20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question in relation to funds which have been assembled as a result of the sale of Japanese assets under the terms of the peace treaty with Japan, and concerning which it has been indicated that there will be a distribution among persons who were prisoners of war in the Pacific area. I understand that that fund now amounts to approximately £700,000. I have been asked to ascertain from the Minister whether or not it is proposed to introduce a bill during the current sessional period to enable such a distribution to be made before Christinas.
– I have spoken to officials of the Department of the Treasury about this matter, and I have been informed that legislation will be introduced in the Parliament during this session to give effect to the proposal. It is estimated that, under the legislation, approximately £32 will be paid to each Australian who was a prisoner of war of the Japanese. The fund has resulted from the sale of Japanese assets in Australia. It is hoped that there will be an additional amount from the future sale of Japanese assets in neutral countries. I am sorry that I cannot say whether the distribution will be made before Christmas. I did not inquire on that point, but I have ascertained that legislation will be brought in to validate the arrangement.
– By way of explanation of a question which I address to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I point out that the Australian Government is at present converting the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway line between Telford and Brachina to a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge and that it will, subject to legislation now before the House of Representatives, construct a new line of 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge between Brachina and Port Augusta. Has the Government received any representations from the South Australian Government regarding the conversion of a further stretch of this line, which of course is part of the north-south line, between Telford and Marree, in order to enable the transport of cattle from the Northern Territory and southwest Queensland to the south to be carried out without a break of gauge at Telford? If such representations have been made, can the Minister state the attitude of the Government towards this proposal?
– Representations have been made to me by Sir George Jenkins, a member of the South Australian Government, by the Premier of
South Australia, and by pastoralists in the area concerned, urging that the linebe continued from the Leigh Creek coalfield to Marree. The matter is under consideration by the Government, but a decision has not yet been made. It will probably be eighteen months before the line will reach the coal-field, but I hope that, before long, a decision will be made on this important matter.
– On the 1st October, Senator Wood asked the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Adelaide and one ton of groceries from Adelaide to Alice Springs a.t the 30th June, in the years 1939, 1945 and 1952 -
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether the United States of America Atomic Energy Commission is participating in the development of Australian uranium resources ? If it is, has an agreement been made with the Government of the United States of America, and what are the terms of such agreement?
– I have not the details that have been requested by the honorable senator. However, even if I had them it would be most impolitic to broadcast to the world matters of such great delicacy.
– I desire to preface a question which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding the Senate that during the discussion on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation I drew attention to a statement in the report of the Auditor-General to the effect that three airline companies were indebted to the Australian Government to the amount of £1,254,847 in regard to air route charges. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Government intends to grant a substantial rebate of these charges to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Is it also the intention of the Government to credit Trans-Australia Airlines with a rebate of the amounts that that airline has paid to the Government or which may be due to the Government by Trans-Australia Airlines ?
– As honorable senators know, litigation has been proceeding in connexion with this matter.
If the honorable senator wants the latest details on the subject I suggest that he put his question on the notice-paper and I shall obtain them for him.
– I direct a series of questions to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the truce talks under the name of United Nations have been in progress in Korea for the past fourteen months ? Is it a fact that the North Korean representatives have compromised on at least 60 disputed issues in the course of cease lire negotiations? Is it a fact that the declaration of a truce in Korea is allegedly delayed because of the dispute over what has been termed “ voluntary repatriation of prisoners of war”? Is it a fact that many German and Italian prisoners of war who were held in Australia during the last war desired to remain in Australia after the cessation of hostilities, but were refused permission because international agreements compelled countries holding prisoners to repatriate them without delay? Is it a fact that Article 75, section 11, as agreed by the League of Nations 1931-32 states: “In any case the repatriation of prisoners shall be effected as soon as possible after the conclusion of peace “, and that Article 118, section 11, as agreed to at the Geneva Convention 1949, states: “ Prisoners of War shall be released and repatriated without delay after cessation of hostilities”? Is it a fact that the North Korean representatives have suggested that the Korean and the Chinese prisoners be brought to no man’s land in between the lines, and then given the option to go to which side they desire? In order that the war may be brought to an end, will the Minister have instructions issued to Australian representatives on the United Nations organization to draw the attention of the members of that body to the international agreements concerning the repatriation of prisoners of war and, in particular, the two articles quoted above?
– The honorable senator appears to be much better informed than I am with regard to this matter, particularly from a Communist slant. The questions that he has asked are pregnant with propaganda favorable to communism and, by implication, they condemn our own people and our Allies.
– I want to see the war end.
– I know of this matter only what I read in the press, and it appears to be a vital stumbling block in the way of the conclusion of a cease fire in Korea. The obstacle appears to be the insistence by the Communists on the forcible repatriation of more than 100,000 prisoners of war. They are to be handed over to the scant mercy of the Communists, and many have declared that they will forcibly resist. The United Nations has refused to hand them over. Honorable senators may remember that at the con- clusion of World War II., a number of Germans and others were handed over to the Communists for repatriation. So far as is known, those who survived are still in concentration camps and living in slavery. It would be horrible if such happenings were to occur in this case.
– Some men who have been enlisted for service in Korea have interviewed me and stated that whilst their conditions of pay and training are, by and large, quite satisfactory, they should be informed from an authentic army or government source of the worthy aims and objects of the United Nations cause in Korea. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army investigate the possibility of promulgating that information?
– I have no doubt that the Minister for the Army will be prepared to do so, and accordingly I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to his notice.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
SenatorFINLAY. - Can the Minister for Repatriation tell me what sustenance payments are made under the war service land settlement scheme to exservicemen whose blocks are not yet providing a living for them? I should also like to know how much an ex-serviceman may earn from his holding annually before his sustenance payment is affected.
– Both the sustenance payment and the permissible earnings have been increased under the current budget. I shall obtain the adjusted figures from my department and let the honorable senator have them early next week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– Some time ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question about the road between Bell Bay and Launceston. I pointed out that the aluminium production project at Bell Bay was a national defence undertaking and that the road, therefore, should be regarded as a defence road. I also pointed out that Commonwealth and State investment in the project was in the ratio of 3 to 1, and that the road was deteriorating rapidly because of the heavy equipment that was being transported over it to Bell Bay. I asked whether the Minister would consider giving aid to the State to repair and maintain the road. I should like to know whether I may expect an answer to the question before the end of the present sitting.
– I shall be glad to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and ask that an answer be furnished as quickly as possible.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Defence is aware, the Monte Bello Islands are now a most important element in the defence structure, not only of Australia, but also of the British Commonwealth. Because they will continue to be of the utmost importance in our defence planning, and as there is no proper road connecting the north-west region of Western Australia with Perth, will the Minister give urgent consideration to the construction of an adequate all-weather road to link Perth with the north-west?
– I shall bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, the substance of the question asked by the honorable senator.
– On the 30th September, Senator Benn asked whether it was known that liquor was being supplied to national service trainees at Wacol training camp, and whether starting-price operators were providing betting facilities there, and a further reply was promised. The Minister for the Army has now advised me that at the Wacol national service training establishment, as at all national service training camps in all commands, measures are in force to prevent, as far as is possible, the supply of liquor to national service trainees, and the operations of starting-price bookmakers and the like. While minor breaches of discipline are inevitable, the Minister for the Army advises that adequate measures are taken to minimize the occurrences, with the result that the situation at the Wacol camp is quite satisfactory, and that strict policing of both personnel and vehicles has been earried out since the inception of national service training in Wacol camp. In regard to gambling, no starting-price operator has been detected in the area, and the Chaplains’ Department, which naturally concerns itself with the moral welfare and tone of the camp, does not support the allegations regarding startingprice operators.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister, when announcing the policy of the Government on the lifting of credit restrictions, intimated that the banks would now be free to issue credit and to make advances to applicants, and 83 suggestions have been made by responsible financial authorities that access tocredit will not be so easy as wasanticipated and that money for thispurpose will not be made available for many months, is it the intention of theGovernment to make a statement to theSenate covering the whole position resulting from the changed policy of the Government in this connexion?
– Although I doubt the need for the Treasurer to make a statement on the changed circumstances,. I shall direct his attention to the honorable senator’s suggestion. The administrative action that has been taken originated in consultations between the Commonwealth Bank and officials of the Treasury. Legislative enactment is not necessary. All that has been done i3 that the banks have been told that credit restrictions have now been abolished. It is opento the banks to use the funds that are available to them in the way that they think best in the interests of the banking system, of their own position and of the economy of Australia as a whole. That is a simple explanation of the position, and I do not see that a ministerial statement is warranted. Such a statement might be necessary if restrictions remained on the directions in which credit could be issued.
– But hank credit will not be available for some months.
– I do not know where the honorable senator has obtained that information. I have seen reports of statements by some bank managers to the effect that funds are not as free as they should like them to be. I have seen nothing more than that. Of course substantial funds are available. The position was summed up by a newspaper columnist who asked, “ When were they readily available?”
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me whether the recent press reports to the effect that the Government has decided to release credit were official? If they were official, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate officially confirming the Government’s change of policy? Has the Government decided to release credit on the advice of the Commonwealth Bank Board? Has the Commonwealth Bank Board advised the Commonwealth Bank to release credit to the degree referred to in the press? If it has done so, have the Governor of the Bank and the Commonwealth Treasurer acted on the advice of the Commonwealth Bank Board? Will the Minister representing the Treasurer make a statement concerning the policy of the Commonwealth Bank in reference to the release of credit and the manner in which it will affect the general public?
– I do not quite follow the purpose of the question asked by the honorable senator, but I understand that, first, he wishes to know whether an official statement has been made in this connexion. I point out that a statement has been made by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank has made a certain decision, and that decision is concurred in by the Government, as is evidenced by the public statement of the Prime Minister. In my opinion, that fact clearly establishes that the statement is a bona fide one. From subsequent parts of the question, I gathered the impression that the honorable senator wishes to know whether the action taken by the Governor of the bank had the support and concurrence of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Apparently, the honorable senator draws a distinction between the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Governor of the bank, and the Commonwealth Government. I think I can put his mind at rest by saying that the action that has been taken had the concurrence of all three. My impression of the last part of his question is that the honorable senator believes that some rules or regulations will flow from the lifting of restrictions on bank credit. Of course, that is not so. Restrictions are being eliminated, not imposed. The action that has been taken i3 designed to remove controls on the use of credit.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy by stating that I understand that the Nor-West Whaling Company Limited is experiencing great difficulty in shipping oil and by-products, and that if a survey of Norwegian Bay could be carried out, this acute position would be overcome. In view of the fact that H.M.A.S. Warrego is now making a survey of Exmouth Gulf, which is only a few miles from Norwegian Bay, will the Minister issue instructions that a survey should also be made at Norwegian Bay before the return of H.M.A.S. Warrego to Sydney in November?
– I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for the Navy. The position is that the work required to be done at Exmouth Gulf is of top priority in the West. H.M.A.S. Warrego must be in Sydney in November. The point is, how rauch work can be accomplished between now and the time of its return to Sydney. First, it must complete its work at Exmouth Gulf. If, after doing that, it is able to go to Norwegian Bay, the Minister for the Navy has said that it may do so and that it will try to do so.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport indicate to the Senate whether it is the intention of the Government to sell intact or otherwise to disperse the equipment of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool?
– The future policy of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool is at present under consideration. Articles of equipment suitable for handling cargo on wharfs have been offered to the State instrumentalities which control sheds, wharfs and loading and unloading facilities. So far, no decision has been made in connexion with the matter. I shall advise the Senate of the future position when I am in a position to do so.
– When the equipment has been sold!
– If the equipment is sold to the responsible State authorities, I point out to Senator Ashley that they will be able to use it more efficiently than is the Commonwealth, having regard to the fact that those instrumentalities have complete power, control and jurisdiction over the work for which the equipment is used..
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was Australia’s annual net dollar deficit in the sterling area dollar pool for the years 1949-50, 1950-51 and 1951-52?
– The Treasurer has furnished the following information : -
In 1949-50, Australia’s net drawings from the sterling area dollar pool amounted to 2,000,000 dollars; in 1950-51, Australia made a net contribution to the pool: of 97,000,000 dollars.; in 1951-52,. Australia’s net drawings from the pool amounted to 131,000,000 dollars.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has provided the following reply to the honorable senator’s question-: -
The currency of the agreements in New South Wales and Tasmania is not fixed. In Queensland and Western Australia the currency of the agreements is for a period of 25 years from date of agreements, the State governments having the option of continuing the arrangements for a further period not exceeding an additional 20 years. The dates of the agreements were - Queensland 22nd June, 1920, Western Australia. 15th August’ 1931. The Queensland State Government exercised the option of renewal in 1945. (c) One half of the net profits on business in the respective States is paid to tie. relative State authority. Losses, if any, are borne similarly. (d) In New South Wales profit or loss is shared with the Rural Bank of New South Wales and, in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, the profit or loss is shared with the State governments. None of the agreements contains a provision governing the application of profits.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the number of savings accounts held by the Commonwealth Savings Bank on
– The Treasurer has made the following information available in reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senatorspooner), read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for the purpose of giving effect to the Government’s decision to vacate the land tax field as from the 1st July, 1952. Land tax has been imposed at a graduated rate upon an aggregation of land interests. Thus, the act provides for the assessment not only of individual owners, but also of joint owners as primary taxpayers, and the members of the joint ownership as secondary taxpayers, of trustees and beneficiaries as primary and secondary taxpayers respectively, and of companies as primary taxpayers and the shareholders as secondary taxpayers in respect of their interests in the company’s land. The admitted purpose of land tax, when it was introduced in 1910, was to break up large rural estates, by causing the rate and amount of tax to increase with each increase of £1 in the total unimproved value of lands or interests in land owned by a taxpayer. The tax is imposed, in the case of residents, upon land which has an unimproved value exceeding £8,750 and, in the case of absentees, on land with an unimproved value of £1 and more.
Whatever might have been the position in the past, it is undeniable that, at the present time, the tax is not achieving the object for which it was enacted. Due to the very substantial increases in the value of city holdings compared with country holdings, the greater portion of the tax - over 75 per cent. - is now collected in respect of city lands, where further subdivision in most cases is impossible, or at least undesirable. Furthermore, land tax is a tax upon a capital asset. As between producers using land and those using other types of assets, a most inequitable discrimination is set up. Other capital assets, such as plant and machinery, are not regarded as proper subjects for the imposition of a tax and, for this reason, the Government is unable to agree that land should be singled out for a special imposition.
When first levied, this tax was of substantial significance in the general financial structure of Government. Since the introduction of income tax and the general development of the national economy to its present level, however, this tax has become of minor importance and now contributes about 1 per cent. only of the national revenue. The Government proposes, in the next sessional period, to repeal the Land Tax Assessment Act and the act imposing the rates of tax. It will be necessary, at the time, to provide for the constitution of the general taxation administration which now has its statutory origin in the Land Tax Assessment Act. It has not been possible, in the time available, to prepare this somewhat detailed legislation and the present short bill is being introduced in this sessional period to give practical effect to the Government’s decision to abolish land tax. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) 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.
This is a bill for an act to amend the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1945- 1947. That legislation was enacted in 1946 following the repeal of regulations which, during the war, had given effect to the dilution agreements negotiated in 1940 by the then government with the major employers of the eastern State3 and the metal trades unions. These agreements enabled the employment and training in war industries and shipyards of large numbers of workers on work which was formerly the preserve of tradesmen. Without them the munitions programme could not have been accomplished. With the ending of the war, conferences were held with employers’ organizations and unions regarding the manner in which the promises that were implicit in the dilution arrangements should be fulfilled. At the same time there were discussions as to the means whereby ex-servicemen could enter the dilution trades if they had acquired trade skill while in the forces.
The objects of the Tradesmen’s Eights Regulation Act were to facilitate the entry of these ex-servicemen into the dilution trades and to continue, in effect, the principle of preference for tradesmen underlying the dilution agreements. The act continued the preference in employment to recognized tradesmen in accordance with the spirit of the dilution agreements to preserve their traditional position as against the dilutees. An employer was prohibited from engaging a person other than a recognized tradesman for a tradesman’s job if a recognized tradesman was available. An employer was also prohibited from dismissing, without the consent of a trades committee appointed under the act, a recognized tradesman if he had in his employ a person other than a recognized tradesman employed on tradesman’s work.
Prior to the expiration of the Tradesmen’s Eights Regulation Act on the 2nd September, 1952, the Minister for Labour and National Service met the organizations of employers and employees immediately concerned to discuss the future of the act, and subsequently departmental officers conferred with these organizations on the details. The metal trades employer organizations have made it clear that they will honour whatever obligations are left from the old dilution agreements, but they dislike what they regard as an interference with their management rights of engaging or retaining the employee they think best fitted for the work to be done. They nevertheless agree that the machinery set up under the act has worked well. It certainly has enabled a troublesome aspect of post-war re-adjustment to be handled smoothly and without industrial disturbance. While recognizing the need to provide for the ex-servicemen from Korea and Malaya, and to facilitate the easy absorption of tradesmen from overseas, they think that these problems can be handled by some means other than an extension of the act. I may say that this attitude is not shared by at least one section of the electrical trades employers.
The unions point to the value of the act in avoiding industrial disturbances. They say that the machinery that handled the ex-servicemen from World War II. should also handle the Korea and Malaya veterans, and that the machinery of the act, which has proved useful for considering the qualifications of immigrant tradesmen, should continue to do so. This merely summarizes the respective viewpoints, but I think it states them fairly. As to the Government’s point of view, we believe that the ;lot should be extended for three more years, with some modifications which should go far towards meeting the employers’ viewpoint.
I come now to the objects of the bill which are briefly as follows: - First, it gives tradesmen’s status to dilutees who have been employed in tradesmen’s work for seven years and are still so employed. In the electrical trades, an examination te3t may be required because special safety factors have to be taken into account. This is a most desirable provision. Second, it confirms the arrangements that have been operating under which the trades committees have been considering the qualifications of immigrant tradesmen. The committees have done, and under the act will continue to do, a most useful job in examining these qualifications, and in safeguarding Australian trades standards. Third, it makes provision for the entry to the trades of Korea and Malaya veterans and, fourth, it continues to give effect to the tenor of the dilution agreements. While there may be something in the contention of those who do not like the bill that it goes beyond the point necessary to preserve the strict letter of the rights given to tradesmen under the dilution agreements, I do not believe that such documents should be construed strictly as, for example, an act of Parliament must be construed. We have to look at all the surrounding circumstances. When the dilution agreements were being negotiated, we could not foresee what has in fact happened in the post-war period. Normal conditions in the metal trades did not return after the war ended. Many dilutees did not leave industry. They were wanted. Indeed, there is still a substantial demand for skilled metal and electrical trades workers.
We have, of course, taken account of the views of both sides on the importantmatter of continued preference for the tradesmen. Some concession has been made to the employers’ view while preserving the spirit of the dilution agreements. It is proposed to throw the onus of observing the preference provisions onto the employer. If the employer wants to protect himself he can go to the trades committee, whose decision will be an answer to any charge of having infringed the preference. Finally, the Government has indicated that the act should continue for only a further three years. The bill, therefore, provides for the final expiration of the act on the 2nd September, 1955. By that time, we feel, all promises implicit in the dilution agreements will have been discharged. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the Sth October (vide page 2666).
Proposed vote - Department of Commerce and Agriculture, £1,481,000 - agreed to.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed vote, £1,025,000.
– I wish to deal with the problem of transport between Tasmania and the mainland. I realize that I shall not be permitted to refer to air transport at this stage because we have already considered the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation but I shall have another opportunity to discuss that matter when certain legislation comes before the Senate. Tasmania depends very largely upon shipping services. Shipping has always been a vexed problem to us. When the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) came to office, Tasmanian shipping services were in a state of chaos and we appreciate very much the good work that he has done. He is a popular figure in Tasmania. He has not been able to do all that we should like him to do, but he has done a great deal, and he is still trying to improve the position. I am sure that if ever he were to transfer his place of residence to Tasmania he would be sure of a safe seat in the Senate.
As I have said, although shipping services to Tasmania have been improved considerably, they still leave something to be desired. In dealing with the Tasmanian services I am including the services to the islands of Bass Strait. The residents of King Island, for instance, are most eager to have a second port. The construction of a jetty at Narracoopa has been under consideration for some considerable time. I understand that it is a State matter. However, I should not like the Minister to lose the interest that he has always taken in the island shipping services. I am sure that he will do everything possible to assist in the establishment of a second port on King Island.
We had hoped that provision would be made for a vessel to replace Taroona while that ship is undergoing its annual overhaul. Taroona renders a valuable service to Tasmania by carrying passengers and perishable goods and this service is very much missed during the annual overhaul period. Every year this problem arises. The shipping company, which is paid a subsidy to maintain Taroona on the Tasmanian service, is roundly abused when the ship is withdrawn for overhaul. This overhaul period is always a miserable time for Tasmanian politicians. “We receive repeated deputations, letters, telegrams and telephone calls, asking whether we can do anything to have the service restored or a substitute vessel provided. We all raise the matter in turn in this Parliament because it is a live political issue. Unfortunately our representations seem to meet with little success and our only consolation is that every week that we spend on that work is a week less of misery ahead. We always hope that Taroona will be back on the run within a week or two, but usually the week or two extends into another month. If the Minister can do anything to ensure that a replacement vessel will be provided when Taroona is withdrawn next year, his efforts would be greatly appreciated by the people of Tasmania.
Road transport is a growing problem in Tasmania because of the relatively large area and small population of that State. The people of Tasmania would like an assurance that something will be done in the near future to provide relief. Roads to-day are much worse than they were prior to the war. That is due te the shortage of labour, particularly suitable labour. Some roads have deteriorated so much that the problem is no longer one of maintenance. Complete reconstruction is necessary. That is a matter for the Commonwealth and the States jointly. In many parts of Tasmania, road transport is the lifeblood of trade and commerce. Good road transport facilities are essential, particularly to primary industries. The removal of petrol rationing by this Government when it was first elected did much to improve road services, particularly in country districts, and this in turn has improved the efficiency of primary industries.
Our railway problems, too, are acute, and it is difficult to know how the position can be improved. Railways are primarily a State responsibility and every State is losing money on rail transport. Many millions of pounds are being poured into the railways systems, apparently with very little effect. Tasmanians always feel that they have a lot in common with Western Australians because of the transport problems caused by the isolation of those
States from the Seat of Government and from the large centres of population. I am glad that the Government has improved the service on the TransAustralian Railway. Whatever may happen to other lines, the Trans-Australian line must be efficient. While transportation by means of railways, air, and water is available to Western Australia, Tasmania has to rely on transportation by only air and water. I shall have something to say about air transport on another occasion, and it would be of no use for me to deal with water transport at length now, because the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has devoted considerable attention to that subject. However, I am perturbed about the increased cost of intra-State, interstate and overseas transport, which has added considerably to the cost of production in Tasmania. We must attack this problem seriously if we wish to retain markets for our goods. Several food-producing concerns on the north-west coast of Tasmania are wondering how they are going to carry on, in view of the rising cost of production, due in a large measure to the high cost of transport. The Tasmanian farmers grow large quantities of peas for canning. This year, in many instances, they were forced to reduce their sowing of peas, although they had prepared large areas for that purpose at considerable expense. During the war the cost-plus system operated, but we now have to get down to hard facts. This is a national problem, and it is beyond my ken to say how it shall be solved. Somebody must tackle the problem, and I hope that the present Government will do so.
As honorable senators are aware, I do ‘ not make mischief by arguing about the 40-hour week, but try to get the best out of it. I understand that the reduction of the working week from 44 hours to 40 hours has involved the railways of this country in an additional annual expenditure of about £8,000,000. This has caused me to wonder whether Australia was wise to introduce the shorter working week. I believe that had every one put his shoulder to the wheel we could have made a success of the five-day working week, but I doubt whether the majority of the people have done their best. The reduction of working hours had a bad psychological effect on the workers, because it gave them the impression that everything was all right and that they had nothing to worry about. Had we taken advantage of the golden opportunity that was presented to us, Australia would have become a most prosperous nation.
– During question time to-day I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) a question about the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. That organization performs very useful work. If it is to cease to function the work of the people who are responsible for the handling of cargo will be hindered. Of course I realize that public enterprise is anathema to the Minister, but before it is decided to dispense with this organization I hope that the Minister will consider fully the valuable work that it has performed both during the war and since. The Government cannot claim that it has incurred a loss, because the AuditorGeneral has reported that the organization has a credit balance of more than £500,000. This splendid organization has Avoided over-capitalization in many instances. It is very well managed, and I know from my own experience that, apart from services that it renders in connexion with work on the wharfs, and shipping, it frequently assists members of the community who are engaged in other fields of activity. As the Minister is fully aware of the difficulties that are Associated with shipping and transport, and particularly the handling of cargoes, I hope that he will consider seriously the retention of this valuable organization which performs various services expeditiously and efficiently. I hope that he will not be influenced by the desire of some members of the Government to sell out all government enterprises, irrespective of their value to the community. I believe that the activities of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool could be extended in order to obviate the over-capitalization of agricultural industries, and thereby reduce costs. I appeal to the Minister not to dispose of this valuable organization willy-nilly.
– I shall direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the administration of the Department of Shipping and Transport, particularly the Australian Transport Advisory Council which, I understand, was established by the Minister for Transport, Mr. Ward, in the previous Labour Government, after he had been relieved of another portfolio. I cannot see that this body is now performing any useful function. As the Government is eager to effect economies, I consider that the Australian Transport Advisory Council should be abolished. It consists of the State Ministers for Transport and the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who meet periodically in Canberra and elsewhere, at considerable expense. The State Ministers usually bring with them senior officers of the main roads and traffic supervision authorities.
Many motor vehicles with a left-hand drive are to be seen on the streets of Canberra. Such vehicles are not permitted to be driven on the roads of Western Australia, except in agricultural areas where there is very little motor traffic. I cannot see why they should be permitted here. The Australian Government appears to ride rough-shod over all other authorities, and is a law unto itself. In Western Australia a red flag must be displayed from the end of over-hanging loads. Only the other day in Canberra I saw a motor truck carrying a load of steel girders, which projected over the rear of the vehicle by about 4 feet or 5 feet. As a red flag was not displayed, the long loading was a menace to other traffic. The traffic laws in Western Australia in relation to the carrying of loads of excessive width provide that another vehicle must precede the vehicle that is carrying the load, to give warning to other traffic. Apparently in New South Wales and Victoria the only indication that is given to other traffic that a vehicle is carrying loading of excessive width is by an inadequate notice tacked on the vehicle.
There is an agitation in Victoria for permission to enable tail lights to be switched off from the dashboard. Such a device would be very convenient for the hit-run motorist. No uniformity has been brought about as the result of expenditure incurred by the council. It might very well be abolished. No less than £100,000 a year is provided for the purpose of bringing about uniformity in transport. In 1947-48, £36,000 was made available to the council, which has it3 head-quarter3 in Melbourne, and £64,000 wa3 divided between the States. In the next two years, the provision of £100,000 was evenly divided between the council and the States. In 1950-51, £39,000 was made available to the council, and £61,000 to the States. I am gravely concerned about the way in which the money is allocated. The council has evolved and publicized certain slogans and signs and has distributed literature to the States designed to minimize traffic dangers. One of its slogans, which provokes mirth whenever it is heard on the radio, is the warning, “ Death is so permanent ! “. When the slogan was first coined and announced at a meeting of the council, everybody laughed at it, just as everybody still laughs at it. Many of the road safety posters that are placed in trams and buses are not even looked at by passengers. Not the slightest notice is taken of them. If the amount of £100,000 were split up between the State road safety organizations, it would be possible for them to institute a larger number of road patrols. Traffic dangers would be much more effectively reduced by that means than by the broadcasting of road safety slogans. In Western Australia a very efficient national safety council has been established. It is a voluntary body, which consists of the former Lord Mayor of Perth, the Commissioner of Police and the secretary of the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. If additional money were made available to that body, and to similar bodies in the other States, additional road patrols, staffed by plainclothes officers, could be appointed to police traffic on arterial roads leading from country centres to the cities and the incidence of accidents could thereby be considerably reduced.
The statistics relating to road accidents, furnished by the Minister in answer to a question, are most enlightening. In 1947-48, there were 41,400 road accidents in which 1,346 persons were killed and 24,000 injured. The last report, which covers the year 1950-51, showed that the number of road accidents had increased to 57,000, in which 1,926 persons were killed and 35,000 injured. I am aware that the number of vehicles on the road is increasing as each year goes by; but these figures are appalling. Money expended on road safety slogans and propaganda is not having the desired effect. I appeal to the Minister to abolish the council and to make available to the State organizations the whole of the funds provided for road safety purposes. If that were done very much better control could be exercised over reckless and drunken driving.
I was disgusted to read in the press this morning that the Department of the Interior is calling for tenders for the utilization of advertising space in bus shelters in Canberra. For goodness sake do not plaster this beautiful city with advertisements urging people to drink somebody else’s bathwater or to eat this food or that. Advertisements would disfigure the bus shelters. I trust that the Minister will discuss this matter with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) with a view to having this proposal scrapped. Unless appropriate action is taken, before long, the Canberra buses will be plastered with advertisements. I trust that consideration will be given to my representations in this matter and that everything possible will be done to reduce the toll of life on our roads.
– Consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport provides me with an opportunity to direct attention to the shipping service to Tasmania which is provided at present by Taroona. Some years ago two passenger steamers were used on the Tasmania run; now only one is used. Each year Taroona has to be laid up for two months for repair and overhaul, during which period Tasmania is completely without a shipping service, and this fact causes great inconvenience and loss to business people, farmers and the residents of that State. In these circumstances, can the Minister justify the payment of a subsidy to the owners of the vessel? Is it not possible for another shipping company to be induced to compete with them for this trade? In 1949-50 the owners of Taroona received £7,000 for the carriage of mails. This year, £16,000 will be paid to the company for that purpose. In addition, it will receive £99,000 by way of subsidy. Thus, on the basis of 42 trips during the year, the company will receive more than £2,000 for each trip made by the vessel. If payment of that kind was made in respect of a government-owned vessel, what a squeal would come from honorable senators opposite and their supporters! Why does not the Government invite competition for this service, and say, “ If another shipping company is prepared to operate the service for a subsidy of £50,000 or £80,000 a year, it is welcome to do so”? It would be interesting to ascertain the cost of operating Taroona in the Tasmanian service, and how much the company collects in fares, freights and other charges. During the tourist season, which is not a short one, the vessel invariably carries a full complement of passengers, and the fares charged are very high. The Government should make a close scrutiny of this expenditure in order to ascertain whether continuance of payment of the subsidy is justified. It would be interesting to know whether other ships on the Australian coastal trade are similarly subsidized. If they are, surely there is a good case for the continuance of the Commonwealth shipping line.
– The Government does not own any passenger ships.
– The Government shipyards are equipped to construct small passenger ships which could take the place of Taroona on the Tasmanian run while that vessel is laid up for overhaul. If small ships were used for that purpose the Minister would be able to get firsthand evidence as to whether the continuance of the subsidy to the owners of Taroona is justified.
– Would the honorable senator like to take over the service as a business proposition?
– Time after time the Minister tells us that the Common wealth ships must be disposed of because they cannot be operated at a profit. It is said that private enterprise is better able to run a business undertaking than is the Government. Those who make that statement never add, however, that private undertakings often receive handouts under the lap. Analysing the losses which have been incurred by the Commonwealth line of ships since they have been operating under charter, it is found that they are not as great as those incurred by the owners of Taroona. I should like the Minister to consider what will happen if Taroona is obliged to go off the run. It is the responsibility of this Government to maintain an adequate shipping service and communications between Tasmania and the mainland. Indeed, this Government has promised to do so. If something happened to Taroona to-morrow, would the Minister scour Europe for a ship to replace it, as he did three years ago? I suggest that he consider the construction of a ship suitable for the Tasmanian service. The question of a possible replacement -p” Taroona should not be left until the position is reached when there is no service, as was the case last year when Taroona was laid up. In conclusion, can the Minister say whether the proposed subsidy of £115,000 is justified, in view of his statement that private shipping companies are better able to run a shipping service than is a government-controlled organization ?
– I have listened with interest to this debate, particularly to the remarks made by Senator Chamberlain, in reference to costs. The honorable senator obviously based his information on the reply which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) made to a question in the Senate this morning. I have analysed that answer, and in my opinion it does not state the true position. First, the Minister stated that 414 working days are lost each year because of holidays, and that the effective working week is thus reduced to only 33.615 hours. The Minister stated that employees of the Commonwealth railways are entitled to annual leave at the rate of fifteen days per annum. In addition, they receive ten public holidays, ten days sick leave, and six and a half days a year long-service leave. Those entitlements total 41½ days a year. I point out, however, that most railway services in Australia do not give their employees pay for ten days’ sick leave a year. Sick leave is cumulative in most instances. In addition, the six and a half days’ long-service leave to which the Minister referred cannot be taken annually. It can only be taken after twenty years’ service.
– But it is necessary to make provision for it.
– The Minister said that 4l½ working days per annum are lost, which is not correct. He based his answer on the assumption that those days are actually lost. He also stated that the salaried staff of the Commonwealth railways work36¾ hours a week, obviously with the intention of giving the impression that those hours had been introduced only recently. I point out that they have been in operation for many years. The whole reply was based upon false premises.
Senator Chamberlain stated that the introduction of the 40-hour week cost Australian railways systems £8,650,000 in 1951. I do not think that that is correct. The Minister has stated that 2,529 employees of the Commonwealth railways work a 40-hour week. If they were to work a 44-hour week, it would mean that only 250 fewer employees would be required. It is always the employees that are attacked in these matters. The employers are never taken to task.
As honorable senators are no doubt aware, Australian railways carry a very heavy interest burden. Indeed, the interest bill is more than £30,000,000 a year, most of which goes overseas. The Tasmanian Railways Department borrowed approximately £7,500,000 to build its railways and has since paid £10,000,000 for interest. It still owes the original £7,500,000.
– Why do they not pay off the capital sum?
– I do not know, but the same thing is happening all over Australia. The interest bill goes on and on.
Gibes at government-operated transport undertakings are frequent. As Senator Aylett has pointed out, it is proposed to subsidize Taroona by the provision of £84,000 this financial year, whereas £101,000 was provided last year. Thus, the Government comes to the rescue of private transport undertakings. I noticed in this morning’s newspapers that the Government intends to advance to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited £4,000,000 to enable the company to buy up-to-date aircraft. Again the Government comes to the rescue. Of course, such assistance is not reflected in the balance-sheets of the undertakings concerned. When the balance-sheets are presented, it is usual for supporters of the Government to say that private enterprise works very efficiently. It does nothing of the sort. Private enterprise, in the field of transport, does not operate as safely as government run undertakings, because private transport organizations are out to make profits.
I wish now to refer to the Commonwealth line of ships, which I admit have lost a considerable amount of money. Honorable senators, however, should appreciate that those ships have not been operated efficiently because their operations have been controlled by the Australian Shipping Board. As an instance, I point out that Dalby recently travelled from Adelaide to Brisbane with 250 motor bodies on board. On arrival at Brisbane, it was obliged to wait for five days before the cargo was unloaded because ships operated by private concerns received preferential treatment in the allocation of labour. When the motor bodies were unloaded, Dalby returned direct to Newcastle - empty. Governmentoperated ships come to Strahan, in Tasmania, in ballast and take away pyrites at the cheapest rate charged for cargo. Government-operated ships are showing a loss because they are placed on runs, particularly in the instance to which I have just referred, where their earning capacity is not as high as it would be on other runs. I could give many instances to illustrate my point. For instance, ships have been plying round the coast empty. In other instances, when they have reached their destinations they have been delayed because privately-operated ships have received preferential treatment in the allocation of labour. Had I known that this matter would be raised I should have brought along tabulations giving examples of inefficient running of government ships. In my opinion, the reason for such inefficient management is that the people who control the Australian Shipping Board are mainly representatives of private enterprise and are working towards the day when government-owned ships can be bought at a reduced price because they have been losing money. I think that this is a deliberate campaign.
It is unfortunately true that transport in Tasmania is not as efficient as it should be, the reason being that Tasmania is a small State and that the railways were built in the early days. The grades are very steep and the curves very sharp. Consequently, Tasmanian locomotives cannot haul loads as great as those which could be hauled if the curves were straightened out and the grades reduced. The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour party at one time had a scheme which involved the granting of £4,000,000 for the purpose of renovating the Tasmanian railways, but no opportunity was found to implement the scheme. Until the railways are rehabilitated, running costs will continue to be high. It is also found that competition between road transport and rail transport is exceptionally keen. Most vehicles which use the roads carry passengers, which is the most profitable loading, because it costs nothing to load and unload passengers. The freights charged by road transport concerns are higher than those charged by the railways. The best paying cargo is selected by road transport concerns, which are thus able to make profits. It is entirely wrong that government-owned undertakings should be subjected to so much adverse criticism. In some instances, particularly in Tasmania, the railways haul coal at less than the cost of axle grease ; they transport wood pulp for the paper-mills and thus subsidize private enterprise; they carry cement below cost. Although, on paper, the Tasmanian railways are losing money, actually they are not doing so because they are providing a service to the State. They are co-ordinating primary and secondary industries.We could not carry on without the railways, because motor transport could not handle the cargoes which must be transported. Incidentally, if road transport assumed the task of the railways, six times as many employees would be required. Honorable senators can see how costs would increase if road transport only were available. The truth is that road transport undertakings pick the eyes out of the cargoes, and for that reason are able to show profits.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Tasmanian people should be condemned to travel only by passenger train?
– I do not believe that they should be condemned to do anything. I merely point out that private enterprise picks the eyes out of the transport business and that government undertakings are obliged to take what is left. As honorable senators may be aware, the Tasmanian railways carry, very cheaply, the calcines and other goods which the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited requires. In effect, the people are therefore subsidizing that company.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– In examining the budget, I find that provision has been made in quite a number of places for the subsidizing of private enterprise by either direct or indirect means. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is one organization through which the Government subsidizes private enterprise. This is a wonderful organization, which plays a great part in assisting production. The sum of £4,000,000 has been set aside for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and, through that organization, that money will be spent mainly in the interests of private enterprise. Indirectly, the expenditure will benefit the country, but private enterprise will receive the more direct benefit. Honorable senators have complained about the losses that have been incurred on government hostels in Canberra. Why have they been incurred? The reason is that if the residents at those hostels had paid the full amount necessary to meet the cost of their food and accommodation they would have been entitled to higher wages and private enterprise would have had to pay them a great deal more than it has paid them. In carrying the loss on these hostels, the Government has indirectly subsidized private enterprise. The Government has also subsidized the shipping companies. Assistance has been given to the owners of Taroona and the owners of Aorangi, which plies between Vancouver and Australia. The dairy industry has been subsidized. I do not oppose that subsidization but I emphasize that it is a fallacy to state that private enterprise can operate more efficiently and earn greater profits than government enterprises.
Some private enterprises have been able to make huge profits only because they have been subsidized by the Government. Provision has been made in the budget for a dairy efficiency grant of £250,000 and an air beef subsidy of £12,000. Again, the Government has had to grant flood relief and fire relief. It was right in doing so, but the fact is that the Government has to come to the rescue of nearly every private industry. In Tasmania, big companies receive electricity at about a sixth of its cost to private individuals and the freight rates that they pay on the railways are much lower than those paid by private persons. There, again, the Government has subsidized private enterprise. It is a fact, as has been stated, that private railways can operate at a profit. That is because they are allowed to charge rates which are high enough to show a profit. The government railways keep freight rates down as far as possible as a form of subsidy to primary and secondary industry.
– I presume that the honorable senator is not speaking of the New South Wales Government Railways ?
– I am referring to all government railways. Railway freight rates may have increased in New South Wales, but a private railway company would have raised them a lot higher. People who criticize government enterprises appear to imagine that they can do somebody else’s job better than their own. They stand, and look, and criticize. They only see one side of the matter. The men who control government enterprises become experts in their jobs. Otherwise they would not be paid the high salaries that they receive. The people who criticize them would not know where to start if they were given the opportunity to do their jobs.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In referring to the Estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport, I should like to congratulate the Minister on having improved the operations of national shipping in this country so that, although it has suffered a heavy loss each year, it has now, for the first time, shown a profit. It does not necessarily follow, of course, that if this shipping line remained a national undertaking a future socialist administration would not again allow it to lose money. I am very keen on having these ships handed back to private enterprise. I have little bias in this matter. I probably have a good deal more knowledge of shipowners than anybody in this chamber and I have no love for them as employers but, as men who have done a grand job, I have a great admiration for them. They have run their ships to such good effect that they have played an important part in building up the British Empire.
Certain statements made by Senator Morrow and Senator Aylett were far from truth. Senator Aylett suggested that the Government should build a small passenger ship to take the place of Taroona when it was laid up. Has he any idea what it would cost to build a small passenger ship? It would cost about £200 a ton. A ship of only 2,500 tons would cost about £500,000. Senator Morrow mentioned that the operations of Aorangi were being subsidized. I spent four years on Aorangi 25 years ago when it was a new ship. It then had a turnover of about £82,000 a trip and made seven trips a year. It is being subsidized now, not because it is operated inefficiently, but because it usually returns from Vancouver without cargo, due to the dollar shortage.
– That cannot be said of government ships.
– The fact is that the majority of government ships are unsuitable for the purpose for which they are used. All the “ River “ class steamers and most of the “ B “ class ships are far too big. The only ships that can be operated profitably on the Australian coast are ships of about 3,500 tons. Ships of 7,000 tons can be used to advantage only by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or one or two other companies which require to ship heavy, homogeneous cargoes. That is one of ths reasons why Government owned ships, until recently, were. failing to make a profit. If government ships were sold to private companies they would still be available for defence purposes in time of war. In Great Britain 99 per cent, of ships were privately owned before the last war but they were taken over by the Ministry for Transport just as the Australian Government took over ships from Australian shipping companies during the war. I invite Senator Morrow and Senator Aylett to examine the records of the Tasmanian government ships during the early 1920’s. Those ships went from bad to worse until eventually Melbourne and two other ships were sold at about 25 per cent, of their original cost.
The difficulties which the Minister has encountered in regard to shipping generally are not so much due to the failure of private shipowners to do the best they can as to the slow turn-round of ships. Last year, as honorable senators know, I went to the islands in command of a small ship. According to my loading sheets the company paid for 162 hours of work but it only obtained 56 hours of actual work from the men. The remainder of the time was taken up in smokos, travelling to and from work, putting hatches on and taking them off and rigging gear - all work that used to be done by the ships’ companies but which has now to be done by the waterside workers under their award. Until that position is remedied there will be a slow turn-round of ships in Australian ports. Senator Morrow said that the Government had to come to the rescue of private enterprise. He growled about the profits that were made by private companies.
What is wrong with profit? Surely we are all here to make a profit. Our salaries are in the nature of a profit. If a man invests his money in an enterprise that will provide a service for the people, what is he to live on if he cannot make a profit? The honorable senator said that in: Tasmania power was supplied to various companies at a sixth of its cost to private individuals. It is only about 23 years since the Tasmanian Government made free electric power available in order to attract private industry to Tasmania. Two of the firms that were attracted to Tasmania by the Government’s offer were Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited and the makers of Laconia blankets, who established factories in Launceston.
It has been said that the Government had to rescue Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is not correct. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other private airlines pioneered air services in this country. They have almost been driven out of business by a government line, which has been run in complete disregard of any type of fairness. The money for the flotation of Trans-Australia Airlines was provided interest free and that airline has been given every opportunity to run Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other private airlines out of business. After the war certain young men started private airlines in New Guinea, where there was no government airline. What happened? The administration tried to pass ordinances preventing privately owned airlines from carrying government passengers or mail. Fortunately, it was prevented from doing that. It has been said several times in the course of this debate that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is receiving a subsidy in the form of payment for carrying mails and that private shipping has been subsidized in the same way. Do Opposition senators expect private companies to carry mails for nothing? They make a charge for the service just as any other instrumentality does. The Government is not giving them a subsidy. If honorable senators study the records for the past two years they will discover that the Minister budgeted for an increase of the mail
Subsidy large enough, to meet the losses of Trans-Australia Airlines. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have suggested that the Government is disposing of the people’s assets. In the next breath they ask why the Government is not keeping its promises to the electors. We promised that we would dispose of those undertakings but when we do so, the Opposition complains that we are disposing of the people’s assets.
With regard to road transport, there must be something wrong with my reasoning because I agree with Senator Morrow on that matter. I believe that we shall have to look at the problem as a government. I direct the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to some recent experiences in the United States of America. After the war the authorities there began to build the greatest highway in the world out of Chicago. As a foundation for that road, they put down 9 inches of concrete. On that foundation they built a macadamized road and they put a sealed road on top of that. Three years ago that road was cracking up under heavy transport. If the United States authorities with all their facilities cannot build a road strong enough to hold heavy transport we cannot do it in Australia with our limited resources and finances. I believe that the railway system is the principal answer to the problem. A train carrying 600 tons of goods can travel along a permanent way without damaging it. I agree with Senator Morrow that we are acting foolishly with regard to road transport. Some sections of the community are critical of the high taxation that is placed upon road transport haulage, but I agree with it although on that point I may be out of step with the Government.
With regard to the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, I agree with Senator Courtice up to a point. It has been a worth while undertaking and I am pleased to see that its equipment is to be dispersed only because that equipment is being handed over not to private enterprise but to various port and harbour authorities. They can put it to better use than a Centralized authority can do. As a result of its dispersal among numerous local port authorities, the equipment will be doing better work than it is performing now and at less cost to the community. There will be no Canberra administrative expenses.
– The honorable senator will be handing the Navy over to private enterprise next.
– That is a different story. There is no possibility of making a profit from the Navy.
– Before the Minister replies to honorable senators, I wish to make a correction of the figures that I cited with regard to the number of trips that Taroona makes between Tasmania and the mainland. The ship makes 84 trips a year, not 42. The subsidy that is paid is £115,000. That is equal to £1,380 for each return trip or £690 for each crossing of Bass Strait. On a trip of 250 miles, the subsidy is equal to £2 15s. a mile. Senator Kendall was wrong when he stated that Taroona was on the Tasmanian run for eleven and a half months of the year. The ship is off the run every year for two to three months for repairs and overhaul. That is in addition to any other stoppages that may occur. If necessary, a ship should be built for that service. If Taroona went out of commission, would the Government leave Tasmania without a passenger ship? Is Tasmania to be left without that service if anything should happen to Taroona? Obviously some other use could be found for a ship if it were not required on the Tasmanian service at any time. During the tourist season, many prospective passengers cannot get across Bass Strait by sea because the shipping is inadequate. The airline companies arrange special trips to lift the tourists. Another vessel could be kept fully occupied for at least six months of the year on the Tasmanian run and in the slack period, many companies would be prepared to use the ship on tourist trips around the Australian coast. It is stupid to suggest that the ship would be idle. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) knows perfectly well that a ship that was built for the Tasmanian service could be used profitably. It is immaterial to me whether the service is conducted by the Government or by a company so long as a ship is provided and Tasmania gets an adequate service. Honorable senators on the Government side have referred to the mail subsidy that has been paid to TransAustralia Airlines. They have failed to mention the subsidies that were paid to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for years before Trans-Australia Airlines began to operate. Those mail subsidies helped to establish Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and keep its aircraft flying.
– Honorable senators have raised many interesting points to which I should like to reply, but I remind the committee that the passage of several bills should be completed to-day. A number of officers have been in Canberra for several weeks. Some of them are returning to Melbourne and Sydney, and I do not want to bring them back next week.
– Honorable senators on the Opposition side are not alone in debating the Estimates.
– The trend of the debate has been towards socialization versus private enterprise. If honorable senators wish to enter into such a controversy, they should hire a stadium and fight it out there and not take up the time of the committee. Senator Chamberlain spoke on the need for a new jetty at Narracoopa, King Island. I have visited the Island and obviously the construction of another jetty is desirable so tha t the people residing there can be provided with the service to which they are entitled. I have taken the matter up with the Premier of Tasmania and he is eager to have the work done, but his funds are limited. Until another jetty is built at Narracoopa, it will not be possible to give King Island the shipping service that it should have. Senator Chamberlain also referred to Taroona and the subject was touched upon later by Senator Aylett. I assure honorable senators from Tasmania that the Government has done all that it can do to find a substitute passenger ship while Taroona has been undergoing overhaul.
Last year a ship was reserved for the purpose but it was held up in docking by a strike in Sydney. The Government will do all that it can to provide a substitute ship and maintain a regular shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania. Figures indicate that the traffic is not sufficient for two ships. The subsidy for the coming year will total about £140,000. If £40,000 is deducted for mail freight, the subsidy is reduced to £100,000. That subsidy has been carefully examined by the Treasury and the figures are also subject to audit by the Auditor-General’s Department. The Government has practically to persuade the owners to keep the ship in the service because the run is not profitable. It provides a problem for any government. A similar problem has arisen with regard to Aorangi. With the development of air services it is difficult to keep passenger services operating on some sea routes. Some services, notably those to Cairns and Perth, are operated at a profit, but no honorable senator would suggest that any government should ask a private company to run a service at a loss. I have given much thought to the Tasmanian service and I shall continue to ensure that Tasmania will have at least one service all the year round.
The matter of costs has been raised by some honorable senators. That problem is worrying the Government and many transport organizations. The shorter working week and high wages have put costs so high that all forms of transport are in trouble financially. I have no desire to enter into a controversy with regard to various forms of transport. The amount that is being contributed to the States for roads is double the sum that was provided when the Government was returned to office, but costs have risen so much that we are not getting as much for the money as we did two or three years ago. That problem should worry every thoughtful person in this community.
Senator Courtice mentioned the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. I shall endeavour in a few words to state the position as clearly as I can. The Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool was a war-time establishment. In time of war, of course, the Commonwealth has certain wide powers. In fact, it can do almost anything. That is not so in time of peace, however, and we are at peace now. If the honorable senator examines the position he will find that power to carry out this work rests with the various harbour trusts and port authorities which are State instrumentalities. Those authorities are charged with the responsibility of supervising wharf accommodation, harbour facilities, handling equipment and so on. The port of Melbourne is the best-equipped port in this country, and can hold its own with any overseas port. Practically all the mechanical equipment at the Port of Melbourne is owned by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. It is not a question whether I am satisfied or dissatisfied with the manner in which the war-time organization has operated. I am eager to pass control of the equipment back to the authorities to which it rightly belongs. The Commonwealth has no legal authority at all in the matter. In the course of my visits to various ports, I have found that the State authorities are handling the problem much more efficiently than it can be handled from Canberra. The equipment is most useful, and I can assure Senator Courtice that whatever is required for the waterfront will not leave the waterfront. I hope that the harbour authorities will take it over and hire it out, and that the people now employed by the Commonwealth will be employed by the harbour authorities. In Queensland, where there is no authority comparable with a harbour trust, we are consulting with representatives of the stevedoring industry, who are on the spot all the time and can do this work. Half of the mechanical equipment is used on waterfront work only, and we shall not allow it to be sold or used anywhere else. It will remain on the waterfront whatever happens. The future of equipment that is hired to various organizations will be considered when this first problem is settled. But let it be clearly understood that the mechanical equipment will remain on the waterfront in the various localities where it is to-day.
Senator Seward referred to the Australian Transport Advisory Council. When I was appointed to the Ministry of Shipping and Transport, I thought that the Commonwealth had been interfering too much in this work. As honorable senators are aware, transport is primarily the function of the States. However, Canberra is developing, and the Minister for the Interior comes into the picture as the transport authority in the Australian Capital Territory. The administrative staff on this work has been reduced to three. The Commonwealth merely acts as the co-ordinating authority. The £39,000 that is to be voted for road safety work will be expended on advertising at the direction of the six State authorities. It is national advertising, but the money is expended in a manner ‘ approved by the State authorities. It is true that the Commonwealth actually expends the money, but it does so on behalf of the States. I should not worry very much if the vote were split up amongst *he States, but I can assure honorable senators that the Commonwealth does not incur expenditure without the authority of the States. The Commonwealth’s administrative costs are low because, as I have explained, the Commonwealth is merely a co-ordinating and advisory authority. There are four standing committees consisting of representatives of the States, the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory. Those experts meet regularly and endeavour to iron out problems associated with uniform traffic laws, road safety, motor vehicles standards, and so on. During the years that I have been associated with this work, I have satisfied myself that the committees are doing useful work. The more uniformity we can introduce into road safety regulations, traffic laws, and specifications for roads and bridges, the better it will be for road transport generally throughout the Commonwealth and I believe that the Australian Transport Advisory Council is doing useful work in that direction. I agree that it is expensive to get the representatives of the States together, but I have arranged that meetings shall be limited to one each year. I consider that legislation that has been passed by the States to give effect to the recommendations of the council in relation to road safety and uniform traffic laws has fully justified the expense that the council has incurred. I hope that the committee will not delay the passage of the Estimates by further discussing this matter. Any points that have been missed may be raised when the Works Estimates come before us. The Government is most eager to secure the passage of the two appropriation bills in order that the Senate may proceed with the substantial legislative programme that is before it. I thank honorable senators for the cooperation that they have shown so far. I hope that it will continue.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has dealt with the matter that I intended to raise. I believe that the Australian Transport Advisory Council renders a useful service, but I consider that its activities could be extended to the wider field of interstate transport. The port of Esperance in Western Australia is unfortunately situated in regard to transport. It has a valuable hinterland in which extensive primary production is carried on. The area, which includes the important mining towns of Norseman, Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, is practically a state in itself, but those centres are 600 miles from Perth. This means a 600 miles haul overland by rail or road. The town of Norseman has become the terminal point for overland haulage from the eastern States. Much of the land in this district has been taken up. It is capable of high production, and is only awaiting development, but it will not be developed if the Government insists that transport services, both sea and land, must be left to private enterprise. Many settlers who have taken up land in the area surrounding Esperance have found to their cost that their task is made extremely difficult by the lack of a regular shipping service. The matter has been investigated by a minister of the Western Australian Government, and he has made the best promises that we have ever had ; but so far we have only had promises. I am grateful that, after the strike of engineers, a ship did call at Esperance, because the people there were in desperate straits. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to establish a regular shipping service. This cannot be done without losses, and I appeal to the Government to take a national view of this problem. If our outback areas are to be developed certain losses must be incurred, and private enterprise is certainly not prepared to incur them. There is an obligation on the Australian nation to accept this responsibility, either by providing Government services or by subsidizing private services. Mr. B. Boylen, M.L.C., the Honorable Emil Nulsen and I requested the appropriate authorities in the Esperance district to look into the problem of back loading. There are no shipping delays at the port of Esperance. The cargo handling facilities are not very good, but the turnround of ships is accomplished very quickly. There is no congestion on the wharfs as there is only one ship to work at a time, and all efforts can be concentrated on it. The lumpers get on with the job and the ship is cleared rapidly, but it is very difficult to secure cargo for back-loading. That is mainly because of the irregularity of the service. Nobody knows when a vessel will call. A ship is loaded in the eastern States, but no one knows whether it will call at Esperance. Without rostered services there is no certainty that a ship will call at Esperance this week, next week, or next month. As a result of this uncertainty proper arrangements for back loading cannot be satisfactorily made. The Government should be prepared to assist Western Australia to develop this area. In addition to primary production, the mining of gold and pyrites is carried on in the hinterland. The traffic from the gold-fields is considerable and much money could be saved by the provision of a regular shipping service. Agriculture could be expanded as a means of bolstering our export trade; but the. land must be developed and somebody must stand the losses. I appeal to the Government to examine this matter thoroughly with the object of providing a regular shipping service to Esperance so that the vast potentialities of this region may be fully exploited.
– I am wondering whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) can tell the committee something about what is being done in connexion with the standardization of railway gauges.
– I remind the honorable senator that a separate appropriation for railways will come before the committee at a later stage and will provide a full opportunity to discuss this matter.
– I was not at all impressed by the Minister’s statements about losses because most losses are really gains. For instance, the capital cost of the Victorian railways has been recovered to tire extent of 150 per cent. Therefore, there has been no real loss in that undertaking; Similarly the railway systems of New South Wales and the other- States have shown handsome return on their capital cost, although on paper they are losing money. Railways throughout the Commonwealth to-day would not be in such a backward state if the profit from them were used to improve and extend services instead of being paid into the pockets of bondholders. That is where the trouble lies. The Minister spoke of costs. I invite him to look at the problem in the light of the fact that costs to-day are inflated by interest charges to a far greater degree than they were before the two world wars. Obviously it is not possible to pay increasing interest charges and at the same time to run railways and other undertakings more cheaply. We cannot have it both ways. The talk of prohibitive costs is so much fiction. Unfortunately it is believed by many people, including quite a number of honorable senators opposite. Reference has been made to shipping services and to the payment of subsidies to shipping companies. Those subsidies, of course, include dividend’s for company shareholders. In a government-owned shipping service there are no dividends to shareholders. The object of public utilities is to provide the best possible service consistent with the best possible working conditions. Dividends to shareholders are not necessary.
Reference ha3 been made to the activities of Australian. National Airways Proprietary Limited. It is true that,, before Trans-Australia Airlines was established and entered into competition with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the company was making enormous profits and paying very high dividends to its shareholders. At that time much of its air fleet was practically obsolete. After the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, the company bought new D.C.4 and Skymaster aircraft, only because it was compelled to do so to enable it to compete with the government airline. Now, we are told, the company is to receive from the Government £4,000,000 to assist it to buy additional modern aircraft, which will enable it to pay still greater dividends to its shareholders. If a ship is being operated at a loss, obviously there must be something wrong with its management. From the Government’s viewpoint, it would probably be a good thing if ships were run at ai loss, provided the taxpayers received the benefit in the form of minimum charges.
– What nonsense ! The honorable senator has just said that a loss is a profit.
– An industry can make profits only by overcharging, and by underpaying its employees. I am not at all impressed by the argument that ships, which are engaged in pioneering work, are run at a loss. For the time being their operations may show a paper loss, but ultimately, from, the viewpoint of the development of the country, the initial paper loss is recouped over and over again-. Thus, most of these alleged losses are, in reality, gains. Losses occur in a country only when great damage is done to it or to its assets. For instance, losses occur when warships are blown up. Such losses- are real losses, but there can be no real loss in the operation of railways, ships or aircraft. Complaints may be made by shareholders interested in undertakings of that kind that they do not receive a sufficient return for their capital investments, but there are no real losses. I am astonished that Senator Kendall, who has had experience at sea, as I have had, should attempt to justify profit making to the degree that he has done to-day. I remind him that private enterprise could not exist for a day without the collective support of the community. I hope that in future discussions of this kind honorable senators opposite will not continually harp upon losses and the effect of the reduction of working hours. But for the introduction of the 40-hour week, unemployment in Australia would be very much greater than it is to-day. As power production increases so also does the productivity of the workers. If the 40-hour week had not been adopted, the average wage paid to workers would be very much lower than it is to-day. The unemployment problem can be overcome only by still further reducing working hours and by adopting other expedients for the purpose of maintaining a balanced, working economy, such as providing for the carrying out of badly needed public works.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Territories.
Proposed vote, £194,000.
.- Provision of £3,000 has been made in the vote for this department for “Visits to Australian Territories by members of Parliament”. I was fortunate to have been selected as one of those who enjoyed the hospitality of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on a recent tour of the Northern Territory. I want to convey to honorable senators some impressions that arose out of my visit. The administrative set up in the Northern Territory is extraordinary. The administrator who, I assume, is directly responsible to the Minister, holds a position somewhat analogous to that of an ambassador. He may make recommendations relating to works necessary for the development of the territory, but if they are approved he has no authority to supervise them. Supervision is exercised by the appropriate department. A great deal of experimental work has been carried out in the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and by Commonwealth departments located there, but nothing seems to be done about it. The reports of departmental investigations and experiments are sent to Canberra and pigeon-holed. There is scope for the settlement in the Northern Territory of a population probably as great as that of the rest of Australia. Investigations and research in the Darwin area alone reveal that no fewer than 2,000,000 persons could be settled there immediately.
– This is not a laughing matter. I have seen the possibilities of the area at first hand, and I am not astonished that the Japanese should have sought to gain a foothold there. Investigations and experiments indicate that approximately 1,000,000 acres of land in the Northern Territory are suitable for the growing of rice, and that millions of acres are suitable for the growing of tropical products. These areas should be subdivided into blocks, not of 300, 400 or 1,000 acres, but of 40 acres, which is regarded as an economic area which would yield to their lessees a comparatively good living.
– Is there any possibility of growing sugar there ?
– As far as I am aware, experiments were conducted in sugar production in only one area, and without success. Within a distance of 50 or 60 miles from Darwin 2,000,000 persons could be settled without the need to undertake great developmental schemes. Long-term plans should be made for the development of that area, and adequate funds should be guaranteed for that purpose over a period of years. The development of the Northern Territory should be undertaken as a long-term project on lines somewhat similar to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Those in charge of the project should not have to obtain the approval of officers in Canberra for every penny they expend. Under the existing administrative set up the Northern Territory can never be properly developed.
Every officer I met in the Northern Territory was enthusiastic, courteous and obliging. All of them went out of their way to assist us and the Minister. Some of them are keen territorians who have lived all their lives in the north.
– Why not settle some of them on the 40-acre blocks to which the honorable senator has referred?
– It would be better to do so than to develop the pearl shell industry, of which the honorable senator is so enamoured. At least they would not need Japanese labour to assist them ! I have no desire to make party political capital out of this matter. I speakfrom personal observation of the possibilities of the Northern Territory which I visited on the first occasion many years ago and on the second occasion only recently but in very much more comfortable circumstances. The nucleus of officers employed there is working under grave difficulties. I understand that in the Animal Husbandry Division no field officers are employed except one at Alice Springs. The division has to control hundreds of thousands of square miles of country which are overrun with stock. They have been completely frustrated. Although the Administrator may agree with a certain submission, the matter must be referred to Canberra for approval. That is an awful state of affairs, because the Northern Territory is thousands of miles away from Canberra, and the transport systems there are only meagre. I hope that the Minister will consider the appointment of an expert committee to plan the future development of the Northern Territory along better lines.
I shall now refer to reserves for aborigines in the Northern Territory. I have been informed by the Native Affairs Department of Western Australia that there are 13,000 full-blooded aborigines in the territory. A vast area of country in Arnhem Land is reserved for their exclusive use. It has been said that some white people have sneaked in, because some parts of the area are well watered and contain extensive deposits of minerals. On the western side of the Northern Territory there are thousands of acres of good grazing country within a native reserve. I urge the Minister to consider the release of such lands for developmental purposes.
– Before the discussion proceeds any further I should like to point out that at present we are considering only the proposed vote for the central administration. I suggest to the committee that it would be much more convenient to discuss any. particular item in relation to the Territories of the Commonwealth when we come to a considera- tion of Part 3. I hesitated to interrupt Senator O’Flaherty because I suppose he was technically in order in speaking to the proposed vote for the territories. Either we should consider all these items together now, or deal only at the moment with the proposed vote for the central administration, in order to avoid duplication. .
– I shall speak to several items in part 3 when we come to a consideration of that part. At present I shall address myself to item B. 4, under Division No. 96 -“ Visits to Australian Territories by members of Parliament”, to which Senator O’Flaherty has already referred. I, too, was a member of the delegation that visited the Northern Territory recently. While I agree with the honorable senator’s remarks, I was amazed to hear him so express himself, because I had thought that the Opposition believed in the centralization of control in Canberra. Apparently as a result of the things that the honorable senator saw during the trip, he has realized that it is impossible effectively to control various aspects of the administration of the Northern Territory from Canberra. The outstanding lesson that I learned from the trip was that it is the height of ridiculousness to endeavour to control such widely separated parts of Australia as Tasmania and the Northern Territory from Canberra. I agree with’ Senator O’Flaherty’s opinion that the control of the Northern Territory has been completely hamstrung by the practice of submissions having to bp referred to Canberra for decisions. The recent appointment of a Labour ex-Premier of Western Australia as Administrator of the Northern Territory has met with the approval of all sections of the community, particularly people in the Northern Territory. Untilquite recently the Administrator was authorized to expend no more than £200 without reference to Canberra. I understand that his authority has now beenextended to approve an expenditure of £500.
Sena tor Cormack. - On any one project ?
– Yes. As the Administrator of the Northern Territory is the direct Commonwealth representative in the Northern Territory, I consider that he should be authorized to expend a much larger amount than £500 without reference to the central administration.
Senator O’Flaherty has stated that 2,000,000 people could be settled on the land within a radius of a few miles south of Darwin. I commend for the careful perusal of honorable senators a statement that was made recently by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). Experienced officers with whom I discussed this matter in the Northern Territory expressed the opinion that we should hasten slowly, because fools rush in where angels fear to tread. They pointed out that newcomers to the territory are faced with a long list of failures of people who have rushed in. The honorable senator suggested that from 300 to 400 rice-growing farms could be established on the Humpty-do Plains, about 27 miles from Darwin, I point out that first a vast engineering problem to harness the water must be overcome. Mr. Arndt, a young officer who was trained in Canberra, is conducting very efficiently an experimental farm for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. When conducting the delegation over the farm he stated at almost every section, “ This section is only in the experimental stage. I am not yet able to say whether the experiment will prove successful “. He stressed frequently his advice that the Commonwealth should hasten slowly so that there would not be produced a further crop of failures, which would be held against the Northern Territory for evermore. If some of the experiments that are now being conducted prove to be successful, there will be undoubtedly a vast future for the Northern Territory. However, I think that it is absurd to suggest that 2,000,000 people could be settled successfully within a short radius of Darwin at present.
– I, also, shall address myself to the item “ Visits to Australian Territories by Members of Parliament “ - Division 96. It is a matter for regret that the Nicholas Committee recommended the withdrawal from members of the Parliament of the privilege of travelling free to inspect the territories of the Commonwealth, particularly the Territory of Papua and few Guinea. Prior to my taking advantage of that privilege, the full extent of the Commonwealth’s responsibility in relation to our vast territories had not been apparent to me. I consider that all members of the Parliament should be permitted, in their own time, to travel free to our territories. The organized trip to the Northern Territory that has been mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty and Senator Henty was very successful. I hope that additional trips will be organized to enable all members of the Senate to visit the Northern Territory. Unless such facilities are made available to honorable senators they may not be able fully to appreciate the vastness of the territory and the extent of the responsibility that devolves on the Commonwealth.’
I hope that ample time will be made available .to honorable senators to discuss the many items in Part 3 in due course. I am not sure whether the appointment of a new Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea should be discussed under “Division 96 - Administrative “, or under Part 3. There has been a departure from established practice by the appointment of a member of the Public Service as Assistant Administrator, who will be temporarily in charge of the territory. I do not consider that that was a wise move. The administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea should be in the hands of a man who is completely divorced from politics, because he is called upon to maintain a liaison between the east and the west, so to speak, and between the whites and the non-whites. Many delicate problems arise in connexion with the administration of the territory. As I have pointed out before in this chamber, in the eyes of our northern neighbours, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a testing ground for Australia’s ability to administer efficiently mandated territories. The other countries of the world will judge our ability in that connexion by our success or failure in the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. There reposes in the
Administrator of the territory an obligation to study the welfare of the natives is being conducted in the territory. An amazing experiment to try to convert by humane methods a primitive kind of society into a modern civilization Formerly, the white peoples have exploited the labour of the natives mercilessly and ruthlessly. That, to my mind, is one of the darkest stains on our history. The Tasmanian aborigines were wiped out completely because they did not fit into the pattern of the settlement of Tasmania. I have made it one of my personal interests to ensure that nothing approaching that tragedy shall ever occur in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which has been given to us as a trust.
I wish now to refer to a matter which concerns the policy governing the administration of the Northern Territory, and I should like you to indicate, Mr. Chairman, whether I shall be in order in doing so or whether it should properly be raised when Part 3 - Territories of the Commonwealth - Special Appropriations - is being considered.
– It should be raised when Part 3 is being considered.
– The problem which faces thatarea- -
– I rise to a point of order. It is desirable that there should be some understanding about this matter. Whilst I have no wish to curtail the debate, we should avoid duplication. I understood, Mr. Chairman, that you indicated that the matter to which Senator O’Byrne was about to refer would more appropriately come under “Territories of the Commonwealth “, in Part 3.
– I am prepared to defer discussion of the matter until Part 3 is being considered.
– I should like the Minister to reply to Senator O’Byrne and also, I think, to an honorable senator opposite who asked for an assurance that an opportunity will be given to debate the proposed votes for the territories in detail later on.
– I know of no reason why an opportunity should not be given. That is all I am able to say at the present time. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) knows how the debate has been conducted so far. I believe that the same attention will be given to those items as has been given to other items.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £1,340,000.
.- I understand that there is in Europe at the present time an organization known as the Provisional Inter-Governmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe. I also understand that recently the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was overseas and discussed with that body the possibility of recruiting immigrant families in Europe and providing them with transport to Australia, where it is intended to settle them in farming communities. Doubtless, preparatory work in Australia has already been undertaken in connexion with this scheme, as it does not seem reasonable that the Minister should go overseas and discuss such an important matter without first having a rough idea of the manner in which it is proposed to settle the immigrant families in Australia. I understand that the body with the elongated title, to which I have referred, consists of representatives of several European countries. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration to inform the committee of the Government’s intentions in respect of this scheme generally. It seems to me that at least the localities in which the families are to be settled must have been discussed, and that the crops which it is proposed that the immigrant families shall grow also must have been considered.
I point out to the Minister that it is possible to recruit sufficient Australians in our cities for such a scheme. During my visits to various places in Queensland, such as main roads camps, country sawmills, and other places where all classes of bushwork are being carried out, I have met countless men who are looking for land suitable for dairying or for the growing of crops. They require only capital. The men to whom I spoke have had experience of farming. If they were provided with capital by the Government - whether this Government or the Queensland Government is immaterial - they would settle upon the land, either in communities or individually. I should like the Minister to inform me of the stage to which the scheme has been developed.
As far as I am aware, the total number of immigrants who have come to this country since 1945 is between 800,000 and 1,000,000. Of that number, it would he interesting to know how many have settled on the land, either as farmers in their own right or as farm-labourers. I remember that some years ago when beetles were very bad in the cane crops in Queensland, the Government found it necessary to import a kind of toad from the Argentine for the purpose of keeping down the beetle pest. The toads did very good work for a while after liberation, but then found that by going into the townships where there were electric lights, they could get their meals without going out and catching beetles in cane crops. They thereupon congregated under the lights in the streets. “When moths, mosquitoes and other insects became affected by the heat of the electric lights and fell to the ground, the toads had their supper. It was not long before all the toads went into the townships. I suggest that we are now having a similar experience with immigrants. They are coming to Australia and it appears that most of them are settling in the cities and entering secondary industries. Very few are going on to the land. Evidently the Government’s policy is operating against itself. It has brought immigrants he re and by so doing has depressed Australian secondary industry. Numbers of immigrants are now finding their way on to the unemployment market. Approximately eighteen months ago I advocated complete suspension of the immigration scheme for the reason that by continuing to bring immigrants here Australia was increasing its housing and economic problems. It was not until eighteen months had elapsed that the Government really awoke to the serious ness of the situation, accepted my advice and decreased the intake of immigrants.
I understand that most immigrants coming to Australia in the future will be those who have trade skills. I think that the bringing of such persons to this country is altogether unnecessary. Surely we could institute a scheme under which Australians would learn the trades which it is necessary for us to have in order to maintain and expand our economy. I point out that many immigrant tradesmen are not up to Australian standards, because they have had no technical training. Some of them have been engaged in a practical way in various trades and are able to use the tools of trade; but their standard of workmanship is much below that of Australian tradesmen. If we are to continue the immigration scheme it will be necessary for us to embark upon a greater programme of capital investment. It is futile for the Government to persist in an immigration programme unless it makes adequate funds available to the six States of the Commonwealth so that they may carry out public works and establish the conditions which are necessary if more people are to be absorbed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed vote, £1,795,000.
.- It is well known that the Department of Labour and National Service sprang from the man-power organization which existed during World War II. When the war ended, there was a shortage of labour in Australia. The man-power authorities were then unable to obtain sufficient employees for the employers who required them. Since that time the economy of Australia has changed, and there is now a surplus of labour. The Department of Labour and National Service is unable to find employers for all the employees available. Evidently, the department has achieved nothing since it came into operation. Like many of my colleagues, I am greatly concerned about the statistical information which is periodically supplied to the public by this department. I contend that the information given in respect of unemployed persons is both incorrect and misleading.
– That is a serious charge to make against a government department.
– It is a serious charge. I make it and I repeat it. I once asked the responsible Minister in this chamber whether it would be possible and advisable for the Government to appoint a special committee to investigate the methods adopted by the department to register vacancies for employment in industry. On that occasion I was assured that it was not necessary to do so because the Government has a. very good method of registering such vacancies. I knew then that the information supplied to me was not correct, because I had first-hand knowledge of the way in which this department was operating. I knew also that the number of vacancies which were being advertised by the department was incorrect. The department had no vacancies on its books at various times, yet it announced that it had about 50,000 vacancies.
On another occasion a statement was made to the effect that the department was responsible for the recruitment ot labour for some industries associated with food production including the sugar manufacturing industry and the meat industry. I know something, about the operations of these two industries and I know that the department of Labour and National Service has nothing whatever to do with the engagement of labour for them. Every employee engaged in a meat works in Queensland is engaged through the office of the meat employees’ union. Therefore, it is impossible for the Department of Labour and National Service to engage one employee for that industry. In the sugar industry, what is known as a “ sign on “ system operates. When a mill is going to commence crushing operations it has a general “ sign on “ in the area on one special day for mill workers and cane cutters. All those who wish to work either in the cane-fields or in the mill attend and sign agreements. The Department of Labour and National Service has nothing whatever to do with the engagement of those men, who are engaged by what are known as “ gangers “. This is one department into which I should like an inquiry to be held to ascertain whether the information that is issued to the public from time to time has any foundation in truth. A State organization also engages labour in Queensland. It is conducted by members of the State public service who have other duties to perform in addition to those relating to the engagement of labour. They are staff agents, clerks of petty sessions and officers in charge of police stations. This organization is better than that which the Commonwealth has established since 1945 and it has a better method of ascertaining the number of unemployed in the community than that which is used by the Commonwealth.
I was engaged in this class of work for over twenty years and I am therefore able to compare the State organization with the efforts of the Commonwealth department. Due to some strange manoeuvre, the figures of the Department of Labour and National Service in respect of the engagement of labour in Queensland include the number of employees engaged by the State labour exchanges. How that has been brought about I do not know. In Brisbane, for instance, there is a State labour exchange and one or two offices of the Department of Labour and National Service. For many weeks the State labour exchange has engaged twice as many men for industry as have the two offices of the Department of Labour and National Service. As I have said statistics relating to the number of persons engaged by the offices of the Department of Labour and National Service include the number engaged by the State exchange. I suggest to the Minister that the whole sorry mess should be cleared up so that correct information can be given to the public.
– Some weeks ago I addressed a question to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) in regard to the unemployment position in Australia. I appreciate the difficulties which confront the Government in obtaining a factual return of the number of unemployed. Because of the independence of the average Australian, while he has a few pounds in his pocket he will not register for unemployment or seek unemployment benefits. A second difficulty in ascertaining the number unemployed is brought about by the means test under which an unemployed man is not entitled to receive relief if his wife earns more than 50s. a week. In Orange there are over 1,000 unemployed but only 30” have applied for relief. Those are the latest figures. Some three months ago 1,600 people were dismissed from thf-. Emco factory at Orange and 300 were dismissed from the woollen mills. Consequently there was a total of nearly 2,000 unemployed. The departmental reports indicated that only about 100 persons had applied for unemployment relie’f. As time went on the needy among those people had to seek relief. I take strong exception to a statement which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made to the press recently. He stated that 83,500 persons were unemployed in Australia in 1947. That figure was obtained from a census return. Actually there were only 18,000 unemployed in that year. About 20,000 of those mentioned by the Minister were on sick leave, whilst others were resting on their holidays or temporarily absent from work for other reasons. J should like to know the extent to which this Government is prepared to go in order to deceive the people in regard to the unemployment position. There are undoubtedly 100,000 unemployed in Australia.
– Mr. Monk does not agree that that is so.
– It is strange that when an honorable senator refers to the unemployment position, Ministers quote Mr. Monk. Also, that when Ministers are asked about the unemployment position they are in the habit of stating that there is less- unemployment in Australia than there is in Canada, the United States of America, or the United Kingdom. That fact is poor comfort for the tens of thousands of families whose bread winners are unemployed. Already they are feeling the pangs of hunger and it is not right that the Government should endeavour to excuse itself by referring to the percentage of unemployment in Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to supply some reliable figures on this matter. The position in Canada and elsewhere is of no consolation to the unemployed. They want the Government to improve the position in Australia. I hope that the Minister will inform the Senate that the Government has some way of obtaining reliable figures concerning the number of unemployed. I do not say that unemployment is entirely the fault of the Government, but the restrictions which the Government has imposed both in regard to imports and finance have played a major part in creating unemployment. In the course of the campaign which preceded the Macquarie by-election, after the death of the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that thousands of factories in Australia were obtaining all the finance and man-power that they required while more essential industries were starving. At least that state of affairs provided work for everybody but now many hundreds of factories have closed. I hope that the Minister will try to give the committee some reliable figures in relation to unemployment in Australia.
– From time to time the Government has issued statements on unemployment which are drawn from factual information in its possession. After all, it can only supply figures on the basis of the facts that are available to it from various sources. The Government is able to obtain accurate figures concerning the number of persons who have applied for unemployment benefit. It ha3 not the same completely certain source of information to draw upon in endeavouring to ascertain the total number of unemployed at a particular moment. At best, the various sources on which the Government can draw, indicate the trend. One source of information on this subject is the trade unions. Their reports on the number of unemployed members are not supplied at frequent intervals and they are not as up to date as are the unemployment relief records. Another guide is provided by the registration of vacancies by employers, and more information is derived from statements that are made by persons who apply for jobs at the employment centres and indicate that they are unemployed. Once a month the department issues a statement that is based upon factual information. It does not pretend to be anything else and I have never claimed that it necessarily shows precisely the number of unemployed persons in Australia at a particular moment, but it indicates a trend. So far as possible the department endeavours to keep those figures up to date. It supplies them to the public regularly as an accurate statement of factual information that is in its possession.
– I wish to seek some information on an item that appears on page 171 of the schedule relating to the Department of Labour and National Service. The item is “Permanent officers occupying uncreated positions, £71,430”. No provision was made for that item last year. I assume that in Public Service terminology, an uncreated position is a position that is to be classified in a certain salary range and is occupied but has not actually been classified. The proposed vote suggests there will be a major alteration in the number of classified positions in the department. On the other hand perhaps there will be a reduction in the number of employees, and for that reason I am intrigued by the description. Why was no provision made for the item last year? Further down on the list there is an item “Less - Amount estimated to remain unexpended for positions vacant or subject to approval by competent authority “. Last year the vote for that item was £264,104. The proposed vote this year is £52,613. That would indicate that since the date of the last Estimates, many uncreated positions have been created, classified and filled. Will the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) explain those figures, as they are confusing to me?
– I understand that a number of permanent offices in the department are filled by permanent officers. A number of offices are not created as permanent offices in the department, but they are occupied by people who are permanent members of the Public Service.
– Why was there not a corresponding item last year?
– I am informed that they have been classified in a different way this year. In fact, they appeared in the tables last year in a higher position in the column and in a different way. Because of the altered classification, the item is shown as a new figure and without a corresponding vote last year.
– I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to continue to direct his attention to page 171 of the schedule, not merely in relation to the item to which he has referred but also with regard to two other items. One is “ Salaries of officers on retirement leave or payment in lieu “. That is a now item and the proposed vote is £10,000. The other item is “ Provision for reclassified positions including arrears £37,000 “. That is also a new item. I know that the amount is infinitesimal. In fact it is practically equivalent to the provision for the Legation in Israel that lingers in my memory from last week, but I should like to have the item explained in detail.
However, I rose to speak of matters of much more concern to me. First I wish to ask what is the need for the continuance by the Government of the Department of Labour and National Service? I listened with attention to Senator Benn and I should like to know to what extent his views are shared by other honorable senators on the Opposition side. He reminded the committee that the department arose solely out of the need to organize man-power as a wartime organization when, side by side with active service enlistment and compulsory service, it was necessary to organize the nation’s civilian man-power for the purpose of non-combatant work. The flood gates of revenue were opened and on the crest of the upsurge of paper money that followed the confiscation of State revenues, Canberra was inundated with money. The Labour Government believed that the establishment of the Department would be an effective means of popularizing itself with those whom it considered to be its principal supporters - the (labouring classes. Now the Parliament is asked to provide positions for 338 persons who are designated as employment officers at a total cost of £306,775. Senator Benn indicated that State officers of the Departments of Industry and Labour have the direct responsibility for administering the factory laws of the States and are much more likely to be in touch with the real needs of the safety, health and employment of labour than is a Commonwealth department. On the ground of efficiency alone I repeat the plea that I expressed last year that the Australian Government should consider the abandonment of the Department of Labour and National Service. Under what heading of constitutional power do we continue to maintain this department ? Every time one directs attention to the growing menace of the present industrial machinery that is increasing day by day and has been created under Commonwealth power without limitation, we are reminded that the Australian Government has no direct authority to intervene in industrial matters. If that is so, it is a recognition that the States, properly -and constitutionally, have the direct right, responsibility and authority to mould industrial matters. On that ground also, this department is a needless duplication of an authority that properly belongs to the States.
I wish to refer to one item under this department which is of major significance. It appears on page 58 of the Estimates under the heading of Miscellaneous. The item is “ Maritime Industry Commission - Administration £6,500 “. This item also is remnant of war-time organization. Under national security conditions, it was necessary to establish in time of war an organization that was designed to smooth out industrial disputes that occur in the maritime industry, and also to facilitate the engagement of seamen so that adequate crews might be obtained as required for shipping. That was a war-time creation and the organisms that are employed for war usually are discontinued on a transition to peace. After Russia had joined the democracies in the war, there was some excuse for the complexion that this organization was given. It was composed of employer, employee, and government representa tives. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but my information is that the employee representatives on the commission at present are led by E. V. Elliott, the federal secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia. He is a member of the Maritime Industry Commission for which the committee is asked to devote £6,500 and the purpose of the commission is to facilitate industrial peace in the maritime industry. Yet that man was cited as a notorious and confessed Communist in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when the right honorable gentleman introduced the antiCommunist legislation in this Parliament. What has been the record of this commission that is so anomalously maintained after its war-time responsibilities have ceased? I am informed that since June, 1950, in 21 months, approximately 453 ships have been delayed in the Australian trade and in Australian ports because of crew shortages and industrial disputes. Those delays represented almost 4,000 vessel days. We have an example before us at present. A vessel is lying idle at Port Melbourne. It has been boycotted, probably for political reasons, by the Seamen’s Union, which has representation on the Maritime Industries Commission. If this chamber is to be a place in which legislation is to be passed without scrutiny or protest, there is a very obvious end in store for every one of us. The matters that I have raised challenge the justification for the Department that we are now considering. Certainly they challenge the Maritime Industry Commission which is within the jurisdiction of that department. I had hoped that to-day we would have some information on this subject. Perhaps in the announcement made by the Minister this morning there is the seed of encouragement. My ears propped when I heard him say that he would introduce a bill, to amend the Navigation Act. We shall await next week with great interest to see what is to be done about the Maritime Industry Commission in the amending legislation.
The time has come, when, in the interests of the persons whom this department was established to organize and whom, since the advent of peace, it professes to have served, the Australian Government should relinquish the work that is now being done by the department to the appropriate State authorities, and allow them to accept not only the responsibility but also the authority, to carry on employment agencies, the cost of which in the coming year is to impose an additional burden of £306,775 upon the taxpayers.
– As one whose knowledge of the evils of unemployment extends back for many years, I contend that the Commonwealth Employment Service is absolutely necessary. The States have never attempted to do for the unemployed what the Australian Government’ is capable of doing. My recollections of unemployment extend as far back as the great bank collapse of 1893. Of course, my memories of the conditions that prevailed in the 1930’s are particularly vivid. In Victoria, we organized a Central Unemployment Committee. Thousands of men were out of work and were unable to provide for their families. The State did nothing for them. It’ could not have done anything even if it had been disposed to help them. Even as late as 1937, when I was first elected to this chamber, there were between 300,000 and 400,000 unemployed in this country. The States were absolutely helpless. It was well within the bounds of practical politics for the Commonwealth to do something for the unemployed in those days, but nothing was done. We in this chamber made repeated appeals to Ministers to help the unemployed, but we might as well have been appealing to wooden gods. Of course, when war broke out the hundreds of thousands of men who in peace-time had been dispensable, and unwanted, became indispensable. We clothed them and fed them and looked after their families so .that they could fight for this country. The problem of unemployment is not a thing of the past. It recurs with fluctuations in economic conditions. The Australian Government could do for the unemployed of this country what State governments were unable to do in years gone by. As private industry fails to employ workmen, revenue-producing public works could be undertaken. Other expedients too could be adopted. The unemployment problem was solved in war-time when the property of the major monopolists was in danger. It could be solved also in time of peace. The developmental work that could be done in this country is almost unlimited. If includes water conservation and irrigation, re-afforestation, the checking of soil erosion, the building of new roads, and the standardization of the railway gauges. All that work could be undertaken by the Australian Government. The State governments cannot do it. Are honorable senators opposite prepared to allow hundreds of thousands of their fellow beings to live again in a state of semi-starvation as they had to live during past depressions?
The unemployed received little sympathy from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) and his colleagues in 1938 when the Labour Opposition was urging that something be done. They simply said that the necessary money could not be provided. Senator Wright has said, in effect, that unemployment is a State responsibility. While he is busy passing the buck, men, women and children are starving. What is to be done in the future? I do not know what experience Senator Wright has had of unemployment, but, judging by the way he has spoken, he has had very little experience. I do not accuse him of insincerity. I merely say that he does not understand the position. The Commonwealth Employment Service should be maintained and should be encouraged to keep in close touch with the unemployed. Any one who travelled in this country during the last depression knows that thousands of men tramped the roads seeking work. They went from police station to police station to get the dole. They were given a few shillings and told to get out and not to return. Virtually they were outlawed in their own country. We do not want to see a repetition of that state of affairs. World War II. has greatly increased the danger of widespread unemployment. Another serious depression would bring to this country economic conditions much worse than it had to endure in the 1930’s. I have had experience of organizing the unemployed and of demonstrating with them. I have done everything possible to bring pressure to bear on governments and on employers to ease the plight of the unemployed, but no government has ever been prepared to do anything better than to provide the dole. As I have said, Senator Wright appears to have had little practical experience of the evils of unemployment. He has dealt only in theories, and theories without practical experience are futile. All his talk about the responsibilities of the States is so much political exhibitionism. He will convince only people who do not know any better. I am confident that it will not be possible for any Government to solve the problem of unemployment in the future without the assistance of an organization such as the Commonwealth Employment Service. Such a service should have branches in all major towns so that opportunities for employment may be offered to those who are seeking work and contact maintained with employers who need labour.
– One would think after listening to Senator Cameron and other Opposition speakers, that the problem of full employment only became a live issue when Labour came to office in 1941, whereas in fact the problem has been causing much concern for many years. Hundreds of years ago it exercised the minds of many governments, particularly the governments of the United Kingdom. Students of social history will recall that, in the sixteenth century, during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth, unemployment was a constant source of concern to Her Majesty and to her Ministers. Senator Wright questioned the efficacy of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Senator Cameron, on the other hand, appeared to take the view that the maintenance of full employment depended on the continued existence of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I am convinced that the solution of the unemployment problem does not lie in the maintenance of an employment service which is merely a recorder of persons seeking work and of jobs to be filled. I know something of the work of the Commonwealth Employment Service, both from the point of view of an employer seeking employees, and of an employee seeking work. I admit quite frankly that I am not altogether happy about the administration of that service. I shall give an illustration of how ineffective it can be. About a month ago, when driving my car, I picked up a man on the road and gave him a lift. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he was shifting from South Australia to Victoria where he hoped to obtain work. I said to him, “ We shall stop at the next employment office and see what sort of jobs are available to you “. At the next town we went into the employment office and consulted the officials there. They did not treat him with the kindness, courtesy and consideration that I should have expected had I been in his position. They said to him, “ There are no jobs for you here. The Country Roads Board is not doing any road work in the district, and the Postmaster-General’s Department is not doing any construction here, nor has the State Electricity Commission any works in this area. You had better go on “. There is not a great deal of difference between the treatment of the unemployed by the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service and that of the police during the last depression, about which Senator Cameron had something to say.
The question in relation to full employment which the Labour party will not face was: How can effect be given to a policy of full employment in an expanding economy as distinct from a saturated economy? The theories expounded by Senator Cameron originated in the Fabian Society of Great Britain, which was concerned with the problem of a saturated economy incapable of immediate expansion. The problem that faces us in Australia to-day is how best we can give effect to a policy of full employment in an economy in which the labour force must be mobile. I have never heard any member of the Labour party attempt to solve that problem. In the circumstances that exist at present there must inevitably be some changes in employment. I deprecate in the strongest possible terms the attempts that are being made by Senator Ashley and Senator Cameron to condition the minds of the people to accept the belief that there exists in Australia to-day a vast pool of unemployed persons. The members of the Labour party are not the only members of this Parliament who are interested in maintaining full employment. There is not an honorable senator in this chamber who does not want full employment to be maintained. No one on the Government side or the Opposition side wants to see people on the dole. We are as interested as is any member of the Labour party in the maintenance of full employment, but it is our job to see that the labour force, the money force and the machine force are used to the maximum efficiency for the benefit of Australia.
– Senator Wright sought information in respect of the item “ Salaries of officers on retirement leave or payment in lieu”. Previously, the vote for this purpose was included under the heading “ Salaries and payments in the nature of salaries “. This year it has been shown as a separate item in the details as set out on page 171. For that reason no corresponding vote has been shown for last year. The honorable senator also referred to the item “ Provision for reclassified positions including arrears”. Necessity for this provision arises from an award of the Public Service Board following the review and reclassification of certain positions by the Central Classification Board. In some instances, increases of salary date back to the 8th May, 1947. The provision of £37,000 is to cover additional payments in respect of positions reclassified under the award.
– The Attorney-General’s explanation prompts me to inquire whether he is able to give us information regarding the extent to which current and retrospective increases granted by the Public Service Board under the award to which he has referred will increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth for this year. Even with the assistance available to the Minister I should not expect him to be armed with detailed information on the matter, but I should be obliged to him if he could obtain it for me. It would be interesting to know the extent to which the board, in the exercise of its authority, has increased the expenditure of Commonwealth revenue this year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £3,381,000 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £200,000,000.
– To-day, I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Air regarding the training of instructors in connexion with the active citizen air force reserve. Although £200,000,000- is included in this bill for defence services, the provision of which will impose an almost intolerable drain on theresources of the nation, the training of instructors in the active citizen airforce reserve is to be discontinued. It is disheartening to members of thereserve who, in their spare time, havecommenced to train with aero clubs throughout Australia to be told without warning that the course is to be discontinued. I understand that the aero clubs merely received a roneoed notice of the decision from the Department of Civil Aviation and that no explanation of the reason for the decision was made, Most of the instructors who were called into the Air Force at the beginning of World War II. were young men who had taken up flying as a hobby and so had attained a standard of proficiency which enabled them to train others in the art of flyingOne of the conditions imposed by the authorities was that members of theActive Citizen Air Force Reserve should’ reach a standard of proficiency equal to, and pass the examination prescribed for commercial airline pilots. A tremendousamount of study is necessary to attain such a degree of proficiency. The examination was so difficult that it wasalmost too much to expect young men tofit themselves to sit for it in their sparetime. I deplore the decision of the Government to discontinue the subsidy paid’ to aero clubs for this purpose. Why should such a drastic decision be made which will have such far-reaching effectsupon the future of our aero clubs ? These clubs have built up expensive organizations. Through their efforts many of our war-time pilots developed their love of and interest in flying. The future of many aero clubs has been jeopardized by this decision. Payment of the subsidy is to be discontinued as from the 30th November next. I should like to know how the Government expects aero clubs, which have expended a great deal of money in connexion with this scheme, to extricate themselves from the difficulties in which this decision will involve them.
There has always been a certain amount of jealousy between the services and semi-civilian bodies. I am aware that the services like to have the whole field of defence training within their control. In one respect that is much to be desired, but it must not be forgotten that the Air Force is vastly different from any other branch of the armed services. A good pilot must either be born with a natural aptitude for flying or he must develop such an aptitude over many years of training. We cannot train a young man to become a good pilot as easily as we can train a soldier, by constant repetition of military manoeuvres, to become almost a machine. It is desirable that a nucleus of trained instructors should be available for the training of air crew in the event of the outbreak of another war. A pool of key personnel, such as flying instructors, is essential to the maintenance of our defence forces in the eventuality of war.
I wish also to refer to the position of school cadets who voluntarily forego their school holidays to attend military training camps. On the completion of the training period the Department of the Army pays their fares back to the towns at which they had attended school, but those who live some distance from the towns have to bear the expense involved in travelling from the towns to their homes. I consider that the whole cost of fares of school cadets to return to their homes on completion of their training should be borne by the Department of Defence.
I shall refer now to the taxation of members of the Citizen Military Forces. It is important to offer every inducement possible to men voluntarily to undergo military training in their spare time. When the military pay that they receive in respect of such training raises their income to the next higher income group they are taxed at a higher rate. It is inequitable’ that men who are prepared to undergo training to prepare them for any eventuality should be taxed at a higher rate because of their military earnings. Although the matters that I have raised relate to government policy, I hope that they will be rectified as soon as possible, in order to provide the utmost encouragement to young men to undertake voluntary military training.
– I shall direct my attention to the proposed vote for the Department of Defence. On the 21st February last, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) presented a White Paper to the Parliament, in which he outlined the Commonwealth’s defence programme. I commend that statement to honorable senators opposite. I think it would now be appropriate for the Minister to present an interim report on the degree of military preparedness that it has been possible to attain. I consider that we are very fortunate to have a man of the capacity and calibre of the Minister in charge of our defence programme. In 1948, the previous Labour Government authorized the publication of the Australian War Book. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to inform the committee whether any steps have been taken, or are intended to be taken to second civilian members of the Public Service to a course at the Imperial Defence College. As far as I know, the only graduate of the Imperial Defence College in the Public Service is the present Secretary of the Department of Defence. I consider that there should be at least a co-equal number of members of the Public Service and of other services seconded to that college, because the experiences of two world wars have shown that a national war effort must be completely cohesive. That can be achieved only if there is a proper understanding in the higher levels of the Public Service, which can be obtained only by the attendance of officers at the Imperial Defence College.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for a wide range of amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The provisions relating to the taxation of private companies are of outstanding importance. These proposals cover much new ground. They have been designed to effect further substantial reforms to simplify vexatious and complex taxation problems. It is fair to say that the frequency with which honorable senators have been invited to direct their minds to this subject reflects at once the difficulty, as well as the need, which has confronted successive governments to produce a solution of the problems and to surmount ingenious devices for evasion of taxation by these companies. Unhappily, previous efforts appear to have resulted in further complexity and in producing legislation which has not proved satisfactory either to the companies or to the Treasury, and which certainly has not succeeded in preventing varied and ingenious schemes for avoiding the liability which successive measures have sought to place upon private companies and their shareholders.
The traditional difficulty that has confronted successive governments in connexion with the taxation of private companies has been the need, on the one hand, to recognize that most private companies engaged in business enterprises are obliged to retain some proportion of their profits for the normal development of their businesses and, on the other hand, to protect the revenue.
This Government is now seeking to remove instability that has manifested itself in the taxation of private companies, which has been disturbing to the private companies and a source of extreme difficulty to the Administration.
By this bill, it is proposed to place private company taxation on more solid foundations, to discard the present approach to the taxation of undistributed profits, and to substitute fresh proposals involving substantial and radical changes in the existing provisions. In framing its proposals, the Government has had the benefit of the expert advice and unanimous recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. Honorable senators have had an opportunity to study these reports which were made available on the 12th August last.
I shall not give all the details of the proposed changes, because honorable senators will have before them a printed memorandum which very comprehensively explains the various measures that are proposed. It is necessary for me, however, in view of certain criticisms that have been levelled in another place against my colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), to emphasize that, although this measure is intended to grant considerable concessions - and, I believe does so effectively where the granting of such concessions is warranted - that is by no means its sole purpose. It has, for one of its principal features, the objective of bringing to a close the endless schemes which have been indulged in to avoid the full incidence of the levy.
The principal features of the proposed plan are -
The existing scale of retention allowances on distributable incomes up to £6,000 is regarded as adequate, and accordingly, no increase is proposed. Beyond that point, the retention allowances are being increased from the present percentages to 25 per cent. So far as investment income is concerned, it is proposed that no retention allowance of this income should be provided-.
Some critics of the measure have alleged that a bill ostensibly introduced to effect reforms and prevent abuses has been used as a cloak to hide drastically heavier imposts. In reply to that criticism, I point out that the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, in paragraph 98 of its report dated the 12th December, 1950, expressed the following view: -
The Committee sees no justification for allowing freedom from undistributed profits tax in respect of income from property, such as rents, interest and dividends.
In its summary of recommendations, the committee, at paragraph 124 of the same report, said - (;) That no retention without the payment of undistributed profits tax should be permitted in respect of the investment income - rents, interest, dividends, &.c. - of a private company.
At paragraph 6 of a supplementary report dated the 17th December, 1951, the committee again drew attention to its recommendation, in the following terms : -
It will be observed that the Committee recommended that no retention without liability to undistributed profits tax should be permitted in respect of investment income, such as rents, interest and dividends.
It was clearly stated that the Government was giving precise application to the committee’s plan, except for two important concessions which I shall later explain.
It is, therefore, surprising that there should be criticism on the ground that some further impost is being concealed in the guise of a concession. The amendments are designed to prevent the mis carriage of the Government’s intentions in its legislation. There is a distinction between the income which a company earns from trading and that which it earns from investments. That principle was recognized in pre-war days when our private companies, which were not investment companies, were permitted the retention allowance provided by the law. The amendment in the bill will result in taxation procedure returning to the old principle. A proportion of trading income can be ploughed back for development and protection of the trading structure of the company. But this will not apply to income earned from investments, which is not directly related to ordinary trading activities.
Turning to the computation of the undistributed income tax itself - that is, in respect of the undistributed income retained in excess of the permissible maximum retention allowance - it is proposed that the tax shall be calculated at the flat rate of 10s. in the £1, in lieu of the existing method of computing the tax on the basis of the varying and graduated rates of the individual shareholders. This flat rate of 10s. in the £1 is the first of the two departures from the committee’s recommendations which the Government proposes. It will be noticed that it is 2s. 6d. in the £1 less than the flat rate recommended in the committee’s first report, and no less than 3s. 4d. in the £1 less than the rate recommended in the committee’s second report.
The application of a flat rate of 10s. will substantially simplify the process of calculation, eliminate the present vexatious delays, and enable private companies quickly to estimate their full tax liabilities. The application of a flat rate of tax, combined as it is, with a system of liberal retention allowances, should not affect the ability of private companies to retain profits beyond the permitted allowances, since it is open to them to arrange with their shareholders for the reinvestment with the company of net dividends, after payment of tax by the shareholders. As the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation has observed in its report, this is not by any means an uncommon practice amongst private companies.
It is in connexion with this retention allowance that the second departure has been made from the committee’s recommendations. If honorable senators will examine the bill in conjunction with the committee’s reports, they will observe that, in this instance particularly, the departure substantially favours the companies concerned.
If, within the proposed framework of private company taxation, companies choose to retain profits in excess of the permitted allowances, it can reasonably be taken that those companies which, by so doing, render themselves liable to undistributed profits tax, regard those excess amounts as additions to the permanent capital structure of the companies. If it should eventuate that private companies at some later stage decide to distribute these taxed profits as dividends, the shareholders’ assessments are not to be rebated in respect of the tax paid by the company.
The dividends which may be paid by private companies tax-free to shareholders will continue until the 1st January, 1958. These are dividends paid out of 1950-51 funds, and funds of prior years, which have borne undistributed income tax at shareholders’ individual graduated rates. Most companies should be able to effect these distributions in the time allowed, if they ever intend to do so. Apart from having the virtue of simplicity, the present proposals in regard to private company taxation embody retention allowances of a liberal character which should render payment of undistributed profits tax a matter of choice rather than of compulsion.
In keeping with the Government’s intention, as expressed in the Treasurer’s budget speech, the bill provides for a very important taxation concession in regard to expenditure incurred by parents in the education of their families. The insertion of such a concession in the Commonwealth .income tax law is of some historical significance, since no previous government has attempted to satisfy the long-felt needs of the taxpaying community in this connexion.
As from the 1st July, taxpayers will be allowed a deduction in their income tax assessments for amounts paid to schools, colleges or universities in connexion with the full-time education of dependent children under the age of 21 years. It is proposed that a maximum deduction of £50 shall be allowed in respect of each child. It may be asked why payments made otherwise than to a school, college or university should not be included in the amounts to be deducted in the parent’s assessment. The fact isthat the word “ education “ is one of very wide and embracing meaning. Every conceivable expense incurred on behalf of a child could, in its widest sense, be claimed to be for the education of the child, or related to its education. Hence for the time being, it has been foundnecessary to restrict the concession to payments to an educational institution, and such payments only as are directly connected with the child’s education. The Government will, of course, closely watch: this experimental venture into a new sphere and will not hesitate to widen thescope of the concession if it can safely do so without opening the doors to abuse.
The Government has recognized oneexception to the general rule in respect of children whose parents, because of residence in remote or isolated areas, are obliged to engage tutors or governesses for the full-time education of their children, or who, because of the physical handicaps of those children, have not theopportunity to obtain a normal education, so that the attendance of a tutor or governess is necessary. Payments tosuch a tutor or governess, up to £50 per annum for each child, will be allowable as deductions.
Honorable senators will appreciate that,, in granting an entirely new concession of this nature, it is necessary to proceed with care and caution if anomalies areto be avoided. Whilst some honorablesenators may feel that the present proposals do not go far enough, I remind the Senate that the Government has already announced its intention to take appropriate action at a later date if experience indicates the need for anextension of the concession, and if circumstances permit such an extension.
Honorable senators will recall that, on the previous occasion when the provisionsrelating to leases and goodwill came before this chamber, certain preliminary proposals which subsequently became law were introduced. I indicated, in thecourse of my second-reading speech, that- the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation had not then concluded its deliberations on the general subject of taxation of lease premiums, and that those proposals were merely the forerunner of other reforms which the Government hoped to introduce at a later date. This bill now incorporates the further proposals which have emanated from the committee’s final report and recommendations in regard to this aspect of the legislation. Chief among these proposals is that which relates .to the taxation of amounts received and paid for local goodwill connected with leasehold premises.
The question of taxation of goodwill has been one of peculiar difficulty, because the assessment of the recipient upon the sale price is coupled with the allowance of a deduction of that amount to the purchaser. There is virtually a clash qf interests between the vendor and the purchaser, in that it is to the latters advantage to establish the assessability of Hie amount received in order that he can obtain an equivalent deduction in the year of purchase. On the other hand, the vendor is obliged to prove to the contrary if he is not to be assessed in respect of the amount received.
The situation thus created is inherently anomalous and irritating to the taxpayers concerned. Accordingly, it is proposed in this bill that, in relation to transactions made after the 31st December, 1.952, the consideration payable for goodwill will, as a general rule, be excluded from the lease provisions of the income tax law. This means that vendors will not be taxed on- the consideration but, on the other hand, purchasers will no longer be able to claim deductions for those payments. However, it will he open to the parties’ concerned, if they so desire, to have the law applied as at present If the parties unanimously agree and give due notice to the Commissioner of Taxation of their agreement, the present provisions of the law will continue to apply so that the consideration for goodwill is taxed to ‘<the vendor, and the purchaser is- allowed a deduction in respect of that consideration.
The amendments in this field have been made- to apply to transactions arising after the close of this calendar year in order that prospective vendors and purchasersmay have an opportunity to study the effect of the new provisions. Because’ of the conflicting interests that may be involved as between vendor and purchaser, it is considered impracticable to relate the present proposals to past transactions.
Honorable senators will be aware of the measures affecting primary producers which were introduced during the last sessional period. Apart from the deferment of payment of provisional tax in those cases where reductions in income had occurred, a substantial form of relief was granted to primary producers in regard to the taxation of insurance moneys received in respect of losses of live-stock occasioned by circumstances such as bush fires and floods.
It is proposed in this bill to afford a similar measure of relief in cases in which primary producers concerned can establish that they have been obliged to dispose of live-stock because of the loss of pastures or fodder due to bush fires, drought conditions or floods. In the event of such forced sales, the law as it stands at present places the primary producer in the very onerous position of having to meet a heavy taxation commitment in respect of the proceeds of the sale at the very time when he requires the use of those proceeds in order to re-stock. Accordingly, it is proposed that,, commencing with the income year which began on the 1st July, 1951, a primary producer who is so placed shall be given the right to include in his taxation return for the year in which the forced sale occurs only one-fifth of the resulting profit. The balance of the profit wilt then be included in equal instalments in each of the next succeeding four years.
The hill also contains proposals relating to transactions by partnerships involving trading stock. As, by definition, trading stock includes live-stock, these particular proposals are of importance to primary producers. From the taxation view point, the problem which arises in regard to the transfer of interests, in partnership assets, including live-stock or other trading stock, is whether such transfers amount to a disposal within the connotation of that term as used in the Income Tax Assessment Act. Supported by decisions- of Taxation Boards- ofReview, the Commissioner of Taxation had followed the practice of treating such transfers as constructive disposals, in consequence of which the law obliged him to assess the. transferors on the market selling value of the trading stock and to allow the transferees a deduction of an equivalent amount.
By a judgment of the High Court delivered last November, the Commissioner’s interpretation of the law was found to be incorrect Whilst this decision was undoubtedly welcomed by transferors, who were thereby relieved of tax liability, one effect of the judgment is that transferees cannot obtain a deduction of any greater amount than the value that would be included in the assessment of the transferors if no disposal had taken place and the business had been a continuing one. The Government immediately concerned itself with the problems arising from the application of this judgment, and the whole question was referred to the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation for examination.
In its report, the committee recommended that the formation or dissolution of a partnership, or a variation in the members constituting a partnership, should be regarded as a sale of the partnership assets, including trading stock. The effect of this recommendation would be to confirm the departmental practice followed prior to the High Court judgment that I have mentioned. The committee recognized, however, that such a procedure, if unaccompanied by proper safeguards, could lead to anomalies and even to hardship. In some cases, the proposal would involve the taxation of transferors upon profits which, however real they may be from an accountancy viewpoint, are not represented by any cash receipt out of which tax may be paid. The committee further recommended, therefore, that the partners concerned in such transactions should be given a right to elect, if they unanimously agreed to do so, to be treated as a continuing business.
As the committee’s recommendations were eminently reasonable, they were adopted by the Government after due consideration. In effect, it will be within the ‘power of the partners concerned to determine whether the tax liability on trading stock transferred should accrue at the date of the transfer or whether it should be deferred until the stock is realized by sale. However, two aspects of the Government’s proposals have been subjected to most intemperate and illinformed criticism in certain quarters.
It is proposed, in the first place, that the amendments should apply retrospectively as from the 1st July, 1950. So far as the income year 1950-51 is concerned, no taxpayer can possibly be adversely affected by this retrospective application. In most of the assessments upon income of that year, the principles of the High Court judgment would have been applied where the relevant circumstances arose, and not one of those assessments can be disturbed under the proposed amendment. Where an assessment, through being issued early in the assessing period, was based on the former practice and the taxpayer objected on the grounds that the High Court judgment should be followed, that assessment either has been or will be rectified.
The proposed amendment goes even further, and confers upon taxpayers a benefit which is denied to them under the present law. I refer to those cases where a taxpayer was assessed for the income year 1950-51 under the old procedure but did not protect his legal rights to review by lodging an objection. Those taxpayers may avail themselves of the new basis of assessment, so long as all the parties to the transaction unanimously agree to the reopening of their assessments. Stripped of its histrionics, the criticism that has been directed at the Government’s proposals stands virtually and in essence upon the proposition that no government can in good faith’ repair retrospectively any damage which has been found to exist in its law no matter what mischief has occurred. Such a proposition, I believe, no government could or should be expected to accept.
So far as the income year 1951-52 is concerned, assessments in which provisional tax is involved have not yet been issued. When issued, these assessments will he made on the new basis. Prima facie, the transfer of partnership interests will be regarded as a sale, but the parties to the transfer will have the right, upon unanimous agreement, notified to the
Commissioner of Taxation at any time up to the 31st August next, to be treated as a continuing business. Even the proposed application of the new provisions to the income year 1951-52 which, in the great majority of cases, operates to the advantage of the taxpayers concerned, has been criticized. It is misleading, however, to call such a proposal retrospective. The assessments upon income of that year are, as I have already indicated, future assessments, and the Government cannot be justly accused of a breach of law or a breach of faith in determining, by the proposed legislation, the basis of taxable income on which those assessments will be made.
I shall deal briefly with the other aspect of this provision which has been subjected to criticism - that is, the restriction of the right of election to those transfers where the former owners, or some of them, retain an interest of at least 25 per cent, in the partnership assets after the transfer. Without this restriction, a vendor could avoid being taxed on the market value of trading stock, by the simple expedient of retaining an interest, however small or fictitious. I am sure that honorable senators will agree that it is necessary to reserve the right of being treated as a continuing business to those eases which are fairly recognizable as a change of interests and neither a disposal of assets nor the establishment of a new business. The Government has been concerned in these proposals to cause the law to effect what was clearly intended to be effected but at the same time not to affect retro-actively any genuine case analagous to the case deliberated upon by the High Court.
Honorable senators will also have had notice of the Government’s plans so far as they relate to the taxation of income derived in the Northern Territory. This bill incorporates those proposals which have already been announced by the Minister for Territories and which have been specifically designed to encourage the re-investment in the Northern Territory of profits derived from primary production in that territory. Before briefly outlining these proposals, it is necessary to mention that the tax exemption previously granted in respect of incone derived from primary production, mining and fisheries in the Northern Territory by a resident of the territory ceased to apply under the present provisions of the law, as from the 30th June, 1952.
As a means of encouraging primary production in the Northern Territory, the bill proposes that primary producers in the Territory shall be allowed to write off at a flat rate of 20 per cent, per annum the cost of plant and machinery purchased by them after the 30th June, 1952. In the case of structural improvements completed after the 30th June, 1952, the primary producer will be allowed to elect, if he so desires, to have deducted the full amount of the cost in the year of completion, or to write off the cost of the alternative basis of five fixed annual instalments as in the case of plant and machinery.
In view of the expiry, on the 30th June, 1952, of the exemption which I have previously mentioned, the Government proposes that certain measures shall be adopted which are designed to ease the full incidence of the tax liability that would otherwise fall upon primary producers and persons engaged in mining in the Northern Territory in the years immediately following the termination of that exemption. A detailed explanation of these transition provisions will be found in the printed memorandum which has been circulated to honorable senators.
Other provisions in this bill relate to contributions to employees’ pension funds. These contributions are at present subject to the limitation that, in respect of each employee, a deduction is allowed to the employer up to the amount of £100 or 5 per cent, of the employee’s remuneration, whichever is the greater. Where, however, the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied that there are special circumstances warranting a higher amount being allowed, deductions in excess of those limits may be allowed. It is proposed to liberalize the deductions allowable to the employer by increasing the general maximum from £100 to £200 for each employee. Where the employee’s remuneration exceeds £4,000 in the year, the maximum deduction allowable as a general rule will be 5 per cent, of that remuneration. The Commissioner’s discretionary power to allow a higher deduction in special circumstances will be retained. It is proposed also to amend the relevant provisions in some minor particulars, with a view to achieving improved drafting and simplified procedure. Employers may he assured, however, that in no case will these amendments have the effect of depriving them of any deduction to which they are now entitled in respect of contributions to employees’ pension funds.
A further matter which has been considered by the Government in connexion with the budget is the exemption from tax of the income derived from funds established for the purpose of providing retirement benefits for self-employed persons. This bill proposes to grant a tax exemption in respect of the income from such funds, corresponding with the exemption already provided for employees’ pension funds. In addition, contributors to these funds will be allowed a concessional deduction in respect of their contributions, along with such payments as life insurance premiums and the like, up to the general maximum of £200 each year which is at present provided under the law. The exemption from tax of the income from funds created by selfemployed persons will, of necessity, be restricted to those funds which are established bona fide for the provision of retirement and similar benefits.
The Government proposes to give effect to another recommendation by the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation that certain sporting clubs should be exempt from income tax, if the sport is one in which human beings only participate and the organization is not carried on for the profit of. individuals. This exemption will commence to apply to incomes of the 1951-52 year.
The incomes of community hospitals are also being exempted commencing with the income year 1951-52. These are hospitals usually conducted by religious and charitable organizations and, being essentially public institutions’, they are not carried on for the. profit of gain of individuals.
Assistance is to be given to producers of uranium by exempting from income tax profits derived from mining that important mineral. The exemption will apply until the 30th June, 1960, and will benefit Australian residents and Aus tralian companies having at least threequarters of the voting power controlled by persons living in this country. The producer will, however, qualify for the exemption only if the uranium produced becomes the property of the Commonwealth or is disposed of in a manner approved by the Commonwealth, that is, consistent with the requirements of the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act. The eight-year term of the exemption will provide for producers a reasonable period of tax-freedom in which the mine operators can complete exploratory and developmental work and so place the industry on a sound basis.
There are other proposals in the bill of a miscellaneous and less important character with regard to which a full explanation is to be found in the printed memorandum. Before concluding, however, I should not like to let pass the opportunity to invite the attention of honorable senators to the outstanding achievements of this Government in relation to the matter of taxation policy. As all honorable senators are aware, not only has this Government succeeded in ridding the income tax legislation of those vexatious complexities which apparently constituted insurmountable obstacles to our friends in Opposition during the period of their regime. It has been able to find ways and means of offering positive encouragement to primary producers in the cause of increased production. A striking example is to be found in the self-assessment provisions, the special depreciation allowances for primary producers’ plant and equipment and in the provisions relating to the cost of providing rural accommodation for employees. Those are but a few of a long list of achievements of this Government in the field of taxation legislation, and when they are considered in conjunction with the simplification of the income tax return forms and rating schedules and also with the altered basis of providing concessional allowances and many other reforms, the Government can justifiably take pride in its imposing record in this regard. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on, motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 2776).
Proposed vote, £200,000,000.
– I shall take this opportunity to reply to some of the questions that have been raised by honorable senators. Senator Cormack suggested that an interim report should be provided on defence activities. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Minister and ask him to give it consideration. Senator Cormack also referred to the possibility of sending civilians to the Imperial Defence College to undergo training in connexion with the establishment of the Australian War Book. As the honorable senator knows, Sir Frederick Shedden is a graduate of the Imperial Defence College. The Deputy Secretary of the Defence Department, Brigadier F. O. Chilton, was sent to the United Kingdom to undergo the Imperial Defence College course in 1951, but because of the death of another senior officer of the Department, he was required to return to Australia before completing the course. The present War Book Officer in the Department of Defence is a former officer of the Royal Australian Navy, Captain A. E. Buchanan, D.S.O.
Senator O’Byrne spoke on the discontinuation of the grant to certain aeroclubs. The Government and the Minister were very reluctant to discontinue that grant but as honorable senators know, there was a great clamour for a reduction of taxation and the Government had to reduce expenditure somewhere in order to make the reductions that were made. Unfortunately the aero clubs were among the important sections of the community that suffered. On the matter of fares for school cadets that was raised by Senator O’Byrne, I am not familiar with the amount that is paid but I have a copy of the honorable senator’s speech and I shall have the matter examined by the Minister to ascertain if anything can be done to assist. That assurance applies also to the matter of taxation.
– I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was abroad he had discussions with the British Cabinet to determine the relative places of food production and the Australian defence programme. I recall that on his return, the Prime Minister announced that he had been able to make arrangements for Great Britain to place Australia’s mobilization equipment on its own shopping list but he indicated that that arrangement would not make any difference to our own production plans in Australia. The right honorable gentleman was speaking then of defence production plans. He made it clear that Great Britain had asked Australia to concentrate on a food production policy. Will the Minister inform the committee whether the halting of intake into the Armed Forces constitutes some recognition of that request from the United Kingdom Government to enable more man-power to be diverted to food production? Have any of the targets for food production that Great Britain undertook to give us been conveyed to the Australian Government yet? Will the Minister tell the committee something of the relationship between the Government’s defence programme and the implementation of Great Britain’s request to Australia to step up the food production programme? The Prime Minister has pointed out that that programme will be of great importance to the British Commonwealth in both the cold war and any hot war that may occur.
.- I wish to refer to the item under the heading “ Citizen Military Forces and Cadets “. I pay a tribute to the success of national service training under the administration of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis). I have noticed with pride that the cadets generally return from the camps benefited both physically and mentally by their training. I believe that the Minister has successfully implemented that phase of defence training. I am not so happy about the training that follows in the Citizen Military Forces. I speak from experience of my observations in Tasmania. Many trainees are enthusiastic when they finish their national service training and they join the Citizen Military Forces. I have noticed that gradually they lose that enthusiasm and finally they become completely bored. Their reaction and that of other youths who voluntarily join the Citizen Military Forces shows that something is wrong. It is reminiscent of the attitude of the youths of 30 years ago who had to undergo compulsory military training. It was boring to all who were forced to participate and eventually it failed because it fulfilled no useful purpose. I know that most of the officers who are assisting to train the Citizen Military Forces might be described as “ Tuesday night soldiers “. They are engaged in other employment and they give as much time as they can afford to the training of volunteers. It should be a full-time job. There is a shortage of instructors in the Citizen Military Forces, which necessitates volunteer officers assisting in training on Tuesday nights, with an occasional bivouac or camp to ease the monotony. The proposed vote to provide for this training totals £2,100,000.
I should like to tell the committee of a recent bivouac that was held in Tasmania as an example of the futility of much Citizen Military Forces training. The trainees went to a country town where the bivouac was to be held. Many of them were paid a car travelling allowance. They arrived at the bivouac on Saturday morning and were given Saturday afternoon off so that they could see a football match. On Saturday night they were given leave so that they could go to a picture show. On Sunday morning they bad two lectures, both of which had been delivered to them previously in the course of national service training. They were dismissed after lunch on Sunday and went home. The youths are losing their enthusiasm. They believe that they are not doing anything worth while and unless their keenness can be recaptured, Citizen Military Forces training will not be a success.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I believe that the distribution of equipment among the various units of the Citizen Military
Forces has not been equitable. In someparts of Tasmania, units are more than fully equipped, whereas in other areas theequipment is insufficient for training purposes. I ask the Minister to give attention to this matter because if the interest of members of the Citizen Military Forces is to be maintained in their training,, modern equipment must be made available to them.
– by leave - read a copy of the statement made in the House of Representatives by the Treasurer (vide page 2314).
– I move-
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up toand including Friday, the 31st October next, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
In addition to the appropriation measure which is now at the committee stage, we have yet to deal with the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1952-53. As we have had departmental officers in attendance for a fortnight to advise Ministers on those measures, the Government is most anxious that the bills should be passed before the Senate adjourns to-night or to-morrow morning.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I oppose the motion. The long-standing practice of the Senate has been not to meet on Fridays unless there is real pressure of business. It is also the general practice not to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. I put it to the Government that when honorable senators have devoted their minds to the consideration of legislation throughout a morning, afternoon, and evening, to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. would impose an undue strain upon them. I need not emphasize the strain that is also placed on the staff of the Senate. I remind honorable senators opposite that the Senate did not sit for several weeks in the early part of the present sessional period.
– From the 6th August to the 10th September.
– That is so.
– We were waiting f or the House of Representatives to deal with the budget.
– The Senate had before it a motion for the printing of the Estimates and budget papers. Had the debate on that motion been allowed to continue, most honorable senators would have been able to make their speeches on the budget before the introduction of the appropriation measures. Admittedly the Estimates could not have been considered at that stage.
– There would have been duplication of discussion. The Leader of the Opposition knows that.
– I do not know that. I am certain that had honorable senators been given an opportunity to debate the motion for the printing of the Estimates and budget papers, speeches on the motion for the first reading of the Appropriation Bill 1952-53 would have been limited, both in number and in time. The Government is responsible for whatever difficulties it now finds itself in as the result of the long adjournment of the Senate, and it should not seek at this stage to impose undue pressure on honorable senators. Although a number of bills has accumulated on the notice-paper, many of them are not contentious, and I think that I can say in advance that many of the measures that have yet to be introduced into this chamber will not be opposed. I do not know exactly what the Government has in mind about the termination of the present sittings, but I point out that some months have yet to run before Christmas. There is the rest of October, all of November, and I suggest, in reason, portion of December. I do not know why the Government wants to speed up the passage of legislation in this way. Will the Minister give an indication to the Senate of the approximate date of the ending of the present sessional period? I do not want to pin him down to the exact minute or hour.
– I have in mind the 31st October.
– That is of considerable assistance to us. Will the Minister take the next logical step and tell us what his fellow Ministers have in mind? That would be of even greater help to us.
– That is a matter of Government policy.
– The Minister’s reply was not quite unexpected. Three weeks still remain before the end of the month and we are already nearing the end of debate on the Appropriation Bill. In pressing the Senate to undue efforts while there are still three weeks in which the sittings may continue the Minister is asking too much. For that reason I oppose the motion.
Question put -
That Standing Order68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 31st October next, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 8
– There being less than an absolute majority of the whole number of senators voting in the affirmative, I declare the question resolved in the negative.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 2786).
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Appropriation Bill 1952-53 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
. -I move-
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the remainder of the bill in the committee be as follows: -
For the remainder of Part 1 of the Second Schedule - until 8.45 p.m. this day.
For Part 2 of the Second Schedule - until 9.15 p.m. this day.
For Part 3 of the Second Schedule, the postponed clauses, the postponed First Schedule, and the title of the bill -until 9.45 p.m. this day.
By taking advantage of a purely technical standing order, the Opposition has demonstrated that it is eager to prevent the committee from concluding the debate on the Appropriation Bill and the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill. Honorable senators will appreciate the fact that it is necessary that these ‘two bills be disposed of to-night, so that departmental officers, who have been here for a fortnight to advise Ministers in relation to matters arising out of the consideration of the two bills, will be able to return to their normal duties. Unless the measures be passed to-night, it will be necessary for them to return to Canberra until next Tuesday. After we have discussed Order of the Day No. 1 - “Appropriation Bill 1952-53 “, we shall proceed to deal with Order of the Day No. 2 - “Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1952-53 “, on which honorable senators will have an opportunity to speak at the committee stage. There will be every opportunity to discuss that bill and the measure now before the committee. Some of our friends of the Opposition who have attempted to stonewall on this measure by indulging in propaganda to try to prevent the Government from obtaining its passage, will have plenty of opportunity on the second measure to wander from Dan to Beersheba, as they have done to-day.
– I oppose the application of a time limit on a consideration of the remainder of the proposed votes contained in this bill, which is really only a supplementary appropriation measure. As the Government has already received supply for the first four months of this financial year, it cannot claim that the passage of this measure will be necessary to-night in order to enable the Government to carry on. It has sufficient supply to carry it over until the end of this month. The effect of the time limit will be that we shall have to complete a consideration of the proposed votes contained in the Second Schedule, which total about £425,000,000, less about £48,000,000, by 9.45 p.m., or within the next hour and a quarter. According to my quick arithmetic, which I believe to be accurate, we have already approved of the proposed votes contained in Part 1, which total about £48,000,000. That leaves proposed votes which total about £299,000,000 to be considered and finally dealt with within an hour and a quarter. Since the 10th September the sittings of the Senate have been interrupted by a special adjournment, as a mark of respect in relation to an untimely death, and, in addition, various measures have been passed. The passage of this measure has been interrupted from time to time by the Government, not the Opposition. Only to-day new measures were introduced, and, by leave, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) made a statement this evening which, although very interesting, occupied the time of the Senate. The effect of the allocation of time will be that the following proposed votes must be considered and disposed of within an hour and a quarter: - Department of Defence, £730,000; Department of the Navy, £47,290,000; Department of the Army, £75,370,000; Department of Air, £55,830,000; Department of Supply, £12,730,000; and Department of Defence Production, £8,050,000, making a total proposed expenditure of £200,000,000. Then, still under Part 1, we come to the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, which total £20,752,000. Under that heading we shall again have to deal with more than fifteen departments. There will be allowed to the committee less than one minute to consider the proposed vote under the heading “Miscellaneous Services “ for each department. In addition, the committee must consider the following items : - Refunds of revenue, £13,000,000 ; Advances to the Treasurer, £15,000,000; Subsidies, £23,855,000; and War and Repatriation Services, £16,071,000. Part 2 - “ Business Undertakings “ includes proposed votes of £3,862,000 for- the Commonwealth Railways; £69,895,000 for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department; and £4,533,000 for Broadcasting Services, a total of £78,290,000. Does the Minister expect the Opposition to deal adequately with all of those items in half an hour?
– Honorable senators have already been considering them for a month.
– The Minister is completely in error in saying that we have already devoted a month to a consideration of the Estimates. The greater portion of the time of the committee during the past month has been devoted to the general budget debate.
– In speaking to the motion for the first reading of this measure, honorable senators were permitted to refer to almost any subject.
– Even so, it was impracticable for honorable senators to give their detailed attention to the proposed expenditure of £425,532,000.
The Minister has overlooked the important fact that the Opposition in this chamber has a most important function to perform. We have a commission from the people whom we represent to probe and to seek information from Ministers in relation to the administration of their departments. This is the first opportunity that we have had during the present financial year to perform that function. Now the Minister intends to allow the committee only half an hour in which to discuss the proposed votes for the Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and Broadcasting Services. The committee is to be allowed only half an hour, also, in which to consider the proposed votes for Part 3 - “ Territories of the Commonwealth “, which total £10,115,000. The facts that I have outlined show how completely unjust and absurd is the time limit that has been fixed by the Minister. I suppose that I heard him aright, and that he meant the time-table to apply to to-day, not this day week-
– That is right.
– The proposal is completely preposterous. No honorable senator could deal adequately with one of those items in the time allowed. He could not even obtain information from the Minister about one of the items in the time that is allotted. In truth, the Minister is treating the Opposition with complete contempt, and that contempt is carried to the people outside the Parliament, whom we represent. I shall say nothing about their numbers. I should like to ask the Minister several questions about the proposed vote for defence services. Although the intake of the Commonwealth Military Forces is now to be static, and the forces are to be maintained at the same level, approximately £500,000 is proposed to be allocated for a recruiting campaign. I should like the Minister to tell us something about the cost of the war in Korea. I recall that the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) stated some time ago that, up till April last, the total cost to Australia of that war was about £13,000,000. I should like to know the additional expenditure to the 30th June, and the total expected cost in the period that lies ahead. These are questions in which the people outside the Parliament are particularly interested. They look to the Opposition to be critical, because they do not expect supporters of the Government to be critical of these things.
The Minister expects the committee to complete its consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defence, and the Department of the Army by a quarter to nine, which will be in six minutes’ time. There will be insufficient time for honorable senators to frame questions, far less to obtain answers from the Minister in relation to the proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 on those departments. I am sure that, upon reconsideration, the Minister will realize that his proposition is absolutely fantastic. There are 36 separate items under “Division No. 187 - Prime Minister’s Department” alone. There would not even be time to read them out to the Minister in the time that he has allocated for their consideration. Apart from that, there are seven items under “ Division No. 189 - Office of Information”; eighteen items under “Division No. 190 - Department of External Affairs “ ; twelve items under “ Division No. 191 - Department of the Treasury”; eighteen items under “Division No. 196 - Department of Commerce and Agriculture”; and pages of items of keen interest to every member of the Opposition. The Minister suggests that they should be disposed of by 9.15 p.m.
– Hurry up, it will soon be 9.15 p.m.
– I must impress on the smiling Senator Scott the utterly ridiculous stand that has been taken by the Government in this matter, and the complete unfairness of the Minister’s proposition not only to the Opposition, but also to the electors.
– Order ! The time of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has expired.
– I, also, wish to record a very strong protest against the action of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). In allocating the time for the consideration of the remaining proposed votes, I believe that he has been carried away by a sort of dictatorial mania. It would have been far better for the Government had he left the business in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). I am sure that we should have disposed of it much more quickly.
– I could not do any better than the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Trade and Customs encouraged a very full discussion on the proposed vote for his department. Many honorable senators on both sides of the chamber participated. In a very comprehensive reply, he referred to many points that had been raised. That is how the Estimates should be considered in this chamber. Every time the Minister for Shipping and Transport has entered the chamber during the consideration of the Estimates he has looked around and then gagged the debate. That was a completely wrong approach, and the Minister did not thereby facilitate the work of the committee. Up to the present, approximately equal numbers of Government and Opposition senators have spoken to the Estimates. Now we have only five minutes for the completion of the proposed votes contained in Part 1, which total £337,127,000. As that time has almost gone, it does not appear that we shall be permitted to say anything further about the proposed votes contained in Part 1. This particular mania for applying the gag does not add to the dignity of this chamber, although I believe that the Minister thinks that it does. If Government senators who have taken a very important part in the debate were to be honest I am sure that they would admit that they resent as much as do the members of the Opposition the time-table that has been introduced. This afternoon, two measures were introduced in this chamber. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) occupied 39 minutes in delivering his second-reading speech on the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1952. Although the Opposition was quite happy to permit the Minister to break into the consideration of the Estimates, it is unfair for the Government to now impose a time limit in relation to the remaining Estimates. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has claimed that honorable senators have been considering the Estimates for a month. I point out that during that time fourteen bills have been introduced into this chamber. The seeking and granting of leave, and the introduction of those measures, has all reduced the time that has been available for the consideration of the Estimates. A number of bills have been passed through all stages. The fundamental problem arises from the fact that the Government gave itself approximately five weeks’ holiday at a time when the Senate should have been discussing the budget concurrently with the budget debate in the House of Representatives. Because of that holiday, it was obvious that the present state of affairs would arise. I point out that it is as important for honorable senators opposite to discuss these matters as it is for Opposition senators to do so. Indeed, it is even more important for the supporters of the Government to be aware of what is going on than it is for the members of the Opposition to have such knowledge. After all, the Opposition is in a minority and cannot really affect the course of government business, but if the supporters of the Government set out to make themselves au fait with the course of events they can assist materially in the smooth transaction of government business. In this chamber there are 60 honorable senators, all of whom are entitled to speak on the Estimates. The Government has said, in effect, “ We shall give you half an hour in which to discuss Part 2 of the Estimates”. In that part there appears an item on which I am most eager to obtain information from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). I refer to the use of diesel engines by the Commonwealth railways on the transAustralian railway.
– If the honorable senator stopped wasting time, we could get on with the business.
– I am not wasting time. In answer to a question on this matter only two or three days ago, the Minister cited some most interesting figures. I am eager to know as much about this matter as is possible, and an opportunity has been taken from me to acquire information. I suggest that during the 30 minutes in which honorable senators will have an opportunity to ask questions of the Minister, the only replies they will receive will be a short “ No “ or a grumpy “ Yes “.
In my opinion, it is most unfair to eliminate an opportunity to discuss the proposed vote for the Department of Supply. I am deeply interested in that department, for I once had the honour to be associated -with it. I have no doubt that all honorable senators are interested to know what is happening in relation to the discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory. If we are to rely on the newspapers for our information on that matter, the picture given to us will be a very cloudy one indeed.
The question of subsidies is one of the most important which at present confronts the Government. Yet, apparently honorable senators are expected to obtain information on that matter, and many other matters, in a few minutes. Because of the action of the Government in discontinuing the subsidy on butter, it will no doubt be necessary for the basic wage to be increased by 2s. or 3s. a week when the next quarterly adjustment is made. Yet honorable senators are not to be given an opportunity to discuss that matter. Surely the Senate should be entitled to discuss the policy of the Government in regard to subsidies. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has said to honorable senators on this side of the chamber and also to his colleagues, in effect, “ Out of the generosity of my nature I shall allow you 30 minutes in which to talk about all of these matters. The Government is not trying to gag any one. We are giving you 30 whole minutes for this debate “ If previous practice is adopted, approximately twelve or fourteen of those 30 minutes will be taken up by discussion on the part of honorable senators opposite. Throughout the debate on the Estimates so far, Government and Opposition senators have alternated almost invariably, although on some occasions two or three Government senators have succeeded each other. The Minister for Trade and Customs should give the Opposition credit for having refrained from adopting stonewalling tactics in the debate on the Estimates. An honest attempt has been made by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber to glean information on an occasion which arises only once a year. On that occasion honorable senators have the opportunity to pin down Ministers and to obtain answers from them while the departmental officers from all the Government departments are in Canberra and available in the Parliament. In my opinion, those officers should be brought here much more frequently in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to have a fulldress debate. Frankly, it is hopeless to ask Ministers to answer question unless the departmental officers are available. That comment applies even to questions which concern the departments administered by particular Ministers. In the Senate there are five Ministers who are responsible for questions on nineteen departments. What chance have they to give intelligent answers to questions which concern departments with which they are not directly interested?
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has made great play of the fact that departmental officers have come to Canberra from Melbourne and Sydney to supply information and that the Senate should allow them to return as soon as possible. He stated that they have been here two weeks already.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– If any justification were required of the wisdom and correctness of the action of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay;, in moving as he did, it is supplied by the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Armstrong. The Opposition has been given an opportunity to attend to the business of the people. The Government proposed that new business should be dealt with after 10.30 p.m., and the Opposition defeated that proposal. Obviously honorable senators opposite arn not prepared to work after that hour.
– I rise to order. 1 submit that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has reflected on a vote of the Senate. He should be ordered to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark. Nevertheless the vote is on record. I suggest that to-morrow morning, when the conscience of honorable senators opposite is a little more active, they should look at the record of the vote. It is a shame that the eloquence of the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Armstrong has been wasted on such a poor cause. They have contended that they are here as the guardians of the public purse. That is perfectly correct. They are also here as trustees, to carry out the wishes of the majority of the Australian people; but they are endeavouring to frustrate the performance of that task to-night. The Government has been both tolerant and generous in regard to the time allowed for this debate. You yourself, Mr. Chairman, have been the victim of many propaganda speeches, and of tedious repetition. Second-reading speeches have been made on practically every item of the Estimates. I know that it is futile to hope that the Opposition senators are free to come into this chamber with unfettered minds and to offer suggestions to the Government concerning the ways in which it might improve its functions, reduce expenditure and increase efficiency. We know that every member of the Opposition comes here hog-tied, and that there is not one free man on the Opposition side of the chamber. Caucus has met frequently, and honorable senators opposite know exactly what their attitude towards this measure should be and precisely how far they may go - or perhaps I should say where they must stop short. Not one of them is prepared to say, “ That is a matter which I think we should support in the national interest “. I am sorry to say that the placing of this measure before the Senate is really only a matter of form while one party is bound to pursue a line of conduct which has been defined antecedently.
– I am sure that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber strongly resent the action which the Government has taken. If the Senate has any raison d’etre, any reason for its existence at all, it is as a house of review. The occasion on which it can best fulfil that function is when it reviews the Estimates of Government expenditure. Yet the function which is primarily ours is being denied to us to-night. Therefore, I say that every member of the Senate, not only those on this side of the chamber, must resent strongly the action of the Government. It is not fair for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) to say that the contributions to the debate from this side of the chamber have, in the main, consisted of propaganda speeches. Worthwhile analyses have been made by many honorable senators, and many serious questions have been asked of Ministers in an attempt to elicit information. Some Ministers have gone to considerable pains to answer those questions, and much valuable information has emerged. It is completely untrue to suggest that honorable senators have adopted improper means of discussing the Estimates on this occasion.
Recently the Government has evinced great solicitude concerning the expenditure of public moneys. It has even taken the trouble to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee, which has already met once or twice. Honorable senators from both sides of the chamber have the honour to be members of that committee. Until the committee begins to function properly, there will be full responsibility on the Senate and the House of Representatives to scrutinize carefully, and at every opportunity, the public accounts. It is complete hypocrisy on the part of the Government to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee for the purpose of scrutinizing the public acts and at the same time to deny to honorable senators an opportunity to perform that function during the debate on the Estimates.
We know that any projected government expenditure is bound by certain fixed commitments. Perhaps one of the most firmly fixed commitments relates to defence expenditure. Solus populi esto suprema lex - let the good of the people be the supreme law. It is vital that we should budget adequately for the defence services. Because that is an essential requirement for which provision must always be made, it is most important that defence expenditure should be scrutinized carefully. Yet the Estimates for the defence services are to be passed by the Senate in a few minutes. I point out that extravagance may well occur in public expenditure on defence services. To say that the Senate could have dealt with these departments adequately by agreeing to the proposal that new business should be introduced after 10.30 p.m. is unfair, both to the subject and to the capacity of honorable senators to debate it. We have sat here for many hours to-day, and to bring in new business, to assemble new information and to orient our minds to new considerations at the end of the day is not fair to the subjects involved. It is a fantastic way in which to discharge our responsibility to the people. In my opinion, the Opposition was perfectly justified in refusing to allow the Government to introduce new and opposed business after 10.30 to-night. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber strongly resent the reprisal that is now being taken by the Government.
The operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are causing grave concern to many Australian citizens. That department is one of the largest business undertakings in Australia, either private or governmental. The proposed vote for it for the current financial year amounts to £69,895,000. Yet the Senate is being asked to discuss that expenditure in less than a quarter of an hour. On behalf of the Opposition, I voice the strongest protest against the Government’s action.
.- It was very interesting to listen to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), Senator Armstrong and Senator Byrne, who shed crocodile tears. Their speeches were full of propaganda. I rather like to deal in facts. I intend to give the Senate a few facts concerning the days and. hours during which the Senate sat when under the control of the Labour Government. In 1949, the last year of office-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator should confine himself to the terms of the motion which concern the allocation of time. I submit that he is completely out of order in talking of something that happened in 1949.
– Yes. The honorable senator is out of order.
– The Opposition has contended that the committee should sit for the same number of hours as it Bat when the Labour Government was in office. That Government only permitted the Senate to sit for 175 hours-
– The honorable senator is quite obviously defying your ruling, Mr. Chairman. My point is that he must confine himself to matters connected with the allocation of time.
– The honorable senator must confine himself to the subject of the allocation of time.
– The Opposition wish to stop me from stating the amount of time that the Senate devoted to debates when it was in office because it has something to hide. I shall observe your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but if anybody wants to ascertain how much time the Opposition gave to these matters when it formed the Government, I recommend that they examine the record of the years 1947 and 1948 and ascertain the number of hours, days and weeks during which they gave the present Government parties the opportunity to deal with legislation.
– The Senate has heard a dissertation by Senator Henty which is entirely irrelevant to the question before the Chair. I want to mention some facts. To-day, fifteen Government senators have spoken in this chamber while only eleven Opposition senators have spoken. In addition, 39 minutes have been taken up by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who spoke on the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill. A couple of speeches were also made by Senator Cormack. It is not the Opposition that has wasted the time of the committee. I enter my protest against the Government’s contemptuous treatment of the Opposition and the large percentage of people whom the Opposition represents. If ever there was a demonstration of the need for the abolition of the Senate, the Government has provided it to-night. Every Opposition Senator is interested in some department. I particularly wanted to discuss matters concerning the Postal Department. I want to know and the people want to know why telephone rentals have been increased from £7 10s. to £12 5s. since 1949. I am also interested in the vote for the Defence Services and the Department of Supply, which obtained a vote of £43,066,000 last year, but only spent £19,782,465. The Opposition desired to obtain a lot of information from the Government in regard to proposed votes.
The Government has stated that its officers have come here from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I appreciate the fact that it is necessary to bring officers here. I do not think that any one would expect the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who is at present at the table, to keep everything in his head. He does not keep much there at any time. I am astonished that he has not found it necessary to bring all his officers here, not just a few of them. The Government has proposed that honorable senators should have half a minute each to deal with items of expenditure totalling hundreds of millions of pounds and it often takes some time for the Minister to obtain from his officers the information necessary to answer questions. Opposition senators should be given the opportunity to secure the information that they require. I have received correspondence asking me to seek information in regard to certain depart ments, but under the time limit that has been proposed there will be no possibility of my securing the information that I desire. Therefore, I enter my protest against the Government’s decision to allow only half an hour to deal with this measure which involves the expenditure of many millions of pounds.
.- I agree with Senator Henty, who described the attitude of the Opposition in terms of the allegorical crocodile. I almost wept, too, when I heard Senator Armstrong indulge in a fantastic farrago of nonsense in which he said that the Government was trying to cheat the Opposition out of its dues. Senator Byrne made a reasoned and impassioned speech. But let. us be rational. Several attempts have been made by the Minister at the table to point out to the Opposition that there has been ample opportunity during this sessional period to discuss the very matters that are involved in the Estimates. But in the first three weeks that this Parliament met we listened to a torrent of drivelling nonsense from the Opposition- a series of propaganda speeches, with no honest concerted attempt to examine the problems that confront the Government in relation to the Estimates. By the courtesy of the Clerk of the Senate, I have been able to discover that two full weeks have been spent by the Senate in discussing the budget in a most general way. In the Mother of Parliaments only two or three days are occupied in discussing a budget and a great deal of time is spent on the Estimates. The Senate has been deprived of the opportunity to spend more time on the Estimates by the action of the Opposition. Twenty hours have been spent on the first reading of this measure. Time after time, Government senators have risen to order. There has been no attempt to deal with the bill expeditiously. We have listened to lectures in economics of the most fantastic character from Senator Cameron. For considerable periods the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has not even appeared in the chamber. When the Labour Government was in office I was appalled at its attempts to drag the Senate into the dust and dirt. Opposition senators have no honest belief in democracy. Their actions here to-night demonstrate that fact.
– I associate myself with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and other Opposition senators in protesting against the ridiculous amount of time that has been proposed by the Minister for the conclusion of tha debate on the Estimates. The most surprising speech has been heard from Senator Cormack, who refused to take hisplace in the chamber last night because he objected to the Government’s attitude. There remain for the consideration of the committee departmental votes which require a close examination. Some of these departments will expend a tremendous amount of money. They will give less service than ever at a greater price. Yet honorable senators are to have no information concerning them. Injustices have been done to their staffs. Prices have risen and departmental expenditure has increased, yet the Government has refused to spend another hour in discussing this measure. The greater part of the time devoted to the Estimates has been taken up by Government senators who have merely been engaged in a “ back-slapping “ campaign. They have not asked for information and they havenot received it. When Opposition senators asked for information the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) became embarrassed and decided to apply the gag. The committee has now reached an important stage in the debate and the time that is to be allotted would not be acceptable in an organization much less important than the National Parliament. The Senate, as a house of review, should have ample opportunity to approach these matters from any angle. Honorable senators have the right to sufficient time for debate and they should have the courteous attention of the Ministers. Competent public servants have been sitting in the chamber for a fortnight and although Ministers have referred matters to them from time to time, many honorable senators have not been given the information that they sought. The Ministers have not utilized fully the services of the public servants who are present. If the Government thought that it was worthwhile to keep those officers in the chamber for a fortnight, it is not logical that they should be dismissed without giving to honorable senators, through the Ministers, the information that they require. Matters relating to important departments are to be disposed of too briefly. The public servants who have been in attendance in the Senate gallery have been given a Roman holiday. The Government has wasted their time and the time of honorable senators. I resent the criticism and the abuse that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have received from Ministers during the course of the debate, but I resent even more the insult that has been offered to the representatives of the people by the Government’s refusal to allow honorable senators adequate time to put forward the views of their electors.
.- Honorable senators on the Opposition side have been displaying a bold front on this matter in their search for publicity. If they genuinely wanted information, they could have asked questions on the activities of various departments. Practically all the questions that honorable senators opposite have asked have not been related to the Estimates. They were second-reading speeches. If honorable senators opposite had confined themselves to requests for information, the Estimates would have been passed by now and the debate would have been more informative. In their speeches they mentioned practically every imaginable subject. Various points of order have been raised in an endeavour to bring them back to the Estimates. Senator Cooke has said that honorable senators on the Government side have been wasting time. I throw that charge back to honorable senators opposite. The Opposition wasted time with needless speeches that had nothing to do with the Estimates. Last night Senator Sheehan asked why the Government did not impose a timetable. That is exactly what the Government proposes to do. It is merely carrying out the wishes of the Opposition as expressed by Senator Sheehan.
– I have a particular reason for joining with my colleagues in voicing a strong protest against the action of the Government in proposing to curtail the debate. During the debate on the Estimates, many points of order have been raised, and I have been told that I must wait until the matters that I wished to discuss came before the committee later. I tried to get an assurance from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) that I would have an opportunity to bring forward a particular matter with regard to the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– The honorable senator will have a chance to do so if he stops wasting time now.
– In the course of the budget debate, the speakers included sixteen honorable senators on the Government side and nineteen honorable senators on the Opposition side. If all honorable senators are not allowed to speak, the Senate has become nothing more than a farce. It is only a rubber stamp. Every honorable senator should have the right to speak on the budget and the Estimates as often as he wishes provided that he has a matter to bring forward on behalf of his State or a matter of general public importance to discuss. To-day the committee began the debate at 12.3 p.m. Since then fifteen Government senators and eleven on the Opposition side have spoken. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) spoke on an income tax bill for 39 minutes. During the earlier stages of the budget debate, there were adjournments for various reasons. Twenty hours had been devoted to the debate on the budget and each senator was given twenty minutes to deal with the expenditure of £1,000,000,000. That is a huge sum of money, and the budget proposals should be given the most complete scrutiny and consideration by the Senate. This latest development supports my belief that the Senate should be abolished. It is a sinecure. Sixty men in this chamber supposedly represent-
– I rise to order. The abolition of the Senate ha3 no relevance to this motion.
– Order! That is quite correct.
– Honorable senators have certain rights and privileges and they should be able to express their opinions. They represent the electors. As a result of the introduction of proportional representation, the Senate has been enlarged.
– Order ! The honorable senator may refer only to the time that is to be allotted to the debate.
– The time that is to be allotted is insufficient to enable honorable senators to canvass fully the matters that are under discussion. I was practically promised by the AttorneyGeneral that time would be available to me to discuss certain matters. Thirty minutes is not long enough. A discussion of some individual subjects would occupy that long. I protest strongly against the action of the Government.I am inclined to walk out of the chamber as a protest.
.- I can understand honorable senators on the Opposition side being disturbed by this incident, but I suggest to them that it would be quite wrong for the committee to consider the incident in isolation. It is only the culmination of events that have happened in this chamber over a long period. After all, honorable senators must go back to basic principles. The Government has the responsibility for putting its legislative programme through the Parliament. It has some responsibility also, even inthe teeth of the Opposition, for allowing the Parliament an opportunity to discuss in a reasonable way matters that are of great public interest. Therefore, the Government must decide the things that shall come first and those that shall follow. Already, the Senate has a programme covering fifteen or sixteen pieces of legislation. It is not for the Opposition to say what shall be done and the period of time that shall be given to each piece of legislation. This is the culmination of incidents that have occurred since the budget legislation was introduced. I do not believe that we have much to be proud of in the way in which we deal with legislation in this chamber.
– The Minister should speak for himself.
– I said that I do not believe that we have reason to be proud of our actions in this chamber, and I do not exclude Senator Cameron, although I have almost an affectionate regard for him because of his long years of service.
– I rise to order. The motion that is before the chair is a question whether certain times or some other times shall be fixed for discussion of particular sections of the schedule. The only issue is whether the times are suitable or unsuitable or whether some times other than those that are proposed in the motion should be fixed. I have waited for the Minister to reach that point, but I have not heard one word from him with regard to it. All of his remarks up to the present have been out of order.
– Order! I suggest that the Minister deal with the matter that is before the committee.
– I defer to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. The time that has been fixed for dealing with the legislation that is before the committee is reasonable having regard to the time that has been wasted in the past and the time that is to be available in the future for the purpose. I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the matters for which a limited time is now available have been debated ad nauseam during the earlier part of budget proceedings. One honorable senator after another rose to debate these matters in general terms before the Estimates were brought before the committee.
– Order ! The time allowed for debate on this question having expired, the question will now be put.
– I rise to order. I ask that the question be read.
– The motion reads -
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the remainder of the bill in the committee be as follows: -
For the remainder of Part 1 of the Second Schedule - until8.45 p.m. this day.
For Part 2 of the Second Schedule - until 9.15 p.m. this day.
For Part 3 of the Second Schedule, the postponed clause,-, the postponed First Schedule, and the title of the bill - until 9.45 p.m. this day.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.) Ayes . . . . . . 26
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Parts 1 and 2 of the Second Schedule agreed to.
Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £10,115,000.
– I should like to have some information about the dental service for school children in the Australian Capital Territory. Last year, the sum of £14,742 was expended on health and dental services. This year, we are being asked to appropriate £17,600 under that heading. The school dental service in the Australian Capital Territory was established by the Labour Government some years ago. It then had one dentist and one clinic. I should like to know whether the service has been expanded and whether the service is still free. Can the Minister say whether it is proposed to extend the scheme in the Australian Capital Territory, and whether in view of the fact that the Government apparently considers such a scheme to be wise in its own Territory, it intends to widen the scheme to cover other citizens of the Commonwealth.
– The vote for the Australian Capital Territory includes the sum of £9,000 for soil erosion and water conservation. I have been particularly interested of late to note the extent of soil erosion in the Australian Capital Territory. As we travel to and from Canberra by air each week, we see swollen rivers carrying away enormous quantities of top-soil, and I believe that close attention should be given to this problem. Provision is also made for £45,500 to be expended on the fighting of bush fires and the restoration of damage caused by fires to Commonwealth improvements. As all honorable senators are aware, a large part of the Australian Capital Territory was swept by serious bush fires early this year, and I should like to know whether adequate precautions are being taken to prevent a recurrence of fire damage in the forthcoming summer. There is a lush growth of herbage in the Canberra district, and I consider that the Parliament is entitled to know what precautions are being taken to prevent damage by fires. The Australian Capital Territory is one of the most beautiful capital territories in the world, and I believe that all possible steps should be taken to prevent the marring of that beauty by fires and soil erosion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will realize that a Minister who is only acting for another Minister cannot be expected to be familiar with all the details of the Estimates that are in his charge. However, the matter that he has raised comes within the province of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), and I am sure that the honorable senator will agree that whatever is done by that distinguished medical man is well done. I am informed that the dental service for school children in the Australian Capital Territory is free. The scheme has been expanded lately and most suburbs now have dental clinics. The increased vote sought this year is required to meet increased expenses, cost of living adjustments, and salary increments of staff employed. Several dentists are engaged in the service.
Senator Laught has mentioned soil erosion. I am informed that a soil conservation service, including technical officers of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, has been formed and will have liaison with the New South Wales Soil Conservation Service. A number of soil projects are in progress, and others have been planned to be carried out during 1952-53. Expenditure is incurred on fencing, planting, engineering works involved in the various projects, fuel, labour, &c, and aerial soil surveys. Senator Laught referred also to the serious problem of bush fires. I can assure him that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who himself was actively engaged in fire-fighting in the Australian Capital Territory last summer, is alive to the situation. Bush-fire precautions include the extension of lookout services, the cutting of additional fire-breaks, and the extension of all fire-fighting services including two-way wireless services.
– Has anything yet been done to move the leprosarium from Channel Island to Melville Island ? I know that such a move was in contemplation. The leprosarium at Channel “Island was not satisfactory. I inspected it and did as much as I could to have improvements effected. It was then contemplated that the leprosarium would be moved to another island, and I should like to know whether that has yet been done.
The proposed vote for the Northern Territory includes the sum of £2,000 for the encouragement of primary production. I should like to know whether that is the Commonwealth’s entire contribution to that important work in the whole of the Northern Territory? If so. is it considered to be adequate?
– The leprosarium has not yet been moved from Channel Island. The provision of £2,000 for “ Encouragement of primary production “ is to cover advances made under the Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance 1931- 1938 to primary producers with a view to encouraging agriculture and other primary production in the Northern Territory. Advances of amounts up to £600 are made, on adequate security, at 3 per cent, interest.
– That would cover three loans.
– The item is apparently intended to cover the particular advances provided for in the ordinance to which I have referred. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will examine the other items in the schedule, he will observe that many of them are associated with primary production. The item to which he has referred is apparently confined to advances made under the . ordinance which I have named.
– Order! The time allotted for the. consideration of Part 3 of the Second Schedule, the postponed clauses, the postponed First Schedule and the Title of the bill has expired.
Part 3 of the Second Schedule, the postponed First Schedule, the postponed clauses, and the Title of the bill, agreed to.
Bill reported without requests.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That . the report be adopted.
– I propose to move in broad terms that the bill be recommitted for further consideration of the following items in the Second Schedule: - Department of Defence, Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, Department of Air, Department of Supply, Department of Defence Production, Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer, Subsidies, and War and Repatriation Services; the whole of Part 2 - Business Undertakings - covering Commonwealth Railways, Postmaster-General’s Department, and
Broadcasting Services, and Part 3 - Territories of the Commonwealth - covering Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, and Papua and New Guinea. I am aware, Mr. President, that you have no knowledge of what has taken place in committee and that you are concerned merely with the motion for the adoption of the report. I do not propose to trespass the Standing Orders by adverting to anything that is beyond your purview. The Minister in charge of the bill must appreciate the inadequacy of the opportunity given to honorable senators to deal with the vastly important estimates to which I have referred. I make a plea to the Minister to realize the ridiculously short time allowed for the consideration in committee of these items. I invite him to think over what has happened and to give to the Senate a further opportunity to examine them. There is no haste for this measure. If the Senate does not give adequate consideration to matters involving the expenditure of millions of pounds, and if honorable senators on both the Government and Opposition sides of the chamber do not discharge the duties vested in them by the people of Australia, there will be the soundest possible ground for claiming that there is no justification for the continuance of the Senate as a part of our legislative setup.
I am now informing you, Mr. President, that honorable senators have not had an adequate opportunity to deal with those portions of the bill to which I have directed attention. I do not propose to pursue that matter further. With all the earnestness that I can command I invite the Minister to allow the bill to be recommitted. He may rely upon the fullest co-operation of the Opposition in having the measure passed at a later date. I point out to you, Mr. President, that the records of the Senate in relation to this bill will show that until a development very recently occurred fifteen Government supporters and eleven Opposition senators had addressed themselves to the bill. In these circumstances, I submit that there cannot be the slightest justification for the suggestion that the Opposition has sought to stonewall its passage. The Minister must appreciate the severity of the action taken by him in another phase of our proceedings. I invite him to allow the Senate to have another look at the proposed votes for the departments and the items I have mentioned. On calm reflection I am sure he will realize that honorable senators should be afforded the fullest opportunity to investigate and probe these proposed votes. I apologise, Mr. President, for the fact that I have not had time to set out my motion in writing. I shall do so in the shortest possible time.
– After the Leader of the Opposition has written out his motion, I propose to move, “ That the question be now put “.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. President, that the Minister is out of order because no such motion may be moved until after the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition has been stated by you.
– I rise to order. With due respect to Senator Courtice I submit that he is distinctly out of order in speaking at this stage.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition has asked for time to set out his motion in writing. I have granted him the indulgence to do so. The motion has not yet been put to the Senate.
– Should I be in order in commenting upon the motion foreshadowed by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) ?
– No. A little patience and perseverance will solve all our difficulties. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has now set out his motion in writing.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) proposed -
That the bill be recommitted for further consideration of the following items in the Second Schedule: -
Part 1. Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth -
Defence Services -
Department of Defence.
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
Department of Air.
Department of Supply.
Department of Defence Production.
Refunds of Revenue.
Advance to the Treasurer.
War and Repatriation Services.
Part2. Business Undertakings -
Part 3. Territories of the Commonwealth -
Australian Capital Territory.
Papua and New Guinea.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be recommitted . . . (Senator McKenna’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President - . Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - that the report be adopted - resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th September (vide page 1268), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is complementary to the one that has just been passed by the Senate. It deals with capital works and services involving an expenditure in all of £100,003,000 which is dealt with under three headings, namely “ Departments and Services - other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth “ ; “ Business Undertakings “ ; and “ Territories of the Commonwealth “. There is nothing exceptional about the provisions. They seem to me to form a part of the usual pattern of government, and cover many kinds of activities ranging from the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the provision of aerodromes. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated that provision has been made for an expenditure of £28,000,000 on war service homes. In all, the amount proposed to be allocated during this financial year for capital works and services is £9,000,000 less than was the expenditure for this purpose during the last financial year. The Minister indicated that, in view of higher costs, there will be a substantial reduction of the volume of works activity. Even though the amount involved is approximately the same as was made available last year, it will enable only a vastly inferior quantum of work to be carried out. This is primarily due to the Government’s failure to arrest the cost inflation that is current in this country. The Minister’s statement was an admission to that effect. The ‘States are, of necessity, . cutting down their works programmes ‘because they are afflicted with exactly the same problem of rising costs of both labour and materials. In Victoria one sees the tragedy of the EildonWeir undertaking being almost brought to a standstill. That is a vast and important project relating to electricity supply and water conservation. The tragedy is that it will take a long time for the project to -gather momentum again. The fact that the State Electricity Commission’s undertaking at Kiewa has closed down altogether is another tragedy, not only ‘for Victoria but also for Australia. It As most unfortunate that both the Commonwealth and the States are restricting the ‘volume of physical work that can be carried out at a time when there are approximately 61,000 unemployed persons in Australia, according to the latest figure supplied by the responsible Minister. It is unfortunate from every aspect, including the development of the States, assistance to industry, and the use to which such works could be put in picking up the lag in employment.
I propose to comment on only one more feature of the measure at this stage of the debate. I contend that it is somewhat fantastic that the capital works of the Commonwealth, of an amount of approximately £100,000,000 for this financial year, are to be paid for by the taxpayers from, the current revenues of the Commonwealth.
– What word did the honorable senator use to describe that position ?
– “ Fantastic “. Does the honorable senator contest that statement?
– - No, but I suggest that the Leader , of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) himself is the main author of the fantasia.
– If Senator Wright had contested that statement I should have referred him to his leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has said exactly the same thing. I should not mind debating with the honorable senator the question of who is responsible for inflation, although I do not think that the time is opportune to do so, but I certainly . reject the suggestion that the Government which he supports, has done anything to halt inflation. I do not propose to carry that phase of . the matter any further, except to remind the honorable senator that, under the present Government, the basic wage has increased by £5 a week in two and a half years. In other words, it has almost doubled. I very much fear that within the next few weeks we shall hear of another increase of the basic wage, which of course will carry cost inflation further ahead and again reduce the volume of physical works than can be performed under . this bill. I repeat that it is fantastic that works of such volume, covering post offices that will endure for generations, aerodromes, and the numerous other substantial works contemplated by the bill, must be paid for by the taxpayers who are to be mulcted in order to pay for them in full. I do not propose at this stage to open up any additional matters in relation to the measure. It may be that at the committee stage some matters may occur to me which can be more suitably dealt with then.
– I should like the Minister who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation to give me some information concerning aerodrome construction. We are now on the verge of the jet age, which raises a great number of social problems. The United States of America is already meeting some of those problems and is endeavouring to anticipate others. I speak without technical knowledge of this subject, but I understand that a jet aircraft, both on take-off and in the course of low flight soon after take-off, emits a very high sound which, if not actually injurious to the human ear, is most uncomfortable. That may sound a relatively unimportant matter, but I point out that my home in Brisbane is very close to the Eagle Farm airport. If the wind is in the right direction, the modern airscrew-propelled aeroplanes which use that aerodrome cause considerable discomfort to residents in the vicinity of the landing ground. When jet aircraft operate from such an aerodrome, there will be grave public inconvenience. It may be necessary for residents who have invested money in residential properties close to airports to vacate those properties. It may be necessary also completely to re-orient our ideas of aerodrome construction. It is possible that aerodromes used by jet aircraft may have to be taken away from populated areas. It will be very serious if, for some reason or other, the residential areas round Eagle Farm aerodrome become untenable.
I understand that in the United States of America the problem is even more acute than it is in Australia, because of the greater density of population in that country. In Australia we still have the opportunity, provided that sufficient administrative foresight is displayed, to avoid both the social inconvenience which jet aircraft may cause and also the expenditure which would be involved if it became necessary to remove aerodromes. I should be pleased if, during the course of this debate, the Minister could give some information to the Senate regarding the attitude of the Government towards the construction of aerodromes for use by modern aircraft. I have heard that it is proposed to extend one runway at Eagle Farm airport to accommodate jet aircraft. I am also aware that at the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Amberley, runways are now being constructed for that purpose. The thought has occurred to me that that aerodrome might ultimately become the civil aviation aerodrome for Brisbane. In my opinion, we must show foresight in this matter. It is necessary for us to act quickly and, if necessary, drastically. Many people who propose to settle in areas adjacent to aerodromes may change their plans if they consider that there may be dislocation consequent on the development of jet aircraft.
– I wish to deal briefly with the Department of National Development. I take the opportunity to do so whilst the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is absent from the chamber. Apparently he has gone out to sharpen the axe. National development was the chief plank in the. platform of the Government parties at the 1949 general election. With that platform they secured the trust of the people. Australia is crying out for development, but this bill contains no item which deals with the development of primary industry. There is nothing to indicate that irrigation, for instance, is to be fostered. In most other countries of the world governments appreciate the need for national development. Yet we in Australia are doing very little in this connexion. Since this Government has been in power, we have heard a great deal about the need to increase food production and to encourage primary industries. Nevertheless, the Estimates make no provision for those matters. It is only about a year ago that one of the favourite, slogans of that great Australian, the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who is now very ill, was “ populate or perish Yet to-day the Government is arresting immigration. If the country needed more people only a short time ago, surely the need still exists. Similarly with development. I indict the Government for its failure to do anything to bring greater prosperity and progress to the country, to provide employment for a greater number of people, and to reduce the high costs under which Australian industry is labouring. It is to be deplored that this Government, which promised to do so much in those directions, is doing nothing at all. The Government promised the people of Queensland that serious consideration would be given to certain projects in that State. The Burdekin Valley development scheme if properly exploited will open up many thousands of acres of farming land. Greater population, which is so essential, not only for the defence of the country, but also for progress and development, will then be possible in that area. If Australia is to take its part as a virile member of the Commonwealth of Nations, such projects must be proceeded with. Senator “Wright has frequently contended that the growth of our secondary industries retarded the development of rural and primary industries in this country. Despite the claim of the honorable senator, the Government which he supports has done nothing to rectify that position.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) promised to interest himself in these matters, but he has done very little. I point out to honorable senators that, in Canada, important irrigation work is being carried out and the natural resources of the country are being developed. All that the bill now before the Senate provides for in that connexion is the acquisition of buildings, and matters of that kind. I greatly regret that the Government does not see the need to encourage the development of irrigation and hydro-electric projects, particularly in the northern part of Australia. In that area there are hundreds of thousands of acres of land which are capable of producing many of our requirements. All that is necessary is an adequate water supply. The Queensland Government is spending millions of pounds on the Burdekin Valley development project, without assistance from the Australian Government.
Not only is the Government not attempting to do anything about national development, but it has also refrained even from making excuses on the subject. Apparently it is simply attempting to forget all about it. I contend that honorable senators opposite who represent Queensland were elected because of promises which they made to the people of Queensland. Those promises have not yet been honoured, and there is no indication that the Government intends to honour them. Apart from work on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which was initiated by a Labour Government, this Government has done nothing to encourage greater food production, which is so necessary from an economic point of view.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I hope that at least one Minister will indicate the intentions of the Government in regard to the development of primary industry. I hope that the Government will not forget its promise to the nation on this matter.
– After listening to Senator Courtice, for whom I have a great deal of esteem, it has crossed my mind that after 30 years of Labour government in Queensland, that State has reached the stage where it is incapable of developing its territory further. Consequently honorable senators from Queensland have to appeal to the Australian Government to rescue them from the degradation of government which Queensland exemplifies. I intend to examine some of the items that come under the heading of capital works and services for the Department of Civil Aviation. I have previously referred to the tendency in the Public Service towards what I have called “empire building “. Certain departments demonstrate in the clearest possible way the principle of “ empire building “ at the expense of the people. I have made some research into the votes for the Department of Civil Aviation over the last seven years. Since 1945, when it really started to get the bit in its teeth, this department has extracted from the long-suffering taxpayers a total of £56,000,000. Senator Byrne spoke in a blithe sort of way about anticipating the jet age. The proposed vote for works and services for this department is £6,700,000. It would appear that air transport is becoming an extraordinarily dear form of transportation. In Tasmania air transport is subsidized through the Department of Civil Aviation. In addition, a subsidy of £100,000 is paid in respect of one ship. While these subsidies are being paid to air lines and shipping companies, the roads in Australia are breaking up. The State of Victoria receives £1,500,000 a year from the Commonwealth to maintain roads. Yet, in that State hundreds of thousands of pounds are to be spent on works and services in connexion with civil aviation. I give notice to the Minister that I intend to inquire into the schedule of works for the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of the last twelve months. I should like to know also what proportion of moneys has remained unexpended in respect of works that were projected for the last twelve months and for the previous twelve months.
Although Opposition senators participated in two hours of filibustering, in the course of which they accused the Government of making insufficient time available to deal with business, there are now only three of them in the chamber. It is a disgusting sight.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator has called attention, in his own time, to the state of the Senate. I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to keep a quorum in the chamber and whether a quorum is present.
– That is the sort of childish interjection that I should expect from the Opposition.
– I understand that Senator Cooke drew your attention to the state of the Senate, Mr. President. He asked whether a quorum was present. I think that the onus is on you to ascertain whether a quorum is present. [Quorum formed.]
– I am gratified to find that half a dozen Labour senators are now present. It was a great stroke of policy on the part of the Government 10 build an airstrip on Cocos Island, in the Indian Ocean. This strip will have considerable strategic value and will make possible an alternative air route across the Indian Ocean. I want to congratulate the Government on its decision in relation to this matter and also the previous Government which projected the strip. As a result of the construction of this strip, the great international air port, in Australia in the future will not be the Kingsford Smith aerodrome which will become of tertiary importance. It will merely handle the traffic across the Pacific and the Tasman Sea which is very small. All international airlines will come into Guildford aerodrome at Fremantle. I anticipate that when the information that I have sought is supplied it- will be found that very little has been spent on Guildford aerodrome, although the Government has continued to expand this enormous white elephant at Mascot. For many years an enormous amount of money has been spent on Kingsford Smith aerodrome. Sydney has sucked New South Wales dry for the last 100 years and will suck Australia dry if allowed to continue its cancerous growth. Senator Armstrong, who is interested in building up that city, will no doubt be surprised at these figures. By coming into Guildford, international airlines will save two days on their journey. Instead of having to land at Darwin, go on to Mascot and return they will land at Guildford and save two days. I understand that the Kingsford Smith aerodrome has been projected to cost £20,000,000.
If the Department of Civil Aviation is to be allowed to continue to spend money at its present reckless rate other forms of transport of greater importance than air transport will decay. One tithe of the amount of money allocated to civil aviation, if applied to the maintenance of roads, would play a considerable part in making Australia’s transport system effective. I hope that this will be the last occasion on which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) will have the effrontery to propose that these enormous sums of money should be made available by the taxpayers to enable this department to continue its operations. In its attitude to civil aviation, the Labour party is something like a child with a new toy. Opposition senators have made large and deep protestations about the railways. The Senate has heard Senator Morrow speak on Tasmanian railways. In fact, the Australian Labour party is not interested in railways. It considers that this new toy, air transport, will provide the solution of all transport problems just as it considers the Air Force to be the sole effective means of defence. Air transport in Australia is destroying other forms of transport which are prime movers. The money which should be spent on prime movers is being spent on this exotic form of transportation. I am not interested in whether jet aircraft come to Australia or whether new aerodromes should be built for the operation of jet aircraft. Australia can only afford an air transport system that is sufficient for the needs of the people, and I suggest that air transport in Australia now meets those requirements. We should not pledge the revenue of the country and large capital sums to continuing and increasing investment in aerodromes. At the committee stage, I intend to examine the proposed vote for this department minutely.
– Provision is made in the bill for an expenditure of £13,600,000 on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project. That sum is £3,350,000 more than the provision that was made last year. It is totally inadequate. Unemployment on a large scale exists in every capital city of Australia and this scheme will be a first-class relief work project. The Government has caused widespread unemployment by manipulating imports, whether they were essential to Australia’s economy, or not, and by restricting credit severely. Every thoughtful person in Australia is asking where the unemployed are to obtain work.
The Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project is being financed from revenue. The Australian Government alone is responsible for it. Whenever honorablesenators ask questions about the provision of finance to enable the States to carry out important work, they are told that that is not a matter for the Australian Government. Put the Government is withholding funds from the States and preventing them from starting important works. That policy is causing unemployment. The Government certainly proposes to double the rate of unemployment benefits and a married man who is unemployed is to receive £4 10s. a week, but that is not an answer to unemployment. The Government would bc more business-like if it increased the unemployment benefit to the level of the basic wage so that the recipients could be gainfully employed. The sum that is to be allotted to the Snowy Mountains project should be increased to £150,000,000 so that immediate relief could be given to the 100,000 persons who are out of work.
– I direct the attention of the Senate to the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport. There has been much criticism of the slow turn-round of ships, and the waterside workers, among others, have been blamed, but I submit that a considerable saving could be effected if the Government provided better equipment on the waterfront. Most Australian ports are ill-equipped. It has been suggested that a new port should be established at Fremantle. While honorable senators have to listen to villification of the waterside workers who are blamed for the conditions existing at Australian porta, qualified persons have expressed the opinion that more than 80 per cent, of the shipping delays result from inadequate equipment and plant and poor port facilities. Scarcely one port is not congested and work is hampered as a result. Waiting time is paid to waterside workers, but most of it is the result of congestion in the ports and inefficient equipment. Even when unloading is proceeding at a normal pace, men whoare willing to work have to stand by because they are prevented from workingby congestion on the waterfront and inadequate handling facilities. That is bad economy. Action should be taken to remedy the position, either by coordination with the States or directly by the Australian Government. Reports that have been submitted to various governments have shown that port facilities are inadequate and out of date. At any time the normal discharge of freight is likely to cause congestion. As a result, the turnround of ships is slow, and new and modern bottoms are discouraged from visiting Australia. I suggest that the Minister should investigate this matter fully.
An amount of £1,000,000is provided in. the Estimates for works and services for the purchase of ships overseas. In view of Government policy with regard to shipping and the stated opinion of the Government through its Ministers, I should like to be told why that money ia to be spent and whether the Government proposes to maintain its shipping service.
– As the Senate approaches a measure for the appropriation of £100,000,000 for works and services, honorable senators find that half an hour after Senator Cormack has treated them to ah arresting and intelligent speech, the Labour party is represented in this chamber by three senators.
– Two of them are asleep.
– Senator Armstrong, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, obviously has been asleep for the past half hour. One honorable senator from Western Australia is just retiring, leaving Senator Armstrong and the Opposition whip to maintain worthily, and in sufficient numbers, the proper stature of the Labour party. Let me underline how that indicates the complete insincerity and humbug of the. manoeuvres in which honorable senators opposite were participants earlier in the evening. I believe that there is as much mischief in those manoeuvres as there is in the activities of the rodents under the house. The Labour party came out blandly some years ago with a policy for the abolition of the Senate. Here I believe that its supporters are vaunting their insincerity, not deliberately in pur suance of that policy, but in the purblind and ignorant outlook that will bring them to the same end by inadvertence. I emphasize one feature that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) had the temerity to mention. He said that it was fantastic that the Australian Government should include in its proposals £100,000,000 of permanent works and services to be paid for out of current taxation revenue. I asked him to repeat his description of that proposal and he replied, “fantastic”. He went on to plead about unemployment, and regretted, so he said, the lack of prosecution of such works as the Kiewa project and electrical generation undertakings in the States. It is pathetic that a man in the position of the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber can see before his very eyes this evidence of retrogression and yet be incapable of discerning the causes that have contributed to that state of affairs. I believe that they may be mentioned in relation to the predicament in which the Government finds itself as a result of which it is necessary for it to resort to revenue for the necessary capital works programme of the current year. What is the situation? Those of us who believe that thrift should be rewarded, socially and economically, in a community that is composed of individuals who differ from one another in their capacity for industry or indolence, are of the opinion that the proper capital system is one in which capital works are financed from capital means. They are either loan moneys or capital resources. What are the sources from which the Australian Government can recruit loan moneys? Internally, they are the savings of its people. Surely it is significant that we have reached a stage where the surplus savings of the people are so required for enterprise under private direction and the development of Australia in the first place, and secondly so eroded by six or seven years of vicious taxation that was imposed in the pursuit of a socialistic theory, that they are not available for the loan programme that is required to maintain public works in the current year, either under State or Commonwealth direction. What is the position in relation to external loans? The uneasiness of overseas investors caused ‘by Labour’s administration of this country is still much in evidence. They want to see more signs of political stability before investing their money in loans to Australia. Loan sources having been denied to the Commonwealth, what was the alternative? The Government either had to abandon its capital works programme entirely or finance it out of revenue. The Government has been reduced, therefore, to using revenues raised by taxes to sustain the whole of its programme of permanent public works, which this year will cost £100,000,000. That is the situation into which we have been driven by the fantastic notions in accordance with which the finances of this country were administered during Labour’s term of office. I mention that matter because 1 hope it will be realized that, so far from the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition being supported, this Government has resorted to unique means to maintain its public works programme so that all available internal loans could be left to the States. Moreover, the Government has gone to the length this year of using the resources of the Commonwealth Bank in the form of bank credit, to the extent, we are told, of about £150,000,000. Those special efforts are being made by the Government solely to maintain a proper level of public works. I believe, therefore, that those who argue that the Government’s proposals lack proper encouragement to employment are simply exploiting the lack of understanding that may exist among the people who have not the time, energy or inclination to familiarize themselves with the state of our public finances. It is most regrettable that honorable senators opposite, instead of devoting their energies to the correction of the imbalances that are illustrated by the necessity to draw upon revenue for capital works, are attributing those imbalances to the Government’s failure to halt inflation. Such outworn nonsense and froth will carry little weight. I appeal to the Opposition to give us more thought-provoking speeches such as that of Senator Byrne. Although the honorable senator delved into the realm of fancy, he certainly advanced a new idea which, in its solitude, was a refreshing emanation from the Opposition benches which at present, because of their emptiness, present an intelligent appearance compared with what we normally see. I see that another recruit has joined the diminutive Opposition force which now consists of four little nigger boys. It may be that, before long the Opposition will display such interest in this debate that five of its member out of a total of about 28 will be present.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer at this stage was mentioned by an Opposition senator who is not now present. I refer to Senator Courtice, who is probably going to bed. In fact, so greatly is he troubled about this matter that he is probably already asleep. The honorable senator endeavoured to convince us that he deplored the inadequacy of the financial provision for national development. Surely the coal dust that must envelop him as he passed through New South Wales to his home State must have obscured his view of the achievements of the Government in the coal-mining industry. It is to the great credit of this Government that so significantly does it regard development as a means of raising the standard of living of the people of Australia and ensuring their security, that it has dealt first with the things that matter. Speaking as a somewhat independent occupant of the Government benches, I greatly appreciate the efforts that have been directed by Ministers towards an expansion of coal production since the 10th December, 1949. It is of great interest to me to find that, under the heading of national development, the sum of £1,250,000 has been provided to be expended under the Coal Industry Act this year. I trust that the work on which this expenditure is to be incurred will be energetically pursued so that the coal-mining industry may be placed on a permanently stable basis. We should not permit any apprehension of unemployment to impair the expansion of that industry. All the resources that we can muster should b(? directed to the maintenance of our coal markets so that never again will Australian industry be precariously balanced, awaiting the next dray-load of coal to enter the factory gates. Never again, I hope, will that all-too-precious material, newsprint, be desecrated by headlines announcing - the arrival of a boat-load of coal at Hobart. In recent years the arrival of shipments of coal at that capital city has been headline news. I trust that surplus production of coal will be placed in reserve, and that the coal miners will be guaranteed that a lack of markets for their product will never again threaten them with unemployment. Once we have coal, we have the wherewithal to get steel. It was rather peculiar that the Laader of the Opposition, who is a representative of Tasmania in this chamber, should have gone to Victoria to bleat about the effect that inadequate steel production is having on hydro-electric and other developmental works in that State. A little knowledge would have reminded him that the southern regional hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania has been wilting in recent years. It is to the credit of this Government that it realizes that coaland steel are fundamental to real development. The Government’s understanding of that is indicated not only by the measure that we are now considering, but also by its own past achievements.
Those who deplore the alleged disinterestedness of the Government in development should show a little understanding of the significance of the provision in this measure, in one single item of £13,600,000 for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I am looking forward keenly to making a visit to the Snowy Mountains this month by courtesy of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I rejoice at the assurances that I have received on all sides that those who are directing that great scheme are doing so with real interest and enthusiasm that guarantee its success. This Government is proudly providing those men with the money that they require for the early completion of the project, the fruits of which will be. of dynamic assistance to the heavy industries of New SouthWales, on which the Commonwealth as a whole depends. As a representative of a remote State, I recognize our dependence on the success of the heavy industries of New South Wales. This bill is a significant indication of the Government’s interest in maintaining employment, even by the use of current revenues on capital works.
However, the Government’s aim is not merely to maintain employment: it is to get from employees the work that will bring security and economic strength to Australia. The Labour party should realize that money is only the means for the exchange of real wealth. Only the existence of resources and capital assets in plenty will enable us to raise our standard of living. One of the four Opposition members who have graced the chamber for the last half hour has just idly looked around and feebly departed. His action is symbolic of the attitude of the whole of the Opposition to this important debate.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales) [11.151. - Senator Wright should not be too critical of Labour senators who feebly leave the chamber. After listening to the honorable senator for the last half hour, more would have left had they the strength to do so.
– I did not think that they were so decrepit as that.
– None of them can move. All of them are physically and mentally exhausted. The honorable senator must “ kid “ himself if he believes that any honorable senator will profit by sitting here and listening to him. We have nothing to learn from him. In earlier days the honorable senator could command an audience because he had something to say and, what is perhaps more important, we believed that he meant what he said. But now in his verbal bombast - the roar of his verbal cannonade - there is nothing of substance. Gradually his audience has dwindled until to-day he can no longer command an audience, of any kind. The honorable senator practises self mesmerism to a degree that I have never before witnessed. He rises in his place, the words glibly fall from his lips, but if, after he has resumed his seat, one asks him what he had said, he has not the faintest idea.
– I hope that the honorable senator will not test my intelligence to the point of expecting me to understand what he is saying.
– I should not dream of so trying your patience Mr. President. You, sir, have been most gracious to me. The Senate is discussing a very stern measure - the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill. Why I should have been permitted to refer to Senator Wright’s experiments in self-mesmerism is, I admit, quite beyond me. I shall now proceed to discuss the bill.
– Hear, hear!
– If Senator Wright, who, too, is looking a little weary, will remain in the chamber, I shall deal with some of his observations. From the abstract of this measure we learn that, this year, an amount of £100,003,000 is to be made available for works and services. Of the vote of £115,408,000 provided last year, £109,178,957 was expended. The interesting fact that emerges from these figures is that £100,000.000 is to be made available this year compared with £115,000,000 last year. Having regard to the reduced value of the £1, the physical amount of work that can be undertaken by the expenditure of £100,000,000 will be considerably less this year than was the case last year. It may reasonably be assumed that the volume of work that will be carried out as the result of the expenditure of the moneys provided in this bill will not represent more than 60 per cent, of the volume of works that were carried out last year. Senator Wright, with a mist of words that astonished all of us, tried to paint a glowing picture of the manner in which this country has advanced under the administration of this Government. When speaking of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme he waved his hand about so violently that at any moment I expected it to fall from his wrist.
– I am not as feeble as all that.
– In the absence of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) Senator Wright praised him most lavishly for his achievements in connexion with that scheme. Being a natural rebel, the honorable senator rarely, if ever, praises a man in his presence. He praised the Minister in his absence for having arranged for the expenditure from, the votes included in the bill of £13,600,000 on that great project.
I observe that Mr. President has left the chair and that his place has been taken by the Acting Deputy President, Senator Courtice. Under the presidency of my distinguished colleague we shall, have order in the Senate. All of the achievements for which Senator Wright has so lavishly praised the Government were made possible solely as the result of Labour thought, Labour endeavour and Labour initiative. If the honorablesenator is trying to steal for the Government the credit for having implemented the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme he has even more effrontery than I suspected.
– That project is being implemented almost entirely by private enterprise.
– Whether or not it is being undertaken by private enterprise is beyond the point. What is of more importance is that it is proceeding in accordance with the plans laid down by the Labour Government. After 60 years of delay the plans were finally drawn by the Chifley Labour Cabinet when Mr. Nelson Lemmon was Minister for Works and Housing. One minute the honorable senator lauds the Government to the skies for its achievements; in the next he feverishly tries to drag it down because it has taken some action of which he has little reason to be proud.
The honorable senator referred to the subject of coal. The Minister for National Development would, I believe, be the first to admit that, during the period of office of this Government, not one new underground or open-cut mine has been developed which was not covered by the developmental plans of the Labour Government. No significant shipments of mining machinery and equipment have arrived in Australia since this Government has been in office which were not already ordered by the Labour Government.
– The Labour Government did not order mining machinery before it went out of office.
– I should like the Minister to endeavour to prove the truth of that assertion..
– Perhaps I have exaggerated a little.
– I should like to see some of the machinery ordered by this Government which has arrived in Australia since the Minister has occupied his present portfolio. L invite the Minister to give us details of it. The Minister’s chief achievement has been the reduction of the output of coal obtained from open-cut mines from 5,000,000 to 3,000,000 tons. The plans of the Chifley Government were based on the assumption that, in 1954, 18,000,000 tons of coal would be needed to meet Australia’s requirements for developmental purposes. This Government has suddenly discovered that in that year only 15,000,000 tons of coal will be needed. These figures give some indication of the manner in which this Government has gone about its task of developing Australia.
– Why was the reduction made?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is obvious. Senator Wright referred to steel production in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, one of our principal manufacturers and processors of steel, now has more coal than it can use. It has 150,000 tons of coal in store and it has refused to accept further deliveries from the Joint Coal Board. The company has reported that it is experiencing difficulty in finding buyers for steel. The Bunnerong power house does not need more coal at present. Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited has refused to take further deliveries of coal. The New South Wales railways have more coal than they need. Their work schedules have been reduced because of business depression.
– What solution does the honorable senator offer in regard to these problems?
– It is very simple though it may not be palatable to honorable senators opposite. The problem of the diminishing demand for coal can be solved only by a return of confidence on the part of the people in the Australian Government, and that can not be achieved until this Government has been removed from the treasury bench. Only then will production be stimulated and the demand for coal be increased. What a tragedy it is to see great public works lagging, and brainy men in *](! Public Service and in outside industry idle, because the people have no confidence in this Government ! Senator Wright nas said that money is only the means of exchange for the real resources of the country.
– That is perfectly true.
– The members of the Government do not share that view ; they value money for its own sake and not for the resources that lc can develop and the activities that it can stimulate. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, in Victoria great projects have been closed down, and in New South Wales hospital construction, railways and water conservation works have been curtailed. When these works are halted it is very difficult to recommence them. Senator Wright has said that this Government has left the loan market to the States. Having depressed and ruined the market it is now prepared to let the States have a free hand. How generous of it! Because it has destroyed the confidence of the people in government loans, there is no market for State loans. Last week the Victorian Government attempted to float a loan of £1,000,000 but it was undersubscribed by more than £600,000.
– Recently, the Brisbane City Council sought to raise a loan of £500,000 but it obtained only £200,000.
– These figures indicate the degree to which the people have lost confidence in government loans.
– What sort of government is in office in Queensland ?
– A more pertinent question is : What sort of government have we in Canberra? Confidence in the loan market was destroyed, not by the Governments of Victoria or Queensland, but by the Menzies Government. The first member of the Government who went to the wailing wall and told the people there was no future in subscribing to Common wealth loans was the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). Ministers in another place told the people that there would be a surplus of £114,000,000 under the 1951-52 budget, which could be spent on public works, but the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the public works would not get a shilling of it excepting over his dead body. Well, his is one of the dead bodies that is now hampering the Menzies Government. The £114,000,000 has now disappeared and the only way now to fill our loans is to once again obtain the confidence of the people. The solution of the problem is, of course, completely unpalatable to the Government, because it is that the Government should get out and let somebody else get into office who can do the job properly.
– It is unfortunate that it is proposed that all the money required in this appropriation measure shall come from revenue. I refer the Senate to page 30 of the annual report of the AuditorGeneral, in which reference is made to outstanding taxes. On the 30th June of this year, £182,000,000 of income tax revenue was outstanding, whereas at the 30th June, 1951, only £56,000,000 was outstanding. This year, £2,406,000 was outstanding in respect of the land tax and last year only £387,000 was outstanding. If the works contemplated in the measure are to be proceeded with out of revenue the Government should do something drastic to recover our outstanding taxes.
– The AuditorGeneral also states that it is not possible to collect the outstanding taxes because the people who owe them cannot pay them.
– The AuditorGeneral states five reasons why the taxes arc outstanding, and only one of those reasons is the inability of persons to pay their assessed taxes.
– That is the major reason.
– It is not the major reason because the AuditorGeneral also states that bush fires, drought, stock losses and deferment of provisional tax because of the heavy fall in wool prices are also reasons for the non-payment of taxes. However, if these outstanding taxes were collected they would help considerably to finance our works programme. I compliment the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) on the determined work that he is doing in connexion with Commonwealth railways. V.ery useful work has been done in altering the railway gauge in South Australia to permit of the transport of Leigh Creek coal to the Adelaide and Port Augusta districts. The alteration of the gauge will also allow for the rapid and smooth transport of cattle from the Northern Territory and Queensland to the southern seaboard. I compliment the Government on pushing ahead with this work, and also on effecting improvements to the TransAustralia railway. The Government is showing great vision by improving the rolling stock on that line, and under the administration of the Minister that line is now more than paying its working expenses. The works programme envisaged by the Government is a good one, but I deplore the fact that we are attempting to pay for it completely out of revenue. I suggest that the Government should collect the outstanding taxes and I hope that the bill will have a quick and easy passage.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. - I refer to page 6 of the Schedule, Department of the Treasury, Division 6, item 2, “ Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited - additional share capital “. I notice that £49,000 will be provided by way of additional share capital for that company. I desire the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to inform me of the activities of thu company, its share capital, and whether the share capital is held wholly by the
Commonwealth or jointly by the Commonwealth and private shareholders. Will the Minister also explain the reason why the Government is contributing to the share capital of this company, and will he indicate the Government’s policy in so contributing? Apparently the Government has two policies. It is obviously contributing to the share capital of this company on the one hand, and on the other hand it is selling shares in companies owned by the Commonwealth as rapidly as it can. I also refer the Minister to page 8, Department of Supply, Division 14a, which indicates that some money will be contributed to the New Guinea Resources Prospecting Company Limited. I should like the Minister to inform me of the basis on which the Government contributes to the share capital of these concerns at a time when it is busy selling its share capital in other companies.
– I shall refer to Division 3 - “ .Buildings, works, fittings and furniture “, under the Prime Minister’s Department. From time to time the Premiers of the States, and other State Ministers have occasion to visit Canberra to confer with Commonwealth Ministers. lt has been brought to my notice that office accommodation has not been provided for them iu this building. When the acting Premier of Western Australia visited Canberra on official business during last year, I made my private room in this building available to him. I think it would be an appropriate gesture to the States if office accommodation and typing facilities were made available in this building for visiting State Ministers.
– The proposed vote for Division 2 - “Australian High Commissioner in United Kingdom - Buildings, equipment and furniture for Australia House and official residences” under the Prime Minister’s Department is £100,000. The vote for the last financial year was £80,000 and expenditure £9S,166. If I remember correctly, only a couple of years ago a very large amount was expended on an official residence in London for the Australian High Commissioner. Probably some of the furniture from that residence has been transferred to Australia House. I consider that the expenditure of nearly £200,000 of our overseas funds on furniture, fittings and equipment for Australia House and the official residence for the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom should bc explained.
The proposed vote for Division 34, Division 35 and Division 36 - Department of Immigration - is £2,770,000. This is an extraordinarily large provision in view of the curtailment of our immigration programme. Under Division 34 the proposed vote for “ Conversion and refitting of ships for transport of British migrants “ is £100,000. Is this provision for the re-conversion into luxury liners of ships that have been used for the transport of British immigrants? I understand that there are now available more ships than are needed to convey immigrants to this country under the restricted programme.
Under Division 35 the proposed vote for “ Hostels for accommodation of migrants - acquisition of sites and buildings “ is £170,000. In Western Australia, sites are already available for the erection of additional buildings, and the existing hostels are not being used to their full capacity. In view of our greatly restricted immigration programme, I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to justify the proposed expenditure.
Under Division 36 the proposed vote for “ Buildings, works, fittings and furniture “ is £15,000 ; the proposed vote for “ Reception, training and holding centres for accommodation of migrants “ is £285,000 ; and the proposed vote for “ Hostels for migrant workers “ is £2,200,000, at a time when our intake of immigrants is being severely curtailed. I should like the Minister to explain the necessity for the proposed expenditure on a dwindling department.
. The proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation - Division 15, Division 16, and Division 17, is £6,700,000. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to inform me whether there are any outstanding contracts in relation to the Kingsford Smith aerodrome, and whether portions of previous votes for the Department of Civil Aviation remain . unexpended. I understand that such a state of absurdity has been reached in relation to this aerodrome that it may be necessary for the Department of Civil Aviation to remove the top stories of several factories, and to demolish some chimneys in the locality.
– The proposed vote for Division 17-“ Buildings and works, including shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and furniture “, under the. Department of Civil Aviation, is £3,900,000. I should be glad if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) would inform me of the aerodromes and airports on which it is proposed to expend that amount.
– The proposed vote for Division 30 - “ Purchase of ships overseas “, is £1,000,000. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to inform me whether the Government is committed to the proposed expenditure for contracts that have been let by the present Government. The proposed vote for “ Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool - Plant “, under Division 30, is £50,000. In view of the Government’s expressed intention to dispose of both these assets. I should be glad if the Minister would explain the necessity for the proposed expenditure.
– “We have on order in the United Kingdom two 10,000 ton iron ore carriers, and two 1,900 tons dead weight cargo ships. The provision of £1,000,000 is in relation to those ships. The proposed vote of £50,000 for the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, is to pay for equipment that is on order for the pool. The proposed vote of £6,700,000 in connexion with the Department of Civil Aviation, to which Senator Vincent has referred, will be required mostly to pay for equipment on order and its installation and for works in progress. A small portion of the proposed vote will be available for new items. A programme of new items to be authorized during this financial year, which, in the main, will form a charge against future votes, is being prepared in accordance with the Treasury formula. It cannot yet be stated what new items will be authorized.
– I have before me information to enable me to reply to the question that has been asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The New Guinea Resources Prospecting Company Limited has authorized capital of £A.100,000, divided into 100,000 shares of £1 each, of which the Commonwealth has been allotted 51,000 shares. The balance is allotted to a British company. The principal objects of the New Guinea company include the following: -
To prospect and search and to carry out investigations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and elsewhere for the following purposes: -
Last year, the provision made for the purposes of this enterprise was £12,750, and that amount was expended. This year, in the vote for the Department of Supply, approval has been given for the expenditure of £13,000.
– I refer to item 2 of Division 55, in the proposed vote for the Department of Territories, which relates to the construction of water supplies, roads and stock routes for pastoral purposes in the Northern Territory. The proposed expenditure is £400,000. That is a lot of money in anybody’s currency. I am particularly impressed by the fact that all of the work on those stock routes is done without cost to the pastoral industry. The Department of Territories has undertaken to provide watering facilities for stock at intervals of approximately eighteen miles along the principal routes. Tt has expended a great deal of money on the installation of tanks for bore water. Until the 30th June last, pastoralists in the Northern ‘Territory did not pay income tax, and, therefore, I consider that they should be required to pay a reasonable fee for all stock that uses the routes and the watering facilities provided by the department at public expense. It seems to me. that the industry is being pampered, although it could well afford to stand on its own feet. I have heard it said that the Government does everything for the pastoralists in the territory but kiss the stockmen goodnight. That is almost a fact. I do not criticize the Government for having provided water facilities at regular intervals, but I consider that the industry should contribute to the cost of those facilities.
– We cannot have too much water in that region.
– That is true, but’ I am concerned to ensure that the department shall not waste too much of the taxpayer’s money without prospect of recompense. I understand that, in Queensland and New South Wales, a small charge is levied on each head of stock that passes over stock routes. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to request that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) give consideration to the imposition of a charge for the use of stock routes and watering facilities in the Northern Territory. It is entirely wrong that the taxpayers’ money should be expended on “this work without any prospect of return from the pastoralists. I hope that, in the near future, fees will be collected from them for stock that is moved over the routes.
– The matter raised by Senator Henty is of considerable importance. The reason why the Government has provided for the expenditure of such a large sum on the construction of water supplies, roads and stock routes for pastoral purposes in the Northern Territory this year is that pastoralists in the territory have suffered severely from the recent drought. The Government wishes to encourage them to develop the cattle industry in the interests of Australia as a whole. The drought has been the most disastrous in the history of the territory.
– I do not want to cause any embarrassment to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), but I return to the subject that I raised a few minutes ago. I have closely examined the details of the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation in an effort to discover how the department plans to expend the revenue. What are the outstanding contracts, what new programmes does it intend to undertake, and how much money remains to be expended on the Kingsford-Smith airport in New South Wales? I shall be grateful if the Minister will consult with the departmental experts, who are in attendance, in order to obtain the information that I, as a member of the Senate, wish to obtain. How much has been expended on the Kingsford-Smith airport already, and what is the total estimated cost of the work?
.- I shall deal first with the inquiries that have been made concerning the three items under Division No. 36 in the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. The total for the division is £2,770,000. The first item, of £15,000, is for buildings, works, fittings and furniture to meet the normal administrative requirements of the department. This item is distinct from the proposed expenditure on the provision of accommodation for immigrants. The second item, of £285,000, will cover the cost of work on reception, training and holding centres for immigrants. Most of the accommodation that is needed for these purposes has already been provided, or is nearing completion. Expenditure during 1952-53 will be limited to the completion of works already in hand and the construction of a small number of essential new buildings required for the improvement of facilities at holding centres. The third item, of £2,200,000, will provide for the construction of hostels for . immigrant workers employed in essential industries in cities and provincial centres. The details of such works are still under review. However, the expenditure will probably be directed towards the completion of projects that are designed to assist production in the coal, steel, and other important industries. Expenditure will also be incurred on the improvement of living conditions at some immigrant hostels.
I return now to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) concerning Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. The Commonwealth owns 46 per cent, of the issued capital of that company. It appoints four directors of the board of seven and holds 293,760 shares. Private shareholders hold 336,240. It is a public company, and its shares are quoted on the stock exchange. It recently increased its capital and made shares available for subscription by new shareholders, and the Australian Government took up the proportion of those new shares to which it was entitled.
The honorable senator also asked me to outline the policy of the. Government in connexion with various companies, including two in which the Commonwealth has taken up additional shares. I have already referred to other companies in which the Commonwealth has sold shares. I can only say, in reply to the questions asked by the honorable senator, that the Commonwealth, like any other prudent shareholder, looks at the circumstances of each shareholding and makes a decision on the relevant facts. The Commonwealth has gone into the New Guinea company, to which he referred, for reasons of policy. It increased its holding in Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited for business reasons.
– What were those business reasons?
– That it was a good proposition, having regard to all the circumstances, to take up the additional shares that were made available, rather than to allow them to be sold on the market.
Friday, 10 October, 1952.
– Senator Cormack has asked a specific question concerning the Kingsford Smith aerodrome at Mascot. I am advised that expenditure to date on that airport is between £8,500,000 and £9,000,000. The estimated expenditure for 1952-53 is £800,000. The total cost of the project is expected to be £20,000,000. As I have already indicated, the total expenditure proposed by this bill in respect the Department of Civil Aviation is £6,700,000, which will be needed for expenditure on equipment and work in progress. It is not expected that very much new work will be undertaken out of the amount that is to be voted. The matter is under active consideration, and when it is possible to make a more accurate appreciation of times of delivery of equipment and matters of that kind, the Government will be in a better position to decide what new works should be undertaken.
– I wish to obtain from, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) an assurance that at the first favorable opportunity he and his Cabinet colleagues will examine this vote and the plans and ambitions of the department. When the next Estimates are before the Senate I hope to see that this work has been ruthlessly pruned.
– I refer to the Department of Civil Aviation, the. proposed expenditure for which is £6,700,000. Although such heavy expenditure is contemplated, the Minister proposes to write off amounts that are owed by various airline companies in respect of landing fees and other charges to the extent of £1,500,000. In view of the amounts which it is proposed to write off, I wish to know whether any reimbursement is to be made to the Government by the airline companies using the facilities that have been provided at heavy cost by the department.
– Under the proposed vote for the Department of Repatriation, I notice that sites and buildings are to be acquired at a cost of £15,000 and other buildings, works, fittings and furniture at a cost of £400,000. I understand that the department contemplates the erection of certain buildings in Perth. During my observations on the Western Australian Transport Council, I referred to the habit of the Commonwealth authorities of riding rough shod over regulations and local authorities alike. As I understand the proposal, certain temporary wooden buildings are to be erected in Perth on the Esplanade, which is one of the most beautiful positions in the city. On that site other so-called temporary wooden buildings were erected 30 years ago. They are still there. I enter a most emphatic protest against this proposal. When a public authority is attempting to beautify a certain area, the least that it might expect is cooperation from the Government, whether it be the Australian Government or the State Government. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to this matter.
Under the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the sum of £620,000 is to be provided for “Buildings, works, fittings and furniture “, and a further sum of £52,250 for “ Acquisition of sites and buildings”. Both of those amounts are less amounts recoverable from the Wool Industry Fund. This morning I read in the Canberra Times a report to the effect that when introducing a certain bill in the House of Representatives recently, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) stated that 300 wool stores were available for disposal. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) why cannot some of those buildings be used by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization? I point out that building materials are not really plentiful in all States of the Commonwealth. It seems wrong to me that valuable buildings should be sold.
Also under the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is an item of £15,000, for “ Purchase of fisheries research vessel “. Two such vessels were operating in the Great Australian Bight last year. They were trawlers, and were exploring the deep-sea fisheries. The company that operated the trawlers wanted some assistance from the Commonwealth, but its application was refused. Yet I now note a proposal to purchase another fishing vessel which, apparently, is to do the same kind of work; That seems to be rather extraordinary. Surely it would be better to assist the existing company to continue its operations in southern waters rather than let it go out of existence and lose its money, while the purchase of another vessel to do practically the same work is contemplated. That matter should receive attention.
I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has noticed that I have on the notice-paper a question about the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. My question has been on the notice-paper for more than a week, and it seems strange that I could not get an answer to it, yet the Minister was able to give an answer when the matter was raised this evening. I am concerned particularly about the Commonwealth’s share in the management of the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, because there is rather an unsavoury case awaiting decision at the present time. I refer to the action of the Hartnett Motor Company Limited against the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. A contract had been entered into for the supply of 2,000 motor body panels by the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited to the Hartnett company and so far the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited has supplied only six of them, with the result that the Hartnett organization faces the risk of bankruptcy. Some auxiliary companies are in a similar position. If the Government has a majority of directors on the board of the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited and holds 46 per cent, of the shares in that organization it does not seem satisfactory that the arbitration in this dispute should be protracted until the financial stability of another company is threatened. The Government must accept the responsibility for the actions of the company. In the circumstances, the Government should hasten the arbitration case, which has been pending for so long, and save the various companies concerned from a serious financial risk.
I am concerned particularly about the repatriation building to which I have referred. The Municipality of Perth is also deeply concerned about it. As the Minister for Repatriation is aware, the only building on the Esplanade, which is one of the beauty spots of Perth, is the temporary structure that houses the repatriation offices. We are eager to get rid of that building, and we do not want other temporary structures added to it, and thereby prolong the time that the building will disfigure a beauty spot of Perth.
– I direct attention to the provision of £50,000 for buildings, work3, fittings and furniture for the Parliament. That is rather a staggering figure, and I am sure that honorable senators would like to know why it is required.
I now direct attention to the proposed vote of £1,479,000 for the Trans-Australia Railway. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is to be commended for his action in introducing diesel electric locomotives on that service. When I was at Port Augusta, I saw a score or more steam locomotives that had been taken off the run between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie, and I should like to know what is to become of them. Has any attempt been made to sell them and, if so, with what success ? I am sure that the Minister has been most diligent in this matter, and I should like some information about it.
– I should like some information about the following items: - “ Lighthouse services - purchase and installation of equipment, £19,000 “ ; “Lighthouse vessel - purchase and installation of equipment, £1,000 “ ; and “ Lighthouse services - buildings, works fittings and furniture, £15,000.” The first two items are under the control of the Department of Shipping and Transport and the third is under the control of the Department of Works. If those three items are correlated I should like to be given a great deal more information about them. If I have any knowledge of shipping at all, the provision of £1,000 must be for the purchase of some kind of launch. An amount of £19,000 is to be spent on the purchase and installation of equipment for the lighthouse services. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to inform me where the lighthouses in which this equipment is to be installed are located, and how many there are. The provision of a further £15,000 for lighthouse services causes me to think that the Department of Works is up to its old game again and proposes to erect buildings and offices at a cost of £15,000 for the accommodation of its sisters and its mothers and its cousins and its aunts. I should like to know the reason why that considerable sum is to be expended on buildings and where the lighthouses are to be located.
– I should like some information about the proposed vote of £5,250,000 for imports of jute and jute products, less a similar amount recoverable from sales. Last year a loss of £4,200,000 was apparently incurred on the purchase of jute and jute products. Is the Department of Commerce and Agriculture still importing jute goods? I point out that the market has become highly speculative. This business is always grand for socialist enterprise when the market is rising. When it dabbles in these matters, it is usually caught with a host of stocks on hand when the market is falling. Apparently a loss of- £4,200,000 was incurred last year.
– What authority incurred that loss?
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I may have misunderstood the position, and I raise this matter only in order to ascertain whether the Government is still dabbling in this highly speculative market. If it is, what is the reason for its action? The sooner the Department of Commerce and Agriculture gets out of this business, the better.
– I inform Senator Seward that I have every reason to believe that the permanent Commonwealth building that is to be erected in Perth will be proceeded with. The repatriation- offices will be housed in that structure.
– I deeply regret to disappoint Opposition senators who, during the last hour, have audibly made the appeal, “ Move the gag ! Why do you not move the gag? “ As I see the mummified and. now mute figures that recline listlessly on the Opposition benches, my mind goes to the poem Ozymandias of Egypt. I direct attention to the provision of £6,500 for the erection at Canberra of a memorial to His Late Majesty King George V. I am most interested in this monument. It has had the temerity to rise, rather slowly I agree, at the very doorstep of Parliament House, where all the vigilance of members of the Federal Parliament, gathered from all corners of the Commonwealth, is focussed upon that scene of industry. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on one occasion drily remarked, “I have been observing the activity that goes on for the last six weeks and I have not yet reached a conclusion as to whether they are pulling the statue down or putting it up “. As I look out from the windows of Parliament House I observe this statute, and I ask myself whether the representation of His late Majesty is at the foot or the top, or on the north or the south, because if you look at it from Parliament House its real purpose is as apparent as that of the Opposition benches in their appearance at this hour of the morning. After a tedious and eventful day yesterday and after witnessing the complete lack of sincerity on the part of the Opposition, let us regard this monument in a spirit of mourning, not only for His Majesty, but for the taxpayers’ money.
I want now to direct attention to a device of enlightenment described under Division 2, the Australian National University, for which has been requested a vote only £23,000 under £1,000,000. Last year, this body succeeded in spending £930,000. I, as a newcomer to the holy city, ask, “ How long, o Lord, how long ? “ How long, may I ask, are these annual votes of £1,000,000 to be allocated for the construction of the Australian National University? If I could be informed of the commitments of the Government in administering that half-erected centre of learning I should also be obliged to the Minister. It must not be taken from these remarks that I disparage this great enterprise, but it has yet to prove itself. I think that honorable senators should be informed how many millions of pounds have gone into its construction, what additional expenditure will be required by the building plan and the extent of the commitments of the Government in maintaining individuals associated with that body.
– In Division 39 - Department of National Development - a vote of £250,000 has been proposed for plant and equipment for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This amount rather depresses me, not because it is too great, but because it is too small. I notice that the next proposed vote, in Division 40 - Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Authority - is £13,600,000. I suggest that action to regenerate our mining industry is as important a project as the Snowy Mountains scheme. It appears that we are to spend more than ten times as much on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme as we are to spend on plant and equipment for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. We are spending far too little on our mining industries. I do not suggest that less should be expended on the hydro-electric scheme. Far from it. But we are spending far too little on exploratory activities with respect to miningnot only for base metals but also for precious metals. It is regrettable that more attention has not been given to the development of these fast waningindustries.
I desire to congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on a magnificent achievement in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme. I have had the opportunity to examine this undertaking, which is well worth seeing. As I said before, the Government has proposed a vote of £13,600,000 on this project. The amount proposed to be provided on this occasion is considerably in excess of the sum that was voted for this purpose last year. I do not quarrel about the proposed increase, As most of this money will be expended through private enterprise, I am confident that it will be wisely expended. I should like to know whether the proposed allocation is in respect of work that is to be undertaken during the current financial year.
– I inform Senator Wright that the expenditure on the Australian National University in respect of maintenance, in addition to capital expenditure, is estimated at £600,000. I am unable to estimate the final commitment precisely because provision is made separately in respect of maintenance and capital expenditure. I understand that the delay that has occurred in the completion of the King George V. Memorial iu front of Parliament House has been due to the inability of the contractors to obtain the material that is required to finish that structure. The requisite supplies have been held up in the United Kingdom. I assure the honorable senator that as soon as that material is delivered, work on the monument will be completed as speedily as possible. I also assure him that the monument is not being pulled down. Indeed, when it is completed, it will be a worthy memorial to the late King George V.
asked for information about the proposed vote in respect of lighthouse services in Papua and New Guinea. Provision is made under this item for the purchase of equipment of a capital nature to be installed in new lights that are located, or are to be erected, on the coast of Papua and New Guinea or on adjacent islands. In some instances, the lights are replacements of temporary structures that were erected during the recent war. The main articles to be purchased are lanterns, lantern lenses and gas cylinders. Included in the proposed provision of £19,000 is a sum of £12,000 for equipment for which provision was made last financial year but which was not expended. Honorable senators are aware that the Government is eager to do all that it possibly can to improve aids and facilities to navigation.
asked for information with respect to the disposal of the 4 ft. 8^ in. gauge steam locomotives for which diesel locomotives have now been sub stituted on the Trans-Australia railway. They have been offered to a certain State government, but that government, so far, has not been prepared to purchase them at the valuation which the Commonwealth has placed on them. Should that sale not be effected, the locomotives will be offered to the operators of other railway systems.
The proposed provision in respect of works to be undertaken at Parliament House is required for the installation of four 600-gallon capacity hot water calorifiers, the erection of buildings for workshops and stores, the provision of steel shelving and cupboards for the housing of records of the Parliamemtary Library and for minor works of that nature.
– I should like to know whether architectural plans have been prepared in respect of the proposed permanent Parliament House which is to be situated on Capital Hill, or whether it is intended that that work should be undertaken by posterity.
– I note with pleasure that provision is being made in respect of activities covered by the Tuberculosis Act. All of us are aware of the ravages that have been caused by that disease in the past. I suggest that the Australian Government should call a conference of State Ministers of Health in order to evolve uniform methods for the implementation of the provisions of the Tuberculosis Act. Excellent work is being done in this sphere in Tasmania. Whereas for the five years ended the 31st December, 1949, deaths due to tuberculosis represented 4.6 per cent, of the total number of deaths, that rate has been reduced to 2.8 per cent, during the last two years in which compulsory X-ray examinations have been carried out. Such examinations enable patients to receive adequate treatment during the early stages of the disease.
I should also like to know whether the full amount of £16,000,000 has been made available to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to meet its present estimated requirements. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the sum of £13,600,000 has been made available to that authority. From information that was imparted to honorable senators who recently inspected works being carried out by that authority, I gathered that that body had not received the full amount that it requires, and that unless it does so it will not be able to maintain its schedule. Is work on the scheme being curtailed in any way?
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a section of the report of the Auditor-General under the heading, “ Programmes of Expenditure “. As the Auditor-General has stated the position more explicitly and succinctly than I can express it, I shall read the relevant section. It states -
In the case Commonwealth v. Colonial Combing Spinning and Weaving Co. Ltd. (1922), C.L.E. 421, in the High Court of Australia, Mr. Justice Isaacs stated - “ Parliamentary discretion would be severely fettered if the executive could make a compact binding the Crown in law to pay away a portion of the public funds and leaving to Parliament the alternative of assenting to the payment or disavowing a public obligation. That would be seriously weakening the control by Parliament over the public Treasury “.
To ensure continuous effective administration of Departments, it has always been considered reasonable to permit a department to incur, towards the end of a financial year, restricted liabilities in excess of an appropriation for ordinary annual services, the accounts for which will be received and met from a similar appropriation to be provided in the next financial year.
In the case of Capital Works and Services, however, liabilities of this nature are not incurred without specific Treasury authority. The practice used to be that, if it was known when the Estimates were being compiled, that an amount provided therein represented only part of the cost of a work, a notation would be placed in the Estimates for the information of Parliament indicating the total liability involved.
Over the past five years at least, a procedure has developed to submit for Cabinet approval programmes of expenditure covering periods of years. It is unquestionable that such a procedure is necessary but liabilities are thereby incurred of which Parliament may have very little knowledge. The information is available when the Estimates are being discussed, but Parliament does not always seek knowledge of the additional liability to which it is committed by approving the Estimates of the financial year.
The Auditor-General then set out a typical case of Capital Works and Ser vices Estimates for 1951-52, and added that he had referred the case to the Attorney-General’s Department last January for an opinion. That question arises with regard to this bill. Honorable senators are informed that money is to be spent on capital works and services. No indication is given in the bill whether the amounts represent a total liability jr only a part it it. The Auditor-General has reported that he asked for an opinion last January. Up to the time that the report was printed he had not received that opinion. I mention that not because there may have been a delay in the Attorney-General’s Department, but simply to indicate that the AuditorGeneral brought the matter to the attention of the Government in January. Has the Government taken any cognizance of it? Apparently the Auditor-General’s opinion is that there might be some indication in the Estimates of the total committed liability in respect of any item where the amount that is shown in the vote is not in fact the whole of the liability. If that were done it would assist the Parliament in consideration of the Estimates. I ask the Minister whether it is aware of the opinion of the Auditor-General, and if the Government proposes to act upon it. Why has not the committee been given the advantage of some account along the lines that have been suggested by him?
– I have been advised that the matter is of some importance, and that it is under examination by the legal authorities and the Treasury. During the absence of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), Senator Cole asked whether there had been any pruning of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric proposal. I understand that the amount that is to be expended is larger than last year’s vote.
– I wish to seek information on the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. One item is, “ Hostels for accommodation of immigrants, acquisition of sites and buildings, £170,000”. Another item is, “Hostels for immigrant workers, £2,200,000”. Will the Minister inform me whether the dining facilities that are to be provided in the hostels will be the same as those that are now provided? Is the Government aware of the great discontent that exists in the hostels ? The South Australian Government has offered to assist in the provision of amenities. Has the Government decided to accept that offer? The dining facilities in the hostels are not satisfactory. Communal dining-rooms are provided and everybody has to eat there. I am not condemning the facilities, but for practical purposes they could be greatly improved.
– That matter is under consideration now. A final decision has not been reached.
– I shall accept the Minister’s reply. I am interested in this matter and I hope that the Government will not allow the present unsatisfactory conditions to continue. It should be possible to provide some cooking facilities in the living quarters so that the wives of immigrants will be able to look after their husbands and families. The proposed vote suggests that the Government intends to continue to provide accommodation for immigrants. In doing so it should give attention to an improvement in the eating arrangements.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport give the Senate any information about the item of £140,000 for capital expenditure by the Flax Production Commission? The production of flax was well under way in Western Australia but, as a result of the policy of this Government, it has been largely discontinued, and the plant has been disposed of. Is it the intention of the Government to revitalize or reestablish the industry and, if so, in what area?
, - I shall obtain the information for which the honorable senator has asked, and supply him with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Business of the Senate.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia -
Minister for Shipping and Transport) [12.52 a.m.]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I warn honorable senators that, having regard to the heavy programme with which we must deal, they should be prepared to sit on Friday of next week, unless we make enough headway to render that unnecessary.
– I intended to ask the Minister whether it was likely that the Senate would be asked to sit on Friday of next week, but he has forestalled me. I trust that if we do sit on Friday of next week and on other Fridays until the end of the session, we shall noi witness a spectacle similar to that which we have witnessed to-night. The end of the recent debate was one of the most unsatisfactory conclusions of such a debate that I have experienced while I have been a member of the Parliament. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction among the members of the Opposition. We were not stone-walling but were honestly seeking information.
– Omit the word “honestly”.
– I am glad that Senator Wright has interjected, because I had almost forgotten that I wanted to extend to him my deepest thanks for the fact that, to some degree, he has made me change my opinion of him. I have discovered, to my great astonishment, that he can be really entertaining. He showed that in a practical manner to-night. If, in the future, he conducts himself in the way in which he has done to-night, and abandons his usual snapping and snarling, as Senator O’Flaherty has so aptly described it, and even if his countenance while he is in that frame of mind is the countenance that he exhibited to-night, we shall be a much happier family.
I hope that the Government will not gag the debates on the other important legislation with which we have to deal, and that we shall be able to conduct the business of the Senate in a more cooperative spirit than we have done to-day. I am pleased that Senator Henty is no longer suffering from the malady from which he appeared to be suffering earlier in the evening. I assure the Senate that the Opposition was quite concerned about his condition. We have not yet been able to discover whether he was suffering from convulsions or catarrh of the vowels.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasonsfor resumption of Berrimah Aboriginal Reserve.
War Service Homes Act - Report of Director of War Service Homes for year 1951-52, together with statements and balancesheet.
Senate adjourned at 12.55 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521009_senate_20_219/>.