19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for
Trade and Customs whether, in view of the heavy financial commitments of the Australian Government, and also of the Tasmanian Government, in connexion with the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania, and having regard to the important defenceaspect of that industry, he will bring tothe notice of Cabinet at an early date the urgent necessity to extend the Tasmanian Government railways system to Bell Bay? Will the Minister request that the Commonwealth should provide a substantial proportion of the money required to extend the railway line to the site of the aluminium factory ?
– The Minister for Supply is giving close attention to the necessity for pushing ahead with the aluminium industry in Tasmania. As the honorable senator has stated, that industry is ofprime importance from the defence angle. I shall inform the Minister of the matters to which the honorable senator has referred.
– I preface a questionto the Minister for Trade and Customs by saying that recently Senator Armstrong asked a question inthis chamber concerning the performance, as a pageant, of Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha during the. forthcoming Commonwealth jubilee celebrations. I inform the Minister thata very fine ballet named Corroboree, and also a musical comedy named Collitt’s Inn, have been written by Australians, and I understand that all the necessary costumes for the performance of those, works are available. I wish to ask the Minister whether, as a corroboree will be part of the pageantry, the ballet
Corroboree could be performed during the celebrations. Is the Minister able to inform me to whom I should address suggestions in order that they might be considered by the responsible organizing committee?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator is one which I am sure will be of interest to all Australians. I agree that it is important that our jubilee celebrations should have a distinctly Australian flavour. The honorable senator may have noticed that the question recently asked by Senator Armstrong is still on the notice-paper. I suggest that he contact the secretary to the Prime Minister from whom he should be able to obtain all the information he desires.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister read a news item dealing withthe establishment of a massage service in Parliament House, Canberra, that appeared in the Victorian Labour Call of the 23rd November? Can the Minister give an assurance that the service will continue to operate only on the basis of individual payment for’ services rendered, and that Labour party kite-flying to have the service paid for by the Government will be as completely disregarded, as were recent unofficial suggestions by members of the Labour party regarding increased salaries for politicians?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable senator has referred and upon which her question is based. I do not think an assurance is needed that massage treatment will be charged for on the basis of a fee for services rendered. I should be just as astounded if any parliamentarians asked that the service should be provided free of charge as I would be if they asked that their meals should be provided free.
– I cannot but intervene, because I have been approached upon this matter. One becomes a little angry at the continued attacks that are made by the press upon members of this Parliament. Members who receive massage treatment, pay for the treatment, and there is no question of any one else paying for it. I have made a room available for use by the masseur, and I accept all responsibility for doing so. Members, pay, I believe, 10s. 6d. every time they are massaged. I hope that the press will inform the. Australian public of that fact, and that it will not continue to traduce members of the Parliament by trying to make it appear that they are always attempting to “ bot “ on the community.
– Having regard to the attempt by Senator Wedgwood to prejudice members of the Labour party by her question about the provision of masseurs in Parliament House, can you say, Mr. President, whether it is a fact that, before any privileges are made available to members, they must be approved by an amenities committee, upon which are represented all parties?
– Yes, it is a fact, and I think the public should be made aware of it. All matters affecting members of the Parliament, including allowances, are brought before the amenities committee for its approval before action is taken. The committee consists of two members of the Labour party, two members of the Liberal party and one member of the Australian Country party.
– The Government parties have a majority.
– Yes, they have a majority, as is natural since they constitute the Government. In view of the frequent aspersions cast upon members of the Parliament by the public, and even by some members themselves, it is proper that the public should be made aware of the position. No action for the provision of amenities is taken until the joint committee, in its wisdom, agrees that it should be done.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply confer with the Minister for National Development for the purpose of arranging for the Division of Industrial Development to install distilling vats at the sweat baths in these premises in order to extract the goat-gall, taipan-toxin, and shark-oil from the bathwater of honorable members who support the Government?
– If the honorable senator were to interview the Minister for National Development personally about this matter, doubtless he would be given a quick and straight reply.
– As reference has been made to the Australian Labour party in connexion with this matter, I ask you, Mr. President, whether it is not a fact that the increased demand for amenities in Parliament House has resulted from the influx of Liberal party and Australian Country party members and senators since the enlargement of the Parliament?
– During my eighteen years in this chamber, I have found that members of Parliament as a whole are decent citizens and compare favorably as a class with any other section of the community. In all walks of life, of course, there are unusual or slightly abnormal people, but generally speaking, members of Parliament are ordinary, normal citizens who, by the grace of the electors, hold their high public office. As President of the Senate and chairman of the Joint House Committee, I shall do my best to meet the wishes of all honorable members and senators regardless of their party affiliations. I shall always be ready to defend parliamentarians from grossly unwarranted attacks by newspapers or other organizations or individuals who should know better. In these clays of international strife, there is grave danger to democratic institutions all over the world, and it is the duty of every member of Parliament to play his part well in the eyes of the public, and to do his best on behalf of the people that he represents.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether, as has been suggested in recent press reports, there is a possibility that in the New Year the dollar situation will be eased considerably? Can the public be assured that the situation is progressing to a stage when there will be a free exchange of goods between the United States of America and Australia?
– I understand that, very happily, the dollar-sterling exchange position has been improved considerably by the strengthening of sterling. There was no foundation for reports that were published in the press approximately a fortnight ago that there was likely to be an immediate abolition of import restrictions. It is still necessary to conserve the dollar reserves of the sterling area. I assure the honorable senator that import restrictions are not being maintained in force merely for the sake of imposing restrictions. The position is being kept under continuous observation, and as soon as it warrants an easing of import restrictions, that, will be done.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether it is true that the Commonwealth Bank has been instructed to consider favorably applications from ex-servicemen for increased loans in connexion with the erection of war service homes ? If so, has this policy been adopted by the bank, or are ex-servicemen being refused increased accommodation ?
– War service homes are administered by the Department of Works and Housing, not the Repatriation Department. I shall be very glad to refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Works and Housing, and obtain a reply for her at an early date.
– In view of the fact that the stone and berry fruit industry in Tasmania is facing extinction because of curtailed markets and low prices, will the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate when I may expect an answer to a question on this subject that appears in my name on the notice-paper ?
– I am not in a position to inform the honorable senator of the precise date on which’ he may expert an answer to his question, but I shall endeavour to expedite the matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that when the Commonwealth Bank in Queensland advances money for the purchase of a motor vehicle, a stipulation is made that the vehicle must be insured with the State Insurance Office of Queensland? Is the Minister also aware that if the prospective purchaser holds a life assurance policy with a private assurance company, the State Insurance Office of Queensland refuses to grant him personal cover unless his life assurance policy is transferred to that office? In view of the fact that private insurance companies will not grant personal cover for a driver unless the vehicle is insured with them, will the Treasurer discuss this matter with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to removing this absurd anomaly, which leaves a driver without necessary cover?
– I shall obtain for the honorable senator the Treasurer’s views about the extraordinary position that has been outlined.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me whether it is a fact that instructions have been issued to the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank to restrict withdrawals from current accounts and savings accounts?
– I have no knowledge of any such instruction, and I cannot believe that it, would be given.
– As Australia’s funds in London are increasing at the rate of £4,250,000 a week, and now stand at £563,600,000, can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say whether it would be possible, by negotiations with British banking authorities, to convert that credit into sterling for use in dollar areas?
– I have been informed that the proposition submitted by the honorable senator is not practicable. Our funds in London are kept under constant observation, and in the opinion of the advisers of the Government the best use is being made of them. It. is important that we should maintain in Great Britain a sufficient credit to meet the requirements of Australian importers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health been advised of the attitude of the Tasmanian Government towards the scheme for the distribution of free milk to school children? As the scheme in its present form has been shown by the Tasmanian Government to be impracticable, will the Minister for Health re-draft it in a more acceptable form so that milk may be made available to the children?
– I understand that the Minister for Health has been in contact with the Government of Tasmania in regard to the scheme for the distribution of free milk to school children, but I do not know the result of the negotiations. However, I understand that arrangements have been made for the distribution of milk early next year to school children in New South Wales, and it should be more difficult to operate the scheme in that State because of its greater size, than in Tasmania. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health, and ascertain what he has to say on the matter.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read a press report that a certain Mr. Date, of New South Wales, is suing the Liberal party for £75 compensation for an injury sustained through hand shaking? Oan the Minister inform the Senate whether that injury was caused by shaking hands with bankers or by shaking wool from the wool-growers ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but when he nodded his head, I distinctly heard something rattle.
– Order ! Honorable senators are not enhancing the reputation of the Senate by indulging in quasi-humorous questions and answers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development ascertain whether a statement can be made to the Senate on the progress that has been made with the standardization of railway gauges. I should like to know also how far negotiations have proceeded with the States.
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable senator.
asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with a statement showing the prices of coal for a ton landed at Sydney, purchased from the Newcastle and Greta fields; also from the following countries, viz.: - United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Ceylon, United States of America and Canada?
– Prices of coal differ as between individual collieries but an estimate of average price for a ton of coal from Newcastle and Greta fields and transported to Sydney by sea for general purposes is - From Newcastle field, 56s. 9d. ; from Greta field, 65s. 5d. Supplies of coal have not been imported into Sydney from any overseas source. Accordingly, no reliable estimate can be advanced of the landed cost of coal at Sydney from the United Kingdom, New Zealand. South Africa, India, Ceylon. United States of America, and Canada.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Tractors - Question of assistance to the Australian industry.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sugar - International Agreement - Protocol, dated 31st August, 1950, signed in London.
This protocol bears date the 31st August, 1950, and was signed in London by representatives of the governments of the Union of South Africa, the Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, the French Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Haiti, the Republic of Indonesia, the Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, the United States of America, and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The protocol is similar to that signed on the 31st August, 1949, and extends theInternational Sugar Agreement, which initially operated from 1937 for a further period of one year, to the 31st August, 1951. The protocol provides that certain articles of the original agreement, particularly those relating to export quotas, shall be inoperative. Countries signing the protocol have recognized that revision of the original agreement is necessary, and that it should be undertaken as soon as the time appeared opportune. The original agreement is to be taken as the starting point in any discussions of such revision. The intention of signatory countries is that an international conference will be held in 1951 to formulate a basis for a new international sugar agreement.
– by leave - read a copy of the statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) (vide page 3163) on Chinese intervention in Korea.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the salaries payable to the holders of certain statutory offices, the salaries for which are determined by legislation. It has become apparent that, despite the adjustments made by the previous Government in 1947, the remuneration of members of the judiciary and officers in the higher executive positions of the Commonwealth Public Service is not at present on a scale commensurate with their responsibilities. The salaries of justices of the High Court and other judicial officers cannot be compared with the earnings of leaders of the legal profession at the bar. The Government is firmly convinced that the salaries should be adequate, and accordingly has made provision for increases in accordance with the principles of similar legislation in 1947. The salaries attaching to the other statutory positions included in this bill have been determined in relation to a recent general review of salaries of permanent heads and other high executive first division officers of the . Commonwealth Public Service. None of these salaries is subject to variation in accordance with the cost of living. The Government is conscious of the necessity for a reasonable remuneration to cover the responsibilities and complex duties of the head of a department. Salaries must have some relation to the emoluments available to such men in private industry in order to attract and retain men with the necessary qualifications and experience.
Since the 1947 review, there has been a substantial movement in salaries in the levels immediately below those mentioned in the bill, through reclassifications, cost of living margins and arbitrator’s awards. The salaries of officers below the first division are subject to determinations by the Public Service Arbitrator, and his recent awards have considerably narrowed, and in some cases eliminated, the margin between the salaries of the head of a department and his next senior officer. Honorable senators will find details of the proposed increases in the schedule to the bill. The Government, in assessing the increases which it proposes to make, has borne in mind the general trend of salaries for professional and high executive positions both in Australia and overseas. It is convinced that the proposed increases not only are reasonable but also are necessary to enable the Commonwealth to retain, in its service, the best men available. Provision for these increases, in common with increases of the salaries of permanent heads, had been made in the Estimates for 1950-51, but it is now deemed desirable to provide the additional emoluments by means of this bill. I commend the measure to the ‘Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator MCKENNA) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator SPOONER read a first time.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This bill is a corollary of the legislation to simplify the tax system. That legislation will end the time and labourconsuming practice of separately assessing social services contributions as distinct from income tax. That will, in turn, affect the basis on which the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund, for, in addition to the pay-roll tax collected, the National Welfare Fund at present receives an amount equal to the social services contributions separately assessed and payable in the year in question. Therefore, a new basis for the special appropriations to the fund for social services contributions is required. This bill provides it.
For the financial year 1950-51, the amount of social services contributions payable on 1949-50 and earlier incomes will be appropriated to the fund. This amount is estimated at £71,000,000, but as no provisional social services contributions will be separately levied in the present financial year under the simplified tax system, there will be a short fall in the receipts of the fund, estimated at £30,000,000 compared with what would have been- received had the provisional contributions continued to be separately levied. It is the Government’s intention to maintain the revenues of the fund, and so, to make good this deficiency, an amount of £30,000,000 is added by the bill to the total to be appropriated to the fund for 1950-51. For the present financial year, therefore, it is estimated that the fund will receive £26,000,000 from pay-roll tax and £101.000,000 in respect of social services contribution, or £127,000,000 in all, exclusive of interest.
In . 1951-52 and later years, the fund will continue to receive the arrears of social services contribution payable in those years on 1949-50 and earlier incomes. This amount will, however, be built up to a total determined by a formula set out in the bill. The Government considered many different formulae before choosing the one described in the bill. What the Government wanted was a formula that would give the fund approximately the same amount as it would have received had social services contribution continued to be separately assessed. At the same time, the Government wanted a formula that would be simple to understand and to apply administratively ; for anything incomprehensible to the non-mathematical taxpayer, or requiring a lot of work in its application by the department, would be quite out of harmony with the tax simplification legislation which had made it necessary.
I think it will be agreed that the formula described in the bill meets those requirements. It takes as the base amounts the respective sums appropriated to the fund in 1950-51 - the base year - for social services contribution and payroll tax. As I have already stated, these amounts are estimated at £101,000,000 and £26,000,000 respectively. In 1951-52 and later years the base amount of social services contribution will, for the purposes of the appropriation to the fund for that year, be increased by the same percentage as the percentage by which payroll tax collected in that year is greater than the amount collected in the base year - 1950-51.
The working of the formula is easily illustrated. Suppose social services contribution and pay-roll tax appropriated to the fund in 1950-51 are the estimated amounts, namely, £101,000,000 and £26,000,000 respectively. Suppose also that in 1951-52, because of a bigger working population and higher rates of remuneration, the total wages bill, and hence pay-roll tax collections, increase by 15 per cent, over the 1950-51 collections. This figure has, of course, no statistical significance; I have chosen it quite arbitrarily, merely for the purpose? of illustration. Then, if pay-roll tax increased by 15 per cent., so also would the amount appropriated for social services contribu tion increase by 15 per cent, over the amount appropriated under that head in 1950-51. To put it in money terms: If pay-roll tax increased from £26,000,000 in 1950-51 to £29,900,000 in 1951-52, then, given that social services contribution for 1950-51 was £101,000,000, it would rise to £116,000,000 for 1951-52. and the total appropriation to the fund under both these heads would rise from £127,000,000 to £146,000,000.
I do not think I need go any further into the arithmetic of the formula. It is designed to give the fund approximately the amount it would receive in normal conditions under the administratively more costly separate assessment system now operating.
Before concluding, I should like to repeat what was said on the same point by my” colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Fad den), -in introducing the bill in another place. While proposing the steps set out in the bill to maintain the receipts of the National Welfare Fund, the Government is of the opinion that the present system of financing social services falls short of what is desirable in some important respects. This is especially evident when the question of making progress towards the removal of the means test is examined. I have given this matter close personal attention since taking office. The problem is complex, and no easy solution presents itself. But in due course the Government hopes to submit to the Parliament and the people plans for improving the present system of social services and putting it on a more satisfactory financial basis than at present. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator M cKen na) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3255), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Prior to the adjournment last evening an honorable senator opposite had asked me by interjection why the Chifley Government had not reduced or abolished sales tax during its period in office. Obviously the answer is that the former Government had to accept, under duress, war-time circumstances and all the inhibitions that those circumstances imposed on the community. It had to choose the lesser of two evils. The Chifley Government had to make the best of the economy of the country as it existed, in order to avoid any risk of domination by the enemy. The approach that that Government took to this matter was in line with the approach of individuals to most matters in life, wherein the lesser evil is accepted under duress. But immediately following the cessation of hostilities in 1945 the former Government prepared plans to improve the economy of this country. With the object of either reducing or abolishing indirect taxation it proposed to nationalize banks and to control prices. However, those propositions were defeated. Therefore, the former Government cannot be accused of not having attempted to improve the position in the way that I suggest it should now be improved.
Although the Government has seen fit to increase age, invalid, and war pensions it has also allowed prices and profits to rise. In due course these rises will liquidate the increases that have been granted to pensioners. Indeed, the Government has in many instances increased the sales tax. Therefore, it is obvious that pensions increases will be absorbed by increases of prices and profits, “while the Government itself will benefit by collecting more revenue. Sales tax is probably the worst of all kinds of indirect taxation, and it cannot be passed on by the workers and pensioners. They must accept the situation, or go without what they wish to buy. When Government supporters address meetings, and take credit for what the Government has done in the way of increasing pensions, let them make a mental reservation that those increases can be, and almost certainly will be, absorbed by rising prices, and that the pensioners will have no redress. That situation is the underlying cause of most of the industrial discontent that exists at the present time, and is also responsible for the weakening of respect for politicians and parliamentary institutions. Although the average pensioner may not understand the technical implications of indirect taxation, he feels the effect of them, with the result that there is unrest throughout the community, and a diminishing respect for government.
This is an iniquitous and unjust act, and cannot be justified. The Government now has an opportunity to right a wrong by reducing, or even abolishing, sales tax. Instead of doing so, however, the Government proposes to maintain the existing capitalist economy which the Chifley Labour Government inherited in 1941, and had to accept under duress. That policy is the fundamental cause of dissatisfaction and industrial unrest. A strike may take place ostensibly on a particular issue, but that issue is merely the peg on which to hang the dispute. The real cause is the constant and irritating reduction of purchasing power because of a system of taxation which cannot be justified. I was under an obligation to make this explanation, because 1 have consistently opposed indirect taxation. Some of us have had to accept under duress a situation of which we did not approve, but that is no reason why a necessary reform should not be instituted when the opportunity presents itself. A pensioner buying- a radio receiving set on time payment, or even a child who wants to buy a set out of his savings, has to pay as much in tax as the wealthiest member of the community. That is neither honest nor just, and the responsibility rests upon this Government. The whole matter of sales tax should be considered with a view to making necessary adjustments, particularly for the benefit of wage-earners and pensioners, who cannot pass on the tax. If that is not done, a reaction will inevitably take place, and the Government will have no one but itself to blame.
– All taxation is unpopular, but sales tax is one of the most unpopular of all taxes. I listened with great interest to Senator Critchley, but he marred what was otherwise a good speech by saying that he had always been opposed to the sales tax. If that be so. he took a long time about registering any effective opposition to it. The sales tax was first introduced into Australia by the Scullin Government in 1930. At that time, the Government was faced with falling customs and excise revenue, as well as with a declining return from income tax, and it seized upon the sales tax as a method of raising more revenue. This system of taxation originated in Germany after the 1914-18 war, when the revenue returns were very low. In the form of a purchase tax, it was adopted by several other European countries, including Great Britain, and also by Canada. In Australia, it became a sales tax, and was at first at the rate of 2i per cent. I believe that the sales tax is a much better form of this type of impost than is the purchase tax, because whereas the purchase tax is paid on every transaction, the sales tax is imposed on one sale only. The sales tax has been levied by every Commonwealth government since 1930. Last year, it yielded £42,424,580, and the estimated revenue for the current financial year is £5S,000,000. Naturally, the only popular sales tax bill would be one abolishing that form of taxation, but no responsible person could possibly suggest such a course in our present financial circumstances.
– The Chifley Government progressively reduced the sales tax.
– It reduced the tax on some items, but it also reduced defence expenditure, and it is partly to cope with defence requirements that an attempt is being made now to increase revenue from the sales tax. This measure is a move in the fight against inflation. By imposing sales tax on certain items and increasing it on others, it is hoped to divert purchasing power from luxury goods to more essential commodities, with the ultimate objective of reducing the price of those commodities by increasing production. I believe, however, that in these prosperous times there is so much surplus spending power in the community that the increase of. the sale? tax on luxury items will not have the desired effect. Already, many luxuries have been subject to a sales tax of 25 per cent., and I do not think that an increase of 8-J per cent, will be sufficient to cause any appreciable transfer of labour from non-essential production to more vital undertakings.
I propose now to deal with some of the criticisms that have been levelled at certain proposals contained in this legislation. It is not difficult to advance a case for the exclusion from sales tax of, or a reduction of the sales tax on, any individual item in the schedule. That technique has been adopted by Opposition members both in the House of Representatives and in this chamber. However, upon a closer analysis most of their arguments can be shown to have little substance. Much has been made by the Opposition to the proposal to increase the sales tax on lipstick from 25 per cent, to 33-J per cent. I have inquired into lipstick sales in Tasmania, and found that the average woman uses two and a half lipsticks a year. I arrived at that average by dividing various assessments of annual purchases given by different classes of traders. Some placed the figure as high as six a year, but I found the average was two and a half. Allowing for the beauty of Tasmanian girt, which is famous throughout the world. I was prepared to accept an average consumption of three lipsticks a year by their less fortunate sisters in the mainland States. On the basis of three a year, and assuming that the average lipstick costs 6s., the increase of sales tax will amount to only 2s. 3d. When we realize that there will shortly be a basic wage increase of £1 a week, and that most women will receive 75 per cent, of the new male rate, it can hardly be argued that any hardship will be imposed by th, necessity to expend an additional 2s. 3d. a year on lipstick. Taking a family unit of four, it is a fair assumption that the mother does not buy as many lipsticks as her younger sister or daughter, possibly because the need for repair is not so great. Allowing therefore, an annual purchase of two lipsticks, the total increase of expenditure by the mother will be only ls. lid.
Let us consider the proposals contained in this legislation from the point of view of the family budget. Coffee, an item in general household we. is to be exempted altogether from the sales tax. Information published by th, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and
Statistics shows that the average per capita consumption of coffee in this country is 1 lb. a year. The removal of the sales tax from coffee will reduce the price of that commodity by 6d. per lb. Therefore, for a family unit of four, the total reduction will be 2s. a year, which is just Id. more than the increased charge that the mother will have to meet for lipstick. Therefore there are balancing factors in this legislation. Many of the commodities that are now to be exempted from the sales tax are in general demand by the average household. I shall deal with some of them as they are printed in the schedule. The removal of sales tax of 84 per cent, from Beefne. Bonox. and Bovril will mean reductions in the prices of a 2-oz. jar of those preparations of 11/2d. lid-, and 2d. respectively. Similarly, the reduction of sales tax on cooking oil will mean a decrease of 3d. a bottle jiri the price of that commodity, and we -can assume that the average household using this oil requires at least one bottle a. fortnight. The reductions on the -following grocery items will be: On a 1 C-oz. tin of canned meat, 1-Jd. ; a packet of macaroni, Id.; a packet of spaghetti, Id.; a jar of sandwich spread, 1 1/2d ; a 4-oz. tin of mustard, 2d.; a bottle of coffee essence, 2d. ; a tin of coffee and milk, lid.; 1 lb. of cocoa, Id.; and
S-“z. of chocolate, Id. These are lines which the people buy, not once in, say, fj-e or ten years, as in the case of luxury items, but almost daily. There is a balancing factor in these variations of the tax. Opposition senators have criticized the proposal to increase the sales tax on baby powder. There is also a counter balance to that. If honor- aMe senators will examine the schedule closely, they will note that wedding rings, which were previously taxed at 25 per cent., are now exempt. In criticizing the proposed tax on baby powder Opposition senators have put the cart before the horse. In most instances the purchase of a wedding ring precedes the purchase -of baby powder. Hitherto, the sales tax on a wedding ring costing £3 was 15s.
The proposed increase of the tax on baby powder represents 2s. a’ dozen tins. That means that a young couple will be able to purchase seven and a half dozen tins of baby powder at no additional cost on the saving resulting from the exemption of wedding rings from the tax. If a young couple finds it necessary to buy more than seven and a half dozen tins of baby powder, the Government should be prepared to make a free gift of it to them because they are such good producers.
Senator Critchley referred to the imposition of the tax on wicker work and its effect upon the occupation of the blind. Hia plea for the exemption of wicker work is worthy of consideration and I am confident that it will be sympathetically considered by the Government. By directing the attention of the Government to this aspect of the legislation the honorable senator has rendered good service to a deserving section of the community.
I propose now to deal with another important- aspect of the administration of the sales tax. Responsibility is placed on the wholesale distributors of commodities to pay the sales tax imposed on them. The wholesaler charges the retailer tax in accordance with the rates laid down by the legislation. The calculation of sales tax is a highly specialized business. Wholesale houses have, I think, handled that work very well and have fully realized the responsibility which has been placed on them. Many large wholesale houses have had to increase their staffs and to train specialist staffs, to handle this additional work. Sales tax collections are paid monthly to the Commissioner of Taxation. In many instances the wholesaler pays the tax to the Commissioner of Taxation a month or six weeks before it is collected from the retailer. Because of the pressure of work, departmental inspectors are able to inspect the books of wholesalers only once in five years. In the period between inspections sales tax may be imposed on additional items and withdrawn from others. The sales tax officer in a wholesale house may erroneously charge or omit to charge the tax, but all tax receipts whether rightly or wrongly collected must be paid to the Commissioner. Thus, the Commissioner actually receives money to which he is not entitled and no balance is struck between tax collected in error and tax owing but not collected.
– In other words’, no provision is made for “ unders and overs “.
– That is so. When the Commissioner is satisfied that an honest error has been made by the wholesaler who fails to collect tax on certain commodities the amount owed to the Commissioner in respect thereof should be offset by tax wrongly collected from the retailers and only the balance should be paid to the Commissioner. I ask the Minister to examine that aspect of the administration of the legislation. I support the bill.
– I compliment Senator Henty on the historical survey which he has given us of the institution of sales tax in this country. Every honorable senator knows the position that faced Australia when this form of tax was instituted. Senator Henty was good enough to say that when the Scullin Government introduced the sales tax it did so to bolster the falling revenue of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that the sales tax was introduced during the financial and economic depression. When the Scullin Government was elected to office it inherited an empty Treasury and was faced with the further difficulties caused by the restriction of our overseas trade. In searching for means by which it could restore the economy of the country to an even keel the Scullin Government decided to impose sales tax as a temporary measure. It is interesting to read in the records of the debates that took place at that time how the members of the then Opposition, of whom the supporters of the present Government are the lineal descendants, vigorously criticized that form of taxation. Some of them suggested that the sales tax, having been introduced, was likely to remain, if not for all time, at least for very many years. It was introduced as a temporary measure, but because of various circumstances it has been continued until the present time. It was carried on by the Lyons Government, and later by the Menzies Government. I enjoyed the privilege of being a member of the Senate during the term of office of the Lyons Government- and the early days of the first Menzies Government. Certain reductions were made in the incidence of” the tax by both those governments. When that very elusive phenomenon, a return to prosperity, became more apparent, the Lyons Government, and later the MenziesGovernment, effected some reductions in. taxation. The country was then plunged into war, which provided a reason for the continuance of the tax by the Menzies Government, the Fadden Government and the Curtin and Chifley Governments. During the whole of the period of thewar, although taxes were being levied on. the Australian people at rates previously unknown, the Curtin Government, and later the Chifley Government, effected considerable reductions in the incidenceof sales tax. It is perhaps remarkable that to-day the present Government is suggesting that it must increase that taxon certain items because of the prosperity of Australia. That is the exact antithesis of the reason for the original introduction of the tax. This Government, the supporters of which criticized the originators of that form of taxation for having introduced it during a time of dire national peril, is to-day utilizing that means of taxation to the full during a time of prosperity.
Senator Henty was at some pains to point out to honorable senators and to the people of Australia that certain savings would be effected as a result of this legislation. In effect, he contended that what the housewife loses on the swings she will gain on the roundabouts. I am afraid that when the balance-sheet is analysed it will be found that the balance is on the wrong side. It is true that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Minister representing him in the Senate, in their second-reading speeches, intimated that an amount of £1,000,000 would be saved during a full year as the result of the reductions that have been made in the sales tax on various items, but their statements also show that an additional £10,000,000 will be taken out of the pockets of the Australian people. It is suggested that the increased tax is being imposed in order to curtail the consumption of luxury goods. It is also suggested that it will divert labour from the production of luxury goods to the production of more essential commodities. That may be so, but running through the list of items that are being subjected to increased sales tax and that are declared to be” luxury items, I find that very many of them are produced with a minimum of labour.
I remember that when the members of the present Government, were in Opposition, they criticized the Chifley Government for proposing to introduce pharmaceutical benefits legislation which would require the doctors of this country to perform certain functions. Honorable senators opposite then stated that that Government desired to conscript manpower. When a referendum was held in order to obtain the people’s verdict on a proposed alteration of the Constitution, which the Government considered to be in the interests of the country, the supporters of the present Government went from one end of Australia to the other making a fervent appeal to the workers to retain the right to select their own jobs. Honorable senators will also recollect the large advertisements that were inserted in the newspapers at that time. They will also recall that the supporters of the Government told the people that if such powers were given to the Commonwealth Parliament and were allowed to fall into the hands of a Labour government, no worker would be safe in the occupation that he was following. They said that the bureaucrats of Canberra, who were described as being far removed from the people, would direct people where and when they should work. Some of us know from experience how difficult it was at one time for workers to choose their own jobs, especially when there were fewer jobs than applicants, and we remember that many workers tramped the streets searching in vain for work. We know that those statements by the supporters of the Government were political propaganda. That propaganda was being, disseminated in times of plenty, when most workers were in employment, thanks to the change of government that had taken place. To-day those apostles of freedom of choice, who then wished to guarantee to the worker the right to select his own job. have introduced legislation that is designed to divert labour, so that the worker will no longer enjoy the right to select where he will work.
I point out to honorable senators opposite that the list of trades and occupations to which this legislation is to apply, and to which it is suggested that labour should be diverted, includes industries in which employees have worked for many years in order to become proficient. As I stated earlier, in some of those industries there are very few employees. To suggest that this legislation is designed for the purpose announced by the Government, is so much eyewash. What it really means is that the Government is desperately in need of a means of covering up its failure to redeem promises made to the people only twelve months ago. The supporters of the Government then promised the people that if they were elected to office they would review taxation. They also promised, in so many words, that there would be a reduction of taxes. They criticized the rates that were being levied by the Chifley Government, which had been charged with the responsibility of financing a war. Either this Government has been unable to honour its promises or it is afraid to tackle the problem by increasing taxes on the incomes of their friends, the people who subscribed large sums of money in order to make it possible for them to spread the propaganda which enabled them to win at the polls.
Some remarks were made last night by Senator Armstrong concerning the levying of increased taxes upon one of the greatest amenities to be found in the home to-day. I refer to the proposed increased sales tax on wireless sets. The honorable senator pointed out the - importance of the radio industry to Australia, not only from the point of view of the manufacture of wireless sets and radio equipment, but also because of the technical knowledge that is gained by those who are employed in that industry.
The thought that has run through my mind while perusing the schedule to the bill, is that this Government, within the last week or ten days, has endeavoured to make great capital out of the fact that it. has increased social services and has provided increased pensions for aged and invalid persons, and for ex-servicemen.
Yet, a perusal of this schedule makes it clear that what it is giving to. those people with one hand it is taking away with the other. Senator Henty suggested that some of the items mentioned in the schedule would not be purchased every day. That is true, but “when the schedule is analysed it will be found that many essential requirements are included. Many of the items are most essential fox those who are in ill health or have been maimed. I repeat that the Government intends to give away £1,000,000 and to collect £10,000,000.
I now wish to refer to the proposed increased sales tax on musical instruments. It is extraordinary that music should be regarded as a luxury, although perhaps in some instances it might be so regarded.
Sitting suspended from 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I suggested that, by this bill, the Government was proposing to deprive many people of some of the amenities of life. Surely wireless sets for use in homes cannot properly be regarded as luxuries, especially in the -outback areas. The people who live in the remote places of this country are entitled to all the amenities that it is possible for us to give them. We all deplore the drift of population from country districts to metropolitan areas, and regret that young people will not settle down in country districts because they want to live in the cities, where they will be able to enjoy amenities that do not exist in the country. The members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament claim that they represent the interests of the rural population - whether they do so is questionable - but, as a result of the operation of this measure, many of the people whose interests they claim to represent will be deprived of an opportunity to listen to broadcasts of classical music, sporting events and other forms of entertainment. It is deplorable that a government which from time to time has claimed that it believes that our people should be educated in the arts and literature is placing obstacles in the way of the people in that connexion.
I shall now refer to another phase of the proposal to increase sales tax upon musical instruments. I understand, that tools of trade will attract sales tax at a lower rate than that which it is proposed to levy upon musical instruments. There are many professional musicians in thiscountry, some of them blind persons and some of them returned servicemen, but the Government proposes to increase thereto at which sales tax will be levied! upon their tools of trade. During the week-end, I spoke with a blind musician who told me that the instrument that he had been using for some time was no longer suitable for the purposes for which he wanted to use it. If he buys another instrument, he will have to pay the increased rate of sales tax on it, as will every professional musician who renews his tools of trade. I do not know whether the Government considered this matter in that light, or whether it only had in mind the fact, that jazz bands and dance bands cater for the amusement of people in dance halls, but I point out that the music in dance halls is provided by people who earn their living by doing so. When this measure was being debated in the House of Representatives, frivolous and facetious remarks were made about bagpipes, jews’ harps and other instruments, but this proposed increase of sales tax upon musical instruments is a serious matter which is of importance to a considerable section of the community. I hope that the Government will reconsiders its proposals.
Let us consider the anomalies to which the proposed increase will give rise. A dance hall of any note has a piano which can be used by bands. Therefore, themusician who plays the piano in a-, dance band is not required to provide his own instrument, but the rest of the members of the band are required to do so.. There are many people in this country who, although they are not as proficient asPaderewski and other famous exponents^ of the art of piano-playing, render aservice to the community by playing thepiano. I believe that most familiestoday endeavour to give their childrenan opportunity to learn to play a musical’ instrument. Tuition of that kind is not a luxury, but a cultural requirement. I suppose that the Government hopes*, by increasing the sales tax imposed upon pianos, to make available for other employment the very few people in this country who are engaged in the manufacture of those instruments. If the increased rate of sales tax were put into operation, the result would be to retard seriously the progress of an industry that has been developed in Australia in recent years. Apart from the raising of additional revenue, that would be the only result of the increase, because it cannot reasonably be expected that the persons who are at present engaged in the very skilled trade of piano-making would be of much use in the manufacture of other articles that the Government considers to be essential.
There are many second-hand pianos in this country, and if the sales tax upon pianos were increased, the price of secondhand instruments would increase also. Sales tax would not be levied upon any second-hand pianos that were sold, and the Government would derive no advantage from an increase of the price of those instruments, but people who required them in order to give their children a musical education would be adversely Affected. I cannot understand why the Government has taxed this phase of our -cultural life. Perhaps the proposal to increase the sales tax upon pianos was made by the Government on the spur of the moment, in its anxiety to raise additional revenue. I hope that, in view of the criticisms that have been levelled at the proposed increase, which I regard as iniquitous, the Government will reconsider its decision. It is true that people who teach piano-playing privately or in -schools, convents and conservatoriums will not be required to pay increased sales tax upon the instruments they use for teaching their pupils, but other musicians will be required to pay an increased tax upon the instruments that they use, and parents who desire to give a musical education to their children will pay an increased tax upon the instruments that they buy. That is an anomaly.
Some facetious remarks have been made :about lipstick and baby powders, but I want to make a suggestion to the Government in all seriousness. In 1948, the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who was then a member of the Opposition in this Parliament, criticized in scathing terms what the Treasurer of the day proposed to do in relation to sales tax. On page 1792 of Hansard of the 9th June, 1948, the right honorable gentleman is reported as having said- r-
The Treasurer, by means of indirect taxation, takes the equivalent of six cigarettes out of every packet of ten purchased, over half of every 2-oz. packet of pipe tobacco purchased, and one full glass out of every bottle of beer purchased. He scoops out of every box of face powder bought the equivalent of one-quarter of its contents, whilst business girls and others who regard the use of cosmetics as essentia] know only too well that he clips off the equivalent of one-quarter of every stick of lipstick purchased.
If the Chifley Government took a quarter of every stick of lipstick purchased in 1948, this Government proposes to take all the lipstick and to leave only the capsule. What does this Government intend to do about the excise duties on cigarettes, pipe tobacco and beer? In 1948, the present Government parties were critical of the sales tax policy of the Chifley Government, and during the last general election campaign they told the people of this country that, if returned to power, they would reduce taxes. Does the Government intend to redeem the promises that it has made to the people?
– Surely the honorable senator does not expect it to do so?
– I thought that the members of the Government parties were sincere and honest. I thought that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), after having been in the political wilderness for eight years, spoke in all sincerity when they made promises to the people of this country at the la3t general election. I thought that if people again trusted them with the task of governing this country, they would at least make a genuine effort to honour the promises that they made so solemnly. But at the present time, almost on the anniversary of their victory at the polls, they are repudiating the promises that they made.
I hope that the Government will consider the points that have been raised by members of the Opposition on this method of indirect taxation, which has been described by its supporters in the past as an iniquitous form of taxation, because it is something unseen and because, owing to its operation, the purchaser of an article cannot always ‘be certain that he is paying the correct price for it. Senator Henty has drawn attention to the fact that mistakes are sometimes made in regard to the levying of sales tax. lt is a form of taxation that is not liked by consumers. The retailers, who pass it on to the public, do not like it either, because chey feel that at times the customers consider that they are being taken down by the retailer adding too much sales tax. [ hope that the Government will give to the various points that have been debated the attention that they deserve, and that sales tax will be reduced at an early date.
.- Many of the points that have been raised by Senator Sheehan are worthy of consideration. I think that an appropriate commencement would be for me to relate a little parable, in mitigation if Senator Sheehan’s contentions. The animals once met in solemn conclave to determine what articles should be taxed. The elephant contended that the tax must be kept off hides, and suggested that it should be put on wool. The sheep would not have a wool tax, but said it should kp put on tusks. The horse said that only “Wen hooves should be taxed, and the cow was equally emphatic that the tax should be imposed only on hooves in one piece, to which iron shoes could be attached. That parable illustrates the problem associated with the various items on which sales tax has been imposed. I deplore the necessity for sales tax, and I consider that when we have an opportunity to do so, we should get rid of it entirely. because it raises the price levels of consumer goods. 1 point out that honorable senators opposite have shared equally with honorable senators on this *<e of the chamber in adding to the costs of government. It is futile to attempt to do a thing with one hand, and at the same time undo it with the other. The fact that we all insist on a social services state has its complement in the fact that social services must be paid for, in the main, from taxes. In the past, there has been a Treat deal of dishonesty associated with this subject, and it has not been confined to one political party. The political parties that have created the illusion,, not only in Australia, but also in other countries, that the people can be given benefits without the burden ultimately being borne by the whole of the people, have done a great disservice to humanity. If the sales tax, and indeed the whole budget, brings home forcibly to the average voter that he gets nothing for nothing, and that all the benefits that come from governmental sources must be paid for ultimately out of production, some good will have been achieved. .In addition to meeting the social services bill, the Government will be faced with other unexpected expenditures. Who could have foreseen the war in Korea ? Although I have followed international affairs very closely, and whilst I have never been optimistic about the future, I did not expect war to eventuate in Korea, with its consequential cost to governments. I consider that honorable senators opposite should be more sparing in their charges of insincerity against the Government.
– The Government should be honest and say why this tax has been imposed.
– The Government is faced with considerable expenditure that could not be foreseen. I advise some honorable senators opposite to read the policy speech that was delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) instead of repeating their clap-trap. In that speech, promises in connexion with the reduction of taxes were very carefully Qualified. When. I asked the right honorable gentleman for a specific promise to reduce sales tax on certain items, he replied that although he would like to accede to my request, he had to be honest with the people. He refused quite a number of requests by other inexperienced members of the Parliament also. The Government has simplified the taxation laws, and has also granted plight reductions. It has honestly attempted to keep its promise to reduce taxation.
I agree with Senator Sheehan’s contention that it is most undesirable to impose sales tax on pianos. On the other hand, if the desirability of imposing sales tax on. many other items also was put to a vote, I am convinced that a minority vote would be cast for the exemption of pianos. I agree that it is ;a bad principle to tax anything that contributes to the education of the people. However, the position is that additional revenue had to be gained, and the schedule of increases of sales tax now “before honorable senators was prepared for that purpose. Although I support :Senator ‘Sheehan’s plea that sales tax should be removed from pianos, I realize that we would encounter considerable competition from other people who have urged reductions of sales tax on -other items. The Government has ameliorated the position in relation to pianos by providing that pianos for -schools, both public and private, and music teachers, shall not be subject to sales tax. It has also agreed that organs used by religious bodies shall be exempted.
Many of the objections that have been raised by honorable senators opposite are frivolous. Senator Henty has shown conclusively that the increase of sales -tax on lipstick would not impose a great hardship on persons whose salary has been increased. Much has been said about the increase of sales tax on baby powder. Although I would not presume -to have a thorough knowledge of the care of babies, I consider that if they were properly dried after bathing, there would be no necessity to powder them. I think many honorable senators will agree that some adults use baby powder to relieve aching feet, and for other purposes. - This bill has been introduced out of sheer necessity, and it should be supported ~by the Opposition. Had it not been necessary to liberalize social services, and to stock-pile goods for defence, I am convinced that greater reductions of income tax would have been possible.
– in reply - The tenor of this debate has been in keeping with that of debates on taxing measures in the past. I suggest that the Opposition always enjoys an advantage in debates of this kind. If the Government wishes to reduce taxation, the Opposition promptly claims that the reductions proposed should be more liberal. On the other hand, if the Government wishes to increase taxation, the Opposition promptly contends that the Government is acting in a harsh and arbitrary manner. The subject of sales tax opens up a very wide field for debate. The Opposition could, with almost equal success, criticize different schedules of proposed increases. The truth is that any form of taxation is unpopular. Governments do not like imposing taxation, and in that respect this Government is not different from any other government Likewise, the present Opposition is not different from any other Opposition in that respect. From the speeches of honorable senators opposite, one could only conclude that the Opposition is violently opposed to sales tax, and would not support- it in any circumstances. However, I shall dispose of that impression by reminding the Senate that considerable revenue was derived from sales tax by the former Labour Government during its period of office. Prior to Labour gaining office, the revenue from sales tax in 1941 was £19,792,680. By 1945, revenue from sales tax had risen to £29,671,802 a year and in 1947 the yield was £36,264,5S5. Even after the war ended, the Government like little Audrey, just laughed and laughed, and increased further the burden of sales tax, which rose to £39,029,276 in 1949. Whatever the Opposition might say about sales tas being an iniquitous system of taxation, I point out that although Labour reaped ali the benefits and rewards from sales tax whilst in office, it has reserved its criticisms until now.
– We reduced the amount collected by £35,000,000.
– I cannot find any evidence that the amount collected in sales tax ever declined in any year.
– We reduced the rate.
– But still the tide rolled in. After all, it is the amount of money that comes into the Treasury that counts. With the wide field of argument available to members of the Opposition, they showed little imagination when they attempted to prove that this bill was in some way intended to achieve the effects of conscription of labour. They really show the strength of the measure by illustrating how hard put they were to find a debating point in opposition to it. There is no real comparison between this measure and the Labour Government’s health scheme. The health scheme was, without doubt, the first step towards conscripting the services of a section of the community. Members of the medical profession regarded it as the first step towards nationalizing their profession. This bill aims only at making certain articles less attractive to the public. If, as a result of the adjusting sales tax rates, we are able to peg the sales of such articles at the present level we shall have done well. It will not be easy to do that, having regard to the increase of money incomes and real incomes, and to the increasing population of Australia. From that it follows that the bill does not threaten employment in the industries concerned. Even if I should be wrong in that assumption, there will be plenty of opportunities, with conditions as they are now, for workers to change their employment.
– Why should they have to change?
– I do not say they should. I merely point out that if it became necessary they should experience no difficulty in finding alternative employment. The economic situation demands that revenue must be found to meet the mounting costs of government. If any one argues that expenditure is too high, it is only necessary to. reply that, so far, no member of the Opposition has pointed out how expenditure can be reduced.
– What about a capital levy?
– The honorable senator may include a proposal for a capital levy in his policy at the next election. I should be very pleased if he did. I know what I think of the proposal, and what the average Australian thinks of it.
The second purpose of the bill is to increase the supply of necessary goods that are now scarce. With that object in view, remissions of sales tax to an estimated amount of £1,000,000 have been made on building materials and foodstuffs. We hope that this re mission will result in increasing the supply of those goods, and in reducing their price. The third object of the bill is to discourage the supply of goods which are not as necessary as certain other goods. This has attracted some criticism, and there has been a good deal of talk about a luxury tax. The increased sales tax on certain items is not, in fact, a luxury tax. The Government is merely attempting to give a lead to the community by indicating the items upon which it would be advisable to curtail expenditure during a period of inflation.
It might be of interest if I were to compare purchase tax rates in the United Kingdom with sales tax rates in Australia. The figures are set out in the following table : -
– Is there any comparison between the situation in Great Britain, and in Australia ?
– I have cited the figures so that honorable senators may pause and consider them when their wrath rises, and they are disposed to criticize. Whatever burdens we have to carry are small by comparison with those borne by the people of Great Britain.
– Is it not a fact that in Great Britain–
– Order ! There are too many interjections.
– I have previously complained about the interjections of Senator Grant. It is not that I object to interjections as such, and if Senator Grant will arrange to be accompanied by an interpreter I shall answer him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I renew my appeal to the Government to reconsider its decision to increase sales tax on musical instruments. The Minister pointed out that in Great Britain purchase tax on musical instruments was higher than sales tax in Australia, but I point out that the authorities in Great Britain are endeavouring to encourage the country’s export trade, and one way of doing that is to discourage the home consumption of goods suitable for export. Australia is a prosperous country, and is not dependent upon the export of secondary products, so that the Minister’s argument does not apply. I ask the Government to tax musical instruments at the same rate as tools of trade. A musical instrument is just as necessary to a musician as is a hammer or saw to an artisan. Some musical instruments have to be imported, and bear a heavy customs duty. Now, it is proposed to place a still heavier sales tax on them.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) [2.57 1 . - Last night, I appealed to the Government not to place a heavier tax on cane baskets. In South Australia, blind persons with some help from the State Government and from public subscriptions, have been taught to make excellent baskets from cane. Some of us have been approached by a blind worker now in business, who has pointed out that, the proposed increase would inflict great hardship on him and others like him. I am sure that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) will considerthese representations, even if he cannot promise to accede to them now.
– I compliment the Minister forSocial Services (Senator Spooner) on theremarks he made a little while ago. I hope he can understand me.
Senator Spooner. - I can understand, the honorable senator well enough except when he is interjecting.
– We have reason tobe proud of the achievement of Australians in artistic and cultural fields. In recent years, great progress has been made in the organization and training of orchestras. Without egotism, I can claim that I had something to do with thefoundation of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, now under the baton of Eugene Gossens. Last Sunday, 25,000 peoplelistened to an open-air orchestral concert in Sydney. In the circumstances, it is a bad thing that musical instruments, including violins, should be taxed. In. Europe, and particularly in Great Britain, Australians are succeeding in all branches of art, notably dramatic art and ballet. When Eugene Ormandy wasin this country, he told me that he was amazed at the native talent, not only instrumental but also vocal. He said it was unfortunate that so many Australians had to leave this country to further theircareers. I hope that in the not distant future distinguished Australians now overseas, such as Robert Helpmann, will return to this country to train the rising generation in the various arts. Australian singers have greater natural ability than have singers of any other country, including even Italy. I am pleased the Minister will use his influence to have the sales tax on musical instruments reduced when the sales tax legislation is again under consideration.
– Under this legislation, there is to be an increase to 25 per cent, of the sales tax on harmonicas. This, I believe, is a sectional tax, because people in country areas find that the harmonica is one of the few instruments that can be transported easily. To-day a chromatic harmonica costs £3 10s., whereas before the war it cost only 10s. The sales tax on a harmonica now costing £3 10s. will be approximately 17s., or 170 per cent, of the total pre-war price. I trust that when the sales tax is again under review, consideration will be given to the already high cost of harmonicas.
– I have nothing to add to what I have . already said about musical instruments. Senator Critchley has urged the removal of the sales tax from basket work made by the blind. All honorable senators, of course, have the “fullest sympathy with those people, and would like to help them in every possible way. The Government considered the problem before preparing this legislation. The position is that the blind have not a monopoly of this class of work. There are other makers of wicker goods. It would be undesirable, even if it were legal, to attempt to differentiate between goods made by different manufacturers in imposing the sales tax. That is the first point. The second point is that the sales tax is not payable by the maker of the goods. It is payable by the purchaser. It is true that the higher sales tax may diminish the demand for such goods but, in spite of those disadvantages, the Government believes that it cannot make any special concessions for the blind. The only other course would be to insert this item in a lower classification, and I hope that something on those lines will be done in future.
– I thank the Minister for his consideration. I realize that from the sordid commercial point of view the difficulty that he has mentioned would arise. However, I welcome the Minister’s promise that further consideration will be given to the matter. Without wishing to be regarded as the sole custodian of feminine rights in this chamber, I remind the Minister that no reference has been made to my request for the remission of the sales tax on implements of trade used in ladies’ hairdressing shops. We may all have cause to fear the future if we do not make the path of the female sex as easy as possible. Again I urge consideration of the removal of the sales tax on the implements to which I have referred. Incidentally, I notice a look of expectation on the faces of three of the Minister’s most loyal supporters.
– I take my courage in both hands and say that the answer is in the negative. As I said in reply to the second-reading debate, some criticism could be offered in respect of every individual item in the schedules. It takes the wisdom of Solomon to decide which articles should be taxed and which should be exempted.
– Can the Minister say whether there is any sales tax on floral tributes ?
-No. They are exempted under this bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1950.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 2951), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bills be now read a second time.
– As these bills are purely machinery measures to give effect to the bill that has just been dealt with, the Opposition will not delay their passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 2956), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This legislation will supersede the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947, as amended in 1948 and 1949.
The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) gave the impression in his second-reading speech that this measure embodied a considerable alteration of procedure which should be regarded with general satisfaction. The bill will not satisfy the majority of the States, but it follows closely the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the Premiers at a conference in September. Tn that connexion, I must compliment the Prime Minister upon knowing at that early date the exact amount of money that he was prepared to allocate to the States for road work. In support of my argument, I quote the following report from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th September : -
The Federal Treasurer, Mr. A. W. Fadden, -Kid the total grant to the States for roads would be £12 million, compared with £9.4 million last year. Mr. McGirr moved that the total proceeds of the petrol tax should be allocated to the States for road work. This was agreed to by four votes to three, but the motion was vetoed by Mr. Menzies. lt is clear from that report, that at least four Premiers believed that much more generous treatment should be accorded. En the absence of a copy of the minutes of the conference - a document for which we have asked vainly in this chamber on several occasions - I venture to say that there was no real discussion between the Premiers and the Prime Minister of means of devising a better working arrangement in relation to roads grants. Throughout the war, Australian roads deteriorated considerably due, of course, to the shortage of both man-power and material. Few new roads were built in that period, and the maintenance of existing roads was neglected. Consequently, there is an urgent need for road work throughout the Commonwealth today. During the last election campaign, [ found that members of the present Government parties had been visiting country areas and endeavouring to make political capital out of the poor condition of rural roads. They had endeavoured to blame the Chifley Government for that state of affairs. Since the elections, however, the roads have been ;j l lowed to deteriorate further in all States. They have been literally torn to pieces by heavy traffic particularly heavily laden transports. Maintenance work hat been impossible for many reasons, chiefly because of the shortage of material, manpower and plant. The difficulties of the road authorities in New South Wales have been accentuated by the disastrous floods that have occurred in that State. Some roads in New South Wales have been so badly damaged by flood waters that total reconstruction is necessary. Others require extensive replacement of pavement and foundations. This bill constitutes another example of the haphazard and hasty manner in which legislation has been introduced into this Parliament by the Government after it has been the subject of serious differences of opinion among the member? of the Government parties.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), in introducing this bill, said that it provided a new method for distributing to the States for road purposes the moneys collected by the Commonwealth in petrol tax. He claimed thai it constituted an improvement on the original legislation which was passed _in 1937 and on the amending legislation passed in later years. Let us analyse the bill in order to ascertain what improvements have been effected. Clause 4. which provides for the establishment of a trust account, to be known as the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account, does not vary the provision in the existing legislation. Clause 5 provides that payments shall be made into the trust account of the amounts specified in the schedule to the bill. That does not represent a variation of the existing legislation. Some alteration of the existing legislation is, however, proposed in relation to the amounts which shall be paid into the trust fund and the grants that are to be made from that account to the States for general road purposes. Instead of a fixed annual amount being granted from the petrol tax and from collections of excise on locally produced petrol, excluding aviation spirit, amounts equivalent to 6d. a gallon duty on imported petrol, and 3-^d. a gallon excise on locally produced petrol will be paid into the fund for distribution between the States. The Government proposes in each year during the ensuing five years to pay from the trust account for the purpose of financial assistance to the States for general road purposes 65 per cent, of the amounts paid into the trust fund in respect of that year, less £600,000. This amount consists of £100,000 for the promotion of road safety practices and £500,000 for the maintenance of various roads to Commonwealth properties and strategic roads, as provided by clause 10 of the bill. The residue, therefore, will be on a 65 per cent, to 35 per cent, basis for State purposes, in respect of the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, or the purchase of road-making plant, or in making payments to local authorities for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, or for the purchase of road-making plant. The bill provides that an amount not exceeding one-sixth of the aggregate of the amounts paid in each year to a State may be expended in that year on other works connected with transport by road or by water. That provision widens the field in which money may be expended by the States out of the proceeds of these grants. In effect, however, that will increase the liabilities of the States in providing efficient road services for the people.
Clause 7 provides for a grant of financial assistance to the States for roads in rural areas, including developmental roads, feeder roads, roads in sparsely populated areas, soldier settlement areas and in country municipalities and shires, but not for highways, trunk or main roads. Under that clause provision is made for the payment out of the trust fund in each year for the ensuing five years of 35 per cent, of the amount paid into the trust account in respect of that year for the purpose of financial assistance to the State in the expenditure of money on the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of such roads, or on the purchase of road-making plant for use in connexion with such roads, or in making payments to local authorities for such construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair, or for the purchase of road-making plant for use in connexion with such roads. Clause 8 provides that the sums payable to the
States under clauses 6 and 7 shall be divided among the States as follows: -
To the State of Tasmania - 5 per cent, of those sums; and
To the other States - 57 per cent, of those sums according to respective populations, and 38 per cent, according to respective areas.
These provisions are in conformity with those contained in existing legislation. Clause 10 relates to the provision of money for expenditure on strategic roads. The amount to be provided for this purpose remains, as formerly, £500,000. Clause 11 provides for the payment each year of £100,000 for the promotion of road safety practices throughout Australia. The amount provided for that purpose is the same as that provided in the existing legislation.
The amounts to be provided in the bill are unsatisfactory having regard to the steeply increased cost of construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads and the fact that, as the result of the shortage of man-power, materials and road-making equipment, roads throughout the Commonwealth are now in a bad state. The amounts proposed to be provided will be totally insufficient to enable the road authorities to carry out urgent restorative work.
Let us consider the remarkable variations that have taken place since 1936-37 in the amounts paid into the trust account. 1 have made a comparison with a pre-war year because inflation had not then reared its ugly head. In the year 1936-37 the Government of the day imposed a customs duty of 7d. a gallon on imported petrol and an excise of 5-Jd. a gallon on locally produced petrol. Collections of revenue from these sources amounted to £7,929,251 and £707,227 respectively, or a total of £8,636,478. Of that amount, £3,039,530 was paid to the States for road purposes. It is estimated that for the year ending the 30th June, 1951, with customs duty on petrol increased to lOd. a gallon, and excise on locally produced petrol increased to 8-Jd. a gallon, the collections will be, customs duty £19,500,000, and excise £3,000,000, or a total of £22,500,000. Of that amount, £12,000,000 is to be made available to the States for road purposes. In 1936-37, of the total revenue collected from the petrol tax, 35.19 per cent, was allocated to the States and 64.81 per cent, was paid into Consolidated Revenue. Of the estimated revenue of £22,500,000 from 1930-51 the States are to receive 53.3 per cent, and the balance will be paid to Consolidated Revenue. Thus, if there is any generosity about this proposal, credit is due to motorists rather than to the Government. Of the duty collected on imported petrol 60 per’ cent, is paid to the States for road purposes and 40 per cent, to Consolidated Revenue. Of the collections of excise, 41.18 per cent, is paid to the States, and 58.82 per cent, to Consolidated Revenue. Thus, the allocations to the States for road purposes will be increased by only approximately 18 per cent, over the allocations of 1936-37. Having regard to the fact that road authorities throughout the Commonwealth generally have to undertake expensive rehabilitation, restoration and new construction programmes, this Government has by no means been generous to them.
Although in principle this bill represents a slight improvement of the existing legislation, it does not go far enough. The States will still be starved of funds for roads purposes. This legislation is to operate for a period of five years. Having regard to the position that faces all road authorities throughout Australia to-day, the legislation should be reviewed before the expiration of five years. A great deal of damage has been done to roads, particularly those in Western Australia, as the result of Commonwealth policy. The haulage of wheat to the seaboard in heavily laden road vehicles on roads that were not constructed to carry heavy traffic has accelerated wear and tear of road pavements and foundations. In some areas roads have been damaged beyond repair, and new construction is necessary. The allocations proposed in this bill will not be sufficient to enable that work to be carried out. The real value of these proposed grants will be considerably less than the real value of the grants originally made in 1937. The heavy intra-state and interstate traffic which has resulted from the failure of the railways adequately to cater for the needs of the people, has had a detrimental effect on main roads. On long stretches of main mcn roads the pavement has been washed away by flood waters and the base course has been exposed. Yet the Government says how very important it is that our main highways and roads should be in a suitable condition to meet the needs of defence and civil transport. It is flapdoodle to think that a bill of this nature will fulfil that objective. The Government dances round the problem like a ballet girl, but it has not one convincing argument to present. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister vetoed discussion by four States on this matter. I remind the Government that it is the opinion of the Australian Automobile Association and of every automobile club in Australia that the condition of the roads is such that this Government must do much more than it has previously done to improve them. Those bodies are of the opinion that at least the whole of the revenue collected from the tax on petrol should be made available to the States for the purpose of road maintenance, and I suggest that their opinion is well based. They contend that as motorists in the States are paying the piper, the State governments should be permitted to call the tune and should be in a position to maintain their roads in a sufficiently good condition to meet the requirements not only of defence but also of rural and secondary industries, of travellers who use the roads for pleasure, and of those who use the roads for the purposes of their business. A factor that has been neglected in this country is the matter of tourist traffic. I think it was Senator Wood who mentioned that subject during a previous debate. I have travelled on many Australian roads, and I point out to the honorable senator that tourists will not find it very attractive to travel on those roads. It is necessary that their standard should be raised, and that they should be made more attractive in every way. However, this bill will not bring about that desirable object. It is necessary for governments to do more than talk about road construction during election campaigns. We are now enjoying a period of peace, which should permit us to tackle the problem and to make a real attempt to improve the position. If we are to believe statements recently made by members of the Government, they are apparently expecting a third world war at an early date. If such a war eventuates, and we have not taken the opportunity to improve the condition of our roads, we shall find ourselves in a very desperate state.
I wish to quote to honorable senators an extract from a statement prepared by the Australian Automobile Association, which, as I have stated earlier, has the approval and support of automobile clubs throughout Australia. The statement reads -
The Australian Automobile Association notes that the Government proposes to proceed with the programme of national development and that interest and sinking fund on loons to the amount of £250,000,000 will be met from petrol tax to finance the scheme. Recognizing that the Government has received an electoral mandate for its national development proposals, the case submitted hereunder has been prepared within the framework of that policy. We submit, however, that a sum at least equivalent to the total annual collections from petrol tax in any given year should be appropriated by way of federal aid for road purposes. For the current year it is understood that total collections from petrol tax will be something in the vicinity of £20,000,000. We suggest, accordingly, that in the present year an equivalent Bum be distributed for roads under the general conditions outlined below.
It then continues to discuss various roads on which it is suggested that funds should be expended. Nothing that is envisaged in this bill will meet the requirements set out in that statement. Yet, the members of that association are the foremost authorities in Australia on road transport generally.
– What did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) say to the association’s request, when he was Prime Minister?
– I am not discussing that. At the beginning of my speech I stated that there had been a deterioration of our roads, and that the grants to the States had decreased. I shall deal with that in good time, in order to show how blatantly the members of this Government went to the people, told them untruths, and led them to think that that position could have been corrected by the mere payment of additional money. I shall quote figures to prove the truth of my statements.
The statement of the Australian Automobile Association continues -
Irregular and uneven roads necessitate additional power to propel the vehicle, thus increasing petrol and oil consumption, and general running costs.
I believe that this Government wishes to curtail dollar expenditure. The statement goes on -
Constant interruption of tyre contact with the road surface on bad roads accentuates wear on tyres. Crystal lization and fatigue are produced in all metal structures by constant shaking and vibration. Moveable parts suffer constant wear on irregular surfaces. The Australian Automobile Association estimates that the cost of operating a vehicle on a bad road is at least lid. per mile greater than on a good road.
It can therefore be seen that the condition of roads is an economic factor, not only to those persons who operate motor transport services, because they can at least pass on costs to the users of their services, but to motorists generally. I fail to see why honorable senators on the other side of the chamber should be continually asking, “What did Mr. Chifley do about it?” or “What did somebody else do about it?” What should be asked is, “ What does this Government intend to do about it ? “
– Does not the honorable senator think that the States also have some responsibility in this matter?
– I shall come to the question of the responsibility of the States. The grants during the past three years have averaged £7,700,000 compared with £3,800,000 during the years 1936- 1939. That increase is due to a general progression in payments to which the States were entitled. However, an analysis has shown that the States possessed unexpended sums in their roads funds, which they could not expend at that time. This Government forgets that there was a war, and that materials and man-power were not available for the purposes of road maintenance and construction.
– Are they available now?
– I remind the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) that a great part of Western Australia’s road construction plant was taken by the Commonwealth authorities for military purposes, and that one of Western Australia’s foremost engineers was sent to the Northern Territory to work on military projects. Those authorities also took bulldozers, and even electricity generating plants to the north of Australia. It is idle for the Minister to endeavour to compare the conditions that obtained during the war period with those in existence at the present time. The Government must make a great effort to improve the roads now, because, if we are to believe its warnings, we may soon be engaged in another war. If we wish to enjoy these unsettled days of peace and at the same time prepare for the future, we must tackle the job now.
From the time of the original payments to the States in 1937 until the present time, only 18 per cent, increase has been made in Commonwealth grants. In relation to excise on locally produced oil, a greater percentage of that excise now goes into Commonwealth revenue and a smaller percentage is paid to the States. In every State it is found that whereas at one time the railways were capable of meeting all heavy transport requirements and carried such items as wheat, superphosphates, tractors and timber, it is now found that roads which were never constructed to carry such commodities, are called upon to do so. There has been a change of policy in the matter of keeping the railways properly maintained and abreast of modern developments. They have not been improved to a point where they are able to meet the transport requirements of this growing nation. The various State governments have made claims on this Government for assistance to rehabilitate their railway systems, and for the purchase of new plant, but they are still obliged to endeavour to patch up their equipment. As a result of that, the roads of this country have been called upon to carry heavy traffic for the carriage of which they were never intended. If road transport is to be continued - and for certain types of freight I admit that it has some merit - this Government must make it possible for the State authorities to construct concrete roads capable of carrying the heavy traffic that is permitted to travel on them. Alternatively, the Govern ment must forbid the use of heavy vehicles and trailers on the roads. However, I do not think that any government would be prepared to do that. I say that this bill is a miserable failure because it cannot achieve its purpose.
Each State has a different method of distributing money to local government authorities for the purposes of road construction and maintenance. In my opinion, the method adopted in Western Australia is the poorest of all. The Australian Government has not a great deal of power in connexion with the actual construction of roads, but it has power to vote money to the States and to say how that money should be expended. In Western Australia the local governmental authorities do not receive all the funds voted by this Government as roads grants. In that State, there have been many arguments concerning plans, and they have continued until a certain amount of money has been distributed to the local government authorities. I think that the difficulties commenced during the term of office of a Labour government, but they continued after that government was defeated. Although suitable plant was available from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, and although the Government had priority in the purchase of that plant, it was allowed to be sold to private enterprise. The Government should negotiate with the State Premiers upon the basis that when money for road purposes is made available to a State by the Commonwealth, the grant should be apportioned between the various authorities that have the responsibility of expending it upon the construction of roads in their areas. Each of those authorities should be paid the proportion of the grant due to it, and should be empowered to expend it upon approved works. The approval should relate only to whether a proposed work upon which money made available by the Commonwealth may be expended. A State government should not be permitted to take £180,000 from the Commonwealth grant and say to local authorities that it will not make that money available to them until agreement has been reached upon a long cherished idea of pooling plant. That is something upon which local governing authorities have never been able to agree. There would be arguments about the use of plant, because anybody who has had any association with those authorities or with roads boards knows that in every area there are times of the year when it is most economical and practical to do certain kinds of road work.
– When the honorable senator refers to pooling plant, does he mean that the plant is under the control of a central authority?
– Yes. We have had a State government holding £180,000 of. the Commonwealth grant and starving local authorities of money. While that £180,000 was being held by that Government, plant was sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission but the local governing authorities could do nothing about it. There has been a bottleneck. In Western Australia, political candidates who were totally ignorant of this matter told people in the country areas that the Commonwealth was starving the States of money for road maintenance and construction, whereas in fact the difficulties that existed had been caused by bungling and poor administration in connexion with the distribution of the money after it had left the Commonwealth.
Having said that, I still insist that this miserable bill will not achieve its objective. The Commonwealth is retaining a far greater proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax than .it should retain if the roads of this country are to be maintained properly, to say nothing of the development of new road systems. I do not know whether the £250,000,000 developmental programme announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) makes provision for the construction of proper highways and main roads. Perhaps the Minister will explain what the Government proposes to do to give effect to the promises that were made prior to the general election to automobile clubs and associations in this country that the Government parties would do something about roads. This grant will not be much assistance in that connexion. It is worse than the original payment that was made in 1937.
– Is the honorable senator opposing it ?
– We cannot oppose it, because we are in a peculiar position. The cart has been put before the horse, and we are discussing this measure before we have discussed the budget. The Government is adopting a “ stoogey “ sort of method to get bills through this chamber, and at the same time is telling people that the Opposition is delaying Government business. Senator Guy, as an experienced parliamentarian, knows that the progress of Government business in this chamber would be greatly facilitated if the business were presented in proper sequence. Before proceeding with this measure, the Senate should have discussed the budget. Honorable senators would then have known the position of the nation in relation to expenditure and revenue, and could have discussed this bill in the light of. that position.
On a basis of population and area, Western Australia receives a proportion of the revenue from the petrol tax that is made available to the States. The area of Western Australia is 975,920 square miles and is greater than that of any other State in Australia. The State has a small population. Its main highways between centres of population are immensely long. Some of them are so long that, if they were put down in Victoria, they would stretch across that State and beyond it to Tasmania. They are used by heavy transport vehicles, as are the main roads of other States. Although the population of Western Australia is small, the State benefits from its large area when the allocation of the Commonwealth grant is being calculated, and it has no real cause for complaint in that connexion. This bill will remain in force for five years. The population of Australia is increasing rapidly owing to immigration and also, I am happy to say, natural increase. In those circumstances, we should not continue to work upon the basis of the 1946 census when calculating the proportion of the total Commonwealth grant that shall be made available to each State. Some method should be devised under which adjustments/ could be made, say, every two years to bring the proportion of the grant paid to each State into a proper relationship with its population.
In Western Australia, there are 3,178 miles of declared main roads and metropolitan traffic fee roads, 6,741 miles of what are called important secondary roads - that is a departmental term - and 5,508 miles of school bus routes. Those routes are not included in the figures for main roads or important secondary roads. The roads programme authorized hy the Western Australian Main Roads Department, on the basis of funds being provided under the terms of the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947-1949, covers a total of £1,800,000, of which £p20,000, or about 50 per cent., has been allocated to roads in rural districts and sparsely populated areas. That is a reasonable percentage. The 3,178 miles of declared main roads, for which the Main Roads Department is responsible, represents 4.6 per cent, of the total mileage of roads in the State. Those roads are being maintained as far as possible with money provided by the Commonwealth, but they are gradually being cut to pieces because they are not capable of carrying the very heavy traffic permitted by the Government. Either highways capable of carrying heavy traffic should be constructed - and the Commonwealth would have a responsibility in that connexion because the State could not raise sufficient revenue to finance that work itself - or an agreement should be reached between the Commonwealth and the State to protect existing roads, which were constructed with and are maintained with funds provided by the Commonwealth, by the enactment of legislation to prevent heavy vehicles from using them. Local authorities in Western Australia are responsible for 64,849 miles of roads, or 95.4 per cent, of the total, and of the money allocated to Western Australia for road purposes, 50 per cent, is allocated for expenditure upon roads in country areas for which the local authorities are responsible.
I shall deal now with the question of whether or not this is a generous measure. With the permission of the Senate, I shall incorporate the following table in Hansard : -
From 1937 to the present time, the portion of the total revenue from the petrol tas: allocated to the States has increased by 18 per cent., hut the unit costs of road work, on the basis of wages only, have increased in the following proportions : -
That information was supplied to me by the Western Australian Main Roads Department. The secretary of the department stated in his letter to me -
Further increases can be anticipated in view of the decision to increase the basic wage by £1 a week. The above figures take into account the change in the working week from 44 hours to 40 hours since 1938.
Timber bridge building costs have increased as follows: -
Plant costs have also increased very considerably since 1938, and many comparable items have increased by over 100 per cent.
This is a niggardly measure which will not be sufficient to offset the increased cost of road works, yet the Government says that we must have more and better roads.
At this stage I appeal to the Government to make a reclassification of roads throughout Australia and, in collaboration with State governments, to classify more roads as main roads, and then to ensure that they are of proper construction and are properly maintained, and that regulations are made that they shall not be used by traffic that they are not capable of carrying. It is bad economy for governments and semi-governmental bodies to allow roads that were designed to carry only normal loads to be used for the carriage of the exceedingly heavy loads that now pass over them, without regular maintenance. It is high time that this matter was taken in hand in order to restore the usefulness of the roads throughout this country. The Commonwealth should be more generous in its allocations to the States for road maintenance and construction, and there should be a greater degree of regulation of traffic. It is futile to talk about achieving greater safety on the roads unless adequate steps are taken to maintain them in good order. The Government should face up to this problem now, because should a major war eventuate we would be faced with another lengthy period of austerity. Neither man-power nor materials would then be available to recondition and extend our roads system, because both would be required for the production of the war potential. I consider that the Government has given very scant consideration to this problem.
I now refer to the fact that whilst the Government has given the States something with one hand, it has taken it from them with the other hand I refer to a trick that has been perpetrated by anti-Labour governments over the years. I refer to revisions of sales tax schedules, as a result of which the Government gains additional revenue, while purporting to grant concessions. The following table shows the comparison between sales tax that was levied in 1938 - the base year - and 1949 on motor trucks and passenger sedans in popular demand : -
It will be noticed that in each instance there has been a considerable increase of sales tax. In the case of 3 cwt. trucks and 5 ton trucks, which are used in connexion with the maintenance of roads, the increase has been more than 400 per cent. Although the Government has repeatedly promised improvement, the sales tax on motor vehicles is to be increased again. The Government continues to collect large amounts of revenue from motor users by means of the petrol tax and the sales tax, and it also derives revenue by sales tax on commodities that are used by country roads boards and local governing authorities in connexion with road construction and maintenance work. Yet despite the greatly increased revenue that the Government is deriving from these sources, it has the impertinence to return to the States for road purposes only 18 per cent, more of the revenue collected than in the base year, when costs were relatively low. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that the Government has exhibited generosity in this matter. In my opinion this is merely a financial arrangement. In effect, the Government has said, “ We have to give the States something. It does not matter much whether the amounts that we allocate to them are adequate for their requirements, because there might be a deterioration in the economic position of the country.” Honorable senators will be interested in the following questions and answers that I have extracted from the Western Australian Hansard report of the 15th August, 1950:-
Under the old system the fact that local governing authorities could not expend the money that was set aside for the purchase of plant automatically prejudiced the States when endeavouring to obtain additional allocations from the Commonwealth. Pursuant to section 8 of the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947-49, Western Australia received £9,000 for the promotion of road safety in 1949-50. Therefore, Western Australia received a total of £1,765,550 for road purposes during that year. The amount actually held by the State Government at the 30th June, 1950, was £1,373,894, all of which has since been allocated.
I consider that there should be greater expenditure on road safety education in Western Australia. The Government should co-operate with the automobile clubs in the various States in order to achieve maximum road safety. No organization in the world has been responsible for more practical road safety than has the Australian Automobile Association. I point out that education on road safety principles should be encouraged in tha schools. There would thus be inculcated in the growing population a sense of road! safety. I suggest that a conference should be held by the State Premiers and theCommonwealth in order to consider al]> aspects of road construction, road maintenance, and safety on the roads. TheCommonwealth should accept a greaterdegree of responsibility for the maintenance of the highways of this country.
The bill before the Senate makes provision for the allocation of £500,000 for strategic roads and roads providing access to Commonwealth properties. A similar provision was made in 1947-48. Whilst that amount may have been adequate in 1947-48, 1 think that I have clearly shown that the cost of upkeeping our roads has increased considerably since then. It is impossible for an administration to stay still; it must either go forward or backwards. By making only a similar provision to the provision in 1947-48 in this connexion, I suggest that the Commonwealth is retrogressing. The conference that I have suggested should consider the matter of a better distribution of revenue for road purposes. I consider that there should be a new classification of roads, and that the expenditure of Commonwealth grants to the States for this purpose should be on a joint co-operative basis. [Extension of time granted.’] What are known as improved secondary roads should be raised to the status of main roads. There should be agreement between the Commonwealth and the States about the standard of heavy duty roads, on the basis of the amount of traffic that will use them both in peacetime and in war-time. Consideration should be given to the construction of school bus roads, particularly in isolated areas. Until accumulated repairs and maintenance of roads have been disposed of, I consider that the Commonwealth should allocate to the States the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax paid by motorists in the respective States. When the roads have been restored to good order, the matter could be reviewed.
– <Before dealing with the various aspects of the measure before the chamber, I shall make a resume of the operation -of previous legislation governing Commonwealth aid in respect of the construction and maintenance of roads by the States. As has been pointed out by the Minister in his second-reading speech, the Commonwealth first accepted responsibility in this connexion in 1923. Although the construction and maintenance of roads is essentially a State obligation, the Commonwealth should assist the States, because the roads are used for Commonwealth as well as for State purposes. The first Commonwealth aid roads measure was passed in 1926. It provided that for each of the following ten years, the Commonwealth would grant the States approximately £2,000,000 from the proceeds of the petrol tax for road purposes. For the first time, the States were assured of specific grants for this purpose, and were able to draw up roads construction and maintenance programmes. The New South Wales Government then began a complete reclassification of the roads in that State, on a common-sense basis. Certain roads were then termed State highways. It was considered that the roads system in New South Wales should conform to an effective pattern, not only from a State point of view, but also from the point of view of national defence. The State highways of New South Wales were planned on that basis, and as a result there are now highways running north and south throughout the State, as well as from the farthest hinterland to the coast. During the last war, those roads proved of tremendous advantage to the defence forces concentrated in this country. The construction and maintenance of main highways became exclusively the responsibility of the State, which received financial aid from the Commonwealth. No matter what shires or municipalities the roads traversed, the responsibility for their construction and maintenance rested solely with the State, which delegated the responsibility to an authority known as the Main Roads Board. As well as being responsible for state highways, the Main Roads Board, in co-operation with shire and municipal authorities, planned a network of trunk roads. Thus, there are state highways, then trunk roads, and finally main roads, which are fed by subsidiary roads from rural areas. The construction and maintenance of trunk roads became a joint responsibility shared by the Main Roads Board and the shires and municipalities concerned. Three-quarters of the money required was found by the Main Roads Board, and one-quarter by local authorities. In the case of main roads, the board found two-thirds of the cost, and the local authorities one-third. Unfortunately, during the war, it was impossible to get the labour and equipment necessary to complete the programme mapped out f or road making in the State, or even to maintain existing roads.
It is now proposed to allocate for road making purposes throughout the Commonwealth £12,000,000, which is to be raised by an allocation of 6d. a gallon from the petrol tax, on imported petrol, and 3$d. a gallon from the excise duty on locally produced petrol. I agree with Senator Cooke that the roads throughout the Commonwealth have deteriorated greatly, first because of unavoidable neglect during the war, and, secondly, because of the very heavy defence traffic they were called upon to carry. On top of that, still further damage was caused by the unprecedented heavy rainfall during the last twelve months. In many instances, what were originally some of our best roads have become seriously damaged. We must consider whether it is possible to expend £12,000,000 on road construction and maintenance during the next twelve months. If the road-making authorities can show that they can spend £12,000,000 or even more, there is a case for reviewing the present proposal.
Prior to 1936, the average amount allocated annually by the Commonwealth for expenditure on roads was £2,000,000. From 1936 to 1939, the average amount was £3,800,000, and during the succeeding ten years the average amount was £7,700,000. I am concerned, not with the actual amount allocated, but with the very real need to put our roads into a state of good repair. We know that the international situation is not bright, and we may find ourselves again forced to use the roads for defence purposes. If we can expend more than £12,000,000 on roads, we should make more than that amount available, but it would be pf no use to make increased grant3 to the States for this purpose if there are to be large unexpended balances at the end of the vear.
The Minister referred to an amount of £5,000,000 which was at present lying to the credit of the States. He added to that sum the amount which the States would raise from motor registration fees, &c, and also the grant which we are now considering, and said that the States would have nearly £36,000,000 to expend upon road work. I do not think that the Commonwealth should regard unexpended balances as an excuse for reducing grants to the States during the current year. Much of the money in the unexpended balances is earmarked for payment in respect of uncompleted contracts. Moreover, it would have been stupid for the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, and for shire and municipal councils to launch out on huge road construction works during so wet a year. They would have found themselves committed to the almost continuous reconstruction of new roads. In the circumstances, the road authorities set themselves out to do little more than keep the ( ni flic moving.
Ir, has been claimed that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, during the last election campaign, said that the entire proceeds of the petrol tax should be expended upon road work. That was never said. It was claimed, however, that part of the amount of £250,000,000, which was to be appropriated for developmental schemes, should be devoted to road construction, and that interest and sinking fund charges on the money so expended should be paid out of the proceeds of the petrol tax.
– What part of the petrol tax revenue - the part that now goes into Consolidated Revenue?
– Yes. I submit that we were within our rights in urging that certain developmental roads that would have a defence value should be constructed not out of the £12,000,000 that is to be allocated to the States this year but out of the balance of the revenue from the petrol tax. We claimed that not enough money was being expended on roads and that some guarantee should be given of continuity of funds over a number of years as was done when our original roads legislation was introduced in 1926, so that the various State roadbuilding authorities would be able to plan their roads programmes, knowing that the work would not have to be shelved when still incomplete because of lack of funds. That is what we sought, and that is what is being done under this bill.
Senator Cooke said that the Government should allocate the entire proceeds of the petrol tax to the States for road building and road maintenance. Whilst: that may be a most desirable objective, obviously it is not practicable, because the petrol tax to-day is no longer merely a means of raising funds to finance road work. It is also a revenue producing tax. Incidentally, it is rather amazing to hear honorable senators opposite argue that the entire proceeds of the petrol tax should be devoted to road work, because in 1948-49, the last full financial year of the Chifley Government’s administration, although the petrol tax yielded £15,750,000, only £6,100,000 was paid to the States for road construction and maintenance.
– Does the honorable senator consider that to be justifiable?
– No. I merely say that it is amusing to hear such arguments from the Opposition to-day because they were not made by members of the Labour party when the Chifley Government was in office.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. President, that I have been misrepresented, and when Senator Reid has concluded his speech I shall seek an opportunity to correct that misrepresentation.
– I do not know how I could possibly have misrepresented the honorable senator. I merely said that I was amazed at the arguments that he had advanced. We are continually being told by Opposition senators that the Government should do this and that, although no such action was ever attempted when Labour was in power. This measure will go a long way towards meeting the financial requirements of the States for road work. If they are able to expend their full grants in the current year, there will be a marked improvement in roads. The method of distribution of funds proposed in this measure should prove most satisfactory. The bill provides that 35. per cent, of the grants to the States shall be expended on rural roads. Whilst it is of great importance that our highways should be maintained in first-class order steps must be taken to ensure that rural roads are good (enough to permit not merely a continuance of the present level of proeduction, but an increase of production. Settlers in outback areas should be provided with good roads, not only to facilitate the transport of their products to markets, but also in order that they themselves may have access to the main highways. Therefore, I am heartily in accord with the proposal that 35 per cent. of the grants to States should be devoted to work on rural roads. I welcome also the departure that this bill makes from established procedure in the expenditure of road grants. The previous prohibition on the expenditure of money on municipal roads was entirely wrong. I do not suggest that the municipalities should be permitted to absorb all the money, but they were certainly entitled to a proportion of it. Rural roads are only a part of our general road system. Country people generally pay regular visits to then- nearest towns, and it is only proper that a portion of the expenditure on rural roads under this legislation should be available for expenditure in and around municipalities.
The conditions governing expenditure of the other 65 per cent, of the money to be granted to the States should meet with general approval. It is gratifying to know that the Commonwealth agrees that the main responsibility for road construction and maintenance work lies with the States. I should fight strongly any attempts by the Commonwealth to dictate to the States what road work should be done, and how it should be done. Admittedly, the Commonwealth is providing a substantial sum of money, but interference with the freedom of the States would be most undesirable. In New South Wales, at least, there has never been any need for Commonwealth interference. I should hate to see another bottleneck caused by Commonwealth insistence on the- submission of proposed road construction work for approval by Commonwealth authorities. Obviously, such a system would cause considerable delay because Commonwealth officials could not be expected to be fully acquainted with the requirements of the States.
– That system was used when the first Commonwealth grants were made to the States for road building and maintenance purposes.
– That is so, but the principle was soon abandoned and I should strongly oppose its re-introduction. Clearly, State administration of the Commonwealth grants must be unfettered. The -system that has operated in New South Wales for many years is quite satisfactory. The Department of Local Government is co-operating fully with local governing bodies. So far as I know, no differences of opinion have arisen between New South Wales and the Commonwealth in relation to the expenditure of roads grants. The State Government distributes the money amongst the local governing authorities. An attempt to re-introduce Commonwealth control was made in 1947, when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Transport. He laid down that all road works had to be submitted to the Commonwealth Department of Transport for approval. That system broke down, as it did in 1926. There was strong opposition to it, particularly from New South Wales. There is no reason why the present scheme should not operate as well in the future as it has done in the past.
I believe that there should be a review of this legislation from time to time. If we find that the States can efficiently expend the money that we are allocating to them, we should reconsider their needs, because our roads to-day are in a shocking condition, due mainly to heavy defence traffic during the war years.
– And heavy peace-time traffic, too.
– That is so, but the deterioration during the war was caused mainly by defence vehicles. It is true that, since the war ended, many of our roads have been carrying traffic that they were never intended to carry. I know that on the Western Highway in New South Wales, there is a continuous stream of huge semi-trailers carrying loads of up to 30 and 40 tons of cement. The season has been the wettest in our history, with the result that roads have become spongy, and have been totally unable to carry heavy traffic. Rapid and extensive deterioration has resulted. I believe, therefore, that the position should ‘be reviewed from time to time.
I appreciate what the Government is doing by way of this legislation. The States will welcome these grants, but I have no hesitation in saying that the Commonwealth is not doing any more than should be expected of it. The petrol tax is yielding substantial revenue, and those members of the community who pay it are entitled to some benefit in return for their contributions. Better roads will assist our economy considerably and will reduce wear and’ tear on both commercial and private vehicles. This measure will enable the States to plan ahead for a period of five years in the knowledge that they will be granted definite sums of money - each year for road purposes. That money will be expended on the improvement of roads fo_ normal transport purposes and, sho the occasion demand1, also for defence purposes.
– I rise to order. Senator Reid has stated that he was amused to hear representatives of the Labour party contend that the whole of the revenue received from petrol tax should be allocated to the States for road purposes. No such suggestion was made by any honorable senator on this side of the chamber. I said that at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the representatives of four States had made such a request and that the Australian Automobile Association, from whose submission to the Government I quoted, had urged’ for many years that the whole of the petrol tax should be allocated to the States for that purpose. In my concluding remarks, I suggested that the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) should confer with representatives of the States with a view to the negotiation of a better overall allocation of the collections of the petrol tax. I did1 not suggest in any part of my speech that the whole of the tax should be allocated to the States. I merely suggested that they should receive a much more generous allocation of the tax than they receive at present.
– The honorable senator supported the case presented by the Australian Automobile Association and that made by the representatives of four of the States at the conference to which hereferred.
– I did not do so.
– The purpose of this bill is tointroduce a new system of Commonwealth payments for road purposes to replace the Commonwealth Aid Roads-‘ and Works Act which expired on the 30th June last. In effect, however, it makes very little marked alteration of the provisions of that legislation which has operated for the last ten years. The Government proposes to make available each year for roads a larger amount of money than was provided under the former legislation and to ensure that the aggregate grant will increase as petrol consumption increases. It proposes to provide specific grants to the States for roads in rural areas as well as for general road purposes. The States are to be given express permission to use any part of either of these grants to assist local authorities in the construction and upkeep of roads. The bill will enable continuity in roads programmes to be maintained as it is to operate for five years. The previous legislation covered a period of ten years. There may be some valid reason for restricting the operation of this bill to five years, but I am not aware of it. The earlier legislation gave to the States better opportunities to plan ahead than will be provided by this measure. The bill pro, poses to set aside annual sums for Commonwealth expenditure on strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property, and for the promotion of road safety. In introducing the bill the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) emphasized that the money to be provided under it may be utilized- by the State authorities in the purchase of road-making equipment.
The other principal feature of the bill is the proposal that 35 per cent, of the money to be allocated to the States will be available for the . construction, reconstruction and maintenance of rural roads. I have always believed that money provided by the Commonwealth for road purposes should be used exclusively for the construction and maintenance of main roads. That was the intention of the Parliament when the original legislation was introduced. Although it. might seem to be an excellent idea to make grants to local governing authorities for expenditure on subsidiary roads, I believe that Commonwealth grants should he applied only to expenditure on roads which provide a link with main roads and highways. No provision appears to have been made in this bill io prevent road authorities from using some of the grant for expenditure on the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads which should be met from their own funds. In view of that, the proposed allocation of 35 per cent, seems to be unduly generous. This year the Government proposes to provide for road purposes an amount of £12,000,000, including £7,200,000 for general roads purposes, £4,200,000 for rural roads, £500,000 for strategic roads and £100,000 for the promotion of road safety. The total amount made available last year was £9,400,000. The point that concerns me, and it was also emphasized by Senator Reid, is that some guarantee should be given by the road authorities that the whole of the moneys granted to them will be spent. In recent years local governing authorities have not been able to spend the whole of the moneys made available to them for road purposes, principally because of the shortage of man-power and materials. Whether or not the supply of labour and materials has improved sufficiently this year to enable them to spend the whole of these proposed grants, I do not know. Whilst. I commend the Government for increasing the total grant for road purposes, the purpose of this legislation will not be achieved if in fact the road authorities are not able fully to expend the amount granted to them.
The Minister has stated that road traffic is increasing, that heavier and faster vehicles are being used and that there is consequently greater wear and tear on roads. The Main Roads Board of Western Australia constructed some excellent highways which compared favorably with highways in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, most of them are now in a bad state of repair because as the result of the shortage of material and man-power it has been impossible to maintain them. A few years ago the pavement of the section of the Great Eastern Highway between Perth and Northam, covering a distance of 60 miles, was almost as even as a billiard table. To-day, it is full of pot-holes and those who have to drive over it regard the task as a veritable nightmare. In many places the sub-surface has been washed away and the sealing pavement has disintegrated as the result of continued use by heavy motor vehicles transporting wheat, wool and other commodities. The road was not constructed for use by motor vehicles of the extremely heavy type now in use. The transport of wheat and wool is primarily the task of the State railways.
Australia has suffered very greatly from the lack of a co-ordinated transport system. By and large, the railway systems in all States are in such a bad condition that their complete rehabilitation would cost an enormous amount of money. Throughout Australia many main roads have been constructed alongside railway lines. Road freight and passenger services have been able to undercut the railways with the result that the earnings of the railways departments have diminished and the road surfaces have been ruined by heavy transports travelling at high speed. The practice of constructing main roads parallel to railway lines is to be deplored. Vast sums of money have been expended in the establishment of our railway systems which should be used to the full advantage. It is uneconomic to build firstclass highways parallel to railway lines and thu3 to enable road operators to compete against the railways on unequal terms. Because of the exigencies of the war and the loss of revenue caused by the competitive road transport most of our railway systems are in a bad state of repair. Permanent ways need reconditioning and new rolling stock and locomotives of the latest type must be obtained. In Western Australia a private railway system is operated from Midland Junction to Geraldton. A main road has been constructed alongside that line, but because road transport is cheaper than rail transport the railway company is operating a fleet of road vehicles which cover an annual mileage considerably greater than that previously covered by the trains.
The Minister has said that good roads are essential for defence purposes. What is perhaps of even more importance is the proper co-ordination of all forms of transport. Western Australia has three important essential public requirements in the area between the coast and Kalgoorlie. First, it needs an adequate railway system ; secondly, it needs a good highway; and, thirdly, it needs an assured water supply. The survival of Kalgoorlie and of it9 inhabitants depends on the pipe line from Mundaring Weir. For many miles the pipe line, the railway and the main road to Kalgoorlie run side by side. An enemy would have to drop only one bomb to put the three of them out of action. I do not blame any government for that lack of foresight. A similar position exists in other parts of Australia. When future plans are being made the dangers of such a practice should be avoided. The transport systems of this country greatly exceed the requirements of its people. I do not want any one to think that I am opposed to progress. I merely say that extensions of our transport systems should be based on economic lines. I have travelled on the road between Canberra and Yass, and also that between Canberra and Goulburn. They are both highways. Not so many years ago those roads were in good condition and it was a pleasure to travel on them, but to-day there are sections, especially between Canberra and Goulburn, where a driver takes a great risk of smashing his car unless he is extremely careful. Those roads have gone to pieces, because the requisite maintenance has not been- possible. Unless we face the situation that our roads are disintegrating largely because heavy traffic is permitted to use them, we shall eventually reach a stage where it will be necessary to resort to other means of transport. The motorists of this country are required to pay a high licence-fee. When they pay that fee, and shoulder the increased costs of petrol and oil, surely they are entitled to be provided with decent roads on which to travel. Senator Cooke has pointed out that bad roads in Australia to-day cost motorists 1-^d. a mile extra because of increased depreciation of their vehicles. I bring forward those points in the hope that some one might begin to think about this aspect of our national economy.
Although I wish to see everything possible in the way of progress in the transport field, it seems to me that the problems involved must be approached from a different angle. I ask honorable senators what is the use of having a railway with a highway running alongside it? Obviously, the policy should have been to construct highways five or ten miles away from .railways. If that had been done, should one or the other be interfered with or damaged because of enemy action, the remaining transport avenue would be available for use. In this country to-day, overseas interest payments account for three-quarters of railway revenues. They have suffered loss of freights and loss of passengers, which is a serious economic disability for State governments. I realize that it is a little late to raise that aspect now, after roads have already been constructed, but I cannot help thinking of the lack of foresight of those who permitted such a state of affairs to come into existence.
I am pleased to note that this Government proposes to continue the provision, which I think the previous Government inaugurated, of a sum of money to be used for the purposes of road safety. Some time ago I mentioned in this chamber the necessity for action to be taken concerning motor cycles. At the time I made those remarks not one word of what I said appeared in the newspapers of the Commonwealth. I hope that I shall have better luck! this time. In my remarks I drew attention to the tremendous deathroll of young people because of motor cycle accidents, and I suggested that there should be a period of probation before such persons are permitted to take motor cycles on to the roads. I also suggested that that period of probation should be approximately of three months’ duration, and that for that period the engines of motor cycles should be governed so that their maximum speed would not be more than approximately 25 miles an hour. As honorable senators are aware, modern motor cycles are capable of travelling at speeds of from 70 to 80 miles an hour. My idea was that if those speeds could be governed, an opportunity would be provided for the riders of motor cycles to acquire road sense. It is possible for a young man to-day to go into a motor cycle shop, to purchase a high-powered machine on the premises, to take it straight out on to the road and immediately to undergo a driving test. As I indicated previously. I know of an instance of a young man who bought a motor cycle, and within a Quarter of an hour met his death because he had no idea of how it should be handled. I have since learned that the Road Safety Council in “Western Australia makes available to young motor cyclists a service by means of which they may become proficient in the handling of their machines. That is a practical way of eliminating many of the accidents that are taking such a huge toll of the young life of this country to-day. The young man who buys a motor cycle usually takes his young lady riding on the back of it, and sometimes it is not very long before one or the other is injured or killed as the result of an accident. Australia cannot afford to lose its man-power and its woman-power in such circumstances, and it is within the province of the State governments to remedy that position. I believe that motor cycle traders would not object to legislation, introduced by agreement between the Si.ate governments and this Government, along the lines that I have indicated. I point out that when a person purchases a motor car, he cannot obtain a licence to drive it until he becomes a proficient driver. I do not say that the police are in any way to blame for the lack of control of motor cyclists, because I think that the police perform excellent service in the handling of traffic, but I consider that something should be done in the directions I have mentioned. I appreciate that road safety councils in the various
States are doing everything possible to save life, but it must not be overlooked that it is not only the riders of motor cycles with whom we are concerned. A pedestrian standing on the footpath may be killed because of a cyclist’s inexperience or inability to control his vehicle.
– If pillion-riding were to be prohibited during the first twelve months, it would probably improve the position.
– I have no doubt that it would, but I do not wish to deprive motor cyclists of their pleasure. I merely desire to see something done in order to protect them and to protect human life generally. It is all very well to put warnings on hoardings to say beware of this and that. They are no doubt of great value, but at the same time it is necessary to get down to fundamentals. There was a very serious accident in Canberra not so long. ago. I understand that two young men were killed in the vicinity of the Prime Minister’s Lodge. I do not know all the circumstances, but I believe that the cause of that accident was the fact that the driver of the motor cycle involved had always driven on the righthand side of the road, instead of the lefthand side, before coming to this country. In other countries of the world the rule of the road is the opposite to that observed in Australia. The young man was a New Australian. When he saw something coming - perhaps dazzling headlights - he perhaps automatically directed his machine to the right of the road, with the result that a terrible accident occurred. Not only was he killed, but the driver of the other vehicle also was killed. I suggest that the licensing authorities throughout the Commonwealth should make absolutely certain, when issuing a driver’s licence to a New Australian, that he knows the rule of the road of this country. When I was in the United States of America some years ago I had the Opportunity to drive a vehicle, but I was not prepared to do so because I had always driven according to the rule of the road of this country and I feared that if I had found myself in a jam 1 would do the wrong thing.
Senator Cooke has presented a very fair case to the Senate in relation to this measure. It proposes an increased allocation of funds to the various States, and my chief consideration is that the money shall be expended for roads purposes. “Whilst I consider that the money should be spent essentially for the construction and maintenance of main roads, I do not wish it to be understood that I am desirous of taking away anything from the local authorities for the construction of rural roads. At the same time I believe that there must be some definite understanding as to what are rural roads. I have travelled a good deal in Western Australia and on many occasions I have seen quantities of material, designed to be used in the construction and maintenance of roads, still in their original position years afterwards. I suggest that quantity surveyors should be more exact in the ordering of materials. While the Commonwealth cannot police the expenditure of all the money that it makes available to the States, I trust that the strictest economy will be exercised by the authorities concerned with the expenditure of that money.
– I wish to commend the Government for introducing the bill before the Senate. It is divided into two main sections: A fund for the general roads purposes of the States, and a fund to. be used for the development of rural roads. In both sections the grants have been increased. The general fund has been increased by approximately £1,400,000 and the rural fund by approximately £1,200,000. In Queensland the general fund is usually held and expended through an authority known as the Main Roads Commission. It is expended under State government jurisdiction. Local authorities, therefore, have not very much say in regard to the expenditure of that money. That is regarded generally as a matter for the State governments, but what I shall call the rural fund applies more directly to local authorities. Originally the fund was for the construction and maintenance of roads in sparsely populated areas. As the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, that fund was established in 1947, after a deputation of representatives of (local authority associations in New South
Wales had attended upon the then Minister for Transport and discussed the matter with him. Later, other deputations from the Australian Council of Local Government attended upon the Minister. Subsequently, the allocation in respect of roads in sparsely populated areas was increased to £2,000,000, and then to £3,000,000. It has been said that local authorities were unable to expend the money allocated to them from that fund, but that is not entirely correct. They could have expended the money if they had been given an opportunity to do so. The reasons why they did not do so are, first, that the expenditure of money from the fund was confined strictly to roads in sparsely populated areas, and secondly, that allocations of money were made too late in each year for them to be expended in that year. If local authorities are given money which must be expended within twelve months, they should be allowed twelve months in which to expend it, but that has not been done. Let us consider what will happen under this bill. It will be some time in 1951 before local authorities have any opportunity to expend money allocated to them from the rural fund. The Queensland Government will be advised of the contents of this measure some time in December. It will then consult with the local authorities regarding the roads upon which the money allocated to the State from this fund are to be expended. When that matter h.is been decided and the local authorities have been advised accordingly, the local authorities will be expected to prepare plans and submit schedules of proposed works to the State Government. All those things will have to be done before any work can be undertaken. The period between January and March is the monsoonal season in Queensland, when there are torrential rainfalls. In the centre and northern parts of the State, it would hardly be possible to do any road work until April, and even then the weather is wet. That leaves May and June as the only really dry months of this financial year. In those circumstances, how will it be possible for a local authority to expend in this financial year money that is made available to it under the terms of this measure?
I am glad that this bill is designed to increase the number of local authorities to whom money can be allocated from the rural fund. While local authorities in sparsely populated areas are very much in need of assistance for road construction and maintenance, I know that the local authority associations believe that’ the scope- of the fund should be widened to cover a great number of local government bodies. There are many local authorities which are responsible for the administration of what may be called compact areas. Within those shires and municipalities there are many roads that could with advantage be developed, but that cannot be done without assistance from this fund. It must be borne in mind that the people living in those shires and municipalities who have motor cars pay petrol taxes in the same way as do motorists elsewhere in Australia.
I believe that the distribution of money from these funds should be on as wide a basis as is possible - wide enough to bring in the cities and towns. Local authorities in cities and towns have a burden imposed upon them in connexion with the provision of amenities that is not imposed upon local authorities which are responsible for the administration of more scattered areas. They need assistance from this fund just as much as do local authorities in sparsely populated areas, which the fund was originally established to assist. The proposal to widen the scope of the fund has a great deal of merit in it. The establishment of the fund for roads in sparsely populated areas was received with great pleasure. I think that every one who knows local authorities will agree with me that the widening of the scope of the fund will also give a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure to local authorities.
Another aspect of the measure that deserves commendation and which will to a large degree overcome the difficulties caused by the late allocation of money is the fact that it is to remain in operation for five years. State governments and local authorities can be reasonably sure that they will receive a certain sum of money for expenditure upon roads each year, and therefore, they will be able to plan ahead and commence works much earlier in the year than at present. It is essential that they should know as early as possible in the financial year what money they will receive. If they know early in the year, they will be able to go ahead with their road works. They will be able not only to expend the money allocated to them within the required twelve months, but also to expend it at times when they can construct roads economically. This is a good feature of the bill.
Another good aspect of the bill is the method by which increased payments will be made to the States and, indirectly, to local authorities. It is proposed to increase the proportion of the tax that is diverted to the States to 6d. a gallon in respect of imported petrol, and 3£d. a gallon in respect of locally produced petrol. That will ensure that as the consumption of petrol increases, the grants made to the States and local authorities for road works will increase also.
– If the consumption of petrol increases, the traffic on the roads will increase.
– I agree that that is so, but my point is that as the consumption of petrol increases so also will the sums allocated by the Commonwealth to both funds be increased. -That is a very desirable feature of the bill.
The weakness of the scheme is one that is inherent in most schemes which provide for the allocations of funds to the States by the Commonwealth. Senator Reid said that he would not like to see the Commonwealth pursue the ultimate expenditure of this money, but there may be difficulties in the way of expending it. At the present time, the Commonwealth makes money available for the rural fund and expects .State governments to act in a fair-minded manner in the distribution of the funds to local authorities, but sometimes, unfortunately, State governments do not act fairly. Some State governments have treated local authorities better than have others. After having listened to Senator Reid’s speech, I should say that the basis upon which moneys from . the fund are allocated to local authorities by the New South Wales Government is very fair. In Queensland, we are dependent upon the roads policy of the State Government. There are many sparsely populated areas in Queensland, but there are also many rural areas that are comparatively closely settled, and the local authorities responsible for those areas are badly in need of assistance from the rural fund. Under this bill, those authorities will be able to get much more help than they had in the past, but much will depend upon the assessment by the State Government of the value of their claims. Areas close to the coast which need assistance have not received the assistance that they might have been given from the fund. I hope that, in the future, allocations will be made on a fairer basis than in the past, and that the advice of local authorities will be acted upon to a greater degree than hitherto. I believe that local authorities should be consulted upon the allocation of the fund, and that some scheme should be devised under which those authorities, through their associations, can act in concert in advising State governments upon the distribution of the fund. “When all is said and done, members of local authorities have a better knowledge of conditions in their own districts than have members of any other authority. A State government may, for political purpases, use funds to finance road construction and maintenance only in certain areas. It has been said by members of the Queensland Parliament that the Queensland Government has a map of Queensland on which there are tags indicating the areas that return Labour members and those that return Opposition members. It is said also that electorates th at return Labour members receive more consideration than those which do not do so. If that be a fact, the Queensland Government is not acting in conformity with the spirit of the scheme. This is a matter that should be above party politics. I think most honorable senators will agree that no members of governing bodies serve the people of this country for less remuneration than do members of local authorities, who serve in an honorary capacity because of their desire to do something to assist their communities. Therefore, any advice that they may tender can be regarded as being above board and designed to assist the people of their districts. I believe that they should be taken into the confidence of State governments more than they are at present.
Queensland is faced with a very difficult roads problem. The area of the State is very large, and there are many roads in it. Senator Cooke spoke of a road in Western Australia having potholes in it, but in some Queensland roads near populated centres there are more than potholes. The bulk of the population of Queensland is concentrated in the coastal region. The road running north from Rockhampton to Mackay is by no means good. In wet weather, one would not think of travelling by car along the coast road. The cities of Rockhampton and Mackay have been established for many years, but the road between them is not a good trafficable road. The road from Mackay to Proserpine is said to be a reasonably good one, but after two or three inches of rain have fallen it is impassable in places. It iE crossed by creeks over which there are no bridges. The State Government has said that it cannot construct bridges over these creeks because there is a shortage of timber, but recently the Mackay Harbour Board searched the mountains for timber and obtained sufficient to build a wharf. In the mountains there is plenty of timber that could be used for bridge decking. Proceeding north to Bowen, the thoroughfare could scarcely be called a road. Although work has been carried out on this section from time to time, it is in a shocking condition, as can be vouched for by other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Further north, beyond Cooktown, there are no roads. It is true, of course, that there is very little settlement in that part of the State. At present, the road that runs from Rockhampton to Clermont, in the west of the State, is impassable in five or six places because of the recent heavy rains. Between Eungella Range and Mackay the road is in a very poor state of repair, despite the fact that it serves a very closely settled rich agricultural district. I recall that during the war period the evacuation of that area was contemplated at one stage. However, because of the poor condition of the roads there the residents would have had to choose between remaining in their homes or taking to the bush.
It baa been claimed by other honorable senators that past governments have concentrated on the provision of roads in close proximity to the capital cities. That is unfortunately true. The result is that the only roads in Queensland that have been developed to any appreciable degree are those in the south-eastern portion of the State. If it is decided to develop the roads in country areas in this country, I suggest that the co-operation of the local governing authorities should be sought. Most local governing authorities are eager to obtain modern road-making equipment. Many of them have already moved in the direction of obtaining such equipment since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) arranged the recent dollar loan. I am convinced that the various local governing authorities in the coastal areas of Queensland could more quickly and more efficiently construct the portions in their respective areas than could any other governmental bodies. Some honorable senators have contended that our roads system has gone to pieces, and that many roads that were in good condition prior to the war have been allowed to deteriorate considerably. In my opinion, the time has arrived when there should be a comprehensive review of the roads systems throughout Australia, particularly in view of the fact that motor traffic has increased enormously during the last ten or twelve years. Honorable senators will appreciate that in the days of the horse-drawn vehicles, roads did not require as much maintenance as they do to-day, because of the lower speeds of those vehicles.
There has been a rapid development of the motor haulage of heavy freights of recent years. I consider that this type of transportation should be restricted to main arterial roads, which should be constructed of such texture and strength that the surfaces would be able to withstand the severe strains imposed by such traffic. Roads of lighter construction would serve adequately for passenger transportation. Obviously, considerable attention would bave to be paid to the provision of bridges sufficiently strong to carry the heavy traffic to which I have referred. It should be possible to restrict heavy freight traffic to such specially constructed roads, and thus obviate the rapid deterioration of lighter roads, and consequent economic loss. There should be close liaison between the Commonwealth and State authorities in order to co-ordinate plans for defence roads. I agree with the contention of another honorable senator during this debate that our roads system represents a capital investment. That investment should be preserved by our ensuring proper maintenance and proper usage.
I am pleased that provision has been made in the measure now before the Senate for the allocation of £100,000 for road safety purposes, although I do not consider that that sum is adequate. The proposed allocation is similar to the allocation that was made last year. I urge the Minister to give consideration to increasing the allocation in future. Senator Nash dealt very fully with the serious less of life that is taking place in this country through road accidents, and he drew attention to the large number of accidents in which motor cycles are involved. In the main, motor cyclists are youthful persons. At a certain age youths have no fear. They do not realize the great power of motor cycle engines, with the result that they take undue risks. That accounts for the heavy death roll in this class of motorist. I point out that the purchasers of motor cycles and bicycles do not receive copies of the traffic regulations from the dealers. If they were supplied with pamphlets containing the relevant regulations at the time of purchasing their vehicles, they would pay more attention to the principles of road safety.
An aspect of this matter that is frequently overlooked is that in order to achieve maximum safety on our roads, the roads should be properly designed. The principle of divided roadways should be applied to long straight stretches of adequate width. By far the greater majority of fatalities on the roads are caused by head-on collisions. Division of roadways by grass plots or by other means would minimize the possibility of head-on collisions. Of course, I realize that it is very difficult to overcome the foolish impulses of some drivers of motor vehicles. Whilst I was strongly opposed to Hitlerism, it is to the credit of Hitler that great autobahns were constructed in Germany before the last war. In the majority of instances these roads were divided by pen tral grass strips. They are still a feature in Germany. I am convinced that a considerable saving of life would be affected if our highways were similarly constructed. I am sure that all honorable “(motors, particularly those who are interested in local government, would support any proposal to improve the roads systems of this country. Better roads would make for the greater enjoyment of motoring by the people, and would facilitate the road transportation of goods. I congratulate the Government on accepting many of the recommendations of the Australian Council of Local Government and local governing bodies, and increasing the allocation for road purposes from the proceeds of the petrol tax to 6d. a gallon. The proposed fiveyear road agreement will be of considerable assistance to the State governments directly, and to the local govern.hig bodies indirectly. In turn, the people of this country will derive considerable benefit. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
Senator ASHLEY (New South “WalesLeader of the Opposition [8.5]. - I wish to congratulate Senator Cooke, Senator Reid and Senator Wood on the contributions which they made to this debate. Senator Reid traced the history of Commonwealth grants to the States for roadmaking purposes, particularly as they affected New South Wales. However, he ;was careful not to tell the whole story of the relations between the State Government and local governing bodies in New South Wales. Senator Reid should have an intimate knowledge of the subject, because he was a member of the government which, in the late ‘thirties, was responsible for putting into operation, through one of its Ministers, Mr. Eric Spooner, a scheme that impoverished almost every municipal council in the State. Of course, the honorable senator did not mention that point in his speech to-night. He said that most of the revenue available to shire and municipal councils for road-making purposes was derived from motor registrations. He omitted to mention that considerable revenue was also obtained from rates on land, whether assessed on the improved or unimproved value. As I have said, in the ‘thirties, the Government of New South Wales instituted a scheme for the relief of unemployment under which the State made grants to municipal and shire councils on a £l-for-£l basis, the money to be expended on the construction and improvement of roads, footpaths, &c. In practice, the councils received no aid at all unless they were prepared to borrow money with which to take up the State grant, and the scheme resulted in the impoverishment of almost every municipal council in New South Wales.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. I was a member of a local governing body which was a victim of the scheme, and I probably know more about its effects than does Senator Reid. Most of the municipalities had no choice but to borrow money with which to take up the grants. Members of the councils knew personally the men who were employed in their districts, and they could not do other than provide relief.
– The honorable senator is telling only part of the story.
– Senator Reid must well remember the events of which I speak, because they occurred only a short time before Mr. Eric Spooner retired from the government because the budget was faked. The Government of New South Wales placed upon the municipal councils its responsibility to provide sustenance for the unemployed.
Senator Reid made a brief reference to a proposal to borrow £250,000,000 for developmental purposes. Before the last election, the anti-Labour parties undertook that, if they were returned to power, £250,000,000 would be borrowed over a period of five years. That, probably, is another of the forgotten promises. Speaking on the subject, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Over a period of five years we shall raise loans totalling £250,000,000, the interest and sinking fund on which will he provided out of the petrol tax. The amount to be raised and spent each year will bc conditioned by the availability of men and materials. Its general administration will be under a National Works Council. The work will include feeder roads; soil conservation; the development of rural housing embracing the construction of groups of workers homes in seasonal labour areas.
Now, instead of £250,000,000 being made available over a period of five years, the Commonwealth proposes to provide £12,000,000 a year for road work. Because labour and materials are so much dearer now, the expenditure of £12,000,000 will accomplish no more than was accomplished by the expenditure of £9,400,000 which was provided by the Chifley Government in 1949. We have been told that the purpose of this bill is to make available each year a larger amount of money than was made available under former legislation, and to ensure that the aggregate grant will increase as petrol consumption increases. It is estimated that, in New South Wales, the cost of restoring 100,000 miles of road to pre-war condition will cost about £60,000,000, which does not include interest charges. It is suggested that the money should be expended at the rate of £3,000,000 a year over a period of twenty years, and that the cost of maintenance would be an additional £5,000,000 a year. Under that scheme, the outlay in New South Wales alone would be £8,000,000. I am not complaining, or suggesting that more money should be made available to the States, but I contest the Government’s claim that the States will be better off under this legislation than they were under comparable legislation passed by the Chifley Government. The provisions of this measure are similar to those of the Labour legislation.
The bill provides for a special grant to the States for roads in rural areas. This matter was referred to this afternoon by Senator Reid. I am not familiar with the position in the other States, but I know that in New South Wales, when road grants were first made, the money was expended only on main roads, highways, and trunk roads. In 1947, however, the Chifley Government made available £1,000,000 to be expended on developmental roads, and roads in sparsely populated areas. That sum was increased to £2,000,000 in 1948, and to £3,000,000 in 1949. I am pleased to note that this Government is following that practice. As Senator Reid has pointed out, the conditions which attach to the expending of that special grant are being widened by this legislation. Part of the money may now be expended on roads in and around municipalities. That, of course, might not be altogether an advantage, because some of the money could be expended on curbing and guttering, and on footpaths, to the detriment of roads. I agree with Senator Reid that country residents use the roads in and around country towns as much as the residents of those towns themselves do. I point out, however, that municipal authorities can charge their residents, on a £l-for-£l basis, for improvements to roads arid footpaths adjoining private properties. That being so, I do not think that there is any likelihood ‘of municipal councils being accused of using for that purpose money granted by the Commonwealth for road work.
The bill also authorizes the States to use any part of either of the grants provided for in the bill, to assist local authorities in the construction and upkeep of roads. That proposal, too, is in accordance with the policy laid down by the Chifley Government. At the expiration of the previous agreement, the Chifley Government made a substantial allocation of money for the construction and maintenance of developmental roads and roads in sparsely populated areas. On one occasion, £276,000 was made available to the Government of New South Wales which, on its own initiative, decided to set aside £120,000 of that sum for the construction of developmental roads. Therefore, there is nothing new in this proposal. This measure merely extends slightly the provisions under which the money can be expended.
The Government seeks to ensure continuity in road maintenance and construction programmes by making the legislation operative for five years. That is a very wise provision and I commend the Government for it. It will enable road-building organizations such as municipal and shire councils to place their orders in advance. They will be able to embark upon road programmes covering a period of years. The benefit of this innovation will be felt particularly in remote areas which do not have the same resources or opportunities as have municipalities of 10,000, 20,000, or perhaps 25,000 people. In some areas, land rates are so low that the local authorities have to struggle on from year to year just to maintain roads. Their resources are totally inadequate for the construction of new roads. This legislation will enable such authorities to build developmental roads and roads of access.
Finally, the Government proposes to set aside annual sums for Commonwealth expenditure on strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property, and for the promotion of road safety. Senator Wood commended the Government upon the provision of £100,000 for road safety work, and I should like to add my congratulations to those of the honorable senator. If this money saves only one life, the expenditure will have been worth while. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to continue the co-operation of Commonwealth, State, and local governing authorities that proved so valuable when Labour was in office. A couple of times a year conferences were held on such important matters as road safety. I doubt whether one such conference has been held since this Government came to power. When a grant of the magnitude of £12,000,000 is being made to the States, every effort should be made to ensure the fullest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, so that the Commonwealth may know that the money is being expended wisely. The money is paid direct to the States, and therefore there is an obligation on the State authorities to ensure that the local governing bodies shall use the funds allocated to them to the best advantage. Apart from grants to State governments for roads, the Government proposes, as under the former legislation, to set aside £500,000 a year for the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property or territory.
Generally speaking, this legislation is similar to that placed on the statute-book by the Chifley Government. It is true that it makes available a greater sum of money to the States than was provided in 1949-50, but whether the increased grant will enable more work to be done is open to question. Since the abolition of Commonwealth prices control in 1948, the cost of materials for road construction and maintenance has increased by more than 100 per cent, in some instances. Prior to 1948, the cost of concrete road in New South Wales was approximately £15,000 a mile. To-«day it is approximately £22,000 a mile. The cost of a bitumen road in country areas has increased from £4,000 a mile to £5,500 a mile. I agree that many factors in addition to increased wages contribute to those higher costs. Road transport of cement has been mentioned by Senator Reid. As he said, heavy loads of cement are being carried over New South Wales by semitrailers. This form of transport is, of course, more costly than carriage by rail, and that in itself is va substantial factor in the increased cost of road-making. For some years, local governing authorities have claimed that they have been unable to satisfy the growing demands that have been made on them. Honorable senators will agree that, 25 years ago, the demand for roads was not nearly so great as it is to-day. In addition to the increased demand for roads, there is a demand for roads which will carry much heavier traffic than was general 25 years ago. In those days, our highways were expected to carry loads of from 2 to 4 tons. To-day, loads of from 20 to 40 tons are not uncommon, as Senator Reid has pointed out. That gives some indication of the road building and maintenance programme with which we are faced.
Some shires and municipalities are at a great disadvantage in expending money on roads. Some local governing authorities are in a very much better position than others because they have their own sand and gravel pits and metal quarries. Whatever grants may be made to the States for road purposes the expenditure of the money will be conditioned by the availability of labour, plant and materials. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, has admitted that at the 30th June, 1950, the States had unexpended balances in their roads funds which totalled £5,500,000. That indicates that the grants made by the Chifley
Government were more than sufficient, having regard to the availability of men and materials. Some local governing bodies could undoubtedly have spent much larger grants for road purposes than had been allotted to them, because, as I have said, they have their own metal quarries and sand and gravel pits, and receive very large revenues. Others are not in such a fortunate position. It will, I think, be agreed that the fact that such a large amount remained unexpended at the 30th June last clearly indicates that the Chifley Government did not starve the States of money for road purposes. Apart from the construction, maintenance and repair of roads, local governing authorities provide many amenities for the people. They are responsible for the provision of rest rooms for women, child welfare centres, public health centres and community libraries, the cost of which imposes a very heavy strain on their finances. Accordingly, any assistance that they can obtain from the Commonwealth is greatly welcomed. Since 1938 the cost of all road construction materials has increased by at least 100 per cent. In 1938 road metal cost lis. a ton; now it costs more than 20s. a ton. Bitumen, which then cost £8 a ton, now costs £20 a ton. The price of cement has increased from £4 9s. to £6 a ton. The wages and salaries bill of municipal authorities has increased since 1938 by 100 per cent., and when the full impact of the recent basic wage increase is felt, the wages bill will increase still further. It can be conservatively estimated that since 1938 the cost of the construction, repair and maintenance of roads has increased by 100 per cent.
I do not contend that the grants proposed in this bill are insufficient, although no one will deny that the allocations that will be made to some local governing bodies will not enable them to repair and recondition the roads under their control. Senator Wood has said that the local governing authorities of Queensland are dependent on the State Government for the provision of the money for the repair and maintenance of roads. The local governing authorities in all States are in a similar position. In New South Wales the major portion of road construction work is undertaken by the Main Roads Board. Senator Wood has also corn-
Reran for Ashley. plained that in the past shires in electorates represented by Labour members of Parliament have received a greater share of the road grant than they were entitled to receive. If that is so, their success can only be attributed to the active advocacy of the Labour members concerned. When I was a Minister I found that some members of Parliament were much more active than were others in furthering the interests of local governing bodies within their electorates. I do not say that in a disparaging way. Senator Wood has been connected with municipal government, and he is now a member of this Senate; if he cannot bring influence to bear on the Queensland Government to assist what he regards as the most deserving, local governing bodies, he is “slipping”.
– What I said was that some members of the Queensland Parliament had stated that view.
– The honorable senator also referred to transport problems. Only a few years ago all transport in this country was by bullock wagon. Later, there came the age of the motor vehicle and the railway. We are now in the age. of air transport. Any .person who had predicted a few years ago, that goods and passengers would be transported by air would have been laughed to scorn. To-day passengers and heavy cargoes are transported by air from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. I agree with Senator Wood that the Commonwealth must accept some responsibility for the construction of arterial roads. They should be constructed without regard to State boundaries in those areas where they will best be able to serve the nation’s needs.
In a pamphlet entitled Local Government and its Problems, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations states -
In Queensland, out of a total road mileage of 135,524, local authorities are charged with the responsibility of constructing and maintaining approximately 116,000 miles’. For the year ending the 30th June, 1940, a total sum of £3,034,590 was expended .by local authorities in Queensland in the construction mid maintenance of roads, and of this amount £2,192,956 was expended in maintenance.
As the result of abnormal rains in New South Wales and Queensland, and to some degree in Victoria, roads in those three States have deteriorated considerably, and their restoration will cost a huge amount of money. In all States, heavy rain during the winter months has resulted in badly pot-holed roads.
I am not over-optimistic that it will be possible to provide additional money for roads purposes as the result of increased consumption of petrol. The world situation to-day is causing alarm in this country as in all others. The Government has made much of the fact that it was able to abolish petrol rationing; but who can say that petrol rationing will not have to be re-imposed? There is no guarantee of a continued abundance of petrol in this country, or for that matter in any country, should another world war break out. The States cannot confidently hope ‘ to obtain increased grants for road purposes as the result of increased petrol consumption. Grants made to the States for road purposes should not be conditioned by the quantity of petrol that is consumed in this country. A survey should be made of the requirements of all local governing bodies and road grants should be determined on the basis of needs, and not on the basis of the quantity of petrol consumed. Under the existing system, grants may be made to the States for road purposes irrespective of whether or not they are required. Every State and every municipality that is not in a position to finance the construction of roads should be assisted to do so, especially in the more sparsely populated areas. Honorable senators will no doubt agree that in many parts of Australia, if a motorist during wet weather strays off the main highways and trunk roads, he will find that it is necessary to put chains on the wheels of his car, and he may, perhaps, be delayed for several days because of the condition of the roads. It is imperative, if only for the convenience of those people who live in the sparsely populated areas of the continent, that the Commonwealth grant to the States should be continued and increased. I do not suggest that a huge sum of money should be expended, but sufficient money should be spent to ensure that developmental roads are provided and that the highways and the trunk roads of the
States are not permitted to fall into disrepair.
– This has been a most interesting debate. The subject of it is, perhaps, one of the most important that the Parliament could discuss. Transport is one of the greatest problems of the States to-day, and it is also a problem which confronts the Commonwealth. Many interesting points have been raised during the discussion, and it is proper that the question of transportation should receive Australiawide consideration. I suggest to honorable senators that in Australia at the moment there appears to be a state of anarchy in relation to transport matters. There is no co-ordination. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), in his second-reading speech, intimated that approximately £30,000,000 will be made available each year for the next five years for road development in Australia. I venture to suggest that even such a large sum as that will not greatly improve the position and that at the end of that period many of the problems that are with us to-day will be with us then.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) has said, methods of transport in Australia have developed since the days of the bullock wagon. We now have fast trains, motor vehicles and aeroplanes. During all that development no one in this country has taken the trouble to allocate to those methods of transport their relative positions of importance. That may be due to the peculiar set up in this country, where there are six States, each of which has its own transport system. Consequent upon the inability of the States to collect sufficient revenue for the construction and maintenance of roads, they came to the Commonwealth with the request that it should subsidize their activities. In New South Wales and Victoria a considerable amount of primary produce was once transported by water, the Murrumbidgee, Darling and Murray rivers being utilized for that purpose. For instance, practically the whole of the wool clip of the Riverina was conveyed by water to railheads at Echuca and Swan Hill, and then transported by rail to the metropolitan area to await the wool sales. Later the Government of Victoria, by arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, at considerable expense to the taxpayers of Victoria, decided to construct railways in the areas that the rivers previously served. The result was that wool, wheat and other commodities were then transported, by rail. Subsequently motor transport came into use, and although wool, wheat and many other primary products are not perishable, a demand grew up for the transport of those commodities by road. Honorable senators will no doubt agree that there was no co-ordination. Private enterprise came into the transport field and competed with the railways. When the Victorian and New South Wales governments agreed to the construction of border railways the people to whom those railways would be of service were loud in their praise of the progress that was being made. At least, they suggested that they were appreciative of the action of the respective governments in expending money for the development of those areas. But because of the growth of motor transport, the demand grew for wool and other primary products to be transported direct from the station properties to the metropolitan areas, although it had to be held there many months before it was sold. A proper system of co-ordinated transport would eliminate many anomalies.
It cannot be disputed that the railway systems to-day are not being utilized to the extent that they should be used. Although the Commonwealth is paying to the States a certain amount of money each year, a far greater amount is being expended by the States in order to maintain transport facilities which are not being used to their fullest capacity. It is idle to suggest that railways do not provide an important method of transport. Honorable senators will recall how, during the war, transport was retarded between the States of the Commonwealth because of breaks of gauges. I do not suggest that the whole of the Army equipment transported in those days should have been carried by road. Railways are necessary. Nor do I suggest that there is not a place in any transport scheme for road transport, because it has a very important part to play. I wish to point out, however, that it has been apparently no one’s business to tackle our transport problems.
Several honorable senators have stated during this debate that our roads are being destroyed because they are being used by very heavy vehicles. The BrucePage Government made the first grant to the States from the petrol tax, and successive governments increased those payments. It was thought that that money would be expended for the purpose of constructing better roads on which farmers could transport their produce to the markets. It was considered at that time that only light traffic would use those roads, and it was not then contemplated that the carrying capacity of motor vehicles would increase so enormously. Instead of 5-ton and 10-ton trucks using the roads, to-day there are ‘20-ton and 30-ton trucks operating in many areas. Not only are the vehicles loaded, but they have trailers behind them. The roads are . smashed and it is expected that the unfortunate ratepayers of the shires and municipalities, or the taxpayers of the States and the Commonwealth will find the money to repair the damage. I point out to honorable senators that as time goes on more and more vehicles running on crude oil, which is not subject to the same amount, of tax as petrol, will be using the roads and will be smashing them. There is much to be said for the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that there should be a conference of State representatives to discuss transport problems. Because of the constitutional limitations imposed on the Australian Government, it is unable effectively to tackle the problem.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport pointed out that this is a matter that primarily concerns the States. I consider that the authorities concerned should confer and endeavour to define the place that each method, of transport should take in our economy. I have prepared some figures which indicate the enormous deficit in the revenues of the various transport systems of the Commonwealth. The taxpayers of the country must find the money to meet that deficit. I suggest that we are paying very extravagantly for the state of anarchy that exists in our transport systems to-day. Whether this Govern.ment will he prepared to tackle the problem I do not know. Certainly it has not yet shown very great enthusiasm, but I hope that it will appreciate the damage that is being done to Australian roads by the heavy vehicles that are now using them, and take action in the matter in the near future.
This bill contains certain improvements to procedures that were initiated by the Chifley Government in an endeavour to assist country municipalities. It is true, as some honorable senators have said, that there was some doubt about the types of road and the municipalities to which the grant made by the Chifley Government in respect of roads in sparsely populated areas applied. I commend the Government for having provided that State governments shall have a free hand in the expenditure of money made available to them under this measure and that the local authorities shall be entitled to approach State governments and apply for grants to enable them to maintain roads and bridges in the areas for which they are responsible.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) directed the attention of the Senate to the enormous increase of costs that is imposing a heavy burden upon municipalities, and to the tasks that municipalities are being called upon to undertake on behalf of ratepayers. In Victoria, the State government has made municipalities responsible for the administration and maintenance of libraries and child welfare and health centres and for the development of civic centres. Many country municipalities are hard put to it to make ends meet, notwithstanding that in recent years State governments have given them authority to increase rates. The local authorities of some areas into which there has been an influx of population are finding it difficult to build the new streets and roads that they require. It is true that, under local government legislation, municipalities can call upon owners of properties to contribute towards the cost of new roads but, having regard to the increased cost of living and the increase of construction costs, it would be almost impossible for those people to bear the additional burden that a contribution to the cost of new roads and streets would impose on them. Consequently, municipalities are in a very difficult position, but when this bill is passed State governments will be able to assist them to construct the roads and streets that are required.
Senator Wood referred to the necessity to make main roads suitable for the heavy traffic that they carry. One clause of the bill makes provision for the expenditure of a sum of money upon road safety campaigns, but the point raised by Senator Wood is outside the scope of that clause. The money that will be made available for road safety campaigns will be sufficient only to provide for the giving of lectures or something like that in an effort to persuade motorists to be more courteous to one another and to be more careful when they are - driving, but it seems to be almost impossible to induce them to do so. Recently, what was called a courtesy week was held in Victoria, but during that week the number of road fatalities was greater than during the previous week. Despite the appeals that were made to motorists to be more careful, the motorists became more careless and took a greater toll of life and limb than previously. When I was a lad I thought that it would give me a great feeling of exhilaration to speed through the countryside at 40 miles an hour on a motor cycle. In those days machines were not as powerful and efficient as they are now. Motor cycles present a great problem. It is regrettable to read almost daily of the death of some bright young Australian in a motor cycle accident. The reconstruction of main roads is a task that must be undertaken, but I do not know whether it is one for the Commonwealth Minister who holds the transport portfolio. Perhaps he could suggest to the State governments that something be done to increase the width of the bitumen surface of roads and to divide the roads into two lanes, one for up traffic and one for down traffic. Honorable senators who have travelled on our main highways recently realize the danger to which motorists are exposed, especially after nightfall. Many of the main roads in this country, although they are excellently constructed, are very narrow, and motorists are in deadly peril after dark because they are used extensively by heavy transport vehicles. The width of roads should be increased, but I do not know whether that can be done. Road safety is very important, and I hope that when this debate has ended the Commonwealth will confer with the State governments upon what can be done to make our roads more safe than they are now.
I should like the Government to give consideration to the point that I raised in my opening remarks. It was raised also by Senator Nash, who referred to what is happening because of unrestricted competition between rail and road transport, [n the final analysis, it is the people who pay. I believe that a scheme should be devised of levying taxes upon the heavy vehicles that are breaking up our roads and are a menace to the safety of road users. The various methods of transport should be co-ordinated in order that each may assist the other in the development of this country. What would be the position if, as a result of the anarchy to which I have referred, our roads became impassible and our railways less efficient? This bill is designed to assist the construction and development of roads. Why should not the Commonwealth also make money available for the improvement of our railways, which are essential to the economic life of the community? I hope that in the near future the Government will take action to ensure that we shall have a sane system of transport operating throughout Australia.
– in reply - Having regard to the late hour and the Senate’s full programme, I am sure that honorable senators do not expect me to reply in detail to the points that have been raised in the course of this very interesting, constructive and sometimes long-winded debate. [ want to place it on record that this country owes a debt of gratitude to the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who, in 1926, in conjunction with
Mr. S. M. Bruce, sponsored the idea that the correct approach to the roads problem was for the Commonwealth to make money available to the States and for the Commonwealth and States to work together under a ten-year plan. It is interesting to note that the first ten-year plan was followed by another. Between 1926 and 1939, the roads of this country were developed and improved to a greater degree than during any other period of our history. Unfortunately, war broke out in 1939, and from then until now shortages of man-power and materials, increased traffic, increased costs of road contruction and other factors have made it very difficult for the States to maintain and develop roads adequately.
I was interested in the suggestions that the Commonwealth and States should do more than they have done to formulate a plan for co-ordinating their activities in relation to this problem. Credit must be given to the former Minister for Transport, Mr. Ward;, for establishing an advisory council, somewhat on the lines of the Australian Agricultural Council, that was established by Sir Earle Page in 1926. The Senate may be interested to know that a permanent committee consisting of representatives of all the States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory meets regularly to discuss road problems. No- less than 33 suggestions for dealing with some of the problems that have been mentioned tonight were forwarded to the State Ministers for Transport by the committee after its last meeting. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) said that meetings of the advisory council have not been held recently. A committee was established in each State to advise upon the expenditure of the money that is made available by the Commonwealth in respect of road safety practices. A few weeks ago, I attended the annual conference of the committees, and I was very impressed by the splendid work that is being done by representatives of the various parts of the Commonwealth to combat the menace that is causing so many deaths upon our roads. Last year, no fewer than 1,624 of our people met their deaths in road accidents, and the governments of the Commonwealth and the States are eager to do all that they can to reduce road fatalities.
I have no desire to take any great credit for the increased grants that are to be made available under this bill, and I do not propose to argue whether what this Government proposes to do will be better than that which the Chifley Government did. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that we have improved upon what the Labour party did. After two ten-year plans, the Chifley Government, for some reason best known to it, adopted three years as a basis. It was the intention of the Government to try to get back to the tenyear period and if it had not been for the events in Korea I think that it would have done so. Having regard to all the circumstances the third increase from £9,400,000 to £12,000,000 was a very substantial increase and in view of the unexpended amounts that the States had in hand it was generally accepted that that would be as much as they could provide men and materials to cope with. Senator Cooke will be pleased to learn that I personally interviewed State Ministers in this matter, and I received most helpful suggestions from the Western Australian Minister and his principal adviser on these important problems. It was generally accepted at the subsequent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that we had made some headway.
I was particularly interested in the comments of Senator Nash and Senator Wood. As long as it is my privilege to hold my present portfolio I shall do all that is possible to assist bodies that are doing so much good in connexion with the development and maintenance of the roads of this country. We are under a debt of gratitude to shire councillors and the great army of people who do splendid and important foundation work in connexion with the development of this country. In season and out of season they perform valuable service in the various local governing bodies. That work is appreciated by this Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and I have received many deputations of representatives of local governing bodies from various parts of Australia. They consider that they have not always been treated as generously as they should have been, having regard to the work that they have to perform. In the light of those discussions it was finally agreed to give greater freedom to the States, by enabling them to make money available to shire councils and other local governing bodies for special work. That has been appreciated by the States which now bear the responsibility to see that Commonwealth grants are wisely expended, and that there is no favoritism displayed to any particular part of a State. I agree with Senator Wood that the State authorities are “ big “ enough to do the job in the manner that it should be done. We realize that they have a better appreciation of local conditions than have officials in Canberra. One has only to travel to Queensland and thence to Western Australia and Tasmania in order to realize the magnitude of the task. Although this bill may not be perfect, I look upon it as a step forward in the important work of road construction and maintenance in this country.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that because of floods, increased traffic, and shortages of ships, man-power and material, the States are right up against it. From the discussions that I have had already, I am convinced that the States are fully conscious of the big job that is ahead of them. They realize that they will have to improve the foundations of roads, provide wider tracks, and impose uniform restrictions in relation to the use of the roads. A great deal of technical knowledge has been forwarded to the States by the technical officers of the Commonwealth. I hope that it will be my good fortune in five years time to bring in a bill to extend and liberalize this provision. I thank honorable senators for their treatment of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Payments into Trust Account).
– The schedule to the bill provides that 6d. a gallon in respect of imported petrol, and 3£d. a gallon in respect of locally-produced petrol and petroleum products, exclusive of aviation spirit, shall be paid into the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account for a period of five years commencing on the 1st July, 1950. “Will the Minister inform me whether the amounts paid into the fund can be increased during that period according to increased imports and increased local production of petrol and petroleum products?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Grant of financial assistance to States for general road purposes).
. -^Sub-clause (2.) provides -
An amount not exceeding one-sixth of the aggregate of the amounts paid in each year to a State under this section may be expended in that year on other works connected with transport by road or by water. “ Other works “ apparently means works other than the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, and the purchase of road-making machinery. In hi9 second-reading speech the Minister stated that it was expected that the petrol tax would yield £12,000,000 this financial year. On this basis, one-sixth of £7,800,000, or £1,300,000 will be paid to the States this financial year in accordance with subclause (2.) I should like to know whether the word “may” in sub-clause (2.) means “shall”. Is it the intention of the Government that moneys that are not expended on “ other works connected with transport by road or by water” shall be applied for the purposes set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subclause (1.), or is it to be mandatory that that amount must be expended in the manner prescribed in sub-clause (2.) ?
– Any money not expended in the manner set out in su’b-clause (2.) may be applied in the manner set out in paragraphs (a) and (&) of sub-clause (1.) The States have been given almost an “ open go “ in this respect.
– Paragraph (6) of sub-clause (1.) provides for financial assistance to the States in making payments to local authorities for the purchase of road-making plant. Are not the States already empowered to apply grants for the purchase of roadmaking plant?
– The limited power that the States have enjoyed to purchase roadmaking plant for use in rural areas has been widened to enable the States to purchase road-making plant for use in any part of a State. This has been done at the request of the States.
– Under the terms of previous Commonwealth grants to the States for road purposes, the cities of Hobart and Launceston have not participated. Will they share in Tasmania’s portion of the 65 per cent, allocation from the trust fund for the purposes set out in sub-clause (1.) ?
– The onus in this connexion has been placed on the States.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Grant of financial assistance to States for rural roads).
– Sub-clause (1.) provides -
This section applies in relation to roads in rural areas (including developmental roads, feeder roads in sparsely populated areas and in soldier settlement areas and roads in country municipalities and shires) but does not apply in relation to a road which ig a highway, trunk road or main road.
The proportion of the £4,200,000, being 35 per cent, of the £12,000,000 expected to be paid into the trust account this financial year, to be provided under the terms of the sub-clause for new work is not stated. Will the Minister inform me what amount is to be applied to the work in respect of which the original grant was made?
– I understand that the amount has been increased by £1,200,000, and that the States will be able to authorize the expenditure of that money for different uses. Very largely, this is in accordance with the suggestion that was made by theWestern Australian representative. In that State there are sparsely populated areas adjacent to Perth. We wanted to widen the existing provision having regard to requirements in connexion with the land settlement of ex-servicemen, feeder roads, and roads in sparsely populated areas, but to leave in the hands of the State governments the alloctaion of the money. We have not placed any limits on the type of work on which the money should be expended.
.- May I take it that the Government’s assessment of a reasonableamount will be the amount that was previously granted, to which is added the amount of £1,200,000 to meet the new responsibilities of the States?
.- The amount of £1,200,000 is to be expended on rural areas as defined in the bill, but there is nothing to prevent a State government from expending for the same purpose any proportion of its 65 per cent, allocation if it so desires.
– Can the Minister say when the money will be paid to the States ? Local bodies wish to know when they may lodge claims.
– This matter was discussed fully at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) intimated that the States were authorized, from the first July of this financial year, to draw their proportion of the £9,000,000 that was available under the old act. Since then, they have been drawing the money, and arranging their programmes. As soon as this bill becomes law,’the extra amount provided for will become available. It is evident, therefore, that road construction programmes have not been delayed.
– I may take it then, that money will be available to the municipalities of Launceston and Hobart for expenditure on rural roads in their areas ?
– That is so.
– Sub-clause (1.) reads -
This section applies in relation to roads in rural areas (including developmental roads, feeder roads, roads in sparsely populated areas and. in soldier settlement areas and roads in country municipalities and shires) but does not apply in relation to a road which is a highway, trunk road or main road.
Can the Minister say whether, when a grant is made under this provision, a municipality or shire will be able to collect from adjacent land-holders part of the cost of constructing new roads in towns or villages, as is the case to-day?
– Municipal and shire councils will continue to enjoy the same powers as at present.
– Will they be authorized to collect from land-owners half the cost of roads which are constructed out of a grant made under this provision ?
– I understand that the proportion so collected varies in different shires. The Commonwealth does not propose to place any restrictions on local bodies in this regard. The proportion collected from land-owners in respect of such work will be decided by the local bodies themselves.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Basis of apportionment to the States).
– This clause reads as follows: -
Sums payable to the States under sections six and seven of this Act shall be divided amongst the States as follows: -
to the State of Tasmania - five per centum of those sums; and
to the other States -
as to fifty-seven per centum of those sums - according to the respective populations of those States as ascertained at the census taken during the month of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven ; and
as to thirty-eight per centum of those sums - according to the respective areas of those States.
By the time this act expires, the 1947 census will be eight years out of date. That is a long time in a country in which the population is growing rapidly. Will the Government consider taking a census at more frequent intervals, or alternatively, working on an estimate of population from time to time, so that the allocations to the States may be kept more in accord with the original formula?
– I shall consider the honorable senator’s suggestion. I am pleased to note that the State Premiers were unanimous in accepting the formula when the matter was reviewed at the last conference. That was a tribute to those who, in 1926, laid down the population.rumarea formula.
– Paragraph (a) provides that Tasmania shall receive 5 per cent, of the amount available. I should like to know how the figure of 5 per cent, was decided upon. Tasmania is developing rapidly, and its people are committed to many new projects for the development of mineral, timber and water resources.
– The other Prime Ministers took pity on Tasmania, and were generous in fixing the percentage.
– I can understand that the Minister wishes to hurry over this matter, but I should like to learn on what basis the formula- was worked out.
– Five per cent, was the figure reached in accordance with the formula laid down for allocating the grant.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Certified statement of expenditure to be furnished.
– I understand that separate -certificates will be required for expenditure under the 65 per cent, allocation, and for that undo*1 the 35 per cent, allocation. Oan the Minister say what information must be furnished in the certificates, and what is the real purpose of the Commonwealth in requiring them? Is it in order to find out what money remains unexpended, so that the amount may be taken into consideration in relation to future grants, or is it to ensure that the money has actually been expended?
– Previously, it was the practice to ask the States to submit their .programmes in advance, and this in volved much detailed office work. The Commonwealth, being eager to make things easier for the States, has now decided to accept a certificate, approved by the State Auditor-General, that the money has been expended in certain directions. The form of certificate has not yet been drawn up, but it will not be very complicated.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Road safety practices).
– This clause provides for the expenditure each year of £100,000 on the promotion of road safety practices. One of the worst features of road accidents is the large number of children, particularly young children, who are killed on their way to or from school. I suggest that special attention should be given to training children in road safety practices. Something is being done in this way by the States already, but there is room for further effort. In Great Britain, I have seen in operation a scheme by which children are taught road safety practices in permanent “safety towns” complete with traffic and street lights, road signs and the like, constructed for the purpose. Perhaps something of the sort could be done in Australia.
– It was my privilege to attend the annual congress of the Australian Road Safety Council in Melbourne a few weeks ago. I have always taken keen interest in this work, and I am pleased to be able to say that about 90 per cent, of the effort is now being concentrated on school children. State Education Departments have readily co-operated and those in charge of the work know the importance of concentrating their efforts on young children attending schools and kindergartens. A drawing competition has been sponsored by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which has published a fine booklet at its own expense, and I understand that 600,000 entries have been received from children. If the honorable senator has any suggestion to make on this matter at any time I shall always be pleased to hear it, and to pam it on to the Australian Road Safety Council which, in my opinion, is doing excellent work.
– I suggest to the Minister that it might be possible to secure uniform action by the States to compel motor cyclists to wear crash helmets. As the result of research work by Sir Hugh Cairns, despatch riders in the British Army were compelled to wear such headgear, and the result was a reduction of head injuries by 90 per cent. Could anything on those lines be done in this country ?
– The honorable senator will be interested to know that his suggestion was one of 33 that were passed on to the State authorities for consideration. Undoubtedly, the States are most concerned about this matter. In South Australia last week, a bill was passed limiting the speed of motor cycles to 35 miles an hour. Senator Mattner will appreciate that action can only be taken by the State authorities. One of the advantages of the Australian Road Safety Council is that members of it can pool their knowledge, and strive for uniform action throughout the Commonwealth. The need for uniformity in our road laws is becoming more acute with the growth of interstate traffic.
– ‘This clause provides for the expenditure of £100,000 on the promotion of road safety practices throughout Australia. Of that sum £50,000 will be allocated to the States, and the remaining £50,000 will be retained by the Commonwealth. I should like to know in what proportion the £50,000 will be allocated to the States. Will the allocation be made on the basis set out in clause 8 ?
– Usually, the basis of allocation is the subject of mutual agreement between the States. The £50,000 retained by the Commonwealth will be used to defray all advertising expenses and also the cost of co-ordinating work. If an Australiawide scheme is launched, all the necessary advertising and printing will be financed by the Commonwealth, and the printed matter will be distributed to the States.
– Can the Minister say whether the road safety work has included any action aimed at reducing the number of level-crossing accidents?
– I am unable to give the honorable senator detailed information offhand, but I know that consideration has been given to this problem.
– Oan the Minister say whether, in all States, it is necessary for a motor cyclist to undergo a proficiency test before being granted a rider’s licence? According to information that I have received from a motor cyclist in the Australian Capital Territory, that is not so. If my information is correct, will the Minister endeavour to have a uniform provision introduced throughout the Commonwealth compelling motor cyclists, who are a danger not only to themselves but also to other people on our highways, to undergo a proficiency test?
. - That matter was discussed at the last meeting of the Australian Road Safety Council and was passed on to the various State Ministers for consideration. I cannot say offhand what the different laws are in the various States and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, but I know that the matter is now receiving attention in the hope of securing Commonwealth-wide uniformity.
– Has any attempt been made by the Australian Road Safety Council to obtain uniformity of road signals through Australia? I believe thai one of the main causes of driving errors is the variation between road signals in the different States and sometimes within the borders of one State. I refer tosuch sign° as “School” and “RailwayCrossing
– That matter too has been referred to the States for consideration.
– In reply to my last question, the Minister informed me that the £50,000 to be allocated to the States would be apportioned by mutual agreement. Can the Minister say what apportionment was made of the £50,000 voted last year?
– I have seen the figures but I cannot give them to the honorable senator offhand. This is, of course, a matter of great interest to the States, and I shall obtain a copy of the last allocation for the information of honorable senators.
– I should like to know what provision is made for road safety work in the Australian Capital Territory. The necessity for such work in Canberra is something on which we can all agree. I am sure that if a competition were held between the various cities of the Commonwealth for illegal crossings of intersections by motor cycles and motor cars, not excluding Commonwealth cars, Canberra would be very hard to beat. There appears to be an urgent need for the expenditure of some of this road safety grant in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I can only say to the honorable senator that the Australian Capital Territory representative appeared to be one of the brightest delegates to the recent conference. The road safety committee in Canberra is one of the most active in the Commonwealth. I do not know how much money was allocated to the Australian Capital Territory last year, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable senator. I hope that he is not too scared by Canberra traffic.
– I thank the Minister for the information that he has given to me. I thank him too for his interest in my welfare. I have no intention to resign from the Senate. I shall be satisfied to remain here for as long as my electors wish.
– The number of deaths among New Australians in road fatalities is most alarming. Have any arrangements been made to provide immigrants with simple and clear instructions in our traffic laws and road safety rules ?
– That matter too was raised at the conference last week, and the States reported that they intended to take action through the various immigrant camps. Recently, approximately 2,000,000 copies of the Australian road safety code, printed by the Commonwealth, were distributed to homes in this country by the Australia Road Safety Council. That gives an indication of the excellent work that is being done by this energetic Australia-wide body.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Regulations).
– I ask the Minister for an assurance that any regulations made under this legislation will be placed before the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Parliament for examination. During the life of the Chifley Government, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, of which I was a member, met consistently under the chairmanship of our present Temporary Chairman of Committees, .Senator Nash. When business was heavy we met about once a fortnight, but normally the meetings were held monthly. I have not been notified of any meeting of the committee since this Government assumed office. Previously the committee had the valuable assistance of the present AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) in the capacity of legal adviser. When a regulation or ordinance was issued, the honorable senator was invited to state his opinion upon its effect and, if necessary, on its legality. I should like to know whether any provision has been made to replace the honorable senator whose duties as Attorney-General now, of course, occupy his full attention.
[10.0]. - I appreciate the point that the honorable senator has raised, because at one time I, myself, was chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. As a member of the Liberal party, of course, I criticized the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments for governing too much by regulation instead of by legislation. Senator Cooke should be pleased to know that whereas many hundreds of regulations were issued while Labour governments were in office, so far this year, the Government has issued only 93. As the war recedes, the necessity for regulations diminishes. I shall obtain for the honorable senator the information that he seeks about the meetings of the committee.
– The Minister has given an extraordinary answer to my question. His assurance that war is receding is in direct contradiction to the Prime Minister’s frequent warnings that we are rushing headlong into a war. It is true that 93 is not a large number of regulations, but even one bad regulation may be a danger, particularly if it is not brought to the notice of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee immediately. Again I ask the Minister whether any steps have been taken to replace Senator Spicer as legal adviser to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee?
– I am not in possession of the information for which Senator Cooke has asked. I understand that arrangements have been made for a Sydney solicitor to act as legal adviser to the committee. I shall ascertain whether that is so, and advise the honorable senator accordingly.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 15th November (vide page 2398), on motion by Senator SPOONER -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1951; 1 1- Budget 1950-51 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable A. W. Fadden on the occasion of the budget of 1950-51 ;
– When I discussed the budget about a fortnight ago I directed the attention of honorable senators to the fact that this Government, by legislative and administrative acts, had already given effect to a substantial portion of the policy which the leaders of the Liberal and Australian Country parties jointly placed before the people in December last. The budget was designed by the Government to meet present conditions and at the same time to endeavour to curb inflation. Opposition senators have stated that prices have risen more steeply and more rapidly since this Government assumed office than they did in the twelve months prior to the 10th December, 1949. That statement has been refuted on many occasions by Government spokesmen. Statistics which I have before me show that in 1948, when the people refused to vest the Commonwealth with power to control prices, and the price stabilization subsidies on a number of commodities were withdrawn by the Chifley Government, prices rose by 8.8 per cent. For the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1949, they rose by 9.8 per cent., and in the six months ended the 30th June, 1950, that is, during the first six months of office of the present Government, by less than 4.7 per cent. Therefore, the contention of Opposition senators that prices have risen steeply and rapidly since this Government assumed office is completely wrong. Opposition senators have said that this is an inflationary budget because it provides for an expenditure of £738,000,000 compared with £592,000,000 last vear.
I invite them to point to any item in the budget which they consider should be eliminated or varied because of its inflationary effect. Having regard to the existing international situation would any Opposition senator contend that the amount provided for defence purposes should be reduced? In this budget £133,000,000 has been provided for defence compared with £54,000,000 last year. It will thus be seen that defence commitments alone account for an increase of £79,000,000 over the budgetary provision last year. This budget also provides for increased repatriation benefits. Do Opposition senators contend that the Government is not acting rightly in increasing the pensions of exservicemen and their dependants? Increased provision has also been made to cover the extension of social services benefits. The Government has honoured its preelection promise to endow the first child in each family. By the provision of additional child endowment and the extension of other social services benefits the Government has added £24,000,000 to the cost of social services this year. “Will any Opposition senator contend that the Government has acted wrongly in giving effect to its promise to provide these increased social services? The Government has also had to make additional provision for war gratuities. Approximately £37,000,000 was already provided for that purpose, but that amount has had to be supplemented by approximately £30,000,000 so that war gratuities may be paid to ex-service men and women when they fall due next year. Do Opposition senators contend that the Government should dishonour its obligation to exservice men and women to pay their war gratuities ?
– Who has suggested that it should do so?
– I am merely posing the question to Opposition senators who have claimed that this is an inflationary budget because it exceeds so greatly the commitments covered by the preceding budget. The difference between the total commitment last year and that proposed in the present budget is almost entirely accounted for by the few items which I have mentioned. The claim that this budget is inflationary cannot be sustained.
– The Leader of the party to which the honorable senator belongs said that he would meet all these additional commitments and at the same time reduce taxation.
– Another important item which has increased the total of the budget this year is the provision of £20,000,000 to subsidize the consumers of wool in this country. The purpose of that subsidy is to stabilize the price of woollen goods to the equivalent of 45d. per lb. of wool used by Australian consumers. I estimate that the additional cost to the Government of the items necessary to honour its promises to the electors and to meet conditions arising from the disturbed international situation will be about £185,000,000.
This budget has been designed to curb inflation. The Government has instituted a wool deduction scheme as a counter to inflation. Legislative effect has already been given to that proposal in a bill which was before the Senate this week. In spite of Opposition criticism that measure will have a very definite anti-inflationary effect. It will take from the spending market of this country £103,000,000 which will be held in reserve to meet the income tax due by woolgrowers in respect of income derived from the sale of their wool clip this year. It will have the same effect on wool-growers as has the pay-as-you-earn income tax system on the 2,500,000 salary and wage earners. Opposition senators have claimed that it will not do st), but none of them has proved that contention. A wage and salary earner receives in his weekly pay envelope the amount due to him in accordance with the award or agreement under which he works, less the appropriate amount of income tax. Is there anything wrong with the Government extending that principle to wool-growers ? I personally can see nothing wrong with it. [Quorum formed.] The measure previously dealt with in this chamber, concerning road grants, will assist the community in many ways. When that bill was being discussed, certain comments were made about the administration of road construction policy in New South Wales. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) stated that I had a very short memory or had conveniently forgotten certain things. He also stated that in 1932, during the term of office of a certain Minister, many shires and municipalities of New South Wales were impoverished as a result of the policy adopted in connexion with road construction. That is not true.
– It is true!
– I say that it is untrue, and that it is unfortunate that such statements should be made. When a new government came into office in New South Wales in 1932 it was faced with a vast unemployment problem.^ No attempt had been made by the Labour government to find work for the unemployed. I was a supporter of the new government that came into office. That government, in common with the shires and municipalities throughout the State, had available certain money for expenditure on road works. As it was most important that unemployed persons should be given an opportunity to earn more than the dole, which they were then receiving, the government instructed the Minister of the day to inaugurate immediately a roads and works programme generally throughout the State. In many instances, shire councils were asked to pay a proportion of the cost involved. In other instances they were not called, on to meet any of the cost.
– They were compelled to pay on a 50-50 basis. I know what I am talking about.
– I also know what I am talking about. I inform the honorable senator that at that time a road was constructed partly through the municipality of Young, the major portion of it being in Burrangong Shire, at a cost of £23,000. Not one penny of that money was provided by the municipality or by the shires. That scheme had the effect of absorbing many thousands of men, and, in doing so, it gave them a better outlook because they were working instead of receiving the dole. That happened in many instances under the scheme of the’ New South Wales Government. Under that scheme the country towns of New South Wales received a better deal than they bad ever received.
– How long did that government remain in office?
– Nine years. The scheme was so popular that members of Parliament were overwhelmed by requests from councils to continue the programme and not to revert to the bid system, under which the councils were expected to carry out their ordinary functions and to pay for the construction of roads within their areas. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition has told only half of the story. I admit that I have told only a portion of it, but I believe that it is sufficient to show that the municipal councils of that time were very happy and satisfied because they realized that thousands of pounds’ worth of road work was being carried out in their municipalities at very small cost to ratepayers.
– That government placed on the councils the responsibility of finding work for the unemployed.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply.
– The previous Government had no idea of what to do for the unemployed. That is why it was thrown out of office.
– At that time, the Labour Government’s basic wage was the dole. I consider that the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition were unfair, and especially his statement that I had a -very convenient memory or that I had chosen to forget. I happened to be living in a district that was fortunate to have a great amount of money spent on’ it.
– I should expect that!
– But that was not peculiar to the district in which I lived. It was common to all districts. I challenge the honorable senator to go to any electorate, even to one represented by a member of the Australian Labour party, and to ask if my statement is not correct. I am sure that he will be told very definitely that the districts of New South Wales represented by Labour members at that time received exactly the same treatment as electorates represented by members of other political parties. Where it was necessary for work to be carried out, the Government of that time provided the necessary finance. I shall leave the matter at that.
– Order ! I think that the honorable senator had better leave it altogether, because he is reviving a debate that took place earlier in the day. I think that it would be wise to keep away from that subject.
– I merely wished to deal with that one phase. This Government desires to curb the inflationary trend in existence in Australia to-day. As I stated previously the most effective means of achieving that objective is by increased production. That is the first essential.
– By whom? Does the honorable senator mean increased production on his part?
– I am not speaking about myself, although what applies to me also applies to Senator Sandford and to every other member of the community. I do not wish to cast aspersions on anybody. I merely say that there must be greater production in this country if we are to return to a reasonable state of stability. The need for greater production applies to every one, irrespective of his walk in life. Each of us mustbe prepared to pullhis full weight. I do not think it can ‘be denied that there is ample scope for greater production. The farming and pastoral population of this country has played its part, and its production has increased since 1939 by 25 to 30 per cent, per capita. That section of the community accounts for only one-sixth of the labour force of the country. Distribution trades also employ one-sixth of the labour force. In the manufacturing and mining industries, which employ one-third of the labour force, production per man-hour during the same period has fallen. That also has happened in connexion with the building trade, where production has fallen by 30 per cent. It is unfortunately true that the annual production for the years 1948-49 was only approximately 3 per cent, above that of 1938-39. During the same period other countries have effected a vast improvement in their output. For instance, the United States of America has increased its output by approximately 30 per cent.
– How many unemployed are there in the United States of America? I presume that that does not matter, as long as there is production!
– The United States of America employs 22 per cent, of its labour force in manufacturing industries, whereas in Australia 28 per cent, is similarly employed. Yet Australia’s production of most commodities is not sufficient to meet even its own requirements. I admit that there has been some improvement in production in this country, but there is still a great deal of room for further improvement. The United States of America, with 22 per cent, of its population engaged in manufacturing industries, is able not only to supply the needs of its own people, but also to export huge quantities of commodities. I suggest that we must all get to work. I am not blaming the workers entirely for decreased production in the manufacturing industries.
Business of the Senate.
– Order! In con formity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– There is still much work to be done, and I am sure that there are many honorable senators who wish to speak not only on the budget, but also on several measures yet to be brought before the chamber, including the Estimates. As time is running out, I invite the Opposition to sit a little later to-night.
– The Minister should make certain that he gets a good press.
– Senator Sandford is the kind of man who will say later that the Government has not given him an opportunity to discuss fully measures that have been introduced into the Senate, and that the Estimates have not been debated fairly and frankly. The Government is prepared to sit until, say, midnight. It is prepared to sit on any day and at any time that the Opposition cares to sit. We want to give honorable senators opposite the fullest .opportunity to discuss, not only measures that are received from the House of Representatives but also the budget and the Estimates. I urge the Senate to negative the motion and to sit until 11.30 p.m., or midnight.
– This afternoon the Senate, in less than five hours, dealt with a very important measure that makes provision for the allocation to the States of £12,000,000 for expenditure upon roads. The Opposition co-operated with the Government in curtailing the debate upon the bill. We have been working since 11 a.m., and we do not propose to continue to work after 10.30 p.m. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have repeatedly requested the Government to bring business forward so that we could discuss the budget.
– That is rot. The Opposition wasted six months on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– Let us be fair. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has made his request only for political propaganda purposes. I suppose that we shall read in the press next week that the Government is again considering approaching the Governor-General for a double dissolution of the Parliament. The Opposition is prepared to co-operate with the Government in facilitating the conduct of the business of the Senate. The budget is being discussed, and we shall bo here at 3 p.m. next Tuesday to continue that discussion. There is plenty of time available. As far as I know, there is no need for the Senate to hurry. The Opposition is willing to sit until Christmas if the Government wants us to do so.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) does not have to sit in the draught in which honorable senators on the back benches sit. Only three weeks ago, nearly one-half of the members of the chamber were laid low with influenza, which is again getting a grip upon some of us. I know that it has a firm grip upon me at the present time. Honorable senators have to contend, not only with draughts, but also with the inefficient lighting system in this chamber, about which several of us have complained from time to time. I hope that during the recess something will be done about the draughts of which I have complained, and also to improve the lighting system, which is ruining the eyesight of many honorable senators and’ members of the staff.
The Opposition will adhere to its principles in relation to working hours. We are not unmindful of the members of the staff of this chamber, who commenced duty at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. this morning and have already been working for thirteen or fourteen hours. If we sit until midnight, they will have been on duty for fifteen or sixteen hours. If the Minister had his way, he would keep them on duty for eighteen or twenty hours. As representatives of the people are we to have no consideration for the staff? If we have no consideration for the men who work in the precincts of this building, how can we be expected to have consideration for men in the far north and other places of this country? The members of the staff have already been on duty for thirteen or fourteen hours, and the Minister is asking them to remain upon duty for another two, three or four hours. That is unreasonable.
, - Senator Aylett could put his beautiful theories into practice by giving a lead to the Senate. He has claimed that he Ls concerned about the staff of this chamber. We could help the staff and ourselves if we approached our debates in a common-sense manner. I submit that there is no more long-winded member of the Senate than Senate Aylett. No honorable senator has more to say with less in it than he has. For the honorable senator to claim that he is thinking of the staff of this chamber is arrant humbug. We witnessed a classic example of his concern for the staff last night. A debate was about to conclude; but, because our proceedings were being broadcast, he rushed in ahead of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, although he -had nothing to say and a very unpleasant way of saying it, and wasted the time of the Senate for the best part of 40 minutes. Let us be realistic about this matter. The House of Representatives will sit to-morrow. The Senate has a full programme, and it would not inflict hardship upon honorable senators if they continued to sit for another hour or so.
– What about the staff?
– The majority of the staff will remain on duty in any event, because the House of Representatives will sit late to-night. If it is the policy of the Opposition to refrain from doing a little overtime in order to get a job done, we can let it go at that, but for Heaven’s sake let us do a decent day’s work while we are working. I am certain, Mr. President, that your heart warmed during the informal discussion this evening when the Speaker of the House of Representatives told us that the practice in the House of Commons, when a member of that chamber was being long-winded, was for the Speaker softly to tap the side of his chair. For my part, in some of our debates I would willingly present you a 7-lb. mallet to use as you thought fit.
– The Government, which, during the last few weeks, has secured the passage of its measures through this chamber, wants the Senate to sit until midnight. The Opposition wants the Senate to conclude its day’s work now, and to return next week to discuss whatever legislation may be presented to it. When the present Government parties were in opposition in this Parliament, they criticized the speed with which the Chifley Government introduced legislation and complained that insufficient time was made available for the discussion of bills, but now it is common practice for measures to be gagged through the House of Representatives, and for the Opposition in that chamber not to be permitted thoroughly to discuss them. In those circumstances, it is somewhat extraordinary for the Government to insist repeatedly that the Senate should sit late to discuss bills. The task of the Government is to secure the passage of its bills through the Parliament, and, if the bills are passed, it should be satisfied that its legislative programme is being translated into acts of parliament. It is for the Opposition to decide, if it is allowed to do so, how much criticism it should level at measures introduced by the Government. If the Opposition were delaying bills of an urgent nature, I could understand it if the Minister for Trade and Customs asked the Senate to sit late in order to dispose of them. But that is not the present position. None of the measures now before the Senate need be disposed of tonight. There is no evidence that theOpposition is holding up any measure. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that the Senate will be able to dispose of bills as they are received from the House of Representatives.
– We were congratulated by the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to-night.
– That is so, and now we are being criticized by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I deprecate the action of the Minister in asking the Senate to sit until midnight. If the Opposition is satisfied that it is discussing measures adequately, and if the passage of bills through the Senate is not being impeded, the work of this chamber is progressing satisfactorily, and we should rise at the usual hour.
– There is no more preposterous argument than that the offcicers of this chamber should have their hours of work regulated in the same way as people who do ordinary day-work or piece-work. Everybody knows the conditions of his employment. The officers of this chamber know that, if the national situation demands, they are required to work overtime, and they are quite prepared to do so. If honorable senators opposite wish to confirm the popular impression of the Senate as consisting of a number of very old, superannuated gentlemen, who are ready for the grave, they cannot do better than to say that we must go off to bed at 11 p.m. every night.
I understand that there are many bills still to come before the Senate. The budget lias hardly been discussed yet. A number of honorable senators wish to speak upon it, as they have a perfect right to do. I am a new member of this chamber, but I know of nothing more disgusting than what occurred during the last night of the last series of sittings. J_ was nearly asleep. Attendants were rushing round the chamber throwing bills and copies of second-reading speeches at us. I had barely time to get an inkling of what was in a bill - and I am a quick reader - before it was passed. I want our proceedings to be conducted in a more leisurely manner, in order that we may discuss rationally every measure that is presented to us. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) said that honorable senators opposite were prepared to sit until Christmas. I would not mind doing that. I doubt very much whether the honorable senator or any honorable senator on that side of the chamber intends to sit until Christmas. I, for one, am quite prepared to sit later to-night in order to discuss urgent business. I can envisage what will probably happen next Thursday night. The probabilities are that we may have to sit into the small hours of the morning, when more bills will be introduced into this chamber and we will have second-reading speeches thrown at us. I reject the suggestion that that is the correct way of dealing with legislation. My final observation is that if a foot rule could be applied to the Hansard record of the first sessional period of this Parliament, it would be found that, whilst a considerable quantity of verbiage emanated from the Opposition side of the chamber there was more quality in the utterances of supporters of the Government.
– We have reached an extraordinary position in this chamber. On days that the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, supporters of the Government speak in long-winded terms on bills that have been introduced. Yet, on other days, they sit behind their leader, speak only in a muddled fashion, and complain that they have not been given adequate opportunity to discuss legislation. If Senator McCallum were honest in this matter, he would agree that before a measure is introduced into this chamber it has been considered fully by the Government parties, and that thereremains very little for supporters of theGovernment to say about it. However, the duty of the Opposition is to opposeand to offer constructive criticismNecessarily, honorable senators on thi* side of the chamber require longer to make their submissions than do honorable senators opposite. At the beginning of the current sessional period we witnessed a display by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) similar to his exhibition to-night, in connexion with suggested extensions of the hours of sitting. At the time the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) indicated that the Opposition would be prepared to sit beyond the usual sitting hours provided that he received reasonable notice of the Government’s wish to extend the hours of sitting for the purpose of disposing of Government business. In view of the fact that the attitude of the Opposition was clearly stated at that time, it is ridiculous for the Minister to come into this chamber at a late hour, night after night, and request the Opposition to agree to sit later. If the Government has legislation ready to introduce into this chamber, the Minister should give timely notice to the Leader of the Opposition of his intention to ask the Senate to sit later. He should not wait until a motion to adjourn the Senate has been moved before stating his request. It is obvious that, if the Government were sincere, and if Ministers were not afraid of running out of Government business, timely notice would be given to the Leader of the Opposition that it was desired to suspend sessional orders in order that the Senate might sit later. The Minister has shown no consideration for the convenience of honorable senators and the staff.
– Honorable senators opposite have advanced several reasons why we should not sit beyond half-past ten to-night in order to deal with Government business. I do not doubt the sincerity of honorable senators opposite in this connexion. However, I point out that we were warned last week that we would be required to sit later this week, and I for one understood that the Opposition had agreed to that proposal. I suggest that all of the highprincipled reasons that we have heard why we are not sitting later and working harder can be boiled down to one reason, that is, that the kind of supper that honorable senators opposite wished to be supplied to them was not given to them two nights ago. That is my belief. The following lines express why the Senate will shortly adjourn: -
As night was falling slowly, “ If you want your bills to pass
My caucus must be fed “.
But coffee and biscuits
Are not enough for Senators;
Unless you give us sausages
I’m going off to toed “.
– At the commencement of the current sessional period, the Senate resolved that, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate should adjourn at 10.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at 11 p.m. on Wednesdays. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) informed us last week that he had agreed with a Minister that, provided that later sittings were warranted this week, and he was given timely notice, the Opposition would be prepared to sit until midnight on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) intimated to the Leader of the Opposition at a quarter past seven last Thursday night that he intended to move a motion that the Senate should sit until a later hour on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Yet, for reasons of political propaganda, he moved a motion that the Senate should sit on Friday this week. He stated that he had made an arrangement with the Leader of the Opposition, and we were prepared to agree.
– The arrangement was broken.
– The arrangement had not been broken at 10.30 p.m. last Thursday.
– I moved the motion on Wednesday.
– The arrangement had not been broken by Thursday night, and we were prepared to sit until a later hour on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, if the Minister so desired. Senator Gorton has sought to create the impression that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are greatly concerned about meals. I for one am well fed. ‘ On the last day of the last sessional period I made a plea on behalf of the staff of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. The night before, when I was having a cup of tea in the dining room at about ten minutes before midnight, the Minister for Trade and Customs came into the room and informed the manager of the refreshment rooms that the Senate intended to sit later, and that a cooked supper would be required. It has been the practice over the years for a cooked supper to be provided when the Senate has been required to sit much beyond the normal hour of rising, provided timely notice was given to the manager. Although ‘Senator Gorton may smile, his appearance would indicate that he is fed only on coffee and biscuits. On the occasion to which I refer, the Minister assured the Senate that if, in future, honorable senators were to be required to sit until a much later hour than usual, and that supper would be required, the manager of the refreshment rooms would receive early advice. We have since lost the manager at that time, due to the humbug and mishandling of arrangements. His successor is a very capable man. At twenty minutes past ten o’clock last Tuesday night I sent an attendant to ask the manager if supper had been ordered.
– Including sausages.
– I do not know on what the honorable senator who has just interjected is fed. However, the attendant returned with the advice that the manager had stated that no supper of any description had been ordered.
– It was ordered prior to twenty minutes past ten o’clock.
– I was informed that it had not been ordered. I should like the Minister to prove his statement.
– That is why the Opposition would not sit later.
– At that time the manager did not have staff available to prepare a cooked supper. Supporters of the Government are continually asking for co-operation and more production by the workers. If any honorable senator opposite were to work for a couple of hours in the parliamentary kitchen he would realize the degree to which the kitchen staff are co-operating with the Government. I point out that the kitchen staff and dining-room staff are borrowed - during sessional periods from various establishments in Canberra. They are not permanent parliamentary officers. That is the reason why I stated that I was not prepared to sit beyond 10.30 p.m. Being a government servant, the manager of the refreshment rooms told the Minister last Wednesday night that he would provide supper of a kind. I again appeal to the Minister to give timely notice if he wishes honorable senators to sit beyond the usual hour of rising.
I cannot see that any necessity exists at present for honorable, senators to extend their sitting hours, because the budget, has not yet been introduced into- this chamber. It has been “ planted “ for six weeks. The bills that are being brought forward are bills to implement budget proposals. They have been brought forward merely to pull political “wool” over the eyes of the electors. The Government has been meandering along dealing with bills of relatively little importance. Despite its election promises, the Government did not introduce legislation to implement some of the promises until this sessional period. Although supporters of the Government promised the electors that, they would restore the value of the £1 to its 1939 value, nothing has been done to implement that promise. Instead it introduced . measures to ban the Communist party and to extend child endowment - matters of small effect on the welfare of the majority of the people. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber intend to do the job of work for which they have been elected. They will continue to give of their best, as they did when they formed the Government of this country from 1941 to 1949. Night after night the press gallery is almost deserted until the approach of the- time when, in accordance with the sessional orders, the Senate should adjourn. Press representatives can then be seen taking their places in the gallery in the hope that the Minister will move that the Senate shall sit until a later hour, and that they may obtain material for an appealing story. If the Minister is prepared to confer with the Leader of the Opposition and make timely arrangements to extend the hour of sitting, we will co-operate to deal with legislation introduced by - the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
The following papers were presented : -
Australian National Airlines Act - Australian National Airlines Commission - Fifth Annual Report and Financial Accounts, for year 1949-50.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Repatriation Department - N. Burgess, K. P. Daly, E. W. O’Keefe J. W. Straede.
Senate adjourned at 10.68 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19501130_senate_19_211/>.