21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. JL McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Senate aware that Professor Baxter, the Deputy Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, speaking yesterday at the annual federal conference of the Australian Primary Producers’ Union, predicted that the Australian Government would build atomic power stations in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory before building them in other States? As the Minister who has charge of the activities of the Atomic Energy
Commission is in the House of Representatives, will the Acting Leader of the Senate make a statement in this chamber on the extension of the plans envisaged by the Government and indicated by the learned professor? Will the Leader of the Senate deal particularly with the method and extent of co-operation with the Government of South Australia and its Premier, the Honorable Thomas Playford, in matters of atomic research and the foreshadowed development of atomic power for industry in South Australia ?
– In view of the publicity that has been given to this matter, the Minister for Supply has furnished mo with the following information : -
Professor Baxter, who is an eminent specialist in the field of nuclear engineering and head of theNew South Wales University of Technology, is also a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. Professor Baxter informs me that he did not say that the Federal Government would build atomic power stations in South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, or, for that matter, anywhere else. He is well aware of, and shares, the Government’s view that the building of atomic power stations is not primarily one for the Commonwealth Government at all, but for State governments or instrumentalities. He did offer the view that there was no point in building atomic power stations in the eastern States, which possess natural power resources, whereas a State like South Australia, which is deficient in other natural power resources, has a much greater need for industrial atomic power.
I shall have Senator Laught’s question examined and an answer prepared to the further points he has raised.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that exports of Australian flour have declined over recent years and that, as the result of this situation, the Australian flourmilling industry is unable to wort to its fullest capacity? If this is so, can the Minister inform the Senate to what degree the flour-milling industry is below working capacity, and whether the Government has seriously considered facilitating the maximum functioning of the industry by a total abolition, or at least some reduction, of sales tax upon all baking trades products?
– The problems associated with flour-milling, in view of the decrease of sales, have engaged the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and members of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, for some time. I am pleased to be able to report that the position is improving. It also gives me pleasure to report that representatives of no fewer than three flour-milling organizations in Australia will be members of a mission which will leave for South-East Asia early in November. I assure Senator Ryan that everything possible is being done, because we fully appreciate the importance of this industry. The flour-millers have had difficult times, but we hope that the removal of surpluses will improve their position. In addition, reports from various countries of the world indicate that, owing to dry weather, the wheat crop will not be as great this year as it was last year. I hope, therefore, that within a few months the position will be improved considerably.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply been directed to an article which was published in the Launceston Examiner of the 18th October, in which it was stated that the general manager of the aluminium project at BellBay, Mr. Keast, had been appointed to a position in Queensland? Has he also noted that the article stated that the general manager was in charge of the operations at Bell Bay? Has the general manager resigned from that position, or is he still employed by the commission as general manager? Will the Minister make a [statement to the Senate on this matter i and also indicate when the public inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the accounts of the commission, as promised by the Minister for Supply, will be authorized ?
– I have seen a statement made on the 18th October, regarding the position of the general manager of the aluminium project at Bell Bay. I shall bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Supply the question asked by the honorable senator, and obtain for him a statement from the Minister as early as possible.
– Will the Minister say whether it is a fact that the man who was the field engineer for the project during the period covered by the charges of maladministration has been suspended without pay? “Will the Minister say also whether the man who has been appointed to replace Mr. Keast was the acting general manager during the time of the alleged deficiencies and mismanagement ? Is the Minister prepared to make a statement to the Senate based on the security officer’s report, without mentioning names, so that the people of Tasmania can know the exact position at Bell Bay ?
– The question asked by the honorable senator is very similar to that asked by Senator Henty. An investigation has been made of the aluminium undertaking at Bell Bay, and a report has been completed and handed to the Minister for Supply. As I have already said, I have talked with the Minister on this matter, and asked him whether it will be possible for him to make the report public at an appropriate time. I am certain that when the Minister has fully considered the report, he will make a statement and reply to the allegations that have been made.
– In view of the reply given to me yesterday by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate to a question about the intentions of the Government concerning the almost astronomical height to which the orion of tea is to rise, will the Minister say whether the Government has considered the desirability of either increasing the subsidy on tea or pegging the retail price at the level at which it stood when wages were pegged?
– I think the Minister for National Development stated yesterday that the subsidy on tea had been increased considerably. I would not be in favour of pegging the price and expecting merchants to trade at a. loss. If the honorable senator is prepared to engage in business on that footing, he has a perfect right to do so.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture cite figures to indicate the way in which wheat-growers of Australia voted on the stabilization plan which has been placed before them? Can he also say whether it is true that the wheat-growers of Victoria returned a greater affirmative vote than chose of any other State?
– I am pleased to be able to report that the wheat-growers in the five States concerned have voted overwhelmingly in favour of stabilization. Prom memory, the votes in favour of the plan numbered approximately 47,000, and those against it, 3,000. I am also pleased to be able to report that, in spite of the attitude of the Victorian Premier, Mr. Cain, the wheat-growers of Victoria recorded the highest percentage vote. No less than 98 per cent, of the vote3 recorded by Victorian wheat-growers were in favour of the stabilization scheme that was sponsored by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the ballot of wheatgrowers that was held recently. Can the Minister say when the relevant legislation which I understand will cover each season’s crop for the five year3 ending 1957-5S will be brought before this chamber? Is it expected that the State governments will introduce complementary legislation into their parliaments in the near future?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will introduce a bill in another place to-day which will deal with the subject to which Senator Hannaford has referred. In view of the vote that was recorded by wheat-growers, the Government is confident that the State parliaments will pass the complementary legislation before the close of this year. As this Parliament will have adjourned before some of the States have passed the complementary legislation it is proposed that the Commonwealth legislation will be proclaimed when the States have passed their legislation.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether it is a fact that two wards in the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital have been closed? If so, what is the reason?
– I am not aware that two wards in the Heidelberg hospital have been closed, but I shall make inquiries, and inform the honorable senator of the position as soon as possible.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the Senate details of the arrangements under which Commonwealth and State financial assistance has been given for some years to a company named Air Beef Proprietary Limited, which purchased meatworks at Glenroy, in the Kimberleys area of Western Australia? Is the arrangement still in operation? If so, will it be continued in future years ?
– The Australian Government has paid a subsidy to an organization in Western Australia for the transport of beef to meatworks. The Government of Western Australia has also made a contribution. The matter came up for review recently. The Australian Government was prepared to continue the subsidy, and asked the Western Australian Government to do so also, out the State Government refused to assist this year. In view of its attitude, the matter will have to be re-examined. I wish to make it clear to honorable senators from Western Australia that the Australian Government views with concern the failure of the Western Australian Government to co-operate in a venture that has been of great assistance to the cattle industry. If Senator Scott will place his question upon the noticepaper, I shall be pleased to get him more precise details, because I know that this matter is of great interest to the people in the northern part of Western Australia.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make representations to the Cabinet to have an invitation extended to the International Dairy Federation to hold its next conference in Australia in 1956, to coincide with the Olympic Games? The federation has its head-quarters in Brussels. It is composed of representatives from 40 to 50 countries throughout the world that are interested in dairying and allied trades. It holds a conference every three years. The last was held in 1953, and was attended by 2,500 delegates, including five from Australia.
– Order! The honorable senator is supplying information and not asking a question.
– I leave my question there, Mr. President.
– Honorable senators will agree that the question is important. I shall be prepared to have the matter examined, and if I decide that a recommendation should be made to the Cabinet, as suggested by the honorable senator, I shall do so. I shall inform the Senate of any developments. I presume that Senator Wardlaw does not want to enter any of the delegates in the events that will take place at the Olympic Games.
– I direct a question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate with regard to the large number of questions on the noticepaper that have not been answered. I have had one question on the notice-paper since the beginning of the sessional period. It is not of world-shattering importance, hut many of the questions that are unanswered are important, particularly to persons concerned. They remain unanswered for a long time. Will the Minister endeavour to have replies to those questions expedited?
– I shall be pleased to do the best I can. to expedite replies to questions, but I point out that, as the Estimates are still before the Senate, departmental officers are working extremely hard. Some questions involve a lot of detailed research. I agree that replies to questions should be made available as soon as possible, and I assure Senator Sandford that I shall look at his question personally.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to yet another report, which appeared in to-day’s Sydney press, in which a veterinary surgeon has expressed some doubt about the efficacy of the tick serum ? Is the Minister aware that the veterinary surgeon concerned has suggested that the serum may be ineffective because it is produced improperly from non-potent ticks ? Will the Minister ask the Department of Health to consider the criticisms that have been made of the serum and issue a considered statement on the matter ?
– I ha ve not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall bring his remarks to the notice of the Minister for Health and obtain a reply to the question as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen an article in a recent edition of Truth newspaper alleging that the Australian Government has broken the merino export embargo and suggesting that great harm may be done to our wool export industry because of this action? In view of the great importance of the wool industry to Australia, and the high reputation that the merino breed has in Tasmania, will the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any truth in the allegations that have been made?
– I have seen the report in Truth newspaper to which the honorable senator has referred. I regard the report as exaggerated and very far from the truth. Special attention has been given to requests made fairly recently by the South African Government and the United Kingdom Government, and to a request made some time ago by scientific people in California, for a small number of stud sheep to be sent to those areas purely for experimental purposes. It was suggested that the results of the scientific experiments would be made available to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth agreed, in the special circumstances, to send merino sheep as requested, on the understanding that they would not be exploited for commercial purposes. I am satisfied that the action of the Government has met with the approval of those who have a knowledge of the industry. If the honorable senator desires to obtain more precise details on this subject and will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall be pleased to. obtain the information for him.
– On the 16th September, Senator Wedgwood asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether it is a fact that Australia is behind the United States of America in the provision of coordinated and advanced methods for the early detection of cancer? Will he undertake to confer with the health- authorities in the various States, with a view to setting up expert consultative committees to provide facilities for members of the public to obtain regular checks for cancer?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The Minister for Health informs me that the provision of facilities for the public to obtain regular checks for cancer detection is a matter for the States; and though the Commonwealth docs not propose to enter this field of activities, it has agreed to invite various State cancer authorities to form a council which will co-ordinate their activities.
– Will the. Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate whether it is a fact that Commonwealth instrumentalities have carried out a great deal of research in connexion with the use of both whole milk and skimmed milk in the manufacture of bread with a view to improving its nutritional value? Will the Government avail itself of the services of Dr. Lorraine Gall - a Fullbright scholar, at present in Australia - who is an expert in the field of nutrition, particularly in relation to milk, in order to assist our scientists in that connexion?
– It is true that everybody concerned has benefited from the great amount of scientific research that has been carried out in relation to bread. I thank the honorable senator for directing my attention to the presence in Australia of such a distinguished person as Dr. Lorraine Gall. I shall ask the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to consider the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner said at Alice Springs, on the 18th October, that he would be able to cut freight charges on certain items in the foreseeable future, and that the central Australian railway would receive first consideration in that direction? Can the Minister define the meaning of the phrase, “foreseeable future”, and indicate the items on which freight charges will be reduced?
– I think that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner had in mind the fact that, by the end of this year, it is expected that most of the old locomotives in use on the Alice Springs run will be replaced bydieselelectric locomotives, thus making possible a considerable reduction of freight charges. I think that he also had in mind the present high cost of transporting cattle from the Northern Territory to the southern markets, and general cargo and foodstuffs to Alice Springs. I point out. that any proposed revision of freight charges is subject to ministerial approval. I expect to receive, within the next two months, recommendations in relation to railway freights designed to provide relief to many people, particularly those in isolated areas.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that, due to the fact that all sleeping berths on the trans-Australia train were booked out months ago, many persons are now unable to obtain accommodation on that train? Will the Minister consider running additional trains on the transAustralia line? Does he know of any reason why additional trains should not be run on that line to handle the heavy seasonal traffic between now and the early part of January?
– The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has been in comununication with the commissioners of the Western Australian railways and the South Australian railways to ascertain whether they would be prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the provision of an extra train on the transcontinental line. The bottleneck has been caused by the inability of the Western Australian railways and the South Australian railways to cope with the situation that would be caused if additional passengers were carried by the Commonwealth railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. 1 discussed this matter recently with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, when he told me that he was continuing his representations to the railways commissioners of Western Australia and South Australia. He is hopeful, with their co-operation, of running an extra train on the- trans- Australia line early in the new year.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister foi? Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Postmaster General’s Department proposed to provide a demonstration of television at the Hoya.) Hobart Show but, owing to technical diffculties, was unable to do so, will the Acting Postmaster-General endeavour to have the demonstration provided at the Royal Hobart Regatta early next year, as this regatta is possibly the largest attended function of any Held in Tasmania, and next year will have special significance as it has been announced that His Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Slim will attend?
– The Minister acting for the Postmaster-General has asked me to inform the honorable senator that he is not in a position to say at the present time whether it will be practicable to arrange for a television demonstration to be given at the Royal Hobart Regatta. Some television equipment has been purchased by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but as few spare parts are yet available it is difficult to enter into any long-range commitments. The Acting Minister has asked the board to see what can be done.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, Upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister as Minister acting for the Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The questions concerns the internal administration of the Commonwealth Bank, which is a matter for the bank itself to determine. However, the Governor of the bank has informed me that the Commonwealth Savings Bank purchased a site at Stawell, Victoria, in 1950 for the purpose of ultimately establishing a brunch ofthe bank. ‘The bankhas recently reviewedthe position but is not prepared at present to undertake establishment of this branch. The bank cannot say, at this stage, when a branch is likely to be established but will review the matter from time to time in its normal programme.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave bo (given tobring in a bill for an act to amend the CommonwealthRailways Act 19 1 7- 1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move-
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the sale and supply of meals and alcoholic refreshments to passengers travelling on Commonwealth railways. It is now accepted as a matter of service to passengers on modern transport systems that first-class meals and alcoholic refreshments be provided. However, the Commonwealth Railways Act does not provide for the sale or supply of alcoholic refreshnments on trains or in refreshmentrooms.
The principal lines of these railways run through the- States of South Australia and Western Australia. The Railways Commissioners in those States have legislative authority to sell alcoholic beverages, but there is no provision in the Licensing Acts of those States whereby the sale of liquor in refreshment-rooms of Commonwealth railways may he authorized, and to confer this authority it is necessary for the Commonwealth to amend its own legislation.
There is a steadily increasing passenger traffic between Port Augusta and the Woomera rocket range, the Leigh Creek coal-field, Alice Springs, Port Pirie and Whyalla.For the convenience of these patrons, the Commissioner has erected at Port Augusta a modern refreshment-room in which meals, light refreshments, smokers’ requisites and miscellaneous articles, such as magazines, newspapers, cosmetics, souvenirs, playing cards, &c, are to he sold. The service to be provided should include alcoholic refreshments which are available in all State railway refreshment-rooms.
It is not expressly provided in the Commonwealth Railways Act that the Commissioner may sell meals, refreshments, smokers’ requisites, &c., to passengers on the railways, and provision for these powers has been included in the bill. It is intended that Commonwealth railways refreshment-rooms will be operated under lease, and provision has been made in the bill for the Commissioner to grant to any such lessee an authority to sell and supply meals and refreshments, including alcoholic refreshments, and smokers’ requisites, &c. I consider these powers to be essential for the proper administration of a modern railway system, and I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adojurned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended till the end of November next, to enable now business tobe commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– I oppose the motion and express surprise that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) did not support it with some argument. Standing Order 6S, to which the motion refers, provides that-
No new business shall be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
There is a good reason for the existence of such a standing order. It is, of course, to prevent legislation by exhaustion, and above all, to ensure that reasonable notice of the business of the Senate is given. I could well understand the Minister introducing a motion of this nature towards the obvious end of a sessional period, but this is only the 20th October, with at least two months available to the Parliament in which to continue its activities, if it so desires. We are nowhere near the end of the session or the end of the year. As far as I can judge, there is no great pressure of business on the Senate at the moment. It is true that there are some fourteen items, under the Orders of the Day, on the notice-paper, but speaking for the Opposition, I suggest that if honorable senators opposite ceased stalling Government bills, we could clear this sheet during the current week. I am not denying the right of Government senators to have their say on any bill whatever. I am merely commenting upon their greatly increased activity of late. I point out to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that if he could restrain honorable senators on his side of the chamber, the business of the Senate could be disposed of quite rapidly.
It is true that the Minister, as acting leader of the Government in the Senate, many continue the sitting of the Senate, on any evening, until any hour that he determines, in order to deal with business before the Senate. Why, on top of that, long before the Senate will conclude its sittings, does he seek to suspend a sensible standing order and want to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m.? I do not wish to labour the point, but I repeat that the Minister has given no reason to the Senate for the motion. He has not even attempted to justify it, and in those circumstances the Opposition will oppose it.
Question put -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended till the end of November next, to enable new business to bo commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 836), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill was explained adequately by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) in the speech that he made to the Senate yesterday. I shall review its main headings rapidly. First, it is proposed that if any death sentence is imposed ill Papua or New Guinea, the procedure in future will be to refer consideration of it to the Executive Council, acting with the Governor-General at Canberra. The Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will no longer have the sole responsibility for determining whether a sentence of that nature is to be commuted. The Opposition supports that proposal, and it believes that the responsibility will now rest in the proper place. The second provision of the bill is merely to alter the title of the Chief Judge to Chief Justice. The third provision is to alter the title of the local councils. The fourth is to permit the resignation of members of the Legislative Council. The fifth will enable the Governor-General, in. future, to assent to part only of an ordinance, instead of having either to reject or assent to the whole of the ordinance. The final provision is merely a repeal of legislation, the purport of which has lapsed. The Opposition approves the general purposes of the bill, and offers no objection to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. - I wish to direct one question to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). It is a matter for regret that some alteration has not been made in the composition of the Legislative Council in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. At present, there are 29 members, including the Administrator. Of that number, about eighteen invariably belong to the Administration and vote with it. There are now only three . elected members and three private members who are nominated. I should like to ask the Minister whether any consideration has been given to removing the preponderance of Government or Administration nominees, as the Legislative Council is hopelessly overwhelmed by them, and is turned into a virtual dictatorship by officers of the Administration. If not, will the Government consider it, as the Legislative Council should have the benefit of independent thought as do other Parliaments in Australia.
.- The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has given consideration to suggestions such as that put forward by Senator Kendall. Honorable senators should appreciate that the existing Legislative Council has not been in operation very long in terms of the lives of institutions of that kind. It has been thought wise to watch the operations of the existing Council, having in mind the kind of representation that Senator Kendall has made. In the light of the experience that is gained, I have no doubt that developments will take place in the Legislative Council, as they have done in other legislative bodies of a similar character.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 13th October (vide page 670) on message received from House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the following resolutions: -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That twelve members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in these resolutions;
the committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in- camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being;
three members of a sub-corn m ittee constitutes a quorum of that sub-committee ; (/) the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all eases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the comittee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case ofmatters not referred to it by the Ministerfor External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leafier of the Opposition for his confidential information;
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records; and, subject to paragraph (4) (d), all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the comm ittee :
) the Senate be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on such committee.
– I move -
The message from the House of Representatives asks for the concurrence of the Senate in a resolution that provides for the setting up of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Honorable senators will recall that the committee operated in the previous Parliament, and as this is a new Parliament, it is necessary again to pass the resolutions for the reconstitution of the committee. The resolutions that were passed by the House of Representatives provided, among other things, that the Senate should be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on the committee. Honorable senators will note that in the motion I have moved, I have made provision for the appointment of four honorable senators. The reason is that, as I understand the position, the Opposition is not prepared to join this committee. I say that with some regret but as on a previous occasion, we have not completely filled the committee with members from the Government side. The membership that should be filled by the Opposition has been left vacant for the time being. I still maintain the hope that the Opposition will change its attitude and join with us in this important committee. The resolution which the House of Representatives has transmitted to us on this occasion is slightly different from that under which the committee operated in the previous Parliament. Perhaps it is desirable that I should indicate the difference. Under the resolution now transmitted to us by the House of Representatives, the committee will be entitled to consider foreign affairs generally - the words “ foreign affairs generally “ are new - and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs. At an earlier stage, some criticism was directed by the Opposition to the fact that the committee could deal only with matters referred to it by the Minister for Externa] Affairs. I hope that criticism has been met, at any rate in part, by the new provision that the committee can consider foreign affairs generally. However, it is necessary and proper to point out that there is some limitation imposed on the activities of the committee in that regard, because it is provided in another paragraph of the resolution that, in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for Externa] Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly, without the Minister’s consent. Subject to that restriction, no limitation is imposed on the matters of foreign affairs to which the committee can direct its attention.
The Foreign Affairs Committee has been in operation now for some time, and I think it has proved to be a very useful body. I have no doubt that it is an extremely useful body to those members of the Parliament who have the privilege to serve on it. That emphasizes to a great degree the regret we all feel that the Opposition does not participate in its activities. The objections raised on previous occasions by the Opposition were, I suggest, very unreal. Some complaint was made about the limitation of the activities of the committee but, as I remarked on a previous occasion, these things, in the atmosphere of our British parliamentary institutions, usually work out very well. In the long run, all the alleged limitations to which objection has been taken may turn out to be mere fancies. This is a committee which can do excellent work, operating in conjunction and co-operation with the Minister :for External Affairs. Even with the more limited constitution under which it operated previously, I very much doubt whether it ever found a great deal of difficulty in obtaining the consent of the Minister to discuss the kind of things it wanted to discuss. In those circumstances!, I repeat that I regret ‘the Opposition will not take part in the work of the committee. An . opportunity remains for it to do so. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) were to indicate to me that the Labour party was prepared to nominate members to serve on the committee, I should be very happy to see them appointed. There is no realm of public affairs in which there is a greater need for a united view than this increasingly important realm of our relations with foreign countries. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– A motion of this kind is not new. A similar motion came before the Senate on the 27th February, 1952, when the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Committee was mooted. It was discussed again after the Senate election of, I think, 1953. This is the third occasion on which the establishment of a Foreign Affairs Committee has come up for consideration. In view of the objections previously levelled by the Opposition at the form and constitution of the committee, the Minister for External Affairs was good enough to seek a conference with the leaders of the Australian Labour party. Dr. Evatt, Mr. Calwell, Senator Armstrong and I met the Minister in conference on, I believe, November, .!953. “We made certain requests, and exchanged views with the Minister about the terms on which we should be prepared to recommend to our party that Labour members should serve on the committee. On that occasion, the Minister undertook to give further consideration to quite a number of points. He even indicated that he was disposed- to regard some of our requests favorably. Speaking for myself alone - it may be that I was not present at subsequent discussions - I know of no further communication from the Minister to’ the Opposition. I am under the impression that no such communication has been made. Certainly, I have not heard of it. In short, what has occurred is that, after those, conferences, the Parliament has been presented with an accomplished fact in the form of the resolution transmitted to us by the House of Representatives. If the Government were really eager for the Opposition to join this committee, one would have expected that the resolution would not be introduced again before the previous discussions were finalized. I assure the Senate that the meetings did not break up on a.ny discordant note that negatived all hope of some agreement being reached. In fact, there was a prospect that some degree of unanimity would be achieved. If there is any fault in the matter, it lies at the door of the Minister for External Affairs, not at the door of the Australian Labour Party. It certainly would have made for better relations if the discussions had been brought to a conclusion before an approach was made again to the Parliament.
The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has dealt with the changes made in the form and constitution of the committee. I say at once that we regard it as an improvement that the committee now may consider foreign affairs generally. A majority of the committee will be able to determine that the committee shall examine certain aspects of external affairs. But there is a. limiting provision, referred to by the Attorney-General, which states that, in such a case, no report may be made to the Minister, and the Parliament may not be informed that the matter has been considered, except with the consent of the Minister. I suggest that what we asked for before was not unreasonable. We suggested that the committee should he empowered to consider any matter referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs or either House of the Parliament, or any matter. decided on by a majority of the committee. The last point has been conceded, because the new constitution will permit the committee to consider foreign affairs generally. I see no reason why it should not be entitled to investigate a matter specifically referred to it by either House of the Parliament and, in such an event, to bo free to report to the Minister or, through the Minister, to the. House that made the reference. It might well be that a veto on the publication of reports would need to be exercised by the Minister. The Opposition looks at the matter reasonably and recognizes that, in the sphere of foreign affairs, from time to time matters crop up which it would be most impolitic and, perhaps, in breach of international arrangements, to disclose either at all or prematurely. Some kind of veto, temporary or permanent, must from time to time be exorcised. I presume that there is almost daily communication of a confidential nature between nations, and particularly between Australia and countries of the British Coin mon wealth of Nations. So I concede the need for some kind of veto. At all events, clause 1 of the resolution of. the House of Representatives represents an improvement on the previous terms of appointment of the committee, even though it would not quite accomplish what the Opposition sought.
The motion before the Senate provides in paragraph 4 (d) -
The committee anr! its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall he secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
I think that all men and women in this Parliament arc responsible .people and that it may be assumed that they will act responsibly. Surely it would be a sufficient safeguard if provision were made that the committee had to sit in secret unless the committee itself otherwise determined. On a committee of nineteen it is unthinkable that a majority would act irresponsibly; but it is possible for a Minister to act arbitrarily. I think that one of the functions of a committee of this nature should be to educate the public. One of the great weaknesses in international affairs is that there is not a sufficiently informed body of public opinion. The basis of intelligent decision is knowledge of the facts and a clear understanding of the issues involved. There may be many situations in which public deliberations of a committee of this nature might serve a highly educational purpose. I should not accept the proposition that a majority of the nine teen members of the committee would act irresponsibly by sitting in public on a matter that would be better considered in secret. I suggest that the committee could be depended upon to act properly and in the interests of the security of this country. The Opposition considers that the provision that only the Minister may lift the ukase against public sittings is too narrow and arbitrary.
Paragraph 4 (/) of the motion before the Senate provides -
The committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has SO reported;
The Opposition requests that the following words be inserted after that sentence: - and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published.
I recognize that at the stage that the matter is reported to the Minister the report will not. have been placed before the Parliament and that the Parliament might, in those circumstances, be called upon to make a. decision regarding thi; publication of a document the contents of which are not known to it. There is au clement of risk in that possibility. A great deal would depend on the subjectmatter that was referred by a chamber to the committee. Again, I suggest that a majority of members of either House could be depended upon to act responsibly in a matter affecting national security. In paragraph 4 (/) the following proviso appears : -
Provided the Opposition is represented on the Committee, copies of the Committee’s reports to the Minister for .External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information.
It would not be much use submitting a report of that nature to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information. He would not be able to convey the contents of “ such a report to his colleagues in leadership, nor to the Labour party executive, nor to members of his party. He would have to keep the information in the report to himself. The Government’s present proposal is an improvement on its previous proposal under which it did not intend to supply any member of the Opposition with the reports of the committee. But it may well be that the receipt of a copy of the committee’s reports in these circumstances would be a real embarrassment to the Leader of the Opposition. On the basis of information otherwise received, or as a result of his own reasoning, the Leader of the Opposition might ascertain facts and reach conclusions similar to those contained in a report. Then, if he voiced his own thoughts or disclosed the results of his own research, he would be open to the suspicion that he had violated a confidence by malting known the nature of the report. That would be an intolerable position in which to place the Leader of the Opposition. A similar difficulty might affect the members of the committee. All the evidence that will be adduced to them is to be treated as confidential. If they inform their minds from sources apart from the evidence r.hat may come before the committee, for example, by reading or travelling abroad, and voice the conclusions that they have reached in that way, they may be open to the suspicion that they have violated the confidence imposed on them by the terms of this motion. That is not a very satisfactory position in which to place people who, when serving on a committee of this nature, only serve as the representatives of their party. Under the Government’s proposal they will not be free to convey to those who have appointed them to the committee the information that they gather nor the conclusions that are reached. I recognize that it is not easy to find a formula that would meet all the difficulties that the Opposition has raised in connexion with this matter, hut I do -not think that a really earnest effort has been made to resolve the differences of opinion between the Opposition and the Government.
– The Opposition could join the committee and try it.
– I do not entirely close the door on that possibility. But in view of the attitude that I expressed on behalf of the Opposition in February, 1952, which. I re-affirmed in 1953, and having regard to the inconclusive discussions with the Minister for External Affairs in November, 1953, the Government has travelled only a little distance in order to meet the Opposition’s viewpoint and
I think it unlikely that we shall appoint members to the committee. I appreciate the courtesy and the olive branch that lias been extended by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) in refraining from filling all the places on the committee forthwith and in leaving three places on the committee for the Opposition to fill. I suggest that the Attorney-General should take up with the Minister for External Affairs what I have been saying regarding the inconclusive conference that the Opposition had with the Minister for External Affairs some time ago. It may be that if those discussions could be opened up again, on the same high level at which they proceeded in November last, some amelioration of these provisions to give’ expression to the Opposition’s viewpoint might yet cause the Opposition to have more confidence in the committee and its functions.
Clause 4 (</) of the motion reads -
Subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records ; and, subject to paragraph 4 (rf), all evidence submitted to the Committee shall be regarded as confidential to the Committee;
The Opposition considers that if the committee is to be a live one it should have the power to send for persons, papers or records. We suggest, accordingly, deletion of the opening words “ Subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs “ and the exclusion of the words making the evidence submitted to the committee confidential - in other words, the exclusion of the final sentence of that paragraph. That, broadly, summarizes the objections of the Opposition to the terms of the resolution of the House of Representatives, in which the concurrence of the Senate is sought. I agree with what the Attorney-General said, that it is highly desirable that the Parliament should be well-informed in relation to the important field of foreign affairs. It is highly desirable that there be continuity of policy - if that is possible. That is an o’bjective for which all parties in the Parliament might aim. However, there is much room for divergence of opinion, and I think we have to regard the attainment of that aim as remote. I think a very excellent approach to this problem might be along the lines of the suggestion that I made to the Senate a little while ago, when I said that it would he a good thing if the Opposition were asked to send members - at least at the observer level - to international conferences of consequence. I do not flatter myself that my remarks influenced the Government, but I noted with pleasure that soon after I made that suggestion the Government was good enough to send a representative of the Labour party - a member of the House of Representatives - to New York to attend a meeting of the United Nations organization. That was a step in the right direction towards getting the benefit of consultation with the Opposition. I hope that that means that the principle has been established, and that there will be further activity of that kind. The only other comment I want to make i3, that the Government might well adopt the* policy which I understand. is observed in the United Kingdom, of continuously consulting the Leader - or Leaders - of the Opposition - regarding current foreign affairs matters. I think that that would be an excellent thing for the Governmentto do, as it would be likely to lead to far more understanding, and unanimity of approach by the parties in the Parliament in connexion with external affairs. The failure of the Opposition, during the last few years, to appoint members to the Foreign Affairs Committee does not by any means indicate that we have not a full appreciation of the importance of external affairs to this nation.
– By some members of the Opposition more than others.
-Undoubtedly. We realize that what happens abroad, as well as economic and financial policies, affects our very existence. We could not possibly live in isolation from either our friends or our enemies, and our enemies may be assured that we do not live in isolation. I point out that the Australian Labour party has its own foreign affairs committee, upon which we have quite a large number of members, who address themselves quite seriously to foreign affairs. When any matter affecting foreign affairs crops up in the Parliament, they tender their advice and recommendation to our executive. We are not, therefore, unmindful of the need to study these matters, but we are critical of the form of the committee that has been set up by the Government. I do not want to say one word that will lessen the prospect that the Government might go further as to the terms upon which this committee may function, in meeting the wishes of the Opposition. I leave my comments on behalf of the Opposition at that, and again thank the AttorneyGeneral who, despite what has been said and done in relation to this subject during the last two years, has, at least, left the door open. I suggest that the Minister for External Affairs might be able to oil the hinges a little by re-opening the conference that we had with him in November last.
.- So far, this debate has produced very little that is new ; it has produced very few arguments different from those which, from, time to time, have been advanced when this proposition has been before the Senate. I might, perhaps, be permitted to interpret slightly differently the thoughts which the Leader of the Opposition has expressed, by re-arranging his emphasis. I understand from what he has just said, and from what he has said in the past, that the Opposition agrees that a committee of this type, at whose deliberations matters of foreign policy can be discussed, where propositions can be put forward and considered, where it can be sought to discover facts, and, above all, perhaps, where opposing viewpoints can be reconciled, or attempts made to reconcile them, could be of the very greatest advantage to the Parliament. When opposing views are expressed - as sometimes they would be - by members of an opposition, sitting with members of a government, the opportunity to (reconcile completely, or as far as possible, those opposing viewpoints, would be of very great assistance.. That, I think, is conceded by both sides. But this putative advantage, which the Leader of the Opposition agreed would improve the present position in that the Opposition would be informed more fully of the Government’s policy and proposals in regard to foreign relations, has been turned down, for the reasons that this committee cannot sit, of its own volition, in public, and that its reports are not, in fact, subject to publication by either House of the Parliament. From my understanding of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, because the Minister is not prepared fully to accede to demands in that connexion, and despite the improvements which are foreshadowed, the Opposition turns down the proposal. Frankly, I do not think those objections are sufficient to warrant its rejection. I am sure the committee, which at present, we are told, is operating on the Opposition side, is a very good one. Iam certain that the amalgamation of the committees would help to smooth the way in relation to our foreign policy. Such an amalgamated committee could, no doubt, leave areas in which we would be divided, but it could unite us in fields in which we are now divided, and in that way help ourgeneral policy. I regret very much that the Opposition cannot see its way clear to nominate several of its number to fill the places that have been left for them on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I support in general the principle of parliamentary committees. Having worked on such a committee for a number of years with members of all political parties from both Houses of the Parliament, I. realize the great benefit that can accrue, not only to the members of a parliamentary committee who are able to become better acquainted with the problems that they are called upon to consider, but also to a government. Perhaps the greatest value of the Social Security Committee, of which I was a member for some years, was, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna.) has pointed out, that it made for continuity of policy even although Ministers, and even governments, changed. Although the Social Security Committee was appointed originally by a non-Labour government, it continued to function under Labour administrations. I believe that the problems of external affairs and foreign relations generally are so vital to the continued well-being, and even the very existence of this nation, that the participation of all parties in a foreign affairs committee is most desirable. Therefore, I urge the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), who repre sents the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in this chamber, to consider further the request by the Opposition for a conference to iron out, if possible, the few difficulties or differences of opinion that now exist between the parties on this matter.
I should have liked to see a Senate foreign affairs committee established. The appointment of such a committee could do much to enhance the prestige of the Senate, and could provide useful work for some of those members of this chamber who, a few weeks ago, complained about the status of the Senate. However, since the proposal we are now considering is for a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament, I again urge the Attorney-General to give consideration to the request that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition for a conference of the parties in an attempt to solve the difficulties which at present prevent the Foreign Affairs Committee from functioning as an all-party body.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 19th October (vide page 849).
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Appropriation Bill 1954-55 is an urgent bill.
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro posed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the bill in the Committee be as follows: -
For the remainder ofPart 1. of the Second Schedule - until 5.45 p.m. this day.
For Part 2 of the Second Schedule - until9 p.m. this day.
For Part 3 of the Second Schedule and the title of the bill - until9.45 p.m. this day.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I express my surprise and amazement that the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) should so limit the debate on the Estimates. Only a short while ago, I indicated to the Senate that, in spite of the list of bills now on the notice-paper, my expectation was that, if Government senators concurred, the business could all be disposed of this week. Since I said that, two of the fourteen items of business have already been disposed of. Nothing that has happened to-day could possibly have led the Acting Leader of the Government to believe that he was likely to meet any difficulty from the Opposition. As I have said, two items of business have already been dealt with, one with one speech from the Opposition, and the other with only two speeches from this side of the chamber. Before the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) left for overseas, he assured me that the debate on the Estimates would not be curtailed. I am sure that the acting Leader is not aware of that undertaking. The Leader of the Government also informed me that Government senators were very keen to speak on the Estimates. I do not know whether, in normal circumstances, the debate on the Estimates would have concluded to-night. Perhaps it would have ended to-night; but the Acting Leader of the Senate is making an unduly precipitate approach to this matter by curtailing the debate. If there has been prolonged debate on particular items, the blame cannot be laid wholly or even mostly at the door of the Opposition. We have heard far more speeches from Government supporters than we have heard from Opposition members. I do not wish to curtail further our opportunity to debate the Estimates by prolonging the discussion on this motion, nor do I propose to occupy the ten minutes that is available to me to make my protest against the time-table. I merely record the fact that the Leader of the Government in the Senate assured mo that there would be no gagging on the Appropriation Bill at this stage. I am amazed, therefore, at the action of the acting Leader.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder- of Part 1 of the Second Schedule.
– Prior to the adjournment of the Senate last evening, Senator Seward spoke about the grant for expansion of agricultural advisory services which is referred to in the proposed votes of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. “ Extension service” is the term used to describe the means of carrying to the farmer the accumulated knowledge and results of scientific research into the problems of agriculture which have been proved to give the best results. The lag in expenditure under this item has been caused primarily by the inability of the States to obtain qualified staff. However, most States now have managed to obtain a sufficient number of qualified and experienced officers to enable a full programme of expanded extension activities to be implemented, and it is expected that, during the current financial year, most States, if not all, will utilize the full amount of their allocations under the Extension Services Grant of £200,000.
Under the terms of the grant, the Australian Government agreed to consider a further increase of grant funds of up to £100,000 in 1953-54, and up to £300,000 in each succeeding year, should it be satisfied that satisfactory additional matching contributions had been made by the States and/or the industries concerned. The Commonwealth has approached industrial bodies to ascertain the extent of their contributions’ to agriculture, and also to ascertain whether they are prepared to contribute further funds. Whilst most organizations so approached have indicated the extent of their contributions in the past, few as yet have committed themselves to further contributions. One major industry, the wheat industry, has given no indication of its attitude.
In view of the lack of finality concerning contributions by the industries, and having regard to the fact that, until the present time, most States have found the original allocation under the grant of £200,000 sufficient for their requirements, the Australian Government has not so far considered the question of increasing the annual grant beyond £200,000.
– I rise primarily to address myself to Division 196, the proposed votes for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Honorable senators will see that item 16 of that division refers to the payment of a subsidy to Air Beef Proprietary Limited. I experienced something of a shock this afternoon when I heard the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) say, in answer to a question, that the Western Australian Government had decided not to continue the support which it, together with the Commonwealth, had given to this industry during the years since its establishment. This industry has been established at Glenroy Station, in the Kimberley district of Western Australia., and is a project in which the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and also the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), have exhibited great interest. Indeed, it can be said that the development of the industry has been due largely to the practical encouragement and support given to it by this Government and, to a less degree, by the Western Australian Government. . I believe that, even at this early stage, the system has proved to be of very material value to the beef industry, and its value will increase progressively as the years go by. Apart altogether from its significant value to the beef industry, its contribution to development in the broadest sense should be encouraged. There is the material factor of the employment which the industry gives to Western Australian butchers, and what is of even more importance, there is the attitude of mind displayed by most Western Australians towards the project. It is true to say that not only has it captured the interest of Western Australians, but it has also ‘ captured their imagination. It is a pioneer industry that has been established in one of the least developed parts of Australia.
It appears likely that the action of the Western Australian Government in refusing to continue its support, may jeopardize the future development of the project and may, indeed, also jeopardize the support which the industry draws from the Australian Government. That is why I wish to ascertain from the Minister whether, in the event of the Western Australian Labour Government refusing to continue to support the industry–
– .Has it done so already?
– If the honorable senator was in the Senate earlier this afternoon, she probably heard the answer which the Minister for Shipping and Transport gave to a question on the subject. That answer indicated that, up to this point, the Western Australian Government has not acceded to the request of the Commonwealth to continue its support of the industry during this year. I wish to be assured of the position of the Australian Government in this matter, because the industry is of vital importance to Western Australia, particularly to a part of the State which is crying out for development.
Western Australians regard this project as something which may assist materially in the development of the northern part of their State. , The refusal of the Western Australian Government to continue its support of the industry has not, as far as I know, been publicly announced in Western Australia. When such an announcement is made, I assure the committee that it ‘ will come as a severe shock to the Western Australian public. In view of the vast importance of this matter, will the Minister make an interim statement concerning the negotiations which have already taken place, and also state the reasons why the Western Australian Labour Government has so far refused to continue its support?
I refer also to item 10 of Division 196, which relates to the grant to the States for experimental work on tobacco leaf production. The tobacco industry is also in the pioneer stage in Western Australia. To date, it has not had an easy growth, but an attempt has been made, under the wing of the war service land settlement scheme, to establish it. An experiment at Karridale was completely unsuccessful, and the war service land settlers who were placed on- the land with a view to developing tobacco farms have, to a man, gone over to dairy production. At Northcliffe, which is another war service land settlement, it was proposed that 26 soldier settlers should be placed on tobacco farms. That number has now been reduced to fifteen or sixteen and those men are having a very torrid time trying to develop the industry. They need a good deal of assistance in the way of- research work, and I should be pleased if the Minister would let me know the proportion of this vote which is to be applied to the provision of such assistance in Western Australia.
Item 23 of the same division refers to tuna-fishing research. This is a very interesting item, which is making its first appearance in the Estimates thi3 year. It is an established fact that the waters along the northern coast of Western Australia abound with tuna. This is an industry in which Western Australia could participate and which could make a valuable contribution to the economy of the State and also of the Commonwealth. I should be pleased to have details of this new proposal, and particularly to learn what it is proposed to do for the industry in Western Australia.
– I also am interested in tunafishing research because I have been told that tuna are very plentiful along the coast of South Australia, particularly the south-eastern portion. I understand that tuna is a very popular fish in other parts of the world, and I should like to know the destination of the £5,000 which is to be voted for research this year.
I direct the attention of the Minister to Division 197 - Department of Social Services - item 6 of which is “ Building of Homes for the Aged - Assistance to Approved Organizations - £1,500,000 “. Senator Seward and I last night referred to the fact that the Minister had not given an answer to questions about this matter. 1 repeat my request for an answer: I remind the Minister that His Excellency the Governor-General, in the speech which he made when opening the present sittings of the Parliament, made a definite statement on this matter. He said -
Very valuable work has been done hy the churches and charitable bodies; but their financial difficulties in finding the necessary capital are great. My Government will, therefore, provide on a pound for pound basis money towards the capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable bodies and institutions in building homes for the aged, up to a total Commonwealth contribution of £1,500,000 a year.
So far, no definite statement on the matter has been made in this Parliament. There are many institutions in the country which, over the years, have been working for the aged. These institutions are eagerly awaiting an announcement by the Government about the details of the scheme. The Minister might be good enough to inform me of the basis on which the money will be available to the States. Will some of it also be provided for the Northern Territory? I know that cottages, known as “ old timers’ homes “, have been erected in Alice Springs, so that elderly people may spend the last years of their lives in a centre among their own friends, so that they are not sent to the great capital cities where they will be lost to their friends and to each other. I suggest, in particular, that homes should be established for the aged in country centres. Generally, it is an important project. I should like the Minister to inform me upon what basis applications for a share of the proposed vote of £1,500,000 will be considered. The Government has promised to provide money on a £l-for-£l basis, towards the capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable bodies and institutions in building homes for the aged up to the total Commonwealth contribution of £1,500,000 a year. From what date does this offer become effective? Will it apply to expenditure by institutions since the delivery of the Prime Minister’s policy speech? Will the relevant period begin from the date that the budget speech was delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), from the passing of the enabling legisla- tion, or from the promulgation of regulations? Will applications for assistance from the proposed vote close each year on the 30th June? If applications are presented in any one year for the allocation of £3,000,000, throughout Australia, will the applicants receive 10s. in the £1 of the amount for which they apply? Such problems are likely to arise, and I ask the Minister to give further details of this important vote. The matter has been before the Parliament at least since the Opening Speech was delivered by the Governor-General.
– When I rose in this debate previously, I asked several questions that have not been answered by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). I direct his attention again to Division 190 - Department of External Affairs, and ask him whether there is any system of auditing or accounting of funds in the branch offices of United Nations organization, I refer particularly to the office in Perth, and to the Save the Children Fund, because I have had complaints of laxity. There is some disquietude among persons who are interested in these matters, and who believe that things are not quite as they should be. I turn my attention now to Division 202 - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the item under that heading, “ Pan Indian Ocean Science Congress - Grant to Australian National Research Council, £2,400 “. I attended a similar conference in Perth. It was a fine congress, because it brought together many scientists from Pan Indian Ocean countries, and they were able to discuss relevant problems. Australians often forget that we border on the Indian Ocean, and that these matters are of particular interest to the western portions of Australia. The £600 that was expended last year, and the proposed vote of £2,400, might be described as money well spent. I wish that every £3,000 spent by a government instrumentality returned such big dividends as these conferences do.
I should like to ask some questions with regard to the item, “ Medical and Hospital Treatment for Migrants in Initial Period of Settlement, £250,000”, under Division 199 - Department of Immigration. Last year £350,000 was voted for this item, and actual expenditure was £284,912. How long does the initial period of settlement last? What medical and hospital treatment is provided for immigrants? Does it differ from the treatment that is available to Australian civilians, and why is this large vote necessary? Another item under this division is “ Education of non-British Migrants in the English Language, £300,000 “. Could this educational system be made retrospective to meet the needs of some persons who have been in Australia longer than the period covered by the present immigration system? I have attended many naturalization ceremonies, find have known many citizens of other countries who have been in Australia for twenty to 30 years and cannot speak English. In some mining communities, this constitutes a menace to safety, lt is difficult for them-
– Senator Tangney is off the beam. Immigrants cannot be employed in the mining industry until they can speak English.
– I know that they have to pass some sort of examination, but judging by the number of mining accidents in which people of foreign extraction are involved, I should like to be sure that every precaution possible is taken in that regard. I might add, with all respect, that part of this proposed vote might be used to teach some Australians how to speak English properly, but that is by the way. Throughout the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, there arc items for various functions that are to be performed by universities in different parts of Australia. In one case, provision is made for research. In another, there is provision for the publication of books and so on. I have been trying persistently to get assistance for the establishment of a medical school in the University of Western Australia. Any expenditure for that purpose by this Government would be well merited. I cannot understand why miscellaneous grants are made to various universities throughout Australia for specific purposes when I have been informed by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies), by letter, that no grant can be made to the University of Western Australia for a specific purpose. According to the right honorable gentleman, such provision must come from the normal grants to the State. In the proposed, votes for Miscellaneous Services, hundreds of thousands of pounds are to be made available to various universities for certain projects. What is the reason for the differentiation?
– I wish to make a brief statement about the provision of £1,500,000 for homes for the aged. This matter has been mentioned several times during the debate. I spoke to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) about it, and he informed me that he has completed his work upon this project. He has taken his deliberations to an advanced stage, and hopes to make an announcement in the near future. Until he has completed his work, and the Government has approved of the plans that he has in mind, the Minister is not prt pared to make a statement, but he has given an assurance that only a short time will elapse before the proposals are made public.
– I wish to refer to several matters that have been raised by Senator Tangney. The honorable senator asked a question last night about the Save the Children Fund. I answered that question, and the honorable senator will find the information in Hansard. Senator Tangney referred to medical and hospital treatment for immigrants in the initial period of settlement. . That provision is for medical and radiology examinations of all foreign assisted immigrants who arrive in Australia during the period that they are located at immigration reception, training and holding centres. All necessary hospital and medical treatment is provided at those centres. With regard to the education of non-British immigrants in the English language, arrangements are made with the States for reimbursement by the Australian Government of actual expenditure incurred by the States in providing facilities to enable immigrants who cannot speak English to receive instruction in the English language. It is not limited to recently arrived immigrants. Any non-English speaking immigrants may take advantage of the opportunities that are provided.
– -I should like some, information on the item “Royal Commission on Espionage, £65,000 “ under Division 187 - Prime Minister’s Department. Does the proposed vote include provision of a full report of the findings of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia including the day-to-day report of the comments of the commissioners and the judgments passed upon various witnesses by them ? Those comments ave published freely in the press. The hearings of the commission go on and on, and anybody who follows the reports of the proceedings in the press will note that half the daily hearings appears to be occupied by the comments of the commissioners.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Aylett has engaged in criticism of the members of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, and I submit that he is out of order.
– Order! Under rulings that have been given previously with regard to the sittings of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, I rule that honorable senators may nos discuss its activities while the commission is sitting.
– I am merely seeking information. I am not criticizing the commission. Any honorable senator who has followed my speech closely and intelligently will understand that I am not criticizing the commission. You may put me right, Mr. Chairman, if I am not in order in asking whether the proposed vote of £65,000 includes the printing of a report covering the comments of the commissioners upon various witnesses that have appeared before them, as well as a report of the findings of the commission? I should also like to know where the £5,000 that was paid to Vladimir Petrov has been placed in the Estimates? Does the proposed vote of £65,000 cover the £5,000 bribe that was paid to Petrov?
– I rise to a point of order. Was Senator Aylett using a parliamentary expression when he stated that a bribe was paid by the Government to Petrov? I submit that the word “ bribe “ is unparliamentary and should be withdrawn.
– How would the honorable senator describe it?
– Order ! Senator Aylett must be careful in his choice of words. The point that has been taken by Senator Maher is well founded. I suggest that Senator Aylett should withdraw the word “bribe”.
– I did not say that the Government paid a bribe.
– That was the inference to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable senator, and I rule that the word “ bribe “ is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw tho word “ bribe “ and ask whether the proposed vote includes tile £5,000 that wa.= paid by the security police to Petrov. I direct attention now to the item, “ Korea Political Conference, Geneva - Representation, £24,S00 “ under Division 190 - Department of External Affairs. On examining the Estimates, I have found that various senior Ministers have gone overseas on different missions, i consider it proper that they should do so. They are paying out only £3,000 to £4,000 on their trips. Will the Minister inform me how many representatives of Australia will be included in the delegation to the Korean political conference at Geneva upon which the Government proposes to expend £24,800? Will one Minister, or a number of Ministers, attend, or will all political parties in this Parliament be represented, as the conference will be vital to the security of Australia? If a big Australian delegation, containing members of the three main political parties in this country, were to attend the conference, the expenditure of £24,800 could he justified, but if the delegation were composed of one or two Ministers, I do not think the expenditure could be justified. I am not criticizing the Government in this matter. I am only seeking information. Perhaps the Minister, when he replies, will be good enough to inform the Senate whether it is proposed to invite a leading member of the Opposition to attend the conference, at any rate as an observer.
.- I refer to Division 196, “Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Air Beef Proprietary Limited - .Subsidy, £10,000”. The vote for this purpose last year was £12,000, of which £7,609 was expended. I was amazed when the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Senator McLeay) stated, this afternoon, in reply to a question, that the Labour Government of Western Australia did not intend to continue to assist the air beef scheme in the Kimberleys. I believe that the people who live in that area deserve all the help that can be given to. them by any Government. In some parts of the Kimberleys, the country is so rugged that it is impossible to build proper roads, and the only way in which cattle can be sent out from those parts is by air. I suggest it is only right that any new scheme such as the air beef lift should receive governmental assistance in its early stages. The Commonwealth proposes to pay a subsidy of £10,000 to Air Beef Proprietary Limited this year, compared with a subsidy of £7,609 last year. The air beef lift and the killing station established in the Kimberleys by Air Beef Proprietary Limited will be of great assistance to the production of beef in Western Australia. Therefore, the Western Australian Government should be prepared to join with the Commonwealth in helping the company.
I turn to another item in Division 196, “ Flax Production Committee - Working loss (for payment to credit of Flax Production Trust Account), £50,000”. We all know that the Flax Production Commission was established during the war years to ensure the production of flax in Australia. The commission established flax mills. When the war ended, it was difficult to keep the mills in operation, because the overseas price of flax fell considerably. The Government decided to sell its flax mills to private enterprise, if possible, but the policy was to keep them in operation in case another war occurred. I understand that at least one of the mills was sold. It is the mill situated at Boyupbrook, in Western Australia. 1 believe that mill showed a profit last year for the shareholders, who are flax producers. I should like to know whether the mills owned by the Commonwealth are making a loss and those owned by private enterprise are making a profit. I should like to know, also, whether both privately-owned and Commonwealthowned mills are receiving the same treatment in the way of payments for flax fibre.
I support the remarks made by Senator Laught about the proposed appropriation of £5,000 for tuna-fishing research, because I believe that if a tuna-fishing industry were established in Australia, considerable profits could be made from it. I read in the press some months ago that a Japanese fishing fleet was fishing for tuna on a large scale about 200 miles north of the north-west coast of Western Australia. I understand there are large quantities of tuna in the waters off the coast of Western Australia. I hope the Commonwealth will make a survey of those waters, so that Australian companies will be able to decide whether it would be a good proposition to engage in tunafishing operations.-
The only other item that I wish to discuss is “ Tobacco - Grants to States for experimental work on tobacco leaf production, £15,000 “. In company with Senator Paltridge and the member of the Western Australian Parliament representing the district, I made a trip to Northcliffe, about 20 miles from Pemberton in the south-west of Western Australia, to interview tobacco-growers there. They told us a very sad story. It was a story of men being allocated land under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme, being told where to grow tobacco and doing everything they were asked to do, but finding that their crops failed. The growers told us that the reason why the crops failed was that the land dried out too quickly in the summer, so that the tobacco could not ripen properly. They said they were told exactly where to plant tobacco. Apparently the State Department of Agriculture sent an officer to survey the area and advise the growers of the proper place on each farm for planting tobacco. The men were told that 30 acres of land on each block would be cleared, but on some of the blocks only 10 acres have been cleaved. We were informed that nine-tenths of the areas sown for tobacco were not suitable for tobacco-growing. We were told that one man was to be thrown off his farm. These men are all decent, good farmers. They are trying to do the right thing, but they are unable to make a success of their ventures because of the red tape that is, so to speak, tied round them with respect to the areas on which they are told to grow tobacco. One man has been given two or three blocks to enable him to carry on. The growers are all eager to grow tobacco, but they find it difficult to do so in existing circumstances. I should like to know whether any of the £15,000 proposed to be paid to the States for experimental work on tobacco leaf production will be allocated to Western Australia and used to assist tobacco-growers.
– Senator Tangney referred to Division 195, “ Department of Health, Medical Research, £129,500 “, and asked whether any of that sum was to be used for the purpose of establishing a medical research school in Western Australia. It is proposed that the sum shall be expended on grants in connexion with medical research. It is not intended to cover a large project such as the establishment of a me’dical school in Western Australia. However, I shall refer the honorable senator’s representations to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page).
– I point out that although the total proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services is £22,199,000, the Government has, I believe, limited the time for discussion of the items to one hour, or less than one hour. Recently, we talked about the abolition of the Senate. A few honorable senators wanted the Senate to be put on a higher plane so that there would be no talk of abolishing it, yet the Senate is expected to discuss the expenditure of more than £22,000,000 of public money in a period of less than one hour.
– The Estimates for miscellaneous services have already been discussed for hours. We were discussing them last night.
– If that is so, I withdraw my remarks. But 1 do not think we have been discussing them for many hours. Do not let us be untruthful. Do not let us give a false impression to the public. As honorable senators are aware, I am perfectly fail’. I do not want to strike a personal note, but I know that I spoke on the Estimates about half an hour before the. Senate rose last night, and I do not think we were discussing the Estimates for miscellaneous services then. However, I think the public should know that the “guillotine” is being applied and that votes totalling many millions of pounds will be agreed to, although the Senate will not have had an opportunity to discuss many. important items.
I refer now to Division 1S7, “ Prime Minister’s Department - Commonwealth Literary Fund (for payment to credit of Commonwealth Literary Fund Trust Account), £10,000”. We see from the document that £10,000 was paid, into that trust account last year, .but there is no information about the way in which, it was spent. However, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has been kind enough to- direct my attention to an item in the budget papers which shows that the balance of the account on the 30th June, 1953, was £3S3 7s. 3d., that the sum expended during the year that ended on the 30th June, 1954, was £9,979 14s. lid., and that the balance carried forward to the 1st July, 1954, was £403 12s. 4d. Nearly £10,000 was paid out from the fund last year, and a similar sum was paid out the year before that. Therefore, I think the public is entitled to know how the money has been spent. I tell the people who are listening to this debate that members of the Opposition have asked time and again for information about how the money has been spent, and to whom payments have been made, but we have not received replies to our questions. I have been a member of the Parliament for 22 years now.
– Too long !
– Possibly it is too long. But I have enjoyed myself and I have been happy to be on the pay-roll for 22 years. Make no mistake about that. No honorable senators opposite have resigned from the Senate, and they have always fought like hell to get back into this chamber. In years gone by I have seen Ministers spend hours in this chamber answering questions that have been asked by honorable senators. But in recent years, during debates of this description and at question time, Ministers have not satisfactorily answered the questions of honorable senators. I think that the Commonwealth Literary Fund is a splendid fund.
– Did the honorable senator get any money from it?
– No. Although I am an author qf sorts I did not receive any amount from the fund and I do not want any.
– The honorable senator collected sufficient in royalties from his book.
– No. I will be quite frank. I had so many friends who did not believe in trying friendship by commercial transactions that they wanted a copy of the book for nothing. My book was entitled My Descent from. Soapbox to Senate. Several senators on the other side of the chamber wanted the book for nothing, and I said to one gentleman, “ Brother, I do not see why I should give it to you for nothing. I am drawing nothing out of the Commonwealth Literary Fund and I have sat in the Senate for 22 years or more and I have been taught by the gentleman on the Government side that we should support private enterprise and that we should try to make a profit “. I did not make a profit. I lost money on the publication of the book, but I had a great, deal of fun. In publishing my second book I shall have more fun and honorable senators will have more fun in reading it. The title will be “Working Plugs, Politicians and Parasites “. I did not want help from the Commonwealth Literary Fund because my book was not a literary effort. The fund was established in order to encourage Australians who showed literary promise. I did not show literary promise. But I have amused hundreds of people by writing my book, and I have instructed them a little, I hope. In my next book I hope to instruct them and amuse them more. But it will not be a literary effort and I do not want anything from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Writing it is splendid fun. When I was President of the Senate I used my powers of persuasion on several occasions in order to have two or three young . Australian authors assisted because they were men of great promise. I understand that about £10,000 is spent from this fund every year. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to tell me who lias been assisted by the fund. If he cannot state the names of those who have been assisted, perhaps he could state how the money has been expended. The more we publicize the efforts of those who benefit from this fund, the better chance they will have of selling their books. I bless the fund and I will bless Senator McLeay if he will give me the information for which I have asked.
– I want to reply to questions that have been raised concerning the Department of Commerce and Agriculture because I am acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The proposed vote for tuna fishing is required for the survey of the possibilities of commercial development of the tuna fishing industry in the north-east of Australia.
The proposed vote in relation to tobacco-leaf production will be used to continue to assist in experimental work in connexion with tobacco-growing.
Provision was made for expenditure on an air beef subsidy because of a promise by the Government to contribute its share of subsidy if the Western Australian Government continued to make its contribution. In 1951, the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia, set up a committee which I think was called the Kimberley Development Committee. Tt explored the possibility of developing the beef industry in the Kimberleys. As a result of the recommendations of the committee, it was agreed that the Western Australian Government should supervise the beef works at “Wyndham and pay the company concerned a special rate which, I think, was arrived at after a close examination of the circumstances by the members of the committee. In the three years up to the end of 1953 I believe that £35,000 was paid by way of subsidy. The amount paid last year is not avail- able. As its portion of the subsidy, ;he Commonwealth contributed at the rate of about one penny a pound of the quantity of beef transported by air and its total contribution during the three years was £27,525. The Commonwealth recommended that, at the end of four years, further consideration should he given to the question whether the subsidy should be continued. The Commonwealth made provision in the Estimates to continue to pay its share of the subsidy, but advice has been received from the Premier of Western Australia that the Western Australian Government does not propose to pay any further subsidy.
– Was any reason given ?
– The officers of the department have informed me that no reason was given for that decision. Senator Seward asked a question concerning the proposed vote of £700 for the exhibition of Australian paintings abroad. The Government agreed to transport paintings of twelve Australian artists overseas and to provide certain moneys to help them in the very worthy object of exhibiting their work._
– Since the enlargement of the Senate, while the Senate has been in committee, senators sitting behind the Chairman of Committees have been at a disadvantage in catching the Chairman’s eye. Would it be possible for your chair and the whole table to .be moved back further, Mr. Chairman? I believe that the possibility that some senators would not be able to catch the eye of the Chairman was not taken into consideration when the seating capacity of the Senate was enlarged.
I wish to speak on Division 195, item 12, “ Assistance to Australian Red Cross - Blood transfusion service, Grants to States. £50,000”. This sum has been provided in order to assist in the worthy cause of the collection of blood plasma from donors throughout Australia for the purpose of keeping supplies for emergency cases and for general use in hospitals. Whilst the Government is doing a very good job in connexion with tuberculosis clinics and cancer research, the publicizing of the need for more blood donors needs further close attention by it. In past years I, as well as many thousands of people, have been a blood donor, and I have donated blood fourteen times. I consider that, in performing this service, if one is a willing horse one can give a little too much. There should be a concerted Australia-wide campaign, particularly in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force in order to show the uses to which blood plasma is put. The last time that I visited the blood transfusion service I told them that, having made fourteen donations, I considered that they should get some one to replace me. That is a bad state of affairs. I am willing to perform my share of community service at any time. There is something lacking in the publicity campaign for the blood transfusion service. As a result, sufficient donors are not volunteering and those who have given their blood have considered that the responsibility is not being shared widely enough. For that reason I should like the Government to take a greater interest in this very important social work and obtain sufficient donors to keep the blood banks fully supplied.
The collection and storing of blood for an emergency is an expensive operation, and the proposed vote of £50,000 will have to be divided between six States and, possibly, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory also. The increased use of blood plasma was demonstrated recently in an accident in Melbourne. An unfortunate jockey was injured in a race. He was immediately given a blood transfusion. It appears that medical science has now proved that, if a blood transfusion is given immediately after an accident, it lessens the effects of shock and immediately starts the process of recovery. This work should be taken up by the Government as a national project and not be left to the Australian Red Cross ‘Society which is doing a magnificent job. More publicity should be given to the blood transfusion service by the use of films in Commonwealth offices and in the various services.
It should be explained to every onethat they can help to save a life in an emergency by donating their blood. Sometimes, when I made a donation of blood, I derived some satisfaction from reflecting that, as a result, a bit of good Labour blood might flow through the veins of a Liberal. The Commonwealth should accept responsibility of co-ordinating the activities of the blood transfusion service throughout the States and try to assist the Australian Red Cross Society by quickening the drive to supply the blood banks and so ensure that the burden will be distributed more evenly throughout the community.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of Part 1 of the Second Schedule has expired.
Remainder of Part 1. of the Second Schedule agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Part 2 ok the Second Schedule.
B us i ness Undertakin g s.
Proposed vote, £79,606,000.
– I direct the attention of the committee to Division 223, which relates to the proposed vote for the Trans- Australian railway. I shall offer no criticism of the manner in which the Trans-Australian railway is run, because I consider that it is the best conducted railway in Australia, although judged by American or European standards, the trans-continental train is a little below the standard of a good train. However, I think that it is a first-class train. The matters to which I shall refer, although seemingly trivial, are really important to travellers. I consider that attention should be given to the variety of food served on the train. Although the meals are relatively good, by railway standards, they compare unfavorably with meals served by various airline operators. Afternoon tea usually comprises only medium quality cake and coarse bread and butter, which reminds one of the kind of afternoon tea that is served at a boarding school. Although the menu is elaborate, many of the dishes are not served. I have heard many passengers order various items from the menu, only to be told by the waiter that that dish was “ off “. As this has happened during the first sittings of meals, one is forced to the conclusion that the item was never really “ on “. In order to satisfy the delighted anticipation of passengers after reading the menu, I urge the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to ensure that the various dishes specified in the menu shall, in fact, be available. According to the brochure that is issued by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, liquor is available on the transcontinental train. However, when a passenger wants a drink he discovers that liquor is served only with meals. There are three fairly quick sittings for each meal, and consequently not much time is available to passengers in which to order and consume liquor. As a’ licence has been issued for the serving of drinks on the trans-continental train, and attendants are provided for that purpose, I cannot see why drinks should not be served in the excellent lounge car on the train. I was not impressed by the excuse that was given to me by a railway official that liquor is not served in the lounge car because certain passengers may over-indulge and misbehave themselves. Why should not liquor be served in the lounge car, as is done on firstclass trains in other countries? Why should it be necessary for passengers to bring aboard their own liquor for consumption during the long journey, as is done at present?
I come now to the conductor service on the trans-continental train. Judged by Australian standards, the service is good, but it is not comparable with the service that is provided on first-class trains in Europe and America. Just as travellers by air appreciate the services of hostesses, so would ladies travelling alone, or with children, appreciate the services of a conductress during the long journey from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie. I have often been appalled by the lack of interest shown by railway officials at Kalgoorlie, where I live, in relation to the expected time of arrival of the trans-continental train from the east. It is futile to inquire whether the train is running on time, because nobody there seems to know. Perhaps the reason for that state of affairs is that the Kalgoorlie railway station is under the control of the Western Australian Government Railways. There is no logical reason why a resident of Kalgoorlie who wishes to meet travellers on the trans-continental train should not be able to ascertain by telephone from the Kalgoorlie railway station the approximate time of arrival of the train. The west-bound train is scheduled to arrive at Kalgoorlie at 5 p.m., but if the train makes a fast run across the Nullarbor, it is sometimes halted at Parkeston for half an hour or so. Why should not the train complete its journey to Kalgoorlie, so that throughpassengers can have extra time in which to visit the town?
– They could not spend their time to better advantage!
– That is so. The passengers should be given the benefit of any time saved on the run to enable them to stretch their legs and do a little shopping in Kalgoorlie. There is no porter service at the Kalgoorlie railway station for the convenience of passengers who detrain there. Why should lady passengers have to carry their suitcases for long distances to the taxi rank? Surely the Commonwealth Railways could provide porters to perform that service. Apparently, the porters at Kalgoorlie, who are employed by the Western Australian Railways, only transfer booked baggage from the trans-continental train to tb: Western Australian train.
My remarks in relation to the arrival of the west-bound trans-continental train at Kalgoorlie apply equally to the expected time of departure of the east-bound train. When one inquires from a railway official at Kalgoorlie as to the expected time of departure of the east-bound train, he is invariably told that that depends on how long it takes to transfer the baggage from the Westland. That information is usually followed with th* advice to “ hang around for a while “. In point of fact, I have “ hung around on many occasions for longer than half an hour, and the train was still not ready for departure. Why could not intending passengers be informed that the train would not leave before such and such a time,, and thus avoid inconvenience? Each of the matters that I have mentioned i» small in itself, but collectively, they show the ways in which the service to the travellers on the trans-continental train could be improved. I trust that theMinister will direct the attention of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to them.
– I wish to direct the attention of the committee to Divisions 230 to 24.1 inclusive, which relate to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The Amalgamated Postal Workers Union has maderepresentations to me in connexion with the department’s announced intention of re-introducing the contract system in relation to constructional work. In the 1920’s, due to the faulty workmanship of contractors, the department discontinued the contract system. I earnestly appeal to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, to review the decision to re-introduce the contract system for both aerial and underground constructional work for the Postal Department. When I was employed .by the Postal Department many years ago certain senior officers of the department considered that such work could be performed cheaper by contract than by its employees. In consequence, although it was the policy of the government of the clay to grant preference in employment to ex-servicemen - I refer to the period between 192S and 1934 - many hundreds of ex-servicemen were dismissed from, the Postal Department and the work that I have mentioned was given to outside tenderers. In the interests of the safety of telegraph linemen, telephone poles should be inserted into the ground to a depth of 4 ft. 6 in. It was found that some contractors sank them to a depth of only 3 feet. In order to ensure that the poles would be soundly based, the overseer caused a mark to be placed on poles ready for erection at a point 4! ft. 6 in. from the end to be inserted in the ground. However, certain unscrupulous contractors readily defeated that expedient by sawing off about 2 feet of the pole. A man who was digging earth from around the pole so that the decayed surface wood could be removed, told me, as foreman on the .job, that the pole was rotten at the butt. We found, however, that the pole had been put only two feet into the ground. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) may smile, but if he had been at the top of that pole he would not have had anything to laugh at.
– I notice that the honorable senator himself was not at the top of the pole.
– I have done my share of that, too. I have no faith in the contract system. Men’s lives can be endangered by these malpractices. Over the years, the contract system has proved uneconomic and not in the best interests of the public. I know of contracts under which conduits were laid and huge cables drawn in, but the provision of telephone services was delayed for many weeks owing to faulty installation of the conduits. This poor workmanship had to be remedied, not by the contractors, but by the permanent employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Manypeople no doubt think that the laying of conduits and the installation of cable for telephone services is work that anybody can do. At least that is what the antiLabour governments of the earlier 1930’s believed. But these jobs take years to learn.
The services provided to the general public by the Postal Department are efficient to-day not because of the efforts of the governments which held office in the 1930’s, but because of the works programme mapped out by the Labour Government prior to 1949. I recall an occasion, many years’ ago, when we were asked, in the interests of defence, to. use some of the construction work of private contractors. We were let down because the service was not there. Eventually, it was decided that the contract system should be discontinued and I venture to say that no departmental officer and no member of this chamber can say that the work that has been done by the Construction Branch of the Postal Department has not been 100 per cent, in all respects. Contractors who undertook work for the Postal Department in the 1930’s and the 1930’s were making as much as £6 a clay out of their employees.
– The honorable senator groans because he is not conversant with what has happened in the past. I am talking about the time when Senator Gibson was PostmasterGeneral and £9,000,000 was spent oh telephone construction work.
– The best PostmasterGeneral we ever had.
– Yes, but he was sabotaged by the contract system then prevailing. The government of the day was incompetent. I repeat that contractors were making £5 or £6 a day out of employees. Postal Department contracts were so attractive financially that many new contractors came into the field, and it was found necessary, just as it is being found necessary now, for the Postal Department to supply tools and equipment for telephone construction work. However, with the re-introduction of day labour, it was found that the cost of placing a cross arm on a pole,’instead of being 3s. 6d. as it had been under the contract system, was only 10d. Contractors made such a poor job of attaching cross arm? that when one walked along a line of poles, the cross arms looked like railway signals - some up and some down. In 1929 the contract system broke down completely and the government of the day was advised by senior officers of the Postal Department to abandon it. I venture to say that no senior officer of the department would recommend the contract system as against day labour, but, apparently this Government is prepared to do as governments did in the 1920’s, and make equipment available to private contractors so that they can once again make big profits and do poor work.
– Is the work of contractors not subject to inspection by d departmen tal officers ?
– Yes; but in the days to which I am referring, contracts which had to be inspected by one supervisor might extend over a distance of 40 miles. If a supervisor had to keep his eye on several jobs that might be 10 or 12 miles apart, obviously he could not be on each job all the time. While he was on one job, the contractor on the other job might be putting poles only 2 feet into the ground instead of 4 ft. 6 in.
– -The supervisor would not pass work unless it was done properly.
– Obviously he could not see under the ground. Telephone cables are supposed to be IS inches under the surface. This requirement was not observed by many contractors, with the result that in the course of road construction work, telephone cables were often cut. Supervisors carried out their work to the best of their ability, but, unfortunately, in the’ days to which I refer, some of them were ex-servicemen of World War I., who knew nothing at all- about telephone construction work. They were given the jobs merely because they were returned soldiers. The result was that contractors made huge profits and the people of this country were denied efficient telephone services.
On behalf of the Postal Workers Union, which has given every assistance to all governments to overtake arrears of telephone work since World War II., I submit that the reintroduction of the contract system will serve only to cause discontent amongst permanent employees of the department. If a substantial proportion of the department’s work is to. bc done by contract, departmental employees will soe their prospects of advancement diminished, and will lose interest in their work. In reply to a question that I asked on behalf of members of the Postal Workers Union, last month, the Postmaster-General stated -
The work of laying underground conduits and cables and the erection of aerial telephone lines for the Postmaster-General’s Department is being performed, by contract where the work is at present beyond the capacity of existing departmental staff to perform within a reasonable period; the number of such works represent only a small portion of the normal installation programme
I could take honorable senators opposite to a certain place near Melbourne where cable laid by a private contractor had to be recovered by the staff of the Postal Department at a cost of many thousands of pounds. Nobody hears about such things, of course, because they were not: done under a Labour government.
– Order! Thehonorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have been told by Senator Hendrickson that I do not know anythingabout the work of the Postal Department. I do know that we have not, in this chamber, a representative of the contractors about whose alleged malpractices Senator Hendrickson has told us to-night. Perhaps I dp not know very much about the work of the Postal Department, but at least I can believe my eyesand ears. All I can say is that Senator Hendrickson, who has emerged in this debate as the champion of the employeesof the Postal Department, has waxed very fat on it.
– What a lovely speech ! What a statesman ! Go back toyour stud farm.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.One interjection by an honorable senatormay be permissible, but I shall not permit any one to keep up’ a running fire of interjections.
– I wish to speak now about the Central Australian railway, which is under the control of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Work is proceeding at present upon the construction of a standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Marree. I understand that there is difficulty in obtaining not only materials, but also man-power for this work. I am informed that the turn-over of labour is tremendous. Recently, in company with other honorable senators, I inspected the Snowy Mountains scheme, and I should like to know whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has seen the housing accommodation that is provided for employees on that project. Whatever else may be said about the scheme, the chief commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority has done more to house his employees satisfactorily than has been done on any other similar project in the Commonwealth. I am sure that all honorable senators who have been to the Snowy Mountains will join with me in paying a tribute to the chief commissioner for what he has done in this connexion. If houses of that type were made available to workers on the Central Australian railway - they would have to be modified, of course, for the entirely different conditions - it would be possible to get married men to work on that undertaking and so solve the problem caused by the turnover of labour. An influx of married men with their wives and families would, of course, necessitate some provision being made for schooling and for shopping. I urge the Minister to investigate the possibility of providing better housing for these railway employees, with the object of speeding up the job. It is possible that, in the not distant future, the standard gauge line will be continued from Marree to Alice Springs, and that possibly another line will be built from Marree into the Channel country. The advent of th. diesel. engine has meant a great deal to that line. Instead of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, we should have a standard gauge right through from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Diesel engines will speed up the service and, in that way, increase the revenues of the railways. Although there are other matters to which I should like to refer, I shall give other honorable senators fin opportunity to speak, and conclude by asking the Minister to investigate the possibility of providing better housing facilities for the employees of the railways, at least on that section between Port Augusta and Marree.
– I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of Senator Mattner, to which I have nothing to add, other than to say that I have complete confidence in the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. In the light of the difficulties which he encounters, and. th? manner in which he overcomes them, I think that he is one of the most efficient officers employed by the Government. When we consider the progress that has been made with the north-south railway line, and also with the east-west line, 1 think that the people of Australia need have no fear that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the men whose job it is to maintain those railways, are not doing their job. As
Senator Mattner pointed out, the provision of suitable housing presents problems, but I feel sure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) will be able to overcome those problems.
I refer now to the proposed votes of the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly those in respect of South Australia, which I represent. Item 4 o: Division 234c - Stores and Material - is “ Motor vehicles and accessories, including replacement of existing units, £88,000 “. Item 7 of the same division is “ Motor vehicles and accessories (additions to fleet), £34,000”. Similar items appear in the votes of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for each of the other States. I appreciate that motor vehicles are used extensively by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and that they are essential for the proper functioning of the department, but I should like the Minister to explain why these items appear to overlap.
I view with concern the number of outstanding applications for telephones throughout the Commonwealth. I understand that the number in South Australia alone is approximately 9,000. The majority of people who are waiting for telephones have paid deposits. All honorable senators are aware that, at the conclusion of World War II., great problem? confronted the Postal Department because of shortages of materials, labour, instruments and so on. Nevertheless, it. does not seem right that there should beso many applications outstanding at this time. I feel that something more could be done to overtake the backlag, particularly in respect of applications that have been approved and where deposits have been paid. I have in my hand a letter from a prominent Adelaide businessman who is well known to every South Australian senator. That man occupies a house on South Esplanade, Henley Beach. Last December, because there were doctors also living at his home, he required an additional telephone. He paid the necessary deposit, but the telephone had not been installed by May last, when he took the matter up. Incidentally, the doctors who were also occupying his house had a high priority for the installation of a telephone, because of their calling. On appealing again, he was advised to make another application. Of course, he was told that there would be no need to pay a deposit, because ho had already done that six months previously. Eventually, he approached me in the matter and I was able, after another fortnight’s delay, to enlist the aid of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia, who always gives most courteous service, and a telephone was installed. That is not an isolated instance.
For the life of me, I cannot see why such delays should occur, particularly after applicants have paid a deposit. I appreciate that there has been a rapid and pronounced increase in the number of telephone users since the end of “World War II., but it appears to me that delay in the installation of telephones could be avoided in many instances.
.- I direct the attention of the committee to the proposed vote for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly to Division 243c. item S of which refers to the A.B.G. Weakly. I usually refer to this matter at this time of the year, when the Estimates are before us. Although I admire a great deal of the work which the Australian Broadcasting Commission performs, I again point out to the Minister that the commission has incurred losses by the continuous publication of the A.B.C. Weekly. The Auditor-General, in his recent annual report, had this to say on the matter: -
There was a net loss for the year of £7,070, compared with a loss of £5,711 for 1052-53. The loss was due mainly to decreased income from sales and advertising duc to a reduction in circulation and increased printing charges.
Since the first publication of this journal, the taxpayers have paid more than £250,000 to mee’t losses incurred by it. In four of the six States, private enterprise now provides all that is necessary in the way of publicity for broadcasting programmes. The A.B.G. Weekly is now published only in New South Wales and Queensland. In every other State, it has been discontinued. Have honorable senators heard objections from the people of those States because the A. B.C. Weekly is no longer published? I suggest that it is high time that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) told the Australian Broadcasting Commission to- examine this matter closely with a view to discontinuing the publication.
– What would we do about our radio programmes in Queensland ?
– I do not know. In fact, I do not know whether it is legal for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to publish this journal in only two States of the Commonwealth, although the taxpayers as a whole are obliged to support it. In other words, the taxpayers of Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia must subsidize the losses incurred in the two other States. It seems to be time that the publication was placed on a proper business footing. If that were done, I think it would result in its immediate elimination.
– It is printed on shocking paper, too.
– That is true. The Auditor-General has pointed out, on many occasions, that the commission advertises its own concerts in its own publication and uses the revenue so earned to help keep the losses down. Let us look at this matter properly with a view to wiping out these continuous losses. It is time that a halt was called.
I also refer to Division 230d - Mail Services (by outside agencies), item 5 of which reads “ Airmail services, £2,627,000 “, whilst item 6 reads, “ Conveyance of Australian mails in other countries, £200,000”. I should appreciate it if the Minister would name the companies to which these amounts are to be paid. When we first came to office, the accounts of Trans- Australian Airlines were swollen because that organization enjoyed the sole carriage of airmails in Australia. This Government very properly put the matter on a competitive basis. I should like to know the companies to which this money is to be paid, because I think that the answer to that question will indicate whether government policy is being carried out. I remember well that when this matter was before honorable senators previously, Senator Ashley said that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was carrying twice as much mail from New South Wales as TransAustralia Airlines was. If that is so, I point out to him that Australian National Airways is receiving only the same amount of money as is Trans-Australia Airlines. We must see that competition is kept fair and above board, and I should like the Minister to supply some relevant figures.
– Senator Hendrickson referred to the contract system for Postal Department work. I was surprised that the honorable senator, instead of being up to date, recited a long story about happenings of 30 years ago. The Public Accounts Committee referred to this matter on pages 49 and 50 of its report on the Postal Department. In Appendix 14 to the report the committee compared costs of works done by contractors and. those done by departmental staff. In general, there is no marked variation in the costs under the two methods, and a certain amount of line work by contractors is done each year, where necessary, to speed up the provision of services. The work is done under the proper supervision of departmental officers.
Senator Critchley referred to Division 234 ; South Australia, and to Item 4 of Section C, “Motor vehicles and accessories, including replacement of existing units, ?88,000 “. That is a maintenace cost item. The full provision in the Estimates is transferred to the Stores and Services Trust Account, where provision is made for the cost of replacement vehicles and the petrol, tyres and accessories associated with the running and upkeep of the fleet. The Transport Fund is financed from the votes by means of mileage hire rates charged on vehicles in service. Additional replacements are needed urgently to obviate uneconomic and costly repairs to older vehicles now in service. The item, “Motor vehicles and accessories (additions to the fleet) “, to which Senator Critchley referred, comes under a capital account. The provision sought for 1953-54 was reduced to meet the requirements of the budget. Final provision in the Estimates was ?275,000 or half the amount originally sought (?550,000). The purchase of additional vehicles is necessary to cope with heavier traffic and maintenance needs. Experience has shown clearly that an adequate fleet is essential to cut down ineffective time of engineering capital works and maintenance staff. Furthermore, greater output is obtained from small parties, and organization on this basis is practicable only if sufficient vehicles are available.
asked for information about the A.B.C. Weekly. The figures that were cited by Senator Henty represent the cost of publicizing the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes. If the programmes were fully published in the press, the advertising cost would be much greater than the amount mentioned. During 1953-54, cash receipts of the A.B.C. Weekly amounted to ?54,160, and cash payments totalled ?53,464, leaving a cash surplus of ?690. As there is some doubt whether this satisfactory position can be maintained during 1954-55, provision has been made for a cash deficit of ?2,500. The printing charges for the A.B.C Weekly were increased during the past financial year to cover the cost of printing the enlarged section devoted to the commission’s programmes for New South Wales and Queensland. The increased provision under this heading is required to cover these costs for a full year. Provision has also been made for increased purchases of -newsprint. That accounts for the additional funds required. When considering the net results, honorable senators should remember that, in the accounts kept for the A.B.C. Weekly, no credit is taken for the value of advertising the commission’s programme. If an appropriate sum were to be included, the results would show a very much more satisfactory result than i3 indicated by the budget figures.
– I direct attention to Division 226 - Australian Capital Territory Railway. The total proposed vote is ?44,000, and actual expenditure last year was ?42,721. Will the Minister for Shipping and
Transport (Senator McLeay) explain what the proposed vote covers? So far as I know, there is no railway in the Australian Capital Territory that is owned and operated exclusively by the Australian Government. I have always believed that railway arrangements within the Australian Capital Territory were in the hands of the New South Wales Government. Is there any proposal by the Australian Government to improve railway services in the Australian Capital Territory? Persons travelling to Canberra by land must use either the roads or the railways. Railway managers are continually complaining about the inroads into their traffic that have been made by air transport. Railway facilities to Canberra are shocking. Has the Government any proposals to improve the service? If the Government were to embark upon a programme to improve the railway service to Canberra in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, I believe that many tourists who prefer to travel by land would choose the railway. It is useless to expect tourists to be attracted to the railways in present circumstances. When travelling from Albury to ‘Canberra by rail, passengers leave Albury about 10.40 p.m. The carriages are shunted about the Goulburn yards for nearly an hour and a half. Eventually, the carriages are connected with a train to Canberra, and they do not reach Canberra until a,bout eleven o’clock. The train takes nearly four hours to travel about 50 miles from Goulburn to Canberra. I do not know anything about the’ service from Sydney to Canberra, but I know there is room for much improvement in the rail service between Albury and the Australian Capital Territory.
– The portion of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra is exclusively under the control of the Australian Government. Other connecting railways associated with the service are under the control of the New South Wales Government or the Victorian Government. There is an arrangement between the railway commissioners to fix rates and improve services. I agree that there is plenty of room for improvement, and I shall refer Senator Sandford’s suggestions to the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways, Mr. P. A. Hannaberry. Senator Mattner referred to the housing shortage on the Leigh Creek-Marree line. I had the pleasure of travelling over that railway and called at every station. As Senator Critchley has said, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner ha.s clone exceptionally good work. One of his primary considerations is to ensure that the men are properly housed. U was astonished at the standard of accommodation when I made my visit. In the various houses, huts and camps, refrigeration is provided. In cases where the accommodation was not up to standard, the Commissioner was endeavouring to improve conditions.- Recently, I made a trip from Port Augusta on the Marree standard track. Houses are not erected along a railway track while the line in being constructed, but a train has been provided with refrigeration and modern fittings for sleeping and cooking. I had several meals on the train, and they were first-class.
Senator Vincent has suggested that certain improvements could be made in conditions on the trans-Australia line. Our objective is to make it equal to the best in the world. The honorable senator will be pleased to know that, excluding capital charges, revenue of the Commonwealth Railways exceeded expenditure in the last financial year by more than £500,000. That is largely because of the use of diesel locomotives which arc operating from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie. If we can get the railways standardized, and all services operated by diesel locomotives, we shall be able to give a better service and reduce freight rates. I thank Senator Vincent for the suggestions that he has made. He travels on the transAustralia line more than most of us do, and his suggestions were helpful. Senator Mattner referred to housing in the Snowy Mountains area. I assure the honorable senator that every endeavour is being made to provide good housing and accommodation for employees in isolated areas. On a recent trip from Birdum to Darwin, I was pleased to see at least twenty new houses already built in that area. ‘ They were of such standard that I would be pleased to live in them myself. The greatest weakness, perhaps, in the present arrangement is that we have not been able to provide Senator Tangney with a refrigerated car on the “ tea and sugar “ train. The honorable senator promised to go on a trip with me to see how good it was when in operation, and the Railways Commissioner is trying to obtain refrigeration for that train.
– I want to refer to the rail car3 that run between Port Augusta and Woomera and Tarcoola. The cars are excellent in design and very speedy. The schedule calls for them to run two or three nights a week. It would appear that if the electric lighting system were changed-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of Part 2 of the Second Schedule has expired.
Part 2 of the Second Schedule agreed to.
Part 3 of the Second Schedule.
Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £13,319,000.
– I wish to refer to several items that are not clear to me, and in respect of which I shall ask for some explanation. I refer first to the item in Division 259 which relates to a grant to the Administration of Papua, and New Guinea to meet the expense, among other things, of war damage compensation. Can the Minister give me an idea of how much of the proposed appropriation of about £7,500,000 will be set aside for the payment of war damage compensation? The war has been over for about eight years, and these claims should have been settled long ago. I know of one case that is still hanging fire. I think it is up to the Government to try to expedite the payment of war damage compensation.
My second question concerns the proposed appropriation of £12,000 for the Papua and New Guinea shipping service. I understand that all the ships on this service formerly’ owned by the Commonwealth have been sold. I ask the Minister to tell me, if he can, what this money will be used for. Item 6 of Division 259 shows that apparently there is a deficiency of about £63,000 in the New Guinea and Papua Superannuation Fund. I should like some explanation of that item. Set out baldly, as it is, it does not explain what has happened. My final question relates to the last item in Division 259, “ Copra Marketing Board, Transfer of Surplus Moneys of Australian New Guinea Production Control Board “. The vote for this purpose last year was £190,350, and £190,350 was expended. No appropriation is sought for the current year. In those circumstances, I should like the Minister to explain why the entry appears. The reason is not clear to me.
– I refer to Division 254 - Other Services - Item 31, “ Canberra Brick Works - Loss on Operations (for payments to the credit of Interior Services Trust Account), £18,000”. Last year, the Canberra brickworks lost £25,000, and it is expected that the loss this year will he £18,000. Having regard to the fact that the brickworks are small, I should say that the bricks produced must be the most expensive bricks in the world. I referred recently to the loss of £110,000 a year incurred on hostels and hotels in Canberra. We must add to that a loss of £18,000 a year by the brickworks. I think it is time that the Government had a good look at these things. Why should the taxpayers of Australia be forced to pay - in perpetuity, it would appear - these annual losses? I am certain that if a private entrepreneur took over the Canberra brickworks, he would make them pay. I ask the Minister whether the Government is prepared to consider disposing of the Canberra brickworks so that an item of this kind will not continue to appear in the Estimates year after year.
– It would be better to give them away.
– Then the Government should give them away.
– I should like an explanation of some items which, year by year, I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile with my conscience. Like Senator Vincent, I do not see why some of this expenditure should be borne by the general body of Australian taxpayers. I fail to see why a taxpayer in, say, Northampton in Western Australia should make a contribution to the maintenance of the Canberra City Band. That is an item that appears in the Estimates each year. For the current year, the proposed expenditure for the maintenance of the band is £2,000. I should like an explanation of how that money is to be spent. Indeed, I should like to know why it is to be spent. At this stage of the history of Canberra, the city band should be selfsupporting. If it is self-supporting to some degree, I should like to know the extent to which is indulges in self-help.
Item 11, under the heading, “ Other Services “ in Division 254, is “ Grants in aid of social service, £4,100 “. Expenditure for that purpose last year was £3,690. I should appreciate an explanation of the purpose of the expenditure. Item 13 under the same heading is “ Swimming Pool - Maintenance, £6,000”. Expenditure on the pool last year was £3,092. Would it not be reasonable to expect that the citizens of Canberra, who use the pool, should pay for its maintenance? That is the practice in municipalities throughout Australia, but taxpayers in outback towns, themselves denied the privilege of a swimming pool, are asked to pay for the maintenance of a swimming pool in Canberra.
Sena.tor Tangney. - Is not that because there is no municipal council in Canberra ?
– That does not affect my argument that the people of other towns pay for their swimming pools. The people of Canberra do not contribute to them.
– Is not Canberra a part of Australia?
– Of course it is.
– What about works performed in other parts of Australia ?
– What about them ?
– Taxpayers in Canberra help to pay for those works.
– That has nothing to do with this item. A swimming pool should be paid for by the persons living in the district in which it is located, because they are the persons who use it. The cost of maintaining the pool should not be spread over the whole body of Australian taxpayers.
– The Commonwealth pays for the upkeep of the Canberra cemetery.
– It would be rather more difficult to recover charges incurred there. A sum of £1,200 is sought for the provision of safety measures at swimming resorts in the Australian Capital Territory. That item has made its first appearance this year. 1 should like to know something about that expenditure, too.
– Senator Paltridge has referred’ to the contributions made by the Commonwealth for the maintenance of the Canberra swimming pool and for the conduct of various activities in Canberra - contributions that normally would be made by a municipal council. I think the reason why the Commonwealth is making those, contributions is that there is no local governing body in Canberra. Expenses that normally would be borne by a local government authority must be borne by the Commonwealth in respect pf Canberra. The whole matter revolves around the conception of Canberra as the .capital city of the Commonwealth. It is remote from other cities. Most of the people who live hero are government servants. Many of them do not own their own houses, and live in government-owned houses. No matter what scheme is devised to finance activities in Canberra, ultimately the money will have to come from, the Government’s purse.
– Fees should be levied.
– Fees are levied. However, the gardens and the swimming pool in Canberra set the standard for gardens and swimming pools throughout Australia. To cover their capital cost and maintenance expenses, it would he necessary to levy entrance fees that would put those amenities beyond the reach of the ordinary citizen, especially a family man with a lot of children.
Thank goodness, there are a lot of children in Canberra. That brings me to the question of education. I commend the Department of the Interior for proposing to spend £1,824,000 on education in Canberra this year. This is a city where the Commonwealth has set a high standard in the provision of school buildings, equipment and playgrounds. I suppose some honorable senators will say thai: the Australian taxpayers should not be required to pay for the excellent schools that have been built in Canberra. But this is the National Capital, a fact that some people appear to forget. The Government, working in conjunction with the New South Wales Department of Education, is providing a high standard of education for the children of Canberra. In books published overseas and in Australia, the school buildings erected in this city, the equipment that is used and the education that is given to the children i are cited as examples of the latest developments in education.
I should like to see the day when the Canberra University College becomes the Canberra University. The Australian National University is a post-graduate research institution that ultimately will take its place among the great research institutions of the world. It is a fine institution, but it does not cater for undergraduate studies. The population of
Canberra has increased greatly during the last ten years, and I hope the time will come soon when it will have its own university for undergraduate studies. In the meantime, a grant of £60,000 to the Canberra University College for the present year does not appear to be too large. Last year, the grant was £61,882. Costs are rising, and we do not want the standard of the college to deteriorate because of the lack of a few pounds, when we are spending money in almost every other direction. I should like the Canberra University College to be given every ‘assistance and encouragement to develop and expand so that it can cease to be, so to speak, just an adjunct of the University pf Melbourne. That might have been necessary in the early days of the history of the college, but I think the time has come when Canberra should have its own university, independent of any other university. The college has proved, by the quality of its graduates and the excellence of the course of studies it provides, that it will he able to cope with such a situation.
The university scholarships and bursaries that are being provided do not seem to me to be very generous. Expenditure for this purpose during the current year will be only £5,200. Expenditure last year was only £3,000, although £4,000 was voted. I do not like the sound of that very much, because I am certain there are many students who would be able to pursue their studies more effectively if they were assisted financially. One aspect of the administration of Canberra that is very pleasing to me is that governments of all political colours have placed education above party politics. Officials of the Department of the Interior and successive Ministers of the Interior have shown their high regard for education in this capital city by erecting schools of which we can be proud and which, particularly in relation to equipment and libraries, give a lead to the States. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall have in Canberra a university that is not an adjunct to any other university, and that will be in keeping with the greatness of the Australian National University, which is already so well established.
– I should like information from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in regard to the eleven Greek sponge-divers who were brought to Darwin three months ago in order to dive for pearl shell. According to the press reports at the time, the divers were regarded as unsuitable for the work although they had been brought to Australia on the recommendation of Mr. Eugene Gorman, who said that they had been experienced sponge-divers in the Mediterranean. It seems that they were seafaring men who were used to going down to the bottom of the Mediterranean and they should have been able to undertake the rigours of diving for pearl shell. This is a matter of considerable importance to those who are engaged in the pearling industry along the northern coast of Australia and around Thursday Island and in the islands of the Torres Strait where the pearling is a big industry and a big dollar-earner for Australia. Unfortunately, there are not sufficient Torres Strait natives to carry out the work that has to be done. It appears that the Japanese are the most suitable divers for this work but an experiment was made with the Greek divers at the instance of the Government. It seems strange that all of the eleven Greek divers should have found that the work was unsuitable to them. I should like to “know whether these men were capably handled.
– They would not dive because of the sharks. They were quite unsuitable.
– I do not think that Greeks, who have been known throughout history as a courageous race of people, would be afraid to do this work because of sharks. We know the story of ancient Sparta. At any rate, I should like to know whether that was a bona fide reason for refusing to do the work. Were these men attracted to shore jobs by offers of higher rates of pay? It is important that we should have men who are willing to undertake the work of diving for pearl shell. Does the Government intend to bring out more Greek divers? Can the men who have been brought to Australia be utilized in some other seafaring work or is it the intention of the Government to return them to Greece? One or two of my constituents in the Thursday Island area were looking forward to the success of this operation at Darwin. They have been disappointed that the eleven Greeks who were brought to Australia apparently failed to live up to our expectations. There might have been reasons for that fact apart from any fear of sharks. I do not think that their fear of sharks was the real reason for their failure to perform the work.
– The only divers for pearl shell who have been a success in Australia have been Japanese.. When the Japanese were not available, all sorts of experiments were made with other divers because of the great value of pearl shell as an export. It is obvious that the Greek sponge-divers were a failure. Those who were brought to Australia previously were reasonably good, but, finally, they ceased operations. It has been the experience of all those engaged in the pearling industry that the only successful pearl-divers have been Japanese.
asked what portion of the vote under Division 259 represented compensation for war damage in New Guinea. The answer is, £117,000. This expenditure is nearing an end. Claims can only be settled as district officers are able to deal with claims in” remote areas.
In relation to Item 5 of Division 259. “Shipping Service, £12,000”. I have been informed that, as a consequence of the sales of the vessels, twelve different organizations are operating services, excluding those plantation owners, missions or other organizations which run vessels in order to carry their own cargo. It is considered that this circumstance and the conditions of sale will insure that. the requirements of the coastal and inter-island trade of Papua and New Guinea are efficiently served. Although the Government no longer operates any shipping services in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, an appreciable amount of accounting and other work remains to be done. This work is mainly connected with the disposal of buildings, the sale of residual assets and the completion of various transactions in connexion with past operations. It is estimated that an amount of £12,000 will be required this year in order to meet outstanding liabilities which, broadly, are as follows: -
Concerning item 6, “ New Guinea and Papua Superannuation 4 Funds- Deficiency - £63,920 “, each of the former administrations of New Guinea and Papua had superannuation schemes which were not actuarily sound. A new scheme which is based on the same principles as the Commonwealth superannuation scheme is now operating for officers of the present administration, but for some years it will be necessary to continue payment of pensions granted under the old schemes and a small number of contributors who are now employed by the present administration will continue to contribute to these old funds. The decrease in the estimate for 1954-55 is due to the payment of certain arrears of benefits in 1953-54.
A question was asked concerning item 10, “ Credit facilities to native organizations for agricultural and other purposes - £56,730 “. In addition to an amount of £190,350 which was paid to the Copra Marketing Board in 1953-54, the surplus’ funds of the Production Control Board included £56,723 which represented the accumulated profit earned by the board from native trade stores which were set up during the war years. It is proposed that this amount shall be made available to a board which will be set up under ordinance in order to make loans to native organizations for agricultural and other purposes.
asked a question concerning the maintenance of the swimming pool in Canberra at a cost of £6,000. This amount does not represent a loss on the pool but is the gross cost of maintenance. Charges made for using the pool are credited to Consolidated Revenue Fund. When honorable senators are examining the Estimates they should bear in mind that revenue which is earned in connexion with certain expenditure, in some cases, is paid directly into Consolidated Revenue Fund and, therefore, is not shown alongside the item of expenditure in the Estimates.
The subject of the Canberra brickworks Ls receiving the constant attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. KentHughes). A complete re-organization of the works is being undertaken and it is expected that, after the introduction of modern machinery, the brickworks will be an economic proposition. I know that the Minister for the Interior is doing a lot to clear up the unsatisfactory governmental arrangements in this territory.
– Why does the Government have to operate the brickworks ? Why can they not be turned over to private enterprise?
– I think that the Minister for the Interior has done a great deal to interest private enterprise in Operations in the Australian Capital Territory.
– How is the accounting system at the brickworks?
– It is very good. I would not suggest that Senator Sheehan should try to justify the loss that has been incurred.
The proposed vote for safety measures at swimming resorts covers the’ cost of operating life-saving patrols at the several swimming resorts in the vicinity of Canberra and covers such items as first-aid kits, life belts, and cost of transport of personnel by cars. It must be realized that, under the new conception of a national capital in this isolated area, real problems are associated with its development. The longer the Government is established in Canberra, the more experience it gains and the more it can get industries back into the hands of private enterprise, the better results will accrue. I think it is the desire of al! honorable senators to make this a really national capital. Despite the mistakes that have been made, splendid work has been done here. Nevertheless, it is good that senators should draw attention to these weaknesses, and I shall pass their comments on to the Minister for the Interior.
– I desire to speak on Division 259 - Miscellaneous Services - item 1, “Grant to Administration towards expenses, including native welfare, development, war damage and reconstruction - £7.460,000 “-and item 2, “Grant to Administration for Rabaul harbour and road works £100,000 “, The proposed vote for item 1 represents an increase of over £2,000,000 on the expenditure of last year. I should like information on what capital works are in hand. Seldom do honorable senators get an opportunity to discuss New Guinea and Papua and obtain information on this Territory. Perhaps the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) could arrange for a large party of members of both Houses of Parliament to see what is taking place in New Guinea. I should like to know how many natives are employed on the reconstruction works and under what conditions they are working. Are they working under coloured slave conditions or under decent conditions? During the last five weeks I have seen conditions of native labour in countries which are very vital to the British Empire. If the white race does not change its policy towards the coloured race in those countries which have many millions of coloured people, the white ‘ race will not remain in those countries much longer. In Papua and New Guinea the Government is applying a policy similar to that which has been applied by the white race in other countries. The Government has adopted the proper course in providing, educational facilities for the natives. We should take care to ensure that, after the natives have been educated, there shall not occur in Papua and New Guinea what has happened in other countries. When the natives have proved that they can perform work of the same standard as that of white men, they will not be content to continue working for a wage of about ls. a day. We do not want a situation to arise in which, because of the low wages that are paid to the natives, they will come to hate the white men. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me how many natives are employed on government works in Papua and New Guinea, the number of hours a week that they work, and the wages that they are paid? I have no doubt that natives are employed on many government works, and I should appreciate information about their conditions of employment. I recollect that when the New Guinea Timber Agreement Bill was before this chamber, we were told that native workers were paid only 10s. a month. Although I do not accuse the Government of applying a low-wage policy in relation to native labour, it is so long since we have been informed of developments in these matters that it is desirable for the Minister to take this opportunity to inform honorable senators of the present position. 1 warn the Government that, unless adequate attention is paid to the conditions of employment of natives in Papua and New Guinea, the day will most assuredly come when the natives will say - as they have already said in other countries - “ We do not want white men here “.
– Honorable senators who make statements such as those that have just been made by Senator Aylett do this country a great disservice. Although the honorable senator may be peculiarly wellequipped to visit the Mau Maus, I do not think that it would be wise to include him in any parliamentary delegation to Papua and New Guinea ; other members of the Labour party could be relied on to present a fair report on conditions there. Senator Aylett, after putting up his own “ Aunt Sally’s “ proceeded to knock them down. Statements, such as those that he made, only incite the natives to do certain things. If the honorable senator would talk less, but read more - particularly the annual reports that are furnished in relation to Papua and New Guinea - he would not make such statements. I do not intend to reply to the propaganda that he incorporated in his speech, but I shall endeavour to answer his specific questions.
He referred to item 2, “ Grant to Administration for Rabaul Harbour and road works, £100,000 “, under Division 259 - Miscellaneous Services. It is true that only £25,947 of last year’s vote of £100,000 was expended on the provision of new wharfs and the reconstruction of roads. The full amount of the vote was not expended because of the delay that was experienced in getting steel and other raw materials for constructional purposes. In view of the progress that has since been made in that connexion, it is expected that all of the proposed vote for this financial year will be expended. I remind the honorable senator that the amount of a proposed vote for any item is -determined on the basis of the expected expenditure under that heading. I give credit to some members of the Opposition for their activity in the past to promote the development of Papua and New Guinea. I am sure that those members of this chamber who have studied this subject will concede, readily, that more progress has been made in the development of Papua and New Guinea during the last ten years than in any similar period previously. I commend the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on his untiring efforts in that direction. I emphasize that, honorable senators who, without having a good knowledge of the problems involved, incite the natives by making unwise statements about their wages and conditions, do a great disservice to this country, because these matters are discussed in high places in other countries. As many people take a very keen interest in the remarks of public men about such matters, we should be careful to speak only the truth about them, and avoid making damaging statements. .About £3,000,000 will be expended on public works in Papua and New Guinea during this financial year. I think that the Government has adopted a very generous attitude in relation to this matter. “We are doing all possible to win the co-operation of the natives in order to attain in Papua and New Guinea a standard of living of which we can be proud.
.- T refer to the item 2, “Maintenance and upkeep of property at Jervis Bay, £9,000”, under B- Works ServicesDivision 254. With the exception of the buildings at the airstrip, the Commonwealth buildings at Jervis Bay are in a very good state of preservation. However, those buildings at the airstrip are an absolute disgrace. They are constructed of fibro cement sheets, many of which ‘are broken. Scarcely any of the doors are still hanging, and the windows are broken. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who represents the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) in this chamber, to inform me whether, because many of the Commonwealth buildings at Jervis Bay are leased, there is an off-setting credit in connexion with that item.
.- I refer to Division 259- Miscellaneous Services. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me of the present position in relation to the land settlement of ex-servicemen in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Prom time to time, statements have been made that arrangements in that connexion had been almost completed. I am sure that those honorable senators who have visited Papua and New Guinea will agree with me that that most excellent Territory is eminently suited for the purposes of the scheme.
– I shall advise the honorable senator of the present position at an early date.
.- I should be glad if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) would inform me of the Government’s policy in relation to the sub-division of large leasehold areas in the Northern Territory. There is a large proposed vote for the payment of salaries and allowances of officers of the Animal Industry Branch. However, only about 1,000,000 head of cattle are grazed in the Northern Territory. I believe that the stock-carrying capacity of the Territory could be increased considerably. Will the Minister inform me whether any steps are being taken in that direction? Some of the best grazing land in the Northern Territory is included in the following holdings : - Alroy Downs, which has an area of 1,702 square miles; Alexandria Station, 11,261 square miles; Brunette Downs, in the centre of the Barkly Tableland, 4,730 square miles; Anthony Lagoon, 2,097 square miles, and Newcastle Waters, 4,060 square miles. Does the Government intend to sub-divide those large areas in the near future ? I should also like the Minister to inform me of the maximum areas that the Government considers should be held by lessees in the Alice Springs, Barkly Tableland, Darwin Gulf, and Victoria River districts.
– Senator Benn has raised very important matters in relation to the development of the Northern Territory.
A tremendous step forward was made by the establishment of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. Time does not permit of my informing the committee at length of the steps that have been taken in relation to leasehold property in the Northern Territory, but honorable senators may, by reading the latest ordinance in connexion with leaseholds, learn of the improvement that has been effected in relation to large leases.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order! The time allotted for the consideration of Part 3 of the Second Schedule and the Title of the bill has expired.
Part 3 of the Second Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th September (vide page 513) on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate appropriates the sum of £68,655,000 from the revenues to be raised in this financial year from the Australian taxpayers. That, of course, does not represent the total appropriation for the year for new works and capital expenditure. There must be added to that the £31,128,000 that was provided towards the end of last year by way of supply for the first four months of the current financial year. But again, that is not the whole story of the moneys that are to come out of this year’s revenues for expenditure on capital works and services, because by special appropriations under separate acts of parliament, provision is made for the further sum of £4,850,000. Those three sums, together, aggregate £104,633,000, which is to be expended on capital works and services this year from the revenues to be raised this year. When one considers that the total federal budget before the war was only about that figure, one realizes the vast growth of Commonwealth activity that has taken place. The appropriation to be made under this measure will be expended on undertakings such as the acquiring of sites and the establishing of buildings for our legations abroad. The sum of £850,000 is included to complete the building of the Australian National University. On the building of aerodromes and the provision of equipment for aerodromes, £6,150,000 is to be expended. An allocation of £30,000,000 is made for war service homes, and I pause here to point out that, as soon as those homes have been erected repayments will begin, and Commonwealth revenue will benefit accordingly. For the construction of ships and for transport purposes generally, £5,000,000 is to be appropriated, and £14,200,000 is to be spent on the Snowy Mountains project. Commonwealth Railways will take £1,200,000, and new post offices and other works connected with the Postal Department will require £27,000,000. In the Northern Territory, capital works estimated to cost £2,400,000 will be carried out, and the sum of £4,300,000 will be spent in the Australian Capital Territory, principally on housing. I point out to the committee that most of those works are of the type that will endure for several decades at least. That is particularly true of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, war service homes, aerodromes and railways.
The point I wish to make at the outset of the few remarks that I shall address to this bill, is that the taxpayers of Australia are being asked to provide in one year moneys for undertakings which will benefit the taxpayers down the decades that lie ahead. That, of course, place? a particularly onerous burden on the taxpayers of to-day. And this is not the only burden. of the kind that has been placed upon them by this Government in the past five years.
– Did the Labour Government not do the same thing:
– It did, but on nothing like the present scale.
– Has it not always been done?
– No. The normal practice in financing capital works is to have recourse to loan moneys. “When loan moneys are used for capital works, the re-payments are spread over a very long period, and the taxpayers of several decades bear their share of interest and sinking fund contributions. Under the financial agreement, in respect, of State debts, since July 1927, an annual payment of 5s. each by the Commonwealth and the State amortizes a debt of £100 over a. period of 53 years. That, I suggest, established what was intended to be normal practice. When the Commonwealth alone borrows - leaving the States aside for the moment - it should in a situation such as this, under a proper system of accounting and with an equitable distribution of the burden over all the taxpayers who are to benefit by this expenditure, spread repayments over at least 53 years. In the last few years, this Government has imposed successive burdens of the kind that is to be imposed by this measure. In 1950-51, the first full year of this Government’s term of office, the amount provided from revenue for capital works was £73,468,000. In 1951-52, it was £110,000,000, and in 1952-53 it was £103,000,000. Last year, the commitment was £94,000,000 and this vear it is expected that the total expenditure from revenue will be.£104,000,000. So, in the five full years of this Government’s regime, the total expenditure from revenue on capital works will be about, £4S6,000,000. That is not only a colossal sum of money; it is also a colossal burden on the taxpayers. I concede that, with inflation allowed to run unchecked, particularly during the first two years of this Government’s term of. office, the amounts that I have mentioned are inflated by comparison with expenditure levels in the pre-Menzies Government period, but that is the real criticism that I direct at the provision of these moneys from the ordinary annual revenue. The Government seems to be irrevocably committed to that course. It does not seem to be concerned about the extraordinary burden that it is imposing on the taxpayers year by year. The Government can blame itself very largely for the collapse of the loan market while it has been in office. I have mentioned this theme before. I merely repeat now that it was largely due to the inflation that was allowed to run unchecked that the loan market collapsed. People were not prepared to lend money that had some value only to get back at a later period money that had a. depreciated value.
– The people of Australia are lending record sums to-day.
– The loans might be a record for this Government, but the honorable senator should not lose sight of the effect that inflation has had on total loan raisings. For instance, £100,000,000 to-day is the equivalent of only about £50,000,000 five years ago. When making comparisons of loan raisings to-day and loan raisings five years ago, the honorable senaton should, in all justice, make allowance for the colossal inflation that has taken place. It is no use looking at the bald figures without taking the depreciation of the currency into consideration. I point out to the committee also that about £4,000,000 is being provided this year for the building of ships. The Government may sell those ships at some future date, and the proceeds will go back into Consolidated Revenue. And so the process goes on.
I shall not concern myself in my brief remarks on this measure with the merit.* or otherwise of individual proposals. Broadly speaking, the Government is committed to them. Many of them are already in progress and must be continued. I realize that the works are. necessary, and I am sure every other honorable senator on this side of the chamber realizes that. I am concerned, however, with the method by which the works are being financed. The Government shows no desire to lift this burden from the taxpayers.
– Does not the financing of capital works from revenue save the taxpayers a huge interest bill?
– Yes, but apparently the honorable senator completely overlooks the fact that the taxpayers of this year have to bear the whole of the financial burden, and that the taxpayers of the next decade, who will make no contribution, will get the benefit. It would be much fairer if all those who are going to enjoy these capital works were to contribute something to their cost. How many taxpayers of to-day, particularly elderly people, will live to enjoy the benefits of the new aerodromes, new ships, and the various other capital works that are to be undertaken out of this year’s revenue? In short,, there is a serious dipping into the pockets of the taxpayer in one year. As I have already pointed out, over the last five years the taxpayers have been deprived of almost £500,000,000 for expenditure on capital works.
– Does the honorable senator not agree that this noninflationary action is desirable in the. circumstances?
– But what are the circumstances? The circumstances are that inflation was allowed to run riot by this Government. It is no use talking about inflation as if this Government had no responsibility for it. The Menzies Government must accept the primary responsibility for letting inflation run.
– What’ would have been the policy of the Australian Labour party, if it had been elected to office?
– I presume that the honorable senator is referring to 1949.
– No, to 1954.
– Let us come back to 1949. In those circumstances, unquestionably there would have been a halt to inflation. I have already intimated to the Senate that the trades union movement, with a complete sense of responsibility, expressed its willingness to agree to the pegging of wages, if prices and profits were also pegged.
– There was no power to peg them.
– There was an agreement regarding wages at that point. It would have been easy for any government to face up to the matter of prices control. The truth is that this Government did not see inflation on the march back in 1949. It is of no use to ask us what we would do in 1954 if we were presented with the problems that have been created by the inflation brought about by this Government.
That is another matter: I have a great deal more confidence in the judgment and patriotism of the people of Australia than the Government apparently has.
I contend that the Australian Loan Council has not made an imaginativeapproach to the raising of money for developmental purposes of this nature. Indeed, it has shown no imagination at all. I am certain that,, if the position were properly put before the investors of Australia, and the importance of these works and the need to. go ahead with them were stressed, there would be no difficulty in raising this amount, provided of course, that they were assured of stability in the capital value of their Commonwealth bonds. If capital work= were projected onto the loan market instead of the whole of them, from, the Commonwealth angle, being charged against the revenues of this year, there could be vast relief to taxpayers. Above all, something substantial could be done for the needy in the community.
– The States would have to take less.
– -That does not necessarily follow. If the loan market is established at the proper level, it will be able to provide the money required for both the States and the Commonwealth.
– What rate of interest does the honorable senator suggest that the Commonwealth should pay?
– I certainly would not suggest a rate as high as that which obtains under this Government. The small investors of Australia are concerned about the capital value of their contributions to loans. It is to the eternal disgrace of this Government that, under its regime, the price of Commonwealth bonds dropped to as low as £82. The people of. Australia, particularly the little people, had to bear a colossal los3 because of that.
On other occasions, I have stated the approach that I think should be made to the loan market, and I am not going to take this opportunity to embark on a financial debate. I content myself with the comment that I have made concerning the burden that has been placed on the taxpayers and the lack of appreciation of that burden by the Government, and the incompetent approach by the Government towards granting relief. Particular undertakings are set out in detail in the schedule to the bill. The Opposition does not oppose the measure and proposes to allow it to pass with the comment that I have made and subject, of course, to any comment that my colleagues care to make at the committee stage.
– I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) reiterating the statement, which he has made from, time to time, that. lack of confidence has caused investors to fight shy of Commonwealth loans. If the honorable senator had listened to me when I spoke during the budget debate in the Senate recently, he might remember that I indicated that, in the financial year which ended on the 30th June, 1953, more than £1,000,000,000 was raised by loan for the States and semigovernmental bodies, and private investment of capital for the expansion of industry and the promotion of new industrial undertakings. Investments by the people of this country in industry exceeded £600,000,000. Those are colossal sums. The point of the matter is that the Australian loan market . is exhausted. We have taken all the money that was available under those several heads. It is nonsense to say. that any more could be got from the market by increasing the interest rate. It would not be possible to obtain more than the Australian people have subscribed to loans for the States, semi-governmental bodies, shires and municipalities throughout Australia. If the Commonwealth were to attempt to raise a loan to meet the cost of capital works and services such as those referred to in this bill, the money necessarily would be subscribed at the expense of the States, municipalities, semi-governmental bodies and private investment. That is the plain fact. The only way in which that position could be altered would be to inflate the currency, as the Leader of the Opposition proposed in his election policy.
If that were done, of course, the economy would run riot. There would be chaos.
We have gone through a most remarkable period of development, during which the Commonwealth has stood aside and allowed all the loan money, after the needs of private investment was satisfied, to go to the States. We cannot attract money that is not available. The Leader of the Opposition is merely beating the air by constantly reiterating the argument that we should employ loan money for capital works. I should like to see that done, because I believe in the principle enunciated in this Senate time and again, from both sides of the chamber, that Commonwealth capital works should be financed from loan money. It is only right that works which will benefit posterity should be so financed, but such funds cannot be obtained except at the expense of the States, semi-governmental bodies, municipalities or shires.
I think that there is a case for the Commonwealth to take a quota of the available loan funds. The Commonwealth has its capital works and services, apart altogether from the bigger undertakings, such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. The Commonwealth is obliged to build post offices and other buildings of many kinds. It is also responsible to improve the facilities at airports and airstrips in various inland parts of Australia. It requires loan funds to finance works that are just as desirable, in the Commonwealth field, as are developmental works in the States. 1 hold the view strongly that there is a case to retain a quota of the available loan funds each year for expenditure on Commonwealth developmental works. In my opinion, the right of the Commonwealth to such a quota should rank with that of the States. It is well-known that many States experience difficulty in expending all the money that is allocated to them each financial year. Some States are even showing credit balances and are building up reserves with the money which they have received from the Commonwealth.
I suggest to the Senate that all-weather airports and airstrips should be constructed at suitable approved centres.
The Department of Civil Aviation should investigate this matter. Where it finds that the geographical situation of a town or city warrants a central organization in the interests of safe flying and control of aircraft, it should approve the construction of such airports, and money should he allocated progressively for that purpose. We are living in an age of air development. More and more people are becoming air-minded, and the younger generation which is coming on will use the air to a much greater degree than we do to-day. In such a vast country as this, we should do our best to expand our air services. The reply to a question which I asked in the Senate recently indicated that vast sums of money have been expended on airports in the capital cities. For instance, during the past three financial years, £4,250,000 has been expended on airports in Sydney, whilst £1,500,000 has been expended in Melbourne. Approximately £300,000 has been spent in Brisbane, but a recent ministerial announcement indicated that more money would be spent there during the coming financial year. These big cities can take care of themselves. I am advocating, particularly, the development of inland airports at places which are 200, 400 or even 600 miles from the seaboa rd, in order to give better service, in all weathers, to the people who reside in those areas. I do not wish to refer to particular centres, but I am sure that honorable senators could call many such centres to mind. Insufficient money is allocated to the Department of Civil Aviation to permit it to meet such urgent needs, particularly in Queensland. I should like to see more money earmarked for that purpose.
Recent developments in South-East Asia have made the northern littoral of Australia our frontier against the encroachment of international communism. We must be vigilant and ready to meet a challenge which may come sooner than many of us expect. In Queensland, the Northern Territory, and north-western Australia generally, there is room for the Department of Civil Aviation to develop airstrips. Indeed, there are many airstrips in that area already which only need to be kept in good order. Others should be constructed in suitable places for the benefit of the civilian population and also with a view to subsequent conversion, at short notice, for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. Anything that we can do to combine the needs of the civil population, in the matter of air development, with the possible future needs of the armed forces, should be done now in the piping days of peace, and not done hurriedly in the face of invasion or imminent attack.
I hope that when the schedules of expenditure are being prepared in the future, more attention will be given to the development of all-weather airports at approved centres. Goondiwindi is a notable example. It is near the border of Queensland and New South Wales and is a very important pastoral and agricultural area. It provides a tremendous amount of revenue by way of taxes for the Commonwealth every year. Yet, although it is a centre where interstate air services connect, the municipal and shire councils have been unable to induce the Department of Civil Aviation to construct an all-weather airstrip, with the result that when 3 inches or 4 inches of rain fell there recently, Goondiwindi airstrip had to be closed. It is an important centre and provides substantial business for the airlines that serve it. The Department of Civil. Aviation has approved of the centre, and it intended, several years ago, to establish installations to permit aircraft to land there at night or in bad weather, but nothing has been done since then. That is only one example. I know of other approved centres wherework should be started. The people who live in the country areas and produce the wealth that is making Australia prosperous are entitled to better airport facilities than they are getting now. I do not begrudge the votes that are being allotted for work at the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome or the airports in other places in Australia, but I appeal for better facilities for the people who live in the inland parts of Australia.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority … . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1954-55 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the bill in the committee be as follows: -
Up to the end of Part 1 of the Second Schedule - until 11 p.m. this day.
For Part 2 of the Second Schedule - until 11.30 p.m. this day.
For Part 3 of the Second Schedule and the title of the bill - until 11.55 p.m. this day.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
Part 1 of the Second Schedule.
Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £64,251,000.
– I regret the occurrence that we witnessed’ just now. It is not my practice, as a rule, to receive the word of a man and then let him break it. I say that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLealy) deliberately broke his word. I think that was a most unworthy action. Having said that, let me proceed to deal with the subject about which I wish to speak. I am interested in the construction of Commonwealth buildings, particularly office buildings. In Melbourne, the Government is still occupying about 461/2 acres of parkland that the Melbourne City Council desires it to vacate. I realize that that is not likely to happen until the completion of a block of buildings by the Commonwealth on a site bounded by Spring-street, Exhibitionstreet, Latrobe-street and Lonsdale-street. But we find that the Minister in charge of the Government’s building construction programme is being rather obstinate. His officers have prepared plans for a building that will prevent the widening of a vital traffic artery. I refer to Victoria-street. That street, until it reaches Spring-street, is 200 feet wide. The Minister proposes to erect a building right on the corner of Spring-street that will narrow Victoria-street for all time to 99 feet. In view of the present traffic congestion in Melbourne, I believe that that is one of the most retrograde steps that any responsible Minister could sanction.
The Minister has received representations on the matter from the Town and Country Planning Association of Victoria, and the contentions of the association are supported by the Melbourne City Council, but he still proposes to proceed with his plan, without giving those representations the consideration thatI believe is due to them. It is true that there is in existence a master-plan for the city of Melbourne that does not propose an alteration of the width of this road. But the plan has not yet been agreed to. It has not been adopted. I believe I am correct in saying that objections can be lodged to it until the end of this month. Several important bodies have lodged objections to the plan as it affects the part of the city about which I am speaking. The Town and Country Planning Association of Victoria has issued a publication containing photographs of the area which will enable honorable senators to see for themselves what the Government’s plan would involve.
Almost every city council in Australia is very worried about traffic congestion. The Melbourne City Council has an opportunity to widen one of the main roads in the second largest city of Australia, but the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has flatly refused - I do not wish to be offensive in any way - to exercise ordinary common sense in the matter. Every one knows that there are more motor cars and other vehicles on our roads to-day than ever before. In Victoria, there is one motor car to every five people. Therefore, one can imagine what the traffic position will be as the city of Melbourne continues to grow. From the economic viewpoint, I think it is essential that all governing bodies, especially the National Government, should do everything possible to make city roads as wide as is practicable, and thereby save time and money and help industry to get on with its work. I hope that common sense will prevail eventually in this matter. I am desirous that the construction of the building shall proceed, first, so that parklands now occupied by the Commonwealth can be handed back to the people of Melbourne, secondly, so that the Commonwealth will be able to use a building of its own instead of paying exorbitant rents, as I imagine it does, for rented buildings in various parts of Melbourne, and thirdly, so that decent buildings can be erected in a part of Melbourne which to-day, I will agree, is occupied by buildings that are not as good as they should be.
When people are prepared, without fee or reward, to give up a part of their time to help to plan the city, surely they should be listened to when they submit what is to my mind a practical suggestion. If any one looks at the photographs published by the Town and Country Planning Association, he will see the common sense of its proposal. I ask the Government to act reasonably in this matter, and not to adhere to a decision just because it has been made. If the decision can be proved to be wrong. I think the Minister responsible should be big enough to acknowledge that a mistake has been made and refrain from doing something, which in the years to come, will cost the city of Melbourne a great deal of money. It may be argued that the adoption of the suggestion we are making would involve putting other buildings back, so to speak. But those buildings, in the main, are owned by the State Government and the Melbourne City Council. As the city council is prepared to play in this matter, I am amazed that the Minister will not do so also. It is useless for him to try to hide behind the master plan. It is true that that plan does not provide for this road to be as wide as we want it to be but, as I have said, the plan has not been adopted yet. It can be adopted only by the Victorian Government, and I have been assured that the desired alteration of the plan will be made. All that the Commonwealth would have to do to meet our wishes would be to alter the plan for the building in such a way as to put one corner of it a little further back. That would not cause any inconvenience.
– I am not a Victorian, hut I intervene in this debate because I am interested in town-planning. I had the honour and privilege of introducing and securing the gazettal of the first town-plan prepared by any local authority in this country. From that plan there arose the original town-planning legislation in Queensland, which eventually was copied by other States. I have been intensely interested in town-planning for a number of years, because I believe that the proper planning of our cities and towns will enable the people to enjoy better standards of living. I have served for a long time on local governing authorities. I know that the members of local authorities do a great deal of work for the communities in which they live, very often for no payment. Their ambition to improve their communities is an ambition which Federal and State governments should encourage in every way possible. Whilst I have not studied the present Melbourne plan very closely, I was very much impressed with the facts that were related by Senator Kennelly. Having examined the sketch with which Senator Kennelly has supplied honorable senators, I consider that the Minister should consider the claims of the City of Melbourne. The construction of the building to which reference has been made will interfere with what is termed a “ ring road “. A “ ring road “ is a road which circles a city and takes out of the main traffic stream a certain amount of the traffic flow, thus relieving traffic congestion. It is recognized that every city should have a “ ring road “. Sir Patrick Abercrombie, when he visited Australia, indicated the advisability of having a second “ ring road “ as a city grows to a certain size. From my study of town planning, I know that, if the “ ring road “ chosen is blocked by a building such as this, it may not be possible to construct another suitable “ ring road “, even at greater expense. Not knowing all the circumstances of this case, I can only base my remarks on the illustration that has been given to me. It may only require an additional expenditure of a few thousand pounds to alter the plan of the building; but if this building prevents Melbourne from having its “ ring road “ we should be guilty of frustrating an important part of the plan of Melbourne, a city of which we should be proud because of its loveliness and dignity. The Minister should examine this matter and, if Senator Kennelly has correctly stated the facts, appropriate action should be taken.
– My remarks will relate to the Department of National Development. Last week-end, I visited the Snowy Mountains project, which is the largest project of its kind in the world. I was accompanied on my tour of examination of the project by several economists, civil engineers, quantity surveyors and cost experts. They assured me that the people of Australia are receiving full value for the money that is being spent on that project. It will not be very long before power is generated at the Snowy Mountains project. I understand that it will provide power next January. I wish to thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the facilities that he provided last week-end in order to permit members of the Parliament to make a close examination of the work that is being done at the Snowy River scheme. I appreciate his kindness in that regard very much. I recommend that those senators who have not yet. visited the works should seize any opportunity that they may have to see them. Perhaps the taxpayers will be pleased to know that they are getting value for their money there.
I have examined the annual report of the Snowy River Commission, which is charged interest on the money that is made available to it by the Government. That appears to me to be queer. As Senator McKenna pointed out, the money is provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or, in other words, from taxation. The Treasury will make’ the sum of £14,000,000 available to the commission for the current financial year and the commission is required to pay interest on that amount. The Government obtains its revenue free of interest, but receives interest on. the money that it makes available to the commission although the money is not made available in the form of a. loan. Perhaps the Minister for National Development could provide some explanation of that position. Perhaps he may indicate that the interest is charged on the sum made available so that economic charges can be fixed for the power that will be provided.
from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that the plan of the building to which Senator Kennelly referred has been submitted to the Melbourne City Council and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which bodies are responsible for the city’s master plan. Both those bodies have told the Minister for the Interior that they do not desire to widen the road at that point. So the Commonwealth’s plan is in accordance with the requirements of the City of Melbourne authorities.
In reply to the question that was asked by Senator Benn, I should like to remind the Senate that the Snowy Mountains scheme is of direct benefit only to two States of the Commonwealth. Those two States will receive the benefit of the power that comes from the scheme, whereas the money that is being spent on it is being obtained from the taxpayers throughout the whole of the- Commonwealth. It would hardly be fair to the other States if the Government used for the benefit of those two States, free of interest, money that has been raised by taxation. If the two States concerned had had to obtain money for the Snowy Mountains scheme by other means they would have had to pay interest on it.
– I regret to hear the reply that was made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to the question of Senator Kennelly. However, I accept what the Minister has said. There seems to be a misunderstanding. I hope that the Melbourne’ authorities will change their minds in connexion with that building because it will affect an important road. I rise in order to query the amount of money that has been proposed for expenditure on the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in connexion with buildings and installations.
– I rise to order. I* the committee discussing the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– The lion or ab e senator should make his remarks on the Postmaster-General’s Department when the next part of the bill is under consideration.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) ‘10.56. - In relating my remarks to the Department of National Development T wish to refer to the alarming statement that was made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to-day that the Hawke Government in Western Australia had decided to cancel the subsidy which it has been paying in respect of the air beef scheme. The air beef scheme is well known to West Australians. Its importance to the meat industry and the cattle industry cannot be over-emphasized. Honorable senators will remember that the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government had formerly jointly subsidized this important industry. I am quite certain that all parties concerned with the sale of meat will be somewhat dismayed to hear that the State Government has proposed to cancel its share of the subsidy and that from now on the air beef scheme must manage without the payment of a subsidy. I am not prepared to say that the scheme will be able to carry on without the payment of a subsidy. I am interested in developmental schemes in Western Australia. . Western Australia is showing signs of development at a greater rate than any other State in Australia. Discussions are taking place about developments in the northwest of Western Australia, in the Kimberleys and in the southern areas of the State. In short, Western Australia is the focal point of all eyes in Australia. If the State Government intends to cancel its subsidy in respect of important developmental activity, would the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) care to comment on the Australian Government’s policy in regard to developmental schemes?
– As the payment of the subsidy in connexion with the air beef scheme is not the concern of my department, [ am reluctant to express an opinion until I have read the correspondence, because this matter is far more important than it would appear to be at first sight.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of Part 1 of the Second Schedule has expired.
Part 1 of the Second Schedule agreed to.
Part 2 of the Second Schedule.
Proposed note.. £28,747,000.
– I appreciate that the proposed vote for Division 47 is £22,350,000, but there is apparently no financial provision for extending postal facilities. During the consideration of Part 3 of the Second Schedule of the Appropriation Bill earlier this evening, when Senator Hendrickson directed the attention of the committee to this matter, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, gave an unsatisfactory reply. I am concerned, principally, with the inadequate provision that has been made for the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges. In order that the Postal Department can undertake urgent extensions of telephone services, adequate financial provision for that purpose must be made. I am sure that many members of this chamber appreciate the necessity for the installation of additional large numbers of telephones to individual subscribers, a3 well as many more public telephones. Werealize that, during the war period, all ava.ila.ble money was required for other purposes, and telephone equipment wa» in short supply. The position is entirely different now. As thousands of people have been waiting for lengthy periods for telephones, surely the Government should make adequate provision for the purchase of cable and other material to enable their applications to be satisfied. I point out that many business people are handicapped through being unable to obtain telephones. Only recently, I made representations to the Telephone Branch in Victoria to expedite the installation of a telephone in premises on which a businessman had spent more than £10,000 to establish in my home town. When selecting thu site for his premises, he noticed a considerable number of overhead telephone wires and assumed that he would be able to obtain a telephone readily. After establishing his premises, he was informed that the Postal Department intended to transfer the overhear! wires into underground cables as soon as the necessary material became available.
The acute shortage of telephones affects not only people in the capital cities, but also those in country districts. It is high time that continuous services were provided for people in country areas by the installation of automatic telephone exchanges. Under the manual system, telephone services are available in many country districts for only limited periods. It is only in exceptional circumstances that people living in those districts are able to make telephone calls after a certain hour at night. As many manual exchanges in country districts are operated by unofficial telegraphists, the expense of keeping them open all night is not warranted. The installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges in’ many areas which are now served by manual exchanges would provide a continuous service for telephone subscribers in those areas. I hope that, before the close of this sessional period, another measure will be introduced to make adequate financial provision for urgently needed extensions of the telephone service.
– I direct the attention of the committee to item 1, “Trans-Australian Railway, £453,000” under Division 40. “Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me whether provision has been made for tho purchase of an additional train for the trans-continental line? Excellent service is being rendered by the two train units that were placed in service about two years ago. The air-conditioned carriages, in which modern conveniences are provided for travellers, are drawn by diesel-electric locomotives. Those trains have proved so popular with the travelling public that they are completely booked out for about two months ahead. I urge the Government to purchase another train unit for service on the transcontinental line. I should also like the Minister to inform me whether provision has been made for the purchase of additional Budd cars, which operate on portions of the east-west line. Their performance, from an economical point of view, has been outstanding. They are able to accelerate quickly, they have no vibration and they are of splendid construction. However, a number of worthwhile improvements could be made. Foi instance, the seats are too rigid. If passengers were able to tip them back slightly, they would enjoy greater comfort in travelling. The journey from Port Pirie to Woomera, a distance of about 200 miles, is made late at night and early in the morning, and passengers would’ greatly appreciate any additional comfort they could obtain by tilting their seats at a restful angle. Further, it is not possible for passengers to turn off the lights throughout this journey and, consequently, they are unable to get any sleep. An adjustment could be made to overcome that inconvenience. I trust that these points will be kept in mind when new rolling stock is being obtained and that modifications along these lines will be made on existing rolling stock as soon as possible.
I should like the Minister to inform the Senate when it is expected that the new line between Stirling North and Brachina will be opened to traffic, and when the standard gauge line will be continued to Leigh Creek. Provision should be made for a new station at Telford, within half a mile of the town of Leigh Creek, which is developing into an important centre. When will the extension to Marree, which the Minister envisaged in a statement that he made in South Australia five months ago, be completed ? Is provision being made in these Estimates for that purpose? Has the Government anything in mind with respect to the rehabilitation of the town of Quorn which will be by-passed by the line from Stirling North to Brachina? The Government should consult with the South Australian Government on that matter, on which various suggestions have been made from time to time.
I pay a tribute to the Minister for the work that he has done in relation to the modernization of the Commonwealth railways. At Alice Springs, on the 18th October, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was able to say that as a result of this modernization, freight rates on certain items would be reduced in the near future, and that such concessions would first be introduced on the central Australian railway. The commissioner also said that when the four new dieselelectric locomotives were put into operation on this line within a few weeks, steam trains would not be used except in exceptional circumstances. The modernization of rolling stock on the Commonwealth railways has already proved to be of great value. This improvement can be attributed largely to the fact that the Government was able, in 1950, to obtain a loan for this purpose from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. During recent months, consternation has been caused in areas in the north of- South Australia as a result of the loss of stock in transport owing to faulty rolling-stock and equipment. It is interesting to note that whilst Mr. Bird, who is chairman of the stockowners’ association in that area, made that complaint he readily acknowledged that the Commonwealth railways had been handicapped by a shortage of man-power and materials. Those difficulties will be overcome when the new diesel locomotives arc put into service.
– I inform Senator Sheehan that for the current financial year it is proposed to expend the sum of £23,850,000 on telephone exchange services, trunk line services and telegraph and miscellaneous services compared with an actual expenditure of £23,437,124 under this heading last financial year. The higher amount will not enable the department to keep pace with the increased demands. It will do little more than help to prevent the arrears from greatly increasing. It represents, however, a realistic co-ordinated programme which is capable of achievement, having regard to the availability of buildings, materials and technical and supervisory staff. This programme will involve the employment of approximately 9,900 workmen compared with 9,650 workmen provided for in the Estimates last year. Constant and strong representations are being made by all sections of the community urging greater provision of telephone services to meet outstanding applications. The progress that will be made will depend entirely on the size of the programme. It is expected that the gross connexions of telephone subscribers’ lines will total at least 110,000 this financial year compared with 103,656 connexions last financial year. Particular attention has also been paid to the installation of rural automatic exchanges, 478 having been brought into operation during the last four and a half years. At present, 695 exchanges of this type are in operation.
– Whereas the sum of £2,562 was expended in improving facilities on Commonwealth railways last year, it is proposed to allocate £33,000 under that heading for the current financial year. I sincerely trust that that money will be used to improve facilities on the railway line from Goulburn to Canberra, particularly the section of it from Queanbeyan to Canberra. The service at present provided on that section is a bad advertisement for the National Capital. I was interested to hear Senator Laugh it’s reference to stock losses on the central Australian railway. I believe, however, that because of the serious drought, losses this year cannot be taken as typical. I was in the Northern Territory a few months ago, and I saw a mob of cattle in very poor condition being trucked. One of the stock inspectors said to the owner, “ You are running a risk here “. The owner replied, “ Yes. I wondered whether I should order trucks or sleeping cars.” It is nice to meet people who can enjoy a joke even in adversity. However, the point I make is that a considerable proportion of the stock railed from the Northern Territory in the past six months or nine months has been in extremely poor condition, and that has been a bil: factor in stock losses in transit. Freight charges are high it is true, but when one considers the vast distance over which the cattle have to be transported, I suppose one cannot take great exception to them. I do believe, however, that every effort should be made by those administrating the Commonwealth railways to provide modern facilities for the transporting of stock so that losses can be minimized.
The vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department includes £465,000 for the acquisition of sites and buildings. Every honorable senator will agree that there is general dissatisfaction in the communnity because of the obsolete postal facilities that are available in many parts of the Commonwealth. Even if the whole of this vote were expended on the construction of new post offices, it would not go very far towards meeting the demand. It is essential that the provision of modern post office buildings should bc carried out as rapidly as possible, particularly in view of the rapid growth of the Australian nation in recent years. I sincerely trust that the works programme of the Postal Department will soon nui an end to the constant representations that are being made to honorable senators for improved postal facilities.
.- I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to make an emphatic protest against the practice that has grown up in the Postal Department of erecting unsightly shanties. The department is erecting aluminium pre-fabricated buildings in various parts of the Commonwealth. On<? such building is to be .built at Invermay, another at South Launceston, and a third at Cressy. They are monstrosities. They are a blot on the landscape, and are not. in keeping with the requirements of any city of the Commonwealth. The public recently protested against the erection of one of these buildings at Sorell, in Tasmania, at a cost of £19,000. Ft looks no better than a cow shed or a wood shed. Even in Canberra itself, right opposite Hotel Kurrajong, there is an aluminium telephone exchange which is a disgrace to the city and to the Postal Department. It would be interesting to have comparative costs of similar buildings in brick, cement, brick veneer or even weatherboard. Even if such buildings were to cost more, I am sv that the additional expense would he gladly borne by the taxpayers.
– The cost would be less.
– If that is so, the Postal Department’s action is so much worse. It is strange how the practices of the various departments differ. For instance, the Commonwealth Bank recently erected a luxurious building in Hobart at an enor mous cost. It was an absolutely unnecessary and unjustified use of the taxpayers’ money. Apparently, while the Commonwealth Bank goes to the sublime, the Postal Department goes to the ridiculous by erecting buildings which are an insult to the civic pride of any community. I trust that the Department will desist, and that we shall see no more of these unsightly structures. I regret that time will not permit me to develop that theme a little further.
I have a lot of sympathy with Senator Sheehan’s remarks. There is an urgent need for the installation of telephones in many parts of the Commonwealth. Business and even medical priorities appear to have no effect. I know of a businessman who has been waiting four or five years for a telephone. He has to go to a public telephone along the street to conduct his business. The department should give further consideration to the proposal to allow private contractors to do the job. As there is only two minutes left for this debate I shall leave that for the Minister.
– I draw the attention of the committee to the need for improved relations between the Postal Department and municipal authorities, particularly in relation to the moving of telephone poles along roads that are to be widened. The municipality of Oatlands, in Tasmania, has complained in a communication to me about the interpretation of regulation 85 of the postal regulations. The council recently found it necessary to widen a road. The telephone poles encroached so far in from the- boundary of the road that they were a full car’s width inside the new road alinement. The Postal Department gave estimates to remove the poles, and the council believes that the department should be at least partly responsible for the cost of this work. It has taken this matter up with the department, but without success. In one instance, the council was charged £118 to restore two poles that had been accidentally loosened by a. bulldozer in the course of road-widening work. I believe that the question of the relations between the Postal Department and municipal authorities should be examined very thoroughly. Local-governing bodies are being put to considerable expense.
– Order! The lime allotted for the consideration of Part 2 of the Second Schedule has expired.
Part 2 of the Second Schedule agreed to.
Part 3 of the Second Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Senate and the appropriate Minister a statement’ by the Premier of Tasmania which was reported recently in the Tasmanian press. The following news item was published in the Burnie Advocate of the 2nd September last : -
The State Government was negotiating for the establishment of a f 500,000 heavy industry at Devonport, the Premier (Mr. Cosgrove) said yesterday.
He told Mr. Lyons (Lib.) in the House of Assembly that the negotiations had been proceeding for some time. Difficulties had arisen over the importation of machinery.
The Director of Industrial Development (Mr. A.G. Lang ton) would discuss this problem with the Federal Government.
If it was overcome, the firm was prepared to spend a minimum of £500,000on the Devonport project.
It is significant that this statement was made two days before an election for a Legislative Council vacancy occurred in the electorate of which Devonport is the centre. The rumour has since persisted, and members and supporters of the State Government are freely stating in that area that the Australian Government is to blame because the industry has not been established.
– So it is.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about it. Ha could not know less. I shall proceed with the story which I wish to unfold. The rumour is being kept alive, I believe, because there is a State election in the offing. Therefore, the matter should be ventilated. I was perturbed at the outset lest there should be any truth in the statement, and I decided that the matter should be taken up with the appropriate Commonwealth department in order to discover who was responsible for delaying the project. I have since been in contact with all Commonwealth departments, and none of them has the slightest knowledge of this rumoured undertaking. No department has received any application for permission to import machinery. Therefore, I say that the story is a complete furphy circulated on behalf of the Tasmanian Government. There is no truth in it, and I suggest that it is merely an election stunt. To raise the hopes of a community for party political purposes, as the Tasmanian Government has done at Devonport, is a despicable act. Propaganda of this kind will inevitably react against any government that uses it. I have brought this matter to the attention of the Senate because the statement that the Government is delaying the importation of machinery for a new industry is completely untrue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - B. H. Taylor.
Senate adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19541020_senate_21_s4/>.