23 September 1954

21st Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Eon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

page 476



Senator BROWN:

– Aa members of the Boya] Commission on Espionage have indicated that an interim report will be issued on document J, can the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether that report will be. open for public discussion?

Senator SPICER:
Attorney-General · VICTORIA · LP

– It has not been the practice in this chamber to answer any questions on. the Royal Commission on Espionage, and I should certainly hesitate to answer a completely hypothetical question. I do not. know what course of action the royal commissioners will take in regard to this matter, but when that course has. been determined, I shall be in a much better position to answer the honorable senator’s question.

page 476



Senator RYAN:

– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been directed to the public representations for Commonwealth support for the construction, and maintenance of a modern arterial highway connecting the South Australian and Western Australian capital cities? If not, will the Minister have the matter investigated by the appropriate authorities to see what Commonwealth support can be given to this essential project?

Senator McLEAY:
Minister for Shipping and Transport · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I have- noticed that, at a conference in Hobart this week, a resolution was passed urging that the road mentioned by the honorable senator should be made into an all-weather highway. Up to date, the maintenance of this road has- been the joint responsibility of the South Australian- Government, the Western Australian Government and the Australian Government. I shall have the matter re-examined in view of the increased allocations to the States, for road work this year, and inform the honorable senator of the result of the investigation. ,,.

page 477



Senator BENN:

– Gan the. Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is true that cane-growers’ in Queensland are now experiencing difficulty in obtaining sufficient and suitable labour for cane harvesting work?’ If that is the position, will the Minister state what action the Government is taking’ to meet the shortage F

Senator SPICER:

– The circumstances mentioned in the honorable senator’s question are symptomatic of the flourishing; conditions, in this; country to-day. If the. honorable senator will put his question oil the notice-paper,. I shall endeavour to obtain the information that he seeks.

page 477



Senator HENTY:

– I direct a. question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that since, the Maritime Industry Commission was abolished and control of seamen was given to Judge Foster^ shipping hold-ups on the Australian coast have been reduced considerably?

Senator McLEAY:

– Prom reports, I have received, from time to time, I know that ships, on the Australian, coast are not being held up to the- same degree as previously., There has, been a considerable improvement, of the position.. I shall be pleased to> obtain: detailed figures, and present them to tha ‘Senate-.

Senator FRASER:

– Has’ the Minister for Shipping and Transport received a report fro» Judge Foster or from officers of the department about the. very poor living conditions on some; Australian ships-? Is it a fact that: Judge Poster said’ he would not be prepared to go- to sea in some Australian ships’ because the living1 conditions, of the- crews’ were, very bad?

Senator McLEAY:

– I have not received1 an official report on this1 matter, but I have seen statements about it in- the press from time to time1. I am satisfied that conditions on Australian ships are better than conditions on- any other ships. We Rare-1 had praise- from all parts of the world for our ships, with one1 or two exceptions. The honorable senator will appreciate- that, because- we are short of ships, we have some very old’ ships on the, coastal trad’e. The- accommodation, on those old! ships’ is not 100’ per cent.,, but from time to time, when notice isserved on the owners to improve the accommodation-, the owners act *smA see that the improvements aire: effected. Thereis ito season to fear that seamen h-ase towork under conditions that are bo! reasonable.

page 477



Senator COLE:

– Will the Minister for National Development once again issue an invitation to, parliamentarians to visit, the Snowy Mountains scheme? Some of us paid a very interesting visit to the Snowy Mountains about twelve months ago, and we should like to see what progress the scheme has made since then.

Senator SPOONER:
Minister for National Development · NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I spoke to Mr. Hudson, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains scheme’, about further visits by members of Parliament. He said he would be pleased to facilitate such visits. He sent me a note yesterday in which he proposed two further visits during this session of the Parliament. I am sorry that X do not recollect the dates proposed, but I know they are after the proposed adjournment of the Senate. I understand the Senate will adjourn at the end of next week. After we have re-assembled, two, visits to the Snowy Mountains scheme will be arranged. They will take place- before the end of the session. I have approved of the arrangements suggested, and I shall give instructions for the Whips to be informed of the dates, se that those members of the Parliament who desire to go on the visits will be able to do so. Speaking from memory, I think it is contemplated that there will be about twenty people in each, party.

page 477



Senator- HENTY. - As the Minister representing the Minister in charge of war service homes is aware, the present advance made by the War Service Homes Division to purchasers of approved existing homes is £2,000. Provision Baa- been made: rn the budget now before1 thePari lament for the- advance to1 be increased to £2,750. As that amount will be available when the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament, will the Minister approve of the additional £750 being made available to exservicemen whose applications are approved during the interim period?

Senator SPOONER:

– I shall convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, and ask him to inquire into it. May I ask to which particular applications the honorable senator is referring?

Senator Henty:

– Those that are being considered now.

Senator SPOONER:

– I shall ask my colleague to inquire into the practicability of acceding to the request. I suppose it will all turn on the date which is fixed for the commencement of the scheme.

Senator ASHLEY:

– Is it not a fact that the department which is handling this matter has already approved requests by applicants that their applications should not be dealt with until the legislation to increase the maximum advance is enacted?

Senator SPOONER:

– I should think that that would be a sensible approach to the matter. I take it that an applicant, who required the full advance would say, “ Do not deal with this until the new scheme comes into force “. I gather that Senator Henty’s proposal, however, is that applicants whose advances have not yet been approved should be given the benefit of the higher limit. I refrain from giving an answer to that question because I do not know what is involved. Each case may have to be considered on its merits. I am certain that my colleague will deal with the matter as sympathetically as circumstances permit.

Senator TANGNEY:

– Some weeks ago I asked a question of the Minister for National Development concerning the time lag in relation to applications for war service homes loans. Although many such loans have been more or less approved, applicants have been told that they would have to wait for at least twelve months until full authority came from Canberra. When I rang the housing commission in connexion with the matter, I was told that the difficulty arose in Canberra. With the passage of the new legislation, to which reference has been made, will the Minister endeavour to shorten the time lag between the date when approval is given for an advance and the time when payment is made, so that ex-servicemen may get on with the job of having their horner built?

Senator SPOONER:

– I think that, possibly, the time lag may arise from one of two considerations. There may be delay, on the administrative level, in dealing with an application. If thai were so, I could give the honorable senator an assurance that the procedure would be speeded up as far as practicable. But if, on the other hand, the delay were due to the fact that the fund? provided did not permit of a greater rate of progress, of course that would raise very different considerations.

Senator Tangney:

– Some of the fund? voted last year were not expended.

Senator SPOONER:

– I cannot give an answer on that aspect, although .1 think that that also may be an oversimplification of the position. When an appropriation is made, houses are in the course of erection. It seems to me thai at the end of every financial year there must be funds that are committed, but not actually expended because the houses concerned are not completed. Administrative delays and details of expenditure must be dealt with on their merits. Provision has been made in the budget for the additional money needed to make loans at the higher amount. As I have pointed out on previous occasions, despite the fact that this Government has made available for war service homes a much larger amount of money than did any previous Australian governments, there is still a great shortage of housing and, inevitably, delays occur in overcoming the lag.


– Because of the lengthy waiting periods for war service homes loans, many ex-servicemen purchase homes and assume mortgage liabilities. Can the Minister for National Development say whether the Government intends to authorize the War Service Homes Commission rf,to grant loans to enable such ex-servicemen to discharge those mortgages?

Senator SPOONER:

– I understand the point involved in Senator Sandford’s question is that ex-servicemen who borrow money privately to purchase homes desire to obtain loans from the War Service Homes Commission in order to discharge their mortgages, because commission loans are granted on more favorable terms than privately arranged mortgages. The basis of the policy applied in relation to this aspect of war service homes loans is, that an ex-serviceman who has not got a home is entitled to priority over another ex-serviceman who, by making private financial arrangements, has already purchased a home.

page 479



Senator HENTY:

asked the Minister representing the Minister who is acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that there have been recent scientific developments in the Netherlands which have enabled the waste effluent from paper mills to be turned into fertilizer?
  2. Is it a fact that this fertilizer has been found to be particularly beneficial to the water-holding capacity of sandy soil?
  3. In view of the fact that there are large paper mills at Boyer, Tasmania, will the Acting Minister consider the establishment of mi experimental plant in Tasmania to investigate the possibilities of using the waste from these mills for the above-mentioned purpose?
Senator SPICER:

– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -

  1. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has no knowledge nf any specific process developed recently in the Netherlands for the use of waste effluent from paper mills as fertilizer, though it would not be surprising if the effluent from mills treating straw were used for this purpose.
  2. One of the main constituents removed from wood and straw in chemical pulping processes is lignin. This is known to be a soil improver and is beneficial in increasing the water-holding capacity of sandy soils.
  3. In the process of pulping used at Boyer, Tasmania, the lignin is retained in the pulp nod is hence not available in the effluent. Any process in which lignin appears in the effluent would therefore not be applicable to Boyer renditions. ‘

page 479




asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. Has the Postmaster-General’s Department experimented with the telephone apparatus in use in other countries of the world which enables subscribers to have messages recorded in their absence from office or home? If not, will the Postmaster-General cause experiments to be carried out without further delay?
  2. Does the Postmaster-General agree that such apparatus would be a real aid to business efficiency?
Senator COOPER:
Minister for Repatriation · QUEENSLAND · CP

– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s question: -

  1. The technical and service features of various types of telephone message recording equipment arc well known to the department, which has conducted trials of certain units.
  2. The department has not found sufficient demand for this equipment to warrant devoting essential resources to its development at this stage.

page 479




asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -

  1. Has any recent survey been made of the world rice production position, having particular regard to the fact that the rich riceproducing lands of the Red River Delta in Indo-China have now passed into Communist control, so enabling the Communists to exercise a tremendous economic influence over Japan and other countries formerly supplied with rice from Indo-China?
  2. Is this new economic and diplomaticsituation likely to create new markets for Australian-produced rice and, if so, can the Minister report on the ability of the industry to supply increasing quantities of rice to these new markets?
  3. Have the successful rice-growing experiments conducted at the Ord River research station in the Kimberley district of Western Australia established the fact that that area could make a substantial contribution to any new demand?
  4. Has it been established that parts of the Northern Territory could produce rice for export ?
  5. Could production in the Murray River irrigation area be rapidly increased by lifting the acreage limit which is now imposed on each producer ?
Senator McLEAY:

– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -

  1. Although great quantities of rice are produced in the densely populated Red River

Delta, the northern part of Viet Nam is not self-sufficient in rice. Hitherto the north has always imported rice fromIndo-China’s second major producing area in the Mekong Delta in the south, where the bulkof Indo-China’s exportable surplus originates.

  1. The only new markets likely to be opened up by the partition of Vietnam would exist in the Communist-controlled northern areas of Indo-China.
  2. Experimental work on rice production at the Ord River Research Station has been most promising. Tropica] varieties introduced recently have performed very well, and satisfactory fertilizer usage has been determined. Yields equivalent to 4,000 lb.,of paddy per acre wove obtained last year on experimental plots.However, it will be necessary to demonstrate that adequate yields canbe obtained under commercial conditions before sound conclusions canbe reached regarding the prospects for an expansion of production in the area.
  3. Small-scale experiments haveshown that rice can he grown in certain parts of the Northern Territory.. However it has notyet been established that rice canbe grown commercially for export. A considerable amount of additional hydrological and agronomic information is required, and further research on the most suitable varieties must be undertaken, before the Government could give any assuranceof this kind.
  4. Rice production in the Murray River area is limited by the availability of water supplies as well asby competition from alternative products. Until such time as futher water storage facilities are constructed it is un- likely that there willbe any significant increase in the production in this area.

page 480



Senator VINCENT:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerceand Agriculture, upon notice -

  1. . Is it a fact, as reported in the Melbourne Heraldof the8th September., that Australia’s exhibit at the current BritishFoodFair is unimaginative, cramped, and not truly representativeof theCommonwealth’sresources ; further, that it compares unfavorably with the exhibits of such countries as Poland and Bulgaria?
  2. If the criticism is substantially connect, will the Governmentascertain who was responsiblefor thisunfortunatestate of affairs, and take appropriate action to ensure that Aus- tralia’s food exports areadequately exhibited infuture?

SenatorMcLEAY. - I have received the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions’: - 1 and 2. Interim reports indicate that the Australian stand at the British Food Fair compares favorablywith otherCommonwealth exhibits. Although this is not the largest food exhibit by Australia in London,the Commonwealth this year increased its contribution to expenses of the display by30 per cent. Several Australian marketing boards shared the cost. The London representatives of these boards have expressed satisfaction with the display. The “Australian Kitchen “, where dishes were publicly prepared and served, attracted a great deal of attention ; and Bales of samples from the stand wereup to expectations. The Government’s proposals for a considerably expanded programme of publicity for the United Kingdom have already been announced. The newly appointed trade publicity officer has been asked to report,on arrival, on the food fair and also other exhibitions including exhibitions outside the London area.

page 480



Debate resumed from the 22nd September (vide page 476), on motion by Senator Spooner -

That the following papers be printed: -

Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions,New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1955.

The Budget, 1954-55 - Papers presentedby theRight Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden. on the occasion of the budget of l954-55. National Income and Expenditure, 1953-54.

Senator SEWARD:
Western Australia

– When the debatewas adjourned, I was referring to the difficulties that are associated with the development of the north-western part of Western Australia. As I have said, shipping is a problem in that area because of the big rise and fall of the tides, and a further difficulty is the prevalence of cyclones. Periodically, jetties orparts of themare blown away, and as they must be very longbecause of the nature of the tides, the State Government is ‘often faced withconsiderable expense in repairing them. Another diffi- culty is the absence of navigation lights alongthecoast. Along one stretch of coast 700 miles long, there is not one light. An example of the difficulty of navigation is provided by the port of Wyndham. When ships are entering the harbour there, the captainhas toline up the endof the jettywiththelocal hotel. I was thankful, in one respect, when the hotel at Derby was burnt down recently that it was not theWyndham Hotel,althoughI regretted the Derby loss. If it had been the Wyndham hotel, ‘ ships could not have been navigated into the harbour successfully. Those are some of the difficulties that confront navigators in that area. Because of the dependence of the residents of that vast area upon shipping alone, the transport system is unreliable and unsatisfactory.

I submit for consideration a proposal that an all-weather road should be built from the interior near Meekatharra to Wyndham. If such a road were taken 150 to 200 miles in from the coast, with branch roads running from it to the coast, produce could be taken directly to the ports. That is not possible at present in the rainy season or when the. rivers are flooded. Such a road would also give direct communication to the southern part of the State, and useful traffic could operate both ways. If that road were constructed it would be necessary of course to bridge rivers such as the Fitzroy River. In the dry season, the Fitzroy River ceases to run, and crossing it presents no difficulty, but in the rainy season, it may be anything from three quarters of a mile to one mile wide and it is uncrossable It was not possible to cross the Fitzroy when I was up in that country three or four months ago. Even when the river subsides, the crossing cannot be used until the silt has dried and can be removed. This means that transport to Derby and other places is delayed. Those delays could be overcome by the construction of an all-weather road and bridges. Another advantage of such a road is that it would open up the Ord River country to which reference was made in a question earlier to-day. These rivers at present empty into the sea, and great benefits could be obtained if they were dammed for irrigation. There are two dam sites on the Margaret River, one on the Fitzroy River, and one on the Ord River. The damming of the rivers would minimize the heavy stock losses which now occur in floods. When the wet season starts, the waters come down very swiftly and stock is cut off and perishes. In addition, irrigation would permit the sowing of pastures and the conservation of stock fodder for drought periods. The cost of. carrying fodder to the north-west from the southern portions of the State is almost prohibitive and substantial stock losses occur during droughts. This is a serious matter. I have seen plans for three dams, one on the Fitzroy River and two on the Margaret River, but recently a young capable engineer resigned from the Western Australian Government service because he could not see any possibility of the State carrying out this work. I say that it should be regarded as a national work.

Successful agricultural experiments have been carried out in the Ord River district. From what I saw when I was there last May, I am convinced that a great expansion of pasture land is possible. The construction of the all-weather road to which I have referred would also provide an outlet for minerals. At pre-‘ sent tin is mined at the Shaw River. I. think it is worth £60 a ton when it is mined, but by the time it is transported round to Sydney it is worth only £20 a ton to the producer. High transport costs are affecting the production of many minerals in that part of the State. In addition to facilitating the rapid transport of goods, the construction of the allweather road would enable people to visit the north-west. To-day few. people know what that country is really like because of its inaccessibility. I know, the Ord River district and I may say that the Duracks chose well when they came from Queensland with their cattle. It is good land and improved access would mean that much of it could be taken up and the slow increase of population to which I have referred would be accelerated.

To-day, the north-west of Western Australia is getting into a precarious position. It is safe to say that it has as many kangaroos as it has sheep. The increase of the number of kangaroos has been astounding. Some station-owners in the areas towards the centre of Australia have abandoned their holdings because of the depredations of kangaroos and dingoes, and the area is becoming breeding grounds for those pests. The difficulty of obtaining ammunition and its high cost are deterring hunters from continuing their activities. To-day ammunition costs about 8d. or 9d. a round, and the hunters simply will not go out. I repeat that it is no exaggeration to say that there are as many kangaroos as there are sheep in those lands.

I was pleased to notice that, in the Western Australian Parliament recently, a motion was carried that application be made to the Australian Government for an annual grant for ten years to enable certain specified works to be undertaken. It was decided that the Premier, the leader, of the Liberal party, the leader of the Country party, and the Minister for the north-west should draw up a plan of works to be carried out with Commonwealth assistance, spread over ten years. Such a scheme would be far better than handing that part of the State over to the Commonwealth. The Western Australian Government is closer to the area, and is more familiar with its possibilities and requirements. The Commonwealth money would be wisely spent, and the development of the northwest would be greatly expedited. No doubt honorable senators have read of the great difficulties of the oil exploration companies . operating in Western Australia. They are finding it most, difficult to transport their oil-drilling equipment to the localities where they want to sink wells. Bulldozers are being used to make roads. That may be all right now, but heaven help them in the rainy season. To permit the proper development of that, area, the works that I have mentioned ought to be carried out, and I hope that, when the Western Australian Government makes its representations to the Commonwealth through the three party leaders, some favorable results will be achieved and that the north-west will enter upon a very much more profitable period that it has had in the past.

The only other matter to which I wish to direct attention is the development of the Northern Territory, which I visited in May and June of this year. Undoubtedly, Darwin is on a wave of prosperity. But I have seen mining towns on a wave of prosperity before. It would be very unwise if we were to allow Darwin to depend entirely on mining for its prosperity, because while uranium may be in great demand at present, there is no guarantee that it will be in great demand in a few years’ time. It is particularly pleasing to find, therefore, that the Administrator of the Northern Territory is most active in endeavouring to promote other industries. For instance, he has established an agricultural experimental farm on which his very enthusiastic and capable staff is engaged in promoting the use of . certain grasses which are suitable to the climate. Experiments are being made also in the growing of pineapples which we had the pleasure of sampling, and which, I can assure the Senate, are excellent specimens of the fruit. Peanuts also are being grown. There is an area around Darwin, 300 miles or 400 miles deep, of good agricultural land which, if cut up into blocks, and planted with suitable grasses, could be made very productive. Unfortunately, many years ago. the title to huge areas of land around Darwin was sold, probably by the South Australian Government. This land is now in the hands of people who no longer live in the Territory, and it. i.5 going to waste. Last Saturday I had a case brought to my notice of two young fellows who wanted to take up some land near Darwin, but they found that to get a suitable holding they had to go 200 miles or 300 miles out where transport costs- would be high; yet large areas much closer to Darwin are completely undeveloped. That is not right. I should not support a policy of taking away large areas of land from people who were using them. But if people hold land and do not use it, the Government should acquire it, so that people who want to go on the land can do so in reasonably accessible places, instead of being forced to go out into the interior, to places hundreds of miles away from a town, with the result that transport charges are so high that there is little prospect of the ventures being successful.

I could not help noticing the land at Rum Jungle. I do not know why it is called a jungle. It is as unlike a jungle as anything I can imagine. It is lightly timbered country, with rich, red soil. When I was there, the native grasses were beautifully green. I am certain that if that country were cleared and suitable grasses were planted, it would be possible to do what I understand the ‘ Administrator has in mind, that is, to allocate blocks of 200 acres. In each block, 50 or 60 acres could be used for pineapples, another 10 or 15 acres could be used for peanuts, and the rest could be used to graze ten or twelve dairy cows.

If that were done, it would solve Darwin’s milk problem and also would give an alternative occupation to people such as the Darwin wharf labourers. They could work on their land for most of their time and come into Darwin to work on the wharfs whenever a ship was in the port. A scheme of that kind would give them a very much better position than they have now. Probably it would improve the work on the wharfs, but I shall not deal with that matter now. T hope to say something about it when another matter comes before the Senate.

I also had the experience of going out to see the rice-growing experiment near Darwin. I commend the Administrator 1 -,n the capable and enthusiastic officer? who are in charge of it. This again is something that Australia needs to wake up to. I was very interested to learn that at in 1870 the Chinese had applied for a concession to grow rice in this area. In 1954, we are only experimenting to find out whether we could grow rice there. On the Humpty-Doo Plains there is over 1,000,000 acres of black soil thai does not require irrigation. The area gets 60 inches of rainfall between the time rice is planted and the time it is ready for harvesting. When we went across the plains, water was up to our knees. That was in May or June. However, we were assured that by the time the rice was ready for harvesting, the water would have disappeared and harvesting would be practicable. It was unfortunate that a cyclone struck the district last year. The rice was flat on the water when we went there, but records show that, on the average, there are only two cyclones in the district in 100 years. A cyclone spoiled the experiment last year, but there is great promise for the future, especially as irrigation is not required. I commend the Administrator for the experiment. If it succeeds, conditions in the Northern Territory will be altered completely. More importantly, it will provide a solid base for the future development of Darwin as a city.

I was interested to learn from a news broadcast this morning that the population of Darwin has increased by about 5,000 since the last census but one was taken. There again, I commend the Administrator. He has put new life into the town. When he went there, people could not get a title to land, even the land on which their houses stood. Business people could not get a title to the land on which their business premises stood. The Administrator has altered all that. It is possible now to get a 99-years’ lease. As a result, while we were there 65 private houses were being erected and business premises to the value of £250,000 were under construction. There is not the slightest doubt that, with imaginative handling, this part of Australia will progress rapidly. I hope the Government will do everything in its power to assist that progress.

I support the motion. I trust there will be a successful outcome of the representations which the Western Australian Government will make, I believe, in a very short time for monetary assistance over a period to enable it to promote the development and growth of very rich territory in the north-west of the State.

Senator ASHLEY:
New South Wales

– Unlike Senator Seward, I do not support the budget entirely. I do not think the Minister for National Development (,Senator Spooner) would expect me to do so. There are certain statements in the budget papers on which I join issue with the Government. The Minister said that during 1953-54 we enjoyed stability of general economic conditions, combined with a remarkable degree of real and substantial material progress. He said also -

Altogether, 1953-54- was a period of stable, genuine and widespread prosperity.

That statement may be true to a degree. Its truth depends entirely upon the methods employed to measure the country’s prosperity. If the yardstick used is the highly inflated Australian £1, the statement is correct. But if our prosperity is measured, as it should be, in terms of the power of the Australian £1 to purchase the commodities and services that modern civilization requires, the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and echoed by the Minister is completely false. The Minister has claimed that we are enjoying a remarkable degree of substantial material progress. I have a monthly bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. It was prepared under instructions from the Treasurer by Mr. R. S. Carver, the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. Both the Treasurer and the Minister, after referring to the material progress that we are alleged to have made, stated that civilian employment had increased by no fewer than 90,000 persons. This bulletin discloses that from the end of June, 1953, to the end of June, 1954, the increase in civilian employment - the bulletin refers to private employment, but I think it is correct to say that the Minister used the term civilian employment in the sense of private employment as distinct from government employment - was only 79,000 odd persons. The difference is only a little more than 10,000. Of course, a difference of 10,000 in calculating employment figures or financial matters is of little concern to this Government.

With regard to employment and prosperity, I point out that the figures disclosed by this document show that from 194S-49 to 1950-51, there was a total increase in employment of more than 255,000, or an average increase of more than 85,000 a year. We all know that the peak period of employment in Australia was in November 1951, when there were 2,643,000 in employment, excluding those in rural industry and private domestic service. An examination of the figures for the period between June 1951 and the end of the last financial year, discloses that, although the Minister referred with elation to the prosperity of the country during that time, employment increased by only 26,400.

This document was issued on [the authority of the Australian Government and on instructions from the Treasury. T should like to know what the Minister proposes to do to reconcile the figures. I am also concerned about the fact that incorrect figures have been set out in this bulletin. It seems to me that anything which appears in the national budget should be at least factual. I suggest that the Government is transferring its propaganda and publicity campaign from the public platform and the press to the national budget. I shall be interested to learn from the Minister the method by which the figures of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician are to be reconciled with those of the Common-wealth

Treasury. It is true that there was an increase in employment of 79,100’ in the last financial year, but the overall increase during the last three years was only 26,400. When honorable senators on this side of the chamber have questioned members of the Government about the declining rate of employment, the allegation was made that we were giving out false information. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) also made a certain reference to that matter. The figures which I have cited demonstrate that the members of the Opposition were entirely correct.

On page 2 of this document, the following statement appears : -

Although these portents should not be exaggerated . . . some supplies have become scarce. The most significant fact at thu present time is that pressure upon resources has again appeared in our economy and, on present indications, seems likely to grow. Were inflationary conditions to return, we could expect, at a fairly early stage, the beginning of a new upthrust of prices nml costs.

Notice has been given, therefore, that we may again experience inflation. It is interesting to note that, in this document, the Minister gives a prescription with which to cure the evils of inflation. He states -

Obviously, the first thing to do about the problem of costs is to ensure that costs rise no higher. During the past year some ground has been won in the attack on. costs.

The only attempt by the MenziesFadden Administration to stabilize the economy has been to attack the wages and margins of workers in industry. Nothing has been done to disturb the financial conditions of those engaged in some of our monopolies and industrial undertakings. I have here the latest annual report of General MotorsHolden’s Limited, the organization which, a few weeks ago, announced a profit for the year of £7,250,000. Whenever the Government is asked, in this chamber or anywhere else, about the action it proposes to take in regard to the huge profits being made by some business undertakings, the invariable answer is that the organizations which make those great profits, such as General Motors-Holden’s Limited, are ploughing them back into the industry. After all this talk of ploughing, one could be pardoned for thinking that the Prime Minister and other members of the Government were farmers. They seem to forget that they supported the freezing of wages on the ground that equality of sacrifice should be made in the interests of economic stability.

The authorized capital, which is also the paid-up capital, of General MotorsHolden’s Limited, according to the most recent annual report and balance-sheet, is £2,311,600. .The surplus in the profit and loss account last year was £16,859,825. Of that, provision has been made for an interim dividend on preference shares, which, I think, will account for approximately £30,000, and a dividend on ordinary shares of £1,750,000, which will go to America under the reciprocal tax agreement made by this Government with the government of the United States of America. It is significant that no money was transferred last year. This reciprocal tax agreement is ill-balanced, because it is all in favour of America. Although no money was repatriated to America by the company last year, provision has since been made to send £1,750,000. Of course, that is not the only motor car company that has made huge profits. [ have before me the last annual report of Standard Oars Limited, which distributes the Standard, Vanguard and Spacemaster motor cars. The 53. paid shares of the company were sold on the Sydney Stock Exchange yesterday for 25s. each. To-day, although buyers are offering 30s., there are no sellers available. The company’s consolidated net profit for th>i year ended the 30th June was £660,1S5, compared with £176,616 for the previous year. This year’s profit is a record in the history of the company. A final dividend of 30 per cent, has been declared, as well as a bonus of 20 per cent. As an interim dividend of 10 per cent, was paid, the actual dividend distribution for the year was 60 per cent., compared with 35 per cent, in the previous year. En addition, the company proposes to make a one-for-one bonus share issue to the registered holders of ordinary shares on the 31st August. The final accounts of Larke Hoskins and Company Limited also revealed huge profits and dividend distributions. It is high time that the Government imposed an excessive profit tax. Despite the increases of prices of various commodities - tea rose recently by more than ls. per lb. - the wages of the workers remain pegged. In the interests of equity and justice for the workers, the profits of industrial monopolies in this country should te curtailed. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated -

The first thing to do about the problem of costs is, obviously, to ensure that costrise no higher.

But, because of the huge profits that ar* being made by many companies, costs are rising continually. It is somewhat ironical that, as a result of a recommendation that he made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for National Development greatly increased inflation in Australia. Within twelve months of the present Government coming to office, the colliery proprietors, on the pretext that the price of coal was insufficient to encourage greater production, sought an increase. In accordance with the recommendation of the Minister for National Development, the Prime Minister appointed a committee to investigate coal prices. Compared with his approach to the selection of judges for a royal commission which is now sitting, the right honorable gentleman displayed unusual moderation ; he selected only two of the three members of the committee. We were never in doubt about the probable outcome of the committee’s investigations. Despite the fact that there was more than 1,500,000 tons of coal in dumps on the northern and western coalfields of New South Wales, a’ price increase sufficient to yield a net profit of 6s. a ton - irrespective of quality - was approved. Why was a special committee appointed to determine the price of coal in New South Wales? The Joint Coal Board was thoroughly conversant, not only with the cost of production of coal by every colliery in Australia, but also with conditions in the various mining districts. The board receives copies of the balance-sheets of all collieries. Therefore, it was aware, also, of the quality of coal in the various districts. On the information in its possession, the Join1, Coal Board had determined that the price of coal should be sufficient to provide a net return on capital investment of 7i per cent., or a minimum of ls. a ton. As a result of the tremendous increase of price that was approved by the Menzies Government, the profits of collieries ros<enormously. The profit made by Caledonian Collieries Limited, which operates on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, rose by more than 160 per cent. That company is1 connected with the shipping industry. There were similar huge increases of profit rr. the small mining companies. The profit of a small coal-mining company which operates on the western field in New South Wales was £59,000 last year, compared with £1,400 in 1951. After South Clifton Colliery Proprietary Limited, which operates on the south coast of Vew South Wales, declined to continue development after striking a fault, its mine was taken over by the Joint Coal Board. After the price of coal was increased, the mine yielded a profit last year of £63,000, compared with an average profit formerly of £6,000 or £7,000 a year. The unwarranted increase of the price of coal has had a tremendous effect on the economy of this country.

I come now to the shipping industry. I am sorry that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is not present in the chamber, because 1 have some hard things to say about him. On many occasions previously, 1 have directed the attention of the Sena!/.to the link between the Minister and the big shipping combines. . The Labour party has had to fight strenuously in order to stop the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line. When we raised this subject before the last general election, the public outcry was so loud that the Government lost courage and postponed the sale of the line. The elections were no sooner over than the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who lias a foot in both camps, brought the matter of the sale of the ships to the Cabinet again. He is now trying to persuade Cabinet to sell the Commonwealth shipping line to theAdelaide Steamship Company, one of the biggest monopolies in this country.

I warn the Government that the Labour party will fight this unsavoury deal to the bitter end and I am sure that we shall have the support of every

State government. The Australian public, especially the Tasmanian primary producers and the Queensland sugar producers, should be gravely concerned about the proposal to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. The only genuine questions, not “Dorothy Dixers”, that have been a.?ked in this Senate by honorable senators from Tasmania and Queensland have been asked in reference to the Commonwealth shipping line and the lack of shipping for Tasmania and Queensland. As Minister for Shipping in the Chifley Labour Government, I used the Commonwealth shipping line to prevent increases in the interstate shipping freights. The present Minister for Shipping and Transport has tried to assist his friends in the shipping monopolies by raising freights, to the discomfort of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). Some time ago the Cabinet was unable to reach agreement on this matter. The Minister for Commerce, and Agriculture said at that time that the 10 per cent, increase in freights was not justified. Yet the Minister for Shipping and Transport tried to justify it. He has found it very difficult to abandon the policy that was inaugurated by the Labour Government in regard to shipping. If the Commonwealth ships are sold, not only will the monopolies raise freight rates, but the service being given to the outlying parts of Australia will deteriorate.

I want the Government to announce whether it will protect the Australian public, especially the primary producers, from high shipping charges. Last year, when I criticised the overseas shipping owners because of their high freight rates, I pointed out that they were making it impossible for Australian producers to compete in eastern markets.


– What about the honorable senator having a go at his Communist cobber, Healy ?

Senator ASHLEY:

Senator Rankin had better see the Minister for Shipping and Transport about that. He usually has an outburst about the Communists. The shipowners stated last year that they could not reduce freights because of the slow turnround of ships. In two years, up to the end of 1953, the number of tons handled each day by overseas ships in Melbourne rose from 2S0 tons to 4S0 tons. In Sydney, the amount increased from 250 tons to 330 tons. Although the shipowners secured a 50 per cent, better turn-round they did not bring their freight rate3 down. There is no prospect of their lowering freight rates until the country has a government with the courage to deal with the shipping combines and ensure that excessive freight rates are not charged. Not only is the Menzies Government lacking in the courage to tackle the shipping combine, but it does not even endeavour to reduce freight rates when it gets an opportunity to reduce them. Just prior to the last genera] election there was a reduction of sixpence a ton in the tax imposed on the stevedoring industry. That reduction benefited shipowners by over £800,000 a year. Some Ministers and other Government supporters who were taking part in the election campaign suggested that, as a result of the Government’s action in handing back £800,000 to the shipping monopolies, there would be a reduction in freight rates. But there was no reduction in freight rates and there is not likely to be. It would be very interesting to know what part of the £800,000 went to the election funds of the Liberal and the Australian Country parties.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the annual budget is the degree of consistency with which the Treasurer determines that £200,000,000 will be required for defence. The regularity with which that amount crops up in the budget each year is surprising. I assume that the Defence Department prepared the defence estimates, and the Auditor-General has had some very caustic remarks to make in regard to that department. It is amazing that no matter what amounts are required by the different sections of the Department, they always add up to £200,000,000. The termination of the Korean war has evidently had no effect on the estimates of the Defence Department. I do not assert that the Government should not spend £200,000,000 on defence. I am as patriotic as anybody, and I say that if another £2,000,000 ‘ is required for defence, it should be provided. But 1 cannot understand the regularity with which the amount of £200,000,000 crops up every “year. In the financial year 1951-1952, £185,000,000, was allocated for defence ; for 1952-1953, £200,000,000 : for 1953-1954, £200,000,000; and for 1954-55, £200,000,000. The monotonous repetition of the defence vote of £200,000,000 has become almost as objectionable as the burden of taxation to provide it. The figures are amazing because they do not vary in peace or war. This Government has decided that £200,000,000 should be the defence vote each year. It has not been affected even by the revolt of its supporters who occupy the back benches and who protested against .a reduction of national service training. The Government decided to restrict the training of young men because of pressure that was brought to bear by the Australian Country party. I repeat that it did so under pressure from the Australian Country party.

Senator Cooper:

– I heard the honorable senator the first time.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) should stick to his dingoes.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum).- Order ! If the honorable senator is applying the term “ dingoes “ to the Minister for Repatriation, I must rule that the term is unparliamentary.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Minister should be kept in order. When he was a member of the Opposition in this chamber, he was constantly referring to the dingoes in Queensland. I thought that he had forgotten about them, and I merely intended to remind him. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that there has not been a reduction of the defence vote after the cessation of the war in Korea or because of the pro.proposed .reduction of national service training. The budget papers disclose that the allocations for the pay of the members of the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force will be less this year than they were in the last financial year. The pay for the Australian Regular Army last year was £2,189,000. This year provision has been made for £2,100,000. The figures suggest that there has been a reduction of the numbers in the Australian Regular Army. They do not indicate the strengthening of the defence forces that lias been claimed by the Government. The allocation for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force is £4,000,000 compared with £8,000,000 last year. That indicates that the permanent forces that are to .be repatriated from Japan and Korea will not be absorbed in the home forces of the Australian Regular Army. The loss of those trained men surely will weaken the defence forces in Australia.

An examination of the details of the defence vote leads me to question whether the money that is being provided is being expended upon the real needs of defence, Ten years ago, when Australia was in the’ midst of war, some supporters of the Menzies Government, who were then in Mie Opposition, were critical of the Labour Government’s budget proposals. The Labour Government’s budget ten years ago provided for the expenditure of £653,000,000. The present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) claimed then that the figure of £653,000,000 was almost staggering. This year, the Menzies Government is budgeting for the expenditure of £1,015,000,000. That is an enormous economic burden to place upon the Australian people. Ten years ago, the Labour Government was able to provide for national needs with a budget of £653,000,000. Taxation and other revenue at that time provided £325,000,000 and the balance was obtained by way of loans subscribed by the Australian people. At that time Australia was called upon for a maximum wax effort, and despite the heavy strain upon the nation’s financial resources, not one penny was obtained from outside Australia. A cursory glance over the budget, which is the nation’s balancesi sheet will convince any intelligent person that there is too wide a gulf between the financial provisions and the proposals that they are supposed to cover. At a time when we appear to have peace, the national budget provides for the expenditure of £1,015,000,000, all of which is to come out of taxation and other revenue. None of it is to be obtained by way of loans.’ Therefore, it isreasonable to expect that we should be as effectively and efficiently organized for defence as we were ten years ago.

I read in the press recently that Australia will participate in the production and use of some of the missiles that are to be constructed at the Woomera Long Range Weapons Establishment. Missiles that are being produced largely by Australians should be available for the defence of Australia. I am glad that the Government has reached agreement on that matter with the United Kingdom Government, and that modern instruments of defence and war will be available to Australia.

I have referred to the facts that departmental officers of the various departments will make recommendations and claims for defence allocations. The AuditorGeneral’s report for 1953-54 discloses a discrepancy of £67,603 in camp and messing equipment at the Woomera range. After investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, this huge loss remains a mystery, and I am informed that what has occurred in the kitchen is insignificant compared with what would be revealed by a general survey of operations at Woomera. Some startling revelations of public spending would be made. We have achieved a most expensive centralization of defence administration. The only places that are effectively defensible are Victoria Barracks in Sydney and Victoria Barracks in St. Kilda-road, Melbourne. In short, we are getting very little for our £200,000,000 a year. Most of it is being used to provide office furniture, motor cars, and batmen to drive army, heads around. In the press nearly every weekend we read about social functions attended by Air Force officers. We see pages of photographs of. officers enjoying their social life. To have effective defence we must distribute our forces much more effectively than they are distributed to-day. We must do something to defend the northern part of Australia to which reference was made by Senator Seward. It is not sufficient that we should plan for the development of that area. Our first duty as a national parliament is to see that the northern parts of Australia are defended. I understand that certain war-time airfields in the north of Australia are to be re-occupied, but,; in addition to that, some of our forces should be moved to those parts of the Commonwealth. Air Force units should be established in Darwin or between Darwin and Alice Springs instead of at such places as Glenbrook.

I propose now to speak about our post and telegraph services. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department was regarded at one time as one of the most efficient organizations of its kind. It provided efficient services, many of which were cheaper than similar services in other parts of the world. Up to seven years ago, not only did the department provide cheap efficient services but it also made profits. For the six years ended the :»0th June, 1947, it made a profit of £35,914,G46, and in 1946-47, the profit reached £5,103,646. To-day we find that charges have increased in some instances by more than 200 per cent., and this great institution, which, in the past, made such substantial contributions to Consolidated Revenue, is now in a sorry position. Its activities are being impeded by huge overhead expenses. It has become top-heavy. One thousand people are engaged in its administration. Their work is entirely apart from the real activities of the department. The total administrative staff employed is shown at page 203 of the Estimates. From 587 in 1946-47, the administrative staff of Central Office has grown to no less than 1,003 to-day. These are the tall poppies. At the end of 1946-47 there was a director-general, one assistant director-general, and seven chief inspectors - one for finance, one for postal services, one for telephone services, one for telegraph services, one for wireless, one for personnel, and one for buildings. To-day we have a director-general, a deputy director-general, and ten assistant director-generals. In 1947, there were 1.45 clerks in the administrative section. Now there are 302 clerks. Whereas there were 31 draftsmen in 1947, there are now 61, and the number of inspectors lias increased from seven to 30. In 1947, there were three assistant heads of branches; to-day there are thirteen assistant heads of branches. And so I could go on. But the amazing thing is that the cost of administration has increased from £270,138 in 1946-47 to over £1,000,000 to-day.

Is it any wonder that the provision of telephone and other services is lagging when these huge overhead costs have to be met. Perhaps the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) should not be blamed entirely for the heavy administrative expenditure because he is rarely at the central office. He administers his department by remote control from somewhere around Lismore or Murwillumbah. Perhaps we may expect some improvement in the near future because he is having built at Murwillumbah a post office that will cost £250,000. A quarter of a million pounds ! His remote control may be assisted to some extent, because I understand that this post office is to be one of the most elaborate and most modern ever built in this country. When the building has been completed, if .the honorable gentleman is fortunate enough still to be Postmaster-General, he may be able to carry out his remote control from his electorate in a better manner than he is carrying it out to-day. Excuses are also made for the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs whose time is chiefly spent on boards and on other duties if he is not travelling abroad. When we reach the popinjay class, that, is the assistant directors, of whom there are thirteen, if the Sydney office is any criterion they too are contributing their share to the high overhead charges. The office in Sydney is large and elaborately furnished. It has wall-to-wall carpets and furniture that would do credit to Menzies Hotel in Melbourne or to the Hotel Australia. It also has a cocktail cabinet and everything eke that is required. In the last few years particularly, the chief duties of the occupants of this elaborate office has been to make excuses for the department’s inability to provide telephones or other services for which applications have been made by the public.


– How many clerks are employed in writing out excuses ?

Senator ASHLEY:

– First, there are a couple of messengers who take members of the public into the office and each complainant is heard in turn. A few days later, each receives a letter explaining that the department’s inability to provide a telephone is due to a shortage of cables, or to congestion at the telephone exchange. And so it goes on. There is also a secretary and an assistant secretary to look after the assistant directorgeneral. The chief occupation of the secretary is to draft apologetic letters because he knows the technique that has to be employed. “Whether an applicant lives in Victoria, New South Wales or any other State, the same technique is used in replying to his application - there is a shortage of cables or congestion at the telephone exchange.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired. [Extension of time granted.]

Senator ASHLEY:

– I thank the Senate for its indulgence. When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the post office and the excuses that are being made by the Government for not providing the services required by the people. An indication of the sorry state of our telephone services is given in a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is as follows: - 26 phone numbers - but no phone. 26 farmers in the Delunga district, near Inverell, paid their telephone fees two years ago and had their names and numbers listed in the telephone book - but still have no telephone.

The president of the Delunga branch of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, Mr. H. Tonkin-

That is not a Labour organization, as honorable senators opposite know - claims this in a letter to the association’s general secretary, Mr. T. J. McDougall. Mr. McDougallsaid yesterday that the complaint has been referred to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs.

Probably it will be sent to the DirectorGeneral in Sydney, referred to his Deputy Director, sent to the Assistant Director for New South Wales, and so on. The report continues -

Mr. Tonkin’s letter says that 22 of the 20 farmers and soldier settlers. “ Over two years ago I paid my subscription,and as yet I had not been connected, although the departmental line is only 100 yards from my house “, Mr. Tonkin says. “ There is not only me but other people in the Gragin area who have paid their subscriptions, but the department does not seem to want to honour its promises. We even have our phone numbers in the directory, but no phone.”

That is an example of the general situation in regard to telephones. Last week, I asked a question about the number of staff engaged by the post office on telephone tapping and making secret tape recordings of conversations, whether on behalf of the security service or in the interests of efficiency, and about the cost of these activities. I received an innocuous and very unsatisfactory reply from the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral. I have seen an answer given previously to a similar question, in which the Minister stated that the efficiency of the telephone service was. to a certain degree, dependent upon listening to subscribers’ conversations. 1 know that telephone tapping has been going on for a long time. The apparatus used for the work has been improved greatly, and now it is almost as silent as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is on the matter. He has been asked several questions about it, but he maintains a deep silence. There is a growing distrust of the telephone service due to these activities. Many innocent people are frightened to use the telephone because they know their private conversations may be recorded. This atmosphere of suspicion and fear is heightened by the refusal of the Prime Minister to tell the Commonwealth Parliament whether telephone tapping is going on. As a matter of fact, it is going on. The apparatus used to listen in to telephone conversations now has been improved so much that we do not even hear a click when it is connected. It is so efficient that a person making a telephone conversation cannot tell whether his conversation is being recorded or listened to by the post office. This distrust is causing a loss of revenue by the post office.

I want to bring before the Senate a matter that was referred to me last week. The debate on the budget gives an opportunity to raise almost any matter that concerns the welfare of the people. Representations have been made to me on behalf of medical students who are taking medical courses under the rehabilitation scheme. A medical course lasts for six years, compared with five years for a veterinary science course, four years for an engineering course, and three years for arts and other courses. The rehabilitation legislation provides that the Government shall pay to students a livingallowance, plus university fees and a part payment for books and equipment, during the first three years of a course. About 50 medical students working under the rehabilitation scheme passed through the University of Sydney last year, and it is expected that about 50 will pass’ through this year. Tor the first three years, the course is free, but after that the students have to pay.

Senator Cooper:

– They do not have to pay for the course. They have to repay the living allowances paid to them after the first three years.

Senator ASHLEY:

– It amounts to about £900.

Senator Cooper:

– The sum depends on the course taken.

Senator ASHLEY:

– If a student takes a medical course, he has to repay about £900. I am1 speaking on behalf of students who are not the sons of wealthy people. The operation of this legislation is inflicting hardship on the sons of working people. I know many of these students. It has been represented to me that, in order to carry on with their courses, they have to take menial jobs at the week-ends - waiting, caretaking and other jobs of that kind. On graduation, the students serve for a time as resident physicians or surgeons in hospitals. Their salary then is only £12 a week. These young men have served their country. They are returned soldiers. They are trying to make ends meet on the small salary they receive after graduation. That is difficult enough, but they also have to repay £900 to the Government. I ask the responsible Minister to examine the position with a view to granting these students some relief so that they will be in a more favorable position on graduation.

Senator Cooper:

– They do not have to pay all the money back immediately. Repayment is spread over a number of years.

Senator ASHLEY:

– I realize that. 1 am sorry that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is not in the chamber. For a considerable period, he has refused to answer questions on shipping directed to him by Labour senators. Whenever a question is posed to him from this side of the chamber,” he either evades an answer or uses an alibi in his reply. He is always willing to waste a considerable amount of time by reciting long screeds in answer to “ Dorothy Dixers “ put to him by Government senators, but when he is asked a question by a Labour senator about a matter that may be embarrassing to him or that may be difficult to answer, he refuses to reply and cloaks his mental bankruptcy with an outburst of antiCommunist hysteria. No doubt this man mountain of inefficiency will strut up to the table later this afternoon and deliver another homily to members of the Opposition. I think he would be better engaged in looking after his department and in trying to give the information sought by Labour senators. We on this side of the chamber have representations made to us by electors, and we are just as entitled to receive answers to our questions as are Government senators. It is very noticeable that although the Minister either refuses to answer our questions or gives incomplete replies, he will recite long screeds and give all the information possible in answer to “ Dorothy Dixers “ posed to him by Government senators.

Western Australia

.- Before I deal with the budget, I want to refer to some of the remarks made in this debate by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I was very interested to hear Senator Ashley throw a mass of information a lot of it false- at us to-day. The piece of information that I found to be most consoling was that decentralization had actually begun in Australia. The Postmaster-Genera] is putting up a palatial post office building in a country district in New South Wales. That is the best news I have heard for a long time. Sydney will not be made any larger or more formidable than it is now. If a policy of decentralization is in operation, I hope everybody will remember there are some empty spots in Western

Australia. I was very glad to bear that a palatial post office is to be built in a country town, because it will take some of the post office business away from the large and dreadful town of .Sydney, which grasps everything that it can lay hold of and wants to grow even bigger than it is.

I thank Senator Wright and, to a moderate degree, Senator Willesee for their contributions to the debate on the subject of arbitration and conciliation in Australia. In the course of a very able address on the history and working of the Arbitration Courts, Senator Wright gave quite a lot of information to the Senate. I believe there is still far too much delay in dealing with cases that come before these courts. The delay could be prevented by increasing the number of judges, and I have no doubt that matter will be attended to. I was very interested to read an article by the Pastoralists Association, praising the work of the Arbitration and Conciliation Courts in assisting the Government to stabilize costs during recent years.

Senator Ryan gave us a riot of figures. He almost lost himself in the maze of figures that he presented to the Senate. I was astonished that he did not cite the figures that are, so as to speak, the barometer of the prosperity of any country. If he had studied the figures contained in the very excellent annual report and balance-sheet issued recently by the Commonwealth Bank, he could have given us some interesting information. The bank’s report states -

The year 1933-54 was one of continuing growth and savings bank activity. Deposit balances increased by £44.8 millions, on which interest accruing “to customers’ ‘accounts amounted to fi 1 million. The increase in deposits in 1952-53 was £37.4 millions.

The report then, proceeds to set out a number of comparative figures which indicate the tremendous growth in the savings of the people of Australia. It states -

During the year, there were approximately 21,000,000 deposits for £547,000,000 and 17,000,000 withdrawals for £514,000,000. The Commonwealth Government and other authorities and institutions used the Savings Bank extensively for making payments of a recurring nature. Deposits in respect of Commonwealth Child Endowment totalled 1,528,000 for £12,100,000, War Pension payments 125,000 for £2,300j000, and Defence Department allotments 517,000 for £6,400,000. In addition, the Commonwealth loan interest credited to depositors’ accounts amounted to £5,100,000.

The report goes on to deal with the position of savings bank accounts of schoolchildren, which is also a great pointer to the prosperity of the country. It has this to say -

Schools savings bank balances increase ‘ by £153,000 and at 30th June totalled £2,300 “00. These balances represent the savings of 320,000 school children, whose deposits are made at 4,225 schools situated in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales. Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The Savings Bank welcomes this opportunity of recording its appreciation of the continued support and co-operation of education authorities and teachers which malco school banking possible.

Those figures are a true indication of the prosperity of the Australian people generally, because it is the working people who, in the main, use the Savings Bank facilities. The fact that so much money has been deposited in Savings Bank accounts by schoolchildren shows how unwarranted is much of the criticism hurled at the parents of modern children, particularly the mothers, to the effect thai, child endowment is often ill-spent. I .am sure that much of the money which habeen paid into the bank by schoolchildren has come from child endowment.

I thought that Senator Laught introduced a very interesting matter when he spoke of the value to Australia of international understanding and the way in which it might be achieved. In my opinion, his idea of more frequent visits is to be commended. We only get to know people when we visit them and see them in their usual surroundings, and other people will get to know us if they see us in the same way. I have the honour to be president of the Pan-Pacific Women’s Association, which, every three years, meets, in a different part of the Pacific area. People from nineteen Pacific countries gather at such meetings. Those contacts provide a wonderful opportunity to expand one’s knowledge of the people of other countries, and it also gives them an opportunity to realize that we are not so terrible as our White Australia policy would make u« appear.

I was glad that Senator Wedgwood referred to the housekeeper scheme in connexion with improving the lot of the age pensioners. I shall have something to say about pensions when I am speaking about the actual budget provisions, so I shall not elaborate that subject now, except to say that the housekeeper scheme could be a very valuable adjunct in providing greater comfort for age pensioners. The schemes which operate in several of the States are doing excellent work, but if they were enlarged they could provide even greater service to people who are in needy circumstances.

Senator Nicholls treated us to one of his delightful annual addresses. I envy him his facility for rolling out words and his wonderful feats of memory in citing figures. However, I thought that his address this year, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, had nothing to do with the ease. He changed his tune, however, and that is always a hopeful sign. Whereas in past years he took us back to the awful days of Dickens, with their child chimney-sweeps and that kind of thing, this year he leapt into the contemporary era and commenced his remarks with a reference to the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He concluded, quite suddenly, by referring to the depression which, according to Labour, is lurking round the corner but which never seems to come out into the open. Nevertheless, it is always refreshing to listen to a speech by the honorable senator.

The entry of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) into the debate was an interesting development. In common with Senator Maher, I consider that a certain amount of discourtesy was shown to this chamber by the absence, during this important debate, of the Leader of the Opposition and also the Deputy Leader (Senator Armstrong). I do not complain, of course, about the speech that was so ably delivered by Senator Critchley, who is noted in the Senate for his speeches and kindly criticism. I merely suggest that it was somewhat discourteous of the Opposition to attempt to meet the heavy cannon of the Government with the fire of minor guns. One cannot help but admire the intricate manner in which the Leader of the Oppo sition attempted to defend his discredited Leader in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt). I ask - and I am certain that the people of Australia will also ask– why the learned doctor does not himself defend the figures that were suggested by supporters of the Government, and not assailed, during the pre-election speeches. Why does he not explain the terrible way in which they are supposed to have been misrepresented? The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate tried very hard to whitewash the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. However, I take heart from the honorable senator’s intimation that the Australian Labour party is establishing a leadership training scheme. If that is so, there is hope for the future of the party, because it may mean that some of the big guns, such as Senator Critchley- although he does not need training in leadership - may have an opportunity to bring about real improvement in the Australian Labour party.

Senator Seward spoke about the development of the north-west of Western Australia, a subject that is very dear to my heart. I support everything that he said, and I also appeal to the Government for a great deal more consideration for the needs of the Kimberley district of Western Australia and also those of the Northern Territory. I acknowledge that great improvements have been made under the new administration in the Territory. It ia no longer necessary to apply to Canberra for approval for everything that has to be done. The present Administrator has a much freer hand than had any of his predecessors. Surely it is most desirable that decisions should be made on the spot, and thus prevent much of the delay that has often occurred in matters of very great importance to that part of Australia.

I come now to the budget itself, and I add. my congratulations to those of other honorable senators who have praised the Government for its 1954-55 budget. Despite the vague criticism by the members of the Opposition about the contents of the budget, I maintain that it is a very good budget and one which will add to the stability of the economy. The success of the present Government lies in the fact that it has been careful to observe the essential principle that when the capacity of the nation is fully extended, revenue should at least balance expenditure. It seems to me that a very careful watch has been kept on that aspect of the economic policy. A similarly careful watch, however, will have to be kept on expenditure, because there are signs of shortages of both consumer goods and labour. Our growing population means greater demand for consumer goods, and therein lies the great danger of inflation. Our production costs must be examined closely and pruned, if that is possible, or at least stabilized.

  1. great deal can be accomplished in the field of production costs by the adoption of a saner attitude by both employer and employee. The worker should be encouraged to feel that the prosperity of the boss also means prosperity for him. The constantly irritating tactics of the Australian Labour party and various trade union officials are serving to promote a class war between employer and employee. In this respect, there is an outstanding difference between the worker of Australia and the American worker who appreciates, to a great degree, that the success of the boss means success for the worker, and also his continued employment. In America and Canada, cooperation between employer and employee is much more effective than it is in Australia. That view is shared by a number of labour leaders, such as Mr. Short, who recently spent some months in the United States of America and Canada. On his return, he wrote some extremely interesting articles about that subject. He said, for instance, that the American worker differed considerably from the Australian worker in that he believed that, in the prosperity of the boss, lay also the prosperity of the worker.’ Amongst the many irritating prohibitions applied by trade unions in Australia is that of forbidding good workers to accept incentive payments. This senseless class war not only hinders production but also has a most detrimental effect on the workers themselves.

Some time ago I had the honour to visit a station in the Kimberleys. Whilst there, I watched the air beef lift in operation and the work of the mcn who pushed the carcasses into the aeroplane. During that very week, a reference appeared in the newspapers to the deplorable fact that a man in Queensland, doing somewhat the same kind of work, had felt so strong and hearty that he had pushed two carcasses at once, instead of only one. One would not think that that was a soulreaching crime, but it was, because immediately the union stewards suspended him from his work. They told him that he was breaking down working conditions in Australia, and they persuaded him - against his own better feeling and physical strength - that he should push one carcass at a time. These tactics will never get Australia anywhere. This kind of thing generates bad feeling between employers and employees, and increases the cost of production, which we must watch very closely. The cost problem is important, not only to the Government, but to every individual in this country. We must see that everything possible is done to correct the present position, otherwise there could recur the bottlenecks that existed in 1952, when there were continual strikes and black-outs, with consequent despair and loss of production.

There are a great many items in the budget with which it would be interesting to deal, but a lot of them will lend themselves to argument when the Estimates are under consideration. I was glad to notice that the Government had been most careful to watch, not only our economic and financial needs, but also the international situation, in connexion with which it has taken prompt, steps. The defence of this country has received special treatment. Although Senator Ashley was inclined to quibble about the amount of money that has been provided for defence during the last four years, he could not accuse the Government of inconsistency, because the annua! amounts provided for defence have been consistent throughout that period. The honorable senator criticized what he termed the proposed reduction in relation to the national service training scheme. In effect, there will be no reduction at. all. Had he read the published statements correctly, he would have seen thai the numbers of national service trainees are to be kept at their present level. However, in view of the necessity to increase food production in the next few years, certain workers in rural districts will not be called up for national service training. I repeat that the defence of this country has received special treatment by this Government. No one can be sure, in these days of tension, that ample provision has been made for emergencies. Nevertheless, Australia has never before been so well equipped for defence. Our defence potential has been built up, not only by the national service training scheme, but also by army extensions and the development of our sea and air defences. There have been continual criticisms by honorable members opposite about our defence plans. I remind the Opposition that, when this Government came to office in 1949, there existed practically no defence machinery in this country. This Government has built up ti very excellent defence machine, of which we all are proud. “We have striven constantly to put our defences in order. The defence of this country involves not only the training of soldiers, and the provision of aircraft, guns and bullets, but also the conclusion of valuable alliances with our neighbours and powerful allies. This Government is to be commended for the advance that it has made in that direction, and the fact that wonderful co-operation still exists between the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States of America and ourselves. The success of the Colombo plan, which had its origin in the Government of this country, is assured. I should like to sec the plan extended in order to provide for two-way traffic. More of our people should go to the countries which are assisted under the Colombo plan, in order to imbibe something of their way of life, just as Asian students come to Australia. It is tremendously refreshing to meet them. They take their work very seriously. They have told me that they dare not fail to pass their examinations, as they must take back a lot of knowledge to their native countries. We have no hatred of the Asian people because of the colour of their skin. As I have said many times before - and as I shall continue to say - I wish I could expunge forever the awful title that we use to describe the economic experiment in this country known as the White Australia policy. That is a shocking name; it should be abolished. We do not yet know much about the latest pact - the Manila Pact - or what our commitments under it will be, but I am quite sure that, as in connexion with the Anzus pact and other pacts, we will do all in our power to fulfil our obligations under it, and that it will be- a hindrance to anything suggestive of a third world war.

I should like the Commonwealth to assume full and complete control of intrastate and inter-state arterial roads, because there should be the closest cooperation between air transport and road transport. Arterial roads should be a Commonwealth responsibility. I should also like to see the railway systems of this country co-ordinated. I mentioned in a recent speech that there are enormous tracts of country in Australia in which railways could never be economically provided. I do not know whether any railway in Australia really pays its way, because maintenance costs are prohibitive. By the use of the magnificent roadmaking machines that are now available, road construction does . not present the difficulties that it did formerly. Roads can be constructed in much less time than was necessary under the old day labour and stone-breaking system, and they can be maintained cheaper than railways.

As previous speakers have dealt fully with the subject of social services, I shall content myself by commending the Government on its overall generosity in that field. Successive budgets that have been introduced by this Government have made valuable contributions to the welfare of the people by the provision of social services benefits. The amelioration of the means test will enable another 90,000 persons in Australia to claim age pensions, and increase the pensions payable to many thousands of our citizens. I take this opportunity to emphasize my strong personal feeling that this country could stand an increase of the amount of the age pension. In making that comment, I expected to hear interjections of approval from the Opposition.

Senator Tangney:

– I said, “ Hear, hear ! “


– I have the deepest sympathy for aged persons who are endeavouring to live on the pension.

Many of those people, despite the fact that they practised thrift throughout their working lives, rely on the pension for their subsistence. In any country which sets out - as we apparently do - to become a perfect welfare state, the pioneers - those who bore the heat and burden of the day - should receive the utmost consideration. I congratulate the Government on its decision to subsidize on a £1- for-£l basis the capital cost of providing homes for the aged. The position in that connexion would now have been chaotic but for the work of churches, charitable institutions and other voluntary bodies in providing housing for the aged, which has saved the Government a tremendous amount of money. The Government’s decision to subsidize that work on the basis that I have mentioned, up to a maximum expenditure of £1,500,000 a year, will enable those organizations to extend their operations, and it will act as a stimulous to other bodies to look after aged people in a district, or of their own religious persuasion.

Our immigration programme is continuing successfully. A great effort is being made by newcomers to this country to become good citizens. I commend the Department of Immigration for introducing the system under which naturalization ceremonies are now held in town halls and other public buildings instead of in courts. I have attended a number of such ceremonies in Western Australia and I am sure that the new system provides a much better atmosphere for the naturalization of our immigrants than did the previous system. A number of Maltese immigrants recently told me in Western Australia that they considered that their assimilation in this country was rather slow. They asked me whether I would help them to establish a MalteseAustralian association, in order to expedite the assimilation of Maltese immigrants. As I thought that that was a very nice gesture, I lent my aid to the proposal. Australia’s first MalteseAustralian association was established in Perth, and it is now flourishing.

I come now to- the subject of television, I appreciate that we cannot stand in the way of science and progress. However, I consider that the people who live in lonely places in the inland of this country should be provided with telephones and other means of communications before we embark on a large expenditure on the introduction of television. In the initial stages, apparently only the people who live in certain areas will be able to receive television broadcasts, but all of the taxpayers of this country will have to bear the burden of cost. I have no great personal objection to television; I shall have to put up with it, in the same way that I have to put up with radio and picture shows. We take those things in our stride, in the interests of science and progress. Television must come to Australia, and, to people who are confined in their homes and other places, it will be a great boon. However, I urge the Government to provide more telephones and radio facilities for people who live in lonely inland places, such as the Kimberleys, before proceeding with the introduction of television. On all occasions, the PostmasterGeneral has seen the justice of these people’s claims and has been able to alleviate their loneliness.

I wish to refer again to the human scrap-heap which is a matter close to my heart. Senator Wedgwood has received letters and I have received a tremendous number of communications on this matter from people all over Australia. Apparently some people listen to Parliament and some have noticed press reports on the subject. The correspondence that has come from all parts of Australia shows that this is a burning question throughout the Commonwealth. One of my letters is from a man aged 84 years who says that he is as good as any man. He is able to work alongside a man 25 years of age but, because he is so old, he is not allowed to take a permanent job. The Government will have to show itself to be the best employer. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said recently that he wanted big business to undertake the engagement of people over 65 years of age. I do not think that big business can be expected to provide a complete social service agency. I expect that the co-operation of big business and Labour with the Government would be needed to solve this problem. It is now generally considered that we should make use of those people who are past the usual retiring age. A publication that I read the other day set out seven suggestions for the use of people over 65 years of age as follows : -

  1. Retain the skill and experience of craftsmen for as long as possible by placing elderly men in jobs where they are not subjected to the full pressure of the production line.

These remarks are, of course, applicable to women as well as to men. The suggestions continued -

  1. Release younger men for more productive work and boys for training by reserving all “ light duties “ for elderly unskilled men.
  2. Overcome the problem of “ blocked “ promotions by persuading elderly supervisors to accept less responsible posts or by transferring them to research and prototype work.
  3. Recruit retired men for routine clerical jobs and recall ex-employees as temporary workers during seasonal rushes.

I thought that that suggestion was particularly good. The next suggestion was -

  1. Be prepared to adjust working conditions in individual cases. It is better to retain a man’s skill on a part-time basis than to discard it entirely just because he cannot conform to a pattern.

It is in that way that the most extensive progress has been made in the United States of America. There, working conditions have been adjusted for elderly people. The final suggestions read as follows : -

  1. Remember that skill is not affected by age. Older men can play an important part in apprentice and other training schemes.
  2. Retrain men who become too old for particularly strenuous jobs. Older workers are more adaptable than is often supposed.

I saw in to-day’s paper that the PostmasterGeneral was advertising for a number of Christmas mail sorters. Here is an excellent opportunity for the Government to show that it is alive to the waste of skill and labour by appointing as Christmas mail sorters those who have been retired from the Postal Service because, according to the calendar, they were too old.

I shall conclude by again congratulating the Treasurer on the fairness of his budget. Speaking on the future pattern for Australia the Prime Minister recently made the following statement : -

It is of real importance to the national security that we should have financial and economic stability, that we should maintain industrial activity and employment, and that we should achieve that development of our resources which is needed for a rapidly growing population. This means that we must balance our efforts, remembering always that it is a designed part of the Communist cold war technique to put such a strain upon the democracies that defence expenditure and social and economic stability will come into conflict, with advantages either way to the potential aggressor.

South Australia

– The Senate is dealing with the motion for the printing of the budget papers. As usual, on these occasions, honorable senators have dealt with things dearest to their hearts, to use Senator Robertson’s expression. Senator Robertson moaned and groaned about what Opposition senators had said in this debate because their remarks were not in accordance with her ideas. Then she said, “ Of course, I am not complaining “: She was only moaning and groaning. I do not know how she would sound if she were complaining. I should not like to listen. After criticizing Opposition senators and commending one or two Government supporters, she voiced further complaints. She criticized some statements that had been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). She said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had tried to obtain certain information from Dr. Evatt. I should like Government senators to explain why the Prime Minister concocted a lot of figures, on the basis of which he attacked the proposals of Dr. Evatt. Why have not Government senators explained where the Prime Minister got his figures from?

Senator Robertson:

– He got them from the Treasury.


– He did not. As Senator McKenna said last night, the Treasury could not have supplied some of the figures that were used by the Prime Minister. They must have come from somewhere else. They came from somebody’s imagination. Honorable senators opposite ‘ have used the imaginary figures of the Prime Minister and repeated the misstatements that he made.

Senator Robertson referred to the activities of air beef in Western Australia. The honorable senator quoted a newspaper report to the effect that somebody had been pushing the air beef loading too fast and that, as a result, the work was stopped. I have a vivid recollection of Senator Maher’s making a complaint concerning the press report of a speech that he had made in the Senate. Although the press gallery is not far from the honorable senator’s position in this chamber, he complained that he had been inaccurately reported. He did not call for the reporter to be brought before the bar of the Senate as he might have done. But he provided an example of the press reports that have been made from time to time on which no reliance can be placed. Every honorable senator knows that press reports are coloured. How a report is written depends on the person writing it or the reason for putting it in the press. The report concerning Fir beef to which Senator Robertson referred was deliberately inaccurate. I think that the first responsibility of honorable senators in speaking in this chamber should be to answer criticism that has been made of them, or to present a case that they believe in, and give all the facts that they can. But honorable senators opposite are unable to produce facts to support their case.

Senator Robertson spoke against the working people of this country and used the newspaper report in order to support her argument. Then she said that union secretaries made a point of renewing the agitation for class war. Union secretaries do not do that. It is speeches such as that which was made by Senator Robertson that foment class war. The sort of speech that Senator Robertson made makes the working people wonder why they exist. It makes them wonder whether they only exist so that somebody can exploit their labour. The working man generally has only his labour to sell. He might work with his brain or his hands or both. But it is only 1m labour that he has to sell. The man who buys that labour does so in order to get something out of it. He does not do it with the deliberate objective of helping this country. Consequently, there is no need for union secretaries to advocate class war. Tho class war is in existence all the time, and it has existed ever since honorable senators have been alive. It will go on until such time as there are no more classes. I think it was Jerome K. Jerome who said that when the masses hate the classes as the classes hate the masses, then there will be no more classes. That is just as true to-day as it was when he said it. It is absolutely inaccurate to say that individuals such as union secretaries keep the class war alive. The economic circumstances of the times caused the class war and keep it going to-day. Senator Robertson had one other complaint to make. That was regarding the White Australian policy. She wanted it abandoned.

Senator Robertson:

– Only the name.


– Even in my lifetime, I have seen the effect of the introduction of coloured people into Australia. I remember a time in Adelaide when a white man could not get a job as a journeyman in the furniture trade because employers engaged Chinese in preference to white men. Why ? Because they could get more profit by utilizing Chinese labour. In those days, the indenture system for Indian coolies was in operation in South Australia and many economic ills rose from it. I do not want that system in Australia again. I saw some happenings that would make Senator Robertson’s heart bleed if she saw anything like them in Australia today. I do not agree with the admission of coloured persons to Australia, whether the system is called a quota system or anything else. If those people are brought to Australia, it will be for one purpose only. That is, to exploit labour and undermine the standard of living in Australia. That standard is not as high as it should be now. I shall not be satisfied with it for a long time to come, and I will not be a party to undermining existing standards by the introduction of indentured coolie labour.

Senator Robertson congratulated the Government upon its social services policy and its overall generosity in the provision of social services. I suppose everybody could support that statement. I commend the Government, too, on the point of overall generosity in the provision of social services, but many persons are not getting any social services benefits at all.

They are not entitled to them. They are not entitled to medical benefits or hospital accommodation, and many others pay for those things through mutual benefit schemes or societies and then do not receive the benefits for which they have paid. I am not concerned now with the overall scheme but with the forgotten people. Why should a widow who is in receipt of a small pension be debarred from medical and hospital benefits under the Government’s scheme? Although she is a pensioner receiving social services benefits, neither she nor her children are entitled to medical and hospital attention. I know cases of women who get such a small pension that they cannot afford to pay into lodges and other mutual benefit schemes organized by private enterprise. Some widows will not ask for a pension. They go to work and they pay into schemes organized by private enterprise, but when they get ill, they find that they are not entitled to benefits that are afforded to pensioners.

I have before me the details of one pathetic case. The lady applied to join a medical benefits fund. She found that she had to join also the hospital fund conducted by the same organization. She paid 13s. a quarter for medical benefits and either 6s. 6d. or 7s. a quarter for hospital benefits for a number of years. Then she became ill and consulted a doctor who was on the panel of the organization to which she had contributed. She paid six visits to the doctor and received a bill for £17 6s. The medical benefits society paid £2 5s. off that bill, and the Government medical benefits scheme paid £1 16s., but the woman still had to pay £13 5s. to the doctor. That was not all. The doctor sent her to another doctor for an X-ray. The fee for the X-ray was £3 3s. The medical benefits society paid £1 and the magnificent government scheme paid 15s., so that the woman had £1 8s. to pay for the X-ray. The woman is a widow and not a pensioner in the recognized sense. She worked until recently. After the X-ray, the doctor sent, her to a. physiotherapist and she received an account for £8 5s. The medical benefits fund paid £4 2s. 6d. but the Government did not contribute a brass farthing. As a result of her illness, she was left with a balance of £18 10s. to pay after contributing to the hospital benefits fund and the medical benefits fund. She had expected to be recouped, with the assistance of the Government, but the whole set of payments did not cover the bill. The pamphlet that has been issued by the benefits organization concerned shows that it made a profit last year of £120,000. I do not know what the profit will be this year having regard to the expansion of those organizations that has followed the introduction of the Government scheme. I am far from satisfied with the system under which persons contribute to societies and still do not receive benefits to cover the cost of an illness.

Practically every day I meet cases of hardship. Contributors to the benefits schemes cannot get payment. When a complaint is made to the officers of the organization, they reply that they are sorry but that there has been some delay. In some cases within my knowledge, five months have elapsed before a claimant has obtained a refund of money that has been paid for medical and hospital attention. What is the position of recipients of repatriation benefits? Do they receive the same benefits as invalid or age pensioners? There is no provision under the medical or hospital schemes for those persons to obtain treatment without payment, and when they pay for their treatment’ they cannot be sure that they will be reimbursed. After some dallying, Senator Robertson said that perhaps the economy of the country could stand an increase of pensions.

Senator Hannaford:

– Has the honorable senator referred the specific case he mentioned to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) ?


– It is useless to refer such matters to the Minister for Health. He merely replies that the matter will be investigated, and expresses thanks for the information: Then no more is heard of it for twelve months. One of the greatest faults of the national health scheme is that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) does not reply promptly enough to correspondence. I do not wish to bring a personal element into the debate because I am prepared to have these matters out with the Minister himself. I am talking about the whole scheme.

Senator WRIGHT:
TASMANIA · LP; IND from June 1978

– The honorable senator is misrepresenting the whole scheme.


– I am not. I do not want to mention the name of the organization to which I have referred. It ia a mutual organization, and I have the pence card of the individual concerned.

Senator Wright:

– Show us the documents.


– The honorable senator is welcome to have a look at them. Surely no honorable senator will argue that invalid and age pensioners to-day are receiving a munificent payment and are not entitled to more. The purchasing power of the pension has fallen substantially, not only since 1949 - the year to which honorable senators opposite are so fond of referring - but in the last three years. There can be no argument about that. The purchasing power of the £1 is diminishing. The result is that these unfortunate pensioners cannot buy as much with their miserable £3 10s. a week as they could even three years ago. I think it would be better for the Government to give a little help to those who are in the greatest need rather than to give a big help to others whose need is not so great.

Senator WRIGHT:
TASMANIA · LP; IND from June 1978

– That is inconsistent with the abolition of the means test.


– It is true that we advocated the abolition of the means test.

Senator WRIGHT:
TASMANIA · LP; IND from June 1978

– Some of you did.


– Some of us, yes. There were one or two defections just as there have been one or two defections on the Government side. The Labour party has not the support of the press as the Government has. In recent weeks we have all read reports, published under large headlines, about the Labour leader being red-faced and distressed about something that has happened in caucus or elsewhere. The Government parties had a meeting recently, and they had the Prime Minister red-faced and distressed, but no mention of that was made in the newspapers. The right honorable gentleman apologized because he had been unable to bring down certain measures, and he promised his rebellious crew that those matters would be discussed next week. Yet honorable senators opposite talk about us! The only difference between the Government parties and the Opposition party is that our affairs are splashed all over the newspapers,, whereas the public is expected to believethat, in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, everything proceeds smoothly. Members of the Government parties have their fights. Honorable senators opposite know as well as I do that the Government parties have been canvassing the possibility of extending the life of the present Senate to make the Senate and House of Representatives elections concurrent. There is a difference of opinion on that matter and the result may be that the House of Representatives will go to the country when we go in 1956, so that members of the lower house will serve only two years instead of three. We all know what i« going on, but the press does not splash these things across its pages.

I return now to my remarks about pensions. It would not hurt the Government to increase age and invalid pensions to the amount advocated by theLabour party during the elections, namely, £4 2s. 6d. a week. Even if the figure were fixed at £4 a week, the Government would be doing something to help thousands of people who have no other income. It is estimated that between 70 per cent, and 75 per cent, of all pensioners are in that category. But the Government has decided to leave the base rate pension at its present figure although the prices of commodities that are essential to those old people, such as tea, bread, milk and meat, are rising. The price of sugar, too, will be increased soon. These are necessaries of life, but the Government has decided to ignore the claims of people who depend solely upon a pension for their livelihood. Instead of improving their lot, it is giving something to other people who do not need assistance nearly so much. I refer to the easing of the means test. If the Government can do that it should be able also to increase the base rate pension. Labour promised during the election campaign that it would immediately abolish the property bar, and that it would increase age and invalid pensions to £4 2s. 6d. a week. This Government has confined its attention to the easing of property restrictions, and has ignored the needs of the base rate pensioners. Probably it is afraid of laying itself open to the accusation that it has adopted part of Labour’s policy. That should not influence the Government at all. It should deal equitably with those members of the community who are in the greatest need. Honorable senators opposite talk of being satisfied with the overall payments made under the social services scheme, but that means nothing when thousands of people who are in the greatest need are being ignored by the Government.

The Prime Minister has claimed that his Government is, in fact, a workers’ government and that it is reducing taxes on the workers. But what do those reductions mean to people in the lower income groups? A person who receives the minimum taxable salary is having his income tax commitment reduced by about 8d. a week. The fellow at the other end of the scale, who gets £10,000 or £15,000 a year, is having his tax reduced, not by 8d. a week, but by many pounds. I shall have something more to say about that when the taxation legislation is before us. What else has this so-called workers’ government done? The worker who wants to marry and set up a home finds that because expenditure on housing has been reduced by £1,000,000 this year, he cannot obtain money to build a home. The Government proclaimed its intention to reduce the price of furniture and household equipment by reducing the sales tax on those items. We find now that the actual reduction is to be 6d. in the £1. In other words, for every £100 that is spent on furniture, there will be a reduction, due to the lowering of sales tax rates, of only £2 10s. That is what .the Government calls helping the worker ! Many people expected some real benefit in view of the Government’s election promises about reductions of taxation. To them the tax proposals foreshadowed in the budget will be a great disappointment. I shall leave that matter there.

I propose now to make one or two complaints. It is time that the Government heeded what is going on in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. All over Australia there is a shortage of telephone equipment, and the delay in the installation of telephones is increasing instead of being reduced. There is something radically wrong in the department. Senator Ashley has pointed out that the “tall poppies “ in the administrative section of the department have increased greatly in number, and that expenditure on administration has increased from about £500,000 a year in 1946-47 to more than £1,000,000 a year at present. The honorable senator gave many instances of increases of the number of officials in high administrative positions. If the administration is to blame for the lag in telephone installations, it is time an inquiry was made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) himself, or by some other responsible governmental authority. I do not want any royal commissions or select committees. It is theGovernment’s duty to appoint some one to investigate the department and find out why telephones cannot be installed without the long delays that face applicants to-day. There are 9,000 people waiting for telephones in South Australia whereas last year, if my memory is correct, there were only about 8,000. A vast quantity of equipment will be required, to overtake this lag which apparently is increasing every year. When one makes representations to Postal Department officials in South Australia, one is informed that existing exchanges cannot cope with additional telephones, or that there is a shortage of telephone equipment. Something is always missing. If it is not the little hole that the plug goes in, it is the plug itself. Sometimes the explanation is that the existing exchange facilities cannot cope with increased traffic and that another exchange, which has vacant channels, is too far away for the connexion required. In some localities, pipes havebeen laid but there are no cables available to put in them. One official will explain, perhaps, that the supply of cables is outside his jurisdiction, and is handled by some other authority in the department. If the Postmaster-General himself will not investigate these matters, some one else should he appointed hy the Government to do the job. An endeavour should be made to correlate the activities of the various branches of the department. When a telephone service is being installed there appears to be a division of work over many branches. First there is the gang which digs the holes and erects the poles. Another gang puts the wires up, and some one else installs the telephone. There should be some coordination. Previously, we could have a telephone installed within a week, but something happened somewhere and now there are long delays. I have been informed that the department has obtained hundreds of miles of telephone cable. If that is so, I want to know the reason for the delay in obtaining the cable. Why could not we get it before? Was there something wrong somewhere -which prevented us from getting it? During the recent visit of Her Majesty the Queen, telephone wires and cables were laid everywhere and telephones for official use were installed by the dozen all over the place. If that could be done then for a particular purpose, it could be done now to help ordinary people who want telephones. I understand that some people are able to get telephones much more easily than other people according to Senator Robertson’s remarks. It may be that telephones are installed for supporters of the Government, but not for common or garden people with no pull. Something should be done to ensure that people will be able to get telephones without waiting for a long time. Like Senator Ashley, I know of people who had their names in the telephone book, had telephone numbers allotted, and had telephones instruments in their houses, but the instruments were not connected to a telephone exchange. There is something rotten in the state of Denmark so far as telephones are concerned. The Government should do something to find out what is wrong.

I, want to refer to the supply of iron and steel products in Australia. Many years ago, in order to encourage the establishment of steel furnaces and furnaces for smelting the ingots from which all iron and steel fabrics are made, the Par- liament agreed that protection should be given to our iron and steel industry. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has built a magnificent organization. During the war it was not able to expand the production of iron and steel products as much as it would have liked to do, but during that period it gained control of almost the whole of the iron ore deposits in Australia. It has a lease of almost every valuable deposit in this country of iron ore, manganese and other constituent parts of ordinary and silver steel. In South Australia, it has a lease of the Iron Knob deposits and the Middleback Range?. I suppose that is one of the richest deposits of iron ore and manganese in the world. Although the company holds the lease of that deposit its steel works have been established at Newcastle and Port Kembla. Thousands of tons of ore and fluxes are brought by sea from South Australia to Newcastle and Port Kembla. In the past, three tons of coal were required to smelt a ton of iron ore, but now, owing to scientific advances in the construction of furnaces, approximately only a ton of coal is required.

Senator Kendall:

– I received a brochure from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited the other day. The proportion is two and a half tons to one ton.


– That is so in some places, but Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has taken advantage of all the advances made by science. It does not use two and a half tons of coal to smelt a ton of ore now. The point I am trying to make is that although there are enormous deposits of high-grade iron ore in South Australia, not only at Iron Knob and in the Middleback Ranges, but also in parts of the Flinders Ranges, and although there are deposits of ore of a poorer grade in the Leigh Creek country, the Broken Hill organization has established its iron and steel works at Newcastle and Port Kembla. Both of those ports are very vulnerable to attack. Iron and steel products are vital for the defence of this country. If our production of iron and steel were stopped, we should be unable to defend ourselves. Therefore, the iron and steel industry in this country should be decentralized. All the raw materials for the industry, except coal, are available in South Australia. We have some brown coal there, some of which could be used for steel production, so that it would not be necessary to bring all the coking coal required for a steelworks from the eastern States.

I do not think the .South Australian Government has sufficient money to finance the establishment of a steel industry in South Australia. The Broken Hill organization has commitments in the eastern States, and it will be some years before it can branch out in other places. I suggest that the Commonwealth, through the Department of National Development, confer with the South Australian Government to see whether finance can be made available for the establishment of a steel industry in South Australia. The industry could be established by the State Government, acting either on its own, or in cooperation with a private firm. At one time, some English firms were prepared to come out here and build furnaces, rolling-mills and tinplate works, but when they found that all the raw materials have been pegged out by the Broken Hill organization, they did not go on with their plans. That difficulty could be overcome and, if sufficient finance were available, a steel industry could be established in South Australia, either by the State Government itself, or by the State Government acting in co-operation with an overseas corporation. All the necessary technicians could be provided. If necessary, the cooperation of the Broken Hill company could be sought. By building steelworks at Whyalla, we should decentralize our steel industry to some degree, and a. part of it would be in a place less vulnerable to attack than our eastern coastline.

Our annual production of steel at present is over one million tons less than our requirements, and we are forced to import steel to make up for that deficiency. A steelworks in South Australia at Whyalla would help us to bridge that gap. In addition, steel produced there could be used by other industries we should then be able to establish. All the necessary raw, materials, except coal, would be close at hand. I ask the Minis ter for National Development to contact the Premier of South Australia and discuss this matter with him. The Director of Mines in South Australia has referred to the steel position in Australia in several of his annual reports. Four or five years ago, he said that in the very near future there would be a great shortage of steel in this country.

Senator Kendall:

– That was five years ago, when Labour was in power.


– Nobody took much notice of him. He has not condemned anybody, but he has pointed out that we must look to the future. He has suggested that arrangements be made to ensure a greater production of steel. This year, in his annual report, he has said that the time has come for a move to be made to establish a steel industry in South Australia. He has said also that if the Broken Hill organization does not use the iron-ore deposits in South Australia and establish a steel industry there, the South Australian Government should take its leases away and utilize them itself, in co-operation with the Commonwealth, or with some firm other than the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited, or even with that company to supply a steel industry in South Australia.

I ask the Minister for National Development to see whether something can be done to overcome the shortage of steel in Australia so that we can stand on our own feet so far as steel is concerned, and at the same time to promote the defence of this country by placing at least one of our steelworks in a position less vulnerable than the eastern States.

Senator WARDLAW:

– I rise to support the motion and congratulate the Government and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on a very fine budget. I do not think there is anything in the speech made by Senator O’Flaherty to which I need refer. I do not think his derogatory remarks about Senator Robertson merit a reply. This is the seventh budget presented by the Treasurer. There is nothing which shows that it is not as good a budget as any of the others he has presented, and I believe it will be just as successful.

We can build an edifice only if we have the necessary materials. The Treasurer was the only man in possession of all the information necessary for the preparation of the budget. Therefore, there is nothing to show that this budget is not as good as others which he presented in the past. I suggest that it is a cautious budget and is intended to correct, not only the position as we find it in Australia to-day, but also the position as it may be during the next twelve months. It is the job of the Treasurer to chart the economic course of the nation, and I suggest that the present Treasurer has done that.

I appreciate the difficulty of honorable senators opposite in discussing this budget. I have heard nothing from the members of the Opposition, either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, to make me change the opinion of the budget which I have voiced already. They have not given evidence of sincerity or a grip of the economic position which would warrant the view that the Treasurer should be taken seriously to task because of the budget. It is the function of the Opposition to oppose, and there is no doubt that, under the party system, continuous and vigorous criticism is, in a sense, a very healthy thing; but absence of constructive criticism by honorable senators opposite, in relation to the budget figures, really proves the soundness of those figures. It is doubtful whether any budget introduced in this or any other Parliament has met with unanimous approval. There will always be purely personal and party political objections to budgetary provisions. The Treasurer who could produce a budget which would meet all the conflicting views has yet to be born. In my opinion a Treasurer who attempted to do so would be foolish. One must take an overall view of the budget and determine whether it does two things: First, whether it clearly discloses the financial position of the Commonwealth, and, secondly, whether it indicates a financial policy which is designed, not only to meet present needs and to stimulate and encourage general expansion, but also to meet foreseeable future demands on the nation’s economy. I think that any responsible critic would say that the present budget does both of those things.

I have no doubt that most honorable senators heard with approval one of theconcluding statements in the budget speech of the Treasurer, when he said -

All in all, conditions are favorable to further sound progress in the year ahead. Themain thing is for the various elements in our economy to keep in step, and not try, each individually, to thrust itself forward at the expense of the others.

I believe that to be fundamental. Statements such as that, made by the PrimeMinister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer prior to the recent general election, were responsible for the Menzies Government being returned to office.

I wish to refer, in passing, to the attempt of certain individuals during the general election campaign to divert the minds of the electors from the real issues by the invention of slogans and parrot cries. Honorable senators will remember that the budget of 1950-51, which was designed to check the economic drift at that time, was referred to by the Opposition . ‘as the “ horror “ budget. That term was meant to deceive those who were not in a position to obtain particulars of the budget proposals and who probably were not capable of analysing them. Since then, various similar terms, equally silly and deceptive, have been trotted out. The use of such terms reflects perfectly the mentality of those who invent them and those who echo them.

It may be timely to remind honorable senators opposite that a late respected Labour Treasurer sternly rebuffed certain buccaneers who were urging a dangerous boom and bust financial policy. During the last general election campaign one could not avoid the impression that certain people were genuinely distressed because of the rising tide of prosperity under the Menzies Government. The calamity mongers had been prophesying unemployment, lower wages, depression, and all kinds of other horrors, and it must have been galling to such mournful prophets of doom to see the country continue to prosper, the standard of living improve, unemployment practically nonexistent, taxes being steadily reduced, and the savings of the people mounting almost every month. Is it to be wondered that the people of Australia refused to sack a. government which had achieved such satisfactory results and replace it with a party which, in the words of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), was without a policy and had ceased constructive thinking twenty years ago?

In considering the budget, I remind honorable senators of the following important statement by his Excellency the Governor-General during the Speech which he delivered in the Senate recently : -

My advisers regard their responsibility during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.

In my opinion, the first point is the most important, because without security we cannot hope to achieve the other three objectives. That cannot be denied. It would be foolish to wait until the enemy was at our doors before we commenced our preparations. Times have changed since the days when nations exchanged notes and gave notice that they were about to make war. War may be forced upon us, leaving no time for preparation. Potential enemies are only eight hours’ flying time from our shores, and I think that that is a factor which must be given serious consideration. No longer will there be any question of muddling through. The best guarantee against war is preparation for war, and at the risk of being accused of rattling the sabre, a practice to which an honorable senator opposite referred during the debate, I contend that the expenditure of the sums indicated in the budget will be money well spent if it diverts a catastrophe.

Recent events in Indo-China, and the Communist gains achieved as the result of the uneasy peace in that area, have made necessary a complete change in the pattern of Australia’s planning. Three months ago, a South-East Asian alliance against communism was desirable. To-day, it is a positive necessity. Three months ago, our annual defence vote of £200,000,000 was thought to be adequate, but it may be necessary to increase that amount considerably should certain events transpire during the next six months. Before the financial year is out we may be compelled to revise that figure and to spend a still greater sum on preparing for war.

There is much to be done at home involving heavy expenditure, and in that connexion I wish to mention a matter which was touched on by Senator Robertson during her able address to the Senate. I refer to the standardization of rail gauges. That matter should be given No. 1 priority. During the last war we learned how seriously the break of gauge could militate against the successful defence of Australia. -In another war, under present conditions, the break of gauge could easily mean the difference between defeat and victory. If we artwise, we shall be on the alert and start to prepare now. We should not wait for the shooting to start before commencing the construction of strategic highways or the repair of those built under pressure, when the Japanese were already hammering at our doors. I believe that the best way to fight a war is to do so as far away from our own shores as possible. Spending money in preparation for a war which may never happen is, to my way of thinking, far better than sacrificing our man-power and property. I agree with Shakespeare when he said -

  1. . Beware Of entrance to a quarrel: but, being in, Bear ‘t that the opposed may beware of thee.

I wish now to say something about trade and employment. Figures which have been issued by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that the total number of people in employment in Australia during the month of May was an all-time record of 2,712,000. That total was far ahead of last year’s total. Unfortunately, in 1953 there were 1,459 industrial disputes in this country. It is significant that, of that number, 994 occurred in the coalmining industry and 268 in the stevedoring industry, involving, in all, 496,000 workers, for a loss of 1,050,000 working days. The consequent loss of wages amounted to £3,340,000. That is certainly an appallingly high figure, but it is not as high as was the figure for 1950. during which a loss of 2,000,000 working days occurred, for a loss of more than £4,000,000 in wages. Those figures mean that the coal-miners and the wharf labourers, between them, were responsible for 85 per cent, of the stoppages. It is surely an extinordinary tribute to the economic soundness and prosperity of the Commonwealth that, despite that continuous and senseless drag on the economy, such a high degree of development ‘and expansion was maintained. Nevertheless, it prompts the comment that if, after the end of World War II., the men and women of Australia had all applied themselves to the common task, this country would be now the richest in the world in proportion to population, and would be enjoying the highest possible standard of living.

During the last general election campaign attention was frequently directed to the high prices of food in Australia, and I think that it was. Senator O’Byrne who referred to that subject in the Senate quite recently. No one will deny that food prices are high, but it must be remembered that the cost of food in Australia is lower than it is in any other country of the world. That may come as a surprise to those who have not studied the trend of world prices, but it is true, nevertheless. An investigation recently carried out by the International Labour Office, which I think may be taken as fairly accurate, disclosed that the Australian worker had to work less time than had the workers of any other country to earn sufficient money to buy the same quantity of food! In other words, the workers of other countries would have to work longer to earn sufficient money to buy the quantity of food which an Australian worker could purchase as the result of one hour’s work. For instance, a worker in the United States of America would have to work 1 hour 3 minutes, a Swedish worker 1 hour 19 minutes, a United Kingdom worker 1 hour 42 minutes, a worker in West Germany 3 hours 25 minutes, and an Italian worker 4 hours and 23 minutes. These figures provide an effective answer to those who habitually decry their own country. They show conclusively what may be attained by every member of the community nulling his weight in the development of the country. I contend that the

Treasurer’s claim that taxation in Australia is relatively low, is borne out by the financial statements that accompany the budget. I shall cite two illustrations in support of that contention. Let us consider the case of a taxpayer in receipt of an income of £600 a year, who has no dependants In this financial year, he will pay tax of £39 12s., compared with £43 193. in the last financial year. If he has a wife and two children, he will pay tax of £11 5s. in this financial year, compared with £13 ls. in the last financial year. A man in receipt of an income of £1,000 a year, who has no dependants, will pay tax of £106 5s. in this financial year, compared with £117 6s. in the last financial year. If he has a wife and two children, he will pay tax of £60 2s. in this financial year, compared with £66 16s. in the last financial year. I shall now compare the tax payable in this financial year by a person in receipt of an income of £600 a year, who has no dependants, with that payable in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Such a person will, in this financial year, pay tax of £39 12s., compared with £97 18s. 4d. in the United Kingdom, and £S0 12s. 6d. in New Zealand. If the person has a wife and two children, he will, in this financial year, pay tax of £11 5s., compared with £24 18s 4d. in the United Kingdom, and £45 in NewZealand.

Let us consider a person in receipt of £1,000 a year. If such a person has no dependants, he will, in this financial year, pay tax of £106 5s., compared with £232 Ils. Sd. in the United Kingdom, and £189 7s. 6d. in New Zealand. If he has a wife and two children, he will, in this financial year, pay tax of £60 2s., compared with £115 16s. Id. in the United Kingdom, and £132 2s. 6d. in New Zealand. It will be seen that the amount of tax payable by a person in that category in Australia will be less than half of the tax payable in New Zealand. Whilst most people believe- that taxation in Australia is always too high, our rates of taxation compare very favorably with those of other countries of the British Commonwealth.

I come now to the subject of shipping. No speech delivered in this chamber by a Tasmanian senator would be complete without a mention of the island State’s greatest disability - its shipping services. Efficient transport is an important factor in relation to cost of production, and the economic life of the community generally. Inefficient transport retards expansion and spells disaster for vital industries on which the community depends for its livelihood. Shipping is a most vital factor in connexion with the prosperity and livelihood of Tasmanians, who want a regular, highly efficient shipping service, with reasonable, stabilized freight rates. I commend the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) on the lively and practical interest that he is displaying in connexion with the Tasmanian shipping services. Nothing but good can come out of the special investigation that he authorized, and which is being carried out by Mr. Strahan. The people of Tasmania are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the investigation, and hope that it will result in an improvement of Tasmania’s shipping services. For many years, shipping and waterfront troubles have been in the forefront of that State’s difficulties. They are slowly crippling and disorganizing its economy. The majority of the people of Tasmania believe that, as a first step to attaining efficiency and harmony on the waterfront, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board should be abolished. That body has not carried out its duties to the satisfaction of any one; it has entailed nothing but worry and expense. The board is not worthy of any commendation at all. It has increased the numerical strength of gangs working on the waterfront, but has done nothing to bring about good feeling and happiness between the waterside workers and the shipowners. The key to the solution of the difficulty on the Tasmanian waterfront seems to be the provision of regular employment and the introduction of socialized labour. Men organized into highly efficient, but smaller gangs could, on a contract basis, earn more than they now do in wages, and be more content. The general attitude of the Waterside Workers’ Federation towards the Government, fellowworkers, primary producers, business men, and shipping interests is deplorable. The policy of the federation indicates that its chief objective is to hurt the boss, without having any real idea who is the boss, and how to get at him. This attitude was demonstrated in an article that was published in The Way of Unity - the organ of the Waterside Workers Federation - in June last, in which this paragraph appeared -

Comrades, we have learned a great lesson from the gang scheme struggle. Since it, we have formed ourselves into a stronger and more united body, more able to resist all attacks waged against us by the class enemy, and you will agree, that over the last five years, these attacks against our Union have been continuous and serious; but with greater unity, and wise leadership, we warded off all these blows, and, what is more important, strengthened the democracy and independence of our Union.

I think that the majority of honorable senators will agree with me that it would not be possible to conceive a more deplorable statement, or one which showed so little evidence of co-operation and goodwill. In the words of Scott -

Breathes there a man, with soul so dead …

I come now to the valuable work that has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the interests of the primary producers of this country, particularly the introduction of myxomatosis, which resulted, in 1952-53, in increasing the income of the wool-growers of Australia by at least £30,000,000. In that year, the value of the Australian wool clip was a record. Of course, a number of factors, including a good season, an increased number of sheep, extension of pasture improvement, and the reduction of the rabbit population by means of myxomatosis, had played their parts. The council also conducted valuable research in connexion with vegetable oils and seeds. Its findings were of considerable importance to our agricultural and pastoral industries. The council also conducted a very active campaign in connexion with weed control, which is vitally important to primary producers. Its experiments in relation to the droughtfeeding of sheep, and wool textile research, were particularly valuable. Probably one of the most important activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization related to pasture research in the southern tablelands of New South Wales. The result of that research showed that the carrying capacity of millions of acres can be increased at least three-fold by correcting soil deficiencies of molybdenum, sulphur, phosphorous and lime. It is interesting to note that the wool clip has risen from lb. a head on native pastures to 9 lb. a head on improved pastures. Pasture research has opened up the possibility that, within a generation, we shall be able to increase the area of sown or improved pastures from about 20,000,000 acres as present, to at least 100,000,000 acres. I take this opportunity to compliment the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on its very valuable work in the interests of primary producers. In conclusion, I have very much pleasure in supporting the budget, and I compliment the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 508


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing Orders suspended.

First Reading

Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -

That the bill be now read a first time.

Debate (on motion by Senator

Mckenna) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 4.28 to 4.38 p.m.

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Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.

Second Reading

Senator SPOONER:
Minister for National Development · New South Wales · LP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This measure has two purposes. First, to provide an increase of £150 per annum in the salary of the Auditor-General to take effect as from 1st July, 1953. The present salary of the Auditor-General is £3,350 per annum. In 1953, the Government decided that in view of the cost of living increases since salaries were reviewed in 1951, a general increase of £150 per annum as from the 1st July, 1953, should be granted to Permanent Heads and certain other full time officers, including holders of statutory offices, whose salaries are determined by the Government. The Government further decided that this adjustment should be met from the appropriation for ordinary annual services. The salaries of the holders of statutory offices were accordingly increased without amending the acts authorizing such salaries.

The Auditor-General has previously expressed the view that it is not appropriate that portion of his salary should be subject to control by the government of the day by its inclusion in the annual Estimates, and that to preserve his independent status any increase of salary should be authorized by an amendment of the Audit Act. The increase of £150 per annum in the salary of his position has not yet been received by the AuditorGeneral. The Government accepted the views of the Auditor-General, and this bill will provide the necessary statutory authority to increase the salary of the Auditor-General by £150 per annum as from the 1st July, 1953.

I should here stress that this increase, which Was effective from the 1st July, 1953, was a cost-of-living adjustment similar to that received by public servants, other than permanent heads and holders of statutory offices, in automatic salary adjustments, the last of which occurred in August, 1953. The increase of £150 had no relation to increases of margins, a subject which has been under consideration by the Arbitration Court and the hearing of which was adjourned on the 25th February, 1954.

The second amendment to the act concerns the retiring age of the AuditorGeneral. The Audit Act provides for the retirement from office of the AuditorGeneral upon his reaching the age of 65. It is now proposed to enable the present Auditor-General’s appointment to be continued for a further period of twelve months. The present Auditor-General has had a life-long association with the accounting work of the Commonwealth, and during his period of office has completed a comprehensive review of the Audit Act. His suggestions for alterations in Treasury accounting procedures are now under examination. During next year, it is hoped to bring down legislation embodying substantial amendments to the Audit Act. It will be of considerable help during the consideration and drafting of this legislation to have available the continuing services of the Auditor-General to advise on the alterations.

These amendments to the Audit Act will also necessitate substantial changes in the Treasury Regulations and Instructions, which are issued under the authority of the act, and deal in detail with the accounting procedures. Here, again, the advice of the present Auditor-General will be of considerable assistance. It. is for these reasons that the extension in the period of service of the present AuditorGeneral is proposed. I commend the bill to honorable senators.

Senator McKENNA (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition) F4.45]. - The Opposition supports this measure and approves of the two purposes outlined in the second-reading speech of the Minister. The bill, as originally conceived and presented to the Parliament, did provide that the Governor-General in Council should be authorized, if he thought fit, to extend the term of any Auditor-General for one year after reaching the age of 65 years. I commend the Government for its acceptance in another place of the Opposition’s amendment to that proposal. A very high matter of principle was involved, as the Government very readily acknowledged. The Auditor-General, unlike every other public servant, is not an agent of the Government. He is responsible to the Parliament. He reports to the Parliament and he is the watchdog of the public. He should have nothing to fear from a government and should have no hope of gain from a government. That principle was enunciated by the Opposition in another place, and after consideration, it was very readily accepted by the Government. I commend the Government for agreeing with the Opposition’s view in this matter. That agreement has made our task in this chamber in dealing with the revised bill very easy.

The purposes for which the AuditorGeneral’s services are being retained for one more year are purposes of which the Opposition wholly approves. We know Mr. Brophy, the present Auditor-General, very well, and have the greatest admiration and respect for him. Throughout his term of office, his reports have been outstanding examples of fearlessness, impartiality and integrity. If I may obtrude a personal note into the debate, I should like to pay that for twelve years I myself was a member of. the Commonwealth Audit staff under the late J. W. Israel. I know the workings of the Audit Office exceedingly well and have known the succeeding Auditor-Generals. They have been a very distinguished line of gentlemen. The present occupant of the office, knowledgeable in every matter, connected with the Treasury, and having the qualities that I have enunciated, has been an adornment to that office. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Dr. Evatt) has asked me to associate his name and the names of all members of the Opposition in tendering to the Auditor-General our congratulations upon the anniversary of his natal day, next Sunday. “We trust that he will have many happy returns of the day and that the work upon which he has been engaged, and which he is now to conclude, will he a fitting monument to a life of very distinguished public service. The Opposition supports the bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

page 509



Senator SPOONER:
Minister for National Development · NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

It is proposed that, when the Senate meets on Tuesday, the debate will be upon the first reading of the Appropriation Bill and that on the Wednesday the Senate will proceed to the committee stage of the bill. I have been asked to make that known because of the great convenience that it is to the officers concerned to know at what time the committee stages of the debate will commence.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 510


The following papers were presented : -

Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c, acquired for Postal purposes - Corio, Victoria.

Public Service Act - Appointment - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - K. L. Briggs.

South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, signed at Manila, 8th September, 1934.

Senate adjourned at 4.51 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.