20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provi-sion of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of Western Australia of the vacancy caused in the representation of that State by the death of Senator Edmund Stephen Roper Piesse. I have received from His Excellency the Governor a certificate of the choice of William Charles Robinson as a senator to fill such vacancy.
Certificate laid on the table by the Clerk.
Senator Robinson made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether it is a fact that, on the 29th September, at least seven soldiers were detained in the guard house of the Puckapunyal military camp, and that some had been so detained for a period of twelve weeks awaiting trial for having been absent without leave? Is it a fact that soldiers under detention should be allowed one hour a day in the open yard for exercise ? Is it a fact that those detained are being deprived of that concession, aud that the only time they see the sun is through the barred windows of their cells which also serve as their exercise yard ? Since British justice demands that a person shall be deemed to be innocent until he has been pronounced guilty by a court, will the Minister make inquiries into these statements, and if they are found to be correct, will he issue instructions that soldiers charged with offences shall be tried within two days and also be treated in accordance with Army regulations ?
– As I have no knowledge of the allegations made by the honorable senator, I shall have to ask the Minister for the Army for information about the circumstances under which men are held in detention camps. I have no hesitation in refuting the suggestion that men are not treated properly and well. The suggestion that they are kept in circumstances that they cannot see the sun, except at stated intervals, has to me the atmosphere of gross exaggeration of the facts. I know the Army and the Minister for the Army well enough to be able to assure the Senate without reference to him, that the men are being treated generously, having regard to the circumstances in which they are placed. I shall ask the Minister for the Army to furnish a statement on the matter.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport state the quantity of goods at present in eastern State ports awaiting shipment to Western Australia? Will he make a comparison between the present delay in shipment and the delay that occurred twelve months ago ? If there is still delay, when does the Minister expect the lag to be overtaken ?
– I am pleased to be able to report that the position in relation to goods awaiting shipment to Western Australia has improved considerably. Dulverton, which was lent to the Commonwealth by the Western Australian Government, will be handed back to that Government this month. An examination of the shipping position on the Australian coast disclosed that insufficient cargo was available to load Dulverton to proceed to Western Australia via Adelaide. Accordingly, arrangements were made for the vessel to go to Darwin again, and thence to Western Australia by that route. I do not believe that any problem exists at present in relation to the shipment of cargo to Western Australian ports.
– Some months ago, honorable senators on both sides of the chamber requested that regular and more frequent shipping services be provided to the port of Esperance, in Western Australia. At that time, the Minister for Shipping and Transport attributed the cancellation of certain scheduled calls by vessels to an engineers’ strike then in progress, but he said that the matter would receive consideration. As the strike ended two months ago, will the Minister inform the Senate what improvements have been effected in the service?
– I was advised that as soon as the strike ended, the shipping authorities arranged to send a ship to Esperance.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a number of questions which, arise from a statement made by the Minister last week in which he claimed that since June, 1951, American companies have invested in Australia double the amount that was invested during the preceding six years. Will the Minister table the details of such investments and disclose the source of his figures ? Will he provide details of the figures, so that the Senate will know the precise categories in which investments have been made? Has the Minister included in the figures the amount of loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development? Will he indicate what percentage of the money is new. and how much is reinvestment money? Has the Minister any information regarding the 82 per cent, excess pro-fits tax which is being imposed in the United States of America? Has it influenced reinvestment, and has he received any reports from the trade commissioner which can be made available to honorable senators? Has any inducement been made to American investors by promising them exemption from taxes on Australian profits under the proposed tax agreement? Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the recent 64-page international trade edition of the New York Journal of Commerce, which does not contain a single reference to this country? Can the Minister explain why the Government does not supply appropriate material to such publications as the Wall Street Journal and The Journal of Commerce if it wishes to expand trade with the United States of America?
– I hardly think that it is fair for an honorable senator to ask any Minister to reply offhand to such a lengthy series of questions. I am afraid that I have been unable to remember all the questions. My statement in relation to the amount of capital that had been invested in this country was true. I did not pluck it out of the air. It was based on facts and figures that had been given to me by my department. The honorable senator said, if I understood him aright, that I had stated that a certain amount had actually been invested since 1951. I did not say that. What I said was that there had been commitments to invest that amount. The actual expenditure might be spread over two, three or more years, according to the requirements of each project. I am not prepared to make available publicly the details of the various investments, because many of them were based on confidential negotiations between my department and the companies concerned. I did not accept the figures that had been given to me until my department had substantiated them. I am prepared to make available to the Leader of the Opposition privately the information about the figure of £50,000,000 that I mentioned. I could not, in fairness to the companies concerned, make it public. If the honorable senator will place the remainder of his questions on the noticepaper, I shall answer them. The only thing that prevents me from answering them now is that I cannot remember them.
With a view to improving our export trade, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture confer with his colleague and urge that he again refer to the Australian Agricultural Council the question of laying down standards for such matters, as the machine cleaning of all blue and grey peas for export?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has advised me that the subject of preserving marketing standards for blue peas was discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council at its meeting in February last, when it was decided to refer the matter to the various States for examination. When the views of all States have been received, it will be considered further by the Australian Agricultural Council.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General by pointing out that grave inconvenience and eyestrain have been caused to postal employees in the Mail Room at the Melbourne General Post Office as a result of the fluorescent lighting system being inoperative for a considerable time. I understand that the department has experienced difficulty in obtaining new tubes to replace those that have been burnt out. Will the Minister endeavour to have the matter expedited?
– I shall be only too pleased to direct the attention of my colleague to’ the honorable senator’s question.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General state whether it is a fact that a contract was recently given to the Coronation Printery, Brisbane, for the printing of telegram forms for the Postmaster-General’s Department? If such a contract was given to this firm which prints the Communist weekly, The Guardian, and other Communist literature in Queensland, will the Minister inform the Senate of the circumstances surrounding the letting of the contract?
– I cannot say whether the contract mentioned by the honorable senator has been given to the Coronation Press, but I shall bring this question to the notice of the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General and obtain a full report on the subject as early as possible.
– On the 23rd September, Senator Laught asked the following question: - t desire to preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General by stating that I have received constant complaints from exceedingly reliable Adelaide business men that airmail letters, which have been posted at Sydney General Post Office as early as noon on a week day, have not been delivered in Adelaide and its suburbs until the first delivery on the second day following the day of” postage, whereas letters which have been posted at the General Post Office, Adelaide, up to 4.30 p.m. on a week day have been delivered in Sydney in the first delivery of mail the next morning. Will the Minister ‘ ensure that airmail which is posted in Sydney before the early afternoon on a week day and addressed to Adelaide and its suburbs is delivered by the first mail the next morning? For the purpose of achiev- ing this objective, will the Minister consider the use of- the daily Trans-Australia Convair service which leaves Mascot for Essendon at 4 p.m., and Essendon for Parafield at 6.55 p.m.?
The Minister acting for the Postmaster.General has now supplied me with the following answer: -
Except in extraordinary circumstances such as a serious dislocation of air schedules, airmail articles lodged at the General Post Office, Sydney, during the day should be delivered to addresses in Adelaide and suburbs by the following afternoon. The Trans- Australia Airlines Convair service leaving Sydney at 4 p.m. has not been used for mail primarily because of the small volume of mail available for despatch to Adelaide via Melbourne by that plane. However, arrangements have” been made for an airmail for Adelaide to be despatched by the Convair in future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Postmaster-General has now supplied me with the following information : -
– On the 24th September, Senator Vincent asked the following question: -
By way of explanation of a question that I shall address to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral I inform the Senate that I have recently received many complaints about radio interference in’ the country districts of Western Australia. I realize that the Commonwealth is not all powerful in the matter of protective legislation and that it is necessary for the States to co-operate. Will the Minister request the Postmaster-General to consider, in conjunction with the States, the introduction of adequate legislation to cope with this problem.
The Minister acting for the Post- master-General has supplied the following answer : -
The department fully appreciates the necessity for the introduction of legislation designed to control sources of radio inductive interference to both broadcast and radio communication services and is working to this end. In the meantime, if the honorable senator will be good enough to let me have details of any complaints he has received in regard to reception difficulties 1 shall be happy to arrange for these to be investigated.
– On the 23rd September, Senator Seward asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General inform me of the cost of erecting the neon sign on the top of the Cadbury building at the corner of Forrest-place and Murray-street, Perth, which advertises certain features of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes? ls any rental paid for this advertisement? If so, what sum is paid and to whom is it paid? Why is there a need to advertise national programmes in this manner?
The Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The cost to the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the erecting of the sign mentioned was £31 10s. A rental of £15 10s. per month is paid to Claude Neon Limited for the sign and a rental of £5 per month for the excellent site is paid to Claude Neon Limited representing the Cadbury Trust. The function of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to provide a service of information and entertainment for listeners, and it is necessary that the availability of this service should be continually brought to the notice of the public. This sign at the busiest intersection in Perth is a valuable means of publicizing various broadcast programmes. It is generally recognized in all’ spheres relating to public entertainment and public services that advertisement is essential, but the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s publicity activities are limited and are in fact considerably less than is normal in this field.
– I desire to direct questions to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, or the Minister representing the Prime Minister, whichever is the appropriate Minister: 1. Is it not a fact that Chinese Communists are helping the North Korean Communists in Korea against the United Nations forces? 2. Is it not a fact that Russian Communists are assisting North Korean Communists and supplying them with aeroplanes and pilots in North Korea against the United Nations forces? If the answers to questions No. 1 and No. 2 are in the affirmative, can the Minister give the Senate any information as to how the Govern ment can justify the granting of vises to a delegation to Moscow, in Communist Russia, and at the same time the refusing of vises to the delegation to Peking, in Communist China ?
– With due respect to the honorable senator, I do not feel that the Government is called upon to justify its attitude. It has apparently escaped the attention of the honorable senator that the reason which activated the Government’s refusal to grant vises, to delegates attending the Peking conference was that that conference was being held in enemy country, behind enemy lines.
– We are not fighting in China. We are fighting in Korea, are we not?
– Peking is behind enemy lines.
– So is Russia.
– If the honorable senator does not wish me to answer the question, he should not have asked it. At the present time, we conduct diplomatic relations with Russia. We are not at war with that country. There is a Russian ambassador in Australia, and Australia is represented in Moscow. I repeat that delegates were refused vises to attend the Peking conference because the conference was being held behind enemy lines.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs agree that, if communism is to be halted, honorable senators and other people in this country should have the fullest information about the aims and. objectives of Soviet Russia? Is it not a fact that, not long ago, Stalin wrote a long article for the Russian magazine Bolshevik, and that the article was quoted by the Australian press? Is this magazine printed in English? Are copies of it available in the Parliamentary Library? If not. will the Minister procure a copy, in English, for the information of honorable senators?
– I agree that to combat communism effectively we must understand its objectives and methods. I have not read the article to which the honorable senator has referred. It is hardly within my province to make a copy of the magazine available, but I am sure that if copies can be procured, the keen desire of all honorable senators to inform their minds adequately on this very important matter will impel them individually to do their best to obtain, read and digest the article.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state whether the Australian Government has repurchased on the Australian market for £24,896,90S, Commonwealth securities of a face value of £26,397,080, thereby making a net profit of £1,500,172 on the transaction ? So that persons in poor financial circumstances who wish to realize on their securities will not incur losses, will the Government appoint a committee and vest it with power to investigate the proposed sale of securities and to repurchase securities at their face value?
– This question follows the pattern of others that have been asked on the same topic. Of course, T. am not able to say offhand whether the figures referred to by the honorable senator are correct. It is well known that securities have been bought in on the open market. I am. sorry to say, however, that I.’ do not carry in my head particulars concerning the volume of such transactions. The Commonwealth would not be prepared to purchase back its securities at par at any stage of their currency because it would be impracticable to do so. The price of bonds rises and falls in the same way as does the price of all securities on the market. The natural corollary to the proposal would be that when bonds were selling at a premium, as they frequently do, those who held them should pay the amount of the premium to the Government. I should think that that course of action would be as unpopular with the people who hold bonds as is the suggestion that the Government should purchase at par bonds which are selling at a discount.
– On the 16th September, Senator Paltridge asked a question on the subject of the savings effected by the introduction of diesel electric locomotives on the TransAustralian line. The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The first mainline diesel electric locomotive was officially placed in service on the TransAustralian Railway on the Ctb October, 1951. Figures for locomotive operation on that railway since the introduction of diesel electric power until the 20th July, 1052, are as follows: - Average cost per steam locomotive mile, 194.47d.; average cost per diesel electric locomotive mile, 40.07d.; total steam mileage involved, 380,000 approximately; total diesel mileage involved, 588,000 approximately. These figures include the. cost of operating crews as well as workshops and running expenses, including fuel, lubrication, servicing, &c. As the diesel electric locomotives are new, very little expenditure has been involved in workshops repairs, but based on American experience, it is considered that an additional 20d. per engine mile will more than cover their average workshops maintenance costs? which means then that the operating cost of a diesel electric locomotive would be about onethird of that of the steam locomotive.
Based on the mileages given above, the savings made by the diesel electric locomotive compared with steam locomotives for the period under reference, would be over £300,000, dining which time the diesel electric locomotives operated approximately 60 per cent, of the total mileage. If diesel electric locomotives had run the full mileage, the total saving over that period, would have been approximately £59(1,000. In other words, based on present average expenditure, the diesel electric locomotives result in a saving of approximately 50 per cent, per annum of their total cost.
Overtime and penalty time as a part of the total time paid to running and maintenance staff, for the period ended 23rd August, 1952, as compared with the period ended 22nd September, 1951, shows the following reductions: - Running staff: i.e. men on rostered shifts as drivers, firemen, cleaners, pumpers, train examiners, 80.7 per cent.; shed (maintenance) staff: i.e. fixed hours staff, 89 per cent. Such payments as are still necessary are due almost solely to penalty time for week-end work. The running shed depots at Tarcoola, Cook and Rawlinna have been closed, and staff transferred to other locations. The transfer of surplus staff from the Trans-Australian Railway to the Central Australia Railway has permitted considerable reduction being effected in overtime and penalty time on the latter railway on which previously heavy overtime was being worked.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply read a statement that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald ou Wednesday, 1st October last stating under the heading, “ Where the Money Goes’’, that the previous week-end, 22 Commonwealth cars, including twelve Humber Snipes and ten Holdens, were at the Kingsford-Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, each with a driver, to take members of Parliament from the aerodrome to the city? Is that statement correct? If so, will the Minister obtain a list of those for whom the cars were waiting? I assure him that it is not the practice in Tasmania and, so far as I know, in other States to provide such transport.
– I have not seen the statement that the honorable senator has mentioned. I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Supply and ask him if he will supply a statement on the matter for the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Territories try to arrange for the Administrator of the Northern Territory to furnish for the information of the Senate a reasonably accurate estimate of the devastating cattle losses that have occurred in the Barkly Tableland and other parts of the Northern Territory?
– I shall bring the matter before the notice of the Minister for Territories and obtain the information for the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport in a position to submit to the Senate any further progress report of the conference that was held between the Federal and State authorities on road transport with view to the framing of uniform road raffic and driving laws so that the shocking num’ber of fatalities and accidents that occur on the roads may be reduced? The Minister has previously promised me a report on the matter.
– The matter has been considered from time to time and reports have been forwarded to State Ministers who have power to make necessary alterations to the State traffic laws. The whole matter will be considered by the seven responsible State Ministers at a special conference that is to be held in Adelaide on the 25th November. At that conference, a comprehensive report on progress that has been achieved will be made public. It is not proposed to make the recommendations available generally until the State Ministers have studied them.-
– On the 18th September last, Senator Kendall asked the following question: - 1 preface a question that I shall address to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by pointing out that at the end of World War II., Sir Thomas Gordon, on behalf of the Australian Shipping Board, submitted to the Australian government that was then in office a list of the names of merchant service personnel that were considered worthy of honours, in recognition of their meritorious service during the war. However, the then Government, as is well known, did not view favorably, the bestowal of honours. Shortly after I was elected to the Parliament. I -raised tins matter with the Prime Minister, and I understood from subsequent correspondence that the right honorable gentleman would look into it. Many honours have been awarded during the Inst two years, and although the list that I have mentioned was only small, it is not too late for the Government to recommend the award of honours to the men I mentioned, in recognition of their special services during the war. Will the Minister inform me whether they might still expect to receive recognition for those services?
The honorable senator will no doubt recollect that, on the 22nd November, 1950, following the assumption of office of the present Government. I replied to a letter from him, regarding representations made by the General Secretary of the Merchant Service Guild of Australasia on this subject. The second paragraph of my letter read as follows : -
This subject has received most careful consideration, and it is my desire that the meritorious service given by Australian seamen during the war should, as far as it is practicable at this late stage, be recognized. It is proposed, therefore, to give consideration to the grant of awards in special cases of the war-time service of merchant seamen in common with other civil categories in future recommendations for awards in the New Year and King’s Birthday honours lists.
This matter has received further consideration, but it is not proposed to review war-time recommendations at this late stage. However, as I previously pointed out to the honorable senator, consideration will be given to any specially meritorious cases which might be put forward. In this connexion, in the last two years, two. awards have been made to members of the Australian merchant service for outstanding actions during the war.
– On the 23rd September, Senator Benn asked the following question: -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral by pointing out that quarter size public: telephone cabinets are inconvenient to use and do not provide the desired degree of privacy for the users. Requests that have been made in the past for quarter size cabinets to be replaced by full size cabinets have been rejected on the grounds that labour and materials to construct them were not available. Will the Minister inform me when it is expected that this work will be undertaken?
The Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral has now supplied me with the following information: - lt is not now the policy to intall head type public telephone cabinets except in isolated cases where full-length cabinets are unsuitable. The replacement of existing head type cabinets is proceeding but the supply of full-length cabinets is not unlimited and the programme of new installations to which the department is committed renders the observance of a definite order of priority essential so that preference may be given to the most urgent cases. The replacement of head type cabinets will be expedited as much as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister fo7’ the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the imminent opening up of Cockburn Sound, Western Australia, by dredging the Pamela and Success Banks, to enable shipping to service the proposed new AngloIranian refinery at Kwinana, the proposed steel rolling mills to be erected by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and cement works and other industries which will be established there, is it the intention of the Navy to take advantage of the opportunity to use this splendid anchorage as a naval base, or for any other naval purposes?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : - lt is not at present intended to establish a miva! base in Cockburn Sound as existing facilities in Fremantle are adequate for our needs. The opening up of the Sound, however, is of strategic importance and would pro* vide a secure fleet anchorage and convoy assembly area if required. The Department of the Navy originally owned a considerable portion of the land surrounding the eastern side of Cockburn Sound, a large portion of which has been transferred to the Western Australian Government for the erection of a refinery and the steel rolling mills. This department, however, has retained a portion of its original holding for use if it is decided in the future to establish more naval installations in the area.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What are the wholesale prices paid for those drugs which are made available to the public under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, and how do such prices compare with the prices paid by the Health Department to the pharmacists who dispense and retail the said drugs?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer : -
Under the prices agreement negotiated with the Pharmaceutical Guild by the Chifley Government the price payable to pharmacists for drugs supplied as benefits represented a markup of 33j per cent, on wholesale prices. That arrangement still operates.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following information : -
From time to time I have made it quite clear that the Australian Hides and Leather Industries Board continues in existence solely for the purpose of enabling State control of prices of hides and leather to operate. This is in pursuance of an undertaking given to the States when they assumed the responsibility for controlling domestic prices generally. However, it has never been the intention that marketing or export control of any commodity should be maintained if there “ was not a real need for it. The closer that export prices get to the fixed domestic price levels the less is the justification ‘for the retention of such controls. I am at present examining the whole position in relation to both hides and tallow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following information : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following answers: -
An amount of £16,800,000 has been provided in the budget for the payment of subsidy on butter and cheese for the year 1952-53. Of this amount it is estimated that approximately” £15,000,000 will be applied to butter. In addition, the Government is making available in 1952-53 a grant of £250,000 to State Departments of Agriculture to be used tn finance .approved projects designed to secure improved efficiency in the dairying industry generally. The subsidy granted on sales within Australia is to enable the public to huy butter and cheese at less than the cost of production. 2. (a) Approximately 10 3/4d. per lb.; (6) approximately ls. per lb.
Owing to seasonal and other factors 1951-52 was a year of light production. The average annual Australian factory production over the previous five-year period was 157,000 tons. The Australian average cost of production in 1952-53 has been calculated by the Bureau of Agricultural .Economics to be 4s. ].29d. per lb. commercial butter.
The average total Australian exports in the previous five years were 73,000 tons.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications)
Bill 1952. Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1952. Distillation Bill 1952. Excise Bill 1952.
States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill 1952.
Dried Fruits Export Control Bill 1952. Repatriation Bill 1952.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator
Courtice to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by .Senator SPOONER read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main proposals of the Government for adjusting the rates oC income tax and social services contribution in respect of the financial year 1952-53 are contained in this bill. These proposals relate to companies as well as individuals. The provisions of the bill represent a substantial part of the Government’s plan for reducing taxation by approximately £50,000,000 in the current financial year. The major alteration affecting individuals is the abolition of the 10 per cent, special levy imposed last year. The benefit to individual taxpayers as a consequence of this reduction will amount to £23,000,000 in the current year. The gain to these taxpayers in a full assessment year will, however, be £36,500,000. The difference between these amounts is due partly to the fact that the reduced tax instalments from earnings will not commence to operate until the 1st October, 1952. This delay in the introduction of the new schedules is necessary to allow sufficient time for the preparation, printing and distribution of the scales after the policy of the Government has been decided. Excess instalments deducted in the first three months of this year will, of course, be refunded shortly after returns for the current income year have been lodged. A further factor accounting for a part of the difference between £23,000,000 and £36,500,000 is that some of the provisional tax on business, professional and property incomes will not become payable in this financial year. This occurs where returns have been lodged late, giving rise to the late issue of assessments.
Honorable senators have received schedules comparing amounts payable for the years 1951-52 and 1952-53 by taxpayers with varying family responsibilities. Schedules have also been circulated to show a comparison of amounts payable in Australia on specified incomes with amounts payable in the United Kingdom and New Zealand on similar incomes. From these latter schedules it may be clearly seen that the Australian taxes proposed in the bill are much lower than are the income taxes of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It has been argued that because the estimated collections in 1952-53 will exceed those of 1951-52, taxpayers will be worse off in 1952-53 despite the reduced rates of tax. This conclusion, drawn from such a comparison, is misleading as the taxation collections in this financial year will include arrears of taxes from previous years. The real position is that the estimated collections in 1952-53 from current income will be only £275,400,000, compared with the corresponding collection of £335,500,000 in 1951-52. Argument has also been advanced to the effect that changes in the value of money should be taken into account when determining taxation liabilities, so that the purchasing power of the taxpayer may be maintained at a constant level. It is impracticable to. adopt any other measure than the amount of money income received in any year, and no government in the past has departed from this method of approach.
The point to be borne in mind on this issue is the fact that the rates of taxation are being reduced. The taxpayer will get the benefit of the reduced rates irrespective of whether his increased income arises from basic wage increases or from any other cause.
It is proposed that the special concessions that were granted last year to men over 65 and women over 60 years of age shall be extended this year, in order to conform with the increase of the age pension. The concession is designed to exempt from taxation liability those persons of pensionable age who, by reason of their income, are ineligible to receive the age pension, but who, nevertheless, do not receive more than the permissible income for age pension purposes. In 1951-52, the permissible income was £234 for a single person and £468 for a married couple. The increase of the age pension by 7s. 6d. a week raises these amounts to £254 and £507 respectively. Accordingly, the bill raises the exemption to £254 for a single person and £507 for a married couple. Where the income is slightly in excess of those amounts the taxa tion liability will be limited to one-ha.lf of the excess over the permitted income.
Taxation of companies will also be reduced by the proposals contained in the bill. All companies, both public and private, will benefit from the discontinuance of the 10 per cent, advance payment which it was found necessary to impose last year. . All companies will have their current taxes reduced by a credit of the amount of the advance payment made last year, and they will not be required to make a further advance payment of 10 per cent, of the current tax. The decision to discontinue the system of advance payments will reduce revenue collections by £14,000,000 in the current financial year, and £5,000,000 in the next financial year, making a total of £19,000,000. Public companies will also benefit by a reduction of 2s. in the £1 of the rate applicable to the first £5,000 of taxable income. The Government has weighed the merits of claims that the full effects of taxation were adversely affecting small public companies. Having regard to the changed economic circumstances, it has been found possible to reduce the rate of tax on the first £5,000 of income of public companies. Although all public companies will gain some benefit from this provision, the concession will be of greatest assistance to small public companies. It is estimated that the full annual cost to revenue of this proposal will be £1,500.000, and £1,100.000 in the current financial year.
Since the introduction of uniform taxation, the primary rates of tax applicable to the income of mutual life assurance companies have been ls. lower than those imposed on the income of public companies. This concession to mutual life assurance companies is being continued by the bill. The primary rates of tax on private companies are not being altered. These rates are 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income, and 7s. in the £1 on the ;balance of taxable income. However, the bill incorporates a new provision relating to the taxation of the undistributed income of private companies. In the past attempts have been made to devise a system of taxing those undistributed profits in such a way that the private company could retain a reasonable proportion of its income for developmental purposes, and at the same time pay an appropriate tax on profits retained for the benefit of its shareholders. It is admitted on all sides that the provisions of the present system are unduly complicated and, in many instances, have been ineffective in preventing avoidance of income tax. The new plan of private company taxation, which I. shall explain at greater length when the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1952 is introduced, is based, in principle, on recommendations that were submitted by the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. Suffice it to state at this stage that the major source of complexity is to be found in the assessment of the undistributed income tax at the shareholders’ individual graduated rates. This complexity is being removed by the imposition of a flat rate of tax of 10s. in the £1 instead of the shareholders’ individual graduated rates. Taken in conjunction with proposed increased retention allowances, a relatively simple and, I believe, a fair basis of taxation of these companies will be attained.
It will be proposed in the bill dealing with assessments to exempt from tax nonprofit organizations concerned with sport in which human beings are the sole participants. That bill will propose to exempt from liability to taxation the income of other non-profit organizations where the income does not exceed £104. Organizations that will benefit from this exemption will be clubs, lodges and similar bodies, whose incomes consist usually of 3mall amounts of Commonwealth loan or bank interest. A special clause provides that, where the taxable income of such an organization exceeds £104 but does not exceed £208, the amount of tax and contribution payable shall be limited to onehalf of the excess of the taxable income over £104.
The proposals that I have outlined relate to the current financial year. They will, therefore, be applied to the income derived by individuals during the year ending the 30th June, 1953, and to that derived by companies during the year ended the 30th June, 1952. By deciding upon the taxation policy incorporated in the bill, the Government has sought to grant the greatest possible relief consistent with the dictates of economic circumstances. The proposals that I have outlined have been designed to provide an equitable apportionment of such taxation relief as may be afforded in present circumstances. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
” 4. 2]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks Parliamentary authority for further loan raisings totalling £30,000,000 for the purpose of advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. Since the inception of the agreement, advances, to the States have steadily increased from £(5,795,000 in 1945-46 to £26,547,000 in 1951-52. In total, the States had received £111,009,000 at the 30th June, 1952.
The works programme approved by the Australian Loan Council in May last included £30,000,000 for housing under the agreement. It was estimated, however, that loan moneys would not be forthcoming to support the full programme, and that only £21,820,000 would be actually available. At the July meeting of the Australian Loan Council the Commonwealth agreed to supplement this sum by £8,180,000, thus assuring the States of total advances amounting to £30,000,000.
The Commonwealth offered this £8,180,000, on condition that the States agreed to expend it in providing houses in areas and for purposes nominated by the Commonwealth, where the Commonwealth wishes to make such nomination. The Commonwealth is now working out with the States a programme of construction within categories of high priority proposals, such as primary production, coal, transport and power.
This year’s appropriation of £30,000,000 is £3,453,000 more than the actual expenditure last year. The increased appropriation is made necessary by increased building costs and the need to pay for imported houses.
At the 30th June, 1952, about 8,S00 houses had been imported by State authorities. A Commonwealth subsidy of £300 is payable on each of these. About 4,000 of these houses came under the housing agreement. Unfulfilled orders at that date totalled 5,000. Most of ‘these houses are expected to arrive in Australia during the current financial year. No further orders for imported houses are at present being contemplated by Commonwealth or State authorities.
At the end of June, 1952 nearly 47,000 dwellings had been completed under the agreement. Completions in 1951-52 were S,766, compared with 7,778 dwellings completed in 1950-51. One-third of agreement houses have been built outside the metropolitan areas. These figures relate to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. South Australia has not operated under the agreement, and Tasmania withdrew two years ago.
The agreement was designed, primarily, to bring homes of a reasonable standard within the roach of persons with small or moderate incomes. This purpose is achieved by the provision of rental rebates, under which a family whose income equals the basic wage does not have to pay more than one-fifth of that income in rent, whatever the economic rent of the dwelling it occupies may be. As the family income rises above the basic wage or falls below it, the amount of rebate decreases or increases. By the 31st March, 1952, rental rebates granted in the operating States amounted to £367,000.
Under the housing agreement, any house may be sold to the tenant in occupation, who may receive a credit for any principal repayments he has made by way of rent. It is the State, however, that determines which houses shall be offered for sale, and the basis of sale. Commonwealth approval is necessary only if a State desires to sell a house at less than capital cost. To the 30th June, 1952, 1,951 houses had been actually sold to tenants, and negotiations were proceeding for the sale of about 2,000 more. Sales during the 1951-52 financial year totalled 930. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 1st October (vide page 2426).
Depa.rtm.ent of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £9,661,000.
– Late on “Wednesday night last I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) whether he could give the Senate details concerning the work performed by tha Public Service Board. I asked him to do so because it seems to me that the Public Service Board proposes to expend a very substantial sum of money in the current financial year. I am interested to know whether the Minister can point to changed functions of the board or an increase of the number of employees, in order to justify such a large expenditure. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, Senator Cormack sought to amplify my request, and in doing so wandered into the realms of rhetoric. In the course of his remarks, for instance, he referred to the greedy fingers on the long arms of officers of the Public Service, and rather took the matter away from the lines on which .1 wished it to be discussed. Without any histrionics or rhetoric, I merely ask the Minister to outline to the Senate some of the functions performed by the Public Service Board.
– That subject comes under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department, the estimates for which have already been approved.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £3,230,000.
.- The sum of £727,000 has been allocated for salaries and payments in the nature of salary for temporary and casual employees. The amount expended for this purpose last year in this department was £687,273. I have never been able to obtain a satisfactory answer explaining why the amount allocated for salaries and payments in the nature of salary for temporary officers i;. so high, year after year. I know that departments d’j li;ie busy periods of ta<s y’-:iv during which they may require additional employees, but I must again voice my disapproval of the increasing amounts which are paid to temporary employees each year. I am disgusted that so many of these men, after years of loyal service to the Government, have still been classified only as temporary employees. The Australian Government appears to be the greatest sinner in this respect. The State governments have been reasonable enough to classify as permanent those temporary employees who have given some years of service, and in this way they have relieved them of considerable anxiety. I do not contend that these temporary and casual officers are not necessary. I know that they are. But from my own twenty years of experience in the Public Service I know that the employment of these people on a temporary basis is a means of securing cheap labour. These officers do not receive the reward that their services merit and which it would be in the interests of the taxpayer to give them. Many of them have offered their lives in defence of this country.
– I appreciate the points that have been raised by the honorable senator. This matter has been under the consideration of the Government for some time. However, I am sure that the honorable senator would not expect me to state what the future holds in regard to a matter of policy such as this. The difference between the proposed vote and the vote for the last financial year is very largely due to various increases in wages.
– Some months ago it was reported in the press that the Government was considering buying a very large film studio in Sydney. Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in a position to confirm or deny that report? Apparently no provision has been made for the purchase of such a studio in the Estimates for the Department of the Interior. I think that this matter should be clarified.
In “ Division 65 - Forestry Brnach “ - there appears a large increase in the vote for temporary and casual employees, the last vote for whom was £16,000 whilst the proposed vote is £28,000. This is another instance of the trend that was mentioned by Senator Critchley. Now that many months have passed since the disastrous fires occurred in Canberra and it is possible to assess the damage that they caused, perhaps the Minister for Shipping and Transport will be able to say whether any provision has been made in the Estimates for the Forestry Branch to make good the losses that were incurred in those fires.
– No provision has been made in the Estimates for the purchase of the film studio mentioned by Senator Armstrong.
The honorable senator will notice that whereas the vote for salaries and payments in the nature of salary to temporary and casual employees last year in Division 65 was £16,000 the expenditure was £22,888. The proposed vote is £28,000. I understand that additional provision will be made in respect of the damage that was occasioned by the bush fires last year. I shall obtain the exact figures for the honorable senator if he would like to have them.
.- The vote for “Publicity materials and services” under Item C of Division 61 - Administrative - appears constantly to increase. Could the Minister give some information about this item ?
– The moneys voted in respect of this item are applied to the printing of a number of publications including newspapers and periodicals such as SouthWest Pacific.
– <No doubt some of the proposed vote of £460,000 in “Division 62 - Electoral Branch “ - will be expended in the payment of fees and wages to assistant returning officers, presiding officers and poll clerks during the current financial year because it is expected that a Senate election will be held before the 30th June, 1953. At present no provision is made for teaching officers who are enlisted for one day’s work by the Electoral Branch how to carry out their duties. It seems that the Government relies upon the intelligence of these people and, to some degree, upon the experience that they have gained in order to enable them to fulfil their obligations. Generally speaking, the services that they render can be considered as satisfactory. However, from time to time, an odd case shows clearly that not all officers have the knowledge necessary to carry out the duties of assistant returning officers, presiding officers or, perhaps, poll clerks. These men should be given a brief period of tuition prior to an election so that on the election day they may proceed with their duties with greater confidence than they have shown in the past. My personal experience of returning officers, assistant returning officers, presiding officers and poll clerks has been a happy one. I have found that they are prepared to co-operate with persons who are ready to co-operate with them, but occasionally an official is found who does not know his duties and acts according to his own interpretation of the electoral law. An officer of that type causes much inconvenience to the candidates and their supporters and to the public generally. I have had some experiences that have not been to the credit of the department. All concerned like to see elections conducted smoothly and competently. The officers mean well but sometimes their knowledge is not sufficient to enable them to fulfil their obligations properly. Honorable senators had an illustration of this point recently when Senator McCallum was acting as chairman of the committee. No doubt he was honest and intended to do his best, but he could not carry out his duties fully and competently until he was instructed by an officer. After he had obtained that instruction, the honorable senator was able to conduct the business of the committee properly. I invite the Minister to comment upon my suggestions.
– A Minister is not called upon to reply to questions on matters of policy during consideration of the Estimates in committee. I do not believe that it is proper for a Minister to- do so.
– “Why not?
– If that were the case, there would be no limit to the debate. L understand that the honorable senator asked in the first place whether any money had been provided in the Estimates for an election to be held during the financial year. The answer is “ Yes “. A sum of £250,000 has been provided for the purpose under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “, on page 68. For the convenience of debate, I ask honorable senators not to refer to items under the “ M4s,cellaneous Services “ heading until consideration of votes for the various departments has been concluded. Matters such as that to which the honorable senator has referred will be considered by the committee later. It is difficult for a Minister to swing his attention from the general vote for the Department of the Interior to miscellaneous items. I shall bring before the Minister who is responsible for the dministration of the depart ment the honorable senator’s suggestion that more experienced staff should be allotted to electoral duties.
– In view of the need for economies, I believe that the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior would bear closer investigation. This week men may be seen actively mowing grass near Parliament House. This morning two brand new motor mowers were in use on a paddock nearby. “When they had finished, the paddock looked more disreputable than when they had started. I was reminded of a conversation I had some years ago with an old farmer. “We were discussing the use of a reaper and binder on another farmer’s paddock and the old farmer commented to me, “ It looks as though he had chewed it off “. That comment might have applied to the work that I saw done this morning. I should like to see a parade on the lawn outside Parliament House of the implements that are used by the Department of the Interior in Canberra. Instead of buying all this expensive machinery to go over the paddocks. here> the department could enclose some of the larger spaces, such as the area opposite the. Hotel Kurrajong and graze sheep there. If that were done, the list of equipment that was mentioned by Senator Critchley would be reduced considerably and the grass would be kept at ground level. At the same time, the sheep would return some revenue to the department and so save buying expensive machinery.
More supervision seems to be needed in Canberra. One day when I was walking, I saw five men with hedge clippers who had to clip a hedge about .30 yards long. That was at 9 o’clock in the morning. The next morning at 9 o’clock they were still talking about the job. An average man could have done the work in half a day. I was amused last Friday when I read in the Canberra Times that Dr. Chapman, one of the most competent transport men in Australia, is to have the assistance of another man who has many letters after his name to report and advise on the transport system in Canberra. If Dr. Chapman had been assigned to study transport in New South “Wales or in Australia generally, he would be competent to do so. He was a royal commissioner appointed to inquire into the railway system in Tasmania. To bring two highly qualified men to Canberra to advise the Government on the transport system of the National Capital is equivalent to using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. If the officer in charge cannot run properly a small transport system like that in operation in Canberra, there is something wrong with the department. Last year the system incurred a loss of £53,000. The previous year the loss was £37,000, so it is becoming worse. A radical overhaul of the system is necessary. I suggest that one-man ‘buses should be capable of coping with the service in off-peak hours. A driver and a conductor are not necessary on each bus at all times. The Minister in charge of the department should study its requirements closely and exercise some economies. There is ample room, for them.
. - I can only assure Senator Seward that I shall bring the matters that have been raised by him before the responsible Minister. I have been informed that the cutting of grass to-day was a precaution against the fire3 that may be expected during the summer months.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister : to matters associated with the forthcoming Senate elections following upon those that have been raised by Senator Benn. Under “Division 62. - Electoral Branch” expenditure of £292,000 is proposed during the current year for salaries and allowances, and the total expenditure of the division is estimated at £460,000. In addition, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has referred to a sum of £250,000 that is provided under another beading. This enormous expenditure in the coming twelve months will be repeated again in 19541 when an election of members of the House of Representatives will be held. It will be repeated again in 1956 and 1957. Indications are that in only one year between 1952 and 1057 an election will not be held. The people will become very tired of election appeals in two years out of every three. The cost of employing hosts of officials at elections is also an important consideration. Indeed, an enormous sum of money will be expended on elections in the next eight years. This problem will have to be faced. I am sure that if the people of Australia were aware of the prospect that they faced, they would readily support my views on this matter. The interests of the country as a whole demand that the Senate and House of Representatives elections be combined, commencing in 1953.
– I am very much concerned about the soaring of administrative costs in the Department of the Interior and the Department of “Works. Last year, expenditure by the Department of the Interior on administration totalled £1,356,362. This year, the vote is £1,550,000. If my arithmetic is reasonably correct, that represents an increase of about £194,000. That increase is tremendous, particularly in view of the fact that expenditure on works has been severely pruned. The curtailment of the works programme is causing considerable unemployment, yet administrative costs are increasing. That is difficult to understand.
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot refer to the administrative costs of the Department of Works. The Estimates now under consideration are those of the Department of the Interior. The vote for the Department of Works is shown separately, and will be dealt with at a later stage.
– I am dealing with the administrative costs of the Department of the Interior and am merely endeavouring to contrast the increase of administrative expenditure with the reduced works programme. In the list of salaries and allowances shown in the schedule, provision is made for. chief engineers, engineers, architects, draftsmen and other technical officers.
– I rise to order. I do not wish to be difficult, but if the honorable senator will examine his copy of the bill, he will find that the next department listed for discussion is the Department of Works. The vote for that department includes the sum of £1,006,000 for administrative expenses.
– Senator Aylett must confine his remarks to the vote for the Department of the Interior.
– I shall abide by your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I point out that in Tasmania quite a number of officials of the Department of the Interior are administering works. I can name them if necessary. However, I shall confine myself at this stage to the vote for the Department of the Interior. I am most concerned about the increase of approximately £194,000 in administrative costs. Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior explain that increase? Surely it is not all due to the increase of the basic wage. Presumably, the number of employees of the department has been reduced as the result of the decision of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to dismiss 10,000 public servants. Perhaps the explanation is that the dismissals have been more than offset by new appointments. Nevertheless, the increase of the vote is substantial, particularly in view of the pruning that is being carried out in other directions.
The provision for the payment of rent on buildings also represents a substantial increase over last year’s expenditure and I should like to know the reason. The sum of £500,406 was expended last year, but we are now being asked to vote £545,000. Has the already large number of buildings occupied by Commonwealth departments in Melbourne been increased? If that is the explanation, why has the Government not pushed ahead with the erection of more new offices in Canberra, with a view to saving as much as possible of this colossal annual rental bill ? Is the additional £45,000 needed to pay for premises for new departments that the Government has established somewhere, or is it the rake-off for wealthy landlords in Melbourne and Sydney who have increased their rents knowing that the Government has no alternative but to meet them?
– Rents are controlled.
– That is so, but I have yet to hear that a minor department is able to control the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth Parliament. I think that honorable senators will find that the explanation of the increased provision for rents is that the money is to go to wealthy individuals in the capital cities from whom the Government is renting buildings instead of erecting its own structures in Canberra. In view of the growing volume of unemployment in this country, the Government’s works programme in Canberra could well be expanded as a means of providing employment and of saving some of the money now paid in rent. The £545,000 that the Government will pay on rented premises this year would go a long way towards meeting the interest bill on capital raised to erect public buildings in Canberra.
.- Provision is made in Division 65 for the Forestry Branch of the Department of the Interior. The vote this year for the branch is £104,000. Certain details of the expenditure are given in the schedule, but I should like to know from the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior the scope of the activities of the branch. Is the branch engaged only in scientific experiments to determine the most suitable varieties of timbers that can be grown in this country so that that information may be passed on to the States which carry out the propagation? We know, of course, that the Commonwealth has some forests of its own in the Australian Capital Territory, but I should like to know whether there is any Commonwealth afforestation activity in the other territories. I believe that the sum provided in the Estimates is totally inadequate. Experience has shown that forestry work is ideal for the relief of unemployment. It- is work that does not lend itself to the use of mechanical equipment, and for that reason largely manual labour is required. Unemployment is now a hard fact in this country, and I believe that some millions of pounds should be allocated to the Forestry Branch so that useful work may be provided for many of the men who are now seeking jobs. Our natural forests hare been sadly depleted. Our red gum hardwood is almost extinct and our iron bark forests are gradually being used up. Pine timber for building purposes is becoming scarcer. There is a wide field of work open to the Forestry Branch, and I regret that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has not availed himself of the opportunity to extend the activities of his forestry workers. There will always be a. big demand in this country for softwoods and hardwoods for building purposes and for furniture making. I hope that the Minister representing the Minis;ter for the Interior will be able to give me some information about the activities of the Forestry Branch.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia -
Minister for Shipping and Transport) [4.44] . - I remind honorable senators that there is a limit to the information that can be supplied promptly during a committee debate. However, if any honorable senator wants more details than I am able to provide now, I shall be only too pleased to obtain the information for him. Senator Benn has complained that the vote for the Forestry Branch is inadequate. The provision is largely for the Australian Forestry School. The Government has done quite a lot. to assist in the training of students. It has also extended its own pine plantations in the Australian Capital Territory. As honorable senators are aware, afforestation is largely a State responsibility, and most of the State governments accept it as such. I have inspected the excellent afforestation work that has been undertaken in the southeast of South Australia, under the direction of the State department. The Commonwealth has co-operated with the State governments and has made a practical approach to this problem. Senator Benn may be interested to know that in the Australian Capital Territory no fewer than 15,000 acres have been planted in pines of various kinds.
Senator Aylett referred to the proposed votes for “ Division 61 - Administration “ and “Division 67 - Bents of Buildings.” He will appreciate the fact that salaries and rentals generally have increased tremendously during the last twelve months.
In some instances rents have been increased by from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent. There is every justification for the increases in the proposed votes. One does not need to have a very vivid imagination to realize that increases in charges of various kinds, including wages, lighting and fuel, must necessarily result in increased rental charges. The increases to which the honorable senator has referred are in conformity with general increases throughout the Estimates.
Senator O’Byrne has suggested that the forthcoming elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives might be combined. I shall pass his suggestion on to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes).
– I propose to discuss the proposed vote for “ Division 63 - Meteorological Branch. The methods adopted by those engaged in weather forecasting in Australia have a very important effect on the results achieved. Honorable senators will agree that in a great primary producing country like Australia it is of the utmost importance that our weather service should be as efficient as it possibly can be. I fear that our meteorological officers are still using the methods of securing information about weather conditions and rainfall that were in vogue at- the turn of the century, if not from the very earliest years of settlement of this country. They rely upon the comparatively slow telegraph service provided by the Postal Department for reports about rainfall and weather conditions. Frequently information about rainfall and weather conditions is not made public until long after the rain has fallen and the weather conditions have passed on to other areas. That is especially true in respect of the outlying parts of Queensland. There is room for better liaison between the Meteorological Branch and the up-to-the-minute weather services provided by the Department of Civil Aviation. The latter department uses the most rapid communication facilities because it is essential that air pilots should have accurate forecasts of approaching weather conditions. Pilots and navigators flying aircraft in Queensland must know whether cyclonic conditions or rainstorms are developing along the routes which they traverse. Air pilots are in radio communication with one another and with airports on their route and have prior notice of changes in weather conditions. An appropriate link should he established between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior to ensure that the most up-to-date information shall be made public. The officers of the Meteorological Branch should be asked to indicate whether it is possible to improve upon the present system under which rainfall and weather information is published daily instead of at more frequent intervals. A better weather service should be provided for the benefit of those engaged in the land industries generally.
Under Division 63, provision of £200,000 has been made for “Meteorological instruments and apparatus “. Expenditure on that item last year amounted to £216,000. These are large amounts of money. I should like to know whether they are to be regarded as of a recurring nature. Are the instruments and apparatus being purchased on the time-payment plan, and may we look forward to the time when the item will disappear from the Estimates?
Whilst I am dealing with the Meteorological Branch, I should like to say a few words about a very fine man who has given a lifetime of service to weather forecasting in Queensland - >Mr. Inigo Jones. At one time Mr. Jones was given a small grant by the Commonwealth - if my memory serves me aright, it was about £500, which is a mere bagatelle - but for some inexplicable reason the grant was withdrawn on the recommendation of an officer of the Meteorological Branch. It seems that there is a certain degree of professional jealousy among those who profess to forecast weather conditions. Mr. Jones has never posed as a master of the art of weather forecasting, nor, indeed, has any officer on the payroll of the Meteorological Branch done so. All of them have made errors. It can be said in favour of Mr. Jones, however, that he is a highly intellectual man who has devoted a lifetime to research in this field of study. He has rendered a unique service to the primary producers of Queensland by providing for their benefit long-range forecasts based on a system which he himself has developed. It is true that his system has been subjected to criticism; but what man who has evolved a system of any kind which advances the interests of his country has not been criticized, and even, at times, abused? Mr. Jones has earned the confidence and goodwill of primary producers all over Australia. He receives a measure of financial support from journals dedicated to farm and station interests throughout Australia. All political parties represented in the Queensland Parliament have for many years approved the payment to Mr. Jones of a small grant to encourage him to continue his researches. At any time a student in this field, or in any other field of endeavour, may make a discovery which is of world-wide importance. Who knows whether Mr. Jones, with his great ability and extraordinary powers of concentration, will not stumble on some ne>. discovery which will completely alter the existing system upon which weather forecasting is based ? Men of his type should be encouraged to continue their researches. Surely, out of a proposed vote of £469,000 the Meteorological Branch could provide a grant of £500 a year to Mr. Jones to encourage him to continue his studies in long-range forecasting. I commend that suggestion to the Government. When I was a member of the Queensland Parliament the members of all political parties paid a very high tribute to the excellence of the work done by him. Mr. Jones’s weather reports are regarded as a notable contribution to the weather literature of the world. He is in regular communication with weather experts in the United States of America, Europe and in almost all overseas countries. He conducts his re- searches at the Crohamhurst observatory, at Beerwah, 50 or 60 miles north of Brisbane. Men of his type are rare in the community and should be given every encouragement. Research workers need, money to establish their laboratories and equip them with instruments to enable them to test their theories. I urge the Government to consider the restoration to Mr. Jones of the payment formerly made to him.
– It will be of interest to honorable senators to learn that while the Meteorological Branch proposes to purchase this year meteorological instruments and apparatus to the value of £200,000. the value of work performed by it for the Department of Air and the Department of Civil Aviation is approximately £517,000. It is generally accepted .that the work done by the officers of the Meteorological Branch is of a very high order.
– These instruments will be used in connexion with weather services for the Department of Civil Aviation?
– Yes. Senator Maher has suggested that information regarding rainfall and weather conditions is not promptly supplied to the meteorological offices in the State capital cities. I shall bring his remarks to the notice of the Minister for the Interior and ascertain whether his criticism is justified, and, if so, whether steps can be taken to improve the position. I shall also direct the attention of my colleague to the outstanding work of Mr. In igo Jones that the honorable senator has mentioned.
– I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to direct the attention of his colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to a matter in connexion with the administration of the Department of the Interior. It has been the practice of that department to collect rent from the tenants of resumed properties for considerable periods before effecting final settlements, and to pay to the vendors interest at the rate of only 3 per cent, on such ‘amounts. I know of an instance in which the owner of a property that was resumed collected the rents for many months after resumption and paid the money to the department. Although rentals equivalent to from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, of the capital value are derived from specialized dwelling houses and premises that are occupied by doctors and dentists, the department pays the vendor only 3 per cent, interest when the amount of settlement is finally agreed upon. This matter received attention during the regime of the former Labour Government, and I hope that it will be rectified by the present Government, because the present practice is most inequitable.
– I shall be happy to refer the matter to my colleague.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to item 10 of Section C, under Division 61 - “ Commonwealth Rented Properties - Local Government Services “. As Senator Aylett has already pointed out, the proposed vote for this item is £65,000. Although the vote fo:- 1951-52 was £25,000, the actual expenditure on the item during the last financial year was £42,425. As the proposed voteis much greater than was the expenditure during the last financial year, I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the disparity.
– The item refers to local government services in relation to Commonwealth rented properties. I am sure that the honorable senator will appreciate the necessity for an increased provision, following the Government’s decision, to remunerate local governing bodies for services that they render in relation to such properties. I understand that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has broadened the field of subscription in relation to such work during this financial year.
.- I shall refer to “Division 62, Electoral Branch “. The proposed vote for salaries and payments in the nature of salary is more than 20 per cent, greater than was the expenditure under that heading during the last financial year. Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) contend that the increase is due solely to increases of the basic wage? Have the salaries of officers in receipt of more than £2,000 a year been increased by about 20 per cent.? The proposed vote of £460,000 exceeds by £118,616, or almost 35 per cent., the expenditure during the last financial year. Has additional staff been engaged by the Electoral Branch? I submit that the engagement of additional staff could not be justified on the ground that an election may be held next year, because one was held only last year. I should like the Minister to explain how the enormous increase of expenditure by the Electoral Branch can be justified.
– I am informed that the increase is due to increased salaries and allowances payable to the officers of the Electoral Branch.
– I assume that the Minister means that the increased cost of the Electoral Branch is attributable solely to increased salaries payable to officers who were members of the branch last year; in other words, that there has been an increase of salaries by almost 35 per cent. in one year. How does the Minister reconcile his statement with the fact that the proposed vote of £292,000 is about 20 per cent. greater than was the expenditure of £256,220 under this heading during the last financial year? The Government has promised to curb inflation, but it will not be halted if salaries are to be increased so rapidly. I am prepared to concede that Commonwealth electoral officers were underpaid for many years compared with State electoral officers, but as that anomaly was removed about two years ago, the Minister cannot now claim that the increase is justified on that score alone. Is there another reason for the increased expenditure on the Electoral Branch ?
– To assist the honorable senator to understand the reason for the apparent large increase of the proposed vote over the expenditure for the last financial year, I shall read to him details of the proposed vote of £120,000 for item 3, “Administration of Electoral Act “. They are as follows : -
– That clarifies the position somewhat.
– I shall direct my attention to “ Division 62 - Electoral Branch “. My remarks could refer equally to the proposed vote for Australian representation in the United Kingdom. They arise from the procedure that is adopted at Australia House in London in relation to Australian elections. A friend of mine who was in England at the time of the last Australian general election has told me that progressive figures were posted for about three or four days, but that the final results were not published. I do not know whether it is the responsibility of the Electoral Branch or of the Australian High Commissioner in London to publish at Australia House the final results of Australian elections. Many Australians may be in England when Australian elections are being held, and it is only right that the final figures in relation to all divisions and States should be posted at Australia House. Many Australians will visit England in connexion with the Coronation celebrations next year.
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator. I understand that, by ministerial direction, it is the responsibility of the Electoral Branch to keep Australia House informed of the results of Australian elections.
– I shall direct my attention to the proposed vote of £104,000 for the Forestry Branch - Division 65. I am tremendously interested in the subject of reafforestation in Australia, to which I do not consider that we have devoted sufficient attention. The wonderful forest areas of this country should be preserved for all time. Recently I had an opportunity to visit Palm Valley, a few miles out from Alice Springs, the scenic beauty of which compares favorably with that of the great valleys of the United States of America that have been advertised extensively. I consider that the Forestry Branch, should take steps to reserve large areas of land adjacent to our magnificent forests. I have been somewhat alarmed by the statement of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) that mining leases are to be granted in relation to lands that were formerly native reserves in the Northern Territory. There are magnificent forests on some of those lands. I consider that we should preserve not only their magnificent natural beauty, but also the timber that, is on them. I should he glad if the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) was drawn to this very important matter. There should be national parks throughout Australia, as there are in other parts of the world, so that places of beauty might be preserved for the Australian people. Too often have we mined the country for our immediate needs, without any thought for the future. I am afraid that in allowing mining leases in native reserves, great devastation of beautiful forest lands will result.
– I refer to “Division 67 - Rent of buildings “, which indicates that whereas £500,406 was expended last year for this purpose, the proposed vote for the current financial year is £545,000. Some sixteen departments occupy non-public buildings, and the Commonwealth pays rent for such buildings. It is common knowledge that, at the moment, in all capital cities there is a great dearth of- office accommodation for private enterprise. Professional and business people experience difficulty in securing proper accommodation. Yet everywhere Commonwealth departments are occupying valuable space in private buildings. It is necessary, of course, for Commonwealth staffs to be housed, but it would be much more convenient, from the point of view of the public, if the Commonwealth offices, which are now scattered all over the capital cities were concentrated in ‘one central place. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to indicate what the Government has in mind regarding the erection of public buildings, in the various capital cities particularly, not only to provide for the convenience of the staffs of Commonwealth departments and to meet future expansion, but also to make a notable contribution to the architecture of our cities. I think it behoves the Commonwealth, in its approach to such buildings, to set a standard which, both architecturally and aesthetically, will accord with the dignity of the Commonwealth itself. 1 should like the Minister to indicate whether the Commonwealth contemplates taking staffs from these scattered buildings that are at present rented from private individuals, and proposes to press ahead with permanent establishments of the kind to which I have referred. From the viewpoint of people in business, I cannot urge this matter too strongly.
Without embarking upon controversial economic matters, I point out that owing to the halt in Australia’s building programme, particularly in the homebuilding programme, building materials are now readily available. Again, not taking this as an opportunity to be controversial, I point out that there is substantial unemployment in Australia, particularly in the building industry.
– They brought it on themselves.
– I do not propose to be controversial. The statement that “ they brought it on themselves “ is true only in a very minor degree.
Whilst there is ‘no doubt that some men have not pulled their full weight in the building industry and have not given a full’ day’s work for a day’s pay, 1” think that it would be a slander of those engaged in the industry to give such criticism any kind of general application. The statement may be true of some workers, but I reject the idea that it is true of the bulk of those engaged in the building industry. The building workers have had their difficulties. For instance, the unavailability of materials has obliged men to sit down and await the arrival of materials. That position no longer obtains, due to the fact that people, for reasons which I do not propose to discuss at the moment, are not prepared to embark on home building on an extensive scale.
I put it to the Minister that now that the building industry is crying out for some stimulus, the opportunity exists for the Commonwealth to make up its mind to embark upon the very long delayed work of providing permanent public buildings particularly in the capital citieS. The slack in employment might well he taken up in this way. I think it is common knowledge that even members of this Parliament occupy rooms in private office buildings throughout Australia. They should be grouped in a suitable public building, with proper facilities. lt seems to me altogether derogatory of the dignity of the Parliament that its members should be scattered in buildings of a private nature, many of which are completely unsuitable from the point of view of the standards that should be set for members of this Parliament.
I should like the Minister to take this suggestion in the spirit in which I proffer it. I appreciate that Commonwealth departments expanded so rapidly during (he war that it was necessary for them to intrude into a sphere normally occupied by private industry and to crowd people out. It is important that the Commonwealth should give a lead to industry, which is already generating new momentum. I hope that when such buildings are planned they will be looked at not from a cold, utilitarian point of view but as buildings that are aesthetically desirable and in keeping with the dignity of the Commonwealth.
– I appreciate the importance of the matter that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (SenatorMcKenna). I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has already given attention to it, but as the Government considers that the housing of the people, and the building of schools, hospitals, and structures of a like nature should be given a high priority, I am not optimistic that any -headway can be made during the current financial year along the lines suggested by the honorable senator. The slackening-off in employment in the building industries during the months of July, August and September was only temporary. With men and materials readily available, the housing and other programmes of the Government will fully occupy us during this year and will, of course, be given a higher priority than that accorded to office accommodation. All that I am able to say is that the Government appreciates the difficulties and the inconvenience experienced by private individuals who have leased office accommodation to the Commonwealth. I assure the committee that .the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the artistic approach to such buildings will be considered. The question of the erection of permanent office accommodation also will be considered in its order of priority as soon as the Government is satisfied that men, materials and money are available for such works to be carried out.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department- of Works.
Proposed vote, £1,806,000.
– I refer to “ Division 69, Repairs and maintenance “, the proposed vote for which is £800,000. I direct the attention of the committee to the estimated cost of repairs and maintenance in respect of the Department of Immigration. Despite the fact that the intake of immigrants is being considerably curtailed, the proposed expenditure on repairs and maintenance of hostels and other departmental establishments is much greater than it was last year. I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to explain the nature of the repairs and maintenance carried out, and the reason for the heavy increase of expenditure, particularly in respect of the Department of Immigration.
– I refer to Division 68, under “ General expenses, armoured car pay-roll service “, the estimated expenditure for which is £10,850. I presume that this is a service for the protection of weekly wages between banks and departmental offices. It seems to me to be an extremely high figure. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) whether this service is conducted by certain firms in the capital cities. I understand that in Melbourne a firm by the name of Mayne Nickless Limited performs this function, and that something of the kind is also done in Sydney. I take it that it is necessary to convey wages and salaries amounting to £3,716,000 during the year, that being the total amount of salaries and wages to be paid by the department. Presumably a great deal of that sum will be disbursed outside the capital cities. The provision of £10,S50 for the year is equivalent to approximately £210 a week. If the service is confined to one or two capital cities of the Commonwealth, it seems to me that it is a very expensive one. I should think that an old armoured car and a driver could do the job much more cheaply.
– I shall reply first to the matter raised by Senator Wordsworth. The company of Mayne Nickless Limited specializes in this kind of work, and the service is availed of by the department in most of the capital cities. I have not details of it at the moment, but I understand that the system is in operation in the main capital cities of the Commonwealth. It would be difficult for me to say, at the moment, whether or not it would be cheaper to have this service performed by government vehicles. Although I have not had an opportunity to examine the detailed costs, I should imagine that there was a great deal to be said for the employment of a service such as this by the Department of Works, which has a very large ‘pay-roll, and a very large number of employees in metropolitan areas. The service rendered includes the collection of the payroll ‘from the bank and its distribution to the various works.
In connexion with the matter that was raised by Senator Aylett, it is necessary to examine the procedure involved. In the first place, the approval for the works is requested by the department that wishes to have the repairs and maintenance carried out. The honorable senator mentioned particularly the Department of Immigration. The recommendation of that department has to survive examination by an interdepartmental committee. That committee has then to make a recommendation to a sub-committee of Cabinet. In other words, individual works are crutinized on two accasions by authorities outside the department for which they are to be carried out. Senator Aylett asked why the proposed vote was greater than the vote for the last financial year. That question cannot be answered simply, because figures in respect of three financial years are involved. At the beginning of each financial year, certain works remain uncompleted from the previous financial year. Incomplete works at the commencement of the last financial year totalled about £25,000. Incomplete works at the close of the year are expected to total £93,000. The cost of works which are not completed, from year to year, is the main cause of variations in the Estimates of departments. It is true that the immigration programme has been modified but the hostels have to be maintained and kept in repair. The amount shown for this purpose will be expended on hostels in all States of the Commonwealth. Thy amount in respect of each hostel is not great. The biggest expenditure, £35,000, will take place at Bonegilla. Expenditure at other hostels ranges from £2,000 to £20,000. By and large, the total is an amalgamation of comparatively small items. Honorable senators will realize that the hostels must be kept in repair. However, K m– - a pickle makes a muckle “ and the expenditure of comparatimely small amounts on a number of hostels will make up the proposed vote.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [5.36J. - I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his answer to my question. I understand that many of the buildings to be maintained in good repair are rented buildings.
– If the honorable senator is referring to the Department of Immigration-
– A lot of other departments are also concerned. Probably, many buildings which require alteration have been rented by the Government. When the Government first rents a building considerable alterations ure probably required in order that it may be made suitable for its new pur- pose. In such circumstances the expenditure of considerable funds would be required. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and I have already mentioned, the Government would save a considerable sum of money by having its own buildings instead of renting them. Now that there is a pool of unemployed, the Government has a golden opportunity to construct its own offices and so avoid the necessity to spend money on the renovation of buildings which it only rents. Could the Minister for National Development inform me what proportion of the proposed vote for maintenance and repairs will be expended on buildings owned by the Commonwealth and what proportion will be expended on rented buildings?
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales - Minister for National Development) 5.39]. - It is difficult for me to give an immediate answer to the honorable senator’s question. By and large, the proposed expenditure will not be upon rented buildings. In respect of the Department of National Development, for instance, the greater part of the proposed expenditure relates to the old war-time factories at St. Mary’s and other places which are under the administration of my department. The expenditure will not only be required in order to effect repairs to buildings, but will be required for roadways, sewerage and other facilities for the purpose of making these buildings available for use as commercial factories. A similar state of affairs would apply in other departments. The proposed vote for the
Department of the Interior will be expended on Commonwealth-owned offices, meteorological buildings and war workers’ cottages, new maintenance work on the quarantine station at North Head, New South Wales, and on other buildings which are Commonwealth property. I cannot say to what extent the expenditure will be incurred in respect of rented properties. However, I would hazard a guess that such expenditure would represent a minor proportion of the total vote. The Government is not different from private individuals in that it tries to avoid expenditure on some one else’s property. I should say that the overwhelming proportion of the vote would be expended on our own buildings.
– I was interested in the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in relation to Division 69, item 15 - Immigration. Senator Aylett drew attention to the fact that whilst £224,208 was expended last year on this item, the Government proposes to expend £258,000 during the current year. The Minister quite correctly stated that at the beginning of each financial year there were certain works which had not been completed during the previous year. I should like to ascertain the actual increased expenditure which the Government contemplates in relation to this item during the current financial year. According to the Minister, the amount of £258,000, which appears in the Estimates, includes £25,000 in respect of buildings that were incomplete at the end of the last financial year. The deduction of £25,000 from £258,000 leaves £233,000. But if the work to be commenced this year which will be incomplete at the end of this year can be valued, at £93,000, as estimated by the Minister, then that amount must be added to the sum of £233,000 in order to arrive at the value of new work to be commenced this year. In other words, the cost of the work to be commenced this year would be £326,000, not £258,000. Having regard to the decrease in immigration, a 50 per cent, increase in maintenance work on buildings connected with immigration seems to be extraordinary. If the flow of immigration has to be stemmed, I should expect that there would be far less need for repairs and maintenance on the buildings connected with the reception of immigrants and their distribution of employment, not more. On the basis of the answer which the Minister for National Development gave to Senator Aylett it would appear that additional work to the value of £326,000 is contemplated.
– T think that the short reply fo the question of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is that the figures in the Estimates correctly portray the position.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-5 to 8 p.m.
– The committee was discussing earlier the effect of the increase of the vote for repairs and maintenance, and I have been able to obtain some more information on the matters that were under discussion. The point that I raised and upon which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) sought some clarification does not alter the fact that the votes for the year are as printed. When the year began, uncompleted works were valued at £25,431, and new proposals were estimated to cost £310,863. It is estimated that at the close of this financial year, works estimated to cost £92,938 will be uncompleted, giving a total amount of £243,356 for the year. Administrative charges total £14,604. If honorable senators follow those figures through, they will reach the total of £258,000 that is shown in the Estimates. The Estimates for this year for work to be done for the Department of Immigration are £33,000 higher than last year. The reason is that although the immigration programme has shown a decline, the establishments are still in existence. They are expensive buildings to maintain. Some of them are old and some were of a temporary nature. People are still living in them. They must be kept in good order and condition, not only because they are occupied now, but also because they will be wanted while the immigration programme is continued. Honorable sena tors will be able to study this matter in the correct perspective if they remember that in recent years about £20,000,000 has been spent on the provision of hostels for immigrants. That large capital expenditure has been distributed throughout Australia.
– I wish to ask the Minister a question ‘with regard to government policy in letting contracts for the Department of Works. During the war and in the post-war years, governments of the day representing both parties necessarily adopted the cost-plus system. It has not been satisfactory and has encouraged inefficiency. I believe that the present Government has attempted to get away from the cost-plus system and has adopted a modified system under which a contractor tenders at a price and is allowed a certain profit above his tender. I am not sure whether that is correct, and perhaps the Minister will inform me on the point. Does the Government not consider it desirable to get away from the cost-plus system altogether and revert to the practice of requiring a contractor to submit a specific price and then take the risk that is involved as a normal business venture?
– Supplementary to the matter that has been raised by Senator Pearson, I wish to ask the Minister whether all contracts are advertised throughout Australia through the Supply and Tender Board. When I was in Western Australia recently, I was telephoned by the representative of a firm with regard to a contract for the supply of electrical fittings. I was informed that Western Australian contractors had not had an opportunity to tender for the contract through the Supply and Tender Board.
– I cannot give detailed information in reply to the questions that have been asked by honorable senators. I can give information offhand only in general outline. With regard to work that is being done through the Department of Works, there has been a change of policy. So far as possible, it is done by contract instead of by day labour or under the cost-plus system. I am informed that the change is working successfully. Contractors are now prepared to fix a price and enter into firm contracts without the costplus provision that has led to much extravagant and uneconomic work, as honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will agree. I cannot answer Senator Robertson with any degree of certainty. The honorable senator has mentioned a specific contract for certain fittings and it is practically impossible to give information offhand on that matter when such a great volume of work is in hand. If the honorable senator requires the information I am certain that I can obtain it from the department and give it to her. Ry and large, the principle that is followed by the Department of Works i3 not different from that of other government departments in that all commercial transactions are handled, as far as possible, on a basis of public tender. The department always invites tenders for materials in the same way as it invites tenders for contracts.
– The Auditor-General’s report makes reference on page 41 to the Department of Works and states that a brickworks operated in Canberra by the department has shown accumulated losses totalling £38S,000. Does the Government intend to continue to operate the brickworks at a loss or will it obtain bricks from private enterprise, which can produce bricks at a reasonable profit ?
– I believe that I have the complete answer to the honorable senator. The brickworks have been taken over by the Department of the Interior and the committee has dealt with the affairs of that department. I concede, however, that the honorable senator is entitled to a better answer than that, and I shall obtain the information for him.
– I was interested in the matter that was raised by Senator Pearson and listened intently for the reply that was given by the Minister. Am I correct in my understanding that works are principally carried out under contract?
– I said that there had been a change in policy and that every endeavour was being made to have the works done by contract. I also said that the new policy was working successfully as the department was getting tenders.
– That being the case, I assume that the Minister anticipates that the contract system will be much more expensive than the system under which the department was previously working and that allowance is being made for that increased expenditure. I believe that the department will find that the former system was better for jobs involving small repairs and alterations. The department has an army of administrative officers. It cannot do without them.. If a contract is let, the job must be inspected. After taking into account the cost of advertising, inspections, reports and other supervision, the jobs will be found to be much more costly under .the new system. In each State the department has inspectors and overseers. Some very competent men are engaged on jobs for the Department of Works. Can the Minister justify calling for tenders for small jobs and repairs so that they may be done by contract? I asked the Minister previously whether he could give details of the proposed expenditure of’£800,000 on repairs and maintenance. Can he indicate how much is to be spent on replacements and on new accessories, including typewriters, machinery, desks and furniture, and how much is to be spent on repairs and alterations? On his own admission, the contract system will be more expensive. Can the Minister give details of repairs and maintenance work, other than capital works, that have been done more cheaply than it would have been done with the staff at the disposal of his department?
.- I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Works to the references in the Auditor-General’s report to. the conduct of hostels and daylabour camps. Whilst the Minister for
Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) is to be congratulated upon having reduced the deficit on those establishments from £94,987 to £60,999, the losses are still substantial. The Auditor-General has also drawn attention to the lack of reconciliation in the stock-sheets of some hostels. In fact, this lack of reconciliation in stock-sheets has been found in the accounts of several departments. I should like to know first what steps are being taken to reduce or eliminate the accumulating losses on hostels and daylabour camps, and, secondly, what is being done to ensure that stock-sheets shall be reconciled every year.
SenatorCORMACK (Victoria) [8.17]. - I support Senator Henty’s remarks. Loss after loss is being suffered on messes throughout the Commonwealth - and I use the word “ messes “ in a double sense. Surely no Parliament could sit idly by in the face of such criticism by the Auditor-General. One normally expects messes to be self-supporting. For instance, Navy, Army and Air Force messes arc self -supporting. I can well imagine the hideous cry that would arise from the Labour party if service messes were to incur successive losses. I hope that the Minister is in a position to proffer some hope to the committee that these losses will be extinguished in the next twelve months.
– I shall reply to Senator Aylett first. It is not proposed to disband the maintenance staff entirely. The department’s policy is to have work done by contract, but the volume of work is such that a maintenance staff will still be necessary to carry out the relatively small jobs that will have to be done. Turning now to the points thathave been raised by Senator Henty and Senator Cormack, I can only say that I have not received any information from the department in connexion with the Auditor-General’s criticism. I suggest, therefore, that when all other matters appertaining to the Department of Works have been dealt with, further consideration of the proposed vote be postponed until I can obtain the information from the department and make it available to honorable senators.
SenatorMorrow. - Did the Minister say that the cost-plus system would be abolished?
– I said that the policy of the department was to have its work done by contract. That policy has been operating satisfactorily. It does not mean, however, that there will be no more cost-plus jobs any more than it means that a maintenance staff will no longer be required. There are some localities and some circumstances in which contracts cannot be obtained. For instance, it is difficult to have work done by contract in the Northern Territory and in other outback areas. In certain circumstances it is difficult to secure contracts even in the metropolitan areas, but the work must be done. We believe that if it cannot be done the best way, that is by contract, it has to be done the second best way.
That further consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Works be postponed, and that the following proposed votes be considered before the remaining votes in the Second Schedule: -
Department of Social Services.
Department of National Development.
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
Department of Socialservices.
Proposed vote, £2,146,000.
– In view of the interest of all honorable senators in the subject of social services consideration of the proposed vote of £2,146,000 for the Department of Social Services provides an opportunity for discussion which can hardly be allowed to pass. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who formerly was Minister for Social Services, is now representing that Minister in this chamber,. I expect that he will take a particularly keen interest in this discussion. I should like to take his mind back to 1949 when members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were wooing the electors. In the course of that election campaign those parties made certain specific promises. One was that if elected, they would put value back into pensions. The exact wording of the promise contained in the joint policy speech was -
We will, much move importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
Does the Government claim that purchasing power has been put back into pensions? Clearly the Government could not put value back into pensions without increasing the purchasing power of money generally. Therefore, the promise to restore the purchasing value of pensions, implicitly and explicitly bound the Government to put value back into the currency. I should like to know therefore, whether the Minister claims that that promise has been redeemed. A second promise made to the electors in 1949 was that there would be submitted to them in 1952 for their approval or disapproval, a scheme for the abolition of the means test. I concede that when that promise was made, the then Opposition parties had in mind that, in the ordinary course of events, the Parliament that was about to be elected would not expire until 1952. However, there was a double dissolution in 1951. Nevertheless, it was clearly in the mind of every body who heard the 1949 election promise that, in .1952 an opportunity would be given to the people to express their approval or disapproval of some scheme for the abolition of the means test. Such a referendum could be taken in conjunction with forthcoming Senate elections, which could be held if necessary, before the end of this year; but we have not heard of any such proposal. Arc the figures “ 1952 “ contained in the election promise to which I have referred now to be construed as “1954”, and if so by what process of reasoning are they to be so construed? Has the Government evolved, or has it under consideration, a plan to abolish the means test? If so have any conclusions been reached and will the electors be given any information about that plan during 1952?
– I do not concede that the debate on the Estimates is a suitable occasion on which to answer such an important question of policy as that asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna). Obviously the honorable senator’s remarks raise considerations of the highest political importance, and I make no excuse for saying that I am not prepared to answer them now. However I think it is only right to say that much, time and consideration have been given to the very important problem of the means test, both while I held the Social Services portfolio, and since it has been held by the present Minister (Mr. Townley). Since the present Leader of the Opposition relinquished the portfolio of Social Services a special section has been established in the department to consider all the factors that are inherent in the provision of pensions free of the means test. I say no more than that a great deal of work has been done by the officers of that section. A decision on the problem of providing pensions free of the means test will be announced by the Government. It is not appropriate that it be announced by an individual Minister on an occasion such as this.
Opposition senators have stressed the need to put value back into the pension payments. Surely, as the Leader of the Opposition himself indicated, that matter is completely bound up with, the general economic condition of the community. During the two and a half years that this Government has been in office it has had to weather the hazards of a substantial inflationary wave. We believe that the tide has now turned and that we are getting back to a stable economy.
– And to unemployment !
– The honorable senator hopes that there will be unemployment. He and his colleagues might win a few votes by their attempts to scare the people into believing that unemployment is rife in the community when, in fact, its incidence is very slight; but not many people will be influenced by their attempts to engender a fear of unemployment. Measured by reasonable standards, we can fairly claim that the pensioners in the community have been very well looked after by this Government. When honorable senators make comparisons they must also fix a standard by which to make their comparisons. I have not the precise figures in my mind, but I believe that whilst the pension does not bear quite the same relation to the C series index figure as it did in the early fifties, when the Government made its first pension increase, having regard to the troubled conditions that have existed in our economy during the last two and a half years, the Government has done all that it possibly could do to assist the pensioners. I am proud of its record in the field of social services.
.- Provision of £2,500 has been made in Division 92b for “ Services of Registrars of Births and Deaths “. Expenditure on that item last year amounted to £9,994. Many aged persons who apply for social services benefits have great difficulty in obtaining birth certificates. Some of them have no idea 6f the date upon which they were born. Does the reduced provision indicate that the department had simplified its procedures and that the services of registrars of births and deaths would be availed of much less in the future than they had been in the past? It is unfair that applicants for social services benefits should have to pay search fees to a State registrar of births and deaths for birth certificates with which to support their claims. It is true that the fee charged is not high, but even the payment of such a small amount embarrasses many of the poorest people of the community. I should like the Minister to indicate whether the reduced provision this year indicates that a more simplified procedure has been adopted by the department.
Provision of £240,000 has also been made for “ Commission on benefits payments made by banks and post offices “. That seems an extraordinarily large amount. I realize that it will largely be covered by book entries between departments, but, even allowing for that, it seems to be extraordinarily high. Would it not be possible for banks and post offices to reduce considerably the charges made for such services?
– Provision has been made of £20,000 for temporary and casual employees in the central administration of the department, and of £336,000 in the State establish ments, making a total of £366,000 for salaries of temporary and casual employees in a department which is as permanent as anything in this country is ever likely to be. Temporary employees do not enjoy the status and privileges that are granted to permanent ‘ employees. Many of these so-called temporary and casual employees are, in reality, permanent-temporary employees. An injustice is apparently being done to a large number of employees by their retention for long periods - many of them until they reach the retiring age - in a temporary capacity. I realize that permanent employees have to pass certain qualifying examinations and that certain classes of work are best performed by temporary employees ; but it is apparent from the magnitude of the proposed votes that a huge staff of temporary employees is maintained by the department on a semipermanent basis. I know that other governments have followed this practice; but that does not excuse this Government of responsibility in the matter. Temporary employees who competently perform the duties allotted to them should be given an opportunity to secure permanent employment, particularly in a department such as this, the staff of which is increasing as each year goes by.
Provision of £24,000 has been made in Division 92 for “ Incidental and other expenditure “. I am at a loss to understand why such a large amount should be included in an item for which no details are given, particularly when proposed votes of £2,500 and £7,000 are itemized. I refer to the items “ Services of registrars of births and deaths “ and “ Fuel light and power Is the Minister able to inform the committee of the purposes for which the proposed vote of £24,000 will be expended ?
– I am somewhat concerned by the answer given by the Minister to the representations made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Both the Leader of the Opposition and I have had ministerial experience in this department. The Minister has said this is neither the time nor the place to announce the Government’s proposals in relation to the abolition of the means test ; but I remind him that, Government spokesmen definitely promised that in 1952 the Government would present to the. people a plan to that end. The Government also promised to put value back into the £1. Some indication should be given to the committee and to the people of the Government’s proposals to honour that promise.
The Perth branch of the Department of Social Services is to be housed in existing hotel premises in Wellington-street, which are to be renovated early next year. The licensee of the hotel has already been informed of that fact. I do not regard the premises as suitable for the purpose. The renovations are estimated to cost between £40,000 and £50,000. The Government should construct new premises for the department by extending the General Post Office building at Forrestplace. Labour and materials are now available- for the purpose, and several shops which adjoin the General Post Office in Forrest-place are a disgrace to the city.
– I shall direct my attention to an aspect of the proposed vote that has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I refer to the preelection promise of the Government parties to put value back into the £1, or, in other words, to restore the purchasing power of pensions. Ministers have constantly dodged the issue. Either the Government is afraid to take appropriate action, or it is ignorant of the economic position of Australia. It is impossible to restore the purchasing power of pensions while the private banks and major monopolies of this country have the power to further reduce the value of the Australian £1. The purchasing power of our currency is controlled in the interests of the private banks and the major monopolies.
– I rise to order! I submit that the honorable senator’s remarks have no relation to the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services, under. Division 12.
– Order! Senator Cameron is taking advantage of the wide scope that I have given to the committee. It is not permissible for him to deliver an oration on the economic position of this country during consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services.
– I appreciate your latitude, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I should like to refer to the comment that was made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on a specific matter that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition. We should consider the matter in the light of apparent contradictions, in order to try to overcome the difficulty. The Minister excels in avoiding direct answers to questions that are asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I believe that the Minister considered that he spoke ex cathedra on the subject, but I am not satisfied with his answer.
– The honorable senator could never be satisfied.
– I would have been satisfied if the Minister had given a satisfactory or intelligent answer, because questions have been asked ad nauseum by members of the Opposition since 1949 on the matter that was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not consider that we will ever receive a satisfactory answer while the policy of the Government is dictated by people outside the Parliament.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable senator continues along his present line I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I shall refer now to the means test.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services.
– With respect, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition was permitted to ask, and the Minister for National Development to answer, a certain question.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I should like to introduce a variation of the subject. Reference has been made during this debate to the application of the means test in relation to pensions. I point out that there is no means test for judges, highly placed officers of the Public Service, or members of Parliament. I submit that people who have performed useful work for society-
– I rise to order! I submit that the honorable senator is not in order in discussing government policy during a consideration of the proposed vote.
– Order ! I warn the honorable senator that if he persists in his present course [ shall ask him to resume his seat. The proposed vote has no relation to members of Parliament and high-ranking officers of the Public Service.
– There is justifiable dissatisfaction amongst the recipients of social services payments, who consider that those benefits are cancelled out by increased prices and restrictions. How does the Minister intend to ensure more equitable treatment of those ‘beneficiaries, who are being penalized bv persons outside the jurisdiction of the Parliament and who are, for all practical purposes, a law unto themselves? Although the Parliament decides the rates of age and invalid pensions, persons outside the jurisdiction of the Parliament fix the purchasing power of pensions and of wages. The pensioners should be protected, because they are unable to protect themselves. The Minister stated that all aspects of the matter would be considered. That sounded all right, but the statement did not contain any substance.
– I rise to intervene in an effort to spare the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) from such sporadic nonsense as has been uttered by Senator Cameron, and in the hope that the committee will return a real sense of responsibility in a consideration of the proposed vote. I find in the debates upon this subject that there are too many crows to prey upon the carrion associated with the worst of social rescue. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the value of the £1 and to a general Govern- ment proposal in relation to the means test. Although the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services is only £2,146,000, that department will administer a total expenditure of £164,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money during this financial year, which is about one-sixth of the total budget of the Commonwealth .
– Not enough.
– Even Senator Aylett will probably realize after next July that the taxpayers’ outlook in this matter should not be ignored. A capital investment of about £6,000 or £7,000 would be necessary in order to produce an annuity equivalent to the amount of the age pension. Those honorable senators opposite, who make such disparaging references to these Estimates, should take off their coats and endeavour to earn some of the money which must be’ provided for social services. The taxpayers, who provide that money, take off their coats to earn their living and provide this additional amount for social services. That section of the community, generous as it is in supporting the pensions, wishes from time to time to remind the “ heelers “ that it is work that provides money to buy goods and services. A person from the State from which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made his exodus some three and a half years ago, to be seen in it on only infrequent occasions since then, last week advocated, as a cure for incipient unemployment, that we should reduce the hours of work to 30 hours a week. He also advocated that wages should be maintained at the existing rate. That is the solution which the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues suggest of the problem of the decreasing value of the £1, to which the honorable senator referred when discussing these Estimates. That matter has only to be expressed to be recognized as doddering nonsense. I ask the Senate to return to adult speaking.
The Government has been challenged on its Estimates in relation to pensions. This department, for which it is proposed to vote £2,146,000 to-night, is responsible for administering moneys which aggregate £164,000,000 for the year. The age pension is now £3 7s. 6d. a week, compared with £2 2s. 6d. a week upon which, the Chifley Government rigidly stood in December, 1949. That Government did not offer one penny increase of the pension until the late Mr. Chifley, for whom honorable senators opposite so often feign admiration, was driven during the 1951 general election campaign to offer a bribe in the form of a 10s. a week increase of pensions. He had been goaded into doing so by the petty urgers who go out battling for votes. Honorable senators will remember that at that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, in effect, “ Pensioners of Australia: I am not up for auction, but if you re-elect the Government which I lead, you may rest assured that social justice will be done. Immediately the inflationary forces, which we inherited and which have driven costs to an unprecedented level, are overcome, pensions will be overhauled “. In the first budget introduced after the return of the Government, which has been childishly referred to by the Opposition as a “ horror “ budget, provision was made for pensions to be increased by 10s. a week. The latest budget of the Government provides for pensions to be increased by 7s. 6d. a week. How well I recall the timid and vacillating speech to which the Leader of the Opposition treated us in the Senate after the general election of December, 1949. Do honorable senators recollect how he impishly tried to give an impression of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) on the stage as an old man, not knowing which way to turn ?
– I rise to a point of order. I ask, Mr. Temporary Chairman, what this has to do with the matter under discussion. . I suggest that we should be fair.
– Do not stop him.
– Senator Wright introduced heat into a very fair discussion. After all, the Estimates show that, on the administrative side, there has been a substantial increase of expenditure on social services. In my opinion, the reason for that increase is clear to everybody. There has been a substantial rise in the cost of living, which is reflected in the Estimates now before us.
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Arnold addressing himself to a point of order?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am waiting to see.
– I thought that Senator Wright had finished his remarks. The point that I was making-
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that Senator Arnold is out of order. Senator Wright has not finished his speech. As Senator Arnold has taken his point of order, he should sit down.
– I am not taking a point of order. I understood that you had called me, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is correct. I understood that Senator Wright had concluded his remarks and had sat down. When Senator Finlay rose to a point of order, Senator Wright was definitely very wide of the mark.
– Do I understand, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you refuse leave to Senator Wright to continue his speech?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No. If he wishes to continue, he may do so, but not in his previous strain.
– I was about to discuss the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when he asked whether the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) or the Government proposes to do anything about the promise to make the value of pensions at least the equivalent of their value when this Government took office. Senator Wright stated that, in his opinion, the pension rate is adequate. He pointed out that the provision of pensions imposes a hardship on the taxpayers, that pensioners are very well cared for, and that pension rates should not be increased. If the Minister reiterates those opinions, our questions will be answered. If he states that he supports the opinion of Senator Wright that pensioners are now very well cared for, that the taxpayers are paying too much to provide pensions, that the costs of social services are too great, and that the recipients of pensions should feel that they have obtained all that they are entitled to obtain, we shall know where we stand. But, of course, the Minister will not say those things. It, therefore, is necessary for one of the supporters of the Government to tell us, quite frankly, that, in his view, the taxpayers have contributed sufficiently towards social services and that pensioners cannot expect improved conditions. The Opposition wishes to know whether that is the view of the Government, or whether the Government believes the truth of the promises it made more than two years ago. It said then that it would put real value into pensions. As the Estimates show, the cost of living has risen considerably. The cost of administration of this department-
– Order ! I am afraid that I am now reaping the harvest of my previous leniency. This is not the time to discuss Government policy. I have allowed the debate to proceed on a wide plane, but honorable senators seem to be taking liberties as a result of my former ruling. Senator Arnold is discussing pensions, a matter which he could have discussed when other legislation was before the Senate. From now on, I shall not permit Government policy to be discussed under these Estimates.
– It is not what you do but the way that you do it!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Senator Sandford has reflected on the Chair, and I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I rise to a point of order. Do you rule, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we cannot discuss matters that relate to the Department of Social Services, such as the fact that the cost of administration has increased, the reasons for that increase, the effect of inflation in that regard, and the present rate of pensions?
– Order! Honorable senators may deal with the administrative aspect. However,
I have ruled that subjects such as putting value in pensions should have been discussed when the Social Services Consolidation Bill was before the Senate. That is the ruling I have already given, and that is the ruling that I shall maintain.
– May I ask a question in relation to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
– I notice that the total of the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services is £2,146,000, or £125,000 more than it was last yea>. What is the reason for that increase? Is it due to inflation, to increased costs of administration, to increased wages, or to inefficiency? Am I in order in addressing that question to the Minister?
– The honorable senator may ask that question, which deals with administration costs.
– I regret that you have found, it necessary to rule as you have on this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and so to restrict the remarks which I intended to make, following on the rather wild statements made by Senator Wright. I do not wish to reflect on your ruling at all, but I think that in fairness to the Opposition it might have been possible to keep a little more closely to the Estimates and still reply adequately to the wild and woolly statements made by Senator Wright. However, I shall not transgress your ruling. I appreciate that you are a very fair-minded man.
The matter that has been raised by Senator Brown is the crux of the point that I wish to make. It is apparent from the Estimates that there has been a substantial increase of the costs of administration of the Department of Social Services. That increase has not been reflected in the amount paid out to the recipient* of pensions. I note that provision i.» made for certain commission charges made by banks and post offices, and I should like the Minister to explain the nature of those charges. I point out that there has been a substantial rise in the cost of living of the people administering the department. That rise, of course, has not been reflected in the standard of living enjoyed by the recipients of the various pensions. I ask the Minister whether it is not possible to utilize some of the additional money which it proposes to expend on administrative purposes to give the pensioners a little more. Does the Government accept the philosophy of Senator Wright, who has claimed that the pensioners are already receiving more than they deserve and that the taxpayers cannot afford to pay them any more? Does the Government believe that we should give more consideration to the taxpayers and less to the pensioners as was suggested by Senator Wright? Does the Minister believe that the Government should adopt that attitude or that it should endeavour to fulfil its promises?
– In view of the increase in practically every item under the heading of the Department of Social Services I am a little curious to know why the proposed vote for the services of registrars of births and deaths in Division 92, section B, is only £2,500, approximately a quarter of the expenditure of £9,994 for the last financial year. Does the Government propose to add to its already heavy undertakings by controlling births and deaths or is there another reason for the decrease?
– In my opinion, Senator Wright properly invited attention to the fact that the taxpayers provided the wherewithall for expenditure on social services. But who are the taxpayers? Obviously, they are largely those workers who are engaged in essential, productive services. All other persons are non-producing and for all practical purposes, the workers engaged in essential productive services carry the whole of society on their backs, including honorable senators present. If social services were to be increased the recipients would still receive only a portion of what they had contributed during their working lives towards the upkeep of this institution, the armed forces, the police and all others who come within the category of non-producers. So those who receive pensions are not paid anything to which they are not entitled.
Actually, they are entitled to a great deal more. When I acted as an advocate before arbitration tribunals I always apologized for the modesty of the claims made by those who sought an increase in wages. To increase pensions is simply to give a little more in terms of inflated currency, not in terms of commodities, to those who have produced the goods that are essential to this community. If these people had received all that they had produced they would not be in need of pensions now. It seems to me that most honorable senators opposite believe that these people are given something in excess of that to which they are entitled. Nothing of the sort occurs. Unfortunately, too many people believe that that is true. It could be. proved beyond all shadow of doubt that the majority of people who receive social services benefits merely have returned to them a few crumbs of the loaf that they made themselves.
– The Senate is discussing the proposed vote of £114,000 for the central administration of the Department of Social Services. If the Government were to abolish the means test, as advocated by Senator Wright during his election campaign, would the administrative costs of the Department of Social Services not be reduced? For instance, inspectors must ascertain whether applicants are eligible for pensions. If that action were rendered unnecessary a considerable amount of money would be saved. I have here a pamphlet which was circulated by Senator Wright prior to his election to this chamber. In it he advocates the highest possible living standard: generous help for home ownership; production to prevent inflation; lower taxation and social services without the means test. Apparently the Government does not” believe in implementing these promises. People were told by Senator Wright that if they worked harder they would help to curb inflation, yet he has not done the work that he was sent to this chamber to do. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) whether the abolition of the means test would not reduce administrative costs and whether the Government intends to make social services available without the application of the means test as it promised to do during the general election campaign.
– It did not escape my notice that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) did not answer the questions that I directed to him. I asked him not to regard at least one of them very lightly, because, at the moment, the Estimates for the Department for Social Services, which is a department with vast responsibilities, are under consideration. This is the one opportunity for the Opposition to traverse the activities and examine the future of that department. “When I, as Leader of the Opposition, put a question to the Minister on whether a specific promise in relation to a specific year is to be honoured in that year I, as an individual, do not ask that question of the Minister us .an individual. I ask it of the Government on behalf of the Opposition in this chamber. This is an important matter in which many people are vitally interested. It is not right for the Minister to seek to evade it altogether. After three years of office he has been asked, “Does the Government propose, in 1952, to submit any kind of plan for the abolition of the means test to the people ? “ I could understand the Minister saying that he was not prepared at this stage to tell honorable senators the details of mi oh a. scheme. I .could understand his saying that the time was not opportune or that a statement of that nature would be announced by another person, perhaps in another place. But I think it is proper for the Minister to give a direct answer to the question, “ Does the Government propose to put any plan to the people this year for their approval in relation to the abolition of the means test?”
– Would not the Leader of the Opposition like to know ?
– Very many more people than I would like to know. T do not claim that the abolition of the means test is the most important problem that faces the Department of Social Services. I think that the needs of pensioners should be considered first. Discarding all comparisons with the basic wage and taking the best index that Australia has of the increasing cost of living, the C series index, if regard had been paid to the increased cost of living since this Government took office, the amount of pension paid to-day would be, not £3 10s. a week but more than £4 a week. I shall make no further comment on that matter but I press the Minister, from my responsible position, to make a clear .statement. Is any proposal to be put to the people in 1952 regarding the abolition of the means test?
– I have listened to a number of Opposition senators claiming that the Governnent has not fulfilled the electoral promises that it made in 1949. I therefore wish to make quite clear exactly what was said in 1949. In the course of his policy speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment, and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right and so ,get completely rid of the means test. During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated .problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval.
I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has any right to cavill at that statement. In Senator Wright’s phrase, the Opposition senators are carrions, preying on human misery. In order to serve their purposes at the Flinders by-election they are demonstrating the truth of that remark. The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that the Government has neglected the pensioners. The fact is that not only has the ‘Government increased pensions but St has also made their lot much more easy in many .other ways. It has provided them -with a free medical service .and free drugs. I deprecate all attempts by the Opposition to use pensioners as a means of .climbing hack to power..
– I am concerned about certain aspects of the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services and possibly the same might be said of other departments also. Honorable senators should take notice of the point that has been raised by Senator
Aylett with regard to supernumerary or temporary and casual employees. In almost every section of the Estimates, large sums of money are provided for those employees. The Government should take steps to reduce the number of temporary and casual employees in its employ, not by dismissing them but by appointing them to the permanent staff. Year after year similar provision is made in the Estimates. There is much to be said for the appointment of officers to the permanent staff. Those concerned receive greater privileges as permanent officers, including superannuation and promotion rights. If there is an employee anywhere in the Commonwealth Public Service who is filling a permanent vacancy that person, whether male or female, should be appointed to the permanent staff as quickly as possible. I admit that in a large organization such as the Commonwealth Public Service, there will always be quite a large number of temporary or casual employees. Perhaps the Minister will explain to me the difference between a temporary and a casual employee. A temporary employee has very little security of tenure and a casual employee is in much the same position.
I wish to direct the attention of the committee now to the increase in the cost of the administration of the department. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have referred to this question and have introduced many aspects of it into the debate. In the report that was presented to the Parliament by the Public Service Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, attention was directed to the increase in the cost of administration of the Department of Social Services and various other departments. Honorable senators have questioned the Minister about costs and have asked him why they are rising. I believe that the reason for the additional expense may be found, embossed, as it were, in golden letters, in the board’s report. I have not the report for 1951-52 and I shall quote from the report for the year ended the 30th June, 1951. It states -
The rapidly mounting administrative costs in the Public Service are a matter of serious concern to the Board, underlining the Board’s attitude on sound organization and staff efficiency.
Staff efficiency is one of the matters to which the committee might pay particular attention when it is considering a proposed vote of £2,146,000.
The main increase is in salaries. Two factors which govern salary increases, and which are outside any control by the Board, are -
The cost of the Commonwealth Public Service in salaries and payments related to salaries for 1950-51 was £99,023,006. This compares with £74,724,250 in 1949-50 - an increase of £24,298,750, of which the following is an estimated breakdown: -
The committee has been called upon to oass a large sum of money and it is justified in asking the Government to explain through its Minister the steps that it intends to take to reduce the increase of salaries based upon the cost of living adjustments and variations in relation to theC series index. Why does the C series index show such a remarkable increase? Why is the Department of Social Services called upon to find additional money this year to pay its officers because of the rise of the cost of living? This is a most serious matter for Australia. The money that is required must come from the pockets of the taxpayers. This Government promised to reduce taxation. It promised to increase the value of pensions and to put value back into the £1. Those promises were made by the Government’s leaders and it is useless for honorable senators on the Government side to try to pass them off. The rising cost of living has been responsible for the increased vote that is required for government departments. The Government should be able to assure the people who find the money to pay its officers that it will take steps to economize. Cost of living adjustments have been upward because the Statistician has found that the people have to pay m.ore for the goods that they require. The occasion demands a serious statement by the Government to the committee and to the people. The Government is charged with the responsibility of administering the affairs of the nation. It has made certain promises’ and it has not been able to keep them. It has found from experience that circumstances prevent it from doing all that it promised to do. Therefore the Government should take its courage in its hands, and possibly also its political future, and tell the people exactly where it was mistaken. In another place, and in the press to-day, the Government has been brave enough to admit one of its mistakes and to rectify it. It realized that the economy of the nation was becoming chaotic because of its credit restrictions and so it has informed the people that its policy will be altered. The Government should go a step further and tell the people that it was wrong when it promised greater value to the pensioners, reduced taxation and the restoration of value to the fi. If the Government would make that admission it would be in a stronger position than it is now with its specious arguments with which it tries to delude the people. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the committee and the people some explanation of the cost of the items that are contained in the Estimates.
– The total proposed vote for the Department of Social Services is £2,146,000. I clearly understand why the sum is so high. It is due to an all-round increase of costs for wages, materials, rents and all other expenses that are necessary for the conduct of a government department. I understand also that because there is a means test, it is necessary for the department to incur greater expense. A department that is charged with the payment of invalid and age pensions must necessarily make costly investigations if a means test is applicable. Other social services payments include child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits and widows’ pensions. All those payments involve investigation. I notice under the heading of General Expenses a paltry sum of £12,000. I hesitate to mention that amount when the committee skips over £12,000,000 in a few seconds. The sum of £12,000 is to be voted for the services of magistrates, police, registrars and agents. Who are these agents? Are they private persons or government officials ? The term “ agents “ is broad and could include almost any one. I have never heard of a private individual being employed by the Department of Social Services to snoop around to see whether a widow is still a widow or whether a person who is receiving unemployment benefit is still unemployed. However, the Government is to be congratulated upon its improved outlook on social services. I see no reason why we should castigate members of. the Government parties. How remarkable has been the change in their attitude towards social services in the past nineteen years! Only nineteen years ago, in 1933, a pensions bill was passed which included the following provision : -
Upon the death of any person who, at any time, after the 12th day of October, 1932, was in receipt of a pension (which person is hereinafter in this section referred to as “the pensioner “ ) there shall be repayable to the Commonwealth out of the estate of the pensioner an amount ascertained in accordance with the provisions of this section. . . .
Then it goes on to provide for the repayment of the pension. Under that legislation, therefore, upon the death of a pensioner, property to the value of the pension paid throughout the life of the deceased person had to be forfeited to the Commonwealth. The result was that 12,000 pensioners surrendered their pension rights in 1933, and 13,000 persons refrained from applying for the age pension. The savings to the taxpayers - and that, of course, was the most important consideration to the then Government - was the sum of £650,000 annually. Now Ave find members of the Government parties speaking about abolishing the means test. Surely that is progress indeed. Let them go ahead. No one is preventing them from abolishing the means test.
– I made no attempt to evade the direct, question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna.) about the Government’s proposals in connexion with, the- abolition of the means test. I said, straight from the shoulder, that I was not prepared to give an answer because I thought it was not the kind of question that, should be raised in a debate of this kind. We are debating the proposed vote for the administrative expenses of the Department of Social Services. Surely it is incongruous that the Leader of the Opposition should expect a. Minister to- say at this, stage whether the. Government proposes to sponsor a. measure which would involve additional, expenditure’ amounting to more: than £100,000,000 a year. That is my attitude and I shall stick to it. The request by the Leader of the Opposition was unreasonable and I hope that, on reflection, he will agree with me- on that point.- Not only would the abolition of the means test involve an additional annual social, services commitment of more than £100,000,000,. but also it would have repercussions throughout our entire economy. Clearly this is not. the proper time to seek a policy statement on. such an important matter:
Before1 dealing wish, the individual matters that have been raised by honorable senators,. I shall deal, with the position in general terms. The vote for the Department of Social Services this year is £2,146^000 compared’ with £2,021,000’ last year. I believe that the department” is well administered1 and. function.1? smoothly. That was, certainly my own experience when I’ held’ the social services, portfolio. It. is a department in which administrative expenses- must be expected to rise. Expenditure on social services this year is estimated at £164,000,000 compared with an average of £80,000,009 in the, years immediately preceding the election of the present Government. In other words, expenditure on social services has doubled since the Menzies Government has come to office. Surely that fact itself: answers much of the criticism that has. been, offered by honorable sena:tors opposite. I remind members of. the Opposition who claim that social services payments are not sufficiently generous, that they had ample opportunity when Labour was in office to intro duce the reforms that they now wish to see made. Prom 1941. to 1944, the age pension was increased by only 3s. 6d. a week. That is Labour’s record. In the two and a half years that we have been, in office, we have increased the age pension by 25s. a week.,
– The Minister is being provocative.
– I do not intend, to be provocative. This- is. an occasion, on which one is entitled to take considerable pride in the record of the- Menzies Government in the field of social services.. I submit that I am entitled to rebut criticism, that honorable senators opposite have offered in the course of this debate; This Government has gone- a long way, not; only by increasing pensions, but also by easing the means- test.. One of the greatest social improvements of recent years - an improvement that goes far beyond the monetary benefit entailed - is the provision of a free medical service to pensioners. This- is indeed a boon to pensioners.. A constant anxiety amongst, people getting on in years was that, they would not be, able to obtain proper medical, care without waiting in- queues and feeling themselves under an obligation for the treatment that they received.
I was greatly interested to learn the difference between a casual employee and a temporary employee. I am informed that a- casual employee is, generally speaking, « person who is employed for a few days to deal with a rush of work. I am afraid that I cannot give Senator Fraser much information about his question relating to. the accommodation provided foc the Department of Social Services in Perth. The Leader of the Opposition will agree with me that the department’s quarters in the General Post Office building were sadly overcrowded. I recall that when I held the portfolio, an area of laud had been set aside for a new building. I. can recall exactly where it was although. I am not familiar with, the names of the various localities in that city.. I have not heard of the proposal to remodel old hotel premises for this purpose,, and the officer instructing, me has not. heard, of. it either..
Senator Aylett criticized’, the employment of temporary employees by the
Department of ‘Social Services. I remind the honorable senator that this department is somewhat different from other departments in that a considerable volume of mechanical work is involved. This work, which includes the writing and issuing of cheques, is done by machines which are supervised hy girls. They are not salaried officers and most of them are not concerned about obtaining permanent employment. Most of them seek only temporary employment to fill in time until they get married. Therefore there is a considerable turn-over of employees. Mention has been made of the decline of the cost of the services of registrars of births and deaths. That is due to a change of departmental procedure. The department is now relying on medical certificates from practitioners and is not insisting on an official certificate from a registrar in connexion with child endowment applications. It is worthy of note that the level of employment in the department has declined. Although the proposed vote represents an increase of approximately £120,000 on last year’s vote, employment in the department has fallen from 2,254 in May, 1951, to 2,094 at present. That, I think, is a good administrative record, having regard to the. additional work that the department has been, called upon to do. Every budget contains some new social services provision or arrangement. The department has been able, to cope with those additional duties, and, at the same time, to reduce its staff. That takes me back to my original point that the Department of Social Services is one of the well administered government departments.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) has made some rather provocative statements. There is no need for me to emphasize that the purchasing power of £1 to-day is vastly different from what it was when the Labour Government increased the age pension by 3s. 6d. a week. It is remarkable that whenever reference is made to this Government’s unfulfilled election promises, honorable senators opposite retaliate by comparing the Labour Government’s record with that of the present administration. They fail completely, of course, to mention the substantial change that has occurred in economic conditions in the last few year3. Provision is made in “ Division 92- -State establishments “ - under the heading “ General Expenses “ for an estimated expenditure -of £12,000 on the services of magistrates, police, registrars and agents. The actual expenditure under this heading last year was £19,443. I should like to know what duties magistrates have to perform in the field of social services. Does the department employ magistrates and pay them for their services? If the department is the prosecutor in a court action against a recipient of a social services benefit, and the magistrate who hears the case is a paid servant of the department, what chance of securing justice has the unfortunate person concerned? What duties do the magistrates perform? If the provision covers payments for the services of magistrates in connexion with court actions, what kino! of actions does it cover ? Provision is also made for the services .of police. Recently, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) defended the action of his department in policing the morals of women in receipt of war widows’ pensions.
– Order ! The proposed vote for the Department of Repatriation is not under consideration.
– Are the recipients of widows pensions under the social services legislation also subjected to the same scrutiny? I understand that the Director-General of Social Services and the Minister exercise discretionary power to grant or refuse an application for a widow’s pension. Are the services of the police used to investigate the status or the moral conduct of widow pensioners? Provision is also made for the services of registrars and agents and of registrars of births and deaths. I am intrigued to know what registrars are employed by the department other than registrars of births and deaths. If registrars are attached to the department the Minister should indicate the duties that they perform. What do they register? If the department employs the services of agents, are they private inquiry agents, or are they persons who function on behalf of the department in areas where the normal facilities for the payment of pensions are not available?
– I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that he failed to reply to my questions concerning the employment of temporary employees apart from saying that some of them are girls who take jobs as a temporary expedient prior to marriage. The details set out in this bill disclose that the Commonwealth employs a huge army of temporary employees in its various departments. As we all know, many temporary officers serve in a temporary capacity until they reach the retiring age. Senator Wright, who plays the self-appointed part of the clown on the Government side of the chamber, probably distracted the Minister’s attention from the points that I raised regarding the proposed vote for the item “ Incidental and other expenditure “.
– Order ! The honorable senator must address himself to the proposed votes before the committee.
– Senator Wright contended that the officers of the department should work a little harder than they do at present. Does the Minister agree that if his officers worked a little harder the proposed votes for the Department of Social Services could be reduced ? It would not hurt Senator Wright to work a little harder at his parliamentary duties.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator must address himself to the proposed votes and not to the subject of Senator Wright.
– I am addressing myself to the proposed votes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator is not doing so.
– Senator Wright made an unworthy allegation and apparently is to be allowed to get away with it for we are prevented by the Chair from replying to his scurrilous statement.
– I am not aware that scurrilous statements were made by any honorable senator, but
I am aware of the fact that Senator Aylett is not addressing himself to the proposed votes under consideration. I have waited patiently for the honorable senator to establish a link between his remarks and the proposed votes. I shall wait only a little longer.
– If you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will give me time to do so, I shall connect my remarks with the proposed votes. If you examine the proposed votes you will observe that they exceed the votes for last year. I have asked the Minister to explain the reason for that increase. Senator Wright contended that if the officers of the department worked a little harder than they do at present it would not be necessary for the votes to be increased. I contend that the requisite saving could not be effected merely by the officers of the department working a little harder.
– Senator Wright did not say that it could be so effected, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I have had close personal contact with officers of the department over a number of years. They are efficient officers and are doing a very good job. It ill becomes an honorable senator opposite to attempt to belittle them.
– Senator Wright did not mention the officers of the department. Obviuosly the honorable senator did not listen to his remarks.
– If Senator Wright did not refer to the officers of the department, to whom did he refer? When he spoke of the value of working harder, obviously he was not referring to his activities in Hobart in connexion with legal cases at a time when he should have been present in this chamber. I observe that the honorable senator has returned to the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator must discuss the proposed votes before the committee.
– The Minister also failed to reply to my remarks relative to the provision of £24,000 for “ Incidental and other expenditure “ under Division 92. Is it intended that that amount will be expended on items the cost of which will not exceed £2,000, or £5,000, or will it be expended on items the cost of which will not exceed, say, £10? The committee is asked to approve of expenditure running into tens of thousands of pounds without any explanation on the part of the Minister of the items that will be covered by it. It may be true that the proposed votes for the department have been increased because of inflation. If so, and if inflation is caused by rising prices, the Government is responsible for the need to increase the proposed votes because it has failed to put value back into the £1 as it promised it would do prior to the last general election.
– I direct the atention of the Minister to the item “ Commission on benefit payments made by banks and post offices “ under Division 92. To what extent are banks paid commission, and which banks receive such commission? The proposed vote for this item this year exceeds the appropriation last year by £10,000. To what extent do the private banks, or the Commonwealth Rank, make a profit out of the payment of social services benefits on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
Senator Aylett referred to the item “ Incidental and other expenditure “, for which £24,000 has been provided. No details of the items to be covered by that amount have been given by the Minister. All of this expenditure increases the cost of social services. It would appear to the perfectly unsophisticated mind of the average person that the Government has unnecessarily increased the cost of social services. I should be grateful to the Minister if he would explain the purposes for which this proposed vote has been provided. His vague references to proposed expenditure are far from satisfactory.
Senator O’Flaherty has directed attention to the provision for the services of magistrates. These dignitaries are usually paid by the State government. I do not know whether special magistrates are employed by the Commonwealth. If a beneficiary under the social services legislation is indicted by the police and appears before a magistrate, surely a charge for the services of the magistrate concerned is not made against the Commonwealth ‘.
– I should not have spoken again but for the fact that the Minister, when he refused to answer m.y question relating to the Government’s proposals for the abolition of the means test, intimated that, upon reflection, I might agree with them that this was not the appropriate stage at which to raise such a matter. I do not so agree, because the whole of the activities of the Department of .Social Services are now under review. If one were to direct a question on this subject to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) during question time, or upon notice, I have no doubt that he would avoid a direct reply by stating that the question involved Government policy. Does the Minister contend that the Opposition should remain silent on the matter until such time as the Government chooses to bring it before the Parliament? If the Minister considers that the Opposition should await the complete convenience of the Government in this matter, let him say so. I remind the committee that the Minister did not reply to many questions that were asked about social services by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber during the general debate on the Estimates and budget papers. I know of no more opportune time than the present to ask the Minister whether the Government intends to introduce during this year a proposal in relation to the abolition of the means test. As the Minister refuses to answer my question, the position is clear, even if unsatisfactory. I do not concur in the Minister’s opinion that this is not the proper time to ask him such a question.
– The question is -
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable senator rose after I had commenced to state the question.
– I thought that the Minister for National Development would extend to me the courtesy of a reply to a question I asked about the investigation of the circumstances of pensioners.
– Order! I waited for a considerable time before I commenced to state the question, but no honorable senator rose.
– With respect, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I rose before you commenced.
– So did I. Cannot I ask the Minister a question ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the Minister wishes to reply, he may do so.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I have waited patiently for a long time to hear the Minister reply to my question.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I have given the Minister for National Development an opportunity to reply. He has the call.
– It was not my intention to reply. It is not encumbent on a Minister to reply to every question that is asked by honorable senators, and I have already replied to the majority of the questions that have been asked during the consideration of the proposed vote. However, in view of the difficulty that has arisen, I shall answer the honorable senator’s question. I refrained from answering it earlier because I did not want to get heated about the matter. I considered that there was a good deal of antagonism to the honorable senator’s suggestion that the Department of Social Services should employ private inquiry agents to investigate the circumstances of pensioners and the morals of widows. I am at a loss to understand persons who make, such suggestions.
– The suggestion has been made by the people outside the Parliament.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! As the Minister has seen fit to reply to Senator O’Flaherty’s question, the honorable senator should remain silent.
– Senator O’Flaherty is the only member of this chamber who” has made innuendoes against the pensioners. My reply to the honorable senator is that private inquiry agents are not employed by the Department of Social Services; no such people have ever been employed by the department, and I do not think that they will ever be employed by the Department of Social Services.
– For what do we pay the police?
– Item 5 of “ B. - General Expenses “ refers to the services of magistrates, police, registrars and agents in connexion with the investigation of pension claims, and payments to the Queensland Government for the services of State employees as agents in connexion with unemployment and sickness benefit claims. The expenditure of £19,443 during the last financial year included a payment of £8,73S to the Queensland Government in relation to services rendered during the previous financial year. This amount had remained unpaid because negotiations with the department were incomplete at the 30th June, 1951.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! In the circumstances, Senator Aylett also may address the committee.
– On two occasions during a consideration of the proposed vote I have sought information from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), on behalf of the people that I represent in this chamber. No government should expect the committee to swallow without explanation the provision of a large amount for incidental expenditure. Provision is made throughout the Estimates for incidental expenditure amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. I have not been nasty about the matter, but have sought information civilly. Will the Minister please furnish to me information that the electors require? If the Minister refuses pointblank to supply the information sought, honorable senators could be pardoned for thinking that the proposed provision for “ Incidentals and Other Expenditure “ is intended to be ladled out in tips or in some other manner. We have heard of slush funds in the past, but I do not consider that provision should be made in the Estimates for such funds. The taxpayers are entitled to know the real purpose of the proposed provision of £24,000. If the Minister does not consider that the people are entitled to such information, he should rise and say so. Is the money required to establish a secret fund, about which no member of this chambershould dare to ask a question? If the Minister is not prepared to furnish the information that I have sought he should be man enough to get up and say that he is not prepared to disclose it.
– I do not think that the people outside the Parliament for whom Senator Aylett has stated that he has sought the information will be very proud of him. I have endeavoured throughout a consideration of the proposed vote to answer in a decent way questions by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber which ha ve betrayed an intelligent appreciation of the figures before the committee. By his reference to slush funds in connexion with social services benefits, Senator Aylett has introduced a new conception of the subject.
– Why does not the Minister answer the question?
– Order ! Senator Aylett has spoken a great deal, and interjected frequently, during a. consideration of the proposed vote. He should now remain silent while the Minister replies.
– The matter that has been raised by the honorable senator shows that he has little appreciation of the information that is before the committee. During the last financial year the Department of Social Services expended £23,150 on incidentals. The proposed vote in this financial year is £24,000. I was perfectly entitled to let the honorable senator’s question go over my shoulder and to answer only important questions. No importance attaches to a question relating to incidental expenses of the Department of Social Services which will require an expenditure of £850 more in this financial year than was expended during the last financial year. Such a question does not do any great justice to our position. However, in order to bring the matter to a close, I inform the committee that the proposed vote of £24,000 for administrative general expenses includes provision for such matters as office cleaning, where not covered by rent; maintenance of office machinery; laundry; advertising; and the removal of waste paper. The slight increase over the expenditure during 1951-52 will be due to higher prices.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. A. McCallum.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Arm kd Forces - Government Loans and Finance.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- This afternoon I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army a question concerning some soldiers who had been arrested on a charge of being absent from duty without leave. Those soldiers have informed me-
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that Senator Morrow is under the impression that he is speaking ou the adjournment.
– You, Mr. President, have put the question, “ That the Senate do now adjourn “. Surely an honorable senator has the right to speak to that motion.
– That is so. Senator Morrow will continue.
– Those soldiers were arrested and charged with being absent from duty without leave. Some of them have been detained for twelve weeks and have not yet been tried. I- asked the Minister to make inquiries into the matter and if those allegations proved to be. informed me that ! .. did not believe that correct, to have the matter rectified. He such a thing had happened. In order to clarify the position I intend to read to the Senate a letter concerning this matter. It is as follows : -
The reason why I’m writing this is to try and get some publicity on the so-called “ justice “ we’ve got operating in Her Majesty’s Force«. In the gaol there are 7 chaps waiting District Court Martial for being A.W.L. When a bloke is awaiting a D.O.M. naturally he !ms not been found guilty of the offence until he does appear cn the Court Martial. However, the whole ewen are in detention in the guardhouse. One has been in for 12 weeks waiting trial: another for 3 weeks, and the rest await the s:une period before their trial comes off. These bloke? aren’t guilty, as under British justice a man isn’t guilty until proved; hut here’ are 7 such, living in close confinement like pigs, with storm-troopers, stand-over merchants as their warders. The chaps here asked if I’d write this, as we feel that publicity on this sort of thing might not only hurry our own trial but trials for blokes in our position in the future. If a soldier does, say, a couple of months in the ‘guardhouse waiting D.C.M. and at that trial he is awarded a further couple of months, the first two are not taken into consideration and he has to rio his “ time “. You can understand a bloke’s point of view who has to stay in here for weeks on end, where orders state that: - (l)a soldier under sentence, or awaiting sentence, shall not be allowed the use or possession of tobacco in any form; (2) no member of the guard will converse with the soldier under sentence or temporarily committed for safe keeping, or allow any familiarity; and (3) every letter, post-card, letter-card, telegram, or other written matter, addressed, or written by a soldier under sentence, or temporarily committed for safe keeping, or awaiting trial, will be read by the CO who will in his discretion approve or not approve of the transmission of the same.
These chaps here have been putting up with these things for the above periods and they haven’t yet been found guilty, or even tried. So you can see we have just reasons for complaint.
– I rise to a point of order. According to Standing Order 431 the following motions are not open to debate : - (a) that the question be now put, (h) that this debate be now adjourned. Is Senator Morrow in order in proceeding?
– The sessional orders provide that on the day the proceedings of the Senate are not being broadcast -
Unless otherwise ordered, at 10.30 p.m. the question shall be put that the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall be open to debate. If the Senate be in committee at that hour, the chairman shall, in like manner, put the question that he do leave the Chair and report t.» the Senate, and upon such report being made, the President shall forthwith put the question that the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall he open to debate; provided that if the Senate or the committee be in division at the time named, the President or the chairman sim II not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared, and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the notice-paper for the next sitting day.
Senator Morrow is therefore quite inorder. No new business may be introduced after 10.30 p.m.
– I regret the interuption. The letter continues -
However, you are not allowed to complain in the Army like this so we arc writing; this to get the people to understand what the under-dogs arc suffering. We hope you will give this publicity. We appeal to you to get publicity for the men in uniform who aru being victimized We are supposed to get one hour’s exercise each day out in the sun, but as yet I haven’t come across it and I believe it its rate. So the only time we see the sun is through the window, and the exercise yard is our cell. Evidence proves that the Army is getting recruits in under false pretences; the majority of blokes in 2 Batt, joined up for a “ career “ but now find themselves as riflemen in an infantry battalion. What a future! In my own case, as you know, I was allocated to do a PT course here but on arrival I found it was ft lot of hooey and I was a rifleman in 2 Batt. A notice outside 2 Batt. Orderly Room states: To all new members of 2 R.R.A. - You have joined an infantry battalion. Forget the promises of the Recruiting officer, soldier on and be proud of your uniform and your corps.
So you can see that many chaps come in with the recruiting officer’s stories of a bright future, &c., &c, and soon find out it’s just a lot of eye-wash. The blokes here want to sign this, but it would not be wise to publish the names, as your own experience tells you. It would mean victimization by the Army authorities.
That letter was signed by seven soldiers, who gave their army numbers, but I shall not state their names. However, their complaint appears to have some substance and to be worthy of investigation.
– Senator Morrow asked a question concerning this matter to-day and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) very courteously told him that he would obtain a reply from the Minister for the Army (Mr. .Francis). As soon as the Minister for the Army furnishes a reply it will be conveyed to Senator Morrow. Consequently, there is no need to discuss this matter just now. I shall supply the Minister for the Army with the information that the honorable senator has now provided.
– A very important statement appeared in the. press to-day to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank had lifted credit controls. It was stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had conferred with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, who was quoted as having said -
It will thus be seen that the new policy represents the joint view of the bank and the Government.
I have no objection to the Government’s making a decision of this kind, hut I consider that the Government, through the appropriate Minister, should have made a statement to the Senate on this subject. Honorable senators have had to rely on the press report, which may or may not be correct, for information of this decision. If an honorable senator were to state publicly that this decision had been made he would be asked his authority for making such a statement. He could only reply that he had read the press report. The Government has made no statement in this chamber or in another place on the matter. Its failure to do so is typical of the actions of the Government. The Parliament has been ignored whenever the Government has made a decision on a matter of major importance. This is another instance in which the Government has adopted a totalitarian attitude. It has ignored Parliament in connexion with all subjects of major importance including the imposition of import restrictions. The Government may have had the best of reasons for imposing import restrictions, hut Parliament was not consulted on the matter. If this kind of practice is to prevail in the future, honorable senators will become so many overpaid rubber stamps. I. have always objected to being a rubber stamp. The Curtin Government, and’ the Chitley Government, of which I had the privilege to be a member, reported to Parliament, on every matter of major importance. If necessary, the opportunity was given to honorable senators to discuss whether the Government’s proposal was proper or not. This Government has adopted the attitude that Parliament does not matter. I would expect this attitude of the Prime Minister because as far back as the 1930’s he paid tribute to the totalitarian state of government, both in Germany and in Italy, and expressed his strong approval of the policy that had been adopted by both those governments. Honorable senators know what that policy led to. It led to the people of those countries being committed to fight wars without being consulted.
The democratic form of government requires that no policy shall be executed without parliaments being consulted.
How long will the supporters of the Government tolerate this sort of action? How long are they prepared to be ignored and treated as if they were of no consequence? How long are they prepared to bo treated as mere followers of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet? This practice is leading insidiously to a form of dictatorship that cannot be justified by those who claim to be democrats. I hope ( lj ti t if the Government adopts a similar attitude in future, its supporters in this chamber will either register their protest or confess to the people that they are ignored by’ the Government.
. -1 also enter an emphatic protest at the failure of the Government to inform the Senate on the very important matter of the lifting of credit controls. This is a most important decision which will affect the business community and the whole economy of Australia, yet honorable senators have been dependent on press reports to learn of the decision. It was only after questions had been asked in another place concerning the propriety of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) making unpopular decisions on this matter that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made n statement which lias not been sufficient to clarify the position. It appears from press reports that great confidence in. the beneficial effects of this decision has not been experienced by people who should know what effect it will have on the community. It was reported in the S’im News Pictorial in Melbourne this morning that the Prime Minister had announced that the banks were now free to finance customers for any purpose, subject only to the provisions of capital issues regulations. But other responsible people were reported as follows: -
Thu General Manager of the Bank of N.S.W ( L-.ifr. S. J. Gandon) : The effect of the move mav lie retarded hy sheer lack of funds. Lending institutions must go warily until funds begin building up again when the export in,comes come in and Government spending makes itself felt.
Thu President of the Rural Bank (Mr. C. B. McKerihan) : “ There will be a fair amount of money coming into Australia between now and April, but the extent of any easing of credit will depend upon the individual banks. It’s not as if the banks are in a position to cope with a rush of borrowers.
Those are very conflicting statements. The Prime Minister has suggested that the banks could now lend as much as they wished, the inference being that credit restrictions had ended and that this would be of great benefit to the community. When the position is analysed it does not appear to be so rosy as the Prime Minister would have us believe. There are certain obstacles in the way. The Government should have made a considered statement on this matter to both houses of Parliament. I hope that the Minister for Repatration (Senator Cooper) will convey to the Prime Minster and the Treasurer that the Senate is very eager to have a statement presented to it covering the whole of these procedings so that we shall understand exactly what is involved. I support Senator Cameron’s protest. The Government has been very neglectful of its duty in not making a statement in the Senate on this matter to-day.
– I also protest against the Government’s action in relation to this matter. When T read in the press the account of the lifting of credit controls I found myself in a state of complete confusion. I could not ascertain who had made the decision. I could not discover whether it was a decision of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, a decision of the Commonwealth Bank Board, a decision of the Government or a decision of the Treasurer. If this was a decision of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank or of the Commonwealth Bank Board it could have been dictated completely by the economic situation. But if the decision was made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) it could very easily be nothing more than a purely political decision, determined by political considerations and the difficulties that face the Government in relation to the forthcoming Flinders byelection. That is why I consider that the Government should have made a clear and decisive statement on the matter. I join with Senator Cameron and Senator Sheehan in suggesting that, even at this late stage, the Government should make some explicit announcement, on the reasons which determined the change of policy and the actual details of the change.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paperswere presented : -
Apple and Pear Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 82.
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 80.
Canned Fruits Export Charges Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1952, No. 83.
Dairy Produce Export Charges - Act RegulationsStatutory Rules 1952, No. 85.
Dried Fruit Export Charges Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 84.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes -
Wallangarra (Jennings), New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes- Coolongatta, Queensland.
Department of Supply purposes - Rum Jungle, Northern Territory.
Postal purposes - Merriton, South Australia.
Lighthouses Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 79.
Meat Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1052, No. 81.
Public Service Act - Appointments- Department -
Army - M. G. E. Davies.
Postmaster-General’s - C. G. O’Connell.
Public Service Arbitration Act- Determina tion by the Arbitrator -1952 - No.65 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at St. Mary’s, New South Wales.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521007_senate_20_219/>.