21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that some of the wealthy British overseas combines and cartels have decided to increase their freight rates between Australia and Great Britain by 10 per cent., can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say what action the Government proposes to take to meet that challenge to Australia and Australian producers? I also ask him whether the Goverment will immediately cease its attempts to sell the ships of the Australian Commonwealth line, and put them in direct competition with overseas shipping companies, in order to protect the interests of Australian producers and exporters? [s it a fact that the British India Company, which is a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, line, is about to impose a surcharge of 25 per cent, upon all cargoes going to Calcutta and Bombay, and that the Indian Government contemplates placing a complete ban upon the ships of any line that imposes this surcharge?
– This matter is being handled by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who has stated publicly that the usual procedure is for the conference line to advise the various export bodies that it proposes to do certain things in relation to the carriage of export cargo for the ensuing twelve months. After that notification has been given, it is a matter for negotiation between the conference line and the various exporting bodies. Mr. McEwen lias stated that his department is doing all it can to get the correct information, with a view to keeping the charges as low as possible. That procedure has been followed since 1929. In addition to arrangements for freight rates, there are other matters, such as the provision of refrigerated space during particular periods of the year, so that the export trade may be conducted in an orderly fashion. I am sure that the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is as anxious as is the honorable senator himself to keep the freight rates as low as possible, and that everything that can be done is being done.
The honorable senator suggested that ships of the Commonwealth line now engaged in the interstate trade should be used, but that is altogether out of the question. In the first place, we have not sufficient ships to cater for the cargo that is offering around the Australian coast, with the result that from time to time we have to charter vessels to carry raw material to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is one of the largest bodies concerned with bulk cargo carried from State to State, and other companies. The honorable senator’s suggestion is rather stupid, because most of these vessels are not suitable for overseas trade. Moreover, if they were taken off the interstate trade, organizations such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would have to close down and there would be general chaos. I will have the third matter mentioned in the honorable senator’s question examined by the department, which keeps records of conferences arid freight rates, and I will let the honorable senator know the exact position in relation to the British India Company.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by Mr. W. A. Gunn, acting chairman of the Australian Wool Growers Council,, to the effect that soon after the last British budget, purchase tax was lifted on certain non-woollen textiles, including cottons, linen and rayon, but woollen goods were completely ignored? Is it a fact that the Australian Wool Growers Council has asked the Commonwealth Government to protest to Britain over purchase tax rates on woollen textiles sold in the United Kingdom being retained ? If this request has been received, has it been transmitted to Great Britain?
– I have seen the report mentioned and I will get information from my colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and give Senator Wardlaw an answer in precise detail.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government has yet given consideration to a proposal that it should set up an export guarantee organization to assist Australian exporters, both primary and secondary, to overcome the difficulties of trade, especially in countries in the South-East Asian area, in which we are seeking new markets? If the answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister inform the Senate of the decision reached, and if the answer is in the negative, will he say whether it is the intention of the Government to consider this proposal and, if so, when?
– That matter is under active consideration at present and so soon as I am in a position to make a statement to the Senate in connexion with the problem, I will be pleased to do so.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether there are any definite reasons why, when a young man is called up for military service and is rejected after examination, he or his parents should not be told on what grounds he has been rejected? It is very upsetting to some parents when they cannot obtain, any answer to their inquiries in this respect.
– I should think that the present procedure is a continuance of some long established practice for which there would be good reasons. In deference to the honorable senator’s request, I suggest that he put his question on the notice-paper and I will ask the Minister for the Army whether he is prepared to make those reasons public.
– By way of preface to my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, may I point out that the ship Koomilya, which was to leave the eastern States with about 9,000 cases of explosives for Western Australia, is not now len vins:. The shipping agents responsible for the transport of the ex plosives have been informed that the only possible ship which can take them is a vessel called Koorawatha, which is to leave Melbourne about the middle of June. I have been advised that if the explosives do not go by Koorawatha, there will be a serious shortage of explosive? in Western Australia for use in the mines, and by the oil-drilling companies. Therefore, will the Minister investigate the position in regard to this matter, and endeavour to make arrangements for Koorawatha to carry this freight on it? next voyage to Western Australia?
– I assure all honorable senators that I appreciate the importance of having explosives delivered on time. I also assure Senator Vincent thai I shall have this matter inquired into, and let him know as soon as possible what arrangements can be made.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate of the cost of the inquiry conducted by Mr. Henry Basten some time ago into port facilities, time of loading and turn-round of ships in Australian ports ?
– I shall have inquiries made and obtain the information asked for by the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether there are any plans under consideration to provide a more diversified radio programme for listeners in the north-west of Western Australia, and to improve radio reception in that area ?
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and obtain a considered reply for him.
– Has the Leader of the Senate yet received a reply to a question asked by Senator Amour on the 11th May, relative to the setting up of a Committee of Privileges to inquire into a particular matter regarding a Sydney suburban newspaper. .
– The Prime Minister, whom I consulted on the matter, has informed me that it has already been referred to the Committee of Privileges, which is a standing committee of the House of Representatives. The Standing Orders of that House give to the committee the power to send for persons, papers and records for the purpose of obtaining evidence. The conduct of any inquiry undertaken by the committee at th« direction of the House is, however, a matter for its chairman, to whom the Prime Minister has referred the honorable senator’s remarks.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. “Will the Prime Minister give consideration to establishing at least portion of the contemplated £23,000,000 munitions factory, which it is proposed to build at St. Mary’s, New South Wales, at the Menzies-Fadden ghost-town of Glen Davis? At that town there is adequate accommodation for the housing of all the employees and staff that would be required for this work. There are also at Glen Davis an adequate water supply, which cost a lot of money to provide, public buildings, a coal mine, and all the essential requirements for the establishment of at least portion of the factory there. Will the Government also give consideration to the man-power position, having in mind that the establishment of this factory will mean a drain on our man-power and materials, and that if portion of the factory is established at Glen Davis the building industry will obtain relief to that extent?
– I am quite jure that the Government, in arriving at its decision on this matter, has taken into consideration all relevant and important matters. The fact that the honorable senator was not consulted was not, I am lure, an oversight.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture . aware of the parlous situation in which the poultryfarmers of Australia find themselves to-day because of the high price of stock feed? Is the Minister aware that the price of eggs rose ls. a dozen to-day, owing, it is said, to their scarcity, bringing the price to 6s. 3d. a dozen, which is prohibitive to householders? Will he take urgent measures to inquire into this situation and provide relief as soon as possible for both producers and consumers ?
– In reply to the first question, the price of stock feed, particularly wheat, is lower now than it has been for some time; and there is plenty of it available. A very extensive survey of the poultry industry in all States of Australia has been made by the State governments, and only this week the Department of Commerce and Agriculture issued a first-class report which set out the problems of the industry, suggested methods of improving it, and so on. If any honorable senator would like to see the report, I shall be pleased to send him a copy of it. I shall also be pleased to look into the matters raised by Senator Robertson and give her a reply concerning them.
– I notice that the lovely portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, recently completed by the artist William Dargie, has been removed from the King’s Hall, and is being exhibited in Melbourne. Would the Minister for Trade and Guar toms give consideration to exhibiting the portrait, not only in Melbourne, but in all the capital cities of Australia, and the larger provincial towns, so that the general public may see it?
– I shall be pleased to bring the suggestion of the honorable senator to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs was very curt in replying to my previous question, perhaps he will be good enough to answer this one. Is it the policy of the. Government to establish large defence projects, such as the £23,000,000 ammunition filling factory and the nuclear reactor, within 23 miles of Sydney, where they will be vulnerable to enemy attack?
– In answering the question, I shall follow the rule that was always rigidly observed by the honorable senator himself, when he was Leader of the Senate. That rule was never to discuss matters of policy in answering questions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Treasurer, has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The purpose of the income tax age allowance is to exempt single women aged CO years and over and single men aged 05 years and over where the net income does not exceed £375. In the case of married couples qualified by age, the exemption applies where the combined income does not exceed £750. Exempt income, including pensions, is taken into account in arriving at the net income and this is consistent with the principle applying to other income tax concessional allowances.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Motions (by Senator Annabelle Rankin) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas.
That Senator Reid be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill-health.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Repre- sentatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
Senator SPOONER (New South
Wales - Minister for National Development) [3.32]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure appropriates an amount of £32,687,000 which is required to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first four months of the financial year 1955-56. There will be Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1955, expenditure on which must be continued during the interval until the 1955-56 budget is passed by the Parliament. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, War Service Homes Division and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will also provide funds to ensure continuous employment and to enable purchases of materials in advance for the carrying out of those programmes of works. The bill provides for four months expenditure at the annual level at which expenditure was approved for the purposes of capital works and services in the capital works Estimates 1954-55.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure, which is complementary to the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1955 for ordinary services, now before the Senate, seeks parliamentary authority for a further appropriation of £2,801,000 for capital works and services for the current year. Any details of the various items which may be required by honorable senators will be provided at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Appropriations for capital works and services for the financial year 1953-54 amounted to £97,006,000. The actual expenditure was £88,833,000, or £8,173,000 less than the appropriation. However, due -to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, the expenditure exceeded the amounts appropriated for certain items. That additional expenditure also was met from the appropriation of £16,000,000 made available to the Treasurer. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation of the several items of expenditure. The total of £721,914 is spread over the various works items of the departments which are shown in the schedule to the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 26th May (vide page 496). on motion by Senator Maher. -
That the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the proposed removal of the dual purpose jetty at Townsville. Queensland, presented to the Senate on the 24th May, 1055, be adopted.
.- Since last Thursday I have had an oppor tunity to examine the report of the Public Works Committee, and I can only say that I am astounded at its recommendation. I think it is a scandalous recommendation. May I, Mr. President, state a few facts so that honorable senators will learn of the transactions that passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Townsville Harbour Board prior to the construction of the jetty. The jetty was constructed in 1943, when Australia was at war. Every honorable senator if fully aware that many contracts were made at that time without their precise terms being set down in writing. The war had to be fought and won, and Commonwealth government departments cooperated with State government departments to carry out various undertakings aimed at assisting Australia’s war effort. And so we find that the Commonwealth Government negotiated with the Towns ville Harbour Board and the State Government of Queensland about the construction of a dual purpose jetty in the harbour of Townsville. It was decided to construct a jetty to serve the vessels of the Australian Navy, and also naval vessels of other nations, and to meet the needs of ships trading to that port. It is not clear in the report of the committee exactly what was decided upon, but the outstanding fact is that a contract was entered into by the Commonwealth Government with the Townsville Harbour Board to construct a jetty, and to remove it at some future date. As every honorable senator knows, during the period of the war there were shortages of many kinds of materials required for construction purposes. Certain timbers wertused in jetties and buildings and other works that would not be used in ordinary circumstances at other times. According to the report, a timber known as turpentine was used for the piers of the jetty. Every wood is susceptible to the attach of borers and the other sea vermin which abound in the seas in that part of Australia. As honorable senators know. Townsville is not far removed from the Great Barrier Reef, in which area, particularly in its northern part, any timber that is placed in the sea is subject to quick and severe attacks by sea borers. Every one who has any knowledge of tha subject knows that never at any time is a frail jetty constructed. To build such a jetty would he the height of idiocy, whether the jetty were built in time of war or at any other time. One rough sea could destroy the work of many
Months overnight. A fairly substantial jetty was constructed in the Townsville harbour to serve the purposes of the nation. The Townsville Harbour Board, acting no doubt on the advice of experts in the Department of Harbours and Marine, had the piers encased in concrete, and so when the work was completed, it was a fairly substantial job. In passing, C mention that many buildings in Brisbane, which were constructed during the war to serve a period of five years, are still occupied by families who are paying rent for them to the Queensland Government. This jetty was not required by the harbour board, and that body does not require it now, and so we are faced with the problem of who is to demolish it. The committee’s report is not a solid one because when one follows the evidence, it becomes apparent that at times the line of the evidence is lost. It appears that the committee could have found in a manner opposite to the way which it has found yet still be supported by the evidence that it had before it. The Commonwealth Government entered into i contract with the Townsville Harbour Board for the construction of the jetty.
– “Was the contract in writing?
– I am glad that question has been asked. During the war contracts in writing were not made ; contracts were arrangements that were honoured by all parties.
– This was in writing, [t was in correspondence.
– I did not see the documents which were submitted to the committee for examination. There may have been some correspondence about the matter. But those were days when all the details that are now encompassed in a contract or an agreement were laid to me side. They were by-passed so that Australia could get ahead with winning she war. Some things were overlooked. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Go vernment should be above reproach in matters of this kind. There should be no charge of any government backing away from an implied contract.
– Is it an implied contract ?
– Exactly. I am sorry that the honorable senator has not had an opportunity of examining the report. I have a copy here and I should like all honorable senators present to be served with a copy because its examination is interesting. Evidently the Commonwealth Government was fully aware of its obligation to remove the jetty when the Townsville Harbour Board requested it to do so. After the war, when the board required the jetty to be removed, it negotiated with the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Government began its task of demolition. It did some work and then found that the sleeves which encase the jetty piers had embedded themselves firmly in the harbour bed and that their removal was a great obstacle. Indeed, removal of the sleeves hindered demolition work so much as to cause the Commonwealth to withdraw from the job. I want the Senate to take into account the two facts that I have mentioned. First, there was a contract between the Commonwealth and the Townsville Harbour Board to construct the jetty. Secondly, the Commonwealth Government began to demolish the jetty, found that it was going to be a costly project, and withdrew from the scheme. Consequently, in Townsville harbour, which is a small harbour indeed, the remains of a structure are left to hinder the developmental programme of the Townsville Harbour Board.
– “Was it ever handed over to the Townsville Harbour Board?
– It was offered to the board which said that it would not accept the jetty as a gift. It is understood, of course, that by an understanding between the Commonwealth Government and State governments, the Queensland Government looks after harbour facilities on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Those things are done in fact and in practice and there is no doubt that when the time arrived for something to be done about removal of the jetty, the Commonwealth began its task of demolition. That fact is an admission that there was a contract by the Commonwealth to remove the jetty when it was no longer required by the Townsville Harbour Board. One of the facts elicited at the hearing by the Public Works Committee and mentioned in the report is that the dual purpose jetty was part of the over-all Australian war effort and that the cost of the demolition should therefore be a charge against the nation.
– Senator Maher brought that forward.
– Yes, and it is embodied in the report. Honorable senators who are members of the committee brought certain things forward and those have been embodied in the report. Therefore, they are submitted for consideration, and the Senate has every right to consider them. One is really astounded by the committee’s conclusions. First, the committee is of opinion that, prior tothe addition of the concrete sleeves to the piles, the Commonwealth had a responsibility to remove the jetty. That conclusion would make one think that the committee members, instead of being as they are, practical men who are familiar with constructional work of various types, are under the impression that these sleeves were placed around the piles after the jetty had been constructed. The placing of sleeves around the piles is part and parcel of the construction work. The sleeves are put on in sections until the pier is wholly encased and thus made free from the attacks of borers and other sea vermin. I earnestly hope that this Senate will reject the committee’s report. It should be rejected. It will then be for Cabinet to decide whether the paltry sum involved - £25,000 - should be incurred by the Commonwealth Government or by the Townsville Harbour Board. The alternative is to allow this structure to remain as a monument of discredit to the Commonwealth Government. I hope that the scandalous conclusions of the committee will not stand between the Commonwealth and its good name.
Senator KENDALL (Queensland) the remarks of Senator Benn, I feel that the honorable senator should have given a fuller explanation of the history of this matter. The conclusions that Senator Benn has arrived at are much the same ae my own conclusions, but he has missed some points, one of which I consider is the most essential point in the whole argument. For the benefit of honorable senators from other States who are perhaps not well acquainted with Townsville harbour, I shall outline briefly what has happened about this jetty. In 1943, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, made through the Allied Works Council, construction of this jetty was undertaken by the Townsville Harbour Board. It was about 800 feet by 40 feet in size. The Townsville Harbour Board stipulated in a written agreement that the jetty should he removed within one year of the conclusion of the war.
– By whom?.
– Either by the board, at the expense of the Commonwealth Government, or by the Commonwealth, or by some Commonwealth instrumentality, or by contract for which the Commonwealth would pay. The responsibility for removing the jetty was entirely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This is stated in the contract. It is the responsibility of the Government directly, or through its agent or agents. In 1943 also, the Townsville Harbour Board suggested that the jetty piers be encased in concrete sleeves and the Allied Works Council agreed to this course, on the condition that no delay would take place and that the sleeve* would be put on by the Townsville Harbour Board at its own expense. The work went ahead.
– Did the Commonwealth Government agree to it?
– The Commonwealth Government agreed to it. The end of the war came and in 1947 the Townsville Harbour Board asked the Commonwealth Government to remove this jetty, which was in the way. In 1948 there was a conference and soon afterwards work began on the removal’ of the jetty. Part of the end - about 75 feet I think - was taken away.
– Who did that!
– The Department of Works, acting for the Commonwealth Government. The department did no more after that and requested the Townsville Harbour Board to remove the concrete sleeves. I have been connected with this matter for some time, and I have taken it up with the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). In January of this year I received a letter from the Minister which reads, inter alia -
The subject of dispute for a number of years (the dual purpose jetty) is now the subject of inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. [ thought that that would be the end of the matter, that there would be no more argument and that the jetty would be removed. I felt sure that the Public Works Committee would arrive at the same conclusion as I had arrived at some time ago. Unfortunately I was mistaken, as the report that has now been tabled clearly indicates. I would like honorable senators to note again that that letter came from the Minister for Defence, because frequent references are made in this chamber and also in another place to the lack of defence work that is being done in Queensland. I shall say something further about that matter later.
I completely disagree with the findings of the Public Works Committee which considered this jetty at Townsville. The suggestion that was made in the report to the effect that the Townsville Harbour Board should bear half the cost of the removal of the jetty is evidently an attempt to break the original contract made by the Australian Government. Moreover, the committee should have taken some advice from, technical officers as to whether the most likely way in which the jetty would be removed would be by taking the sleeves out with the piles. The concrete sleeves on the piles do not go down more than a few inches into the mud of the harbour bed, but the piles go straight through the mud. I should have thought that it would have been simpler to have removed both the sleeves and the piles together, rather than to attempt to take the concrete sleeves off separately. However, I cannot find any technical decision about that matter at all in the report. I desire to put two main points before the Senate. On page 1 of the report which has been tabled, honorable senators will see in paragraphs 3 and 4-
In 1043 the Harbour Board advised the Allied Works Council that no objection would be offered to the erection of the proposed dual purpose jetty as a temporary expedient for the duration of the war, and twelve months thereafter.
While the jetty was being constructed the Townsville Harbour Board requested that the piles be protected with concrete sleeves to ensure that they would have a longer life, and this was agreed to, provided that this did not delay the work and that the cost of such protection would be borne by the Board. The Board also agreed to pay the extra cost of fender piles necessitated by the use of the concrete sleeves.
If I were a barrister, I should rest my case on those two paragraphs, because the Australian Government agreed to those cement sleeves being put in. No alteration was made in the original contract, which was to the effect that the jetty should be removed at the end of the war at the expense of the Australian Government. In the light of those two comments, I suggest that the Public Works Committee has paid far too little attention to the contract, and has completely overlooked the second point I desire to make, which is that the Australian Government allowed these sleeves to be put on without varying the contract which had already been made. The original contract was questioned by the Townsville Harbour Board, because that body had plans for its harbour which extended over 30 years. Those plans have been gradually been put into effect as the money became available, in the same way as work is being done in Cairns. In Cairns, for example, the local organization looks 100 years ahead in its plans.
Only the stress of war made the Townsville Harbour Board agree to the erection of a jetty that it did not want. Obviously, the hoard did not want it, because it asked for a Commonwealth assurance that it would be removed after the war was concluded. After all, no harbour board would stipulate that the contract for the building of a jetty should include terms for its removal if it wanted to keep it or had ideas of using it, as parts of the report of the Public Works Committee seem to suggest. This further statement appears at page 4 of the report -
Offers were made to sell the jetty or lease it to the Board who, however, finally refused it even as a gift, and insisted that it should be demolished. The department therefore reluctantly commenced to remove- the jetty.
Surely, it is not in the realm of common sense that a harbour board would do, or say, things as are indicated in the portion of the report that 1 have just read, if it wanted the jetty, and if it believed that the jetty was not interfering with its own plans. Until then the Australian Government had accepted full responsibility for this jetty, and it was only when the structure was being demolished that the Government insisted that some of the expense of demolition should be borne by the Townsville Harbour Board.
In order to emphasize my case, I desire to reiterate the two points that I previously made. They are the only solid foundation upon which we can base any opinion about this matter. The first is that the contract in writing was made to the effect that the jetty would be removed after the war ended. The second is that when the Townsville Harbour Board asked for permission to sleeve the piles, the Australian Government did not ask for the contract to be revised, altered, renewed or varied in any way. In the light of those two points, I fail completely to see how a committee of members of this Parliament, among whom are my own colleagues of the Senate whose opinion I respect, could have arrived at the extraordinary conclusion indicated in the report.
– We were completely unbiased.
– I should be making a similar speech if this jetty had been in Hobart or Launceston. However, I believe that this is not a Commonwealth but a State matter. Moreover, it has a very close connexion with our defence effort. Not only was it connected with defence at the time it was built, but it is also connected with defence at the present time, because in the overall plans made by the Townsville Harbour Board some 30 years ago - no doubt Senator Henty has seen those plans - will be found provision for a projected jetty which is to run practically at right angles to the jetty which we are discussing. I believe that it will actually run at about 85 degrees to the jetty mentioned in the report, but that is practically at right angles to it.
Obviously the Townsville Harbour Board wanted to get rid of this jetty as quickly as possible in order to erect a new oil wharf which is to be part of the oil-handling scheme similar to that in Gladstone and Mackay.
There are two or three other thing* which I wish to mention before 1 conclude, because they are of interest and value in helping honorable senators to make up their minds. I read again from the committee’s report -
It was held that the department had blundered badly in not completing the demolition on the cost basis of 1949.
There is again an admission of the liability of the Commonwealth. I propose now to leave the realm of fact, which I have been exploring so far, and enter the realm of supposition for a moment. It is suggested in this report that the Townsville Harbour Board wanted to put on those cement sleeves because at the back of their minds was the idea that they would keep the jetty after the war - a nice, cheap job, to which they were contributing the sleeves - and that they would be able to use it as pari and parcel of the harbour facilities. Quite apart from the plans of which I have already spoken, I would suggest that that was merely a prudent move on their part. Who among us in 1943 would have cared to say when the hostilities in the Japanese or, indeed, the European, theatre of war were going to end? I know that for my part all I could see then was a dim, distant and dark future, and I have yet to meet any one who at that time would have said that the war would be over in 1945. I doubt very much whether the Ministers, the very senior officers, or the cabinets of the various countries would have suggested, in 1943, that the war would end in 1945. In my opinion, it was a prudent move on the part of the Townsville Harbour Board to have these piles covered with cement, so that they would not suffer from borer attack or be broken. A broken pile in a harbour is a danger to ships and a nuisance to every one. It is very hard to remove. I suggest that the action of the board was dictated by common prudence, and that it did not in any way indicate that they thought they were going to get a cheap jetty which they would hang on to at the end of the war, as has been suggested.
I have also heard some mutterings in connexion with the rudeness of one of the members of the Townsville Harbour Board, who apparently got everybody’s back up. I feel that if I had been trying to get the Australian Government to do something for me, to complete a contract for eight and a half years, I would be inclined to become a little bit annoyed. T feel that had I been placed in that position I would have been inclined to say a few more or less hard words about it, especially when dealing with the National Government, which had made a very definite contract to carry out some work.
Referring to the defence angle, this delay is, of course, holding up the completion of the new oil wharf, which one can regard as being part and parcel of the defence measures of the country. Therefore, again replying to Senator Henty, I say that this is a national matter, and I would be most’ keen on seeing fair play, irrespective of the location of this jetty. Before I sit down, I should like to mention one or two points in the conclusions reached by the committee. The report says -
The Committee is of the opinion that the Commonwealth had a responsibility to remove the jetty prior to the addition of the concrete sleeves to the piles.
If it had a duty to remove the jetty before those concrete sleeves were put on, and if it took no action to alter that contract, surely it must be responsible now. Paragraph No. 2 says -
The Committee is of the opinion that when the jetty was first erected all the implications suggested that the intention by the Harbour Board was to use the jetty in the future for a long period of years.
Why, then, did the Townsville Harbour Board bother to have a contract for the removal of this jetty? Why have they been trying, during the last eight years, to have it removed? That statement in the report is just not a fact, and I cannot understand how it got in there, because this report has been signed by responsible members of Parliament. I cannot understand it at all.
– Obviously, the honorable senator has not read the evidence.
– All I have read is this report, which was produced by the committee. I certainly have not had the opportunity, or the time, to go through the whole of the evidence, but I assume that this report is based on the evidence. If it is not, what is it doing in this chamber ?
In paragraph 5, the committee reports - ! he Committee is of opinion that the question can only bc resolved if a new agreement is entered into by the Commonwealth and the Harbour Board ill relation to the matter.
I can only reiterate what I said previously, that there is still an agreement in existence. Why do we want a new agreement? Why should the Australian Government say that we need a new agreement when there is already one in which it considered that it would take no further part?
It has been suggested that the Townsville Harbour Board put forward the suggestion that if the Commonwealth Government would hurry up and get on with the job, it would be willing to place its workshops, its technical officers, its equipment and its took at the disposal of the Commonwealth Works Department, at a very much reduced rate, in order to assist the department. This would not only assist the Australian Government tremendously, but would save it the trouble of moving all kinds of things from the south, or from other ports and, I suggest, it would cheapen the job considerably. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth authorities have not seen fit to accept that offer.
I say, finally, Mr. Acting President, that I object to the finding of the Committee of Public Works, and I sincerely hone that the Government will see fit, either to call for a new report, or to taka some action which would bring about tho honouring of a contract, in the way that private people observe contracts. One of the things that T am afraid of is that thE Townsville Harbour Board may take out a writ against the Commonwealth. Although I know little of the law, I feel that, having regard to the two points that I have made, the action would succeed in any court in Australia.
– This matter has come up for discussion by way of a motion submitted by Senator Maher, a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works, for the adoption of the report, so that he may disclose publicly his position in relation to the-report, from which he dissented. Apart from that, he was precluded from taking any action, beyond that which he did take, which was in the committee stage of the consideration of the draft report, to indicate his dissent, to submit a motion to that effect, which was seconded by a member of another place- also a member of the joint committee - and have that dissent embodied in the report of the committee. Senator Maher then moved this motion for the adoption of the report as a way of publicly indicating, in this chamber, his attitude to the matter before the Public Works Committee, and the conclusions which the committee drew. The first point that I think should be made is: What are the powers of the Senate in relation to this motion? What is to happen should the motion be rejected and should the adoption of the report be rejected by the Senate? If we look at the act constituting this joint statutory committee, we find that while it is a committee constituted jointly by members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, in numbers stated exactly, the burden of the responsibilities of the committee fall primarily upon the House of Representatives. For the information of honorable senators, I wish to refer to section 14 (1.) of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, which relates to the powers of the committee. The section reads -
The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, consider and report upon *ny public work the estimated cost of which exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds which is referred to it by resolution of the House of Representatives as provided in this Act.
In other words, for a matter to come before the Public Works Committee, it must be by resolution of the House of Representatives. Section 15 (1.) of the act recites what happens when a report of the committee is presented to the House. It states -
The Minister or any member of the House of Representatives may move that any proposed public work the estimated cost of which exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds shall be referred by that House to the committeefor report.
Section 15 (7) states -
A proposed public work which is referred to the committee in pursuance of this section shall not be commenced unless and until the House of Representatives by resolution declares that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work.
In other words, the final determination whether a matter which has been referred to the Public Works Committee shall proceed, is made exclusively by the House of Representatives. Therefore, the decision of the Senate, should it reject this motion moved by Senator Maher, would not add to, nor detract from, the present situation. I make that point, not to show that the discussion is a complete nullity or is of no value, but to draw the attention of honorable senators to the position that, after all, the works contemplated in this statute are of a capital nature and that this chamber has concurrent and equal powers with the House of Representatives regarding appropriations for capital works, appropriations which we may amend or reject. In view of that ultimate financial power regarding appropriation for a new capital work, or any project such as this which requires the expenditure of capital moneys, although the Senate has an equal determinant power with the House of Representative? through the appropriation regarding the fate of such a project, it has no power under this statute to determine the fate of a capital work which has been referred to the Public Works Committee by the House of Representatives. That appears to me to be a matter which could well receive the attention of honorable senators, and which could also be a matter for joint action by this chamber and the House of Representatives, with a view to amendment of the Public Works Committee Act, in order to give the Senate concurrent powers with the House of Representatives regarding the fate of reports of the committee, and of works which are covered by such reports.
The second point I wish to make, which I mentioned incidentally in my introductory remarks, is the extraordinary position in which Senator Maher found himself when he wanted clearly and publicly to establish his position in relation to this joint statutory committee’s report. All that he felt that he was allowed to do, and apparently all that the tradition and practice of the committee allowed, was for him to have an addendum, expressing bis opinion, embodied in the report, and for it to receive such publicity as might be possible by the mere circulation of the report, without his dissent being formally registered as a minority or dissentient report, with the implications, and for that matter, the protection, that his submission of such a minority report would entail. I think that that, also, is a matter that requires investigation. That, apparently, has been the practice, and, for that reason no doubt, it has been followed properly by Senator Maher, on this occasion.
I now propose to discuss for the benefit of honorable senators, just what powers the Senate has, and also the rights of a senator who is a member of a committee such as the Public Works Committee. I said a few minutes ago that the Public Works Committee Act refers exclusively to the House of Representatives. The statute is silent on the right of a member of the committee to bring in a minority report. That is the starting point from which we should embark on our discussion. The act which creates the committee is itself silent as to whether a member of the committee may bring in a minority report, whether it be the current Public Works Committee Act or its predecessors in the statute-book. This matter has been the subject of discussion in the House of Representatives. The right of a member of the House of Representatives to bring in a minority report is, as I have said, not referred to in the act, and for the information of honorable senators I propose to read from a work by Mr. J. R. Odgers, an officer of this chamber, who has reviewed matters pertaining to this very question, andI shall refer particularly to the circumstances in which the matter was raised in the House of Representatives. Mr. Odgers states -
Neither of the statutes providing for the appointment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and the reconstituted Committee of Public Accounts has anything to say on the question of whether a protest or dissent may be added to the report. In 1923, the question of the right of a Member of the Public Works Committee to make a minority report was raised in the House of Representatives.
– A member can vote against the report, can he not ?
– Yes, but I am referring to the question of the formal embodiment of a minority report. Mr. Odgers goes on to say -
The circumstances were that upon the presentation of reports on works at Canberra, and the motion that the reports be printed, one member of the committee (Mr. A. Blakeley) then presented a minority report (regarding the provisional Parliament House) and moved by way of amendment to the motion that the minority report be also printed.
Perhaps history may show that the minority report was justifiable. Mr. Odgers continues -
Opposing the presentation of the minority report, the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Gregory) explained to the House that, at an early stage of the history of the committee, it was decided that minority reports should not be presented to Parliament. “ This decision “, he said, “ was arrived at because it is specifically provided in the Act that all motions moved in the committee shall appear in its reports, and Parliament is thus given information concerning the view held by any member of the committee who might desire to emphasize an opinion which was not adopted by the committee”. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) sought the advice of the SolicitorGeneral who advised that - . . there can be one report only from the Public Works Committee, namely, the majority report, but there is nothing to prevent what is, to all intents and purposes a minority reportbeing submitted to Parliament by way of addendum, provided that the majority of the committee authorize it.
The minority report in question wasnot presented with the consent of the majority of the committee, and the House saw fit to negative Mr. Blakeley’e amendment.
Contrary to the practice of the Public Works Committee, the early Public Accounts Committee which worked under an Act the provisions of which were similar to the Public Works Committee Act, permitted such of its members as desired to do so to submit minority reports, but that permission was dependent on the will of the majority of the committee.
The present Public Accounts Committee allows the presentation of a minority report. In one case which I recollect, a minority report from a member was formally embodied as a minority report in a report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. We see, therefore, that according to the practice of the House of Representa.tives. members, except with the consent of a majority of the committee, may not present a minority report to that House. We therefore come to the position of a senator, who cannot be governed by that determination of the House of Representatives of which he is not a member, and who may be under a procedure and compulsion that is quite different. I invite honorable members to examine the position of a senator who is a member of a select committee of the Senate. Senate Standing Order No. 311, dealing with the consideration of a draftreport from a select committee of the Senate, lays down -
The Chairman shall read to the Committee convened for the purpose the whole of his Draft Report, which may at once be considered, but, if desired by any Senator, it shall be printed and circulated amongst the Committee and a subsequent day fixed for its consideration; and in considering the Report the Chairman shall read it paragraph by paragraph, putting the Question to the Committee at the end of each paragraph - “ That it do stand part of the Report “. A Senator objecting to any portion of the Report shall propose his Amendment at the time the paragraph he wishes to amend shall be under consideration. A protest or dissent may be added to the Report.
In other words, the procedure for select committees of the Senate is that a member of such a committee is entitled to have included in the official report a minority report of his own, dissident from, or agreeing only in part with, that of the majority. The question is, to what extent does that procedure govern a Senate member of a joint parliamentary committee, whether it be a joint standing committee or a joint statutory committee. At that point honorable senators have to examine the prevailing practice. I understand that the parliamentary practice - to paraphrase May - is that where the standing orders of the House of Commons are silent on the question of the rights of members of joint committees of the House of Commons and the House of
Lords, the standing orders of the House of Lords shall prevail. If honorable senators examine the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, Chapter I.,, they will find that -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by Sessional or other Orders or practice of the House, resort shall be had to the practice of the Commons House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in force for the time being, which shall be followed as far as it can be applied.
Therefore, the standing orders of the House of Commons provide that the standing orders of the House of Lords relative to joint committees shall apply when the standing orders of the House of Commons are silent, and the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives lay down that, in the absence of any express provision, the standing orders of the House of Commons shall be adopted. Apply that to the Australian scene and to the present circumstances - the constitutive act being silent on the right of a member to present a minority report, the standing orders of the House of Representatives. being also silent, the Standing Orders of the Senate which permit members of select committees of the Senate to present minority reports shall apply. It is, therefore, a matter of strict logical inference that Senate members of a joint parliamentary committee, whether a standing committee or a statutory committee, are entitled to present a minority report to both Houses of the Australian Parliament. This is a matter which has been raised incidentally to the motion now before the chamber, but it is important because it involves the rights of senators. Questions involving the rights or prerogatives of senators should be strictly examined by members of this chamber so that we may know what we are entitled to do and so that we may discharge our duties and responsibilities. This is more than an academic question in view of the matter which is before the Senate this afternoon. A Senate member of a joint committee, who, in common with other members of this chamber, has a duty under the Constitution, and in terms of the very spirit of federation, to protect the States, has found a real need to protect from the Commonwealth an instrumentality in the State which he represents. When this chamber was constituted, it was anticipated that such conflicts of duty would be constantly arising in the minds of members of the Senate. Therefore, if that honorable senator feels that he has an obligation to discharge, this chamber should be most insistent that all existing machinery should be made available to him so that individually, and as a senator, he may discharge his responsibility to the State which he represents.
This is not purely a matter of prerogative or the pride of the Senate, but one of enabling the Senate to discharge its duty as contemplated in the Australian Constitution. For that reason, I believe that this question, together with the other matter I raised - the amendment of the Public Works Committee Act to give the Senate equal power with the House of Representatives in determining the fate of a report of this committee - should be inquired into by the Senate, or by the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate, to ensure that the position of the Senate is made clear and that, in future, senators will not be placed in the extraordinary position in which the mover of this motion, Senator Maher, has found himself. That honorable senator has had to move the adoption of a report from which be fundamentally differs in order to make his position publicly clear.
I wish now to make a short reference to the merits of the report before the House. Many of the points -with which I propose to deal were very succinctly and logically presented by Senator Kendall. In the first place, from a quick reading of the Public Works Committee Act, I understand that there is no obligation on that committee, when presenting a report, to present also the evidence that was submitted. That explains the absence of the evidence, but I consider that if the committee were able to make some selection of the evidence for presentation, particularly evidence that is most cogent, pertinent and helpful, it might well have included in its report a copy of the original agreement between the Commonwealth and the Townsville Harbour Board. I do not think the report refers to a written agreement. That seems to be an extraordinary omission in reciting the evidence on which the conclusions and the decisions of the committee are based.
– There never was an agreement.
- Senator Kendall said that there was an agreement.
– Senator Henty agreed.
– Senator Henty agreed that there was an agreement, but it is difficult for this chamber, in discussing this report at this stage, to know whether there was or was not an agreement. I accept the assurance from Senator O’Byrne, who is vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee, that there was, in fact, no written agreement. In that case, perhaps it would have been wise for the report to have stated that certain things had been decided initially by oral agreement. Then the Senate would at least have known where it stood in considering this vital report. The report makes it clear that, initially, it was agreed that this structure was primarily for the benefit of the Australian Government and Australian nation in time of war. Apparently, it was not a project that the Townsville Harbour Board would have constructed but for war-time needs. The report states that with the advent of more prosperous times and the availability of more money, the board might have extended its general harbour board plan to something much more ambitious. It can be presumed, therefore, that there was a plan many years ago. Whether or not there was such a plan, apparently a structure such as this, in its present position, would not have been part of that plan. If the board did not want to initiate the construction of the jetty as part of its plan, obviously the structure was started by the board purely to assist the war effort and at the request of the Australian Government.
The report recites the circumstances under which the jetty was constructed, and the attitude of the Townsville Harbour Board at the time. Apparently, the attitude of the Australian Government was that the jetty was wanted for the duration of the war. No one could state at that stage whether the war would last ten, fifteen or 25 years. The general opinion was that it would be an extremely long war, but the evidence given to the committee indicates that when the board suggested that the piles should be sheathed with concrete, it did not believe that the war would last as long as the fortified structure. The meaning to be given to the evidence of the board could have been that it did- not know how long the war would last but it advocated the additional protection for the jetty in view of its knowledge of the activity of borers and the effect of tropical conditions upon the structure. At the same time, it could not know whether the protection would last for the duration of the w:ar as it was visualized at that time. However, the report states expressly -
In its final form, the structure would have lasted fifteen years. lt is reasonable to conclude that neither the board nor any one else thought that the war would last anything like that period of time. One would have expected that the committee would have brought in a specific finding as to what the board thought about this added protection, but it did not do so. That indicates that the committee did not know what was in the board’s mind on that point. In fact, the harbour board did not have in mind a structure that would continue to be useful in time of peace. The structure was a military project and could not be considered as something that would be used after the war, with or without the piles.
I now turn to the comment made by Senator Kendall. Apparently, there was no written agreement in this matter. Whether there was a written or an unwritten agreement, whether the negotiations were oral or whether it was some kind of contract by way of conduct, so far as I can gather, any agreement that existed was silent on the question of demolition. The only reference to that point is by implication that the structure was there for the duration of the war, and one year afterwards. The inference is that the jetty was in place only for a limited time and that, ultimately, it would be pulled down. The report of the committee on the negotiations for the construction of the jetty so many years ago implies that ultimately it was to be demolished, and there is little doubt that it was to be .demolished by the Australian Government at its expense. Senator Kendall’s point is quite valid. The board stepped in at the time and decided to strengthen the structure. The reason is not clear. It may have been that the board proposed to revise its developmental plan, or genuinely thought that the work was necessary as a reasonable protection for the piles, even if the structure was to be in place only for a limited time as a military project. Whatever its reason, the board stepped in, and spent a considerable sum of money in sheathing the piles. The Australian Government stood by and tolerated that work. If there was an agreement for demolition, implied or expressed-
– Was there an agreement ?
– Apparently not. except by implication. I can see no reference to it in the report. The Australian Government stood by and allowed the additional money to be expended on the extra work. As Senator Kendall haE said, if the Australian Government made no claim at the time that the board’s action constituted a variation of the agreement, written or oral or by conduct, the Government can be considered to have condoned the action of the harbour board, and must accept the legal and financial responsibility that arises and flows from that condonation.
– Who paid for the additional work?
– The Townsville Harbour Board. It paid for the sheathing of the piles. Apparently, the Australian Government condoned that action, but the question of removal and the additional cost that would be involved in demolition because of the sheathing of the piles, apparently was not raised for years and years. That being so. it is not improbable that the Australian Government did not realize at the time that the sheathing of the piles would make demolition more difficult and involve the Government in more expense. That appears to be a fair inference from the conduct of the Australian Government at the time, and when the matter was raised by the Government many years later. In 1948, reference was made to the additional cost of demolition of the jetty in its strengthened form with concrete sheaths on the piles. The Public Works Committee reached this conclusion -
The Committee is of the opinion that the Commonwealth had a responsibility to remove the jetty prior to the addition of the concrete sleeves to the piles.
Apparently, the committee was of the opinion that the intention of the harbour board was to use the jetty, in future, for many years. I do not know that that is absolutely established, because the intentions and motives of the people concerned at the time are not sufficiently clearly stated in the report to enable one to draw that inference. At paragraph 25 of the report, the committee states -
The Committee is of opinion that the Board had negatived the original responsibility of the Commonwealth by altering the temporary character of the structure.
That is the matter to which I have referred. I do not consider that that conclusion flows from a perusal of the evidence in the order in which I have given it to the Senate, nor do I believe that the committee could come to that conclusion properly. I wish to finish on this note: Originally, the amount’ of money involved in the demolition of the jetty with the sheathed piles, by contract tender, was £9,741. It is now stated that the cost will be £25,000 or more. While the Australian Government has been haggling for years on a technical point, the cost of the work has doubled or trebled. It is little to the credit of the Commonwealth Government to take the strictest possible interpretation of an act of a semi-public authority, in a remote place like Townsville, in relation to a project of national importance, and many years later to hold that body to an allegedly strict contract, the terras of- which we do not know, and which, in any case, were open to different interpretations. Should the Commonwealth Government refuse to pay, and should the Townsville Harbour Board go on with its plan, the board will immediately be involved in the expenditure of a very large sum. of money, most of which might have been avoided had the Commonwealth Government adopted a reasonable attitude some years ago. For these reasons, I oppose the motion that the report be adopted.
.- We are indebted to Senator Byrne for his analysis of the situation, and the opportunity given to us to hear the views of the minority section of the Public Works Committee. I did not altogether agree with the honorable senator when he said that he thought that a senator from a State should have the right to defend his State, if he thought it proper to do so. I point out that the Public Works Committee consists of niue members, all of whom must, if they are to do their duty, divorce themselves entirely from State and other affiliations. In this matter that is what the members of the committee did. The Public Works Committee is a Commonwealth committee which, as Senator Kendall told us, is appointed to deal with the matters that come before it from a national point of view, and its members cease to be the representatives of particular States or electorates. Those who accept membership of a parliamentary committee must be willing to divorce themselves from those ties.
Much has been said about the agreement, or lack of agreement, between the Commonwealth Government and the Townsville Harbour Board. The “Allied Works Council sought the permission of the Townsville Harbour Board to erect a dual purpose jetty in the Townsville harbour. According to the minutes of the Townsville Harbour Board, that permission was granted, subject to the removal of the jetty within one year after the end of the war. That appears in writing in the minutes of the Harbour Board. The war ended in 1945, but there was no attempt by the Labour Government which was in office in 1946 to have the jetty removed. Nor was any effort made in 1947, 1948, 1949, or 1950. -
– Rubbish !
– I shall deal with some of the matters raised by Senator Kendall, although one of them is so petty as hardly to call for a reply. The honorable senator told us that one of the members of the Townsville Harbour Board was rude in Iiia behaviour. The representative of the board who presented the main evidence on its behalf was its chairman, a most capable lawyer, and a man of great capacity. He put the case for the board very well indeed. Like Queensland senators who have spoken here to-day on behalf of their State, he battled for the board. On the other band, the Public “Works Committee considered this matter from the point of view of the Australian taxpayer, as it ought to have done. Members of the committee ceased to have regard for State boundaries. They realized that the chairman of the Townsville Harbour Board was there to present the best case possible for the body that he represented, and they admired the way he presented his case, and how he stuck to it. That was probably largely due to his legal training. Perhaps for the same reason, the members of the committee sometimes referred to him as “the great evader”, because on many occasions we found it most difficult to get from him answers to our questions. The more we exa mined the proposal, the more we felt that those who were associated with the initiation of the project were able to remember the things they wanted to remember, but not the things they did not want to remember.
– Is that in the report ?
– It is in the evidence.
– The honorable senator is prejudiced.
– Some of the other points raised by Senator Kendall were most interesting. The committee sat for five days, and heard many witnesses. It ia a pity that some who have levelled criticism at the board’s report did not first read the evidence given before the committee. There can be no doubt that, when this project was being considered, the harbour authorities at Townsville wanted the jetty to be constructed in a place where a future expansion of the wharf could take place. The 1921 plan showed a wharf in exactly the same place as that in which this wharf was built. I was convinced that the Townsville Harbour Board had seen the advantage of having this dual purpose wharf built during the war, and later making it a permanent wharf. The fact that the piles were sheathed in concrete gives strength to that view.
– The Townsville Harbour Board did not initiate the proposal.
– No, but it selected the site. The Allied Works Council initiated the proposal. When it had done so, the harbour board said, in effect, “ The proposal suits us, but if you construct only a temporary jetty, we will make it permanent. The proposal fits in with our 1921 plan “.
– Is that in the evidence ?
– Otherwise, why did the board spend £9,000 of ratepayers’ money in putting concrete around turpentine piles, when it knew that such piles had a life of at least fifteen years? The wharf was not the only thing built at that time. A lighter pylon was constructed in the Townsville harbour, with turpentine timber, at the same time.
The Townsville Harbour Board did not say that it would have to concrete the piers of the lighter .pylons. It did not want those in the future, so it did not want to concrete them. The board said that it must concrete the jetty piers, clearly because it was going to make those pari: and parcel of its new programme. Unheralded and unsung- and unconcreted - the lighter pylons still stand in reasonably good condition. No one will convince me that there was any need to concrete the piers of this jetty except for the reason envisaged by the Townsville Harbour Board - that the jetty was to be part and parcel of a permanent extension under the plan the board had for the harbour at that time. It is rather interesting to note that the board did this concreting work at the expense of the ratepayers of Townsville only. Also, the board did the work against the advice of the Commonwealth authorities. The Commonwealth authorities said that there was no need, as the jetty was a temporary structure, to do this concrete sheathing work but the board’s reply was, “ Never mind, if we do it at 011 r own expense, will you let us do it?” The Commonwealth authorities raised no objection to the board’s doing the work, if it wished to do so. The answer to Senator
Benn’s query as to why no thought was given to demolishing this jetty in my opinion is that the Commonwealth authorities thought it would not be demolished for a number of years because the Townsville Harbour Board obviously intended to take it over as a permanent structure after the war.
– That is only supposition. It is not fact.
– All the evidence that can be collected points to that being the fact. The honorable senator has not read the evidence; he is going on the report only, that is his trouble. The committee heard a lot of evidence on this matter for five days and I am personally convinced that the proposition was as T have put it. The next thing I wish to advance is that no objection was taken about this jetty until well after the war when the Townsville Harbour Board found itself in possession of £1,250,000 earned through the war. It still has £500,000 in Commonwealth bonds in the “ kitty “ after having paid for a great deal of its plant. I approached this matter from the point of view that I could not see why the taxpayers should be subjected to bearing the entire cost of this project. I felt that the Townsville Harbour Board should contribute something. The board has the money. It had the money to do the joh of concreting. It concreted the piles of its own volition and the work that it did has caused tha excess expense involved in demolition.
Much has been made, and rightly so I think, of the cost for which the work could have been done some years ago. If my memory is correct, in about 1950 a contract could have been let for the removal of the wharf at a price of approximately £9,000. The evidence before the Public Works Committee was that in the opinion of the department, which has been fortified by experience since 1950, the structure could not have been removed then for that sum. The department believes that the contract would have broken down. The work could not have been completed for that sum of money but I think it was a great pity and a mistake by the department that it did not at least accept that tender for the demolition of the jetty and retention of the material. In view of the fact that all the estimates that the department was receiving for the removal of the jetty were increasing as time went on and, indeed, that there could be no guarantee of completing the work for any fixed sum, the department was quite right, I feel, as it had no real responsibility at this stage to remove the jetty, to propose that a new agreement should be made. In this respect I wish to refer to the recommendations of the’ Public Works Committee, because they have been overlooked. The last recommendation particularly is that a new agreement be made.
– I read that out.
– But the honorable senator missed the relevant clause. 1 will read the one that he failed to read. It is on page 9 of the report -
That . . . the new agreement be made and should provide: (a) That the Townsville Harbour Board remove the sheathing on the piles at their own cost, and that the Commonwealth should then proceed to the demolition of the jetty, or, (6) that the Townsville Harbour Board pay an amount in cash or services equal to half the extra cost involved in the removal of the jetty caused by the presence of the concrete sheathing.
– Did the board not offer to do that?
– That is the recommendation of the Public Works Committee to this Parliament. If the board is prepared to make the agreement by granting services to the extent of half the extra cost, the Commonwealth should do the work. That is the committee’s recommendation. The board has the plant, the workshops and all the other means at its disposal and if it is prepared to make those available to the Commonwealth its action would come within the scope of recommendation in relation to granting services. I was interested in the assertion that these piles were sheathed a3 a war effort. Nothing could convince me that this is so. I have very good grounds for not agreeing with that point of view because in conjunction with the work on the jetty a great deal of dredging was done alongside it, which was a permanent improvement to the harbour. The Townsville Harbour Board charged the cost of that dredging in time of war to the Commonwealth authorities. Not only did the Townsville Harbour Board charge for that permanent improvement, but also it charged for the work at a rate that would completely write off in two years the cost of the barge that was used. Now the Board says that it put the concrete sheathing around the piles as a war effort; that that was Townsville’s contribution to the war effort. At the same time the board was charging £50 a day hire for a dredging barge, a rate that would have written off the cost of the barge entirely in two years. The board charged the cost of dredging to the Commonwealth authorities and that dredging was a permanent improvement to the harbour. The evidence before the Public Works Committee was enough to discount the suggestion that the action of the Townsville Harbour Board in putting concrete sheaths around the jetty piles was any altruistic war effort.
– I do not think Senator Henty approached the subject with an open mind.
– I approached it as a member of the committee that was appointed to protect the Australian taxpayers. I still approach it from the point of view that I feel that it is right and proper that the Townsville Harbour Board, which has some responsibility in this matter, should pay something towards the cost of the removal of the jetty. I appreciate the position of the Commonwealth Department of Works. It has been mentioned that the Commonwealth authorities began to demolish the jetty. An estimate of the cost of demolition was made, and at that price the Australian Government was willing to undertake to remove the jetty. But, when the authorities discovered that they could not demolish the structure for the estimated price because of the concrete sheath on the piles, they referred the matter back to the Government. I suggest that in doing so they did the right thing, because they had no hope of carrying out the work at anything like the estimated cost.
I believe that in order to get a complete picture of this matter the whole of the evidence which was submitted by responsible witnesses at the public inquiry held by the Public Works Committee should be read. The committee took evidence from departmental witnesses, from witnesses on behalf of the Townsville Harbour Board and also from witnesses on behalf of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce. I, as a member of the Public Works Committee, am quite convinced that in the first place the Townsville Harbour Board altered the site originally determined upon by the Allied Works Council for this jetty, in order to put it in a place which was in accordance with its plans for the improvement of th<? harbour. I am satisfied that it was to prolong the life of the jetty, as a permanent structure, that the board expended £9,000 on it. In fact, I can see no other reason for the expenditure of that money at all. There is overwhelming evidence in the files of the committee that the life of turpentine piles is at least fifteen years, and that some piles in the harbour which are still unsheathed are in reasonably good condition, even now, ten years after the end of the war. I am convinced that it was not until the Townsville Harbour Board found itself in possession of £1,250,000, which had accumulated from profits made during the war, that it altered its plans for the harbour and said, in effect, “ Now we have the money we shall have a new and more grandiose scheme for our harbour “.
– Why should not the board say that ?
– There is no reason at all why it should not say that, but there is also no reason why the board should expect the Australian taxpayers to bear the whole of the cost of the alteration of its plan for the harbour. As far as I, personally, am concerned, I hope that Townsville will eventually have a magnificent harbour.
– Did the Australian Government contract with the Townsville Harbour Board for the removal of the jetty?
– No. Senator Cooke has only just entered the chamber, and he did not hear the earlier part of my speech. For his information T shall repeat that the Allied Works Council sought permission to erect a temporary jetty in Townsville harbour, and the
Townsville Harbour Board gave its permission for that to be done provided that the structure was removed within twelve months after the war ended. However, what was to be a temporary structure was made a permanent structure by sheathing the piles in concrete, and therefore, to my mind, the contract with the Australian Government was made null and void. I support all the findings of the Public Works Committee in this matter.
– But the honorable senator has no votes to lose in Townsville.
– I suggest that the value of having senators from States other than Queensland on the Public Works Committee is that such senators <jan make impartial investigations into matters such as the one now before the Senate. The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, spent five days in Townsville in what I considered to be the worst climate in the world. Not only -did we sweat during the day at the public inquiry; we also sweated at night. However, we endured that climate because we knew that we had a responsibility to render an impartial report to the Parliament upon the facts that were put before us. To my mind there is a joint responsibility resting upon the Australian Government and the Townsville Harbour Board to get together and share, in the proportions laid down in the committee’s report, the expense of the removal of the jetty. If that is done, and the Townsville Harbour Board gives up its attempt to pass the whole of the cost on to the Australian taxpayer, the demolition of the jetty can be carried out within a very short space of time.
– I support the motion that the report of the Public Works Committee be adopted. Although Senator Kendall and Senator Byrne have both presented reasonable cases against the adoption of the report, I believe that the mass of the evidence put before the committee supports the majority report and not the minority report of Senator Maher. Senator Maher has expressed his opinion. It is a very good thing that he should be able to do so and that in the legislation that set up the Public Works Committee there should be provision for the committee’s reports to be discussed in the Senate. To-day is the first opportunity that we have had to discuss such a report, and I am pleased that the discussion has centred around this jetty, the details of which will give honorable senators some idea of the difficult problems that are referred to, and dealt with by, the Public Works Committee.
I am quite certain that had Senator Kendall heard the evidence that the Public Works Committee heard under the conditions described by Senator Henty, he would have reached the same conclusion that we arrived at. Perhaps, in support of Senator Henty I might say that the climate of Townsville makes it a man’s district, and I congratulate the people who live there permanently under such conditions. Such people help to make Australia a great country. The Senate should be informed that during our investigation of this matter at Townsville, we found it most difficult to get the co-operation of the chairman of the Townsville Harbour Board. Indeed, that was one of our greatest difficulties in the matter. We could not get any solid basis for co-operation at all. He was most uncompromising, and one of the most difficult men that I, personally, have ever tried to bargain with. He had dug his toes in, or had driven his piles in, so solidly that he made it difficult for the committee to obtain any agreement at all. He would- agree to nothing except complete Commonwealth responsibility. However, the Public Works Committee had a responsibility to protect the taxpayers’ money, and to report on the matter to the Parliament. In presenting this report we have carried out those two prime functions.
An opinion was obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department about the matter, and that opinion indicated quite clearly that the Australian Government had a big responsibility, but that the board also had some responsibility for sheathing the piles. One of the conditions connected with the erection of the jetty was that the piles were to be driven to such a depth into the clay of the harbour that the last four blows of a 2-ton hammer would move the piles only one inch into the clay. That indicates Ihe intended permanence of the structure. These piles were driven by the Townsville Harbour Board with their heavy equipment. Then, with the permission of the Australian Government through the Allied Works. Council, the piles were sheathed to give them longer life. The sheathing was effected by concrete piping, which was placed around the turpentine piles, right down through the mud to the clay. Then it was packed inside with sand and cemented off. That is the cause of this dispute. It arises because of the expense of removing the sheathing which was put on at the request of the Townsville Harbour Board during the war period, with the intention of giving the dual-purpose jetty a longer life than just for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter. There is no doubt about that, from the evidence.
This structure was erected during the war, and because of the increased use of Townsville harbour as a result of war operations, the local harbour board found itself in a financial position to embark on a much wider scheme of development in the harbour. This dual purpose jetty became too small for their purposes. They did not wish to incorporate it in their harbour development plan. Although they could have compromised by taking over the jetty at a nominal cost, their objective was to have it removed altogether. There is no agreement in existence which makes the Commonwealth responsible for the removal of the jetty itself, but the Commonwealth accepted, as by an unwritten agreement, the responsibility for removing it. However, when the time came for its removal it was found that the existence of these concrete piles made it a much more costly job than was expected. The Commonwealth would perhaps have expected to receive co-operation from the harbour board to the extent that the plant of the harber board would have been made available, in order to save the Commonwealth the cost of moving expensive plant from Sydney or Brisbane to Townsville. One would have thought that a measure of co-operation would have been forthcoming from the harbour board, but we find that the barge which the Common- wealth wished to lease from the harbour board, and which was to be used for supporting the necessary equipment, was hired from the harbour board at a cost of £120 a week. The total value of the barge was £12,000, but in order to get the last pound of flesh out of the Government the harbour board was charging £120 a week for it.
– What would have been a fair charge ?
– I suggest they might have said to the Commonwealth, “ We will make it as simple as possible. We want to get rid of this jetty. Here is out barge, here are our employees and our rig. Get rid of this as quickly as possible and we will say no more about it “. That could have been arranged as a separate matter. We are now talking about the removal of piles in relation to the dual purpose jetty.
When we spoke to Mr. Tomlind, the chairman of the Townsville Harbour Board, we made special efforts to secure a compromise with them and to have a degree of co-operation so that we could reach an effective . agreement for the completion of this work. The chairman said, as a last resort, in the last few sentences of his remarks, “ Perhaps we may be able to compromise from the point of view of supplying you with some of our equipment at a cost “. We said, “ At what cost ? “ He said, “ At the normal cost “. The cost to the Commonwealth had previously been £120 a week, and we felt that the chairman of the harbour board, in all his dealings with the departmental chiefs and with the committee, had been so uncompromising and uncooperative that the attitude of the department had perhaps been justified. We felt that these people were trying to evade their responsibility in the matter and were trying to place all the responsibility on the Commonwealth.
It is a great pity that this matter has proceeded for such’ a long time. I feel that if Ave had been dealing with almost any one else we might have been able to recommend that this work be done quickly and effectively. Now that the matter has been raised to this level, I give it as my opinion that the harbour board took this attitude, “ These fellows coming up on this committee from the south are going to be shown a thing or two by the Townsville Harbour Board “.
– And so the committee showed them a thing or two?
– No, we protected the taxpayers’ money. We said that the work was done by the harbour board at its own request, and that the board had made the work of withdrawing the piles much more difficult by incorporating this concrete sheathing. We said that as there was no special allocation by the Government for this expenditure, and as it was a war-time construction, it would be a matter for Cabinet rather than departmental decision, to allocate the necessary funds to meet the very high expenditure involved in removing the whole jetty, the piles and the sheathing. We thought that in order to gain some degree of cooperation from the harbour board, they should be asked to contribute in kind. They could charge us what they liked for their equipment, but the provision of that equipment-would be worth as much as half of the cost of removing the sheathing from the piles. We felt that some limit had to be put on the cost that the harbour board could charge the Commonwealth for the use of their equipment. I feel that that was the only way in which we could deal with the Townsville Harbour Board, which, through its chairman, made it as difficult as possible for us to solve the problem.
The recommendations of the committee were made as a result of evidence taken from every person we thought could usefully contribute information. We have accepted the situation that we had the responsibility of removing the jetty, and we have recommended that it should be removed. All we have asked is that the Townsville Harbour Board should meet half the cost of the removal of the sheathing which was put there at the board’s own request, and put there very effectively 30 that the jetty would last for a long time. We have asked that the board should make available its equipment. It can make its charge for that, and that charge may quite easily equal half the cost of the removal of the sheathing. The work could be proceeded with quickly. I submit that in the interests of the tax payers of the Commonwealth, and in the interests of justice and fair play, the report of the committee should be adopted.
– I want to make my position perfectly clear. I am not concerned with the merits or demerits of this report. I have not had an opportunity of studying the evidence, and therefore I am nol concerned with the merits of the case. However, as a senator, I am concerned with a report which is before me, and which I have read. As a member of the Senate, I am requested to state whether or not I agree with the report. I cannot agree with the report in its present form, and I shall state my reasons very briefly. As I cannot agree with the report in its present form, I cannot vote for its ratification.
The first reason why I cannot accept the report is, I suggest with the greatest respect, that it is completely inadequate to support the findings of the committee. I shall illustrate what I mean by that statement. Paragraph 24, on page 7 of the report, states - and I think this is quite relevant to the decisions of the committee -
Most of the members feel that the sleeves did not contribute in any way to the war effort, but in fact delayed construction, and, as unprotected piles were adequate for so many years, could only have been of us* ultimately in the Board’s interests.
That statement may have had some relevance, ultimately, to the decision of the committee. In paragraph 25, also on page 7, the committee states -
The Committee is of the opinion that the Board had negatived the original responsibility of the Commonwealth by altering the temporary character of the structure which the Commonwealth agreed to erect for the duration of the war.
Those are statements made by a responsible committee after hearing the evidence. Before I can accept those statements I should be told the reason why they were made. This committee is a quasi-judicial body. It has a solemn obligation to make a report in accordance with the usual provisions which relate to such committees, and in accordance with a very well laid down formula. I suggest that the committee should state its reasons for its judgment. Its reasons have not been stated in this report. The report is completely bare of reasons. I cannot accept the report in its present form on that ground.
The second reason why I cannot accept the report has no relevance to the issue whether or not there was an agreement for the demolition of the wharf. This committee has set itself up as a body to try an issue between the Commonwealth and a State in regard to a financial matter. I suggest that the Public Works Committee was not constituted for the purpose of going into questions of Commonwealth and State relations. That is a responsibility that devolves on the Minister, not on the Public Works Committee. The Minister may refer to the committee questions concerning public works, in respect of which the Commonwealth has a financial obligation, but the committee should not be made a chopping-block by the Commonwealth and the States. That is the second reason why I cannot accept this report in its present state.
– The honorable senator has said that the committee was a quasi-judicial body.
– But it is not a quasi-judicial body which has been set up for the purpose of trying Commonwealth and State issues. There are other quasi-judicial and administrative bodies for that purpose. “With the greatest respect to the two honorable senators who have endeavoured to justify the report, I suggest that they should not have discussed matters which, according to them, were referred to in evidence on oath but which are not referred to in the report. Both Senator Henty and Senator O’Byrne referred to facts and evidence which are not before this chamber. I do not think that that was either fair or proper. The argument here should be restricted solely to the contents of the report. It is not proper for a member of the committee to embark on the discussions of extraneous matter which is not before the Senate. Both honorable senators should have stuck to the report and to the arguments that relate to it. They should not have said, in effect, “ Well, we were in Townsville for five days, and we heard things said there that we alone know about”. On the basis of such an argument, they should not ask the Senate to come to conclusionswhich they suggest are correct. I ca u n01 accept argument on those lines. It might well be that this report is a perfectly good one and that the recommendations, are proper and correct. I say, however that that has not been proved, in my judgment, and, therefore, I cannot accept, the report.
.- As one who has not carefully studied; this report, but who has listened withgreat interest to the points of view pat’ forward by honorable senators on both, sides, it appears to me that the story which has evolved in fact justifies therecommendations which are made in the report itself. Before I go into that matter,. I wish to deal with a point made by Senator Vincent. The honorable senator stated that matters of this kind should1 be decided by the Minister and not referred to a committee such as the Public Works Committee. I suggest that the clear answer to that contention is that thismatter was referred to the committee by the Minister.
– Incorrectly, I submit.
– I do not think so. I think the Minister has the right torefer matters of this kind to the committee. The committee has made recommendations concerning a matter referred to it by the Minister and, therefore, in my opinion it has acted perfectly properly. I am not speaking now in relation, to the actual findings in the report itself, but merely concerning the propriety of the report.
The story appears to be that, during the war, a wharf was required, that th© Commonwealth consented to build the wharf in agreement with the Townsville Harbour Board, that the wharf was sited where the board wanted it to be sited, and that the particular site chosen - perhaps by coincidence - happened to be one which fitted in perfectly with the plans of th« board for the long-range permanent development of the port.
– But they would not want it pulled down, if that were the case.
– That could be so, tout as I understand the position, the wharf was sited where the long-term plan of development showed the board required it to be sited.
– That cannot be right, ^because the board agreed to it being pulled down.
– Let me deal with the story as it develops. The construction of this temporary wharf, which happened to be sited as I have explained, was then put in hand. When the structure was being built, the board came along and said, in effect, “ Would you mind if we put pipes over these piles and filled the pipes with concrete ? “ That gave rise to some suspicion that the temporariness of this wharf was not as strongly desired as at first suggested. The result was that there was in this particular position, a permanent wharf. Not only did the harbour trust desire to carry out the work to make the wharf permanent; it was so eager to do it that it paid for it to be done. The trust said that it was so urgently necessary to put cement around *he piles that it would not ask the Australian Government to pay for doing so but would itself meet the cost. The situation we find was that, at the end of the war, the harbour trust, having entered into various negotiations with the Australian Government, found itself with more money in its possession that it had ever had before. It revised its original plans for development, of which this wharf had been cited as a feature, and decided on more grandiose plans with another wharf in a different position. The trust then approached the Australian Government and said, “ Would you please pilli this wharf down because it does not fit into our plans ? “
– Where is that evidence ?
– The trust did not actually use those words, but the inference is there. I am reciting the facts as the matter developed, but I should be (pleased to show Senator Vincent the evidence which he says he has not read.
– Obviously Senator (Gorton has not read the evidence.
– I will pass by the comments of the honorable senator on my right. The story is that a new wharf was required under the trust’s new plan of development. Consequently the trust approached the Australian Government with a request to pull down the existing wharf. The Government was prepared to do so and began work, but it was discovered that the work done by the harbour trust of pouring the cement around the piles was so permanent thai to pull the wharf down would be very costly. The Australian Government then said to the harbour trust, “ Since you asked for this concrete to he put around the piles, we will pull down the wharf provided that you first remove the concrete”. That was a reasonable suggestion, but apparently it was not in accordance with the desires of the harbour trust, which refused to do the work and no compromise was found. A stalemate was reached and this report discloses thai position. If that is the story - as I believe it is - the recommendations contained in this report should be adopted and the report itself accepted as being a proper report to be presented to thic Parliament. I support the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Annabelle Rankin) adjourned.
Silting suspended from 5.S9 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 501).
.- I believe that all honorable senators are very pleased when a bill of this nature comes before the Senate because they are afforded an opportunity of voicing opinions on matters that are uppermost in their minds with regard to the welfare of the people of Australia. I wish to refer to the current wages structure in Australia, and I remind honorable senators that it was never in a worse condition than it is now. Dissatisfaction with wages exists everywhere in Australia. When we seek a cause for the dissatisfaction, we are soon satisfied in our own minds that the authority to be blamed for this state of affairs is the Australian Government. It is common to find school-teachers comparing their earnings with those of wharf labourers. Clerks compare their wages with those of shop assistants, fitters, turners, boilermakers and other tradesmen. The wageearners of Australia generally are dissatisfied, and their grievances are real. The dissatisfaction has an important bearing on community life, when we consider the large number of employees who are engaged in industry. Is it good for the Australian Government and the people that such a state of affairs should persist ?
Various tribunals throughout Australia have legislative powers which enable them to fix wages and working conditions of employees. Pride of place among them is taken by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Some of the States have their own wage-fixing tribunals. Industrial courts have bestowed upon them powers that allow them to fix wages and. working conditions of employees, and to regulate other matters in connexion with industries. In some of the States, the old wages hoard system still functions, but die wages boards have no authority to fix a basic wage. A noticeable feature of all the wage-fixing tribunals, other than the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, is the fact that they have been guided mainly by the Commonwealth court. During “World War II., many industrial courts decided not to hear any basic wage cases, but to allow wages to be fixed automatically in the various States according to the variation of the C series index. Under that system, which was well known to all engaged in industry, there was a certain amount of satisfaction.
If we trace the history of the C series index, we find that a very interesting road has been followed. The wageearning masses were more or loss satisfied with the operation of that system of regulating wages. Many honorable senators can remember very well when the operation of the C series index took the basic wage in some of the States as low as £3 14s. a. week. As a matter of fact, in 1933, the basic wage in New South Wales fell to £3 6s. 6d. a week. The decline did not come about overnight, but was gradual over a period of two or three years. Australia did not experience the number of strikes in those days that it does to-day, nor was there the dissatisfaction then that exists now among the wage-earners. The people accepted the C series index, and the employers, and those who represent them in this Parliament, did not clamour for the C series index to be scrapped. All Australia accepted it as the basis for the fixation of wages, and complied with the resultant rulings.
The story changed during the period of inflation, when wages were taken higher and higher. The real wage hat not advanced in value very much, but tinnominal wage continued to soar under the influence of inflation. Then the supporters of this Government began to clamour ceaselessly for the scrapping of the C series index. It was not satisfactory to them, they said, because it contributed to inflation. As a result of their agitations, something was done about it. Supporters of the Government will say thai they had nothing to do with the suspension of the operation of the C series index. They will state that it was suspended by the action of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which is an independent tribunal, but it is a remarkable fact that when that system was introduced, no statute was passed. It wat not necessary to put it into operation by the passage of legislation relating to th*. work of the courts.
The C series index was introduced in these circumstances : The Prime Minister of the day promised in 1919 that if his government was returned to power, it would introduce a scheme under which the cost of living would be calculated in such a way that wages could automatically be adjusted quarterly. In 1919, that system was put into operation for the first time, and the workers of Australia accepted the decisions of the court based on the C series index. When the employers, and the followers of this Government who support them, found that th system was, as they claimed, contributing to higher costs and assisting inflation, it was mysteriously suspended. There are two points to consider in this matter. The Prime Minister of the day said in 191 P that the system was to he introduced to check Bolshevism, which arose from unsatisfactory methods of adjusting wages. Communism was known as bolshevism in 1919. The word has been changed, but the two labels have the same meaning.
In 1953, as I have said, the C series index was mysteriously suspended in accordance with the wishes of the Government ostensibly in order to check inflation. It gave no thought to the dissatisfaction that would arise in the community as a result of the suspension. The industrial courts in the States, and the other wage-fixing tribunals, were guided by the variations of that series. The wages of workers governed by State awards were fixed according to fluctuations of the C series index. There was a certain amount of satisfaction at the time, but when the suspension took place, what did we find? No one in Australia believed that inflation was killed, or that it was quelled in any way, as a result of the suspension of the C series index. The cost of living continued to increase after the suspension, and it has continued to increase up to the present time. There is no easy way by which wages can be adjusted to meet the higher cost of living. That is a serious thing from the point of view of industrial peace and the happiness of the community.
I have mentioned how the rates fluctuated. The worker to-day is very little better off, despite the higher nominal wage. If one system of regulating wages is disposed of, it is only natural that other systems will supplant it. Not long after the suspension that I have referred to, there was discontent throughout Australia about wages. Almost immediately the question of marginal payments arose. The agitation was more pronounced in some industries than in others. Those industries which were strong economically made strenuous attempts to enforce higher payments, many of them going so far as to cause sectional strikes. Had the C series index operated, as in the past, I am sure that Australia would not have experienced so many strikes. Finally, the court agreed to grant marginal increases to some industries, and I believe that the Government holds the view that what has been done has been satisfactory, bm more confusion has been caused by the court’s action in regard to marginal increases than by any other means of adjusting wages.
Last December, the Commonwealth Government, when requested by certain sections of the Commonwealth Public Service, agreed to increase the salaries of public servants, or, at least, of some sections of the Public Service. I understand that some secretaries of departments received marginal increases amounting to more than £1,000 per annum. In passing, I say that secretaries of departments should have been granted those increases ; in many instances they were entitled to them. But one remarkable thing about those increases is that the public servants themselves decided what the marginal rates to be paid to them should be. Then, by following the usual Public Service methods, the matter came before Cabinet, and Cabinet agreed to the increases. I repeat that the public servants themselves fixed their salaries. I have no objection at all to the increases granted to secretaries of departments, because those officers are more than secretaries of departments; they are also Ministers controlling departments. When we consider the number of Ministers who have been absent overseas for various purposes, leaving their departments to be controlled fry their secretaries, I agree that those secretaries are fully entitled to their increases. In December of last year the Minister for Shipping and Transport Senator McLeay) went overseas. My information is that he went to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and said, “ I want to go to England “. The Prime Minister then took from his waistcoat pocket b little book containing a roster of Ministers’ visits overseas. He turned to th, Minister for Shipping and Transport and said, “ It is not your turn “. The Minister for Shipping and Transport then 3aid, “ Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, but I have a private matter I wish t’attend to overseas “
– How low ar<you going to get?
– Order! The honorable senator is getting away from the subject before the Senate.
– I am dealing with r.he expenditure of £64,000.
– You have not so far mentioned that amount.
– I did not know that i.h is was such a delicate matter.
– It is dirty, and we do not like dirt.
– You got your cut nit of it. Did you see what Peter Russo said about spending £30 entertaining you in Melbourne, at nightclubs?
– Order !
– The Minister for trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) interjected, and I replied to him.
– I rise to order. I did not hear the name of the person mentioned by Senator Benn, but he mentioned a payment of £30. I insist on a withdrawal.
- Senator Benn will withdraw the remark.
– Which remark?
– The Argus withdrew, and so should you.
– If the Argus withdrew, I will do so.
– Order ! . The honorable senator will withdraw because I’ order him to do so.
– I withdraw the remark.
– If the honorable senator had any sense of decency, he would apologize.
– Do not bring up decency or I might say something which would again be out of order. I wish to i-on tinue with my remarks.
– The honorable senator should apologize.
– I have not apologized.
– I would not take your apology.
– Do not be haughty to me. Your record in Brisbane isknown.
– I do not want, to be difficult, but Senator Benn mostaddress his remarks to me. If he wishesto cause trouble in the Senate, I shall’’ step in.
– I do not wish to beofffensive.
– I am glad tohear it.
– I am entitled to a. hearing. I did not interrupt when otherscriticized me. I have had to take it on many occasions. I do not object to what is said about me when I am misrepresented.
Senator Kendall interjecting,
– Senator Kendall interjects when I am explaining my attitude. I cannot understand his conduct.
I was dealing with the situation resulting from the Government’s action inthe field of salary fixation. Recently, theAttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), when dealing with legislation relatingto industrial courts and tribunals which fixed salaries for public servants, answered “ Yes “ when I asked him if all public servants had received increasesas a. result of the Government’s action, in 1954. I knew that his answer was* incorrect, but I also knew that the Minister was probably not aware of theanomalies that existed. I know, of my own knowledge, that there were various* anomalies under that method of filingsalaries in the Public Service. Somepublic servants did not get any increaseat all. When the Prime Minister madehis policy speech he referred to marginal rates of pay. He pointed out that certain journeymen carrying out highlyskilled tasks were entitled to marginal increases. Only a gentleman who had very little knowledge of wage fixation* would have made such a statement, because if the marginal rate payable to» a journeyman is increased and at thesame time the rate for the assistant is nor also increased, a state of dissatisfaction! is immediately brought about. That state of dissatisfaction has gone on from one point to another, until we find that people are turning to other means of having their wages adjusted. They cannot he blamed for this action.
Government supporters and the Government itself will say that workers were never better off than they are at present, and in anticipation of such a statement, I say now that workers were never worse off than they are now. This is shown by the phenomenal growth of hire purchase transactions. Retailers are selling goods to members of the public without payment of a deposit. The value of goods that are on sale under hire purchase at present is something like £200,000,000. What does that figure indicate? It shows that the persons who are purchasing goods under hire purchase have not the money to buy those goods outright or even to pay a substantial deposit on them. In addition, the purchase of goods under the hire purchase system means the payment of a higher price. All hire purchase transactions are really loans and carry interest. Therefore it is actually costing the workers of Australia more to live.
I wish to refer briefly to child endowment, because I regard this as an integral part of the wages system of Australia.
– Introduced by a liberal government.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– Order ! Interjections must cease. They are embarrassing to the honorable senator, as he intimated earlier in his remarks.
– I do not mind at all if honorable senators interject. One interjection was to the effect that the child endowment scheme was introduced by a Liberal government. This would seem to show that a Liberal or a LiberalCountry party government soundly believes in child endowment, and I am not commenting at the moment on whether such a government introduced it or not. My comment is that to introduce it is one thing and to maintain it at a proper level is another. The rates that are being paid at the present time, in view of the dates on which they were introduced, are much below the level that they should be. The sum of 5s. a week now payable in respect of the first child of a family should be in the neighbourhood of 8s., and the sum of 10s. a week payable in respect of the second child of a family and subsequent children under the age of sixteen years should be 18s. One of the arguments used when child endowment was introduced was that the payment of child endowment would build a national asset in the children of Australia. It was stated that child endowment not only would assist family units in the Commonwealth, but. also would assist the building of an asset in the interests of the nation. Yet when it is mooted now that the rate should be increased even only slightly by, say, as little as a shilling a week, it is pointed ou-t immediately that if the rates were increased even by that small weekly sum, the total annual cost would exceed £7,000,000. Well, what is £7,000,000 in relation to the number of children in Australia at present and in relation to their future and the future of their country? All reasonable senators believe that those rates should be increased immediately.
I will touch only briefly, too, on age pensions. The rate for a married male age pensioner is £3 10s. a week, and his wife is paid a like sum. Honorable senators are told that a man and his wife who have a combined age pension of £7 a week may also have an income of £7 a week from other sources, making a total permissible income of £14 a week. This leads me to examine how age pensioners can get an income of £7 a week apart from the pension itself. It can be obtained only through dividends from some company, through rent, or by work. Every one knows how hopeless the situation is in relation to age pensioners gaining employment, but that is not the point which I want to make. It is said frequently by Government supporters that a man and his wife receiving age pensions can have a total income of £14 a week, and therefore, everything is satisfactory. Perhaps they wish the people to believe that all the age pensioners in the Commonwealth have this income of £14 a week, but of course this is not at all the true picture. The report of the Director-General of Social Services reveals that the majority of age pensioners - probably the proportion is as high as SO per cent. - have no income other than their pensions. Government senators pride themselves upon the social service benefits they have granted the people in various ways since they have held office, but it is most interesting to examine their record. Only recently, I heard a charge that a Labour government some years ago reduced pension rates. The makers of that statement overlook their, own actions when, in 1933, they introduced legislation that allowed them to charge against r,he estates of deceased pensioners the total sum that had been paid to them in pensions. One of the provisions of the legislation that was introduced at that time read like this -
Upon the death of any person who, at any time after the 12th October, 1032, was in receipt of a pension, there shall be repayable to the Commonwealth out of the estate of the pensioner an amount equalling the total amount of pension received.
– On what condition? Read it all.
– The Minister can get the legislation and read it. This applied to pensioners who had property, and it resulted in about 12,000 pensioners going outside the pension fund. The government responsible for that enactment prided itself on having saved about E650,000 per annum by its legislation. I wish to refer now to the employment situation in Australia. From time to time figures are quoted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) relating to vacancies in industry, yet we read in the press, at the same time, of small factories being closed down and of workers being thrown out of employment. One does not know what r-o believe because just at the moment the picture is confused. What we do find is that the Government is not contributing in any way by its own actions and by its legislation to improving and stabilizing the employment structure in Australia. The Commonwealth Government’s power in the financial field in Australia has improved considerably over recent years. Take the procedure of the Australian Loan Council as an example. The State Premiers attend Australian Loan Council meetings to discuss their requirements with the Commonwealth Government. A sum is decided upon to be allotted to the States to enable them to carry out their loan programmes.
These involve major constructional work? of tremendous importance to the Australian economy. The raising of the loan funds is left to the Commonwealth Government and when the State Premiers re turn to their respective States they expect to get in due course all that they need to carry out their loan works programmes. But if the Australian Government fails to raise the necessary sum they will be left short of funds to improve the publicestate. That is one of the powers of the Government which is directly related to the employment structure of this country. The States must employ labour to carry out capital works, and after capital works have been completed there are always land settlement and other enterprises to be completed which will improve the productivity of the country. By that means employment is stabilized.
The credit policy of this Government is probably not even known to the Government itself from one moment to another, because the Government has adopted a kind of stop-go policy in respect to credit. At present the banks can make loans to persons who want to erect their own houses, but if a man has an old house which needs reconditioning or to be partly reconstructed, he finds it most difficult to obtain even a small sum of money by way of loan.
The administration of the Department of Customs is most important in our employment structure, because if import* are limited in any particular direction the employment of a whole section of our industry may be threatened and ultimately destroyed. Quite recently this Government has restricted imports; but we should appreciate that about 70 per cent, of our imports are raw materials required by our industries. Therefore, if the importation of raw materials is reduced to any great degree the employment of many of our people will bp affected.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there is unemployment in Australia at present?
– I am not here to answer questions. I shall deal with that matter later. If our import policy is not sound we may once more see mass unemployment in Australia similar to the unemployment that existed here from 1.928 to 1940. It is very easy for unemployment to occur, as I shall illustrate later.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable senator desires to be heard in silence, and the Senate must respect his wishes.
– It may appear that our employment structure is very strong, and that there are good prospects that it will continue to be strong. However, honorable senators ‘should ask themselves what would happen if the flow of immigrants to this country suddenly stopped or was reduced. Immediately there would be a falling off of the demand for bouses and a lessening of the demand for furniture and consumer goods. Unemployment in the housing, furniture and other industries would immediately become apparent. However, I shall also deal with that matter later.
Our overseas trade balance recently fell to the low figure of £376,000,000. I suggest that that is rather a dangerous level. Quite recently it was announced that shipping freights on goods coming to Australia would be increased, and that Australia would have to pay higher freight on its exports. Freight charges are direct costs, which have to be absorbed by the economy in some way. Consequently, they have to be borne by the public. But the members of the present Government do not object strongly to increased freights because they support combines and monopolies in our community. Government supporters believe that free enterprise is the dynamo which keeps the solar system in motion. They believe in high profits, but they would like to see the operation of the C series index suspended indefinitely. These freight rates have been increased without any consultation with the Australian Government, and without any discussions with our primary producers.
It is interesting to note the mergers of various companies that have taken place in Australia. In the United States of America a commission has been set up and charged with the duty to investigate federal trade, mergers, monopolies, cartels and various other organizations which may adversely affect the economy of the country. I have before me. a most interesting report of that commission which deals with the merging of certain companies. The report reads -
The Profits-Merger Spiral.
High profits and intensive merger activity have historically gone hand in hand. This is true of the great consolidation movement of 1S97-1905, the post-World War 1 movement the .period of the late twenties, and it is no less true at the present time. Not only deprofits provide the financial wherewithal with which to effect mergers; but more than that, they exert a powerful pressure on business to expand, both internally by building new plant and equipment, and externally by absorbing existing concerns.
As profits reach high levels, part of them are characteristically plowed back into corporate surpluses, which then accumulate in the form of reservoirs of unused working capital. In the absence of any government restriction, it is only to bc expected thai business will tend to seek outlets for these funds through the purchase of competitors, suppliers, distributors, or even organisations engaged in completely unrelated lines of activity. Traditionally, this profits-merger spiral has been checked only by an economic collapse or by the virtual elimination of effective competition.
I suggest that activities such as are indicated in that report are going on to some degree in Australia at the present time. Day after day we may read reports of companies merging and acquiring greater holds on the business life of Australia. Of course, this Government does nol object to that sort of thing; it is only concerned when increased wages for the workers are involved. However, the Government expresses concern about some of our primary products. Recently, Senator Laught asked a question in this chamber about certain tenders that were submitted to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in respect of electrical equipment required by that concern. The relevant Minister answered the senator to the effect that eight tenders had been received by the authority, and that all of them were for the same amount. A ninth tender, which was for a lower price, was finally accepted. I suggest that those tenders showed evidence of the operation of a cartel. The Minister concluded his answer by saying that he wai of the opinion that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was quite capable of looking after itself. I have a high, regard for the capacity of the general manager . of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and I also believe that he can look after himself. However, I am concerned about the people of Australia and the effect that cartels will have upon them. The report of the American commission which I recently read also contains references to the operation of cartels in respect of the supply of electrical equipment. These cartels have functioned on an international basis, and no doubt Australia has been a victim of some of them. The Minister may feel satisfied that he received the lowest tender, but that could have been arranged by the cartels. All those things operate to the detriment of the people.
– What is the honorable senator’s answer?
– The answer is this: I am a member of a party which is opposed to cartels, and which would have them thoroughly investigated. It would not accept the present situation at all, but would ensure that no cartels existed.
– And socialize the lot!
– Does the honorable senator know the meaning of socialization ?
– I think so.
– I do not think he does, but perhaps I shall test his knowledge in a few minutes. I was about to deal with some of our primary products. With regard to wool, perhaps the outlook is better than for some of the other Australian products. There was a slight reduction in the price of wool last year as compared with the previous year, and there is a greater quantity in stock than there was twelve months ago. We also find that the use of wool is decreasing as compared with the use that is being made of other fibres. During the past twelve months there was a 2 per cent, increase in the amount of wool used for manufacturing purposes. There was an increase of 4 per cent, in the amount of cotton used, an increase of 16 per cent, in the use of rayon fibres, and all other fibres showed an increase of 20 per cent. That indicates that wool is not going to be used in the future to the extent that it has been used in the past. It is well known that the whole fiscal policy of the Australian Government rests upon the price of wool. Our wool is sold to red Russia and to other countries; it does not matter ti» whom it is sold so long as the price is obtained.
The wheat industry also is in a most precarious position. The United States of America had, at the beginning of the last wheat season, about 900,000,000 bushels on hand. It was such a huge quantity of wheat that that country was forced to exercise control over the growing of it, and at present wheat is grown in the United States of America on a restricted basis. In Australia, the picture is noi a pleasant one. We have a large quantity of wheat on hand which we are unable to sell. In addition, the mills that have been crushing flour for overseas sales are gradually closing down, because they are unable to sell their products.
I could go on to deal with the other primary industries if I wished. I could point out that the dairy industry is receiving a subsidy amounting to £15,000,000 from the Australian Government, to keep it on an economic level. I could refer to the meat industry. This year, the British Government informed Australian meatgrowers that Britain did not require the same quantity of meat that it had formerly been importing from this country. It was found that there was a large quantity of meat in cold storage in Britain, which had been kept in that condition for a year or two, and was being sold in competition with other foodstuffs, and it was difficult to obtain an economic price for it. Other primary products are in much the same position.
When that general picture is studied, it is obvious that the outlook is not bright for the average Australian. T commenced by saying that there was great dissatisfaction among the wage-earning members of the community, and the Australian Government will be required to take some action to dispel that dissatisfaction. It is not for me at the moment to suggest a remedy, but I am quite able to do so.
As to our secondary industries, it is difficult to say how long they can continue on their present basis. Manufacturers know that retailers are disposing of their goods by selling them to the public on a hire-purchase basis without even receiving a deposit. How much longer we can continue to operate on a credit system such as that I do not know.
The primary industries of Australia are not in a sound condition. It is well known that interested people in South Australia are very concerned about the wine industry. They do not know what the future of that industry will be. They do not know whether the acreage of vineyards in Australia will have to be restricted next year. They do not know just what is going to happen to primary industries generally. The economy of Australia under the present Government is becoming weaker and weaker.
– I desire to make a few comments, first, in answer to the remarks of Senator Benn. I shall not attempt to follow Senator Benn through all the highways and byways that he explored, but I should like to indicate to him and the Senate the position as revealed by some statistics that were received a little over a week ago. These figures concern savings bank deposits in Australia. Be it remembered that I am now referring to the savings bank deposits of every man, woman and child in this country. They would be mainly the deposits of working people. The average in South Australia, for every man, woman and child in that State is £160. In Victoria it is approximately £140. I think the figure for Queensland i3 well over £90. Whatever State is considered, the savings bank deposits of the people are at an all-time high level. That is a clear indication of a high level of prosperity in this country. It shows that people are saving more than ever before, despite the gloomy remarks made by Senator Benn concerning the economy of the country. There is a high level of prosperity in Australia, and there is a high level of employment. The last figures released by the Minister indicate that unemployment is practically non-existent. Of course, that applies also to unemployment relief benefits. I believe that in South Australia at present there are well under 100 persons receiving unemployment relief.
– The number is 52.
– Thank you, senator. I should imagine that the position in the other States is similar. We, therefore, have savings bank deposits at an all-time high, and unemployment and unemployment relief at an all-time low. I contend that the economy of this country is as sound at present as it has ever been.
Senator Benn harked back to conditions that applied 20 or 30 years ago. He even went so far as to refer to estate duty in respect of the estates of pensioners. I suggest that the honorable senator should bring his economics up to date. If he did so, he would be able to make a more worth-while contribution to the debates in this chamber.
It is the privilege of honorable senators, when the Supply bill is before the Senate, to address themselves to a wide range of topics. I propose to say something about the Constitution. I suggest that if we could alter the Constitution so as to improve the political relations between the Commonwealth and the States, we should be taking a step in the right direction. A review of the Constitution could easily be the means of improving the financial position of the country. I wish to refer to some words of Sir John Latham, a former distinguished Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, and for a number of years, a distinguished member of the House of Representatives. About a fortnight ago, in an address to the National University, Sir John spoke of the possibility of altering the Constitution with a view to enabling Australia to take its place as a vigorous and united nation in the modern world. He made a plea for the removal of friction and waste from our civil, economic and political life. He drew attention to the fact that a number of constitutional problems had developed during the last 50 years or so, and he pointed out that we had a chance to devise ways of righting the wrongs thathad become apparent.
It is essential for us to do something about the industrial power of the Commonwealth. It should be remembered that, when the Constitution wa3 drawn up, industrial power was given to the new federal body in a limited kind of way. Provision was made for the Commonwealth Parliament to have the ability to make laws with regard to industrial disputes which extended beyond the limits of any one State, and that provision presupposed that a dispute should exist before the Commonwealth could legislate in the industrial sphere. It appears to me, in this modern age, that to presuppose a dispute before a legislative body can carry out its functions is entirely wrong. There is an opportunity for us to have a look at the Constitution in that respect. Provision for the holding of something in the nature of a round table conference between management and labour should be made. At present, a dispute must exist before the Commonwealth authority can intervene, and management and labour, by then, are at arm’s length. I support the remarks of Sir John Latham to the utmost of my ability.
– Does the honorable senator contend that there is.no conciliation power in the Constitution at present ?
– As I see the position, there has to be a dispute before the full legislative power of the Commonwealth can be exercised.
– And the dispute must extend beyond the limits of a State.
– That is true. Sir John Latham also referred’ to that timehonoured question : What is the meaning of section 92? I shall not go into that matter this evening, but I suggest that that also is something that should be considered, along with questions relating to the functions of the Senate, and the method of electing senators.
The biggest problem of all, as Sir John Latham pointed out in his fine speech, is that of State grants. It seems to be impossible to carry on the government of the country without waste while such a vague relationship exists between the Commonwealth and the States regarding financial matters. In a few weeks’ time, the Premiers of the States will be meeting here in Canberra, and there will be a bargaining session between them and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth concerning the distribution of revenues. In that atmosphere of bargaining - almost, as it were, of horse trading - the whole of the finances of the States will be determined, which, of course, is the very antithesis of sound budgeting. I invite the attention of the Government to the growing need for consideration of these important constitutional problems which are becoming more pressing as the years go by. It is quite understandable that such problems should have arisen, because the Constitution was drafted in the Victorian era. All aspects of our life have progressed tremendously since then.
I come now to the part of the Constitution which relates to the judicial power of the Commonwealth. There appear to me to be three main divisions of the Constitution : The part which relates to Parliament and its powers, the part which relates to the Executive, or Cabinet, and its powers, and the part which relates to the judicature and its powers. As honorable senators no doubt appreciate, the judicature is important in a federal systern, as it is in any British governmental system, because one of the fundamentals of the British system of government is the rule of law which has been laid down by the courts over the centuries. It is particularly important in a federal system, because it is the duty of the courts to determine whether or not laws are valid, and the determination of the validity of laws plays an important part in maintaining the balance between the States and the federal body. Year by year, the function of the federal judicature has become more and more important. The High Court of Australia has two jurisdictions; one is original, in which it hears cases in the first instance, including many constitutional matters, whilst the other is an appellate jurisdiction, in which it hears appeals from the lower, or State, courts.
I wish to refer the Senate particularly to section 71 of the Constitution, which provides that -
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Supreme Court to be called the High Court of Australia -
I wish to emphasize the next provision - mid in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates,
And I invite special attention to the next provision. - and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction.
The time has come when the Parliament should consider the establishment of federal courts. For the last fifty years, certain State courts have been invested with a federal jurisdiction. They include the State supreme courts, county courts, and magistrates courts. But the volume of federal law has so increased that an effort should be made to set up a federal system of administration of law such as the founders of the Constitution hoped would ultimately come about. I am encouraged to place this view before the Senate by some rather disconcerting events that have taken place recently in one State judicature. A few weeks ago the State of New South Wales departed from a principle that has been observed for at least 50 years, that is, that only legally trained men should be appointed judges of its Industrial Commission. Appointments were made to that commission as judges of men who are not trained in law.
– Not trained at all?
– Not trained as practitioners. They had not been admitted to practise law. I am not criticizing the integrity of those men, but I am pointing out that a standard which once existed in regard to the administration of law in the courts of that State no longer obtains. Such an example could be followed in other States because the sovereign body of a particular State - that is the Cabinet - could lawfully do what has been done in New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government could not prevent it. The State has the prerogative to appoint to its judiciary whoever it thinks fit. I raise the question whether the body of federal law has now become so vast that Parliament should not consider appointing, in a proper legislative manner, federal judges to administer it. Without in any way casting personal aspersions on the man concerned, I wish to refer now to a certain matter.
I was somewhat alarmed to read, last year, a statement issued by the Bar Council of New South Wales concerning a royal commissioner - a judge of the Supreme Court in that State, whose name [ will not mention. The Bar Council is the representative body of the barris ters of New South Wales - practitioners of all shades of political opinion. Referring to the procedure adopted by that. Supreme Court judge, as a royal commissioner, the Bar Council said -
It is, however, deeply concerned with the maintenance of the dignity and prestige of the Bench, with the observance by counsel of due standards of conduct and with the protection of the citizens who are called before the tribunals of the State. In the opinion of this Council the Royal Commissioner, in the conduct of the proceedings, failed at times, and to a signal degree, to exhibit and exercise those qualities of dignity, tolerance, judicial calm and patience, which this Council knows to be indispensable to the promotion and maintenance of the respect and confidence of the community and of practitioners for and in the courts and other tribunals.
This gentleman was appointed by the Government of New South Wales, but he could be subject to similar criticism of his exercise of judicial power vested in him by the Commonwealth, because as I have already pointed out, the supreme courts of New South Wales, and of the other States, have been invested by this Parliament with a federal jurisdiction. This Parliament would have no control whatever over the conduct of any holder of a judicial office of a State who failed to maintain certain standards. But if he were a federal judge, section 71 of the Constitution would apply, and his tenure of office could be terminated by the Parliament. That section provides -
The Justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament -
Shall not be removed except by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
– Would not that provision apply to all the States?
– Possibly it may; I cannot answer Senator Byrne’s question explicitly. But my point is that judges should be appointed by the Commonwealth Government so that such a provision as I have just read from the Constitution would apply to all those who exercise judicial power of the Commonwealth. There are so many Commonwealth legal matters now coming before the State courts that it is time that something was done. If federal judges were appointed, this Parliament would have some control over them and he able to prevent, or at least deal with, miscarriages of justice.
The next question I wish to raise was mentioned about a week ago when a bill relating to joint organization payments was under discussion. I refer to the subject of appeals from the Commonwealth. The highest court to which Australian litigants can appeal is not situated in Australia. It is the Privy Council in London. It is the ultimate court of appeal. Every appeal is not taken to the Privy Council, but it is possible that . practically any appeal could be. I believe that we should study the rules and regulations relating to appeals to the Privy Council. I am prompted to mention this matter again because litigation is pending concerning a person named Poulton. The position, as it has been presented to honorable senators from time to time, is that there seems to be no way of bringing this appeal to a conclusion because of some rather obsolete rules of the Privy Council, if I might put it that way.
The problem, of course, is that the Privy Council rules, which ultimately govern appeals from Australia, are not within the power of the Parliament of Australia to alter or to rectify in any way. The Privy Council is constituted under a series of acts of the United Kingdom Parliament, the original one being passed in 1833. A measure amending the principal act was passed in 1844, and other amending acts were passed in 1908, 1928 and 1929. At present, appeals go to the Privy Council only from the United Kingdom, the Crown Colonies, Australia and New Zealand. In 1949, India decided not to have any further appeals to the Privy Council. Similar decisions were reached by Canada in 1949, and by Pakistan and South Africa in 1950. Apparently, under rule 5 of the rules relating to Privy Council procedure, application for leave can be made, and has to be lodged, at any time after the date of a judgment, but with the least possible delay. That sets a vague time limit, as it were, on the important step of appealing to the Privy Council. That might have been quite satisfactory 100 years ago, when almost a year might be occupied in getting from one of the distant parts of the British Empire to London, but now a letter can reach London from the farthest part of the British Commonwealth of Nations in a few days, and the rules could be amended usefully to provide a specific and limited time to lodge an appeal. The slight reading of these rules that I have done indicates that the stipulated period of “ the least possible delay “ appears in each step of the rules.
As I have said, only Australia, New Zealand, the Crown Colonies and the United Kingdom are now concerned with appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and it should not be beyond the wit of the law officers of Australia, and the Prime Ministers’ conference on a higher level, to draw up a new set of rules which would serve to cover, in modern fashion, appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. In fact, I ask myself why the Privy Council should sit in London ? So far as I can see, there is no reason why the appeals should be heard in London. Tradition has ruled that the appeals should be heard there because the galaxy of talent embodied in the Privy Council consists mainly of legal gentlemen who sit on the judiciary of the United Kingdom. But so far as my reading goes, there is no legal necessity for the Privy Council to sit in London. Perhaps we should strive to have our highest Australian court - the Privy Council - sitting in Australia and then going to New Zealand to sit there. Within the past two or three years, a Lord Chancellor of England has been an honoured visitor to Australia. A Master of the Bolls has been our guest, and we are frequently visited by Cabinet Ministers from the United Kingdom. I suggest to the Senate that we should strive to persuade the Privy Council to sit here, and in other places within the British Commonwealth of Nations, and not necessarily in Downing-street as it has done for the past century or more. The traditions of the bar in Australia, the bar in the United Kingdom and the bar in
New Zealand would be given fresh honour if the distinguished gentlemen of the Privy Council could visit us to administer justice and adjudicate on the important points of law that go before the Privy Council.
I resume my seat in the hope that some of the comments I have made about our judicial system, which is on a level with our parliamentary system in the Australian Constitution, may bear fruit. I hope that .my comments will provoke some thought because if we are progressing, as a nation, towards adulthood, we must make our judicial system up to date so that it will be available to litigants and to the States and the Commonwealth of Australia with the least possible delay and expense.
– The debate in which the Senate is now participating is one to which I always look forward with interest. Unless I become personal, 1 can discuss a wide range of subjects. I do not set myself up as an adjudicator upon the speeches of honorable senators who have already spoken, but I propose to speak of matters that are of interest to the ordinary members of the Australian community to which this Government has failed to give proper attention. I cannot resist the temptation, however, of directing the attention of Senator Laught to the fact that he criticized Senator Benn for referring to something that had happened in the past. I cannot understand why Senator Laught stated that, in New South Wales, a system of putting legal gentlemen on industrial tribunals had been broken down after it had been accepted for 50 or 100 years. My only comment is that when we study the work of the Privy Council, the High Court of Australia, and the courts generally, besides listening to the legal arguments that take place in this chamber, we may well wonder whether the law is not invading too many phases of Australian life. Es not our every-day life being cluttered up by legal argument?
After a fairly long association with public affairs in this country, and a study of economics, I subject all economic questions to this test : “ Is it right, is it just ? “ The ordinary citizen, and the person on the lowest rung of the social ladder have to pay as much for a loaf of bread or a pint of milk as does the highest paid legal gentleman or the most brilliant economist in the community.
Prom time to time statistics of the savings of the people, as revealed by their deposits in savings banks, are published in the press. These have grown, but I do not think that the Government claims credit for the increase. According to published statistics, the savings of the people of South Australia are equal to £160 for every man, woman and child in that State. But we all know that many of the people - I refer particularly tt» pensioners and children - have not 160 pence to their credit, let alone £160 These statistics, although perhaps interesting, are not a reliable guide to the economic position of the people generally.
I do not expect to say anything newtonight, because I shall repeat what 1. have said on numerous other occasions in this chamber. I intend to keep on. stressing certain points until that measure of justice which is due to the people concerned has been given, or, at least, an attempt is made to do justice to them. I expect that either the Minister for Trade and .Customs (Senator O’sullivan) or one of his colleagues on the Ministerial bench will repeat thu claim that this Government has done more than any of its predecessors did for the needy sections of the community.
– Truth will out.
– I do not think that even the hard-bitten Minister who has interjected will claim that the job has been completed.
We have seen in the press recently some criticism of the Government’s action in the matter of salary adjustments. I believe in the old biblical view that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and I am well aware that some of the people in the community whose salaries have been raised carry heavy responsibilities. At the same time, I do not know how people whose only income is their pension are able to keep going. Their plight has been brought before the Government many times over a long period, and I cannot understand how the Government can sit by and expect them to get along on the payments now made to them. Persons in receipt of age or invalid pensions, or repatriation benefits, do not pay less than others in the community, including members of Parliament, pay for a loaf of bread or a pint of milk. Some of us know that the stories we hear from time to time about the privations of certain sections of the community are true, and, therefore, it is no answer to say that this Government has done more than its predecessors did for such people. It is true that the nominal value of various social services payments has risen, but the point is that the purchasing power of money has fallen, and that they are no better off. This matter is beyond party and surely we all realize that the way of the pensioner is hard, and that is no credit to the nation.
I regret that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is not in the chamber, because I had hoped that he would be able to assure the Senate that the representations made to him from time to time had led the Government to make suitable accommodation available, in proper surroundings, for ex-service men and women who have suffered in the defence of their country. Since I spoke on this subject about three weeks ago, I have received numerous letters from the mothers and wives of diggers, who have visited ex-servicemen in various institutions, thanking me for my interest on their behalf, and praying that my appeals will not fall on deaf ears. I am grateful for their thanks, although I do not seek it. It is scandalous tha t men who suffered in the defence of their country are still incarcerated in civilian mental hospitals. I had hoped that during the present sit- tings, of the Parliament the Senate would have had an opportunity to discuss the report of Dr. Stoller. I know that the report raises problems, and I understand that in the near future there is to be a conference to deal with the points raised in it. Irrespective of the holding of any conference, does not every honorable senator think that the facts and the charges set out in that report are such that, long before now, this National Parliament should have been given an opportunity to discuss them? In addition, before this, the Parliament should have heard from the Government, after consideration by
Cabinet, what its intentions are to relieve the conditions disclosed in the report. What ever way one might look at this matter, it is undoubted that the fundamental duty of any government is to guard the health and welfare of its people. Any government that does not attend to this primary function is not worthy of the name of government.
I refer now to defence problems confronting this country. I know that not one honorable senator in this chamber and not one thinking Australian does not realize the need for defence in the present delicate state of affairs and appreciate the very difficult task that the Government has in putting its defence plans into operation. Four years ago, the Senate sat all night and even on a Saturday. According to the Government, it would still have been sitting had it not acceded to the Defence Preparations Bill 1951. The point I want to make is that I have yet to find evidence that in any one year since £200,000,000 a year has been allocated to defence, the whole of the sum has been spent by the Government. No one appreciates more than I do that defence must be modern in concept, in equipment and in its forces. This country should have the best defence that it is possible to provide so that the national conscience will always be eased by the knowledge that Australia has done its best. God forbid that there ever will be war, but, should it come, I view with grave concern the transport problems thai will beset this nation, especially if the transport services are called upon to do the job that they had to do during the years of World War II.
The Minister for Transport, in hiE replies to almost every question that is asked of him, talks about conditions on the north-south railway. I have seen that railway, and I am amazed that it successfully carried the volume of traffic, the thousands of tons of material and the thousands of soldiers that, went over il during World War II. When one goes from the railways to the roads one finds the position no better. It is no good sidestepping the issue. If the occasion arises, the roads will have to be used, and I say, as I have said on many occasions, that it would be good for the defence of this country if portion of the money allotted to defence were spent on the improvement of railways and roads and on other works necessary to perfect the transport system for defence purposes. This would not be difficult to put into effect because, as I said before, not in any one year has the Government spent the whole of the £200,000,000 annually allotted to defence. I cannot see any alternative to this proposal. We struggle along in times of peace, patching a road here and building a new culvert there after a storm; replacing a couple of sleepers here, and straightening a bit of line where it has been washed away. But those measures will not be good enough in time of war. Railway jobs now have to be done by bringing in “ flying gangs “ from miles away on both sides of the repair. If this nation is called upon almost overnight to keep all its transport services operating under maximum pressure, even an army of workers like the Allied Works Council will not be enough. The ranks of that body were made up of men who were not fit for active service and such men would have to be mobilized again and hurtled off to all parts of Australia to enable transport to be kept moving in the defence of the continent. Millions of pounds each year remain unspent out of the defence funds, and there is no outward evidence to the Parliament that the Government realizes that roads, railways and all other modes of transport are essential for the perfection of an adequate defence system.
I wish to say something about matters concerning the national service training scheme. It is the Government’s duty to satisfy itself that the immense sums of money that are spent annually in national service training camps are being used to the fullest advantage. I have inspected those camps and I agree that, generally, they are modern. I agree also that, generally, those who are responsible for foodstuffs, bedding and everything else that goes to make a camp a successful training establishment for youths are doing not too bad a job. Nevertheless, quite a lot of things are done that are wrong, and in many instances, a disgrace to the National Parliament. I intend to persist with one matter, with the aid of my ‘ colleagues, until satisfaction is obtained. If ever injustice was done by any government to a young man who did his national service training in the interests of his country, it was done to ex-Private Luxton, to whom I have referred on many occasions in this chamber. That man is still without any compensation or satisfaction from the Government. On the 20th April my colleague Senator Ryan asked upon notice for what I consider to be reasonable information concerning the manner in which this case was dealt with, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), in a curt reply, informed him that the matter had been referred to the Treasury. I asked Senator Ryan to-day whether he had received any further information, and he said that he had not. I do not wish to say more on that aspect because I know that the matter is in the capable hands of Senator Ryan and that he will pursue his inquiry to the limit. This is an awful case. Indeed it is a disgrace. Let me repeat the circumstances.
Four lads who were doing their national service training at Woodside, South Australia, were stricken with a mysterious illness while in camp. They were all taken by ambulance from Woodside to Dawes-road Hospital and isolated. The medical gentlemen of the military hospital or staff officers there have tried to break down the statement that the young men were isolated, but the fact is that every one was kept away from them. They were there for some time, long after their training period had expired, and the group with which they were in camp at Woodside had broken tip. To date, to the best of my knowledge, their complaint has never been diagnosed. A remarkable fact about this transaction is that three of the lads who were in that camp received money for the period that they were under treatment after the camp ended. But this young man, Luxton, who is the son of very respectable parents, and a good-living citizen, spent 88 days in hospital after the camp had broken up and, in spite of approaches made to the Minister for the Army, and in spite of his case being presented in the Senate, has not received one penny as compensation. That is a complete disgrace.
This Government should be eager to dis- charge its moral obligations and should not seek grounds for complaint against the parents of this lad, or the parents of other boys. The cold facts are that this lad was 8S days in hospital, and did not receive one penny, as compensation or anything else, from the time that the camp at Woodside ended until he left the hospital at Dawes-road. No doubt his sickness was severe, because it lasted so long, and he has been able to work only intermittently since that time. He is a man of limited learning, but, nevertheless, he has done whatever work he could do. It is all very fine for those at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, or for gentlemen of this Parliament, to say that he has not done this or that. Let them consider what he could have done after having been stricken with a severe illness while he was attempting to do his duty. Even at this late hour I appeal to the Government immediately to reopen this matter, and to decide to pay some compensation for the S8 days that Luxton was in Dawes-road hospital.
I now wish to say something about the proposed increase of shipping freights. To-day, I asked a question of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) about reports that have appeared in the press with regard to increased freights on goods to and from Australia. The accuracy of those reports cannot be doubted, because both the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport have referred to increased freights in articles that have appeared in the press. I asked the Minister why he did not take up the challenge of the shipping companies with regard to the increased freights, by offering to use the government-owned ships in place of the ships in respect of which freight rises are proposed. The Minister said that the first part of my question was being considered by the Government but that my suggestion that government-owned ships should be used was stupid. Apparently, the Minister thought that by using his usual methods of bluff he could make it appear that I was under the impression that the carriage of perishable goods was . involved in every instance. I hope that I shall not be ruled out of order if I use the Minister’s own word, and say that his assumption that everything exported from Australia has to be carried in a freezing chamber is also stupid. All sorts of goods which do not need to be frozen are exported from this country.
– It is a matter of not having sufficient tonnage.
– That may be so. The Government has tried on many occasions to dispose of ships that it owns, but it still owns them. Now, I am conversant with the methods of the world that we live in, and I do not intend to decry profits as long as they are not exorbitant; but I believe that the shipping companies concerned owe something . to Australia. We have often heard that these companies have served Australia well. However, considering their profits over many years, it is quite obvious that this country has also served them well. It has been a happy and profitable hunting ground for them. Therefore, the proposed increase of 10 per cent, in freight charges is wrong, and even ridiculous. I suggest that a fighting Australian government would not have accepted even’ a proposal for an increase, and by no means would have accepted the increase itself.
I recently read a newspaper report a.bout the action of the Government of India, when increases of shipping charges were proposed in regard to the ports of Calcutta and Bombay. T have no doubt that that report is as reliable as are other reports that have appeared from time to time in the Australian press, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in mentioning the matter here. The shipping company claimed that conditions were uncertain in the ports of Calcutta and Bombay and that, therefore, charges had to be increased. The Indian Government replied that the company had made millions of pounds of profits last year and for many years before that, the company concerned being the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited, which is a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The Indian Government did not humbug about the matter. After the shipping company had threatened to increase its charges by 25 per cent, in respect of ships going to those two ports, that Government replied that it would seriously consider prohibiting ships of that particular company from entering those ports. I have no doubt that certain honorable senators would regard that as direct action, but it shows that governments always have a way of meeting attacks by commercial interests. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will not merely feel aggrieved about the proposed freight increases but will do something about them.
I agree with Senator Kendall that not enough space is available in governmentowned ships to enable them to take the place of ships owned by the companies concerned, but I suggest that those shipping companies should not be allowed to dictate to the Australian Government. [ hope that the Government will not treat lightly the challenge by these companies, and that before the Senate rises, the Parliament and the people of Australia will be informed that the Government is resisting their attempt at exploitation.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer. It is a matter which does not do credit to the Government. Since 1951, I have been asking questions in this House regarding the condition of an airport at West Beach, near Adelaide. This is not a novel subject so far as my colleagues are concerned. Many members of this Senate know the condition of Parafield airport. T appreciate the fact that the Government was faced with a position, while Parafield was being used, which was perhaps not encountered in any other capital city of the Commonwealth. At all events, work on the new airport began to show results in the years 1.951-52, and now there are modern runways at that airport, and modern planes using those runways. The Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation gave me assurances and letters from the Minister for Civil Aviation two years ago to the effect that the airport would be completed, and that we would he the envy of Australia. I went home a proud man. Of course, I told people who were interested, including a number of business people in the City of Adelaide who were regular users of the various airlines, of those assurances. Then 1954 arrived, and for some reason which has not yet been explained to the Senate, there was some alteration in the plans, but I was assured that all the buildings necessary for a modern airport would be ready in 1956. I asked another question the other day ; to my surprise, the Minister told me that the airport would not be ready for two or three years. That is not meeting with general approval in Adelaide, and neither is it meeting with the approval of my colleagues. There are no politics in this question. Because of the number of planes arriving at various times of the day, there is much congestion around the new airport at West Beach, and the limited accommodation is overcrowded and uncomfortable. That is wrong, and it is creating a false impression of our fair City of Adelaide.
The Minister never previously mentioned the matter of the private companies erecting temporary passenger terminals. Whether it is because of something the Minister saw or heard overseas I do not know, but lie is just not pressing on with the matter. In any case, we have received no intimation that final plans have been approved for the erection of these buildings. The conditions at the new airport are disgraceful, when it is considered that the airport is equipped with modern runways and that the biggest planes in Australia are using the airport. The Government is not pleasing the people of Adelaide in this matter, and it must not think that it can get away with the suggestion that the airport will not be completed until 1957 or 1958. I will admit that the captains and crews who have to use the airport do not hesitate to acclaim the job that has been done there, but that is not surprising if they are merely comparing it with Parafield. The Government ha3 bungled this matter, and something must be done about it quickly.
I have dealt with various subjects to-night. I have dealt with pensions, repatriation, and with national service training. I refer again particularly to the case of Luxton. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will be good enough to give me some information which will lead me to hope that at long last justice will he done to Luxton and to exservicemen throughout Australia who, as a result of their war service, are incarcerated in civilian mental hospitals. On that note I conclude.
– I should like to take the Minister to an institution 1 saw the other day, where an exserviceman was an inmate. I am not blaming the medical authorities of the institution. They are humane men, who are doing the best they can, but I saw this man’s mother and his wife visiting this mental asylum, and seeing him among all the unfortunate derelicts of humanity. He is in that institution because there is no other place to keep him, yet the Minister says, partly in jest, I admit, “ Good “.
– I did not say “ Good “. I said that we had done much, that we would like to do more, and that we will.
– That is my plea, in any case. I shall now resume my seat, but I do not withdraw any accusations that I have made in the past on behalf of these unfortunate men who are confined to civilian mental hospitals.
Debate (on motion by Senator Scott) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550531_senate_21_s5/>.