20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that one prominent Sydney newspaper reported in its issue to-day under scare headlines that the Communists in Korea had launched their biggest attack for at least a year yesterday in hordes totalling up to 15,000? The heading stated also that one allied unit fought and died to the last man in defending a vital hill. Can the Minister give any clear indication to the Senate of the nature of the operation and the extent to which the Australian force in Korea is committed ?
– I have discussed this matter with the Minister for the Army and would prefer that he made a statement upon it himself, because it comes directly within his province. However, in the course of our conversation I understood him to express the view that the newspaper report of the extent of the operation in Korea was exaggerated. The information that he had from Korea was to the effect that there had been some heavy skirmishing, but the report to him did not indicate that the Communists had launched an offensive on a major scale such as that suggested in the newspaper report. The Minister was informed further that the Australian force in Korea had only one platoon committed in the action.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs as Minister representing the Prime Minister in this chamber, propose to make a statement for consideration by the Senate and for record purposes about the press report published yesterday that the Government had decided to end its control over loans by trading banks ?
– I am sure that the attitude of the Government will be made known by the Prime Minister in an appropriate manner at the right time.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services read press reports that delegates to the federal conference of the “War Widows Guild recently held in Adelaide were amazed when told of what was being done by the South Australian Housing Trust to provide homes for war widows ? Will the Minister obtain a full report from South Australia in order to ascertain whether some features of the scheme now operating in that State could be incorporated in the War Service Homes Act, so that war widows living in other parts of the Commonwealth may be given the best possible housing terms and conditions?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, and in view of the importance of the matter, I took the opportunity to obtain a statement from the Minister for Social Services on it. The Minister has provided the following information : -
I have had referred to me the press report in which the Premier of South Australia is alleged to have advised the federal conference of War Widows Guilds of the action taken by the South Australian Government to give preference to war widows concerning housing.
It will be appreciated that the reply by the Premier was on the basis of the State responsibility for housing generally. The War Service Homes Act on the other hand was n special measure introduced under the defence powers of the Constitution to enable ex-servicemen and their dependants to become home-owners on better conditions than were procurable from other authorities. It has not been contemplated that the War Service Homes Act should be amended to provide rental homes as it is felt that any such step would be an encroachment upon the powers and responsibilities of State governments.
War widows are given top priority in their endeavour to become home-owners under the War Service Homes Act, and their applications receive the utmost consideration, but for the reasons I have already indicated, the Government could not contemplate an amendment to the act to provide homes on a fixed rental basis. It should not be overlooked, however, that under the Commonwealth-State housing scheme, which operates in some other States, the Government provides finance to enable the States to make homes available on a rental basis and rebates are provided where the tenant’s income will not permit of her paying the economic rental determined on the basis of cost, &c.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration say whether there is any truth in to-day’s press reports that two immi-grants, who recently arrived from Malta, have been certified as suffering from leprosy ? Is it true that those immigrants contracted this disease before leaving Europe? If so, will the Minister assure the Senate that immigrants from all parts of Europe will be thoroughly examined for leprosy as well as tuberculosis and other communicable diseases?
– I think that the honorable senator may rest assured that an effective screening does take place, but if she will place her question on the notice-paper I shall obtain detailed information from the Minister for Immigration about the specific matter that she has raised.
asked the Minister representing the Minister’ for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer : -
– On the 30th September, Senator Vincent asked me whether the Minister for External Affairs intended to make a statement regarding the Government’s attitude towards the so-called “Eden plan”, and whether, if such a statement were made, lt would also be made available to the Senate so that it could be debated in this chamber. The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply: -
I do not propose to make this question the subject of a policy statement. Although the proposals in the Eden plan mark a significant development in the movement for .European integration, they do not affect Australia directly. Accordingly, while we welcome the initiative which the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Mr. Anthony Eden, took” when he put forward his plan in March this year as a means of reconciling British sud .European views on European unity, no special statement of Australia’s views would appear to be necessary. However, it may be found useful to have the following general information about recent developments arising from Mr. Eden’s proposals.
In the last few years there has been considerable discussion in Europe on the need to break down some of the barriers which for centuries have divided the people of Western Europe. This discussion has led to the creation of a number of international bodies designed to promote European unity. These bodies include the Council of Europe, a quasi parliamentary organization representing fifteen countries (including the United Kingdom) which was established in 1949. Although it has discussed a wide range of matters of common European concern the Council of Europe has no legislative power and can make recommendations only to member Governments.
Other bodies which have been created as a result of the European movement have included the Schuman plan for a -West European coal and steel pool and the European Defence Community (European Army). These schemes, of which the Schuman plan is already in operation, and the European Defence Community should become operative in the next few months, differ from the Council of Europe in two main ways: firstly, their membership is more restricted (only France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg are members ) and, secondly, they propose closer co-operation, involving a partial transfer of sovereignty to supranational bodies. In addition, there are similar proposals for closer co-operation in other fields, such as agriculture and health, among these six countries and any others which may wish to join them.
Mr. Eden’s proposals are designed to avert the possibility of these ‘various bodies,, and any others which may be set up later, developing in harmful competition with each other.. In brief, the proposals suggest that the Council of Europe should be remodelled to serve as an “ umbrella “ or co-ordinating centre for the attempts being made, so far separately, to bring about closer European integration. Mr. Eden recognized that the differing membership of the various bodies, and the varying degrees of co-operation involved, would create problems in achieving this aim, but he thought they could be overcome by, for example, the Council as a whole meeting to consider and make recommendations on questions affecting all members, while representatives of the more restricted group of countries would meet enmatters like the European Army or the coal and steel pool which affect them alone. Nonvoting observers of the remaining Council of Europe members might, if invited, attend these latter meetings.
The advantage of Mr. Eden’s scheme, which has been accepted in principle by the European countries concerned and is now being worked, out in greater detail, is that it would enable countries like the United Kingdom which have important ties, outside as well as in Europe to associate themselves closely with tho European movement without, however, compelling them to surrender any of their sovereign powers as some continental countries propose.
Mr. Eden’s proposals will not, of course, mean a lessening of United Kingdom ties with Commonwealth countries. In all the discussions which have taken place in recent years on European integration, the United Kingdom Government has consistently stressed that it could not consider any form of closer association with European countries which would detract in any way from its links with the Commonweal th .
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that the Joint Coal Board has notified the owners of a group of small mines in the Newcastle district that it can no longer undertake to place the output from those mines in the coal market, and that they will have to sell their coal wherever they can in New South Wales ? As a result of that notification, 150 employees of those mines have received dismissal notices. How does he reconcile this state of affairs with his answer to a question that I asked on the 30th September to the effect that there would be no dismissals from the coal industry ?
– I have seen a newspaper report to the effect that the Joint Coal Board has given certain information to a group of mine-owners. As the Joint Coal Board did not refer this matter to me, I doubt very much whether the newspaper report was correct, because I have discussed the subject at some length with the Joint Coal Board. The members of that board know my views about it, and I should be very surprised indeed if the board has taken the action that has been attributed to it by the newspaper report.
– A recent issue of South Pacific contained an interesting article on the stamps of Australia. It gave a history of the stamp issue of Australia which included historical events, prominent men, and all kinds of birds and animals. There has not yet been an issue of stamps portraying Australian women. Will the Minister’ representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General inform me whether, in honour of the Boy Scouts’ Jamboree that is to be held at Parramatta later this year, the Postal Department has decided to issue a new stamp portraying a boy scout ? Will the Minister consider the issue of a special stamp to depict a pioneer woman of Australia ?
– I shall be very 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 inform the Senate whether or not the Government intends to introduce television in this country at an early date?
– As honorable senators are aware the Postmaster-General is at present absent from Australia, and I have no doubt that when he returns he will have some information about the latest television equipment that is in use in other countries. I shall be better able to answer the honorable senator’s question after the Minister’s return to this country.
– On the 11th September, Senator Henty asked a question about, the extent to which the Australian
Aluminium Production Commission should make ex-gratia payments in relation to municipal rates on its properties in the George Town-Bell Bay district of Tasmania. The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answer: -
I would advise that at the present moment this question is receiving consideration. In view of the special reference by Senator Henty to the large housing scheme in George Town, I would point out that the 250 houses being erected for workers’ homes, are the property of the Agricultural Hank of Tasmania and only a relevantly: small number of senior staff houses will be erected by the commission.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal is independent of the Repatriation Commission for reports on decisions and is answerable only to the Parliament ? Is it a fact that only 18 per cent, of appeals were successful last year, and that the onus of proof is on the appellant ? Will the Minister table the 1951-52 report of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal as soon as possible, in order that the criticisms which are being levelled at the tribunal by ex-servicemen’s organizations may be fully aired?
– It is a fact that the two war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals are independent of the Repatriation Commission in regard to their functions. The honorable senator is no doubt aware that these tribunals were established at the express request of organizations of ex-servicemen, from memory, in 1924. They have functioned most efficiently ever since. There are two kinds of tribunal - the war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals and the war pensions assessment appeals tribunals. There are four assessment appeals tribunals and two entitlement appeals tribunals. I am setting up an additional assessment appeals tribunal at an early date, which will make five in all. Reports dealing with the activities of the assessment appeals tribunals are tabled annually with the reports of the Repatmahon Commission. Those reports show the number of members with whom the tribunals have dealt, the number of appeals which have been upheld, the number disallowed and the number which have lapsed. The reports of the entitlement appeals tribunals are sent to me yearly and also are tabled in the Parliament. The 1951-52 reports are not immediately available, but I hope to be able to table both reports before the end of the current sessional period.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that the British Government is most eager to participate in the discussions concerning the Anzus pact? Is it a fact that the Australian representatives at the recent meeting of the Anzus Council were in favour of such participation, and that American pressure precluded British participation? Is it also a fact that the main reason for the refusal to allow the British Government to participate is that that Government is adamant concerning recognition of new China, whereas the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America are equally adamant on recognition of Chiang-kai-shek and the Chinese National Government on Formosa?
– I cannot vouch for the accuracy of all the statements made by the honorable senator, nor can I ascertain the thoughts which are running through the mind of the British Government. The facts in this matter are well known. The Anzus pact is an arrangement between certain Pacific nations. Great Britain is not a party to that arrangement. We have an agreement relating to the South Pacific area in the same way as Great Britain and other powers have an agreement in relation to the North Atlantic area. There is no suggestion of any divergence of opinion between Australia and Great Britain, nor has there been any suggestion by reasonable minded persons that the action we have taken could be regarded as other than normal in the circumstances.
– I remind the Minister representing the Treasurer that some few weeks ago I directed his attention to an impending conference of taxation experts that was being convened by the Australian Government for the purpose of considering the restoration of taxing powers to the States. I now ask the Minister whether he is in a position to give to the Senate any information concerning that conference? If he is not able to do so, will be consider making an early statement for ‘ the benefit of honorable senators?
– I have no information on this subject apart from that which I gave to the honorable senator on the last occasion on which he addressed this question to me. I suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice-paper in order to give the Treasurer an opportunity to ascertain whether the information is available.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state the motive or economic development that has prompted the change of Government policy concerning credit restrictions? Does the Government, by the easing of credit restrictions, now hope to encourage industries which it previously attempted to discourage and destroy because it considered them to be unessential?
– There is no change of Government policy-
Senator Grant interjecting,
– Order ! I must draw the attention of Senator Grant to the Standing Orders. A question has been asked and the Minister has the right to be heard.
– The action that has been taken does not reflect any change of Government policy. The Government has always considered that the less controls that exist in a community, the more efficiently that community will operate. When the Government came into office it faced a state of affairs which necessitated certain arrangements being made. Those arrangements which were set out in the budget that waa introduced into this Parliament last year have had the desired effect. The decision to relax credit restrictions is an automatic consequence of a well-thought-out and soundly based economic policy. It is a development which was bound to occur and which has been approved by all sections of the community, including that section which has the responsibility for handling financial matters.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What is the amount of Australia’s total debt, for the States and the Commonwealth, and the annual interest rate? What is the total debt of each State that has been taken over by the Australian Government and the annual interest rate? What is the total overseas debt owing by Australia to Great Britain, the United States of America or any other country, if any, and the total interest rate ? If the Minister has not the information, will he obtain it if the questions are placed upon the notice-paper ?
– If the honorable senator will place the questions on the notice-paper, I shall obtain the information.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by stating that over the last few months instances have come to my notice of manufacturers and others who have been refused credit by the trading banks on the ground that they were bound by the creditrestrictions imposed by the Australian Government. Will the Minister suggest that those who have been refused credit, in many cases not because of the credit restrictions imposed by the Australian Government, should make application now to the trading banks so that they will be informed of the real reason why advances to them were restricted?
– All those transactions are now matters between the banks and their customers. Those who seek credit from the banks will take their proposals to the bankers in the ordinary commercial way and the banker will say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to them without reference to the political or financial policy of the Australian Government.
– Yesterday, in reply to a question upon notice regarding the future of wheat marketing in Australia, the Minister representing the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture informed: me that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers of Agri-culture had taken place on the 2nd October. Can the Minister now inform the Senate of the outcome of that’ conference, particularly in regard to the future of wheat marketing in this country during the next twelve months?
– From conversations which I have had with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and from a report which he has issued I understand that he and the State Ministers for Agriculture agreed that the present stabilization scheme should be extended for one year. The fixing of a home-consumption price for wheat, as honorable senators know, is a matter for the State governments. I understand that this price is still under consideration by the State governments. It will apply to wheat intended for human consumption in Australia. It was recommended by the conference that the overseas price should be paid on the balance of wheat produced. One of the reasons why the Ministers considered that they could not extend the scheme for more than a year was that future developments might depend on the outcome of a conference which is to be held early next year by the representatives of the various purchasing countries.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture following the reply that he gave earlier with regard to a decision that was reached by the Australian Agricultural Council on the 2nd October. Before effect is given to that decision, is it the intention of the Government to consult the growers and ascertain by a vote whether they are in favour of the extension or not ?
– I do not know whether I mentioned in reply to the previous question that the matter of a stabilization plan for the future beyond one year is also under active consideration. I understand that any plan that is decided upon will be submitted to the growers.
– Including the one-year plan ?
– do not think that the one-year proposal is to be sub mitted to> the growers because that is only an extension of the existing plan, but I shall obtain the information from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and supply it to the honorable senator.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Three or four months ago I noticed that a large quantity of newsprint was included in the flood of imports that was entering the country. I raise no objection to that, and merely state that my attention was drawn to the size of the newsprint imports. I should like to know why the Department of Trade and Customs has made an amended statement with regard to the amount of newsprint that is entering Australia. I sought information on the matter on the 10th July and received from the Acting Commonwealth Statistician a statement that in the year 1948-49, 89,746 tons of newsprint, valued at a little more than £4,000,000, arrived in Australia. In the eleven months ended the 31st May, 1951, imports of newsprint were shown as 106,926 tons, costing a little more than £5,000,000. In the eleven, months ended the 31st May, 1952, newsprint imports totalled 226,868 tons, costing £15,622,700. When I was in contact with the department on the 10th July, the officers could supply me only with figures to the end of May. I asked for the figures for the whole year. They informed me that an amended statement had been made by the Department of Trade and Customs which reduced the quantity of newsprint imported to the 31st May, 1952, from 226,868 tons to 165,540 tons. According to the letter that I received from the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, although the imports of newsprint were reduced from 226,868 tons to 165,540 tons, the cost of the smaller quantity of newsprint was £17,180,201, whereas the cost of the larger quantity was given previously as £15,622,700.
– It has gone up.
– I know about the increase in the price, but I want an explanation for the discrepancy. When I asked for the value of the imports of newsprint to the end of June, I was informed that an amended statementhad been issued which reduced the quantity imported, but increased the price by more than £2,000,000.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN.- I am sure that the Senate is indebted to Senator Ashley for the information that has been given by him in reply to his own question. I assure the honorable senator that the policy that has been pursued by this Government regarding newsprint imports is much the same as it was when he was the Minister, except that it is administered much more efficiently. There arethree sources of supply for newsprint. They are Scandinavia, America and Tasmania. If the honorable senator will omit the information that he has supplied to the Senate, and put his question on the notice-paper, I shall endeavour to answer it.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN.- As there is much work to be done arid officers from Sydney arid Melbourne are in the chamber, I ask honorable senators to put further questions upon the notice-paper.
– I protest against the curtailment of question time. Ministers rise in their places repeatedly and read long statements which occupy much of the time that is allotted for questions. It” is not fair. One long statement was read to-day by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). When question time is curtailed to half an hour, the time allotted is inadequate.
-It was my experience to be in opposition when the honorable senator was the leader of the Government in the Senate. I learnt much from him, but in the case of question time,the pupil cannot compare with the teacher.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The following answer has been furnished by the- Minister for Territories : -
Section 3a of the Native Regulation Ordinance reads as follows: - “3a. - (1.) Where a person whose age does not exceed sixteen years is found guilty of ari offence against” the regulations made under this Ordinance, he shall not be punished with imprisonment. (2.) A Court for Native Matters which convicts a person referred to in the last preceding sub-section may order that he be once privately” whipped as a punishment for his offence. (3.) The number of strokes which the Court may order under this section shall-
in the case of a person referred to in sub-section (1.) of this section whose age doesnot exceed sixteen year’s, not exceed eight; and
certain offences of violence, e.g. garrotting, destruction of inhabited buildings and vessels with ‘explosives, attempts to wreck ships and like acts; and (d) prison offences, e.g. mutiny in prison, incitement to mutiny in prison and gross personal violence to prison staff. The amendments also reduced the extent and severity of the punishment. The Government supports the principle of abolition of corporal punishment and the action already taken represents a substantial step towards complete abolition.
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this hill is to amend the Wheat Export Charge Act of 1948 in order to give effect to the Government’s decision that an export tax will not apply to wheat of the J 952-53 season shipped overseas. The Government’s policy in this connexion was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the” 2Sth March, 1952. The operation of the Wheat Export Charge Act is a part of the wheat stabilization plan under which, in consideration of a Commonwealth guarantee on wheat exports, there is withheld from the realizations from export sales certain moneys obtained by way of an export charge which may not exceed 2s. 2d. a bushel. The sum in the Wheat Stabilization Fund resulting from the collection of a tax on wheat exports is at present £14,000,000, and by tha time payments from the 1951-52 wheat crop are completed, the fund is expected to reach about £19,000,000. That is sufficient to provide for any possible contingencies for the balance of the current five-year wheat stabilization plan, which terminates with the marketing of the 1952-53 wheat crop. There is, therefore, no need to collect the export tax on wheat of the coming crop and the effect of the amendment proposed in the bill is to exempt wheat of that’ crop from any such collections. The growers will therefore have the full benefit of the export prices operating during the next export season. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sheehan) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended. Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the Senate seeks to make four amendments of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. The first and most important of the amendments is one which follows from the Government’s decision last year to permit aliens to enlist in the Army. The proposal in clause 2 of the bill is that the period of residence required as a prerequisite to naturalization should be shortened for aliens who have voluntarily enlisted for overseas service in the Australian forces or those of another British Commonwealth country. It is, I believe, unnecessary for me to speak at any great length in order to justify such an amendment. An alien can give no better demonstration of his allegiance to the Crown and to Australia than to offer himself for military service, at home or abroad, in defence of his adopted homeland. Loyalty is the first essential for the conferment of Australian citizenship and British nationality, and it is clearly desirable that naturalization should be granted as soon as the’ Minister can be assured of the applicant’s readiness and ability to assume the responsibilities of citizenship.
The bill therefore proposes that, when an alien has voluntarily enlisted for fulltime service at home or abroad, each four weeks of such service should be equivalent, for naturalization purposes, to eight weeks’ residence in Australia. In other words, from the moment when the person concerned is enlisted, any further period for which he would normally have to wait for naturalization is reduced by one-half. In the case of members of the Citizen Military Forces who have volunteered for service abroad, but whose service is parttime only, each four weeks after enlistment is to be equivalent to five weeks’ residence in Australia; that is, from the date of enlistment, their waiting period for naturalization will be reduced by onefifth.
It is proposed that these concessions shall be available irrespective of the area in which service is actually performed. The reason for this is that members of the forces who volunteer for service both at home and abroad, have no control over the decision where they shall, in fact, serve. It would be unfair to penalize a member who, although prepared to serve overseas, is not given the opportunity to do so. The concessions are to be available in respect of past as well as future service, but in the case of service in the forces of a British country other than Australia, they will apply only to service within the eight years preceding the application for naturalization.
The remaining three amendments are very minor ones, though explanation of them will take some little time. Section 16 (1.) (a) of the act provides that a person who is granted a certificate of naturalization shall be an Australian citizen as from the date upon which he takes, in the prescribed manner, an oath of allegiance. The words “ in the prescribed manner “ have been found to be unnecessary, and the Government’s legal advisers have recommended that they be eliminated. The act itself indicates, in section 41, the persons before whom the oath of allegiance should be taken, and the same section provides that the taking of the oath may be accompanied by proceedings which will impress upon applicants the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. The act itself also gives the precise wording of the oath of allegiance. It is undesirable that any other aspects of the ceremonies at which oaths are taken should be prescribed by regulation, since the kind of ceremony which may be appropriate at one time and place may be quite unsuitable at another. It is much to be preferred that detailed procedure should be capable of alteration without constant amendments to statutory rules. It is clear, therefore, that the words “ in the prescribed manner “ are redundant. Their retention, moreover, might give rise to the belief that the Parliament intended other matters to be prescribed by regulation and that until such matters are prescribed any oaths of allegiance taken will be ineffective. It is accordingly desirable that the words be omitted from the act, and clause 3 of the bill will achieve this.
The next amendment, which is covered by clause 4 of the bill, is designed to exempt aliens under 21 years of age from the necessity to advertise in the newspapers their intention to apply for naturalization. Newspaper advertisements are considered to be unnecessary in the case of minors and it is desirable that young applicants be spared any needless expense in becoming citizens.
The last amendment, which is covered by clause 5, seeks to remove an anomaly from section 48 of the act, which deals with the surrender of certificates of registration or naturalization in cases where the holders have been deprived of their citizenship by order of the Minister. At present, surrender may be demanded “ on or before “ the date upon which the deprivation order takes effect. It is more convenient and reasonable to demand surrender after the order becomes effective, and accordingly it is proposed to amend section 48 to enable the surrender of such certificates to be demanded at any time. None of the matters covered by the bill is considered to be contentious and I commend it to the Senate for approval.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th October (vide page 2541).
Department of National Development.
Proposed vote, £1,180,000.
– Order I The matter is quite clear. A motion, “ That the question be now put “ was carried in division. Subsequently, the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services was agreed to on the voices.
– I was in the chamber at the time, and it is my recollection that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) moved “ That the question be now put “. A division was called for, and the question was resolved in the affirmative. The question, “ That the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services be agreed to “ was then put and carried on the voices. The Temporary Chairman then drew attention to the sessional order governing the procedure to be adopted at 10.30 p.m. on days when the proceedings in the Senate are not being broadcast, and action was taken accordingly.
– Might I suggest that there is a simple way to determine this problem, that is, by reference to the Journals of the Senate.
– I shall ask the Clerk to read the relevant extract.
The Clbbk thereupon read the following extract from the Journals of the Senate, No. 61, of Tuesday, the 7th October, 1952:-
Department of Social Services debated -
Closure. - The Minister for Shipping and
Transport (Senator McLeay) moved–That the Question be now put.
Question - That the Question be now put - put.
The Committee divided- Ayes, 28. Noes, 23.
And so it was resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the vote for the Department of Social Services be agreed to- put accordingly, and passed.
And it being after 10.30 p.m. - The Temporary Chairman, under Sessional Order, put the Question - That he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Questions-resolved in the affirmative.
The President resumed the Chair; and the Temporary Chairman of Committees (Senator McCallum) reported accordingly.
Adjournment. - The President, under Sessional Order, then put the Question - That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question - Resolved in the affirmative. The Senate adjourned at eleven p.m. till to-morrow at three p.m.
– -Are there any requests in connexion with the proposed vote for the Department of National Development?
– In view of the statement that was made publicly by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) recently, to the effect that only Australian-born persons would in future be employed on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric undertaking, will the Minister inform me of the progress that has been made with that project? Has he in mind the curtailment of the present rate of progress of the undertaking? Is it expected that the rate of progress during the last financial year will be maintained during this financial year?
. - I shall direct my attention to the subject of assistance to the mining industry excluding those sections engaged in coal-mining and exploration for oil. I shall confine my remarks exclusively to assistance to mining for precious metals such as gold, silver and copper, and for base metals such as tin, lead and iron. I believe that not only the majority of members of the committee but the majority of the people of this country are not fully appreciative of the importance of the mining industry to the economy of Australia. Many of our arid regions would be unoccupied, and the Government would be unable to apply its policy of decentralization, were it not for these activities. Furthermore, without the backing of the mining industry, the farmers would be unable to sow and take off their crops, and the Government would be unable to carry out its defence programme. Without an effective gold-mining industry, this country would have difficulty in establishing overseas credits.
Unfortunately, the particular mining industries to which I have referred have declined during the last 40 years. In 1915, Australia produced 1.2 per cent, of the total world production of all mines, compared with only .7 per cent, at present. Our mining industries are languishing compared with those of Canada. In 1S86, the output of our mines, excluding coal mines, was valued at £7,500,000. The output of the Canadian mining industries in that year, excluding coal and oil, was valued at less than £A.2,000,000. That is to say, in 1SS6, the Australian mining industries were more than three times more valuable than were those of Canada. Now, the annual value of the production of Australian mines is only about £65,000,000, but the annual value of the production of the Canadian mining industry has risen to £A. 345,000,000, which is more than five times the value of the Australian annual production. That is how our mining industry is declining. There’ is a very good reason for that decline. Gold mining, or any other form of mining, is a wasting asset. Every time an ounce of gold or a ton of ore is extracted from the ground, it goes for ever. A healthy mining industry continues to explore for fresh fields. In this country, only one major ore body has been discovered since federation. I refer to the Mount Isa field. We are living on our fat so far as our mining industries are concerned. For 50 years we have been mining our known fields and have not explored for fresh ore bodies. There is a good reason why such exploratory work
has not been undertaken. In . a nutshell, insufficient stimulus is being given to the mining industries. A great deal has been said in this Parliament concerning assistance to primary production, and the farming industry has in fact been given considerable assistance in various forms. Our secondary manufacturing industries are protected by a high tariff wall. The only industry out in the cold is the mining industry, which does not receive protection to the same degree as do the farming and manufacturing industries.
Canada and Australia have much in common in their mineral production. In the taxation field alone, Canada nas given some important incentives and stimuli to the mining industry, with the result that the Canadian mining industry is now worth five times as much as is the Australian mining industry, although 75 years ago the reverse position existed. In my opinion, that is very serious for us. We must look to the future. If we do not do so, posterity will suffer. I suggest that all sections of the community, from the farmer to the manufacturer and from the railway employee to the housewife, are indirectly dependent on the mining industry.
I wish to refer to one or two matters upon which I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to comment. In 1945, an excellent report was presented to the Government by the Mining Industry Advisory Panel. The committee consisted of a number of eminent mining authorities, with Dr. H. G. Raggatt as chairman and some well-known mining engineers, such as Mr. F. G. Brinsder and Mr. G. Lindesay Clark, assisting him. The report set out in an excellent manner the problem of the wasting asset of Australia. The committee made certain recommendations to the Government concerning methods by which this problem could be overcome. Certain of those recommendations were adopted and incorporated in amendments of the taxation law in, I think, 1946. However, I wish to stress that the most important recommendation in regard to taxation was not adopted. Various other recommendations of the committee also were disregarded.
– What does the honorable senator regard as the most important recommendation which was not adopted?
– The second recommendation, which referred to a depletion allowance of 100 per cent, for the first three years after a mine comes into production. I understand that that recommendation was not incorporated in the amendment of the taxation law.
I should like to know whether the Minister proposes to call this committee together again shortly, in order that it may make further recommendations in regard to the industry. In other words, is this very valuable committee to be kept going so that it may offer advice from time to time on these very important questions? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government recently gave consideration to the recommendations contained in the Raggatt report, as it is known ? If so, will he tell us the views of the Government concerning those recommendations?
– I refer to Division 99, item 1, “ Publications and publicity under section C - Miscellaneous. I notice that last year the vote for this purpose was £19,000 and that only £6,321 was expended. This year the proposed vote is £28,000. I should like the Minister to explain the necessity for such a large increase. In my opinion, there is- good ground on which to contest the need for publicity in. a department such as the Department of National Development.
– I refer to the proposed vote in respect of dedication of roads at V illawood, which is listed in the miscellaneous expenses section of Division 99. Last year, although no provision was Hinde for expenditure in this connexion, £5,000 was in fact expended. In the current financial year, it is proposed to vote £16,000 for this purpose. I should like the Minister to inform the Senate of the purposes to which this expenditure is to be devoted.
.- Senator Armstrong has already referred to the diminution of labour employed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric
Authority. Can the Minister state the exact amount of money requested by the authority in order that work on the project might proceed at the desired rate ? I have been given to understand that approximately £16,000,000 is required to carry out the programme for the current financial year. I also understand that the total sum which it is proposed to appropriate for the work this year is £13,600,000. Can the Minister say whether the provision of that amount of money will result in a slackening off in the work? All honorable senators appreciate that this project is of great national importance. It has a most vital bearing on our defence policy. We must, therefore, ensure that the work shall be carried out as expeditiously as possible. I should like the Minister to explain whether the proposed reduction of expenditure by approximately £2,400,000 will result in a slackening off in the work of the authority. From the statement which the Minister made on this subject early this year I gained the impression that if the additional £2,400,000 was not forthcoming it would cause great disorganization in the flow of work. The sum of £13,600,000 was required for projected works already in hand.
I should like to ask the Minister whether he considers it to be fair to finance the Snowy Mountains undertaking out of revenue. This project will be a great asset to Victoria and New South Wales. But, in Tasmania, hydro-electric works have to be financed by the State Government out of loan moneys. If finance is to be made available for the Snowy Mountains undertaking out of revenue, it should also be made available from revenue for Tasmanian works of a similar nature. Like the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Tasmanian undertakings are of major importance to the development of the country and from a defence point of view.
– I listened attentatively to Senator Vincent and I must agree with some of his statements. I think that the Government should take action to encourage the development of the mineral resources of this country, particularly those which are needed in time of war. There was a shortage of minerals such as tin,- wolf ram and scheelite in this country during the last war and the Government had to take drastic action to get the necessary supplies. Since the war our supply of these minerals has decreased and their price has become almost prohibitive. Has the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) any plan for developing the mineral resources of Australia? I know that the Government has some plan for assisting mining, but in attempting to obtain that assistance one would become handcuffed, tied by the ankles and strangled in red tape. The assistance would not be worth what one would have to go through in order to get it. Some of the richest mineral areas in the world exist in the northern and far southern parts of Australia. There is still untold wealth to be uncovered in those areas, but how can we persuade men to battle through the bush in search of minerals as the old prospectors did ? I understand that the Government of Tasmania is prepared to subsidize prospectors to the extent of £5 a week if they are prospecting for new fields, but that assistance is a mere bagatelle.
The Government, in conjunction with the State governments, should prepare a scheme for assisting the development of mines which their officers, after inspection, declare to be worth developing. There are some unemployed and there will probably be more, and some among them might be prepared to undertake the trials of prospecting for new fields. Could the Government not combine with the State governments to assist prospectors in that direction? The Government should also be prepared to offer men who discover new deposits a reward such as that which it has offered for the discovery of uranium. Most working men would not know how to exploit a mineral deposit if they found one. Many prospectors who have found great shows have been left with practically nothing after placing their discovery in the hands of a company. They have had about enough left to buy a pack horse and a kit in order to go out and find another deposit. The Government should give prospectors a special grant if they find a worth-while deposit.
I think that there are still a number of men who would face the hazards of the bush in order to find new mineral shows if the Government were to assist them in that way. The Government cannot honestly say that it has no need of more minerals. Where would we obtain wolfram and tin if we had to depend on our own production in another world war ? How would we be able to help Great Britain or other allies with supplies of such minerals? This is a matter which could well receive the attention of the Department of National Development. No other commodity, if exported, could bring greater wealth to Australia than minerals. An increase in their production would effect a substantial improvement in our trade balance and result in considerable dollar earnings.
– I wish to refer to “ Division 100- Bureau of Mineral Resources - C. - Miscellaneous - Operational Expenses “. During the last financial year expenditure on this item amounted to £218,899 whilst the vote for that year was £260,000. The proposed vote for the current financial year is £390,000, an increase of £130,000 on last year’s vote. I should like to know what activities of the Bureau of Mineral Resources warrant- the expenditure of £390,000 on operational expenses. Is the work’ to be done principally by the bureau? The Estimates this year contain an item “ Assistance to mining “. There was no vote for that item last year, but £7,284 was expended. This year, the proposed vote for assistance to mining is £1,000. The vote last year for exploratory drilling was £7,000 and expenditure was £6,000. This year, no provision has been made for exploratory drilling. The matter that has been raised by Senator Vincent is very important. The situation in the mining industry is similar to that in the agricultural industry. Agricultural production is declining and there has been a fall in the production of metals from our mines. Statistics for Tasmania show that between 1880 and 1950, minerals valued at more than £100,000,000 were produced in Tasmania. They included many metals that are not obtainable in other parts of Australia, and among them were osmiridium, scheelite, wolfram, asbestos, silica and cadmium. Since 1941, zinc production in Tasmania has declined from 24,000 tons to 23,000 tons a year. That is one of the principal branches of the Tasmanian mining industry. “Wolfram is a vital mineral, and its production in Tasmania has declined from 236 tons to 200 tons a year. The output of osmiridium has fallen from 207 ozs. to 46 ozs.
Although the proposed vote for the Bureau of Mineral Resources totals £723,000, we in Tasmania believe that our mineral resources are not being properly, developed and exploited. A large area of Tasmania has not been surveyed or even explored. It is practically inaccessible, but the few hardy people who have ventured into that part of the island have reported the existence of mineralbearing areas. Private enterprise produces minerals only in areas where it can extract profits immediately. The Government should take an active interest in mining. Many metals are available to us only by chance. Some prospector or a group of people have been able to interest financiers in their mineral discoveries, but were it not for these fortuitous circumstances much of that metal would still be in the ground. In the Bureau of Mineral Resources the nation should have the nucleus of an organization that could take an active interest in the business of producing minerals and developing new areas where private enterprise has failed. Production of essential metals has declined because the profit that is readily available is not so great as the return from other enterprises. Nevertheless, the importance of a continuous supply of metals should not be overlooked. Some minerals that could be produced in Tasmania would earn dollars. Other metals would help to build Australia’s overseas balance. Does the Bureau of Mineral Resources intend to extend its drilling activities? Does the heading “ Exploratory drilling “ apply to the search for oil, minerals or water and in what part of Australia is the drilling to be done? I believe that there is a big field for drilling operations in Australia, and that it could be developed by the bureau.
– I wish to direct attention to the production of coal in Australia and, in particular, to the industry in New South Wales. The position with regard to coal supplies has improved greatly since this Government was returned to office. Production in New South Wales has risen from 11,600,000 tons in 1948-49 to 14,700,000 tons in 1951-52. Australian production has risen from 13,900,000 tons in 1946 to 18,900,000 tons in 1952. Those figures illustrate how an industry responds to good treatment and sound guidance, and much of the credit is due to the Minister in charge of the Department of National Development. However, much remains to be done. Gas coal is in short supply and gas companies operate from one ship load to another. I hope that that position can be rectified, and that the Minister will give close attention to the provision of reserve stocks of gas coal. Another important matter is the swing from coal to oil burners. That has been influenced in recent years by the shortage of coal and the uncertainty of supplies, partly because of transport difficulties. Consumption of coal has fallen in Melbourne and the consumption of oil has increased because of the lack of transport for coal by both sea and land. I suggest that the Minister should pay attention to that aspect of the matter and ascertain whether it is possible to persuade consumers to turn from oil to coal. We should try to develop the consumption of coal to a rate equal to its production. I believe that more exploratory work must be done. Although Australia is rich in coal, we must look to the future and determine the supplies that are available so that coal may be preserved for posterity in its right order and in a position where it can best serve the requirements of the nation. Open-cut mining has been developed greatly. Now we should look for markets for second grade coal. I know that the Minister has these matters in mind but they should receive close attention if the great coal industry is to be kept operating at a satisfactory level.
– On page 60, under the heading, “ Miscellaneous - 1. Operational
Expenses, £390,000 “, the amount of the proposed vote shows an increase compared with previous years. I recognize the great work of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. So far as I know, all the officers that have been associated with it have been efficient and those whom they have co-opted from time to time have done very good work also. The work of the bureau is maintained by all governments. Senator McMullin has referred to the coal industry and I know the difficulties that face officers of the Australian Government in investigating mining conditions in States and territories that are not under Commonwealth control. In the first place, co-operation is needed between Commonwealth and State Ministers so that officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources may enter the States’ territory and undertake investigations. That has happened in some cases but the principle could be extended. At present Commonwealth officers cannot do very much in that respect unless they act under a defence power. That brings une to the subject of uranium. I know that the bureau knew of the deposits of uranium in the Northern Territory long before many members of the Parliament, > and even before the South Australian Government began to provide for the investigation of uranium ore deposits within its boundaries. Investigations have proved that Australia has a large body of ore carrying uranium. It is true that it must be treated. I read a report recently that the Government had made an arrangement with the Atomic Commission in the United States of. America for the supply of a treatment plant that is to be set up at Rum Jungle. I have raised this matter before, and I raise it again now because I think that everything possible should be done to avoid the necessity to import this plant, [t will cost about 1,000,000 dollars and probably more. Every component of it could be made in Australia. I strenuously object therefore, to the proposal to import the plant from the United States of America. I understand that the treatment of uranium ore involves certain secret electrolytic processes but I believe even that portion of the plant could be made here. Although we are frequently reminded that this Government’s policy is to have as much as possible of its work carried out by contract, I understand that this policy has been departed from in connexion with the treatment of uranium ore. I am informed that an arrangement has been made with a Broken Hill company to carry out the mining and certain preliminary refining of uranium ore from Rum Jungle, hut that the Government will pay all costs involved. Apparently this is to be a semi-socialist enterprise because the work is of great defence value. I understand from press reports - I hope that the Minister will contradict them if they are wrong - that after the uranium ore from Rum Jungle has undergone certain preliminary refining in this country the concentrate will be sent for further treatment to the Atomic Energy Commission in the United States of America, other shipments will go to Great Britain, and some of the ore will be retained in this country. My understanding of the position is that the actual metal, in the form of uranium 235 or some other form suitable for atomic energy purposes will be produced overseas. I should like to know whether, even at this late hour, it would be possible to make a further investigation with a view to determining whether the ultimate refining process could be carried out in this country. I am confident that the plant could be made in Australia. This country has been flooded with propaganda about the research work that is being carried du!. in the United States of America whilst in Great Britain, without any fuss, the application of atomic energy to industry has exceeded that of America and I have yet to be convinced that most of the final processes could not be carried out in this country. I urge the Minister to take this matter up with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, first, to ascertain whether the preliminary refining plant could be made in Australia, thus effecting a considerable saving of dollars, and secondly, whether the final production of uranium also could not be done in this country.
– Provision is made in the administrative vote for the expenditure of £28,000 on publications and publicity. Some years ago an attempt was made by the
Commonwealth and State governments to place the tourist industry in this country on a national basis. I should like to know whether any further consideration has been given to this matter. I do not think that the tourist trade should be left in the hands of the individual States. If each State has to have its own publicity organization, the six bodies will be working in opposition to each other to foster an industry which rightly should be regarded as a national industry. The Commonwealth might well consider taking over the task of attracting tourists to this country. Then, when they come here, they will have an opportunity to visit the States in which they are interested. The tourist trade could be a great dollarearner for Australia. I do not believe for a moment that all prospective tourists in dollar countries are longing to visit Australia, but there is ample evidence that travellers from the United States of America, Canada and other countries do visit this country in considerable numbers, and I am certain that this flow could be greatly increased if the attractions of this country were adequately publicized overseas. Tourists inevitably spend money. “We all know that it is impossible to travel without spending. Australia is short of dollars, and I believe that one of the quickest ways to help ourselves to this scarce currency would be to increase the flow of tourists from, dollar countries. Our past efforts in this direction have been puny compared with those of other countries, and I am certain that with the right publicity, imagination and drive, the tourist industry could be established on a truly national basis and so make a valuable contribution to our revenue. This country has many attractions which are worthy of much wider publicity than they receive at present. Much valuable work in this field has already been done by international airline operators, many of which are Government owned or assisted. Tourist publicity would not only bring more people to this country but would also swell the revenue of those companies. I do not know whether the development of the tourist industry is rightly within the province of the Minister of National Development, but it is certainly an indus- try that is worthy of much greater attention than it has received in the past. We export our primary and secondary products and receive money for them. The tourist industry is an even better proposition. Travellers come to this country and we sell them our scenery and other attractions; but those assets remain in Australia and are re-sold over and over again. I hope therefore that the Minister will give serious consideration to developing the tourist trade particularly as a means of swelling our dollar earnings.
– I do not know whether to feel nattered or dismayed by the close scrutiny that is being given to the estimates for my department. Some of the matters that have been raised by honorable senators are of such far reaching importance that it is not easy to deal with them adequately in an impromptu manner. However, I appreciate the comments that have been made on those matters, and I assure honorable senators that even though I make only a passing reference to them at this stage, I shall give serious consideration to the proposals that have been advanced. That applies particularly to the subject of uranium. Senator Armstrong opened the discussion on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme and attributed to me the statement that increased employment on the scheme would benefit only Austraiian born workmen. That is not correct. Additional employment will be available for all Australians whether they be natural born, or what is commonly termed “ new Australians “. Both Senator Armstrong and Senator Cole questioned whether the proposed appropriation for the Snowy Mountains scheme was adequate. I suppose that enthusiastic supporters of the scheme would never agree that a.ny appropriation, no matter how large, was adequate. I can only say that, as the responsible Minister, I am very satisfied indeed with the proposed vote, having regard to all the other demands that are being made on our resources. I believe too, although the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric commissioner might noi like me to say so, that he also is satisfied with the money that is to be made available to him this year. The proposed vote is £13,600,000 compared with £10,300j000 last year and £6,000,000 the year before. Therefore, by the end of 1952-53 we shall have invested £30,000^000 in the scheme. Expenditure at that rate will be sufficient to enable the undertaking to run to schedule. This means that the first block of power will be available from Guthega in 1954, and that by 1958, the Blowering Dam, the Adaminnaby Dam tunnel, and the TI power-house stages will have been reached. By then, the scheme will be making a real impact on the economic resources of Australia.
References to the mining industry were made by Senator Vincent, Senator Aylett, Senator O’flaherty and others. For the moment I shall exclude uranium from ray reply to those honorable senators. Quite frankly, I was most interested in the comments on mining, particularly metalliferous mining, because I have been devoting some thought and attention to that matter. Senator 0’Flaherty touched upon the fundamental point when he said that mining was inherently a State function and not a Commonwealth function. That is absolutely true. Mineral rights and royalties on minerals are within the province of the States and not of the Commonwealth. It is not competent for the Commonwealth, even if it were so minded, to enter into mining ventures in the States. Such mining work as the Commonwealth does in the States is undertaken at the invitation of the State governments. By and large, it is the policy of this Government to leave actual mining ventures and related works to the States and to give them assistance in what is called, to use an old-fashioned term, prospecting. To-day, prospecting is an expensive and extraordinarily scientific work which calls for the services of highly skilled scientists and the investment of substantial sums of money for the making of geological, geodetic, seismological and geophysical surveys. The Bureau of Mineral Resources is carrying out such surveys as the State governments desire. Some States are keener than others to use the services of the Bureau of Mineral
Resources. The extent of the bureau’s activities is limited largely by the availability of scientific staff. We are all too short of geologists and geophysicists as we are of engineers. Recently, I arranged for the staff of the bureau to be increased to enable it to undertake urgent work associated with the development of the Northern Territory. The recruitment of qualified men to undertake work of that kind is a problem of first-class importance. Much necessary work will have to be postponed until the officers of the bureau are able to train young university graduates in these highly skilled occupations.
Senator Vincent referred to the fact that, apart from the deposits at Mount Isa, there have been no big discoveries of mineral deposits in Australia for 30 or 40 years. The honorable senator also referred to a report presented by the Mining Industry Advisory Panel which investigated means for stimulating the mining industry. Five or six reports were presented by the panel, and not one report, as the honorable senator appeared to believe. Recently, I burned a little midnight oil in examining these reports, because I wished to increase my knowledge of this subject. Mining development involves the investment of large sums of money. The old days, when only those mining deposits which were close to the surface were worked, are gone. The development of deep deposits, such as the tin deposit at Maranboy, in the Northern Territory, involve the investment of capital amounting not to hundreds of thousands of pounds but from £2,000,000 to £5,000,000. These thoughts bring me back to my theme song, that in Australia we have so much to do with such a small population and with such comparatively little available capital that inevitably mining has not progressed as rapidly as we should like. Having ascertained the location of mineral deposits, the next step is to attract capital to exploit them. Discussions “with persons interested in the mining industry invariably highlight two important factors that affect the development of mining ; first, the high cost of and the special skills required for prospecting, and, secondly, like King Charles’s head, the desirability of granting taxation concessions to interested parties. Every prospective mining interest submits a proposal that its efforts should be encouraged by the grant of taxation concessions of one kind or another. Indeed, such proposals are submitted by those interested, notonly in the mining industry, but also in industries of all kinds. Honorable senators share the view that taxation concessions provide incentives to industry; but they realize that it would be impossible for the Government to grant taxation concessions to all industries. The Government is endeavouring to assist the mining industry by extending the services rendered by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The bureau provides scientific prospecting services in the hope that new deposits will be located. As honorable senators will recall, it was established after the panel to which Senator Vincent has referred presented its reports in 1945 and 1946. Dr. Raggatt, who was originally in charge of the bureau, is now the secretary of my department. The bureau has made very valuable contributions to mining development in Australia. Its most important and spectacular work was associated with the uranium deposits in the Northern Territory, the full story of which has not yet been told. Indeed, it is not politic that it should be told at this stage. The work of the bureau reflects great credit upon its officers.
I turn now to some other matters that were raised by honorable senators during the discussion of the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. Senator Robertson referred to the construction of roads at Villawood. As honorable senators are aware, a war-time munitions factory was established at that centre. I-t is now being used partly by industrial firms and partly for defence purposes. It is a large establishment and in order that it may be properly used for civilian and defence purposes proper access roads must be constructed. The construction of such roads involves the expenditure of substantial amounts of money. Other honorable senators have asked why the proposed vote for “ Operational Expenses “ for the Bureau of Mineral Resources has been increased from £260,000 last year to £390,000 this year. Prospecting for coal has,, to some degree, been brought within the ambit of the activities of the bureau. Prospecting for coal involves three operations: first, a geological and geophysical survey to ascertain the extent of the deposit; secondly, scout boring to prove the accuracy of the scientific survey; and finally, drill boring to prove in a practical way that the deposit is suitable for working by open-cut methods. A portion of that work is now undertaken by the bureau.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister has referred to the construction of certain access roads at Villawood in reply to a question addressed to him by Senator Robertson. I have received a letter that may be of some help to him in this matter. My correspondent writes -
I have been instructed to contact you, bringing to your attention the fact that, in the Liverpool-Moorebank area, there are many men out of work.
The federal government brought about fifty Italian migrants from Victoria (they are now living near Villawood) and placed them in jobs at No. 2 Base Ordnance Depot, Moorebank workshops.
This is unfair to the respectable citizens in this area who are out of work.
I should like to know whether Italians are to be placed in areas in New South Wales where many of the local residents are already out of work. Instead of being sent to such areas, they should be given work on the Showy Mountains hydroelectric project or other national works in .areas where they will not compete against unemployed Australians.
– I- was very interested in the Minister’s remarks regarding the difficulty of obtaining skilled and experienced engineers for the purposes of his department. At page 172 of the bill, there appears a long list of skilled officers of the Bureau of Mineral .Resources for whom salaries are provided. I should like the Minister to indicate the range of salaries provided for these officers. I am very interested in the fact that the level of remuneration paid for completely unskilled work is overtaking that paid for the most highly skilled work - a trend that has possibilities greatly detrimental to the progress of Australia. Provision has been made under Division 99 for a “ Commonwealth Coal Commissioner “. I should be obliged if the Minister would inform me how that officer fits into the set-up of the Joint Coal Board, and what duties he performs. Provision has also been made for “ Officers on loan from other Departments or unattached pending suitable vacancies “. I should like to have further information about that item.
I most warmly congratulate the Minister and his predecessor, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), upon the revolution that they have achieved in coal production. The increased production which they have achieved, which forms the lifeblood of industry, is a resounding tribute to their efficiency.
– I regard the proposed vote for the Department of National Development as possibly one of the most important that comes before the Parliament for consideration. Unfortunately, truisms too often become cliches, until the essential truth is lost in the weight of the cliche. The cliche “ National development is important to national defence “ is undoubtedly true, and it is for that reason that I consider the proposed vote to be of the utmost importance. Because of Australia’s geographical situation, the best way in which we can assist our allies to maintain the peace of the world is to develop our strength and so reduce our drain on the allied pool of war materiel. For that reason we should encourage the population of our northern areas and pursue vigorously a policy of national development. On a number of occasions I have been impelled to direct shafts at the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). On one occasion in this chamber last year I directed the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Commonwealth had neglected to provide adequate financial assistance to Queensland. I also canvassed many of Queensland’s proposals on which finality had not been reached. ‘ It is a matter for regret that the Blair Athol coal-field project and the Burdekin River irrigation project are still in the air.
I shall direct myself to the Tully Falls hydro-electric project and the MareebaDimbulah irrigation project. Both of these developmental projects have a particular defence significance, because I think that it is generally accepted that North Queensland is the front door through which a potential enemy may endeavour to invade this country. It is vital to our defence that the areas of north Queensland should be more thickly populated. Although this matter is receiving the utmost consideration by the Queensland Government, I regret that financial assistance has not been forthcoming from the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Senator Courtice and I toured north Queensland and inspected these areas and I hope that Senator Courtice will give to honorable senators the benefit of his personal experiences to demonstrate the importance of the projects that I have mentioned to our national economy.
The Tully Falls hydro-electric project has been the subject of public controversy between the Premier of Queensland and the Minister for National Development. To date it has been financed from Queensland loan funds and general revenue.. An application by the Queensland Government for Commonwealth financial assistance has not yet been finally dealt with. At present a tunnel is being driven, the pent stack is being constructed, a very big construction camp has been established, and roads are being built in the area. The project has commenced well and is satisfactorily on its way, but the engineers in charge of the work have informed me that there has been a slight curtailment of activity because of the financial stringency that has affected the whole of our economy. Other undertakings have been similarly affected. The Queensland Government’s application for financial assistance has been outstanding for a lengthy period. In November, 1951, the Premier of that State was constrained to issue a statement, after the Minister for National Development had stated that the Commonwealth was proceeding with the scheme with funds that had been made available by the Commonwealth. It reads, in part -
Assertions made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) m the Senate on November 28. as to the nature and extent of Commonwealth “ aid “ given Queensland projects were completely false. Senator Spooner had made some astounding statements in support of his contention that Queensland had been “ .most generously “ treated by the Commonwealth. Perhaps the most remarkable in its utter unreality was the Minister’s claim that the Queensland Government was proceeding with the Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme with funds made available by the Commonwealth. Nothing could he more grossly inaccurate and misleading. Actually, the Queensland Government was undertaking construction of the project from -its own loan funds.
– I had made a statement during the debate on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– Yes. I think I should say, in fairness to the Minister, that on the following day he told me that he had been taken by surprise and had spoken from memory.
– Has the honorable senator referred to Hansard to refresh his memory?
– No. I do not know whether the Minister has since communicated with the Premier of Queensland.
– I have sent to the Premier a copy of the Hansard report.
– Negotiations continued, but the matter has not yet been finalized. This most important national project is not so complex that a financial agreement could not be easily arranged, and I hope that the matter will receive parly financial assistance from the Commonwealth, in order that the project may be completed in the interests of Queensland and of the Australian economy in general.
I shall now refer to the MareebaDimbulah tobacco lands irrigation project, about which Senator Courtice will supply detailed information to honorable senators. This very big project will be of particular importance to Queensland. It will enable tobacco to be grown economically, and so obviate the necessity for Australia to import large quantities of tobacco from the dollar areas. Again, the Queensland Government has embarked on this project and has taken it as far as possible along the way. The scheme involves the construction of a dam on the Walsh River at Nullinga and another dam on the Barron River at Tinaroo Falls. In order to give the committee some indication of the magnitude of this project, I shall cite figures from a brochure that has been issued by the Queensland Minister for Lands and Irrigation. The Queensland Government has in mind first, the importance of populating the area, and secondly, the probable financial benefit to Queensland and the indirect result on the Australian economy. The estimated annual production by farms that will be established in the irrigation area is as follows: - Tobacco, .11,800,000 lb; potatoes, 33,000 tons; pumpkins, 33,000 tons; cotton. 3,84.0,000 lb. ; maize, 4,800 tons ; cowpeas 48,000 bushels. The estimated annual value of the major crops of tobacco and cotton will be £4,700,000 and £300,000 respectively, which could result in savings on imports of about 6,500,000 dollars and £300,000 per annum on supplies from dollar and non-sterling sources. It is estimated that 11,800 acres will be sown to tobacco alone.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should smoke only Mareeba tobacco?
– I am very glad that the honorable senator has asked that question. Either he is a non-smoker, or he has never smoked Mareeba tobacco, which is in great demand in north Queensland. It is marketed by the Mareeba Co-operative Tobacco Company Limited, which is one of the very few successful growers’ co-operatives in Australia. That company is unable to meet the demand for its cigarettes, which are of a high quality from areas further south than Townsville. Large quantities of English cigarettes have been imported, due to the Government’s extravagant import policy, and these have resulted in detrimental effects on the health of the community. Every member of this chamber should support this project, in the interests of smokers of this country.
– Where can we obtain Mareeba tobacco?
– Unfortunately it is not obtainable in the south because the demand in the north has altogether outstripped the present supply. Although the company is using only obsolete machinery, it is expected that the production of Mareeba cigarettes will be greatly increased and that before long they will be available for all honorable senators who wish to enjoy a pleasant smoke. Although I have approached this matter on a somewhat selfish level, I 3tress the national importance of the project.
– Have the growers a base leaf?
– Yes, but they have been the. victims of the tobacco monopoly. They have had considerable difficulty in disposing of excellent quality leaf. Senator Courtice and I saw high-grade tobacco leaf which had either been rejected by buyers, or for which the reserve price had not been reached. Apparently the buyers refused to take even average leaf. They insisted on top quality. No industry can continue on that basis. The growers should be encouraged to improve the quality of their leaf.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator SEWARD (Western Australia) f5. 29], - I wish to mention a matter that has been omitted from the Estimates during the last couple of years. I shall refer not to the efforts that have been made by the Western Australian Government to obtain financial assistance from the Commonwealth, but to a matter which has been the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia. The Commonwealth has expended only about £500,000 of a total promised contribution of £2,150,000 on the Great Southern water scheme. This scheme is as essential to Western Australia as is the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric undertaking to New South Wales and Victoria. It is a scheme to supply water to inland towns of Western Australia which cannot be supplied by other means. Although the rainfall in the arpa is adequate, the holding ground is unsuitable. Consequently, this scheme is as essential to the Great Southern area as is the Kalgoorlie scheme to the Kalgoorlie area.
Only 30 miles of the pipe-line has so far been constructed. It is catastrophic that the scheme should be held up because of lack of money, although millions of pounds are available for other purposes. I appeal to the Government to fulfil its obligation and to assist the Western Australian Government to purchase the necessary steel. I admit that steel is now much more costly than it was when the scheme was launched, but I point out that had the Commonwealth come to the assistance of Western Australia and answered the request of the Western Australian Government in a reasonable time, steel could have been procured for the construction of 50 miles of pipe-line between Collie and Narrogin, leaving the remaining distance to be covered at a later date. The Australian Government has refused to bear a proportion of the increased cost of steel. At the time that the contract was entered into, steel was procurable at £25 a ton, whereas to-day its price is approximately £90 a ton. ‘ The Western Australian Government obtained from Japan an offer of 7,000 tons of steel at £90 a ton, but when it applied to the Australian Government for a share of the added cost, this Government declined the request. To indicate to honorable senators that this scheme is vital to Western Australia and also to Australia generally from the defence aspect, I point out that during the last war there was a possibility that the Japanese would effect a landing on the coast of Western Australia. A survey was made in order to ascertain whether the people could be evacuated from the coastal areas into the Great Southern area, in order to leave the coastal areas free for military purposes. It was found that, because of shortage of water in the Great Southern area, the scheme could not be carried out. It is, therefore, vital to the defence of Australia that the Commonwealth should assist the Western Australian Government to secure the steel required to carry out this scheme, at all events as far as the Great Southern line. The remaining portion can be completed at a later date.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That the remainder of the Second Schedule be taken in order as printed.
Proposed vote, £1,806,000.
Consideration resumed from the 7th
October (vide page 2525).
– Honorable senators will remember that before consideration of this item was postponed, I stated that I should like to obtain further information concerning two matters.
– I rise to a point of order. Before the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) proceeds further, I think that the committee should receive information from the Minister concerning the manner in which it is proposed to deal with the remainder of the Estimates. I point out that several honorable senators on this side of the chamber who desired to speak in relation to the proposed vote of the Department of Works refrained from doing so because other honorable senators were discussing matters which they considered to be important. I suggest that it would be much better and much fairer if the Government announced a timetable for the consideration of the Estimates. If that were done, all honorable senators would be given an equal opportunity to participate in the debate. It is possible that honorable senators who wish to speak in connexion with two or three matters might confine their remarks to only one speech, thus giving other honorable senators an opportunity to take part in the debate.
– I appreciate the point raised by the honorable senator. I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and announce a time-table at 8 o’clock. I point out to the committee that the departmental officers have been in attendance here since last Tuesday week. We have now sixteen bills on the list for consideration, and we have already occupied a month with this bill. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to help the Government to get this measure through.
– I should like to know whether the inf ormation which the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is about to impart to the committee, relative to the Department of Works, means that further discussion of the proposed vote of the department will be allowed. I assure the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) that it is the intention of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government, but I am not going to be led astray by the Minister’s statement that we have been discussing this bill for a month already. The honorable senator forgets that the budget was gagged through the Senate. The debate was closed before several Opposition senators, who wished to exercise their right to speak, had had an opportunity to do so.
– We spent three weeks on it.
– Whether that is so or not, it must not be forgotten that the Senate was recently in recess for approximately three months. I object to the attempt of the Government to gag Opposition senators, who wish to express their views on this most important aspect of parliamentary work.
– I hope that the information I am now about to make available will conclude discussion of the proposed vote for the Department of Works. We have already spent considerable time on this matter. The only subjects that remain are those on which I could not readily obtain information from the departmental officers. I assume that, by supplying this information in a few words, the discussion of the Estimates of the Department of Works will be terminated.
The matters to which I refer concern losses incurred by Commonwealth hostels and the Canberra brickworks. The position in regard to hostels is that the department claims that in order to attract workmen it was obliged to offer accommodation at low rates of tariff. That was particularly necessary in order to induce workmen to go to the Northern Territory, where the tariff, which employers are entitled to charge, is governed by award. Because of increased tariffs, the department now believes that the hostels are operating without loss.
The Canberra brickworks have been transferred from the Department of Works to the Department of the Interior. Since the transfer, an expert has been employedto investigate the brickmaking processes, some plant and machinery has been discarded, and the brickworks have been placed on a more economic basis. It is hoped, rather than believed, that the brickworks are now operating without serious loss.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m..
.- I. wish to make some observations in relation to the report of the Auditor-General concerning the brickworks which have been transferred from the Department of Works to the Department of the Interior. The Auditor-General commented on the losses of the brickworks. However, no information was available to the Senate on this matter when it was raised. I absolve the Minister representing the Minister for Works from blame for the absence of this information. But when Estimates are before the Senate it is desirable, when questions are asked, that the required information should be available. The history of these brickworks is rather interesting. In a mad rush to obtain some sort of Karl Marx State in 1949, when it was found that bricks were required in the Australian Capital Territory, action for the establishment of these brickworks was taken by the previous Government without making any attempt to consult authorities who knew something about making bricks. Two public servants from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization were sent abroad for the purpose of obtaining information and reporting to the Government on the establishment of the brickworks. As a result of the fund of wisdom that they were able to garner overseas, they recommended the adoption of a ceramic method of production rather than the establishment of works which would produce the earthy bricks which have been used for the last 2,000 years. Consequently, a tunnel brickworks was built on their recommendation. It has been a total failure. It is to the credit of the Government and the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) that he called in outside experts who knew something about making bricks. As a result of this investigation the brickworks have been transferred to the Department of the Interior. I hope that this will be the last attempt by any government in Australia to intrude into private enterprise which can be more efficient than any public service.
.- In the course of his report the AuditorGeneral stated that the stock-sheets of various hostels could not be balanced. He stated that he had fixed a date at which they should be balanced, but that, at the time that he prepared his report, that work had not been done. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior (Senator McLeay) to furnish the Senate with some information on the present position of the stocks and stocksheets of these hostels. I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) on having reduced the huge losses that were incurred by the hostels last year andI hope that those losses will be further reduced during the current financial year.
.- J. should like the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior (Senator McLeay) to account for the large increase in each State in the proposed vote for senior engineers, engineers, senior architects, architects, draftsmen and other technical officers. In respect of New South Wales alone there is an increase of £170,195, the vote having risen from £1 10,946 to £281.141. In. Victoria and Tasmania, there is an increase in this item of £53,000. In. view of the fact that the Government has reduced capital works expenditure considerably and that higher wages than were paid last year will have to be paid out of this vote, it is apparent that there will be a tremendous decrease in the works that are carried out this year. Yet there is an increase in the vote for overhead staff in each State. This is hard to understand in view of the M inister’s statement that contracts would ho let for most of these jobs. Is the increase in expenses for overhead staff due to the Government’s decision to let these contracts instead of using day labour?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department ok Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £11,055,000.
.- Can the Minister representing, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator McLeay) provide the Senate with a schedule of works to be carried out for the Department of Civil Aviation in the current year? “What works are in progress and what works are projected for the department during this financial yea r ?
[S.9”J. - I understand that the subject which the honorable senator has raised will be dealt with when the next bill on the notice-paper comes before the Senate. T promised the Senate that I would examine the time-table in relation to these hills. I do not want to limit the debate. T want to leave its duration to the good judgment of honorable senators, but the Government must insist on having this bill and the works measure, which is closely allied to this one, dealt with by to-morrow, if not by to-night. The officers of the department have been present in the chamber since last Tuesday week. I ask the Opposition to co-operate with the Government and we shall do our best to answer any reasonable questions. These officers have come from Melbourne, Sydney and other parts of the Commonwealth in order to provide details which will assist honorable senators to consider the bill. I hope that the Opposition will co-operate in disposing of the measure to-night, because there are another sixteen bills which are awaiting attention.
– The Senate should be given a full opportunity to discuss the different matters that have cropped up during the year in relation to the Department of Civil Aviation. I understand that an amount of £600,000 is to be refunded to certain airlines by the Government. As honorable senators are aware, the Department of Civil Aviation is committed to the maintenance of most of the aerodromes in Australia together with the services that are required by the airlines. During the year negotiations were commenced for what has been referred to as a rationalization of airlines. Perhaps, in one respect, this rationalization is a form of socialism. However, in another respect, it is a form of national socialism. A private airline has been given a substantial subsidy. It has been supported by large amounts of money which have been diverted to it from the taxpayers of Australia. The Australian taxpayers are entitled to full knowledge of the activities of that airline. “Will it publish a balance-sheet in order that the public may learn whether it has made a profit or has been involved in a loss on its operation? The rationalization plan is a retrograde step. A very efficient airline, Trans- Australia Airlines, has-been restricted in its operations by this plan. Thus it is not rationalization but irrationalization under a very irrational plan. It is a backward step in the development of airline services in Australia. There has been a well-organized agitation to bring about this state of affairs. In the early years of operation of TransAustralia Airlines, that company was committed to the payment of very high aerodrome -charges, but its main opposition, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, did not pay those fees. A court action was commenced in this connexion which, as far as I know, has never been settled. We have been given to understand that a refund of this money is to be made to both airlines to the amount of ?600,000. In the early years of the operation of TransAustralia Airlines a lot of propaganda-
– I rise to order. I suggest that the honorable senator is not in order because no provision has been made in the Estimates for the subsidizing of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or Trans-Australia Airlines. I suggest that discussion of that subject would be appropriate during the debate on a bill which will be before the Senate next week.
– I think it has been fairly well established that honorable senators have an extremely wide area of debate on the Estimates. That principle has been honoured for many years, and I think, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you must lean to precedent in this matter.
– Up to this point I can see no relevant provision in the Estimates. T advise the honorable senator not to develop that subject because he is getting very wide of the mark.
– The functions of the Department of Civil Aviation include the promotion of civil aviation, the preparation of rules and regulations designed to promote the safety of civil aviation, the licensing of air services operations, the provision, operation and maintenance of radio stations as aids to navigation and as a means of communication between aircraft in flight and ground establishments, the supervision of aircraft maintenance, the training of pilots and the licensing of training schools. Therefore, the proposed vote for the department opens up a wide field of discussion. The point that I wish to make is that aerodrome landing charges which were payable by the private air lines, including Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, were due to the Department of Civil Aviation, but because of the rationalization plan, those fees have been refunded to the companies as a gift from the Australian taxpayers.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator entitled to canvass impending legislation in another place?
- (Senator George Rankin). - Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to canvass impending legislation.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. You have ruled that the honorable senator is not allowed to canvass impending legislation. What is the impending legislation and how are honorable senators to be made aware of it?
-If Senator O’Byrne infringes the Standing Orders I shall rule him out of order. I have informed the honorable senator for his guidance that he may not canvass impending legislation. That is all.
– I have before me the notice-paper. It contains no information whatever on proposed government legislation on airways or civil aviation.
– The Minister told the honorable senator about it not three minutes ago.
– The point that 1 wish to stress is that during the past year a refund of money has been made to the private airlines through the Department of Civil Aviation. The department was legally entitled to collect that money. Similar fees are collected in every country for services rendered. The Estimates contain a proposed vote exceeding ?11,000,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation.
– But there is no provision in the Estimates for a refund.
– That sum of ?11,000,000 is to be spent mainly in the provision of services for the use of airlines, and there should be some revenue to balance the expenditure. The department is involved in heavy expense by the provision of magnificent airports, radio, navigation aids and other highly efficient services that are used mainly by the- airlines. It should be a self-balancing department. One airline has been given a monopoly through the rationalization scheme.
– I rise to order. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that statement because it is not true and there is nothing in the Estimates to substantiate it. The honorable senator has said that the Government has given certain sums of money to the airlines. That statement is not true.
– I have a report dealing with negotiations between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It was published in the Canberra Times on the 18th July last. The report stated that the present route charges paid by airlines to the Government were to be substantially reduced and that substantial refunds were to be made.
– What is the item in the Estimates ?
– I am discussing all the activities of the Department ‘of Civil Aviation. The point that I have raised is a very important one and I should like to have it clarified. I ask the Minister to inform me of the extent to which the department has become involved in supplying services to airlines. The department has achieved a high standard in its efforts to improve aviation facilities in Australia. They are equal to anything in the world, but those services are being made available to the airline operators at a very low cost and there is no return to the taxpayer.
– Order ! The honorable senator should keep to the Estimates. He is giving his opinion, not facts.
– I am of the opinion that this matter should be discussed while the committee is considering the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. The Government has applied the closure persistently. Even the budget itself was subject to the gag, and back-bench members are given very few opportunities to express their opinions.
– Order! The honorable senator is not permitted to reflect, in such a way, upon any decisions of the Senate. If he does so again, I shall direct him to resume his seat.
– I wish to refer now to the development of medical ser vices in the Northern Territory. I hope that a discussion on this matter will be permitted during the debate on the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation, because that department has to supply facilities to outlying aerodromes and other important aviation aids.
– I rise to order. The item that the honorable senator is seeking to discuss appears specifically in the schedule for the Department of Territories, and I submit that it should not be discussed now.
– Order! The item does appear in the schedule for the territories, but I rule that a general reference now is allowable.
– I know the importance of medical services in the outback, and if I have transgressed in bringing such an important matter before the committee, I can only plead that 1 have directed attention to a matter in which I am closely associated. I direct the attention of the committee now to the necessity for an extension of the activities of the Department of Civil Aviation in Tasmania. Recently the Parliament of Tasmania has been discussing the need for intra-state air services in the island. There are many airports in Tasmania including Bridport - -
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct the attention of the committee to three points with regard to the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. The first is the fact that the department is expected to spend £11,055,000 this year. That is a colossal sum of money. The proposed vote is nearly £1;000,000 more than the vote for last year and I believe that it should be studied closely to determine whether the department is not getting beyond the bounds of responsibility. The Minister could very well check the department’s expenditure. The second point to which I direct attention is the reference to the department’s store accounting system in the report of the Auditor-General, which reads as follows: -
In previous reports, reference was made to the Treasurer’s approval empowering the Departments to abandon reconciliations of store transactions up to specific dates, i.e. the date on which stock was taken at various establishments, and to open up new stock ledger cards based on the stock found at such stock takings. Little advance, however, has since been made in overtaking arrears of stocktakes at out-stations. The Department lias received the further approval of the Treasury to abandon reconciliations at later dates of stock takes at some out-stations stores, and claims that its stores accounting is now on a sound basis and that stock-taking arrears will toe rapidly overtaken.
The Auditor-General lias directed attention to the fact that there has been a continual reference to the opinions that the stocktaking and stores system of the department is unsound, I hope that the Minister will give some indication that that weakness has been cured. There is a patent weakness when a department continually delays a reconciliation of stocks with, its finances in the hope that eventually one will catch up with the other. I wish to direct attention now to the conveyance of mails and the item which provides for payments to contractors totalling £919,000. I should like the Minister to inform the committee who these contractors are. I suggest that he should also inform the committee of the contract system that is adopted by the department. Are tenders called for the conveyance of air mails on all routes? I believe that they are not called. I established, twelve months ago in this chamber, that but for the payments to Trans-Australia Airlines of a subsidy from this provision for the carriage of mails, Trans-Australia Airlines would have lost £2,000,000 in five years since its inception. Those figures have never been contradicted. I saw the start of one of the biggest airlines in Australia. It was begun by people with great hearts and an idea. Other Australians with big hearts and ideas may come forward in the future, and they should have the right to tender for the carriage of air mails just as other lines have done. If they can do it more cheaply-
– I rise to order. I contend that the honorable senator is out of order in talking about tenders for mails. There is no reference to any such item in the Estimates.
– We are considering the vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. Senator Henty is in order.
– I am referring to the proposed vote of £919,000 for the conveyance of mails. I repeat that many small airlines in this country have been started by people who have had an idea, great hearts, and initiative. -This is a country in which opportunities for such people should abound. All airline operators should be permitted to tender in open competition for air mail contracts. They have not had this opportunity so far. I regret exceedingly the practice of paying blanket subsidies to airline companies, government or private, to hide from’ the public substantial losses on services. If contracts for the carriage of air mails were open to competition, costs would be reduced.
has appealed for common sense and co-operation. As Opposition Whip, I have endeavoured to meet his wishes as far as possible. Unfortunately, since Estimates with which the Minister himself is concerned have been before the committee, proceedings have degenerated into a “ donnybrook “. I sincerely hope that the Minister’s own supporters will heed his appeal for co-operation. The tone of the proceedings in the last few minutes has hardly been conductive to an expeditious passage for the Estimates. I hope that members of the Opposition will not hesitate to take whatever opportunity is offered to them to express their views. That, however, is by the way. I notice that once again substantial provision is made in the Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation for payments to temporary and casual employees. In fact, the proposed vote for such employees is approximately £750,000 more than that for permanent officers according to the schedule of salaries and allowances. I realize, of course, that the department must necessarily employ a large number of temporary workers on such work as aerodrome maintenance, but I cannot understand why successive governments have made no real attemptto give some degree of permanence to officers who have rendered honest and valuable service for many years. I am sure that in the Department of Civil Aviation, as in almost every other department, there are many ex-servicemen who commenced their employment upon their return from active service at the end of World War II., and who, despite their continuous service in the intervening years, still have no degree of security in their jobs. I was glad to hear Senator Aylett last night express disapproval of the large sums of money that we are being asked to vote for temporary and casual employees in various departments, and I hope that the Government will do something in the near future to give many more of its servants something like permanent status.
This year’s vote includes £570,000 for the maintenance of landing grounds. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this chamber and is himself a South Australian, will give sympathetic consideration to the appeals of his colleagues, including myself, for an improvement of the Parafield aerodrome. Although work on the new airport at West Beach has now been under way for a considerable time, there is no immediate prospect of its use as the Adelaide terminal. In the meantime, apparently on the assumption that the West Beach airport would not take as long as it has taken, little money has been expended upon maintenance at Parafield. The latest report that I have heard is that the West Beach airport will not be in use for another twelve or eighteen months. It would be interesting to hear the views of ground staff at Parafield now that winter is finished and another dusty summer is approaching. I trust that the Minister will be able to assure the people of South Australia that everything possible is being done to expedite the preparation of West Beach so that Parafield may be vacated at the earliest possible date.
I listened with interest to Senator Henty’s comments about the carriage of air mails. We are being asked to vote the sum of £919,000 for payments to contractors for the conveyance of air mails within Australia. Further provision is made for payments for the conveyance of mails to airline operators engaged in international services. Some of the corn- panies to which the money is to be paid are specified. They, for instance, include Tasman Empire Airways Limited, which operates the Australia to New Zealand service. However, there is no mention of the companies that operate on certain other routes and I should like some information about them so that the committee may know how much of the proposed expenditure will go overseas.
Senator Henty’s plea for competitive tenders for the carriage of air mails does not impress me very much. In time of war, whatever government is in power, Labour or Liberal, the fullest possible control must be exercised over civil aviation. Civil flying is part and parcel of our defence scheme, and any government that did not exercise its authority in this field in time of war would be strongly condemned even by its own supporters. The work of the Department of Civil Aviation in the past compares more than favorably with that carried out in any other country. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some information on the points that I have raised and that he will appeal, with his usual sincerity, to his own supporters for the co-operation that he seeks from the Opposition.
– I wish to refer to the matter of terminal airports. At present Darwin is the terminal of certain overseas services. In spite of the efforts of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), Darwin cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a prepossessing town, and in spite of the excellent work of the Department of Civil Aviation, little can be said in commendation of the Darwin airport. At Perth, on the other hand, there is every facility for a firstclass terminal airport, and I suggest that serious consideration be given to making Perth the terminal of the northern,northwestern and western services. As honorable senators are probably aware, Perth is already the terminal of the Australia to South Africa service, and I see no. reason why the Guildford aerodrome should not also be the permanent terminal for the Asian and European services.
. -I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inust bc very pleased by the support that lie has received from his back-bench colleagues in regard to the various matters that have been raised by the Opposition. The committee is being asked to agree to the appropriation of £11,055,000 for the “Department of Civil Aviation. The department is engaged in a multiplicity of activities. The proposed vote for administrative expenses is £3,814,000, for the maintenance and development of civil, aviation £2,959,000, for domestic air services £919,000, international air services £2,646,000, rent £23,000, meteorological services £364,000, and repairs’ and maintenance £330,000. Honorable senators opposite seemed to be rather apprehensive when Opposition speakers referred to the operation of certain private airlines. ‘ Senator Henty spoke of tho part that had been played by people with hig hearts and vision. I draw attention ro the fact that we are being asked to vote no less than £2,959,000 for the maintenance and development of civil aviation in this country. I am afraid that if we were not to vote that money, the people of Australia would have to be content with very inefficient air services. Will any honorable senator suggest that with out: substantial government financial assistance and the help of the Department of Civil Aviation, the leading private airline companies of Australia would have been able to purchase and maintain the large fleets of aircraft that lake the air every day in this country? Why did a large private airline company in this country, about which Government supporters are most solicitous, urge the Government to sell Trans-Australia Airlines or to amalgamate the two airlines? i t did so because it could not match the service that was being rendered by TransAustralia Airlines. I remind honorable senators that the Auditor-General in his latest report drew attention, not only to die stores accounting of the Department of Civil Aviation, but also to air-route charges. He stated that during 1951-52, £1 30,172 was received by the department for air route charges, and that at the 30th June, 1952, the indebtedness to the department for these charges totalled £1,346,496 compared with £847,768 in 1950-51. He said further that three operators owed £1,254,847. The companies which owe these vast sums are owned by big-hearted people who promised to put civil aviation on the map in Australia! They are the pioneers of civil aviation in Australia - the people who are always talking about the rights of private enterprise. The Auditor-General stated that in 1950-51 two operators alone owed £799,602. Perhaps I had better not mention Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by its better known alphabetical name “ A.N.A.”, lest back-benchers on the Government side think that I am referring to the Australian Natives Association. Honorable senators opposite are always ready to voice the catch cry, “ Leave it to private enterprise. Let the Government stand aside from businesses of all kinds “. They have referred to the amounts paid for the carriage of air mails. Let them examine the figures on that subject in order to ascertain for themselves the extent to which these companies are subsidized by the Government. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm popularized air travel in this country, but to-day civil aviation is thoroughly commercialized. Air services in Australia compare favorably with those provided in any part of the world, not because the airline companies are big hearted but because the Australian Government entered the field of civil aviation and spent tremendous sums of money in order to secure the best types of commercial aircraft for its air services. I invite honorable senators to compare the safety records of Australian aircraft services with those of countries in which civil aviation is catered for solely by private enterprise. Air travel in Australia is safer than in any other country in the world. Honorable senators opposite are speaking with their tongue in cheek. They do not care how much the Government spends in order to make our air services safe, but when the commercial airline companies are asked to disgorge a little of their earnings to pay their debts to the Commonwealth honorable senators opposite loudly protest. They say, “ Let the Government subsidize the commercial airline companies but let the ship-owners, who are also owners of such airline companies, reap the whole of the benefit of the money which the Government has expended on civil aviation”. So long as private enterprise is permitted to escape its obligations to the Commonwealth, honorable senators opposite are pleased. I trust that in the future they will submit a better case for the commercial airlines than they have submitted to-night.
– I make it clear at the outset that I do not propose to reply to questions concerning the activities of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or Trans-Australia Airlines which are unrelated to the proposed vote now before the committee. A bill will be presented in due course which will give to the socialists in this Parliament an opportunity to say all they want to say about the commercial airline operators. Senator Ashley will probably tell us how the Labour Government lost £6,000,000 of the taxpayers money in its futile endeavour to run the Commonwealth shipping line. I shall not reply to questions that relate to new works for the Department of Civil Aviation because an opportunity to discuss them will be given when the debate on the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is resumed. I am prepared to answer to the best of my ability only questions that relate to matters which come within the ambit of the proposed vote before the committee.
– What about a bit of co-operation?
– We will not cooperate with fools who refuse to adhere to an arrangement.
Several honorable senators have referred to the administrative costs of the department. The Minister for Civil Aviation has stated that the major part of the departmental staff consists of aviation experts who have had years of training and experience, that only 23 per cent, of the staff is employed in administrative positions and that the remaining 77 per cent, consists of communications officers, air traffic controllers, airport inspectors, radio engineers and technicians and ground staff needed to maintain aerodromes throughout Australia and New Guinea. He has said that these officers are trained to undertake similar work in the military transport services and that even if civil aviation cost twice as much as it does at present, the department would still be a very good department. The department is a rapidly expanding organization in which a large number of temporary employees must inevitably be engaged at this stage. As time goes on the permanent staff of the department will be increased.
Senator Henty said that he regarded the estimated cost of the department during the coming year as unduly high. I agree that the cost is very high, particularly for a country with a population of only 8,500,000 persons; but the services provided are of incalculable value to Australia. Costs of all kinds have increased substantially. If we follow the popular trend .and reduce the working week to 32 or 33’ hours we must not squeal when we have to meet the greatly added costs that result from such a change. Salaries and wages constitute a very large item in the total vote of the department.
Senator Henty also directed attention to the Auditor-General’s comments in regard to stores accounting. In an intricate department of this kind, which is largely staffed by men who have not had a very long experience in the field of civil aviation, it is not astonishing that troubles of the kind to which the Auditor-General has directed attention should occur. Senator Henty is to be commended for having raised this matter. I have been advised by my technical officers that action has been taken to improve the stores accounting system to ensure that, unfortunate mistakes of the kind to which the Auditor-General has directed attention will not be repeated.
– The Government has been in office for nearly three years but it did nothing about this matter until the Auditor-General directed attention to it.
– The Government has spent a good deal of its time in clearing up the muddle that was left by the Labour Government.
Senator Henty also referred to the provision of £919,000 for air mail services. It is the practice of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to call for tenders for the carriage of air mails where it is possible to do so. Obviously, the department cannot call for tenders in areas where only one operator is maintaining a service. It is estimated that the amounts that will be paid to airline companies this year will be as follows: - Airlines (Western Australia) Limited, £83,000; Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines, £300,000 each; Connellan Airways Proprietary Limited, which operates a service in the isolated areas of the Northern Territory, £34,000; and MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited, £55,000. The latter company provides services in remote centres which comprise one-third of the area of Australia. Qantas Empire Airways Limited will receive for its services from Australia to New Guinea and in New Guinea an estimated amount of £125,750. These figures will give honorable senators some idea of the large amounts paid to airline operators for airmail services. I do not need to remind honorable senators that the Postal Department keeps a very watchful eye on expenditure under its control.
Senator Critchley referred to the number of temporary employees of the department. That matter is under constant consideration. As Opposition Whip, the honorable senator is invariably courteous and co-operative. I wish that he could instil into his colleagues some of that spirit of co-operation which he himself invariably displays.
Senator Vincent referred to the selection of terminal airports. The Minister for Civil Aviation is giving careful consideration to that matter. Decisions are based largely upon the advice of airline operators and the requirements of the air-travelling public.
I appeal to Opposition senators not to ask. questions relating to the activities of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines for purely political propaganda purposes. I shall not reply to them, nor shall I reply to questions which relate to works and buildings that are not covered by the proposed vote under consideration. I ask honorable senators to quote the number of the page in the bill and the number of the item to which their remaining re marks relate in order to facilitate examination of the records so that prompt replies may be furnished.
– I wish to refer to the item “Aero and Gliding Clubs - Grants and Advances, Division No. 71 “, the proposed vote for which is £140.000. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me whether provision has been made for a grant to the Burnie aero club, which is located at the Wynyard aerodrome in Tasmania? The importance of aero clubs in connexion with the defence of this country is well recognized. There is not available to the club that I have mentioned a hangar in which to house its valuable aircraft, which it is most concerned to safeguard. Only a few weeks ago one of the club’s aircraft, valued at £1,000, which had been pegged down in the open, was destroyed completely during a heavy wind storm.
– Provision has not been included under Division No. 71 for a grant to the Burnie aero club.
– During the regime of the former Labour Government a very fine approach aerodrome was constructed at Devonport, hi Tasmania. However, during heavy cross winds pilots have difficulty in landing there, because there is only- one approach strip on the aerodrome. Cross winds make landing most difficult. Senator Chamberlain and I frequently travel by aircraft that land at Devonport, and I am sure that the committee would not like any harm to befall us. I point out that aircraft, which are diverted from the Essendon and Western Junction aerodromes during bad weather, frequently land at Devonport. Although the civil aviation laws are very rigid, it is sometimes necessary for pilots to take a certain amount of risk when bringing their planes down at Devonport, as a result of the cross currents that. I have mentioned. At times they reach a velocity of 65 miles per hour.
– The honorable senator does airline pilots a grave injustice by suggesting that they take unnecessary risks.
– As the velocity of air currents varies at different levels, a pilot may be faced with a grave risk of accident because of the unavailability of another landing strip at Devonport. If another strip were constructed the present danger would be obviated, and I am sure that the Government would merit the gratitude of the many people who patronize the airline services to and from Devonport.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put - Thatthe question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £3,179,000.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan to a problem confronting a very important Australian industry, which could be overcome by administrative action. The motor tyre manufacturing industry in this country is passing through a very difficult period. The four major manufacturers of motor tyres in Australia are Dunlop Rubber (Australia) Limited, Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited,. Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited, and Hardie Rubber Company Limited. Their combined productive capacity at present is about 2,500,000 tyres a year. About one-third of the 10,000,000 tyres in use are replaced each year. Those companies can supply all of the Australian requirements of rubber tyres, with the exception of some sizes of aeroplane tyres, some heavy duty motor truck tyres, and some tyres used on heavy earth-moving equipment. It would be possible for the Minister to assist the industry to overcome a problem with which it has been faced as a result of the recent recession of business. About 95 per cent. of the rubber that is used by Australian motor tyre manufacturers is imported from Singapore, and the greater percentage of the remainder is obtained from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– I rise to order! Is the honorable senator in order in placing before the committee a. matter which should be dealt with by the Tariff Board ?
– The honorable senator is in order.
– I think that Senator McCallum is aware that it is within the province of the Minister to deal administratively with the aspects of the matter that I have raised. As we are considering the proposed vote for the Import Licensing Branch, and the wages and salaries paid by the Department of Trade and Customs, this is a favorable opportunity to place this matter before the Minister, Australian manufacturers are charged 2d. per lb. import duty on crude rubber; and 10 per cent. primage on the value of the rubber, which averages about 6s. a lb. No duty is charged on new tyres that enter this country on imported motor cars. This is the first aspect of the problem that confronts the Australian manufacturers. The production of tyres has decreased considerably. The production of cotton and rayon, which are important to motor tyre manufacture, also has been seriously affected. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has seen, figures which indicate that the production of certain rubber factories is now only 25 per «ent. of last year’s production. Heavy stocks of tyres are being built up in Australia, with resultant storage problems. In 1938-39, only £32,000 worth of rubber tyres was imported. By 1948-49, the value of imports had risen to £1,500,000, whilst for the nine months ended March last, when import restric-tions began to operate, more than £10,500,000 worth of tyres had been imported. Incidentally, the figure ot £10,500,000 refers to tyres f.o.b. and does not include insurance and freight charges, or exchange, which, if added, would greatly increase the value of imports for that period. It can readily be understood that no Australian industry could stand up to an impact of that kind. Consequently, men have had to be dismissed from the tyre industry. In Sydney alone more than 1,250 men have been thrown out of employment, and in Melbourne more than 1,000. Next week it is possible that there will be an additional 200 or 300 unemployed.
If importations of tyres had ceased in March, the industry would have been able gradually to cope with the problem. However, in July, tyres worth £404,000 were imported. The Department of Trade and Customs now applies an administrative act to the importation of tyres and has placed them on a 60 per cent, quota basis, at a time when the Australian tyre industry is coming to a halt.
– It cannot be 60 per cent, if it is an administrative act.
– I have in my possession a letter from the department which indicates that, although the 60 per cent, basis is being applied, tyres arc still coming into the country in very substantial numbers.
– Are imported tyres cheaper than the locally manufactured article ?
– Until the market became flooded with imported tyres, they were being retailed in Sydney at exactly the same price as locally manufactured tyres. Because speculators are now offering imparted tyres at a 50 per cent, discount, whereas the best that the local manufacturers can offer is 22£ per cent., imported tyres are flooding out locally manufactured tyres, and a very serious situation has developed.
– That is Government policy.
– I do not know that it is. If these things become known, they can be stopped. This matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, but, of course, consideration of it will take some time. The answer lies in the hands of the Government. It should stop the import of tyres until the £10,500,000 worth of tyres, which have been already imported, are absorbed. Until that time arrives, I think that the least that the Government can do is to stop further importations of tyres. If the value of the imports for July last - £404,000 - is multiplied by twelve, honorable senators will see that the annual importation of tyres is still very considerable. Indeed, it is depressing the Australian industry.
– What duty is payable on imported tyres?
– I am not sure what it is at the moment, but I believe that, until February, no duty was payable. I understand that there was an arrangement whereby they came in duty free.
– The duty was a composite one and covered the whole car, of which the tyres were a part.
– I am speaking of tyres which came in separately, not of those attached to motor cars. I understand that early this year the Australian tyre manufacturers told the department that they did not object to reasonable importation of tyres. Consequently, no customs duty was charged until February of this year. Because of the great problems which confront the Government at the moment, such as the necessity to prevent further unemployment and the decline of secondary industry, it is of fundamental importance that the motor tyre industry, which is as valuable in war as it is in peace, should not be forced out of existence.
– The committee is being asked to authorize the granting of £3,179,000 for this department for the current financial year. In my view, it is timely to remind ourselves that this vote comprehends a year in which we have had the greatest decision of this decade with regard to the import trade of Australia. I refer to the import restrictions which were imposed on the 8th March last. I notice that the administrative costs of the department are to be increased from £2,868,072 last year to £3,114,000 this year. Accepting, as I do, that that increase is justified partly by the added administrative costs occasioned by import control, I consider, nevertheless, that we owe it to ourselves, as a matter of definite duty, to discuss this subject.
Nobody will deny that on the 8th March last the terrific impact of imports upon our external reserves in London had so depleted those reserves that the Government was very well advised to indicate to trade channels that a halt must be called to imports in order to preserve our national solvency. If the rate of imports had been allowed to go unchecked, undoubtedly our London resources would have been depleted to such a degree that we should not have been able to pay for the imports of the next six or eight months. But I cannot remove from my mind the impression that the whole of the external trade of the country has been restricted by Government action. The reason for that restriction is that our export trade is not sufficient to maintain the flow of imports that the country really requires. At the same time, honorable senators opposite, such as Senator Armstrong, advocate ever-recurring increases of the basic wage and the cost structure. The cost of internal manufacture is getting beyond the reach, not only of the external trader but also of the internal manufacturer and the internal consumer. At the same time we have set up -an artificial barrier against our people receiving the goods which other civiliza tions are prepared to manufacture and which could be available for our material wellbeing and to elevate the standard of living, an objective which most of us claim to support and advocate.
Is it not time to reflect on how long these import restrictions may be expected to endure? I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) whether he will indicate the present opinion of the Government concerning the trend of trade since the date of the inception of import restrictions. Press announcements have indicated that during the last month we have had a favorable trade balance of approximately £11,000,000. I understand that the depleted reserves in London have been greatly improved by reason of these trade restrictions. There is evidence that the restrictions have corrected the trend of trade. I wish to be informed, however, of the Government’s assessment of the rate at which we are going into the “red “, and whether or not any indication can be .given of the possible duration of the restrictions.
I am concerned also with the constitutional method by which the restrictions were introduced. I recall that when this Senate was set up to guard the rights of all States of the Federation, one of the great contentious issues, concerning which each State had its individual outlook, was the method of external trade - whether trade should be free or protected. Fifty years have passed, and those who now occupy posts of authority and power believe that we should accept implicitly an economy of protection. But surely the question of the protection of the whole external trade of the country should be decided in the Parliament. As I am advised, at the present time the basis of this machinery is a regulation made by virtue of a provision contained in the Customs Act, whereby the Governor-General may make regulations to prohibit imports. A prescribed import is one nominated by an individual Minister, so that the prohibition is covered by a regulation which is not reviewable by either House of the legislature. It takes’ the form merely of a licence of a Minister, pursuant to a regulation. To me, these are not idle matters.
In my opinion they represent parts of the great constitutional machinery by which democracy is safeguarded. I ask the Minister to give information to the committee, first, concerning the present assessment by the Government of the period during which Australian trade should be restricted because of its incapacity to produce exportable goods to pay for the goods which we import and which our people need, and secondly, whether the Government will make a statement concerning the placing of import control on a basis more acceptable to parliamentary standards than a mere licence issued under a regulation.
– I refer to “Division 77 - General Expenses - Honoraria to members of the Commonwealth Book Censorship Board and to Appeal Censor “, the proposed vote for which is £625. I refer also to “ Division 79 - Film Censorship - A. Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary and B. General Expenses “. I presume that these items relate to the censorship of motion pictures, certain radio entertainment and comics. I have frequently complained of the increasing release of bad motion pictures and radio items in this country, but apparently no action has been taken by the Government. I now renew my appeal for drastic action, and ask that action be taken also in regard to certain comics and comic books.’ This material is becoming a national menace and is causing a breakdown in the standards of modesty, chastity and law and order. It glorifies acts of violence, undermines every Christian standard of decency and emphasizes completely false standards of human worth. The cult of the comic is an insidious danger to modern youth and must be fiercely counteracted. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has said quite rightly that a lot of the matter to which I take objection enters the country in private letters and that it would be utterly impossible for his department to ascertain precisely how it comes here. I do not think that that difficulty is insurmountable. The place to hit the author of this satanic pulp is where they feel it most. Its entry should be prohibited, and if it cannot be prohibited its publication in this country should be prohibited. I look for some sign of positive action on this matter by the Government. When I raised this matter last the Minister for Trade and Customs said that it was the responsibility of parents to prevent their children from reading such publications. Nobody denies that that is so, but how can parents effectively deal with this sort of rubbish and filth if governments are unresponsive to their obligation to prohibit it?
I am not unmindful that it is also the obligation of the State governments to take the type of action that I have advocated. Honorable senators will have noticed that advertisements relating to picture entertainments very often state that the first part of the programme is not suitable for general exhibition. Recently, the first part of a programme at a theatre not very far from here was advertised as unsuitable for general exhibition and the second part of the programme was advertised as not suitable for children. How can parents exercise their responsibility for the moral welfare of their children when such pictures are allowed to go unchallenged on their dangerous and undisturbed way? ‘
– I agree with Senator Critchley that an enormous amount’ of comic literature i3 puerile and vicious, but I have not his faith in the value of censorship. We should be very careful to what extent we use the Department of Trade and Customs or any other authority to determine what anybody should read. There is no escape from the fact, that parents are the people who should guide their children’s reading. There is a certain amount of over-emphasis on the vicious character of comics. When we were young there were comics of a different kind, such as Comic Cuts and Ally Sloper, but we read them and survived. I agree that the comics that are now published are puerile, but only positive action can be effective in ensuring that children have the proper literary fare. Let us oust this bad reading with a better type of material. The State governments through their education departments have the responsibility for providing good reading for children. I may have something to say later concerning the good material that could be provided. If we put our trust in the purely negative action of the censor we shall not achieve very much.
– Senator Wright delivered a remarkable speech and made some statements with which I agree. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs Senator O’Sullivan) will supply the information which the honorable senator solicited. How long are the import restrictions to last? With some of the statements of Senator Wright I do not agree. He said, for instance, that the Labour party was responsible for the increase in costs. I have said, ever since the present Government came to office, that the continual increase in the basic wage and in prices must result in chaos, hut nothing has been done by the Government. This Government was responsible for the chaos that was brought about by import restrictions. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in reply to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt), said that our overseas funds were so great that there was no possible chance of chaos. Within a couple of weeks import restrictions had to be imposed. The economy of no country in the world could remain unaffected by the type of action that the Government has taken. People had come to believe that certain things were allowed into the country. Small entrepreneurs in particular were seriously affected by the restrictions. I know of one gentleman who had been importing parts for watches from Switzerland. His credit was very good, and he had only to send a cable to Switzerland in order to get thousands of watch movements. Practically overnight he was broken by the import restrictions. Instead of imposing these restrictions the Government should have revalued the £1. Then certain restrictions could have been administered scientifically. Instead of blanket restrictions being placed on all imports, the importation of luxuries could have been prohibited whilst the importation of essentials, such asbulldozers, houses, and electric cables, could have been controlled. The type of restriction that was imposed by the Government could only cause chaos. The late Mr. J. B. Chifley said that unless appropriate action was taken in relation to Australia’s falling overseas credits there would be chaos. But the Government does not believe in planning.
Restrictions on credit have now been lifted to some degree. If more credit is made available without prices control there must be more inflation. If it were permissible, I should be prepared to bet that in a few months the Government will have to re-impose restrictions on credit. The Government has gone round and round without knowing where it is. The same chaotic situation is evident in the Estimates. There is no coordination. A similar situation exists in regard to food production. The Government imagines that it can keep up the price of food and keep down wages. Of course, the Government has been right sometimes. A tipster who tips every horse in a race must pick a winner sometimes. A scientific approach should be made to the regulation of imports. Australia is manufacturing many commodities that should be imported. Certain items can be manufactured in five minutes in the United States of America which would take a year to make in Australia. Yet the Government wishes to have them manufactured here. A government that has noplan must have chaos. We are living in a planned world. Only the governments of the world are preventing a world depression. If it were not for the Government’s preparations for war in the United States of America, tens of millions of people would be out of work. The Australian Government’s shifting from one position to another reminds me of the lines of Dryden -
A man so various, that he seemed to be,
Not one, but all mankind’s epitome;
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was everything by starts, and nothing long.
But in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon.
– I invite the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to the matter of liaison between his department and the Department of Health. Recently an import licence was granted by his department but because of the quarantine restrictions imposed by the Department of Health the commodity concerned could not be imported into this country. Considerable loss was caused because the item had been brought from an overseas country and refused admission by the quarantine authorities. It is very important that quarantine restrictions should be imposed but if the Department of Trade and Customs were aware of quarantine requirements then a certain waste of effort would not occur. The Department of Trade and Customs is doing an excellent job but I hope that in future it will help a little more by informing importers of the requirements of the Department of Health.
– I wish to refer to the item relating to the Prices Branch at Canberra. I do not know whether prices are controlled in the Australian Capital Territory. They have been galloping so fast that the racehorse Dalray could not catch them. The schedule relating to the Department of Trade and Customs contains an amount of £14,000 for the Prices Branch in Canberra. Provision is made for a prices consultant at a salary of £2,850, a Controller of Prices, £1,454; a deputy controller and clerks, £9,633 ; assistant and typists, £3,592. In all, provision is made for eighteen persons. If the States were on the same basis with regard to prices control, the cost of administration would be beyond all reason. Is this administration necessary ? It seems to be outrageous that eighteen persons should be required to control prices in such a small area as the Australian Capital Territory. The schedule provides for a total sum of £18,129 “less an amount estimated to remain unexpended for positions vacant or subject to approval by a competent authority “ totalling £4,129. If the large staff is supposed to be controlling prices in Canberra, I suggest that it is doing a very poor job.
.- The age of wonders has arrived because 1 find myself in agreement with .Senator Aylett for the first time. I know that the appointment of a prices consultant was requested by the States so that he could deal with matters that have a national application. But it is ridiculous for a small territory under the control of the Australian Government to require seventeen persons to control prices at a cost of nearly £17,000. This matter should be investigated. The area of trade is very small and the cost is out of proportion to the work that is to be done. I join with Senator Aylett in asking that the matter be investigated carefully.
– I associate myself with the remarks that have been made by other honorable senators with regard to the proposed vote for film censorship. Representatives of the Government have suggested that the censorship is impotent. If the success that attends the censors’ efforts is the measure of that statement, I agree that the censorship is imperfect. I am in accord with Senator Critchley and other honorable senators in their statements that while the States have legislative power to stop the sale of pornographic literature and comic strips, they find it most difficult to police because most of the trash is imported from abroad. If it is necessary for the Government to enact legislation to give it greater powers to protect the youth of the country and the general public from this trash, it should do so. The expenditure that is involved in the Estimates for censorship is very small. No one could expect the supervision of the department in this connexion to be efficient. -If the Australian Government played its full part, it would assist the States to do their work more efficiently. Generally, the States deal with the distribution and sale of such literature and publications, but cannot stop pornographic literature, poor films and trashy books from entering the country. There may be some argument in favour of the circulation through adult libraries of a book with a defined high literary or artistic standard of its own, but nobody can justify the sale and distribution of trashy literature and highly coloured publications which have no cultural, artistic or educational value but merely exercise a bad effect on the community. This material generally finds its way into the hands of juveniles, and often they see it without the knowledge of their parents. I ask the Government to review the activities of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board and to determine whether it is possible to introduce legislation so that the matter can be dealt with from a Commonwealth point of view and so give the States some chance to police the sale and distribution of the publications to which I have referred. There should be co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States on this matter.
So far as the general estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs are concerned, the policy of the Government ‘ in restricting imports has made departmental administration difficult. When the flood of imports was at full flow the staff was not sufficiently big to cope with the work of the department. When restrictions were imposed so many applications for special relief were received that the relevant section of the administrative staff could not keep pace with them although the staff engaged on revenue collecting had insufficient work to keep them occupied. I have found the officers courteous and ready to assist in every way. If the Government intends to permit an increased flow of imports, I suggest that it should make a pronouncement to that effect so that the people who are trading as importers into Australia may not be placed at a disadvantage simply because they are not in the counsels of the Government. Some importers who were in the counsels of the Government were able to anticipate its decisions with better judgment than business acumen, and so were able to make provision for its policy. The Government should make a pronouncement of its intentions so that all traders may be able to know with some certainty how to conduct their businesses.
Senator. COURTICE (Queensland; [9.55]. - All governments have been subject to criticism from time to time with regard to the distribution of objectionable literature, but I believe that all have done their utmost to prevent its sale. In the first place, the importation of literature of an objectionable nature is prohibited by the Australian Government. Any such literature that enters the country does so under the lap, and it is physically impossible for the Government to police the avenues along which it travels. The Minister is not responsible for literature of that type. I believe that the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board does good work with regard to films. One can gauge its effects only by having some knowledge of the work that is done. Those who are not conversant with the work of the board can have no idea of the amount of trashy material that comes under its notice. The censors eliminate much objectionable stuff. If it were not for the censorship, many of the films that are shown would be worse than they are. The Labour Government did its best to prevent the circulation of objectionable literature, but the comic strips are printed in this country. The copy is obtained from the United .States of America or from other countries and the States are responsible for supervising the printing of those publications. The Australian Government has no power over that section of the trade. All governments recognize that much of this objectionable literature is very bad and some of the Australian publications are not good either. Much of the poor literature is imported by private individuals and I do not believe that the Minister can do much about it.
Price-fixing in the Australian Capital Territory was continued when the Australian Government gave up price fixing in the States. The amount that is involved in the Estimates for prices control in the Australian Capital Territory is not very great, and the sum that is provided for a consultant is being well spent. Through that officer, the Australian Government is helping to make price fixing more uniform and effective. With regard to the general administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, I believe that the officers of the department must have worked very hard during the past year to deal with the many problems that have confronted them, particularly in view of the Government’s departure from orthodox import policies.
– I should like to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator
O’sullivan) whether the conditions which led to the imposition of import restric t/ions have eased sufficiently to permit hardware importers to bring more dingo traps to this country. This is a matter of great importance in Queensland. It may not be of particular interest to honorable senators who live in portions of the Commonwealth where the dingo is not a real menace, but I assure the committee that in the north-western portion of Queensland and, indeed, in many parts of far western Queensland, the dingo menace has become so great that property owners are rapidly switching from sheep to cattle. Councillor Lynch, a member of one of the shires in the Cloncurry district of Queensland declared recently that if the present “ decline in the number of sheep in northwestern Queensland continued, it would not be long before the last sheep was to be found in a zoo. That may be an exaggeration, but at least it highlights what is happening. We ride to prosperity on the sheep’s back. Our standard of living is based on the wealth that we derive from the wool industry. Anything that militates against the success of that industry and so helps to destroy the basis of our wealth, is a matter of paramount importance to all of us. I have brought this matter to the notice of the Minister before, but I wish to emphasize its importance now. The dingo problem has become urgent in Queensland and something must be done about it. Trapping, of course, is not the only means of combating this pest, but it plays an important part in the campaign. The trouble is that, so far as I have been able to ascertain the facts from hardware merchants, only 8-in. traps are manufactured in Australia. Apart from the fact that 8-inch traps are not favoured by doggers because of their size, they are slow in coming out of the factory. They are supplied on quota to the distributors. English manufacturers make 6-inch and 7-inch traps which are the types favoured by doggers. Since the imposition of import restrictions, it has been most difficult to secure imported traps and I should like to know from the Minister whether, since I last approached him on this matter, the position has eased sufficiently to enable him to grant special licences to importers of 6-inch and 7-inch dingo traps to enable them to import greater quantities without sacrificing other important hardware lines by so doing. The complaint that importers have made to me is that if they do get authority to import more traps, their importations of other commodities will be correspondingly reduced. Therefore they have nothing to gain by importing more traps. I hope that the Minister will treat this matter as urgent.
– I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) upon the fact that, although his department is charged with the administration of a very contentious part of the Government’s economic policy, the discussion of the Estimates for that department has been rather tranquil. Certainly it has been in marked distinction to the discussion of the vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. Like Senator Armstrong, I wish to make a plea, on behalf of a very important industry which is at present suffering great hardship as a result of economic conditions. I refer to the match industry. I am interested in this industry because unless something is done to help it, many Australian match workers will soon be swelling the ranks of the unemployed. Australian-made matches are subject not only to excise duty levied by the Department of Trade and Customs, but also to sales tax levied by the Taxation Branch of the Treasury. The industry also has to face the severe competition of fashionable imported mechanical lighters. Many of those lighters are of a most attractive design, and some people consider it to be smart to have them, regardless of the effect that their sale is having on an Australian industry. Both the match manufacturers and the organizations of employees have been most active in endeavouring to secure some relief for the industry. Already one of the largest companies in Australia is working short time while another very important company may soon have to close its doors. This is due largely to the consumer resistance caused by recent increases of the price of matches authorized by the prices commissioner . The industry is afraid to ask for further increases although they can be fully justified by rising costs of materials and labour. Therefore, employers and employees alike are looking to the Department of Trade and Customs and to the Treasury for relief. Strong representations have already been made, and I trust that the two departments concerned will co-operate in investigating the action that is necessary to preserve this important Australian industry. Tariff protection has been afforded to the Australian match industry to safeguard it from the competition of matches imported from cheap labour countries. “We are all endeavouring to secure for the Australian people a standard of living at least as high, and if possible higher, than that enjoyed in other progressive countries. The Australian public subscribes to that policy. “We have :an Australian Industries Preservation Act, but now we find that we are not doing enough to safeguard certain industries. I hope that the Minister will appreciate the urgency of this matter and will give early consideration to granting relief in the directions that I have indicated so that the future of the match industry may be assured.
– The remarks of Senator Armstrong, Senator Sheehan and other honorable senators about imports suggest to me that our policy should be to establish and maintain a balanced economy. This Government has not attempted to do that. In our dealings with other countries there is nothing approximately to what might be called economic unity. There is economic warfare, and the objective of some countries, particularly the highly industrialized countries, is to dump as much of their excess production overseas as they possibly can. That is the position that we are facing to-day. Senator Sheehan has drawn attention to the plight of the match industry. “Why should matches be imported at all when the Australian industry is quite capable of meeting local demands? “When war broke out in 1939, we found that because little had been done to establish and maintain a balanced economy, the engineering industry in Aus tralia was 60 years behind time. Therefore, during the war we had to build up the engineering industry and other secondary industries that bad been allowed to languish. Had the war not acted as an accelerator, we should not have been as advanced as we are to-day in secondary production. If that implies anything at all, it means that, in our approach to other countries, we must bear in. mind the necessity to re-organize our national trade. For instance, lend-lease worked very well during the war, but it wa3 terminated in 1945 and we returned to a state of economic warfare. “We have heard recently of the proposal of the United States of America to increase its tariff on wool. Therefore in our approach to the tyre industry, the match industry, and other undertakings which are threatened to-day, we must look far ahead. The Government has not attempted to do that. It simply imposed blanket import restrictions without consulting the Parliament. Military warfare has its origin in economic warfare. During the war C took the view that, as far as it was physically possible to do so, this country should be made self-contained. In 1942-43 there was such a serious shortage of aluminium in Australia that it appeared likely that we should have to suspend the manufacture of aircraft. We made a nation-wide appeal for scrap aluminium which, when processed, although not as good as new aluminium, served our purpose as a makeshift and enabled us to carry on. Ultimately, after sustained negotiations and the application of pressure on certain persons overseas, we obtained a supply of aluminium. How much better it would have been from our point of view had the aluminium industry been established in Australia before the. war. At Yallourn, in Victoria, the State Electricity Commission–
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting rather wide of the proposed vote.
– I am trying to indicate the need for a balanced economy. Why should the Government allow tyres to be imported and so put the Australian tyre manufacturing industry out of business? Why should we allow matches to be imported and so jeopardize the Australian match industry? Ultimately, if such a policy is carried out to the degreethat some overseas interests would like it to be carried out, Australia will be merely a primary producing country which is dependent upon other countries for secondary products. The Government’s economic policy has more far reaching consequences than appear on the surface.
L refer now to the subject of book censorship. In my experience, censors ban the books that they do not like and allow to come in those that they do like. Very few of them are good judges of literature. In the Parliamentary Library there are many books which any person who exercised discrimination would not bother to read. I leave them to the featherweight minds interested in them. Reference has been made to the importation of comic strips. If the press did not publish these comic strips, there would be no objection to them. Not a word was said about the need to deal with the privately controlled press for not exercising proper censorship over ‘ imported comic strips. The press makes more money by writing down to the lowest intellectual level than by writing up to the highest intellectual level. Newspaper proprietors who adopt high intellectual standards sell very few copies of their journals; but those who devote their attention principally to sex matters and scandal sell their product freely. We should censor the press for publishing a good deal of matter which should not be published. I agree with the views expressed by Senator McCallum on this subject. I, like him, should not feel disposed to interfere with’ those who find their chief form of entertainment in scandal stories or sporting articles; but when such matters are capitalized to the degree that they are capitalized by the press of Australia to-day I am disposed to take action. In time of war the Government exercised censorship over the press, but in times of so-called peace the press is practically a law unto itself. To be consistent in our criticism of the department for allowing comic strips to be imported into Australia, we should be prepared to deal with the press which capitalizes the comic strips and other forms of so-called literature to the detriment of those who have not cultivated the habit of seeking to improve their intellect. If we want to develop a community capable of judging the merits of literature we shall have to revolutionize our present system of education. That is the very last thing the
Government wants to do. In my experience all anti-Labour governments support the maintenance of an education system which tends to make young children grow up to become mental dependants and followers of the anti-Labour parties. If we want to get rid of all the trashy stuff that is published in the press we shall have so to educate young children so that they will be able to discriminate between what is good and what is bad.
– I listened with great interest to Senator Cameron’s dissertation on the economic position of Australia.
– I am astonished that the honorable senator should have done so.
– Senator Cameron usually makes the same speech irrespective of the subject under discussion. I gathered from his remarks that he attempted to criticize the economic policy of the Government. He is perhaps the only person in this chamber who cannot afford to criticize the economic policy of any government, for as PostmasterGeneral he had the very dubious honour of having lost more money than did any other Postmaster-General in any comparable period. Furthermore, the honorable senator has the dubious honour of having lost, in ten years, no less than £176,000 on the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly.
– I rise to order. I cannot see the relevance of Senator Vincent’s remarks to the proposed vote before the committee. They do not relate in any way to the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs and, accordingly I submit that they are entirely out of order.
– I was referring to Senator Cameron’s dissertation on the economic policy of the Government. My remarks are more relevant to the proposed vote than were the remarks of Senator Cameron.
– Nevertheless the honorable senator will now discuss the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs.
- Senator Grant made a vitriolic and fire-eating attack on the Government, but neither I nor any other honorable senator understood much of what he said. I gather that the honorable senator wanted to know when import restrictions would be abolished.
– Senator Wright asked that question. Senator Grant merely supported him.
– That was about the only part of Senator Grant’s speech that I really understood.
– The honorable senator is soft-minded.
– I may be fairly soft-minded, but at least I can claim that many other honorable senators could not understand Senator Grant’s tirade. I am not soft-minded enough to join the Labour party and merely pretend that I. understood what the honorable senator had sought to convey. The answer to his question is easily given. So long as thi3 country continues to import goods greater in value than its exports, we shall have to continue to impose import restrictions. Every honorable senator in this chamber knows that to be so. The honorable senator accused the Government of preventing the importation of bulldozers, which are of great importance to the development of Australia. That is a perfectly unjust accusation. No restrictions have been placed on the importation of earth-moving equipment of that kind. Very wisely, the Government decided to prevent the importation of luxury goods and to encourage the importation of essential goods.
– Does the honorable senator contend that import restrictions have not been placed upon the importation of equipment necessary for primary producers ?
– I invite the honorable senator to cite one articlerequired for primary production in respect of which restrictions have been imposed.
– We were told to-night that the Government had imposed restrictions on the importation of dingo traps.
– Senator Critchley referred to the policy of the department in regard to censorship.
– I made no reference to the policy of the department in that respect.
– The honorable senator spoke of it as a matter of administration, but it was really a matter of policy. I am prepared to be corrected if I am wrong in this matter.
– The honorable senator is invariably wrong.
– I gathered the impression that Senator Critchley had advocated the complete prohibition of the publication of comic strips and the like. If the honorable senator had read the statute which governs these matters he would agree that it is most difficult under the law as it now stands to impose an absolute restriction on such things.
– The honorable senator is most enlightening. In other words he has said that if it was easy to do so, it would be done.
– The act gives the censor the right to prevent the importation of articles that are obscene, blasphemous or indecent. I believe that if each, honorable senator were asked for an interpretation of the phrase “ blasphemous, indecent, or obscene “ we should receive 60 different interpretations, although very likely each would be the correct one in the opinion of the honorable senator who furnished it. Although it would be quite impossible for each honorable senator to be right, it was wrong for Senator Critchley to contend that there should be a complete prohibition of the importation of comic strips, &c., which would deny to honorable senators a semblance of common sense in relation to the administration of the law. We should adopt a reasonable and common standard of what constitutes “ blasphemous, indecent, or obscene “. The censor who has been appointed to make decisions about these matters is fully qualified, and his decisions should be accepted. To totally prohibit the introduction of these articles would not be a democratic approach to the problem.
The Import Licensing Branch has carried out its most difficult assignment during the last six or seven months in a very creditable manner. Many thousands of applications for import licences have been lodged weekly. I congratulate both the Minister and, his officers on the manner in which they have carried out their onerous duties. As I have submitted many applications for import licences to the Minister, I have a good knowledge of the position. I assure the committee that the officers have done an excellent job in relation to the administration of the regulations.
– Senator Vincent has stated that the importation of articles used in connexion with primary production has not been restricted, and he challenged me to quote ari instance in which a licence to import such an article bad been refused. I have before me a letter from Mr. George Shanahan of Sabon Gida, Bukuru, Northern Nigeria, which contains a record of his attempts to obtain a licence f.6 import Keystone drilling equipment into Australia from the United States of America. The letter reads, in part -
I got a letter from the Customs Department turning down my application for a licence to import the Keystone and giving a list of Australian and English makers of drilling equipment. On that same day I learnt that the Joint Coal Board was being permitted to import 14 Keystones from America tax free. Had I been willing to use equipment of Sterling origin it would have taken me a year to have got rt together. I had made inquiries from seven firms in Australia and England regarding their delivery dates. On the other hand, I could ha’ve had a Keystone working within eight week’s. It was my intention, too, to use the Keystone as a prototype from which others could be made locally. Also, I would have introduced more efficient methods of drilling, gleaned iri many countries throughout the worl’d. Four days later, my wife and I left Australia in disappointment and disgust. We had made the trip’ of 10,000 miles at our own expense to Australia, and another 5,000 miles of motoring in the drought-stricken backblocks, where thousands of stock were dying from thirst and where we were prepared to rough it, risk our capital and give the benefit of my knowledge and experience of drilling’ to the country.
Ali import licence could not be granted to me for just one’ Keystone drill, that I would use for deep and difficult drilling, often hundreds of miles from a railhead, arid perhaps a thousand miles from an engineering’ works, but the Coal Board was allowed 14 of those super drills for easy shadow drilling within short distances of repair shops, work’ that’ the most obsolete Australian-made drill could handle. Meanwhile, the drought continued, stock were dying in thousands from thirst, machines and drillers were not available to meet the demand’. The drought will break but there will, be another in a few years. Water wells will still be wanted; so again tens of thousands of stock will perish from thirst, and drillers - they are becoming fewer and fewer and does ohe wonder! During our motoring tour, we caine across some of the most obsolete drilling rigs, that I ever saw being used in my life. . . Despite the many setbacks I am still hopeful. But without the goodwill and some assistance from Australian Governments, it is quite obviously,- anything but a promising, -situation1.
I cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of Mr. Shanahan’s remarks, but it would appear that he was refused a licence to import drilling equipment from America, no doubt because of the dollar expenditure that would be involved. The provision of water in the outback areas of Queensland is a vital necessity. The people of both the Northern Territory and the outback areas of Queensland have suffered cruel stock losses during the current drought. I consider that Mr. Shanahan’s application should have been treated with the greatest generosity.
whether that action had been caused by the importation of tractors from other countries. I remind the committee that the manufacture of tractors in Australia by that company bad’ been subsidized not only by the present Government but also by the previous Labour Government. The Minister informed me that there had been no importation of tractors. Subsequently, I addressed a question to the Minister, upon notice, in which I sought information about the expenditure on imported tractors, their country of origin, and the types of tractors that had been imported. The Minister then replied that tractors to the value of about £10,000,000 had been imported, many from hard currency countries. Had the Govern? merit taken’ heed of the Opposition’s advice to restrict certain types of imports over twelve months ago, our overseas funds would not have declined to their present low level. The Government’s action in clamping down suddenly on imports has had a serious effect on the economy of this country. I contend that the Government deserves censure for not accepting the advice of the Opposition many months ago to temper down the importation of agricultural machinery, in order to assist the Australian manufacturers.
– I thank the committee for the manner in which it has received the Estimates for my department. Senator Armstrong has referred to a difficulty that confronts the manufacturers of motor tyres in this country. Under tariff item schedule 333, pneumatic tyres and tubes are subject to a duty of 6d. per lb., or ad valorem duty of 15 per cent., whichever is the higher ; British preference and intermediate, ls. per lb., or 27% per cent. It is true that the Australian tyre manufacturing industry is in a very serious condition, due to the heavy stocks of tyres on hand. Representatives of both the employers and the employees have asked me to consider whether any relief can be granted to the industry. The tyre manufacturing industry in this country has undergone very rapid changes. During the early part of this year motor tyres were in very short supply. Recently the managing director of a tyre manufacturing company spoke to me about the matter. When I told him that a friend of mine had had great difficulty during the early part of this year in obtaining a set of tyres for his motor car, he said that tyres were then in short supply, but that now, due to the fact that large quantities of tyres had been imported, the manufacturers and retailers are heavily overstocked. Senator Armstrong’s suggestion would not overcome the present difficulty. As honorable senators are aware, import restrictions were applied in order to protect our overseas funds. The Tariff Board is the established medium to provide protection to local industries. I remind the committee that the previous Labour Government entered into the International Trade Organization, from which emanated the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. That, for good or ill, was wished onto us by Mr. Dedman, who was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the previous Labour Government.
– We did not go in of. our own volition.
– By the terms of that agreement we are prohibited from placing a total embargo on importations from any country, other than for the purpose of protecting our exchange. In other words, we are under an international obligation not to use import restrictions to protect any Australian industry. Notwithstanding that obligation, I still believe that it would be improper, unwise and unsound for us to use import restrictions to protect Australian industries. The established method, and one which is adopted by both Labour and non-Labour governments, is the institution of the Tariff Board, which has operated most effectively and efficiently over the years.
– The only reason for the introduction of tariffs was to protect Australian industries.
– That is so. That is their purpose, rather than to return revenues to the Government, although at the present time they have the dual effect of producing income and protecting industries.
Senator Wright has referred to the slight increase of administrative costs. I understand that approximately 50 additional employees have been engaged by the department because of the heavy and onerous work involved in the imposition of import restrictions. The increased costs are due substantially to increased rates of pay. I point out that between the end of March and the end of August more than 185,000 licences were granted. I do not know how many were dealt with or how many were refused, but the fact that 185,000 were granted will give honorable senators an idea of the tremendous volume of work performed by this very efficient department.
The honorable senator posed two questions to me, the first of which concerned the length of time dur ing which restrictions are likely to operate Senator Vincent has really answered that question. The answer involves conditions rather than time. The restrictions will not be kept on any longer than the economic circumstances warrant, but before the restrictions are lifted the economic circumstances will have to be such that our exports are paying for our imports. When we are in that assured position I expect and hope that the restrictions will be progressively eased. The mere fact that we have attained trade equilibrium will not be sufficient reason immediately to abandon all controls and restrictions. We must ensure that we do not again relapse into the position from which we are now struggling at such sacrifice and inconvenience to the Australian people.
Senator Wright also commented upon the method by which these restrictions are being administered. There is considerable merit in his observation that too great a responsibility and too wide a discretion has been vested in the Minister. Practically the whole economic life of the country may depend on the discretion so exercised. However, the task of stating which goods shall be restricted, in which categories the goods shall go, and whether there shall be restrictions or not, is not a matter that can properly be dealt with by the Parliament. There may be tens of thousands of items involved. If the restrictions were dealt with by legislation, a schedule would be necessary. In the scheme of things, months or even a year might elapse before finality could be reached concerning the various items. The whole purpose of the restrictions could well be destroyed if the world at large knew, long before the bill was debated and passed by the Parliament, which items the Government proposed to restrict. That method would be totally impracticable. We could no more adopt it than we could debate in advance proposed increases of customs or excise duties.
– That used to be done, and we all know with what results.
– Yes. The position would be that restrictions could not be made effectively retrospective. It would be useless to introduce a bill unless it could be thoroughly debated. By the time the bill was debated and passed by the Parliament, the goods which the Government intended to prohibit would have been landed in the country. We should merely give to the business community at large three months or six months’ notice that we proposed to place a restriction on a wide range of goods, which would then be rushed into the country. Although there may be many faults in the present system, I can see no alternative to it. It would be as impracticable to adopt the honorable senator’s suggestion as it would be improper for the Government to indicate in advance that at a certain date ahead it proposed to increase excise or customs duty on specific items.
– Or sales tax.
– Increases of sales tax apply from the date on which the bill is introduced, Customs and excise duties become effective as from the date on which the proposals are introduced into the Parliament, so that no advantage can be gained one way or the other.
Senator Critchley and Senator Cooke referred to censorship. I appreciate the very generous tribute which has been paid to the department by its former ministerial head, Senator Courtice. He had, as I now have, the pleasure and the privilege to act as ministerial head of this very efficient, public spirited and hard working department. As he and Senator Vincent have pointed out, there is now provision in the Customs Act whereby the importation of blasphemous, indecent and obscene works is prohibited. As Senator Courtice stated, most of that material comes into the country in the form of private mail. I do not think that for one moment the Australian people would tolerate police state methods, whereby private mail would be liable to censorship for the purpose of detecting whether or not it contained prohibited literature or articles. That state of affairs would be totally intolerable. I agree that it is unfortunate that literature of a most undesirable type is published and sometimes finds its way into the hands of children and adolescents. This matter was raised at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, at which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicated the difficulty under which the Commonwealth operates in this connexion. From time to time the department is able to confiscate and destroy such articles, hut of course that is not a very effective method.
As the Prime Minister pointed out to. the State Premiers, a simple and efficient method of handling this matter is for the respective States to introduce uniform legislation making it an offence to exhibit for sale the kind of literature which is banned under the Customs Act. If it is made an offence to exhibit such literature for sale, I suggest that very little will be sold, because it is not the kind of commodity of which people know. For instance, children would be very unlikely to go to a blackmarket operator and ask, “ Have you received any smutty books lately ? “ In my opinion, prohibition of the sale of this literature would break the back of a traffic which has become a very serious cancer in the body politic. In regard to film censorship, a great many films are either cut or completely banned. We have a most efficient Chief Films Censor, and also a very efficient staff who work with him. I have seen some of the films which he has condemned, and I have agreed thoroughly with his condemnation. No complaints have been made to me personally in regard to films which have been passed by the Chief Films Censor as suitable for general exhibition.
The Australian Government has no control over posters, to which Senator Critchley referred. If they are blasphemous, indecent or obscene, that is entirely a matter for the local authority iri ‘the area in which they are exhibited. It should be a simple matter for the local council to publish an ordinance, or for a State to pass legislation, dealing with such matters. Personally, I agree with Senator McCallum that the best approach is a positive One. Although restrictions, censorships and denials are necessary, they are not progressive methods. As the honorable senator stated, the best method of attack, while maintaining a reasonable censorship, is to cultivate in the minds of the people an appreciation of something better and more uplifting.
asked why the import restrictions have hot been scientifically administered. I submit that the method of administration is both efficient and scientific. There are three grades of imports : The “ B “ category, ih which are the less essential items and in respect of which there is ah 80 per cent, cut; the “ A “ category, which are considered to be essential items, in respect of which there is a 40 per cent, cut ; and the “ C “ category, or administration items which are essential and which are given an even higher priority than commodities in the K A “ category. Although that method was adopted without any. mathematical basis of calculation and computation, it has worked out efficiently and satisfactorily. It has the advantage that from time to time, as the exigencies of the circumstances warrant, or supply and demand dictates, it can be changed from one category to another, either up or down.
I appreciate the remarks that have been made by Senator Laught. The Department of Trade and Customs frequently acts as an agent on behalf of other departments in regard to the granting of export and import licences.
– Order ! ‘ The Minister’s time has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1,230,000.
– I rise to order. Before we proceed with discussion of this item, I wish to refer to the Standing Orders. I understand that, when the Senate is ih committee, if an honorable senator addresses the Chair for fifteen minutes and resumes his seat, and no other senator rises to speak, the honorable senator who had been speaking is entitled to rise again and to continue to speak for ah additional fifteen minutes. I am sorry that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) was prevented from continuing his excellent reply, although the Standing Orders provide that he might do so.
– No request was made that the Minister should continue his remarks.
, -The proposed vote for the Department of Health includes £431,000 for administrative costs and £522,000 for the cost of health services. The total proposed vote of the department is £1,230,000. The activities of the ‘department are very numerous, particularly since the present Minister for Health (.Sir Earle Page) introduced .a completely new approach to health services throughout .the Commonwealth.
– Order! In conformity with the ‘sessional carder relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally, put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate. ‘
Question resolved in the negative.
– I should like ,to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health .(Senator Cooper) whether the activities of the Health Department will offer the States a greater measure of co-operation in administering the very nebulous health scheme that has been put forward by the Minister for Health. In the State of Tasmania we prided ourselves on having one of the most efficient health and hospital services in the Commonwealth. We were able to provide a free hospital service to all’ sick people who needed assistance so as to change them from sick to healthy persons who were an asset to the community, Under the policy of the Government the whole approach to health services has been changed. The Government’s policy will necessitate an increase in the vote for the Department of Health for administrative purposes from £361,000 of which £352;717 was expended, to £431,000. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Health to furnish the Senate with details of the ultimate objective of the .new health .scheme. A certain amount of buck-passing is going on between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth seems to consider that the States -should carry out certain functions although in the past it has been a definite Commonwealth responsibility to finance hospital .services either by way of grants to State governments or by way of direct assistance to the hospitals.
I should like to ‘know whether provision has been made for the Department of Health to make -finance available to the States for the hospital treatment of aged pensioners free of (charge. It is a terrible thing that at this :stage of our development, after pensioners have had free health services in Tasmania for some years, they may now be unable to obtain free treatment. It is not clear whether free hospital services will be made .available’ to these people or not.
– It is abundantly clear.
– It is not abundantly clear. The honorable senator is only trying to cloud the issue by making such a statement. I should like to know what the Minister has in mind. Will free health facilities be made available to pensioners? The Minister for Health has been most difficult to follow in his announcements on the health scheme. He has made no definite statement as to what f acilities will be made available to people who are unable to afford hospital charges. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Health to make a definite statement regarding the activities of the department in relation to aged pensioners. I should like the Minister to state whether they -will be subjected to a means test, whether their hospitalization will be free and whether the Government will guarantee, regardless of the attitude of the State governments, that these people will have free hospitalization.
.- I notice in “Division 82- Quarantine, section B, General Expenses, item 4, control of foot and mouth disease “ - that the proposed vote is £83,000, -although nothing was voted for this purpose last year. I .should like to know whether there has been an outbreak of foot .and mouth disease. If .there has been , such an outbreak I should like to know its extent and why it is expected that . the expenditure of £83,000 will be necessary in dealing with it. I commend the Government on its vigilance in this matter. Foot and mouth disease among animals in England and France has caused great losses of stock. In what States of the Commonwealth is this disease prevalent.? Could the Minister representing the Minister for Health (Senator Cooper) furnish the Senate with other information relevant to this most important item ?
I notice also that extensive -increases have been made in -the votes for other sections of the Department of Health.
Such increases are quite reasonable in view of the vast increase that has taken place in the population of this country. Large numbers of immigrants have come from other countries and it is most commendable .that this department has been vigilant in protecting the health of Australia.
– An unfortunate situation has developed between the Government and the State governments in relation to health services. There has been an absolute failure to agree on the Government’s policy with regard to the health of the Australian people. It is most unfortunate that the Government has decided to compel the States either to accept its policy or suffer financially. The health policy of the Government ‘ of Queensland which is very definite has been in operation for a long time and the health scheme of the Australian Government cuts across that policy. The people of Queensland pay their taxes as the people of every other State pay them, and it is grossly unfair that the Commonwealth should require a State government to accept its policy or be victimized by having certain payments withheld from it. The Queensland Government has been in the vanguard of hospitalization in Australia. The inability of the Australian Government to agree with the State governments on matters affecting the health of the people is very unfortunate. Although the people of Queensland have paid their taxes they will not receive as much assistance as the people of other States. If this is not unconstitutional it is certainly a breach of the spirit of the Constitution.
Much of the responsibility for the failure to agree must be accepted by the Australian Government because the success of any scheme depends on its acceptance by the community. The people of Queensland have held strongly to a certain health policy for a long time. Now they are to be penalized, possibly to the amount of 12s. for each patient. This is a great injustice to Queensland. I ask honorable senators representing other States to ensure that Queensland is treated fairly, and is allowed to determine its own health scheme because health is a State responsibility.
– I also wish to refer to “ Division 82 - Quarantine “. This vote will be expended on a very important part of the health service of this country. I think that all honorable senators realize the value of the quarantine service to the animal life of the country. The sum of £277,000 which it is proposed to devote to this purpose is quite modest in view of the enormous importance of the service. Senator Laught referred to the control of foot and mouth disease. I think that we can thank our quarantine authorities that we have never experienced in Australia this terrible disease which has taken such a terrific toll of the animal life of other countries. A sum of £83,000 has been provided in the Estimates to deal with the disease in Australia. Stringent measures have been taken to prevent the introduction of the disease into this country. Those measures apply not only to quarantine but to the application of disinfectants and other methods. The proposed vote of £83,000 will be money well spent. Item 5 under Division 82, section B, General Expenses, relates partly to compensation for cattle that are destroyed under section 47 of the Quarantine Act. No amount has been made available for this purpose, although last year £3,611 was expended. I suggest that the Minister might inform the committee why no provision has been made for that item. Each year there are outbreaks of cattle diseases. Unfortunately, pleuropneumonia has caused the loss of many animals this year. Compensation must be paid to the people who suffer losses. Some years ago when I was a member of a small district council in South Australia, I attended a health conference in Adelaide and had an opportunity to inspect a quarantine station. I was able to understand something of the ramifications of the quarantine system. Australia is close to the Far East where dreaded diseases often afflict many people. After I visited the quarantine station, I was able to understand why a large sum of money is necessary to maintain it. Although many people may not be housed there, the facilities must be maintained so that the health of the Australian people can be protected. I commend the Government for making the proposed vote for quarantine purposes available. Although the amount is a large one, it will be money well spent.
– I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the proposed vote for serum laboratories. I pay a tribute to the staff of these laboratories for the work that they are performing. It is not adequately known to the public, or, I fear, to honorable senators. Some time ago I visited the serum laboratories and saw some of the research work that is conducted there, not only for the health of the nation but for the advancement of medical science generally. Therefore, I should’ like to know why the amount that is to - be expended on temporary and casual employees exceeds so greatly the amount that is to be paid to permanent employees. The men who are employed in the serum laboratories are scientifically and professionally trained and their employment should be more permanent than the proposed vote indicates. Item 3 in section A of Division 81 provides £10,000 for extra duty payments. If it is necessary to pay for extra duty, more permanent employees should be appointed to maintain the work. The officers do not know any effluxion of time. They are devoted to their work and many have given their lives for the advancement of science. I pay tribute to them for their faithful and scientific work.
Under the heading Division 81, section B, General Expenses, there is an item, “Nutrition of Children - Payments to States, £11,000 “. Last year provision was made for the expenditure of £15,000 and only £2,169 was expended. I should like to know why that was so, and how the proposed vote of £11,000 is to be expended. Why is the estimated expenditure below the provision that was made last year and above the actual expenditure in 1951-52?
Under hospital benefits administration, proposed payments to the States are high. When payments for hospital benefits are so great, why is the treatment that is’ given to people in various States so different? In Western Australia, 35s. a day is payable by patients in public wards in the public hospitals.
– That is a decision of the States.
– Exactly, but when the Australian Government has some say in the financial backing for State projects, it should also have some say in the policy that is to be followed. Although Commonwealth assistance amounts to 12s. a day for each patient, its share in some States represents 66$- per cent, of the actual fees charged to patients, but in Western Australia it is just over 33J per cent, of the fees that are charged. I can see no sound reason why Western Australia should be subject to that differentiation. It has become a big burden to the people of that State. A few years ago we complained because we did not have enough hospital beds, but now sick people cannot afford to go into the public wards in the public hospitals, not only because of the cost but also because of the stringency of the means test. Every detail of their financial position and that of their families is investigated and not always in a. private manner. We were happy in Western Australia to remove from the hospitals the sign “ Indigent sick “, but now we have to turn the clock back and replace the notice. Before a sick person can be admitted he must be in the last extremity or have his financial position so thoroughly investigated that he can die while the investigation is taking place. What is the overall government policy with regard to the system that is followed by the States in charging such exorbitant fees for treatment in the public hospitals ?
Senator MCMULLIN (New South Wales [11.26]. - There appears to be some misunderstanding about hospital benefits. An examination with regard to a means test could not happen as Senator Tangney has described it.
– It does.
– It may happen in Western Australia but not in New South Wales. It is necessary to establish whether a patient can afford to pay or not. If a patient can pay for an intermediate ward or for a private ward, he should do so. In that way those who can afford to pay are prevented from crowding out the public wards. Let us have some sympathy for the people who cannot pay for themselves, and provide beds for them. Otherwise they will be turned away from the hospitals while people who can alford to pay occupy the beds. Hospital finance is a very interesting subject. There are four ways in which hospitals and hospital work can be financed. Details are given in an article headed, “ Hospital Finance and the Teaching Hospital “, by Dr. Herbert H. Schlink, ill The Australian Modern Hospital, No. 1, 1949. They are: (1) taxation and public funds; (2) payment by patients;
Any socialized plan of the Government meeting the whole of the financial burden will be doomed to failure on two counts. !. Budget necessity to cut the capital allocation, and so failure in the number of beds required in the Commonwealth.
Exigencies of the Budget necessitating a reduction in the maintenance allocation and so providing inferior or insufficient food, drugs and’ equipment as occurred in Crown Hospitals up to 1848.
Two glaring instances’ of this last danger, on& ancient and one recent, are: (a) The action of the Lloyd George Government in cutting down the allocation for X-ray investigation to meet Budget necessity, and (6) the action, of Aneurin Bevan in issuing a mandate to. all hospitals, to cut down their maintenance expenditure even before the first year of Government control’ of British hospitals had closed’.
Unless we have a. progressive scheme under which more hospitals can be built, and training hospitals and medical schools established, together with facilities for training medical students, we shall have reached the stage at which it will hot be possible to go any further with existing buildings. This Government’s scheme is wise and will be of great assistance to the States. The contributory insurance plan will ease the financial strain, and thus assist the provision of money for the building of great hospitals, clinics, and teaching schools. I commend the Government strongly for its proposals. When’ the scheme is in full operation, it will make a tremendous contribution to the adequate care of the sick in this country. It. will, also serve to maintain a community of interest between the people’ and the hospitals. That is absolutely essential. In the absence of that community of. interest, our hospitals would become cold, hard government institutions. Apparently there are some hospitals in Western Australia which make a searching investigation of the affairs of patients, and treat them as if they were inmates of an old. people’s home. This cold and calculating attitude must be eliminated. Sick people must be treated sympathetically and made to feel that some one is interested in their welfare. If the community interest between the people and the hospitals can be established and maintained, we need have little, to fear for the success of the health scheme.
– Provision is made in the vote for the Department of Health for the expenditure of £11,000 on payments to States foi- the nutrition of children. Last year, the vote under this heading was £15,000, but the actual expenditure was only £2,169. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that any national health scheme must make adequate provision for the nutrition, of children. I should like- to know therefore why the expenditure last year on this work was so far below the estimate, and why the provision this year is: substantially less than last year’s vote. Surely this indicates that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has earned the title “the doleful doctor”.
– He is a great Australian,, and the honorable senator ia -not fit to wipe his boots.
– I would not attempt to do so. I consider myself to be far above that level. I repeat that if the national health scheme is to be successful, it is of prime importance that adequate attention should be given to’ the nutrition of children. I should like the Minister to explain the1 reduced financial provision for this work.
– Senator O’Byrne has offered strong criticism of the national health scheme. Bie is entitled .to his own opinions, of course, but he made some glaring mistakes in the course of his arguments. Apparently he is not aware of what is being done. He spoke of Tasmania’s attitude to the hospital benefits scheme, and he mentioned certain pensions. T take it that he was referring to the age and invalid pension. I point out that so far as medicines are concerned, provision has been made for pensioners since the 7th of July, 1951. In the first eleven months of the scheme, 1,599,823 prescriptions were written at a total cost of £357,632 or an average of 4s. 6d. for each prescription. “With respect to hospital benefits, I point out that the Commonwealth pays 4s. a day to the States in respect of each bed occupied by a contributor to an approved hospital benefit organization. That, of course, is in addition ito the general rate of 8s. a day which is payable to all States in respect of occupied beds in both public and private hospitals. Therefore, the Commonwealth is making a total payment of 12s. a day to the State in respect of patients in the various hospitals. 3 remind the committee that the hospitals are run by the States, not by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over State hospitals. It is interesting to note that in 1948-49 total payments to Tasmania under the hospital benefits scheme, including health insurance organization benefits, was £289,000. That was under the Chifley or McKenna hospital benefits scheme. In the current year, Tasmania will receive £1,171,000, or approximately £882,000 more than was paid in 1948-49. Therefore I cannot understand the argument that the Commonwealth is not doing as much for the States in this field to-day as it did in 1948-49.
Senator Courtice also referred to hospitals. I appreciate that he has taken a keen interest in hospitals for many years, and has been a member of various hospital committees. Apparently he does not know or does not want to know of the benefits that the Commonwealth has offered to Queensland. He claimed that the States are not all given the same treatment. I say that all States are given the same treatment and are offered the same facilities by the Com monwealth Government. If a particular State does not wish to participate in a part of the Commonwealth’s scheme .and therefore refuses Commonwealth funds, that is not the fault of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, under an agreement, paid to all States 8s. a day for all occupied beds. I understand that in August last the agreement with Queensland expired, and no new agreement has yet been made. This is not the fault of the Commonwealth Government. Five of the six States have agreed to accept the additional benefit of 4s. a day which is payable in respect of members of approved hospital benefit schemes. Senator McMullin has clearly shown the wisdom of the Government’s scheme. If a State chooses not to accept certain Commonwealth assistance, the blame lies with that State, not with the Commonwealth. I draw Senator Courtice’s attention to what Queensland is losing by standing out of the scheme. In 1948-49 hospital benefits paid to Queensland, including health insurance organization benefits, totalled £1,244,000.- If Queensland were to participate fully in the scheme in the current year, its share of the payment would be £3,142,000.
– The Government is blackmailing the States into coming into the scheme.
– The honorable senator is trying to convince himself that the Government has some political motives for its action. Not only has Queensland refused £3,142,000 for hospital benefits, but also it has refused to accept £300,000 a year for free milk. There are no tags on the free milk scheme. The States are asked to co-operate with the Commonwealth oh a fifty-fifty basis in the distribution of the milk. Every State except Queensland has been only too willing to accept the Commonwealth’s offer.
– How could free milk be made available at outback centres such as Cloncurry?
– There is no reason why it should not be made available in Brisbane, which has 400,000 people, and other large centres of population. If the Queensland Government can arrange for the distribution of milk at places such as Cloncurry, the cost willbe met by the Commonwealth Government. It is up to the Queensland Government to arrange for distribution. The refusal of the Queensland Government to participate in the scheme is depriving the children of that State of free milk to the value of £300,000 annually. Therefore, Queensland is turning down Commonwealth assistance totalling over £3,000,000. It is quite incorrect to say that the people of Australia are being robbed under the Government’s health scheme.
Senator Hannaford mentioned the control of foot and mouth disease. Provision of £83,000 has been made for preventive measures, including the fumigation of clothing and ‘baggage. The estimate has been cast on the basis of an expenditure of £2 for each immigrant. Senator Hannaford also referred to the fact that no provision has been made under “ Division 82 - Quarantine “, for compensation for cattle destroyed under section 47 of the Quarantine Act. No provision has been made as no expenditure may be incurred for that purpose this year. If expenditure is incurred on this item appropriate provision will be made in a supplementary appropriation bill.
Most of the points raised by Senator Tangney were effectively answered by Senator McMullin. Senator Tangney directed attention to the fact that in “Division 84 - Serum Laboratories” the proposed vote for temporary and casual employees exceeds that provided for salaries and allowances of the permanent staff. That is in accordance with normal practice. However, during 1953 it is intended to enlarge the permanent staff at the laboratories and to make corresponding reductions in the temporary staff. Senator Tangney and Senator Sandford asked why the provision for “Nutrition of children - Payments to States “, under “ Division 81 - Administrative “, exceeds the expenditure of last year by £8,831. The children’s nutrition scheme has been greatly extended in recent months. The provision has been made to enable the departments to reimburse the States for capital and incidental expenditure incurred by them as the result of the extension of the scheme for. the dis tribution of milk to school children the cost of which is borne by the National Welfare Fund.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 5
Business of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I protest against the unseemly manner in which the proceedings of this chamber have been conducted to-night. The Opposition has co-operated with the Government and has given it every possible assistance to dispose of its business. When we learned that it was necessary to vary the customary order of discussion of the proposed votes in order to enable a Minister to leave the country, we agreed to discuss them in the order that best suited the Government. To-night, after the Minister for Repatriation (Senator
Cooper) had made a bitter attack on Opposition senators because they had dared to criticize the Government’s health policy, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) im- ‘ mediately moved “ That the question be now put”. The high plane upon whichthe business of this chamber was conducted in the past has deteriorated since this Government has been in office. In’ my long association with the Senate I have never previously witnessed such a spectacle as I witnessed to-night. The Department of Health is a very important department, upon . which the Commonwealth proposes to expend this year no less than £1,230,000. As the Government’s health policy will interfere very largely with the policies’ of the State governments, surely honorable senators should not be prevented from discussing fully the ramifications of the department and the policy which it will implement. My colleagues from Queensland view very seriously the action of the Government in curtailing, the debate on the proposed vote of this important department.
– Order I The honorable senator may not discuss in the Senate matters which have been dealt with by the committee.
– I have no desire to discuss them in detail. The Senate is a house of review and is regarded as the States’ house. If that be so, ample opportunity should be given to honorable senators to discuss matters brought before them. The Senate’ has sat for only a very short period during this year.”* It would have sat for a much longer period had the Government met the wishes of the Opposition. The Senate was in recess for more than a month while the House of Representatives was in session. If both Houses had sat simultaneously, honorable senators would have been given the opportunity to deal fully with the business brought before them as they did in years gone by. I register a most emphatic protest against the Government’s action in preventing Queensland senators from voicing matters of importance to their constituents. Such a practice does not enhance the dignity of this chamber, nor does it facilitate the business of the’ chamber.
Thursday, 9 October 195S.
– I think that Senator Courtice must be the prince of humbugs. When the Government parties were in a minority in this chamber in 1949 the Labour Opposition used its numerical superiority ruthlessly in order to take the business out of the hands of the Govern- ‘ ment on many occasions. Therefore, it was arrant humbug for Senator Courtice to complain about the manner in which the business of the chamber has been conducted this evening. So frequently did Labour delay the business of the Senate in 1949 that the1 Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was impelled to obtain a double dissolution of the Parliament, which was the only way in which the Government could combat the ruthless tactics of Labour.
Senator CRITCHLEY f South Australia) [12.3 a.m.]. - I support the remarks of Senator Courtice. Despite Senator Henty’s outburst, it is apparent that matters have not gone as well as the present Government and honorable senators opposite would ‘ like them to go. It is not the fault of the Opposition that the’ Senate went’ into recess after sitting for only one day. The Minister for ‘ Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) stated this afternoon that when he was a member of an Opposition of three during- the regime of the former Labour Government,’ the gag on questions was applied on many occasions.. I remind the Senate that every facility was extended to the then anti-Labour Opposition to ask questions. I cannot remember an occasion when question time was curtailed.
– Senator Henty should have been the last member of “this- chamber to refer to - humbug. Honorable senators will remember an occasion recently when he supported an amendment of government legislation that was moved by the clown from Hobart, Senator “not” Wright. Subsequently, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) called those honorable senators out into the lobby and slated them, and they returned to the chamber - like cowed curs. Despite ‘ the fact that - they had previously spoken- strongly in favour of the proposed amendment, they climbed down and voted against it. I. register a most emphatic protest against recent goings-on in the Senate. After meeting for only one day, on the 6th August, we went into recess until the 10th September. Now “tubby” from South Australia wants to. rush the Estimates through ‘in indecent haste. Honorable senators were allowed only half an hour in which to discuss the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation, involving an expenditure of millions of pounds.
– - We were allowed an hour.
– I shall be liberal “and accept Senator Pearson’s version. However, an hour was an insufficient period in which honorable senators could give full consideration to such an important matter. Whenever members of the Opposition attempted to. refer to matters of public interest they were ruled out of order by the Chair.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– Yes, but we are in the Senate now, not in committee, otherwise: I should probably be sat down. I protest emphatically against the procedure, that has been adopted of allowing too little time for the consideration of the Estimates, and also against the tripe that has been uttered by Senator Henty..
Question resolved in the affirmative;
Senate adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521008_senate_20_219/>.