20th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator MCLEAY) put -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended, up to and including Friday, 6th June, 1852, to enable new business to be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator MCLEAY) proposed -
That the sessional order giving precedence to general business after 8 p.m. on Thursdays bc suspended until Friday, the 6th June, 1952.
, - I have not had an opportunity to consider the terms of the motion. Senator Amour has on the notice-paper a motion which, in ordinary circumstances, would be discussed on Thursday. Senator Guy abo has a motion on the notice-paper. If .the motion now before the Senate is carried the motions standing in the names of
Senator Amour and Senator Guy will have to stand over until Friday. The Senate might finish its business on Thursday, in which case neither Senator Amour nor Senator Guy would have an opportunity to bring forward his motion. We recognize that the Government wishes to bring the present sittings to an end this week if possible. That is the Government’s own decision, but I have no doubt that Senator Amour wishes to have his motion disposed of before the Senate goes into recess.
– He has already had two opportunities to do so.
– There were reasons why he did not take advantage of those opportunities. May I have an assurance that the present sittings will not end before the motion standing in the name of Senator Amour is considered?
– in reply - I am prepared to give that assurance. Senator Guy’s motion touches a matter which must be decided by Cabinet, and I do not expect that Cabinet will be able to reach a decision on it this week.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, 1 declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
High Commissioner Bill 1952.
Spirits Bill 1952.
Whaling Industry Bill 1952.
Australian War Memorial Bill 1952.
Northern Territory Acceptance Bill 1952.
Naval Defence Bill 1952.
Air Force Bill 1052.
Aluminium Industry Bill 1952.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1952.
– Is the Minister for
Shipping and Transport aware that the New South “Wales Government intends to increase substantially the road tax on interstate haulage? In order to prevent unemployment in the metal trades from increasing in Queensland, will he make representations to the New South Wales
Government to exempt from its proposal the haulage of metals such as steel, iron, copper, brass, &c.? Alternatively, would the Commonwealth be prepared to subsidize the cost of interstate haulage of metals to the extent of the proposed increase ?
– I have read press reports about the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator, which, 1 realize, is very important. I hope to be in Sydney during next week-end, when I shall discuss it with the State Minister for Transport, not on the basis of one Minister of the Commonwealth telling a State Minister what he should do, but rather in relation to its probable effect on transport generally. I have always found the New South Wales Minister for Transport to be very co-operative.
– When the Minister for Shipping and Transport discusses with the New South Wales Minister for Transport the road tax on interstate haulage will he inform him of the sum of money which the Australian Government will advance to the New South Wales Government for the repair of roads which have been damaged by heavy transport ?
– Details of such amounts are announced from time to time. Having regard to the financial commitments of this Government, I do not expect that an additional amount will be provided during the next financial year. If the honorable senator compares the allocation for 1949 with that of the financial year which will end on the thirtieth of this month, he will see that the amount has been doubled. I regret that that is insufficient to keep the roads in good repair.
– Costs have more than doubled.
– As the honorable senator says, costs are a real problem. I trust that the Government will have his support, and that of other honorable senators opposite, in its endeavours to reduce costs.
– Will the Minis ter representing the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether priorities exist for travel on the Government-owned airline - I mean Trans-Australia Airlines - and whether that instrumentality has the right tei off-load passengers at intermediate airports ? I have been prompted to ask these questions because of an incident that occurred recently. A citizen of this country, who was the only passenger on an aircraft travelling from Sydney to Melbourne, was off-loaded at Canberra, where he was compelled to- wait for an hour and a half for accommodation on another aircraft that was proceeding to Melbourne via Corowa. Most of the passengers, including myself, who embarked on the first aircraft were members of Parliament.
– I shall, obtain from my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, as soon as possible, an answer to the questions that have been raised by the honorable senator.
– As the drift of population from country areas to the cities is adversely affecting primary production, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me what assistance, if any, is granted by the Commonwealth to young farmers’ clubs? If financial assistance is not granted to such clubs, will he undertake to bring before the notice of the Cabinet the desirability of assisting these worthy organizations ?
– Anticipating that I would be asked that question, I have obtained the following information from, the relevant department: -
The’ Young Farmers’ Clubs in every State are- State bodies mostly working under the State Education Departments. However, the organizations in each State do work closely with the Royal Agricultural Societies and with the State Departments of Agriculture-.
There is now an. Australian Council of Young Farmers which consists of representatives of the Young Farmers’ Clubs in the respective States, representatives of the Royal Agricultural Societies in the six States, together with one representative each of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I shall bring to the notice of the Treasurer that portion of the honorable senator’s question which relates to financial assistance to young farmers’ clubs.
– On the 22nd May, Senator Aylett asked me a series of questions concerning the supply of provisions to lighthouse keepers on the Tasmanian coast’.
Up to 1950 Victorian and Tasmanian light stations had a combined service by Cape York four times a year, and South Australian lights were visited three times a year. In between trips the stations had, and still have, fortnightly mail1 services by contractors with small vessels. These vessels also carry some stores. Difficulties arose in keeping Gape York manned with regular trained men, particularly officers, and in an effort to improve conditions of service and continuity of operation, the schedules were altered to provide for three trips a year to Tasmanian lights and three to Victorian lights, each of these trips being shorter than a combined trip. About the same time, great difficulty was being experienced in keeping up the service to Pour Hummocks Island, an isolated light in South Australian waters, and it was even suggested that the light would have to be abandoned. That was- avoided by a re-arrangement of the schedules to enable the supply ship to be available at periods when the weather was most likely to be- favorable. That could be done only by sending the vessel to South Australia four times a year. The breaking up of the Victorian and Tasmanian services onto separate shorter trips enabled that arrangement to be made. It is the general practice to use the lighthouse steamer to carry heavy non-perishable stores, and to leave perishable stores to be brought by the small mail vessels which cannot carry large cargoes, and whose small crews can not handle large quantities of stores. Under the changed schedules, the Deputy Director in Tasmania, fearing that lightkeepers might, order quantities of stores too large for carriage by the mail vessels, instructed them that only meat, butter and vegetables could be carried by those vessels, and that they would therefore have to order sufficient supplies of other stores to last them until the following visit of the lighthouse steamer. That in struction was issued in the interests of the lighthouse keepers who otherwise would have had to put up with delays in the delivery of their mails. I have had the problem re-examined, however, and I have decided to amend the instruction and to permit stores that are necessary for the comfort and well-being of the keepers, which cannot reasonably be held for shipment by the lighthouse vessel, to be ordered for delivery by the small mail vessels. It is hoped that lightkeepers will assist the department by not ordering stores in excess of the carrying capacity of the small vessels. In any case the contractor will determine what he can safely carry and handle. I regret that I cannot promise that Cape York will be available for a Tasmanian trip just before Christmas in any year, but the honorable senator may rest assured that lightkeepers will get their Christmas and other stores by either one service or the other.
– In view of the fact that on the 11th December, 1951, Royal assent was given to the Public Accounts Committee Bill 1951, can the Minister representing the Prime Minister indicate when a Public Accounts Committee will be appointed by the Parliament?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Acting Prime Minister and obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to statements, reported to have been made yesterday by the President of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. A. E. Monk, to the effect that last week in Sydney he was trailed by officers of the Commonwealth security service?
– The honorable senator was good enough to indicate that she would ask this question, and I have obtained a report in relation to the incident. The statement has no foundation whatever. Mr. Monk was not trailed, followed, watched, or kept under surveillance by any Commonwealth officer, for security reasons or for any other purpose. Two inquiry officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, who are not officers of the security service at all, were waiting at or near the Sydney Trades Hall on Friday afternoon for the purpose of obtaining first-hand news, if possible, of the expected decisions in two current industrial disputes. Both officers are well known at the Trades Hall. They made no secret of their presence and of what they wanted to find out. A lot of rubbish has been talked about an entirely insignificant incident.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a statement by a Mr. Corbett Shaw, a former employee of the Department of External Affairs, that the security service is not likely to find out who supplied the Communist newspaper Tribune with certain draft treaty details, the leakage of which has been the subject of a smear campaign in the House of Representatives? Will the Attorney-General ascertain whether the statement made by this person is correct? I point out that Mr. Shaw joined the Department of External Affairs in 1950, and left two months later to work with the Lismore Star. He said -
When I joined the Department of External Affairs early in 1950 I found that files and documents marked “ Top Secret “ were left lying around on desks while officers were away.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in quoting from a newspaper report.
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of some comment which has appeared in the press recently concerning the security service, I should like to say that the Government has the utmost confidence in that service, which has performed some very excellent work.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether repatriation benefits are available to foster-mothers of ex-servicemen? I have in mind that a foster-mother of my acquaintance, who is now 80 years of age and who sought repatriation aid, was refused assistance.
– In certain circumstances parents of deceased servicemen are eligible for repatriation benefits. Speaking from memory, I do not think that a foster mother would come within this category, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable senator of the result to-morrow.
– On the 28th May, Senator Cole asked for information concerning the rates of deferred pay that are payable to Australian soldiers serving in Korea and at the Long Range Weapons Establishment, South Australia. The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer: -
Operational deferred pay at the rate of 2a. Od. per day is credited to members of the special overseas force and others covered for repatriation benefits from the period of their eligibility for benefit under the Repatriation Act. Payment will be made to the member concerned: (a) On the date of his discharge from the special overseas force (enlistees ex civilian life), or (6) when eligibility for operational deferred pay ceases to exist (in the case of members of the Australian Regular Army, Regular Army Special Reserve or Interim Army). Provided that in any case where a member is, as the result of operational service, undergoing hospitalization either in Australia or at a base outside the mainland and treatment is continuous with his qualifying service, operational deferred pay will continue to be credited until the member is discharged from hospital or from a convalescent depot, whichever is the later, or is placed on a repatriation pension. Australian soldiers serving at the Long Range Weapons Project in South Australia are not paid deferred pay in respect of that service.
– <On the 22nd May, Senator O’Byrne asked the following questions : -
Has the Minister seen a copy of the questionnaire that has been sent to all exprisoners of war?
lis it true that it is practically impossible for a person to fulfil all requirements of the questionnaire unless he is destitute? (<i) Will the Minister cause an inquiry to be - made with a view to having the questionnaire withdrawn and a new approach made to the UBe of the fund?
I now inform the honorable senator as follows : -
Yes, I have seen a copy of the questionnaire.
No. It is not practically impossible for a person to fulfil all requirements of the questionnaire unless he is destitute. Honorable senators will be aware that the questionnaire has been compiled by the trustees of the fund. Moreover, the questionnaire is accompanied by an explanatory statement which sets out inter alia the terms of reference by which the trustees are bound. These are as follows : -
The trustees may make payments from the income and capital of the fund of such amounts and in such manner as they in their absolute discretion see fit to any person (whether resident in Australia or elsewhere) who was a member of the forces during the war which commenced on the third day of September, 1039, and became a prisoner of war, and who, in the opinion of the trustees (which shall be final and conclusive) -
Suffers distress or hardship as a result of any major disability (physical or mental) directly referable to the conditions of his captivity, or as a result of any material prejudice directly referable to such conditions; and
It will be seen that the trustees of the fund, who include certain former ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese, have absolute discretion in connexion with the disbursements and are required to satisfy themselves that a former prisoner of war is suffering distress or hardship which is referable to his captivity. The Government, having already given the trustees absolute discretion in the administration of this trust, does not propose to interfere in the exercise of this discretion. Should the trustees at any time indicate to -the Government that there would be difficulty in distributing the funds available under the present trust, and make any suggestions in relation to the trust deed, tie Government would, of course, be happy to consider those representations. (<2) The Government has absolute confidence in the trustees who have been appointed, and does not propose to interfere in any way with the exercise of the discretion which has been given them.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether it would be possible for the Government to persuade the various State governments to. take action to prevent level-crossing accidents, of which there have been three in Victoria quite recently, including a very bad one only the day before yesterday?
– This matter also concerns the Commonwealth Railways Department, and a committee has been sitting continuously in an effort to devise means of avoiding crossing accidents. Since the new fast locomotives have come into use in South Australia, it has been made compulsory for traffic to atop at crossings where there is thought co be danger. I know that the railway authorities in Victoria also have been considering this problem. I am not familiar with the details of the various proposals, but Commonwealth authorities are interested, and the Commonwealth contributes a proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax towards a fund for the promotion of road safety. I shall have a report prepared on the subject and made available as soon as possible.
– Would it be possible, by arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, to have compulsory stop signs erected at the approaches to level crossings in settled areas? This has already been done in parts of South Australia.
– I appreciate the importance of this subject. The committee of which I spoke has been considering this matter for some time, and it has also been engaging the attention of State Ministers. I agree that a uniform practice is desirable. In the report which is to be “prepared I shall have set out the progress that has been made by those who have been considering this problem.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services seen a report of the suicide of a man and his wife in a Sydney suburb ? They came to Australia from Europe thirteen years ago and, for some reason, were not able to become naturalized. The man suffered from tuberculosis, and some years ago applied to the .Department of Social Services for a pension. He was refused, and subsequent applications were also refused. According to the report, the department eventually informed him that he would be paid a pension, starting from February of next year; but the man lost hope, and took his own life, and his wife also committed suicide. Will the Minister make available the papers dealing with the case so that honorable senators may be able to determine whether this unfortunate occurrence was due to faulty administration ?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the responsible Minister, because I regard the matter as important. However, my own experience is that the Department of Social .Services is very efficient.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Since the introduction of the national service training scheme in 1951, the Minister has visited al] Commands and till national service training camps throughout the Commonwealth and has no hesitation in stating that the training -which is carried out in these national service camps could not possibly be done .in the time that has been suggested in the article in question. The Minister is satisfied that the morale of the national serviceman and his attitude to his training is good and that the article in question in no way reflects the true .position or the view of national servicemen as a whole. The aim of the fourteen weeks’ full-time training is -
to produce soldiers basically trained if or each arm and service;
to develop the morale and physical well-being of the young men in order that they will be better citizens and soldiers; (d) to inculcate and develop leadership qualities.
The syllabus for national service training has been carefully worked out by experienced Army officers with, a knowledge of the essential Army training requirements based on their experiences under active service conditions. Two intakes of national service trainees have now been completed and the third’ is under way and the standard of proficiency which has been achieved in the first two intakes confirms that, the basis of training is satisfactory. The syllabus of training is constantly under examination and with the experience that is being gained improvements are being effected, but after a review of all the factors associated with training carried out to date it is clear that the Australian national service scheme has been an unqualified success.
Was the balance of £149,797,140 standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund at the 30th June, 1951, or any portion of it, invested ?
If so, how was it invested?
At what rate or rates of interest were «ny such investment^ made?
What is the nature of securities held by the fund in respect of any such investments?
Has any portion of the moneys paid into the National Welfare Fund during 1951-52 been invested, and if so, to what extent, in what way and at what rate or rates of interest?
Does the Government favour the investment of the whole or any: portion of the estimated balance of £.197,639,146 at the 30th June, 1952, in Commonwealth loans during 1952-53 to provide funds for developmental State works?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2, 3 and 4. Of the balance of £149,797,140 standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund at the 30th June, 1951, £149,700,000 is invested in internal Commonwealth treasurybills, bearing interest at los. per cent.
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer : -
Under this service, which was introduced on the 21st February, 1951, medical attention of a general practitioner nature is available to all persons in receipt of an age, invalid, widow’s or service pension or a tuberculosis allowance, and the dependent wives and. children of those persons. The majority of general practitioners throughout the Commonwealth’ have enrolled in the service and the pensioner or his dependant has freedom of choice as to which of these doctors he will consult. Treatment within the scope of the service is rendered, without charge to the patient during the ordinary hours of the doctors’s practice, but the doctor may charge the patient a small fee foi- treatment outside those hours. He may also charge a proportion of the mileage fee where the patient is attended outside a 3-mile radius of his surgery. The medical attention available is similar to that formerly provided under friendly society contract practice arrangements and includes such other services of a minor or special character as are usually rendered by a general medical practitioner in his surgery or in the patient’s house. Eligible pensioners are supplied, with an entitlement card. This card is the authority for the doctor to provide the free medical attention and it must be presented to the doctor when treatment is required under the service. Participating doctors are supplied with books of. vouchers and on each occasion a service is rendered the pensioner-patient certifies to that effect. The doctors are remunerated by the Commonwealth on a concessional fee-for-service basis for surgery and home visits and for four-fifths of the mileage fee. The vouchers, signed by the pensioners, are submitted by the doctors to the Department of Health in monthly batches for payment in respect of the services rendered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health the following question, upon notice: -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
oil from: shale.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Was the Australian delegate one of the four who did not support this motion?
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers: -
Urges, further, that corporal punishment (by whip, cane or other means) should be completely abolished as a disciplinary punishment in all prisons of the Trust Territories where it still exists;
Recommends that Administering Authorities should enforce immediately the newlegislation with a view to replacing corporal punishment in all cases by methods of modern penology;
– I present the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Ordered to be printed.
Discharge ov Motions.
.- I move-
That the following Orders of the Day, Government Business, be discharged: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 20th February, 1952 - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper.
Defence Programme - Ministerial Statement - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper.
I take this opportunity to inform the Senate that a statement on international affairs will be presented to-morrow.. Any honorable senator who wishes to speak thereto will have the opportunity to do so. However, we have a fairly formidable programme to complete this week, and I sincerely trust that longdistance speakers will assist the Government to obviate the necessity for allnight sittings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2Sth May [vide page 916), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is the second measure that we have to consider in relation to Supply. Unlike the measure that we dealt with when the Senate, last sat, it is not concerned with the annual services of the Commonwealth. The expenditures for which Supply is now sought relate to capital projects and works in and about Australia and the total appropriations which, as the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) indicated m his second-reading speech, amount to £36.504,000. are required for the purpose of carrying on’ Commonwealth works that are likely to be in progress at the 30th June next. The Opposition readily concedes that these works must continue, that wages must be paid to those employed upon them and that commitments that have been reasonably undertaken in respect of them must be honoured. No new works are contemplated in this measure.
If I remember aright the speech that was made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he introduced the budget for this year, the right honorable gentleman intimated that approximately P.106,000,000 would be expended upon capital works during the financial year, and that, with the exception of £4,000,000 that he proposed to raise by loan, the amount would be made available from Commonwealth revenue. It is appropriate for the Senate to devote some time to a consideration of the fact that capital works of the kind that are outlined in the schedule to this bill are to be paid for by* the people of Australia in taxes raised from them in one year. If honorable senators will glance at the moneys to be provided under the various heads in this bill they will find that provision has been made for £17,000 for buildings, works, fittings and furniture in connexion with Parliament House, and for £328,000 for permanent buildings for the Australian
National University. The bill also covers buildings for various departments, the construction of post offices and telephone buildings, and an extraordinarily large provision for the building of ships. Expenditure under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act is estimated for the four months’ period to amount to £4,500,000. It is not a novel procedure to finance capital works out of revenue; but normally such an expedient is resorted to only in time of crisis. That procedure was adopted by Labour governments during the war and in the immediate post-war period, but throughout those periods the governments of the day successfully raised loans, and the proceeds of revenue and loans were bracketed together and were used jointly for the payment of commitments for the annual services of the . Commonwealth and for capital expenditure. However, I think that I am safe in saying that the amount of revenue expended by Labour governments on capital projects was not of the magnitude of the amount intended to be used for that purpose in this measure.
In justification for the use of revenue for the financing of capital projects of this kind that are to endure for decades - some of them probably for centuries - the Government claims that such use of revenue is an anti-inflationary measure. I point out, however, that at a time when high taxation is regarded by many people in the production field, particularly in the field of agriculture, as one of the factors that are retarding production, it behoves the Government to give as much relief from taxation as it can and to grant such relief as soon as it possibly can do so.
– How otherwise would the Leader of the Opposition finance these works projects?
– I simply say to the honorable senator that the first alternative would be to use loan moneys, which would be readily available to the Government if it had not, by adopting various policies, destroyed the confidence of potential lenders.
– How much would have been required by way of loan moneys last year on that basis?
– I am not in the position to answer the honorable senator’s question off-hand.
– It would have been necessary to double the amount of loans previously raised in the Commonwealth.
– The people and the financial institutions of Australia are undeniably in possession of credits which they could make available to the Government, but they are not willing to make them available to it because of the policies that the Government has pursued. I admit at once that the use of central bank credit at present would be decidedly inflationary.
– Some of the honorable senator’s followers have advocated its use.
– I do not think that the Attorney-General is entitled to make such a statement. I doubt whether there lias been a vote upon that matter. I certainly have not hitherto expressed an opinion upon it.
– I did not say that the Leader of the Opposition has done so.
– I note with great interest that, despite the horror with which the Government professes to view the use of central bank credit for the financing of works projects, it has had no hesitation in using central bank credit throughout the year, for treasury-bill finance rose from £108,000,000 at the 30th June, 1951, to £243,000,000 at the end of April.
– Some of the treasurybills will be redeemed from the proceeds of taxation.
– If Senator Maher will permit me to develop my theme, I shall myself inform him of that fact. The greatest increase in treasurybills took place between the 30th June and the 31st March when treasury-bill finance increased from £108,000,000, to £25S,000,000. The Government has had no hesitation in resorting to treasury-bill finance. I appreciate the point raised by Senator Maher. The use of revenue to retire treasury-bills is a relatively normal procedure because the great bulk of the Government’s revenues, particularly those derived from income tax, come in during the last month or two of the financial year. I fear that the Government will have great difficulty in collecting its anticipated revenue from income tax by the 30th June next. Many companies, if not most companies, are having difficulty in finding the amounts required of them for taxation by the 30th June. Many firms and undertakings are in a similar position. I merely make the point that if, by the 30th of this month, the Government fails, to a substantial degree, to realize its expectations of revenue, the difference necessarily will be financed by means of treasurybills. It is contemplated that approximately £106,000,000 will be expended on capital projects of a permanent nature. If my estimate is correct and if my fears are realized, so that collections of revenue are not as great as the Treasurer expected they would be, in effect the Government, in this very year, will be obliged to finance capital projects by the use of central bank credit.
The Treasurer has already indicated that the estimated surplus of £114,500,000 is not likely to be realized. Honorable senators opposite, who look with complete horror on the use of central bank credit, should be reminded of the use that has been made of it by the Treasurer this year. If the right honorable gentleman had not included in his estimates of expenditure for this year approximately £106,000,000 for capital expenditure, probably it would not have been necessary for him to raise treasury-bill finance. He could have done without it. In effect, therefore, the difficulty that he is experiencing in raising revenue by the 30th of this month will be overcome by treasurybill finance.
– Does the honorable senator say that that position arises merely because the Treasurer budgeted for ia surplus?
– Not necessarily, but the Treasurer has already indicated that the surplus has almost gone. He has stated very clearly that, by reason of underwriting the loan programmes of the States, it is not to be expected that the surplus will be anything like the amount that was originally estimated. I am not suggesting that this difficulty arises because the Treasurer budgeted for a surplus. In my opinion, it is a difficulty that would arise in any event. Nor do I suggest that treasury-bill finance of this nature was not used by the Labour Government which preceded the present Government. It had to he used, and it was used. It is normal practice to do so. However, at a time such as the present, when there is inflation of costs and deflation developing in employment and activity in some essential industries, it is difficult for any government to set its face determinedly and blindly against the use of central bank credit for the financing of developmental and productive projects.
– That is the catch! How many projects are productive?
– The estimated expenditure for this financial year includes £25,000,000 for war service homes. A moiety of that amount is provided for in the bill now before the chamber in the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services, under the heading “ Expenditure under War Service Homes Act 1918-1951” for the four months from July to October. The moment war service homes are built they become reproductive. Ex-servicemen go into possession under contracts which provide that they are liable to commence repayments which extend over a period of approximately 40 years. The taxpayers of this country are entitled to be critical of a government which takes £25,000,000 from their incomes this year and expends it on capital projects that immediately return money to the Government. Under normal conditions - and I underline the words “ normal conditions “ - capital works, particularly those that are reproductive, should be financed by loan moneys and, where proper and necessary, by central bank credit. The burden of such finance should be spread over the population in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Agreement, which refers to a period of 58 years. Many projects may not produce revenue for a number of years. For instance, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme will not be in production immediately, although ultimately it will be. Many projects, such as post offices, will be built by the taxpayers from their incomes of this year. Such post offices will serve the people of Australia for 100 and maybe for 200 years. One can understand criticism by taxpayers to the effect that they are really being asked to provide from their incomes of this year for generations of Australians. It is a position that should receive grave attention from the Government.
I tend to become impatient with those who blindly dismiss the suggestion that central bank credit might be used to finance capital works. Even in the situation that exists to-day, a proper case for the use of such credit might arise. If unemployment developed in this country and it became necessary to push ahead with public works in order to pick up the lag in employment, I consider that it would be the moral duty of the Government to employ central bank credit.
– And in fact it would do so.
– I hope that it, would, if the need arose. After all, human values are the most important consideration in a community. We do not wish to see a repitition of the depression years, when governments could not get access to finance. Because of the inaccessibility of finance, not only did the economy suffer, but human beings also suffered. Even at the present time, our economy is paying the penalty for the short-sightedness of those in authority at that time. The children who should have been born during the depression years are simply not here. There is a great and most important gap in our vital statistics. That is looking at the matter more or less from the business viewpoint, but in terms of human suffering and distress, the possibility of unemployment on a large scale is too awful to contemplate. I am delighted to hear Senator Cormack interject that, in the circumstances which I have outlined, central bank credit would be used. I houe that the honorable senator’s colleagues support that view.
I have been led into something of a dissertation on this subject, I believe by interjection, but it is as well to clear the air. It seems to me that events that have already transpired may well concentrate thought upon the use of central bank credit where proper. As soon as possible, the Government might address itself to the heavy burden that has been placed on taxpayers this year by asking them to provide £106,000,000, and possibly more, for expenditure on projects of a permanent nature which will endure for generations ahead. I consider that that is tough treatment. I warn the Government that it is the type of grievance which the taxpayers of Australia will raise acutely before very long. It may well be that more than one Government supporter will ask that central bank credit should be employed for the purposes to which I have referred. During the war, when the need to preserve Australia was so great, central bank credit was used. It is not a mere clichie to say that if money can be found for the purpose of preserving Australia it can be found, first, to house the people. Secondly, and perhaps of even greater importance, there is a need for developmental works such as hydro-electric schemes, and for the opening up of new country. If the Government is waiting to find a solution that is all good, and of which everybody will approve because of its reasonableness and the clear pointer that it will give in the right direction, we shall wait forever. In my limited experience of three and a half years as a Minister, I found that the solution of every problem offered several alternative courses, each of which involved, perhaps, 48 per cent, disability and 52 per cent, advantage. That is what leads to so much confusion in the public mind. It is natural for any Opposition to seize upon the 48 per cent, disability, and for any government to seize upon the 52 per cent, advantage involved in whatever course it decides to take. The result is that the general public is almost invariably in a state of confusion about where the balance of good lies. Frequently it is very hard to determine where it does lie; and I merely make that comment to drive home the point that if the Government is to wait for a solution that it believes to be all good, it will never do anything, because such a solution will not be found.
That is why I urge upon the Govern- - ment not to dismiss out of hand the use of central bank credit merely because it will be inflationary - I concede that it will be inflationary under existing conditions - but to take a relaxed view of the whole matter. Our economy to-day is so fluid, is changing so rapidly for the worse, and is so contradictory when examined, that the Government has to watch trends most carefully, and has to be quick to rectify evil trends and foster desirable ones. The Opposition does not object to the bill. We recognize that money must be made available to carry on works that will be in progress at the 30th June.
– There are two services to which I wish to direct attention because, in my opinion,, they are of vital importance, particularly in- Victoria and New South. Wales at the moment. One of those is- education. School accommodation and facilities are inadequate, and, because of loan cuts, provision cannot be made for future needs. The Victorian Teachers’ Journal reported in February that, last year, 1,800 children had been refused admission to primary schools, and 1,600 had been refused admission to secondary schools in Victoria. Am official quarterly report issued by the Victorian Department of Education and dated the 31st March, stated that 1,200 children had been refused admission to primary schools at the beginning of this year, and that it was expected that another 3,000 children would seek admission on the 1st July. It is certain that there will not.be room for very many of those children. Existing school buildings are overcrowded so seriously as to interfere with the standard of teaching and also to constitute a danger to health. Makeshift buildings including halls, shelter sheds and churches, few of which meet the standard of hygiene demanded by the law, are in general use but they have by no means solved the problem of overcrowding. The severe over-crowding and1the use of badly ventilated buildings are certain to increase the rate of sickness amongst school-children, and unquestionably are likely to increase- the possibility of epidemics of infectious diseases. The medical superintendent of the Fairfield
Infectious Diseases Hospital, Dr. McLorinan, has stated, according to a report published in the Melbourne Argus on the 29th May, that there is danger of an epidemic of poliomyelitis this year. The Victorian Teachers Union and parents organizations estimate that the school population will increase by more than 15,000 each year. That increase will, of course, result from the natural increase of the population, and from the immigration scheme. It is quite clear that a huge building programme is required to meet present requirements and to provide for future demand. The Government’s loan cuts will delay this urgent building work. The Director of Education in Victoria, Mr. A. M. Ramsay, has said that only £2,750,000 will be made available for new buildings in the next financial year. He has also stated that originally, plans were made to expend £13,000,000 to meet the most urgent needs, and that more than that sum. would be necessary for an adequate building programme. The Minister for Education in New South “Wales, Mr. Heffron, said on the 19th March -
As Minister charged with providing and ensuring the proper education of children in Siew South Wales, I declare that the position we face is a calamity. It is a tragedy that will surely blight, may even ruin countless: young lives and destroy the hopes and. ambitions of countless parents.
That was the considered statement of the New South Wales Minister for Education based upon the advice of his departmental officers. It is clear, therefore,, that in New South Wales, Victoria, and probably in the other States, there is a shortage of funds for school buildings and that the Commonwealth Government’s loan cuts are seriously interfering with education throughout Australia.
– The Commonwealth Government is not responsible for the loan cuts. The, loan money required ip not there.
– I do not want to discuss at this stage the relative merits of bank credit and loan funds, but I believe that anything that is physically possible is also financially possible, particularly in a country such as Australia. The Opposition differs from the Government on the question of what is finan cially possible. Money is simply a medium of exchange. When a government’s finances are inadequate it is not using the machinery at its disposal to the best advantage. Money, En itself, is not wealth. It is a convenient medium of exchange which can be used to greater advantage in times such as the present than in time of war.
The Government must he prepared to break new ground. It must cease to be the slave of orthodox methods. Because the Government has been told by economists that a certain course cannot be taken it does not1 follow that the adoption of such a course is impossible1. Trained, men and women are a country’s most valuable asset. Resources such as land, minerals and timber are valueless without .trained men and women to make the best use of them. It is important that a country’s educational system should not be starved. In framing legislation the Government should have more regard to human values -than to property rights, otherwise it will be able to .achieve little. That was found to be so during the warLack of adequate education results in increased, expenditure on gaols and lunatic asylums. In this morning’s Argus the following report appeared: -
40,000 CHILDREN IN STATE SUBNORMAL.
The Commonwealth, would have to find £120,000,000 if Victoria’s 40,000 subnormal, children were to get hospital beds, Dr.. Cunningham Dax said last night. Dr. Dax.. Mental Hygiene Authority Director-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reid) -Order ! The honorable senator has covered a wide field of discussion. The affairs of the Victorian health authorities are not the subject of this debate.
– This is a bill to provide money for services–
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - It is not a bill to, provide money for State services.
– I say that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide money for the care of the 40^000’ subnormal children in. Victoria.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I rule that the honorable senator cannot continue in that strain.
– Then I shall refer to hospitals. This bill provides for the Department of Health-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT The bill refers to a Commonwealth department, not to the Victorian Department of Health. I will not have my ruling on this matter ignored.
– I submit, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Senate is dealing with the finances of the Australian Government. If finance is not obtained for the purposes mentioned in the bill, the States will suffer. In those circumstances I respectfully suggest that I should be allowed to direct attention to the state of affairs which exists-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator cannot continue along the lines that he has followed. I have given that ruling and I maintain it.
– Then I invite attention to what has been said by the Minister for Health concerning hospitals. On page 1996 of Mansard of the 14th November, 1951, the Minister for Health is reported to have made the following statement : -
At present most of our hospital insurance organizations compel patients, for actuarial reasons, to wait a certain time after joining before they can get benefits. Sometimes the wait is as long as two or three months, and when patients have chronic appendices and hernias the waiting time may be six months.
On page 709 of Hansard of the 4th March, the Minister for Health is reported to have made a statement to the effect that as reported on page 1938 of Hansard of the 14th November, 1951, the Government had the position in hand. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said, in reply to a question, by Senator Critchley -
It is true that I gave the honorable senator an assurance that I would deal with the matter later. The greatest factor responsible for delaying the construction of hospitals, not only for my department, but also for other authorities, is the demand on labour and materials for other services, chiefly the defence services. I regret that my department is not able to proceed with the construction of hospitals for the treatment of sufferers from war neurosis as quickly as it expected to be able to do when this matter was raised earlier. I can see no chance of a high priority being extended to the constructions of these very essential institutions until the lag in the construction of higher priority defence works has been overtaken.
According to the Minister for Health the position is well in hand. That is not so with regard to repatriation hospitals and hospitals generally in the various States. The Government has agreed to contribute £500,000 towards the cost of the Olympic Games in Australia, but for schools and hospitals insufficient money is forthcoming. Unless facilities are provided for educating our children, and especially for educating the 40,000 subnormal children to whom I have referred, there will be a great increase of destitution in the future. The present unsatisfactory state of affairs will continue until governments acquire a better knowledge of the social sciences. At present, governments prepare the way for crime, and then punish the criminals. Some years ago, when I visited Pentridge Gaol in company with Professor Osborne, I saw there young fellows who had never had a chance in life, but they were being punished by the State. Governments should ask themselves to what extent they are responsible for the crimes committed by the inmates of gaols. Public men ask people to bring children into the world, and then those children are neglected by governments. The people are taxed to pay for the upkeep of gaols and lunatic asylums that are filled mostly by men and women who have never had a real chance in life.
If we are to have a better state of affairs in Australia we must pay more attention to education, and to the provision of hospital facilities. It is possible to make adequate provision for hospitals and schools if a more intelligent approach is made to the problem of finance, and provided we do not accept the ex cathedra pronouncements of economists and experts, particularly those who are attached to the private banks. If we do not do the right thing for our citizens we must pay the penalty. We cannot escape the consequences of our acts. If we are guilty of errors of omission or commission we must pay the price, and in the end the price will be higher than if we faced the cost involved in dealing more promptly with social problems . intelligently, fairly and successfully.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that bank credit should be used to finance productive public works of the kind for which posterity may reasonably be required to pay. If governments cannot finance capital works out of revenue, it is right that they should use bank credit, or should issue treasury-bills.
The Snowy Mountains scheme is a national project, and sufficient money should be made available this year to enable the work to be pushed ahead. It is proposed to expend £4,500,000 during a period of about four months on the undertaking, which works out at about £13,000,000 for the full financial year. I have been informed that, in order to enable the work to be carried on without curtailment, at least £16,000,000 is needed. Thus, the Government proposes to curtail expenditure by about £3,000,000 this year. I agree with Senator O’Byrne, who suggested that a sinking fund should be established for the financing of important public works. The greater part of the amount of £13,000,000 which is to be expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme this year will go to meet existing commitments, so that the proposed reduction of expenditure will delay new developmental work. The Snowy Mountains scheme may well be regarded as a defence undertaking, and if the Government is not willing to finance the work by the issue of treasury-bills there is ample justification for financing it out of the defence vote. There is even provision in the plan for safeguarding the undertaking from atomic attack, so that its bearing upon defence has already been recognized. The Government should not hesitate to use a few million pounds from the defence vote, on the Snowy Mountains scheme.
If the Government wishes the scheme to proceed with maximum speed it should enable the men to work overtime again. The practice was discontinued some time ago, perhaps with the idea of saving money. It is necessary to have good men on this job, and to get such men the proper amenities should be provided. That is being done, but it should also be made possible for the men to earn extra money by working overtime, especially during week-ends when there is nothing else for them to do. When men take on a job on the Snowy Mountains scheme, with its discomforts and isolation, they do so with the idea of earning as much money as possible. If they are denied the opportunity to work overtime, they will not stay on the job. They will go back to the city where they can find easier work under better conditions. Last year, £10,400,000 was expended on the scheme, and the rate of expenditure will increase as time goes on. Up to the present, much immigrant labour has been employed, but the economic trend is such at the moment that the rate of immigration should be reduced in the interests of our own people. lt may well be that before long there will be plenty of men offering for work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, and on similar undertakings, without bringing men from overseas. I repeat that the Snowy Mountains scheme is an important defence undertaking, and a government which failed to find sufficient money to enable the work to be carried on vigorously would fail in its duty, and betray the trust placed in it by the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 918), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The main purpose of the measure before the chamber is to revise the Estimates of expenditure for 1951-52. It seeks parliamentary approval for an additional expenditure of £11,377,000. The Minister in his second-reading speech gave details showing how the net figure was arrived at. It is not my purpose to traverse those reasons, because the whole matter will be under review during the next sessional period of the Parliament, after the budget has been introduced. The Opposition does not oppose the passage of the measure.
– The bill makes provision for an additional appropriation of £2,538,000 for Division No. 191, Department of Immigration. I consider that Australia’s immigration policy should be revised. One of the reasons for the acute economic crisis that has developed in Australia since the war is that more immigrants have been brought to this country than we can absorb. As a result, there is now a very sharp tendency towards unemployment in many of our industries. A feeling of deep resentment against many now Australians who have been retained in employment is prevalent amongst Australians who have lost their jobs. Quite a number of the people who have been thrown out of employment performed very good service to Australia either in the armed services or in essential, industries during the war, while many of the new Australians who are still in employment fought against us. The immigration policy was introduced by the former Labour Government, and I commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) for continuing the scheme. I have been told that the Government intends to restrict certain categories of immigrants, other than German immigrants. As I have mentioned in this chamber on previous occasions, many German immigrants who have come to this country were previously members of the armed forces of Germany, and some were active members of the German National Socialist party. It appears that intending German immigrants are permitted to come to Australia provided that they profess their innocence of complicity in the atrocities that were committed by Germans during the war. The Minister should assure the Senate that only the most worthy people will be brought to this country.
As a result of participation in two world wars, and alterations in relation to the administration of India and
South Africa, the economy of Great Britain has been changed considerably. Many British investments in those two countries were liquidated during the war. The population of Great Britain now numbers between 45,000,000 and 50,000,000 people, and I am convinced that it would be desirable for many of them to migrate to Australia. We could with advantage encourage the mass migration of British people to this land. Due to the .recent drastic import restrictions mass unemployment now threatens in parts of England. In these circumstances, I am quite certain that the majority of people in this country would prefer additional British immigrants, rather than Europeans, many of whom were our enemies during the war.
We continue to devote large proportions of our national income and resources to defence. We should consider what really constitutes defence, and review priorities. Much has been said in this chamber during the last few weeks about food production in this country, and expert advice has been given to the Government to the effect that unless primary production is considerably increased, by 1960 we shall have to import foodstuffs. We must pursue a more vigorous policy of food production, in order to be able to supply our armed forces, and those of our allies, wherever stationed, with sufficient food. It has been claimed by honorable senators opposite that the defence projects that are now being undertaken will be valuable in the event of our being again attacked. I consider that the world strategy to-day is such that it is most unlikely that there will be a return to the conditions that prevailed at the time that Australia was attacked during the last war, for the first time in its history. In view of our relatively small population I consider that we are expending too much money on war equipment and defence installations that will probably not be required for the defence of our shores. We should place more emphasis on the production of food.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 2Sth May (vide page 918), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In this bill the Government seeks to appropriate an amount of £16,560,000, additional to those appropriations that were provided in the Estimates for new works and capital expenditure during the current year. The details of expenditure are set out in the measure. When we were considering an earlier bill I made 3U(?h comments as I wished to make on the subject of capital works expenditure, and therefore I propose to do no more than indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the passage of. this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
– I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to give to the Senate information relating to Division 27, “ Jute and jute products - Imports “, for which an appropriation of £4,200,000 is sought. That seems to be extraordinary expenditure to be incurred in a period of four months.
.. - Expenditure on the item is not limited to a period of four months. The appropriation covers the expenditure for the whole yeal-. The Jute Controller, who acts under thi authority of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), buys mi Government account Australia’s annual requirements of woolpacks, chaff bn ,rs and raw jute. No provision was made in the original Estimates for the purpose of financing such purchases as it was expected that sales would be arranged in such a way that receipts from sales would cover expenditure on purchases. Because deliveries of jute were greatly accelerated and a lag occurred in sales, stocks of jute products have accumulated to such an extent that an appropriation of £4,200,000 is now required to finance purchases. It is proposed that the moneys involved in this appropriation will be recovered in succeeding financial years.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bil] read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 918), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator MeKENNA (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition) [5.7]..– Although this hill provides for an appropriation of £34,000,000 it is mainly a machinery measure. Annually, an amount is taken out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and credited to the trust fund from which war pensions are paid in accordance with the rates approved by the Parliament. Thus, a measure of this kind is a hardy annual. I note that in has second-reading speech the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) in directing attention to the fact that expenditure on war pensions is increasing year by year, stated that it increased from £22,023,000 in 1949-50 to £27,532,000 in 1950-51, that the estimated expenditure for 1951-52 is £33,234,000, and that the expenditure for the following year is estimated to be £34,000,000.
The Opposition realizes that this bill must be passed so that war pensions may be paid. It wholly approves of the principle that underlies the payment of war pensions to those who have given service to their country and have suffered in the process.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 919), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– This bill, which relates to the year ended the 30th June, 1951, confirms an expenditure of £9,596,829, out of a general appropriation of £15,000,000 which was placed at the disposal of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to meet unforeseen contingencies. There were obviously many unforeseen contingencies because the detailed statement of them covers 84 printed pages. We can well imagine that the Government does not possess X-ray eyes and cannot project its mind into the detailed requirements of the future. There is nothing unusual about a measure of this kind. It, too, is a hardy annual and merely regularizes expenditure of £9,596,S29 out of a £15-,000,000 authority conferred by the Parliament. The Opposition has no objection to the passage of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 919), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That bill be now read a second time.
– This measure also relates to the financial year 1950-51, but unlike the other measures which we have considered to-day, it deals with expenditure on capital works and services and with additions of various kinds to capital projects. Overall expenditure under this heading was over-estimated by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) by’ £7,529,000, but on certain projects there was an excess expenditure of £2,853,295. The purpose of the bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for expenditure on those items in respect of which the original authority of the Parliament was exceeded. The Opposition has no objection to the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 1009), on motion by Senator McLEAY -
That bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this short bill was clearly outlined by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in his second-reading speech. It seeks to refund to wheat-growers the tax collected on exports from the 1949-50 wheat crop delivered to No. 13 wheat pool, together with accrued interest. No doubt honorable senators are aware of the system of wheat pools. The main feature of the wheat stabilization plan is that financial contribution is made by the wheat industry towards its own future security. That contribution is made by wheat-growers while export prices exceed production costs. The Commonwealth, for its part, has undertaken that, for the duration of the plan, wheat-growers shall receive a guaranteed price equal to the cost of production determined for each season. The 1949-50 crop was a large one, and the tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel provided a large sum of money. It has, therefore, been decided to disburse £15,245,000 to wheat-growers. In my opinion it is proper that such money should be made available to wheat-growers in order to improve their financial position and increase wheat production. The Opposition has no adverse comment to make iii relation to the measure. There is, perhaps, room for discussion of our wheat position generally, but the Opposition does not oppose the passage of this bill.
– I also support the bill because 1 consider that its purpose is a proper one. Because of the present price of wheat and the guarantee which has been given to wheat-growers by the Government the wheat stabilization fund at the present time contains a great deal of money. I am of the opinion that more frequent distribution of money from the fund should be made. Under the International Wheat Agreement, the price paid for wheat which is exported is considerably higher than the cost of production. That being so, this Government is relieved of responsibility as far as the fund is concerned. It seems to me that growers would have an incentive to produce more wheat if they knew that more frequent payments from the fund would be made.
– in reply - I shall bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), the matter to which Senator Reid has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 1023), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill does not seek to amend materially -the principal act which was passed in 1946. However, it provides a convenient opportunity for the Senate to discuss this important matter. The main purpose of the measure is set out in proposed new section 13a, which provides that the Minister may authorize persons to enter property, take possession of land, and carry on mining operations upon it, erect and install buildings, and exclude other people from the premises in which operations are to be carried on.
It seems to me that there are three aspects ‘of the development of atomic energy and uranium resources in Australia.’ They are the defence, international and industrial aspects. As far as the defence aspect is concerned, the importance of the discovery of large quantities of uranium in Australia is obvious. It is paramount that Australia should obtain the greatest advantage from such a discovery. Internationally, the discovery of uranium in Australia places us in a strong position. It gives us a mineral production which is most valuable. It is impossible to estimate the real strength and wealth of the discovery at Rum Jungle, but a knowledge of the geological composition of Australia makes us confident that even more important finds of uranium may take place. We could be, and let us hope that we shall be, one of the greatest uranium-producing nations of the world.
In my opinion, the industrial aspect of the discovery may well be the most important. The development of uranium for war purposes may be nullified because of a knowledge of the horrors attendant upon its use. It is fearful to contemplate the possible uses of atomic energy in warfare. Honorable senators will remember what .happened when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those bombings demonstrated that not only the lives of individuals but also the great cities and seats of culture which have taken a thousand years to build, could be swept aside in a few minutes bv the use of atomic weapons. The very fear of such happenings might well cancel the threat of atomic warfare between the powers.
Australia, more than any other country in the world, needs something like the development of uranium and atomic power. This is a country with much waste land. With the aid of the superabundant power which atomic energy could develop, Australia might well become safe from attack for all time to come. Most Australians appreciate thatour vulnerability lies in our small population. Our strength depends upon the friendships we are able to make with countries in a similar position. No one knows what stage our development will have reached in 50 or 100 years’ time, hut it is conceivable that the day will come when this country will have to stand on its own feet. Should that become necessary, a substantial increase of population will be needed. It seems that with the resources’ at present at our disposal, between 25,000,000 and 30-000,000 people are as many as the country can support. With the production of power in the quantities and manner that atomicenergy could provide, there is no limit tothe number of people that the countrycould support.
I sincerely congratulate the South Australian Government on the efforts that it has made to develop the sources of atomic energy.. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, with great help from the late Mr. Chifley, was almost a lone wolf in the development of atomic resources during a time when the necessity for such development was not as widely appreciated as it might have been.
In 1949, when I was Minister for Supply and in charge of the Mineral Resources Bureau, I visited every known site of uranium discovery in Australia. I saw Radium Hill, which was then in its early stages of exploitation. Only a handful of men were employed there,, but even at that time those few employees were confident that the prospects of finding large quantities of uranium were most promising. Radium Hill has been developed, to such a degree that it now bears no resemblance to the project which T saw in 1949. I understand that many workers are engaged there at the present lime. Although the number involved may not be a state secret, I do not propose to refer to it. It is well known, however, that plans have been prepared for the transmission of power from Port Augusta to Radium Hill in order to develop the latter as an important atomic energy centre. I also visited Mount Painter and the Harts Ranges, where mica miners had made a very small strike of uranium. While I was there the first news came through of the discovery at Rum Jungle. The Commonwealth employees who at that time were investigating the possibilities of the Harts Ranges, were instantly diverted to Rum Jungle. My only criticism of this bill,, and of .the Government in relation to it, is that almost three years have elapsed since that time and that very little has been done in the development of Rum Jungle. It was, obvious at the beginning that: the strength and wealth, of the strike of uranium in. that area was of such, value that it should have been given, the highest priority by the Government. One lesson that we should have learned from our experience of the last few yearsis that,, in matters such as this, time isof the essence of the contract. Rising costs make a. rapid completion of plans imperative. Money has become a pressing problem, and we should not like to see this project share the fate of the aluminium undertaking which has had to return to the Parliament for more finance, largely because it has not been driven ahead with the necessary speed. Unfortunately, it appears that. a. similar mistake is being made at Rum Jungle. This project should be given the highestpriority. There is. no saying just what the value of our uranium resources will be to- this . country. It is suggested that uranium is in short supply, but is that so? That is- one aspect of this matter that should be examined thoroughly. There are numerous deposits of uranium, throughout the world, and if we are to use ours to the best advantage, they must be developed with all possible speed. There should not be any delay such as that associated with the establishment of the whaling industry. We moved so slowly with that industry that we missed our opportunity. It is true that whaling operations actually commenced while boom prices still prevailed, but within twelve months, the price of whale oil dropped to less than £100 a ton. That might well happen with uranium. The old law of supply and demand still applies. If we. are to battle along with our uranium deposits for five years or ten years we may well be too late. I do not know of any matter that is more urgent. Shortly we shall be paid a visit by an atomic scientist who, from the information that is at our disposal, must be regarded as one of the foremost in the world. I refer to the British scientist, Dr. Penney, who is coming to Australia to superintend the British atomic bomb project. Dr. Penney should be asked to advise the Australian Government on the development of our uranium deposits and perhaps, in conjunction with Professor Oliphant, to lay down a programme for that work. It is fortunate indeed for us that Dr. Penney is coming to this country,. His stature in the world of atomic energy can he gauged from the fact that in .spite of the somewhat “ sticky “ relations between the United States of America and the United Kingdom on atomic research he was an observer in the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and again in the aircraft that dropped the atomic -bombs in the Bikini experiments. I understand that much of Dr. Penney’s atomic research work has been on the industrial side, and in that respect he should prove a valuable consultant. I am afraid that the Rum Jungle uranium deposits are not being developed a3 speedily as they should be having regard to the world situation.
There is another matter that I should like the Minister to clarify in his reply. The picture ,at present is most confused., and I think that the Parliament is entitled to a clear statement. I should like to know exactly what is the relationship between the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia in the development of the Rum Jungle deposits. I do not think that security precautions would preclude such a statement from being made. Certain confusing reports have been published on this matter. For instance, the following newspaper report was published recently : -
Rum Jungle uranium may receive preliminary treatment on the spot, if Kennecott Copper Corporation, TJ.S., is satisfied that treatment of the low-grade copper deposits in the area is feasible.
Mr. R. Bracken has recently visited the area for Kennecott.
Kennecott has provided finance in recent years for South African goldmines and for oil drilling in the United States.
Apparently Mr. Bracken inspected the Rum Jungle area and then made that statement to the press which -cuts across what the Minister has said. I think that the Minister has an answer., but I believe that it should not be given to me personally, but should be given publicly as Mr. Bracken’s statement was made. On the 28th May, ‘Senator Critchley asked upon notice whether the Minister representing the Minister for Supply would inform the Senate what arrange ments had been made with the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the development of uranium deposits in Australia. The honorable senator received a reply which made me feel that the arrangements between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America were, to say the least of it, very vague.
– Most evasive.
-.- I think that “ vague “ is the word. A portion of the answer .to the honorable senator’s question was as follows: -
The uranium deposits in Australia are “to be developed by Australia, but in the negotiations which recently took place with representatives of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States of America for the purchase of uranium ore, promises’ were made on behalf of the United States authorities to assisi technically and financially, if desired in the development of the deposits.
According to that statement, the complete responsibility to develop the deposits rests upon Australia, but the American authorities will be pleased to supply assistance or advice if we seek it. The Minister continued -
Representatives of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States were acting also on behalf of the United Kingdom in this particular instance.
Bearing in mind the fact that, in the field of atomic energy, the United States of America and the United Kingdom have not always been like a friendly husband and wife, it is rather confusing to see how they are acting together in this matter. I should like to know whether the Minister is in a position to make a public statement to clear the air and to let us know exactly what part the Kennecott Copper Corporation is to play. Does that company propose to set up a plant to extract copper from the ore and also, incidentally, to handle the uranium on the site.? Just what did the Minister’s answer to Senator Critchley mean in relation to the arrangements between the United Kingdom and the United States of America regarding Australia’s uranium deposits? To me those questions are important because, as I have said, some of the statements that have been issued in the past have caused a certain amount of confusion. The Kennecott Copper
Corporation is one of the biggest copperproducing organizations in the world. Apparently Mr. Bracken, the representative of the corporation, was permitted to visit Rum Jungle and I should like to know what his standing was. I assume that some security precautions are being taken at Rum Jungle, yet Mr. Bracken was able to inspect the deposits and to make a newspaper statement of his company’s intentions. I am most eager to hear from the Government whether the United States of America and the United Kingdom are with us in the development of our uranium fields. I should like to know also how far plans are advanced for experiments on the industrial application of atomic energy. Again I urge the Government to invite Dr. Penney to Canberra so that he may be consulted by our experts in an endeavour to establish a plan for the future development of these most important resources.
– I support Senator Armstrong’s remarks, particularly his reference to the reply that was given to a question that I asked in this chamber. I realize that there are certain intricacies and delicacies involved in this matter in the international field, and it seems to me that complications could arise between the Australian Government and the Government of South Australia. Let me not be misunderstood; I think that every member of this chamber and certainly all members of the Opposition join in the tribute that Senator Armstrong has paid to the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, who has been untiring in his efforts to develop for his Government the mineral resources of that State. I recall that Mr. Playford played a conspicuous part in the moves to develop the Mount Painter uranium deposits, the first to be discovered in the Commonwealth. The Government of South Australia co-operated wholeheartedly with the Commonwealth Labour Government, but with the discovery of other deposits further south at Radium Hill, the Mount Painter field which is situated in mountainous country in the northern part of the State assumed lesser importance. I realize that the Commonwealth’s defence powers would be adequate to enable arrangements to be entered into with the United States of America and the United Kingdom for the development of Australia’s uranium deposits, but after all, South Australia is a sovereign State, and I am wondering whether certain difficulties might not occur in the event of conflicting State and Commonwealth legislation. Honorable senators would find great educational value in a visit to Radium Hill in South Australia if they are not prepared to go further afield into the Northern Territory. The settlement at Radium Hill has been transformed in recent months due mainly to the persistence of the Premier of South Australia, aided by his Director of Mines who is a most capable officer and the finance provided by the Commonwealth Government. If future South Australian governments are as energetic as the present Administration in this direction, a valuable contribution will be made by that State in the atomic energy field. Senator Armstrong described the reply given to my question upon notice as vague. I regarded it as rather evasive, and probably there was a reason for that. On the question of conflicting Commonwealth and State authority, I think I am right in saying that subject to the overriding defence powers of the Commonwealth, the authority of the State must prevail.
Sitting suspended from 5-45 to 8 p.m.
– With the usual co-operation which is always forthcoming from the Opposition to this Government, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill, (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The outstanding features of this hill are the clauses which relate to the assessment and collection of provisional income tax and those which are designed to encourage increased primary production in this country. Provisional tax, as honorable senators know, is payable on business and professional incomes and on unearned income such as rent, interest and dividends. In fact, all income derived by individuals, except salary or wages, is subject to provisional tax. This form of taxation first came into operation in 1944 on the introduction of the payasyouearn system which was evolved by an all-party parliamentary committee, of which I was a member. Prior to 1944, liability to pay income tax for a financial year was based on the income of the preceding year. This basis had the serious defect that it caused hardship in the case of deceased estates and in cases where there was a decline or cessation of income. The taxpayer or his beneficiary was faced with a tax liability on a year’s income when, in many cases, income had ceased and there were no financial resources to meet the commitment. Frequently the sum assessed was based on the income of a peak year of earning.
In order to overcome this defect, the all-party parliamentary committee was confronted with the problem of designing a plan that would ensure payment of the tax liability of the current year out of the income derived in that year. So far as salary and wage earners were concerned, a system of tax deductions was then in operation and it was not a difficult task to adjust the deductions on current earnings to meet the tax on those earnings. The real difficulty encountered by the committee was to find a satisfactory counterpart to the deductions at source from salary and wages for application to business and professional incomes and income from investments. The difficult fact, of course, was that, whereas the actual amount of income from salary or wages of the year was ascertainable week by week, or fortnight by fortnight, the profit from business was not so readily ascertainable until after the year of income had ceased. An attractive solution appeared to rest in a system of self-assessment but, under the condi tions then prevailing, with extreme scarcities of man-power, accommodation and equipment and a complex rating system, it was reluctantly decided that such a system could not be introduced at that stage.
The only practicable plan discovered at the time was a tax arbitrarily based on the preceding year’s income and subject to adjustment after the close of the year. This plan was adopted by the government of the day and has operated since as the provisional tax system. It was, of course, recognized that fluctuations of income would occur and that underpayments and overpayments would result, but the committee did not anticipate - and it could not then have anticipated - that fluctuations of the order witnessed in 1951 in the wool industry would occur. An attempt was made in 1951 to prevent the worst effects of the system from occurring when it was seen that incomes from business, and particularly from wool-growing, would reach very high levels. In order to bring payments of the year more closely into line with the tax on the income of the year the wool sales deduction legislation was enacted. As will be recalled, that legislation required the setting aside of 20 per cent, of wool proceeds as a credit to be used towards payment of the income tax assessment of the recipient for the relevant year. It is now abundantly evident that this wool sales deduction legislation proved of considerable benefit to wool-growers, by enabling them substantially to make up the deficiency in their provisional taxes for the 1950-5.1 year.
In the current income year, 1951-52. the reverse situation has been encountered. Instead of provisional tax liabilities being generally short of the tax payable, the amounts assessed, using 1951 income as a base, would generally exceed the actual tax as determined on the actual income of the year. The Government has already given attention to this situation. Honorable senators will recall that last March the Government announced its decision to grant to woolgrowers whose income in 1951-52 had declined from the 1950-51 level the right to defer up to 40 per cent, of the 1951-52 provisional tax payable. That decision has. already been implemented, and appropriate provision has been made in this bill for the validation of deferments granted up to the present time. It has been estimated- that 1951-52 revenue will be reduced by approximately £50,000,000 in the event of all wool-growers availing themselves of the opportunity to defer payment of provisional tax upon the basis of the Government’s decision. The procedure to secure deferment of up to 40 per cent, of provisional tax is simple. All that is asked of the wool-grower is that he should estimate his 1951-52 taxable income and advise the income tax authorities of that estimate. There is no obligation on the wool-grower to submit details of his income and expenses or of his financial position. If the estimate of taxable income justifies deferment, payment of the appropriate amount of provisional tax up to 40 per cent, is automatically deferred.
There are cases where provisional tax has already been paid by wool-growers who, by reason of the Government’s decision, would have been entitled to deferment. It is proposed in this bill to authorize the Commissioner of Taxation to credit these wool-growers with the amount that they would have been entitled to defer and to make the appropriate refunds. There are still further cases where wool-growers are seeking deferment of amounts greater- than 40 per cent, of the provisional tax. In these cases the normal course is being followed of deciding the claims on (their merits, having regard to the financial position of the applicant and his circumstances generally. Deferment of up to 40 per cent, of provisional tax for the current year is a measure necessitated by the unprecedented rise in wool incomes in 1950- 51, followed by the steep decline in 1951- 52. This is a. temporary measure which will operate for this year only. However, the situation which is now being faced in the wool industry may be experienced in the future in some other industry.
The Government has accordingly examined plans that will permanently remove the defect which is inherent in the provisional tax system. The plan incorporated in this bill is one which will enable provisional taxpayers to calculate and pay provisional tax based on their own estimates of taxable income. Under this plan of self-assessment, provisional tax will be assessed as at present, that is, on the basis of the income of the preceding year. The taxpayer will receive his assessment notice which will, include notification of ,the provisional tax payable in respect of the income of the current year. If, however, his income has declined, he may substitute his own calculation of provisional tax and pay that amount instead of the amount shown on the assessment notice.
In those cases where the taxable income has increased as compared with the preceding year, there is no obligation on the taxpayer to calculate provisional tax unless the increase is more than 20 per cent, of the taxable income of the preceding year. Where the income for the current yeal’ has declined or has not increased by more than 20 per cent., it is optional for ‘the taxpayer *o self-assess the amount of provisional tax. If the option is not exercised, provisional tax will be payable on the usual basis notified, by the Commissioner, that is, on the basis of the previous year’s income. Where taxable income has increased, by more than 20 per cent, the taxpayer will be obliged to calculate and pay on the increased income. Under the self-assessment plan, a taxpayer will be given at least until the 31st March each year to submit an estimate of his .taxable income for the current year and to calculate the provisional tax payable on the basis of that estimated income. He should thus be in a position to submit a reasonably accurate estimate of his income. It is confidently expected that the introduction of the plan of selfassessment of provisional tax will, with the co-operation of the taxpayer, rid the present system of its defects.
So that there may be some protection for the revenues in cases where- a taxpayer fails to estimate the new income where there has been an increase of more than 20- per cent or, having made an estimate, has arrived at a figure more than 20 per cent, less than the actual income, an additional amount of tax becomes- payable. The additional tax is 10 per cent., of th% provisional tax short-paid after allowing for the 20 per cent, margin of taxable income. Obviously, there will be no additional tax where the actual income doe3 not exceed by more than 20 per cent, the income on which provisional tax is paid. This additional tax is imposed only as a safeguard against .those taxpayers who would otherwise use the optional provisions deliberately to underpay provisional tax whether the income had fallen or not. The Commissioner of Taxation is to be empowered to reject any estimate of income submitted, and to recalculate the amount of provisional tax. This power is designed as a safeguard against those who may be tempted, without just reason, year after year, to take advantage of the tolerance of 20 per cent, permitted.
Since these measures have been made public there has been a good deal of unjust criticism levelled at the inclusion of these so-called penalty clauses. It has been claimed that no penalty should be imposed for not making an estimate of income that has increased by more than 20 per cent., or for making an estimate which is less than 80 per cent, of the actual income. It has been argued, that the power of the Commissioner to reject any self assessment made by a taxpayer should be sufficient safeguard to the revenue. It will not take much reflection to realize upon what a flimsy foundation these claims are based, and what a farce the payment of provisional tax would soon become if any heed were given to the criticisms.
It is acknowledged, of course, that in some cases it will be quite impossible for a reliable estimate to be made, and to enable these cases to be suitably dealt with a power of remission will be vested in the Commissioner of Taxation. It is intended that this power should be available to prevent a taxpayer from having to pay the extra 10 per cent, if ‘ his mistake was due to some happening after the date upon which he makes his estimate, and of which he could not have fore-knowledge. In our thoughts on this subject we should be careful to realize that the scheme of provisional tax is merely a means of obtaining payment of the tax of the year during the year of earning. There is no hardship involved in requiring a taxpayer to make some contribution to revenue for the use of the money if, by his default or neglect, he fails to pay the proper amount at the proper time. When I say the proper amount I do not forget that a margin of 20 per cent, is allowed for reasonable error, and when it is remembered that the penalty is only charged on the amount outside the margin of tolerance I think honorable senators may be inclined to agree that, far from being too harsh, the Government has been too lenient. After all, the so-called penalty, looked at in the light of an interest charge over the period of shortpayment, will work out at something less than 4 per cent, per annum in nearly every case.
Despite the explanation given by the Treasurer when this bill was debated in another place, there continue to exist those critics who will insist that provisional tax is payment in advance. The Treasurer pointed out that a payment of provisional tax made on the 3lst December of any year in respect of a regularly accruing income of that year would involve neither advance payment nor payment in arrears. The position would exactly coincide with the weekly deduction made from regularly accruing salary or wages. He further explained that most provisional tax is paid in the months of April, May and June of the year of income, and said that in such cases the payment was an arrears payment, and not a payment in advance.
Some critics of this statement have pointed out that some wool-growers do not sell their wool until the last months of the year, and upon that have sought to refute the Treasurer. Others have argued that any payment made before the date of assessment is an advance payment. It seems clear that in a pay-as-you-earn concept payment is in advance or arrears according to whether or not the tax is paid before or after the date of receipt of the income to which it relates. It should be remembered that deductions from wages and salaries are made at the source at the same time as the taxpayer becomes entitled to his income.
Now, provisional tax is not confined to primary producers, but applies to all business income of individuals, to property income of investors, and to pro,fessional income. Thi3 income is derived generally speaking in a regular flow throughout the year. It is a delusion to point to the exceptional cases where income is all received in the last three months of the year, and upon these cases to seek to base an argument that provisional tax is a payment in advance. There are some 750,000 provisional taxpayers in the Commonwealth, and almost all of them have had the bulk of their income of the year before they are called upon to pay provisional tax on it. There is no substance in the claim that an advance payment is required. The substance of the matter is that the taxpayer is required to make a payment of tax during the year of income out of the income of that year.
I turn now to those provisions of the bill which deal with the allowance of special rates for depreciation of plant and farm buildings which are essential for increased primary production. This problem of increasing production in the primary industries has been a matter of major concern to the Government. As a positive means of encouragement to greater production in the rural areas, the bill contains certain provisions designed to assist primary producers in the acquisition of essential farm machinery, farm buildings and other structural improvements. It is proposed in the bill to allow depreciation at the special concessional rate of 20 per cent, per annum on plant, except motor cars, used wholly and exclusively for agricultural and pastoral purposes, and on structural improvements on land used for those purposes. This concession will be allowed if the plant is installed or the improvements are completed between the 1st July, 1951, and the 30th June, 1955. Structural improvements completed up to the 30th June, 1956, but commenced prior to the 30th June, 1955, will also qualify for the special rate. One-fifth of the cost of plant and buildings will be allowed in the year of installation or construction and one-fifth in each of the following four years.
As an indication of the wide field of plant and structural improvements to which the special depreciation allowance will apply, I mention that, besides the usual types of farm machinery, the con- cession will extend to such plant as motor lorries, bulldozers, tractors, electric motors, windmills, irrigation piping, &c. Besides such structural improvements as fences, shearing sheds, dairy buildings, and buildings for fodder conservation, the special depreciation allowance will apply to housing provided for employees, tenants and share-farmers.
It should be noted here that the cost of dams, earth tanks, bores, wells, irrigation channels and other structural improvements used for the conservation or conveyance of water is at present allowable in full in the year in which the expenditure is incurred. Ancillary plant used for those purposes, such as irrigation piping, windmills, pumps, sprinkler systems, &c, but for this bill, would continue to be written off at the normal rates of depreciation. This means that the special depreciation rate” is being raised to 20 per cent, from the normal rates of 5 per cent, or 7£ per cent. The cost of these items of plant will thus be written off over a period of five years. It is estimated that primary producers will benefit to the amount of approximately £6,000,000 in tax on the current year’s income by reason of this concession.
The bill also provides for the withdrawal of the special initial depreciation allowance as from the 30th June, 1951. This concession would, in the normal course of events, have expired at the end of this month. However, as announced last July, its continuance could not be justified in the light of prevailing economic conditions, and would have been inconsistent with other measures which the Government has been obliged to take in its plans to combat inflation. The Government is convinced that the early announcement of its decision to withdraw the allowance has prevented that decision from operating unfairly in relation to the general body of taxpayers.
Every industrialist was entitled to the benefit of the special depreciation allowance for a period of at least six years, and there is abundant evidence that full advantage was taken of the concession to meet the immediate post-war needs of industry. On the one hand, whilst the special initial depreciation allowance assisted in the re-equipment and expansion of industry, on the other it lent a powerful and undesirable stimulus to excessive private investment. The Government has made careful investigations to ascertain whether it would be practicable to differentiate between more essential and less essential industries. It has been found that a continuance of the allowance under these conditions would be entirely impracticable and administratively unworkable.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to two important modifications ofthe original decision, however, which will have the effect of continuing the allowance after the 30th June, 1951, in . certain exceptional and specified circumstances, and for which special provision is made in the bill. These modifications are -
Turning from the subject of depreciation, the bill provides a further concession to primary producers in regard to the taxation of insurance moneys received by them in respect of losses of live-stock. Where, as at present, the law provides that such recoveries are to be included in assessable income of the year of receipt, it is proposed to allow primary producers who have suffered losses which are covered by insurance, the option of including one-fifth of the insurance moneys received since the 30th June, 1951, in the year of receipt, and one-fifth in each of the next four years.
The exercise of this option will alleviate the difficulty at present confronting the primary producer who is obliged to re stock and who, otherwise, would have to meet a heavy taxation liability by reason of the inclusion of the full amount of the insurance moneys in his assessable income in the year of receipt. Although this concession originated as a result of the disastrous fires which ravaged parts of Australia early in the year, it is not intended that the concession will be restricted to insurance moneys arising from bush fire losses. Insurance moneys recovered in respect of any loss of livestock whether such losses are as a result of bush fires, drought, stock disease or any other disaster will be subject to the concession.
The bill also contains clauses relating to the recovery and treatment of pyrites obtained in conjunction with mining for gold or for gold and copper. So far as gold is concerned, income derived from the working of a mining property principally for the purpose of obtaining gold is exempt from income tax. In the case of a gold and copper mine, the exemption is allowed if the value of the output of gold is not less than 40 per cent. of the total value of the output of the mine. The operation of the exemption has been reviewed in the light of the national need for the increased production of sulphates, particularly sulphate of ammonia, which is extensively used as a fertilizer. However, mining concerns which, in association with the production of gold, sell pyrites to fertilizer treatment plants, place the exemption of their gold-mining income in jeopardy should the proportion of gold produced be reduced to less than 40 per cent. of the total production. This bill provides for the preservation of the exemption of gold-mining concerns and, at the same time, for the encouragement of the production of sulphates.
The bill also implements preliminary recommendations made by the Special Committee on Taxation relating to the taxation of leasehold premiums. That committee has not so far concluded its deliberations on the general subject of taxation of lease premiums. The amendments which are now being made will, however, remove anomalies and injustices which require urgent rectification. The proposals in this bill, therefore, do not represent the last word in the matter, but are designed, as a preliminary step, to strike a balance between the assessability to the recipient of consideration received for or in connexion with leases, on the one hand, and the deductibility of the amount so paid by a taxpayer, on the other. “When the final report of the committee on these matters is received, the Government will again, examine the subject and any further amendments which may be necessary will be placed before the Parliament. It is proposed, in the interim, to allow purchasers of weekly tenancies or other tenancies of indefinite duration to elect to amortize over a period of two years, premiums paid for the tenancy, or consideration paid for local goodwill connected with the tenancy. It is also proposed that Crown leases with terms of 99 years or longer should be excluded from the operation of the special lease provisions. The amendment in this connexion will have the effect of excluding, in particular, leases associated with business premises in the Australian Capital Territory, which are closely comparable with freehold tenancies in the States. It is considered that an anomaly exists at present in taxing the consideration that is received from the sale of such leases, whereas no tax liability arises in respect of consideration received from the sale of freeholds.
The bill contains several other proposals of somewhat less importance than those that I have mentioned, but I do not propose to explain those amendments now. They may well be left for consideration at the committee stage. Detailed explanations of the provisions are contained in a memorandum that has been prepared by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and supplied to honorable senators. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1194).
.- I do not think for a moment that any of the constitutional difficulties affecting Commonwealth and State relationships have not already been considered. However, the Senate should be fully informed on this aspect of the matter. As I mentioned prior to the suspension of the sitting, I am particularly pleased with the success that was achieved by Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, in the United States of America in connexion with the proposal to develop our uranium fields, and also with the progress of negotiations between the Australian Government and the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I do not believe there is a person in Australia who does not realize the tremendous importance of the radium finds in this country to our future industrial development. Indeed, Australia is the envy of the world in this connexion. I am concerned primarily with the necessity to safeguard Australia’s interests, particularly from the point of view of defence. Many people in this country believe that, under the Defence Act, the Commonwealth can command preference in relation to manufactured goods not directly related to defence, and they are wondering what will be the ultimate extent of the conflict between the Commonwealth and the States. Of course the development of industry within a State is that State’s prerogative. I ask the Minister to assure the Senate that this matter will be cleared up, in the interests of the nation.
– I shall not delay the Senate for more than a few minutes, but I should like to commend both the South Australian Government and the Australian Government for the very live interest that they have displayed in the development of our radium fields. I also commend Senator Critchley for the characteristic fairness that he displayed in addressing himself to this subject. I endorse all that the honorable senator has said about the energy that has been displayed by Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, in connexion with the development of the uranium resources of that State. His endeavours have met with a great deal of success. South Australia is not richly endowed with natural resources of this kind, and it is indeed pleasing that the Government of that State is prepared to develop them to their maximum capacity. Senator Critchley has referred to his visit to Mount Painter some years ago. He and I went there together. At that time Radium Hill, which is by far the most important uranium deposit in South Australia, was little know. Our visit to Mount Painter took place just after the deposit at Radium Hill was discovered. It is now being actively investigated and exploited. Mr. Playford, accompanied by his Director of Mines, has visited the United States of America in connexion with it. He had not been in that country for very long before he was told that the South Australian deposit was very valuable indeed. American experts have since visited this country and confirmed the opinion that they had expressed to Mr. Playford. It is evident that South Australia’s deposit is of considerable value, and it is pleasing to know that that State, which has been handicapped very considerably in the past, as far as power resources are concerned, is probably to enjoy a position of great prominence in the future. I am very pleased to know that a satisfactory arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth and the State in relation to the development of the Radium Hill field.
I am sure that all members of this chamber are also tremendously interested in the uranium deposit that has been discovered at Rum Jungle. I cannot help thinking that, we do not fully realize, as we debate this measure, the ultimate benefit that will flow from the discoveries of uranium in our country. We are dealing with something that posterity will make great use of. I sincerely trust that the uranium that has been discovered in Australia will not be used solely for warlike purposes, but I agree with Senator Armstrong’s contention that we. should mine our deposits with a view to exporting uranium to the United States of America to earn dollars. That should be our primary objective at this stage, provided that care is taken to ensure that sufficient of this commodity to meet Australia’s requirements in years to come will be preserved. The South Australian Government believes that, adjacent to Radium Hill, there are further valuable deposits of uranium than those which have so far been discovered. That is a comforting thought. It would appear that we would be wise to embark on the exportation of uranium as soon as possible. I do not believe that at present we should be justified in expending large sums of money on the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes in this country. That may be a matter for future consideration. America is making great strides in such development. Conceivably, if we were to expend a great deal of money in this direction the results of our investigations might be out of date within ten years. I consider that we would be well advised to await developments in the United States of America. We must not lose sight of the fact that Great Britain, also, is making tremendous strides in the development of atomic power for industrial purposes. We have in Australia some of the world’s leading atomic scientists. Professor Marcus Oliphant, formerly of South Australia, is by no means the least of them. If war should come we would benefit by the developments that had taken place in Great Britain and the United States of America, and we would then be in the vanguard as far as the utilization of atomic power for that purpose was concerned. Once more I commend the Australian and South Australian governments for the interest that they have displayed in this matter. I support the bill most heartily.
– It is extraordinary that a government that has so often twittedthe Labour party for its advocacy of government enterprise, and has described it as a party of socialists and bureaucrats, should have introduced a bill to empower a Minister not only to take possession of certain minerals and substances, but also to override all mineral rights in land that was granted in fee-simple to persons in the Rum J Jungle area. We frankly admit that we are socialists. Why do not the supporters of the Government frankly admit that, when it suits their purposes, they, too, believe in government enterprise? Under .the provisions of this bill the Commonwealth may say to the owners of the land in question, “ We oan erect a building on your land ; we can drive over it and do what we like on it ; any minerals or substancs discovered in it belong to the Crown. If necessary, we can dispossess you of your land “. In spite of that, honorable senators opposite maintain that they are not socialists. If they had a little more experience of socialism they would not be so eager to declaim their opposition to government enterprise. Despite the opposition of private enterprise throughout Australia, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, with the aid of the South Australian Labour party, carried out certain developmental work at Mount Painter in order to prove the torbernite content of ores found in that area, and their suitability for the production of atomic energy. That action was made possible solely because of the backing given to him by the socialist Labour members of the South Australian Parliament, who are not ashamed of their belief in the principles of socialism. Eventually, Mr. Playford received financial assistance from the then Australian Labour Government to continue the development of the Mount Painter field. Subsequently, more promising deposits of uranium were found near Olary, to which reference has been made to-night, and development proceeded at Radium Hill and the surrounding country. Those developments are still in progress. At that time departmental officers and scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization knew of the existence of deposits of uranium ore at Rum Jungle. Indeed, the existence of the deposits has been known to some persons for many years; but they did not know what to do with them, and no thought was given to their development and use.
This bill is merely an extension of the parent measure which was introduced into this Parliament by the Labour Administration to protect the interests of all concerned in the Rum Jungle area. When a. decision was made to establish a pilot plant to separate the ores to make available uranium for the development of atomic energy, this bureaucratic and pseudo socialist government made arrangements for the provision of the plant, not with
Great Britain, as might have been expected, but with the United States of America. Probably an agreement has been made at government level to obtain dollars from the United States of America in return for portion of the ores that we obtain from our deposits. The Government, in effect, said, “ Sh ! Say not a word about uranium ores; say nothing about torbenite, plutonium or hematite ores. We have arranged everything with the United States of America, which will help us to exploit them “. Why did it approach the Americans? Obviously it did so because the Americans needed the ores for the manufacture of atomic bombs.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should send the ores to Russia?
– No ; but why did the Government by-pass Great Britain, which is a long way ahead of the Americans in the field of atomic energy investigation and development? Notwithstanding the fact that we need atomic energy for the production of power to supplement or replace our dwindling power supplies for industrial purposes, the Government made no attempt to secure an agreement with Great Britain. The electricity position is particularly bad in South Australia and in some other States because electricity undertakings throughout the Commonwealth generally are largely forced to rely upon New South Wales for their coal requirements. Experiments in the field of atomic energy in Great Britain have been more successful than have those in any other country. On this occasion the Government acted as it has so often acted. Once again it is prepared to go to any country other than the Motherland which has stood by us all through the years of our development.
It has been said that Great Britain could not finance such a project at the present time. That is sheer nonsense; it could finance it equally as well as could America and probably with much greater benefit to Australia. It has been said that we should not expend too much money on the development of atomic energy in Australia because we can afford to sit by and watch the experiments that are being conducted in the
United States of America. Why should we watch the experiments in the United. States of America? We should he more interested in the experiments that are being conducted in Great Britain. What difficulty would be raised by the expenditure of a few millions of pounds for the establishment of atomic energy plants in this country? I fear that the Government intends to give to the United States of America practically the whole of the output of uranium from Bum Jungle and the South Australian deposits, notwithstanding the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that some uranium would be retained for experiments in the production of atomic energy in Australia. As we have learned to our bitter regret, promises of that kind made by the right honorable gentleman have only been so much wasted breath. The Government has acted wrongly in not keeping the people fully informed of its intentions. It should state frankly why it proposes to send uranium to America instead of to Great Britain.
I do not intend to oppose the bill because it is a socialistic measure designed to nationalize strategic minerals and substances that we are eager to obtain. The members of the Government should not beat about the bush and say, as they appear to be doing on this occasion, “ The members of the Opposition are good fellows. The gentleman who spoke just now was very fair “. Let the Government be frank and admit that this is a socialistic proposal. The principal act, which was passed during the regime of the Labour Government, provided for the protection of the interests of those who own the land in which uranium has been discovered. As this bill continues the application of that principle, I shall not oppose it.
– I do not propose to delay the Senate for more than a few moments. Having listened to Senator O’Flaherty, I have come to the conclusion that the astringent qualities of the watery spinach at the Hotel Kurrajong have wrung his withers. Legislation of this kind invariably fills me with apprehension. Clause 5 contains the phrase, “ Where it appears to the Minister “. Surely it should read, “ Where it appears in the opinion of the Parliament “. Time and again measures have been dealt with in the Senate which empower a Minister to make decisions, but we all know that the Minister’s decisions are very often based upon the advice given to him by his officers. I am prepared to concede that in times of national emergency, and for the national needs of defence, legislation that contains such a provision should be passed by the Parliament, but I protest most vehemently against the inclusion of such powers unless they are absolutely essential, though I am willing to overlook my objections in the present instance.
I propose now to deal with some of the matters that have been raised by other honorable senators during the consideration of this bill. There is justifiable pride in honorable senators from South Australia at the energy displayed by the Premier of that State in his attempts to develop the uranium deposits at Mount Painter and Olary. I have a feeling, however, that there is some suspicion in the minds of honorable senators from South Australia on both sides of the Senate that as there is simultaneous development of uranium deposits in widely distant portions of Australia, development of the South Australian deposits may be put aside while the Commonwealth pursues the development of its own deposits at Bum Jungle. That may be done as a matter of policy, but it should not be done, because the problem that confronts Australia is one of the development of ores and minerals with which Australia appears to be blessed in more substantial quantities than does any other continent. It may well be that this is the new source of power, of heat, fuel and light of the twentieth century. But it is not certain that it is so. South Australia, unfortunately, is not the possessor of the rich fuel resources that exist in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and even in Western Australia. Naturally, the South Australians are exercised in their minds to see that uranium, which may turn out to be the philosopher’s stone as far as they are concerned, is properly used. I sympathize with that point of view, and T think that all honorable senators will do so. But the possibilities of uranium as a source of commercial energy are remote.
One of Australia’s most important problems at the present time is to obtain additional sources of exchange.
– An expedient?
Senate!- CORMACK. - It is not a question of expedients. The enormous development which occurred in Australia between 1850 and the beginning of this century was due to the discovery of gold, which was a commodity eagerly sought all over the world. Because of the discovery of gold, we were able to obtain numerous commodities in exchange for it. It was the tremendous influx of outside capital that enabled the development of Australia during the latter part of the nineteenth century. It may well be that the discovery of enormous quantities of uranium, which is a scarce mineral, and which the world demands, may cause an influx of venture capital, which is despised, by some honorable senators on my right. There may, perhaps, be a flow of sorely needed capital into Australia, which will enable us to carry out the development projects which are so necessary. I think that it is the main function of any Australian government to endeavour to create conditions which will enable us to exchange a scarce commodity for the goods which we need for our developmental projects - -
– On what basis?
– I shall answer the honorable senator’s interjection by stating that we require not so much money as goods which will enable the country to develop. For instance, we require rubber, copper, oil, and capital goods such as generators. “We shall be able to pay for those commodities by exchanging uranium for them-
– I asked on what basis?
– I am telling the honorable senator the basis that I have in mind.
– Apparently, the honorable senator knows nothing about the subject.
– I do not seek your succour in this matter, Mr.
President, but it appears that I am attempting to debate the problem of exchange with an honorable senator whose mind is back in the early part of the eighteenth century. It has no connexion with the problems that exist in the world to-day. Money is a mere medium of exchange. It is a token which is exchanged for goods. If uranium ore can be exchanged for dollars, sterling, francs or some other currency, it will bring to Australia the goods that we need for the development of the country. If uranium ore is the means by which we can achieve development, our duty at the moment is to export uranium ore.
– Senator Cameron wants to go back to the barter system.
– He has never been away from that system. It is terrifying that at present the free world requires uranium ore only for the making of atomic weapons. I am sympathetic to a degree with the statement of Senator O’Flaherty that we should divert to the United Kingdom some of our supplies of uranium ore. Surely it is not thought that our entire output will go to the United States of America or be controlled by that country. The suggestion has been made, and I think that it is a very wise one, that the best production engineers in the world are to be found in the United States of America. American engineers should be invited to advise, and even to assist us, in the production of our uranium resources. That is the sole public suggestion along those lines that I have seen canvassed.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would be able to do that.
– The Rum Jungle uranium is associated with lowgrade copper ores. It has been said that the exploitation of such copper ores should enable uranium ore at that site to be delivered free to Darwin. Senator O’Flaherty has stated that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could separate the ores. I do not think that any mining engineer employed by that company would claim to . be an export on copper. The company employs mining engineering who are experts in matters associated with coal and iron. They are masters in the production of iron, and in that sphere could hold up their heads in any country of the world. They are great technologists. As I have said, it is suggested that one of the greatest copper mining and engineering firms in the world should be associated with the development of uranium deposits at Rum Jungle. I am sure that ‘Senator Armstrong would not accuse me of unjustly drawing attention to him if I said that he would agree with that point of view. Nor would any other rational person disagree with it.
Two honorable senators opposite have stated that we should divert resources in order to deal with the treatment of uranium ores in this country. As I have already mentioned, it should be well known that the treatment of uranium ores for civil use, for the production of power through the medium of heat, is in its infancy. In order to produce plants that were capable of carrying out the fission of plutonium, which was one of the undiscovered elements in the table of elements, enormous diversion of resources and money was necessary. Only a great industrial empire such as the United States of America was capable of making that diversion. According to reports, which, apparently, are reasonably authentic, the byproducts of the British uranium pile at Harwell are heating the waters of the laboratory building in which the research is being carried out. Thousands of people and a great deal of money have been diverted to such research in Great Britain.
This bill seeks to do no more than to give the Government power to mine uranium ore and to exchange it for the goods with which this community may sustain itself. I support the bill.
– During my discussion of this bill I do not desire to go back as far as the eighteenth century. If I should happen to refer to a date it will not be further back than the 20th October, 1938, when a very important debate took place in this chamber. That debate also concerned a mineral which is found in Australia. It dealt with the export to Japan of iron ore from Yampi Sound. On looking round the Senate to-night I notice that of the honorable senators who then supported the government of the day, which was led by the. late Mr. Lyons, only two remain. On this side of the chamber, nine honorable senators are left of those who were then in opposition. Only eleven honorable senators, therefore, remain of the 30 who were present in the chamber during that debate.
I support this measure which the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), in his second-reading speech, stated has been introduced primarily for the purpose of adding a new section to the legislation already in existence. That new section, 13a, seeks to ensure that the Government will be able to acquire uranium deposits which are now known to exist in Australia. Possibly this is the most important bill to come before the Parliament. Uranium, which is of recent discovery, is used for the development of a new power which is likely to revolutionize production, the whole trend of civilization, and, indeed, the world itself. I agree with those honorable senators who have expressed the opinion that it is regrettable that at the present time main emphasis is being laid upon the possibilities of uranium as a means of destruction. The use or otherwise of atomic weapons is a question that is foremost in the minds of people throughout the world. It is a disturbing factor in the peace of the world. The nation which possesses the greatest stockpile of atomic weapons is considered to be the nation which will dominate civilization.
Until the discovery of uranium, Australia, amongst the nations, was not considered to be of very great account. Visitors from overseas had gone so far as to tell US’ that we should not undertake the development of our secondary industries, but that we should allow ourselves to again become a primary producing nation. Now we find that with the discovery of uranium people from overseas ave beginning to woo us. They are eager to come here for the purpose of exploiting this mineral, as they did when gold was discovered. When the Dutch first came to Australia they were of the opinion that it was not rich in gold or precious stones, and they lost the continent by default. With the discovery of gold, however, a new outlook towards Australia was adopted.
The Australian Government should have control of our uranium deposits. It is the only administration that should possess this mineral. There has been some talk to-night about the Commonwealth’s constitutional right to minerals. I do not think that we need have any fear on that score. As I have said, a most momentous debate took place in this chamber on the 20th October, 1938. I remind honorable senators that, at that time, if an honorable senator had suggested in this chamber that another nation might be a potential enemy, he would have run the risk of being called to order. The then President refused to permit any country to be named as a potential aggressor. The debate to which I have referred was on a motion proposed by a South Australian senator, and supported by certain honorable senators from Western Australia, for the disallowance of a customs regulation which prohibited the export of iron ore from this country. At that time, as most honorable senators will recall, there was a move afoot to develop the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits in Western Australia. Until the regulation to which I have referred was introduced by the Lyons Government, it was possible for any foreign power to ship iron ore out of this country. The Minister said in his second-reading speech on this bill-
The amendments are necessary because of the discovery of substantial uranium deposits in the Northern Territory and the desire of the Government to develop those deposits as quickly and as efficiently as possible, in the interests of our own defence and of that of our allies, and also because of the likelihood that atomic energy for industrial use will prove to be of enormous benefit to Australia in the future . . .
Those remarks are significant when one recalls the circumstances surrounding the imposition of an export ban on iron ore in 1938. A London company, H. A. Brassert and Company Limited, was to exploit the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound. The company was registered in London, but it was to be financed from Japan. The proposal was outlined in an answer given by the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Sir Earle
Page, in the House of Representatives, and repeated in this chamber by Senator E. B. Johnston, of Western Australia. It may be found in Hansard of the 20th October, 1938. The information then given was as follows : -
Messrs. H. A. Brassert and Co. Ltd. is registered in London. The leaseholders, Messrs. H. A. Brassert and Co. Ltd., have entered into an agreement with the Nippon Mining Company of Tokyo, Japan under ‘which the latter company will provide approximately £300,000 by way of loan to an operating company to be formed for the purpose of working the deposits on the understanding that the Nippon Mining Company will take the whole of the output . . .
The iron ore will be shipped to Japan . . .
There was considerable support in this country for the proposal that Japan, a friendly nation as we thought it to be in those days, should have access to our iron ore deposits. We were told that there would be no shortage of iron ore in this country, and that, in any case, there were huge deposits elsewhere in the world. However, the then Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, reported that although there were considerable quantities of iron ore in this country, our resources would not last indefinitely.
– The Labour Government in Western Australia wanted the iron ore to be exported.
– There is no need for the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to become heated. Fortunately at that time a group of honorable senators from both sides of the chamber placed Australia’s interests and destiny first and foremost. By defeating the motion for the disallowance of the regulation to which I have referred, they upheld the action of the Lyons Government in prohibiting the export of iron ore. We stood together in the interest? of Australia. The voices of those honorable senators who, in 1938, favoured the export of iron ore, have been echoed today by Senator Cormack. We were told in those days, “Australia must export this material in order to carry on trade and commerce. We must export our iron ore to Japan.” That was before a certain epithet was applied to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), now Prime Minister of this country.
– Who wanted to export the iron ore?
– The Government of Western Australia and certain honorable senators. Members of this chamber, who spoke then as Senator Cormack has done to-night, told us that we must dispossess ourselves of our valuable iron ore. I am not chiding the present Government because of this legislation. Apparently, it has profited from past experience. Instead of subjecting Senator O’Flaherty to a tirade of interjections, honorable senators opposite should have sat in silent appreciation of the fact that, under this measure, the Australian Government will have the opportunity to retain this valuable mineral, uranium, for use within our shores.
I am rather concerned about another matter that was mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty. After World War I., the League of Nations urged strongly that ail nations should have access to the world’s mineralresources. The following passage appears on page 65 of the annual report of the Department of External Affairs for the year ended the 31st December, 1937:-
The Economic; Committee (of the League of Nations) has also formulated a number of principles which in its opinion governments should adopt, viz.: -
Raw materials should not be subjected to any export prohibition or restriction, except in pursuance of an international regulation scheme
Foreigners should have the same rights and facilities as nationals to develop national resources in any particular country or colony, subject to compliance with the laws and regulations of the countries concerned . . .
That expression of opinion by the League of Nations was used in support of the argument that the Japanese, who had been our allies, should be allowed to come to Australia and exploit our iron ore deposits. The situation at that time was rather remarkable. The then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, had returned from his meeting with Hitler at Munich convinced that a second world war had been averted. That he was wrong, we all know to our cost. A demand was made in this Parlia ment for a survey of Australia’s iron ore resources, and for a calculation of our future needs. In 1939 it was considered necessary to survey the probable iron requirements of this country. Even though iron has revolutionized civilization it is not as important a mineral as uranium. Consequently, the Government should have power to ensure that uranium deposits shall be exploited only by the Government.
It is also the duty of the Government to arrange a survey in order to ascertain what deposits of this mineral exist in Australia. In view of the fact that iron was exported to a country that was to become our enemy shortly -afterwards, the Government should ensure that it has complete control of uranium deposits. If necessary, a quota system should be imposed on the export of uranium. I hope that the nations of the world will cease to mistrust one another as they are doing at present, an attitude which is largely due to the existence of this mineral. Uranium can be used for purposes of economic development. It can be used for the production of motive power. It can be used in industry and, because of the deposits in this country, Australia could eventually become the greatest industrial country in the world. Such a development might enable us to hold Australia for the white race instead of being overcome in a possible conflict between those nations which are close to us. In supporting this measure, I trust that honorable senators will appreciate the great importance of this mineral. I hope that they will not debate this matter flippantly, as some honorable senators have done, but that they will realize that the future of this country is at stake. It is necessary to preserve and develop our uranium resources by bringing to this country scientists who will enable us to develop them.
– I support this bill in principle, although I do not support the policy of the Government in relation to this matter. The principle behind the measure is that the Government should control the production and distribution of uranium ore; but the policy of the Government will be to give preference to foreign powers in the capitalizing of this mineral. During this debate it has been suggested that Australia should mortgage its resources to American creditors. The only basis of fair and equitable international trading is the exchange of value for value. That basis was not adopted in the export of iron ore from Australia and the Government does not intend to adopt it in the export of uranium. After the cessation of hostilities in 1945 the United Kingdom negotiated a loan of about £1,100,000,000 from the United States of America. The .negotiations commenced in December, 194’5, and I think that they were completed in January, 1946. Immediately they had been completed American prices were raised by 30 per cent. Similarly, prices were raised in the United States of America after the Australian Government had arranged a dollar loan last year. The dice has been loaded all along the line against the debtor countries. It has been loaded in favour of the finance capitalists of the United States of America - not the people of America. The finance capitalists, in other words the banking interests, work in active collaboration with American capitalist interests.
Opposition members are justified in viewing with considerable suspicion the Government’s intentions concerning uranium deposits. I believe that the Government intends to commit Australia to creditor interests in the United States of America so far as is physically and financially possible, so that when a. Labour government conies to power it will find itself committed to repay an almost unpayable debt and the interest on it. The policy of the Government is similar to the policy of the Churchill Government in Britain, which has committed itself to the repayment of an impossible debt to the finance creditors of the United States of America rather than have a Labour government in control of the country. A similar policy has been adopted by the New Zealand Government.
Senator Cormack accused Opposition senators of adopting eighteenth century economics. I say that Senator Cormack’s mind is away back in the eighteenth century although, physically, he is living in the twentieth century. It is the intention of the Government to commit Australia to foreign creditors, including
Japanese creditors, as far as possible. In the course of his second-reading speech the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said -
The amendments are necessary because of the discovery of substantial uranium deposits in the Northern Teirritory and the desire of the Government to develop those deposits as quickly and as efficiently as possible, in the interests of our own defence and of that of our allies . . .
When the negotiations for the export of iron ore were entered into before the last war Japan was our ally. It was stated dogmatically that that was so. When the acid test was applied it was found that Japan was our enemy and the iron ore which was sent from Australia to Japan was used to slaughter Australian soldiers.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the United States of America is our enemy?
– No. I say that it is not possible to dogmatize one way or the other.
– Order! This bill does not contain the slightest reference to the matters that the honorable senator has been discussing. The Senate is dealing with a proposal to amend the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946. I ask the honorable senator to concentrate on the bill instead of dealing with side issues.
– I agree with the bill in principle. But the policy of the Government, for all practical purposes, has been a negation of that principle. It has been suggested in this debate that facilities should be extended to the Government of the United States of America for the purpose of capitalizing Australian uranium deposits. In other words, it was proposed that power should be delegated to creditors in America to control our resources. In 1950, Mr. Colin Clark, who has been described by the press as one of the ablest of Australian economists, wrote that if Australia continued on its present course America would insist on. appointing a commissioner to control our banking and budgeting. The Attorney-General’s second-reading speech was full of vague generalizations, so that honorable senators are entitled to place their own construction on what he said.
I agree with Senator Sheehan that we should do all that is physically and financially possible to develop the uranium resources of Australia in our own interests, instead of in the interest of American imperialists or capitalists; or those of other countries. “We should try to make our economy as self-contained as possible. Our experience during the war proved the need for that. To the degree that we can make ourselves independent of overseas supplies we shall be in a position to protect ourselves, but to the degree that we are dependent, as we were during the war, on supplies from America. England, and other countries, we shall be vulnerable. We must preserve a proper balance in our dealings with other coun– tries. There is a tendency on the part of the Government not to preserve such a balance in its dealings with the United States of America.
Uranium has great potentialities for both destructive and constructive purposes. I arn more concerned with its constructive potentialities, but that aspect was not touched upon by the Minister who introduced the bill, nor by any of the Government supporters who have discussed the matter. The burden of the Minister’s remarks was that we should supply uranium ore to other countries. [ am not disposed to agree with that, even though it may be profitable to export uranium ore, just as it was profitable to export iron ore. Self-preservation means a great deal more to us than the profits of exporters and financiers.
I support the bill in principle, and in doing so I recognize that we must take a risk with the Government. Unless the Government changes its attitude it may well be that we shall regret having taken the risk. However, I believe that it is better to take that risk than to leave Australia’s ore deposits undeveloped. The Government invited American experts to come to Australia and advise it on the uranium resources in this country, but I do not remember that it ever invited the opinion of Australian experts. As one who, during the war, came a good deal into contract with Australian experts, I believe that they are the equal of those from overseas, provided they arc given the opportunity. Apparently, for the Government, distant fields are greenest, and so it invites experts from overseas to tell it what should be done. The experts have, no doubt, advised the Government that the best thing it can do is to send as much uranium ore as possible to America, and that America will look after us much bettor than we could look after ourselves. In other words, we should make ourselves dependent on people overseas rather than make ourselves independent. We are to become the mental slaves of privileged persons who probably have nothing more to. back them up than a piece of paper setting out their qualifications. As I have said, I support the bill, but J. do so with thi knowledge that I am taking a risk.
Senator GORTON (Victoria) [9.52J.- I, teo, support the bill in principle. I had not intended to speak on it at all, and would not have done so, had I not been incensed by the drooling balderdash to which I listened from Senator Cameron. There is in Australia a demand for all sorts of productive goods. We need generating equipment with which to produce electricity. From every State we hear cries, “ Give us machinery with which to produce electricity so that we may make more goods for the people. Give us the money to build dams, so that we may get more water by means of which we may produce more food to export to the starving peoples of other countries “. There is .an insistent demand for machine tools, electrical equipment, fencing wire, steel and corrugated iron. In the Northern Territory, there is uranium ore which we can export to another country, and in return for which we can get the capital goods of which we stand so much in need; yet we witnessed to-night the spectacle of an honorable senator drooling and howling that we should leave the ore in the ground, and do without the capital goods which we need to make the country great. If Senator Cameron thinks that he can compare the sending of uranium ore to America with the sending of iron ore to Japan, let him do so openly. I do not think that such a comparison can be sustained. If by exporting uranium ore to our allies, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, we can get in return those capital goods which we so urgently need, and which we cannot get in any other way, it would be criminal negligence and folly to refrain from doing so. I would not be a party to refusing to enter into such an arrangement, and any one who so refused would not be acting in the interests of Australia, but in that of the enemies of Australia.
– in reply - I thank honorable senators, in general at any rate, for the reception which they extended to this bill. I think that every honorable senator in the chamber supports the bill in principle, and Senator Armstrong, in particular, exhibited a sense of responsibility in discussing the measure. That may be due to the fact that he has had ministerial experience of a kind that brought him into touch with problems similar to that which we are discussing to-night. Senator Armstrong suggested that Dr. Penney might be invited to inspect uranium deposits. That suggestion will be considered by the Government, but I point out that Dr. Penney is a physicist, whereas the inspection of uranium ores is more properly a matter for geologists, just as the treatment of ore is a matter for engineers and chemists. Senator Armstrong also referred to the visit of either Mr. Kennecott or his representative to the Northern Territory. No arrangements have been made with the interests represented by Mr. Kennecott. He did not visit the Northern Territory at the instance of the Government, and we have made no arrangements with him. However, an arrangement was made with what is known as the Combined Agency, an organization that is representative of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The agency sent to Australia the head of the Minerals Division of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. Jesse Johnson, together with Messrs. Nininger and Kintro, and as a result of the visit a tripartite ‘agreement was entered into between the Government of South Australia, the Commonwealth Government and the Combined Agency for the development of Radium Hill. The agreement is for a term of years, and provides for the sale of refined radium. The Commonwealth will be involved in assisting the State with import licences and finance, and plant and equipment will be required. Ample safeguards have been included to prevent the undue depletion of South Australian resources, having regard to the ultimate need of that State for industrial power. Honorable senators from South Australia will recognize that it is very unlikely that an agreement would be entered into by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, which did not contain such safeguards. He is very conscious of the part that uranium deposits may play in meeting the needs of the State for industrial power.
In addition, the Commonwealth has entered into a preliminary agreement in respect of the deposits at Rum Jungle. The Government has ascertained that good quantities of high-grade uranium ore are available there, and it intends to go ahead vigorously and develop the field while this and other areas are being surveyed. The Government hopes to obtain assistance of various kinds from the Combined Agency, and will protect Australian interests and supplies for local and industrial uses. In this venture i.i is hoped that the aid of private enterprise can be enlisted to a very substantial degree. That, I think, answers in substance the questions that have been raised by Senator Armstrong, to the extent that they can be answered. I notice that the honorable senator has just re-entered the chamber. As I said before, he has displayed a sense of responsibility in connexion with this matter, and I am sure that he is conscious of the delicacy that some of these questions involve, having regard to their importance from the point of view not only of our national security but. if I might say so, from the point of view of international security as well. I thank honorable senators for the support that they have extended to the bill and I hope that it will now pass through its remaining stages without undue delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Proposed new section 13a provides that the Minister may, in writing, authorize a person, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to carry on certain operations.Will the Minister inform rue whether any person or company outside Australia has been invited to develop the Rum Jungle deposit? If the Government has not already done so, will it ascertain from Broken Hill South Limited and Associated Smelters Limited whether either of those companies could carry out the developmental work and undertake the separation of the ores? I realize that the copper content of the Rum Jungle ore has not yet been proved, but if it were substantial, I am sure that Broken Hill South Limited could carry out that work. I understand that these companies enjoy a reputation superior to that even of American companies for their treatment and separation of refractory ores. I had the good fortune recently to have an opportunity to discuss this matter with the general manager of Broken Hill South Limited, and I am confident that there is no necessity for us to enlist outside help to develop the Rum Jungle deposit.
– It is quite refreshing to “ hear such an ardent socialist as Senator O’flaherty suggest that the Government should encourage private enterprise in this country.
– Labour believes that there is room for both socialism and private enterprise.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion will bc brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), and I am sure that it will receive consideration. I have already explained, as far as they could be explained, the only arrangements that have been entered into with regard to Rum Jungle.
– There has been no firm arrangement?
– No arrangement has been made with the companies that the honorable senator has mentioned. His suggestion will receive consideration.
– As I re-entered the cb amber several minutes .igo I heard the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) refer to Mr. Kennecott. The gentleman that I referred to was Mr. Bracken, who represented Kennecott Copper Limited. I was pleased to hear the Minister’s report on the Radium Hill deposit. He mentioned that a preliminary agreement had been entered into in relation to the Rum Jungle deposit. I think we might well have reached the stage where a statement should be made about Rum Jungle. The Minister also stated that he had hoped to get assistance from lnc Combined Agency. I point out that if there is an agreement, even if only a preliminary one, the things that are contained in the agreement are not hopes, because they are expressed in writing and are understood by all parties. Could it be that there is as yet no written agreement about the Rum Jungle deposit? If so, I do not think there would be any harm in telling the country that that is the position. The Radium Hill agreement is most informative, and has done a tremendous amount of good.
I wish now to refer to the matter of rewards payable to prospectors who find uranium. When the former Labour Government introduced the 1946 legislation it paid a reward that was considered munificent. It was staggering in its generosity. In those days £25,000 was a tremendous amount of money, and it achieved what there has been so much talk about, that is, the provision of an incentive. Due to inflation, the value of that reward now is only about £10,000. I’ think it would be an appropriate gesture if the amount of the reward payable were increased to £50,000. I am suggesting big figures because this is big business. The more incentive that we provide for prospectors to move about and find other deposits of uranium the better. I suggest also that the Government should make first payments in connexion with the reward as speedily as possible. After all, it could take a considerable time for a field to be proved completely. If the find appears to have reasonable prospects the’ first payment should be made as soon as possible. When uranium was found in the Harts Ranges in the form of samarskite, at least the people who were mining mica learnt of the type of country in which uranium might be found. The then Labour Government paid the prospectors more than £300 immediately.
It was not much, relatively, but it was sufficient to convince 140 mica miners that there was real .money ahead. We should offer encouragement to such people to prospect for uranium in their spare time.
– I cannot add anything to what I have already said in relation to Rum Jungle. I ask Senator Armstrong to accept my assurance that there are good reasons why I should not elaborate on that statement at this stage. I shall pass on to the Minister the honorable senator’s remarks about the present value of the reward payable.
– I bring to the notice of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that section 51 (xxxvi.) of the Constitution requires that the acquisition of property by the Commonwealth shall be on just terms. Will the Minister inform me whether, if the Government were to acquire uranium from, say, the Northern Territory, it would be under a different obligation from that which it would assume if the uranium were acquired from Mount Painter in South Australia ? I am not clear whether the Australian Government is bound by that requirement of the Constitution if it acquires property in a territory of the Commonwealth. I understand that the view has been expressed that in relation to its territories, the Commonwealth has sovereign powers and is not thereby bound by section 51 or any similar inhibition. This question has some bearing on the matter of reward to land-holders and is akin to the question of reward that has been mentioned by Senator Armstrong, and I consider that the position of land-holders in the Northern Territory and South Australia should be clarified. As many people in South Australia are interested in old estates in the Northern Territory, I should like the Minister to elucidate this aspect of the matter.
.- I think the honorable senator will readily recognize the. relative worthlessness of legal opinions “ off the cuff “. I am not disposed to give them too readily in this chamber. There is, I think, room for legal argument on whether the provision of section 51 (xxxvi.) of the Constitution applies to the Northern Territory, but I think I am right in saying that the prevailing view at the moment - perhaps not a very strong view - is that “ just terms “ do not apply in the Northern Territory. It is not of very great moment in connexion with the matters that we are discussing, because the substances in the territories of the Commonwealth were acquired by the Commonwealth by virtue of section 6 of the 1946 legislation. That act provided for compensation upon terms which would be recognized by the High Court as just terms. Whether or not the provision of the Constitution applies, the effect is that the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946, under which all the relevant substances in the territory were acquired by the Commonwealth, provides for just terms.
– The discovery of uranium in large quantities in Australia could be of the greatest importance, not only to this country but also to the whole world. If the energy derived from the use of Australian uranium were applied to the advancement of the human race and of civilization a great vista of progress would be opened up. The discovery of uranium in large quantities in Australia would by far transcend the great gold discoveries that helped to put this country on the map in the early days of our development. I hope that energy produced from Australian uranium ore will be used not for the purpose of destruction but for human advancement.
As a boy I lived on an old gold-field in New South Wales and consequently I know something of the hardships that are endured by the fossickers and prospectors. Those who go out into the remote parts of the Commonwealth and discover deposits of uranium ore are entitled to substantial rewards. I do not know who located the uranium deposits at Rum Jungle, but whoever did so should be encouraged by the payment, of a very substantial reward. The reward should not be niggardly and, as Senator Armstrong has said, it should be paid promptly. Payment of a substantial reward will enable the discoverers of these valuable deposits to extend their search to other areas. If we appropriately encourage prospectors to extend their activities this country may make a most noteworthy contribution to the betterment of the human race and the advancement of civilization.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th May (vide page 1017).
., - When this bill was before the committee last week I felt obliged to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) for having acceded to my request to report progress so that its incidence could be further considered. I should have felt very happy indeed had such further consideration by me. led to the conclusion that the hill is acceptable in all respects. During my secondreading speech, I referred to the fact that this legislation was introduced after the Government had realized that the valuations that the assessors had assigned to land in 1951 were considerably in excess c>f those upon which land-holders had paid t.ix prior to that year. The Minister has told lis that the Government was informed that in 1951 the aggregate level of land values throughout the Commonwealth, had increased over the 1939 level by approximately 75 per cent. My acquaintance with the situation in Tasmania led me to make inquiries on that aspect of the proposal and I was informed that the average increase in land values in Tasmania was greater than the average increase in the other States, and that it was approximately 100 per cent, on country lands and 200 per cent, on town lands, or an average of approximately 150 per cent. During the second-reading debate figures were cited to indicate that in individual cases the increase has been much in excess of 200 per cent. Figures were supplied to me over the weekend which indicate that the valuations of land in Tasmania in 1951, in several instances jumped by leaps and bounds over the 1939 valuations. The suggestion has been made that the disparity is due to undervaluations in 1939 rather than to overvaluations in 1951. Having some knowledge of the expert and diligent officers who were responsible for the valuations made in 1939, I am not prepared to accept that viewpoint. There is no reason to suggest that the valuations made in Tasmania in 1939 were not comparable to valuations in the rest of the Commonwealth.
The proposal to increase the statutory deduction by 75 per cent, is related to the average increase of land valuations. I am convinced that in Tasmania valuations have increased by a percentage that dwarfs the 75 per cent, upon which the extension . of this deduction is based. Despite all the influence that was exerted upon me in this Chamber to-day in an attempt to secure m.y acquiescence in this proposal, I regard it as my bounden duty to ensure that the incidence of land tax in the measure as it emerges from this committee shall not be unduly great. I intend to suggest to the committee an amendment which proposes a request that the increases of valuations that landowners experienced between 1939 and 1951 will be in some degree relative to the increases upon which the statutory deduction is intended to be enlarged. It will be recalled that land values were pegged between 1939 and 1951. After the expiration of National Security Regulations pegging of values was achieved by the incorporation of sub-section (5.) and following sub-sections in Section 20 of the principal Act. After the expiration of those provisions it became necessary in 1951 to assess land at its ordinary market value.
The amendment that I propose to submit is modelled upon the revival of the provisions of sub-section (5.). It requires that the increase in the valuation of land between the levels of 1939 and 1951 shall not exceed 100 per cent. 1 submit that there is equity in my proposal. Until 1951 section 20~ (5.) required that tax be assessed only on the 1939 figure, be it good, bad or indifferent, and taxpayers became accustomed to pa,* tax upon that basis. Having regard to all the circumstances that determined Government policy in 1951, the crucial year in our economy, it is not only of great importance to the taxpayers but also in the public interest that increases in land valuations upon which tax is assessed should not rise disproportionately to the percentage upon which the alteration of the statutory deduction is based. As the amendment which I propose to move is not couched in very interesting terms, I propose at this stage to state it in substance rather than in full. The amendment provides that, for the triennial period commencing 1951-54, the valuations which prevailed in 1939 shall not be increased by more than 100 per cent. A land-holder may hold a property which in 1939 had an unimproved value of ?10,000. In assessing his property for the purposes of land lax, the amendment provides that its value shall not be increased beyond ?20,000.
– “Why the 100 per cent.?
– The bill proposes to increase the exemption of ?5,000.
– (SenatorReid). Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I only wish to add, in reply to the question which was asked by Senator Benn, that the very purpose of the bill is to increase the present exemption of ?5,000 to ?8,750, upon the basis that the general increase of values throughout Australia has been approximately 75 per cent. I have pointed out that the Tasmanian increment is much in excess of that percentage and that, in order to meet the Tasmanian situation, and to avoid injustice to that section of taxpayers, we should take the view that where we are simply extending the exemption by 75 per cent., it should operate only where valuations are tied to a limit of increase of 100 per cent. I submit to the committee that that is a fair and reasonable proposition. Accordingly, I move -
That, after clause 3, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 3a. Section twenty of the Principal Actis amended -
by deleting sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of sub-section five and inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-paragraph : -
that value shall not be increased by more than one hundred per centum thereof for the purposes of all assessments of land tax towhich this sub-section applies and “;
by inserting after the word ‘value’ in line 1 of sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (5.) the words ‘ or the increased value ‘, and by deleting at the end thereof the words ‘ and that value shall be final and conclusive”;
by deleting from paragraph (b) of subsection (5. ) all words after the words the provisions of this Act’; (d) by deleting paragraph (c) of subsection (5.) and inserting in lieu thereof the following paragraph: -
the foregoing amendments made by this Act to section twenty shall be deemed to have commenced in operation on the first day of July, 1951;’; and
by deleting in sub-section (6.) the words
One thousandninehundredand fifty’, and inserting in lieu thereof the words ‘ One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one ‘ “.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment conflicts with the Standing Orders and should be ruled out of order. Standing Order 139 provides that -
Every Amendment must be relevant to the Question to which it is proposed to be made.
Standing Order 332 states that -
An Instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of the Act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least fifteen affirmative votes.
Standing Order 333 is in the following terms : -
An Instruction to a Committee of the Whole requires notice, and can only be moved before going into Committee on any question.
We have come into committee without any such instruction being given. I submit that it is clear that the amendment which has been moved by Senator Wright is not relevant to the questions dealt with in the bill. The subject-matter of the bill is the increase of the exemption from £5,000 to £8,750, and a consequential alteration of the same figure in certain other sections. In fact, that is the only matter that is dealt with in the bill. In those circumstances, I submit that the introduction of an entirely new matter, namely alteration of the basis of valuation, falls within the Standing Orders to which I have referred, and should be ruled out of order.
– I submit that the amendment clearly comes within Standing Order 139, the only requirement of which is that the amendment shall be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to be made. Read in relation to Standing Order 332, I emphasize that what is required in that connexion is something that is relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill. How can the assembled Senate discuss with any degree of intelligence the appropriate increase to make in the exemption of a value assigned to a piece of land, unless it is relevant to that consideration to fix the basis of valuation? In the example that I have given, we first of all take £10,000 as the unimproved value and then consider the proportion which it is proper to exempt. The act provides that £5,000 is the proper figure, and the Senate is asked to affirm that the proper exemption should be £8,750. I hope that we are not going to do that without fixing in our minds a just assessment of the proper basis of alteration of the £10,000. My amendment is designed to limit the equivalent of the £10,000, for 1951, to £20,000. I submit that the amendment complies with the standing orders and is, in a substantial sense, relevant to the question of whether or not the committee should amend the act to provide for an exemption of £8,750, or whether the committee says, by way of amendment, that if the sky is the limit for 1951 values, the proper exemption should be £18,750.
– Clause 3 of the bill, which makes specific reference to section 11 of the act, provides that - (3.) Section eleven of the Principal Act is amended ‘by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) the words “Five thousand pounds “ and inserting in their stead the words “Eight thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds “.
There is, therefore, the question of the deletion of words from section 11 and the substitution of other words. In short, I submit that the whole of section 11 is open to discussion by way of amendment. In furtherance of that point, I refer the committee to the first sub-section of section 11 which provides that land tax should be payable by the owner of land upon the taxable value of the land owned by him. Section 11 contains a complete and specific reference to the taxable value of land, and not merely to the question of the exemption. Section 11 imposes land tax and makes it payable on the taxable value of land. I strongly support the contention that it is completely unreal to say that a tax may be imposed regardless of the value of the article upon which it is to be imposed. Section 11 plainly recognizes the unreality of that position. There is a clear and specific reference to that fact.
Sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 provides that - (2.) The taxable value of all the land owned by a person is -
I therefore submit that the amendment is strictly relevant to clause 3 of the bill. The mere fact that the proposed amendment has reference to section 20 of the act, in my opinion has nothing to do with the broad and fundamental point. The alteration of section 20 arises immediately and consequentially from what is proposed to be done to section 11.
– I submit that the proper approach to this matter lies in the fact that the only portion of section 11 of the act to which reference has been made is that portion which deals with exemptions. All that the bill is concerned with is the amount of the exemption. That being the subject-matter of the bill, I contend that it is not within the power of an honorable senator, except by means of an instruction, to enter upon an entirely new matter.
– On that point I must cross swords with the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer). [f] did not mistake the honorable senator, he said that section 11 deals with exemptions.
– Not only with exemptions.
– I understood him to say that it deals with exemptions. In order to clarify that matter, I point out th at the marginal note to that section refers to taxable value. Sub-section (2.) of section 11 explains what the taxable value is. Then it proceeds to deal with the position of an absentee. If the Attorney-General is looking at the exemption clause, I refer him to section 13 of the act and the marginal note thereto.
– That refers to exemption of certain lands. The exemption provision is contained in section 11 (2.) (b), which is as follows: -
– It is not exempted from tax; it is exempted from inclusion in the taxable value. There is a distinction. We are still discussing the taxable value of land. If the Attorney-General is looking for the section that excludes and exempts specific lands, he will find it set out at great length in section 13. I submit strongly, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that in the light of the discussion which you have heard, you should hold that the amendment is relevant to the matter that is before the committee.
– We seem to have got into an “attorney” triangle. This matter can perhaps be explained by pointing out that the factors which operated to increase the value of properties in Tasmania are different from those in other States. Senator Wright is asking for justice for land-owners who are being taxed at excessive rates, in one instance the increase being 1,900 per cent., and I consider that his proposed amendment is relevant.
– If Standing Order 201 is considered, it will be seen that, in effect, if the Senate considers an amendment to be relevant to the bill, that is an end of the matter.
– After listening to the point of order taken by Senator Wright and to the debate which has ensued, I cannot uphold the point of order and I accept the amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment. I fully appreciate the reasons that Senator Wright has advanced in favour of this somewhat novel method of dealing with the problem. The Land Tax Act provides for a tax based on the value of land, and the principles to be followed in ascertaining the value of land are stated in the act. The Commissioner of Land Tax, as I explained in my reply to the secondreading debate, has been merely following those principles.
– He need only be given a different instruction.
– It would be a most inequitable instruction. If the amendment were carried, one property owner would be charged land tax on the full value of his land, and another would be charged land tax. on half of the value of his land. If honorable senators consider it to be a fair method of assessing tax, they will have to take the responsibility for their actions. I shall not take the responsibility. This extraordinary set of circumstances is unlikely to occur again for a very long time. There had been no valuation of land for land tax purposes for twelve years. Consequently, in some areas throughout the Commonwealth there have been extraordinary increases of values.
– Owing to inflation.
– I shall not argue about the reasons, but I have no doubt that some of the increase has been due to bad government by the Labour party. However, that is quite immaterial to the discussion. The feet remains that, during the twelve year period, the value of some lands increased three fold or four fold. If Senator “Wright’s amendment were carried, the owner of such lands would pay land tax on an estimated increased value of 100 per cent. In other words, he would pay tax not on the value of his land as stated in the act, but, on about a quarter of the value of his land. The Senate would be doing a grave injustice if it were to alter our taxation legislation in that manner. “We may all regard the amendment sympathetically but the remedy for the circumstances that Senator “Wright has referred to is not to make an unartistic and unscientific approach to the problem but to increase the exemption and to discontinue the 20 per cent, surcharge as the Government has done in this legislation.
– I support the amendment because I do not think that the circumstances are quite as they have been set out by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). The effect of the amendment would be to cushion the effect of the extraordinary increase of land values between 1939 and 1951. As I said in my second-reading speech, I believe that Tasmania has been made the guinea pig State for this legislation. I am convinced that Tasmania because of its smallness has been revalued in its entirety, whereas the other States have been only partially revalued. The argument that acceptance of Senator “Wright’s amendment would mean differing sets of valuations can be discounted in view of the fact that as revaluations on the mainland States have not yet been completed, whereas Tasmania has been revalued in its entirety, two sets of valuations already exist.
– All lands have been revalued throughout Australia.
– Not all assessments are based on the new valuations. As I have said, the carrying of the amendment would cushion the effect of the extraordinary _ rises of property values by limiting valuations for land tax purposes to an increase of 100 per cent. We should merely be following the pegging principle that was observed in the National Security Regulations and subsequently under the regulations made under the Defence (Transitional Powers) Act. The amendment would ensure equitable treatment of Tasmania.’ The limit of 100 per cent, would apply until the 1954 re-valuation when the Government would once again be able to survey the whole position.
.- I, too, am much concerned about the incidence of the land tax based on 1951 values, and I support Senator Wright’s amendment. Increased valuations in Tasmania admittedly average about 150 per cent., but’ I know of instances in which the increases in cases of individuals have been 300 per cent., 400 per cent., or even 500 per cent. The re-valuations were made at an extraordinary boom period and were unrealistic. One of the objects of the land tax was to break up large estates, but to-day city properties yield more revenue than do the rural areas. I am quite certain that if many city properties were put on the market to-day they would not yield more than 75 per cent, of their 1951 valuations. Pastoral properties are in a similar position. They were re-valued when the price of wool was at its peak. The price of wool is unlikely to reach that peak figure again in the future. To meet the objection that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has raised, I suggest that ‘ provision be made for re-valuation in eighteen months, time when the values of properties have become more stable.
– I look upon this amendment as highly dangerous and most unfair to the general run of land-owners. It would be most unwise to limit increases of property valuations for land tax purposes to 100 per cent, of the 1939 pegged figure. Although the value of some properties has increased by much more than 100 per cent., the value of others, because of peculiar circumstances, has not exceeded that figure. The imposition of a limit of 100 per cent, would give an advantage to land owners whose properties had appreciated in value much more than the average. To single out the people of Tasmania, for instance, for special treatment would be quite wrong.
– Queensland is in the same position.
– Yes. I know of some instances in which increases have been as high as 500 per cent., but this amendment would not cure that situation. T am surprised that it is supported by Senator Henty who has had some experience in local government. Generally speaking, people who have been associated with local governing authorities know much more about valuations than do members of this chamber. The remedy for the present situation is not to put a limit on property valuations in general, but to allow true values to be assessed by the taxation authorities, and to alter the scale of tax to give relief.
– I shall oppose the amendment moved by Senator Wright. I said in my second-reading speech that I find it difficult to accept the statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that the overall increase of property values has been only 75 per cent, and I shall look forward with interest to the revenue that will be yielded by the land tax this year. However, I do not accept Senator Wright’s proposition because, until I have seen the results of the scale of tax that is to be applied under this legislation, I shall not be in a position to say whether the- Attorney-General’s estimate of 75 per cent, is fair or unfair. I did ask that the Government should again review this legislation in the light of the position at the end of the year. I still hope that the Government will do that. So far as Tasmania is concerned what has happened? A fresh valuation has been made of all the lands of Australia.
– A very rough valuation.
– Honorable senators can have their own opinions on that subject. The same standards would have been applied to valuations in Tasmania as those which applied in Queensland or any other part of Australia. If it is true that valuations averaged an increase of well over 75 per cent, in Tasmania it must have been for one of two reasons. It may have been that the valuations were low in 1939; or it may have been because tremendous improvements have been made in Tasmania, so that the value of the land has considerably increased. The same state of affairs might exist in Queensland or in any other part of Australia. I do not consider that Senator Wright has approached this subject in the right way. If the reason for the high increase in Tasmania is that development has been considerable then Senator Wright’s amendment would only have the effect of perpetuating a benefit for Tasmania. If values have increased in Tasmania it is only just, and fair, under the terms of the original act, that the present-day valuation should be accepted as it is elsewhere in Australia. For these reasons 1 cannot support the amendment although during the second-reading debate I criticized certain very high increasesthat had taken place.
– The Opposition has not had an opportunity to consider the details of the proposed amendment. I have been handed a copy of them but I have not yet had an opportunity to study them with a view to ascertaining how they would affect section 20 of the act. In order to enable Opposition senators to form an opinion on the proposed amendment, I should like Senator Wright to state briefly the effect that pragaraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of his amendment would have on the bill.
In answer to the remarks of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) I point out that if there were a completely free market in real estate the AttorneyGeneral would have made out a strong case. But he overlooked the fact that times are completely abnormal and unusual for reasons which I gave during the debate on the second reading of this bill. Conditions are abnormal if only for the reason that rents are pegged. That fact cuts across the principle of free trading for which the Attorney-General has contended.
– The statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator KcKenna) do not invalidate the argument that I advanced. If the committee were to prevent values from being increased by more than 100 per cent. it would bring about the grossest inequities in the State of Tasmania as well as in other parts of Australia. I have no doubt that there are plenty of places in Tasmania where the actual value of land has increased by 500 per cent. during the last twelve years. But under the amendment the man whose valuation has increased by 500 per cent. would not pay tax on the new value of his land. His tax would be increased by only 100 per cent. The land belonging to his neighbour may have increased by only 75 per cent. in value but the neighbour would be called upon to pay tax on the total value of his land. I suggest that a tax which would bring about inequalities of that kind could not be defended by any fair-minded person.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has applied strictly formal logic to a situation which consists of variables. Land valuation is a province in which, proverbially, there are the greatest differences of opinion. Between 1939 and 1951 this Parliament perpetuated the inconsistencies, if any existed, in the 1939 valuation roll. While the valuation of the land held by one man may have increased by 100 per cent. between 1939 and 1951 the value of the land held by his neighbour may have increased by 500 per cent. By passing the amendment, Parliament would take the first step in the alleviation of that position. This would, at least, provide an opportunity for the skill of the valuer to rectify any inequality that existed in the valuation of 1939 or which has developed in the meantime. I respectfully submit to the Attorney-General that the strictly formal argument that he advanced is met, in substance and in fairness, by that observation.
In reply to Senator Pearson, I concede that if it were constitutional it would be much better to provide that a percentage exemption should be permitted in each State proportionate to the increases in valuations in each State. But my recollection is that in relation to all matters of taxation the Constitution prohibits discrimination among the States. That is why I decided to resort to this method. The bill before the committee proposes to relate an overall percentage of increase in valuation to the degree of exemption that it would permit. I submit that that proposal which has been made the basis of the bill should also be made the governing consideration of the bill and that this exemption should be accepted as just only to the extent to which it operates within unlimited increases in valuation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked me to put the amendment in its context. It will best convey the effect of the amendment if I read the provisions of section 20 of the act as they would appear if the amendment were written into that section. That section would then read -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this section -
where the value of any area of land or any interest in an area of land was assessed under the land Tax Assessment Act of 1910-1937 in respect of the financial year which commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine -
that value shall not be increased by more than 100 per cent. thereof for the purposes of all assessments of land tax to which this sub-section applies.
that value or the increased value shall where there has been a change of ownership of any part or parts of the area or interest be apportioned between all the parts of that area or interest owned by different persons and the value so apportioned to each part shallbe the value of each part for the purposes of all assessments of land tax to which this sub-section applies for the financial years commencing after that change.
I may interpolate here that I have deleted the words which appear in the act that the value shall be final and conclusive because, within the increase of valuation, it is intended that the valuer shall apply his skill. To the extent that there is an increase of valuation that no longer applies, paragraph (b) provides for the assessment of land tax on the basis of 1939 values. Paragraph (c) is to be wholly deleted, and a retrospective provision included so as to make sure that all the amendments in the bill shall operate as from the 1st July, 1951. Sub-section (6.) will read -
The lust preceding sub-section shall apply to assessments in respect of the financial year which commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty and on each financial year thereafter to and including the financial year commencing on the first duy of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one.
That, with the provision for triennial assessments, would, operate for the next financial year. The present position has arisen in Tasmania because of the manner in which the valuer has approached his task compared with the way in which the valuations have been made in other States. It is unreasonable to suggest that the wealth of Tasmania has increased out of all proportion to the increase in the mainland States. It is a sufficient answer to any such suggestion that Tasmania will this year claim from the Commonwealth Grants Commission a larger sum than in any previous year. It is entirely fair to relate the increase of exemption to the permissible increase of value. The incidence of land tax in Tasmania in particular, and in the other States in general, will be made equitable by the application of this amendment.
.- It is not true that inordinate increases of valuations apply only in Tasmania. They are general, and it is obvious that the Minister in charge of the bill is receiving wrong advice. According to the figures in my possession, it is clear that the return from the tax this year will be not less than £14,000,000, as Senator Henty suggested. Tn Melbourne, .the value of one property was increased from £200 to £1,200. Both in the country and in the city, revaluations were made when values were at their peak because wool prices were at their highest. Values have since declined substantially. Senator Wright effectively answered the argument of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), that if the amendment were agreed to some taxpayers might get away with paying less than their due share. The amendment provides that no taxpayer shall have to pay more than twice what he paid before his property was revalued.
The Attorney-General claims that under such a provision some taxpayers - it may be no more than 1 per cent. - would get off too lightly, and he is therefore prepared to deny justice to the other 99 per cent.
. - The proposal of the Government is unjust, and it is our duty to oppose it. The injustice arises from the fact that properties were re-valued when values were at their very peak. The Government itself has admitted that we ha/e passed the peak of inflation. Because of the Government’s policy of credit restriction, property values are already declining, and in twelve months’ time most properties would., if put on the market, fetch a good deal less than the government valuations. Although properties were re- valued when prices were at their peak, they will be kept at those valuations.
– They cannot be kept at those valuations.
– Does the Government propose to revalue properties each year? I have had a good deal of experience in these matters, and I know that the official Valuers will not disclose the basis upon which they assess values. Sometimes, there is a difference of thousands of pounds in the valuations placed on almost identical properties. The rise of ‘ the basic wage indicates how inflation has worsened since this Government took office, and the new land values are based upon an inflated currency. If the Govern.mentment honours its promise to put value back into the £1, property values must fall to a corresponding degree. In Tasmania, property prices are now de dining for rural properties and fo’ dwellings. During the last six months, values have fallen by about 20 per cent., and the indications are that they will decline still further.
– We nave witnessed a curious spectacle. The Opposition is now supporting an amendment moved by Senator Wright for the purpose of still further reducing federal land tax. Some clays ago, the same Opposition vehemently opposed a bill the purpose of which was to grant relief to those who pay federal land tax, the reason being that the tax is paid by land-holders, persons whom Opposition senators hate and detest. That is an example of gross hypocrisy. Surely we have reached an all time low in political morality when honorable senators will support an amendment to reduce taxation after they have opposed a measure which was designed to achieve the same purpose. I am not going to support the amendment. The federal land tax, which was instituted by a Labour Government, is based on the value of land. Senator Wright is now seeking to vary that principle in certain cases. In effect, his argument is that a land tax based on total value is all right for some people, but the principle should not be applied to certain other people. Such ah attitude cannot be justified. There is no reason why we should grant an exemption to a person because his land has increased in value when no corresponding exemption is granted to other taxpayers.
– I should not have spoken but for the need to repudiate the statement of Senator Vincent that members of the Opposition hate and detest land-holders. That is not true. During the second-reading debate on this measure, both Senator Armstrong and I said enough to make it clear that we were concerned at the injustice of the proposal that the basis of valuation was to be altered.
– And the Leader of the Opposition opposed the bill.
– I made it clear why I did so. I think that all honorable senators understand what I mean when I say that.
– The Leader of the Opposition should make it quite clear.
– I mean elevating the 1939 values to 1951 values. I have made itcompletely and frankly clear to the committee why the formal vote of the Opposition was cast in the way that it was.
– Because it is in Labour’s platform.
– Yes, it has been in our platform since 1890.
– Because grandmother told Labour supporters to vote that way.
– We never expected that any Australian Government would sit idly by and let inflation take the people of this country over the precipice. I do not want to open up a whole lot of matters at this late hour, and therefore I ask honorable senators not to tempt me further. I have cleared up the one issue that was raised by Senator Vincent.
Motion put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Wright’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw the attention of honorable senators to a grave injustice that is being perpetrated on a number of persons who are engaged in an honorable profession in this country. I refer to the payment of our women teachers. I am fully aware that the State education departments are responsible for the payment of the salaries of women teachers, but the Commonwealth has an overall responsibility in the matter in that, as a result of the deliberations of the Loan Council, the various education departments receive financial assistance from grants that are made to the States. The teaching profession is the only profession in this country in which there is a differentiation between men and women from the point of view of remuneration. In law, in medicine, and in the Parliament, and in many trades, men and women receive equal pay. I have before me a formidable list of callings in which equal pay for the sexes is the rule. I shall gladly make it available for perusal by honorable senators who are interested.
The women teachers of Australia receive on an ‘average, only approximately SO per cent, of male rate of salary, despite the fact that the training of men and women teachers is similar and that their certificates of competency are identical. In no instance is the examination paper of a female teacher only 80 per cent, as difficult as the paper of a male student. If one wanted to quibble about examination subjects one could stress the fact that women always have to take the subject of needlework in addition to other subjects. A female teacher is expected to be able to teach needlework. The range of classes taught by women teachers is greater than the range taught by men. Because of a woman’s greater understanding and adaptability, she may be allotted an infant class or any class up to the leaving certificate standard. Yet a woman teacher receives only fourfifths of the rate of salary payable to a male teacher. Inquiries that were made recently show that there is a great shortage of teachers in Australia to-day, and that fewer girls than are required are offering for the teaching profession. I consider that this has been one of the results of our co-educational methods of the past few years. Girls are now more selective. They choose professions where the rule is “ equal pay for equal work “. I admit readily that in some phases of our economic life it would be difficult to establish that rule, but in the teaching profession not a sound argument could be advanced against it. I repeat that male and female students are required to pass identical examinations and receive identical certificates, but on appointment as teachers women receive only about 80 per cent, of the salary applicable to males. Women teachers cannot obtain board and lodging for 80 per cent, of the male tariff.
In 1946 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the following significant statement in relation to work that was performed by women during the war -
The women of Australia have established an answerable claim to economic, legal, industrial, and political equality, and I hope the time will speedily come when we can say truthfully that there is no sex discrimination in public or private office, in political, professional, or industrial opportunity.
I remind the Senate that Article 23 of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights provides -
Every one, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
In January, 1952, an act was passed in Canada which gave full force to the principle of equal pay for equal work without discrimination between the sexes. As far back as 1944 the State of New York passed an act in which trades and professions were given the advantage of equal pay for equal work. The provisions of that act are very strictly policed.
The fantastic excuse that is always given for the refusal to grant the requests of women teachers for equality of pay is that such a move would upset the basic wage. Women teachers are penalized because of the existence of a theoretical family wage. Many middle-aged and elderly bachelors, some of them, I am ashamed to say, in this Parliament, could be sued for taking money under false pretences for the theoretical wife and two children which they do not possess, but for whom they have been paid since the beginning of their working days. It is high time the theoretical family wage gave way to an adult basic wage and that the value of work in the community was appraised irrespective of the sex of the person who performs it. A married man would then receive his wage, plus child endowment and other social services benefits, and the single woman, who does the same work in the community, would receive the adult wage without discrimination. Until some readjustment is made of the basic wage principle, many women will continue to suffer grave injustice. Not one feasible argument can be advanced to justify the payment to women teachers of only 80 per cent, of the male rate of pay. Australia likes to regard itself as an advancedcountry. Let me assure honorable senators that in its treatment of women teachers it is a long way behind other countries. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport ( Senator McLeay), who is in charge of the Senate, to present these views to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden) and to the other members of the Cabinet.
.- 1 support the remarks made by Senator Robertson, who has most ably presented the case for the payment of the full male rate to women teachers. Honorable senators will recall that inmy maiden speech in this Senate I submitted a similar plea, though perhaps not quite so forcibly as did the honorable senator. Senator Robertson’s views should be brought to the notice of the Cabinet so that this inequity may be righted.
– in reply - The matters mentioned by Senator Robertson will be considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional ‘Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations -
Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Immigration purposes - Penrith, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Guildford, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinance - 1952 - No. 19 - Licensing.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - K. N. Middleton.
Defence Production - I. E. S. Gordon.
Health - C. Guthrie.
Repatriation - M. G. Rankin-Wilson.
Senate adjourned at 11.48p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 June 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19520603_senate_20_217/>.