the recent coal strike. Had he compared the loss of production of coal when antiLabour governments were in office with the loss during the recent coal strike it would have’ been shown that the loss under Labour’s administration was considerably less than it was then. Yet the Opposition contends that the figures cited by its leader prove its case.
Since this Government came to office a tremendous stimulus has been given to industry in this country, and employment figures have almost doubled. When the Leader of the Opposition cited figures relating to unemployment he neglected to make a comparison between the number of people .. .. in employment in this country to-day compared with the number employed in 1939. Even at the outbreak of World War II. hundreds of thousands of people wore unemployed in this country. The Opposition parties are anxious to govern this country again in order to bring about a reversion to the conditions that prevailed prior to, the war. In order to satisfy the desires of the capitalists in this country they wish to establish a pool of unemployed. Honorable senators opposite represent the capitalist classes. It is their policy to revert to the bad old days when a pool of unemployed existed. In those days, when hundreds of men reported at factory gates in answer to advertisements for men, only the strong and healthy were selected. The remainder had to continue to live on a miserable dole. If, perchance, the political parties sitting in opposition are ever again elected to office in this country those conditions will return. Although I have transgressed, somewhat, the rules of debate, I was prompted to do so because the Opposition has maligned the workers of this country at every opportunity.
– The Opposition is unscrupulous.
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I draw the attention of the committee to the title of the bill - States Grants (Coal Strike Emergency) Bill 1949 - just in case it may be thought that it has no relation at all to the recent tragic coal strike.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1695), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - The purpose of the bill is to continue during the current financial year the arrangement for the reimbursement to the States of the costs incurred by them in the administration of prices, rents, and land sales controls. An amount of £800,000 has been provided for the purpose in the Estimates for 1949-50. Expenditure last year amounted to £597,000. I assume that the provision did not cover a full year. Under this measure, grants to the States will bo limited to the reimbursement of administrative costs. Capital expenditure by the States will not be a charge against the Commonwealth. The bill is somewhat similar to the States Grants (CoalStrike Emergency) Bill, which the Senate passed only a few minutes ago, but that measure was introduced for an entirely different reason, which I am not at liberty to discuss now. The incurring of any extraordinary expenditure by the States how involves a reimbursement handout by the Commonwealth Treasurer. That is the result of the uniform tax system, under which the Commonwealth is the sole taxing authority. I hope that a time will come when the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States will be more satisfactorily adjusted so that the repeated introduction of bills of this nature will be obviated. Some controls, such as land sales control, have already been abandoned by the States. It will be a happy day when the community is at last free from those war-time impositions. Unfortunately, that El Dorado will not be attained until production has reached a stage at which sufficient goods are available to satisfy demand. Whatever supporters of the Government may say about, the wisdom or otherwise of the referendum decision, the fact is that the Government’s request to the people to hand over permanent control of rents and prices to the Commonwealth was negatived in every State.
Immediately after the referendum, the Prime Minister, somewhat petulantly perhaps, dropped like a. hot brick the controls that had been exercised for so long and left them to the States. There would have been nothing unconstitutional about the Commonwealth retaining its authority in the field of prices control, at any rate until the States had been given an opportunity to develop their control machinery to the best advantage. At the same time as the Prime Minister threw into the laps of the States the responsibility for administering the controls, he withdrew the subsidies upon essential commodities by which the Government had been able to keep prices down to normal levels. Despite the difficulties that were thrust in their way, the States have performed a very creditable job and, under their jurisdiction, prices have not risen to the degree that the Jeremiahs of the Labour party predicted during and after the referendum campaign. The Opposition supports this bill as its purpose is to reimburse to the States some of the expenses that they have incurred in administering prices control.
– I should not have said a word about this bill if the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) had not again taken advantage of an opportunity to broadcast political propaganda against the Government. He used the term “Jeremiahs of the Labour party”. For once he forgot to speak of the socialist party. How he discovered that we belong merely to the Labour party I am not sure. The truth about prices control is that, whilst every credit should bc given to the State governments for the work that they have done, they could not have operated successfully if the Commonwealth Government had not provided financial and other assistance. Members of the Labour party who said that the States would not be able to control prices effectively were not just Jeremiahs crying in the wilderness. We knew, as the Leader of the Opposition knew, that the States could not effectively restrain rising prices. Everybody knows now that the States are not able to control prices as efficiently as the Commonwealth did formerly. We told the truth to the people during the referendum campaign, but the Opposition parties published advertisements throughout the Commonwealth that misled the people. The public knows to-day that prices control is not nearly so efficient as it was under Commonwealth jurisdiction. Yet the Leader of the Opposition persists in making such foolish statements as he made a few minutes ago. He referred to subsidies and criticized the Government for having discontinued them. Good heavens, subsidies are still paid in Australia ! Many foodstuffs produced here and many commodities that are imported from other countries are subsidized, by this Government. The
States have no jurisdiction in that field. The Leader of the Opposition persists in making misleading statements because a general election is impending and he knows that the parties that he represents have no constructive proposals to submit to the people. He traduces the Labour party in the hope of gaining political support by destructive means. The Opposition parties call us socialists, yet they ally themselves with the Communists. They are willing to ally themselves with every political party under the sun in order to gain their ends. Whenever the Leader of the Opposition has spoken in this chamber to-night he has attempted to traduce the great Labour movement, which saved Australia during the war and has now established the nation on a basis of security so that every man and woman in Australia who is able to work can find employment. AntiLabour parties never succeeded in achieving such good results. The Government’s opponents have been unable to produce a plan for the betterment of the people. They quarrel continually amongst themselves and side one against the other. They speak in this Parliament ostensibly as a united force, yet they accuse one another of back-stabbing and fight throughout the land because they cannot agree upon a constructive policy. The Opposition parties squeal all the time. They cannot help doing so because they have no plan for the development of Australia or for the provision of the necessaries of life to all sections of the people. Consequently, they constantly abuse the Government and try to ally it with communism. However, as the people that they try to fasten on to the Labour party are now coming out in opposition to Labour in the forthcoming general election, it is clear that the Opposition parties are financing those interests. The object of the bill is to reimburse the States for their expenditure on the administration of prices control. . This is probably the last speech that I shall make in this chamber until after the next general election. I repeat that the Government has rendered great assistance to the States in their efforts to stabilize prices. At the same time, however, the States have done good work in that sphere and we should give every credit to them for what they have accomplished.
. in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) waddled through his speech like a duck waddling through a pond. His main objection was that under this measure the Government was providing “ hand-outs “ to the States. He did not have the courage to come out in the open and say that he was opposed to uniform income tax. He was very subtle in that respect. He criticized the Government for withdrawing certain price stabilization subsidies. However, as Senator O’Flaherty has pointed out, the Government is still providing £10,000,000 annually for the purpose of stabilizing the prices of certain commodities to the consumers. It is prepared to continue providing that money because it can directly control its expenditure. However, it will not provide millions of money to the States unless it can exercise some control over the expenditure of it. If the Government failed to observe that principle the Leader of the Opposition would say that is was guilty of neglect of duty. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told the people that if the Government were not given power to continue prices control on a nation-wide basis it would be obliged to withdraw certain subsidies,. The Prime Minister was open and frank in warning the people of what would happen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1697), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition heartily supports this measure the object of which is to appropriate the sum of £10,000,000 as a gift to the United Kingdom. My colleagues are only too pleased to support any measure on its merits. However, we shall not hesitate to exercise our right to criticize measures of which we do not approve. We have no reason to criticize this bill unless it be on the ground that a much larger sum should be appropriated for this purpose. However, I shall not deal with that aspect of the matter. This is a gift to the people of Great Britain not from the Government but from the people of Australia and it is a reflection of the generosity of the people who provide the revenue from which the gift has been derived.
There is every justification for making this gift to the United Kingdom. There-‘ fore, the Opposition claims as much credit as the Government itself for the action being taken under this bill. We know that during the recent war the people of Great Britain went through a very difficult period. Had it not been for their gallantry and sacrifice the whole present set-up of the world would be much different from, what it is to-day. If those people had not, in the early days of the recent war, held at bay the teeming hoards of well-equipped Germans who had swept over Europe almost to the shores of Great Britain, we should find ourselves in a very different position at present. The British people are still going through difficult times. Therefore, the Opposition wholeheartedly supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1697), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is complementary to the Government’s budget programme that was outlined by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) for the current financial year. Any measure that has for its object the reduction of taxes, particularly in view of the burden that the community is bearing at present, will be welcomed by the Opposition. Such reductions, however, should be viewed in their proper perspective. Last year sales tax produced approximately £40,000,000, and under this measure it proposes to reduce the general rate of sales tax from 10 per cent, to S/j per cent, and to make certain concessions with respect to luxury lines.
– I rise to order, Mr. President. Is the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) in order in reading his speech without having obtained the permission of the Senate to do so?
– No honorable senator is permitted to read his speech without leave of the Senate. However, an honorable senator may refer to copious notes. I did not notice that the Leader of the Opposition was reading his speech.
– Despite this reduction in the general rate of sales tax, £35,000,000, will still be collected from this tax in the current financial year. “Whether the reduction envisaged in the bill will have the effect of reducing the cost of living is a moot point, particularly when one remembers that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) expects to collect a total of £185,500,000 on items, all of which directly affect the cost of living. For instance, customs revenue will amount, on the Treasurer’s estimate, to £60,500,000. Excise duties will yield £64,000,000. The pay-roll tax will yield £22,000,000, land taxes £4,000,000, and, as I have already said, the sales tax, £35,000,000. The sales tax must be passed on to the public in the form of increased prices. It will increase the burden that rests upon the taxpayers of this country. The sales tax is not a direct impost, the incidence of which can be readily gauged. It is levied on hundreds of items the price of which has a direct relation to the cost of living. A perusal of the statement that has been circulated, giving details of the goods affected by these reductions of the sales tax, reveals that the list does not contain items which affect the average household budget. Purchasers of more expensive commodities will certainly benefit, but on foodstuffs, including groceries, this measure will have little or no effect. More benefit would accrue to the community generally if the Government were to exempt from the sales tax, foodstuffs, beverages, and other common household items. Assessing Australia’s population at 7,000,000 the expected yield of £35,000,000 from the sales tax in the current financial year, represents £5 a head, and at least £20 for the average Australian family of a man, wife and two children. Such items as cocoa, coffee, jelly crystals, custard powders, desserts, puddings, salt and biscuits, still carry the full rate of sales tax. Those are only a few items taken at random from the schedule of sales tax exemptions and classifications which consists of nearly 600 closely printed pages, 22 of which cover foodstuffs that are subject to the tax. Another matter to which I have frequently urged the Government to give consideration is the removal of tho sales tax from ice. My colleague, Senator Rankin, has supported this request. In Queensland, particularly in localities where refrigerators cannot be used or afforded, ice is not a luxury but a necessity, especially as butcher shops are closed during the entire week-end.
– The sales tax on ice costs each household an average of only one penny a week.
– It is more than that.
– I have not the figures at hand, but probably if I mentioned a figure the Minister would accuse me of making irresponsible statements. Although the Minister has assured me often in the past that my representations would be given consideration when the sales tax was being reviewed, the Treasurer has not yet exempted ice from the tax, although a slight concession has been granted. If the revenue from the sales tax on ice is as insignificant as the Minister suggests, its complete removal would not detract appreciably from the revenue of £35,000,000 that the sales tax yields annually. I am very disappointed that the sales tax on ice is to continue. However, as I said earlier, tax reductions of any kind are welcomed by the community and the Opposition suports this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1949.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1698), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bills be now read a second time.
– I have dealt generally with the sales tax in my remarks on the previous measure. The Opposition does not object to these bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1698), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I protest against the small relief that is being granted by this measure and I urge the Government to consider the complete removal of this tax from admission tickets of 2s. or less. I point out that admission tickets in this category are purchased largely by families seeking entertainment. In this country, we must do everything possible to encourage the family unit, family life and family entertainment. Here surely is one way in which the Government can assist in that direction. I am not concerned so much about higher priced tickets. My contention is that this miserable relief on the lower priced tickets is quite inadequate. The Government should, I believe, remove the entertainments tax entirely from tickets of up to 2s., thus bringing the cost of a family visit to a picture show within reach of people in the lower income groups.
. in reply - The honorable senator has described the reductions provided for in this measure as miserable relief. I point out that they will involve an annual loss of revenue of £1,100,000. I realize, of course, that members of the Opposition parties come from the higher strata of society, and that the reductions provided in this measure may appear insignificant to them. However, in the current financial year, the concessions will cost the revenue of this country approximately £825,000. That represents substantial relief to people in the lower income groups. The policy of the Government is to reduce taxes wherever possible, and this measure has been introduced in pursuance of that policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Thursday, 27 October 1949.
– I have already criticized the inadequacy of the proposed reduction of tax, and I simply take this opportunity to point out once more that a reduction of one penny in the tax is only likely to cause confusion and more work in ticket offices than to benefit married men who desire to give their families some entertainment. A reduction of one penny in the entertainments tax paid for a ticket of admission to a picture show will not benefit a family. Obviously, the tax should be removed completely from all tickets priced up to 2s.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the- 20th October (vide page 1699), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The hill is designed to reduce the charges imposed upon employers of waterside labour from 4-Jjd. to 2-$d. per manhour. The revenue raised from the charge is used to pay attendance money to waterside workers, to meet the cost of administration of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and to provide amenities for waterside workers. The commission has now accumulated funds of £250)000, ‘ and the reduction of the charge proposed in this measure will reduce the revenue of the new hoard during the next few years but will not impair its working reserves. The Opposition has no desire to impede the passage of the hill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-day, at 10.30 a.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Social Services Consolidation Act-Eighth Report of the Director-General of Social Services, for year 1948-49.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department-^ Defence- -J. P. Buckley. Treasury - D. A. Davey, S. E. Whicker.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservation of certain lands at Alice Springs (Aboriginal Reserve).
Science and Industry Research Act - First Annual Report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research’ “Organization, for year 1948-49.
Senate adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19491026_senate_18_205/>.